Meditations on lighting lamps: faith as seen and unseen, expected and surprising. Themes from Hebrews & Luke.

You are the community now. Be a lamp for yourselves. Be your own refuge. Seek for no other. All things must pass. Strive on diligently. Don’t give up. ― attributed to Buddha

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. — Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Sufi tell of disciples who, when the death of their master was clearly imminent, became totally bereft. “If you leave us, Master,” they pleaded, “how will we know what to do?” And the master replied, “I am nothing but a finger pointing at the moon. Perhaps when I am gone you will see the moon.” — As retold by Joan Chittister

Blessing of Light
—Jan Richardson

Let us bless the light
and the One who gives
the light to us.

Let us open ourselves
to the illumination
it offers.

Let us blaze
with its
generous fire.

Gospel Song: This Little Light of Mine (refrain)This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine
Let it shine, Let it shine, Let it shine.

Questions posed by author Jan Richardson:

  • What do I hide, and why?
  • What parts of my created self have I sent underground?
  • Is there anything I’ve left too long in the dark?
  • Do I harbor any passivity that I need to … turn into persistence?

Lighting Lamps

Whatever you are physically…male or female, strong or weak, ill or healthy–all those things matter less than what your heart contains. If you have the soul of a warrior, you are a warrior. All those other things, they are the glass that contains the lamp, but you are the light inside. ― Cassandra Clare

The lamp burns bright when wick and oil are clean. — Ovid

I will love the light for it shows me the way, yet I will endure the darkness because it shows me the stars. — Og Mandino

Make up a story… For our sake and yours forget your name in the street; tell us what the world has been to you in the dark places and in the light. Don’t tell us what to believe, what to fear. Show us belief’s wide skirt and the stitch that unravels fear’s caul. ― Toni Morrison, The Nobel Lecture In Literature, 1993 

America is known as a country that welcomes people to its shores. All kinds of people. The image of the Statue of Liberty with Emma Lazarus’ famous poem. She lifts her lamp and welcomes people to the golden shore, where they will not experience prejudice because of the color of their skin, the religious faith that they follow. — Ruth Bader Ginsburg

[T]he ground directly beneath the lantern is always the darkest. ― Yom Sang-seop

Being the light of the world is about being a broken, exploding, scarred star and shining a light of hope and inspiration to everyone around you. ― Ricky Maye

Love cannot endure indifference. It needs to be wanted. Like a lamp, it needs to be fed out of the oil of another’s heart, or its flame burns low. — Henry Ward Beecher


Gifts & How to Use Them

The old and honorable idea of ‘vocation’ is simply that we each are called, by God, or by our gifts, or by our preference, to a kind of good work for which we are particularly fitted. — Wendell Berry

The atmosphere, the earth, the water and the water cycle – those things are good gifts. The ecosystems, the ecosphere, those are good gifts. We have to regard them as gifts because we couldn’t make them. We have to regard them as good gifts because we couldn’t live without them. — Wendell Berry

Treasure is stored in the ruined places. Do not break the hearts of the poor and heartbroken people. — Rumi

When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else. This is not just a grab-bag candy game. — Toni Morrison

On Faith

Don’t be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth. ― Rumi

As Brené Brown puts it, “I went to church thinking it would be like an epidural, that it would take the pain away . . . But church isn’t like an epidural; it’s like a midwife . . . I thought faith would say, ‘I’ll take away the pain and discomfort, but what it ended up saying was, ‘I’ll sit with you in it.'”― Rachel Held Evans

Because you are alive, everything is possible. ― Thich Nhat Hanh

Believe in a love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance, and have faith that in this love there is a strength and a blessing so large that you can travel as far as you wish without having to step outside it. — Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God. — Corrie ten Boom

All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen. — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Some things have to be believed to be seen. — Madeleine L’Engle

The opposite of faith is not doubt, it’s indifference. — Elie Wiesel

Faith is a knowledge within the heart, beyond the reach of proof. — Kahlil Gibran

Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase. — Martin Luther King, Jr.

