How many of us have had a restless, sleepless night because we were wrestling with our own conflicts in life? 

This Sunday is Holy Communion Sunday. All are welcome to partake in the sacred remembrance of both Jesus' last supper with his disciples as well as the loving sacrifice Jesus made when He gave his life on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins and the promise of everlasting life. 

We will also look more closely at the story of Jacob and his wrestling match with God. How many of us have had a restless, sleepless night because we were wrestling with our own conflicts in life?  Come hear the message of peace and understanding that can come from giving our burdens to the Lord and trusting in His guidance to bring us to a successful, and satisfying outcome. We look forward to seeing you!

Have you found God in unexpected places?

There are two reasons this can happen. 1. You need God's presence in your life. 2. God needs your presence in someone else's life. We can find God in surprising places. Sometimes it's when we are feeling especially vulnerable or desperate. Other times we find God guiding us to respond to someone else's need. This Sunday we will explore examples of God's presence in surprising places in both bible stories and contemporary stories from this time period. Join us for prayer, praise and song as well as peaceful meditation.

The gathering for Ruth Curtiss' family and friends will follow worship from 11:30-1:30.

Parable of the Seed Sower

This Sunday we will explore the Parable of the Seed Sower. We will consider what kind of seed we are and what kind we aspire to become. In doing so, we will also ponder how often our competitive spirit pulls us from our accepting and loving behaviors. Do you ever find yourself "categorizing" people? It happens to the best of us! We will support one another in opening our minds to seeing as God sees with value and purpose in each of God's children. Keep in mind, we are each a work in progress. God isn't finished with us yet! Hallelujah!

Family Fun Friday is July 21st 5-7! This month's theme is engineering. IF you like to build with your hands and design things, problem solve and collaborate, don't miss this chance to build strong, tall towers; boats that float and sculptures out of toothpicks and mini marshmallows. Yes we will also have food, including ice cream sundaes. Come join us! Young and old; All Are Welcome!

Blessings,
Pastor Kim

Holy Humor Sunday

This Sunday is Holy Humor Sunday. We invite everyone to join us for fun and laughter. You are welcome to dress in something silly to join in the fun, but don't feel you have to. If you look in the mirror and it makes you smile or giggle, it's perfect for our Sunday gathering. We will be talking about why God wants us to be joyful and how we sometimes take life a little too seriously. Craftsbury has had its fill of losses of special people this last year. We could use a little cheering up. Life can seem a little overwhelming and gloomy. But we have the love of God and the support of each other to get us through. Let's celebrate with a little fun and be on the lighter side for a while.

Our Summer Sunday Activities are filling in! Thanks to our fabulous volunteer leaders. Come join us for the fun!

*June 9th Carole Young and Diane Sanville will be singing with the kids.

*July 16th Emily Diaz will be leading the children in a nature journaling hike with journals to take home with them.

*July 23rd Barb Strong will be making pretzels with the kids and talking about Jesus as the Bread of Life

*July 30th is our Blessing of the Animals. Everyone is invited to bring your pet in person if they get along well with others or a picture. Those who are house trained are invited into the sanctuary. Those who are too big or rowdy and meet us outside for blessings at the end of the service around 11:00. Also, Perry and Rick Thomas will be bringing a team of oxen and talking about how to train and drive oxen.

Hope you can come for one or all of the Sundays and enjoy the activities. Worship is at 10:00 and children activities follow children's time in the service. See you soon!
Blessings,
Pastor Kim

P.S. I am beginning visits around town to get to know folks. I am available Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday afternoons and evenings. Please contact me by phone 802-535-4757 or email mamaof3.larose@gmail.com to set a convenient time for you. We can meet anywhere in town, go for a walk, or just talk at the church or in your home. No entertaining or food necessary! I would love to spend time getting to know you and your story and letting you get to know me better.

Sharing Hospitality in Your Daily Life

Come join us this Sunday, July 2nd to consider the idea of sharing hospitality in your daily life, not just in your home. We will look at what the bible says about hospitality and how we can embrace these ideas and live them out in our daily interactions.

