Be Opened

September 14th, 2015 by MMiller

Rev. Dr. Melanie Miller

September 6, 2015

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Biblical Testimony: Mark 7:31-37

Then Jesus returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. 32They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. 33He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. 34Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” 35And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. 36Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. 37They were astounded beyond measure, saying, “He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.”

Contemporary Testimony: excerpts from “Ephphatha”  by Wayne Saffen

Now listen to this, you hucksters of religion, all you faith healers, gatherer of crowds, who come to smite the populace with miracles, spectaculars; when Jesus healed a deaf man he took the man aside, privately, away from gawkers

Repeat the procedure exactly. Try the sequence in proper order. Isolate the experimental subject. Stick finger into ear. Spit on finger. Place finer on tongue. Look heavenward. Sigh. Say the magic word. Got it? Try it. Ephphatha! Be opened!

Now that we have rehearsed the event, do we understand it better? Of course not. Let’s start with something easier. Try listening to what others say. Experience the loss of your own deafness. Say how you feel, and watch your tongue come untied. Get somebody you can trust to practice on.

You already know how to sigh. Now learn to open up.

God Is So Good

September 14th, 2015 by MMiller

Rev. Dr. Melanie Miller

August 30, 2015

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Sacred Testimony: verses on The Salat (Prayer) from the Quran

[20:14] “I am God, there is no other God but Me, you shall worship Me and observe the Salat (Contact Prayers) to commemorate Me.”

[5:6] “O you who believe, when you observe the Salat (Contact Prayers) you shall wash your faces, wash your arms to the elbows, wipe your heads and wash your feet to the ankles.”

[2:150] “Wherever you go, you shall turn your face (during Salat) towards the Sacred Masjid; wherever you might be, you shall turn your faces (during Salat) towards it.”

[10:9-10] “As for those who believe and lead a righteous life, God guides them by virtue of their belief. Rivers will flow beneath them in the garden of bliss. Their prayer therein is, ‘Be You Glorified our God’ their greeting therein is, ‘Peace’ and the ending/conclusion of their prayer is, Praise be to God of the universe”

Contemporary Testimony: excerpts from Muslims and Islam Were Part of Twin Towers’ Life by Samuel G Freedman, September 10, 2010, The New York Times

Sometime in 1999, a construction electrician received a new work assignment from his union…2 World Trade Center, the southern of the twin towers.

Over the next few days, noticing some fellow Muslims on the job, Mr. Abdus-Salaam  [asked] “So where do you pray at?” And so he learned about the Muslim prayer room on the 17th floor of the south tower.

He went there regularly in the months to come, first doing the ablution known as wudu in a washroom fitted for cleansing hands, face and feet, and then facing toward Mecca to intone the salat prayer.

“It was so freeing and so calm,” Mr. Sareshwala, 47, said in a phone conversation from Mumbai, where he is now based. “It had the feel of a real mosque. And the best part is that you are in the epicenter of capitalism — New York City, the World Trade Center — and you had this island of spiritualism. I don’t think you could have that combination anywhere in the world.”

How, when and by whom the prayer room was begun remains unclear. Interviews this week with historians and building executives of the trade center came up empty…Yet the room’s existence is etched in the memories of participants like Mr. Abdus-Salaam and Mr. Sareshwala.

Moreover, the prayer room was not the only example of Muslim religious practice in or near the trade center. About three dozen Muslim staff members of Windows on the World, the restaurant atop the north tower, used a stairwell between the 106th and 107th floors for their daily prayers.

Fekkak Mamdouh, an immigrant from Morocco who was head waiter, attended a worship service just weeks after the attacks that honored the estimated 60 Muslims who died. Far from being viewed as objectionable, the service was conducted with formal support from city, state and federal authorities, who arranged for buses to transport imams and mourners to Warren Street.  There, within sight of the ruins, they chanted salat al-Ghaib, the funeral prayer…

Stay Hydrated

September 14th, 2015 by MMiller

Rev. Dr. Melanie Miller

August 23, 2015

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Biblical Testimony: Ezekiel 36:22-26

22 Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. 23I will sanctify my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them; and the nations shall know that I am the Lord, says the Lord God, when through you I display my holiness before their eyes. 24I will take you from the nations, and gather you from all the countries, and bring you into your own land. 25I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.

Contemporary Testimony: From the Gulen Movement website, History of the Hizmet Movement and Fethullah Gülen’s Philosophy Revisited

The Gülen movement (Hizmet in Turkish) is a worldwide civic initiative rooted in the spiritual and humanistic tradition of Islam and inspired by the ideas and activism of Mr. Fethullah Gülen.

