January 8, 2019
by Dr. R. Scott
1 Comment

People Matter — In Los Angeles and Around the Country

Magnifying glass and documents with analytics data lying on table,selective focus

Today I am thinking of people employed by the federal government, people who are not working, or at least not being paid for their work, while we move into the third week of a government shutdown. The whole situation seems ridiculous to me, especially given that it’s about a border wall between Mexico and the United States. I’m concerned for these workers. They have bills to pay, student loans to pay, medical  bills to pay, and of course putting food on the tables for their families. I am praying for these workers, and I’m also praying that a resolution will happen quickly.

Closer to home, the Los Angeles Unified School District is on the verge of a teacher strike. I hope this strike can be averted. Teacher strikes only hurt the kids, many of whom already face daunting obstacles in their daily lives. I don’t know all the issues, but from a personal place inside my heart I want to say this: I respect teachers. I am grateful for teachers. My life was changed over and over again by dedicated public school teachers. Teachers deserve good compensation. Teachers deserve to be supported. And public education — in every city of our nation — deserves more investment. I’m praying for teachers and administrators today, hoping they find a way to resolve these issues.

Take a Breath today. Pay attention to workers of all kinds. As I’ve quoted many times: “Be kind, because everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.” And that includes the labor force of our great nation.

January 7, 2019
by Dr. R. Scott

Thinking Small. (Without Being Small Minded)


Sometimes when doubts overwhelm, or circumstances unnerve, or you’re not sure what to do today or tomorrow or the day after tomorrow, consider thinking small. Let go of figuring it all out. Think small. Do something small. Try something small. A kind word. A loving gesture. A walk around the block.  A little prayer, like “Lord Help Me.” Five minutes of quiet. Read a Haiku instead of a novel. Think small.

Jesus once said that the way to greatness is to give someone a cup of cold water. That’s small thinking at it’s best.

I know what you’re thinking — we need to find synergy and have a big vision and create large arcs of social transformation. I like social transformation as much as the next person, but this week — for a variety of reasons — I’m thinking small. I’m thinking of what to do in this hour. I’m thinking about how to help this one person in front of me. Right here. Right now. I’m thinking of what I need to do today to live a better life.

Maybe you want to Take a Breath with me this week, too. Consider thinking small.

December 27, 2018
by Dr. R. Scott

Yes, Virginia, There Really Is a Sunday After Christmas . . .

It’s true. There really is a Sunday after Christmas. And yes, I am preaching on the Sunday after Christmas. And double yes, I would love to see you the Sunday after Christmas. I am looking forward to it! December 30, 2018. The service will begin at 11.00 AM. First Congregational Church of Los Angeles. I will preach a sermon titled: “God Bless Us, Every One!” The service will be filled with carols and wonderful music. And the sermon . . . Did I mention I’m preaching? The sermon will invite you to bless the world, to muster the best of your heart-energy and release it to the world at the beginning of a New Year. To bless your own life. To bless the lives of others. To bless God. Life is blessing and blessing is life. Last Sunday was wonderful at First Church. Christmas Eve was amazing. But this Sunday . . . it will be . . . Take a Breath . . . it will be a blessing!

December 21, 2018
by Dr. R. Scott

Dear Church: (and for any others who are interested)


Dear First Congregational Church of Los Angeles:

During this Christmas season, like so many of you, I’m filled with thoughts and feelings. But most of all what I want to say today is that I love you, I care about you, and I always draw inspiration when I see you. I know church is not easy. I know attending church is not easy. But nothing gives me more courage and joy than when I see you on a Sunday morning, and we sing and pray and share together as a community of faith. There’s really no such thing as a “virtual church.” Community is still about showing up. I show up for you. You show up for me. We show up for one another.

I know people are all over the map when it comes to Christmas. Some dread it. Some love it. Some are ready to do battle at the airport! I hope for each of you a season of renewal and love. Reach out to friends. Reach out to family. Open your heart to the simple joys that knock upon your consciousness each day. A carol. A candle. A quiet moment. A Christmas movie or good book. With the birth of Jesus our world experienced a God-Burst, a God-Burst of love and peace and compassion, and just as Jesus found the courage to live into his spiritual journey, so we too are called to do the same. Not merely to be like Jesus, but more importantly, to become truly ourselves.

These next few days will be filled with wonder at First Congregational Church of Los Angeles. Our Sunday morning service will be filled with joy as we open our hearts to the story of Mary. And then on Christmas Eve we will have three services. Our 5 pm service will be for children and families, though anyone is invited to attend. And then at 8 pm and 11 pm we’ll have candlelight services of Lessons and Carols. The music will be extraordinary. The sanctuary will be beautiful. I look forward to seeing you. I also hope you will invite others to be with you, too.

