Sunday, November 29, 2015

Sermon: The Grinch Who Stole Christmas

The Grinch Who Stole Christmas    Readings: Jer. 33:14-16; Luke 21:25-36    Advent 1/C
By the Rev. Karen Faye Siegfriedt; Trinity Episcopal Church, Sutter Creek, CA    11/29/15

            I want to start by reading an excerpt from Dr. Seuss - How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  “Every Who down in Who-ville liked Christmas a lot…but the Grinch who lived just north of Who-ville did not!  The Grinch hated Christmas!  The whole Christmas season!  Now please don’t ask why.  No one quite knows the reason.  It could be his head wasn’t screwed on just right.  It could be perhaps, that his shoes were too tight.  But I think that the most likely reason of all, may have been that his heart was two sizes too small.  But, whatever the reason, his heart or his shoes, he stood there on Christmas Eve, hating the Whos.  Staring down from his cave with a sour, Grinchy frown, at the warm lighted windows below in their town.  For he knew ever Who down in Who-ville beneath, was busy now hanging a mistletoe wreath.  “And they’re hanging the stockings” he snarled with a sneer.  “Tomorrow is Christmas, it is practically here!”  Then he growled with his Grinch fingers nervously drumming, “I must find some way to stop Christmas from coming.””    
            We are all familiar with the war on Christmas or at least a perceived battle. Last year I received a letter from an acquaintance in Cupertino who was miffed with the City for changing the name of the publicly-displayed Christmas tree to holiday tree. I’ve heard and read about folks who rant against others for wishing them a “happy holiday” rather than a “merry Christmas.”  Last month, there was a big kerfuffle when Starbuck’s Coffee issued solid red cups for the holiday season. In past years, Starbucks had imprinted a holiday image on its red cups like a pine tree, snowflakes, or frosty the snowman.  But this year, it was just plain red with no holiday demarcation. For some, the naked red cups, unadorned with symbols like holly or snowflakes, was a strike against Christmas. 
            And while it is true that much of our culture has taken the Christ out of Christmas, Starbucks is not the culprit.  Instead, what takes the Christ out of Christmas is our own confusion about the meaning of Christmas and trying to reconcile it with the winter holidays.  The celebration of Christmas focuses on the good news in Christ, which can bring joy into our hearts.  The winter holidays on the other hand, focus on putting up decorations, family gatherings, and exchanging gifts, which may make you temporarily happy and bright.  While I love celebrating both Christmas and the winter holiday with all its trappings, I try not to confuse the two.  Today I would like to name three grinches who threaten to steal the joy of Christmas.  They are despair, an immature faith based on the past, and high expectations for a holly, jolly Christmas.   
            If you haven’t noticed, the shopping malls have been displaying Christmas decoration and playing carols since Halloween.  Santa Claus has already visited downtown Jackson amidst the cheers of families and the eating of candy canes by children.  People have already spent lots of money on presents, rushing to get the door buster specials on Black Friday or the cyber-discounts on Amazon.com.  But if any of these folks come to church on Advent 1 expecting to find what the culture offers, they will be sorely disappointed.
            Today is the first Sunday of Advent.  We have already lit the Advent wreath, processed in with the Advent hymn ‘O Come O Come Emmanuel’, and sung the song ‘Prepare the Way of the Lord.’ Our liturgical colors have changed to blue, the lectionary has switched to the gospel according to Luke, and we have begun Year C of the Church’s new year.  There is no Santa Claus, Christmas carols, or a smiling young Mary cooing a baby.  You will not find a decorated tree, frosty the snowman, or a red cup with snowflakes.  Instead you will hear about themes of anticipation, hope, repentance, the second coming of Christ, and a new world order where the poor and the oppressed will be lifted up and peace & justice will ultimately reign.
            The season of Advent is that time of year when we are invited to name those places in our lives and society that are at odds with the divine vision of justice and righteousness.  What do you long for and what are you missing?  While there still remains a wide gap between what is promised and what our current reality tells us, we continue to hope and work toward the coming of Christ in all its fullness as we sing: “O Come, O Come Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel, that mourns in lonely exile here, until the son of God appear.”