It takes courage, faith and a willingness to step out of our comfort zone but the rewards can be life changing! We look forward to seeing you!
Blessings,
Pastor Kim

Fan of the Flame of Faith

"Fan the flame of faith," is the message this beautiful Sunday morning, as we welcome Rev. Michael Caldwell as our guest preacher. Among the children of our community, Christ's love is kindled through our Sunday School program, which is growing each week. The children's presence and sense of discovery bring joy to our worship and fellowship, and create a sense of wonder for all that God can do in our lives, through faith. Come be part of our community of seekers!

The Lord is my Pace Setter

"The Lord is my pace setter, I shall not rush. He makes me stop and rest for quiet intervals. He provides me with images of stillness which restore my serenity. He leads me in ways of efficiency through calmness of mind, and his guidance is peace. Even though I have a great many things to accomplish each day, I will not fret, for his presence is here. His timelessness, His all-importance will keep me in balance. He prepares refreshment and renewal in the midst of my activity, by anointing my mind with his oils of tranquility. My cup of joyous energy overflows; surely harmony and effectiveness shall be the fruits of my hours. For I shall walk in the pace of my Lord, and dwell in His house forever."
~ Psalm 23, Japanese version

Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus...

Luke 24:13-15: "Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them." Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, we too are on a journey together, with Jesus walking right beside us. Come find in your heart and soul the awakening spirit and presence of the risen Christ as we worship together Sunday morning at 10 a.m.

Allelulia! Allelulia!

"Allelulia! Allelulia! Hearts to heaven and voices raise; Sing to God a hymn of gladness; Sing to God a hymn of praise!" Rise early Easter morning and join the Craftsbury community at the 6 a.m. sunrise service on Echo Hill Road. The 10 a.m. Easter worship service at the Church on the Common includes special music, "Swing the Gates Open," by the Collinsville Choir, and a message of promise in Christ's resurrection, from Pastor Kim. Everyone is welcome!

Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord

"Join all and sing his name declare; Let every voice resound with joyous acclamation! Hosanna praise ye the Lord! Blessed is him who cometh to bring us salvation." Paster Kim's reflection today is titled "Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord." We remember Jesus' entry into Jerusalem with scripture, and in singing "The Palms," and are reminded of his passion on the road to the cross. As Holy Week begins, come all to worship and hear God's word on this beautiful Palm Sunday morning.

First Blossoms of Spring..

"People come first" is Pastor Kim Larose's reflection for our worship service this morning, based on the story in John's gospel about Jesus's healing of the blind man. In this season of Lent, will eyes open to God's word like the soon to open first blossoms of spring? "One thing I do know," said the blind man to the crowd of people who questioned his healing, "that though I was blind, now I see." Come be a part of our worship, starting at 10 a.m. and experience the awakening spirit of new life in God's people!

You Who Are Thirsty, Come to the Well...

“You who are thirsty, come to the well and drink from waters flowing. You who are hungry, come to the bread and eat of his holiness. You who are tired, find rest. You who are weak, find strength.” On this beautiful last day of winter, we welcome Kim Larose, from Danville, as our new pastor. "Drink from the Rock" is the title of Kim's reflection this morning. Jim Currier will provide special music. Please join us at the service at 10 a.m. and our fellowship coffee hour immediately following to meet Kim and welcome her to our community!

Surely, Goodness and Mercy

Peter... knelt down and prayed. He turned to the body and said, "Tabitha, get up." Then she opened her eyes, and seeing Peter, she sat up. He gave her his hand and helped her up. - Acts 9
 

God is my shepherd;  I shall not want. God makes me lie down in green pastures... - Psalm 23

Dear friends,

When spring begins to peek around the corner, it does so shyly, like a child in her parent's arms. She smiles at us tentatively, then hides behind a safe shoulder or skirt, not certain whether it's safe to reach out.

If we persist gently, we might make friends, and the shyness and reluctance will give way to open-hearted curiosity, the seed of love and friendship.

Ahhh, spring. Right now, in its infancy, it is to be celebrated without reserve. It's still too early for the craziness of all we have to do when the lawn and the garden begin to sweep us up in busy-ness. The time will soon come when we might be too busy to contemplate miracles, even as miracles are bursting forth all around us.

