Saturday, January 11, 2014

My Name Is Church

I wrote "My Name Is Church" in  2007. I just read a blog that reminded me of this- the Title is "Are You Breaking Up With Me?" byBy Patrick Scriven, Director of Communications and Young People’s Ministries.Here is the link:

My Name Is Church
by Sandra L Hire 

My name is Church.
I’ve been here, in this spot for over one hundred years. Once, I was young and beautiful. My stained glass windows were new and the sun streamed through the colored glass and played like jewels over the people who filled the sanctuary each Sunday.

When I was created, I was created for a purpose. The men and women who laid my bricks and painted my walls had a vision for me. A vision to be handed down from their generation to the next.  I was created as a place of worship. A place of sanctuary. A place to teach the next generation to love God with their whole heart and soul and voice.

When I was in my early, childlike years, people came to me eagerly. They wanted the words of the scriptures. They loved to sing the hymns and they passed this love down to their children. They taught Sunday school. They filled my pews. They prayed for their faith to grow.

In my teens, I caught on fire. I was ablaze with the flame of the passion of the saints for the Holy Spirit. My rooms were filled on Sundays. If you were outside and walked by me on a Wednesday night, my stained glass windows looked like they were glowing from within. But chances are, you too would have been worshiping in my sanctuary. The flames of faith burned bright for many years. But eventually, they slowly started to fade.

 In my middle ages, I literally caught on fire and burned. Loving hands and joyful hearts rebuilt me. There was never any talk of letting me die; I was too important in their eyes. Their whole lives revolved around me as they continued the conviction stories of their lives and passed their faith on to their children and grandchildren.

I’m getting old now. Some of my paint is peeling and my carpets are threadbare. My rooms don’t get as much use now. The sun still shines through the colored glass of the stained glass windows. It still shimmers like jewels. But there aren’t as many people to see the dazzling colors. The talk now is whether to put me back together or let me die a slow death.
Sometimes I feel like I am dying. I no longer feel the fire burning in the souls of the people who worship here. I miss that.

Once, squirmy, wiggly  young children filled my pews. They spilled their drinks on my cushions and crushed cheerios under their feet into my carpet. I yearn for those days! I used to smile at the little ones, knowing someday they would stand up at the altar, oh so somber and still, while they promised to love God, take care of me, take care of each other and the world beyond my doors.

I really didn’t mind the knocks and nicks and the scrapes and the scratches. I knew those blemishes were really beauty marks; a history of my use by the people who loved the Lord and used me to worship Him.

I’ve heard the people raise their voices to God in praise many times. I’ve heard the wonderful word of God. In worship services, bible studies, Sunday school and other activities; the scriptures have been acted out, taught, and preached. The music has been played and the songs sung. And they still are, but there is something missing.
I can feel something that the people don’t seem to be able to feel. It is the great cloud of witnesses. It is the faith and the love of the people that came before and that have gone on to be with God. That faith, that love is still here, within these walls. Those saints have gone on to be with God, but their prayers, their love is still here.

When these people come up to partake in communion, they are communing not just with those who attend our local church or worship our way: they are communing with the universal church, all members of the church, not only on earth at present (‘the church militant’) but those already in heaven (‘the church triumphant’). It is not just a fellowship between people, but with God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This fellowship is experienced and expressed in the whole life of the church: in prayer, preaching, reading the scriptures, sacraments, music, witness and service.

Sometime between my birth and now, people lost track of the purpose. The purpose of being a church.  The purpose of passing on faith to the next generation. Or was it that the next generation disappeared and moved to bigger and better things?  Whatever it was, the fire isn’t staying strong. The promises are still being made, but there are few to receive the torch as it is passed.

I wish I could figure it out; I wish I could figure out what happened. How did the faith sharing stop? What caused the fire to start to die? I wish I had an answer. I wish I could whisper a solution to the pastor. But churches can’t talk.

Sometimes I do feel a hint of hope. A few weeks ago the pastor read the word of God and taught  about faith. The pastor read from the book of Luke. The words were bold.

The pastor read:

“The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith!’ He replied “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, Be uprooted and planted into the sea and it will obey you.”

As the pastor read those words, I could feel the warmth of the Holy Spirit slowly seeping into the church.

And the Sunday before, the people sang a song, an old song that reminded this old church of something forgotten.

