All the True Vows

By Aaron Pazan

All the True Vows by David Whyte 

All the true vows
are secret vows
the ones we speak out loud
are the ones we break.

There is only one life
you can call your own
and a thousand others
you can call by any name you want.

Hold to the truth you make
every day with your own body,
don’t turn your face away.

Hold to your own truth
at the center of the image
you were born with.

Those who do not understand
their destiny will never understand
the friends they have made
nor the work they have chosen

nor the one life that waits
beyond all the others.

By the lake in the wood
in the shadows
you can
whisper that truth
to the quiet reflection
you see in the water.

Whatever you hear from
the water, remember,

it wants you to carry
the sound of its truth on your lips.

Remember,
in this place
no one can hear you

and out of the silence
you can make a promise
it will kill you to break,

that way you’ll find
what is real and what is not.

I know what I am saying.
Time almost forsook me
and I looked again.

Seeing my reflection
I broke a promise
and spoke
for the first time
after all these years

in my own voice,

before it was too late
to turn my face again.

The Journey

By Aaron Pazan

The Journey by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice–
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.

How will you continue to share your story, instead of being silent to those around you? 

God is Creating a New Thing

By Aaron Pazan

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:19 

This Bible passage has come up for me a lot lately. At first I was annoyed that it kept popping up in my life at random time. But, then I realized there has to be a greater significance why.

I believe that God is calling each one of us to be doing something new. We must take time to sit in the silence between us and God in order to allow ourselves to truly listen to what God has to offer us. Henri Nouwen says it best I think. “The great spiritual task facing me is to so fully trust that I belong to God that I can be free in the world—free to speak even when my words are not received; free to act even when my actions are criticized, ridiculed, or considered useless…. I am convinced that I will truly be able to love the world when I fully believe that I am loved far beyond its boundaries.”

I know for me personally God is calling me to be an active of witness with my faith by using my voice and writing. I can see that God has given me the gift of writing to spread the gospel through issues of Social Justice involving those who have been marginalized by the church both inside and outside the churches walls. By using my talent of photography I can express the impact both positively and negatively the church has had on those who have been discriminated on for being a part of the marginalized  in a society where we strive to belong and feel like were normal.

As Easter people, our work isn’t just limited to one day a year. We must remember the rest of the Resurrection story as well. Sunday comes and we have a renewed sense of life and commitment. We forget about Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. We must first reflect on the darkness and despair and try to understand what the disciples went through before and leading up to the death of Jesus. Out of the darkness we rise and greet the Easter morning ready to be filled with new and creative possibilities that we have never imagined before.

God is creating a new thing, can’t you see it? 

How will you allow God to create new things in your life? 

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Christ is Risen

By Dylan Cumberland

Tomorrow, we will celebrate the risen Lord! We will gather together and worship as the Body of Christ and proclaim Jesus’ victory over sin and death. We will sing hymns and we will take communion together to remember Him giving himself up for us. If you go to a more traditional service, like I do, you will read liturgy before taking communion, and you will proclaim the Mystery of Faith, “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again”.

Personally I love the Mystery of Faith because it has so much to say in so few words.

We start with Christ has died; the word has is something that can be pinpointed, a finite time. We observed this day on Good Friday, the day that Christ has died. The word has carries with it a sense of finality, a stopping block, a feeling of being too late. Christ has died.

But that Easter promise, the place where our hope rests is that Christ is risen. Is speaks to us and says that we live in a world with the resurrected Christ. Is carries with it an active presence, Christ is no longer dead, but with us. We do not say that Christ has risen, because we still live in a world where He is present; he never left. With the risen Lord there is no has, only is.

Then we end with Christ’s promise, the promise on which our hope is built and where our faith is found: Christ will come again. We live in a world where God is present with us, where the resurrected Christ abides in us, but we have greater news still. Christ will come again in final victory and there will be no more sin, no more destruction, no more death. We will have Heaven on Earth. And it will be good.

So this Easter Sunday, remember: we aren’t just celebrating a special day. We are celebrating a special world, a world where our God came to us in the midst of darkness, gave Himself for us, and abides with us still.

Christ is risen indeed!

Confessions at the Cross, Good Friday

By Aaron Pazan

Confessions at the Cross, Good Friday from Fresh Squeezed Liturgy 

We know what is coming, Jesus. We wince as we glance at the scaffold, almost unable to stare at it straight on.

Your Cross is in our face, and we squirm as we remember the reason for its placement.

It is there because of us. It is there because we build walls of will over and above the will of the One who created us and cares for us.

Your Cross is there only so that we may climb our way back to Love.

Once in awhile we are bold enough to examine ourselves, shamed enough to recognize the accumulated bulk of our sins, and humble enough to comprehend that we need your help to demolish such a heap.

Hear us, Jesus. Hear us and offer us your restoration.