The Book of Acts tells us of the time just after Jesus' death, resurrection, and re-appearance to his disciples. This week's reading tells of a new miracle; a miracle effected by Peter, who, only a few weeks ago, was a betrayer of the same Jesus who first taught his friends about miracles. Tabitha, or Dorcas, was a good woman. She is the only woman in the New Testament who is accorded the title of disciple, although we are pretty sure that there were many women in Jesus' circle who so qualified. Tabitha, whom the story tells us  "was devoted to good works and acts of charity", has died. Peter is called to her funereal bed, and he brings her back to life.

Oh, great, we say. Another inexplicable bit of ancient magic that might not square with anything that we have experienced.  Is there anyone among us who wouldn't love to have someone we love who has died, brought back to life?  Why do we have to keep reading these stories that tell of miracles we wish could happen to us?

What do we do with such stories, other than grieve for the absence of such miracles? What do we do when we are so caught up in the busy-ness of our lives that we can't see the miracles that are happening all around us?

With a little bit of good fortune, some heartfelt prayer, and some humble reckoning, we find "goodness and mercy" in what our lives, and the lives of others, offer to us.  Maybe our Tabitha won't come back to life, but her devotion to "good works and charity" will live on beyond her death. It will reside in our hearts. She will live among us in lives comforted, changed, and restored by her goodness, and by the example of our own lives, enriched at the feet of the Tabitha's we've known and loved.

God smiles on charity, on goodness, on our ability to understand stories not for their factual truth, but for their gentle nudge. Most of us know the 23rd Psalm, which we will read and sing tomorrow. "Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life." Our Tabitha may not spring back to earthly life, but she is a disciple, and invites us to be the same. She will always be that disciple. She will follow us all the days of our lives. Her new life, restored by Peter, a bumbling, growing, learning disciple, will continue to be among us and to teach us how to live.

Meanwhile, spring's miracles remind us that looking for them urgently blinds us to them. New life springs from the ground; from surprising resurrections. Let us pray that we don't' get too busy to notice this. Let us pray that we will be surprised by them.


Share your miracles in community, or hear stories of such miracles if you're wondering whether they are real. They are; God showers us with them - maybe especially in a tentative, at-first-shy-but-finally-welcoming springtime. The God who is our shepherd really does restore our souls. And the pastures are green. How sweet this is.

Sabbath blessings-
AFP

 

Who Are You, Lord?

[Saul] asked, "Who are you, Lord?" The reply came, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. - Acts 9

Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, "Who are you?", because they knew it was Jesus. - John 21

[Jesus] said to [Peter} the third time, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, "Do you love me?" And he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." - John 21

Dear friends-

As a new person - brand new, actually - came into the life of our extended family yesterday, I've found myself thinking about what those first few moments in the wide world might be like for a newborn person. Since we will probably never know the exact nature of those first thoughts, I've let my imagination take hold. Please bear with me.

I picture those first impressions as being, among other possible feelings, pretty frightening. Warmth, evening-like and comforting dark, and safe enclosure suddenly give way to light, wide-openness, and something like cold. Yes, birthing rooms have become friendlier to newborns than perhaps they once were, but still... It has to be a great shock. Even basic nourishment, a given in the womb, now becomes an urgent concern, with nothing but a loud cry to tell the world of the first pangs of hunger.

And I dare to imagine that, if words were possible, the first ones would be, "Do you love me?" "Will I be safe and tenderly cared for here in this bewildering world?"

Jesus has returned, resurrected, to his friends. John's Gospel tells of his third appearance among them. They are gathered - maybe huddled is a better word - by the lakeshore. Peter, the disciple who betrayed Jesus three times in Jesus' time of trial, decides to do what many people who are confused about what to do next have decided; he goes fishing. His equally confused friends join him. Maybe the familiar task will ease their sorrow and confusion.

Peter and his friends fail badly at fishing, until a stranger on the shore gives them some advice. Suddenly, their nets are full, almost to the point of tearing. They return to the shore, discover who the stranger is, and Jesus invites them to breakfast. What follows is one of the most tender moments in all of Scripture.

Three times, once for each betrayal before the cross, Jesus asks Peter if Peter loves him. Not just once, but three times. Surely, we can understand why Jesus might not be certain of this love. Few of us, I imagine have escaped moments like this, when we turn to someone we love, at the end of a difficult day, and asked for such assurance. When I do this, I can usually only get away with asking once.

Jesus asks for the same assurance, not unlike the way a bewildered newborn might wonder if he or she can trust that the new faces around him or her will really love them, will really help the child to 'feed the sheep' that are one's own self and the others in the flock he or she has just joined.

