by Leah R. Berkowitz
“Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy”—Exodus 20:8
In the midst of my first week in the rabbinate, I found myself combing the grocery stores in my new city for Sabbath candles and challah, the braided egg bread that we eat at festive meals. I must have been at my third store when a colleague called me on my cellphone. After explaining my predicament, I exclaimed, “Aren’t we supposed to have wives for this?”
For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. –Ephesians 2:14
As I have travelled to different parts of the world, met many people and worked at different churches, I have witnessed time and time again God uniting groups that appear to have nothing in common. My experience of calling has not been to a specific church or hospital. I feel called when I participate. I feel called when I witness the power of God’s peace breaking down all human differences, and I want to take part. When I’m surrounded by inspiring people who never let anything get in the way of their love for others, I feel called. My calling has come from within, after moments of witnessing the uniting power of God’s peace.
My husband and I were running errands one Saturday when we stopped at a local bookstore. I noticed a display of books in the center aisle and realized I had never heard of them. The covers were decorated with solid, bold colors and a large bird.
“The Hunger Games? What’s that?” I asked my husband.
“Oh, The Hunger Games,” he replied. “All of my students at the high school are reading them. They can’t seem to put them down. They walk down the hallways with their noses buried in the books and when I ask them a question, they tell me to wait so they can finish the paragraph!”
“Really?” I replied. “Well, then they must be good.”
I was enraptured by the Harry Potter series and recently finished The Twilight Saga, so I was anxious to read another great young person’s series. So I bought the first book in what is The Hunger Games trilogy. I read it in two days. And two days later, I bought the other two books. I finished all three of them in one week. They are well-written, intensely violent, page-turning thrillers. Plus they have a great female protagonist. Not the stuff of the Bible, right?
I didn’t even see them, so corroded they were by dirt and time and tossed just off of the worn gravel cement path into the kind of grassy weeds that edge city blocks and line neighborhood sidewalks. I’d like to say I was too captivated by brilliant fall colors, too caught up in a dusky cool breeze to notice them—but the truth is that I was lost in the sort of funk and fatigue that wraps one up in a fog of just getting by, focused on too many what-if's and should-have's and I-wish's to be present in any given moment.
Abruptly my walking companion called out, “You know why we don’t notice these?”
“Huh?” I said without a hint of eloquence, having not even heard her words and unable to see what she held between thumb and forefinger even as I stopped and turned towards her.
“You know why we don’t notice these?” she repeated, and then, as her palm opened to reveal the two old pennies she’d just picked up, the ones I hadn’t even noticed, she answered her own question, “because we think they don’t matter.”
Editor's Note: Along the Way highlights the stories of young women on their way toward ordination. Submissions are welcomed and should be sent to alongtheway(dot)ycw(at)gmail(dot)com.
As the tears rolled down my face, Abby whispered, “The last piece, dear Katelyn, is learning to love yourself as God loves you.” My tears were a mix of relief, thanks and fear at saying “yes” to my first ministerial position. The tears came easily as I sat in the office, meeting with Abby and Doug, my home church pastors, to review my ministry contract for my new position.
For the past year I’ve been immersed in the Search and Call process, seeking a call to be an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. I’ve heard the process compared to dating, or a roller coaster ride. In my experience the dating analogy is more accurate. A roller coaster ride, while full of ups and downs, is usually over in two minutes. In contrast, the Search Process typically takes between twelve and eighteen months. I remember hearing this in UCC Polity class. But hearing it is different than experiencing it.
Genesis 17:1-7 and Galatians 3:26-29; 4:4-7
The Christmas tree is down, the decorations stored away and family members have returned to their own homes. At least in theory we have accomplished this “putting away” of Christmas. Yet, is Christmas really tucked away in neat boxes, orderly piled in our attics until the day after Thanksgiving next year?
Why then, did we sing a Christmas hymn as our opening worship song this morning? Why are we still referencing Emmanuel, God with Us, in our liturgy? And as much as we love the Christmas season, isn’t it just a season? We’ve endured hearing the same Christmas music on the radio for at least a month or more, isn’t it time to move on?
We have been working our way through the senses this Lenten season. Two weeks ago, we began with taste. Jesus was tempted to turn stones into bread. He was so hungry he could almost taste it. Last week, we met Nicodemus in the middle of the night. He struggled with wanting to see Jesus without being noticed himself. He was still shortsighted. Today, we meet a woman, who after meeting Jesus, shared her story with all those who had ears to hear.
The writer of John is often referred to as the Evangelist. He writes his gospel in such a way as to share the Christian message that his readers would become believers and doers of the Word. He was a gifted storyteller, and he knew what he was doing when he put today’s passage right after Nicodemus. The situation and the Samaritan woman couldn’t be much more different.
Last week I reached a milestone. I paid off my car. It took me 5 years to do it, and I found, as I saw the last bill with $0.00 after the words “Balance Due,” that it was a bittersweet moment.
I’m not one of those people who has a relationship with my car. At least, I don’t think I am. However, I see a burgundy Subaru Station Wagon (now a rarity) and I am taken back to the first car I learned to drive with a manual transmission. I can still remember my mom teaching me how to drive it, telling me when I learned, then my sister and I could stay home alone while she and my step-father went away for a weekend. I learned quickly. I smile when I think of “Bob” the neon that my sister and I shared for a while, and the “tin can on wheels” Tercel that was basically a car body, 2 doors, a stick shift, and a steering wheel. My last year of college I got my first “grown up” car – a Nissan Altima. It was used, but I had graduated to a vehicle that had automatic door locks and windows. I was in heaven. That car took me from college graduation to my first job. It is what I parked at my first apartment, drove back and forth to my parent’s house, and is the car that took me to visit seminaries. I can still remember leaving one school and pulling out of the parking lot after visitation weekend knowing it was not the place for me, and 2 weeks later pulling out of my future alma-mater certain that this was it. That car carried me to seminary, across the country for an internship, on road trips with friends, to tiny rural churches to pulpit supply, and eventually 14 hours north to my first call. I remember when I signed the papers for the new car feeling sad about the passing of the old one. But, 125,000 miles is a lot and it was either throw good money after bad, or have a fresh start.