Rekindling the Spiritual Hearth

December 27, 2015 – Rev. Jan Hryniewicz
Text: Proverbs3 1- 6 & Colossians 3: 12- 17

Call to Worship

“It is not over,
this birthing.
There are always newer skies
into which
God can throw stars.
When we begin to think
that we can predict the Advent of God,
that we can box the Christ
in a stable in Bethlehem,
that’s just the time
that God will be born
in a place we can’t imagine and won’t believe.
Those who wait for God
watch with their hearts and not their eyes,
always listening
for angel words.” …Ann Weems


How are you all doing!?


After Christmas, Lucy mutters, “Rats! Phooey! Everything is hopeless! Who cares?” Charlie Brown asks, “Lucy, what in the world is the matter with you?” Again she shouts, “Rats! Phooey!” The last cartoon shows her walking away only to turn and drop a casual comment to the puzzled Charlie Brown. Of course you realize,” she says, “that I’m just experiencing my regular, post-Christmas letdown.”


Can you relate to Lucy…or are you relieved!?


Love this amusing poem:

Twas the day after Christmas, and all through the house,
Every creature was hurting– even the mouse.
The toys were all broken, their batteries dead;
Santa passed out, with some ice on his head.
Wrapping and ribbons just covered the floor, while
Upstairs the family continued to snore.
And I in my T-shirt, new Reeboks and jeans,
Went into the kitchen and started to clean.
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the sink to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the curtains, and threw up the sash.
When what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a little white truck, with an oversized mirror.
The driver was smiling, so lively and grand;
The patch on his jacket said “U.S. POSTMAN.”
With a handful of bills, he grinned like a fox
Then quickly he stuffed them into our mailbox.
Bill after bill, after bill, they still came.
Whistling and shouting he called them by name:
“Now Macy‘s, now Best Buy, now Penny’s and Sears
Here’s Marshall‘s and Target’s and LL Bean — all here!!
To the tip of your limit, every store, every mall,
Now chargeaway-chargeaway-chargeaway all!”
He whooped and he whistled as he finished his work.
He filled up the box, and then turned with a jerk.
He sprang to his truck and he drove down the road,
Driving much faster with just half a load.
Then I heard him exclaim with great holiday cheer,


Awww…. reality strikes! Hope you didn’t overdo this year!!


On Christmas night, I discovered this email in my box from Jeannine Cronkhite. It’s entitled The Train, and perhaps some of you have heard/seen it:


At birth we boarded the train and met our parents, and we believe they
will always travel at our side. However, at some station our parents
will step down from the train, leaving us on this journey alone.

As time goes by, other people will board the train; and they will be 
significant i.e. our siblings, friends, children, and even the love of
our life. Many will step down and leave a permanent vacuum. Others
will go so unnoticed that we don’t realize they vacated their seats.

This train ride will be full of joy, sorrow, fantasy, expectations,
hellos, goodbyes, and farewells. Success consists of having a good
relationship with all passengers, requiring that we give the best of

The mystery to everyone is: We do not know at which station we
ourselves will step down. So, we must live in the best way, love,
forgive, and offer the best of who we are. It is important to do this
because when the time comes for us to step down and leave our seat
 empty, we should leave behind beautiful memories for those who will
continue to travel on the train of life.

I wish you a joyful journey on the train of life. Reap success and
give lots of love. More importantly, thank God for the journey. Lastly, I thank you for being one of the passengers on my train.


I might have thought after reading it….. trite, corney, simplistic….however for some reason, it touched me. Perhaps because it came from Jeannine… or maybe I was touched by the truth behind what some, even I, might have called tacky. A new year is ahead of us, and we are blessed to be on each other’s trains. There will be new people stepping on board and the train will be taking us to new places, to see new vistas. Every year offers us fresh adventures and the new most always stirs up excitement.


I was inspired by this quote that I put on the back of your bulletin ~ from AWAKENING GRASSROOTS SPIRITUALITY: A CELTIC GUIDE FOR NURTURING THE SOUL by Edwin M. Leidel:
There is a spiritual hearth at the heart of every person, congregation, and diocese. The fire is ignitable precisely where we have a passion to begin again in the face of immense community and cultural brokenness. Perhaps there has never been a time in history where the need for rekindling has matched so strongly with the individual and communal desire to “begin again.”


Way back, on December 30th, 2007, I told you this story. A few of you may recall it! It’s a favorite Willem story…He was only 5 years old then!

My daughter Niki was trying to hurry Willem out the door …..and he began moving in a very dramatic way….in slow motion across the living room.
N: Niki was running late and with some frustration she said: “ Willem, what are you doing!?
W: I have to be careful how I move…..because with every step I take, I’m making a new me!

Think about that…… about how profound it is.


We are about to enter a new year….. and with every step we take…..with every word we choose to speak, with every action we do, every choice we make….we can be making all things new….or we might keep doing same ole, same ole! We might be promoting loving kindness or encouraging anger and hatred. What kind of train will we be on this year?


Thomas Edison said: “ If you did all the things in life that you were truly capable of, you would astound yourself!”


I said in at the close of that sermon in 2007: I would love that…making all things new to be our operative goal as a church for 2008…. to astound ourselves by all that we are capable of doing and being…… led by God’s energizing Spirit! Are you up for it!? And I believe you/ we were….and are, as now we enter 2016! WOW! Some things are worth repeating!


As we hop aboard the train bound for 2016, I pray that we are bound for peace and fulfillment though daily acts of kindness and love.


