Worship Guide: This Past Sunday, 3/15/20


Detail, “Moses Striking Water from the Rock” c1648-53, by Jan Steen (1625-1679) Oil on panel, Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Welcome & Introduction:
Welcome! This document is an experiment to keep our New Church of Montgomery community connected in a Sunday worship experience, while staying at home as the coronavirus is starting to spread into the Cincinnati area. Please settle in and prepare for worship wherever you are. Push away the cares of the world for a short time.

Call to Worship: The Lord is in His temple, let us come together in the light of His Divine Wisdom and with the passion of His Divine Love.

Opening Prayer: Lord, We are weary of the trials of our recent days . Tensions in our country, sickness in our towns, fears in ordinary activities, friends and neighbors dealing with hardships and confusion. It is hard to see what good things you are going to bring
out of the chaos. Help us feel your presence with us, so we can draw strength from knowing you are near. Help all those around us to navigate the tough conditions
and be with those who are suffering. Bring calm and wisdom to the caregivers, researchers, policy makers, and volunteers. Thank you Lord, Amen.

Affirmation: We honor the good and truth to be found in all spiritual traditions. We honor the earth and all of life as the creation of the Divine, the one Lord and God of us all. We honor and support the variety of individual paths, which together, make our one
spiritual community; and we honor and provide an open and safe place for all who
seek greater understanding and a life of deepening spirituality.

Readings & Context: From Genesis 3:11-13, the Lord God speaking. 11  He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”  12  The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.”  13  Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent tricked me, and I ate.”

From Heavenly Secrets n.229, 233 Our rational capacity allows itself to be deceived by our sense of autonomy—which we love tenderly—or in other words, by self-love, so that we give no credit to anything we cannot see or feel. [The inner sense of the story of Adam, Eve, and the serpent describes our early childhood development of a love for autonomy, of being in control, and relying on our outer senses for understanding ourselves and our world.] We have no ability at all to do good or turn toward the Lord on our own; it is the angels who give us the power. Yet the angels themselves cannot do so. Only the Lord can. Still, we can do good and turn toward the Lord as if we were acting under our own power. This reality could never be grasped by our senses, by the academic disciplines, or by philosophy.

From Exodus 17:1-7, some time after the tablets of the Ten Commandments were brought down to the people from the mountains in Sinai. And all the congregation of the children of Israel journeyed … according to the commandment of the Lord, and pitched in Rephidim: and there was no water for the people to drink. 2  Wherefore the people did chide with Moses, and said, Give us water that we may drink. And Moses said unto them, Why chide ye with me? wherefore do ye tempt the Lord? 3  And the people thirsted there for water; and the people murmured against Moses, and said, Wherefore is this that thou hast brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst?
4  And Moses cried unto the Lord, saying, What shall I do unto this people? they be almost ready to stone me. 5  And the Lord said unto Moses, “Go on before the people, and take with thee of the elders of Israel; and thy rod, wherewith thou smotest the river,
take in thine hand, and go. 6  Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb; and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink.” And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7  And he called the name of the place Massah, and Meribah, because of the chiding of the children of Israel, and because they tempted the Lord, saying, Is the Lord among us, or not? [Sometimes we say the same thing, don’t we?]

From Arcana Coelestia n.8581 & 8586 “Behold, I will be standing before you there on the rock in Horeb” means the Lord in regard to the truths of faith; “the rock” as faith, here faith received from the Lord, for Jehovah says “Behold, I will be standing on the rock” … The people were given the water from this one rock in Horeb as “Horeb” means God’s law.  God’s law is meant by “Horeb”  because the law was proclaimed from there and faith received from the Lord is acquired from God’s law, that is, the Word; for through the Word the Lord teaches what faith is and also imparts faith. [The water, or “truths of faith”, flow from the rock (the Lord) as did the gift of the Ten Commandments (the Law) from Mt. Horeb in the Sinai.] The desire to know the truth is described by 'thirsting'…In John, “Jesus said to the Samaritan woman, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again,  but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”

From John 4:5-26, [The Pharisees had heard about the many baptisms done in Judea by Jesus’ disciples. Knowing that, Jesus traveled to Galilee via Samaria. At this time hatred existed between the Jews and the Samaritans.] 5  So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.  6  Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.  7  A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.”  8  His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.   9  The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.   10  Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him,
and he would have given you living water.”  11  The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12  Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?”  13  Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again,  14  but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”  15  The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.” 16  Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” 17  The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’;  18  for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!”  19  The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet.  20  Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” 21  Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on
this mountain nor in Jerusalem.  22  You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.  23  But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. 24  God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25  The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” 26  Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”

Message: “I am He, the One who is speaking to you.”
Clearly the Samaritan Woman was having difficulty understanding who this Jewish man was. I think in a similar situation we would all be equally or maybe even more baffled. In Jesus’ day at least, people expected to have prophets around, and a Messiah was expected. Not so common today. Most of us, if confronted by an actual prophet, would shy away and assume the person was off in left field somewhere, probably someone whose elevator did not quite get to the top. Have you seen that happen?
The readings from Genesis and Heavenly Secrets make it clear why that is the case. Being
creatures with well-developed egos, it is second nature for us to believe, without thinking about it, that we are perfectly capable of understanding the world before us relying on our senses and for understanding ourselves and our world.] We have no ability at all to do good or turn toward the Lord on our own; it is the angels who give us the power. Yet the angels themselves cannot do so. Only the Lord can. Still, we can do good and turn toward the Lord as if we were acting under our own power. This reality could never be grasped by our senses, by the academic disciplines, or by philosophy.

I’m guessing none of us have memory of an encountered a bona fide prophet, but we have seen how people can fool us, and fool themselves, so the logical conclusion is that there is another explanation.

In a Bill Cosby comedy routine, when being told what to do by the voice of Noah asks, “Who is this, really?”, and the Lord says, “It’s the Lord, Noah”, speaking in English of course. So I ask you, have you ever had a voice say to you, “it’s the Lord.” or “I am he, the one who is speaking to you”? Not many get a message like this verbally, in words of their own language. Perhaps you have, but I won’t be surprised if you tell me you haven’t. But if you are a religious person, and you have a concept of God who is in charge of things somehow, you might believe that it could happen, just it’s unlikely it would be you. We are taught that God is always with us and available to us. So does God speak to us? Often?

