This Week – 08/10/2020

This week.

But the righteousness that comes from faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? But what does it say? “The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim)… Romans 10:6-8

This summer we have spent our Sundays hearing the stories of Genesis. An ongoing theme is that no matter how unfaithful the people are, no matter how much the people get wrapped up in their own plots and power, God remains faithful. In the reading from Romans yesterday, Paul reminds us that we don’t have to go up to heaven or into the abyss to find God, we just need to realize that God is already near to us.

Five months into a world reordered due to COVID-19 and facing the uncertainty of returning to campus and class, a lot of us feel powerless and isolated. It is good to be reminded that even in our anxiety and isolation, God is with us.

  • In this uncertain time, have there been times when you found the word you needed nearby?
  • What word is on your lips and in your heart now?

I hope you take some time this week to feel the nearness of God. If you want some ways to connect, check out the schedule below for the Zoom gatherings and online offerings.

–Kelley

Gathering Online: https://bit.ly/TCZoom

  • Tuesday, 6 pm on Zoom
    Drop by to hang out or have a chat on Zoom.
  • Saturday, 11 am Jonathan Daniels Pilgrimage Online
    You can watch the virtual pilgrimage at www.dioala.org/jonathandaniels or on Facebook.
  • Sunday, 6 pm on Zoom
    Join us for worship on Sunday, August 16, at 6 pm on Zoom

This Sunday – 10th Sunday after Pentecost

This Sunday.

Joseph and his coat of many colors.

Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his children, because he was the son of his old age; and he had made him a long robe with sleeves. But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him. Gen. 37:3-4
 
Dolly Parton has had a certain cultural resurgence in the 21st century. The 2018 Netflix film Dumplin, another Netflix show dramatizing her songs, and a 2020 podcast called Dolly Parton’s America that asks if she was the way to bring the country together. In 1971 Dolly Parton released a song called “Coat of Many Colors,” which reached #4 on the U.S. charts. The song tells the story of her mother lovingly sewing a coat for her out of different colored rags, and that while she sewed, she told Dolly the story of Joseph and his special coat. For Dolly, the coat her mother made was a symbol of her mother’s love for her, but the song goes on to say that she was picked on for the hand made garment. 

When I read the story of Joseph, it is Dolly’s song about the coat of many colors that comes to mind. The robe that Jacob gave Joseph is never described in detail. It is certainly ornate and serves as a token of Joseph’s status as the favorite. The story of Joseph continues the long narrative of sibling rivalry and parental favorites. Though it is a story that is filled with people with complex motives and reactions, most of us likely remember the simplified version told in Sunday school.

Join us on Sunday night at 6 pm on Zoom (Download Bulletin), as we ask once again: What should we learn from this strange story? It seems to be a story about privilege and power, and what we choose to do with them. What can we learn about those choices? And where is God in all of this?

– Kelley

This Week – 08/03/2020

This week.

I spent part of this evening watching a pair of hummingbirds zoom around a feeder on my front porch. I always think of hummingbirds as being in constant motion. But tonight I got to watch them at rest. They would each take a turn drinking from the feeder, but then retire to a tree branch nearby.

Since early March, I have worked primarily at home. I have only been present for a handful or worship services, and I have not received Holy Eucharist. While I am tired of working from home, am sick endless Zoom meetings, and miss gathering in person for worship, I have grown thankful for the time that I have been given to simply sit and watch the world around me–especially the hummingbirds.

This Thursday is the Feast of the Transfiguration of Jesus. This curious scene is found in all three synoptic Gospels. Jesus takes Peter, James, and John to a mountain to pray. There they witness Jesus transfigured and see Moses and Elijah with him. As part of the prayer for the day, we ask that “being delivered from the disquietude of this world, [we[ may by faith behold the King in his beauty.”

I Googled the definition of “disquietude” and found that its dictionary definition is “a state of uneasiness or anxiety.” I have certainly been living in disquietude these past few months. I am thankful for the moments like this evening, where I could leave the disquietude of the world behind and see the beauty and glory of God’s creation, and be reminded that evening hummingbirds need a place to rest.

