May 1, 2022
Dear Kind and Gentle People,
Christ is risen! Alleluia! Risen our victorious head!
Sing his praises! Alleluia! Christ is risen from the dead!
It was in 1994, working in a Lutheran church outside Philadelphia, that I first learned this old hymn by John S. B, Monsell. The “Old Guard” insisted that it be included as “tradition.” Henceforth, the simple refrain has been taken advantage of by yours truly as an introit or gospel acclamation and printed on colorful Easter paper (thankfully it is public domain), complete with brass, timpani and naturally crash cymbals. Still almost 30 years later the 9-bar refrain rattles my inner hearing at most surprising times.
During this season of Eastertide, we will hear about good old doubting Thomas, preposterous thundering from the book of Revelation, the good Shepherd, a new heaven and a new earth, the ascension and of course liberation. These topics of the lectionary year C and season of Easter make it clear that the function of the Resurrection life is restoration of relationship and deep forgiveness.
Sometimes we forget that our Creator is available 24/7 with no barriers and devoid of a secret formula. We are challenged to live as though the resurrection truly illumines us. We are called to seek peace and reconciliation and be in fellowship with one another while on our earthly journey. As the season of Eastertide unfolds with its amazing stories and powerful witness, might you please allow yourself to be open to a change of heart. The Holy One is present in all things and is simply waiting for you to present the comely and not so comely parts of yourself. In short, you are going to be loved “Warts and All.”
Gobs of blessings and heaps of happiness.
Rev. Dr. Peter Stickney, Chaplain
P.S. Hope you got some yummy Easter Candy and gobbled it up! P.P.S. The photo is of the tiny Newfield Community Church on Easter.
April 22, 2022 – Earth Day
Earth Day is April 22, 2022 and lots of sacred musicians are experiencing a new awakening to what is truly important in our lives and in our music ministry. Our life is a miracle. Our life is a prayer.
The creation around us is also a prayer. It isn’t that God is the gravel, clay or grass, but the gravel, clay and grass are infused with the creative love of God.
We are people of action and invoke Spirit with our breath, creative sounds and intention. Mere words cannot express our calling. I would be so bold as to admonish you to use your divine connection to bring healing to others and to our planet. Perhaps you would make a daily commitment to use your prayer power, sound and intentions to uphold other musicians and the world for this season on Gaia. You all have lots of tools in your toolbox, so please use them to help others rise above fear, trepidation and the sea of despondency. Invoke healing to and for all of creation.
At this time, as the secular calendar commemorates Earth Day, we raise our voices to thank God for creation. We remember that seeing a stream, a forest or a tiny bird in our back yard garden deserves a certain reverence. God’s creation deserves our love and respect and we as followers of the Light have a responsibility to be careful stewards of our sacred “Mother Earth.”
I want to thank you for taking a minute to read my simple letter to you. You are all such powerful beings of light, and sacred holy sound healers. Please remember who you are and what you value.
Now go forth and BE WHAT YOU VALUE!
Happy Earth Day!
Rev. Dr. Peter Stickney, Chaplain UCCMA
Today is one of my favorite secular holidays. Yup, April Fool’s Day. This morning at 4 AM at the Portland, Maine airport, on my way to attend a childhood friend’s 60th birthday party in Grand Rapids, an inadvertent "April Fool’s Joke” was played on me. The airport marquee said that my flight was cancelled! HORRORS. Thankfully this turned out it was an error and all my worrying was for nothing, yet another life lesson taught by the cosmos, (again). I endeavor to forsake worry!
Spring in the Grand State of Maine has arrived. March started with a newfangled type of Ash Wednesday, “Ash and Dash,” from the back of my trusty 2005 Scion in the church parking lot and it was quite meaningful. I did open the second-floor windows of “The Mill” on March 18 and howled at the full moon about 1 AM (Yes, it’s true). My maple trees were tapped for the sweet sap to be boiled into syrup. The culmination of this was “Maple Sunday” last week, when we celebrated the gift of the Maple tree. Over 2,000 vehicles came through the sleepy village of Newfield to purchase and gobble up sweet maple products.
