Hallelujah! Christ is Risen! We anticipate another wonderful celebration of Christ’s victory over sin, separation and death and our share in the wholeness and healing he brings Sunday, April 21st at 11 a.m. We will also celebrate Christian baptism for two adult men, Jackson Campbell and Staus Sienicki. Both are excited about the new life of openness and grace they have discovered at Central and that we gladly proclaim as the God’s gift of the gospel. Come early and secure your place for this incredible time in our life of faith. There will be no early worship service this morning, but regular Sunday school activities.
Palm Sunday invites us into the most important week in the church's remembrance of the witness and work of Jesus for the salvation of the world. We recall the myriad depths and heights this week will entail. Alongside moments of intense love, service, healing and ultimate victory will be the severe challenges of betrayal, arrest and agonizing death. Throughout all these events, Jesus holds steady with amazing integrity, unswerving compassion, and incredible courage. Join us as we consider the power of his example as we seek to follow him and his model of spiritual strength and life-transforming love.
You might think an affluent culture with so many options would be able to manage their leisure schedule. But, often treasured moments away from the time-clock of necessary work can turn out to be just as busy and stressful as all the rest of the events on our calendar. Driven by a relentless work ethic, some believe taking a break and slowing down feels like cheating. But no so with Jesus nor God's people. We need times of respite, rest and healthy play to truly do and be our best before we return to the place where the tasks are many. This Sunday, we remember God's joyful invitation to Sabbath's rest and spiritual renewal.
This Sunday as we worship together, we reflect on God's gracious invitation to rest. As we listen to the rhythms of God's grace, we may feel the nudge toward rejuvenating activities that allow us to be more present and productive. Our culture tends to tout exhaustion and busyness as marks of success. With so many things vying for our attention, it takes discipline to turn off our screens, set aside our work, and rest. As we contemplate together, may we find courage to stop and rest.
As we continue our journey through Lent, we find light in the darkness and hope for our struggles. The salvation story brought into focus by Jesus reaches out to rescue and comfort the lost while also challenging and teaching those who believe they have never strayed. Thus, the well-known parable described as the prodigal son, might better be called the prodigal son and the stingy brother. Jesus understands his ministry of inclusion to the broken must be undergirded by his ministry of persuasion to the capable. This dual focus meets our need whether weak or strong. Sometimes we need comfort. Sometimes we need to be the comforters.
As we worship together this week, we retrace the steps of the prodigal son. Along the path, we see again how Jesus continues to fling the doors of inclusion wide, inviting all of us to his abundant grace. No matter where our journeys have taken us, or the paths that have led us here, we will find Jesus challenging and comforting, welcoming each of us as beloved children and coaxing us to do the same for our sisters, brothers, and siblings.
We continue our lenten journey with Brené Brown this week as we consider how we can cultivate resilience over powerlessness. The Gospel lesson invites us to see how taking time to pay attention to places of need in ourselves and in our neighbors can bring hope, healing, and health. Our resilience doesn't rest merely on our own abilities, but we find it through vulnerability and connection with one another. This quote from Brené Brown reminds us of this truth:
Spirituality is recognizing and celebrating that we are all inextricably connected to each other by a power greater than all of us, and that our connection to that power and to one another is grounded in love and compassion. Practicing spirituality brings a perspective, meaning and purpose to our lives.
In the Gospel lesson this week, we encounter a fig tree. There are lots of fig trees in scripture. This one is found in a parable of Jesus, and it's not doing great. The vineyard owner wants to cut it down. But the gardener asks for just one more year. Perhaps with some fertilizer and some special care, the tree will bear fruit. As we continue our lenten journey with Brené Brown, we consider how we might cultivate resilience. Also this week, we'll hear music from Cindy Abernathy.
There is a lot going on in Luke 13. In the midst of disturbing current events and pressing schedules, Jesus challenges his listeners to reflect upon the true nature of the kingdom of God. Like mustard seeds and a small measure of yeast, God is more often found in the least and last rather than the loudest and largest. Jesus resists the applause of the crowds and favors a more relevant experience, even if he runs the risk of the vast majority of missing what is most important. This struggle is always with us. Should we favor what is popular or what is best? For, too often these two are not the same. This Sunday, we will seek to unpack this distinction in our search for what is most authentic and ever-lasting.
We have cameras in our phones that make our faces look better in selfies. We have celebrities on Instagram flaunting their perfect lives. We sift through Facebook highlights and catch only the bright glimpses of other people's week. In all this smoothing, posturing, and comparing, we can be left wondering, am I enough?
This Sunday we continue our journey through Lent as we consider Brené Brown's guidepost for wholehearted living: Cultivating Authenticity: Letting Go of What People Think. Letting go of our need for approval from others is no easy task, but perhaps in the stillness of our worship together, we can hear again the Divine Word calling us beloved. And perhaps this identity can take root more deeply that the false self seeking nourishment from fake news and photoshopped realities.