            In our first reading from the prophet Jeremiah, we hear the words:  “The days are surely coming says the Lord, when I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.”  Justice and righteousness are at the core of the Christmas promise.  These words were said to a people in exile some 2600 years ago when the Babylonians conquered Israel, destroyed their cities, and exiled their leaders.   Jeremiah tries to convince the survivors that what they are experiencing now is not what God has in mind for the future. Their world is distorted and not functioning as it was meant to be.
            Jeremiah promises that God is at work redeeming and transforming creation.  Today however, many folks have lost their faith in God and have become despairing with little hope for a new world.  Despair is the first Grinch that can and does steal Christmas.  We see it in the eyes of the weary, the depressed, the hurting, the apathetic, and the frightened. I think one of the reasons why so many people drink, or keep busy, or engage in frantic merry making is because they are trying to keep despair at bay. Instead of placing their hope in God, they rely on temporary gratification to soothe the pain. 
            The season of Advent is an opportunity to take the time to strengthen our hope. Hope is the opposite of despair. Hope is believing that the future contains new possibilities that are not evident in the present.  Hope is trusting that in the fullness of time, the Kingdom of God will triumph.  Jesus said: “Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly. (Luke 21)  And so with a voice of hope and anticipation, the faithful sing:  “O Come, O come, thou Branch of Jesse’s tree, free them from Satan’s tyranny, that trust thy mighty power to save, and give them victory o’er the grave. Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel, shall come to thee O Israel.”
            The second Grinch that can steal Christmas is an immature practice of our faith, a faith stuck in the past. The celebration of Christmas today needs to include more than a sentimental remembrance of a baby born in a manger some 2000 years ago.  It’s time to leave Bethlehem and get more involved with our world. Today’s gospel speaks of the second coming of Christ, a time when the world order is shaken up.  This will be a time when nations no longer lift up sword against nations; a time when the oldest of enemies become the best of friends; when the wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard lie down with the kid, and a little child shall lead them. It will be a time when humanity is at one, where there are no borders to protect or self-interests to fight for; when the underlying principle of economic development is the golden rule rather than personal profit; when CEOs manage their companies for the glory of God and for the good of the public welfare rather than simply to please stock holders. (Is. 61, Lk.2) The days are surely coming says the Lord when healing and compassion will become the dominant themes such that the blind see, the lame walk, the poor are fed, the oppressed are liberated, and all people are given the opportunity to live a full life. (Is. 35, Is. 65, Mt. 11) 
            So if you think there is a war on Christmas because Starbucks is selling coffee in plain red cups without snowflakes or because someone prefers to call an evergreen tree a “holiday tree,” then think again.  The real war on Christmas looks like hunger, poverty, bigotry, terrorism, war, and homeless refugees.  It is time for us to put the baby Jesus back into his cradle and focus our Christmas devotions with the desire to put on the mind of Christ.  God is longing for us to mature in our faith so we can participate in the liberation of this world by striving for justice, peace, and the dignity of every human being.  “O Come, O Come, thou Wisdom from on high, who orders all things mightily.  To us the path of knowledge show, and teach us in her ways to go.  Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel, shall come to thee O Israel.”
            Finally, the third Grinch that can steal Christmas are those high expectations fueled by the media, engendering a nostalgia for a time that never was.  There is nothing wrong with wanting a holiday get-together with a loving family, sitting around the Christmas tree exchanging gifts and sharing mementos of love.  There is something romantic about chestnuts roasting on an open fire with Jack Frost nipping at your nose.  But if this is all there is to your Christmas celebration, you may end up very disappointed when your expectations go unmet.  Disappointment is the third Grinch that can rob you of your joy at Christmas.  Don’t let that happen again this year.
            “The days are surely coming says the Lord…when I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.”  Justice and righteousness is the promise of Christmas future.  That is what we can hope for.  That is what we are waiting for as we prepare the way of the Lord during this season of Advent.  And so as we anticipate the second coming of Christ in all its glory, we will continue to sing: “O come, Desire of nations, bind in one the hearts of all mankind; bid thou our sad divisions cease, and be thyself our King of Peace.  Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel, shall come to thee, O Israel.”


