Thursday, December 30, 2010

Interfaith Shelter Christmas Poem

At Santa Fe - ROC, the New Shelter, each team leader is expected to give a report after each night they are in charge of the shelter.  
Here is one of the most creative, written on Christmas eve, by Mike Barker: 

Twas the Night Before Christmas
In the Shelter of Faith
We were all blessed in goodness
And feeling God’s grace

The bounty of food
was prepared with all care
Our 41 guests
 Were so glad to be there.

With only just five
who came just for dinner
All were alive
and felt quite the winner

With 10 lovely women
and 32 men
Plus 2 charming children
Our Christmas begins

When came to the door
A stranger it seems
With gifts wrapped for children
A blessing indeed

But out on the street
There was a real clatter
She was rolled up in ball
Like nothing else mattered

She was found in the street
By our boys in the blue
They brought the kind medics
And an ambulance too.

And inside this shelter
Ah Temple Beth Shalom
They delivered a feast
A Delight for the Tum

But I thought for a second
About the girl and the boy
A Christmas that matters
Has to have just one toy

No Santa was coming
I knew in my heart
And remembered the presents
Dropped off at the start

So a present was selected
A good one I hear
And given with love
By a kind volunteer

Oh the kids with a smile
That beemed ear to ear
The joy in there soul
Said Santa was here.

You would have thought
A sleigh full of joy
Had been dropped through the chimney
Instead of one little toy

Christmas Eve had come
And gone with no hitch
But then suddenly outside the front door
Here came the Grinch

Something had happened
A nine o’clock wait
Had fell to the ground
And injured his kind face

He was found very bleeding
A bad wound to his nose
Again came the kind medics
And away he did go.

Alas through new slumber
Our night ends adorned
With so many grateful
Tomorrow stays warm

For all will be peaceful
Snug in deep sleep
No one will wake them
Say “Go back to the streets”

And I heard him explain
As he drove out of sight
Merry Christmas to ALL
You are all God’s Delight

Merry Christmas to all volunteers and to everyone who contributes or is a humble guest at the Interfaith Community Shelter.  

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Matthew 2:1-12 - Ancient Stories

To get me in the Christmas spirit last week, Desiree Burnett sent me a link to a video called
“The Digital Story of the Nativity.”  It imaginatively depicts the angel Gabriel’s annunciation to Mary coming in the form of a text message that Mary receives on her iphone; the subsequent dialogue between Joseph and Mary takes place on email (gmail of course); the birth of Jesus is announced on facebook; and the three wise men purchase their gifts on eBay; these same three become followers of the star on Twitter. And tweet back and forth to one another their progress as they make their way to see Jesus following the star.

If some of you have no idea what I’m talking about right now....IT’S TIME TO GET WITH THE 21ST CENTURY!

ACTUALLY, Ten years ago and less, none of these methods of communication even existed.
Now we depend on them (or at least we think we do). Chances are high that for many of us,
devices that may enhance our ability to communicate by these various means took up a big place under your Xmas tree, even if it came in a small package. These things aint cheap! But I digress.  The video is great, and I really appreciate its attempt to make sense of an ancient story--the story of Jesus birth--through our 21st century reality.

This is the ongoing task of people of faith who depend on ancient stories found in sacred scriptures: How does the story relate to our lives today?

We love the birth story.  Of course! It’s about a baby and the dramatic events that surround his birth. It has the exciting events of the pregnancy; the adventure and danger of travel even migration; the terrifying suspense of King Herod’s actions; And in the end, the good guys win.  
But what does that story mean for our lives today? So here’s the fun we’re going to have with our biblical passage today.  An exercise in hermeneutics - interpretation, doesn’t that sound fun! Woohoo

The passage comes from Matthew 2:1-12.  The story of the wise men, or magi, or readers of the stars.  And I’m going to share with you briefly, some of the more creative ways, five to be exact, this scene of the story has been interpreted in an attempt to make it relevant to our own lives.  
So let’s open our hearts and minds as we, with diligence, seek to discover the meaning of Christmas, kind of like the wise men who sought out the baby Jesus by following a star two thousand years ago.  

Ready! (all but the last interpretation were inspired by the devotional Su Voz, published by the Presbyterian Reformed Church of Cuba, Oct -Nov- Dec 2010 edition).