Both John's Gospel and the reading from the Book of Acts, quoted above, share the question, "Who are you?" The circumstances are quite different, but the uncertainty is a common thread in both questions. We are not as certain as we would like to be, either of God's love for us, or that of those with whom we share our time and space in living.

"Who are these people, and will they love me as I need to be loved?" This might just be our very first question. It is surely one we ask again and again. It seems as if even God, who is both all-powerful and, as shown by Jesus the Christ, completely vulnerable to our human frailty, has this question in mind about us. Jesus himself dares ask this.

How shall we answer God, and what does that reply look like as we live in a Creation shaped by just that love, waiting to be made real for all of God's children? The answer is the same one we give to the new child, ready to live a beautiful life and wondering if others will join us.

It's the right question, and the answer changes the world - for a newborn, for us, and for Godself.

Sabbath blessings-
AFP

Oh, Thomas; We Know Thee

But [Thomas] said, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe."  A week later ..., although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe." Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!"

Dear friends -

My son, who does not follow me to church, quotes to me an old adage, one with which Jesus might have an interesting argument to listen to: "The believer is happy; the doubter wise."

In reminding me of this ancient and conflicted wisdom, my son stands as a proxy for many, many people I love, and gives voice to a rich way of seeing the world. It's a wrestling voice that has the sound of my own words, doubts, and questions, in chorus with others. Most of us have a hard time believing things we can't or haven't seen. At the very least, we have our own customized filters for what we accept on faith. Jesus is a puzzle like this.

Even if we had sat at Jesus' feet while he was alive, and had embraced his life-refreshing, if difficult, teachings, it would still be hard to take in his words when he re-appeared as a resurrected soul. Like Thomas, we'd probably have to see to believe.

Much has been written by scholars of the Bible about what the word we read as "believe" really means. In a culture that has grown around religions which insist that, "You must BELIEVE this, or else ___ [Fill in the blank]", it can be very hard to stand up to the priest or pastor and say, "I want to be happy AND wise. I need to believe AND doubt." Far too many faith leaders have replied by saying, "No Communion cup for you, faithless one."

But the Communion cup is not a reward. It is an offering. It is an embrace. It is a sign that, while Jesus, in the voice of God, may chide us, he never rejects us. Jesus did the "tsk, tsk" thing to Thomas, for being unable to believe without seeing. But he didn't throw him out of the room.

God knows that we're not there yet - wherever 'there' might be. It seems pretty clear that God has had enough time to figure out that we have a lot of questions and doubts. Some of those questions are really, really hard ones. But most of us know that there are a lot of moments of "Aha! Now I understand that!" along the way to full understanding.

A silly example: in the garden, I came to know the delight of understanding how to deal with witch grass. It felt great. Then the crab grass came up; I'm still working on that. But I can re-live the joy of what I've learned, even as I bang my head against the garden fence about what I haven't yet learned. If we can't "believe" something, we can still belove it.

Somewhere this week, I read someone's words: "God is a question, not an answer." This flies in the face of many traditional "understandings" of God (who is, by the way, pretty much incomprehensible). Yet I think God delights in our questions. God certainly prefers our questions to watching, broken-hearted, as we walk away in disgust, frustration, or sad resignation.

A faith life of questions and doubts may not be the easy, groaning table filled with steak tips, shrimp cocktail, potato salad, and fresh cherries we'd like to sit down at. But there is bread and cup at that table, and all comers are welcomed.

We'll serve this holy meal this Sunday. The welcome includes you. Remember; it's not a reward. It's an offering - a gift - an embrace. It is, in its mystical way, the Body of Christ, right before our eyes. Thomas knew that, and that was enough. It took him time to figure this out, but figure it out he did.

We call out to him across the centuries: "Thomas, we know thee; we understand."

For us, for now, it's also enough. And there will be more when needed.

Sabbath blessings-
AFP

An Idle Tale?

They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat... - Isaiah 65

Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who toldthe apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. - Luke 24

 

Dear friends -

Pardon me if I substitute "Day of Resurrection" for the more common word "Easter" here. It's just that I Googled "Easter" yesterday, looking for a resonating image for this mysterious Holy Day. And all I got was pictures of rabbits and colored eggs. This experience put me off my feed a bit. I love eggs, and I love bunnies, but there is more to this sacred time than fuzzy, cuddly indulgences.