Other signs of the season: Mr. and Mrs. Bluebird are busy building a nest outside my door at “The Mill” and the hens have increased their egg production (I wash—not wipe). We have giant frost heaves that are quite dangerous for the bottom of your vehicle on many of our roads. Several of our dirt roads have been impassible due to MUD. Our country roads are posted for weight limits, meaning that pulp trucks and logging trucks do not get to use them until further notice, which also includes the appliance truck delivery. My favorite daffodils are starting to pop out of the earth and the well water has quite an “earthy” seasonal flavor! The giant crackling and frightening noise of the ice going out of the Mill Pond finally happened last week. The sheer sight and sound of this annual event never fails to remind me to respect nature and the Creator of all that is seen and unseen.
Yes, Spring has come and Easter is coming — but not before our hero Jesus is betrayed and tortured to death as a political prisoner. The culmination of our Lenten Journey with the reading of the Passion and the unfolding of Holy Week not so gently reminds us to be steadfast in our prayers. This journey culminates at the foot of the cross and then finally bursts into a grand celebration complete with all five verses of “Lyra Davidica” and hopefully at least two modulations. I pray that the way of life and peace will unfold in the most benevolent outcome for you as we enter the final cadence of our journey into the pure Joy of the Resurrection.
Lots of us observe Ash Wednesday which begins the forty days of Lent and prepares us for the great fifty days of Easter. The scriptures frequently mention the use of ashes as an expression of humiliation and sorrow along with sackcloth or what we refer to as a “gunnysack” (very itchy). Traditionally, ashes are imposed upon the forehead, and nowadays sometimes on the back of a person’s hand. Covid precautions might include ashes by way of a cotton swab, to be disposed of after each use. The words, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return,” are usually uttered over the penitent at this time. Evidently, as you age, these words become more powerful!
This year, on Wednesday, March 2, 2022, many of us will realize that there is no time to waste as we examine our humanness, our mortality, our finiteness. Some of us will be ministering with live, in person services at various times of the day. Others might be providing meditative music during the noon hour or assisting with the newfangled “Ash and Dash” from the church parking lot.
Psalm 51 is usually read or sung. Perhaps you might want to brush up on it and its colorful history (David and Bathsheba, i.e. murder, adultery and repentance). Verse 10, “Create in me a clean heart,” always seems to rattle in the brain as I audiate my favorite gospel/swing/jazz setting by Bob Hurd and Dominic MacAller, complete with alto sax embellishments. The rich text summons us to receive healing and wholeness by giving our hearts to the giver of life and being set free from error. As we receive light into the questionable areas of our being, the Merkaba, or light energy around our bodies radiates. We walk in light!
Ash Wednesday teaches us to live life to the fullest, to honor what we know to be true. It is a time to turn away from the distractions that ignore the earth and the people in our lives. On this day we are not so gently reminded that life on Gaia is precious and can be gone in an instant. You are invited to a day of healing and transformation. Ash Wednesday offers yet another opportunity to be responsible for the care of your soul and to walk in freedom from your burdens. Please answer the invitation with affirmative energy.
We are dust, but we are beloved dust, given love and blessing and opportunity to enjoy. So let us pay attention, squeeze our loved ones, listen to God through the quiet nudges of the Spirit and live each day to the fullest before we are called to the ultimate transformation and celebration.
To my tender readers, xhere is the February edition of “Epiphanies from the Mill House.” I want to let you know that “The Mill” or Mill House is my home in Newfield, Maine. It is a perfect place to ponder the Universe. Each day of life is greeted with a grand view of the mill pond from almost every window and most importantly from my UnKuL Petah-sized rocking prayer chair. Yup, might as well be comfortable when seeking the master of the Universe and discerning how to allow the day to unfold. There is also the “Peace Porch,” a magical porch that overlooks a waterfall. Many a powerful prayer gathering has been hosted here.