To start with, we admit that days go by—maybe even weeks and months—and we pay you no mind. We become absorbed in ourselves, going about accomplishing what needs to be accomplished and figuring out what needs to be figured. Unintentionally, for the most part, we squeeze you out as we seek to live our lives. Ironically, we forget that you ARE our lives. We are sorry.

Hear us, Jesus. Hear us and offer us your restoration.

Then there are the moments of grand hypocrisy—the times when we claim to be your followers, but when we strike off on our own course instead. We fail to love our neighbors with even a smidgen of the amount you demonstrate. We demand to have what we believe to be rightfully ours, not bothering to notice if justice and kindness and mercy are being applied in our wake. We think shallow thoughts and speak heartless words. We disappoint you. We are sorry.

Hear us, Jesus. Hear us and offer us your restoration.

Sometimes—and these are the sins that are most difficult to acknowledge—we intend to do harm. We lash out on purpose to cause someone pain. We laugh at someone else’s misfortunes. We humiliate. We plot. We judge. We hate. We are sorry.

Hear us, Jesus. Hear us and offer us your restoration.

Your Cross is still there, coercing us into all kinds of confessions, both enormous and miniature. We will not experience relief until we have unburdened ourselves of the unnamed offenses that weigh us down and devastate you. Stir us to identify the jagged chunk in the wall that most separates us from you. Allow us to name it, and inscribe it. Then let us use your Cross to destroy it.

Hear us, Jesus. Hear us and offer us your restoration. . . .

God Gives God

This blog post is adapted from a sermon I gave on Palm Sunday at Pearland FUMC based on the story of Rahab found in Joshua 2.

 

Being a young person interested in going to the clergy, you hear lots of interesting questions from fellow young people. In this age of “The Rise of The ‘Nones’”, those who do identify their religious belief as ‘None’, I find it fascinating to answer their questions about my faith. One question that keeps popping up that I had honestly never thought about before is, “Why is the Old Testament important?” These “Nones” say that they understand the New Testament is about Jesus, but the Old Testament takes place hundreds of years before. My response is that we can see ourselves in these Old Testament stories; we can see God at work long before Jesus, and these stories have a lot to tell us about God’s grace and God’s love.

 

To further this point, I’d like to take a minute to talk about Rahab. In Joshua Chapter 1 we see that the Hebrew people have been wandering in the wilderness for 40 years. We know that God had lead them to freedom from slavery in Egypt through Moses and was providing for them as they wandered through the desert with Manna. The Hebrew people were growing restless, fearing that they would never find the Promised Land; in fact, many of the people had lived off of nothing but Manna and knew nothing but a nomadic lifestyle. Moses died as he overlooked the Promised Land and Joshua was appointed by God to lead the people as a military commander.

 

Joshua set his sights on Jericho, a large and well-protected city, arguably the biggest and baddest of them all. He knew a frontal assault would fail, so he sent spies to look for weaknesses and to gauge the mood of the city. It was within the walls of Jericho that the spies met Rahab.

 

Rahab was a citizen of the Kingdom of Jericho, who worshiped pagan Gods. Rahab was most likely a divorced woman and was forced in to prostitution because women couldn’t hold jobs and she had no man to take care of her. Many women in this era were essentially forced into prostitution as a means to support themselves. Rahab had known nothing of the God of Israel; she was most likely raised in the faith of her fathers and, if anything, had been told by the government to be suspicious of the Hebrews who were wandering the wilderness, but she heard of the power of God and she believed.

 

I believe she felt that the gods she prayed to hadn’t helped her; she must have learned at an early age that she can only rely on herself and that she couldn’t trust any man, but these spies from the landless Nation of Israel come to her house and she lets them in. Rahab gives them shelter and she gives them safety. She commits treason to her own people because, from the little that she has heard, she knows that God is on the side of the Hebrews, and woe shall come unto those who stand against them.

 

Rahab doesn’t seem like a likely savoir of Israel. A woman. A prostitute. A pagan. Just one of these things would incline us to believe that she isn’t fit to help save a young nation, but that isn’t who God is and that’s not who Jesus was. God lifted up Moses, a murderer, to be the leader of the Hebrew people, He would go on to make David, a philanderer and liar, the greatest King Israel has ever known, and his son Jesus would count another prostitute, a tax collector, and the man who would eventually betray Him as His closest friends.

 

I dare say that we can see ourselves in Rahab’s story, people who are a slave to things in this physical world: to our wants, to our needs, but the God of grace and glory comes to us and offers something so much more. Rahab came from a world with no Sabbaths, where no prophets had spoken, where the weight on her heart was almost too much to bear, and she heard of these Hebrew people, these people whose God has lead them through the wilderness, and she saw the tenderness of God.

 

In a place of faithlessness and hopelessness, God gives God.

 

Today is Maundy Thursday, the day in Lent in which we remember Jesus’s sacrifice for us. We celebrate God giving us his only begotten Son, God giving Himself, God giving God.

