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Rob Merola
Updated: 3 hours 34 min ago

Everyone Worships

Wed, 12/23/2015 - 00:15

David Foster Wallace was described in the secular press as "the most brilliant American writer of his generation." Read the following and you'll understand why.

"...Here's something that's true. In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshiping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And an outstanding reason for choosing some sort of god or spiritual type thing to worship is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive.

If you worship money and things - if they are where you tap real meaning in life - then you will never have enough. Never feel you have enough. It's the truth. Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly, and when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you.

On one level, we all know this stuff already. The trick is keeping the truth up front in daily consciousness.

Worship power - you will feel weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to keep the fear at bay. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart - you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out.

The insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they're evil or sinful; it is that they are unconscious. They are default settings. And the world will not discourage you from operating on your default settings, because the world of men and money and power hums along quite nicely on the fuel of fear and contempt and frustration and craving and the worship of self...

But the kind of life that is most precious involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day.

The Most Important Part of Christmas

Mon, 12/21/2015 - 13:35

Mary

If I decorate my house perfectly with plaid bows, strands of twinkling lights and shiny balls, but do not show love to my family, I'm just another decorator.

If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies, preparing gourmet meals and arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime, but do not show love to my family, I'm just another cook.

If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home and give all that I have to charity, but do not show love to my family, it profits me nothing.

If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes, attend a myriad holiday parties and sing in the choir's cantata but do not focus on Christ, I have missed the point.

Love stops the cooking to hug the child.

Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the husband.

Love is kind, though harried and tried.

Love doesn't envy another's home that has coordinated Christmas china and table linens.

Love doesn't yell at the kids to get out of the way, but is thankful they are there to be in the way.

Love doesn't give only to those who are able to give in return but rejoices in giving to those who can't.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails. Electronics will break, pearl necklaces will be lost, golf clubs will rust.But giving the gift of love will endure.

--First Corinthians 13, Christmas Version

Deepening Our Connections

Fri, 12/18/2015 - 14:03

WeekafterChristmas 033

In the month of December, evening meetings bring a very special bonus: I get to see all the Christmas lights on the drive home! It always reminds of when my parents would bundle everybody up, pile us into the family station wagon, and then drive us up and down the neighborhood streets looking at all the pretty lights. Every year I’d look forward to that particular night almost as much as Christmas morning. It was the repetition of that ritual that both drove it deep into my memory and built anticipation of going out and doing it again.

Those memories are all the more interesting to me as I think of how our culture increasingly distrusts ritual, and is less and less inclined to invest the energy needed to maintain it. That’s too bad, I think. Ritual involves repetition, and repetition builds profound connections like nothing else can. Those connections bind us to one another (think family dinner), a valued past (think beloved childhood stories) and to some of our truest and deepest sources of joy (think favorite songs that we've heard a bazillion times but which we still love to hear again). All of this is part of why I so love the seasons of Advent and Christmas.

The repetition and rituals of our worship go back thousands and thousands of years. In so doing, they connect us to a God who is more than the just the product of our current culture, the latest consumer trend. They connect us to the people we love but see no longer who thought these rituals so important that they bequeathed them to us. In doing what they did, I feel the span of the years drop away and our spirits drawing close. And they connect to us to our larger human family, people in every race and culture across the whole wide world, giving us hope that there may yet be peace on earth.

Better and Better

Sat, 11/28/2015 - 12:31

A

Even reflected, this morning sunrise was quite a treat.

Sunrise 047

It seemed to stretch across the whole sky.

B

Even the cat enjoyed it.

 

Community

Sat, 11/14/2015 - 13:56

Today--Saturday, November 14, 2015--we are all filled with great sorrow at the events that unfolded in Paris last night.   The violence, the loss, the suffering makes us heartsick.  We are pained to the core.  And it always raises a question:  What do we then do?

Perhaps one thing we might do is get to know our neighbors, particularly those who are different than we are--those who are "other" until there are no "others" anymore.  Gregory Boyle, in his wonderful book Tattoos on the Heart, writes of creating a community so close there is "no daylight to separate us."  He goes on: 

Inching ourselves closer to creating a community of kinship such that God might recognize it. Soon we imagine, with God, this circle of compassion. Then we imagine no one standing outside of that circle, moving ourselves closer to the margins so that the margins themselves will be erased.

But this cannot be mere rhetoric. There must be action beyond our words.  And that is why we do Community Lunches at St. Matt's.  Sandra Gentry speaks to this:

People often ask me what the Community Luncheons are about. That always takes me back to when I was first asked to coordinate this ministry.  And I had a vision. I saw our Community Luncheons as an opportunity for us to enter into relationships with one another and our community, our neighbors. Who are our neighbors – why not find out?