The Mill House
Sacred practices like prayer, study, fasting, and other spiritual disciplines that cultivate a dependence on God are profitable ways to spend our time. Immersing your being each day in scripture and quiet time will certainly help your day to unfold and help to embrace the riches the Light offers to us. As sacred musicians we all study the scriptures to coordinate our music for worship, usually months in advance so that music is ordered and we can prepare our choirs and accompaniments properly.
In preparing the sermon for February 6, 2022, I was so happy to see one of my favorite scriptures -- Isaiah 6:1-8. I came to love the Isaiah scripture through conducting the musical setting, “In the year that King Uzziah died,” by David Williams. This is such a dramatic scripture. “Woe is me” indeed! The prophet witnesses the hem of God’s robe on fire, the house is shaking and is filled with smoke. He receives a special delivery from the Seraph, (visions of a six-winged dragon here), in the form of a live hot coal from the altar direct to his lips, cleansing him from guilt and sin thus enabling him to say “Here am I; send me!”
The Isaiah story is paired with a good old fish story in Luke 5:1-11. Jesus is beginning his ministry. He has been baptized and then off to the wilderness to pray, study, fast and resist temptations. With the fish story Jesus really shows that the Holy One expects us to take a part in building the kingdom of God. We are all called to make a difference where we are! Each of us has been anointed to be a witness to the Creator. The very least of which is to proclaim to the people of Gaia, “Don’t be afraid” and “Be at Peace.”
So, as our aforementioned sacred practices yield results; such as direction through a thought, idea, leaning, calling or even a terrifying experience such as Isaiah had, let our response to the God of the Universal Universes be, “Here am I, send Me!” and affirm “I am not afraid.” In other words, “Don’t be afraid.”
Gobs of blessings and heaps of happiness,
As I craft my message to our tender readers on this frightfully frigid day, we are in the middle of our season of Epiphany, a season that many of us have come to embrace with great joy and reflective energy. In short, a wonderful time for us to reflect how Jesus fulfilled his destiny, and how we are fulfilling ours.
There is so much to ponder in this season, including the Baptism of Jesus complete with a supernatural voice, and of course Dr. King’s message to the world to be a person of action according to your belief. Last Sunday was a wonderful correlation to this admonishment as Mary was a person of action and was not going to let a feast fizzle as she announces to Jesus, “They have no wine.” How often we forget to bring our challenges to our brother. Obviously, our diverse challenges are unique to each situation, however we all have them and must decide how to face them.
This last week the Newfield Community Church shuttered its doors for a third time due to what is happening with Covid in the Grand State of Maine. We will broadcast a message each week on our Facebook page. As a blessing, it was amazing to see responses from people in our community who have never come through the doors but are partaking of worship through the Facebook medium.
Newfield Community Church
The tiny food cupboard outside is kept above freezing with an old-fashioned light bulb, (it was minus 9 this week—before adding in the windchill). Honestly, I am amazed and astounded at what has recently happened as a result of us closing the doors. I have had HUGE amounts of boxed food brought to my doors: organic meats, vegetables. And then the crowning glory—the local pot growers phoned me and wanted to donate turkeys and gift cards for food and items. I literally was able to stuff my vehicle full with all these donations and hundreds of dollars of gift cards and distribute it all by way of a school social worker. Amazing!
We are grateful that the town of Newfield now has upgraded internet service and we could subscribe. We are embracing our challenges and it appears that good fruit is emerging from these efforts.
What are you doing in your prayer life to face your challenges and what action are you taking to create a world that is filled with peace and light? How are you going to put your life force into action as you combat attempts to fizzle the feast of life? I hope you will be like Mary and have great expectations and trust in her son, and that you will emulate Dr. King as a person of action. Let there be light!!!
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