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 Past Messages 

April 14th

Witness Me 


“The wall is how we pray?” 

The little boy asked 

Not where or when or why 

But how, how we pray 

These words, the innocence with which they were spoken 

The sincerity of the question 

Filled my mind 

Through the Garden, on my knees 

At the Church of agony 

Up and around the path of sorrow 

From the Rock to the walls  

From the tunnels to the bus rides 

How am I supposed to pray here? 

As I see tears in Gethsemane 

Hear music of celebration 

The calls to prayer  

In the midst of deep, unashamed faith 

How am I supposed to pray? 

Maybe I already am? 

By walking these streets 

By peeling back the layers 

By viewing them as a whole 

By letting go  

By simply being  

Maybe I already am 


I wrote this prayer on my second day over in the Holy Land. I went there around 4 years ago with my seminary. It wasn’t the typical religious sites tour though. We went over to Israel/Palestine for a two week trip geared towards justice and peacemaking. I went over thinking I was going to be able to make an impact or have some sort of major revelation just by being there. Those were my thoughts for the first few days while we traveled through Jerusalem and experiences many of the major religious sites in the area. We went down to the Garden of Gethsemane, journeyed through the stations of the cross within the Old City of Jerusalem, went into the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the site where Golgotha was supposed to be. We went to the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa mosque, one of the most holy of sites in the Islam faith. We saw some of the divides present within Jerusalem itself, the Old City, West Jerusalem vs East. The divides between Palestinian entrances compared to Israeli Jewish entrances.  


We landed into a place that has been a source of contention for thousands of years. With histories richer and deeper than anywhere else in the world. With issues that have nuances on top of nuances. Layers upon layers of discord, oppression, hatred,…and faith. And yet, I went into this space with justice on my mind, with peace making in my heart. I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to take some action! Yet when I got there, on my second day of being there, this poem is what hit me. What in the world am I doing here? Where did my faith go? Where is the Spirit in all of this mess and why hasn’t it lead me anywhere?  


I felt lost and abandoned even. It wasn’t what I expected, this experience wasn’t what I wanted it to be or what I imagined it would be. I went into this journey and experience thinking I already had the wherewithal, resources, and knowledge to start taking some sort of action. I’ve been in seminary, I’ve learned about this Land of Holy Places, I’ve read about the conflicts there. I should have known what to do and should have felt the Spirit pull me in one direction or another. What I didn’t do though…was come into this impossible situation, ready to learn. I didn’t come into this situation, that has lived more lifetimes than history can record, ready to witness. Witness the immensity of this small space, witness the diverse mosaic of lives that reside here, witness how the conflicts are played out, who they impact and affect. I didn’t come ready to hear the stories of the people living in this land.  


To truly witness the people and space around us holds an immense power and influence in how we move forward in God’s mission. One of the first actions Jesus took when he saw the disciples, all of the disciples in the various Gospel stories, was to show them the holes in his hands and feet and the scar on his side. He showed them these scars whether they doubted his identity or not. Because these scars, even in his resurrected body, were a part of his story now. We cannot know Christ if we don’t know what he went through. What he went through during his execution but also throughout his life. Jesus knows that if we want to follow him, to walk the path he tread, then we must know him deeper than just his name or his face.  


In these initial moments of the disciples’ new mission in this world, Jesus starts their journey by telling them not to look away. Throughout their time together Jesus tried to explain this to them, every time someone suffering came to Jesus, the disciples tried to push them away and not let them be seen by Jesus, yet they never understood that is exactly what Jesus wanted. It wasn’t until Jesus, in his broken body, came to the disciples and said “Look at me…Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself.” See my pain, see my suffering, see the whole person before you.  


Bearing witness is to be an essential portion of the disciples mission and our mission as followers of Christ as we move throughout this new world. Bearing witness to the people around us, to the social world around us, is the cornerstone to showing the love and acceptance that Jesus tried to teach during his ministry. It forces us to see the suffering and pain in the lives around us. To see the depth of that pain, to see past our own biases and preconceived notions about their lives. To see the root of that pain which may be beyond their control. It also drives us to see the joys in the lives around us. So often we tend to downplay others joy or successes. Or we don’t feel comfortable being open with others about what or how we appreciate them.  


Bearing witness to the rawness of the life around us, its joys and its pain, allows for space to be created where the Divine can work. It creates the space for the person or people to truly be seen. It creates the space for them to simply be. And finally, it creates the space for us to see clearly where we are being called in this world.  


