• Office Admin

Rev. Nicole Lamarche


Matthew 25:31-46 and Making Peace By Denise Levertov


Good morning and Happy Sunday! Thank you for being here and for showing up to and for this day. As we come to this time in our gathering, where the invitation is to dive a bit deeper, to hear beyond the surface, I invite you to take a deep breath and let yourself arrive more fully.


And as you are so moved, I invite you to join me in a spirit of prayer. God, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen. (Psalm 19 verse 14)


It’s hard to know how to start a conversation these days. Most of us have flat out refused the introduction from the old normal. Because that was, “How are you? Fine. How about you?” And now that is just flat out ludicrous in this time. Some of us have found ourselves responding with the truth through laughter and through tears: I am terrible. But I am still here. I am still here and I am still showing up with my heart intact. That thought gave me peace this week.


Tears have come more frequently, out of frustration and anger. Because in our household, we are back to screen school with no end in sight and the only kind of respite seems to come with the sleep at night. But I am here and you are here, and we are here and we are still showing up, refusing to give up, to turn away or to become numb. That’s what I am feeling right now with a bit of urgency- that we can’t let ourselves become numb.


Because I am observing how powerful and corrosive slow change can be, whether it be a long, slow exposure to things like mass shootings in schools, or a long slow exposure to lies that begin to unsettle democratic foundations built centuries ago, or a long slow exposure to a virus that has killed 250,000 people in our country. During the Korean War 35,000 Americans died in action and during the Vietnam War 57,000 died and this number that rises daily far exceeds that, but our response hasn’t matched that loss. My fear is that we are becoming numb.


We are in a war with something invisible and it is not just COVID, but the spreading lack of care for other, lack of devotion to the truth, lack of love for those who are dying, hurting, being suffocated by this illness and public health orders that aren’t accompanied by economic relief.


We are in a battle that is spiritual and viral. And we can’t let ourselves become numb. That is part of what I believe people of faith and conscience can bring to this fight, part of what will keep our hearts and hopes. We refuse to stop caring about those who don’t have enough to eat. We refuse to accept the deathly “normals” we have created from a lack of healthcare and lack of leadership and lack of a willingness to standup to corporatists. We commit ourselves to extending generosity and kindness in the face of false created constructs of scarcity. We refuse to become numb to this.


We dare to believe that the act of living itself, that acts stemming from what we believe, have significance in the cosmic web, the divine field of love, that some of us call God. Each act of living could be a vibration of light.


As the poet Denise Levertov wrote, “A line of peace might appear

if we restructured the sentence our lives are making…

A cadence of peace might balance its weight

on that different fulcrum; peace, a presence,

an energy field more intense than war,

might pulse then,

stanza by stanza into the world,

each act of living

one of its words, each word

a vibration of light—facets

of the forming crystal.”


We are in a battle that is both spiritual and viral. We will fight, by refusing to let ourselves become numb to the hurt of others, to the harm that is coming from the pain and despair of this time.


I think that is part of what Jesus is getting at with this story we heard from the Gospel of Matthew today.


We hear that people from everywhere, people from all nations are invited to gather and to hear, but that not everyone will understand the instructions. As many scholars have pointed out, the only description of last judgment in the Gospels, is here in this 25th chapter of Matthew. But there is not a word about believing right, a creed or a religious rite a theological stance. Instead, when Jesus is speaking about how we will be judged, what matters in the eyes of the holy are small, but significant acts of kindness- acts like not turning away from someone who is thirsty or hungry, not forgetting how much of a difference one tiny thing can make, not forgetting that as we advocate for changes and laws and policies for a just world for all, we can’t forget these words from Jesus, “Come, you that are blessed by my God, inherit the kin-dom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”


And of course the people are confused because they know they have cared for Jesus. But, they don’t get that all of the times they didn’t do that, were just as important. ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.