[For example, at] the first Community Luncheon  in January of this year... there was one family in particular that stood out to me. It was a young man, his father, sister, and niece. I had met him at the Thanksgiving Day Luncheon last November. That day he was a late arrival, and I asked if he would mind if I sat with him as he ate. I inquired as to how he had heard about the meal. He explained that he was just driving by and saw the sign. Normally, he and his father (who lives with him) celebrated Thanksgiving Day with his sister’s family, but they had gone out-of-town. When he finished his meal, I suggested that he take some food for his father.

Well, in January he and his family came to join us, and they bought cupcakes to contribute to the meal. When he saw me, he asked me to come to their table so he could introduce me to everyone. We had made a connection, and that is exactly what my vision is about – relationships – connections.

If you have never attended one of the Community Luncheons, please consider doing so in 2016. I invite you to come and meet our neighbors. ~Sandra

Thanking God for Ray

Sat, 10/03/2015 - 23:55

A very nice tribute to our Music Minister written by a member of our choir:

This coming Sunday, immediately following the 11am service, we are paying tribute to our amazingly talented and dedicated music minister, Raymond Mueller. I ask that you join us in this celebration, as he moves forward in his career and music endeavors.

Music, for me, has always been a source of healing and connection with God. Singing under Ray with the choir has additionally offered me friendship and expanded community, for which I am very grateful.

For almost ten years, Raymond has graciously allowed us to be present and inspired by his phenomenal gift of composing music for our services. This gift can only be explained as God’s miracle and Raymond’s hard work. His musical talents, not only as a composer, but as a pianist, vocalist, leader and conductor, has offered St. Matthew’s a top notch music program to which we are so proud.

As a choir, we have been moved tremendously in our own individual lives by his courageous actions to always follow your dreams, despite the vulnerability and discomfort this sometimes brings. This message and example has inspired our choir to make many life changes of our own, in pursuit of our own true callings.

Although we all feel a sense of true loss as he moves on from our St. Matt’s music program, we are so grateful for the great foundation he has given us to continue serving God through music. We were nothing short of truly blessed for the gifts bestowed on us, and we cannot thank him enough.

I am deeply proud of my dear friend’s decision to move forward, spreading his talents and pursuing his calling to reach out further to share his most magnificent gifts.

In closing, please join us for Sunday’s 11am service, which will knock your socks off music wise. And, then stay after service to show our support and gratitude to this man, who has done so much for our church. Allow him to know, he has a community here at St. Matt’s, who will continue to follow and support him. We are all better for having him in our lives.

Sincerely, Maria Rondinaro

Still Here

Fri, 10/02/2015 - 11:52

Flight

The hummers are usually gone by now, and they probably wish they were.  But the yard is still full of them, puffed out in the wet and cold, so they look like little balls rather than the sleek missiles that is their usual appearance.

Hummer

I suppose it is going a little overboard, but I warmed up their feeders in the microwave this morning.  I know how much a I enjoy a hot cup of tea,  and it seemed like they might appreciate the extra boost.

St. Francis day is October 4, and I'd like to think he would be pleased.   We'll be celebrating a pet blessing in his honor as well, perhaps another way to express our affection for the beloved creatures that add so very much to our lives.

Pet blessing

Go Big... or Go Home

Sat, 09/26/2015 - 20:03

Godzilla

Over the last almost-thirty years as a priest I’ve had opportunity to talk with hundreds of people about a wide variety of topics in a wide variety of settings. But when those conversations have turned to how a person’s life is going, as they frequently do, there is perhaps one theme that occurs more frequently than all the rest:

The person I am talking to is not satisfied with his or her life.

Now in one sense, that’s just the nature of life in an imperfect world. None of us gets everything we want. But in another sense, the simple truth is that only a small percentage of us get to do what we really wanted to do with their lives.

This new sermon series, which will run for the next 5 weeks, is about taking steps towards making dreams a reality.   It’s called Go Big or Go Home, and the idea isn’t that we’d do something ostentations or grandiose. No, it’s simply that we’d make the most of what’s been given to us in the short time that is our lives. It’s that we’d dream big about what is possible in our marriages, our families, our friendships. It’s that we’d dream big about what is possible in our neighborhood, our school, our workplace, our church, our home.  

And it’s that we’d take those dreams seriously enough to take steps to realize them. In the brief time we are on this planet, we’ll make the unique contribution that only we can make. The idea is that we will become more fulfilled, more focused on things that matter, and happier with life. Because even if our life is pretty good—maybe even pretty darn good—there are always things that need improvement, always areas of our lives and in the world that can use a little (or a lot) of help.

So let’s dive in, shall we?

Boys Being Boys

Mon, 09/21/2015 - 00:07

Oh boy

Where there are boys, sticks usually will not be too far away.

Oh boy1

Given the chance, the use of those sticks will probably not be Parent Approved.

