Click on the Music Title to listen via YouTube


A time to practice gratitude and reflect on our many blessings. 

Our service will take us through four thanksgiving scriptures, each with a brief reflection in words, silence, and music.  

MUSIC: Come, Ye, Thankful People Come by Choir of King’s College


“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:18 

Pastor: for creation/for family/for faith…Holy One… 

People: Thank You!  


Sometimes we can struggle to practice heartfelt gratitude.  

Let us pause for a moment to put down our burdens and struggles, 

That we might be free to praise God with open hearts. 


Holy One, bind our wandering hearts to you and help us to follow your ways. 

Release us from the sins that stifle our praises and dampen our thanksgiving.  

Shower us with your blessings,  

In Christ we pray. Amen. 

As we listen to our next hymn, let us consider what draws us away from the Divine, that we might turn back and find the blessings of closeness with God.  

MUSIC: Come, thou fount of every blessing  by Sufjan Stevens (Click to Listen)


God takes our hearts, forgives our sins, and redeems us in everlasting love.  

We can look around us for evidence of God’s love and see much to give thanks for.  

Perhaps one of the most frequent places of thanksgiving is the beauty of creation.  

So we begin our prayers of thanksgiving with thanksgiving for creation.  


Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad, let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy; they will sing before the Lord.” – Psalm 96:11-13 

Creation praises God, for God has made this world and all that is in it.  

We can learn about thanksgiving from the praises of creation.  

Birds sing in disjointed harmony.  

Trees sway and dance in the wind.  

I consider my cat,  

gleefully rolling in the sunlight and endlessly entertained by a little ball.  

I invite you to bring to mind a being of God’s creation- the ocean, mountains, a pet, a tree.  

A piece of nature that sings to your soul.  

How does this creation praise the Divine?  

What might it be teaching you about how to give thanks? 

MUSIC: For the Beauty of the Earth by Mormon Tabernacle Choir

GRATITUDE in Prayer Requests  

“Rejoice in the Lord! Again, I say rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:4-7 

The first part of this scripture is often quoted on thanksgiving cards and the like.  

The full paragraph gives some context.  

Paul encourages the early Christians that prayers requesting something be made with thanksgiving.  

Usually when we ask for something it is because we lack something  

(ex. I want to be healed for my body is sick.  

I want a friend because I am lonely.)  

or when we ask for something there is some bargaining involved  

(ex. I’ll rub your back if you rub mine.  

God, I’ll go to church every Sunday if you do this for me.)  

In contrast to both of these approaches to requests,  

Paul urges requests to be made in a spirit of rejoicing  

(ex. God how great are your works, how beautiful your creation, how much you have loved your people. If it is pleasing to you, my heart desires to be healthy (or whatever your request might be). I pray to you for you are a good and loving God.)  

What desires do you have?  

How might you share them with God in a Spirit of Thanksgiving?  

MUSIC: 10,000 Reasons by Matt Redman


“A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But Jesus was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” – Mark 4:37-40 

Practicing gratitude in the storms is both the most challenging time to do so and when we need it most.  

Storms can breed doubt and fear into our faith.  

Storms are the winter times of our lives when we look around and see so many bare trees. Cold. Barren . Deserted.  

Yet, there are already buds on the trees, preparing for the new life of spring.  

Yet, the cold frost gives the plants and humans respite from many an insect.  

Yet, there is a quiet calm in winter that allows creation to rest and reflect before it is reborn. 

 Storms in our lives often do that – force us to reflect and reassess.  

What we often find is that God is present in the storms and through the winter, a shield and comfort, a shelter from the waves, a thread of hope of what will be, a mighty fortress who never fails.  

Let us in the silence give thanks for how God has been a fortress in stormy winter times in our lives.  

MUSIC: A Mighty Fortress is Our God by Michael W. Smith


“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.” – 2 Corinthians 5:17 –19 

As Christians our gratitude is grounded in the incarnate God, Jesus Christ,  

who walked among us, taught us, died on the cross,  

and rose again to promise us new life.  

My deepest moments of gratitude are most certainly resurrection moments – a blessing found after a period of despair, sadness, or loss.  

The friendship reconciled. The healing after illness. A wrongdoing forgiven.  

As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians, “a new life has begun” and indeed joy and gratitude spring forth when such new life is discovered.  

The gratitude does not end there though,  

for Paul continues by writing that Christ “entrusts the message of reconciliation to us.”  

When the Spirit of Gratitude fills us, it moves us to action.  

Gratitude does not leave us where we are, but inspires us to reach out in love.  

Our final musical meditation is from a contemporary Christian band called Hillsong United entitled, “So Will I” 

 and takes us from the praises of creation to the power of salvation.  

The singers recount God’s many miracles and what those miracles call forth in them.  

It is a song of deep gratitude, a gratitude that overflows in praise and love.  

As we listen, may we consider how we respond to the great acts of God  

– from creation to salvation.  

MUSIC: So Will I (100 Billion times) by Hillsong United


Let us join our voices with countless people throughout the ages astounded by the greatness of God and pray the prayer taught to us by our Savior, saying together: 

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.  

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  

Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.  

Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,  

for thine is the kingdom, and the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.  


May the Creator who formed you continue to mold you. 

May the Christ continue to walk with you through thick and thin. 

May the Holy Spirit bind you together with loved ones near and far. 

May you continue on your journey, giving thanks and praise to God through all the ups and downs of life. Amen.  

DOXOLOGY by Mark Schultz

BeLoved, Love


The Bible tells us of a God who so loves the oppressed people enslaved in Egypt 

That s/he parted the Red Sea and deliver them into freedom. 

many a spiritual has been sung by oppressed people throughout the ages, recalling God’s great love.  

The Bible tells us of a God who sent prophet after prophet to guide the people in love: care for the widow, the orphan, the immigrant, and all those vulnerable to hunger and loss.  

The Bible tells us of a God who so loved the world as to send his only son, Jesus, to live with us, teach us, and die that we might finally understand that nothing can separate us from the Love of God.  

The Bible tells us of a God who loves even when the people have gone astray, 

Even when they have failed. 

The Bible tells us of a God who loves us  

whether we feel oppressed by mighty powers, 

Whether we rejoice in entering the Promised Land of privilege and plenty, 

Half our country might feel that way. 

Whether we feel exiled from the home we thought we had, 

Half our country might feel that way. 

Either way, 

We have the ability to decide how we respond to the great love of God.  

In our lectionary scripture today, the people have entered the Promised Land and have to decide how they will live. Their leader, Joshua, makes it clear.  

Interestingly, while the scripture describes the time of the Israelites in the Promised Land, some scholars believe it was actually written when the people had been exiled from the Promised Land and needed a reminder of God. 

So whether you feel like you are finally in the Promised Land  

or like you have been exiled and degraded,  

Let us listen to the call of God as spoken through Joshua to the people of Israel.  

SCRIPTURE: [Slides 7 & 8 Allen] 

Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-15 “But my family and I will serve the Lord.” 

Then Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and summoned the elders, the heads, the judges, and the officers of Israel; and they presented themselves before God. And Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Long ago your ancestors—Terah and his sons Abraham and Nahor—lived beyond the Euphrates and served other gods. Then I took your father Abraham from beyond the River and led him through all the land of Canaan and made his offspring many. I gave him Isaac; 


14 “Now therefore revere the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 Now if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” 


Joshua looks at all the ways God has loved through the generations and chooses to serve this great God of love. Following his lead, the people earnestly commit to serving the God of Love too. After the commitments are made, Joshua reminds the people of the law of God.  

As Jesus taught us, all the laws hang on the great commandment: 


Love God. Love Neighbor. Love Self. 

To serve God is to love. 

Like our ancestors past, figuring out the details of love is where it gets messy. 

How do we care for orphan, widow and immigrant – ancient categories of people who have less resources than others? 

Do we love by taxing those with resources and forcing them to share with those who have less? 

Do we love by trusting that individuals will care for the least of these without government oversight? 

How do we bring healing and dignity to the lepers, the blind, and the lame – ancient categories of people whose illnesses exiled them from mainstream society? 

Do we love by supporting a central system of healthcare that provides to all? 

Do we love by allowing competing companies to provide healthcare? 

How do we love the immigrant and refugee – modern terms for the biblical category of non-Israelites in Israel? 

Do we love by providing space, jobs, and healthcare for all who wish to be in the same land we live on? 

Do we love by placing boundaries so that resources do not run out? 

To love is not always straightforward, nor is it always easy. 

The Bible gives guidance,  

but translating to our modern era takes some deep study.  

Jesus models a way, but truly living it challenges our souls.  

Whether debating political policies or navigating family politics, 

Our question as Christians is always,  

“How might I love?”  

Or, another twist might be, “How is this person trying to love?” 

Asking that question might get us further as a nation than blaming or shaming or assuming we know it all.  

There are many ways this congregation serves God by loving. 

There are ways we love neighbors that hardly anyone would disagree with: 

  • The self-sufficient Food Bank and Community Garden provides food for neighbors in need 
  • The YMCA provides early education for children of all economic classes 
  • The Woodward House Education Program sponsors and supports young people serving our community – this year through two cheerful ladies teaching about healthy food to elementary school students.  
  • Home bound mailings and the Thanksgiving baskets ensure that those isolated at home are included in the life of the congregation 
  • This year donations of iPads and tech support enabled many people to get connected online during this pandemic 

This congregation also serves God by loving one another and staying connected during the most isolating time in memory.  