We are back to our usual schedule this week: Zoom hangout on Tuesday at 6 pm and worship on Sunday at 6 pm. I hope you join us.

–Kelley

Gathering Online: https://bit.ly/TCZoom

Tuesday, 6 pm on Zoom
Drop by to hang out or have a chat on Zoom.

Sunday, 6 pm on Zoom
Join us for worship on Sunday, August 9, at 6 pm on Zoom.

This Sunday – 9th Sunday after Pentecost

This Sunday.

Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” Gen. 32:24-26

This Sunday we will hear the curious story of Jacob’s all-night wrestling match with a mysterious being. The text leaves room for interpretation of who Jacob encounters and what the wrestling means. The experience has a profound effect on Jacob. The experience is not just physical but is an encounter with God. Jacob leaves limping and with a new name, and with a transformed faith. God, who had been a background character in the story of Jacob and his family, now takes center stage.

Have you experienced God in the midst of a struggle? How were you able to recognize God in that experience? In what ways were you changed?

Join us on Sunday night at 6 pm on Zoom (Download Bulletin) as we grapple with this story, and seek God in worship, scripture, community, and our moments of struggle.

– Kelley

This Week – A Blessing from Thomas, 7/27/20

A Blessing from Thomas.

Those of you familiar with Nadia Bolz-Weber’s podcast ‘The Confessional’ know she ends each episode with a blessing for the person who’s stepped into the confessional to share their story of transformation and redemption with her (and us).  While this isn’t about to turn into her segment ‘shit I’m not proud of’, I am going to offer Trinity Commons and the students who make up this wonderful space a blessing of my own.

May you continue to be a community which allows you to be your authentic self without pretending or faking it just to please someone else.  May you continue to embrace the questions you have and let your uncertainty about the institutional church and religion not hinder you from letting those questions and misgivings out for all to hear.  I hope you all can remember that moment when you first walked into the chapel with me or into the student center, and you weren’t quite sure what was going to happen; and then remember how we laughed and you realized this wasn’t going to be as difficult as you thought.

May you continue to share, whatever is on your mind and find a non-judgmental ear who won’t freak out at whatever you have to say.  May you remember those pasta nights when we found what real community means when you’re on a new version of team salad, or hear someone answer your question with the phrase “well, what does the recipe say.”  And may you not be restricted by any recipe but willing to experiment and try adding something you think will bring joy to everyone.  Let yourself tolerate having a group picture so others can see what you do and how much fun we really have.

May you look for opportunities to be together, willing to tolerate each other in moments when you want to roll your eyes when someone asks one of those Sunday night ‘what if’ questions.  May you seek each other and add more chairs to the table on campus when someone shows up, no matter how long or how often they continue to show up.  May you sing with confidence and be willing to laugh when the music of life brings the laughter out of you.  Church, worship, is meant to be joyful and I hope you create joy together in a space designed for you to remember that joy is possible.

And most of all, may you find a home and a place to stay.  At its best, the church is a place we can return to when we’re tired or frustrated or empty to find a place to belong which lets us cuss out loud and say we’re tired or frustrated or empty.  That doesn’t just happen because of one chaplain or clergy person; you help create that during the day, in the evening, and in whatever (and I still don’t want to know) happens at ‘Trinity After Dark.’  Don’t let perfection keep you away, and look for those students who haven’t found that home and invite them.  And finally, be willing to give what you have, which is your vulnerable self and willingness to show up, whether in the way early morning of marathon Sunday, a Thursday afternoon discussion, or in a restaurant around town after a get-together.  Trinity Commons is what you make it and, I feel sure, you will continue to make it with God’s help. 

–Thomas

SCHEDULE CHANGE

  • On Monday, July 27, at 5 p.m., there will be a small gathering at Trinity Commons to say farewell to Thomas. Weather permitting, we will be outside. Masks are required.
  • We will not meet on Tuesday via Zoom.
  • Join us for worship on Sunday, August 2, at 6 pm on Zoom (https://bit.ly/TCZoom)

This Sunday – 8th Sunday after Pentecost

Special Announcement
This is Thomas’ last Sunday with us before he heads to Auburn.
On Monday, July 27, at 5 p.m., there will be a small gathering at Trinity Commons to say farewell. You are invited.
Weather permitting, we will be outside.
Masks are required.

