Category Archives: Anticipating Sunday

Anticipating Sunday, November 29th

Righteous BranchOn this First Sunday of Advent, we will reflect with the image of the Righteous Branch, a sign of hope sprouting from a cut-off tree.   In this All-Ages Service of Worship we will light the first Advent candle, the candle of hope, hear special music of hope, and share together our own visions of hope in a world where all to often much life and possibilities  seem cut off.

We will receive the sacrament of communion.  This Sunday, and each Sunday until the end of the year, those who’ve not had opportunity will be invited to add a household leaf to our Tree of Life, saying “we belong” to Parkway community and ministry.  This is true whether you have formally “joined” this congregation or not.

Anticipating Sunday, November 22nd

Come for our Belonging Celebration, placing leaves on our quilted Tree of Life to re-commit to participation in the Parkway Community of Faith this Sunday! Come as we 2015.02.02_Garden_Reflected_In_Window (2)dedicate our stewardship and ministry commitments for 2016, experience a pictorial celebration of our time together in 2015, and focus our thoughts on the image of the Tree of Life whose branches offer leaves for the healing of the nations.  (Revelation 22:1-5). We will receive new members, have special music, and hear testimony of personal experiences of Listening Deeply, Building Community, and Acting for Justice.

John in his letter to the seven churches in Revelation transforms the imagery of the prophet Ezekiel as well as the imagery of the Garden of Eden. The Tree of Life is nourished by the waters flowing through the city. The vision is a radically inclusive city in which the Throne of God is smack dab in the middle of the bustling praise, joyful mutuality, and Shalom.


Anticipating Sunday, October 25th

This Sunday we will celebrate Children’s Sabbath with our young people leading many parts of our worship experience, reflecting on the image of crossing the Jordan River, an image very prevalent in so many of the hymns in our new Songs of Zion hymnal.  Two Biblical stories anchor our reflecting:  the crossing of the Jordan story in Joshua 3 and the story of Jesus’ baptism (Mark 1).

crossing the jordanRiver crossing could be crossing to safety and liberation.   Certainly in the Spirituals, the Jordan often became the Ohio, the Mississippi, the St. Lawrence. It could signify passage from life through death. It could be a geographic, vocational, relational move or change. It could be a spiritual break-through.

The confirmation class last Sunday talked about moving from a wilderness experience to a new experience of living with consequence, responsibility, and hope.

In what way does crossing the Jordan resonate with you and your journey these days?

Anticipating Sunday, October 18th

Humor is sometimes the only way to swallow truth.  So I have to almost laugh at the response of the apostles James and John to Jesus in this week’s lectionary.   I have to laugh and realize, oh!  that’s me right  there with the two of them.

Jesus has just finished telling the Twelve he will be mocked, spit on, flogged, and killed.  So the two sons of Zebedee, barely missing a beat, sidle up to Jesus and ask for special places at his messianic table of glory.  They want places of honor, one on his left and the other on his right.  Little do they know those places will be for the convicted criminals hanging on each side of Jesus  on the cross in Mark’s passion narrative.

The shadowy driveway into this story for me is verse 32.  The disciples are afraid.  Fear almost always breeds requests for security which fog over the facts on the ground or what’s just been said.

The church today — especially the formerly mainline — experiences fear.  We have all sorts of sophisticated ways of acting in the lineage of the sons of Zebedee.  Tactics for ensuring the survival of our institutions might sometimes get in the way of drinking the cup of discipleship and immersing in the baptism of Jesus.

So we are called back, honestly, compassionately, patiently by Jesus:  glory, power, and success are defined by servanthood to and with everyone.   Church is called into ransoming reputation and even its survival for the sake of those who are enslaved to, indentured to, and broken by the age-old rules of domination and winner vs. loser.

So once we laugh at ourselves, our story invites us into taking stock of the  very human reflex to protect, insure, and fog over the truth.  Glory has room to grow in our honest vulnerability.  Hope might flourish in the midst of our willingness to do the grunt work in God’s radically inclusive realm.

Where do you see the church offering servant leadership in the way of the cross?

Where do you see the church protecting its own interests for the sake of its survival?

Putting God on Trial, October 11th

I was very stirred this past Sunday.  So many of you offered moving testimony to the questions of your hearts as we argued with God, put God on trial.  We called it  a form of prayer and resistance to the often pat answers of religiosity.   We talked about the occasions when the only form of prayer left on our hearts, upon our lips,  is a questioning, a reckoning, a “putting God in the dock” so we might possibly move to a place of wordless, simple presence such as “corn growing and rain falling” (Etty Hillesum).  We  may open  to the Presence we are strangely acknowledging with our questions, often in spite of ourselves.  Shaking a fist is still a form of prayer.  Here are your court summons and prosecuting questions shared on slips in worship:

prayer and arguing*Being you know humans make self-destructive decisions about the planet and themselves, couldn’t you put a stop to this?

*Why guns in our schools?!

*Presuming your grace is sufficient for all our needs.

*Men and women who feel they have a right to limit a woman’s choice and those who support voter suppression.

*I understand the many reasons you cannot intervene but is it too much to ask for us to see or hear (or both) your weeping with us?

*What are you going to do for me, God?

*Giving men the ability to create Viagra.

*Letting bombs fall on a hospital of Doctors Without Borders.

*Allowing such atrocities to be committed in your name.  Why have you allowed the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, the Doctrine of Discovery, the Salem Witch Trials, the Taliban, September 11th bombings, and on and on and on…

*If God is good, a benevolent God, why is there suffering and evil in the world?

