Archive for Wednesday Meditations – Page 2

All My Life’s A Circle

Posted 01/04/17 by jcwrewind and filed under:

Wednesday Meditation
January 4, 2017

ALL MY LIFE’S A CIRCLE
Rev. Matt Broadbent

For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1

I am running in circles trying to get things put together for the move, clean up my office, say goodbye to those I may not see in church, while still planning services for this month and writing sermons. Do you remember the Harry Chapin song? This is my theme this month.

All my life’s a circle; Sunrise and sundown;
Moon rolls through the nighttime; ‘Til the daybreak comes around.
All my life’s a circle; But I can’t tell you why;
Season’s spinning round again; The years keep rollin’ by.

So here I am walking down El Camino at 7 in the morning to pick up a U-Haul van to take a few things over to the condo in Aptos. I am taking advantage of my son-in-law, who is still on holiday break from teaching, to help me lift several heavy, awkward items. And as I am walking down the street I look up and see a lighted sign for Colonial Mortuary, and just beyond it another lighted sign for a Pre-School Kinder Care, signs of death and birth, side by side. And this was the day after I spoke with someone about their memorial service, had a consultation with the vet about if, and when, to euthanize our dog (“Not yet,” she advised), and thinking about the baptism of the baby “Jesus” in another week. (If you were at the Christmas Pageant this year, you met the baby Jesus, who was not the least bit upset with the big, loud Angel shouting – Glad tidings of great joy! – in the background)

It is amazing how the cycle of life and death turns by us like a wheel rolling downhill.

I was reminded of our first visit to San Jose shortly after we had moved to Santa Cruz in 1983. It, too, was a rainy January. We were setting up house and found a furniture store we wanted to visit, but, being unfamiliar with San Jose we got lost. In our wandering around we looked up and saw a sign for a Sausage Factory right next door to an Animal Hospital. We always wished we had taken a picture of those signs, but that was before the days of smart phones. I wonder if they specialized in “weiner” dogs?

Life goes ’round, we have to laugh. Save your tears for things that really matter, and let us find joy in the new year, new adventures, new challenges, new friends, as we move ahead with the blessings of old friends.

(Im)Perfection Revisited

Posted 12/28/16 by jcwrewind and filed under:

Wednesday Meditation
December 28, 2016

[Im]Perfection Revisited
Rev. Matt Broadbent

Be ye therefore perfect as your heavenly father is perfect. Matt 5:48

My wife, Barbara, is reading a book on “The Spirituality of Imperfection,” which touches on a favorite theme of ours. How can we possibly live up to the call to be perfect. I know I am not perfect, far from it, and I prove it every week, every day. For example, I like to make sure these Wednesday Meditations are perfectly prepared, and yet how often have the Meditations had the title misspelled, or the date wrong, or an inadvertent subject line. I know this happens because “church” editors write me and tell me this is so. We try to prepare the Sunday bulletin without a mistake in it, and yet there is likely to be a hymn with a wrong number, or the wrong scripture noted, incorrect information for the upcoming week, even the masthead has been uncentered.

This may seem like a small thing to you, but in my imperfect life this is the one thing I like to do well, something over which I think I have control. But, no! I need a “perfection editor” to follow me around and pick up all the errors that seem to fall through my fingers. Perfect, indeed! I would settle for “pretty good, not too bad, could have been worse” like they do in Lake Wobegone. Somehow there is more graciousness in being this imperfect human struggling to be better, rather than perfect.

“But wait!” as they say in the late night infomercials, there may be a reprieve after all. We just have to look at the fine print. In the Greek text the word for perfect is teleoi or teleos. This is the same root as the words for telephone, and telescope, and television, and telepathy. The word has to do with that which is far-out-but-not-yet. We see, we hear, we think of something coming together on a far horizon – that point we site through a telescope, hear from on a telephone, imagine on the screen of our mind – what Pierre Teilhard de Chardin called The Omega Point. This is the point to which creation is intending, continually perfecting itself.

We are known through our imperfections, so, as Denise Levertov wrote, “the picture of perfection must be revised.” As it turns out the word has been mispronounced. It is not pérfect, but rather perféct. Thus the scripture text could read, Be ye therefore perfecting, as your heavenly father is perfecting. You see, God is not done with us yet. Thank you, God! I can do this.