One: How much thought have you given to the star?  The star of Bethlehem?  Without the star, we don’t have  a story. It got the wise men to Jesus.  The star guided them to the best news: the birth of hope.  Think about this: we too can be like the star of Bethlehem, and guide others to places where there is hope, humility, harmony, and peace.  We may provide light for people who are lost.  May we shine brightly! 

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Christmas Story

Wheaton College certainly shaped my life as a Christian in many ways during the three years I attended there from the age of 19 to 21.  In some aspects, I have had to undo some of my learnings, but for the most part, it helped with a character formation of which I am proud.

Wheaton sent alumni this creative Christmas greeting.  I like the idea and hope to do something similar one day. Maybe with my session!

Merry Christmas!
Peace has come into the world.
Peace be with you

Sunday, December 19, 2010

What’s in a name? - Matthew 1:18-25

Fourth Sunday of Advent, December 2010
Westminster Presbyterian Church
Read Matthew 1:18-95 here
How often do you spend thinking about your name?  What is your reaction when people say your name?  Diane.  who said that!? (Jumping with surprise) David...  Such a regal sounding name, (you think proudly).  
Am I the only person in the world who was named for his grandfather, and when his grandfather heard that one of his grandsons had been given his name responded,
“You know, I’ve always hated that name.”  I was not very proud of my name growing up, and hated when roll was called in class on the first day of school.  Chester Topple... the teacher would say.  I would cower, and utter a squeakie, “here” as the other kids snickered.  

Our names whether we like them or not, say something about us, they have a real say in our identity, in our self understanding. A few summers ago at Ghost Ranch Youth Week,
I met a kid who called himself Tiki.  He had just graduated from High School.  He had two brothers and a sister there, all younger, whose names were Joey, Julian, and Jasmin.
So Tiki? What were his folks thinking?  Experimental first child? Well it turns out that his name is actually Joel. Check this out: His family- who identifies itself as Mexican-American
moved from El Paso to Nebraska when hurricane Rita swept through. He was going into the ninth grade. Before he started school he decided that instead of being Joel from El Paso, and potentially face discrimination in a place that wasn’t very accustomed to color, he was going to change his name to Tiki from Hawaii. He would go for exotic, and it worked. The kids thought it was awesome to have a Hawaiian kid in their school.  Tiki was a confident, talented, funny kid, who loved God and had a great personality.  Who would I have met if four years earlier he left his name, Joel?  

Think about your names.  How they have shaped your identity. What they represent, or mean.  
Did you ever ask your parents why they named you what they did?  Have you thought about changing what your parents chose?  Have any of you looked up your name’s meaning?  
What were some?

Looking at our biblical passages for today, the fourth Sunday of Advent - are you ready for Christmas? - Names play a crucial part in the the story.

Now, I’d like to take a little survey of the congregation. There are three options when calling on the name of Mary’s son: Jesus, Christ, and Emmanuel.
Which of the three do you prefer.
How many are in the Jesus camp?
How about Emmanuel?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A child's generosity

We arrived to Santa Fe before midnight, barely.  We were the last three permitted to board the plane; one poor woman desperately trying to get on the plane but who was also flying standby, did not make the cut.  Because of my relief that we all made the plane, I didn't feel it appropriate to gripe about my seat - back row, sitting next to a man who weighed well over 300 pounds, and sitting behind three unsupervised rambunctious kids aged 4 to 10 (the stewardess turned baby-sitter was very sympathetic).  Never-the-less, the events of the day - a tribute Memorial Service for my grandmother, seeing family some of whom had never met Ruby Gene, and to this point successfully traveling back to Santa Fe with the two I love most, nothing could get me down; not even some of the emails I encountered when  I plugged into my computer and worked a bit using dinosaur arms.