  • When the pandemic hit, we brought children together online for “kids church” and sent home activity packets and pen pals. The deaconesses jumped to action by calling and continuing to call church members, especially those unable to join on Sunday morning.  
  • We have had a number of community strengthening and faith building programs this year: women’s retreat, tea time with friends, a rather popular Bible Study has started, and Food for Thought continues in a new format 
  • We have tried new ways of connecting with each other through a Spirit Walk and Sanctuary Prayer meetings and early on, a weekly zoom check-in 
  • When Maggie arrived as the new Woodward House resident, Candy opened her backyard for weeks to slowly introduce her to the congregation via small outdoor gatherings. Maggie was thrilled to have an instant “church family” and I dare say, the congregation was blessed by these little get together.  

More than one person has commented that they feel more connected to the church and one another now than ever before. 

All of this swells my heart and makes me smile.  

Yes, God’s Love is alive and well in this congregation.  

However, as I spoke about earlier, there are times when loving is not at all straightforward nor so soft and feel good. This is actually where my heart swells so much that I get tears.  

This year has been contentious on many issues –  

Covid and Racism and the Economy being the big three. 

What I have witnessed in you all is a big deal of grace and love. 

Now, I don’t catch every person’s every Facebook post, but I’ve seen more than one in which church members on different sides speak honestly and compassionately. 

In various church meetings there has been space to hear and discuss how to respond to Covid. There has not always been unanimous agreement, but there has been respect.  

In side conversations here and there people have asked if there are those in financial need due to the pandemic and I’ve helped make connections as best as possible.  

When Black Lives Matter protests washed across the country, a hearty size group of church members began to meet to discuss how to act. When it comes to racial justice, there is quite a bit of disagreement on how love ought to be shown. 

 What moved me about this group from the beginning was the open curiosity and compassion. There was no blame nor shame – in large part I believe because we already know each other from worshipping every Sunday together for years. This group distributed signs to those who wanted them and raised $1,400 to deliver more diverse books to all our East Hartford elementary public schools.  

All acts of love, but perhaps a deeper more personal love was shone in the regular meetings. Every two weeks the group gathered online – the largest group outside Sunday morning – to hear the stories of people of color. The speakers spoke with compassion and care, like buddies talking on the front porch. The group listened to speakers share about the KKK murdering one’s uncle, about healthcare disparities, about small and large acts of racism, and about the history of racial injustice.  

Two weeks ago the group had a discussion to reflect on all these speakers. Every person learned something. Every one. Even those who I know have been studying or thinking or even acting on these issues for a long time. Even those who never thought themselves biased.  

Growing in understanding of another is certainly an act of love, but it gets better. Joanne, who leads the meetings and coordinates the speakers, told us was that these bi-weekly talks were not only powerful and insightful to the church members tuning in, but also to the speakers. Many of the speakers were greatly moved to be heard – and dare I say – held in love. Some are eager to come back.  

When it comes to racial justice, it is not always easy to listen in love nor is it easy to act in true love. Church members have courageously done so, not by yelling down others, but by listening and exploring with care.  

When the Israelites tell Joshua they will follow God, 

Joshua warns them that it won’t always be rainbows and buttercups – 

That sometimes loving is difficult.  

This congregation loves when it is fun and feels good,  

and we love when it is hard and challenging.  

We love with our hands, with our minds and with our hearts. 

The ministry of love of this congregation takes people and open hearts, 

It also takes material goods and financial funding to support. 

Land is needed for the garden and refrigerators to hold the produce. 

The Woodward House houses the residents serving the community.  

Staff organize and run the many community programs.  

The Communications budget hosts the website and zoom and computers 

Printer and postage are needed for homebound mailings 

Today we look at how we use our financial resources to accomplish our mission of Loving God, Neighbors and Self.  We will do this as a congregation following worship, but I encourage you to look at your personal budget this week through the eyes of faith. How are you using your resources for love? 

This is a generous congregation with many faithful people. If you are new to pledging or are wondering how much to give or how to do so, please reach out to me, one of our treasurers or a member of the board of stewardship. If you aren’t sure where to start, I can help you or connect you with a member of the congregation that can talk with you about it.  

Because of the generosity of so many church members, we have been able to serve God with great Love in countless ways.  

May we continue to serve God in love with all the gifts given to us; 

Gifts of resources, but also gifts of time, talent, and, 

Most importantly, gifts of the heart. Amen. 

November Spirit Walk/Meditation of Gratitude

A Spirit Walk is an intentional time to be with the Divine with all your senses. 

You are invited to take a Spirit Walk any time you like in the next month. You can walk up a mountain, down the street or even around your home. You can walk alone or with a friend (children can make great Spirit Walk partners as they see the world afresh).  You may even do your “walk” while sitting by a window or in a local park.

You can join Pastor Kelly Jane for an in-person guided Spirit Walk on Saturday, November 14 at 2:00pm. Children welcomed to participate in this socially distanced and masked worshipful walk on the flat paved trail of the Great River Park in East Hartford at 301 E River Dr, East Hartford, CT 06108. RSVP to Pastor Kelly Jane helpful, but not required (860-351-7420 or revkellyjane at churchcorners dot org).  

You are also invited on MondayNovember 23 at 7:00 pm to join on zoom for a time of worshipful reflection with the opportunity to share any insights or challenges met on your Spirit Walk. 

Tips for Walking:  

Bring water and wear comfortable shoes. 

Bring a timer to guide you through each portion, especially if doing walk by yourself or with a buddy.  

You may like a journal to record your findings – or print out this sheet to record directly on paper.  

The Spirit Walk is written to last about an hour, with periods of rest included. Go at your own pace.  

Please adapt for your own needs and environment, walking longer if you feel so called or lingering on particular sections as they beacon to you.  

Great River Park, East Hartford

November Spirit Walk/Meditation: 

Journey with Gratitude 

God blesses us in many ways throughout our life journeys. 

 This Spirit Walk invites you to soak in the Divine as you journey through ups and downs.  


Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” – Matt 11:28 

Warm up your body and mind by slowly walking or, if sitting, relaxing into a comfortable position. Take this time to transition from the regular day. Let your thoughts ramble and go. If you are with someone, get your chit chat out and then allow for a time of silence. Set a timer for at least two minutes and begin walking and breathing with deep, slow breaths.  


Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad, let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy; they will sing before the Lord.” – Psalm 96:11-13 

As you walk or sit in nature, soak in the beauty of creation through all your senses: sight, sound, taste, touch, smell. As you notice, give thanks to God for each observation. Thank you, God for the red leaf. Thank you, God for the smell of the leaves…. 


“Rejoice in the Lord! Again, I say rejoice!” – Philippians 4:4 

As you walk or sit in nature, look about for something that truly makes your heart rejoice. Stay with that object or thought for a while. Let yourself feel the joy in your whole body. Consider a joyful time in your own life and how the Holy was present to you in that time.  


A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But Jesus was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” – Mark 4:37-40 

As you walk or sit in nature, notice where there might be suffering in the world around you. What in nature is hurting? Settle on one object for a while. Let yourself feel the sorrow and loss. Consider a stormy time in your own life and how the Holy was present to you in that time.  


“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. – 2 Corinthians 5:17 -19 

As you walk or sit in nature, notice the transformations in the world around you. How is the change of the seasons impacting the trees? The ground? The animals? How have the seasons of your life changed your views, your faith or your actions? What transformations in yourself or the world do you feel grateful for? 


“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:18 

Before you turn back, take a break to complete this gratitude scavenger hunt shared by Sharon Walters! 

What are you grateful for….? 

  1. In nature 
  1. That makes a beautiful sound 
  1. That tastes good 
  1. That smells amazing 
  1. That has been hard for me 
  1. That I would like to share with others 
  1. That is older than me 
  1. That I recently discovered or learned 
  1. That shows a vibrant color 
  1. That has words on it 
  1. That makes me feel strong 
  1. That makes me laugh 
  1. That makes me cry 
  1. That represents my country or culture 
  1. That is someone I love (outside of my group) 


If you are walking, turn around to return. If you have been sitting, take four minutes to sit in the impacts of your spiritual practice. 

How has this time of gratitude meditation impacted your heart? Impacted your body? 

What has this practice of gratitude revealed to you about the Holy? 


Gracious God, may we journey through life in gratitude, giving you thanks and praise through all the ups and downs of life. Amen.  

October Spirit Walk

by Rev. Kelly Jane Caesar

A Spirit Walk is an intentional time to be with the Divine with all your senses. 

You are invited to take a Spirit Walk any time you like in the next month. You can walk up a mountain, down the street or even around your home. You can walk alone or with a friend (children can make great Spirit Walk partners as they see the world afresh).  

You can join Pastor Kelly Jane for an in-person guided Spirit Walk on Indigenous People’s Day, Monday, October 12 at 3:00 pm. Children welcomed to participate in this socially distanced and masked worshipful walk on the flat Hop River State Park trail at Bolton Notch, meeting at the Bolton Park and Ride at Morancey Rd, Bolton, CT 06043. RSVP to Pastor Kelly Jane helpful, but not required (revkellyjane at churchcorners dot org).  

You are also invited on Thursday, October 29 at 7:00 pm to join on zoom for a time of reflection with the opportunity to share any insights or challenges met on your Spirit Walk. 