“each act of living

one of its words, each word

a vibration of light—facets

of the forming crystal”

I believe we will get through this, by choosing to keep feeling , to not give up on caring. Maybe if we aren’t crying at some point right now, it is because we have become too numb. And I wonder if this is just too hard to do on our own, especially right now.


Which is partly why so many of us need this church.


This congregation, this community, is an oasis of hope, in a time of hurt, an oasis of engagement and kindness, in a season of turning inward and turning to meanness, an oasis of faith, in a time infused with fear. An oasis is a "fertile in the desert." It is a place of renewal in a harsh landscape, offering respite from dangerous conditions. And right now, it is a place that will support all of us in a commitment to refuse to stop caring. This is a place that supports all of us in a commitment to refuse to become numb to all of the deathly “normals” of this time, to commit ourselves to extending wild generosity and abundant kindness. We dare to believe that the act of living itself, could be a vibration of light.


It is a really hard time and we are not fine. But we are still here and we are still showing up with our hearts intact. And on this Stewardship Sunday, I am reminded that this is part of why we invest our time and talents in this congregation, to keep our hearts open and soft, to keep our hope alive. We give ourselves to this Oasis so we can share life with others who are also devoted to those same things:, convicted about the fact that truth, kindness and love for the other matters. Jesus wasn’t partisan, but he sure was political and this text tells us again that at the end of the day what matters isn’t what we profess, but how we show up in the act of living.


The entire business model of our church is built upon the idea that we offer all we do freely, now to the entire world, casting a vision of a world that is not yet, by creating among us a beautiful community that is already, an oasis.


This year, we took a big leap in our budget as a church, to get serious about matching what we profess, with our practice. And even in a pandemic, powerful possibilities are emerging because we believe in this vision and generosity has brought more generosity.


Our family has student loans and a mortgage and a dream of retiring one day and we also believe it is essential to invest in beloved community. I have learned of the shame or discomfort around money, especially in a time of deep economic distress, but I have also learned that some of this shame and discomfort comes from an economic system designed with winner take all, zero-sum, profit-first, principles based on scarcity. And ours is a frame of abundance, calling out scarcity as a myth, where we know that among us is enough.


Our family is pledging to this church, to this oasis, this year because it is too hard to live the way we intend to, on our own, because want and need to share our lives and invest in a place and a people that believes what matters in the end is kindness and love. I am grateful that we have support from other places so we can give back. This year we are pledging $332 a month, or $3,984 for the year. In some ways it feels like a lot and still in others ways, it doesn’t feel like enough as we aim toward a full 10% tithe. I share with you the actual number today because in a time like this, especially, transparency and honest feel essential. I want you to know that I would never ask of you, something I am not also committed to myself.


I have shared before how odd it seems to those in other professions that I give this money back to my employer, but this community is also my spiritual home and giving back is an investment in beloved community, in making sure this oasis is here for us and also for those who have yet to hear our message, and for all who come after, for this generation and generations to come.


Our tradition invites each of us to invest our time and treasure and talents as we are able, joyfully and thoughtfully, giving God our own, whatever the gift may be, knowing generosity brings more generosity.


Beloved of God, I believe we will get through this by choosing to keep feeling, to keeping our hearts open, to keep showing up, to refuse to become numb. But that might just be too hard to do on our own so we give thanks for this congregation, for this church, for this oasis. We are in a battle that is spiritual and viral and we can’t let ourselves stop caring. “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” Each act of living could be a vibration of light. May it be so.


  • Office Admin

Rev. Nicole Lamarche


Psalm 90:1-8, (9-11), 12; Matthew 25:14-30 and Start Close In by David Whyte from River Flow: New & Selected Poems, Many Rivers Press


Good morning and Happy Sunday, to you wherever you are and however you are experiencing our worship today. Thank you for being here and for showing up for yourself, for others and for the world we know is possible. As we come to this time in our gathering, where the invitation is to dive a bit deeper, to hear beyond the surface, I invite you to take a deep breath and let yourself arrive more fully.