This Sunday, we begin our Lenten journey. We begin with the challenging story of Jesus' temptation in the wilderness. Before success, there is a struggle, before graduation, there are tests, and materials to learn and study, before we experience resurrection, there's a path of discipleship and training. But unlike Jesus in the desert, we are not alone. We are helped by one another. And also, this year we will introduce a few of the key guideposts for whole-hearted living found in the work and research of Brené Brown. This week we are focused upon Cultivating Self-Compassion: Letting Go of Perfectionism. Be a part of our journey as we walk this road of faith together with earnestness and joy.
This Sunday we begin Lent with a journey into the wilderness. As we follow the steps of Jesus in the wild, we may find beauty even in the barrenness and hope in the dry places. As we consider Brené Brown's guideposts for whole-hearted living, we begin our focus with Cultivating Self-Compassion: Letting Go of Perfectionism. So this season is not about paying penance, but rather cultivating the divine life and love that has been sown in our hearts. This Sunday we will also hear music from Jane Tatum.
This is the Sunday of the mini-Easter. Before we take our journey for Lent 2019, we are assured that our work in worship, prayer, and the spiritual possibilities available to the disciples of Christ, will all turn out to be effective and successful. The path ahead may be difficult, but its testing will prove worthwhile. We choose to walk with Jesus knowing darkness and suffering will result in glory and victory. God blesses the sincerity of our struggles and promises us how we are persistently remembered and loved even through times of trial and trouble.
As we journey toward Lent, this week we celebrate Transfiguration Sunday. We venture into the mystery of the incarnational life as we walk alongside Jesus and his disciples up the mountain to catch a glimpse of the divine. Then we remember that we must go back down into the valley to discover the way of God even in the shadows below. This Sunday in Early Worship we also look forward to music from Jim Abernathy.
In the ever-changing events, pressures, and problems of daily life, the faithful gather each week for an experience of rest, resolve and renewal. Our attentive discipline of worship is an invitation to experience a healthy belonging within our local expression of the beloved community Christ came to create and empower. This week, we draw closer to him as we gather at his welcoming table of forgiveness, as we break the bread of his fellowship and share the cup of his love. How this simple meal provides such nourishment is a wonderful mystery of God's grace. Join us as we return to the table and experience the new life offered there.
This Sunday, as we gather for communion, we remember again the call of Jesus--a call that invites us to love not only those who think like us and act like us, but those who seem to be strangers, others. The table of grace reminds us that we are called out of our comfortable places and into a transformative relationship with God and humanity.
As we take time for quiet contemplation, may we see anew that there are no strangers at this table, no others. Here, there are only kin. At this table all are welcome and valued as beloved children.
In this service, we welcome Rabbi David Wirtschafter. Rabbi Wirtschafter has served Temple Adath Israel in Lexington since 2015. Previously he has worked at congregations in New York, California, and Iowa. A graduate of Brandeis University and Hebrew Union College –Jewish Institute of Religion (North America’s seminary for Reform Judaism), Rabbi Wirtschafter remains dedicated to the values at the core of his education and training: devotion to learning, commitment to inclusion and working for justice.
This week, we'll be looking at Jesus' wake-up call to his disciples and followers. We'll consider our own cycles of metaphorical sleep and the subversive message of Christ that calls us to the Living Waters.
We are excited this week to welcome Rev. Dr. Kara Kilpatrick to preach this week. Kara and her husband Jeno worship with us regularly at Early Worship, and we are delighted for her to lead us this Sunday. Kara was born and raised in Birmingham, AL. She received her M.Div. from Beeson Divinity School at Samford University and her Th.M. from Princeton Theological Seminary. She was ordained in the Presbytery of Sheppards and Lapsley when she became a chaplain through the Methodist LeBonheur Healthcare system in Memphis, TN. She worked in chaplaincy for 7 years before entering medical school at East Tennessee State University from which she graduated with her M.D. in 2016. She moved to Kentucky for Psychiatry Residency training at the University of Kentucky and is currently a Fellow in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Kara is married to Jeno Smith, and they share their home with Doogie, a 7 pound maltipoo.
Last year, on October 27th, we witnessed a horrific and terrible shooting inside the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 11 congregants were killed, two police officers and two others were wounded. Soon afterward, the Lexington community gathered in a show of solidarity and support with our Jewish friends and neighbors for a service of prayer, repentance, and remembering. At that service, and at the direction of area Rabbis, we soiled and desecrated a Tallith, or Jewish Prayer Shawl, in acknowledgment of our corporate sins including xenophobia, hatred and gun violence. We have this Tallith on display in our worship space and will turn our attention this Sunday, not only to the terrible reality of our troubles, fears, and sins but also with confident trust toward the hope-filled proclamation of God's greater promise for forgiveness and new life.
This Sunday, we gather for a service of repentance and renewal. Following last year's synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, the Lexington community gathered in solidarity with Temple Adath Israel and Ohavay Zion Synagogue after this tragic event. During the service, a prayer shawl was purposefully soiled with wine to signify our failings to live as God's beloved community, and call us to work for peace.