According to our teachings, God is in communication with us all the time. Traditionally this is called the action of the Holy Spirit – and it doesn’t work like Bill Cosby described. There are two important aspects of the explanation to this I want to cover: Who is “God”, and how do we experience this communication.

Who is your god? In Swedenborg’s view, all people worship some god, because they essentially worship whatever it is that they love the most. We all make decisions all the time that favor one thing over another. We would say in this church that it is indeed worshiping God, that is the Lord, if a person is generous, caring, thoughtful, and honest; loving those qualities derived from Divine Love and Divine Wisdom. But there are other gods. Maybe it is helping people, maybe it is money, or owning nice things, maybe it is being seen as important, or better than others.

We probably don’t think of these as gods communicating with us, but atheist, agnostic, believer, or saint, we all wrestle with choices that serve one of these gods or another. We understand the idea of conscience, wrestling with different motivations each contesting for our decision, for us to do their bidding as it were. Conscience is an arena where we deal with the options that are presented. God pulls us toward altruistic solutions, our ego pulls us toward selfish solutions. In this arena, the struggle is called temptation. Communication is the way God puts the better alternatives before us. Sometimes we seem to be arguing with ourselves. Enough about the other gods – it is really just God and us.

Now to get to how the communicating is done, how it can be all the time. God doesn’t miss any bets when it comes to using every opportunity to guide us. Anything that gives us a hint that there is a choice between good and bad is a message to check out God’s preferences vs. our egotistical alternative options. The list of communication media includes anything that we sense that makes us think.

It can be something we witness, something we are told or overhear, something we read about, and probably other things, too. We see a bully or a good Samaritan doing his thing. Conscience leads us to make our own judgements – is it self-centered behavior or God-centered behavior. Which will we embrace?

Social issues are issues because there are at least two sides. Maybe we are told directly it is right to support one side of a social issue. Maybe we hear somebody ask about it. Maybe we read a political article about it or hear a newscast. Maybe we read a book about how it worked out someplace else in the world, or perhaps we read a Bible passage about a similar issue.

Again, conscience wrestles – God and ego are still in there, but sometimes the right answer for us is hard to come up with. What would we choose? Besides TV, the internet, magazines, inspired texts, friends’ and neighbors’ ideas and behaviors, we also have customs and traditions we see, hear about, and can participate in. These can be very powerful, whether we recognize it or not. This time of year it is the traditions and rituals of Lent. For instance, I contend that whether or not we buy into meatless Friday as a self-help activity, it gives us the opportunity to ask why we do it, or why other people do it. Friday comes along during Lent and I think a steak would be nice, then “Can’t hurt to order fish instead of a steak.” I must have been taught that eating fish is a sacrifice, which is good – giving up of something delicious for something ordinary. Since
Good Friday commemorates Jesus’ that suggests we not be celebrating. And think of what Jesus gave up! How little is the sacrifice of having a fish dinner? During Lent, I am apt to remember that it is the 40 days before Easter. And remember that the Israelites wandered for 40 years in the desert. And that Jesus was tempted for 40 days. How would I do with that? These recollections are examples of God communicating that I can be more introspective. Does it even matter whether I believe those Biblical stories are accurate? No. It still makes me think. Lent is good for that.

The take-away: We can use the rituals like giving up things we love for Lent or not, but in our church approach we look at the whole Easter story, observing the struggles of all the characters in it we focus on how and why we struggle, too. We celebrate struggle as a worthwhile thing; if we don’t wrestle with temptations and win, there’s no spiritual progress. Let’s decide to make some progress! We can celebrate Lent by being thankful, appreciate struggle even if it brings anxiety, be somber in Lent and anticipate the far side of Easter where the story is all about how love and hope overcome sadness and fear. Amen.

Offering Reminder: We cannot pass the offering basket by email. But as you can, set aside your gift for a future Sunday, or mail it to the church. May the Lord bless all the gifts. We pray we can put them to good use in our work for the building up of the Lord’s kingdom on Earth. Amen.
The Lord’s Prayer, a contemporary version: – perhaps speak it silently to yourself…Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done on Earth as in heaven. Give us our daily bread; and forgive us our debts like we forgive our debtors. Lead us to battle temptations, protect us from evil. Yours is the kingdom, the power and glory forever. Amen.

Closing Prayer: Lord, we find ourselves in an unfamiliar struggle this Lent. We are encouraged to by circumstance to give up many familiar activities, even fish-frys. As sports, classes, and conferences are cancelled, fill our lives with other things. Be with us as we decide what is prudent to do, who we can be with, how to balance our well-being with the safety of others. Be with those who are frightened, quarantined, sick, those who are dying and losing loved ones. Be with the people in hot spot where fear is high.
Be with our leaders and caregivers as they also struggle. We pray for all who are affected. We know not how you will bring goodness out of the current distress and
suffering. Help us with our uncertainty. Amen.

A Benediction: Adapted from a Prayer of St. Patrick…May the Strength of God pilot you; may the Power of God Preserve you. May the Wisdom of God instruct you; may the Hand of God Protect you. This day, and evermore, May Christ be with you!

#SundaySermon: 12/1/19

Glendale New Church entryway window

The “Adoration of Christ”

Sunday Sermon by Rev. Dr. Sherrie Connelly 12/1/19

New Church of Montgomery

Isaiah 2:1-5

Isaiah at the mountaintop, foresees and prophecies that the Lord will be worshiped and adored. He shall be a Lord of peace and the people will walk in the light.

Psalm 12.2 joining together in the house of the Lord Jerusalem stands together, full of thanksgiving and praying for peace, as the people seek all that is good.

Romans 13:11-14

The time has come to awaken to our salvation as believers in the Lord. Setting aside darkness we are armored and light, with Jesus’ help.

Matthew 24:36-44

The Gospel of Matthew prophecies that the son of man is coming, at an unknown hour, but for sure he is coming to walk among us.

True Christian Religion (Rose) # 560

In truth, save your adoration for Jesus Christ himself, the son of God and source of eternal life. No other deserves this honor.


Our Lord Jesus Christ is adored as the King of Peace, a source of good and a being of light, whether foreseen by Isaiah praying a sum of peace in Jerusalem, or armored in light as in Romans. In each of these we raise up our adoration of Christ.