And as you are so moved, I invite you to join me in a spirit of prayer. God, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen. (Psalm 19 verse 14)


In a time with little relief, a time of hardship and uncertainty, many of us are having trouble sleeping or having weird sleep patterns or having odd dreams or waking up in the middle of the night to worry or pray or sit in silence because that just might be the only way to hear that still small voice beyond the anxiety. I keep wondering if we know what was, shouldn’t be the new normal, what should be? What does God imagine for us right now? If God had her way, what would things look like after this? In the realm designed by the Creator of the Universe, how should things be set up beyond the moment we are in?


If I let myself, my worries can become a swirl of terror downward. The same with my fear. I awake with worry that moves to fear and the list is long: fear about what this is doing to our kids, fear about our democracy and this dangerous time in between, fear about what a warming earth will mean…


But I realized recently that part of what is underneath that fear and worry, for me at least, is anger. Anger that those with influence have squandered trust in institutions, anger that a love of power has been put before the common good, anger that lies continue to be subsidized since it is increasingly difficult to carry on as it is.


And while I think it is okay to let ourselves be angry and to scream and to cry, I am also learning myself, that what lifts me up, what actually gets me out of it, is doing something that builds the world we know is possible. It is important to feel our anger, but perhaps the shadow side is when we always project it beyond ourselves. It allows it to be about somebody else, it allows us to be disengaged, unless we channel it into action doing good and making things right.


And I believe that discipleship asks something of us, not just for others, and not just for Beloved Community, not just for God, but also for each of us. Because I have seen what happens to my own spirit and to that of others when we make a meal, or send a card, or make a point of reaching out... I have seen how caring for one another, sharing ourselves, our gifts, our skills, our resources to add love in the world, heals cracks out there, but also in here.


This might be obvious to you.


But I have learned that it isn’t to everyone. I believe we are designed to connect what we are good at and who we are, with what is needed in the world. Otherwise, we can become numb, sad, overcome with a sense of meaninglessness or purposelessness.


Perhaps you have already heard these wise words from Howard Thurman, who was an American author, philosopher, theologian, educator, civil rights leader and a prominent religious figure, who wrote, ”Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”


What the world needs right now is people who have come alive!


In a time with little relief, a time of hardship and uncertainty, the people were gathering around Jesus to hear him respond to their questions: If this shouldn’t be the new normal, what should be? What does God imagine for us right now? If God had her way, what would things look like after this? In the realm designed by the Creator of the Universe, how should things be set up beyond the moment we are in? What is the kingdom of heaven like?


Here in the 25th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, we hear Jesus tell this parable about three servants each given, what the more academic translation calls talents, which in the ancient world was one unit, equal to one year’s worth of labor. So here they are referring to a huge sum, 15 years worth of labor.


In the version you just heard, after having been gone for a while, a master returns to the three servants after having given them each that same huge sum of money. The first two are celebrated because they both doubled what they had been given. But the last one is chastised and shamed and thrown into the outer darkness, not because he lost his investment, but because the text says that out of fear, he just hid his talent in the ground.


It is striking that the worst thing is doing nothing- not failing or asking if they came by it honestly, but according to this, the thing to avoid at all costs, is hiding out of fear, burying our talents to avoid risk.

I don’t think it is an accident that Jesus tells this story right before we read of the plot to kill him. That comes in the next chapter. As if to say, focus on loving God and loving one another and loving yourself. And also don’t forget this other most important thing: what matters isn’t accumulating, or succeeding, what matters is living faithfully, claiming this life as our own with boldness, loving this one shot completely, daring to put who we are out there for the sake of the world we know God wants, because this is the life we have.

John Buchanan, a longtime Presbyterian minister wrote that with this story, Jesus is saying something like, “The greatest risk of all, it turns out, is not to risk anything, not to care deeply and profoundly enough about anything to invest deeply, to give your heart away and in the process, risk everything.”

”Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”


And this truth shouldn’t paralyze us because we aren’t sure where to start. Just start.


