postcards from sabbatical – week 9

postcards from sabbatical – week 9

Dear Faith Friends, All five members of the family (husband, two daughters, the dog, me) made a very familiar drive from Indianapolis to Grand Lake, CO.  The second year Gene and I were married, we bought a cabin about the size of my office at Faith that’s half a mile outside Rocky Mountain National Park.  I grew up in the Canadian and American Rockies (in Calgary, Alberta and Golden, Colorado) and now our girls have grown up as mountain children, too. Having the cabin has meant our family hasn’t traveled as widely for vacations as some families. (It’s one of the reasons that our trip to Greece was so extraordinary.)  It has given a second home to all of us.  We just start down the road to the cabin and the mountains and we are already on vacation.  No need to settle in, figure out our way around, or learn what there is to do.  It’s instant restoration. That’s a good thing, this year because most of the family won’t get much time here.  The eldest daughter has a five-week internship in community housing development in Seattle and the youngest needs to get ready for her senior year of high school and last year of basketball. But, just being here is a touchstone for us. A reset button.  A spiritual renewal.  The ruggedness, majesty and oxygen depletion of this place sets us right, makes sure we keep the right perspective.  We live in particular amazing place of God’s making, are close to one another day and night, live simply, and spend more time outside than inside.  We walk and watch and...
postcards from sabbatical – week 8

postcards from sabbatical – week 8

Dear Faith Friends, The three flights and 30 hours of travel that got us from Athens to Washington, DC, weren’t as bad as we expected.  We were thankful for that because it meant that we could really enjoy the time with at the Shipman reunion. Every year, for 27 years, my husband’s children and grandchildren have been gathering at North Myrtle Beach, SC, on Father’s Day.  My sabbatical threw all of that off this year, as we would be in Greece during June.  One daughter had the inspired idea of using this opportunity to visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture.  All tickets are timed entry now and we had to plan four months in advance, but it was worth it. The history section begins by taking you down an elevator, back in time to the 1400’s when enslavement of African peoples and slave trade in Europe and the Americas began. Slowly we walked up through the history of oppression, dehumanization, cruelty, greed, resistance, overcoming, confession and persistence that is the story of America and the story of African-Americans.  It was moving, filled with shame and pride. The story is still unfolding, of course.  I am grateful to our Sunday school class that has tackled “Waking Up White and Finding Myself in the Story of Race”, by Debbie Irving.  The need for knowledge of history, self-understanding and radical openness to the other is so important for those of us in the majority if there is to be hope for our nation.  I believe that, as Christians, we accept a greater responsibility for changing our society. To be...
July 16 Sermon by Rev. Dr. Galen Schwarz

July 16 Sermon by Rev. Dr. Galen Schwarz

What has happened to Wonder? Psalm 8 As I began this week to write this sermon, all I could think of was the old Learner and Loewe’s song from Camelot: I wonder what the king is doing tonight? What merriment is the king pursuing tonight? The candles at the court, they never burned as bright. I wonder what the king is up to tonight? It’s a delightful little song sung by a fully human king who is afraid of marriage; especially to a woman he does not know.  And as he begins a new chapter in his life with a new relationship on the horizon, it seems to be somewhat of a good place to begin our look at the 8th Psalm, for at the core of this psalm is the foundation of the relationship between the people of Israel and their God. And that particular recollection made me ponder or “wonder” about the true meaning of that word “Wonder”. There really are some complexities to this word for the three meanings take us in slightly different directions.  Wonder is defined as “to speculate or be curious about something”; “to doubt something”, or “to be filled with admiration, amazement or awe”.  All three definitions, though pulling us sometimes in different directions, are part of what the psalmist is struggling with as he or she recites this psalm of great praise. Let me take you back to a time long ago when humanity had far less information to comprehend, and what was packed into their brains was necessary for survival.  There really wasn’t much time to ponder or wonder.  It...
postcards from sabbatical – week 7

postcards from sabbatical – week 7

Dear Faith Friends, We had four wonderful and rich (and very hot!) days in Athens.  The Acropolis was our first stop.  The beauty and immensity of the Acropolis, the Hadrian Wall, all of the temples, and – especially – the Parthenon are remarkable. The next day, we got up early to visit the Agora, the marketplace. In the afternoon, we went to the new (air conditioned) Acropolis Museum.  It is an excellent resource for imagining and understanding the life, politics, art and religion of ancient Greece. All of those spots were teaming with people. Fewer people climbed up to explore the Areopagus.  The Areopagus is an enormous boulder, poised between the Acropolis and the Agora.  Here, between the sites of worship and everyday life, Paul proclaimed good news to all nations. The Areopagus isn’t fenced off, as other sites.  You don’t need to pay to visit it. There are no plaques to read.  Those of us who were present spoke quietly, took fewer pictures and lingered longer. We were taking in the marvelous knowledge that the world – and our lives – were changed by words spoken here.  And our lives are still being transformed by the God we know, who is never far from us. Blessings on the journey, Charlotte What…you worship as unknown, I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything it it, the One who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, nor is served by human hands, as though this Divine One needed anything. From one ancestor God made all nations…so that they would search for God...
July 9 Sermon by Rev. Dr. Galen Schwarz

July 9 Sermon by Rev. Dr. Galen Schwarz

Are You Comfortable in your Skin? Philippians 4:2-20 A year ago or so Shaquille O’Neal, the well know and accomplished basketball player first for the Orland Magic and finally for the Boston Celtics, was featured in an advertisement for Dial soap where he told the story of his battle with stuttering as a child.  He told of his embarrassment, his struggle to avoid being called upon by his teacher in class and the strategies that he used to avoid that embarrassment. The pitch was to get men to feel comfortable using a product what was formally considered a female product as it ran during the broadcast of the Super Bowl.  It ended with the basketball star saying, “I am Shaquille O’Neal and I am comfortable in my skin.”    Interestingly enough the title of that commercial was called “The Journey to Contentment.” Contentment: that is something that all of us long for in most, if not all, of the areas of life.  The problem is that we don’t really know how to get it.  When one looks at the literature of contentment, one always finds a financial or material element that society places with it.  Contentment is found in more money society says. A comedian was once asked what it meant to be content and she said, “An extra 50K a year.”  This was a good example because it shows how contentment based on finances is always just beyond our reach.  And I suppose that we could use that same argument in a great many areas of life to describe what contentment is:  It just seems to always be beyond...