On Sunday, we reflect alongside this symbol—a reminder of our shortcomings and an invitation to join in God's work of justice and reconciliation. Far beyond guilt and shame, God invites our fractured humanity to wholehearted living that walks in grace and truth in an ever-widening community of love. May we see more clearly the path of God's lovingkindness and walk together in faith.
This Sunday we contemplate our need for stillness and silence. As we consider the beginning of Jesus' ministry, we also acknowledge the many silent years that preceded his first sermon. As we take time to still our hearts and minds together, perhaps we'll hear more clearly the call of God to us--the call to beloved children to be still and cherish contented moments of God's presence--the call to follow Jesus out beyond ourselves and into places of peace, justice, and hope for all people.
Silence is a gift. It comes to us freely. It is never rude, intrusive or abusive. It is available every day we seek after it. It can provide healing and clarity for our souls. It is the power of the faithful against an onslaught of noise, distractions, and divisiveness. A discipline of silence provides the foundation for clearing out our ears and cleaning out our heads. Once we kept silence, we are next able to listen; truly, authentically, and deeply seeking to discern and discover the voice of God. This week we are thinking about Jesus' start to his public ministry found in the Gospel of Luke. In Nazareth, he preaches his first sermon to his hometown congregation. His preparation has included 40 days of silence in the wilderness. Before he speaks, he has kept silent. Next, he invites us to listen to the liberating words of the prophet Isaiah. This is the transformational formula we will remember this Sunday in worship. Seek silence before listening. Listen for the needs around you before you speak. Allow this process to fill you with God's loving Spirit in your actions and words. And it all begins with the gift of silence.
Our 11 a.m. worship this Sunday will include the grace-filled invitation and loving inclusion we find when gathered at the Lord's table. We affirm the integrity of every person, as gifted, valuable and precious before the eyes of God. The incredibly talented Daniel Beasley will also offer a solo in this service in addition to our wonderful sanctuary choir. Let us march on, having come a long way and still in need of a long way to go for wholeness and redemption for all in the world.
How quickly the light and joy of Christmas turns to gray skies and treacherous journeys. As we consider the words of the prophet Isaiah, we remember that even in our struggles, God is still with us. Often, it's on the difficult road that we find the sustenance and grace that strengthens us and brings us to a heightened awareness of the true depths of God's entwinement with our humanity.
In a culture of constant and unrelenting noise, it is often difficult to hear the voice of God. This Sunday, we continue our preparations for a new year by thinking together about the possibility and promise of spiritual direction. God's voice is heard through the pages of scripture, the example, and teachings of Jesus, the attentive conversations within the Christian community and through the gentle force of disciplined prayer. Join us as we reason and worship together on how God continues to lead and speak to us.
This year we are delighted that the traditional date for Epiphany (January 6th) will fall on a Sunday. Throughout Christian history, this date has celebrated the way God's revelation was expanded beyond the Jewish world. Magi from the East were not only attentive to the silent voice of God they heard calling with the star's appearing, but were determined to seek out and follow this light wherever it might lead them. With the beginning of this new year, we seek to learn from their example, to resist earthly definitions of power, all in an effort to sort out God's universal message of liberation and love for all people.
Early Worship will resume on January 6. As we celebrate Epiphany together, we'll consider again the paradoxical nature of the messianic journey of God's son. From the outset, tables are turned, roles are reversed, the powerful are brought low, and the humble and seemingly insignificant are charged with great power. Join us as we gather to contemplate the beautiful irony of God's salvific work in this new year.
As in years past, we will have readers take us through the biblical story of the birth of Jesus; from prophetic musings to the lovely tale of shepherds, wise men, angels, and the baby. Interspersed with these readings will be music provided by the choir and traditional hymns sung by all. This combination of spoken and sung words provides a lovely opportunity to remember and worship. We hope you will make an extra effort to be here and maybe even invite a friend or neighbor to join you.
On December 16, our third Sunday of Advent worship service, will highlight a musical that our children have worked on the last several months. They are presenting a story of Lighty the lightning bug, who hears of Jesus' birth and travels to see him. But Lighty has trouble deciding what gift to take to this newborn baby. As he journeys to Bethlehem, Lighty encounters many other insects who help decide on a gift to take the newborn Messiah. Come and see the talents of our children and the gift that Lighty chooses to give to Jesus.
God’s hope for the world includes all people in the world. Jesus said, God’s will is that not one of any of “these little ones would perish.” In hearing and responding to such a broad gospel proclamation, our hearts and lives are enlarged for all the world.
In the darkness of confusion and uncertainty, we find ourselves waiting for the light of the good news to dawn. Together, we join throughout time immemorial with the faithful chorus in anticipation of the revealing and rescue of the Lord.
Following up on our previous conversations regarding holding on to hope in difficult times of trouble, we now face one of the most arduous spiritual instructions offered by Jesus. In the middle of his revolutionary Sermon on the Mount, he tells us not to worry about our life and the necessary attributes require to sustain it. It is a wild and seemingly unrealistic expectation that surprisingly might also be the pathway to a life of liberation, peace and a deeper appreciation for the more sustaining power of grace.