This Sunday.

Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife that I may go in to her, for my time is completed.” So Laban gathered together all the people of the place, and made a feast. But in the evening he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob; and he went in to her. (Laban gave his maid Zilpah to his daughter Leah to be her maid.) When morning came, it was Leah! And Jacob said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? Did I not serve with you for Rachel? Why then have you deceived me?” Laban said, “This is not done in our country—giving the younger before the firstborn. Complete the week of this one, and we will give you the other also in return for serving me another seven years.” Jacob did so, and completed her week; then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel as a wife.
–Genesis 29.21-28

  • How would you describe your parents’ marriage?  What are some traits you admire?  What would you do differently
  • What’s more important for you in a marriage: security or excitement?
  • When people use the phrase ‘biblical marriage,’ do you think this passage represents their idea?  If not, why does the Bible give us this story?
  • I wonder what Rachel and Leah thought about this situation.

Marriage is a commitment and commitment requires sacrifice; saying yes to someone means you say no to other options, including options you might want for yourself.  But the essence of marriage or any commitment isn’t about limitation, it’s about being enlarged and what you can discover with someone.  There’s a lot to discover together and one of the things we can discover is exactly what life with God looks like.  

Join us Sunday night at 6 pm on Zoom (Download Bulletinto connect and discover life with others.

–Thomas

This Week – 07/20/2020

This week.

Choices, as we’ve been reflecting on in our Old Testament lessons, aren’t always blindingly obvious.  Sometimes we need help figuring things out and learning what we can’t see clearly, either because we don’t think it’s important or our limited understanding prevents us from seeing the full picture.  It’s in those times when someone else’s vision, insight, perspective, can help us.

Dreams, like the one Jacob has that night at Bethel, are a common biblical way of understanding.  It’s in dreams when we’re not in control, not focused on what we think is important, and is a chief way for God to get the message across to us.  Bethel, a place significant only for the stones that seem to be around, was a place with no name; it’s significance and name come from Jacob’s dream experience there.

That dream opens Jacob open to the profound experience of God that becomes a place of worship and encounter for Jacob.  It’s the moment of his inclusion into the promise of the covenant given to Abraham.  It’s a place of promise and a future.  Jacob is to keep going, not with all of his worries and problems solved, but with the experience of the God of Abraham and Isaac which was absent from his thoughts and actions previously.  Jacob finds his life and his story in the story of God and it changes Jacob.

Where are you open to change in a time of uncertainty and change?  Who helps guide and inform you when you don’t see all angles?  What is your experience of God and is that experience centered around what God can (or should) do for you?  Like Jacob, we all have experience of family conflict and issues.  Like Jacob, we all feel the pressure to perform and achieve.  Like Jacob, we all find ourselves constantly in motion, fearful of the past and uncertain about the future.  But like Jacob, we can find wherever we are, that place significant only by its insignificance, a place of encounter, transformation, and hope.

–Thomas

Gathering Online: https://bit.ly/TCZoom

Tuesday Checkin on Zoom @ 6 pm
Join Thomas and Kelley on Zoom. This is a time to check-in or just say hello.

Sunday Liturgy of the Word on Zoom @ 6 pm
Join us on Zoom for a service of prayers and scripture.

This Sunday – 7th Sunday after Pentecost

This Sunday.

And the Lord stood beside Jacob and said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring; and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring. Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!” And he was afraid, and said, “How awesome is this place!
–Genesis 28.13-17

  • Do you often remember your dreams?  Can you name a particular dream that changed your behavior?
  • Have you ever intentionally sought an experience or feeling of God? Did you find it when you were looking for it? Have you had one when you weren’t looking for it?
  • I wonder what part of God’s words to Jacob led him to understand the Lord was in this place.
  • Have you ever been fearful for your future only to be reassured by someone you trust?  What did they say that made the difference?

