Spiritual Downsizing

“Spiritual Downsizing,” Susan Ryder

Whenever it’s my turn for a Pastor’s Choice Sunday, I often check to see what passage the lectionary offers for that week. For those of you unfamiliar with the lectionary, it’s is a listing of Scripture passages assigned for each Sunday of the year. Sometimes a passage from the lectionary will inspire me and I’ll use it as the basis for my Reflection – and sometimes not so much. This week’s gospel passage was a challenging one, and I considered skipping it, but it kept whispering to me for several days, so I decided to go ahead and take it on. The passage is from Luke and is colored pink by the Jesus Seminar in The Five Gospels, which means scholars believe Jesus probably said something much like this. Pink and red (which means Jesus undoubtedly said it or something like it) are often assigned to Jesus’ sayings which are the hardest ones to hear … this morning is no exception.

Luke 12:13-21
Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” But Jesus said to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?” And he said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.” [Read more…]

Road Trip

“Reflections on a Road Trip,” Bob Ryder

“No one says, at the end of their life, “If only I’d spent more time at the office.”

Muhammad Ali “A man who views the world the same at fifty as he did at twenty has wasted thirty years of his life.”

Acts 9:1-19  Saul was still breathing threats of murder against the disciples of the Lord. He went to the high priest and asked for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way he could bring them bound to Jerusalem. As he was approaching Damascus, a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying, ‘Saul, why do you persecute me?’ Saul asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ The reply came, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.’ Saul got up, but though his eyes were open he could see nothing.  So his fellow travelers led him into Damascus, and for three days he was blind, and he neither ate nor drank. [Read more…]

Trust – Community

“Trust in the Community,” Bob Ryder

Lately I find myself fascinated with the story of Billy Beane, General Manager and Vice President of the Oakland Athletics.  His career is recounted in the book “Moneyball” by Michael Lewis, as well as in the motion picture by the same name. The hook of the story is Billy’s ahead-of-the-curve, game-changing insight for recognizing overlooked/undervalued talent in baseball players, and assembling winning teams for a small fraction of the enormous salary deployed by big-money dynasties such as Boston and New York to entice superstars. [Read more…]

Building Trust

“Building and Rebuilding Trust,” Susan Ryder

 As we continue our discussion of what it means to be a people of trust, we’ll begin by listening to a story told by BrenéBrown in a video on “The Anatomy of Trust.” I will link the video online and on Facebook so you can watch the whole thing – it’s about 20 minutes long, and worth the watch. For now we’ll just watch the first five minutes.

https://brenebrown.com/videos/anatomy-trust-video/ [Read more…]

Trust in Adversity

“Trust in Adversity,” Bob Ryder

“No one ever said life is fair.” (author unknown)
“When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” (author unknown)
“Tough times don’t last.  Tough people do.” Robert Schuller
“Good things come to those who wait.” (author unknown)
“You can’t always get what you want, but you get what you need.” Rolling Stones
“I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet’ Helen Keller [Read more…]

The Sacred Mystery of Life

This statement of faith by Jim Pruyne is a lightly edited excerpt by Dick Watts and Gwen Pruyne of two Reflections he offered at New Covenant Community, the church of which he was founding pastor. It was read at his memorial service at First Presbyterian Church, Normal, Illinois, on June 15, 2019.

The Sacred Mystery of Life
By Jim Pruyne

My belief is tentative, incomplete, ever changing, open to revision as I seek to listen to life in order to experience the presence of the sacred in all that surrounds me.

When I am asked whether I believe in God, I offer my current, tentative understanding.  When in the biblical story Moses pleads with God to reveal his name, the answer comes, “I am who I am.” Those words derive from the Hebrew verb, “to be.”  That is, God is not a being, but Being itself. [Read more…]

People of Trust

“What Does it Mean to be a People of Trust?” Susan Ryder

This morning we begin our June/July worship series dealing with what it means to be a people of trust. It’s a topic with many different facets, so we’ll have much to explore over the coming weeks. This morning we’ll consider what it means for us as progressive Christians to be a people of trust – and I’ll invite you to ponder a question. When it comes to your own spirituality – where do you put your trust? In yourself and your own agency or responsibility? In God? Or a combination of the two?

Be thinking about that question as I begin with a couple of readings.

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. [Read more…]

Easing the Rocky Parts

“Journeying: Easing the Rocky Parts,” Rev. Jim Turner


Hebrew Scriptures – Ecclesiastes 12:1-8

Christian Scriptures – 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

bibleodyssey.org – Excerpts from article,

“Suicide in the Bible” by Paul Middleton[Read more…]

Mapping Our Trail

“Journeying: Mapping Our Trail,” Rev. Jim Turner


From the Hebrew Scriptures:  Genesis 1:31-2:3

From the Christian Scriptures:  Mark 6:30-32

An adapted excerpt from a poem by Billy Collins

Aristotle [Read more…]

Like a Mother

“Like a Mother,” Susan Ryder


Matthew 15:21-28
Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly. [Read more…]