Oh boy2

Stuart Brown, a physician, psychiatrist,  and clinical researcher, has written a wonderful book on play.  He says that play is not  "always sweetness and light. Play can be dangerous. People do get hurt."  That does seem to be the direction this is heading...

Oh boy3

He calls this kind of play "rough-and-tumble".   "Rough-and-tumble play," he says, "is typical among all juvenile mammals, including humans. Part of rough-and-tumble play is that, often, someone goes a little too far. ...   [When this happens] both have learned something about how far they can go. It might seem paradoxical, but such episodes allow the kids to be closer and more free, especially now that they have discovered where their own boundaries lie."   Such wisdom does come at a price...

Ouch

Moments later, the other boy helped this boy up.   He hobbled off the field with a rather dramatic limp.  A few minutes later, both boys came back, and both were walking just fine.  They did not, however, pick up sticks.

On Commitment

Fri, 09/18/2015 - 11:04

It’s been said that we make our commitments, and then our commitments make us. I believe that is true. No commitment has shaped my life more than my commitment to Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.

But here’s the thing: commitments aren’t a “one and done” kind of thing. They need to be renewed on a regular basis. Sometimes, I think, it’s good to renew our commitments in public. That’s why people post about their diets or their exercise routines on social media. By going public, they are rededicating themselves to getting fit. Doing so in front of God and everybody adds a level of accountability. Doing it regularly—sometimes multiple times a day—keeps their commitment fresh.

It is with this in mind that I have decided to reaffirm my faith when Bishop Jones joins us on September 20. The Bishop will lay his hands on my head and pray,

Rob, may the Holy Spirit, who has begun a good work in you, direct and uphold you in the service of Christ and his kingdom. Amen.

There is nothing I desire more, nothing that is more important to me, than this. May the Holy Spirit indeed direct and uphold me, finishing the good work the Spirit has begun.

And this seems particularly pertinent in relation to the major transitions we are facing at St. Matt’s. I’ve  therefore invited our Staff and Vestry to join me in making this commitment as well. It’s an important way of saying, quite publicly, that we are deeply committed to doing all in our power and then some to help St. Matt’s live into God’s best for us. Personally, it’s a way of saying that even after 15 years, I’m all in.

Perhaps you would like to publicly reaffirm your faith as well. Whether that is the case or not, I do hope you’ll join us for what I believe will be a glorious day.

 P.S. For those in the area, we'd love to have you join us immediately following the 11am service as we celebrate Saint Matthew's Day with a picnic. Please bring a dish to share according to the first letter of your last name. A-N - Side Dish; O-Z - Dessert

Heaven's Gift

Tue, 09/15/2015 - 00:51

Sunrise

I could not be more thankful for the rain that blew in Saturday morning.  We only got a half an inch, but that half inch sure helped.

Gourd

It kept this gourd looking healthy.  I haven't planted gourds for several years now, but they keep reseeding themselves.  Sort of like tomatoes, come to think of it.

Black swallowtail

It kept this black swallowtail caterpillar supplied with juicy Queen Anne's Lace. 

Hummer candy

And it helped keep the Hummingbird Buffet fresh and enticing.

Snake Head--Not!

Sun, 09/13/2015 - 23:19

Rainbow 003

There is something very rewarding about  finding something one has been searching for his whole life long, but which in the past has always proved to be elusive.  A Tiger Swallowtail caterpillar is one of those things for me.  I've been hoping to find one since I was a kid, actively looking for one without any success.

But then, just last week, I noticed this guy hurrying across the road.   

When he grows up, he'll look like this.

Tiger

Kindred Spirits

Mon, 08/31/2015 - 23:51

Baldie 021

It's hard to place my finger on exactly why, but I feel a certain profound sense of connection with this cardinal.

Maybe it's the bushy eyebrows?

Baldie 014

Enjoying a Meal

Mon, 08/31/2015 - 00:07

Cobia fishing sharks 043

A couple years ago we went cobia fishing.  The cobia never showed up, but some sharks did.  It was fun.

This year we went cobia fishing again.  And once again, cobia proved elusive.  But we did see some turtles.  This one was particularly interesting.  We thought it was eating a jellyfish, but in looking at the picture now it's clear that its actual meal is horseshoe crab.

Evening walk 019

What A Moose

Sat, 08/29/2015 - 00:27

Lindandmoose

Linda could get a little closer to these...

Scottys

Apparently, Angus is the leader.  Bridgette, on the other hand, didn't want to leave.

Bridgette

Dear Friends

Thu, 08/27/2015 - 20:39

I had a dream last night. In it, I was called to another church. It was a big church. It had a large staff. It had expansive and beautiful buildings. It wasn’t exactly clear how I got there. In the dream, I wasn’t looking for a new church. It was just one of those situations where one thing lead to another, and all of a sudden, there I was.

