Rev. Dr. Anna Verlee Copeland's Blog

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July 28 Post

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Dr. Anna is away for vacation. Please consider this re-print of the Minister’s Message from July 17, 2020

Hope Through the Storm: “Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who live in it.” -- Psalms 98:7

Who doesn’t love storm watching? As a child, I stood on the front stoop with my father watching the green sky as he declared hail and pulled the car into the garage. When the sky turned black, he sent me to the basement with my mother and brother, standing firm at the door as if to keep trouble at bay. No matter: a prairie storm can level the tomatoes and uproot trees in a heartbeat. The year a tornado ripped through our Nebraska neighborhood, my family stood in the middle of the basement arguing over where to huddle as our neighbor’s pick-up truck flew by the window, landing upside-down a mile away.

It should come as no surprise that I still take storm warnings seriously. Crossing the West Palm Beach bridge in a blinding rainstorm a few years back, I was shocked witless by the emergency alarm blasting through my cell phone to seek immediate shelter. As a tourist, I learned too late that impossibility, when suspended over water in evacuation traffic. Just now as a first season resident of Vero Beach, I hear murmurings in advance of hurricane season. Locals assure me all will be well, even as emergency provisions gather in pantries, and boats begin their annual move to higher ground.

Most storms of life are quite benign, scattering us briefly for cover. Yet storms of another kind may leave us shaken or wounded in the aftermath. Surely, we find ourselves in such as time as this. Greater troubles gather like a bruise on the horizon, and build for a while before dumping grief upon us. We watch for signs, but cannot always avoid the turmoil. We understand keenly the risks of facing any tempest without an evacuation plan.

Fortunately, the human spirit triumphs with hope greater than any imagined threat. Whatever our background or tradition, we humans have a tendency to seek refuge as reliable as any Midwest, basement corner. We huddle there with the beloved community, with neighbors as near as a phone call, text or email away. When the storm finally passes, as storms do, we will emerge blinking into a cloudless day, eager to assess the damage, help our neighbor, and rebuild our community as needed.

We discover hope through the generosity of neighbors, and we also experience hope through the consolation of our faith. Our people embrace diverse traditions here in Indian River County: Baptist and Baha’i, Catholic and Congregational and all manner of Protestant Christian, Unity and Unitarian, Jewish and Seventh Day Adventist, African Methodist Episcopal, Evangelical, Pentecostal, Hindi, Moslem and Mormon, the spiritual but not religious, and everyone in between.

Every religious or faith tradition embodies a hope we may express differently, yet collectively share. It’s tempting for all of us to bar the doors and ride out our challenges until the world returns to normal. Yet this year of storms created opportunities for a better world on the other side than the one we so reluctantly left behind. By whatever name we call our higher power, energy or God, we humans pray that a source greater than ourselves will reveal the yet hidden path to higher ground for us and for all, and will grant us the courage to take it.

This is our hope. When the storms close round you, it is wise to take cover in the basement or inland, or sheltered in place at home, but never alone, and never afraid. Through the consolation of faith and the generosity of neighbors, we’ll get through this together, whatever the future may bring.

Prayer: God, you know the storms we face, the ones settling down upon us now, and the ones yet forming we cannot see. Shelter us through its entirety, and guide our path through the aftermath. Forever we trust in you. Amen

God’s grace, mercy and peace be with you,

Rev. Dr. Anna V. Copeland
Interim Senior Minister
Community Church of Vero Beach, Florida

 

July 21 Post

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“The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail.” Isaiah 58:11

Recently we reflected in worship about the power of being spiritually prepared. I’ll spare you the whole sermon here, but I did haul out all my backpacking equipment and demonstrate what needs to go into the pack in order to survive and thrive during an extended stay in the wilderness. We made the point that once you’re in the middle of a conundrum, it’s too late to develop the skills or tools needed to resolve it. That’s why we practice and prepare in advance, so that when trouble comes, we will be able to endure it.

Like every Sunday, some things don’t get said. They may be interesting, but we preachers have to leave much of our thinking on the cutting room floor. You can’t say everything there is to say in twenty minutes or so, especially on a Sunday morning when everyone is ready to go out and play. But one thing I wanted to say, is that at times I don’t want to prepare. Sometimes I want to experience life as it comes and just see what happens. And sometimes I prepare poorly, but I’m willing to experience the consequences.

Years ago, I went mountain climbing with an entire roasted chicken, cheesecake and bottle of wine in my backpack. It was too heavy, and took up space for really important things, like a waterproof jacket and flashlight. Yet I prepared for a wilderness party instead of survival, wanting nothing so much as to celebrate with gratitude a circle of friends who joined me that day. We had borne witness to one another’s lives for decades, and somehow, our reunion warranted more than freeze-dried and reconstituted mac and cheese.

How we prepare depends on what we want. And as I don’t always know what I want, and can’t always anticipate what I need, prayer always snuggles down in my backpack and comes along for the ride. Life is just so much more fun when we know that figuring it all out perfectly isn’t possible and doesn’t have to be. We do our best to be faithful, and then trust God to bridge the gap, forgiving us when we wander off-trail, and setting up rock cairns in the wilderness to guide us safely home.

Prayer: Lord of Life, as we set out on life’s grand adventure yet one more day, help us to keep our eyes fixed upon you. Reveal that which is needed to find our way through whatever our muddle. Thank you for feeding us with the feast of life through this wilderness, that wherever we wander, we will hunger no more. Amen

God’s grace, mercy and peace,

Dr. Anna V. Copeland

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