Friday, November 27, 2015

"The Heart of Christmas" Cantata - Dec 18, 19 & 20


Trinity Tidings - December 2015

New Header
Trinity Tidings
The E Newsletter of Trinity Episcopal Church, Sutter Creek

December 2015

In This Issue
Rector's Report
Did You Know?
Message from the Sr. Warden
Las Posadas
Parade of Lights
Food Bank Donations
Trinity Singers Rehearsals
Birthdays this month
Would You Like to Contribute to the Newsletter
Quick Links...


  
Rector's Report for December    

Four weeks before the celebration of Christmas lies the season of Advent.  It is a time of waiting, listening, hoping, and preparing for the coming of Christ in our hearts.  It is a season that is often overlooked as people frantically jump from one activity to another, shopping, eating, partying, decorating for Christmas, and all the many other demands that our culture imposes on the unwary.  But if you can break away from these demands for a time and tend to the promptings of your soul, you may begin to see the season of Advent as a gift, one that can bring stillness, peace and joy to your home.  Advent is my favorite season of the year.  It helps me ground myself in what is truly important rather than be seduced by the many frantic voices out there competing for my attention.  Each morning, I will light our Advent wreath, read an Advent meditation, and pray that "the peace which passes all understanding" will reside my in heart, cleanse my thoughts, and over take the world in which I live.
The word Advent means 'the coming.'  From a Christian perspective, it refers to the coming of Christ in its fullness:  A time when there is no more war, violence, greed, and injustice; a time when the operating principles of the world are peace, compassion, generosity, and harmony among all creatures.  While we now see glimpses of this kingdom from time to time, we know that God's reign on earth has not come in its fullness.  And so each year we put aside time for prayer, reflection, action, and personal transformation so that we can become the people God wills for us to be; a reflection of the Light that has already come into the world.
The Sundays during Advent take on a particular flavor.  You will hear texts read, prayers prayed, messages preached, and songs sung that will reflect hope for a new future:  "Prepare the Way of the Lord."  Many of these themes are already familiar to you such as:  Armor of Light, life immortal, justice, righteousness, be alert, prophets, repentance, peace, mercy, a voice crying in the wilderness, rejoice, purify our conscience, John the Baptist, my soul magnifies the Lord.   Advent songs are not the same as Christmas carols (those will come during the season of Christmas) but rather they are songs of expectation and hope.  The liturgical colors in the church will change to blue and the candles on the advent wreath will burn brighter each week until a white candle is lit on Christmas Eve.
As I write this newsletter, my thoughts rehearse the state of our world with all its violence, wars, refugees, power struggles, terrorism, economic distress, existential angst, uncertainty, and all the powers of the world which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God.  So many people are hurting and my heart goes out to them.  Without faith in the coming of God's Kingdom, I would be despairing.  But my hope is in God, not to magically change the world by force, but to send the Holy Spirit to transform the hearts of all people.  It is this longing for transformation, for a new world, for a different future that we focus on during the season of Advent.  Here is where I place my hope!
This year, our Christmas Eve services will be on Thursday, December 24th at 3:00pm and 7:00pm.  Note the earlier time schedule.  After the month long season of Advent, I hope your heart will be ready to celebrate Christmas in its fullness, the Light shining in the darkness.  The music will be special, the atmosphere holy, and the decorations will brighten the church.    
"Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever." (BCP prayer for Advent IV)
Blessings and Peace,
Pastor Karen Siegfriedt+

Photos of Activities at Trinity in November: 
Gathering for lunch on Work Day!
Health Ministries presents "End of Life Options" at Thomi's
Project Thanks: 45 Thanksgiving baskets prepared for the needy

Did You Know? 
- We will elect new vestry members and delegates to the Diocesan Convention at our annual meeting on January 31.  If you are interested in these offices, please notify the rector or Sr. Warden.
- Christmas Eve Services will be held on Dec. 24th at 3 and 7pm.
- The kitchen in Jane's Hall should be finished with new flooring, counters, dishwasher, and disposal by the second week in December.  Thank you to all who contributed to Repair, Renew, Rejoice Capital Campaign and thank you to John Lafferty for his efforts with the kitchen.  So far, we have collected $30,400 in our capital campaign. 
- Free Advent Resources:  http://www.ecfvp.org/tools/advent-resources

From the Senior Warden:

Dear Trinity: May you have a wonderful Thanksgiving and a Joyous and Blessed Christmas. 
As your Senior Warden, I am pleased to report that your vestry met last week in prayerful consideration of a full agenda. An update was received on both the Repair, Renew and Rejoice project list and funds received as well as a status report on the Stewardship drive.  We heard about the  financial audit performed annually by the office of the Bishop and are awaiting the final report.   Our Disaster Preparedness plan is currently being updated and should be ready for review early this spring.  If you would like to be part of the final preparation of the Disaster Plan, please let Margaret Lewis know.
We have three vestry member positions open for the coming term and we have three  wonderful candidates at this time, but others who may be interested can still contact the Rector and have your named added to the ballot.
We also discussed at great length the budget for 2016 in the light of the pledges received to date. The vestry will review the updated budget draft in January and finalize the budget for discussion and acceptance at the Annual Meeting in late January.
It has been my honor to serve on the Vestry this past term and as your Senior Warden this past year. Due to the diligence of Pastor Karen and staff, and the energy and willingness of my fellow vestry members, I have had an easy and pleasurable term of office. I pray for God's blessing on the new vestry and may they serve you in the same spirit of love and affection for Christ's family as this vestry has always tried to do.

Peace of the Lord,
Keith Sweet
Senior Warden

Las Posadas Candlelight Walk
Meet at the Immaculate Conception Church at 6:00pm onDecember 5th to join Joseph & Mary as they search for shelter.
Sing Christmas Carols as you walk behind them along historic Spanish Street, beautifully lit in luminarias.

Sutter Creek Parade of Lights
Join us on December 12th at 6:30pm for the Sutter Creek Parade of Lights. For more information on Trinity's participation, contact David Hoos.

Food Bank Donations

The Food Bank's cart, in the sanctuary, yielded 137 lbs. of food in November. Total giving in 2015 so far: 1,579 lbs. 

Plus, we collected 3656 lbs. of food and $1025 during the June Food Drive!

 Let's keep up the good work!

Trinity Singers Rehearsals
All are invited to join the Trinity Singers/Worship Team! Rehearsals are the 1st and 3rd Wednesdays at 7PM. Bring your voices, your instruments, and a heart for worship and praise! For more information, please contact Carol Harper at 916-604-1872 or email carol@worshipattrinity.com. Web site: WorshipAtTrinity.com.

December Birthdays

The following members of our church family are celebrating birthdays in December!
     
2nd- Bob Ross
3rd- Carol Davis
12th- Pam Afindios
  16th- Carolyn Strickler
  19th- Diane Christensen
  26th- Rhonda D'Agostini
  30th- Devin Christensen
  31st- Stephen Lewis


If you are celebrating a birthday in December, but you don't see your name listed here, please contact our Parish Administrative Asst.

Would You Like to Contribute to the Newsletter?
If you have an article of interest to the congregation that you would like included in the newsletter, please email it to the office,office@trinitysuttercreek.org by the 20th of the month. It will be included in the next month's newsletter.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Sermon: Listening to the Truth - Rev. Karen Siegfriedt

Listening to the Truth      Reading: John 18:33-37      Feast of Christ the King    P29/B
By the Rev. Karen Siegfriedt; Trinity Episcopal Church, Sutter Creek, CA     11/22/15