As I anticipate retirement it is comforting to know that I am still evolving into the person God intends me to be. I am still perfecting this life lived through my experience.

A Word From “OH Henry”

Posted 12/21/16 by jcwrewind and filed under:

Wednesday Meditation
December 21, 2016

A WORD FROM ‘OH’ HENRY
Rev. Matt Broadbent

The purpose of our Wednesday meditation is to take a short mid-week pause to reflect on where God has been revealed this week. Christmas is a time to look back on our experience and remember all the ways we have been blessed by the Spirit and peace of Christ given birth in our hearts.

I remember reading the stories of O’Henry as a boy,and at this time of year I particularly remember the story of the “Christmas Gift.” But today I am thinking of another Henry who has offered me the gift of friendship for over 30 years as a colleague and confidante – Henry Hayden.

Henry served as an Interim Minister and Sabbatical Replacement for Foothills in the 1990’s and continues to keep in touch with this church for which he has a great affection. I received his Christmas letter yesterday and he asked me to pass it on. This is another priceless Christmas Gift. May we all have an ‘Oh,’ dear Henry in our life.

Henry wrote: Dear Matt – Words fail to convey the great joy I experience in reading all the words of greeting from the dear people of Foothills Church who I came to love in my interim there. I’m enclosing this Christmas letter which you may post as my greeting to all!

********
Dear Friends,

“Bless the Lord, O my soul,and all that is within me bless God’s Holy Name. God crowns thee with loving kindness and tender mercies all the days of thy life.” – Psalm 103

As I begin my 99th year, this Psalm has become my constant prayer as I think back on all the people and events that have blessed my life.

I was blessed with kind and loving parents who imparted to me the moral values which have governed all my life.

My dear wife, Betty Jane, blessed me in sharing as a companion in ministry for 54 years. She gave me David, Deirdre, and Jeremy whose calls, letters, and visits continue to inspire my life. They, in turn, have given me seven grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

I fondly remember my parish days in Guerneville in which I discovered and helped develop Camp Cazadero, which has served thousands of Northern California church youth for 71 years.

Next were the ten exciting years of student ministry at the University of New Mexico and the University of New Hampshire.

Later, parishes in Fresno and San Carlos in the 1960’s and 1970’s, in which I marched with Martin Luther King Jr. and Cesar Chavez, and in 1972 ordained the first gay minister in America .

Now in my last 28 years of retirement at Pilgrim Place, I have settled in to a routine of daily painting in my studio, preaching on Sundays at our Health Center Chapel, and daily work-outs at our gym.

May the blessings of this sacred Christmas Season be with you all.

Love to you all, Henry Hayden
Christmas 2016

Remember – You Are Standing On Holy Ground

Posted 12/14/16 by jcwrewind and filed under:

Wednesday Meditation
December 14, 2016

REMEMBER – YOU ARE STANDING ON HOLY GROUND
Rev. Matt Broadbent

Exodus 3:4,5 …God called to him out of the bush… [and Moses said], Here, I am.
[and God said] Take off your sandals for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.

We are not decorating for Christmas this year since we will be moving in a month. The ornaments and memorabilia of a lifetime are packed away in boxes and already in storage, along with family pictures, books and other curios. Our home will look bleak this year, which makes the singing of In the Bleak Midwinter all the more poignant.

So, we have to find our Christmas buzz somewhere else. I take some pleasure in the beautifully decorated church, as it is each year, but my greatest joy has been to stand under the spreading Japanese Maple in the courtyard, planted by Bud Oliver and Bill Henderson 50 years ago.

On December 4th, I came early to church. The sun was just breaking over the rooftops in the east and the tree was aglow with Christmas colors. From underneath the tree the leaves were still green but the outer canopy was glowing red. The next week it had all had turned gold and red and rusty brown. This week we watch the leaves fall in drifts and know that just one more storm will strip it bare.

We are moving into a dormant time, the stark reminder that there is an end to each season, as there is to our own life cycles. My time as minister of this church will soon end and already we sense the permanency of this change. It is really happening. Soon we will enter into the interim period as the members of the church draw upon their strength of relationship, and wisdom of the years, to decide a new direction for the ministry of Foothills.

