Saturday, February 20, 2010

Top 10 Brethren Sins by Walt Wiltschek

There are many great blogs to read about Lent. Check them out on the CCBlog network. HERE. For this first Sunday at our congregation we will hear a dramatic reading of Ps. 91 and the Luke 4 texts with lovely meditative music played in between. Then the sermon time will focus on "What Brethren Believe about Sin. I will begin with a quote from the COB's unofficial stand-up comic, who is currently the campus pastor at Manchester College. Walt edited the Messenger magazine for the denomination for many years. He wrote the Top Ten Brethren Sins at the request of our worship team and put them in commandment form. You've got to know brethren to get it, but here they are.

By Walt Wiltschek - The top 10 Brethren sins:

10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s prayer covering.
9. Thou shalt not refer to female members of thy denomination as “cisterns”
8. Thou shalt not enjoy the baptism so much that thou goeth back under for a fourth dip.
7. Thou shalt not have fewer than three popular Brethren hymns on your iPod at all times.
6. Thou shalt not steal someone’s spot in the Annual Conference microphone line.
5. Thou shalt not go overboard on “going green” by substituting solar power for oil in the anointing service.
4. Thou shalt not try to get a discount at McDonald’s by claiming the “Big Mac” was named after your church’s founder.
3. Thou shalt not engage in interchurch trash talk such as, “You started a thrift store? Woo-hoo…well, we started Heifer Project!”
2. Thou shalt not stay with a Brethren host and at snack time say, “Oh, I don’t like ice cream.”
1. Thou shalt not give into the urge to tickle thy neighbor’s feet during love feast.

This should be a good way to kick off a serious discussion about sin, right?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Giving Up or Taking On?

Lent is here and I'm faced with the question that I haven't answered all week, what do I give up? I often give up chocolate. It's the hardest thing for me to leave behind. (Except for coffee which is such a staple of life, I can't seem to exist without it.) I certainly am reminded often of what I have given up and am afforded the opportunity to reflect on Lenten discipline and the cost of discipleship many, MANY time per day when I crave chocolate. It is an answer to my search and a good one for the point of Lenten fasting.

Many of us 'take on' something for Lent. It is a time for special devotionals, extra or new habits of Bible reading, additional times of prayer or some other practice that will aid our spiritual journey. In our congregation, many of us have taken on a new spiritual formation task this year. Perhaps Lent is a time to refine that process and be more intentional about our daily effort. For years I've tried to add a mid-day prayer to my routine without success. Perhaps this Lent is the time to try again.

So I wonder, what are YOU giving up or taking on? And why did you choose this particular Lenten discipline? How does it help you focus on your walk with God? I hope you stop by here long enough to answer.

Saturday, February 13, 2010


Life has returned to normal, well almost. The streets have giant walls of snow. People still have to walk in the street and there's only one lane in most places. There seems to be no where left to put the snow but on top of other snow. My husband even saw a front end loader piling snow on top of a car that hadn't been cleared. I feel for THAT person. Driving is like being a rat in a maze. GPS sales should go up because one really can't see what street is next. We all need some extra guidance in this post-storm snowy world. AND, when the sun comes out and glares off the mounds of snow and long white stretches of lawn, it is blinding. Too shiny for clear vision.

I guess the crowd around Moses felt that way when he returned to the post-revelation world at the foot of the mountain. Moses was too shiny for clear vision and had to be covered up. Remember that song, "My world's so bright I have to wear shades"? That was Moses' world.

When Jesus came down from the mountain of transfiguration his story was a secret. The shiny revelation that James, John, & Peter had seen was not to be told until after Jesus' death and resurrection. Too shiny for words, I guess. Or perhaps Jesus' knew that J, J, & P didn't have the right words yet. They wanted to keep the world shiny, when there was too much messy work ahead.

Sometimes I'd like to keep the world full of snow. Sure it's a pain to drive between the white walls but it is also an excuse to do things differently, to change a schedule, to stop and visit, to talk more with neighbors in the street. All things are different and we are all trying hard to overcome the same obstacles. A snowstorm (x2 or x3) like this one is a 'lifeboat' experience and those of us having gone through this together are bonded by the experience. I want that to last even after the snow melts. James, John and Peter were able to share their shiny experience after the events of crucifixion and resurrection in a way that others got the point of what had happened. I hope we can do the same.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Calm Before The (next) Storm

Everyone is saying, "Here we go again!" The neighbors are still out shoveling from the last storm and bracing for another. (We got the truck out today and went to the store for more supplies.) The grocery clerk said it and so did the people I visited today. (Thanks to 4-wheeled drive and some plowing.) Now it is calm. I look out at the gray skies and it seems to be growing steadily darker and its only 3:30 p.m. Not a branch is moving. It really is the calm before the storm. I can't believe they are calling for another 10-20 inches. It has to be wrong! The scary part is this storm will have ice in it. We are all apprehensive of what will come next. Yet in the midst of the gnawing fear and anxiety I discovered a couple blessings.

