Vol. XIX, No.1 La Jolla, California January 2019
A Message from Rev. Tim Seery
This year we held our 2nd annual longest night service. This is a unique service unlike what we normally do. This service is anonymous and deeply personal. It is a ministry solely and entirely for you. We do this no matter if 2 people show up or 200 people show up. It is important that the community at least knows that this is here. That we are listening. And that this season is not just for the joyful. Usually we love to meet our newcomers and we invite them to join us for refreshments after the service, however this service is 100% about you. And so we don’t do that. After the service you are free to sit as long as you need in the sanctuary, or leave in silence. It is up to you. The following is a reprint of the Longest Night sermon requested by a member of the Congregation.
Gracious and Holy God, This is the season in which the darkness knocks early and lingers long, in which the sun hibernates and gathers strength. They could be cause for lament, these short hours of daylight to go about our business. So, on the longest night, it is helpful to remember that for some, every night is unbearably long and filled with expectation. On this night o God we remember those who work and watch and wait each night. We remember firefighters and police officers, nurses and doctors, first responders and technicians. Remember security guards and chaplains and loved ones sitting vigil at bedsides. We remember those who labor late or wake early, building and cleaning, baking and bartending. We remember those who are on the move, driving taxis and Ubers and trucks into the late night. We also pray for those for whom the night is unbearably difficult. The lonely. The sick. The widow and the widower. The newly childless mother, the service woman stationed abroad. We pray this night, O God, that all who find themselves in the midst of a long night find hope and comfort in your enduring promise. In Jesus name we pray. Amen. Holy God: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts together be acceptable in your sight, our Rock and our Redeemer. Bless us, we pray. Amen.
The people of Israel are in exile, Jerusalem has just been destroyed, and days of harsh judgment have just passed. If there is such a thing as the best of times and the worst of times, this was certainly the worst of times.
Isaiah heralds the return of the exiles through what he calls a “highway in the desert”—a highway through which God’s people will follow God out of captivity, out of brokenness, out of their despair, back to the promised land in which they once inhabited: “Make straight in the desert a highway for our God,” Isaiah proclaims, “Prepare the way for the Lord.” God, Isaiah knows, plans to lead the hurt, broken, crumbled souls back to wholeness through a highway made straight in the desert.
A voice then tells the prophet Isaiah, “Cry out.” And Isaiah says indignantly, “What shall I cry?” “What shall I cry, God!” All people are like grass and their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field. Our faith is sometimes shaky, often failing, and we are broken…why talk to us God, why prophesy to a bunch of raged people whose faith wilts like grass—of all things?
And God replies, “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.”
In other words, God doesn’t care that God speaks to imperfect people whose faith is a work in progress God is always. God endures. God is steadfast. God is. God gives strength to the weary, increases the power of the weak —those who hope in the Lord we hear, “will soar on wings like angles they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”
What a perfect message for us, on this the longest night of the year. It is here in this space that we can just admit it, that sometimes it’s not all okay. Sometimes we don’t have the words to describe just how broken we feel. And on occasion we enter seasons of our lives where a lingering feeling of loneliness haunts us in ways it has never before.
Every year around this time there are those beginning their recovery from the wounds inflicted upon them by the bygone year. Their lost, parent, child, pet, relationship, home becomes all too real for them when the call doesn’t come on Christmas, when someone is missing from dinner, when a spot is empty in the pew at church. That recovery is a long process and the long nights and expectation to be joyful and to show up for parties and festivities are just additional cuts into an already tender wound.
For many Northern California families will gather somewhere else to celebrate the holiday this year. Their homes and tangible histories were consumed by fire and reduced to nothing but ash. This Christmas they will come together to make sense of a new life, picking up the remaining broken pieces.
In Pittsburg an entire community just concluded their first Hanukah without their beloved grandparents, friends, doctors, professors after they were gunned down in their temple. Their winter is assuredly, long, cold, and difficult —coping with the pain of loss as the hands of utter hatred.
And in every community and every city, and on every block there are those whose sadness is not front page news, but for whom it is a real and palpable part of their lives.
It is for these reasons that spaces like this exist. It is for this reason that you are safe here. It is because of the world’s great sadness that Jesus came to demonstrate to us just how much we are loved. It is because of this that Jesus came to each us that that abundant life comes when we spend less energy on trying to matter to others, and more time caring for others. That we don’t need to be wealthy, have status, or be powerful to live a life that counts. That it is precisely when we give up our lives we get them back. In a broken world full of broken hearts, we are called to be a friend to the sick, the blind and brokenhearted. Scripture teaches us that we are called as Christians to use our own brokenness to minister to a broken and messy world. A life spent in service to others is a life truly lived. Our own brokenness is the source of our wisdom, our compassion, and our humanness Jesus didn’t come into the world 2000 years ago in Bethlehem because everything was going so well. He came because everything was just so messed up. Jesus will come into our lives no matter if we have it all figured out, or if we can barely get out of bed. He is breaking into this world for everyone.
Last year during this service I closed with this same story. And I am doing so again because this year Nina helped me make it a little more special. This is a story of someone who in 1970 experienced the debts of her own longest night. Carole King was the 1960s musical genius behind the songs for so many famous singers. King wrote the music and her husband wrote the lyrics. However at the end of the decade crippled by stage fright and recovering from a painful divorce, King was at a standstill. It wasn’t until a friend by the name of James Taylor convinced King to write her own lyrics that she began to move forward. After a decade of hiding behind the scenes, King wrote, in 1971 what Rolling Stone has called the “most perfect song.” You’ve Got A Friend. So we will close yet again another year, hearing a sacred song that reminds us, during this uncertain and uncomfortable time, of what we have in each other and in Jesus. Amen.
Jan. 13: Diaconate Meeting
Jan. 20: Trustees Meeting
Jan. 25: Coffee with the Pastor 9.30 a.m.
until 11.00 a.m.
- 01 James Nicholas
- 02 Jason Dana
- 03 Jay Chong
- 04 Leucadia Sheehan
- 04 Margretta Zettner
- 13 Emerson Mays
- 13 Kelly Schmitz
- 14 Andrew BeDell
- 17 Danielle McGruer
- 19 Elaine Anderson
- 21 Hannah Vanderklish
- 28 Luke BeDell
- 28 David Campbell
- 02. Graham & Cherie McGruer
- Jan. 04. Mark & Deanne Monte
Community Christian Service Agency (CCSA)
CCSA URGENT NEEDS:
Any size bags or boxes of rice and small jars of peanut butter
We are completely out of the following items:
- Men’s Underwear (S, M,L)
- Men’s Jeans (30-36)
- Hooded Sweatshirts
- Men’s tennis shoes
- Shampoo & Conditioner (Family Size)
- Vienna Sausage
CCSA is looking for volunteers
Pledge Drive 2018
Pledge Drive 2018:
We have received 56% of our goal of $80,000.00 with a total of pledges so far in the amount of 45,400.00. Please if you have not done so take a moment to fill out your annual pledge card.
Janis St. Marie is looking for a new home in which she can provide care-giving services in trade for room and board. Please contact the church office if you know of someone who needs care-giving services.