I suggest you take your cue from the Maple tree. The dormant season is short lived. Soon, in a matter of six weeks, red tips will appear at the end of the branches, as if we had sent the tree out to a manicurist to touch up its fingernails. And within two months green buds will sprout, and leaves will grow, and another season of glorious shade will be provided for our courtyard.

I have always thought of our courtyard as the outdoor sanctuary of the church. It is sacred space. I encourage you to let this sacred space give you comfort, and let this sacred tree, which ends our autumn like a flaming bush, inspire you. There is need for dormancy, for interim times to take a breath, and recalculate direction. Then soon, very soon, new growth will emerge. Don’t close your eyes to what is happening right in your midst. You are standing on holy ground.

Adventicious

Posted 12/07/16 by jcwrewind and filed under:

Wednesday Meditation
December 7, 2016

Adventicious
Rev. Deborah Streeter

[From Matt Broadbent – Last Sunday we learned a new word – adventicious – and discovered new insight into meaning of God’s as an ever-renewing possibility. I discovered this word through Rev Deborah Streeter’s wonderful Blog Blue Theology Tid-ings. The full text from November 2, 2016, is printed below for our Wednesday Meditation. I encourage you to visit Deborah’s Blog by clicking on to this link. There you will see the picture from her deck.]

http://bluetheologytideings.blogspot.com/2016/11/adventicious-this-view-from-my-deck-our.html

This view from my deck, our scorched hillside, shows how close the Soberanes wildfire burned this summer. Those far trees were a beautiful lush stand of redwoods. I always thought they looked brave, growing uphill from most of the redwoods down in the moist canyon creek bed. They stood strong and sturdy even in the wild winter winds.

Sadly, when we returned from our 3 week fire evacuation exile they were burned to a crisp, a clump of dead black sticks.

But within weeks we started seeing little bits of green midst the brown and black. Now, after several gentle rains, look at all the green growth along the trunks and sprouting from the base!

I eagerly took this zoomed in picture and began showing it to everyone I knew as if I were a new grandmother. Look! Green growth! Fuzzy trunks!

My friend Jim Covel, who was a forest ranger before becoming our head teacher at the Aquarium, looked at the picture and said, “Oh yes, redwood trees have “adventicious” cells that will sprout new growth after damage or fire, like the sprouts that come straight up from a felled redwood log. They can withstand tremendous damage and regrow. It’s what makes them so sturdy and long lived.”

I assumed he meant “advantageous” cells – what an evolutionary advantage, I can beat out my competitors.

But no, it’s adventicious, like Advent, coming again. “Adventicious cells,” says my botany book, “form after the stem is wounded or pruned.” Jim says, “They just live there under the bark, waiting until they are needed to bring new life.”

“I who have died am alive again,” as we say here at the Blue Theology Mission Station (see last week’s post.) Try to burn me, I grow again.

Oh come oh come adventicious cells,
and ransom captive burned out hill.
Which mourns in lonely exile here.
Until the blessed rain and green appear. Rejoice, rejoice…

Predator or Prey?

Posted 11/30/16 by jcwrewind and filed under:

Wednesday Meditation
November 30, 2016

Predator or Prey?
Rev. Matt Broadbent

The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. – Isaiah 11:6

Advent begins with the renewal of the dream of peace. Prophets proclaim it, people desire it, and artists paint a picture of it in word, song, and graphic image. Nineteenth-century American artist Edward Hicks loved the vision of peace in Isaiah 11 so much that he painted variations of The Peaceable Kingdom more than 100 times. If you look them up online you will see his most famous composition that one source said the painting was painted 61 times.

Hicks’ father was a royal loyalist who lost everything in the Revolutionary War. Thus, the son, Edward, was apprenticed out to a carriage maker and learned the art of sign and carriage painting. Later he became a Quaker preacher. His paintings were never sold, but rather given as gifts to families and friends as an expression of his belief in the possibility of peace. The animals, predator and prey alike, are all there in the foreground: wolf and lamb, leopard and kid, calf and lion. In his folk art style, Hicks gave the animals expressive faces that look almost human. The eyes are big, unnaturally big, and wide open as if they are startled by something. In fact that was the artist’s intent. Peace is startling.