Perhaps faith is so hard to define that it’s better to use examples, to share stories, than to write a lot of theoretical things about it (not that that has deterred many theologians). It’s the experience of real people in a real relationship with God that can help us to grasp the meaning of faith, more than a precise or scholarly theological definition. — Kathryn Matthews

The problem of the nature of faith plagues us all our lives. … How do we explain to ourselves the journey of getting from there to here, from unquestioning adherence to institutional answers, to the point of asking faithful questions? It took years before I realized that maybe it is belief itself, if it is real, that carries us there. Maybe if we really believe about God what we say we believe, there comes a time when we have to go beyond the parochialisms of law. Maybe, if we are to be really spiritual people, we can’t afford the mind-binding of denominationalism. In order to find the God of life in all life, maybe we have to be willing to open ourselves to the part of it that lies outside the circles of our tiny little worlds. — Joan Chittister

THIS WEEK at Jackson Community Church and Around Town

TUE, Feb 5 – SUN, Feb 10

At JCC: Tue – Avalanche Class, Wed – Fitness, Thurs – Yoga & After-Christmas Cleanup, Fri – Pastors Hours & Avalanche Class & Scouts Overnight, Sat – Scouts Overnight, Sun – Interfaith Gathering, XC Blessing & Worship. Around Town: Moon, Planets & Zodiac (Whitney Center)

TUE, Feb 5

  • NORTH COUNTRY ASSOCIATION of UCC (United Church of Christ) LUNCH 
    12:30pm • Meeting of clergy and lay representatives. Rev Gail attends.
  • Private Event: AVALANCHE CLASS
    All Day • Second Floor, Jackson Community Church
    Private class providing instruction to outdoor athletes and emergency responder for avalanche preparedness and response.

WED, Feb 6

  • TUNE UP FITNESS with Laurie McAleer 
    9:30am • Parish House.Fitness class. Free; open to public. Weather dependent; if schools close, the class will be cancelled.

THURS, Feb 7

  • FLOW & ALIGN YOGA with Anjali Rose
    9am • First Floor, Parish House / Jackson Community Church. Beginning stretch, flow and align yoga; safe for new practitioners.
  • AA
    6:30pm • Second Floor, Church.
  • Private Event: WAY STATION BOARD of DIRECTORS MEETING
    11am • Nativity Lutheran
    Meeting to review next steps  in startup of Way Station, a day center for homeless/housing insecure populations in Mt Washington Valley.
  • AFTER-CHRISTMAS CLEANUP
    2pm • Jackson Community Church
    Come help put away creches and put away remaining Christmas decorations.

FRI, Feb 8

  • PASTOR’s DROP-IN HOURS
    7-9am • J-Town Deli
    Come for caffeine, conversation. Or make a separate date to meet with Rev Gail by calling her cell (978) 273.0308 or email.
  • PASTOR’s OFFICE HOURS
    9:30-11:30am • Church. Drop by or make an appointment to meet with Rev Gail by texting or calling her cell (978) 273.0308 or by email.
  • Private Event: AVALANCHE CLASS
    All Day • Second Floor, Jackson Community Church
    Private class providing instruction to outdoor athletes and emergency responder for avalanche preparedness and response.
  • Community Event: SKI WAXING CLINIC
    10am • Jackson XC Ski Touring Center
  • Private Event: SCOUT OVERNIGHT
    8pm, Fri – 9am – Sun • Parish House.
    A visiting scout troop will be hosted at our church on Friday and Saturday while they are skiing in Mt Washington Valley.

