Comfort and Protection - Pastor April's Sermon 5/08

One of the traditions in the Blaine family, is that every Sunday night is movie night. We've had this tradition since Marcus was about two years old and so over the years we've had a chance to see lots of different children's movies.  When Marcus was about three years old we watched the movie Winnie the Pooh for the first time. Now we had tried to be pretty careful up to this point to be sure and show movies that were not too scary for a three-year-old.  And so we thought, what could be more tame and fine and not scary than Winnie the Pooh?


I should start by saying **spoiler alert **since I'm about to tell you what happens in the movie - so if you were planning to watch this movie from 5 years ago and I'm about to spoil it then please feel free to cover your ears.


The drama in the movie is prompted by a note that Christopher Robin leaves for his friends in the 100 acre wood.  The note says simply gone out. Busy. Back soon. Unfortunately for the animals in the forest they cannot read very well.   So when owl reads the note to the friends, instead of reading "back soon" he reads that Christopher Robin is gone because he has been taken by a  bakson.  The animals all begin to imagine what this terrible bakson could be and this ensues the plot of trying to build a trap for the bakson.  Of course, the movie ends with the return of Christopher Robin from school and the easy explanation of how things got confused.


Now unfortunately when you were three years old you don't have much concept for spelling. And so the whole idea that the Backson was just something that was a mistake or a misunderstanding. Was completely lost on Marcus.


And so, for weeks and weeks after watching this movie Marcus would go to bed at night terrified and afraid that the Backson was going to come and get him.   No amount of logical explanation was helpful in this case and so each night Martin and I had to go through the room look under the bed open up the closet and eventually scare away the backs him so that he was clear that he was not allowed to come in to Marcus's bedroom at night.

Every night - we would tell him - don't worry Marcus - we will keep watch for the bakson and we won't let him in your room.


Nightime can be a scary time when you are a kid.  Things that you are brave enough to handle in the light of day all seem much different when the lights are out and when you are all alone.  I know I struggled with this as well as a child. At night,  what I wanted to know most of all to know was that I was safe and cared for and that everything would be OK.  My mother finished making this blanket just a few weeks after I was born and it remained with me nearly every night for a long time - including many years as an adult.  When I would feel scared or alone at night, I would hug this blanket tight, bury my face in it and breathe deeply.


When we become adults our moments of greatest challenge and struggle are not so easily divided between night and day - but the desire for safety, the need to feel as if we are going to be alright, cared for, nurtured, - it never really goes away.


For the past couple of weeks, we've been reading this section of scripture in the gospel of john where Jesus is speaking with his disciples for the final time.  He has told them about the coming of the Holy Spirit.  And in this section - he is praying for them.  He is asking for God to keep watch over them, to care for them, to keep them safe and to guard them for all that is to come.

Holy Father, protect them by the power of[b] your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one.

Now I’m coming to you and I say these things while I’m in the world so that they can share completely in my joy.

 I’m not asking that you take them out of this world but that you keep them safe from the evil one.

The prayer is beautiful for so many reasons, because at some level Jesus is praying for the child in all of us – who longs to know that someone is watching out for us – keeping the Baksons and monsters away and seeking to preserve and keep us.

But the prayer is much deeper.

He’s clear that he’s not asking God to remove the disciples from the world.

This protection and safety isn’t about stopping challenges and struggles and even the facing of evil.

Jesus is praying that in the midst of those challenges – that our hearts would be kept safe.

The poem illustrates this so incredibly beautifully.

Keeping Watch (click the link)

The Beloved Spirit watches over us while we sleep but more importantly each day lights anew our Spirit.

Ensuring that our hearts are guarded.  And that we are safe.

Jesus seems to know that the greatest risk, the greatest danger ahead of the disciples is not the adversity and opposition that they will face.

It is the very real danger that their hearts would become guarded and stingy and fearful and cold.

And so the prayer is like the poem – that each day the flame would be reignited and light would begin anew in their hearts.  Even in the face of challenges.

One of my favorite Christian artists is a woman named Sara Groves.  Her music speaks to my soul in ways that is so meaningful and helpful.  Perhaps a part of the connection is that we are about the same age and that she also is the mother of two sons.  One of her songs I find particularly lovely is called “Song for My Sons”

It is a song of advice from a mom – about how she tried her best to teach them and love them.  It is a song about her hopes for her boys.

But the chorus is where the heart of the song lies. And when the cold wind blows like I know it will And when you feel alone like I know you will Don’t let your love grow cold

The prayer of this mother and the prayer of Jesus is that in the midst of lives greatest struggles – which will come.

That the flame of love that burns within us – that was placed there because we were made in the image of God – a god of love and grace and compassion –

That this part of who we are would stay ablaze.

