October 31, 2023
Tombs are often the setting for the climax in a horror movie. It is usually dark, and there is a good layer of fog. The wind is blowing just enough to cause the leaves to swirl around and the branches to crackle. An owl usually gives off a startling call as a distant dog echoes back with a chilling howl. Hollywood is quite good at setting a scene that causes us to tense up and even close our eyes. Today is a day of tombs, and though we may find ourselves experiencing a moment of fright, we really have a different vision of the tomb. It is not a place of fear, but a place of joy.
Fifteen years ago, I went to Italy with four other clergy. We had a great time, and during our visit to the Vatican, we toured an area under St. Peter’s Basilica where many of the tombs of former Popes are found. I was really taken back when we approached the tomb of Pope John Paul II, one of the most beloved Popes in recent history. There were twenty or so people hanging on his tomb, sobbing. We stayed there for 30 minutes or so, and the people never left. Later, I was told that some of the same people come to his tomb every day and cry for hours. I understand how important he was to many people, but I’m pretty certain that was not what he would want. Of all people, I feel pretty confident in saying that he is not there. He is enjoying life with the One he served and desires for us to view the grave not as an ending but as a beginning.
On this Halloween, when goblins and ghouls are causing us to quiver in fear, when images of tombs and graveyards are the source of anxiety, and when people enjoy being the source of other people's screams, let us remember the tomb that was empty. Let us remember the joy! For Christians, today is All Hallows’ Eve, the day before All Saints’ Day. Though it was often celebrated around tombs, it was not a fearful or sad occasion but a time of remembrance and joy. It’s a very different take on October 31.
Gracious God, you are the source of resurrection. Through you, new life is found. As the world enjoys an evening of fright around the images of death, let us remember how your love frees us from all these fears. Let us celebrate the power of grace to liberate humanity into new life. Amen.
October 30, 2023
For this week’s prayer, I draw upon the words of Ann Weems, who wrote a poem/prayer entitled “I No Longer Pray For Peace.”
On the edge of war, one foot already in,
I no longer pray for peace:
I pray for miracles.
I pray that stone hearts will be turn to tenderheartedness,
And evil intentions will turn to mercifulness,
And all the soldiers already deployed will be snatched
out of harm’s way,
And the whole world will be astounded onto its knees.
I pray that all the “God talk” will take bones,
And stand up and shed its cloak of faithfulness,
And walk again in its powerful truth.
I pray that the whole world might sit down together
and share its bread and wine.
Some say there is no hope,
but then I’ve always applauded the holy fools who never
seem to give up the scandalousness of our faith:
That we are loved by God…
that we can truly love one another.
I no longer pray for peace:
I pray for miracles.
October 29, 2023
I saw the following saying online, but it was not attributed to anyone. I did some research but was not able to find who said it or wrote it. Yet, I still felt a need to share it — “Stop shrinking to fit places you’ve outgrown.” I don’t know about you, but I find those words speaking ever so powerfully and prophetically to multiple parts of my life. There are times from my past when I believe those words, had I been able to hear them, would have pricked my fear-induced contentment. Today, I read them prayerfully with the hope that wherever I am clinging to places I have clearly outgrown, God will help me to release my grip so that I can step forward into whatever the new thing might be.
I offer this prayer, Mighty and Liberating God, as I seek to find places that meet my growing edges with both grace and challenge. There have been moments when I have fearfully chosen caution, even as your Spirit was inviting me to step forth in faith. I can’t guarantee perfection, but I will try to follow your gentle guidance. Amen.
