March 29, 2018
by Dr. R. Scott
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Andy Warhol. And the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

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I have pondered for many years the soup cans of Andy Warhol. I’ve always liked them. But I’ve been especially thinking about them this week as I’m preparing for the celebration of Easter Sunday. What is the relationship between Andy and Jesus? I’m not exactly sure, but I like the fact that Andy Warhol understood that the ordinary delivers to the world something that is good and true and beautiful. That is to say, common, ordinary, daily life is a sacrament of the holy. This, of course, is exactly what Jesus taught us. He compared the working of God to yeast quietly transforming dough, or a seed silently germinating in the ground, or birds singing in the trees, or a wedding party for a bride and groom. God is not found in the one great thunderbolt experience. (At least not usually.) God is found by paying attention to the ordinary things of our daily existence. If you really want to have an Easter experience — In addition to showing up at First Church this Sunday at 11 AM! — you might consider this: Just Take a Breath and then begin paying attention. Paying attention to what? Everything! Including soup cans.

March 23, 2018
by Dr. R. Scott
1 Comment

Courage. (To Be Religious)

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As I prepare for Palm Sunday, and then my Holy Week journey, I think of those ancient people who greeted Jesus along the roadside, crying out Hosanna and enthusiastically waving palm branches.

It strikes me that being religious requires courage. The kind of courage / heart that gets you out of the house, out of yourself, that moves you toward ritual and liturgy, communion and fellowship with others.

To say you believe in God, that you value faith and religion and community, to show up at a church or temple at the beginning of the 21st century, has become an act of protest. Protest against the secularism of our day. The rampant consumerism of our time. It’s a protest against the vulgarization of life.

This is only an invitation . . . but if you could find your way to a church this Sunday, and maybe a service or two during Holy Week, and then culminate your week on Easter Sunday, you might find what many of us find, namely, that to be religious is like taking a deep breath. And Taking a Breath is everything.

March 20, 2018
by Dr. R. Scott
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Two. Days. Two. Marches.

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This coming weekend is a weekend of marches.

On Saturday, March 24, I am inviting friends to meet me at First Congregational Church of Los Angeles at 8.30 AM, and then we’ll head downtown to march, and with out marching we’ll be saying that enough is enough, and that it’s time to put an end to gun violence in our country, and that it’s time to make our schools safe, and it’s time to make easy gun access a thing of the past. I’m going to stand with young people all over the country who are sick and tired of being afraid. I’m going to stand with young people who do not understand why it is still so easy to buy an assault weapon in our country. I am nothing more than an imperfect follower of Jesus Christ, but I know enough about Jesus Christ to know that he is the Prince of Peace, and it is the Prince of Peace who inspires me to march.

And then Sunday morning, March 25, we’ll have another kind of march. A liturgical march. I’ll march down the beautiful center aisle of First Congregational Church with choir members and deacons and children, waving palm branches and remember the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem centuries ago. I will remember how much courage it took for people to celebrate the presence of Jesus that day and how much courage it took for Jesus to move toward his inevitable death. I will also encourage our congregation to find new courage for our time and day, courage to love and courage to live and courage to celebrate, even though some days it feels as if our world is falling apart all around us. My sermon is titled — “Braving the Wilderness: Courage is Everything!” I hope to see you this Sunday!

Take a Breath today. If you’re in Los Angeles this coming weekend . . . join me and march! March on Saturday if you are so moved. March on Palm Sunday if you are so moved. When it comes down to it, what is faith but mustering a little courage and putting one foot in front of the other.

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March 14, 2018
by Dr. R. Scott
1 Comment

Stephen. Hawking.

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Like many around the world, I mourn the passing of Stephen Hawking, and I share with you one of my favorite quotes from the famed professor, scientist and intellectual. Have suffered from ALS for years, he once said, “Spend more time looking up at the stars and less time staring down at your shoes.” Take a Breath, my dear friends, here’s to more stargazing!

March 14, 2018
by Dr. R. Scott
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This. Is. Democracy.

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This morning Pilgrim School students gathered to remember (a sacred act of honoring those killed in Florida one month ago today). They also gathered as a sign of protest (another sacred act of advocating for justice in our society). To see young people care about something other than their own adolescent needs is nothing short of inspiring. I love these students. I love their families. And I love that they are creating the kind of world that will be better for all of us. Enough is enough!

February 25, 2018
by Dr. R. Scott
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Sunday. Night.

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On Sunday nights, like most ministers, I suppose, I feel bone-weary exhaustion. Yet I am also filled with gratitude. A wonderful choir inspired me this morning. Many young adults were in our worship service to explore the meaning of community. A few old grievances were put aside. Each week I preach to a church that makes me think and feel more deeply than ever before. I love preaching at First Congregational Church of Los Angeles. After church the weather was amazing, and we shared friendship with one another, not superficial friendship, but something real and wonderful and uplifting while enjoying the California sun. I feel inspired to see young adults taking the lead in ending gun violence in schools. This summer I will celebrate my 10th anniversary at First Congregational Church of Los Angeles, but tonight, a Sunday night, I am filled with gratitude for every church member, every staff member, and for the miracle of feeling like I am where I need to be and doing what I need to do, and that I am in a church where I really, truly, gratefully belong. A church in Los Angeles faces daunting challenges. Nothing supports church participation in LA culture. But somehow, each Sunday, something special happens, something remarkable happens, and it fills me with gratitude. I can be as cynical as the next person. I don’t like to admit it but it’s true. But some Sundays God breaks through, melting something that has grown unresponsive inside my soul and making me more open and receptive to the vibrato of the universe. I am Taking a Breath tonight. Maybe you will Take a Breath tonight or on Monday morning. Faith is not so much about what you believe; it is about how open you are to the life God is giving us at any given moment. I end every sermon each week with these words — “I love you all. Let’s love one another.” I think I will end this Sunday night with the same words.