Tips for Walking:

Bring water and wear comfortable shoes. 

Bring a timer to guide you through each portion, especially if doing walk by yourself or with a buddy.  

You may like a journal to record your findings – or print out this page to record directly on paper.  

The Spirit Walk is written to last about an hour, with periods of rest included.  

Please adapt for your own needs and environment, walking longer if you feel so called or lingering on particular sections as they beacon to you.  

October Spirit Walk: 

Sensing God with Our Senses 

God so loves our bodies that in Jesus, God became incarnate in a human body with the ability to hear, see, taste, smell, and touch. 

  This Spirit Walk invites you to soak in the Divine through your five senses. 


Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” – Matt 11:28 

Warm up your body and mind by slowly walking. Take this time to transition from the regular day. Let your thoughts ramble and go. If you are with someone, get your chit chat out and then allow for a time of silence. Set a timer for at least two minutes and begin walking. 

“I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.” Isaiah 42:6-7 

For at least the next five minutes really look around you as you walk. Notice the colors. What textures do you see. What is beautiful? What is ugly? Pick an item that captures your attention. Take your item with you either by physically picking it up, taking a picture, or drawing it in your journal. Set a timer for 5 minutes and practice seeing as you walk. 


11 He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. 13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 1 Kings 19:11-13 

Pause to listen. You may sit or stand as you are comfortable, but try to remain still. Listen to the sounds of nature. Listen to the sounds of humans. Can you hear the silence? Pick an item that captures your attention. Take your item with you either by physically picking it up, taking a picture, or drawing it in your journal. Set a timer for at least 5 minutes and be still and listen.  


“You shall make an altar on which to burn incense; you shall make it of acacia wood…and Aaron shall burn fragrant incense on it.” – Exodus 30:1, 7 

As you resume your walking in the same direction as before, take some deep breaths. What do you smell? Notice the difference in smell when you are breathing in and when you are breathing out. Again, select an item the intrigues your nose and take it with you by physically picking it up, taking a picture, or drawing it in your journal. Set a timer for at least 5 minutes and walk, breathing deeply the smells around you. 


“When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.” Matt 9:20 

Slow down your walk to explore the textures of God’s creation around you. Reach out and touch what you can (avoid poison ivy!). Touch the bark of a tree. Touch a stone. Notice the temperature of your skin. Pick an item that captures your attention. Take your item with you either by physically picking it up, taking a picture, or drawing it in your journal. Set a timer for at least 5 minutes and touch the world around you.   


“I’m thirsty.” – Jesus on the cross John 19:28 

Perhaps you have worked up a thirst on your journey. Notice what it feels like to be thirsty in your body. What does it feel like to be thirsty in your soul? Slowly drink some water and notice the difference.  


“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” John 1:14 

As you walk back to the beginning, soak in the walk with all of your senses. If you are with a buddy, try to walk in silence for a portion of the time. Which senses do you use more? Which less? How does the Divine speak through your senses? You may like to write your reflections down or share them aloud with your walking buddy.  


Thank you, Creator for the ability to see, hear, smell, touch and taste your blessings all around us. Amen.  

Peace in the Storm

Sermon on August 9, 2020 by Rev. Kelly Jane Caesar 

Have we been hit with some storms! The storm of racism swelled this summer, unleashing civil unrest and long-awaited social change. The storm of Covid-19 has upended howe we shop, how we see one another, and how we worship. The tropical storm this past week forced us to further fast from power, screens, and more as trees and power lines fell. Not to mention the ongoing storms of life . The storm of disease that wreaks havoc on one’s body. The storm of aging that disrupts what was and wipes away previous abilities, even as new blessings emerge. The storm of grief that tears open a piece of our hearts, permanently altering our lives.  

Our spirituality (or faith) is what helps us navigate the storms of life. Some will turn to drugs or addiction or avoidance or busy-ness or blame or shame as ways to get through the storms. Such methods may relieve the pain for a moment, but doing so builds up bitterness, resentment, exhaustion and ultimately leads us to greater suffering.  

In the Bible we find a more life-giving and sustainable way of navigating life’s storms – a way that fosters deep, long-lasting peace. We will look at two scriptures that point us to this way of peace through the storms. In both it is clear that the Holy is with us through the storms, but let us listen closer to hear how the Holy is present and what we humans are to do. 

Psalm 46: a song of praise sung in the ancient temple; notice the first few verses describe a mighty storm. 

God is: strength (v.1) & peace (v.9) as the one who ceases all wars 

We are called to: not fear (v. 2) and be still and know God (v. 10) 

These themes of Psalm 46 are echoes throughout scripture and are taught by Jesus. We are going to unpack them with our next scripture. Our next scripture takes place after Jesus has fed the 5,000. Listen closely for how the Holy is present in this storm and what the human disciples are called to do.  

Matthew 14:22-33 

God in Jesus is powerful! He walks on water (v. 25); echoing God subduing the waters of creation in Gen 1 and Psalm 46 which names God’s strength and ability to overcome all the nations. 

We are called to not be afraid (v. 27) once again, like psalm 46 and 365 times throughout the Bible, for God is powerful and present with us. 

That sounds nice, except when we are caught in a storm we can quickly begin to wonder if God has abandoned us or is punishing us for unknown reasons.  

Pastors and friends may say God is present, but we want proof. Like Peter in our scripture today, we want proof that the Holy, Jesus, really is walking with us in the storms. Like Peter, we may demand the extraordinary or supernatural: Peter says, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” (v. 28) As a wise teacher, Jesus says, “come” – much like a good teacher invites a student to give their idea a try, knowing that when the student discovers their idea does not work, they have learned the lesson more deeply than words alone could do.  

So Peter tried to walk on water, he tried to have the power of God, but he becomes afrais, begins to sink and Jesus saves him and says, “you of little faith” (v. 31). Prof. Frank Rogers Jr writes in a devotional (Diciplines 2020) on this scripture that: 

“Peter’s lack of faith is not that he cannot walk on water. It is that he does not trust that Jesus is with him in the storm. He demands proof. He demands the extraordinary [I would say supernatural] … Jesus does not promise to help us walk on water. He promises to be a compassionate compaino within the boat navigating the rough seas.” 

The temptation in a storm is to try to walk on water, to try to be God, to try to make a situation what it simply cannot be. We pretend the health diagnosis is not true. We discount or ignore the advice of public health officials offering guidelines to address the pandemic. We try to “win back” someone who broke up with us. We try to pretend our bodies are more able than they are. All examples of making a situation what it is not.  

While we may be tempted to try to walk on water in a storm – or demand God act a certain way or others act the way we want – we will find more strength and peace when we can accept that the waves are roaring. 

To accept the reality of a storm is not to dwell in despair, depression or be paralyzed with sorrow. To accept the reality of a storm is not to forgo responsibility or action – we must still seek treatment for the illness, seek a vaccine for covid, and address hurricane damage. To accept the reality of the storm orients our actions appropriately .  

To accept the state of the storm is to have realistic expectations. No, you can’t have all the lights on and bake cookies when the power is out after a hurricane; but you can have canned soup. No worship will not look or feel the same as it did pre-covid, but we can still connect to God and one another. No the health diagnosis cannot be reversed, but treatment can be sought and, if necessary, goodbyes given. 

Realistic expectations – or properly-sized hope – saves us from wasting energy in fighting what is, saves us from seekign to defy the laws of physics, saves us from trying to be the savior and fix it all. Because we are not the savior. We are not God. Right-sized hope, realistic expectations, save us from drowning in the storm. 

Instead of demanding proof or chasing after supernatural power, a gentle acceptance of the storm will bring us deep, longer-lasting peace and the proper perspective for navigating our boat in the waves.  When we accept the storm, we not only find peace, but we are better able to see and trust the Holy with us.  

When a person is drowning they frantically grasp for help – and will pull down whoever tries to help them – drowning their save-r/savior in their frantic fear. This is why life guards use flotation devices. When we can be still long enough to find peace, we are able to see God, Jesus, standing there saving us from despair and guiding us to new life. 

When we quit fighting the storm, we are able to flow with peace, and see the Holy with us in the storm. This peace does not end the storm, our situation is still difficult, but when we can be still and call the storm what it is (using choice words if need be), we stop frantically and anxiously looking about and can instead focus our eyes on the Holy with us. In the hurricane storm, we see the care of neighbors helping to clear branches and offering fridge space and showers, and humor to lighten the load. In the Covid storm we see the new relationships forming over the phone or online, as well as the deepening of home worship and the sacredness of the ordinary. In the storm of disease, we see a strong humility amid loving care of others.  

As we navigate the many storms of life, may we accept the present reality of the storm, that we might have the peace and focus to see the presence of the Holy walking with us. As my most beloved prayer says: May God grant us the serenity to accept what we cannot change, the courage to change what we can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Amen.  

Following the God of Liberation

Preached by Rev.Kelly Jane Caesar on July 19, 2020

Would you raise your hand if you have heard of the “Parts of the Holy Bible, selected for the use of the [N.] Slaves, in the British West-India Islands.”?  

It was a “Slave Bible” published in 1807 by British Missionaries who went to the Caribbean to convert slaves to Christianity. The “Slave Bible” left out a good portion of the standard Bible – 90% of the Old Testament and 50% of the New Testament. Here is one story that was left out and I’ll let you guess what common thread governed the removal of 90% of the OT and 50% of the NT.  