I hope you will look up him up and see how Edward Hicks composes his painting? Isaiah’s image is in the foreground, but what is going on in the background? If you have a clear image you will see William Penn and other Pennsylvania settlers meeting with members of the Algonquian Tribes to establish peace treaties for the mutual protection of their cultures. Hicks knew. We know. This is the work that has to be done if we are to become the peace we imagine is God’s own desire.

Peace be with you. Peace be in you this Advent Season, so that you (we) may become the peace we (you) imagine.

Thanksgiving Grace

Posted 11/23/16 by jcwrewind and filed under:

Wednesday Meditation
November 23, 2016

Thanksgiving Grace
Rev. Matt Broadbent

But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. – Ephesians 4:7

The older I get the less graceful I feel. I remember as a youth that I loved to dance. I was never what you would call elegant, more, enthusiastic was my style. Age, knee surgeries and consequent weight gain made me less flexible. I remember dancing with my daughter-in-law at their wedding. She is a professional dancer, so I tried to “dip” and my knee buckled and I almost dropped her on the dance floor. She recovered and I righted myself and said, “Well, I won’t try that again.” And I never have, because grace and elegance is not my style.

And yet, there is something within me that feels more fluid and giving with mellowing age. On the outside I may seem more like a bull standing in a field. Inwardly there is a softness, and openness to life, a suspension of judgment on others. I have noticed this in older men. Where early in life they appear hard and rigid in their opinions, later they give way to a tenderness of heart.

Tomorrow we gather for the Memorial Service for Bob Polata. Bob was not what you would call a religious man. He was a scientist, rational, logical, and naturally questioning. He left spiritual speculation to his wife, Ruth. And yet, in those later years, there was a turning. He started to come to the Truthseekers study group which welcomes open study of the Bible and theology and science. Several times, he and I engaged in serious discussions of spiritual dimensions. There comes a time in your life when you don’t have to defend dogmatic skepticism, but you can allow yourself to wonder.

There is something elegant in old men who don’t have all the answers, but look in wonder at the mystery of the world, and with a tear in their eye touch the well of grace that has been apportioned to them. I don’t mean to leave women out of this reflection, but I think women come more naturally to the mystery that holds us all in its buoyant embrace. All I know is that grace abounds. Thanks be to God.

I thank You God for this most amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes
– e e cummings

The Spiritual Art Of Listening To The Other

Posted 11/16/16 by jcwrewind and filed under:

Wednesday Meditation
November 16, 2016

THE SPIRITUAL ART OF LISTENING TO THE OTHER
Rev. Matt Broadbent

One of them, when he saw that he had been healed, returned and praised God with a loud voice.
He fell on his face at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. He was a Samaritan.
Luke 17:15-16 Common English Bible (CEB)

This last Sunday Barbara and I led an “Appreciative Way” workshop for our Santa Clara Association. The first step is to interview one other person and listen to their story. “What do you love about the United Church of Christ?” was the first question; then, “Tell of a time when you experienced the church at its best.” I was paired with a Filipino minister I have known for years, but not well. It was hard to hear him because of the ambient noise in the room and his accent was thick. English was not his first language and he struggled to get the words out. I had to stay focused, ask questions – ask again if I did not understand. We each had ten minutes to tell our story and it was hardly time enough.

Something wonderful happens when you listen attentively to the detail of another person’s life without interposing your own story. I listened with my ears and my eyes, watching his expression, noticing the words mumbled when tears edged his eyes. He came from an experience and a faith expression far different from mine, and no less genuine. It was a spiritual moment as I entered into his experience.

This past week I have put myself on something of a News-fast. I am tired of all the political chatter, name-calling, woe-is-me analysis of this past year. And I am reminded once again of the need to listen – really listen to the “other” who is not like me, who may have something to say. I need to listen to and understand those who differ from me to find a common ground of core values rather than argue about perceived problems. If we focus on the problems they have a way of beating us up. I need to pay attention to whether I am living and behaving from a place of fear or out of heart of love. I want to focus on solutions and continue to develop and practice ways of respecting the dignity of every human being.