If you remember last week, we talked about the “now what?” stage of our journey. Jesus has risen, so where do we go from here. The scriptures from this week tell of the same story as last week. The same actions are took, yet here we take a little deeper look into how Jesus set the disciples forth into the world. Look and see, he said. As we begin this new journey with Christ, heading into Pentecost, the outward blooming of our faith, we first must witness.  


Where are we finding the Divine in this world? Where is the Spirit being shadowed and trapped? Where is the Spirit within us being called and drawn to? We cannot attempt to begin this journey like I went into Israel/Palestine. Eyes closed, ready with my own agenda. God does not engage in life that easily.  


What we can do is start slow though. We won’t go out into our community and solve all the problems or even have a solid starting point right away. We go and sit and witness. Whether it is witnessing systemic issues within our society, such as rising antisemitic and anti-Islamic hate, anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, the rising unhoused communities, and many more issues. Or if its focusing on other portions of this community and history that deserves to be seen, recognized, and brought into the light.  


An example of this, one that I didn’t mention to Julie Cole before I put it in my sermon, was her wonderful presentation to the Concord Female Charitable Society dinner this past week. In this presentation Julie looked past the typical male dominated perspective history takes and was a witness to the incredible women that are located in the Old North Cemetery. Women that lived their own powerful, sometimes sad, lives. Lives that were their own and not made to be linked to the men they are associated with. In this witnessing, she gave voice to those who would otherwise be pushed out of history. In this witness, she made sure these women’s stories lived on.  


Being a witness in this world is how we fight back against the narratives and the powers that seek to diminish some and uplift others. Powers that seek to undermine the radical love and acceptance that Jesus exhibited in his ministry. It isn’t easy work. Bearing witness to this world means we must allow ourselves to open up to the pain and suffering, the raw emotions of those around us. Its draining and exhilarating work. Once I began to open myself up to this notion in Israel/Palestine, it became one of the defining moments in my discernment into ministry. It also nearly overwhelmed me and continues to overwhelm me with the amount of suffering occurring in the Holy Land.  


Which, as my spiritual director keeps telling me, we must allow ourselves to be held by the hand of God as we hold others in that grace. In Psalm 4 we see how David called for God’s assurance and deliverance in times such as these. As we begin to confront those who seek to oppress or diminish us or others, we first must reach out to God for direction and peace (or as the Psalm says, to lie down and sleep and wake with God’s sustaining care). Then, with deep Divine given compassion, may we meet those who oppress or diminish and pass that same grace and peace of God onto them.  


It is not an easy journey, this pathway of Christ. Its filled with pain, joy, suffering, praising, cheering, and despair. Its filled with the Holy. The Spirit in all of its glory.  


When I was getting ready to leave Israel/Palestine I wrote a second portion to the first poem I shared. A poem flowing from my first steps into witnessing. And I leave you all with it this morning:  


Am I home?  

The birds are calling me  

From outside my window 

Echoing the chorus 

From her sweet melody 

Worlds away now 

I am not home 

Her soft touch I felt 

So clearly, is only 

Remnants of our spiritual thread 

Hanging in balance  

Of this war torn world 

Anchoring my soul 

From being swept away 

I am not home 

Yet I fear my soul does not know it 

With each step upon this Land 

New threads are made 

New connections with new life 

Again, I ask,  

How am I supposed to pray here? 

Here, at home, how do I pray? 

Maybe I already am 

Remembering and witnessing 

Affirming and connecting 

Changing and acting 

I pray with the souls of all that I am 

I pray with the souls of all who I meet 

I pray to be placed upon the right path 

I pray with my feet and my hands 

I pray with my heart and my mouth 

I pray while fighting for justice 

I pray while building the bridges of peace 

I live, I breathe 

I act, I love 

I pray 

  April 7th

Now What?

Christ is Risen! (He is risen indeed!) Alleluia amen! …now what? Our sisters in the faith shared the word. Were the first to announce that our teacher, our friend, our leader had risen from the that tomb. Death has officially been defeated. We’re good now, right?