SCRIPTURE READING: Exodus 1:8-22 [Slides 9-10]  

HYMN [Slides 11-13] 

Immediately after this scripture we hear the story of the mother of Moses,  

Let us sing it now along with the stories of two other mothers acting courageously for their child and nation. 

A Mother Lined a Basket  (Jerry sings verse 1; verse 2 repeat each phrase after Jerry; verse 3 sing together) (Liberated individuals: Jochebed, Hannah and Mary)  

(Jerry only)  

A mother lined a basket 
to keep her baby dry, 
then rocked him on a river, 
lest he awake and cry. 
She let a princess name him 
her son that he might live. 
God’s people had a leader. 
She had such hope to give. 
(Repeat each phrase after Jerry)  

A mother sewed a jacket, 
lined in the softest wool, 
then dressed her little boy-child, 
her cup of blessing full. 
She brought him to the temple 
where he would serve and live. 
God’s people had a prophet. 
She had such faith to give. 

(All together) 

A mother laid her baby 
in manger lined with straw; 
then, in the shepherds’ story, 
his call from God foresaw. 
She nurtured him and taught him 
the way that he must live. 
God’s people had a savior. 
She had such love to give. 


The story of the midwives Pam read, the story of Moses being placed in the basket and lifted out of the water by Pharaoh’s daughter we just sang are parts of what was omitted in the “Slave Bible”. Can anyone guess the common thread that removed 90% of the OT and 50% of the NT for the “Slave Bible”? 

Anything that could incite rebellion of the oppressed and enslaved people of color.  

This tells us that a HUGE overarching theme to the Bible – the whole Bible – it is that God stands with those on the margins – not only stands with, but actively works with and for the liberation of the oppressed.  Just now we sang about three such mothers and sons whom the God of Liberation works with to bring about freedom and justice for many.   

We see the God of Liberation in the story of the Exodus  

God delivering the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt  

and bringing them to the Promised Land. 

We see the God of Liberation in the prophets of ancient Israel, 

Constantly calling for the people to care for the widows, the orphans, the refugees, the strangers, those down and out.  

We see the God of Liberation in Jesus preaching release of the captives, food for the hungry, and healing for the outcast. 

We see the God of Liberation in Jesus the Christ, crucified on a cross by state-sanction powers, 

But resurrected by the God of Liberation to prove that love overcomes hate – 

Even state-sanctioned hate.  

It is no surprise then that many slaveholders in the Caribbean and the United States sought to limit the exposure of slaves to the Bible. They might start to believe the God of liberation was on their side.  

As we consider how to follow the God of Liberation today in our everyday lives, a deeper look at how the Holy has worked through history from the biblical exodus to today will help us to see our place in the story today.  

On Tuesday night at the Ministry for Racial Justice Meeting, guest speaker and innovative principal and educator, Rodney Powell, spoke about racism as a system of power that privileges whites over people of color. Racism is not just bias or dislike of another group, but the system of power that oppresses people of color. So, we see this system of power at work when… 

Slaveholders would hire preachers to preach a specific message to the slaves – obey your master, do not steal, etc. No mention of Exodus or liberation or a God who works with the oppressed to overturn injustice was preached by the slaveholding preacher. 

In order to keep slaves from reading the whole Bible, laws across slave states in the union were enacted to forbid the education of slaves. Slaveholders would cut off fingers and toes of slaves caught reading or writing. 

An example of such a law is the 1833 Alabama law asserting that “any person or persons who shall attempt to teach any free person of color, or slave, to spell, read, or write, shall upon conviction thereof of indictment be fined in a sum not less than two hundred and fifty dollars.” (The fine would be the equivalent of about $7,600 in today’s dollars.) [Citation] Not just dislike of another, but laws and structures to hold people of color down,  

Those in places of power and privilege feared that literate slaves would write their own travel passes or, worse, organize a rebellion.  

[References: and]  

The fear of rebellion was real because it had already happened.  

The Haitian Rebellion had succeeded in overthrowing French colonial control and abolishing slavery, allowing for Haiti to be formed in 1804. It was so successful that it depleted France, making Napoleon eager to sell the Louisiana Purchase to the United States in order to fund his military pursuits in Europe. [Citation] The Haitian Rebellion also put US slaveholders on alert: the oppressed had succeeded in overthrowing their captors. Their fears materialized in the Nat Turner Rebellion of 1831 in Virginia which left 55 blacks killed and 55 whites killed. [Citation] 

In the wake of these rebellions strict laws were passed to further suppress slaves, restricting their ability to read and write was first and foremost.  

This cycle of increased oppression after resistance was not new and continues today. 

In the Bible, the death sentence laid on Hebrew boys in Exodus came out of fear of the growing numbers of Hebrews in Egypt. Fear of the power of the “other”. 

In this century, many social scientists point to an increase in overt racist attacks and slander as a “backlash” against the first African-American president in the USA. [Citation] When an oppressed people rise in power and honor, those who benefited from the exclusive hold of power can grow fearful. Sadly, insecure people can see the equality of others as a threat and seek ways to suppress through scare tactics, unjust laws, and limiting truth.  

The attempt to limit truth has not gone away either.  

While the “Slave Bible” is no longer in circulation and very few copies still exist, 

The attempt to edit out stories of resistance and sanitize scripture continues. 

  • Many churches stay out of “politics” and limit religion to the personal, spiritual realm, even though the Bible speaks of God acting in history, in community, in concrete, material ways that impact the social structures and economic realities of people, in particular people on the margins.  
  • Children’s Books feature a plethora of white, often male, characters leading the way. In fact, in 2018, 50% of children’s books featured white characters, 27% animals and 10% black characters. Asians and Native Americans even less. [Citation] Teachers and parents must be conscious and intentional in choosing books that feature a variety of main characters. [Some options here
  • West Hartford elementary school required the students to do a report on an important person in Connecticut history. Of the list of people to choose from, none were people of color and there were very few women. When a colleague of mine inquired about this, the teacher said they simply did not have children books of important people of color in Connecticut history.  
  • This is harmful on multiple levels – children of color fail to see people from their culture and background lifted up as heroes or important. The history that is shared all too often is one in which African were slaves. Period. This is also harmful to white children who, when it comes to history of racism, only see whites as the evil slaveholders. When resistance to racial injustice only shows whites as bad, white children grow up to avoid conversation on racism out of fear of being seen as evil or bad. Avoiding the conversation doesn’t make them good nor does it do anything to help racial justice along.  

Imagine the liberation that can be had if children and adults learned more about the resistance both blacks and whites took to overcome slavery and racism through the centuries. Children of color see themselves as strong and brave. White children see that they can have a place of love and compassion in the fight for racial equity. All are inspired to act for justice and real, deep, everlasting peace.  

To reach such a place of peace requires us first to stop and acknowledge the sin of racism and oppression of the past and its echoes today. So let us take a moment to pause and confess the ways racism and oppression continue to infect our world near and far.  



Pastor: God of all our ancestors,  

PAM: we are truly broken by the sins of the past and present, sins personal and political, sins we have personally committed, sins we watched happen, and sins we passed on.  Grant us faith enough to remove racism and all forms of oppression from this world.  

Pastor: May each one be free to worship you. May each one be free to love with a whole heart. May each one know the peace that is found in you.  


SUNG RESPONSE: “Know Justice, Know Peace” [Slide 15] 

Sung Response (composed and sung by Jerry)  

No justice, no peace,  

Know justice, know peace.  

No Jesus, no peace,  

Know Jesus, know peace. 


After the confession I usually offer words of assurance and indeed I will, for there is hope. Indeed, at least 90% of the OT and 50% of the NT offers hope for liberation and freedom from systems of oppression that harm everyone.  

Today’s story is just one of many. The story from Exodus today points to the ingenuity of the midwives in resisting Pharaoh’s unjust laws. The midwives could be Hebrew themselves or Egyptians serving the Hebrews – the text is ambiguous and allows us to wonder. The very next story in Exodus lifts up Pharaoh’s daughter blatant resistance of Pharaohs’ edict to kill the baby boys and Moses’s mother and sister great courage to act for life. Later in Exodus 3:21 we read of Egyptian women giving the Hebrew women goods before they flee from slavery. We see that liberation in Exodus was not only through the hands of Moses or even the plagues issued by God. Liberation was enacting by a number of women working together across class and ethnic divisions to literally save lives and provide concrete resources for new lives in freedom. [Lapsley & Fentress-Williams] 

As Pharaoh failed to suppress the Israelites, slaveholders failed to suppress Africans. Despite the efforts of slaveholders, the sacred story of the God of liberation was known to the African slaves and sympathetic whites. The God of Liberation cannot be tied down, edited out, crucified or ignored.  

The God of Liberation inspired whites to provide places of safety and blacks to risk their lives on the Underground railroad, sometimes led by the famous Harriet Tubman – not coincidentally dubbed “Moses” by her community.  

