Tensions rise between neighbors. Hate lurks in stores and on roads, in school hallways and political discussions. Humanity focuses more on its own individual well being instead of the well being of all.
Yet animosity isn’t the last word, and hate will never win because God’s love endures forever. Divine love dissipates all venom and sweetens all bitterness.
Even as we walk in the shadow filled valleys of toxic interactions, God’s love is lighting the path to the future. Through the Spirit of the Christ in our world, the vapors of hate will not last in our world. Love will spread from person to person, lifting the toxic fogs that linger between people.
We light the candle of love to clear the cloud of hate in our world and dissolve the mists of gloom as the Christ enters our world and brightness continues to grow. Amen.
(c)2021 Rev. Michelle L. Torigian. Permission to use in a worship service (including a streamed service) with attribution.
Under the night sky We abide the beauty of God’s darkness. Beyond midnight- where miracles fill the earth and magic fill the skies. Where stars and planets twinkle, delighting both the greatest skeptics and believers.
Under the night sky In the chilly winds of nighttime, A young woman met her son, And light came into her world. This illumination spread beyond time and space, Expanding beyond human limitations into our world.
Under the night sky Humans saw the alignment of planets birthing an extraordinary light- The greatest star declaring a birth. And as human and divine aligned that night, the world shifted to a new realm.
(c)2021 Rev. Michelle L. Torigian. Permission to use in a worship service (including a streamed service) with attribution.
This day and always, we send our gratitude for our educators. From the preschool teachers who instilled a love of education from a very early age to the professors who mentored us as we sharpen our crafts, they have reflected your image as a Divine Educator.
Bless the ones who stood by us when life was hard, who listened to our pain that went far beyond the classrooms. May they realize how much their words and moments saved us from our own self-doubts and the torment of bullies.
Bless the ones who taught us information that would impact the rest of our lives and the ones who gifted us information that we never integrate into our callings. May they know that moments of education never are wasted.
Bless the ones who pointed out our talents, who spoke holy words into the world that led us to our callings. May they realize their life-long impact on the ones they taught.
Bless the memories of the ones who have passed on to that side of heaven with you. We thank you for each step walked, each word uttered here on earth. Their gifts will make an impact for generations.
And for the ones who seemed extra frustrated, whose patience ran short and their emotions ran high in the classroom, bless them with the grace they need and healing from tough moments in life.
Whether they impacted our life when we were four or fourteen or thirty-four, their words and gifts build us into the people we are today. For their time and talents, we are forever grateful.
The tension rises into my forehead. Is that where this headache is coming from? The aches in my stomach are new and gnawing. And, God, what is this pain going up my neck? Is it because my shoulders are up by my ears?
Stress has been my unwanted companion for so long. But why is it I wont take the time to deep breathe, to meditate, to walk around the block?
So my mind keeps churning and turning and worrying.
God of each inhale and exhale, be my source of chilling out. Encourage me to find time to release the stress this day and each day hereafter.
The first Wednesday in November is Stress Awareness Day.
Our joints stiffen and swell. Radiating pain shoots across our necks, backs, knees, and hands. What aches will tomorrow bring? we ask ourselves. How do we walk one step at a time or fulfill our callings with the limited use of our bodies?
As we mark World Arthritis Day, may the gifts of treatments better our lives. May inflammation decrease and movement increase. May we figure out how to live fully even when various types of arthritis threaten our futures. May your Spirit guide us in the shadows and lead us into the sunlight again.
Like many of you out there, I’ve become a fan of Ted Lasso. (I probably should say that I’m now a superfan of Ted Lasso, considering all of the times I’ve watched the series all the way through.) Ted provides a leadership that is constructive and encouraging of the team – from its owner to the players to all who work for the Richmond team.
There’s a piece of the story that I believe is crucial to write about today, World Mental Health Day. (Friends: this part might contain spoilers, so turn back now if you do not want to know what will happen before the end of season two.)
In the first season (or series, as it’s called in Britain), Ted has a panic attack one night during the team Karaoke event. The owner of the team talks him through his attack, supportive of his struggles from their early days together.
In the second season, Ted has another panic attack during a game. I’m not sure what brings this one on, and I don’t think it really matters to the viewers. The most important piece is that Ted has a panic attack and must face what is happening.