Hizmet supporters organize around the view that humans have the potential to do better than reflected by the current state of world affairs. In sync with Sufi thought, Gülen posits greed, whether individual or collective, as the real foe of peace and harmony, not the differences in religion, ethnicity, or ideology. Greedy individuals and groups achieve their objectives by manipulating people’s fear, individually and socially. Ignorance and misinformation fuel paranoia, personal and collective.

For Hizmet, person-to-person communication is crucial to social tolerance. Dialog is not compromise, conversion, or integration. Rather, it is the coming together of people, committed to their respective religious paths (or who have no faith, but are living a life of good works), to better know and communicate with one another and, in due course, work together. This dynamic helps strip away false prejudices, dissipates fear and antagonism, and lays a foundation for trust, peaceful coexistence, and cooperative undertakings.

Hizmet doctors and business people are also known to set up hospitals and bring medical services to underserved countries, such as Nigeria and in central Africa and northern Iraq. Sometimes, these ventures occur in partnership with the Kimse Yok Mu (“Isn’t There Anyone?”) Solidarity and Aid Association. It currently is sponsoring clean water well projects in eighteen countries across the globe.

On the Places Where God Lives

September 14th, 2015 by MMiller

Molly Lasagna

August 2, 2015

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Biblical Testimony: Psalm 42

As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God? My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me continually, “Where is your God?” These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I went with the throng, and led them in procession to the house of God, with glad shouts and songs of thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival. Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God. My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar. Deep calls to deep at the thunder of your cataracts; all your waves and your billows have gone over me. By day the Lord Commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life. I say to God, my rock, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I walk about mournfully because the enemy oppresses me?” As with a deadly wound in my body, my adversaries taunt me, while they say to me continually, “Where is your God?” Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God.

Contemporary Testimony: an excerpt from Eric Jacobsen’s book Sidewalks in the Kingdom: New Urbanism and the Christian Faith

“There is a growing awareness that our downtowns, civic cores, and traditional neighborhoods are not only valuable to the overall health of our culture, but are also fragile and somewhat irreplaceable ecosystems…. On the one hand, we cannot overstate the possibilities of our cities, as the public Christians tended to do during the last century. Creating the perfect, problem-free city will never redeem humanity. On the other hand, we cannot ignore our cities, as private Christians have done, by focusing our efforts as Christians solely on evangelism and stopgap acts of compassion while allowing our residential and commercial decisions to starve our cities of their life force. Again, there are no simple solutions to how we are to live in and with our cities, but the one thing we must not do is ignore them. We must figure out how to work out our discipleship to Christ in the specific context of our cities. We must confront the problems of the city, such as overcrowding, addiction, and declining schools, and not run away from them to the sanitized world of the suburbs. And we must also enjoy our cities for the cultural performances, civic art, and opportunities for human interaction that they provide.”

Seeking A Homeland

July 9th, 2015 by MMiller

Rev. Dr. Melanie Miller

July 5, 2015

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Biblical Testimony:                         Hebrews 11:1-3, 13-16

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.

All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth, for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, God has prepared a city for them.

Contemporary Testimony:  Excerpts from “A Day of Lament” by Mark Charles

I lament the words of our political candidates who promise to lead America back to its former “greatness”, ignorant of the fact that much of America’s “greatness” was built on the exploitation and dehumanization of its people of color.

I lament that today the dominant culture in America is in shock because in Charleston South Carolina one individual committed a single evil and heinous act of violence, while minority communities throughout the country are bracing themselves because the horrors of the past 500 years are continuing into their lifetime.

I lament with every person and community, throughout the history of this nation, who, due to the color of their skin, had to endure marginalization, silence, discrimination, beatings, lynching, cultural genocide, boarding schools, internment camps, mass incarceration, broken treaties, stolen lands, murder, slavery and discovery.

Today I lament that the United States of America does not share a common memory and therefore is incapable of experiencing true community.

Peace to You

June 24th, 2015 by MMiller

Rev. Dr. Melanie Miller

June 21, 2015

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Biblical Testimony: Mark 4:35-41

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

Contemporary Testimony: Blessing in the Storm by Jan Richardson

I cannot claim to still the storm that has seized you,

cannot calm the waves that wash through your soul,

that break against your fierce and aching heart.

But I will wade into these waters,

will stand with you in this storm,

will say peace to you in the waves,

peace to you in the winds,

peace to you in every moment that finds you still within the storm.

 

The Eagle Stirreth Her Nest

June 24th, 2015 by MMiller

Robert Gest III

June 14, 2015

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Biblical Testimony: Deuteronomy 31:30, 32:1-3,10-12

Then Moses recited the words of this song, to the very end, in the hearing of the whole assembly of Israel: Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak;

let the earth hear the words of my mouth.