Today is the first Sunday in the season of Advent, and as such the start of a new church year. It is a time of preparation, expectation and waiting, a blessed time, sometimes sitting in darkness but holding forth in the coming of the light.

The Lord’s coming is prophesied, and in that we can have assurance. The Christ child shall be born to redeem the world. An innocent babe resting in a Manger in a rude born, yet destined to become the savior of the world. Let us rejoice in anticipation awaiting the advent of hope and the birth of joy. Amen.

#ThursdayTheology w/ @JennTafel “May I Have Your #Attention, Please”

Listen for wisdom.


This was the sermon I preached at Unitarian Universalist Church of Greater Lansing on 11/17/19. The material presented was on their congregation’s spiritual theme of “attention.” (You may need to turn up the volume.)
The opening poem is “Noticing” by Janisse Ray and the closing poem is “To Remember” by Rev. Scott Tayler. ~Rev. Jenn Tafel

person diving on body of water

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9/22/19 Sermon: “Because You Are a Healer”

Because You Are a Healer

By Rev. Dagmar Bollinger

You may recall my sermon from last year, called “The Spiritual Gardener” Being a passionate gardener, I quoted the eco-theologian Thomas Berry who said that “gardening invites us to participate in the deepest mysteries of the universe.”

Today I am sharing with you my thoughts about another mystery of the universe which is the art of healing. To give the topic some personal context, I am going back about fifteen years to the time when I lived in sunny Southern California where I thoroughly enjoyed the West Coast lifestyle and successfully pursued a career as an automotive engineer. I was also part of a vibrant worship community at Wayfarers Chapel in Palos Verdes. Life was good. And yet, approaching age 60, I had an inner sense that I was about to make a significant change in my life. I just didn’t know yet what it would be.

So I turned to my trusted friend, Rev. Marlene Laughlin, who was then the pastor at Wayfarers. “Marlene,” I said: “What should I be when I grow up?” Contrary to her nature, Marlene ignored my joking. “Have you thought about becoming a minister?” she asked. “A minister?!” I exclaimed. “Why?” Still serious, Marlene said: “because you are a healer.”

I had no idea what she was talking about. Then she told me that she had terminal cancer and that she did not have much time left. I was devastated by the news and immediately went into my engineer “fixer” mode. “Marlene, have you tried alternative treatments? There is the Deepak Chopra clinic right in your backyard. It’s holistic …” Marlene just smiled and didn’t say anything.

In the months that followed, Marlene remained the consummate pastor, calming my fear of death and dread of losing her. Ever so gently, helped me to accept the inevitable. I said, “Marlene, how can I possibly be a healer when you are the one comforting me?” Marlene said: “You are my friend and you are with me,” she said, “your presence is healing me.” She quoted Mark 14:49-50: “‘I was daily with you in the temple teaching, and you took me not. But the scriptures must be fulfilled.’ And they all forsook him and fled.’” “You are with me,” Marlene repeated. “How could I not be, I thought.” But I still didn’t get it.

Today, I am a board-certified oncology chaplain, that is, I specialize in providing spiritual care to patients with cancer at St. Joseph Mercy Cancer Center in Brighton, Michigan. Today, I know what Marlene meant when she said “because you are a healer.” Today I know that being with is the most fundamental attribute of a healer. Jesus taught us that. Contrary to what you might think, however, it wasn’t the long and arduous seminary journey that made me a healer. Nor was it the difficult and exhausting clinical pastoral education that followed. Even now it is not the demanding daily task of ministering to critically ill patients that makes me a healer.

Rather, I believe that the healer in us emerges from the seeds of goodness and truth that God implants in every human being at birth. In his writings, Swedenborg calls these seeds “remnants” (of goodness and truth) and says that we are mostly unaware of them until they emerge—often in times of adversity and suffering. I like to think of them as spiritual survival tools in the form of inner strengths without which we could not survive.

God works through our remnants to help us grow in compassion, loving kindness, and the desire to help others. In the process, God heals us. And it is when God heals our own wounds that we become healers to others. The Dutch theologian Henry Nouwen said that life turns us into wounded healers and opens in us the doors through which divine healing flows. We become agents of God’s healing love. No theology degree required.

However, in our modern times, it is difficult to navigate the complex language of healthcare. For example, we must distinguish between curing and healing. Curing is associated with sickness, described as identify a problem, discovering its cause, and applying a remedy. The common cold is a good example of a sickness. Illness, on the other hand, can be defined as a condition that involves loss of meaning in life due to physical and/or mental impairment.

Cancer is an illness. Treatment in form of chemo or radiation has a curative intent if the cancer is found early. If the cancer has progressed to a certain stage, the treatment intent may be palliative or hospice, that is, care focuses on providing comfort and relief from the discomforts of pain, mental stress, and emotional/spiritual distress at any stage of the illness. The goal is to improve the quality of life for both the person and their family.

This is nothing new. Only the means differ. Let’s consider the work of Jesus. Jesus was a folk healer, meaning, he engaged in both, curing and healing. He laid on hands and touched people (Mark 1:41). He used spittle (Mark 8:23) and rubbed mud (John 9:6) on parts of the body. This is how Jesus cured sickness. But Jesus also healed people’s illnesses by restoring meaning to life whether the person’s physical condition improved or not in the long run. For instance, the fever that afflicted Peter’s mother-in-law kept her from fulfilling her domestic role. When the fever left her, she rose and served the visitors (Luke 4:38-39). Jesus, the healer, restored meaning to the life of Peter’s mother-in-law.

As a chaplain, I am a spiritual caregiver. I care for the total person—body, mind, and spirit.  People ask me how I can stand being with cancer patients day in and day out. They want to know how I deal with all the pain, anxiety and sadness that accompany it. True, caring for cancer patients and their loved ones is hard work. I hold hands and hug my patients and those close to them when they cry; sometimes I cry with them. I commiserate with their anger, their fears, their resentments and support their hopes without losing sight of reality. I am sad when patients die. But I also laugh with them frequently and share moments of deep joy and gratefulness. I listen to their stories and help them see the significance and value of their lives. At the end of the day I go home with a big basket of gifts filled with my patient’s courage, insights and wisdoms. They are my teachers and they care for me, too, because any encounter between two people is a two-way street. Let me give you an example of what I mean:

A 72-year old woman by the name of Beth is diagnosed with Stage 4 metastasized ovarian cancer. Her survival chances are not good. She and her newly-retired husband just bought an RV. Their dream is to tour the United States, Canada, and parts of South America. Instead, they will be spending much of their time at the Cancer Center.