October 28, 2023
As you have heard me talk/write in recent days, we are beginning a new series where I will suggest that self-care is not selfish. With that said, there are some caveats that need to be named. Permanent laziness is not self-care, and choosing to not take care of one’s responsibilities cannot be justified as self-care. I have witnessed people justifying some pretty odd behavior as self-care, and though some of it might just be a reminder of how we are all wired a little differently, self-care is not a smoke screen to hide from what we should be doing. Some people are driven more than others, while some need more sleep than others. So let’s also acknowledge that one person’s self-care may not look anything like someone else’s self-care, but everyone needs to be intentional about their own self-care. In Mark 6:31, Jesus says to his disciples, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” He was encouraging his disciples to take care of themselves, yet sadly, the crowd hoofed it over to where Jesus and his disciples were resting. Sometimes the best-made plans do not provide the self-care we need, and for that reason, it is necessary for us to try something else. Sometimes we need to involve friends who will assist in making self-care happen. In other situations, we might need to get creative and seek alternative ways of achieving the intended goal of self-care. At the end of the day, self-care is about making sure you are the best version of yourself possible. Not only for you, but for those you love and the God to whom you have been called to honor with your life.
God of restoration and healing, assist us in the good work of self-care. Help us to understand what we need as individuals and not what the most recent self-help book tells us that we need. Let us use times like this, prayerful moments with you, to access what is helpful, life-giving, and truly restorative for our bodies and souls. Let us continue to look to Jesus and his compassion. Amen.
October 27, 2023
Jesus talked about knocking and persistence in that knocking, and today we have learned the importance of not giving up. If you have tried to park on the west side of the church (York Minster Drive), then you know that after a rain there is a small lake. When the County built the bus lane along the road last spring, they put up a curb that collects water… a lot of water. In fact, it can reduce the number of available parking spots by three. For close to four months, I have been sending emails to different people, cornered the head engineer when I ran into him at an event, and even spoke with the new director of the Bush Community Center a couple of times. A lot of knocking without any results. But our own Kay Smith, who had a recent positive experience getting a pothole fixed on her street, started making calls. And within a few days, a County Crew was at work installing a drain. It got a test run last night with the rain, and I am hopeful. So when something does not appear to be making any progress and you think to yourself that your voice won’t make a difference, think twice. You might be the proverbial straw that takes down the camel. Or, in our recent case, you might be the one who talks to the right person who knows how to get it down. Don’t ever think that your voice or actions are unimportant.
For all those who don’t give up even when nothing seems to be happening, we are thankful, O Lord. Amen.
October 26, 2023
The author, Nikki Rowe, wrote, “Solitude is where I place my chaos to rest and awaken my inner peace.” I love those words, but I cannot say for sure how I do that. I believe she is right, but like so many wonderful quotes, we can repeat them joyfully without a clue to how we live them. If you’re like me, a six-step process is always helpful—one that includes a timeline. As we begin our conversation this Sunday on how self-care is not selfish, I ponder the words of the resurrected Jesus in John’s Gospel when he stood among his frightened disciples and said, “Peace be with you.” Imagine you are one of the disciples, a follower of a teacher who was executed for sedition by the world's greatest superpower. You’ve got to be thinking to yourself, “Am I next?” Peace enters the room in the form of a once-dead man whom God has brought back to life. My initial reflection is to find more shock than peace as one who still bears the marks of crucifixion enters the room, but as I think more about that moment, there are times we require something out of the ordinary if the cycle of fear is to be broken. So maybe one of those 'steps' in trying to find rest from the chaos and awaken to our inner peace is to do whatever we can to leave open the door for Jesus to enter. In the story from John 20, Jesus enters in spite of the door being locked. But the more intentional we are about opening the door, the better chance we will notice Jesus entering in, and with his presence, the unhealthy cycles that keep us from rest and peace might be broken.
As I make more space for you, O Spirit of Christ, I pray that you will help to disrupt the unhealthy cycles in life that keep me from knowing the peace you so desire to give. Amen.
