Tuesday, December 13, 2016

“The Night of the Father’s Love” Christmas Concerts - Dec 16, 17 & 18

“The Night of the Father’s Love” celebrates the Christmas Story in song
A 38–member choir and 15-piece orchestra, under the direction of Amador County Band Director Steve Chambers, will offer a special musical Christmas story presentation, “The Night of the Father’s Love”, to be performed in four separate locations the weekend of December 16-18th.
The first performance will be at Our Lady of the Pines Church on Tiger Creek
Rd. in Pioneer on Friday evening December 16th at 7pm.
On Saturday, December 17th, the group will perform at 7pm at the Ione United Methodist Church, 150 W. Marlett St., Ione.
On Sunday December 18th the first performance of the day will be at Faith Lutheran Church, 22601 Hwy 88, Pioneer at 10:30am. The second performance (and final presentation) will be at Community Church of Pine Grove, 14045 Ponderosa Ave, Pine Grove at 3pm.
This one-hour musical program will feature music that will engage and please all ages, including eight original songs by composer/ arranger Pepper Choplin, with orchestra scoring by Michael Lawrence. The short program will also include a very special arrangement of “Mary, Did You Know?” for choir and orchestra.
“This is the eighth year we have done one of these special presentations” said Chambers, “and each year the choir and orchestra has grown in numbers. This particular work is a fun and very beautiful cantata with extremely unique writing…you’ll hear new melodies intertwined with some favorite Christmas music…very enjoyable for the listener…and the audience can sing along in a few places if they like…and the composer’s musical styling range from a true hoe-down to gospel blues to a beautiful rock ballad to classical…and more”.

“We are blessed to have so much talent in the area…singers, musicians, and helpers that volunteer their time each year to put together such a wonderful and moving experience…and very grateful also for the churches that have volunteered to host the performances again this year…we can’t wait to perform this special music!”
The performances are free; bring the whole family for this delightful event and enjoy yet another memorable engaging musical experience. Performances will begin strictly on time!
Contact Faith Lutheran Church at 295-4545 for any further information.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Sermon: Cultivating Joy

Cultivating Joy
Readings:  Isaiah 35:1-10; Psalm 146: 4-9 Advent 3/A
By the Rev. Karen Faye Siegfriedt
Trinity Episcopal Church, Sutter Creek, CA    12/11/16