When I sat down with Beth for the first time and asked: “How are you today?” She said: “I am dying of cancer, how are you?” When she saw my consternation, she cracked a big smile and said gleefully. “Got ya.” We both laughed. Then I nudged her into a more serious conversation about her prognosis, and she laid out her philosophy: “The cards are on the table. I can either fold or play. It’s my turn to play.” She confided that she felt at peace, knowing that God’s hands held the final cards. I shared with her the Swedenborgian concept that God wants us to act as if we are in charge, but know that we are not. She loved the analogy and told me that she intended to live the remaining days of her life as fully as she possibly could. She was a teacher and wanted to leave something of herself behind, maybe read stories in English to migrant children so they would come to love the language of their host country. “Great idea,” I said. And what about your disrupted RV travel plans?” She laughed. “Could you imagine being on a more exciting trip than I am now? Who needs an RV? It’s parked in the driveway. Now my husband has a place to go when the grandchildren get on his nerves,” she joked. Then she grew serious. “I do worry about leaving my husband behind…” Her eyes got misty for a moment, then they brightened up again and she said, “I told him he should find himself a nice woman who likes to dance so he’ll get some exercise and keep up with the grandchildren.”

Beth gave me the impression that she was not going to miss a single moment of joy even in the midst of great pain.  I was there to encourage her.  At the end of the visit, she squeezed my hand and said: “Thank you for listening. I am going to miss you, my friend.” Beth died two months later and her family asked me to officiate at her memorial.

Listening deeply is an important skill when caring for a person in spiritual distress. Humans are meaning-making creatures who want to affirm that our lives are essential. When we listen with empathy that grows out of our own suffering, when we hold the hands of those who are scared, when we can be with them in their deepest pain without trying to fix anything, we are authentic ministers.  We are the friend who cares.

Therefore, if you ever doubt, like I did, whether you can minister to a friend in need, stand in front of a mirror and say to the person looking back at you: “Yes, you can because you are a healer.”

#SundaySermon #LunchtimeReads #Homecoming #HomeIsWhereTheHeartIs

two women with man hugging by the sea

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“Home is Where the Heart Is”
Rev. Dr. Sherrie Connelly
September 15, 2019
New Church of Montgomery

Pliny the Elder <23-79 AD> who lived in the first century was a Roman author, naturalist, and nature philosopher. He was also an army commander. He wrote Naturalis Historia, considered to be the 1st encyclopedic work. He is credited with coining our message title, “Home is Where the Heart Is.”

Home can be a physical place such as where you were born and grew up with your family and friends. It can also be where you happen to live now, as well as your actual home, apartment or other domestic dwelling. One might think of this as Swedenborg’s level of the natural.

Home can be a sense of place, as well as a cluster of feelings and experiences such as belonging, kinship and being at home, as if in a heavenly place…remembering ancestors, and rejoicing in the familiarity of close ties. (Here Rev. Sherrie talks about how when people ask where her home is she puts her hand on her heart.  Also mentioned is that of the many places she has lived that were homes, Cincinnati is also one.  She also mentions taking a trip to all the places she has lived in the order that she lived there and the smells that came back to her and the feeling of the learning that took place in each of these places and how it brought her the next location.)

Home can also be understood as celestial, in that the spirit and human form has come down from above and will return to the celestial realms for a life of eternity.

Today, the New Church of Montgomery is celebrating our annual Homecoming. We are delighted to be with you together and to welcome you to our worship and our feast. It is a joy to see and greet friends from near and far, and to worship our beloved Lord together.

In our scripture reading from Jeremiah, however, there is barren desolation and no sense of home at all. Psalm 14 also speaks of all who have gone astray, and bring afraid of the evil-doers. Yet, the Lord offers refuge to the poor and the psalmist prays that Israel will be delivered and its people’s fortunes restored. In Exodus we hear of the people worshipping a golden calf. The Lord says to Moses — how stubborn and stiff necked the people are, yet holds out hope that Moses will create a new and great nation. Instead Moses beseeches the Lord not to destroy his people, but to change his mind and restore favor.

Psalm 51 is a confession of sin, and acknowledgement of people’s all too human evil ways. It prays for truth in the inward being, asking “teach me wisdom in my secret heart.” Clean me so that I may instead hear joy and gladness, “create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.”

Likewise, Timothy, a sinner, is grateful to have given up his selfish, ignorant ways to have somehow received the Lord’s mercy.  This is a testament of his life turned around, a metanoia (which means to turn and face the light), and a hymn of gratitude and rejoicing.

Then in the Gospel according to Luke we hear the parable of the lost sheep, and the shepherd who leaves his entire flock in order to find the one who is lost. He is joyful over the one who is lost at last being found. And returned home.

Lastly, in writing from Emanuel Swedenborg, we see that animals are never lost. They have a homing instinct, and radiate joy as they come near to their homestead, even if they haven’t actually arrived there yet. They have a instinct for building their nests, and creating a home for themselves.

May we learn form these stories and recognize a sense of home when we arrive there settle in together with peace being at home where we belong. Amen.

Last Week’s #Sermon: “What Did You Say”


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“What Did You Say”  Message for August 18, 2019.  Laity-led service by Pete Toot.


Today we are going to have a conversation.  I have several readings which we will use, but a portion of the service is going to be a dialogue.  I get to pose situations and you get to tell me what you think, or what you would do.  We are going to be dealing with how we handle offensive or disturbing statements that just pop up in the course of conversation, or in reading, like in sacred texts.

We’ll start with a well-known Bible story.  It is the story of Noah, but I’m not going to include the parts about Noah and his family, or the construction of the ark, but just focus on what God is trying to accomplish.  Genesis 6 reveals what God is saying about how poorly the people of the world turned out.  Does it disturb you that God is planning to murder everyone on Earth?  Well, let’s hear the story.