And we know how hard this is.

When life brings us challenges – and hardship and pain – it is easy to think that we are protecting ourselves and keeping ourselves secure and safe – by shutting down our hearts.  By walling ourselves off from feeling and experiencing and sharing love.

For some of us – our hearts have been entrusted into the hands of others and they have broken that trust.  And the pain that comes with that is difficult to bear.  So difficult that we want to never feel that pain again.

But Jesus knows and Sara Groves knows, and Hafiz knows and in honesty you and I know - that the truth is – that these walls that we think will protect us don’t really bring us the security and the peace that we long for.

That the only way to that kind of sense that all will be well is to walk into the places of vulnerability.  To run the risk of rejection and monsters – but to trust that the one who is greater is still keeping watch – over our lives –

But more importantly over our hearts.

And that it is here where we are ACTUALLY the safest.

Held perfectly in the love of our creator – with hearts of love – sharing in the JOY of Christ.

Yesterday I watched my friend the Rev. David Meredith get married to his partner of 28 years, Jim.  It was such a moment of joy.  The wedding was filled with beautiful liturgy, witnesses and testimonies, and some fantastic showtunes.

It was a day of deep abiding love.  And woven within the day was the reality of the struggle – of what it had taken to arrive at this place – and the great courage and boldness that it represented.  A deep love grounded in the trust of God.

And of course – within hours – there were fellow clergy in our connection calling for David’s suspension.  And calling for the pastor of Broad Street’s suspension.  And calling for the suspension of all pastors who have officiated same sex weddings because we had all broken the rules.

But the problem was I had just been in the presence of love and joy.  And the Spirit had been watching over my heart and lighting a flame.  So even when I saw the statements of venom – I still felt JOY.

And so what I will be praying for in the days to come – for me and for you and for our church.  Is that the God who made us in the very image of the living breathing God – not a static, passive God – but a living, dynamic, God of newness and resurrection of life and change – that this God would keep watch over us.  Over me.  Over you.  Over the nearly 1000 delegates headed to General Conference this week.  And that each morning they and we would awaken with the sense that we had been watched over.  That the monsters we feared weren’t there – and that we had been awoken with a kiss on the forehead – igniting in our hearts the depth of love – by which we could then go into the world.

The kind of love that would remind us of our connection to each other.

The kind of love – that no matter what came our way – allowed us to stay present to the JOY of the Lord.

May the Spirit of the living God keep watch over us.  Preserve us and keep us and guard our hearts to remain in this place.


Life With the Friend - Pastor April's Sermon - 4/24

In the words of a brilliant musician who left this life too early this week –  

Dearly Beloved


We are Gathered here today to get through this thing called Life.


Like many folks around the world after hearing of the death of Prince at the age of 57, I revisited some of his music – songs that had been a part of the soundtrack of my life during various seasons and stages.


Prince certainly had a mass pop music appeal, but his music also transcended genres. And the lyrics actually had quite a bit of depth. I was struck as I listened again to the songs with new ears – by the longing that I heard. There is a longing in the lyrics of his songs for a love that is real. For companionship and friendship that goes beneath the surface. That isn’t just a flash in the pan. But that has staying power.


Artists often have an incredible way of getting to the heart of things, of speaking on our behalf of the real human struggle and striving -

naming what we really at the end of the day want most.


I speak often of the image of the Holy Trinity – in the icon painted by Andrei Rublev. Largely because it reminds us that the very nature of God is community – intimate connection, love, and fellowship.trinity


And we were made in the image of this God –


And so when Prince sings Purple Rain - about the longing in his heart for a joy not just for him but also for the person he loves most.


He is speaking about our very nature as created children of God. Made for connection.


Connection with each other and connection with God.


In our Scripture today, we see Jesus preparing his closest companions for what is about to come.


They have been closely connected, doing life together daily for these past few years – learning and growing.


But Jesus knows what is coming and that his time with them is soon coming to an end in just a few days.


Jesus wants to be very clear about how that connection is going to continue.


Read Scripture


I always struggled a bit with understanding and conceptualizing the work of the Holy Spirit.


Jesus made sense.


Even God the Father, I could wrap my head around.


But the Spirit – wind, flame, ethereal power or energy moving through the world, and as Jesus speaks in this Scripture – the spirit of truth living in us.


While I know I have experienced the work of this Spirit in many moments in my life, I always had trouble describing this to others – putting it into words.

(Click the link below to read the poem)

hafizpoems-week 4


The lyrics I quoted earlier were from the song, “Let’s Go Crazy”


Dearly Beloved

We are gathered here together to get through this thing called life.


The background music is kind of churchy/organ music and Prince speaks these words as if he is the preacher.