On April 29th 2015, eight convicted drugs traffickers were executed in a maximum-security prison on Nusa Kambangan, Indonesia.  Having been sentenced to death years earlier, they were given just a few days’ notice of their execution.  During the long years in prison, they had changed and became upstanding members of the prison system.  Brian Houston, a pastor, spoke about this transformation:  “They not only accepted the mercy and forgiveness of Jesus Christ, but have made a positive contribution to the lives of other prisoners, and sought to pay their debt to society.”       
These convicts ended up dying in the same way they had learned to live: by praising God. In their final hours, they sang hymns like Amazing Grace.  They refused to wear blindfolds as they faced the firing squad. And as the final seconds of their lives counted down, they started to sing a new song that they had learned called 10,000 Reasons.  This singing of hymns and praising of God at death’s door are perhaps the most profound examples of joy.  For joy is not the absence of sorrow but the presence of God.  “Joy is the final word in Christianity.”  What I would like to talk about today is cultivating joy in our lives.  This is a wonderful gift we can give ourselves & the world for Christmas! 
I don’t know about you, but when I want something in my life, I don’t just simply wish for it or turn to God as if God is a pseudo Santa Clause.  Instead, I set out to partner with God by making concrete steps in my own life to achieve the goal.  Cultivating more joy in my life is one of the spiritual goals I have worked on for the past 5 years.  Joy does not always come naturally to me and so I have to learn how to cultivate it.  Maybe it is my personality or the burden of responsibility or my difficult past that creates a barrier to experiencing joy.  Whatever the cause may be, I do know that with God all things become possible. And so my relationship with God is key to enhancing my joy.
One of the ways I have taken active steps to experience more joy is through the spiritual practice of gratitude and the Advent practice of watching and waiting.  To that end, I started writing down moments in which I experienced joy and reflected on why these events heightened my joy.  Then I ponder ways to further cultivate this joy through mental discipline, meaningful actions, and service to others.  Let me read a few entries from my journal:
-  “Sitting in my chair, drinking a cup of coffee, relaxing and praying.  This gives me joy.” 
-   “Joy is going to the zoo and seeing monkeys with moustaches.” 
-  “Joy is the feeling I have after watching the series “Call the Midwife.”  It is noticing human triumph in the face of great struggling.”
-  “Joy is kicking up my heals to the music of “Sister Act.””
-  {Wisdom from my readings}:  “When your interpretations change, your emotions will change.  Your job is to keep the emotional spiral pointing upward.” 
         The concept of joy and the discipline required to sustain it, is hard for us mainline Christians to grasp.  Why?  Because frankly, our religious life is often not our primary concern.  God may be important to us, but often times, our spiritual practices are not fully integrated into our busy lifestyles.  Many settle for the immediate gratification of happiness that comes and goes with circumstances while spending little time cultivating a life of joy.  For instance, some folks spend an awful lot of energy and money in trying to create a “Merry Christmas.”  This might include a Christmas dinner, plenty of drinking and celebrating, the gathering of friends and family around the tree, gifts, lights, music, mirth, and chestnuts roasting on an open fire.  Sometimes, it all works out, and for a moment people experience a temporary happiness, that state of pleasure and well-being. 
         But oftentimes, external circumstances interfere with our happiness, like our children acting out, or a broken oven that dampens the holiday feast.  Because happiness depends on things of this world, it can easily be sabotaged.  While joy and happiness have a lot in common, one thing that they don’t have in common is that joy is permanent while happiness is fleeting. Joy is from God and happiness is from us.  Our happiness comes and goes but joy will remain as long as our relationship with God is nurtured.  If joy and happiness were friends, happiness would be the unfaithful one of the two.
         In today’s reading from the Isaiah, the prophet offers a vision of a future that entices the people of Israel to respond with joy.  At this point in the story, the people of Israel have been exiled from their home land and taken to Babylon, which today is modern day Iraq.  Having lost their land, their freedom, and their temple, they long to hear words of comfort and hope.  The good news that Isaiah offers them is the reassurance that the God does not abandon God’s people to their despair.  Instead, there is a promise of a future where sorrow will come to an end and new life will spring forth.
         In this particular passage, Isaiah paints a picture of a joyful creation:  “The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing.” {Is. 35:1}  The general theme is that desolate, dry places will be transformed into a paradise. Overnight, even a small amount of rain can change a dry desert into a vibrant landscape.  And so it is with our own lives.  With only a small change in perspective, our lives can change drastically for the better.  While there is little reason for the exiles to experience happiness in their current situation, joy is possible because joy originates from God, not from their captives.
         Joy is a state of mind and an orientation of the heart that places its confidence in the power and presence of God.  Joy isn’t just a smile or a laugh but something deep within us that remains even when life gets tough.  Since joy is given by God, a fruit of the Holy Spirit, developing and deepening our relationship with God is the recipe. That is why prayer, worship, meditation, confession, and service can ultimately enhance one’s joy.  There are also other concrete practices that you may like to try in order to enhance your joy as the season of Christmas approaches.  Here are a few:
         *Make praise and gratitude a habit:  Praise God from who all blessings flow and remind yourself by writing down your blessings in a joy journal.  Make a habit of giving thanks and then watch your joy grow.
         *Fill your mind with music that connects you to the Holy One.  Listen, sing, and meditate on music that draws your heart nearer to God and God’s word.  This should be easy during this season.
         *Take the long view.  Investors advise their clients not to worry about the daily ups and downs of the stock market and neither should we worry about the daily ups and downs of life.  Place your burdens on God, be open to grace, and take a long view of today’s events.  They are not permanent and need not have the power to sap your joy unless you allow them to.
         *Connect with your loves ones in a meaningful way.  Go beyond talk of diets, forbidden foods, and Facebook postings.  Ask how someone is doing and really listen to the words.  Then bless that person.
         *Do something that you love.  Create a list of simple pleasures and then make time for them.  These are small acts that bring delight and cost little in terms of time and money.
         *Focus on self-care and self-compassion.  In summary, be good to yourself!  Silence that inner critic and negative thinking that can drain the joy from your life.  Instead, replace those thoughts with God’s thoughts of you, a beloved child made in the image of God.  Get in touch with your true-self rather than accept the broken image imposed upon you by your inner or outer critics.
         Today is Gaudete Sunday, which means rejoice.  We began the service with the lighting of the pink candle on the advent wreath and with the singing of the opening hymn:  “Rejoice, rejoice, believers and let your lights appear...”  It is a wonderful hymn that reminds us of the bigger picture and encourages us to rejoice in God.  The key to cultivating joy is to deepen our relationship with God, nurture those we love, and respect all the creatures of the world.  In summary, we are to rejoice in all that we are and all that we have.

         In closing, I would like you to quietly listen to the song 10,000 Reasons which was sung by the transformed drug traffickers right before they were executed.  Then I want you to imagine your own life, filled with joy, no matter what the trials and tribulations that you are currently facing.  And maybe, just maybe, as Christmas draws near and joy fills your heart, you too will be moved to sing songs of praise for the birth of Jesus and the Light that has come into the world.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Giving Tuesday: Interfaith Food Bank

Inline image 1

$50 GETS YOU $100

$100 GETS YOU $200




Amador Community Foundation gives this nationally recognized annual giving campaign a special local twist. By making ONLINE donations at giveamador.org on Tuesday, November 29th between 6am and 8pmPacific Time, your dollars go further, thanks to incentives of $10,000 from the Helen Fallis Fund.

Please visit giveamador.org tomorrow November 29th and click on: 
Inline image 2

Interfaith Council of Amador/Interfaith Food Bank

The Interfaith Council of Amador County works to eliminate hunger and its causes because no one deserves to face the day hungry. The Interfaith Food Bank is the major hunger relief organization serving 6,000 Amador County residents suffering from food insecurity. 