Genesis 6:5-7, 17-21, 7:21-22  read by a volunteer.

I put in the bold font in verse 17.  God says,  “I will bring a great flood of water on the earth. I will destroy all living things that live under heaven. Everything on the earth will die.”  This reading says plainly that God murders every living thing in the creation but for a few individuals and creatures.  The men and women, the children, babies, puppies, cattle, and so forth killed off.  But we see it as a simple story.  Are you shocked that a God of love can do such a thing?  Probably not.  Why not?  At the very least, the Bible says this is OK for God.  Is it OK for the rest of us, too?  Discussed the questions briefly.


Let’s do a follow-up reading from Swedenborg.

Secrets of Heaven n. 591 read by a volunteer.


So Swedenborg has a different take on the flood story.  He has tons to say about it, but the gist of it is that God doesn’t actually murder all the people and animals and birds.  If you get into it further, it isn’t talking about a physical flood, and it isn’t talking about a physical killing either.  It is about people becoming dead, spiritually, and he goes on to describe the flood as representing the end of one kind of church and the start of a new church, one person at a time; a new dispensation called “Noah”.  The dead animals and birds are the already dead ideas, affections, and motivations that have departed from truth and goodness, and they need to be replaced.  It is the deterioration of these ideas, affections, and motivations that led to the spiritual death of the people.  Is that less shocking?  Does it make you feel better about what the Bible says about God’s actions?  What do you think of Swedenborg’s view?

Maybe we can say that most of the meaning of Genesis is hidden in the parable form of the story.  Now let’s try one more reading from the Old Testament, the genocide of the Amalekites from Samuel.

1 Samuel 15:1-3, 7-11,14-16, 22-23 read by a volunteer.

So, here we find God wanting to destroy people again.  He and /or She gives commands to Saul by way of Samuel.  Now these Amalekites were descendants of Esau, the legitimate firstborn of Isaac, so, family.  They did mess with Moses coming into Canaan, but that was around 300 years earlier, and they have been a real pain ever since.  In this story, Saul, recently anointed king by the Prophet Samuel on God’s instructions, carries out most of the commands, but just killing the men, women, children, babies, and a bunch of the livestock doesn’t seem to be acceptable to God.  Now it’s all about obedience!  So, some questions to think about: Did Saul do a good thing or a bad thing?  Where he followed orders, he did atrocious things.  Where he spared King Agag and some prime livestock to be killed later, it isn’t much better and in addition he disobeyed the highest authority he knew.  Do you think Samuel had it in for the Amalekites?  How do you respond to the idea that God not only orders the destruction of the Amalekites, but is so displeased with Saul after the fight that God won’t accept him as king anymore?  Discussed the questions briefly.

Song, then the Message

Swedenborg only mentions the passage from Samuel briefly in a long discussion of the Amalekites.  It is not quite as clear cut as the story of the flood, but suffice it to say that the Amalekites represent at an inner level a continuing spiritual threat to a person’s worship of God, and so to Truth and Caring.  There probably was an actual battle in the physical world, but Swedenborg is silent on this and seems not to be concerned.  He focuses on the message in the inner meaning of the Word, and it addresses spiritual things.  But the literal story is still there and it is still disturbing.  When someone says to you that they are not religious because the Bible shows explicitly that the God of the Bible is unpredictable and can be quite terrible, I can understand that.  What do you say?  Wait for responses.


We are told the Old Testament is intended for a people who needed to have a simple and easy to understand set of lessons to present the Law and teach in familiar contexts.  We would say it is only an Old Testament appearance that God is angry or malicious.  Is the New Testament free of such statements?  Does the idea of “love your neighbor” fail to show up somewhere?  Yes.  Not quite in the same way that it turns up in the Old Testament.  The selections that seem offensive are not explicit about what God will or will not do.  These New Testament passages relate more to putting people in their place – namely, Jews who get in the way of the disciples teaching, and women in general who are told they are subservient to the men.  Told by men, of course.

Here are three short readings from the New Testament, and one from the Quran.  After hearing these we will look at how people deal with such statements.  Volunteers read them.

1 Thessalonians 2:14-16 – Bad Jews are to suffer God’s anger.

Ephesians 5:21-32 – Wives…serve their husbands in everything.

1 Timothy 2:8-15 – Instructions for men and women.

Quran 4:34 – What men are to do if their wives are not loyal.

I should point out for clarity that in the Quran – An-Nisha’ 34 that some translations describe that the punishments for disloyal wives are to be applied sequentially, only as the previous punishment clearly fails.  We can talk about the messages in these readings more, but not right now. – I want first to have a look at the methods people use to deal with what “objectionable material”.  Rebecca Esterson, who spoke at Convention on a similar subject taught in her mini-course taught me that there are four primary ways that difficult Scripture passages are read, to which I added one more.  One or more of them should sound familiar.  I do want to go through these rather quickly, to get to the next part of the our conversation – on how we deal with real life encounters of offensive situations.

  1. Charitable Reading – Involves asking “how could this be true?” The assumption is that it is true in some way, but it is not obvious.  An example is when Swedenborgians look to the inner sense of the passage to find a more understandable meaning in it.
  2. Historical Critical – Here the passage is determined to be no longer pertinent. So it may have been true or less objectionable at one time, but history has changed that.
  3. Dialogical – This approach is to consider the passage as a challenge or an opportunity to engage with God. It is OK to accept or reject it, but it is there to create dialogue, to lead the reader toward some unstated truth by forcing him or her to wrestle with it.
  4. Avoidance / Editing – This is the simplest approach. Just skip the difficult passage, do not let it bother you.  Or edit it so that it does make sense to the reader.  This happens a lot when sermons are written.   Pieces of passages are left out, not only the ones that just make the reading too long, but also those that do not make the point the pastor is trying to make.  I have it on good authority that this is very common.  Less than orthodox, the assumption here is that the text as we see it written is no longer, or perhaps never was, error-free; and as additions as texts were assembled into Bible we use today, some of these actions could have been wrong.  But a lot of editing strictly deals with making a particular point, context notwithstanding.
  5. Mythology – Rebecca didn’t mention this one – perhaps because it is not really interpretation. In this case – throw out the whole book as mythology, invention, and not worthy of much further consideration.  The passage is considered disturbing because it isn’t supposed to be taken seriously anyway.


