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First Congregational

United Church of Christ

... exploring the frontiers of faith in Jesus

Shalom

When Michelle fills bags with pastas and soups and canned meats from our food pantry, she is making shalom and we are making shalom, too, because we stocked the shelves.

When you plan or cook or serve or set up or clean up for our second Monday community meals, you are making shalom.

When you buy flip flops for a child in Chinandega, or diapers for an expecting mother, you are making shalom.

When you run or walk in a Relay for Life or a CROP Walk or a Pink Ribbon Run, you are making shalom.

When you help rebuild a porch for a sickly woman on twenty-four hour oxygen in Hinton, West Virginia, you are making shalom, and when you listen to her stories, when you are changed by her faith, you are making shalom.

When you drive a thousand miles to repaint the walls of a New Orleans row house, you are making shalom.

When you bend down low to greet a child face-to-face, you are making shalom.

When you make a visit to a person isolated by age or infirmity, you are making shalom.

When you listen patiently to a friend unleashing their grief or anger or frustration or despair, you are making shalom.

When you kiss your wife or hug your son or touch the shoulder of a stranger, you are making shalom.

When you invite the men and women of Christian Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church to join you for worship, when you accept their invitation to join them for worship, you are making shalom.

When you welcome into your church an immigrant from Burma or Liberia, or when you attend a rally in support of the rights and fair treatment of immigrants like them, of every immigrant like them, you are making shalom.

When you welcome into your church somebody who has felt unwelcome in church, you are making shalom.

When you speak out against the use, any use, ever, of torture or so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques," you are making shalom.

When you speak out against, when you vote against, income inequality, you are making shalom.

When you speak against, when you vote against, racism in all its forms and effects, you are making shalom.

When you hold up a sign or write your representative or talk with your neighbors about common sense gun controls, you are making shalom.

When you say and mean that "there is no such thing as other people's children," you are making shalom.

When you pray for the members of your church family, when you pray for the communities of Waterloo and Cedar Falls, when you pray for our state's leaders and for our nation's leaders, when you pray for Mr. Trump, when you pray for all the nations of the world, when you pray for justice, when you pray for mercy, when you pray for peace, when you pray for wisdom, when you pray for forgiveness, when you pray ... you are making shalom.

And when your prayers are as much about listening as asking, when you listen for what God is saying to you, to us, here, now, when you hear God's words and do them, you are making shalom.

And when we pray and work, work and pray, at building a community of love in this place, a community where God is loved above all else, with all the energy and passion we have, and where each person is loved as they are because God loves each of them as they are, we are making shalom.

Shalom is a way, God's way, and shalom is a promise, God's promise, and shalom is a blessing, a blessing offered by God to us, and a blessing offered by us to each other. May the Lord bless you.

Shalom aleichem.

Peace to you.

Read the rest of the sermon

Shalom

We wait for what God has promised

Earth

... new heavens and a new earth!

• Read my essay, Heaven can wait

Staff Corner

Grass is greening. Hyacinths are blooming. Farmers are out in the fields. Maple trees are not yet leafed out, but their red buds are swelling. Spring is here.

Finally.

I don't remember an April like this during my time in Iowa. More snow in April than the rest of winter combined. Snow on April 18!

So, does the delayed spring make its coming all the sweeter? Or are you still grumbling about the lousy April? Or are you one who is already dreading the dogs days of summer, just around the corner?

But whatever you think and however you feel, that doesn't change the reality. Today, spring is here. And it is beautiful. So you may as well enjoy it! Forget April. Forget August. It's May!

Sometimes our capacity for seeing the big picture, for interpreting every moment of our lives in the broad context of past and future -- our particular past and our anticipated future -- inhibits our ability to appreciate the present. We carry burdens with us from the past, burdens of disappointment or bitterness or hurt or guilt, or even “burdens” of joy, of success, of moments of exhilaration and great satisfaction, all of which -- bad or good -- divert our attention from unique delights of this one moment.

Or we worry. Or we plan and dream and anticipate and miss what is happening today because we are so preoccupied with what may (or may not) happen tomorrow.

I am writing this to remind myself to enjoy today. Because my mind and heart are vey much taken up right now with both future and past. The closer July 1 comes, the more I am pulled backwards and forwards by a complex of emotions.

I am remembering, reminiscing, reliving so many of the experiences of the last twenty-four years. It is good, satisfying, gratifying to remember, but memory also brings grief, grief for those I have already lost, for those I already miss, but grief too for all I will be losing and all those I will miss.

And, of course, I am excited, too, excited about the new adventure of retirement, of having time to hike and paddle and fish and build and write and read and garden and photograph and explore. I am excited about having time! But I worry, too (of course, I worry!) about how it will work, about what I will do or about what I may not be able to do.

But it's May! Spring is here. And it is beautiful. And you and I have Sundays -- beautiful Sundays! -- still to enjoy together. We have a past, a past together we will treasure. And we have a future, you have a future, to be excited about: new adventures, new opportunities, new relationships, new directions, new experiences of the love and faithfulness and goodness of God.

But we have now this moment, these moments, to enjoy. Enjoy the spring! Enjoy this day! See you Sunday ...

Tim