Please visit giveamador.org November 29th between 6am & 8pm
Inline image 2
Together we can all fight hunger!

Thomas Thompson
Executive Director
Interfaith Council of Amador
Interfaith Food Bank
12181 Airport Rd.
Jackson, CA  95642

Monday, November 28, 2016

Sermon: Wake Up and Pay Attention!

Wake Up and Pay Attention!
Readings: Mt. 24:36-44; Isaiah 2:1-5     Advent 1/A
By the Rev. Karen Faye Siegfriedt
Trinity Episcopal Church, Sutter Creek, CA  11/27/16

            Are you ready?  Get set…GO!
So where exactly are you going?  Do you have a plan?  And if you do not have a plan for the future, then what are you living for?  Today is the first day of Advent, that season of the church year which calls us to get ready, to stay awake, to pay attention to what is happening in the world, to see the signs and wonders of God in our daily lives, and if those signs and wonders are being sabotaged by our society, to actively participate in getting rid of those obstacles that hinder God’s ways. 
            The season of Advent initiates the church’s liturgical year.  Unlike the school year which begins in September, or the calendar year which begins in January, the Church’s year begins today.  So happy new year!  The word advent comes from the Latin meaning “the coming.”  For Christians, the season of Advent anticipates the coming of Christ from three different perspectives: 2000 years ago in Bethlehem, daily in our hearts, and finally the coming of Christ in all his glory in the fullness of time.  In contrast to some Eastern religions that view time as an endless cycle of birth, death, and rebirth, Christianity looks at time differently.  It begins with God’s creation of the world and culminates with a total transformation of creation, where compassion is the operating principle.  Instead of God’s time being cyclical, the way of the Lord is a trajectory whose arc is long but bends towards justice and peace.
            It is obvious, we are not there yet.  We have not achieved the vision that God has in mind for us.  In fact, if we take a moral inventory of today’s world, we will notice just how far we have wandered off from the pathway of the Lord.  Instead of listening to God’s voice, many have lost their moral compass and have chosen instead to call their own shots, thereby creating a world that causes suffering and injustice. The season of Advent invites us to once again consider the character of Christian existence as we struggle to live faithfully between the times: The time between the first coming of Christ when Jesus was born in Bethlehem and showed us the pathway of compassion and the time of the second coming when the mind of Christ rules over all creation. So during this interim period, we Episcopalians continue to sing Advent songs about preparing the way of the Lord, moving from darkness into light, and traditional hymns like, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”
            The challenge with embracing the season of Advent is that most folks already have their minds set on Christmas.  In my neighborhood, the Christmas lights and trees are up, the presents have been purchased by Black Friday, and Christmas carols are already being sung.  I understand why there is such a rush towards Christmas.  Deep within our psyches is a desire to experience joy and delight; to spend happy times with friends and family; to marvel at the sparkle of lights and decorations; to eat, drink, and be merry, and to put aside (even if it is only for a short time), the trials and tribulations of life.  But without some internal spiritual preparation, Christmas joy will be hard to come by.  
So I suggest that you might set aside some time each day during the season of Advent to pay attention.  You might find some value in taking a look at the bigger picture and pondering the excitement and hope that can arise in your life when the coming of Christ is nurtured in your heart, within your family, and in your society as you listen to the quiet promptings of the Holy Spirit in whom you live and move and have your being.  Steph and I set aside time for the nurturing of the spirit with the lighting of our Advent wreath and with the reading of Advent meditations.  It is time well spent that can delight the mind and make the heart glad.
            During the season of Advent, the assigned biblical readings often focus on the second coming of Christ.  Today’s gospel story is a case in point. If you read all of Chapter 24 in Matthew’s gospel, you will notice that the early disciples were very concerned about the end of time and the second coming of Christ.  In this chapter, Jesus speaks about the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, wars, famines, earthquakes, and persecutions.  Fearful times can cause people to draw fearful conclusions. The early Christians were no exception and they interpreted these cataclysmic events of the time as a sign that the world would soon end.  They were wrong.  
            In 1998, I had my carpets cleaned by a local business when I was living in Los Gatos.  The man who came to clean my carpets became very anxious when he saw the religious symbolism displayed in my house and took the liberty to preach to me about the end of time.  He believed that the world would end by an earth-shattering event at the turn of the century.  Those who were faithful would be lifted up to enjoy a life with God while those who were unfaithful would be left behind to suffer the pain of judgment and punishment.  I asked him if he would be disappointed if the year 2000 came and went without any sign of the second coming.  He replied, “Yes, I would be devastated.”  
Taking a few passages out the biblical text and weaving them into a theology, there are many people who believe in an apocalyptic ending to the world that is soon to come.  There are movies, books, and music that make millions of dollars promoting this kind of thinking, utilizing an elaborate theology that was developed in the late 1800’s.  This kind of theology is best “left behind.”  This theology tends to highlight passages like today’s gospel where Jesus says: “Two will be in a field; one will be taken and one will be left.  Two women will be grinding meal; one will be taken and one will be left behind.”  However, Jesus does not say that one is right and one is wrong or one is faithful and one is not.  He does not say that one will be raptured up to heaven while the other is left behind on earth.  However, he does say that both should keep awake, pay attention to what is happening right now, be observant of what is happening in the world and where the spirit of God is working.  In other words, don’t just go through life being fat and happy, unaware and uninvolved.  Wake up!
            Marianne Williamson tells the story of a woman who was driving home.  She totally checked out and ran a stop sign. She crashes into another car and a woman struggles out of the car holding a baby.  The driver who caused the wreck has no idea if the child is alive.  The injured woman looks at her and asks, “Why lady, why?”
            “Sometimes we feel we’ve made a mess of something important and it seems there is nothing we can do to change it.  We look back with remorse and wish to ourselves, “if I only had said this,” or “if only I had done that.”  We can spend years condemning ourselves for having failed to realize the wisdom of a course we chose not to take or the ridiculousness of one we did.  At such times we’re apt to ask ourselves, “What could I have been thinking?”  Yet often we find that the problem was not what we were thinking, but that we were not really thinking at all.  We were not deeply reflective, much less spiritually guided in making a particular decision.  We simply surrendered to the shallow thoughts that too often pass for real thinking today, following the path of least resistance (often the path of least nobility, virtue, and conscience).” And as a result, we add to the suffering of the world.  [Everyday Grace]
            The suffering of this world is not the point of human existence.  God has built into the structure of creation a trajectory, where everything that is dark will eventually turn to light again.  When that time will come, we do not know.  But in the interim, we need to stay awake and notice the light when it does break through the clouds.  In today’s first reading, the prophet Isaiah reminds us that the light will fully shine in the final times.  2800 years ago, Isaiah laid out God’s dream for humanity during a very dark period in the history of Israel. It was a vision of a time when people would be willing to lay down their weapons and become allies in working towards God’s reign.  In those days says the prophet Isaiah: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”  {Isaiah 2}