The God of Liberation fueled the building of schools for black children after the Emancipation Proclamation. Schools taught by whites who sought liberation instead of subjugation of black children and black teachers who had risked their lives to learn when it was illegal. [Citation] 

The God of Liberation delighted in the centrality of Black Churches during reconstruction and the civil rights era of the 1960s, providing space for leadership and self-governance long before white society was, “ready”. The prophetic leadership continues today in Hartford as clergy of the historically black African Methodist Episcopal church across the state speak out with wisdom and prophetic clarity on the need for police reform – not defunding, but a refocus that weeds out racial injustice and offers liberation. They call for all departments to do what East Hartford police have done for years or are beginning to do now. [citation] 

The God of Liberation inspired my colleague in West Hartford to organize the writing of children’s books of black and female CT historical figures so children could learn a fuller picture of history.  

The God of Liberation shined with love on a little lemonade stand set up to raise money to buy more racial equity and diversity book for public schools in Farmington. The lemonade stand set up in front of a fellow UCC church raised over $3,000. [Citation] 

The God of Liberation has worked throughout history and still today.  

As people of the Bible we are followers of the God of Liberation. We all have a part to play in the story. Whether you were born into privilege as Pharaoh’s daughter or born into a system of oppression like Moses’ mother or born somewhere in between like the midwives, you have a holy part to play in God’s story of liberation and equity.  

On Tuesday night at the Ministry for Racial Justice meeting, Guest Speaker and innovative principal and educator, Rodney Powell said, and I’m paraphrasing here, that people can choose to be “white” – they can choose to take on the role of oppressor and continue the legacy of racism – this, I argue, is the default that those born with light skin will unconsciously do – unless they, we, consciously choose differently. The Good News is that we can choose differently. The midwives could have followed Pharaoh, but they “feared God” more. That word fear in this context means awe or wonder. [Nowell] 

May we be so in awe of God, so in awe of God’s liberation, so in awe of God’s goodness, so in awe of God’s creation, that we resist the systems of power that place people of color as less. May we be so in awe of the God of Liberation that we resist systems of power by reading and sharing stories of people of color and whites who worked courageously for equity and justice in times past and today. May we be so in awe of the God of Liberation that we resist racism and oppression in our world by working together – as the women in exodus do – to bring about the liberation of all of God’s beloved people. Amen.  

[Theological References: 

Fentress-Williams, Judy. “Exodus”. The Africana Bible: Reading Israel’s Scriptures from Africa and the African Diaspora. Hugh Page Ed. Fortress Press. 2010.  

Lapsley, Jacqueline E. “Saving Women”. Whispering the Word: Hearing Women’s Stories in the Old Testament. Westminster John Knox Press. 2005. 

Nowell, Irene. “Women of Israel’s Passover”. Women in the Old Testament. The Liturgical Press. 1997.] 

The “Curse of Ham” and the Dangers of the Racist Blame Game

Sermon by Rev. Kelly Jane Caesar on July 12, 2020


Today is a scripture not often read on Sunday mornings in today’s day and age. 

It is a scripture passage probably glossed over by many reading the Bible straight through – one of those with a long list of hard names.  

Yet, it is a scripture that was used to lay the foundation of racism in the world, 

Our scripture is from Genesis – the first book of the Bible that explains the origins of where God’s Chosen People of Israel come from and the special Divine Promise given to them. From the Chosen People of Israel comes the Messiah, Jesus, who is destined to save the world, and so Christians generally read themselves to inherit the special Divine Promise of God’s chosen people, thus the Hebrew Scriptures are the foundation of the Christian Bible. In Genesis family stories explain the future layout and relations of God’s chosen nation. For example, we have the story of the 12 sons of Jacob who will become the 12 tribes of Israel. Today we have the story of Noah and his sons – a story of where various nations originated from and their relation to Israel.  

Like many other stories in Genesis, this one was written down centuries after it supposedly occurred. It was recorded once Israel was already a nation and was trying to justify why it could conquer certain people and partner with others. Chapter 10 provides a list of patriarchs and the nations which came from them. Chapter 9 involves a family story to explain why some nations listed can – and even ought- to be subjected to slavery. Listen closely for this text echoes even today in 2020.  

SCRIPTURE READING: Genesis 9:18-27 & Genesis 10  


Chapter 10 lists the patriarchs of each of these nations and they are grouped in such a way that later scholars show that the apparent divisions have little to do with language, culture, geography or racial divides. In fact, the concept of race as we know it today did not exist in biblical times. After-all, all the people of the nations outlined in chapter 10 were closely related in terms of skin tone and generally in the Mideast.  

Yet, European and colonial slave holders pointed to this text as justification for the enslavement of Africans, people of dark skin tone. Part of the reasoning is that Cush, a son of Ham, was later identified as being in Northern Africa and Europeans of colonial time simply said, well the curse of Ham continues for Africans. Never mind that the curse was actually on Canaan- which, also doesn’t make sense since Canaan is only one son of Ham, and Ham was the one who did wrong. Why Canaan and not the other sons of Ham? Well, Canaan lived in the promised land of the Israelites. This story provided justification for the enslavement of the Canaanites when Israel conquered their land. That story is later in the Bible and we will get to that later in the summer. Suffice it to say, this story of the so-called “curse of ham” has been used throughout history to justify the enslavement of another people.  

[Some resources:]

White wealthy slaveholders in America used this text, among others, to enforce chattel slavery of Africans in the United States. It should be noted that chattel slavery in America differed from slavery in the ancient world – but that’s another sermon.  

The underlining logic of this text is that certain people deserve to be enslaved because they or their ancestors did wrong. Ham dishonored his father and thus deserves his punishmentToday we can agree that such a punishment seems to far outweigh the crimeYet, the ideology of this text has echoed throughout time.  

If Ham had not dishonored his father, his son Canaan would not be subjected to slavery. (the Israelites argued)  

If Africans were not descendants of Ham, they would not be subjected to slavery. (the whites argued) 

If the African slave had not run away, he would not have been whipped.  

If Emmett Till had not flirted with a white woman in 1955, he would not have been murdered.  

If you don’t know the story of Emmett Till, go look that up. He is probably the most well-known case of a black man, actually in this case a teenager, who was brutally murdered for supposedly flirting or looking at a white woman. (read more here) 

The logic from this scripture –  

that a certain people deserve excessive force because of a past wrong – 

echoed into the 21st century.  

If Trayvon Martin wasn’t wearing a hoodie, he might still be alive.  

If Eric Garner wasn’t selling loose cigarettes, he might still be alive.  

If Sandra Bland didn’t have a taillight out, she might still be alive.  

If Ahmaud Arbery wasn’t running, he might still be alive.  

If Mr. Douglas hadn’t pulled over to take a phone call, in the Bloomfield neighborhood he works in, he wouldn’t have been threatened with a gun. (citation)  

If the black teenagers in Manchester weren’t out in the middle of the night, they wouldn’t be harassed, hunted and had their bike mangled. (citation)  

If Tamir Rice wasn’t playing with a toy gun, maybe he wouldn’t have been shot in seconds.  

If Rayshard Brooks hadn’t taken the taser being used on him, he would not have been shot.  

If Breonna Taylor wasn’t asleep in her bed, she would not have been shot.  

As late-night tv show host, Trevor Noah so poignantly said,  

The “ifs” keep changing, but there is a common thread here.  

If you weren’t black, you would still be alive.  [Citation] 

Too often after a shooting or harassment of a black person, people seek justification or excuses, reasons for the excessive force. Perhaps crimes are found, but rarely does such a crime justify their murder. In almost no case is their death without a fair trial warranted.  

The desire to justify the excessive force used against people of color is the same today as it was in colonial America: those not blatantly victimized want to be free from responsibility and guilt. If a reason or cause can be found for the violence, than those with power need not do anything to stop the violence from happening again.  

If the Canaanites deserve to be enslaved, the Israelites are not guilty for the harm done. 

If Africans are destined for slavery, whites, whether slave-owning or not, need not heed their humanity. 

If any excuse or crime is justification to shoot a black person, then polite, reasonable people can sit back, shake their heads, say, “what a shame” and do nothing to change the statistics.  

If we can blame the victim, then we are free of sin – and the responsibility to change.  

It is a sin to excuse excessive force and murder because of some perceived or real minor crime. 

The fact that such blame is more prevalent when it is a black person who is killed is one of the many ways society proclaim that black lives do not matter. For if black lives did matter, there would be no petty excuses for the excessive force and murder of black and brown people at the hands of vigilantes or police without trial. It is a sin to dismiss such cases by blaming the victim and ignoring the statistics.  

As Christians we have a spiritual practice for dealing with sin: confession. Confession is the act of naming and unmasking the harm sin has in our lives and world. Confession is the opposite of seeking to deflect responsibility and place blame on others. Confession names the harm sin has in our lives and world. It is the first step towards reconciliation and peace. This is heavy stuff, so let us pause in this sermon to join together in moment of confession.  



PASTOR: God of all our ancestors,  

PEOPLE: we are truly broken by the sins of the past and present, sins personal and political, sins we have personally committed, sins we watched happen, and sins we passed on.  Grant us faith enough to remove racism and all forms of oppression from this world.  

PASTOR: May each one be free to worship you. May each one be free to love with a whole heart. May each one know the peace that is found in you.  


SUNG RESPONSE: “Know Justice, Know Peace” [Slide 12] 


After the confession I usually offer words of assurance and indeed I will, for there is hope. In fact, hope lies in the very text used for harm.  

Another justification for slavery in colonial times was that Africans were an entirely different species from Europeans, closer to apes (which is in part why calling a person of color a monkey is so hurtful). So called scientists made charts and diagrams attesting to the “biological fact”. Later scientists would find their theories based solely on conjunction and almost no actual scientific processes. In fact, later scientists would come to find that there is actually no biological difference between black and brown and white people – DNA cannot be easily categorized by race.  