Let us plead for faith alone, faith which by our works is shown;
God it is who justifies, only faith the grace applies.
Active faith that lives within, conquers hell and death and sin,
hallows whom it first made whole, forms the Savior in the soul.
Let us for this faith contend, sure salvation is the end;  
heaven already is begun, everlasting life is won.
Only let us persevere- till we see our Lord appear,
never from the Rock remove, saved by faith which works by love.[i]

There was hope there. Hope that those singing would hear the words formed by Charles Wesley many years ago.

Today the pastor is again talking about faith and talking about passing faith on to the next generation. But the people don’t see there is another generation that is to follow them. They think because their children have moved away, their grandchildren go to another church in another town, they have no one to pass the torch to. But that’s not so!

I see the children go by me on their bikes. I hear people outside speaking as they walk by me.  “Welcome!” I want to say to the children. “We will clean up the toys and open my Sunday school room doors to you.

Good Morning!  Come to church with us!

I long to say that to those strangers beyond my doors. But a church like me has no voice. It is the voice of the people, the voice of the descendants of those people who first built me that must reach out to those beyond my doors.

Listen- can you hear what the pastor says today? The people are listening. The pastor is talking again about faith. The faith about which Paul wrote to Timothy. Faith that is inherited. Faith that came from the mother and grandmother of Timothy. It is faith that Paul encourages his adopted spiritual son to fan into flame.

The pastor speaks of the need of this generation, the need of these descendants to pass on that torch of faith to a new generation. A generation of sons and daughters. A generation that may be adopted, but to who faith is no less important. A generation who will not be ashamed to testify of the faith in Jesus Christ. “For,” says the pastor, “God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and self-discipline.”

I can sense a stirring. There is a glowing ember of understanding.  A spark of interest that could ignite into a fire- not a fire of destruction, but I feel a sense that a blaze could resume. I can tell by the thoughts of the people here. I can feel the hope. They can fan this spark into a flame. And through this flame, my purpose can be revealed to a new generation.

[i] The United Methodist Hymnal ©1989 Hymn # 385 Words by Charles Wesley

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Between Hospital and Nursing Home

My father has been in the hospital since Tuesday. What started out as an ER visit on Saturday for stomach pain, turned into a hospitalization on Tuesday for a completely different matter.

Bodies age and the cumulative effect of that aging can make things go wrong all at once...

Right now Dad has terrific back pain due to bone spurs in his spine. He is on pain meds and there was tallk of an injection in his spine, but then they found out he has a blood infection. They won't do it while he has an infection of any kind. He also has pneumonia in one lung.

Since he has a pig valve in his heart, they are worried his valve might be compromised and he might need a new mechanical valve.  A TEE (transesophageal echocardiogram) is scheduled for tomorrow morning. Sunday morning.

Mom doesn't know he is in the hospital. She knows he has had bad back pain and has had tests done. She is accepting that at this time. I've told her he can't get to his computer because of the pain. The nursing home staff would like to keep the hospitalization  from her if possible.

Dad is not himself. And I'm terribly worried.

Friday, January 14, 2011

A Second Parable on Domestic Violence

A Parable On Domestic Violence 2

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

    “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

  He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’ and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

    “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

  But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

  In reply Jesus said: “A woman in town who was known for being friendly loving and kind seemed to change a few months after she met her fiancé. She started wearing long sleeved clothes in the summer and sunglasses indoors. She became nervous and afraid, especially when she was with her fiancé.

She made lots of phone calls to check in with her fiancé because he “worried” about her. She missed parties and family celebrations because her fiancé had made other plans for them.

When she was with her fiancé, he told stories about how clumsy she was and of the many stupid things she did.

Her pastor noticed the changes and thought about saying something, but felt it was up to her to ask for help.

Her friends at work talked amongst themselves about what they thought was going on, but kept their distance. They didn’t want to appear nosey.

But a lady ( a stranger) at the grocery store saw the bruises on the woman’s side as she lifted her arms to get something off the top shelf at the grocery store. She went right to her and asked her if everything was alright. She touched the woman’s trembling arm and told her she knew where she could get help. She gave her a card with a phone number on it and she wrote her phone number too. And she told her, when she was ready, she could help her get the help she needed. And she was willing to get her that help that very moment if she was ready. And she drove her to a safe place and called for help.

“Which of these do you think was a neighbor to the woman?”

  The expert in the law replied, “The one who wasn’t afraid to say something.”

   Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

by Rev. Sandi Hire

A Parable on Domestic Violence

A Parable for Domestic Violence

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’ and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

    “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

  In reply Jesus said: “A woman was coming to church every week, many times with bruises on her arms and an occasional black eye almost hidden by makeup. She was quiet and reserved and tentatively smiled when spoken to. She brought her children with her most Sundays but never stayed for any of the activities after the service, she always had to go right home. On the Sundays her husband would come with her, she was even more quiet and withdrawn and kept her eyes focused to the floor.

One day the woman came into the church even more disheveled than usual. Her hands shook and she winced when she walked to her pew. No one said anything to her, as they didn’t want to get in her business. The pastor shook her hand and looked over her head to say hello to one of the other members and didn’t notice her tears. The head of the woman’s group pointed out to another friend how awful the woman looked that day and wondered if something was wrong- but didn’t say anything to the woman.

A few days after that a member of the prayer group called the church office to report that a prayer request had been made for this woman who had been severely beaten and was being picked up at home by an ambulance. The outlook wasn’t good.

The police had arrested her husband and he was in handcuffs on his way to the police station.

Which of these do you think was a neighbor to the woman?”

The expert in the law said, “No one. No one had mercy on her.”

Jesus said, “Go and do better.”

by Rev. Sandi Hire

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Funeral for a 3-Year Old

I did a funeral for a three year old today. For some reason I have always felt comforted when I see older people in their coffins because they don’t look real. I mean they look dead and its easy for me to grasp that their spirits are no longer in those old bodies; their spirits have moved on.


The three year old looked like he was sleeping. I could count his eyelashes. The color in his cheeks looked normal. He was beautiful.

I wanted to pull the covers up a bit and tuck him in a bit.

His family couldn’t stop tussling his hair, touching his cheek. And still he didn’t wake up. They cried and wailed and touched him and called his name, but he didn’t wake up.

And they carried him out in his little white coffin- only two men had to carry him. And balloons were tied to the coffin as if they might just carry him right up to heaven.

And we went to the Baby section of the cemetery where all the little graves had dolls and toy trucks and cars and stuffed animals left behind. And we looked at the little open grave.

I read the words and said the prayers. We let go of the balloons we had to send them to heaven so that he and the other kids could play with them.

It was the only time I could make out what his mother was saying between her sobs. Good bye. Good bye.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Friday Five 8/13/2010

SingingOwl writes on the RevGalBlogPal site:
Here in the snow belt state of Wisconsin we long for the first signs of spring--perhaps a crocus poking up through the snow, or a pussy willow bud popping out even beneath ice. The first appearance of robins, that most cheery little hopper of birds, causes widespread rejoicing. Spring is followed by summer, a time for home-grown tomatoes, watermelon, corn on the cob, all sorts of "fests," back yard "fry outs" (what they call a barbecue here, for some reason) and trips near and far.

I love summer, and wait anxiously for it every year. So how is it that we have arrived at the hot and humid "Dog Days" of August, and I have not done nearly enough of what I planned to do? I want to pack in as much as I can before snow flies once again.

How about you? And what is happening for those of you who are in a different hemisphere than I, and it may be cold?

1. What is the weather like where you live?

South of you SingingOwl. Central Illinois has been "celebrating" the dog days of summer all summer long.

It has been HOT. Normally our A/C is not on this much. But the breaks in the heat have been few.

Did get some relief from the heat when visiting your state in June this year.

Door County Wisc Our Favorite Vacation Spot

2. Share one thing you love about this time of year.

The sunshine! The days are pretty even when it is ugly hot.

3. Share one thing you do NOT love about this time of year.

H&H Heat and Humidity. The fact that even sometimes when you walk out of the house at 5 AM the H&H sucks your breath right out of your lungs...


4. How will you spend the remaining days leading up to Autumn?

Preaching, teaching and preparing for Advent!

And anticipating surgery for my father- so that is rather unsettled.

5. Share a good summer memory.

Spending my days at the public swimming pool

and having chocolate ice cream for lunch when my parents were at work...

Bonus: What food says SUMMER to you?

Corn on the Cob and Fresh Tomatoes. The first time you have hamburgers on the grill with fresh, sliced tomatoes and corn on the cob is a preview of heaven! Yum!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Awesome Worship! We need each other to survive!

   Awesome worship today! Both services were into it. Could anyone help but feel the Holy Spirit moving?!?

   Who is you neighbor??
   We are ALL a part of God's body- we need each other to survive. And Hezekiah Walker can't say it any better...