            Isaiah believed that regardless of where the power seemed to lie in the present time, the day is surely coming when God’s reign will be established for all humankind to see.  This is the future that I believe in even though I am fully aware that our world is in turmoil today.  But despite all the chaos and hurt in our society, I do not give way to despair or hide my head in the sand or become cynical in my speech and action.  Instead of embracing an apocalyptic ending to human history, I believe in the evolution of human consciousness.  Because of this belief, I work toward that end, opening my heart to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving my neighbor as myself.  I continue to pray for God’s grace to lead me from a place of fear to a place of love, seeking healing for life’s traumas, and practicing forgiveness so I can become a mirror that reflects the light of Christ.  And so, on this first day of Advent, I invite all of you to join me in staying awake and preparing the way of the Lord. 

Monday, November 21, 2016

Sermon: Embracing Christ as King

Embracing Christ as King    Readings: Luke 23:33-43; Canticle 16; Jer. 23:1-6   Christ the King/C
By the Rev. Karen Faye Siegfriedt; Trinity Episcopal Church, Sutter Creek, CA    11-20-16

In 1925, Adolf Hitler made a political comeback and published his personal manifesto, Mein Kampf.  Benito Mussolini (Il Duce) announced he was taking over Italy and his fascist’s party of Blackshirts marched into Rome.  Having endured chemical warfare, the agony of defeat of WWI, and the economic depression following the Treaty of Versailles, there was a lot of collective depression among the Europeans, especially the Germans.  This led to desperation, civil unrest, and power grabs among the conservatives, the left, the right, and the middle.  People were looking for a political solution to heal their pain. 
It was into this context of political instability and scapegoating that the Church instituted the Feast of Christ the King.  Its purpose was to remind all Christians that Christ is our king and that no political solution can ultimately solve a spiritual problem.  It was also a reminder to the faithful that Christ, and Christ alone, was to rule over their minds, wills, hearts, and bodies.  Today, we are celebrating this feast day, recommitting ourselves to our baptismal covenant to seek and serve Christ in all persons.  It is this spirit of Christ reigning over our society that will ultimately bring world peace. 
In my opinion, the institution of the Feast of Christ the King back in 1925 failed in its attempts to hinder the zealous, political, and violent sentiments of the people of Europe, and many people suffered.  At first, the Nazi regime came for the communists.  And since most of the Germans were not communists, there was not a large outcry.  Then they began to round up the so-called incurables, those who were senile, feeble, deformed, or had some chronic disease.  These “incurables” were seen as a burden to society and thus dispensable.  Then came the “final solution,” the extermination of the Jews.
Instead of working with a spiritual toolbox of forgiveness, reconciliation, and generosity, fascism won out in the end both in Germany and Italy, thus dragging the world into an apocalypse where over 50 million people (both civilian and military) lost their lives in World War II.  Some of them were tortured in concentration camps because their human dignity was not recognized.  Years later, after having been released from a concentration camp himself, the German Lutheran pastor, Martin Niemoller, reflected on those dark and misguided years of fascism and his own complacency:

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Socialist. 
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