The biblical witness sands in clear opposition to the thinking of Africans as a different species…all those long genealogies of the Bible do more than just challenge scripture readers. They served as explanation that humanity is all related. The table of nations ought to not be seen as divisive, but as testament to the unity of humanity. The awkward splicing of Genesis 9 and 10 suggest that the curse on Canaan was indeed inserted later – likely for the political aims of the nation of Israel. The unity of humanity was likely the original aim of the story.  

The unity of humanity is, of course, at the core of the Jesus movement. Jesus who would bless the Syrophoenician woman (Matt 15) and speak with love to the Samaritan woman at the well (John 21), Jesus reminded humanity that we are connected by one Holy Spirit AND will be together in the kingdom of Heaven.  

Furthermore, Jesus proclaims the kingdom of heaven is near, and he does so a lot. A kingdom with enough room for all the birds of the air (mustard seed parable). A kingdom where the least of these are welcomed with honor at the feast. A kingdom of rest for the weary, food for the hungry, and peace everlasting.  

Coupled with his proclamations of the coming kingdom are calls to repent – repent for in the end the goats and the sheep will be separated and those who did not care for the least of these will not see the kingdom of heaven (Matt 25). Repent or entering the kingdom will be like trying to get a camel through the head of needle. Repent and be ready for you know not when the bridegroom will come. Repent means to turn-around, change your ways. In doing so we draw near to the kingdom of heaven.  

In Jesus we see a way and a means to embody the kingdom of heaven on earth. We need not be held captive by self-serving mis-guided interpretations of scripture. We need not hold fast to division, for there is enough room in this world for all to prosper. We need not revert to blame, for we have the power to transform this world and draw near to the kingdom of God. We are one people, united through the power of the Holy Spirit. May we seek first the kingdom of God, where poor and rich sit together, where women and men each have places of honor, where justice and equity is the rule, and excessive force and blaming are left at the door. May we seek the kingdom of God where love is the rule and justice reigns. Amen.  

Right Sacrifice

A Special Sermon for GLBT Pride Sunday

June 28, 2020

by Rev. Kelly Jane Caesar

For a rainbow to be beautiful requires each strip to only take up so much space. If any one color takes over, well then, it is no longer a rainbow. As a people we create a rainbow that requires that each person sacrifice so that all can be blessed to be a part. I invite you this morning to consider how much space and time your color takes up. Do people hardly see the color you add? (hold up tiny balloon) If so, how might you share your gifts and experiences more boldly? Or, does your color dominate so that others are overtaken? (hold up huge balloon) If so, how might you step back and invite others to shine? 

To maintain a stunning rainbow community requires sacrifice. Perhaps you are called to sacrifice shyness or fear in order to bring your color to the mix. Perhaps you are called to sacrifice pride or control in order to makes space for other colors to shine.   

Our scripture this morning calls for a great sacrifice in order for the nations to be blessed. Today’s story can help us discern what and how to make right sacrifices in our own lives.  

Today’s story asks for the sacrifice of Isaac, the much-awaited promised son of Sarah, a son whom would continue Abraham’s name and bless the world with descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky. Let us listen, for this story has an important message for us today as we discern the sacrifices we are called to make.  

SCRIPTURE Genesis 22:1-14 

God asks a great sacrifice of Abraham: his long awaited-for son Isaac. Why would God ask for such a sacrifice? More importantly, how could a loving God demand such a traumatizing act? What sort of test is this that Abraham somehow succeeds because he is willing to follow through and kill his son? 

The answer to these questions can help us discern what sacrifices are required of us in our lives today. So, how could a loving God command such a devastating sacrifice? 

Traditionally the answer is that God wants to know if Abraham trusts that God will provide. The text indicates that both Abraham and Isaac have such trust.  

In verse 5, Abraham tells his servants that we, himself and Isaac, will return from the mountain after the sacrifice – indicating that Abraham trusted God to provide.  

 This is confirmed a few verses later when Isaac asks where the sacrificial animal is, and Abraham responds that God will provide. The fact that Isaac asks shows he is old enough to know some of what is going on.  

The text does not indicate that Isaac struggles when being tied down on the wood. This leads many biblical interpretations to believe Isaac was willing and trusting in the sacrifice.  

The popular interpretation is that God asks for such a sacrifice because God wants to know that Abraham trusts in God.  

When considering whether a sacrifice is right in our lives, we can examine if our hesitancy is a lack of trust or something else. Are we scared to take the step because we do not believe God will work for our good? Are we scared to take the step because we do not trust God loves us?  

Sometimes people stay in unhealthy or harmful relationship, mistakenly believing they are making a right sacrifice, but in reality, on some level they do not trust that God loves them and that they are worthy enough of love to leave for something better.   

Sometimes people say yes to too many demands, thinking that the sacrifice of their time is good – yet too often saying yes to every request can actually be a sign of distrust and fear that one is only lovable because of what one does for others.  

Right sacrifices are made in the full trust of God’s love, not out of fear or guilt.  

The second lesson this scripture teaches us about sacrifice has to do with the outcome and the way this story is echoed through holy time. The command to sacrifice Isaac is a HUGE trust fall for Abraham and Isaac. Seeing the trust is there, God proceeds with the promise to use them to bless the nations.   

This story of unfathomable trust, sacrifice and God providing reverberates through history.  

In the artwork of Marc Chagall you can see how the sacrifice of Isaac is echoed through both the story of Hagar and Ishmael and Jesus on the cross.  

Hagar and Ishmael are sacrificed into the wilderness and likely death only a few chapters earlier. In that story, as we heard last week, God provides. So in Chagall’s painting in the lower left there is a woman crying out as Hagar did.  

Thousands of years after Abraham, Jesus will trust and become a sacrifice so that God can provide proof that God’s love and power overcome death. Isaac’s apparent obedience echoes in the obedience and trust God’s own son Jesus would exhibit in the garden of Gethsemane and by going to the cross.  This popular Christian interpretation is depicted in Jesus carrying the cross in the upper right corner of Chagall’s painting.  

In all three cases the great sacrifice and great provision of the Divine enables widespread blessing for countless people. For Ishmael, he becomes the patriarch of Islam. For Abraham and Isaac, the patriarchs of Judaism and Christianity. For Jesus, the salvation of all people; the lived proof of God’s everlasting love for all. [KJ] 

Yet, the command for such a gruesome sacrifice can seem cruel, unnecessary and beyond comprehension to our modern ears – especially in light of the trauma inflicted on too many victims of domestic or child abuse in the false name of sacrificial love.  

However, there are times when we make great sacrifices for a greater love and lasting righteousness. Sons and daughters go off to war to fight atrocious dictatorships – risking their lives for a lasting peace. Children marched with Rev. Martin Luther King in the civil rights movement and just last weekend children, teens and young adults lead the way in Hartford, East Hartford, and West Hartford and indeed across the nation for racial justice – in each case risking their lives for true peace and equity. During our prelude we saw images of many people who made great sacrifices for the advancement of GLBT rights in America – some even murdered for their advocacy. 

We do makes sacrifices, even life-threatening sacrifices, in the hope of “blessing the nations”, to use the language of the promise given Abraham. In the case of Abraham, Isaac, Jesus and disciples of social justice after them, the sacrifice is right for it is made for love for a great many people over generations. When we consider what sacrifices we ought to make in our own lives, we must consider if our actions will aid in the blessing of nations, generations, or many beyond ourselves.   

Great change, especially social change, is often born out of sacrifice. There are the heroes – the people on the front lines working for change. But widespread social change requires the majority of society to make some sacrifice as well, perhaps not life-risking sacrifice, but certainly a release of what wasFor some it is a welcome and desired sacrifice, perhaps more of a willing release than a sacrifice. However, for others it is a heart-wrenching sacrifice, especially for those who benefit from the way things are. Either way requires a loss of what was, the familiar, and a learning of something new.  

The GLBT community has invited the wider society to sacrifice strict gender roles and re-think cultural expectations. When two women go out on a first date, there is no wide-spread social expectation on who pays. When two men raise a child together, there is no wide-spread social expectation on who, quote, “brings home the bacon.” Transgender people have challenged the idea of that physical bodies determine gender. Intersex people challenge the binary male/female divide.  

This disruption of strict gender roles is cause for celebration and a gift the GLBT community has given to the wider society, but even good changes that are ultimately blessings require sacrifice. 

When laws and policies support GLBT persons – whether by prohibiting workplace discrimination or making it illegal for a doctor to deny coverage to a transgender person – it forces society to sacrifice the strict gender roles and expectations and instead accept a broader rainbow of possibilities. A sacrifice, perhaps, for those with fond memories of dressing their daughters up in dresses. On the other hand, a welcome freedom to those daughters who hated wearing dresses. Disrupting strict gender roles and expectations liberates people to pursue passions and interests they naturally have, instead of what society forces upon them – allowing for more fulfilling lives.  

