A Thanksgiving Sermon from 2010

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Baba and Zoe at Hawk Mt.

Zoe Grace Scholtes and her grandfather at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary Visitor Center, November 2010. Photo by Bonnie Scholtes.

My original plan was to drive down route 183
to take a look at what I might see.
Because in October  1975
my wife and I were on the drive
from Minersville, where we then lived,
to visit family in Sinking Spring
And on that trip I suddenly said,
‟Bonnie, my dear, take notes for me
About the various things we see,
for I feel a sermon beginning to brew;
these things can be tossed into a homiletical stew.‶
And that‵s what happened. A year later the notes became a sermon called
Thanksgiving Along Route 183.

I thought it would be fun to do a remake of that sermon from so many years ago.
But alas, there were so many other things I wanted to do.
All summed up in the picture I hold;
A picture whose story wants to be told.
It‵s a photo taken by my lovely wife
of an important event in our granddaughter‵s life.

I‵m kneeling down as proud as can be,
And standing there right next to my knee
Is twenty-two month old Zoe Grace
Making her very first visit to a special place.

For we decided the time was now here
To introduce her to Hawk Mountain cheer.
The photo is taken just before
Walking through the visitor center door.
And there she made her grandfather proud
Whenever she said the word ‟eagle‶ aloud.
And I introduced Zoe to a staff member I know,
Who said, ‟Hey, I have a live owl that I might show.‶
We looked at the owl and the displays for awhile,
And when we left I was beaming a smile.

Now if it had not been so cold that day,
I would have taken her through the gate way
That puts you on the trail to Lookout South;
Once there, I would have opened my mouth,
and said:

‟Zoe, my precious, learn to scan the sky,
You’ll see not only birds, but clouds racing by.
And learn to wait out occasional showers,
And you’ll delight in rainbows lovely as flowers.
And learn the names of birds large and small;
Be thrilled and fascinated by them all.
The hummingbird here and gone in a flash,
The merlin flying swiftly in its dash.
The red tail hawk sighted all year long,
The chickadee with its familiar song.
My precious Zoe, sit and learn patience on these rocks;
forget about watches, forget abut clocks.
But keep your eyes scanning the skies,
And you’ll see many a wondrous surprise.”

Well, you’ve all been very kind tonight,
Allowing an old, doting pastor to talk about his favorite things.
But what does all this have to do with Thanksgiving?

Well, repeat these words after me.
Thank you God . . .
For children we love. . . .
For birds that soar high above. . . .
For the beauty of a mountainside . . .
For the joy of spending time outside. .

And help us, Lord, . . .
To always keep in mind . …
The many ways that you are kind. . . .
And may your Spirit. . . .
Open our eyes. . . .
To daily delight. . . .
In your surprise. . . .
Amen.

Gifts, Gifts, Gifts!

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From 1980 to 2000, I was pastor of St. John’s Lutheran Church, Saint Johns, PA. Along with another former pastor of the congregation, Bill Horn, I was with St. John’s on Sunday, October 29, to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Here is the my children’s sermon and sermon for the occasion.

St. John's signboard

 

(With children, who join me up front) I have with me an old book that’s falling apart. It’s called “God’s Table of Grace.” I used this book when teaching children about Holy Communion.

I’d tell them that each word in the title teaches us something about Communion. The word ‘God’ tells us that Communion comes from God.”

Then we’d look at the word ‘table,’ and I’d say that two of the things we do at tables is talk and eat. So Holy Communion is talking with one another about God, and it’s sharing God’s meal with one another.

Then we’d come to the word ‘grace.” “That’s an interesting word,” I’d say. “Sometimes ‘Grace,’ is a name, but that’s not what it means here. Sometimes ‘grace’ refers to a prayer, but that’s not what it means here. ‘Grace’ has a special meaning when we connect it to Holy Communion. I wonder if anyone here today can answer the question, ‘What is grace?’  GOD’S LOVE FREELY GIVEN

 When I was the pastor here, I asked that question many. I asked it during worship.  . . in First Communion instruction. . . in confirmation classes. . .  on retreats. . . and once in the middle of a wedding rehearsal. You just never knew when I would suddenly ask, “What is grace?’  GOD’S LOVE FREELY GIVEN        

Grace matters to us because Martin Luther put such emphasis on it. Martin Luther went through some very sad times. He wanted to be right with God. But no matter what he did, he was never sure he had done enough. But through his study of the Bible, it hit him: It’s not what we do that matters. When it comes to being right with God, what counts is what God has done in Jesus. So Bible verses like this became important to Luther: “Out of sheer generosity God put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did this by means of Jesus Christ.” (Romans 3, “The Message”        

All that God does for us is summed up in the word “grace.” Grace is God giving to us all that we need. Because of what God does, we gather every Sunday to say, “Thank you, God, for all you have given.”