I’ll tell you, after service last Sunday, I got home, sat down and just went phew! Did it! Made it through Lent, made it through my first Holy Week. Easter went pretty well. I’m done now. I’m good. I sat there for a little it and then the anxiety started to settle in. …well, now what? After a major event, such as Easter and the Resurrection, what do we do from here? Sometimes after we hit such a peak in our lives, either our faith life or any area of our lives, the drop back down into the valley can hit us pretty hard. We see this in the various scriptures about the disciples following the death and resurrection of Jesus. The scriptures today tell us that even after they had heard from the women who first held the Gospel that Jesus had risen, they were locked away in their room terrified.

Jesus had risen! Victory over Death! What in the world are we supposed to do now?!? All the people who wanted Jesus dead are still out there. The world is still out there with all of its problems, inequities, divisions, and suffering. Yet now we don’t have our leader here with us, guiding us, being the face of our mission. The aftermath of Jesus’ resurrection, arguably the pinnacle of Jesus’ mission here on earth, caused so much terror and anxiety for the disciples that they were paralyzed in their rooms. Paralyzed to act. And to be honest, I don’t blame them. I can imagine how they were feeling at that moment. Because when we get right down to it, their world isn’t much different from our world today. More and more we find there are people who don’t want to hear the message that Jesus was proclaiming. The message of radical love and acceptance, the message that speaks truth to power, turns our preexisting systems on their head, the message of deep, authentic peace.

The issues that the early followers of Jesus came up against are still here and very much present in our world. The powers of our world do not want to hear of a message like we see in Acts. “Everything they owned was held in common…[all they had and the proceeds from it were] distributed to each as any had need.” We’ve worked against this goal in almost every aspect of this life. How do we engage with the secular world when it seems that at every turn they don’t want to hear or engage with the message Jesus proclaimed? How do we engage when the bridge between the secular and the religious only seems to be growing wider and wider? Arguably because people trying to spread the message of Jesus do so with shame and judgement instead of love and acceptance.

How do we attempt to embody the message and spread it to others when we don’t seem to know the path ourselves? How do we do this faith thing authentically without Jesus here to guide us? All of these questions and doubts that we have in today’s age, the disciples were also having following the loss of their leader. Paralyzed to act in a meaningful manner, fearful of what the future holds for their group, their faith, the mission Jesus bestowed upon them.

So again I ask, what now? How did the disciples move forward with their mission and lead the faith to were it is today? When we look to the scriptures in the Gospel according to John, we see one theme emanating from Jesus throughout. When he first joins with them, when he sees their joy, when he sees the doubt in some of their eyes, Jesus says to them and bestows upon them…Peace. “Peace be with you” he says. In your troubled times, behold the Peace of Christ. When you are afraid and without direction, behold the Peace of Christ. When you are full of joy and confidence, behold the Peace of Christ. When Jesus first met with the group of disciples, he breathes the upon them the Holy Spirit, bringing us back in the scriptures to 14:26-27 “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”

There’s a Celtic poem I found by Kenneth McIntosh the eloquently pulls together what Jesus is trying to provide to the disciples and to all of us here who hope to move forward in this mission.

“Watch the sun arise today

In mighty strength.

Let its beams reveal to you

Heaven’s light.

Be upheld by soil and tree,

Beast and river.

Here God’s word in wind and water.

See God’s shield in mount and plain.

Find God’s path in Nature’s seasons.

Whenever you walk in forest and field,

Know that angels walk beside you,

For Heaven and Earth are one.”

Heaven and Earth are one. As Jesus spread his Peace upon the disciples, it has rippled through time to fall upon us as well. When we sit upon these pews, step out into the world, when we work and rest, struggle and play. The Spirit is with us.

As we will see in these coming weeks, as we journey through the scriptures towards Pentecost in a little over a month, the disciples pulled out of their paralyzed state and took upon the Peace of Christ for themselves. They slowly but surely began to take the mantle from Jesus and continued on with his mission. His mission to spread radical love and acceptance of those on the borders of society, those who are afraid and oppressed by the power dynamics of their world, those who’s voices have been cut off and who’s images have been shadowed.

“As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” That was their sending off point and my desires for this community is to use that same passion and mission and peace as we move forward from the Resurrection. What came about from our journey of un-becoming? As we head into the Pentecost season, I want us to discern the spiritual gifts and callings that sprout during our becoming. Where are we heading as a faith community? How can we spread the mission of Jesus in the world around us? Not just the name and not what so many in the secular world have heard before. How can we bring about the Peace in action and form as Jesus did for the disciples and for us?

