Aesop’s Fables were part of my childhood. To this day I remember my mom and grandmother reading them to me.
In the fable of the North Wind and Sun, as I remember it, the north wind and the sun get into an argument over which one of them is the strongest. In the midst of their debate, a person traveling strolls by wrapped in a cloak. In response, the sun and the wind agree that whoever can strip the traveler of his cloak must be the more powerful of the two.
The wind went first by blowing a hard cold fierce wind on the traveler. The wind howled and howled and the stronger the blast, the tighter and tighter the traveler clung to his cloak. No matter how hard the wind tried, the wind could not strip the traveler of his cloak.
Then it was the sun’s turn. He shined warm gentle rays down upon the traveler. The traveler was engulfed in a pleasant feeling and soon he loosened the cloak he was wearing. Over time he became so comfortably warm that he removed the cloak completely. Hence, the sun won the debate with the wind.
One moral of the story is that gentleness and kindness are often far more powerful than force. This may be why the following quote is attributed to Aesop. “No act of kindness is ever wasted.”
This fable came to mind the other day due to a simple act of kindness by a stranger toward me. I was busy and had to run errands when I noticed my gas gauge was nearing below empty. Despite my pressured schedule, I pulled into a station and filled my car up, after which, I went inside to buy a cold iced tea. After waiting for a few moments in line, I approached the woman at the register. She smiled and said, “no charge today for you.”
I replied, “Really?” She said, “Yes.” After thanking her and complimenting her for her kindness, I got into my car and went about my day. Her simple kindness remained with me. Indeed, Aesop was right, “no act of kindness is ever wasted.”
I know this may seem to be a platitude or overly sentimental, but I believe there is great wisdom in Aesop’s fable of the North Wind and Sun, as many have said over the years. I have a strong suspicion that if more and more of us engaged in intentional kindness, much would change in our lives and in our nation. We certainly have plenty of evidence of what things are like when we are anything but kind to one another.
Perhaps this is why Paul wrote in his letter to the people of Ephesus, “Be kind to each other.” Simple, of course. Challenging at times, certainly.
The Rev. Dr. Robert de Wetter
This last weekend, yet again, horrific shootings happened in Dayton and El Paso. While I believe there are broad based steps that can be taken which will necessitate everyone yielding something, I remain saddened by the fact that we live in a country in which right decisions are subservient to partisanship and pressures for re-election. Our nation’s inaction since Columbine, in my view, does not reflect any faithfulness to Matthew 22: 34-40, which is the foundation of our faith and lives. This is not a partisan statement, but rather one that comes from a pastor, not a polarized politician.
El Paso has been part of my family for a long time. It is where I feel most grounded, largely because of the multiple generations of my family that have called the city home. It is a special place filled with great and humble and family oriented people, despite economic challenges. It also remains one of the safest cities in the US regardless of the events of last weekend and despite the fact it is on the border. Citizens of El Paso and Juarez have never viewed the border as a problem, but rather as a unique blessing to be celebrated. Indeed the two places are interdependent in most definable ways.
This week I was asked by a leader of the city to write a letter to the editor of the El Paso Times. I have done so. Being limited to 220 words was not easy, especially for a preacher. Anyway, I have included my letter, not because it is a magnum opus of thought, but rather I just wanted to share what has been on my mind and in my heart. Love and prayers to each of you.
Dear People of El Paso:
As my family has been part of the community for over 120 years, I know well the soul of the city. El Paso is the place it is because of its people. I believe the kindest, most generous, resilient, humble, loving human beings anywhere call El Paso home. Yesterday members of our congregation joined me in continuing diligent prayer. We pray for strength, healing, peace, hope, and the will to overcome. Growing up, I remember the Rio Grande River flowed freely without cement banks or walls. The spirit of the time was one of a giant abrazo. There was a sense of joy, unity in diversity, acceptance instead of division, a celebration of intertwined cultures, gratitude for international interdependence, words that built-up instead of tore down, and a shared commitment to make El Paso a great place to live. I believe such things remain part of the DNA of the El Paso/Juarez communities and the future is bright. While I grieve, cry, agonize, and rail against voices and acts of hatred, it is apt to remember that El Paso is the Sun City. I believe light overcomes darkness. Love, not evil prevails.
With love and gratitude to all El Paso –
The Rev. Dr. Robert de Wetter (son of former Mayor and Mrs. Peter de Wetter)
This last week at the beginning of my sermon, I asked a variety of people to put glasses on with colored lenses. When I asked each person how the world looked, each responded that things appeared to be precisely like the color of the lenses they were wearing. The person with red lenses said the world looked red. The person with the blue lenses replied, “Everything is blue.” The same was the case for those wearing yellow, pink, purple and green lenses.
