January 18, 2018
by Dr. R. Scott
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Spiritual Life Retreat (Yes, even you will like it!)

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I’m so excited to offer a spiritual life retreat on February 10, 2018. We will begin on that Saturday morning at 8.30 and go to noon. I’m going to focus the retreat on a small book by Henri Nouwen titled: The Inner Voice of Love: A Journey Through Anguish to Freedom. The format of the retreat will be one of joyful sharing and learning from one another. There will be plenty of discussion, and also time for personal reflection and quiet. Anyone is welcome to attend, and no, you don’t have to be a member of First Church. All are welcome. If you are interested in attending the retreat, held here in Los Angeles, and would like more details, please contact Karina Fernandez — kfernandez@fccla.org

A few quotes from the book . . .

“There are two ways of telling your story. One is to tell it compulsively and urgently, to keep returning to it because you see your present suffering as the result of your past experiences. But there is another way. You can tell your story from the place where it no longer dominates you. You can speak about it with a certain distance and see it as the way to your present freedom.”

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“You feel a strange sadness. An enormous loneliness emerges, but you are not frightened. You feel vulnerable but safe at the same time. Jesus is where you are, and you can trust that he will show you the next step.”

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“You are called to unity. That is the good news of the Incarnation. The Word becomes flesh, and thus a new place is made where all of you and all of God can dwell. When you have found that unity, you will be truly free.”

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“When others stop loving you, you do not have to stop loving them. On a human level, changes might be necessary, but on the level of the divine, you can remain faithful to your love.”

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“The great paradox of love is that precisely when you have claimed yourself as God’s beloved child, have set boundaries to your love, and thus contained your needs, you begin to grow into the freedom to give gratuitously.”

January 11, 2018
by Dr. R. Scott
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Singing. For. Justice.

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This coming Sunday we’re going to sing for justice at First Congregational Church of Los Angeles. Literally and metaphorically.

Metaphorically, we’ll dedicate ourselves again to a vision of justice and racial equality. I’ll preach my sermon titled — “Why We Still Need Dr. King.” I plan to highlight some of the visits that Dr. King made to Los Angeles. Please join me if you’re in Los Angeles for what promises to be a very special Sunday. If you’re not in Los Angeles, take a minute this coming weekend and give thanks for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. His vision of justice and peace are desperately needed today.

But we’ll sing literally too. In fact, our Director of Music, Dr. David Harris, is inviting anyone to join the choir for a Sunday! Show up this Sunday morning at 9.30 am and then sing for justice in our service with the Chancel Choir. If you have EVER sung in a choir, join them this week. If you’ve always wanted to sing in a choir, now is your chance. And if you want the best seat in the house, the sing this Sunday!

Let’s lift our voices for understanding and love and justice. Equality and peace and shared life together in our country. I love the diversity of our church. We’ve come a long way, but we have a long way to go. We’re trying to be a place of radical love and hospitality. See you Sunday as we celebrate the legacy of our faith and the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Take a Breath. And then let’s sing this Sunday!

December 31, 2017
by Dr. R. Scott
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Thank. You. Happy. New Year.

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Thank you for reading and sharing “Take a Breath” this past year.

I wish each and every one of you a blessed New Year.

Full of good, clean, beautiful breaths.

Breaths of thinking.

Breaths of feeling.

Breaths of wisdom and awareness and kindness.

Breaths of love and compassion and forgiveness.

For those of you in Los Angeles, thank you for participating and sharing life together at First Congregational Church of Los Angeles. Our congregation has become one of the most remarkable, dynamic churches on the West Coast. Seeing you each week makes all the difference in the world. Thank you.

And for those of you scattered around the country and world, who stay in touch by way of this “Take a Breath” blog, thank you for the many ways you bring encouragement and insight to my life. Please know that I will breath in gratitude for each of you in this New Year.

 

December 21, 2017
by Dr. R. Scott
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Christmas Want. Christmas Need. Christmas Get.

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The Christmas we want is often idealized from our childhood. I want snow. (I’m not going to get snow in Los Angeles, but I want it.) I want kindness and tenderness, and I want everyone I know, including family and friends, to be happy. I want to have warm feelings and good memories, and I want to get a few presents under the tree too! I want the world to rest in peace on Christmas. That would be present enough.

And then there is the Christmas we need, and that is often very different from the Christmas we want. Sometimes the Christmas we need is not warm and fuzzy. It might not even be happy. Every now and then Christmas can be painful, but sometimes a painful Christmas is what we need. It becomes soul material for us. It changes us. Helps us grow and shapes our inner being.

And then there is the Christmas we get, and what we get is usually some combination of what we want and what we need. The Christmas we get invites us to be present with all that is — our happiness and unhappiness, our good memories and painful memories, the people around our table and the people not around our table.

Our wants becomes our prayers. Our needs become our soul material. And our gets become, simply stated, our real opportunity to embrace the God of the present moment. Take a Breath on this Winter Solstice day. Something is drawing close to us. I can feel it. It’s whispering our name. Breathing into our hearts. Christmas is coming, and if we’re lucky, we’ll get a little of what we want, a little of what we need, and we’ll get, well, we’ll get what we get.

December 20, 2017
by Dr. R. Scott
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Christmas. Simplicity.