Jacob is on the run and worried about his future. His family life is a mess, his birthright and blessing seem of little use to him right now. All he knows is that his life isn’t going back to normal anytime soon; sound familiar? What Jacob finds is something he wasn’t looking for; does that sound familiar to you?

Join us Sunday night at 6 pm on Zoom (Download Bulletinas we gather to say prayers, listen to the story of God meeting Jacob, and look for God in our midst. 

–Thomas

Image: 7.14.20 – Photo of comet NEOWISE by Bill Peters.

This Week – 07/12/2020

This week.

By now most of you have heard or read about my transition from Trinity Commons to St. Dunstan’s at the end of this month.  I’ve been grateful for nearly six years as the chaplain at Trinity Commons and to be a part of life on campus and at the student center.  It was, as some of you well know, a really hard decision to make; and that’s what I’d like to focus on today.

As we’ve been focusing on the Old Testament lessons this Pentecost, one of the things I find myself noticing in almost every story is the moment of decision Abraham, an unnamed servant, Rebekah, and Jacob faces.  And moments of decision lead to the obvious question: how do we know we’re making the right decision?

I certainly asked myself that question numerous times as I discerned about a call to St. Dunstan’s.  Some of you even know that discernment has been a part of my self-awareness for a long time, and so I think the answer lies there: self-awareness.  In order to make good choices, good decisions, you have to be honest with yourself about your gifts and your challenges.  You can’t be afraid to name where you are in life and have some idea of where you want to go.  You need to listen to trusted friends and be willing to wrestle with the options, trying to take seriously what’s asked of you and what you have to give.

A good friend of mine gave me the helpful advice that when he was deciding on whether to make a change, he wrote a list of reasons to go and a list of reasons to stay; and at the end of it, all he had was two long lists.  What we heard this week from Esau selling his birthright to the opportunistic Jacob was someone who found himself in a moment of decision and, whatever his motives may have been, he acted on the opportunity.  Each of Jacob’s words, “Sell now your birthright to me”, is carefully weighed and positioned, with the ‘me’ held back to the end of the sentence.  Esau is presented as impetuous and frantic; Jacob as calculating and measured. While we may not ignore the moral ambiguity of this unusual story, we can recognize that someone realizes what’s at stake, and someone doesn’t.

There are days ahead for all of us that will requires decisions and choices to be made, and in many (most) of those moments, we’ll focus on worrying about making the right decision.  I think it’s not so much the need to get it right as it is the need to be thoughtful, attentive, and reflective as we do our best to listen to God, to our inner voice, and the friends who may see and recognize what we can’t.  Whatever uncertainty lingers this week and the weeks to come for you, know that God loves you as well as the people you’re with, and when you remember that you won’t get it wrong.

–Thomas

Gathering Online: https://bit.ly/TCZoom

Tuesday Checkin on Zoom @ 6 pm
Join Thomas and Kelley on Zoom. This is a time to check-in or just say hello.

Sunday Liturgy of the Word on Zoom @ 6 pm
Join us on Zoom for a service of prayers and scripture.

This Sunday – 6th Sunday after Pentecost

This Sunday.

Once when Jacob was cooking a stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was famished. Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red stuff, for I am famished!” (Therefore he was called Edom.) Jacob said, “First sell me your birthright.” Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?” Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank, and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.
–Genesis 25.29-34

  • Did you ever wish you didn’t have a brother or sister you have?  Do you wish you did have a brother or sister you don’t have?
  • Do you ever feel like your parents favored a sibling over you, or were you the favored one?
  • Esau and Jacob not only look very different but have different gifts or interests.  I wonder what role focusing on such differences play in family dynamics and conflict.
  • Why do you think Esau was willing to sell his birthright (status and place as the first-born) to Jacob for a bowl of stew?

Families are complicated. We choose friends but we don’t get to choose our family, or do we? There are many ways we form relationships, form bonds, form affection. Genesis shows us the complicated dynamics that go into familial relationships and how we live them out.

Join us Sunday night at 6 pm on Zoom (Download Bulletinas we reflect on what it means to be a family, and what it means to be people chosen by God.

–Thomas