Rev. Janet Maykus, Senior Interim Minister

Rev. Janet Maykus, Senior Interim Minister

1 Corinthians 10:17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.

Since 1940, Christian Churches the world over mark the first Sunday of October as World Communion Sunday. It is a day that we stop, raise our eyes above the planes of our own societies and take time to recognize and celebrate Christian unity with global brothers and sisters.

Some denominations, such as ours, celebrate communion each time they gather. Some celebrate one time a month and others quarterly. I remember discussing communion practice with my classmates in divinity school. Some wondered how in the world we kept the service “special” celebrating whenever we gathered. I wondered how they kept it “special” not celebrating each time they gathered. What became apparent was that we all understood the practice to be an act of great and holy unity.

How we celebrate and the elements we consume vary from one denomination and congregation to another. Within our own denomination we find some congregations who pass trays of small shot glasses and tiny pieces of unleavened bread and others that share one loaf and one cup; while still others such as ours, may do both.

In the Disciples’ fellowship in the Equateur Province of the Democratic Republic of Congo, grape juice and wine are in short supply, so they use a red soda called Vitalo. If Vitalo is not available, they grind spinach seeds in water, strain the liquid, and add sugar to make a red element for the cup. The bread is often a sugary cookie. In the Julien Carrioll Center in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, communion is dispensed by the children, the innocent ones, of the congregation. Our Christian family in east Africa spend the day before they partake communion in “kasha”. Kasha is the Swahili word for a time of prayer and fasting. Kenyan Christians participate in kasha so they may approach the table in an attitude of repentance.

We all come to the table unworthy. We all come to the table knowing it is not ours, but Christ’s table, therefore there must be room for everyone, friends and enemies alike. Communion is a celebration of the oneness of our faith in the face of the obvious divisions among us. Jesus prayed that people would be “as one” just as he and his Creator were one. Sadly we have not surmounted our differences to live as one.

When we eat the bread and drink the cup this coming Sunday, I will pray for unbroken unity. I pray we will recognize our brothers and sisters in Christ, regardless the ways we differ from one another, as holy kin, so that the kin-dom of Christ may be known here, now, and forever in this place. Perhaps if we practice this unity monthly, quarterly, or every time we gather enough, one day, we may get it right and be able to live as one.

Rev. Janet Maykus, Senior Interim Minister

Rev. Janet Maykus, Senior Interim Minister

It’s now July.  We are entering our fourth month of worshipping at a distance, making pastoral visits by phone, worrying about the wellbeing of our members, families, and friends, and there is not a clear end in sight.  In fact, the infection rate in our state is growing geometrically.  This means that we will be apart longer.  Because we are part of the larger community, we all must be compassionate citizens.  We must stay home as much as possible, always wear a mask in public, practice good hand hygiene, do not sing in public, and stay focused on the greater good.   We all are tired of being cooped in our homes.  We all are lonely for our friends and family.  We all are concerned about the economy and how we will make ends meet.  But COVID 19 is a deadly disease, and we must take this mission of service to our neighbors seriously.

Somehow this disease and the resulting pandemic have become entangled in evangelical and political bloviating.  Viruses are not personal.  They do not care about our religious faith or political party.  Their purpose is to infect and multiply.  We do not yet have a vaccination for this virus, but we do know ways to slow rapid infection rates, which in turn allow for our healthcare system to safely accommodate those who are sick. 

We are not the first to suffer from a pandemic. We will make it through.  (If you want to wander down an interesting rabbit hole of information about the 10 plagues that were visited upon the Egyptians, you might like visiting this site.) We will make it through this time even as we are lonely, afraid, worried, anxious, bored, angry, and/or confused.  Our routines have been interrupted, but the mighty power of God’s creative force has not.  Babies are being born, birds are singing, snails continue to plague my lettuce, new conversations about racial justice are emerging, and people are experiencing the love of Christ through service to others. 

Those who canonized the Bible were wise.  They included writings that incorporated the whole of the human condition, not just the happy or satisfied times.  The Book of Lamentations is just that, an entire book of mournful cries.  During this confusing time of pandemic-required social distancing, we can become overwhelmed with our personal feelings.  If you find yourself in this spot, reach out to someone.  Call or send an email.  Don’t be concerned about saying that you are lonely or sick of all this or frightened or….you fill in the adjective.  More than likely the person on the other end has had these same feelings.  Do something kind for someone…write a letter (a real letter with a stamp and everything!), send an unexpected gift, write a prayer or a poem for someone.  Most of the world’s great museums have made their collections available on their websites or on Instagram.  Roaming through these collections never fails to inspire me.  LAUGH….watch a funny movie, read a funny book, tell funny stories.  Remember, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (Prov.17:22). The Orthodox Church calls the Monday after Easter Risus Paschalis…The Easter Laugh…God’s final joke on the devil!

We will make it through this time, and we will be changed by this time.  I believe that we will be inspired to dream grand and bold dreams.  That we will be committed to a deeper understanding of our theology and history so we can better be the church God calls us to be.  Remember, our congregational family built our grand building as a testament to the beauty of God after they suffered the pandemic of 1918-1919.  What will we be inspired to create?