 Repeat this prayer after me: “Thank you, God. Thank you for giving us life. Thank you for sending Jesus. Thank you for the gift of your Spirit. Amen.”   (Children return to seats.)

(Sermon) 

Been here, done this. I’ve preached many times from this pulpit.  Anyone remember the first time?

It was 1976; the occasion was the installation of William Horn as pastor of St. John’s. Bill and I were serving neighboring congregations in Minersville when he was called to be pastor of St. John’s. He extended to me the honor of preaching at his installation. The first time I preached here was his gift to me.

And the last time I preached here, I received gifts celebrating our life together as pastor and people. One gift was this cross.

On the back of the cross are the words, “Blest be the Tie that Bind.”

Ooops. It was supposed to say, “Blest be the Tie that Binds.”

It’s also inscribed “St. Johns, St. John.”

Ooops. The name of the town is St. Johns.

When the errors were discovered, an offer was made to have it corrected. But I said, “No, I like it just the way it is. It’s a good reminder that although we tried our best to be faithful to Jesus, we didn’t always get it right. Being reminded of mistakes is a good thing, a humbling thing. The cross’s imperfections make it the perfect gift.”

For the past seventeen years, I have worn this cross whenever I have preached. Week after week, I have been reminded of the gift I received of being pastor of this congregation.

There was another gift I received the last Sunday I was here. When I opened it, I blurted something like, “Somebody did their homework.”

For the gift was a pair of binoculars, a thoughtful present in light of my passion for hawkwatching. And they weren’t just any binoculars; they were Zeiss ten-power, at the time was the premiere optic for hawkwatching.

Two months later, binoculars around my neck, I stood on North Lookout at Hawk Mountain. Looking in your direction, I said, “Thank you, St. Johns. This year’s first migrating eagle is dedicated to you.”

Speaking of migrating eagles: One of the gifts I received during my years here was your enthusiastic embrace of how I united my vocation of parish pastor with my avocation of hawk watching. I did this, for example, in something called “Eagle Watch for Hunger.” You made pledges to the Hunger Appeal based on the number of southbound eagles I saw each fall. And each week I would give you an update on how many I had spotted.

Well, the last time we did one of those updates was 1999. I think it’s time for another.

Remember how this works. We do eagle flaps, and you count with me as we flap. Back then, we counted by ones. Today we’re counting by hundreds.

So everyone—arms out. Flap and count with me. One hundred, two hundred. . . . . fourteen hundred, fifteen hundred. Stop.

I don’t know the exact number, but it’s somewhere in that vicinity. But the exact number was never the most important thing, for I would end our eagle flapping by saying, “What matters most isn’t how many eagles I’ve seen, but your gifts to the hunger appeal. Thank you for your generosity.”

I took my eagle flapping ways with me to St. Paul’s, Orwigsburg. They, too, embraced it. Especially one couple, who gave me this gift. Mr. Eagle became a partner in ministry with me in encouraging support of the hunger appeal.

And there was another partner in ministry who assisted me month after month. This partner was a gift I received from Melody Hinderer. Melody was president of the congregation the year I left. In that role, there were some forms she needed me to sign as departing pastor.  She told me they would be on the office desk the last time I was in the building, adding, “You’ll also find a gift from me.”

That’s how I met Beanie Baby Grace.

It was an appropriate gift, recognizing the many time I had asked, “What is grace?” And people would shout, “God’s love freely given.”

(talk to BBG) See Beanie Baby Grace, I told you they would know the answer to that question.

         What’s that? – You’re right; it is good to be back here where you and I first met. I was so glad when I first saw you. At the time, neither you nor I nor Melody, had any idea of the way you would work with me in coming years. You showed up at worship on the first Sunday of each month, which people started calling Beanie Baby Grace Sunday. Most times you would sit on the pulpit as a silent witness to God’s mercy. But sometimes you and I would hold conversations.