May my teaching drop like the rain,

my speech condense like the dew;

like gentle rain on grass,

like showers on new growth.

For I will proclaim the name of God;

ascribe greatness to our God!

God sustained him in a desert land,

in a howling wilderness waste;

God shielded him, cared for him,

guarded him as the apple of his eye.

As an eagle stirs up its nest,

and hovers over its young;

as it spreads its wings, takes them up,

and bears them aloft on its pinions,

God alone guided him;

no foreign god was with him.

Contemporary Testimony: Eagle Poem By Joy Harjo

To pray you open your whole self

To sky, to earth, to sun, to moon

To one whole voice that is you.

And know there is more

That you can’t see, can’t hear;

Can’t know except in moments

Steadily growing, and in languages

That aren’t always sound but other

Circles of motion.

Like eagle that Sunday morning

Over Salt River. Circled in blue sky

In wind, swept our hearts clean

With sacred wings.

We see you, see ourselves and know

That we must take the utmost care

And kindness in all things.

Breathe in, knowing we are made of

All this, and breathe, knowing

We are truly blessed because we

Were born, and die soon within a

True circle of motion,

Like eagle rounding out the morning

Inside us.

We pray that it will be done

In beauty.

In beauty.

Jesus’ Prayer for Us

June 24th, 2015 by MMiller

Rev. Scott Hirano

May 17, 2015  Habitat Sunday

Habitat for Humanity Presentation

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Contemporary Testimony: A quote from Professor Roberta Boni on “On Being, Approaching Prayer”

We often have a kind of notion as part of this highfalutin, noble picture of ourselves as pray-ers that when we pray we need to be completely attentive and we need to be fully engaged and we need to be concentrating and we need to be focused. But the fact is, if prayer is our end of a relationship with God, that’s not the way we are with the people we love a large portion of the time. We simply are in their presence.

 

Biblical Testimony: John 17:6-19

6”I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; 8for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. 10All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them.

11And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy God, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. 12While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled. 13But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. 14I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. 15I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. 16They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.

17Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.

I Have Called You Friends

June 24th, 2015 by MMiller

Rev. Dr. Melanie Miller

May 10, 2015

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Biblical Testimony: John 15:9-17

As God has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept God’s commandments and abide in God’s love. 11I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. 12“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the landowner is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from God. 16You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that God will give you whatever you ask in my name. 17I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.

Contemporary Testimony: an excerpt from Whistling in the Dark by Frederick Beuchner

The love of God. The mercy of God. The judgment of God. You take the shoes off your feet and stand as you would before a mountain or at the edge of the sea. But the friendship of God?

It is not something God does. It is something Abraham and God or Moses and God do together. Not even God can be a friend all by himself apparently. You see Abraham, say, not standing at all, but sitting down, loosening his prayer shawl, trimming the end off his cigar. He is not being creature for the moment, and God is not being Creator. There is no agenda. They are simply being together, the two of them, and being themselves.

Is it a privilege only for patriarchs? Not as far as Jesus is concerned at least. “You are my friends,” he says, “if you do what I command you.” The command, of course, is “to love one another,” as he puts it. To be his friends, that is to say, we have to be each other’s friends, conceivably even lay down our lives for each other.

Fair Food & Earth Day

June 24th, 2015 by MMiller

Seth Wispelwey

Earth Day Celebration, April 26th, 2015

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Biblical Testimony:  Genesis 1:27-31

So God created humankind in God’s image,

   in the image of God they were created;

   male and female God created them.

God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. God saw everything that God had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

Contemporary Testimony:  “Sex, Economy, Freedom & Community” by Wendell Berry

The idea that we live in something called “the environment,” for instance, is utterly preposterous. This word came into use because of the pretentiousness of learned experts who were embarrassed by the religious associations of “Creation” and who thought “world” too mundane. But “environment” means that which surrounds or encircles us; it means a world separate from ourselves, outside us. The real state of things, of course, is far more complex and intimate and interesting than that. The world that environs us, that is around us, is also within us. We are made of it; we eat, drink, and breathe it; it is bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh. It is also a Creation, a holy mystery, made for and to some extent by creatures, some but by no means all of whom are human. This world, this Creation, belongs in a limited sense to us, for we may rightfully require certain things of it – the things necessary to keep us fully alive as the kind of creatures we are – but we also belong to it, and it makes certain rightful claims on us: that we care properly for it, that we leave it undiminished not just to our children but to all the creatures who will live in it after us. None of this intimacy and responsibility is conveyed by the word environment