Thank you, dear friends, for the joy of being your minister. I thank the staff. I thank our lay leaders. I thank those of you who especially reach out to me with words of encouragement. I believe with all my heart that we have a purpose in this great city — to be a place where deeper conversations of life can be engaged, where deeper feelings of community can be experienced, and where deeper actions of compassion and justice can be shared with others. I wish each of you a Merry Christmas. And don’t forget to Take a Breath and open your heart and remember the words of the poet W.H. Auden who wrote years ago, “If on Christmas Day God invites you to dance — then dance!”


December 6, 2018
by Dr. R. Scott
1 Comment

Thursday. Religion.


I could not stop watching the funeral service for President George Herbert Walker Bush yesterday. Beautiful. Meaningful. Dignified. It was a reminder of the importance of family and service to others. But it was also a reminder of the importance of a faith community to enact ritual, create space for grief and reflection, and most of all, to tap into a larger narrative of hope that transcends our singular lives.

American religion is in a fight for its soul right now. Churches and temples are closing every week. If you are not a person of faith, then maybe it’s not that big of deal to you. But if you value sacred space, like at the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. yesterday, or if you value timeless readings and stories and candles and music and stained glass windows and ancient words or a pipe organ that soars with beautiful notes of comfort, then the diminishment of religion in our public life should alarming.

What I want to say to everyone who is related to a church, temple or faith community is this — If you want your community to be there for you tomorrow, then you must find a way to be there for your faith community today. More to the point, if you are a Christian, then this is the sacred season of Advent and Christmas. Attend church. Write a check. Make a financial pledge for next year. Make sure your kids participate. Bring your grandchildren to church. Invite a friend to join you for a Christmas service. Dedicate flowers for a service. Go to a Christmas concert. And for goodness sake, attend church on Christmas Eve, the most sacred night of the year for the Christian community.

There’s only one thing we need to turn around the public diminishment of faith in our nation — We need participation. We don’t need religious fanaticism. We don’t need religious absolutism. We don’t need religious hysteria. We simply need good people who care about God to participate in their faith communities. Whether or not you come to First Congregational Church of Los Angeles during the month of December is not my point. My point is this: Yesterday, in our nation’s capital, we celebrated a President of the United States with dignity and love, and we surrounded his family with comfort and a profound sense of hope. That’s organized religion. That’s church. And yes, that’s faith.

Take a Breath. If you want want your church to be there for you tomorrow, invest yourself in it today.

December 3, 2018
by Dr. R. Scott

A Christmas Carol (First Congregational Church Style)


One of the things I love about First Congregational Church of Los Angeles is how we incorporate the arts into the life of faith. The arts aren’t merely decorations in our community; they take us into the heart of things, primarily into the heart of what it means to be a fully alive human being to the glory of God.

This coming Sunday at First Church we’ll take the arts to a new level by welcoming David Melville to our worship service. He will perform his inspiring rendition of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. This work is one of the most beloved Christmas stories ever written. David Melville is one of the greatest actors working in our country today. (Some of you know his work from Shakespeare in the Park). It will be worship and live theater and Christmas all rolled into one special morning.

I want to encourage you to join us at First Church this week as we reshape our traditional worship service to make room for this holiday classic. Bring your friends. Invite your neighbors. The cathedral of First Church looks so beautiful this time of year. Give yourself a break (and a breath of fresh air), and join us this Sunday at 11AM for what promises to be an amazing morning at First Congregational Church of Los Angeles.

December 1, 2018
by Dr. R. Scott
1 Comment

A Single Thought . . . George Herbert Walker Bush


It was really not that long ago when George Herbert Walker Bush served as the 41st President of the United States. His credentials as a businessman, diplomat, politician and public servant were impeccable. Like most politicians, he made some policy mistakes, and he would have been the first to own up to them. He never pretended to be perfect, and when he was wrong, he would say he was wrong. I have been contemplating his passing all day. What I keep coming back to again and again was his decency, his decency as a man, as an American and as a human being. Public service was a moral obligation that burned inside his heart. Making the country better was his mission, not for his personal gain, but for the benefit of all citizens. He was loyal. Humble to a fault. A good friend to friends and a good father and grandfather to his family. All day, all day on this Saturday in Los Angeles, the sun shining in a bright blue sky after weeks of fire and rain, all day since early this morning I have had one single thought — Let’s make America decent again.

November 28, 2018
by Dr. R. Scott

Birthday Blog About Me! (Not Really So Much About Me)


It’s my birthday. (That’s the part that is about me.)