So that speaks to dealing with text – interesting to some of us, but text does not talk back.  It isn’t going to change.  It is not as “live” as a personal experience with people around us.  However, I think there are similarities to how we deal with offensive statements in everyday conversation, and here are some.  Upon hearing such a statement, one might think to themselves…


  1. “Some people think that, though I do not.” Offensive perhaps, but more a matter of opinion than of fact.  The usual response, if any, is to point out that not everyone agrees with position, and sometimes possible reasons for that are suggested.  As in politics.  Or,
  2. “Maybe true once, but not now”. A response might be to present some recent, new thoughts on the subject that “add to” the no longer widely held position.  Or,
  3. “That is just plain wrong! And I need to object.” The usual response is to enter into debate, or argument, to educate the speaker, or at least take the high ground as you see it.  This is not always useful, but could be if planting a different idea bears fruit.  This internal response is often accompanied by outrage or disgust, it may not go well.
  4. “This has no place in polite conversation.” Usually due to crude or inflammatory language, and the usual response is to change the subject or drop out of the conversation while it continues without you.  The hope is that no one will encourage the speaker.
  5. “I can’t believe they said that!” Maybe this is where you say, “What did you say?” hoping you heard it wrong.  Text: if you read it wrong, just read it again.  Not as easy in real time.



We have an exercise here to experiment with these ideas.  In these envelopes we have instances of what I am guessing are statements that some of you will find offensive.  Of course, I could be wrong, which might make this more interesting.  Do not expect that your reactions will be simple. I have never met anyone who does not have some degree of prejudice that affects their behavior, whether they know it or not, and whether they express it or not.  That includes myself.  We all shy away from things or people we don’t understand.  It is called pre-judgment and is rooted in ignorance of those who are different from us.  That is a completely different very large topic we will not get into today, but you may find it creates some ambivalence in your reactions.  I want you to select an envelope or two, read the situation described there, and see what reactions you have.  Think about how you would respond if the situation were real.  Then if and when you’re ready, share with us what you’re feeling and thinking about.  If you have run into a similar situation before personally, how did it go?


That ends the message.

The exercise followed, and it depended on the congregants’ reactions and the envelopes they choose.  Each envelope described a situation in which one person’s prejudice and tendency to place some group of people into second-class, less-than human, or terrorist stereotypes was spoken aloud, which allowed the reader to be witness to and in a position to react to the statements.  Such “others” in the situations were derided using stereotypes related to sexual preference, gender, age, ethnicity, or religion.  In the exercise as it was done, most were able to identify their possible responses, some their attitudes, but none spoke of their feelings (nor were they prompted to do so), and only one presented an actual case experience that I recall.  The exercise was not conducted under explicit confidentially rules, but I have chosen not to include any of the conversation here.

#ThursdayThoughts “Be Not Afraid” Sermon

Please enjoy Guest Minister, Rev. Julie Conaron’s selected readings and sermon from Sunday, August 4, 219, at the New Church of Montgomery.


Fear runs a large part of our lives, and there’s much fear in the Word. How do we cope with this debilitating feeling in our lives?


Fear/being afraid/frightened is a common thread for many of us in our lives, from childhood up to old age.


Be thinking of the many ways fear seems a part of our lives.



Genesis 50:15-21 When Joseph’s brothers saw their father was dead, they said, “Perhaps Joseph will hate us and will certainly pay us back for all the wrong we did to him.” So, they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this command before he died: ‘Say to Joseph, “I beg you, forgive the transgressions of your brothers and their sin. For they did evil to you.”’ Now please forgive the transgressions of the servants of the God of your father.” And Joseph wept when they spoke to him.


Then his brothers also went and fell down before his face and said, “We are your servants.” Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God?But as for you, you intended to harm me, but God intended it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many lives. So now, do not fear. I will provide for you and your little ones.” So, he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.


(Despite what Joseph’s brothers did to him he bore them no ill will. He had so much faith and trust in God he was not afraid. However, his brothers were very fearful, thinking he would pay them back for treating him so badly.)


A similar story happened with Esau and Jacob:

Genesis 33: 1-17 Then Jacob looked up and saw Esau coming and four hundred men with him. So, he divided the children among Leah, Rachel, and the two female servants.  He put the female servants and their children in front, then Leah and her children next, and then Rachel and Joseph last.  He went on before them, bowing himself to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother.


But Esau ran to meet him and embraced him and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept. When Esau looked up and saw the women and the children, he said, “Who are those with you?” Jacob said, “The children whom God has graciously given your servant.” Then the female servants came near, they and their children, and they bowed down. Leah also with her children came near and bowed themselves. Afterward Joseph and Rachel came near, and they bowed themselves.


Esau said, “What do you mean by all this company that I met?” Jacob answered, “These are to find favor in the sight of my lord.” Esau said, “I have enough, my brother. Keep what you have for yourself.” Jacob said, “No, I pray you, if I have now found favor in your sight, then receive my gift from my hand. For I have seen your face, and it is as though I have seen the face of God, with you having received me favorably. Please take my blessing that has been brought to you, because God has dealt graciously with me and because I have plenty.” So, he urged him, and he took it.


Then Esau said, “Let us journey on our way, and I will go ahead of you.” But Jacob said to him, “My lord knows that the children are weak, and the flocks and herds with young are with me. If they are driven too hard one day, all the flock will die. Please let my lord pass over before his servant, and I will lead on slowly, according to the pace of the livestock that goes before me and the pace the children will be able to endure, until I come to my lord at Seir.”


So, Esau said, “Let me leave some of the people that are with me with you.”

But Jacob said, “What need is there? Let me find favor in the sight of my lord.”

So, Esau returned that day making his way back to Seir. But Jacob journeyed to Sukkoth and built himself a house and made booths for his livestock. 


(Of course Jacob was afraid. He had done bad things to his brother Esau: pretending to be him and stealing his birthright. However, Esau bore him no ill will: he was just happy to see him again.)




So, both Esau and Jacob and Joseph and his brothers had had issues with each other. Yet the characters who were afraid were those who had done their sibling wrong, not the wronged sibling. And these stories are different: the brothers who did wrong behave differently


Here are some definitions of fear:


feeling fear; filled with apprehension: afraid to go. 