On an even deeper level, letting go of strict gender roles and expectations allows for healthier individuals and more fruitful relationships. Men can cry and have emotions and exhibit strength in compassion for others instead of dominance. Such men are far better partners, leaders, and parents – but to do so such men will have to sacrifice the stereotypical image of a strong man. Women can finish a sentence, be heard in the board room, and even get angry without be dismissed or demeaned. In such situations the group benefits from an important perspective – but the men in the room must sacrifice their privilege of being the first and last to speak and the women must sacrifice the accolades of following stereotypical gender norms. When such sacrifices are made, relationships in offices and at home become more egalitarian and embracive of the whole person.  

The sacrifice of strict gender roles bestows blessings upon the nation as we all – gay, straight, male, female, and everything in between- become free to be who God made, to express ourselves fully and be heard, to be seen and loved as we are or may become. But it requires society to change and sacrifice what was.  

Much change has already occurred as we celebrate the legalization of marriage unrestricted by gender and new anti-discrimination laws affirmed by the supreme court. Much change continues to be needed as transgender people face a disproportionate amount of violence and hate, with at least 27 murders in 2019, majority of whom were black transgender women. Workplaces may not be able to discriminate in hiring, but they can still write parental leave policies that leave two dads in a tough place to figure out how to care for their newborn.   

What if we could trust as Abraham and Isaac, that God will provide a better way? Could we trust enough to really let go of strict gender roles? Could we trust enough to speak up, especially when silence feels more comfortable? Could we trust enough to listen and step back to allow space for others to contribute?  

When confronted with decisions about what, when and how to sacrifice, we see from our scriptures that  

Right Sacrifices are made in deep trust in God’s love, not fear or guilt.  

Right Sacrifice are made for the blessing of nations,  

for the expansion of God’s love in the world.  

Sacrifices are necessary for change – personally and socially. 

Sacrifices are part of the work of social justice and making the world better.  

When we make such sacrifices,  

we indeed become a blessing to the nations and spread God’s love.   

May we trust God enough to make right sacrifices that advance the reign of God’s love for all.  Amen. 

Hagar and the God who Sees

Intro to Genesis 16:1-16

Last week we celebrated the incredible blessings of the Triune God – 

Even through disbelief and laughter,  

a child is born to Sarah and Abraham when they are far past child-bearing years.  

Like so many blessings,  

there is a shadow side to the blessing of Sarah and Abraham having a child in old age. 

In the story of Hagar we find a God who acts in the midst of injustice, 

Who meets us in our most challenging moments,  

And calls us to see anew.  

Today we delve into the story of Hagar, 

The mother of Ishmael, who would become a great nation. 

This story is also in the Muslim Koran,  

Although a bit different for Hagar and Ishmael are not side-stories in Islam, 

But matriarch and patriarch of the Islamic tradition.  

Let us listen to the Jewish and Christian version.   

Genesis 16:1-6a 

The blessing promised to Sarah and Abraham was so unbelievable  

that before the promise is fulfilled, 

they take matters into their own hands, 

And force Sarah’s slave to lay with Abraham. 

They are not the first to violate and force a person. 

Slavery was widespread in the ancient world. 

There were no social services or safety nets like today. 

So, if one slipped into poverty – 

Which was easy to do if there was a drought or war – 

One had little recourse but to sell themselves or their children. 

In ancient Israel there were laws that freed slaves every six years; 

In the Hammurabi Code the release of slaves was dictated after three years. 

It is not certain that the laws were followed, but that was the legal intention. 

The practice of men raping their female slaves was common, 

In ancient times and in this country.  

Although in the story of Hagar we see that she was made a wife – 

Which afforded her, in theory, more respect and honor.  

Once she has conceived, her position increases even more – 

For women’s primary role in the ancient world was to bear children. 

Now that she has been, supposedly lifted up,  

not equal to Sarah, but presumably more status than before,  

Hagar sees differently – 

She looks upon her mistress differently – 

The NRSV translates the phrase “contempt” 

However, a more accurate translation would be “slight”  

Sarah is dismissed in Hagar’s eyes. 

Perhaps because Hagar sees herself as worthy. 

Perhaps because Hagar is disgusted by Sarah’s actions.  

Sarah cannot tolerate Hagar’s new status and new view of her, 

So she afflicts her – in Hebrew it is the same word used to describe how the Egyptians afflict the Israelites in bondage in Egypt. 

Like many who are in places of privilege or power,  

When those with less rise,  

Those who benefit from higher status freak out and desperately seek to regain control – 

Either by condemning freedom tactics of the oppressed  

or enlisting new laws or policies to keep oppressed people down.  

Sarah, like many of privilege before and after her,  

chooses new harsh tactics to keep down Hagar 

and preserve her own status.  

However, those who believe in freedom will not rest – 

They are resilient and strong and rise up.  

Let us hear now how Hagar confronts the affliction brought upon her.  

Genesis 16: 6b – 16 [Slide 7 & Lay Leader] 

Hagar flees and God sees.  

God sees those cast aside, those in the midst of trouble.  

Hagar is the first person in the Bible to name God – 

The Hebrew “El-Roi” translates, “the God who sees” 

Indeed God sees –  

Like the best sort of Father or parent, God sees and protects his beloved.  

God saw the Israelites in bondage in Egypt and brings them to freedom. 

God in Jesus Christ sees the Samaritan woman at the well. He does not look upon her as an object, but sees her as a whole being. He talks with her – a sign of respect not usually afforded to a Samaritan woman whom Jews at the time regarded as other and less than. Jesus sees her and in doing so opens her eyes to see the Messiah. 

Lest we think God is the only one who needs to see, in Matthew 25 Jesus calls his disciples to see the the hungry and give food, to see the stranger and offer hospitality, to see the naked and bring clothes, to see the sick and bring healing, to see the prisoner and visit. To see.  

Seeing is a foundational piece of God’s call towards justice/God’s reign/to loving one another because to see first acknowledges the humanity of another – that another is indeed made in the image of God, as we read in the very first chapter of the Bible. To see is to give respect, as Jesus did with the Samaritan woman at the well. To see is to have a clue as to how to love. We can’t heal the sick without first seeing the sickness. We can’t welcome the stranger we refuse to see. We can’t dismantle racism if we don’t believe it is in our world and in our own minds. To see gives us a clue as to how to love.  

Seeing is especially important for white people eager to jump into social justice work with what is commonly called a “white savior complex” – that “I can make it all better because I’m the hero” attitude makes racial justice work about lifting white people up, when, in fact, there are strong, resilient people of color who have a far better understanding of what is needed. So, to my white siblings, and anyone with privilege in our society, may we first see, instead of attempting to take the lead or correcting the experience of another.  

For people of color, and anyone who has suffered oppression, when the world turns away, know that God sees and will stand by you in the fight for justice. For those with the privilege to look away, do not look away, do not discredit, do not dismiss, but see the injustice rampant in the United States and in the world. Read. Watch. Learn. See. For white women or white people who may be oppressed for reasons other than the color of your skin, let us not use other forms of oppression as an excuse to look away, discredit, or minimize the plague of racism.  

What do you notice about these pictures of Hagar and Sarah?  

Sarah is white and Hagar is black.  

If you google search pictures of Hagar and Sarah, often Sarah is depicted as white and Hagar as black. Historically this does not make sense since both women lived in the same general region.  Sarah most certainly did not look like a white European. Yet, whites are accustomed to seeing themselves as “owners” of black and brown people, whether consciously or unconsciously. Furthermore, Europeans and white Americans view Sarah and Abraham as their ancestors and so depict these ancestors to look like themselves. So artwork by whites often continues this conscious or unconscious historically flawed racial depiction of Hagar and Sarah. And still, Sarah acts as many white women have over the centuries – scared by sexist pressures to have children she inflicts harm upon another woman she has deemed less than. Amy Cooper using the threat of police on a black man in Central Park is a prime example. Allowing one oppression to fuel another only divides us further.  The outcome is not kind. The outcome is terror and harm barely redeemed by God.  

So we hear the next part of Hagar’s story.  

Genesis 21:8 – 14a 

Abraham is not a stellar father here, nor a loving husband – the text does not even name Hagar in this chapter as Abraham’s wife.  

This scripture reminds us that human fathers are still human – fallible and far from perfect.  

This scripture reminds us not to worship human fathers or patriarchs,  

Even if they have done both good and evil, 

For humans are not God.  

While human fathers and husbands, and we can include mothers, wives, mentors and parents, may fail,  

We can count on God to see and hear our authentic cries.  

Let us see the last portion of Hagar’s story as told in our Christian scriptures.  

Genesis 21:14b – 21 

While Sarah and Abraham have afflicted pain and neglected their responsibilities, 

God steps in to save and redeem Hagar and Ishmael.  

When oppression and injustices bear down, 

We can find hope in the God who sees and saves. 

As God opened Hagar’s eyes to the well of water and life, 

God helps us to see hope and possibilities in our lives. 

God helps us see a way out of no way. 

God helps us see tools for justice, tools for blessing, tools for life.  

Sight comes when we take time to look around. 

Sight comes when we are humble enough to cry. 

Sight comes when we open our hearts in prayer.  

When we feel exiled,  

May we trust God sees and will help us to see. 

When we feel powerful or in control, 

May we see the Hagars supposedly under our control. 

When the weight of the world bears down, 

May we cry out and trust that we will be heard. 

When injustices tear apart families and community, 

May we trust that God sees and will redeem.  

May we see and be seen.  