PS – If you have not been in church recently — I’m talking to a few of you Los Angeles folks — let me see you this Sunday. We need one another!

February 17, 2018
by Dr. R. Scott
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What. Your. Minister. Wants. You. To. Know.

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What your minister wants you to know is that on a Saturday he or she works on a sermon, that the sermon didn’t start on a Saturday, but it is given time and care and love on a Saturday, and the point of a sermon is to share it with you on a Sunday morning. Your minister wants you to know that he or she hopes you will be in church the next day. I know it sounds simple but it’s true. The minister who writes a sermon does so because he or she believes people need to hear it, feel it, and be shaped by some theological idea or story. And it’s not just the sermon, but it’s the whole service that has been planned with care and attention. You may think that your presence doesn’t really matter on a Sunday morning, and ministers certainly understand how busy life is for everyone, but your presence does matter to your minister. It matters more than what any of them will ever say to you. Your minister doesn’t say it to you, because he or she doesn’t want to come across as needy, and for goodness sake, your minister doesn’t want you to attend church out of obligation to him or her. It’s just that, well, it’s just that it really inspires your minister to see you. It’s about the whole service, and seeing one another before church and after church that makes such a huge difference. Your minister wants you to know that 99% of being a church is showing up. Something special happens when people show up. Can you be a good person and not attend church? Of course! No minister in his or her right mind would say otherwise. It’s just that, well, it’s just that churches either work or don’t work. They work when people show up and they don’t work when people don’t show up, and your minister, perhaps young, perhaps old, perhaps tired, it doesn’t really matter, but your minister wants desperately for the church to work. Tomorrow is the beginning of the Lenten season. Six weeks leading up to Easter. Every minister around the country harbors a secret hope, namely, that church members will show up every Sunday during Lent. Again, he or she may not say it like that, but today he or she is thinking it. Sometimes ministers struggle because, again they never say this out loud, but sometimes they feel like they want something for the church more than the church wants something for the church. Churches don’t belong to ministers. Churches belong to the members of the church. It seems odd, and truth be told, it’s a little exhausting, when the minister wants the church to be the church more than the church wants the church to be the church. So it’s Saturday. Take a Breath. Take a Breath, because in all likelihood your minister, right now, is trying to find a story or word to conclude a sermon he or she hopes you will hear tomorrow. Your minister is doing this because he or she thinks it matters. I think I’m saying what every minister around the country would like to say to his or her church while working on a Saturday and thinking about a Sunday. I could be wrong, of course, but I don’t think so.

 

February 16, 2018
by Dr. R. Scott
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We. Need. One. Another.

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The pain of this shooting in Florida is unbearable. Of course, the same could be said of the Las Vegas shooting. Or that church shooting in Texas not many months ago. Or that school shooting that took place in Kentucky only a few weeks ago. But I just read the names and brief biographical sketches about each of these victims. I am sitting in the privacy of my library at home and cannot stop my tears from flowing.

Friends, we need each other. This coming Sunday is the first Sunday of the Lenten season. Could I make an modest request if you think of yourself as a Christian? Attend church this Sunday. At First Church we will remember these victims. Lighting candles doesn’t solve anything. But that doesn’t mean it is nothing. We need one another. Gun violence must stop. Common sense says it can stop.

I don’t often do this in a Take a Breath blog, but here goes . . . If you are part of the First Church community . . . please show up this Sunday. We need to be together. Bring your children. We need all the babies and smiling faces of children we can possibly see. We need to say hello and hug one another. We need to share the peace of Christ. We need to affirm life in a week that has been so very very bleak. If you are in the city this weekend, as your minister, as your friend, as someone who has journeyed with you for almost ten years now, I’m asking you — let’s come together this Sunday.

We need one another. And as I end every sermon every single week, I say to you today . . . I love you all. Let’s love one another.

February 15, 2018
by Dr. R. Scott
3 Comments

My. Heart. Goes. Out.

My heart goes out. Such an strange expression, isn’t it? My heart goes out. It’s meant to be an expression of love and concern. My heart goes out to you. My heart goes out to them. It means I take the suffering of others and put it inside my heart, the deepest place of my being where I think and feel.

Yet, oddly enough, it can also be an expression of despair. The heart going out means being overwhelmed, overcome with grief, or paralyzed and damaged as a human being. It means something so devastating has happened that you hardly want to go on. I’m trying to take a breath this morning after hearing of that terrible school shooting in Florida. My heart is going out.

Most of all, I’m trying to decide if my heart going out is a expression of compassion or despair. This morning I think it is both. IMG_1292

January 30, 2018
by Dr. R. Scott
1 Comment

Full. Moon.

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Full Moon / January 30, 2018

Sometimes when the moon is full I feel empty. 

There. I said it. I don’t know why.

But I still like it.

Who knew that January could have two full moons?

Is it an invitation? An invocation? A sign from God? 

Or is it just the moon?