by Rev. Lindsey Baynham
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that 2016 has been the year of realizing what might be inconceivable is not. The year where the impossible is attainable and made real. To describe this feeling, I’ll use the phrase “glass ceiling”. The origins of this phrase are credited to the mid 1980’s when women were referring to this imaginary barricade of glass that prevented them from advancing, particularly in the workplace:
“Women have reached a certain point—I call it the glass ceiling. They’re in the top of middle management and they’re stopping and getting stuck. There isn’t enough room for all those women at the top…”
But what if there was enough room?
by Emma Johnston
“One of the most effective means of disengaging the church from the work of justice is making injustice a philosophical concept” – Soong Chan Rah.
Over the past three years, I was a full time seminarian at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC. From the very first class, my faith was challenged. One of the most beautiful things of the seminary environment is that your faith is questioned, broken down, and then built up through deeper learning and understanding of Scripture and its interactions with other texts, and the ministry that we are engaging in during our internships.
In September of 2015, my small group and I endeavored to learn more about systemic issues in our world. Our focus was the death penalty and for them, and for me, it was a chance to challenge our beliefs and to engage in a conversation that is often not had on college campuses. We watched the movie Dead Man Walking, and some of the young women still felt like capital punishment was a viable option, whereas some were challenged to reflect more on the justice system that our country champions but on both sides, there was compassion and a willingness to listen and question themselves.
by Rev. Alan Combs
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” These words come at the beginning of Psalm 22. Immediately, the biblical scholar-wannabe in me asks a biblical scholar-wannabe question. How much of Psalm 22 did Jesus mean? Psalm 22 forms two distinct parts. The first eighteen verses or so are full of pain, oppression, and despair. They feel very much like what Jesus might have had in mind while hanging on the cross, blood pouring from his nailed hands and feet, struggling to breathe.
But then Psalm 22 changes at verse twenty-five. “From you comes my praise in the great congregation,” the Psalmist declares. The Psalm shifts to a prayer of deliverance. Yes many “strong bulls of Bashan” (I want to start a band called “Strong Bulls of Bashan) surround the Psalmist (22.12), and yes “I can count all my bones,” (22.17) but at the end of the day “dominion belongs to the Lord,” (22.18) so much so, that “All who go down to the dust shall bow before the Lord, and I shall live for God” (22.28).
by Minoka Gunesekera
Read Exodus 12:1-14
Many times when I go home from seminary I eat with my closest friends and family. It has become almost a ritual. The food and the actions may not be very unique, but when my community gathers for a meal it shows me an example of God’s love and devotion. And those moments of love I hold in my heart when I am away and I feel like I am about to walk into an “impending plague” or a time of trial. Just like the memory of these meals, God’s protection follows us when we feel like we need to be rescued, not because we did anything to deserve it but because that is God’s expression of mercy.
by Rev. Tammie Grimm
Read Mark 8:31-38
“Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.” (Mark 8:31)
How do you get ready for a storm? Whether it was Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Irene or “the blizzard that wasn’t” in January, many of us rush to the store to replenish the bread, milk and eggs so we can ride out whatever Mother Nature sends our way. For those of us here in Hunterdon County, where electricity is easily knocked out in high winds, those with generators get extra gasoline — just in case. In a similar sense, it is time to get ready for the last two weeks of Lent.
Traditionally known as Passiontide, these weeks are like the winds before a gathering storm with their own sense of gloom and inevitability heralding Holy Week. Scriptures like our gospel lesson from Mark turns our attention to the ‘Stations of the Cross.’ Our Lenten journey will culminate within the next two weeks. There is only one possible route to Easter – through Holy Week. How are you getting ready?
by Michelle Hettmann
Read Psalm 118:19-29.
This past fall, I studied abroad in Lugano, Switzerland, and Adigrat, Ethiopia. I was so blessed to have the opportunity to set foot in over 10 countries and experience glimpses of life in communities all over Europe and parts of eastern Africa. Being abroad was a wonderful experience, but also a challenging one. I was away from my friends and family for four months while they were here doing life together. I felt loneliness and sadness in the midst of the adventure. It was the biggest test of my faith and trust in God that I’ve experienced in my life.
While the experience wasn’t always easy, I experienced God in ways that I probably wouldn’t have if I wasn’t in that situation.
by Rev. Deacon Lisa McGehee
“Be still and know I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)
Animals have an uncanny knack for reading the moods and habits of their human companions. My cat Pippin knows the precise moment when I wake up in the morning. As my eyes open he is jumps on the bed for his morning head rub. His brother Twitter is my quiet-time and reading partner. The more I settle into the quiet, the closer he snuggles beside me. That’s what happens when we enter into silence, we snuggle closer to God and we realize how close God is to us.
The BBC TV series The Big Silence tells the story of 5 people invited to learn how to incorporate silence into their lives. During the nine day retreat the only time they were able to speak out loud was during daily meetings with a spiritual guide and when they created their video log that shared the ups and downs the participants experienced during this extreme introduction to silence.
by Brock Weigel
Read Psalm 31: 9-16
“For my life is spent with sorrow and my years with sighing; my strength has failed because of my iniquity, and my body has wasted away.” (Psalm 31: 10)
While playing basketball, the goal is to get the ball through the hoop as many times as possible. When I play, however, that goal is not on my mind. Instead of maneuvering the ball, my goal is one-upping the other team, or showing off for spectators. I care as little for the ball going through the hoop as plugging a lamp into an electrical socket. The task itself seems mundane when you remove the context. My joy in basketball is not in the ball, but in the victory.
by Lauren Wright
Read Psalm 31:9-16.
When I was in 4th grade, I desperately wanted a guinea pig for Christmas. Being the clever child that I was, I decided that I would name my guinea pig “Hope,” because it was what I “hoped” I got for Christmas. Clearly I didn’t think this through, because I ended up with a male guinea pig named Hope…! At the time, I thought that hope meant wanting something badly. I thought that hope was about wishing and dreaming.
This passage really speaks to the true meanings of hope and trust. The psalmist illustrates the dichotomy of trust and hope with rejection and despair. This passage begins with descriptions of the pain and suffering that the psalmist is facing. Phrases like ‘I am the scorn of my adversaries, the horror of all my neighbors’ speak to this rejection from all in the community, and the isolation and loneliness that follows.
By Taylor Sherwood
In middle and high school, youth group was a huge part of my life. I attended as many bible studies and youth group related activities as I could, and spent countless Sunday evenings in the youth basement forming a close relationship with God while creating memories with some of my best friends at the same time. At the end-of-year youth group picnic my senior year, I remember thinking that things would never be the same. I’m now 26 years old and I often find myself missing those meaningful youth group memories.
Somewhere between high school, college, and becoming an adult, the amount of time I spend with God seems to have steadily decreased since my teenage years. When I reflect on why this has happened, it seems partly due to the increase of responsibilities that come along with being an adult, but also the lack of structure in my schedule. Youth group allowed for me to clear my schedule every week during the same days and times to spend in worship. I finally realized last year that I seem to struggle with committing to bible study courses now as an adult.