But the part that is not about me is this: I am grateful for my friends and family . . . for my three children, Matthew, Drew and Katie, (and Laurie and Marta by way of marriage) and I’m so grateful for each of them. I am grateful for their mother, Marti Colglazier, who held our family together year after year, and I am grateful for Charlie and Caroline (grandchildren), and I am grateful that my daughter Katie will have an Easter baby next year, and I am grateful for my lovely, caring, sweet wife, Alex Paxton, and her two children Hays and Owen, and her wonderful parents, Glenn and Leslie, and I am grateful for my amazing church, First Congregational Church of Los Angeles, and the staff of the church and the lay leaders of the church, and I am grateful for friends who have made amazing contributions to my life through the years, and I am grateful for experiences, some painful, some full of joy, but all of them continue to shape me as a human being, and I am grateful for my wonderful sister, Nancy, who has always checked in on my at the right time, and I am grateful today for my faith in God, a faith that is bigger and broader and deeper than what I could have ever imagined years ago, and I am grateful for artists and writers and painters and musicians and composers and actors and dancers and theologians and poets and sculptors, women and men who provide insight into the outer world and inner world of my living. I am not old. I am not young. I just am. It is in my am-ness that I seek to become the human being I want to become. On my birthday I think of Jerry and Diane, my friend David Farrar, and I still miss my friend Don Battjes so much. I never thought I would like Los Angeles. But I do. It is an amazing city. I love New York City too and would visit more often if I could. I have been going to Carmel, California for 30 years. It’s not exciting. There’s not much to do in Carmel. But I love it. I live. I write. I read. I walk the dog on the beach. What can I say? It’s my soul-home. My parents are no longer alive. I am a motherless and fatherless child. But I am walking home toward them. God is my mother. God is my father. “When will I ever learn, when will I ever learn, to live in God.” (Van Morrison). I am walking home and I am doing my best to walk others home too. With love and compassion and kindness, I am trying to walk all of you home. I have made so many mistakes and have had my share of false starts and u-turns in life. But here I am. It is my birthday. I will write in my journal today. Walk on the beach. Work on a sermon for this coming Sunday. I will listen deeply to my soul. I don’t mean that in a pretentious way, I only mean that I will try to pay attention today.

Take a Breath today. I humbly ask, if you would be so kind, if you could find it in your heart, if you could only pause for a few seconds today, please Take a Breath for me.

November 27, 2018
by Dr. R. Scott

Advent: A Season Like No Other


This coming Sunday is the beginning of the Advent Season. I like Advent. It’s a season designed to help Christians get ready for the celebration of Christmas. The idea behind it is simple: Christmas is more meaningful if we journey toward it rather than helicoptering straight down to it on December 25. Advent is also an invitation, an invitation to celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday with religious meaning and religious implication and religious ritual.

I’m especially looking forward to Advent this year at First Church because, in addition to amazing music, interesting Bible readings and a beautifully decorated cathedral,  we’re going to explore one of the most cherished holiday stories ever written — A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. In each of my sermons during the month of December I’ll include a literary connection to this inspiring story.

As a special opportunity, we’ll have a dramatic telling of A Christmas Carol in our service of worship on December 9 by David Mellville, one of the most creative actors working in America today. (This opportunity has been made possible by a generous donation from my friend, Scott Carter. Thank you!)

My sermon series will unfold as follows . . .

December 2 — “I Wear the Chain I Forged in Life”

December 9 — Performance of A Christmas Carol by David Mellville

December 16 — “I’m Light as a Feather”

December 23 — “I Will Honor Christmas in My Heart”

December 24 — “Darkness Was Cheap” (Three Services at 5 pm, 8 pm and 11 pm)

December 30 — “God Bless Us Everyone!”

I really hope you’ll make a commitment to be in worship each week during the month of December. Bring a friends and family. It’s going to be an amazing month at First Congregational Church of Los Angeles. Take a Post-Thanksgiving Breath. The season of Advent is upon us, and truly, it’s a season like no other.


November 15, 2018
by Dr. R. Scott
1 Comment

Sunday Is Thanksgiving!


Not really. But if you are part of First Congregational Church of Los Angeles, Sunday will be Thanksgiving. I’m preaching my sermon titled — “Stories of Thanks (giving) and Thanks (getting).” The music will be wonderful. And then afterward our church family will gather for a Thanksgiving luncheon. If you are in town, I want to see you in church this week!

It’s a reminder that that are many Thanksgiving meals this time of year. I’m meeting a friend for dinner tonight at Little Doms. That’s a kind of Thanksgiving. I’m going out with friends the night before Thanksgiving. We won’t have turkey, but trust me, it will be a night of Thanksgiving! I had coffee with the chair of my board, Julie Hogenboom, this week, and it was Thanksgiving over a latte and a maple glazed scone! I had lunch with my friends David and Linda this week. I left that lunch so uplifted and grateful.

Take a Breath today. Thanksgiving is a week away, but don’t be a turkey and let it be merely one meal. Celebrate many Thanksgivings — celebrating with people you love, people who love you, and people who remind you again and again that life is good. But especially this Sunday — if you’re around Los Angeles — let’s make it a day of Thanksgiving!