         Mmmmm?—Oh, that’s right. One year February 2 fell on a Sunday, and you talked to another beanie baby named Punxsutawney Phil. That was fun! I also recall a time you were getting ready to dive into the baptismal font. And on Christmas Eve, you sat in the creche next to the baby Jesus. You and I have had a lot of good times together, and it all started with a gift.

One day, my wife came home bearing another gift for me. This: big Beanie Baby Grace. Which allows for a visual demonstration of John 1:16 which says, “From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.”

All this talk about gifts has been a trip down memory lane, and that’s been fun. But talking about gifts is also a way to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Our Reformation heritage calls us to live by the gifts of God, and to share the gifts of God. We are God’s gift-receiving, gift-giving people. We are a people deeply rooted in grace. And what is grace?   God’s love freely given.

In his Small Catechism, Martin Luther speaks of the gift-giving God.

God the Father, writes Luther, “has created me together with all that exists. God has given me and still preserves my body and soul; eyes, ears, and all limbs and senses; reason and all mental faculties.

“In addition, God daily and abundantly provides shoes and clothing, food and drink, houses and farm, spouse and children…–along with all the necessities and nourishment for this.  . . . life ….All this is done out of pure, fatherly, and divine goodness and mercy; without any merit or worthiness of mine at all!”

God the Son, writes Luther, “has purchased and freed me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver but with his holy, precious blood and with his innocent suffering and death.”

God the Spirit, writes Luther, “has called me through the gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, made me holy and kept me in the true faith, just as he calls, gathers, enlightens, and makes holy the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one common, true faith.”

So speaks Luther in the Small Catechism.

Gift upon gift, grace upon grace, freely given love upon freely given love—over and over again, God showers goodness upon us.

Because we are people of the gift, we are called to be a church ever reforming.

A reforming church is one that, while honoring the past, does not fear the future; and in the present, is courageous and risk-taking.

A reforming church is not entrenched in the way things have been, but is excited about what is yet to come.

A reforming church does not erect walls that keep others out, but builds bridges to welcome others in.

A reforming church realizes that gifts we have have received are not the work of our own hands, but the gracious work of God’s Spirit.

A reforming church does not hoard gifts received, but shares generously.

A reforming church recognizes that, over time, old customs and practices yield to new ways of living the Gospel.

A reforming church lives day by day, in the secure and certain knowledge that all things are held in God’s grace.

And what is grace?

God’s love freely given.

Thanks be to God!

Amen.

 

 

Gray Ghost Halloween

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On October 31, 2016, a male Northern Harrier flew past Hawk Mountain’s North Lookout. Seeing it, Catherine Elwell said, “Gray ghost on Halloween. How fitting.” Her words inspired this poem.

Gray Ghost, floating through the blue sky,
You are a fitting spectral sight
For these hours leading to Halloween night.

And I wonder, as you go by,
What do you note with eye, with ear,
That speaks to you of Halloween here?

“From my position up on high
The trees in valley down below
Wear costumes in yellow and reddish glow.

“When to the lookout I draw nigh,
I see a copse of leafless trees
Whose gnarled trunks look like witches’ knees,

“And whose limbs reach out to the sky
Seeking to grasp and grab and trap
A young passing bird in spidery wrap.

“The hills resound with raven cry,
Perhaps issuing a warning
That before the dawning of the morning

“Report will come of some who die
By deeds most cruel and craven,
In the dark shadow of Schambach’s Tavern.

“This is what I hear and espy.

“Therefore I will now quickly fly,
In order to escape the fear
That this All Hallows’ Eve is bringing near.”

 

The Right Path

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This is a sermon I preached October 15, 2017, at Zion United Lutheran Church, Brodheadsville, PA. It begins with a message for the children.

 

            (Invite children forward.)  In today’s Bible readings, we heard about a feast of rich food, about the Lord preparing a table, and about an invitation to a banquet. Lots of talk about meals. That’s not surprising, because the Bible often mentions eating and drinking.

Let me tell you about three of the Bible’s meals, and give you a hand motion to go along with them.

First, the Maundy Thursday Meal. This was the Last Supper Jesus had with his disciples before he died. At this meal, he taught them what his death would mean, speaking words we hear every Sunday: “Take and eat. This is my body given for you. . . . Take and drink, this is my blood shed for you.” Here Jesus is teaching that his death draws us into God’s love.   A motion for Jesus’ death is placing our arms in front of us, making the shape of a cross. As we do so we might say, “Christ has died.”