If you really listen to another person you, too, may be able to hear something like what I heard: “When he came to me, and claimed me, my life was forever changed for the better.” I could not have said those words, but after several days of thinking about it, I realize we don’t come to faith because of what we believe. We come alive through an experience with someone, or something, that has turned us around. Yes! I have had that experience and it made all the difference.

Dealing With The Day After

Posted 11/09/16 by jcwrewind and filed under:

Wednesday Meditation
November 9, 2016

DEALING WITH THE DAY AFTER
Rev. W. Matthew Broadbent

Promote the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile.
Pray to the Lord for it, because your future depends on its welfare.
Jeremiah 29:7

My brother asked me a week ago, “How are you preaching this election cycle?” I said, “I’m not. I’m ducking my head and hoping for the best.” And he responded, “Me, too.”

In our politically divided nation, this morning may find a significant part of the country feeling like they are in exile from the nation they love. We are looking at four more years of gridlock and obstructionism no matter which party is in power. How are we to cope with this? How do we deal with the day after the election.

Fortunately, we did read a lot from the prophet Jeremiah this Fall and it rings true to my ears. He was dealing with a nation on the brink of collapse, living out its worst fears. He cries out, “Is there no balm in Gilead?” And then Jeremiah, the most astute of political pundits, goes out and buys a field to prepare for the ultimate future of a renewed nation. The last passage we read was a letter to the exiles to – promote the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because your future depends on its welfare (Jeremiah 29:7). No matter who won or lost, this is good advice, and this is what I preached – and now it is what I am going back to to give me hope.

To reinforce this message our modern day prophet, Rev. Evelyn Vigil, offered a prayer last Sunday: “Please pray that as this election season comes to an end that God will help each of us to individually work to try to heal the divisiveness we’ve encountered. May we remember we are all Americans, and we are all God’s people.” And someone cried out, “Here, here!” Amen.

What Is The “Good” Of Giving

Posted 11/02/16 by jcwrewind and filed under:

Wednesday Meditation
November 2, 2016

WHAT IS THE “GOOD” OF GIVING
Rev. Matt Broadbent

Psalm 145: 3a, 18    Great is God, and greatly to be praised;…
God is near to all who call, to all who call on God in truth.

“God is great! All the time! and All the time! God is great!” – is a popular refrain in many of our churches. God is full of power. We want to believe God is in charge all the time. God’s power is rooted in goodness and generosity and love. This is the soft power of faith.

More often we think of power as brutal and cold, a calculating self-interestedness, something to be feared. Empires are like that, with rulers that have the right of life and death over the minions. We fall into the trap of thinking that God must be that way, as well, and so we refer to God as “King.” But that is not how the Psalm 145 refers to God.

Not only is God greatly to be praised, and glorious in splendor and majesty, with awesome deeds. The Lord is also, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love… The Lord is good to all, and full of compassion… The Lord upholds all who are falling… and gives them food in their due season… satisfying the desire of every living thing… the Lord is near to all who call… to all who call in truth.

The power of empire is a threat to life and our well-being, but the power of God is hope for the world. To empires we respond by paying our taxes with resentment because we know we are not free. To God we respond in gratitude for what we’ve received, sharing in the overflow of blessings from God.

We hear in the psalm an expectation of our participation in God’s plan, as stewards of creation entrusted with this abundance. Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann waxes poetic as he describes our response to these gifts that mysteriously participates in that ongoing creation, even after the music ends: “We are left with courage, freedom, and imagination, and we are given sufficient energy to care for the humanness, the humaneness, the humanization of the world”; in that grace-filled music, creation and praise go on and on, just as God intends.

Stewardship, generosity, giving is the song that we sing in the church. “When we sound these ancient cadences, we know ourselves to be at the threshold with all your creatures in heaven and on earth, everyone from rabbits and parrots to angels and seraphim…Alleluia. We join the angels in praise, and we keep our feet in time and place awed to heaven, rooted in earth” (Brueggemann: Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth).

As we make our gifts and pledges this month for the ongoing ministry of Christ at Foothills, UCC, we are thanking God, praising God, and expressing our longing for the dream of God, for what is yet to be. We can rely on God in all things, with an exuberant and heartfelt trust indeed, because – God is great! All the time!