Dec 22 2014

Beguine Again: Mindful Monday: Just passing through

Why Bodhidharma Went to Motel 6 by Jane Hirshfield   “Where is your home?” the interviewer asked him. “Here.” “No, no,” the interviewer said, thinking it a problem of translation, “when you are where you actually live?” Now it was his turn to think, Perhaps the translation? … What are you noticing about where you…

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Dec 22 2014

The Heart Of The Matter: Good Shepherd In The Charlotte Observer

This story was in the Sunday morning edition of the Charlotte Observer, courtesy of correspondent Marty Minchin:

Good Shepherd Church’s Latino ministry has progressed far from the days of Latino parishioners listening to sermons translated to Spanish through special headphones.
Ten years ago, senior Pastor Talbot Davis’ father-in-law served as the church’s sole translator at the church’s 11:30 a.m. service, speaking the sermon in Spanish in real time for Spanish speakers in the pews.
This month, Good Shepherd’s Spanish-speaking service, which meets on Sunday mornings across Moss Road from the main church, celebrated its two-year anniversary and the recent increase in average attendance from 60 to more than 100.

“We’ve grown, and we’re doing really well,” said Sammy Gonzalez, a student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary who also serves as pastor of the church’s Latino ministries.
The Latino ministries at Good Shepherd Church, which comprises people from 20 Spanish-speaking countries, includes the Sunday service and an after-school tutoring program at Twin Lakes Estates, a mobile home community in Fort Mill, S.C.
Gonzalez, whose heritage is Puerto Rican, moved to the Charlotte area from Connecticut to attend Gordon-Conwell. He began attending Good Shepherd in 2009 and joined the church staff 18 months later. The Spanish-speaking service, which the church describes as providing the message in the congregants’ “heart language,” began in 2012.
Davis, whose wife is half Puerto-Rican, occasionally has delivered a sermon in Spanish, but Gonzalez primarily speaks on Sundays. He bases his sermons on Davis’ sermons, personalizing and adapting them for the Spanish-speaking group.
It’s important that the Spanish-speaking service not be seen as a separate congregation, Talbot said, so all Sunday services at Good Shepherd deliver the same message.
The church is taking further steps to bring the congregations together, notably building a 17,000-square-foot building adjacent to its current facility where the Spanish-speaking service will meet. It should be open by mid-2016.
The building will be called “The Living Room,” a reflection on the church’s mission to “invite all people into a living relationship with Jesus Christ,” Davis said.
Spanish and English speakers will enter their services through a common lobby.
“It’s a place for living relationships to occur,” Davis said of the new building. “They will be connected to everyone who’s in the English service. We think there’s great possibility for connection and friendship.”
Now, the Spanish-speaking service is held in a former Hollywood Video store. Latino parents must check their children in the children’s ministry at the main building, then cross Moss Road, which can be busy on Sunday mornings.
Gonzalez said the new building will give the Spanish- and English-speaking churches a sense of being one church.
The Living Room will seat several hundred people, and church leaders hope that the Spanish-speaking service will continue to grow.
Its new ministry in Twin Lakes Estates is connecting the church with more Latino people. The church rents a mobile home in the community, and twice a week volunteers help Hispanic students who live there with their homework.
Gonzalez said the church wants to be known in the community as a group that cares about people and families and wants to serve them.
“People in this area, they have found something they love and really connect with,” he said.

Marty Minchin is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Marty? Email her at

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Dec 21 2014 Sermon for Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year B, “Hurry Up and Wait: Expecting,” Luke 1:26-55

Sermon 12/21/14

Luke 1:26-55

Hurry Up and Wait: Expecting

            The children have already done a good job of proclaiming the good news for us today, haven’t they? I especially appreciated that refrain, “Go, Tell It on the Mountain.” That’s what we’ve been talking about – that’s what you do with good news. You share it! You tell it! You invite others to hear it and be a part of it. You live it!

            But, I am a pastor, so I can’t entirely give up an opportunity to preach at least a little bit, especially in this season of Advent, especially when we’ve finally gotten to something that sounds a bit like a Christmas story. Today we got to hear all about Mary, in three segments. First, Gabriel tells her she’ll bear a son who will be Son of the Most High God. The angel calls her “favored one,” blessed one. Mary asks just one question, “how can this be?” And then she responds, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord. Let it be with me according to your word.” Her faith always astounds me, the way she just absorbs the angel’s frankly outrageous message.

And then we see Mary go to visit her cousin Elizabeth, an older woman who is also expecting a child, John, who will be known as John the Baptist. We’ve been hearing a bit about him these past couple weeks. And Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit – the first person in the gospels we hear about receiving the Holy Spirit – as Elizabeth notes that she and Mary both believe that God fulfills promises made – even these miraculous promises to them.