One of my favorite mentors , Fr. Richard Rohr, offered this in his daily meditation this week:

What makes people so unkind and hurtful to one another? Sometimes the more petty and unnecessary it is, the more astounding it is. Where does this come from? Why is it much easier for humans to wrap themselves around problems, negativity, and blaming than around joy?

Humans make hard and impossible the very things they want the most! This tendency seems demonic. Such contrariness must be the meaning of any original wound or “sin.” We really are our own worst enemy. It is not just that we send our unresolved pain and fear toward others, but that we choose to abide in them ourselves. We refuse resurrection on a regular basis and then wonder why we are unhappy.

Jesus came to reveal and resolve the central and essential problem–humanity’s tendency toward fear and hate. The pattern is so deep and habitual within humans that we even make religion itself into a clever cover for our disguised need to remain fearful and hateful. The ultimate disguise whereby you can remain a mean-spirited person is to do it for God or country. You are relieved of all inner anxiety; you can maintain your positive self-image and even some kind of moral high ground, while hidden underneath are “the bones of the dead and every kind of corruption,” as Jesus said (Matthew 23:27).

Fr. Rohr concludes by saying that “Love is the totally enlightened, entirely nonsensical way out of this pattern. Love has to be worked toward, received, and enjoyed, first of all by recognizing our deep capacity for fear and hate.


Will the train we are all on together be bound for glory….for peace with justice, for love with understanding, …or are we headed for another train wreck? How will we as people of God promote the peace of God? How will be keep the message and miracle of the manger alive in the year ahead…and not box up the love and compassion with the decorations and nativity set?


During World War II an air strip was built on a small tropical island in the South Pacific. The chaplain and others had tried to tell the natives about the Christian faith, but the natives responded slowly. Orders came to move on at Christmas 1943. The departing Americans gave a farewell party with make-shift gifts, and several tried to explain the origin of Christmas and the true meaning of the Christmas spirit. A few years later the same chaplain stopped at the island en route to a Far East assignment. He was greeted with excitement and taken to see the beautiful Church which the natives had built. Over the doorway was crudely lettered, “This is our Church, built on faith and Christian love.”

The chaplain stayed for a service of worship in the church. There were no seats; the songs were all Christmas carols because those were the only ones they knew. One native explained to the chaplain, “After you left, we built the Church to worship Jesus. We worship Him with the only service we know “Christmas, the Day He was born. Every day is Christmas here. Every day the Christ child is born anew. Our gift to give is love. Our Church, we call it, the Christmas Church.”
Love that story. How lovely if we were all Christmas churches.


What will be our gift to the community and the planet in 2016? As we continually rekindle our spiritual hearths….the hearths of our heart and of our church, we will continue to offer the miracle of new me’s… of new us’s of new life and transforming love to the universe. It will be a gift that keeps on giving.


I selected two passages of scripture that I know can guide us all into the New Year… personally and as a faith community. They, I believe, if faithfully observed, will guide humanity closer to God’s dream of peace and compassion for all life in the universe. They provide guidance for churches, which will inspire the unity of spirit, and compassionate love that guided the life and inspired the teachings of Jesus, the Christ.


From the ancient Hebrew Scriptures: Proverbs 3: 1 – 6

1 My children, do not forget my teaching,
but keep my commands in your heart,
2 for they will prolong your life many years
and bring you peace and prosperity.

3 Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
bind them around your neck,

write them on the tablet of your heart.
4 Then you will win favor and a good name
in the sight of God and humanity.

5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;

6 in all your ways submit to God,
who will make your paths straight.


From the inspired letters of the Apostle Paul:

Colossians 3: 12 -17

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God, the Creator through him.


Shall it be a 2016 resolution, to read them daily!?
Just an idea!!


On Christmas Eve, I shared with those gathered my very simple, bare bones basic mantra for ministry that has guided me for a whole lot of years. Our religious faith, our worship together must make us feel good in order to make us be and do good! Sitting on a hard pew in church for an hour or so is not always a barrel of laughs! It can be a bore, feel like a duty, inspire a nap! That’s unfortunate, but tolerable! However if worship is designed to make us feel guilty or ignorant, to inspire us to judge and hate anyone, to promote self righteous behavior…if it inspires negative energy of any kind, then, I believe that is not tolerable…. it is tragic. It is missing the mark…is alienating us from the divine, loving, accepting Spirit that we call God.


I want you, I want me to FEEL GOOD about God…..about who we are in relationship with God….to feel good about each other and the ministry we can do together. When we feel good, we will be inspired to do good…and that is what Jesus taught us…. plain and simple and beautiful! Love God, our neighbor and ourselves. Feel good! We want to be on a feel good train that is bound for glory …for peace and harmony for the whole planet.


I have asked Christian to close my sermon today with his amazing, inspiring version of Feeling Good. Listen and take to heart.


Birds flying high you know how I feel
Sun in the sky you know how I feel
Breeze driftin’ on by you know how I feel.

It’s a new dawn
It’s a new day
It’s a new life for me yeah

It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me
And I’m feeling good

Fish in the sea you know how I feel
River running free you know how I feel
Blossom on the tree you know how I feel

It’s a new dawn
It’s a new day
It’s a new life
For me
And I’m feeling good

Dragonfly out in the sun you know what I mean, don’t you know
Butterflies all havin’ fun you know what I mean
Sleep in peace when day is done that’s what I mean
And this old world is a new world
And a bold world for me

Stars when you shine you know how I feel
Scent of the pines you know how I feel
Oh freedom is mine
And I know how I feel

It’s a new dawn
It’s a new day
It’s a new life
For me

And I’m feeling good