Perhaps you can understand why the people of Germany were seduced into supporting the Nazi Party.  They were frustrated after years of war, bullied by the Allies, and struggling to make ends meet.  Their railroads were in disarray, their economy floundering, their military defeated, and their hospitals and schools struggling.  In a sincere desire to return to their old way of life, they cashed in their freedom to make Germany great again.  Believing that a strong political leader could “save” their nation, they bet on the wrong horse. It is into this tension between the desire for a better life and the oppression of innocent human beings that we read today’s gospel of the crucifixion of Jesus. 
In the story of the crucifixion, we see Jesus being scapegoated by the powers that be.  Yet as “King of kings” he exercises his power in the midst of mockery, coercion, and arrogance: "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing!"  In his second act of power, Jesus confers mercy on a convicted criminal:  "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise."  Mercy, forgiveness, compassion, reconciliation…this is the spirit of a true King, the one who can save us, the one who brought God’s reign of justice and mercy to earth, and the only one who deserves our full allegiance.  Ultimate allegiance to anyone else will ultimately end in failure.
Today, we are going through a challenging period in our country.  Our nation is divided, the common people’s voices are not being heard, and our citizens have had enough.  There is great concern over the infrastructure of our cities and highways.  There is disappointment in the economy and the inability for many to find meaningful work and earn a living wage.  Our hospital system has become a profit-making enterprise, prioritizing profit for stock holders over the well-being of patients.  Many still do not have access to good medical care.  Schools are being privatized, leaving those on the lower end of the economic spectrum with few good choices.  The gap between the rich and the poor gets wider.  These are all very important issues that have left us disturbed and disoriented.  And like the post-WWI Europeans, we as a nation must improve the quality of life for all people.
But as we address each of these problems facing our nation, we must remember to choose the path modeled by our king, Jesus the Christ.  If we do not learn from history, we will repeat it.  Our path must be paved with our baptismal promises to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as ourselves.  It must include our spiritual toolbox of forgiveness, reconciliation, generosity, wisdom, justice, mercy, peace, and respecting the dignity of every human being.
Repairing our nation is a huge task that will require a comprehensive and thoughtful process, a plan that includes the wisdom of many different voices.  As Pope Francis said to the United States Congress last year when he came to our country for a visit:  “If politics must truly be at the service of the human person, it follows that it cannot be a slave to the economy and finance.  Politics is, instead, an expression of our compelling need to live as one, in order to build as one the greatest common good: that of a community which sacrifices particular interests in order to share, in justice and peace, its goods, its interests, its social life.”
What does the future hold for our nation?  I guess it will depend on who or what rules our hearts.  Recently on social media, I read a revision of Pastor Niemoller’s reflection based on the current angst in our country.  It goes like this:

"First they came for the Muslims, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Muslim.
Then they came for the Hispanics, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Hispanic.
Then they came for the Minority, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Minority.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me."

I don’t know who wrote this reflection but I hope I will have the courage to speak out before it is too late.  Like many of you, I am a mixture of several different nationalities, including Irish, English, and German.  My great-grandparents included Catholics, Lutherans, and Church of England.  And while my people struggled as immigrants when they entered this great nation, I am a product of this great melting pot of humanity.  I was fortunate enough to have been born an American, free to choose my religion and path.  But it has not always been easy for me.  Like many of you, I was denied equal access to athletic opportunities as a young, female athlete until Title IX was passed.  As a gay person, I was discriminated against by the laws of the land.  But over time, justice prevailed and I give thanks to God and to this great nation for bestowing upon me the human rights needed for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. 
It is my prayer that we will honor the great spirit of our country, granting to all people- life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  So how will this love of all of God’s children blossom and be made manifest?  When we claim Christ as our King, all things become possible!
 In closing, I would like to recite two stanzas of the opening hymn (#74) we sang this morning:

“Blest be the King whose coming is in the name of God!  For him let doors be opened, no hearts against him barred!  Not robed in royal splendor, in power and pomp comes he; but clad as are the poorest, such his humility.”

“Blest be the King whose coming is in the name of God!  By those who truly listen, his voice is truly heard; pity the proud and haughty, who have not learned to heed, the Christ who is the Promise, who has atonement made.” 

+May Christ the King, bless, guide, and sustain you, now and forever, Amen. +

Friday, November 18, 2016

11th Annual Las Posadas Candlelight Walk - Sat Dec 3

Everyone is invited and encouraged to participate in the 11th annual Las Posadas Candlelight Walk on Saturday, Dec. 3 at 6:00 PM in Sutter Creek. This tradition, which has its origin in Spain, begins on Spanish Street near Immaculate Conception Church. Participants are given candles and programs. The procession is led by Mary riding her mule, Joseph, shepherds and angels, following the way which is lighted by luminarias.  Musicians lead everyone in Christmas songs, and narrators tell the traditional story. Several times the procession stops while Joseph knocks on doors seeking shelter.  Winding its way through downtown Sutter Creek which is blocked off to vehicles, the procession arrives at a stable in front of the Methodist Church.
Afterwards, everyone is invited into the social hall for homemade cookies and warm beverages.  The Candlelight Walk is sponsored by the Methodist, Catholic, Baptist, New Life, and Episcopal churches of Sutter Creek/Sutter Hill.  What a wonderful way to begin the Christmas season!