And then finally, we get to the part we actually heard first, from Leona in our Call to Worship today: a song of praise, of hope, of Mary realizing that her child represents God turning the world upside down. This section of Luke is known as the Magnificat, “My soul glorifies/magnifies the Lord,” and it is one of my favorite passages of scripture. This passage is the longest single chunk of speech from a woman in the New Testament. Mary’s words echo those of Hannah, mother of Samuel in the Old Testament, who praises God when she is able to give birth after a long time of believing she could not have children. This song, Mary’s song, the Magnificat, is Mary’s vision of what Jesus’ birth will mean: the lowly are raised up and blessed by God. The proud are scattered. The powerful are brought down from their thrones. The hungry are filled, while the rich leave empty-handed. These words were considered so revolutionary that at different times in history – in Guatemala, in Argentina, and in India, the public reading of the Magnificat was banned. After all, if Mary’s words were taken serious, why, this Christ-child might upset the whole order of the world! And so we get a little insight into Mary – what she’s expecting in Jesus – through her response to Elizabeth.

            This Advent, I’ve been taking part in a Clergy Bible Study with some pastors in my area studying the Adam Hamilton book Not a Silent Night. The book focuses on Mary, and urges us to think about what happened to Mary after the crucifixion and resurrection, about what Mary went through when Jesus was a young child, and a young teen, and a young man. And of course, the book reflects on what Mary must have been wondering about after hearing the news from Gabriel that she would give birth to God’s son, the Savior. We talked briefly last week about whether or not Jesus was the Messiah John the Baptist was expecting. John expected the winnowing fork and the ax at the roots, ready to judge, but Jesus came preaching grace and forgiveness, and John had to wonder if Jesus was the person he was preparing for or not.

Today, as we read these texts, I’m wondering about Mary’s expectations. I think of all of those I know who’ve gone through their first pregnancy. There is so much to hope for, to expect, to wonder about, to prepare for. But there’s only so much you can really learn from What To Expect When You’re Expecting. And no matter how you imagine your child, they will be different and more than you could have imagined. No matter how you imagined your life with a brand new life in it, you can never completely anticipate all that the child will bring to your life. You are full of expectation, without knowing exactly what to expect. And you have to prepare – you’d be crazy not to – all the while knowing that you couldn’t prepare for everything.

As I think about Mary, I think about how long and short a pregnancy is all at once. The time goes by quickly, in some ways, but in other ways – how hard it must have been for Mary to wait to see what this child would really be. We read nothing of any additional visits from Gabriel from the time he told her she would have a child until the time the child is born and angels have sent shepherds to meet the newborn. Did she wonder if she had hallucinated? Was she crazy? Was she just going to have an ordinary child after all? Did she wish she’d asked more questions? She must have wondered not only what her child would look like, but also what he’d be like, a child who was a Savior. Was she supposed to parent him in the normal way? I just can’t imagine what was in her heart. On Christmas Eve this week, we’ll hear that when Jesus is at last born, what Mary does is treasure and ponder in her heart everything that happens.

The angel told Mary she was favored, blessed, and Mary believed it. The angel told Mary nothing was impossible with God, and Mary believed it. The angel told Mary she would give birth to God’s child, and Mary said, “Here I am,” and “Now, God is going to turn everything upside down.” She couldn’t possibly be prepared for it, be expecting everything that would happen in the next decades of her life. And yet she was prepared for and expecting God to be faithful as always.

I hope that is what this Advent has been, is, for you. It is hard to imagine what God has in store for us. But yet, friends, we can rely so completely on God’s promises being fulfilled that we can most certainly expect that the unexpected that God has in store will be all that we hoped – and more. Here we are, servants of God. Let it be with us according to God’s word. For blessed are we who believe that there will be a fulfillment of what is spoken to us by God. Amen.


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Dec 21 2014 The Longest Night

The longest night of the year is tonight, the winter solstice, the darkest day, the day before the light starts to stay just a bit longer. It doesn’t seem coincidental that the darkest day falls just four days before we … Continue reading

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Dec 21 2014

Lake Neuron » Lake Neuron: rub a dub dub

I learned how to make soap for the mission trip I took to Kenya in 2005, and I’ve made it a few times since – but not in a long while. We never finalized the workshop list for my currently-postponed trip to Liberia, but Debra had mentioned soapmaking as a possibility, and so I’d been […]

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Dec 21 2014

Beguine Again: Rest In Natural Great Peace This Exhausted Mind

Originally posted on THE BARDO GROUP/BEGUINE AGAIN, Home of “The B Zine” … Be inspired…Be creative…Be peace…Be:
As we honor the closure of 2014 with celebrations both spiritual and secular, may our spirits rest in “Natural Great Peace” and may that peace perfume the greater world around us. We usher in…

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