In last night’s book group we read, “…The church does not have a mission.  Rather, God’s mission has a church…..Calling people to Christ was not all that God was up to.  Combating racism, working for peace, seeking justice in all its forms were also mission.  The church was the community of Christ working on behalf of the mission of God…..The message we speak has to be put into action.  The church must model its own words.  Being reconcilers in the name of Jesus can be the identity Disciples project to the world.  Thus, mission is not something we decide to do; mission is an essential expression of the people we are and are seeking to become.  Mission and identity.  Identity and mission….Two parts of a whole life committed to putting God first.” (Disciples Who We are and What Holds us Together; Kinnamon and Linn, pp.78-79)

So, what does putting God first in this time of pandemic mean for us?  Well, it means that we take all the necessary precautions to slow the spread of this awful disease.  It means that we believe God is with us and will prevail even when we feel overwhelmed or afraid.  It means that we are mature Christians who know that others may be suffering more than we are, and we must reach out in whatever manner we can.  It means we continue to support the church even as we meet separately.  It means that we must remember that Jesus taught us God is on the side of life, of joy, of compassion, of creativity, of hope. 

In the face of the current bad news of rising infection and death rates, I invite all of you to join with me in a project for the church.  In Biblical numerology, the number 7 symbolizes perfection.  To that end, I ask that every day at 7 we all pause and say a prayer for one another and then think of something that makes you laugh.  Let’s practice daily prayer for one another as a life affirming spiritual discipline.  And let us laugh as a reminder that no form of evil or despair will ever prevail. 

Bound by Faith

Bound by Faith

A few weeks back as I was preparing lunch kits to deliver to Central Presbyterian Church, I posted a picture of my PB&J making station on my Facebook page and asked, “do you put the jelly on first or the peanut butter?” And the responses started flying in!

I never knew there were so many different opinions on the correct way to make a PB&J sandwich. Do you put peanut butter on one piece of bread with the jelly on another piece, or peanut butter on both slices with jelly in the middle or maybe no jelly at all and you add honey instead? Along with all the different methods came the critiquing about my mix matched bread (one slice wheat and one slice white) and then there was talk about how uneven the peanut butter and jelly was spread on the bread.

I had no idea how much conversation would stem from such a post but it made me begin to think about our current situation amidst a global pandemic and how everyone has a different mindset. The conversation around the making of PB&J wasn’t solely about the art of sandwich making but also about the traditions in which we grew up and how a loved one did a certain thing in a particular way and thereby passed down that tradition to us.

What I learned from this social media posting is that there is a great opportunity for each of us to learn from one another. And there is no one way to make a PB&J which leads me to the conclusion that there is no one way to live through this time in history. However, what I do know for certain is that kindness matters and together we will get through this incredible time by listening to one another as we work to care for one another in the best possible manner.

Blessings to each of you,

Pastor Heidi

Rev. Janet Maykus, Senior Interim Minister

Rev. Janet Maykus

 

February brings Valentine’s Day and Black History Month.

We should never pass an opportunity to tell someone we love them. Years ago, after a series of sad events, my beloved started posting on Facebook “Good Night, I Love You” each night, and “Good Morning, I Love You” each morning. He knew it made him feel better to tell people he loved them, and he hoped it would make others feel good. As his life turned from sadness to happiness, he stopped posting his declarations of love to the world. To his surprise, people contacted him and asked what happened to his posts. He began to hear stories of how that little love note to the world affected others.

Years later, he continues with these posts, and, at least once a week, someone tells him how much they look forward to being told they are loved. Today you’ll hear him ending each phone call with something like, “Thank you, I appreciate you” or “Goodbye, I love you”. He even says this to telemarketers: “Thank you for calling me because I wanted to tell you that I want to be off your list. Thank you, I know your job is hard.” Watching this unfold, I’ve learned that love is never in short supply; in fact, the more we love the more love we have to give. Love is also contagious. If we start sharing our love, others follow. The light of love is something in which we all want to bask.

So, I invite you to give it a try. Don’t resist telling everyone you love them. You will get so much more than you expect in return.

Just as we shouldn’t reserve love for one day of the year, we shouldn’t reserve celebrating and learning the history of the African diaspora for one month of the year. At Duke Divinity School, one of our required courses was Black Church History. Being a history buff, I was excited to delve into what was, for me, unknown territory. My eyes were opened to a world that was operating right beside me that I had never explored or had even been encouraged to explore. Everyday, Americans are touched by something be it food, culture, or religion that has its roots in the unholy slave trade.

This month, I also invite you to explore Black History. Re-read Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, check out the sculpture of Austin’s very own Margo Sawyer, attend one of Jennifer Rousseau Cumberbatch’s performances at the Neill-Cochran House Museum, make it to The Elephant Room when Ephraim Owens is playing, go to the Blackout Market at the African American Cultural and Heritage Center on February 22, read anything by C. Eric Lincoln, learn about the work of (Disciples of Christ) minister, The Reverend Doctor William Barber II, and every time you have a cup of coffee, look back to Ethiopia. Once you get started, you’ll realize that you will need much more than one short month to explore this rich and textured history.

As with any real exploration of history, there is deep and raw pain in America’s Black history. The sins of slavery continue to haunt and hurt all of us. Perhaps if we hold each other in love, every day, one day we will work to true repentance and reconciliation.

So, here’s to a month-long journey of love and exploration!

Sign up to receive our monthly newsletter!!

You have Successfully Subscribed!