Meet Piccolina!
Piccolina, owned by Andy Assereto, is a handsome 20 year old mule which has the important duty of carrying Mary in the Las Posadas Candlight Walk.  This community tradition will take place at 6:00 p.m. on Friday, December 3 for the 11th season.  Over the years, Las Posadas has grown to involve hundreds of people who look forward with anticipation to participating in this re-creation of the story of Mary and Joseph seeking a place of shelter.
Andy is a retired firefighter who has always been around ranches and animals.  A friendly and thoughtful fellow, Andy obviously has a deep rapport with his mules.  He spends time each year working with outfits around the Bishop-Lone Pine areas, leading groups of people who ride mules on trails in the mountains of the Sierras.  Andy speaks affectionately about each of his mules, describing their personalities.  He expresses the firm opinion that mules are very smart, more intelligent than horses.  A mule can be taught anything, he says- it just requires patience on the part of the teacher.  About Piccolina, he says that he has probably ridden her a couple of thousand miles in the mountains, and that anyone can ride her.
Please do come and enjoy being a part of Las Posadas, and meeting Piccolina!

Monday, November 7, 2016

Sermon: Remembering Saints Who Served & Blessed

Remembering the Saints Who Served & Blessed   Luke 6:20-31     All Saints/C
By the Rev. Karen Siegfriedt; Trinity Episcopal Church, Sutter Creek, CA  11/06/16

 What saint in your life has had the greatest influence on your faith?  Who were the people (past and present) who have encouraged you to take the higher road, to temper justice with mercy, and to seek and serve Christ in all persons including those on the margins of society?  There are several who stand out for me.   I think of St. Laurence of Rome, a 3rd century deacon who suffered persecution at the hands of the Emperor. Given three days to turn over the treasures of the church, Lawrence worked swiftly to distribute as much Church property to the poor as possible, so as to prevent its being seized. On the third day, when ordered to give up the treasures of the Church, he presented the poor, the crippled, the blind and the suffering, and said: “These are the treasures of the Church.”  As you can imagine, this didn’t go over very well with the Romans and Laurence was put to death.

I’ve also been influenced by groups of people who were willing to sacrificially offer their time and talent for the good of society.  For instance, in 1878, yellow fever invaded the city of Memphis for the third time in ten years. 30,000 citizens had fled in terror while 20,000 more remained to face the plague.  When the worst was over, 90% of the population had contracted yellow fever and more than 5000 people had died, included many of the Anglican Sisters of St. Mary’s.  These faithful servants became known as “The Martyrs of Memphis,” brave women of God who remained in the city to give relief to the sick, comfort the dying, and homes to the orphans.

I am also influenced by modern day saints like Mahatma Ghandi who said: “You must be the change you wish to see in the world” and Martin Luther King Jr. who worked tirelessly for justice, peace, and the dignity of every human being at the cost of his own life.  And of course, every time I go into Jane’s Hall, I think of Jane Boitano, a beloved elder of Trinity Church who died in 1987 but whose memory is very much alive; a faithful servant who effusive welcome, caring spirit, enormous energy, and generous stewardship kept Trinity thriving through the good times and the scarce times.

What all of these saints had in common was their faith in God, their willingness to sacrifice for the greater good, a spirit of compassion and justice, and a desire to serve.  It is into this context of compassion for others that we celebrate All Saints Day.  The text assigned for this holy day is Luke’s version of the beatitudes, The Sermon on the Plain.  Four blessings form the introduction.  It is a little bit different from Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount, although the message is the same. These sermons instruct Jesus’ disciples how to act compassionately in a world that cares little about the underdog.

At this point in Luke’s gospel story, Jesus and his disciples have come down from the mountaintop onto a level plain.  A great crowd of people from all over Palestine have come to hear him and to be cured of their physical, mental, and spiritual ailments.  As Jesus looks out at the crowd, he sees two groups of people: Those who are on the edge of desperation and those who have the power to make a difference in the world. He first turns his attention to those who are stuck in poverty, hunger, pain, and persecution and he blesses them:  Blessed are you who are poor.  Blessed are you who are hungry now.  Blessed are you who weep. Blessed are you who are despised.  Blessing others (especially those in need) is one way to assure them that they are valuable human beings and thus important in the eyes of God. When we bless another person, our compassion and commitment to their well-being increases.  This is a gift, which when freely bestowed, can offer hope to a broken world.

Last week, I attended a seminar given by Marianne Williamson.  She encouraged the audience to begin each day with 5 minutes of prayer before getting out of bed.  This time of prayer is to include blessing those whom we will come in contact with during our day: Our family, friends, colleagues and those we will meet on our daily routines.  Imagine spending a moment to bless the people we are about to meet- like before going into a store or a vestry meeting or dinner with our family. With a spirit of blessing in our hearts, it is sure to enhance our communications and make their hearts glad.