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To contemplate the Christ child is an act of simplicity. It is a pause. A break. A breath. To contemplate the birth of this child, recognizing again that God cracked open the world through is simple birth, is an act of faith. His message was love. His life was compassion. His teaching was wisdom. Oh how complicated it all becomes during this week of Christmas. Traveling through busy airports and driving down crowded freeways and shopping for one more gift. Families are still torn apart by ambiguous feelings and relationships remain unresolved for yet another holiday. But today, a few days before Christmas, a day that leads us to Christmas, I invite you to Take a Breath. Contemplate the bare bones of the story of a mother and child and a birth. Simplicity but never simplistic.

December 19, 2017
by Dr. R. Scott
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Try. Church.

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Try church. Sunday is Christmas Eve. Try church. All around the world congregations will hold services this coming Sunday. There is not a more sacred, beautiful, and meaningful day in the life of a church than Christmas Eve. Try church. If you’re in Los Angeles, I hope you will try First Congregational Church. We will have a service at 11 AM. We will celebrate the Christmas Story through the eyes of children. Our Chancel Ringers will play. We’ll have a baptism. I’ll preach (a very short) sermon incorporating art work by Henri Matisse into our service. Try church. In the evening we’ll have two services of Lessons and Carols and Candlelight at 8 PM and 11 PM. I’ve had a sneak preview of the music. It will be lovely. Christoph Bull, one of the great musicians in the country, will play a 30 minute concert before each service, 7.30 PM and 10.30 PM respectively. My homily is titled “The Human Touch of God.” We will sing “Silent Night” and raise our flickering candles into the air, a ritual affirmation of God’s light in the world. Try church. Take a Breath this week. Plan your menus. Wrap your presents. Be safe if you are traveling. Attend your parties. But do yourself a favor this Christmas. Try church.

 

 

December 18, 2017
by Dr. R. Scott
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A. Little. Christmas.

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And so I put aside for a few days my big dreams, my large plans that this Christmas will be better than ever. Instead, it’s a little Christmas I want this year. Like this Renaissance painting that hangs in a gallery at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, a small Christmas, a quiet Christmas can be a good thing. That’s what I want. This painting is measured only in a few inches. It’s tucked away into an obscure corner. There are more impressive paintings in the same gallery, to be sure, the kind that attract the attention of scholars and visitors alike. But this small painting of Mary and the child, flanked by two angels, is a vision of quiet and calm. A petite Christmas. That’s what I want. A few carols. A few prayers. Time with friends. A call from my granddaughter. I want to hold a single candle on Christmas Eve, believing again that light still shines in darkness. I want to know that I have loved this past year. I want the simplicity of Taking a Breath. And then another. And then another. Aware that every breath is a gift. I want that for you and me, and I want it for all God’s children around the world. A little Christmas.

December 6, 2017
by Dr. R. Scott
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Praying. For. Firefighters.

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They are first on the scene and last to leave. They risk their lives every single day. They save people. They save houses and buildings. So many days they are the unsung heroes of our communities. But not today. At least not today in Los Angeles. The world is on fire. They are converging on fires on the westside of the city, north of the city, and all around southern California. I am praying for firefighters. I am praying for pilots in planes and helicopters dropping water inside canyons that are exploding with flames. We throw the the word “hero” around way too much, so far as I’m concerned. But not today. Today the heroes are driving red trucks, trudging up steep terrain, and they are risking everything to help those in need. Join me in Taking a Breath today. A breath for firefighters.

 

December 5, 2017
by Dr. R. Scott
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Comfort (in the city of angels).

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This coming Sunday my sermon is titled “The Art of Christmas: Comfort in the City of Angels” I plan to explore the meaning of comfort — partly an experience that makes  us feel better and partly an experience of finding strength for our life challenges. I think many of us, myself included, turn to faith for comfort. U2 frontman, Bono, once said that his two favorite songs were — “Amazing Grace” and “Help Me Make It Through the Night.” (I can see how they go together.) This week I’m going to preach a sermon for everyone who has ever needed comfort, especially during a holiday season. I’m dedicating it to everyone who is hanging on to life by their fingernails, taking it hour by hour, and day by day. For my artistic reflection, I’m using a work by Picasso. It’s titled the “Weeping Woman.” Sometimes a painting is a painting. But sometimes a painting is a mirror. Regardless of what you see, I hope you’ll join me Sunday at 11 AM and embrace the gift of comfort.

 

November 23, 2017
by Dr. R. Scott
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When Thanksgiving Doesn’t Feel Like Thanksgiving.

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It’s over 90 degrees in Los Angeles and it doesn’t feel like Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is supposed to be cold and blustery. Perhaps a snow flurry or too. But not today in California. The air conditioning is running. The calendar says it’s Thanksgiving, but sometimes what we feel is not the same as what the calendar says.

I’m not complaining, mind you, I’m just saying that sometimes Thanksgiving is different. And as far as that goes, the same can be said for birthdays and Christmas celebrations and family reunions. What we think should be . . . doesn’t appear. What we once had . . . will never return. Some of people we once loved . . . are gone. My dad is gone.

Yet it is Thanksgiving. Not the same, perhaps, but Thanksgiving nevertheless. To be in the present moment is to surrender to God. There. I said it. God. Take a Breath today. Whoever you are. Whatever you are doing. Take a Breath. Be still. Be thankful for what is. It’s not that last year was better. There’s no a promise that next year will be any better. The only gift we have is today. Right now. It is Thanksgiving. Give thanks.