            Near Trafalgar Square in London stands a white marble statue of a British nurse whose name is Edith Cavell.  She entered the nursing profession at the age of 20 and then moved to Belgium where she was appointed matron of the Berkendael MedCenter in German occupied Belgium.  During WWI, the Institute was converted into a hospital for wounded soldiers of all nationalities. As a nurse, she did not distinguish between us and them.  Instead, she saw people in need, soldiers in pain, and offered her very best nursing care in healing their wounds. Many of the captured Allied soldiers who were treated at Berkendael subsequently succeeded in escaping to neutral Holland.  Nurse Cavell was arrested in August of 1915 by local German authorities and charged with having personally aided in the escape of some 200 such soldiers.  Kept in solitary confinement for nine weeks the Germans successfully extracted a confession from Cavell, which formed the basis of her trial.  She was pronounced guilty and sentenced to death by a firing squad.
Just before her execution, Edith received Holy Communion.  As she was led out to her death she said:  “Standing as I do in view of God and eternity, I realize that patriotism is not enough.  I must have no hatred or bitterness toward anyone.” From one who lost her life in the name of somebody else’s patriotism, this is a profound message. At the base of her statue in London are the words:  “Patriotism is not enough.” Edith Cavell lived and died a Christian.  Perhaps when faced with taking risks she asked herself:  What would Jesus do? 
Today in this world of ours filled with violence, terrorism, military aggression, and a staggering refugee crises, Edith’s words “patriotism is not enough” compels us to ask:  What should be the proper relationship between love of God and love of country?  Between the principle of compassion and the need for national security?  Is being a faithful Christian and a being a conscientious citizen mutually exclusive?  What would Jesus do?  It is into this tension between the laws of national security and the truth of the gospel that we celebrate the feast of Christ the King.
The Church instituted the Feast of Christ the King back in 1925 as Mussolini and his Black Shirts marched into Rome.  In that same year, Adolf Hitler published his manifesto, Mein Kampf.  The purpose of this religious feast was to remind all Christians that Christ is our king and that Christ alone (not a political party or a national ideology or fear), is to rule over our minds, our hearts, and our bodies.  But for all its intent, this Feast Day, which was first celebrated in 1925, had little effect in stopping the discrimination, killings, and refugee crisis that ultimately climaxed with World War II. 
In the name of German “national interests” and patriotic fervor, 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust along with millions of Gypsies, Poles, political prisoners, the disabled and homosexual persons.  How could a Christian nation allow such atrocities to occur?  Many sought asylum abroad; hundreds of thousands emigrated, but as Chaim Weizmann wrote in 1936: "The world seemed to be divided into two parts—those places where the Jews could not live and those where they could not enter.” By March of 1938, more than 300,000 German and Austrian Jews were still seeking refuge and asylum from oppression.  A year later, 15,000 Jews were expelled from Germany to concentration camps by boxer cars.  Instead of welcoming those who were fleeing from Nazi prosecution, 61% of Americans were opposed to accepting Jewish refugee children who were the most in need of asylum.  Yet a year later, America did pass legislation to accept refugees from England while leaving Jewish refugees to face the “gas chambers.”  Like today, racial and religious intolerance was alive and well.
This week, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would suspend programs allowing Syrian refugees into the United States until national security agencies could certify without a doubt that they do not pose a risk.  Because of the enormous paperwork and effort that would be required, this bill would essentially stop all refugees from entering into our country.  There has even been talk about a forced national registry requiring those of the Muslim Faith to sign up, similar to the Jewish registry and the forced wearing of the Star of David in Nazi Germany. Of the 2,200 Syrian refugees admitted to the United States since 2011, only 2% of them are men of combat age.  50% of them are children. Yet like the Jewish refugees who were refused entry into our country during WWII, the Syrian refugees who are trying to escape the terror of ISIS are having national borders closed to them.  Why is this happening to those whose lives are in the most danger?  The answer is fear: Fear of the unknown, fear of the foreigner, fear of risk, and fear of those who are different from us.
Fear is an incredibly powerful force.  Fear can cause us to abandon our core principles.  Fear can cause us to waver in our baptismal covenant to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as ourselves.  Fear can cause us to seek safety over civil rights.  Fear can cause us to shut down our hearts.  But God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline. {2 Tim 1:7}  Jesus said:  “Take heart, it is I.  Do not be afraid.”  Today we are celebrating this Jesus, the King of Kings, the icon of love, the way, the truth and the life.  What does it mean to follow Jesus as King of our universe?  To follow Jesus as King means to allow love to overcome our fears.  To follow Jesus as King means to embrace his truth.  Truth is the subject of today’s gospel.  Let’s take a quick look.
In the 18th chapter of the gospel of John, Jesus is on trial before Pilate.  He is being asked about the nature of his kingship.  Pilate is trying to discern whether he is a threat to the national interests of the Roman Empire.  After telling Pilate that his kingdom is not of this world, Jesus goes on to say that his purpose in life is to testify to the truth.  And everyone who belongs to the truth listens to his voice.  Belonging to the truth, listening to the truth, and being the truth is what makes Jesus a king in God’s realm.  For Christians, truth is conformity to God’s will as demonstrated by Jesus, the word of God in human form. The truth that is revealed in Jesus Christ is to take precedence over all other human understanding of truth even if it requires us to ignore national security interests.  The truth that Jesus calls us to, originates in God, not in humanity.  This is a God of grace and love, a kind of love that is patient, kind, and generous; a love that trumps our perfect need for security and overcomes our fear of the stranger.  To follow Christ as King means to subject ourselves to his truth, his ways, and his love.
Today, our world is experiencing a huge shift and whenever a great shift in history breaks out, the friction gets hotter and the tension gets tighter.  People try to hold onto old ways even though those ways no longer work.  Violence begins to break out in record numbers and people often default to fear.  In times like these, we need to train ourselves to be wise and Christ-like in our response to the chaos.  We need to work on our fears and extend our prayers to all the wounded corners of the earth.  At the core of Christianity is the call to help the world’s most vulnerable, abused, helpless, exploited, and destitute.  It is about a radical act of welcoming the other even at the risk of one’s own safety.  Being a follower of Christ is not easy but in the end it is the only hope for a better world. 
And so as you watch the world’s biggest refugee crisis unfold since WWII, and Syrian refugees fleeing from their war-torn country to seek asylum within American borders, your might ask yourself:  What would Jesus do?  And what might I do to follow closely in his steps?  Jesus said: “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.  Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” {Mt. 5:6-7} “Whoever welcomes this child in my name, welcomes me…for the least among you is the greatest.” {Lk. 9:48}  “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” {Mt. 5:44}  “Come to me all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest.” {Mt. 11:28} “Those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake and for the sake of the gospel will save it.” {Mt. 16:25} For I was hungry and you gave me food.  I was thirsty and your gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me… Whenever you did it to the least of these…you did it to me:” {Mt. 25} Jesus said to his disciples:  “My peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” {Jn. 14:27}