So Jesus blesses the hungry, the poor, those who weep, and those who are persecuted.  And in that action of blessing he assures them that he not only cares about their plight in life but also that one day there will be a reversal of fortune.  In other words, the status quo will be turned upside down and the unjust chasm between the rich and the poor, the hungry and the well fed, the suffering and the complacent, the lowly and the prestigious, will be closed.  It is this new world order that we pray for each Sunday when we say: “Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
After addressing the desperate crowd, Jesus then turns to the folks who are privileged and have the power to influence society in a positive way.  His words are harsh: Woe to you who are rich, woe to you who are full now, woe to you who are laughing, woe to you when all speak well of you.”  The Sermon on the Plain can be a very difficult passage for the privileged and powerful to hear because it calls on us to change the way we do business.  It is challenging because it means that we are going to have to make some sacrifices in order to provide for the poor, the hungry, the suffering, and the persecuted.  However, for those of you who long for a world that is peaceful and just, today’s gospel passage is good news brimming with hope; a pathway that can unite all of God’s creatures.

Today, our society has divided its people into categories: the winners and the losers, the successful and the left behind, the rich and the poor, elites and uneducated, whites and blacks, men and women, citizens and immigrants.  Clearly, in each of these categories, one group has more power and therefore access to more resources while denying the less powerful their fair share.  But this is not God’s vision for our world and so we must never participate in supporting such injustice. 

Because Jesus blessed the poor, we who have resources need to share ours generously and work to dismantle unjust economic systems that cause poverty.  A spirit of generosity and compassionate voting, make a big difference.  Because Jesus blessed the hungry, then we who have food are required to share and work diligently to end hunger.  Thanks to all of you who support our feeding programs and who will give generously this month to provide Thanksgiving baskets to those who are “food insecure” here in Amador County.  Because Jesus blessed those who weep, we who follow in his footsteps are called to comfort those who mourn and reach out with a healing embrace of care and concern.  We must not turn away from the pain and suffering of others because it makes us uncomfortable. Finally, because Jesus blessed those who are hated, excluded, and reviled, we who are in the mainstream must work tirelessly for human rights and the dignity of every human being.  

Today we celebrate All Saints Day, a time when we cherish the memory of those who have gone before us.  Some of them struggled like we do to remain faithful to Jesus’ teachings of compassion and service to others. Some, whom we remember today, have lived up to the gospel precepts in spectacular ways.  The communion of Saints includes many people with many different abilities, each of us given gifts for the building up of God’s kingdom.  So whether you are a courageous disciple or one who is just “inching towards the kingdom,” you have the ability to bless others, to care for the plight of your neighbor, and to work diligently to dismantle all structures, patterns, laws, and sentiments that cause the suffering of many at the hands of a few.  Compassion, not purity, is what it means to be a saint.

Six years ago today, I preached my first sermon here at Trinity.  It is hard to believe I am beginning my 7th year.  At that time, Trinity had experienced a long and difficult transition.  So on my first Sunday, I used the text from the prophet Haggai, who some 2500 years ago, encouraged the people to rebuild the destroyed temple in Jerusalem.  In that sermon, I spoke about three principles in building up and revitalizing Trinity Church-in other words, becoming saints who are faithful to the gospel.  Let me remind you of those building blocks:

“The first principle is that Christ needs to be the foundation and chief corner stone.” Without Christ as our foundation, the church will never be able to withstand the trials and tribulations of today’s culture wars where self-centeredness and consumerism try to seduce us from upholding our baptismal covenant.  “The second principle is that you, the body of Christ, are the building materials.” This means that God has given you gifts, not to be hoarded for yourself, but to be offered in service for the building up of the church and for the well-being of our society.  “Finally, no church can be built up without having a detailed construction plan.”  And while Trinity Church in Sutter Creek has a strategic plan to thrive into the future, without the spirit of God moving through our hearts, our minds, and our hands, that plan will not come to fruition.  So we continue to pray for grace as we bless one another.

Pope Francis has challenged our world to live a life of mercy and kindness: “You pray for the hungry. Then you feed them. That’s how prayer works.”  This summarizes today’s gospel in a nutshell.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Sophia's Well - Autumn 2016


A Wisdom & Wellness Center
Autumn 2016 News and Updates at The Well
Visit Our Website
Upcoming Events at The Well

The Fall months of October, November, and December are the busiest time of the year. You have an open invitation to join us weekly for the SundayWisdom Circle at 10am for group meditation and circle sharing. 

The October Wisdom Circle theme is Breaking Barriers to Healing and Wholeness. The November theme is Healing Into Light - Energy Healing and Spiritual Process. The December Holiday theme is In Praise of Light. 

Many wonderful events are coming up in the final quarter of 2016. Be sure to check them out below or Click on the link for the Fall Quarter Calendar. 

Contact Rev. Patsy at 209-418-9003 for more information or to chat about who we are and what we do at The Well. 

She Who Leads by Nicolas Roerich
Women's Spirituality: 
Breaking Barriers! 
Workshop October 7 & 8

Our workshops are designed to serve the spiritual education of the community. The issue of gender equalization, harmony and balance is critical at this time in history. The destiny of women IS the destiny of the world! 