Ted begins to open up to the people closest to him that the reason he left the game was due to a panic attack. And one of his confidants (Nate!) discloses this anxiety event to the press. Up until that point, Ted’s mental health issue is not public knowledge. Yet, Ted decides that talking about it with the world is crucial to bringing an end to the stigma of mental health and sports. In fact, the entire season focuses on mental health, as Dr. Sharon Fieldstone helps out the Richmond players with their own struggles.
What a blessing the story has been for the movement towards mental health. As someone who struggles with anxiety and panic disorders, I identified well with Ted’s journey. (I first wrote about my childhood journey here.) When Nate outs Ted’s panic disorder, I became very angry. “How could he do such a thing! It’s not his story!” I thought to myself. Nate attempted to discredit and shame Ted through sharing such personal information. I didn’t care how much Nate was struggling himself; I was extremely angry that a person used a health struggle to damage the reputation of another human being.
I suppose I felt embarrassed for Ted. I felt the shame that was surrounding him and that others imposed on him. And yet, when it comes down to it, why was there shame? Ted began to address the struggles. Ted went back to work the next day. Ted opened up and spoke about it to normalize the experience.
More people than we realize struggle with mental health issues. From anxiety to depression to personality disorders to being bipolar, many of our neighbors go through temporary and life-long struggles with mental health issues. But in our struggles, we feel alone. We feel like no one else is going through what we are enduring. I felt that way as I child and sometimes as I got older. But then people began to talk about it, and I spoke about it – not just to be transparent in my journey but to help someone else as they go through something similar. I give thanks for my friend Rev. Dr. Sarah Griffith Lund who has been an inspiration to me writing about my journey. I find her books Blessed Are the Crazy: Breaking the Silence About Mental Illness, Family, and Church as well as Blessed Union: Breaking the Silence about Mental Illness and Marriage incredibly important for progressive Christianity. Like Dr. Lund, I am encouraging of anyone enduring mental health issues to seek help through a counselor and medication as well as other self-care activities. And like Dr. Lund (and Ted Lasso!), I am open to sharing my story as well.
Again, you can read something I wrote years ago here. But also, I’ve written a chapter in the forthcoming book When Kids Ask the Hard Questions, Volume 2: More Faith-Filled Responses for Tough Topics (edited by Bromleigh McCleneghan and Karen Ware Jackson). This chapter includes encouragement for parents to seek help if their child has anxiety or any other mental health issue. Children or adults should not feel alone in their journey, and if I can help one person feel less alone, then sharing my story is well worth it. I highly encourage you to check out this book because of the myriad of topics included. Children and parents should never feel alone in any struggles.
Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12:
“ ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.”
Today, to use the phraseology of Paul, I boast of this weakness of mine. I boast not from pride, but because I feel free and light in being able to tell my story. I boast because I see the presence of God in my weakness, and my relationships with God and others have grown closer in this vulnerable state. And that means, like Paul, seeking contentment in this very vulnerable moment and becoming transparent will hopefully bring strength to the entire body of Christ.
So today, on World Mental Health Day, I celebrate the stories of others who became a little vulnerable to be honest so that others feel less alone. And I celebrate my story – because it shows both my vulnerability and resilience, knowing through baby steps and the strength of God finding a wholeness is possible.
You sow new seeds in our world, and call us to harvest them when the time is right. You fill our world with new melodies, and ask us to sing them to change the air around us. You call us to use new wineskins for our wine. You ask us to try new delicacies, travel to new lands, and listen to the stories of our new neighbors. Let us embrace the Spirit of newness surrounding us, listening to your transforming call in our lives. Amen.
PRAYER OF RECONCILIATION One: Loving God, Divine Chef- We cling to the usual menu of life. We order the same food. We invite the same people. Yet what if you are calling us to order new cuisine and dine with a new group? All: Transform our minds to the adventure of newness. May the meal and the conversations we share open our hearts to new tastes, textures, and experiences. Amen.
ASSURANCE OF GRACE One: God serves us grace as we reflect on our past errors and hurtful actions. God sets us on a new path filled with mercy and wisdom. Let us rejoice as we embrace fresh beginnings! Amen!