Jesus said:  “I came into the world to testify to the truth.  Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”  {John 18:37}  This is the word of the Lord!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Thanksgiving Services at Trinity - Sun Nov 22


10th Annual Las Posadas Walk in Sutter Creek - Sat Dec 5

 Las Posadas is a traditional re-enactment of Mary and Joseph’s search for a place to rest, complete with a narration of the Christmas story and the singing of traditional carols.  The annual Walk will take place on Saturday, December 5, rain or shine.  Everyone is invited to be a part of this event, a time of anticipation, hope, and joy. 

The walk begins at 6:00 p.m. on Spanish Street at Immaculate Conception Church.  Participants receive candles for the walk at booths set up on Spanish Street near the church.  Sweet Pea, carrying Mary and accompanied by Joseph and shepherds, leads the procession. A choir, angels, and participants carrying candles follow.  Along the way lighted by luminarias, Joseph seeks shelter for Mary. The procession moves through downtown Sutter Creek and ends at the stable outside the Methodist Church.  After hearing lovely solos, all are invited into the church hall, where warm beverages and cookies are served.

A highlight of the Annual Las Posadas Candlelight Walk in Sutter Creek is beloved Sweet Pea, the mule that has carried Mary in the procession each year. Sweet Pea’s former family moved to North Dakota, and the 25 year old mule now has a new home with George and Mary Lambert of Jackson Valley.

Las Posadas is a beautiful, non-commercial way to begin the season of Advent, to enjoy the charm of the City of Sutter Creek decorated for the season, and to be a part of this annual community event.  Las Posadas is sponsored by the Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, and Episcopal churches of Sutter Creek.

For more information, email lasposadas@amadormedia.org

Photos below by Bill Lavallie









Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Sophia's Well of Wisdom - November 2015

SOPHIA'S Well of Wisdom
November 2015 Newsletter:
Finding Inner Balance in the Holiday Season
 Dear Loraine, 

I used the following text from Torkum Saraydarian's book Initiation - The Path of Living Service on page 253 in a recent meditation:
There are two kinds of attraction: earthly and heavenly. One is toward the body and its values; the other is toward the spirit and its values. Our progress depends on how we can balance these two attractions. 

 I don't know about you, but I experience both the downward pull and the upward pull of energies. Both are vying for my attention, my time, and my loyalty.

Most religions dictated a clear answer, you were supposed to repudiate the flesh and strive toward the spiritual. Matter was bad and Spirit was good. This conflict of energies was even extended to feminine being lower or earthly as it represented the generative nature of the carnal world and masculine as higher or heavenly as it did not and thus was thought to represent the loftier nature of the mind or spirit. Or so was thought in ancient times (actually not so long ago) when religious doctrines, dogmatic interpretations of difficult to translate ancient languages, and ideologies were left to the clerics. Lay people were not supposed to read or think, much less reason. The church officials told you how to think, what to think, and when to think.