(feeling regret, unhappiness, or the like: I’m afraid we can’t go on Monday. 

feeling reluctance, unwillingness, distaste, or the like: He seemed afraid to show his own children a little kindness.)



In the spiritual world the Writings tell us that those in evil and falsity are afraid, but there are other fears as we progress on our spiritual journey


AC 4249. And Jacob feared exceedingly, and was distressed. That this signifies the state when it is being changed, is evident from the fact that fear and distress are what are first in temptations, and that when the state is being inverted or changed these take precedence. The arcana which lie hidden in what is here said that Esau went to meet Jacob with four hundred men, and that Jacob therefore feared and was distressed can’t easily be set forth, for they are too interior. 


When good is taking the prior place and is subordinating truths to itself, which takes place when we’re undergoing spiritual temptations, the good that then flows in from within is accompanied by very many truths which have been stored up in our interiorperson. These can’t come to our mental view and understanding until good acts the first part, for then our natural begins to be enlightened by good, when it becomes apparent what things in it are in accord, and what are discordant, from which come the fear and distress that precede spiritual temptation. For spiritual temptation acts upon the conscience, which is in our interior person; and therefore when we enter into this temptation we don’t know where such fear and distress come from, although the angels with us know this well; for the temptation comes from the angels holding us in goods and truths while evil spirits are holding us in evils and falsities. ** (like Jacob wrestling with the angel?)


[2] For the things that come forth with the spirits and angels who are with us are perceived by us exactly as if they were in us; for while were living in the body, and if we don’t believe all things flow in, we suppose the things which come forth interiorly are not produced by causes outside of us, but that all the causes are within us, and are our very own; yet such is not the case. For whatever we think or will (our every thought and affection) are either from hell or heaven. When we think and will evils, and aredelighted with the consequent falsities, we may know our thoughts and affections are from hell; and while we are thinking and willing goods, and are delighted with the derivative truths, we may know they are from heaven, that is, through heaven from the Lord. the combat of evil spirits with angels appear as fear and distress, and of temptation, in us.


AE 80 (talking about John’s fear). Saying unto me, Fear not, signifies renewal of life. This is evident from the series of things in the internal sense. For John lay as dead, and the Lord, seen as the Son of man, laid His right hand upon him, and said to him, “Fear not.” His “lying as dead” signified failure of his self-life; the Lord’s “laying His right hand upon him” signified life from Him; therefore His saying to him “Fear not” signified renewal of life; for all who come suddenly from self-life into any spiritual life are at first afraid, but their life is renewed by the Lord. 


This renewal is effected in this way that the Divine presence, and fear on account of it, are accommodated to reception. The Lord is present, indeed, with all in the universe, but more nearly or remotely according to the reception of good by means of truths with them from Him (as when we take the Holy Supper). For good is that in which the Lord is present with angel, spirits and people; therefore the extent and quality of good from the Lord with them are what determine the extent and quality of the Divinepresence; if the presence goes beyond this, there is anguish and tremor; but by accommodation to reception there is renewal of life. This renewal is what is signified by “Fear not;” also in other places, where it is said by the Lord or by the angel of the Lord when seen: Renewal of life, that comes by accommodation to reception, appears in the spiritual world, when it is presented to view, as a cloud. All societies there are encompassed by such a cloud, denser or rarer according to reception. (Fears come between us and the Lord, heavens)

Note several different fears here: fear of losing what we had/fear on taking a new journey




So, what do we do when those fears attack us? How do we cope with that unpleasant feeling?PRAYERS TO GOD


Are we in spiritual temptation, or are we allowing hell to attack us?


Stories: fear of loss by families/can lead to denial of situation/fear of the unknown.


How does fear affect your life?


Here are some nurturing passages from the Word:


Jos 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”


Isa 44: 1- 8 Yet now listen, O Jacob, My servant, and Israel, whom I have chosen. Thus says the Lord who made you, and formed you from the womb, who will help you:
Do not fea
r, O Jacob, My servant, and you Jeshurun, whom I have chosen.
For I will pour
 water on him who is thirsty, and floods on the dry ground;
I will pour ou
t My Spirit on your descendants and My blessing on your offspring;
and they shall spring up as among the grass,
 as willows by the water courses.
One will say, “I am the Lord’s”;
 another will call himself by the name of Jacob;
and another will write on his hand, “Belonging to the Lord,”
 and name himself by the name of Israel.


Thus says the Lord the King of Israel, and his Redeemer the Lord of Hosts: I am the first, and I am the last; besides Me there is no God. Who is like Me? Let him proclaim and declare it, and recount it in order for Me, since I appointed the ancient people. And let them declare to them the things that are coming, and shall come. Do not fear, nor be afraid; have I not told you from of old, and declared it? You are My witnesses! Is there a God besides Me? There is no Rock; I know not any.