The second meal is the Easter Evening Meal. God raised Jesus from the dead on Easter morning. Later that day, Jesus met two of his disciples who were walking along a road. But they didn’t recognize him at first. They talked with him as they walked, and Jesus spoke to them about the Bible’s teachings. When the sun was about to set, they stopped to share a meal together. And Jesus took the bread, gave thanks, broke it, and gave it them. And in that instant they realized it was Jesus, now alive! A motion to remember Jesus’ resurrection is lifting our arms upward. As we do so, we can say, “Christ is risen!”

The third meal is what I call the Great Tomorrow Meal. It hasn’t happened yet, but we are promised that it is coming. God will gather his people into a great feast. We will be brought together into the everlasting love and mercy of Jesus. A motion for this is placing our arms around ourselves. Imagine Jesus giving us a great big hug. And we can say, “Christ will come again!”

Let’s do the motions one after the other. “Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.”

Say this prayer after me. Thank you, God. Thank you for the meals we eat. Thank you for sending Jesus to love us. Amen.  (Children return to pews)

Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.

These are the events central to Christian faith.
Jesus crucified, Jesus resurrected, Jesus embracing us for all eternity. This is the story of God’s love for us. Through these deeds we are drawn more deeply into the God who is always with us. This is the God of whom today’s Psalm speaks when it says, “The Lord is my shepherd. . . . he leads me in right paths for his name sake.”

What is the right path? What’s the correct thing to do? It’s not always easy to know. Consider the following, which comes from a story written by Mary Gorden.

When Rose Cassidy and her husband were no more than thirty years old, she suddenly said to him, “Swear. Swear you will let me die in my own bed. Swear you won’t let them take me away.”

It was not clear why she had made that request. At the time, they were both young and healthy. They had no close friends who were frail and feeble. Mr. Cassidy never understood what made his wife demand his promise. But he made it: he would keep her in their own home, no matter what.

The years went by, and they grew old together. Rose’s mind began to weaken. Her personality changed. She did things out of character.

She would curse her husband with language she never before used. She would refuse to take her medicine. She would throw food onto the floor. And although her mind had weakened, her physical strength had not. She was able to knock over tables, and shove her husband to the floor.

And so the doctor said there was no reason to keep Rose at home anymore. Mr. Cassidy’s son and daughter-in-law pleaded with him: “You’ve done more than can be expected. You can’t continue this way.”

But Mr. Cassidy insisted on keeping Rose at home. He had promised. And he was a man of his word, and she was his wife, and he would not see her taken away.

In such a situation, what’s the right thing to do? Should Mr. Cassidy continue to keep his promise? Should another way be found to provide Rose’s care? Should she be kept at home? Should she be institutionalized? What’s the right thing to do? It’s not always easy to know. This is one of the agonizing decisions in life for which there is no simple answer.

In the midst of such excruciating choices, we are drawn to the crucified and risen Jesus. We come to be met by him in the meal of Holy Communion. Understand why we come to the Meal. We come not to receive answers. We come not to receive certainty about decisions we have made or are about to make. We come to the Meal to receive Christ himself.

The Meal does not give us answers, but places us in a relationship with the living Christ. The Scriptures do the same.

Through Scripture read and Scripture preached we are placed in relationship with the living Christ. The Bible is not an answer book; it’s a love letter. And not a single letter, but a whole library of letters. The Bible contains a conversation among the people of God about the things of God. In that conversation, Biblical writers do not always agree on ethical and moral issues. There are differences from one book to another. But what unites them is the common commitment to the God who loves the world.

And so the Bible, together with the Meal of our Lord, invites us to fall in love with Jesus again and again and again. Through word and sacrament, the Spirit of Christ comes to us, growing us in our relationship with God.

The crucified and risen Lord Jesus, who will come at the end of all things to gather us to himself, is with us now through the power of his Spirit.

That’s the good news of Christian faith. Good news, because we can’t always figure out the right thing to do. Life has many moral conundrums and ethical puzzles. We take them seriously. We pray about them. We think about them. Together we deliberate about them. We seek answers in the best possible way we can, and then make our choices. But even then we may wonder, “Was that the right thing?”

In the midst of our wondering, we come to the Table of the Lord and we hear, “Christ has died! Christ is risen! Christ will come again!”

What wonderful news! Because of Jesus and his Spirit we are able to entrust ourselves to God.

We trust that God will use our decision making, however wise or faulty it may be, and in the fullness of time, gather it into divine grace.