We arrived to Albuquerque, and played around in the baggage claim area while waiting for our luggage.  Ruby Gene reminds me that no time is idle time: it's a time to play and interact with smiling faces all around.  We grabbed our bags and went out to the shuttle that would take us to our car.  "Mama Yesi" had gloves and a coat, "Papa" had a coat but no gloves.  Ruby Gene initially felt she needed neighter.  Her mother was insistent and won.  However, for Ruby, something still wasn't right.  On the shuttle, she noticed Papa didn't have any gloves. "Papa, manos, guantes" she shouted.  "Papa, manos, guantes!" She did not like it that my hands were exposed to the elements.  So what does she do.  She takes off her gloves, reaches across her mother's lap, and insists I take hers.  She is 21 months old, her spirit has not yet been tainted by this world! I gladly took them, and put them on thanks to their wonderful elasticity.  She seemed very pleased.  It goes without saying, I was too.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

TIDINGS OF COMFORT AND JOY - Isaiah 35:1-10; Matthew 11:2-10

The Rev. Dr. Robert A. Chesnut
Isaiah 35:1-10; Matthew 11:2-10
Westminster Presbyterian Church
Santa Fe, New Mexico

You might be interested to know that the New Testament from which I just read the Gospel passage from Matthew is inscribed with my name and the date 1953. It was the year when, at age fifteen, I experienced a spiritual awakening and a call to the ministry.

A couple of weeks ago we received an e-mail from our dear friend Tom Ward in Massachusetts. Tom, his wife Judy, and Jan and I first met in 1955 as freshmen at the College of Wooster. Tom was writing to tell us the good news, first of all, that in the midst of her second round of chemotherapy, Judy’s blood test scores for her ovarian cancer were very good indeed.

Tom’s e-mail, however, went on to report that Judy had just fallen and broken her arm and would have to have surgery. Some good news, some bad news. Life is full of it, isn’t it? You know that. I know that.

Jan and I have learned the hard way to be very careful about saying to each other, “Isn’t life grand…Isn’t everything just going so very well for us and our loved ones!” You never know what the next day, or even the next minute holds for you.

Earlier this year we rejoiced that our 40-something daughter had finally found the love of her life … and then mid-year that the two of them got married. But just a few weeks ago … on Thanksgiving night as we were going to bed, she called to say that she had taken her husband Paul to the emergency room. His heart was racing and he could hardly breathe. In ten minutes she called back again to report that his heart rate was so high they had to give him an injection to stop his heart and then start it up again with shock paddles. We went to bed knowing no more than that. We never know what the next day or even the next moment may hold.

So one of the primary messages of Advent is always relevant—be alert, keep awake, be ready. For the Lord’s return. For the end of the world. At least . . . for the end of life as you know it. Be prepared … for whatever may come your way.

Some good news, some bad news. Our lives are full of it … so is the Bible.

Last year at just about this time I also preached here at Westminster. I had the lectionary text about John the Baptist and his message—really not too much comfort or joy there. “You brood of vipers,” John shouted at those who came out to listen to him. “Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? I’m baptizing you with water but he who comes after me will baptize with fire. Even now the axe is laid the root of the tree. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire to be burned.” Wow! Hell fire and damnation.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Eugenia Pratt Slack Morse, 11/6/1920 - 12/12/2010

I arrived at the house: Woodlands.  The soothing smell of the woods seemed to seep through my nostrils; the air seemed to permeate through my pores.  The familiar descent of the driveway, we were greeted by numerous cars parked there.  There was a gathering.  Mom's hug and kiss.  Tami gave me a hug, I arrived just as she was ready to leave.  Inside I met Aunt Genia, Uncle Kip, Uncle Harry, Mom, Genia, Henry and Elsa playing in the living room, hugs all around. And there sat Grammy, in her spot on the couch in the living room.  I greeted her frail presence with a kiss.  A space was cleared for me to sit next to her.  She held my hand for a long time.  Her breath was short, her speech was slurred, but she was as dignified and peaceful as ever.

Over the course of the evening: we ate, we laughed, we talked, we were with one another, and it was wonderful.

It became late, time for her to go to bed.  She had a slight black out due to cardiovascular weakness, and shortness of breath.  Uncle Harry and Aunt Genia revived her, and so as is her usual routine she put cold cream and Vaseline on her face, brushed her teeth, put her pjs on, and lied down in bed.  When it came my turn to say good-night, we gazed into each others eyes, hers looked brighter than usual, less blue, more hazel; the gazed lasted some time. Words were exchanged: "I love you."  This phrase she always felt was unnecessary. It was a given, always; but she said those words to me tonight, and I said them to her.  Those words were enough. No need to say the usual, "Sleep well;" or "See you tomorrow." Those words said it all.  May you rest, beloved grandmother.