The color of the lenses we have on determines the color of how we see things. When we have a set of lenses on, it can be hard to imagine seeing things in a different way. And sadly, when we have a particular set of colored lenses on, we may even think it is the only way to see something.
All of this, I believe, serves as an apt metaphor for something of vital importance. That is, every day, you and I have lenses through which we see life and all of what I said about colored lenses applies to many other lenses as well.
If I put on a lens in the morning that says, “People are negative.” Guess what, that is what I will see throughout the day. If I put on a lens in the morning that says, “People are pretty darn nice.” I will see lots of nice people throughout that day. Or if I put on a lens that says, “Gratitude” I’ll have a very different experience than if I put on a lens that says, “Complain.”
There are countless other lenses. Just think for a moment about some of them. Old. Young. Liberal. Conservative. Flexible. Stagnant. Fear. Trust. The list goes on and on. When we wear lenses it is hard if not impossible to see things from a different perspective unless, of course, we are intentional and open.
Whether or not we are aware of it, each of us makes conscious or not-so-conscious choices about what lenses we wear in life and those lenses affect everything. Everything, from the decisions we make, to how we act, to our emotions, our outlook, and our relationships with others. All such things come from our lenses. And like it or not, there are many ways to see the same thing.
There is one lens I struggle with putting on each day. I know it is the right lens to put on. I know my life would be different if I began each day with this particular lens. I know I would experience more joy, less stress, a sense of release, less judgmentalness, more love and kindness, and a greater sense of purpose if I put this lens on each morning and left it there regardless of what comes my way any given day.
What I am talking about is the lens that says “Everything in my life, about my life, in this world, is God’s.” Said more simply, if I started each day putting on the lens, “It all belongs to God,” boy would things be different.
If my life is spent embracing, trusting, and living by the idea that everything belongs to God, my life will be entirely different than if I kinda of, or sort of, or once in a while live by the truth that everything is God’s.
To be more specific. Is nature which surrounds us God’s? Does that impact our relationship with creation? How about the abilities and talents we have? Are they God given and therefore God’s? How about our success? God’s? Or how about our family, our partnerships, our marriages, our children, and our friends? Do they all belong to God? Or is it just all circumstance or due to me and my efforts.
To what extent do we treat and relate to strangers or those who are vastly different from who we are as if they belong to God? How about time itself? Does our time and how we spend it, does such time come from and belong to God at its foundation? How about our assets? Our bank accounts. The cash in our pocket. It is all God’s or kind of or sort of or when there is some left over? How about our bodies? Do we treat our bodies as if our bodies belong to God? What about where we live? Do our homes belong to God?
The point of all of this is not to make us feel deficient, guilty feeling or somehow less than. The goal here is not to diminish who we are or make us feel bad. The point is actually quite the opposite. The point of all of this really is about a wonderful, glorious, upbeat, exciting, loving invitation from God to work on something together as followers of Jesus.
God invites us to work individually and collectively on living by the truth that everything and everyone belongs to God. God extends this invitation because God knows that as we accept the invitation, we will more and more discover the astonishing life God intends for each of us to have.
I invite each of us to do something over the days ahead. That is, to explore what lenses we wear in life. How do they affect and impact us and others? What do others see about us as a result of the lenses we wear? Where are we with the lens that it all belongs to God. And how do we think things might be different if we wore that lens more often?
While these are challenging questions, it is essential that we remember God adores us and wants it all for us and wants us to have amazing purpose filled, joyful and love filled days. And God knows the way to get there is to make a choice everyday to put on the lens that says, “It all belongs to God”.
Summer is in full swing in the Rocky Mountains. The color blue is given new meaning when looking at a July sky, cool nights act as a salve taking away the heat of the day, and fresh air contrasts the high ozone levels found in global cities. Indeed, summer at elevation is special.
While Snowmass Village and the Roaring Fork Valley as a whole are quite busy, I’ve discovered there is much peace and solitude to be found fairly easily, especially when one attends to the senses. This certainly has been the case when it comes to what our eyes can see.
Perhaps due lots of moisture, the wildflowers have been uniquely spectacular. Lupine, Skyrockets, Monkey Flowers, Bergamut, Columbine, and Mule’s Ear are just a few examples of what has been blooming with awe inspiring beauty. Like a painter’s palette, astonishing colors are smeared everywhere.
Upon reflection, this summer’s wildflower eruption brings Jesus’ words in Matthew’s Gospel to mind. Jesus said, 28 “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, 29 yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 30 And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?” (Matthew 6 – NLT).
Indeed, if God has the capacity to create such magnificence, will God not care for each of us when it is all said and done? Wildflowers and in fact so much of God’s creation stand ready to remind us of this point, if we simply pay attention to what is in front of us. Throughout each season, God uses creation and what we experience through our senses to teach us and invite us to remain centered upon God.