No matter what kind of understanding we bring to this preposterous idea of the bodily resurrection of Jesus - and there are many such understandings - the simple truth is that none of us understand it. If Mary, Mary, and the other women ran to us from the empty tomb and told us such a story, we would most likely, as did the other disciples, regard their news as an idle tale.


No we don't understand this astonishing story. Some of us take it as it's told, and we are in awe of the kind of faith that permits such an understanding. Some of us have had the mystical experience of knowing the presence of someone we love who has died. We might see this as an example of resurrection; yet no one I know of has been able to produce a photo of this departed person's physical presence So it is a resurrection colored with imagination, reverence, and holy hope. Nothing wrong with that. Others of us hear the story as a metaphor - a poem of abiding love. Others among us just scratch our heads and mumble, "What the heck is this about?" Probably that's what those bewildered disciples thought, at least at first.

But something happened on that strange morning of the Day of Resurrection. How else would the disciple Peter have changed from an uncomprehending, bumbling, fickle follower of Jesus into thegiant spiritual leader he became? How would Paul, who wasn't actually present during Jesus' life, have changed from an active and vicious persecutor of the early Christians into one of this new faith's earliest and most articulate teachers? How would Augustine have morphed from a self-indulgent cad into one of the greatest early Christian theologians? How else would Dietrich Bonheoffer have mustered the courage to stand up to Hitler against a tide of cowardly complicity? How else would have... ? The list goes on and on.

And the 'list' bespeaks a mystery beyond our understanding.

When we don't understand something, we often either dismiss it, or we call in the experts to help explain it. The richness of Christian faith can be walked away from, but it cannot be dismissed. Many have tried to do so; even many Christians have managed to wear the label even as they dismissed the depth of its call. How sad; how ultimately futile and wasteful.

But there are no experts to explain this thing we can't understand. Maybe the best thing is not to try to understand it, at least not in the way we commonly seek to understand. When we pull it apart to examine its individual parts, we can never get it back together; there will always be a few screws and washers and springs left over, whose absence render this mysterious thing unusable.

But we can sing about it. We can imagine that the resurrection's gift to us is a glowing ember of sureness that hatred, violence, and betrayal - the very essence of the evil cross - do not have the last word in God's Kindom. And we can ask, of ourselves and each other, how we are called to be in the world; how we are called to bring the triumph of kindness and forgiveness to a world that aches for just this, even as it acts contrary to the call of kindness.

And we can do this together. How sweet and rich our voices sound when we sing this vision as one voice.

Join us. Many will gather at echo Hill in East Craftsbury at 6:30 AM to sing this song to the rising Son. And we will gather again at 10 AM at the Church on the Common to sing again. And again.

And again. No matter how you imagine it, the Sun and the Son will rise. Sing to this Son with us. He is one of us. He is us. And he returns.

Resurrection Sabbath blessings-
AFP

Listening to Passion

Morning by morning he wakens—wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught. The Lord God has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I did not turn backward. - Isaiah 50
 

Dear friends-

Most of us don't want our religion - if we want religion at all - to be all about guilt Many, many people have fled from organized religion because it feels to them like a bludgeon, a place they go to get flogged for their failures. I have heard people from almost any faith tradition speak of how they learned about "Guilt; the Gift that Keeps on Giving". No wonder we/they flee. I fled church for many years, for very much this reason.

And the reason I came back? Come close; I'll whisper it. I was actually guilty of many, many things. Actually, there is much more to my return than that, but pretending that this wasn't a part of my aching need to return would amount to pretending I'd never done anything wrong. I've tried it; we all have. It doesn't work.

We approach the end of the season of Lent. If we've been paying attention to the season's call for repentance, self-examination, and humble prayer, we are more or less ready for some relief. (That's a pale, thin way of describing the power of Easter, but let it suffice for now.) There is one more stone in the road, however, and it's a big one. It's called Palm Sunday and Holy Week. The Sunday before Easter celebrates the day when Jesus arrived in Jerusalem for the Passover celebration - and for much more troubling times than his friends and disciples were willing to acknowledge.