 Many today are recognizing the error of this thinking in both psychological and spiritual terms, even among religious progressives who are looking again through new lenses. Today most educated people are taught to do their own research and to think for themselves. Those who understand the historical process and the history of religions, the anthropology of human development, the dynamics of language, and the evolution of consciousness, have begun to question and reason for themselves rather than accept handed down belief systems. Thus, increasingly they are developing inner authority rather than relying on outer authority. They are awakening to the Inner Soul. This resembles the puzzling passage from the Christian Testament that held up the promise of a day when "Christ within, the hope of glory" would lead humankind on a different path. From the esoteric Christian tradition it is called Christ consciousness; from the Buddhist tradition it is known as the Buddha consciousness; from the path of Inner-faith communities, it is the Wisdom that is developing and growing through the inner work of deepening spiritual practice.

Now we know, thanks to both the ancient sages and modern physicists, that everything, every substance is energy. Substance that is denser, more material in nature and substance that is subtle, more spiritual in nature are both essentially energy. Both are good, both are needed, both are valued. If we over-value one, we are headed for trouble, if we over-value the other, problems result. We become out-of-balance on all levels, body and spirit. We become mentally, emotional, physically skewed resulting in all kinds of distortions. Fanaticism is rampant in the world today because of imbalance. Mental health problems with devastating results to communities all over the world are a result of this imbalance. Challenges to physical, economic, and social well-being are a result of this imbalance.

Saraydarian is bringing this to our attention in the above statement. "We must," he adds, "find a point of balance in our relationship between the spirit and the substance side of a plane." This has become very clear to me as I strive for a higher consciousness and a deeper Presence through meditation, study, and service. But, when I emphasize one side over the other, conflict and dissonance result, both internally and externally in my life.

Finally, Saraydarian concludes, "Unless we build the points of balance we cannot
            1. Operate intelligently on that plane
            2. Assimilate our past experiences and change them into wisdom
            3. Function on lower and higher planes simultaneously"
 
This is the very reason that SOPHIA'S offers both group and individual spiritual practices. In group practices we study esoteric philosophy (inner psycho-spritual wisdom); we learn from diverse wisdom traditions and spiritual teachers past and present; we practice group meditation as a service; and we meet in community to anchor the relational or oneness aspect of spiritual life.

Individual practices are offered to allow for the individualized healing work that each person needs for further development and transformation. This includes spiritual direction and mentoring as sustained personal practice and pastoral care for those crisis moments. Aligned with the theme of this writing, is the holistic ministry offered that I refer to as Contemplative Bodywork. Using psycho-spiritual-somatic methods, we strive to heal the conflict or felt separation of spiritual and physical natures and find that point of balance. For some, this might even be experienced as "Sacramental" bodywork or a "mass" for the body/spirit temple in which the individual communes with the Inner Spirit in a safe and sacred place with the aid of the ministering holistic practitioner. The person emerges with a glow on their face, a peace in their heart, a quiescence of mind, and a relaxed body; they have been in the Holy Presence of their Inner Sanctuary.

Our group study focus this month at SOPHIA'S is on the Wisdom of Service. Service must be balanced to be beneficial:  Service to ourselves, to our bodies with choosing good health habits, to our emotions with practicing positive attitudes and responses, to our mind with creating healthy thoughts and affirming higher virtues. Also, we service our families, our neighbors, our communities, and our world. Balance is truly the key to a healthy human being and to a healthy world. 

As we celebrate Thanksgiving this month and enter the holiday season, lets be grateful for and fully embrace both attractions: Heaven and Earth and know God Within meets us at the point of balance. 

Blessings, 
Rev. Patsy
November Calendar and Coming Holiday Events

MARK YOUR CALENDARS
for these Holiday Events!

ADVENT FESTIVAL
SUNDAY NOVEMBER 29
10am - 3pm

AM Wisdom Circle - Serving the Light
Host - Rev. Patsy Fine

~ Winter Soup Luncheon ~

PM  
Becoming a Light Being - 

A Candlelight Blessing Ceremony

Dancing in the Dark with Light

christmas_candles.jpg
Winter Solstice
SUNDAY DECEMBER 20
10am - Winter Solstice Celebration
~ Solitude ~
 with Rev. Tracy Johnson

Holiday Refreshments

2pm - Holiday Concert
with Shari Anderson 
Gordon Rowland
and guest performers

SOPHIA'S WELL OF WISDOM | sophiaswell.org | 209-418-9003
270A Hanford Street
Sutter Creek, CA 95685
Rev. Patsy Walker Fine, D.Min. 
Minister/Spiritual Director
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