This is my first blog as United Parish’s Sabbatical Pastor, covering for Associate Pastor Amy Norton while she is away. I am looking forward to offering my first sermon at United Parish this Sunday. I am also excited to get to know you, the members of United Parish, and warmly invite you to reach out to me. I’m happy to take a walk together, chat, or go for coffee, and I am always ready to pray with you.
As a reforming Type A person, there’s a sense of peace that I seek and find while on a body of water. Happily, there’s a lovely little state park less than ten minutes from our home where we can drive, with the kayaks loaded atop our minivan, to find that all-too-rare peace. My heart rate relaxes as soon as my paddle hits the water with that satisfying, slushy whoosh, accompanied only by the songs of birds and the chirps of unseen frogs and insects. The to-do list writing itself in my mind fades away. The tension cementing my shoulders to my jawbone releases as I sink into the rhythm of rowing. I go to the water to restore my soul, reminding me of the 23rd Psalm: “God leads me beside still waters. God restores my soul.”
Throughout the Bible, there are many beautiful verses about peace.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God. Matt. 5:9
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you, not as the world gives… Let not your hearts be troubled, neither be afraid. John 14:27
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which you have been called in one body. Col. 3:15
I love these verses and others, so much in fact that I have some programmed into my phone to pop up at certain hours during day. They say pastors preach the sermon they need to hear, so yes, I will be preaching on peace.
I cannot get to a body of water every week, but I do go to church each week. Worship on Sunday mornings is, ideally, a place in which and a people with whom we draw closer to God, who restores our souls. Just as there is a feeling of the divine that surrounds me on the water, there is a sense of the scared residing within the United Parish in Brookline. The sunlight streaming through the beautiful rose window in the sanctuary helps me to align my heartbeat to God’s. Every Sunday worship offers a reprieve, and a letting go of the urgent, to dwell on what is truly and eternally important.
In the harried, post-pandemic America of rising inflation and heat waves, of political infighting and discord, of back-to-school anxiety and the challenge of new routines, of the tensions in Russia, Ukraine, and China and the accompanying threats of escalating war, we need peace. On every level.
For the next fourteen weeks or so, with some special pauses for the United Parish Fall Fellowship Weekend and then Advent, our worship services will be focusing on themes of peace. Peace with God. Peace within ourselves. Peace with others. Peace with creation.
We will begin our sermon series with a spiritual practice that is foundational to achieving peace: prayer. It is all too easy to complicate prayer with concerns about the “correct” words to pray, “proper” places to pray, and finding time to pray (I bought a book once called Too Busy Not to Pray, but I was too busy to read it). I will share thoughts about these very real concerns and suggest ways to address them as I preach my first United Parish sermon on Sunday. Along with the children, who we warmly welcomed back to Church School, we will be reflecting on the Biblical teachings about the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6 and Luke 11.
Paul instructed the Philippians 2000 years ago with words that remain helpful to us, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
*Due to technical difficulties, we will post the recorded worship service on YouTube later on Sunday. Thank you for your understanding. We ask for your prayers and patience as we seek to provide a quality online worship experience for our congregation at home. If you have a passion for audio/visual technology, we need your help! Please contact email@example.com to serve on a tech team.
Photo by Christine VanDeWege, Ashland State Park, Sept. 2023.