 

For her faith, God blesses Rahab and her family is spared when the Hebrew people capture the city of Jericho. After the battle she meets Salmon, a great Prince of the House of Judah, and together they have a son, Boaz, who himself would fall in love with another foreigner, Ruth.

 

Rahab would go on to become the great-grandmother of King David and one of the few women mentioned in the Gospels in the lineage of Jesus.

 

Through this we are shown that great faith is the greatest equalizer, the greatest definer, and the greatest eraser. Rahab, the harlot of Jericho, helped create the line that eventually bore Jesus.

 

Today, I invite you to think on Rahab. How this woman who knew only darkness, was blessed and brought into the light by the grace of God, just as we, a people who were once in darkness, have been blessed and brought into the light by the grace of God, through Jesus.

Working Together

By Aaron Pazan

Working Together by David Whyte

We shape our self
to fit this world

and by the world
are shaped again.

The visible
and the invisible

working together
in common cause,

to produce
the miraculous.

I am thinking of the way
the intangible air

passed at speed
round a shaped wing

easily
holds our weight.

So may we, in this life
trust

to those elements
we have yet to see

or imagine,
and look for the true

shape of our own self,
by forming it well

to the great
intangibles about us.

How are we willing to trust God, ourselves, and others? 

A Short Litany as Holy Week Begins

By Aaron Pazan

From re:Worship by  Rev. Christine Sobania Johnson

Today we have cheered you on as our champion and hailed you as our hero.

Forgive us tomorrow when our enthusiasm wanes.

Today we have entrusted you to rescue us from our pitiful circumstances.

Forgive us on Tuesday when we decide we can take care of ourselves.

Today we have made you the centerpiece of our very existence.

Forgive us on Wednesday when we forget to remember who you are.

Today we have called out to you loudly by name.

Forgive us on Thursday when we pretend that we’ve never met you.

Today we have stared at you with the star struck eyes of fans and groupies.

Forgive us on Friday when we avert our eyes because it’s too painful to see you on the cross.

Today we have expressed our unsuppressed hopefulness in the future you have in store for us.

Forgive us on Saturday when we believe all is lost.

Today we have been boldly certain of the earthly ways you will redeem us.

Restore us on Sunday when we are startled and awed by your rising.

 

We Must Go

By: Bailey Brawner

Knowing that we are in a place of individuality should be an exciting thing. It should be liberating and encouraging to live in a time where we can be who we are, a time where what we think and hold to be true has value and is honored by those around us.

For progressive Christians, like myself, the “church world” is getting a little less encouraging and a little more daunting, at least in my opinion. As I do my best to live out what God wants for me, I often find myself being the only one who thinks or feels a certain way. Do I really care what people think? No, but I do get confused as to why the messages I’m getting are so different than ones in different churches or denominations.

One of the huge topics that I refer to is that of sexuality. Living in Montana has certainly challenged me in my faith journey. The very fundamentalist Christians surround me and aren’t shy in telling me their beliefs. About once a month, the topic of gay marriage gets brought up in conversation to some extent.

Growing up in Alaska, things like race, gender roles, and sexual orientation never seemed to be an issue. At my church, our motto “open minds, open hearts, open doors” was prominent. We were encouraged and expected to love and accept whoever walks through the door. We even had an LGBT outreach team within our church. So, like I said, things of that nature were never brought up in a way that faced any sort of problem. I was comfortable in my beliefs.

At eighteen years old, I headed down to Montana, a place of hunting, camouflage, and Republicans. We weren’t in Anchorage anymore. Despite similar climate, my new home was a complete 180 from my old one. One of the first realities was when the phrases “gay”, “fag”, and “retarded”, words that were just not said back home, were thrown around. If one of these terms are thrown around in a conversation, I still, to this day, look for a reaction out of anyone else involved. It’s simply not a big deal.

Anyways, getting back on track, let’s talk about being Christian and supporting gay marriage. To say the least, it’s not common, especially where I’m living. Yeah, I do get criticized for it. The one verse in the Bible about marriage being between a man and a woman has been shoved down my throat so many times, I wouldn’t even be able to recall the exact number. My very different opinion on the matter is essentially unheard of, and causes some fairly real tension for some. It even has gone so far as me being told that I believed in a different God because of it.

Thinking about it now, maybe I do. Maybe I believe in a different God than that individual, because I know wholeheartedly that my God is a God of love, the Lord of love even. I know that my God would never turn away one of His children, and I know He would never close the door to what He has to offer to any of us.

Even though each of these conversations I have are uncomfortable at times, and surely tense, my hope is that they continue. My hope is that my passion for going deeper into God’s word, and my desire to grow closer to Him will allow me to help others to think. I know that through me, and through each of us, God can work miracles. God can change the world, and we can help make it into the place it was intended to be.

But first, we must Go.

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