The first came during my brief visit to deliver some groceries. I heard these folks express gratitude for all the phone calls from congregation members checking on them. No one could get out, but just to hear from someone who cared enough to call and ask about them made their day better, even the one without heat and electric. Ours is a strong community in action. The phone lines have been busy and people know how each other are doing. This also means help is available to whatever extent someone is mobile. Good news, love shared, care expressed, help given and received.

The second blessing was a quiet one. I looked out at the back bird feeder and saw a cardinal yesterday. I took cardinals for granted out in the woods at our home 'out there', but haven't seen any nearby since we moved. I was beginning to think that only sparrows would come, then in one day saw chickadees out front and a cardinal in back. And if that wasn't enough of a blessing, at lunch I saw a woodpecker! We had so many woodpeckers 'out there' that I came to know each kind; the red-headed, the pileated, the downy. They come big and small. This was a mid-sized red-headed woodpecker.

It felt like a blessing to see the birds I had been missing. Watching the birds had become part of my early morning meditation time. I felt connected to the same creator who touched them with beauty when I watched their delicate flight. As each one consumed the seeds I put out, I remembered Jesus' words in Mt 6:26
Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?"
I don't know that any human is of more value than the beautiful birds of creation  that I watch, but surely we are of equal value and God cares for them. Perhaps the blessing of the woodpecker was a timely reminder as we head into yet another winter storm.
"His eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watches me."

Friday, February 5, 2010

An Alternative Worship for February 7, 2010

In light of the impending storm for Arlington County and all of Virginia, I offer this alternative for those who will not be able to attend worship this Sunday. May your service be blessed. Nancy Fitzgerald

We are called into God’s presence to worship the One who gives us life. Enter this time of worship by centering your thoughts on the Divine, Ever-present Spirit who guides us in our worship today.

Scripture Focus for Brethren Service Sunday -                        Luke 5:1-10

Luke 5:1-10

5Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, 2he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. 4When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” 5Simon answered, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.” 6When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. 7So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. 8But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” 9For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; 10and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.”    

Special Music Link            “Lord, you have come to the lakeshore”

Message -                        What Brethren Believe About Service
            Today we would have sat together in the sanctuary and explored experiences of being called into a life of service. Two former Brethren Volunteer Service workers would tell us how they were called into BVS and what their experience of simple, communal living was like, on what projects they worked, and how this experience of two years of dedicated service changed their lives forever. Perhaps they will come some warm, dry day this summer and share their stories. We could review the great history of our denomination telling the story of the beginning of Heifer Project and the sea-going cowboys, or the first work with disaster relief but for now we sit in a white landscape and wonder to what is God calling us today?           
            Instead of reviewing the wonderful history of Brethren Service which can be found in the book, A Cup of Cold Water,
we are challenged by our current circumstances to add our labor to that of history.
            I bring you Christ’s call to service today from the lakeshore of your home. We need not think we are incapable of helping because of the circumstances of a snowstorm or our own limited mobility. Use what God has given you to reach out this day.
·      If you are headed outdoors with your snow shovel, check around your neighborhood for someone who needs help getting out of his or her home.
·      If you get out of your area today, check on our members who are unable to shovel and see if you can help them break free of the snow.
·      Use your phone to check on friends, neighbors, our homebound, and elderly. See what help they need. Even if you are not able to provide it, perhaps you have ideas for resources to help someone else.
·      Call someone to listen to his or her story. What was their experience of the storm and how are they coping? You can end the loneliness of someone’s isolation with a simple call.
·      Write a letter to someone you don’t normally call, knowing you will brighten their day when they get your card or letter.
Do any of these activities today as your ‘worship’ in honor of Brethren Service Sunday. God will bless us as we go out to serve.

Prayer – God of All Being, you bless us with the community of friends and family and call us to serve from this base of support. Hear our prayer today for those who will suffer because of this winter storm. Guide our calls and efforts to help those who need us most. Give us energy to do more than we think we can. Hold us within your loving arms and keep our bodies strong for the work ahead. Bless our offerings this day of time, talent, and finances for all we do comes from our love for you. Guard and guide us in the day ahead that we will be aware of your presence and experience everything we do this day as worship. We pray these things in the name of the one who calls from the lakeshore, Jesus, the Christ. Amen.
Blessing and Sending - May all your do this day be done for God. “Glory to you God, Source of All Being, Eternal Word, and Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning is now and will be forever, amen.

Additional Resources:
Explore Brethren Service ministries at our denominational website:
Read about the current efforts in Haiti by Brethren Disaster Ministries:
I encourage you to write if you have a journal about today’s worship experience and share what you will with friends when you have dug out of the storm. 
Please add your comments to this blog post.