What wonderful news! The right path on which Christ leads us is not figuring out all the answers. The right path on which Christ leads us is not moral certainty. The right path is trusting him. The right path is giving ourselves to the One who lives for us, the One who embraces us in life’s struggles, the One who keeps us close to him.

Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.  Thanks be to God!  Amen.

 

(The short story “Mrs. Cassidy’s Last Year,” written by Mary Gordon, is found in Listening for God, Volume 3. Edited by Paula J. Carlson and Peter S. Hawkins. 2000. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress.)

Legends

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Hawk Mountain photo

At Hawk Mountain’s North Lookout on October 28, 2016, Laurie Goodrich twice “commanded” golden eagles to turn and give us better looks. Both birds “obeyed,” prompting me to say to Laurie, “That shows the power of your doctorate.” Her reply–“That’s how legends are started”–inspired both this poem and its title.

Like Gandalf, Laurie worked wizardry
–Twice, not once, but twice!–
She told golden eagles in the sky
–“Circle and be seen more clearly”–
And they behaved obediently!

When Gandalf and friends were victorious,
Sauron’s darkening cloud fled away.
So it was for us that autumn day,
As the clouds rolled into the distance
And sunlight began to hold sway.

The Lehigh Valley was ablaze in light!
O’er power plant bright an eagle took flight!
Red-shoulder hawk gave a glowing sight!
Robins flashed by in late-day sun!
What a glorious day of birding fun!

Was it the presence of Gandalf the White
Which made the day sunny and bright?
Does Laurie have special powers
To summon these amazing hours?
I suppose not–but I can’t be certain;
For without doubt, there’s magic on the mountain.

A Manna Sharing People

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Below is the sermon I preached at Zion United Lutheran Church on October 8, 2017. It began with the help of the children, who shouted “10, 20, 30, 40!” after each verse of a poem that told the Exodus story. I wrote this poem many years ago as an aid in teaching the Exodus to First Communion students. It was fun to us it again.

(invite children forward)

The people of Israel were sent on their way,
With the special event we call Passover Day.
So off on the Exodus the people went,
Following Moses whom God had sent.
How many years did they travel?   10, 20, 30, 40!

At the Sea called Red
They thought they were dead
But Moses hands went above his head
And through the waters the people were led.
How many years did they travel?   10, 20, 30, 40!

At times they complained they had nothing to eat
So each morning God put manna at their feet.
They also complained their mouths were dry
So water was provided from God on high.
How many years did they travel?   10, 20, 30, 40!

Whenever they marched on during the day
A pillar of smoke would guide the way,
And when they walked in the dark of night,
A pillar of fire would be their light.
How many years did they travel?   10, 20, 30, 40!

They came to Mt. Sinai
Where they heard God say
“You are my people this very day
And I give commands for you to obey.
How many years did they travel?   10, 20, 30, 40!

It was a long trip to the promised land,
But like God had said the place was grand.
Getting to Canaan was no easy ride,
But it taught them to live with God at their side.
How many years did they travel?   10, 20, 30, 40!

Say this prayer after me. Thank you, God. Thank you for the story of Moses. Thank you for leading Israel to the promised land.

         (children return to pews)

The story just described is called the Exodus. It’s the account of Israel’s journey from slavery in Egypt to the land promised them by God.  As they journeyed, God provided food in the form of manna. Every morning, this flake like substance would appear. “Go and gather it,” the Lord commanded, “and take only what each family needs for the day.”

But some people took more than they needed. They quickly discovered that at the end of the day, the left overs went bad. They rotted, and spoiled, and stank.

And the Lord said, “You see, I’m not only giving you daily bread. I am also teaching you how to live when you are settled in Canaan. When you are there, the manna will cease. Instead, you will farm the land for your food. And in doing so, you are to live the spirit of manna. Which means: Share your bread. Order society in a way that all people have enough, and no one has too much.”

When I think of God’s hope for a manna sharing people, I recall a passage from the novel “The Poisonwood Bible.” The setting is a village in Africa. Anatole, a young Congolese man, and Leah, the daughter of an American missionary, are talking to one another.

Anatole says, “When one of the fishermen, let’s say, Tata Boanda, has good luck on the river and comes home with his boat loaded with fish, what does he do?”

Leah replies, “That doesn’t happen very often.”

“No,” agrees Anatole. “But you have seen it happen. What does he do?”

Leah says, “He sings at the top of his lungs and everybody comes and he gives it all away.”