And the truth is, it wasn’t a dream. It was a nightmare. Because the most vivid thing about the dream is the feeling that where I really wanted to be was back at St. Matthew’s. I was never so relieved as when I woke up and realized that I still get to be is with you, the people I have worked so hard with and with whom I have fallen so deeply in love.

Because in the end, that’s what a church really is. It’s a group of people. And there is no group of people I’d rather be with than you.

During the summer, it’s easy to let church slip to the back burner. Part of what makes summer summer is that we let our normal routines go in order to take vacations or to go places or do activities we can’t do during the heavily scheduled school or work year. I get that.

And  even in life in general, it’s easy for one thing to lead to another and for church to drop out of the picture. Life happens, as they say. I get that too.

Maybe God gave me that dream not just to remind me of what is so good about St. Matthew’s, but also to remind you as well. And so as summer draws to a close, I hope we will all make a point of coming together once again to do the work that God has given us to do: the work of knowing and sharing God’s love. Perhaps Back To Church Sunday on August 30 is the perfect time for all of us to do just that.

Because the thing is, what makes St. Matt’s St. Matt’s is… well, it’s you. I so look forward to seeing you there! With much love and affection, Rob+

Summer's End

Thu, 08/27/2015 - 01:12

Readingcomics(1)

One of the things I’ve learned in talking to people over the years is that a great many of us feel a certain wistfulness as summer draws to a close. Maybe it’s the kids going back to school or heading off to college. Maybe it’s the end of summer vacations, of relaxed days coming home a bit early to spend some extra time outside, maybe firing up the grill with some friends. Maybe it’s the cool air sneaking in during the night, or the garden beginning to go by. Whatever it is, there is a sense of melancholy hiding off in the shadows, a sense of nostalgia that wishes the halcyon day of summer would never end.

But they do end. Summer gives way to fall. Youth fades. Children grow up.

If one is even the least bit mindful, a sense of loss is inescapable. What are we to do with all this?

For some time now, this is one of those questions that I’ve been turning over not only in my mind, but also in my heart and soul. And I think I’m finally at a place where I can pull those thoughts together, along with insights I’ve picked up from a number of different sources, and formulate something of an answer.

If you’re interested, that’ll be the topic of this weekend’s sermon at St. Matt’s. As always, we’d love to have you join us.

Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus

Tue, 08/25/2015 - 10:54

Mice1

Actually, I don't really believe that.  I'm in the camp that tends to  think that men can be as different from other men, and women from other women, as they can be from each other.  Still, it does seem to me that men and women often do have very different ideas of what makes for a great vacation...

Fond Memories

Sat, 07/25/2015 - 10:32

Dear Friends,

While unpacking in a new city, I’ve been flooded with memories as I open boxes filled with t-shirts of every color from years of VBS.

What does VBS mean to me? It means special moments when the band rocks the church, the kitchen crew scurries to feed the masses, the games, crafts, and drama bring awe and smiles to kids of all ages. VBS is a chance for kids, teens, and adults to travel together as a crew building friendships. Bible verses and stories reaffirm the faith of some and introduce our faith to others. Teen nights after VBS are magical! Bonding over bowling, ice cream, or an outdoor movie are all special times at church. What is better than teens who want to spend time at church?

Over the years, VBS has been a way that our family grew in faith. Whether practicing hand motions to songs, making sample crafts for demo, trying out a game, or decorating the church, my three kids (who are now all young adults) all have such special memories growing up at Saint Matthew’s. VBS helped them to remember Bible verses, to share love and kindness with newcomers, and to keep their faith through rough times and life transitions. For me, it was always the best week of my summer!

Many folks ask which year was my favorite. I can’t answer because each year holds so many very special moments. Volcanoes, ranch hands, crocodiles, an airplane in the parish hall, a Biblical periodic table, and the backdrop of the African plain-they were all crazy ideas that allowed kids to discover God in a creative way. It wasn’t really about the theme, it was about the people.

VBS is a time when everyone does church together! A community of folks all moving in the same direction, to know and share God’s love. It takes a village for it all to happen, and it’s so much fun to be a part of. Spending time together whether you are that six year old in the pew and meeting your crew on the first night, or as a sixty year old volunteering as the photographer, the magic happens and you will feel God’s love. I will be praying that you all have a wonderful VBS and I hope that you are able to take time to be present with each other.

What an awesome way to spend time this summer! Peace, Jodie Leach

King of the... ?

Thu, 07/23/2015 - 12:04

Kf

At first light the other morning a couple fox kits were out in the field having a grand old time.  Eventually their play developed into a game of King of the Hill.

King oof 005

Then it was ears up, listening for the dangers of the day, and deciding it was time to head for home.

Kf1

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