BENEDICTION May we embrace the flavor of newness in the meals we eat this week. May the aroma of the unfamiliar draw us into new adventures. May the stories of strangers open our minds to new paths. And as the foreign becomes familiar, may the Spirit of God draw us into transforming this world with our new understandings. Amen.
(c) Rev. Michelle L. Torigian. Permission to use with attribution.
Divine Dawn of Redemption, as the tomb has opened, we peer into the future. Like in the garden long ago, so much around is still unknown. Yet you have refilled our souls with hope. Even when fear lingers, your peace-filled spirit surrounds us, bringing us the confidence to continue to move forward. May we embrace this new era of resurrection with steadfast faith, even when anxiety and amazement disorient us. Amen.
Blessing of the Gifts
Holy One, with gratitude, we celebrate all gifts we have been given and the gifts we share with the church and our community. May the treasures, talents, and time we share build a world in which all people experience resurrection and renewal. Amen.
As we enter a world where resurrection is possible, Nudge us forward when the unknown is overwhelming. Empower us when anxiety and amazement seize our spirits. Allow our trembling voices to share Alleluias with a hurting world. Open our hearts to our neighbors yearning for rebirth. And allow us to see the empty tomb in each season of our lives.
I took one class in college that one may classify as a “blow-off” class: Television and Society.
Now, my intentions for taking it were not because it appeared easy. Along with my two concentrations of public relations and professional writing under my degree in English, I was hoping that the stars would align, the classes would be available, and I could fulfill the requirements for a minor in Communications. (I was one class shy.) This class was an elective for the minor. (Admittedly, taking a class such as this helped out when I had to leave school for a week when my grandmother was dying. But that’s another story for another time.)
In any case, this class featured television from various eras and styles, taking account the time period in which the show was featured. As we looked back on the 1950’s, television was drastically different than in the 1990’s.
And today, over 25 years after taking the class, television is drastically different.
No longer do we need to catch a television show when it airs or set our VCRs to catch the show. Now, everything is On Demand. If my DVR doesn’t record a program, it will be on Hulu the next day. Furthermore, this gives the viewer the opportunity to binge watch television shows – from just one episode to a whole season in one night.
Needing to stay inside this year has given people the opportunity to watch shows at their own convenience, enjoying an evening’s worth of programming based upon the time and audience. I’ve had the chance to watch shows that had just fully completed their run (Schitt’s Creek) and new seasons of other programs (The Crown and others).
Not only has our style of watching shows changed, but the content itself. Just recently, I read an NPR article on why Grey’s Anatomy decided to include the Covid-19 pandemic into the show.
One of the medical consultants, Dr. Nasar Alazari said this:
“The disease is our zeitgeist” is a very important point every industry and corner of our society needs to embrace. We will never be the same because of this time. Television needs to reflect it.
And so does the church.
Television and Society class taught me that as times change, the content of television and our viewing habits change. This year has taught me that as times change, the content of church and our participation habits change. I would say that this is another “Video Killed the Radio Star” moment; nothing stays the same, and we are called to adapt.
Covid-19 is our zeitgeist, which the Oxford Languages defines zeitgeist as “the defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time.” Just as WWII was the major backdrop of the early 1940’s, this virus is the backdrop for 2020. The tension of the Babylonian Exile was a major zeitgeist of the writings in the Hebrew Bible. We can’t escape this backdrop.
Of course, this means content of services, including sermons, reflect this tension in a way that is real but hopeful. It’s a part of our landscape. A medical show can’t escape storylines on the virus because it’s a major part of medicine now. Likewise, we can’t disregard this because it’s part of who we are now.
Furthermore, the structure of faith communities have changed forever. Do people need to watch church at 9:30am on Sunday mornings? No. Church is becoming On Demand. We can watch it whenever it is convenient. I now think this will be a permanent part of church life. What we must do is pair that with the commitment to stay connected with our congregants. To our faith community, the work of connecting to people has transformed, and I think this level of working to connect has changed the way we do church. This has brought us closer together at a time when we feel physically distant.
Like with television, this time has permanently changed all of us – and every corner of society. The Church is permanently changed. And that one sort of “blow off” class I took in 1994 helped me see that whatever the zeitgeist, we will keep surviving and keep adapting.