It may not feel like it for some, but this church is sitting in that room with those disciples. Wondering about our next move. In a transition point anxious to take the leap into what’s next. In these coming weeks, we are going to prepare for that journey, as a community united “of one heart and soul” as we saw in Acts today. What is our identity? Where is Jesus making himself known to us? Now, I’m not doing anything like an altar call, but I am placing this charge upon all of us. I can feel the faith within this community ready to blossom like a field of wildflowers. Multicolored, different shapes and sizes, vibrant. A wonderous mosaic of Heaven and Earth as one.

Christ is Risen! (He is Risen indeed)…now what?

March 24th

Fiery Pit or Bust

John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” I can say with almost full certainty that this verse, this singular verse, is the most well-known and widely used scripture from the entire Bible. And to be quite honest, its for good reason. One could argue that the entirety of our faith is placed into this scripture. It shows us the epitome of what love is and how God showed us that love. “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son” God sent Jesus into this world knowing who and what Jesus would be encountering. God has been dealing with, managing, and basically struggling with humanity since the very beginning. We see just a brief snippet of this from the Book of Numbers in our scriptures today. All throughout the Hebrew Bible the chosen people, the Israelites, are given incredible gifts. Just before this passage in Numbers it speaks about God handing over the Canaanites and giving the Israelites even more land during their conquest of this region. And this is just a piece of all that God gave to these people. Yet, even with all of this, almost immediately after this victory and new land and towns, the Israelites begin complaining about God for having them travel further through the wilderness. God has given them everything and they have the audacity to complain directly about God. Not Moses or their other leaders like before but God directly.

And in the grand scheme of the Hebrew Bible, this is quite common! God had taken a much more hands on approach when engaging with humanity during these texts. Providing for them when they needed care, disciplining them when they fell out of line, which they did, over and over and over again. And yet, even with all of this knowledge. Knowing how people behaved and what their probable actions were going to be, God takes the chance, God puts their faith in Love, and sends Jesus into this dangerous, corrupt, suffering, struggling world.

God shows that they will continually come to the aid of humanity, going to the farthest depths when we are in need. However, there is something different this time around. God behaves differently in their actions with Jesus and throughout the Gospel compared to what we’ve seen through the Hebrew Bible. The essence is the same – people fall away from God, need aid, and even curse God – and in turn God still provides for them. The difference though is really seen when we continue on to verse 17. Just one line after the most quoted scripture.

“God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” Did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world. There are no bronze serpents, no ritualistic sacrifices, no punishments dealt out to the people because they have again strayed from the path God set them on. God sent Jesus into this world simply for the salvation of this prized creation called humanity.

If verse 16 is seen as the epitome of our faith and love of God, then I would argue verse 17 completes the circle and shows us the path forward. Yet we rarely hear this verse being paired with the first. Everywhere we look in Christian spaces we see John 3:16, we see the verse written out, placed on t-shirts, the whole 9 yards. But not John 3:17.

Now in order to get into why that may be and the cautionary tale around how we have engaged with God’s change in behavior, I think it is important to look into the theological theories that stem from God’s method of salvation from these texts. Because, as I alluded to earlier, these two lines represent a major shift in the way in which God interacts with humanity compared to most of the Hebrew Bible.

By sending Jesus to the world, God is made flesh. Fully human and Fully Divine. And as such, God establishes a much more intimate relationship with humanity. I believe during this time, God not only sees a whole new side to humanity but also experiences it. Those old days of coming into a terrible situation and saving the people with a powerful miracle are gone. Jesus comes into this space teaching, living, and growing with humanity. God is establishing, through Jesus, the foundation for everlasting salvation. “Everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life…the world might be saved through him.”

Now what does this “new” method of salvation mean for humanity? As we come closer to Holy Week, closer to Good Friday and the eventual resurrection, I think it is important for us to start to think about the what and why behind this salvation. Our entire journey this Lenten season has been about stripping away that which isn’t us and through that growing into our full, unashamed selves. A major part of that process is wrapped up in our faith. Why do we believe as we believe, why do we do as we do, behave as we behave. Many of us have grown up in this faith or at the very least has

West Congregational Church
499 North State Street 
Concord, NH 03301

© 2014

About Us:

West Church has been called " the small church with a big heart" We offer a sanctuary of faith for all those who wish to come and worship.

Mission Statement

"To increase love and hope for all through growing faith in Christ"

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