SAT, Feb 9

  • Private Event: SCOUT OVERNIGHT
    5pm, Fri – 9am – Sun • Parish House.
    Scout troop will be hosted at our church on Friday and Saturday evening while they are skiing in Mt Washington Valley.
  • Community Event: BACKCOUNTRY XC SKI TRIP (with Tin Mountain Conservation Center)
    9am until 1pm • Meet at the Downes Brook/ UNH Trailhead on the Kancamagus Highway
    Strap on your skis and join the TMCC naturalist staff on the beautiful spruce-lined winter trails of the Kanc.  A series of short loops along the edge of Hedgehog Mountain lead skiers over the ungroomed trails of the WMNF.  While the terrain is beginner friendly there will be moderate climbs and downhill runs along the way.
  • Community Event: MOON, PLANETS & ZODIAC: Your Nightly Guide to Our Journey through Space
    6-8pm • Whitney Community Center, Jackson
    Led by Tin Mountain Conservation Center staff. Understanding and observing the nightly phases of the moon and its relative position within the zodiac is a key to understanding, enjoying, and contemplating our night skies. What is the real world significance of the zodiac beyond just a tool of astrology? How does it help us understand our movement through space? What causes the phases of the moon? This program for all ages will answer some of these basic questions to help enhance your nightly sky gazing. If the skies are clear, the program will include time outside for identifying constellations of the zodiac and using a telescope.

SUN, Feb 10

  • INTERFAITH GATHERING @ OLD LIBRARY
    8am • Old Library. Hot beverages available. Come for poetry, literature, conversation and prayer.
  • BLESSING of BODIES, BOOTS & BINDINGS
    9:15am • Jackson XC Ski Touring Foundation  HQ
    Rev Gail offers blessings to staff, volunteers and skiers.
  • WORSHIP 
    10:30am •  Jackson Community Church.
    * Story: Rev Gail
    * Music: Alan Labrie

Reflections on Advent 1: Hope

Of History and Hope (excerpt) Miller Williams

We have memorized America,
how it was born and who we have been and where.
In ceremonies and silence we say the words,
telling the stories, singing the old songs.
We like the places they take us. Mostly we do.
… But where are we going to be, and why, and who?
…. We mean to be the people we meant to be,
to keep on going where we meant to go.
… Who were many people coming together
cannot become one people falling apart.
Who dreamed for every child an even chance
cannot let luck alone turn doorknobs or not.
Whose law was never so much of the hand as the head
cannot let chaos make its way to the heart.
Who have seen learning struggle from teacher to child
cannot let ignorance spread itself like rot.
We know what we have done and what we have said,
and how we have grown, degree by slow degree,
believing ourselves toward all we have tried to become—
just and compassionate, equal, able, and free …

Hope: Optimism With a Plan— Ron Breazeale, Psychology Today

  1. First of all, hope is future oriented. …
  2. And secondly, hope is based on a system of belief that you can find a pathway to achieve your goal …
  3. And last of all, hope involves a plan.

Link: A Guide to Grounded Hope Option B


Reflections on Hope

Hope is patience with the lamp lit. — Tertullian

I find hope in the darkest of days, and focus in the brightest. I do not judge the universe. — Dalai Lama

Just as despair can come to one only from other human beings, hope, too, can be given to one only by other human beings. — Elie Wiesel

Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all. — Dale Carnegie

A lot of people have their big dreams and get knocked down and don’t have things go their way. And you never give up hope, and you really just hold on to it. Hard work and perserverance. You just keep getting up and getting up, and then you get that breakthrough. — Robert Kraft

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope. — Martin Luther King, Jr.

Where there is no vision, there is no hope. — George Washington Carver

Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance. — Robert Kennedy

Forgiving does not erase the bitter past. A healed memory is not a deleted memory. Instead, forgiving what we cannot forget creates a new way to remember. We change the memory of our past into a hope for our future. — Lewis Smedes

You cannot hope to build a better world without improving the individuals. To that end, each of us must work for his own improvement and, at the same time, share a general responsibility for all humanity, our particular duty being to aid those to whom we think we can be most useful. — Marie Curie

On Personal Hopes

My great hope is to laugh as much as I cry; to get my work done and try to love somebody and have the courage to accept the love in return. — Maya Angelou

When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me’. — Erma Bombeck

I have hope in people, in individuals. Because you don’t know what’s going to rise from the ruins. — Joan Baez

On Present Hope

We must free ourselves of the hope that the sea will ever rest. We must learn to sail in high winds. — Aristotle Onassis

Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today. — Thich Nhat Hanh

On Future Hope

Our human compassion binds us the one to the other – not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future. — Nelson Mandela

Let your hopes, not your hurts, shape your future. — Robert H. Schuller

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