*How can you justify bad things happening to good people through no fault of their own?

*Why did you let the millions of Jews be executed?

*Alzheimer’s, God, why?

*Allowing the cruelty and suffering of billions of animals.

*Falling out of love for those who are closest to us.

*Allowing humans to make such destructive decisions.

*Leaving your phone off the hook when I most need to reach you.

Anticipating Sunday, October 4th

We celebrate World Communion Sunday and receive the theological exploration of Zion in the African-American Church experience to help us in our singing of the hymns in Songs of Zion.  The Reverend Dr. Derek Hicks, Assistant Professor of Religion & Culture at the Wake Forest University School of Divinity, will be our morning preacher.

Anticipating Sunday, September 27th

Mornings are cool. The first leaves are falling.  The last of the okra and green beans are coming in.   A smell of decay rises from the earth.  My insides churn with a bittersweet awareness of transition.    Fall is a time for us to pay attention to  what is coming down, going dormant, releasing, while living with the truth that decay and dormancy allow for seeds of new life to come.

20141110_152616-EFFECTSWe will enter into gentle, hopeful conversation about these things in our 9:00 a.m. Mini Retreat with breakfast this Sunday.  We will continue to explore these themes in worship, as we look at the metaphors in II Corinthians 4:  7-12, 16-18.   We have these treasures of ours in clay jars.    With constant change, it seems like our outer nature is wasting away.  Yet a part of us is renewed day by day.

It may be tempting to think in spiritualized, dualistic terms about what is wasting away and what is renewing.  But this is not about a body-spirit divide.    Our spirits, as much as anything, are being transformed, sloughing off the old answers, the tired patterns of urgency.   Our bodies, like new skin cells over blisters, are being renewed as we encounter change as whole children of God.

Instead, we are invited to see visible decay of our accomplishments, best efforts, even institutions, as rich spiritual loam for new seeds of faithfulness, attention, relationship.

What do you sense needs release in your life these days?

What new life do you imagine being sow in the midst of your letting go, your apparent dead-ends, your awareness of cracking clay jars holding treasures?


Anticipating Sunday, September 20th

This Sunday we will dedicate new hymnals for our use in worship.  Song leader Kenny Barner will  help us sing songs from this hymnal, Songs of Zion.

We will celebrate International Peace Day.  The World Council of Churches has declared this year’s theme, God has broken down the dividing walls.    Our confirmation students will lead us in reflection on this theme with the commitment.   How would you complete the sentence,  “Because I believe God  breaks down the dividing walls, I will….”?

We also read the second of Jesus’predictions of his passion in Mark 9: 30-37. The disciples continue to not understand Jesus’ teaching about his future.  And they’re afraid to ask about it.  They are silent.   They know just enough about it to then also be silent in embarrassment when Jesus asks what they are talking about “on the way”.    (They were arguing about who among them is the greatest.)

Perhaps their fear has begun to search for distractions.  Perhaps fear clouds any ability to hear, to understand.

So Jesus takes a little child onto his lap and wraps up that child in his arms and says, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”

What fears prevent us from hearing, understanding, living this sacred story?

Anticipating Sunday, September 6th

On this up-coming Labor Sabbath we will receive guests Carolyn Smith and Robert Corriher, staff at the North Carolina office of Working America who will share with us some of their exciting work on health care access, voter education, and the recently passed minimum wage legislation for city workers in Greensboro.   There will be a very brief gathering right after worship for those interested in working on an Economic Justice League at Parkway with ecumenical allies.

20150822_201043 (1)We will delve into the couplet of healing stories among the Gentiles in Mark 7: 24-37.   So many things capture my attention in this passage, but this week I’ve been mulling the sigh of Jesus as he looks to heaven before laying hands on the man who is blind and with a speech impediment.

In some ways I almost hear a sigh  released from the Syro-Phoenician woman in the story just prior when Jesus calls her a dog.  She acknowledges his cultural predicament but does not back down.   It’s almost as if she says to Jesus, “Be opened”.   Her riposte is a cultural exorcism, a pause, a re-setting sigh in the narrative.

Jesus’ sigh exposes vulnerability, opening, stretching as he touches  the man’s ears and tongue with utter intimacy  in private.  Could such a sigh pre-figure the cross in this gospel?

What if our sighs are not just prayers, often unwittingly released?  What if our sighs are God’s sigh through us, closer to us than we are to ourselves?  What if we are the vessels of the Holy deep inhale and exhale in weariness and renewal, relinquishing and recharging?

As Paul says to the letter to the church at Rome, “the Spirit intercedes for us in sighs too deep for human words.”

Anticipating Sunday, August 30th

“For you were called to freedom, sisters and brothers; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence but through love serve one another.”  ~Galatians 5: 13

Sara Bareilles grabs you by the clavicles and pulls you toward the possible in her popular song “Brave”.     She prophecies “Maybe there’s a way out of the cage where you lake jameslive…Maybe one of these days you can let the light in.”

Brave is required not just to speak your words, confront the powers, stand up for yourself. Brave is required to honestly face our own cages we create by  expectation,  comparison,  performance, and denial.

Spiritual freedom is letting the words fall out from the darkest nooks of our shadows and let ourselves hear them, watch ourselves face them, allow ourselves the companion resources to heal with them and through them.   Every shadow has its gifts.

Every standard established of what we must do, what must be, to be in full relationship with Holy easily becomes our cage.  Brave is the gall to get that every day.  Then fall back in love with the world shimmering with Holy and let the light lead the way.