As the poet David Whyte wrote, “Start close in,

don’t take the second step

or the third,

start with the first

thing

close in”

“To hear

another’s voice,

follow

your own voice,

wait until

that voice

becomes an

intimate

private ear

that can

really listen

to another.

Start right now

take a small step

you can call your own

don’t follow

someone else’s

heroics…”


A group of us on the Nominating Commission have been hard at work hearing from you what your interests and skills are and how we can connect that to the work of the church and our ministry in the world. Our conversations have been inspiring as so many of you have said, “Yes I will serve!” On a recent phone call with our own A.K. about serving on the Spiritual Life Commission, he said, “You know what, I have been on the sidelines, I am ready to get back in!” He loves music and fly fishing and he is a brilliant story teller. Yes, the world needs more of this!


What does God imagine for us right now? We don’t need to know much, to start.


That allows us to take responsibility for our own place, our own power, our own role in co-creating.


Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German pastor and theologian known for his ties to the conspiracy to overthrow the Nazi regime, which led to his execution in 1945, wrote that, “The sin of respectable people reveals itself in flight from responsibility.”


Discipleship asks something of us, not just for others, not just for Beloved Community, not just for God, but for us. According to Jesus, it is our responsibility not to succeed or to acquire, or to be a successful investor, but to avoid all costs, hiding our gifts, our hopes, ourselves, out of fear.


In a time with little relief, a time of hardship and uncertainty, don’t bury yourself because you think your presence, is too small. “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”


Start.


From the Pastor

Stitching a New

“The old threads are unraveling, get your needles ready.” These words from Julia

Myers speak right to this moment. Because this year has unraveled so much.

Unraveled our plans and also our illusions- - illusions about law enforcement and

Black and Brown people, illusions that science would prevail in a pandemic or that

our economic system is working for most of us, when we have seen that essential

workers often don’t have the essentials on which to live. And we lost some of our

illusions about the strength of our democracy, when we saw not everyone in

government can be trusted to follow established norms. But having illusions

unravel means what is left for us to see underneath is the truth. And in our

tradition, it is the truth that sets us free.


The threads of lies and fear and hate, have shown themselves to be fragile and

fraying.


“The old threads are unraveling…”


The threads are there, but they proved themselves weak. The threads of nativism

and homophobia couldn’t hold. The threads of sexism and xenophobia broke. The

threads of white supremacy are there, but they were outnumbered.


This doesn’t mean they aren’t still woven into the fabric of our nation and in our

communities, but it does mean that more of us want these old threads to remain

in the quilts of history. And that is cause for celebration.


It feels like we have some scraps before us, pieces of all shapes and sizes. And we

need to build something that includes all of these pieces. As the writer says, It is

indeed “a revolution of recycled wears,” which means we must work with what is,

not trying to use something or someone we have yet to find or to be something

we are not.


Perhaps you saw the essay by George Packer, who wrote last week, that “There’s

no escaping who we Americans have become: This is the election’s meaning. We

are stuck with one another, seeing no way out and no apparent way through,

sinking deeper into a state of mutual incomprehension and loathing. The possible

exits—gradual de-escalation, majority breakthrough, clean separation, civil

war—are either unlikely or unthinkable. We have to live and govern ourselves

together, but we still don’t know how.” 


But you do you know what? I have learned that we don’t have to know how to

stitch something new to see for sure that the, “The old threads are unraveling.”


And we should celebrate!


We have survived a season of ripping up, of tearing apart and tearing down. That

is so much easier than creating and stitching something new, but that must be our

business now. We will use the pieces we have, whatever scraps are before us,

pieces of all shapes and sizes, whether they are tattered and worn or luxurious-

we must sew, mend, make and weave our way forward.


As Sarah mentioned, weavers often joke, that you have to  be warped to

weave. This made me think of the words of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King who

spoke of being maladjusted for the cause of love and justice. He wrote, “The

saving of our world from pending doom will come, not through complacent

adjustment of the conforming majority, but through the creative maladjustment

of a nonconforming minority.”