October 25, 2023
Did anyone else open their eyes this morning, glance at the date, and realize that we are two months away from Christmas? And for the church, we are one month and one day away from decorating for Advent/Christmas. A week from today, the overnight low is to be 50, so that will help my mood and attitude. I need at least a few days of coolish weather before I am ready to begin my focus on Christmas. A little over a week ago, I realized the store I was visiting was playing “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas.” Maybe, like me, they were trying to throw some hopeful energy into the universe, wanting a little taste of something that might resemble Christmas. Wishful thinking is never a bad thing, but before we get to the holidays, we will have a series in worship about self-care and how it should not be viewed as selfish. It sort of seemed appropriate as we approached the holidays to reflect on self-care in preparation for what will be a time of busyness, stress, and less sleep than most of us need. In Luke’s Gospel, prior to an important decision (the choosing of the twelve disciples), Jesus slips away, goes to the mountain top, and there he prays all night (Luke 6:12). Though he clearly had a busy few days prior to that time away, there seems to be an acknowledgement that taking a little time for oneself is helpful in advance of something big. Too often, we wait until we are exhausted and can’t take another step forward. We all know that is an unhealthy approach, yet we still do it. Maybe, in the weeks leading to the holidays, you will find a self-care practice that you can put in place prior to the craziness of the holidays. Let’s be honest, we tend not to be as intentional or successful when we try something new when we are weary and distracted.
God of every moment, we pray this day for an acknowledgment of your presence in this moment. We are too quick to put something off for another time, another day, another moment. You are here in this moment, and so help us take advantage of the opportunity to embrace and receive the gifts of your love and encouragement, your grace and peace. In this moment, these are the gifts we need. Amen.
October 24, 2023
With so many things, your starting place will determine your interpretation. I think of that in regard to how we approach scripture. On Sunday, we looked at the well-known and well-read words of John 3:16, yet so often the focus becomes on the words toward the end of the verse: “believe,” “perish,” and “eternal life.” Suddenly, people are arguing over what determines true belief, what a person does to prevent perishing, and what must be done to make sure we are holding the key to eternal life when our heart beats the last time. That kind of starting place has people posturing over who is right, fighting for the supremacy of institutional correctness, and ultimately seeking to win the power game. All of that is done in the name of the God who Loved and Gave. What happens if your starting place is a love that fully gives of oneself for the sake of the world and everything in the world? I think about the love my wife shares with me (a true gift of grace). There is no point at which I am trying to determine the proper wording for believing in that love or attempting to accurately express it as the means of obtaining it. I receive it as a gift that is clearly undeserved. And all I can do is live a life in gratitude, continuing to grow in my appreciation of a love that was willing to give while also teaching me how I can love in such a way that my life is giving a full expression of that love to the world.
Marvelous and Amazing God, you love us and chose to give the fullest expression of your nature in the form of a person named Jesus. In him, we glimpse a more perfect love, a love to which we are all called. Continue to encourage us each day. Amen.
October 23, 2023
Prayer for the Week
We echo the words of scripture and joyfully declare that you, O Lord of the Universe, so loved everything, including us. You are the One who did not stand idly by and do nothing, and for that, we are thankful. As we celebrated in worship yesterday, you gave yourself to the world to make your love real. When words like unconditional and unrelenting are used to describe your love, we struggle to comprehend and appreciate all this gift means to us and the creation you seek to bless. Continue to draw us toward a more faithful life, one that honors who you are and all you have done for us. Amen.
October 22, 2023
The title of an article on CNN’s website caused me to pause and immediately open the article. The first line read, “A St. Louis youth football team had the rest of its season canceled after a player’s parent allegedly shot the coach multiple times for not putting his son as a starter for the team…” Now we do not yet know the whole story, but this sort of reinforces for me the need for Cypress Creek’s very clear mission of Putting Love First In All Things. We all have moments of frustration, even for most of us, there are times when we should have been “slow to speak,” as scripture suggests. But Putting Love First is, in part, about teaching people how to live the Love First Life. What tools do people need so that they will not shoot their child’s coach? It seems absurd that I just wrote that sentence, but an inability to pause and breathe and reflect is part of the challenge we face right now. Taking the time to read this Etching on a regular basis may not seem all that significant. And trust me, I know that some of these are probably not worth your precious time. Yet there is something important about the practice of pausing and breathing and reflecting on something like this, and doing so on a daily basis. We are being shaped by a practice that, in some small way, will help us in one of those moments when our gut is about ready to react in an unhealthy way to pause and breathe and reflect long enough so that we are able to respond in a way that is healthy and respectful.
Wherever you can teach me, Gracious God, I want to be a student. Whatever you can use to bring more peace and wisdom to my decision-making, I pray for you to do so. Amen.
Rev. Bruce Frogge