Jesus had spent much time prior to his arrival here preaching, teaching, and healing. The word was out; he was a pretty amazing prophet - maybe even the Messiah. The crowds in Jerusalem hailed him as their savior; his parade into town rivaled, for excitement, the arrival on the other side of town of the Roman ruler, who had come to Jerusalem to keep the peace during Passover week. "Hosanna! Save us! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!"

The celebration lasted a few hours; maybe a day or two. Then, the full force of Jesus' radical, world-changing Good News began to sink in. It was dangerous. It threatened the big powers. It asked people to change the way they lived, saw the world, and imagined their salvation. Everyone wants the world to change. Few actually want to change themselves. Not so slowly, the celebration turned into doubt, resignation, fear, and betrayal.

If we don't take the full measure of this all-too-common human reaction, then the miracle of Easter is nothing more than an occasion for chocolate bunnies, ham dinners, and the distant echo of a trumpet heralding a shallow elation.

So we read the story of what is called "the Passion." We listen to it. We imagine ourselves in the crowd, desperately wanting Jesus to change the world, and not wanting to change ourselves. It is a sober story. It is a big stone in the road.

But the stone will be moved. We will only comprehend the magnitude of that miracle when we walk around that stone. It is a really, really big stone.

But not as big as God's love for Creation - and the bumbling, beautiful human beings that area troublesome, but blessed part of that Creation. When we take the full measure of this love, the world changes forever. Because we change ourselves. That's what it takes.

Listen to what Passion really sounds like. We'll share the story at 10 AM. If we will open our ears and do not turn backward, as Isaiah invites us to do, we will be taught.

Passionate Sabbath blessings-
AFP

 

The Day the Manna Ceased

"The manna ceased on the day they ate the produce of the land, and the Israelites no longer had manna; they ate the crops of the land of Canaan that year." - Joshua 5

Dear friends-

How would we define "real life"?

Some of us would say real life begins when we put our noses to the grindstone, shoulders to the wheel, etc., etc., etc. All those clichés that say, in essence, that real life begins when we assume full responsibility for our lives and do what is necessary to thrive, or at least, to survive.

Others might say that we waste too much of our energy bellying up to the buzz saw, scratching out a living, climbing the career ladder, or any of the still-long list of clichés that cast the life of labor in a less favorable light. This angle on "real life" says that we would do well to spend less of our time worrying about gathering things, accomplishments, and sort-of-proudly-worn blisters from our labors, and spend more time welcoming God's gifts into our life's landscapes. More time in prayer, contemplation, contentment with things as they are.

We can hardly imagine what "real life" looked and felt like for the people of Israel as they wandered in the wilderness for forty years after their liberation from slavery in Egypt. Living in a tent can be fun for a while, but dragging meager possessions across a harsh landscape for 2/5 of a century would, for most of us, feel less like a camping trip than like a sentence to Hell.

Sure, their daily food fell out of the sky, so they didn't have to spend any time planting, weeding, harvesting, picking potato beetles, praying for rain, putting food by, and wondering if the larder would hold out until more food came. But the tent thing still hung over their heads; at least that's how I imagine it must have felt.

Finally, after forty years, they arrived in the Promised Land. They celebrated their first Passover in their new home and, for the first time in so long that none had been alive when it was so, they had to turn to the land and its possibilities to wrest a meal out of the unfamiliar soil. Their food stopped dropping magically from the sky.

Which one was "real life"? The short answer is probably that both were real, again, in ways we can hardly imagine. But, of a sudden, their home was no longer a promise; it was there in front of them, full of challengers, beauties, sorrows, and joys.

Every individual, every family, every community, and every nation experiences times of promise, and then times when the promise becomes real and the "real work" begins. This is not to say that those forty years - or whatever time - do not have their challenges; surely the story of the Israelites in the Sinai tells of many such stones in the road. But then the road stopped at the gateway of a Promised, but unknown Land, and it was time to shape an enduring community; to make a home that would reflect the original promise.

Often, when we find ourselves at the point where the road of promise ends and it becomes time to fish or cut bait, we tie ourselves in knots devising strategies, rules, governments, and procedures to guide us along. To be sure, some part of this is important work; we do need rules and norms to live in community.