This workshop has been in preparation for several months. Three wonderful women have been preparing for it: Marilyn Nutter, MA in Culture and Spirituality from Holy Names University; Rev. Tracy Johnson, Sacramento Chaplain and Rituals Minister at the Well; and Lynnea Honn, Meditation Teacher at the Well.

Check out the flyer attached below for more information.  Coming up this Friday and Saturday! RSVP to ensure a seat! 209-418-9003

Cynthia M.
Rev. Thia McGinnis
Thia Returns to the Well October 14 at 6pmwith Public Talk on "Changes of the Ages"!

Rev. Thia, a friend of The Well, is returning to the West Coast this month. She has again offered to stop by on her travels to visit us. This is an Empowerment Counselor whose extensive background in Business Administration and Finance, her research and studies in Astrology, and her love of all things Spiritual, bring a practicality to her spiritual work to help people lead more successful lives. 

Thia will be speaking on the energetic changes taking place at this time with the changing of the ages, from the Piscean Age to the Aquarian Age. Much of what is occurring on the global front is explained by this "class of the ages." Come out and here what Thia has uncovered about the mysteries of our time. 

In the afternoon, prior to the public talk, Thia will be available to meet with individuals for a consultation. Contact Patsy at 209-418-9003 if you'd like to make an appointment with Thia. Visit her website atwww.divineone.org for more information about her work.
Eugene leading a meditation workshop at the Well in 2014.
Meditation & Service

November 5 and 6

Eugene Alliende, psychologist and meditation teacher in the local area is back from his world travels. Having collaborated with The Well on many past meditation workshops, we are please to announce that Eugene will join us again for our 2016 annual workshop. He will be the featured speaker and meditation host on Saturday November 5.

The workshop on Saturday will be held from10am to 4pm and include a vegetarian lunch. Eugene and I both felt that comprehending the importance of meditation, not just for personal benefits, but also for service toward the highest good of humanity is a timely subject. 

On Sunday November 6, the Wisdom Circle starting at 10am will be devoted to Doing Inner Work for Self and the World. In the afternoon, from 2-4pm, we will host a Good-Will Meditation for all who want to help seed the consciousness field with the energy of good-will in preparation for the coming election. (Nobody will be told how to vote - that is your personal responsibility, but we can all set forth the Light, Love, and Power of Good-Will.)

In fact, if you want to start right now, you can join our Seed Meditation Group with a Good-Will seed-thought meditation. Contact Patsy for more information. Also, use the Affirmation below to align with the attitude of Good-Will. 

In Praise of Light!
1st Sunday of Advent
November 27 from 10am - 4pm
with Winter Soup Potluck (Vegetarian)

One of our favorite events of the year is coming up in November. Yes, we engage in the process of increasing our Inner Light to help restore the balance of light lost in the annual cycle of approaching Winter. 

A wonderful program on the 1st Sunday of Advent will launch the Holiday Season: The  
First Light.  

Amel Tafsout
Professional Dancer & Sufi Healing Practitioner
In the afternoon, our lovely partner, Amel Tafsout, will lead the afternoon in joyous celebration, Dancing in the Light. Beside dancing, Amel will lead the group in sound healing through drumming and chanting activities. We will leave the day filled in the Light of the Holy Days. 

This is the day in which we bring our favorite Winter Soup (vegetarian please - and bring the recip
e!) to share. Or you can bring something to accompany the soups - bread, crackers, snacks, or Holiday cookies. 

The remainder of the Advent Sundays will continue the theme of In Praise of Light: The First Light (11-27, The Holy Light (12/4), The Light Within (12/11), and The Dark Light (12/18). 
December 4 at 3pm
with the Well's Music Director Shari and Guest Performers.

Join us for the 3rd Annual Holiday Concert hosted by our Music Director, Shari Anderson. Several Friends of Sophia's Well will join Shari in this outstanding event celebrating the Tapestry of Wonder of the holidays with a multi-cultural and multi-faith approach to the season of Light and Love. The Singers at the Well are preparing their vocals for this event as we speak! 
The Luminous Mysteries
December 17 at 9:30am

Rev. Tracy Johnson will host the final Aquarian Rosary of the year. Bring your rosary or use one at the center. This is a powerful meditation practice you won't want to miss! Especially as it relates to the season!
Starry Night
December 18 from 10am - 12pm
with Essene Dinner at 12:30

Rev. Tracy Johnson, our Rituals Minister, is preparing for this deeply contemplative and powerful ceremony. Working through the darkness of the season by our inner light, we can see what otherwise would go unseen. Enjoy the activities that bring this reality to Light! We are excited about adding the experience of an Essene Dinner immediately following the ceremony to anchor the ritual in our memories. 
End of Year News. . . .

The Well will be closed for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day


Annual World Healing Meditation 
Wednesday December 30 at 6pm

Wisdom Circle Theme for 2017: THE GLOBAL MIND!


Rev. Patsy will be starting a blog soon. Watch for it on her website www.sophiaswell.org.

Also, remember that Gift Certificates for Massage make a wonderful Holiday Gift. 209-418-9003
SOPHIA'S WELL | Rev. Patsy Walker Fine | 209-418-9003 
Sophia's Well, 270A Hanford Street, Sutter Creek, CA 95685