It was so wonderful to see all the beautiful contributions to the album of memories shared by family and friends of Gene Morse on her 90th birthday. For posterity's sake, here's mine:

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Interview with Mayor Coss

For the third time in my life I have been interviewed for radio.  The first was with Bob Chesnut with Mary Charlotte'a Radio Cafe about a new church plant effort (that didn't take--the church that is).
The interview was indicative of Santa Fe's interest in the effort we were putting forth for a church plant. I was kind of a by-stander, well, we both kind of were, since she called us on at Bob's request when her preferred guest canceled. Hear it here

The second was with Somos un Pueblo Unido, a wonderful human rights group in Santa Fe who wanted to speak about the varying levels of reactions within faith communities toward immigrants and the at the time recent controversial Arizona law SB 1070.  I knew Marcela Diaz and the co-host Elsa fairly well, and this was a phone interview. I was the sole guest, and it was intriguing to talk with them knowing that some listeners were going to be tuning in at some point.  I tried to not let that get to me and just answer their questions to the best of my ability.  Hear that here.  It got a little easier for me, but still, I'm pretty green.

Then this week, I was asked by the Mayor's assistant, Carla Lopez, with whom I work on the immigration committee, to interview with Mayor David Coss, who happens to lives in my neighborhood.  Where as before, with Marcela, I resisted, in this case, I jumped on it.  And was determined to have a good time.  He wanted to speak about the Interfaith Shelter that recently was given $1M by the city to buy and renovate a building a run a new more holistic approach to homelessness - SF-ROC.  While I am not the expert or most qualified person to speak to the effort, I knew enough, and was excited to be with the Mayor.  He asked me to bring a guest. I asked Trasie, and Mayor Coss was courteous enough to  engage her with her good work, even though he hoped to focus on the shelter.
The interview will air Saturday, Dec 11 at 9 am on AM 1260. I hope to find a link soon, but in the meantime it was a good time for me to share of the good work of the community to come together and provide a shelter, and to hear my wife share of her good work, and the Mayor was genuinely interested.  

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Message of Hope, It Never Grows Old

Westminster Presbyterian Church
Dec 5, 2010 - Romans 15:1-13

Perception is reality. This phrase and concept is one philosophical attempt to make sense of the world. Perception is reality.  

Is the glass half empty or half full.  (I’ve never really liked that object lesson. One friend said, Engineers say the glass is the wrong size.)  
Is the world going to hell in a handbasket....hmm

Perception is reality.
It’s great to watch shows like the daily show, or Colbert Report, or read The Onion news. These “Fake news” outlets have a very different perception of the world from most news outlets.  They

One of the headlines of on about the recent increase in airport security:

Disgusted TSA Agents Also Calling For End To Body Scanning, Thorough Pat-Downs

Huh, i’d failed to consider their side of the coin.  (this joke attempt bombed)

Our lesson today comes from Paul’s letter to the Romans.  What was their reality? While we have our perceptions about what life may have been like in first century Rome; we can never know. Was there concern among the common roman citizens about the constant push to expand and conquer and exert influence? Was there a concern for security? Were their budget crises? Increasing number of migrants moving into overpopulated cities?  Maybe people were no longer respectful of one another; lines were drawn and labels applied. Long haired rebellious Romans verses the Romans who had short Cesar hair the guy from Little Cesar’s pizza.  Maybe there were the righteous and powerful Jupiter worshiping Romans verses the pagans who put other gods at the Jesus.

Who knows, but there were divisions; there were concerns. Life was hard.  People died young.  

A Jewish man who was also a Roman citizen named Paul wrote the fledgling, finicky, and panicky community that has decided to follow Jesus; And he’s trying to give them a little - hope.  
Not a bad thing to do, is it.  The message of hope, it never grows old.  And he seems to be saying that followers of Jesus ought to perceive the world differently from the way that it may really seem. Filled with hope

Paul says that that is the main purpose of the Hebrew Bible; written to give hope, to create hope in us.  Perception is reality right? Well, what do the scriptures or Paul mean when they talk about hope?   

How many of you used hope in a sentence last week?
I hope I have a good week at work.
I hope my team wins.  
I hope it snows.
I hope Ruby goes to sleep..trasie’s words last night at 10:30 pm.