Power of God and Humanity

Sermon on June 14, 2020

by Rev. Kelly Jane Caesar 

Last week we talked about God as a gardener, nurturing a diverse creation, and creating us, humanity with our first call to nurture diversity in creation. Today we look at the power we have to answer God’s call.  

We all have power. God is gracious enough to share. 

 How we use our power matters. 

Today’s story, Genesis 18 and 21, another foundational story of our faith. It reveals a lot about God’s power and our own relationship with power. 

At a time when we may feel powerless, 

Whether we feel powerless in the face of: 

  • The novel Covid virus of which we don’t have a treatment or a vaccine. 
  • Centuries of racism in our country continuing to kill black and brown people 
  • Transgender rights and protections being rolled back 
  • Economic insecurity 
  • Illness or grief in our personal lives.  

At times when we may feel powerless,  

Understanding our power and God’s power is vital to living and moving forward as God’s people 

The first and perhaps most obvious truth we see in this scripture is that God is powerful and we are not God.  

God gives Sarah a child in her old age, even though Sarah laughs in disbelief. For the record, Abraham expressed his own disbelief just a few chapters prior. Even though they did not believe or even fully trust God, the Divine still acts for their good.  

This story counters the popular theology of “bad happened because I did not believe enough.” Too often a bad thing happens and we blame ourselves or others for not having enough faith…my loved one would not have died if I had prayed more…I didn’t get the job because I didn’t trust God enough.  

God’s action in the story of Abraham and Sarah shows the opposite: 

We do not have such power that our thoughts can dictate the universe.  

stepping on a crack does not break your mother’s back, 

And doubting God does not prevent goodness. 

After all, even when we do it all right, there is suffering and injustice. 

A man, Ahmaud Arbery, goes for a jog and is shot. 

A woman, Breonna Taylor, is asleep at home and is killed.  

A woman goes on a date and is raped instead.  

Suffering happens to the innocent. 

The sins of racism and sexism have injured millions for centuries, 

Not because of the thoughts or actions of black people or women.  

Clearly we do not have the absolute power of God.  

We are individual humans. 

Our innocent actions are not shields to unjust suffering.  

Our disbelief and doubts are not obstacles to God’s blessings. 

It is important to remember that we do not have the absolute power of God- 

Otherwise we may blame ourselves for suffering that is outside our control.  

Numerous stories in our sacred text go to great lengths to point out that humans are not all-powerful. 

God has a habit of working miracles when it is clear that it is God and not humanity at work.  

Sarah bearing a child at 100 years old. Rachel bearing a child after years of barrenness.  

In the great Exodus from Egypt God hardened Pharaoh’s heart so that the people were not freed the first time Moses demands, but after great plagues took over the Egyptians. The exodus took place after many plagues in order for the power of God to be known and the people would not take credit themselves.  

These sacred stories show us that God has great power and we are not God; we do not have the power to change the course of stars or individually dictate what will be.  

However, just because we are not God does not mean we are powerless.  

 Alongside the mighty God of miraculous power, we also have a decidedly relational God who practices power with. 

In this story of angels visiting Abraham with a prophecy of Isaac’s birth, we see that God’s Power is Relational. 

The visitors who come to Abraham’s tent are at times called angels, other times called Lord – a name for God. The pronouns in this text jump back and forth between singular and plural, sometimes in the same sentence.  

Some say this is because one of the three is the Lord God and the other two are angels. Some point to different writers of the Bible. 

For many centuries Christians have seen the three visitors as the Holy Trinity: 

The three in one: Creator, Christ and Holy Spirit.  

Thus the use of both plural and singular pronouns.  

The belief that the Trinity visited Abraham is so widespread, that an Russian icon from the 1400s depicts the scene as such. 

(Show picture of Trinity) 

Andrei Rublev painted this famous icon in the 15th century. 

On the far left is God the Father or Creator. 

In the middle is Jesus – his robe blue for divinity and brown for humanity,  

Signaling his position as fully human and fully divine. 

Notice how his hand reaches for the cup, symbol of sacrifice. 

The tree behind him is both the tree Abraham was sitting under, 

And also echoed the tree of Christ’s sacrificial crucifixion.  

On the right is the Holy Spirit – robe of blue for divinity and green for spiritual growth, shown in front of a mountain symbolizing spiritual growth. 

Together the three form a nearly perfect circle in 2D. 

As I spoke about last week, the Triune God is unity in diversity. 

In other words, the Triune God is inherently relational, 

 for God is the relation of three persons as one.  

God practices relational power within God’s self.  

God not only practices relational power in God’s self, between creator,Christ and Holy Spirit, but 

God also practices relational power with us.  

 Notice how the icon leaves space at the table for the viewer to draw near. 

There is literally space at the table for us to join the conversation.  

This makes sense because following today’s scripture the Lord invites Abraham into the Divine conversation among the Trinity. They discuss the fate of the city of Sodom and how many righteous people could save the city. The Lord listens to Abraham, Abraham is part of the conversation – although God certainly has the final word.  

This is representative of how God uses power and our human power – 

We have power, we have power to be in conversation, 

But we do not have the power to dictate or dominate. 

God models for us how to use power – 

God’s power is relational, shared equally among the three persons on the trinity. 

What’s more is God shares some power with us – 

We call it free will. 

God decisively releases power in order to be in relationship with us.  

After all, forced love, forced obedience is not love nor respect.  

 We have power to make decisions, to act, to think and even argue with God. 

It is power with; not power over.  

It is a Relational power, not power in domination.  

Let’s look at an example of how to live out this Divinely-inspired and given relational power.  

You can apply the concept of relational power in nearly every personal situation or societal issue.   

Our community, our nation, indeed our world, is crying out for racial justice. 

So let look at how to use our relational power for racial justice.  

How do we exercise power with? 

Again, our scripture provides inspiration: 

Abraham’s hospitality is a model;  

he runs to give good food and rest to the visitors. 

As Abraham literally gave material goods,  

we too can exercise power with by giving of concrete resources.  

If we want to use our power for racial justice,  

we can literally give our resources to the cause. 

This may mean making a donation to an organization working for racial justice – Color of Change, Moral Mondays, Equal Justice Initiative. 

It can also mean buying from businesses and corporations that promote racial equity or seeking out black-owned businesses to counter centuries of discrimination against black businesses.  

After Abraham has shared his material resources, he steps aside so his guests can eat in the shade. However, the Lord continues to talk to Abraham – so Abraham doesn’t retreat into the tent, he is still present, but has simply made space for the guests.  

Exercising “power with” involves making space for others. God does this with us and we see Abraham doing the same in order that they may share in a dialogue.  

In the situation of racial justice making space means taking an honest look at how much space you take up in conversations. Often in multi-racial settings the voices of black and brown people are cut off or pushed to the side. To exercise power with necessarily requires listening to others and also speaking.  

Exercising power with not only involves sharing space in conversations, it also involves sharing physical space. There is a long history of white people overseeing or “protecting” “their” space – starting with Europeans overtaking the lands of black and brown people around the globe, continuing through self-proclaimed watchdogs, which we saw on full display in both the Amy Cooper incident and the murder of Ahmaud Arbery. White people taking it upon themselves to “protect” “their space”. In both cases we see white people using power over.  

In contrast, we see Abraham practicing hospitality, welcome and the sharing of space. “Power with” looks like an equal sharing of physical space.  

Notice in the picture of the Trinity, the persons are united, yet distinct. When practicing power with we do not need to eliminate the differences. The Triune God is so powerful precisely because the distinct attributes of God help each other out. God the Father lifts Jesus from the depths of hell into the resurrection. The Holy Spirit breathes over the water and into humanity, dancing with the Creator at the time of creation. Jesus as the incarnation of the Divine is our bridge to the holy. Three distinct, yet intimately connected parts of a whole God. The differences matter.  

So when practicing power with, we ought not to wash away the differences. Rather, we need to honor and commemorate the unique gifts and place of others. This is why “being colorblind” is not a virtue. To say you are “colorblind” is to ignore the very different experiences people have in the world.  

To practice power with is not easy, especially if you are accustomed to having power over.  

However, when we exercise power with, new life emerges. 

In our scripture story, Isaac is born – literally new life. 

Jesus is resurrected through the power of the Trinity – an inherently relational God. There are many depictions in art of God the Father lifting Jesus up from the cross, surrounded by the Holy Spirit.   

Today when we exercise power with, new life emerges as well. 

When diverse groups organize and have conversations together,  

new laws, new understandings,  

and ultimately new life is found. 

On the last slide you will see such an example –  

It was also on the front page of the Hartford Courant on Saturday.  

It is a photo of over a hundred clergy from over 38 congregations in the greater Hartford area coming together to demand action on racial justice. The action was organized by the Greater Hartford Interfaith Action Alliance who include faith communities in suburban and urban areas, wealthy and poor, large and small. They had conversations between themselves to identify real problems and then they speak with people in leadership to make the necessary changes. Their work together is an example of exercising power with. It has resulted in anti-racism training for all adults working in schools in some of the area’s school districts, a promise to strengthen the citizens review board of the Hartford police department, and the symbolic yet powerful promise for a Black Lives Matter sign to grace Hartford city hall.  

When we exercise “power with”, we allow the Holy to breathe new life into the world.  

May we dare to join God at the table – 

Not attempting to dictate what will be, 

Nor trying to control what we cannot control,  

But to be in conversation, in relationship with. 

That through the power of the Triune God we may usher new life into the world. Amen.