“Even to his enemies?” asks Anatole.

“I guess. Yeah. I know Tata Boanda doesn’t like Tata Zinsana very much, and he gives Tata Zinsana’s wives the most.”

“All right,” says Anatole. “To me that makes sense. When someone has much more than he can use, it’s very reasonable to expect he will not keep it all himself.”

Leah protests, “But Tata Boanda has to give it away, because fish won’t keep. If you don’t rid of all of it, it’s just going to rot and stink to high heaven.”

Anatole smiled and said, “That is just how a Congolese person thinks about money.”

That conversation was written by author Barbara Kingsolver. I don’t know whether or not she intended it as a witness to the Bible’s manna teaching. But it speaks to me of the kind of world God wants: one in which everyone has enough, and no one has too much.

It’s a wonderful vision! But Israel failed to live the manna way. So prophets like Isaiah kept reminding the people of what God wanted. Earlier today we heard such a reminder from Isaiah; a passage in which Israel is called God’s vineyard. God tenderly cared for the vineyard, but if failed to produce the fruits of manna living.

Jesus used Isaiah’s image of the vineyard in today’s Gospel.

Together, Isaiah and Jesus teach us that the earth is the Lord’s, who has entrusted it us. As God’s people, we are to tend it gently and well, sharing its blessings with one another.

What does this life of sharing look like? A week ago today I put something on my Facebook page that gives witness to the blessing. Some background before I tell you what I said.

Recently, I began putting up posts that begin: “Feeling grateful.” It started one day when I was out for a walk, and went past a cornfield, which led me to write how thankful I am for farmers. Another a day I passed the scene of an accident, which led to a note about gratitude for first responders. Another day I was delayed in traffic while workers were installing pipes, and I noted my gratitude for those who care for our community’s infrastructures.

You see what I have been trying to do: notice the many reasons around me for gratitude.

Last Sunday morning, I was here, with you. Later that day, I posted a photo of your church signboard, and wrote these words:

“Feeling grateful. Today I had the privilege of supply preaching at Zion United Lutheran Church, Brodheadsvile, while Pastor Ann Melot was on vacation. Zion is a congregation deeply committed to outreach and inclusion.

“One example of its outreach is participation in Family Promise of Monroe County.  In this ministry, Zion takes a turn providing shelter for homeless families.

“Concerning inclusion, Zion’s bulletin notes: ‘We are aware that gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons are often scorned by society and have been excluded from membership in some congregations. At Zion, we wish to make known our caring and concern and we welcome all people regardless of sex, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, physical or mental ability or disability, age, or station in life. We affirm that each person is God’s unique creation and by God’s grace, each is called a child of God.'”

I concluded my Facebook post with the words: “To the people of Zion: ‘Thank you for your public witness to the values of Jesus.’”

Your commitment to outreach and inclusion exemplifies a manna life.

The past few Sundays we’ve been hearing from Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Paul begins that letter by giving thanks for the faithfulness of the Christians in Philippi. As he continues to write, he notes that the work of the faithful is never complete this side of death. We are always striving for the kind of life God wants.

With Paul, with the faithful of all ages, and with one another, we keep striving toward a manna-sharing vision of the world. We are God’s vineyard, set in this time and place to be signs of mercy and compassion.

Thanks be to God for the role to which the Spirit has called us in sharing the love of Jesus.   Amen.

Scott’s Mountain Joy

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Scott's Mountain

During mid-September, broadwing hawks are streaming south in the eastern United States. It’s thus a fitting time to share this poem which I wrote in 2015 as a tribute to Henry Kielblock and the counters crew at Scott’s Mountain Hawk Watch. This watch site is located next to the Merrill Creek Reservoir in Harmony Township, New Jersey. 

Listen to our happy story
of the birds at Merrill Creek;
we think you’ll be pleased to hear of
many raptors that we seek.
From September through November
we are in the parking lot
armed with cameras, scopes, and optics
checking out each distant dot.

Sitting in our chairs or standing,
bi-nocs raised up to our eyes;
patient waiting for what’s coming
soon to dot the sunny skies.
Winds a-swirling from the northeast
make Mount Scott a broadwing beast;
kettle forming after kettle
is for us a visual feast.

On Scott’s Mountain we find great joy
in each bird that we see fly,
and we celebrate each person
who takes time to stop on by.
So please come and visit with us,
we would like your company;
join us at this place of welcome,
add to our camaraderie.