July/August 2017

A few years ago, I had an apartment in Boston that I share with one of my friends, and an ever shifting array of grad students. One morning when we were all home, we decided to make breakfast. One of the roommates, Burak, was a Muslim Turk (though not strictly observant) and this meal was his first experience with bacon. While he enjoyed trying the meat, one of the first things he said was how it reminded him of a traditional Turkish dish (that I'll not disrespect by butchering the name of). What he described was a spiced and cured cut of beef, so not all that far off, all things considered.

I've always been taken by the simple humanity of conversations like these, attempts to find commonality and connection, or to define difference. It is as if we, as individuals, are teaching someone else to speak our language (metaphorically, in this case, but sometimes very literally). So we start with what we know: simple things like the names of objects, or favorite meals, or "how do you say…" By connecting our experiences with someone from a different country, or culture, or viewpoint, we are inviting them into our lives.

This summer, as so many of us travel near and far, we will meet a host of people not like ourselves. As you do so, I encourage you to remember the Desert Fathers: early Christians who extended hospitality to travelers and strangers. They greeted everyone they met as an aspect of Christ, so that each new encounter brought a fresh chance to see the face of God, moving in the world. In doing so, they found that there were no real strangers, just brothers and sisters not yet met. May it be so for us as well.

Pastor Jon

January/February 2017

When I got to be old enough to make (somewhat questionable) decisions on my own, I started trying to stay up and watch the sun rise on New Year's Day. For the most part, the folks I had spent the previous evening with would have celebrated themselves all the way into bed during the wee hours, and most mornings I was the only one still up. After the headlong rush of the holiday season, and the fireworks and champagne frenzy on New Year's Eve, the dawn was a refreshing change of pace.

In traditional Japanese architecture there is a special place in the home called a tokonoma. This alcove is set aside to display a carefully selected item, often a calligraphic scroll, an arrangement of flowers or plants, or occasionally some small objets d'art. The object in the tokonoma is changed several times a year (certainly more often than we Americans tend to update our decor) and the sense of mutability or lack of permanence is as an important part of the display as the item itself. That way, the display does not fade into the background and continually calls for attention and reflection.

For me, solitary New Year's sunrises were a tokonoma of sorts: a chance to take a moment to just appreciate the beauty of a new beginning. All too often we pack away the sense of waiting and wonder we strive to cultivate during Advent when we put our ornaments and decorations away. The continuing miracle of Christmas is not merely left in the manger, to be wrapped up and brought out of storage some time next Fall. We are changed by the birth of Hope, and challenged to carry it with us in our lives. This New Year, I hope you have occasion to reflect on the hope you carry withing, and the ways you can share that with others.

Pastor Jon