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Archive for June, 2010

Mother’s Day 2010

 

REFLECTION:

As [Jesus] approached the gate of the town [of Nain], a man who had died was being carried out.  He was his mother’s only son, and she was a widow; and with her was a crowd from the town.  When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, “Do not weep.”  Then he came foward and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still.  And he said, “Young man, I say to you, rise!”  The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.  (Luke 7:12-15).

     As I thought about Mother’s Day, I tried to list the mothers in the Bible off the top of my head:  Sarah, Hagar, Rebecca, Leah, Rachel, Elizabeth, Mary (Jesus’ mother), and the list can go on and on.  But for some reason the story of the widow of Nain stuck in my mind, and I started thinking about what Jesus did for her.  For this widow, the day her son was restored to her was really Mother’s Day.  In Jesus’ day, widows often were the poorest of the poor because their livelihood depended on the male head of household.  Since her husband had died, her son would have been her sole supporter and provider.  Upon his death, she would probably have fallen victim to those who exploited and cheated widows out of their money and any property they had.  This is similar to the story in 1 Kings 17:8-24 where Elijah raised the widow of Zarephath’s son from the dead.  It is hard enough to lose a child.  We simply don’t expect our children to die before us.  But the loss of support would be an additional challenge for these two women.

     Jesus’ raising the young man from the dead was an act of compassion – a sign of the love and grace of God.  Throughout the scriptures we encounter passages that encourage us to care for the widows and orphans.  It isn’t a charge that is outdated or stale in the 21st century, either.  We need to care for those who are widowed, alone, lonely, have no friends.  We need to open our hearts to those who need to have a caring neighbor or friend in their lives.  Some churches have set up an “adopt a grandparent” program where families would “adopt” someone who had no family.  Perhaps we can follow a similar idea by setting up a regular visitation plan.  The Caring Ministries Team has been talking about how to do that, and we need to know if there are people either in the congregation or connected with someone in our congregation (they don’t have to attend or be a member) who would like a phone call or a visit.  If you think of someone, please let me know, and I’ll put them on the list I have started.

     May you have a blessed day!  Happy Mother’s Day!  Rev. Deb

Loving ourselves

Matthew 22:37-39 (Today’s New International Version)

37 Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

Many of you know that this is my life verse, meaning that it is what I live by and believe and strive to do.  As I was growing up, I never had very good self-esteem, and there are times when that comes back to haunt me now; thus, I’m very hard on myself when I make mistakes.  Every time I repeat this verse to myself, I hear it with a little different emphasis, depending on where I am in my life’s journey at the time.  Sometimes, I really need to be reminded to love God completely, with all that I am and all that I do.  Other times I need to remember to love my neighbor and share God’s love with them, accepting them for who they are and the gifts they have to offer (even if they have just ticked me off in some way).  But today, I am thinking about the last few words of this passage:  “Love . . . yourself.”

I don’t believe that the message here is that we should be narcissistic, thinking only of ourselves.  However, I DO believe that we have to find ways to love ourselves in the way God loves us.  What brought this to mind was doing the children’s message at WK this morning, and I told the children that I was going to show them a picture of a very special child of God, then held a mirror in front of their faces.  Many of the children covered their eyes, and I started wondering why we have such a hard time looking in the mirror at ourselves.  I think we pick out our flaws and complain about them way too often.  I wonder what would happen if we loved ourselves as God love us and saw ourselves through God’s eyes.

We are God’s beloved children, and if we truly believe that, we will treasure and care about ourselves as God would want us to.  Maybe we can find affirmation for ourselves – as well as our children – to help build our (and their) self-esteem, to see ourselves as precious in God’s sight, and to believe that we are beloved.  What a gift we would give ourselves, but more importantly, what a gift we would give God who is our creator!  Here are some affirmations:

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine . . . you are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you.”  (Isaiah 43:1b, 4a)

“I praise you [God], for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”  (Psalm 139:14a)

“This I know, that God is for me.”  (Psalm 56:9b)

“God has made everything beautiful in its time.”  (Ecclesiasites 3:11a)

“As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.”  (John 15:7)

“If God is for us, who is against us?”  (Romans 8:31b)

“Therefore encourage one another and build up each other.”  (1 Thessalonians 5:11a)

“I am lovable and capable.”  “God loves me.”

Then look in the mirror and say:  “___(your name)___, God loves you, and so do I!”

Reflections on Esther

“Do not think that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silence at such a time as this, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter, but you and your father’s family will perish. Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such as time as this.”  Esther 4:13-14

     Esther was “called” to be where she was.  In my sermon this morning, I said that she was supposed to “bloom where she was planted,” to borrow a familiar saying.  I thought about my work as a pastor, and particularly as a United Methodist pastor.  We are definitely called to “bloom where we are planted.”  We like to believe that the Bishop and Cabinet place us in the places where God intends for us to be.  Sometimes it simply doesn’t work out, but many times it is a good match, and we are placed where we are most needed in our ministry.

     When I first moved to southern Maine, I wasn’t so sure this was where God really wanted me.  What I didn’t expect was the hard adjustment I had in the move for either me or my husband.  We lost our entire support system.  Our friends and his family were all still back in the Bangor area, and we were two and a half hours away.  In addition, we had financial challenges that we never expected, and we are still recovering from that.  So “blooming where we were planted” (or maybe transplanted!) wasn’t even on our minds.  We were grieving, struggling, and at times downright angry.

     Once we got past that and started realizing that we had been called here for a reason, we were able to have more “forward” thinking and to see more clearly how to bloom.  Whenever a plant is transferred, the roots have to struggle to find their new “home” and become strong again.  Growth can then begin again, and the blooms will appear once more.  There are still times of sadness at being farther away from friends and family, but life is much better, and we are starting to feel at home – stronger, happier, and more fruitful.  We have learned something about the pain of moving, but also about the hopes and opportunities in being in a new location. 

     We also see the gifts of the two congregations I serve, and the people are so precious to us.  It was an adjustment for them, too.  Sometimes the changes that come with a new pastor can be stressful and worrisome, but they have persevered with us, and we are seeing growth in the congregation, as well as having a good time together.  God has blessed us as we continue to “bloom where we are planted.”  Thanks be to God!

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