So maybe what is needed right now is fore more of us to be warped to what is, to

be creatively maladjusted, so we aren’t blinded to the world God wants us to see?

Now that many of us can breathe a sigh of relief for a minute, after we celebrate

and rest, soon we must get busy weaving. With more of us being maladjusted to

the normals of meanness, scarcity and fear. With more of us remaining warped to

policies that continue to make it expensive to be poor, policies that make it easier

to get a gun than to vote, policies that keep us in endless wars. We don’t want it

to be that our life doesn’t change by the man’s elected. We want change. So we

shall weave.


I think the next weeks and months could be rocky between the virus and the

violation of precedent, we could be in for some turbulence. And yet, we know

that those of us who are already stitching something new, are woven together in

unity and love, and we will remain steadfast for one another. We don’t need unity

among all of us, if enough of us are warped weavers of another way, creatively

maladjusted. We can be that hub of hope, the place where makers, builders,

sewers, shakers, weavers, fixers of all kinds find a home. So let us hold onto the

threads we have, using whatever pieces we have, whatever shape they are in,

whether tattered and scattered. The work is hard, and it makes us bleed. This is

stitching a new… “The old threads are unraveling.” Bring whatever you have,

bring you.


From the Associate Pastor

Writing this mini-sermon was challenging this week. How to weave together some thoughts and

reflections about Caring Ministry and something about the state of country during this election

season – pre and post.


So in my unease & anxiety on Thursday afternoon I took my notebook out to the horses to see

what wisdom that they might have for me and all of us. My mind was jumbled. My breathing

shallow. My shoulders tight. I was holding tension and feeling blocked. As I sat there watching

Sweetie, Bonnie & Clyde, Kiona the barn cat jumped in my lap. My breathing deepened being in

their presence. Clyde walked up to me. Bonnie & Sweetie looked right at me from a distance,

licking and chewing. I started to feel lighter, less jumbled and anxious.


A question – How do we heal? What will we stitch together from the shreds and scraps? How

do I, how do we, re-purpose and recycle the hate, abuse, neglect, fear, judgement?

The horses moved closer to one another. Calmly. Easily. They need each other, support each

other. Are present for each other. There is no judgement. They are calm, confident, reliant, at

ease. They are separate and united at the same time. I think back to a recent disagreement

they had over hay – there was a 10 second bout of squealing and kicking and then a few

seconds later, they were grazing together again peacefully.


How do we achieve this? Is this the sewing of colorful threads of peace, kindness, respect and

compassion? What quilt of beauty can we create if we slow down, respect one another for who

we are and what we bring to the world no matter our size, age, color, gender, ability?

I watch the herd move one step at a time and come to stand together in the shelter looking out

at me. Breathing deeply. Each one strong, quiet, independent, and yet connected, peaceful,

unified. Blowing out, licking and chewing, yawning, letting go. This herd … they are survivors of

trauma, loss, injuries, illness, abandonment and now they stand together – brave, resilient,

curious, relaxed, one. I hear the message “We’re in this together” as I sit in the sun and notice I

feel calmer, more at peace, grounded, deeper breathing.


This new quilt of humanity, of life. It may not be easy to make. Our fingers may bleed, our

hearts may hurt, there may be some squealing and kicking and yet as the horses remind me –

We are in this together. It takes each of us stitching, mending, and finding the threads that

bring us together. We need each other to thrive and to complete the quilt.


With God’s help, let us reach out to one another in this congregation who are hurting, lonely,

struggling, or grieving. Reach out to those in our families, community and country who

think/believe differently than ourselves. Take a breath, say a prayer, pick up your imaginary

needle and start stitching this new quilt – we need each other to mend and create this new

humanity.

Community United Church of Christ

2650 Table Mesa Dr.

Boulder CO 80305

303.499.9119

Mailing Address:

Community UCC
PO Box 3646
Boulder, CO 80307 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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