But the questions that a home of any kind ask of us are, finally, spiritual questions, not tactical or political ones. Will we love each other unfailingly? Will we do the hard work of forgiving mistakes and betrayals, and asking forgiveness when we are the betrayers? Will we live on the assumption that there is plenty for all? Will we stop our own self-focused work long enough to pick up and encourage the lost, the broken-hearted, and the wounded? Will we remember our common ancestors and their beautiful struggles?

We meet in voting booths and Town Halls to ask - and presumably, answer - the tactical questions that arise in community. it's important that we do so.

But we meet in worship to ask and wrestle the spiritual questions that lie beneath our practical problems. The Holy Spirit does inform. the Holy Spirit does advise. The Holy Spirit does comfort. The Holy Spirit does demand that we answer the hard questions honestly and humbly. If we tend to this work, the Promised Land does keep its promises. If we don't tend to this work, the promise slips away. We have only to look around us to see what happens when we don't tend to this work.

Join us. Each one of us brings the voice of the Holy Spirit to this essential, holy work. Every one of us. Ten AM; it's beautiful work, in a sacred place on the Common of our community.

Sabbath blessings-
AFP

That which is not bread

Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live. - Isaiah 55

Dear friends-

Most of the blessed souls who receive this weekly invitation/rambling are not regular churchgoers; at least not in Craftsbury. And a good number of these people rarely gather on Sunday mornings in any place of public worship.

Just so we're clear; this is not a problem, for the writer anyway. Every single soul I know well enough to say that I know them wants Creation to be a better thing than it now is. This truth, in my estimation, is all it takes to say that we live in a spirit-world - all of us. We live in a world that yearns to be gentler, kinder, more abundant, and more welcoming. Even if we don't act that way

I read something this week that struck me with force. It was about the Holy Bible. It said, 
“A book or text in the Bible cannot mean anything for us, unless we first realize it was not written to us.”

This brought me up short. I begin each of these invites with a snippet of text from Scripture. I spend a lot of time thinking about these texts; that's part of my job. And I am sometimes conceited enough to think that, if I drop these quotes here, their meaning will come clear to those who read them, even if they are sometimes not clear to me. My bad.

But...  but... there is a reason why these words hold such power. Whether or not we gather in shared worship on Sunday mornings, the Bible plays a vast role in defining the struggle we engage in our shared communal life. Isaiah, quoted above, is one of the richest, most challenging, most inviting texts of all.

He asks a people removed from our time by 2500 years why they spend their treasures on things that do not sustain them. He was talking to people who had an entirely different relationship to food and sustenance than we do - at least most of us. Most of us can fill our bellies without much effort. Yes; some - too many - cannot. And maybe it is those suffering souls to whom Isaiah best speaks across two and a half millennia. We can fill our bellies; can we fill our hearts?

We who live in a world of plenty are asked a different question by Isaiah's words. Are we nourished by the way we live our lives? Is God's glorious promise nurtured by how we spend our treasures? Anyone of us who takes a close, honest, humble look at ourselves in this season of Lent will likely be made uncomfortable by this question. We feast on plenty, even as we live and flounder in a culture that assumes there isn't enough to go all the way around the table

But the paradox is that, as Isaiah tells us, God really wants us to pull up to the table and "delight yourselves in rich food". God wants us to live abundantly - all of us. All. Of. Us. This may mean something different to us today than it meant to the souls to whom he spoke. But it means something powerful to every soul who lives, or has ever lived, in God's broken, gorgeous Creation.

Of course, I want everyone I know and love to gather in worship together every Sunday morning in worship; it's the nature of my work. But even if we don't, might we pray and imagine together? Might we ask what truly sustains us? Might we commit ourselves to "enough-ness"?

Doing so changes everything that is broken into something filled with hope, love, and plenty. The questions we ask ourselves may be different from the questions people asked of themselves 2500 years ago. But the souls of that time yearned for the same thing for which we yearn today; they yearned for life abundant. And that for which they yearned, and for which we yearn, is, as it always has been, within our grasp.

So we worship together, imagining how to make this blessed promise real. We gather at 10 AMon Sundays. You are more welcome than you might imagine. You are part of the answer to the questions God's children have been asking since we first started asking questions.

And of the answers to such questions, as Isaiah says, "Listen, so that you may live."

This is good advice. It was good counsel 2500 years ago, and it still is.

Lenten Sabbath blessings-
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