Photo by Maggie Panyko 2019, Outer Banks, North Carolina

Palm Sunday Sermon, March 25, 2018


1-11-18 picToday we are celebrating three different things.
March 25th is the Feast of the Annunciation. It has this name because 9 months before Jesus was born, the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would give birth. Jesus is coming!
A second festive gathering was a parade on Palm Sunday as the people flocked along the path in hopes of seeing Jesus’ arrival. Jesus is coming!
Thirdly, we celebrate the youth of our county, of the United States, gathered in more than 800 different American cities, praying and hoping for an end to gun violence.
Three very different occasions, but all in a way celebrating peace and honoring the Prince of Peace.
We are also celebrating the coming of Spring, despite a seasonally late snowfall. So much to celebrate. Hosanna in the highest.
As one of your ministers it is my privilege to call you to listen, to listen, to hear, to read, to remember, and to rejoice.
On Palm Sunday, we are expectant and joyful. But for our church’s liturgical history and calendar, repeating itself year after year, we would not know today of the tragedy, terror and loss befalling Christians in the weekdays to come, before Easter’s Resurrection celebration.
As your worship leader, I celebrate this Holy Week, this holy season, with you. And I invite you to do the same.
Be expectant. Trust that life is good, and good things will come forth, especially good things coming forth out of our struggles.
Emanuel Swedenborg teaches us that our regeneration follows out of our repentance and renewal. We are also taught that regeneration comes out of our very struggles. The grist of our angst acts to fertilize our future good blessings.
How else can we deeply feel our joyfulness, without the pains of our longing?
How else will we deeply know our best paths to walk, without the rockiness of the wrong roads?
How else might we discover the true meaning of our lives, without times of forlornness and folly, when we are searching here and there, willy nilly?
Jesus teaches us the two Great Laws of Love. Love of the Lord our God, and love toward our neighbors.
We are taught to be expectant of grace and healing.
We are schooled to be thankful, and to take weekly sabbath, this day of Sabbath, our time of sacred rest.
On Maundy Thursday, our dear Christ-to-come broke bread and poured wine, to celebrate his last Seder supper with his beloved Disciples.
On what is ironically called Good Friday, he was taken away as a bandit, a ne’er do well, a sinner, and with other robbers and thugs was hung painfully on a cross, and crucified, until he died.
Friday night and Saturday were times of silence, darkness, grief and mystery.
Our dear Lord was gone, and the people were desolate, in mourning.
Out of space and out of time, the world stopped, with no sense of meaning to guide our way out of this messy crisis.
Waiting alone must be the loneliest place on earth.
But then at dawn, at daybreak, the women went to his tomb, and found a barren cave. And stood mystified.
Turning, they saw that He was risen, alive again on the third day, as the Lord had promised.
It is not yet Easter, but the Lord’s Resurrection is coming. Jesus is coming!
Let us be expectant.
Let us celebrate.
Let us wave our palms with expectant joy, knowing our God is our Lord, Jesus.
And we will be reborn in Him.
We are grateful and blessed.
We are your dear children, Lord.


Palm Sunday Sermon, May 29, 2015

2015 Palm Sunday Sermon
March 29, 2015
Rev. Ron Brugler
Scripture Readings
Psalm 118:1-2, 19—29      Luke 19:28-40

Count Your Mixed Blessings

Once again, good morning everyone!   I need to be honest and begin by sharing with you  that over these past 37 years of writing sermons, I have always found Palm Sunday to be the most difficult one of the year to write.  I say this because I have never really known
what to focus on – I mean, do I lift up all those who welcomed our Lord into Jerusalem with shouts of Hosanna and say that we should be like them?

I think about that question and say, “well, yes and no.”  I mean, yes, we are all to welcome our Lord into our lives and affirm his presence with us.   But then, my mind always moves ahead those few days when those same people rejected him and called for his crucifixion.  And then, I must answer, “No.  We are not to be like them.”  For never are we to turn away from the Giver of life and blessings.   And so, every year, I am faced with this dilemma.  And I have wondered, what is this day’s most significant meaning for us?

But this year, perhaps due to this past week’s brief and rather surprising snowfall, I had recollection of something that happened many years ago, and this memory has brought me an insight that I want to share with you.   And I want to do so because the more I
have thought about it, the more the events of Holy Week have come to make sense to me – so much so that it has taken on a very beneficial meaning for me.  And I hope sharing this  will do the same for you.

You see, back in 1977, on May 12th to be exact, while Val and I lived at the Swedenborg School of Religion, something happened that I will never forget.  The day began as our days often did.  We got up in the morning, had our breakfast, and Val went to work at the
First National Bank of Boston while I finished preparing for classes.   It was a warm, spring day with temperatures in the low 70’s.  The weather report indicated that the day would be uneventful weather-wise, and so, Val went to work wearing but a short sleeved blouse and thin jacket.

But throughout that morning, something very strange happened. The weather quickly changed and the temperature began to drop.  And then it began to snow, and snow and snow – those large wet flakes that seem to only fall in springtime.  And fall they did.
One, then three, then six inches of snow accumulated on the ground.   And by the time it was finished, the Boston area had a record snowfall of some 14 inches.  Cars were stranded in ditches. Power went out due to downed electric lines.  And literally thousands of tree
branches also crashed to the ground due to the weight of that snow on the new leaves.  And Val finally made it home – wet, cold and in a mood that I will not go into.  If I remember correctly, the weatherman called it an “occluded front” meaning that a two or thee-mile-wide dome of cold air had formed and moved over the city and sat there as
the snow fell.  We didn’t care what it was called.  We just knew that we wanted it to end.  And we also knew that when it comes to the High’s and Low’s of weather, we much preferred the Highs.

Yes, back in 1977, Boston came close to setting a world record in terms of changing weather.   It came close to ousting the little town of Spearfish, South Dakota, nestled in the foot of the Black Hills from the Guinness Book of World Records.  Spearfish, you see,  holds the record for the largest temperature drop ever recorded. On January 23, 1943, its weather station recorded a jump from -4F to 45F in just over two minutes.   And then, an hour and a half later, the same weather station measured a decrease from 54F to -4F in only 27 minutes.    Both Spearfish and Boston have something to teach us about life itself, for like the weather, our moods can seem to change just as quickly.

This relates to the events of Palm Sunday and Holy Week.  After all, the city of Jerusalem is in our record books (the New Testament) for having the largest drop in mood ever recorded.  Yes, between “Palm Sunday’ and ‘Good Friday’, just look at what those
people experienced — first celebration and praise, then anger and tragedy.  Each of these was so unexpected, but happen they did.  And when we look at how such events apply to us today I think of it as kind of like a “proprium” tap.   We turn it on full blast when we want
God to be our hired manager of the universe.  And we turn it off when we want to take control.

But within these events lies an important truth for us to remember.  The great news is that God doesn’t give up.  And God understands our every mood and desire.  And whether or not we are truly prepared to receive him anew into our lives, he still enters into the Jerusalem within our minds.  And he comes, willing to give us the ultimate message of God’s love and forgiveness and acceptance of each of us.  That’s the high of it.

And the low of it is that five days later the people called for him to be killed.  And knowing that even this was to happen, he still entered into the Jerusalem within our minds and came, willing to give us the ultimate message of God’s love and forgiveness and acceptance of each of us.  Yes, his love runs that low, and that high!

And so, there you have the high and love of it.   Our Lord came.  Our Lord understands.  Our Lord forgives.  And he comes, not to be our judge, but to be our Savior.      Amen.