Rev. Dr. Anna Verlee Copeland's Blog

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July 22 Post

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“Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge. I say to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.’” Psalm 16:1-2

In the face of anxiety-producing circumstances, God grants simple gifts to bring comfort. When I was a little girl and my parents got into a fight about something, I went downstairs and played church hymns on the piano until the storm passed. Music became the prayer that sheltered me. It shelters me still.

When the troubles of the world get bigger, our world grows smaller. It’s funny how this works. The simplest of acts remind us that God is our protector, our strength, and our hope that all manner of things shall be well. For example, when Jesus faced an angry, murderous crowd with rocks in hand, he bent down and quietly wrote with a stick in the dirt. There was a long pause. He looked up and calmly asked whoever among them was without sin to throw the first stone. And they all went home.

Jesus knew what to do with an angry crowd. He slipped out of worship when the men of his hometown responded to his first sermon by wanting to throw him off a cliff. He got up long before dawn and went off to a lonely place and prayed there after an exhausting day of teaching and healing. He listened to the challenges of the suspicious Sadducees and the critical Pharisees and then helped them ask better questions. He responded to the bitter betrayal of one of his closest friends by taking an after dinner walk to the olive garden where he expressed his deepest concerns to God.

What comforts you in the maelstrom? Where do you turn when storm clouds gather on your horizon? The shape of our refuge may differ from one another: a solitary walk at the beach, a quiet cup of tea in the corner of a sunlit room, a hard bike ride to nowhere and back, an appointment with the garden pulling weeds, the singular hour reading the Psalms or a nourishing word. Wherever you land for respite, you can be sure of this. The God of life waits for you there. God protects you and shelters you. God desires for you all good things.

In the words of a reflective hymn from the Taize community in France:
“Nothing can trouble, nothing can frighten,
those who seek God shall never go wanting.
Nothing can trouble, nothing can frighten,
God alone fills us.”

Prayer: On this day, dear God, help me to remember that perfect love casts out all fear, as Jesus said. Amen

God’s grace, mercy and peace,

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

July 15 Post

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“Do all things without murmuring or arguing, so that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, in which you shine like stars in the world.” - Philippians 2:14-15

When you don’t get to see your family very often, you tend to be on your best behavior. You bite your tongue when you would ordinarily say something. You let go of things you would usually address. And if you’ve traveled with a member of your immediate family for the visit, you wait until you get home to express something that is bothering you.

These unspoken rules apply to most families. Ignore them at your peril. If you say what you’re really thinking, it may be a very long time before you’re asked to return, and it could be really awkward when you do.

Murmuring and arguing begin when we feel entitled to have our way about something. These behaviors are grounded in an unspoken demand that others behave in a way we want them to behave. Prepare to be disappointed. We don’t actually have any kind of control at all in how others behave.

We have every opportunity through faith, however, to act in those ways that would please us if others acted that way towards us. Something about a Golden Rule, as I recall, “Do to others as you would have them do to you,” Jesus became even more specific as he went on to ask his followers to love their enemies, and to lend to others in need, and to do good things for others, expecting nothing in return. And finally he said, “Be merciful as your Father is merciful.”

Nearly every religious and cultural tradition of the world has a similar teaching: "Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself." — Confucius (c. 500 BC); "Do not do to others that which angers you when they do it to you." – the philosopher Isocrates (436–338 BC); “Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.” (Buddhism – Udanavarga 5:18).

I have to confess that from time to time I get cranky. When that happens, it’s likely because I want someone to see, think, or act differently, which really means that I want them to do what I want them to do. Then I remember these beautiful, invitational words of the Apostle Paul written to his squabbling friends at the beloved ancient church at Philippi.

“Do all things without murmuring or arguing, so that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God….and shine like stars in the world.”

Prayer: Just for today O God, give me the courage to keep silent when I’m eager to speak, and to set my face for shining. Amen

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

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

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