But then the song goes on to say that there is something better – something in the future – after we die that will bring us meaning and happiness and connection.


But since we won’t find that fully here – in this life – on this side of eternity – we might as well do our best to enjoy the ride – to cherish what we have – and to live to the fullest.


To try to get through this thing called life.


Now, I don’t know if this is still where Prince was in his thinking and religious experience by the end of his life – for he wrote this pretty early in his career.


But I hope somewhere along the way – he began to take in and understand and connect with the words of the Scripture today.


Which tells us that this relationship, this connection, this intimacy that we so long for with the one who created us – it lives in us. Now.


And so we don’t just have to try and get through this life.


We get to live it to the fullest.




Black Sacred Music Presentation

Celebrate Black History month and be inspired by our presentation of "Reflect, Reclaim, Rejoice: Preserving the Gift of Black Sacred Music" on Sunday, February 7, right after church service (11:45 or so), in the church lounge.  We will view a 30 -minute DVD with lots of recordings of church choirs who still practice these historic musical forms, share a little about our experiences with this music and SING! If you are unable to attend the presentation, it is available to view online at:


Have you ever wanted to learn to play guitar? Check out Guitar 101!

Guitar 101

Have you ever wanted to learn to play guitar?  Once a month Summit offers our Guitar 101 Beginner's Workshop, a fun and easy way to learn guitar a little bit at a time! We meet one Sunday a month, the second Sunday of the month, after worship service, from about 11:45 to 12:15 in the Centrum. Bring your own guitar if possible, or share one of ours. We start with three basic chords and basic strumming patterns and learn songs right away using those chGuitar 101 on Sept 28 2014ords.  In time we progress to new chords and new songs with the help of our guitar mentors. We select one of the songs for our Guitar Group to play in church the next Sunday. Don't be shy!  Invest 30 minutes of your life to learn a fun and creative skill!  Folks of all ages are welcome, including kids!  Our Guitar 101 dates for the 2015-2016 season are:

  • Sunday, September 13
  • Sunday, October 11
  • Sunday, November 8
  • Sunday, December 13
  • Sunday, January 10
  • Sunday, February 14
  • Sunday, March 13
  • Sunday, April 10
  • Sunday, May 8

Questions?  Contact Sue McQuilkin at

Join our "Hallelujah Chorus" this Easter!

Easter will be here before we know it - March 27th this year - and, as in years past, a highlight of our Easter service will be the singing of Handel's glorious "Hallelujah" chorus!  We invite all who wish to sing along to join Summit Singers to create a wonderful mass choir.  If you'd like to brush up on your part, click here for a recording with sheet music:  We hope you'll join us on Sunday, March 27!  


Join in Singing "The Lord Bless You and Keep You" on Graduation Sunday

Join in singing our traditional blessing, "The Lord Bless You and Keep You" on Graduation Sunday! It's become our tradition to sing a blessing to our graduating Seniors each spring as well as to other church members throughout the year who are moving on from Summit.  If you'd like to join our chorus and would like to brush-up on "The Lord Bless You and Keep You" by Peter Lutkin, please click here for a recording with the sheet music to follow along:


Winter Solstice Celebration - Monday, December 21, 7:00-8:30 pm

Solstice Celebration 2013Summit on 16th United Methodist Church is hosting the Annual Winter Solstice Celebration on Monday, December 21, 7:00-8:30 pm.  This is an opportunity to take time out of the Christmas rush and enjoy singing, dancing, drumming and guided meditation in an inter-spiritual gathering that is open to everyone.    The inter-faith evening will bring together elements of a variety of spiritual traditions, with music by the Columbus Women's Drum Chorus, 7th House Moon and members of Summit Singers and Summit Band. Why celebrate the Winter Solstice?

The winter solstice is the shortest day of the year, and marks a turning point toward the return of the light and warmth of summer.   Cultures through history have celebrated at this time of the year, and many people today also feel drawn to mark the solstice.   The Christmas festival itself parallels some of the themes of the winter solstice:  Christ's birth takes place "in the bleak midwinter"; it was heralded by a bright star; and it symbolizes the return of light to a dark world.  It is natural for us to be aware of the seasons, and to be deeply affected by them.  A winter solstice celebration reflects on - and draws attention to - our connection to the natural world.

The Summit solstice celebration will be a movement from the darkness to the light.

Pastor April will welcome the gathering and lead a prayer of thanks.

Elizabeth Reed from the Shalem Center will set the scene by telling us about the ancient Aramaic roots to some of the words we often use in worship, and their connection to pre-Christian cultures. Later she will lead a circle dance.

Rita Carnevale of Spirit Moves Illuminated will lead a guided meditation.

Admission is free.  An offering will be taken to support two local organizations: Freedom School and Faith Mission.