Jesus, following these words, goes on to say in essence, “with this in mind, focus on the present moment, not the past or what might be in the future.”
Wildflowers become potently stunning precisely at the moment we are looking at them in the moment. The fullness of their beauty is realized only when our gaze upon them is what is filling our minds. Thoughts of the future or recollections of the past, quickly diminish our experience of them.
It is as if God through God’s wildflowers is saying to us, “To experience the beauty of wildflowers fully, you must see them as they are in the now. To experience life as I envision for you, stay in the moment knowing the moment is where you will discover me and the true you most completely”
For some, this summer will go on for months. For those of us at elevation, this season is fleeting. But wherever we happen to find ourselves in the weeks ahead, I invite us all to pause and fully engage whatever snippet of God’s creation is right in front of us. There are lessons to be learned and gratitude to be expressed through it all.
For most of us, our days are filled with surprising turns, the unexpected, including those darn things known as interruptions. Calls from people we know, things that come up both good and bad, stuff with our bodies, intrusive thoughts and feelings, not being able to finish a sentence when talking, co-workers knocking on a closed door, etc.
While we experience a range of thoughts and feelings due to being interrupted, and as I reflect upon the whole topic, I am coming to realize that interruptions and how we respond to them can be deeply spiritual occurrences that impact our faith journey.
In some ways, in fact, interruptions can be great opportunities to grow, learn, and deepen our walk with Christ. And if we pause for a moment, we will discover that Jesus was a master at responding to interruptions in profound ways. When a person interrupted Jesus, he or she was never the same.
One day, at the end of a long shift of fishing, Peter and Andrew are at work cleaning up and getting ready for a bit of sleep. Jesus came along, sees them, and says, “Hi boys. I know you work hard and I know you are fisherman. But I have an idea for your life. Follow me, right now, and I will make a new kind of fisherman out of you. I’ll show you how to catch women and men instead of perch and bass.”
Talk about an upending workday interruption. Talk about an unexpected career move. Take a fellow named Jairus. Jesus was standing sea-side just having made a trek across the water. Jairus, a prominent religious leader, approached Jesus and said, “Jesus, my 12 year old daughter is really sick. I think she may die. Please come with me. I know you can heal her, please.” Jesus accepts the request and begins to walk with Jairus to his house. A large crowd of people, jostling for position, began to follow.
While walking, a woman who had suffered a terrible medical condition for many years and had lost everything as a result, slipped in behind Jesus and touched his robe. She believed by touching Jesus’ robe, she would be healed. Jesus stopped and turned to look at the woman. She was healed and her faith was strengthened.
Although Jesus was on the way to deal with one big problem, Jairus’ daughter, the sick woman’s interruption did cause Jesus to stew. He took on both big problems at the same time.
Fast forward to sometime later. Jesus and his apostles had been working tirelessly. Clearly they are exhausted and needed a break. Just a bit of down time to collect themselves and get some much needed rest. We even learn they were so slammed with work they didn’t have much of a chance to eat anything.
In response, Jesus invites them all to find a quiet place to chill out. So, they all climbed into a boat to head off to a remote place. But someone saw them get into the boat and launch from the beach. Word got out. Quickly, literally thousands of people started running along the shore after them.
When Jesus and his crew landed, Jesus saw the crowds and his heart broke. In response, he began to teach the people. As time passed, near the end of the day, his apostles pointed out it was time to leave so the people could get home before dark to eat.
This turned into the well known feeding of the five thousand in which thousands of people were miraculously fed by some fish and a few loaves of bread. Nothing like finally finding some time to rest only to have it interrupted by the needs of thousands of people.
We have just looked at a few stories of interruptions happening to Jesus. There are so many more. So I have to wonder. Why are there so many stories in scripture in which interruptions are part of the central story line? Might it be that interruptions are something we need to pay close attention to. Are there opportunities to be found? Here a just a few thoughts.
Interruptions remind us that ultimately we are not in total control of things. We may have a plan. We may have a strategy. We may have clear cut hopes. But interruptions, big and small can remind us we are not in control, God is. Most of us like certainty, at least when it comes to some areas of life. We seek clarity and predictability. But interruptions remind us, if we let them, that there is ultimately not much we can be certain about, other than the love of God and that nothing will ever separate from God’s love.
Interruptions can remind us too that none of us has everything down pat. Interruptions can create awareness that nothing is perfect, that imperfection is the norm, and can help us release perfectionism and learn to relax.
Throughout scripture, patience is a virtue and lack of patience often gets people into big messes and a lot of trouble. Interruptions, if we allow them to teach us, can help us practice, practice and practice patience, patience that will help us in many areas of life.
Interruptions can teach us to be more sensitive to others, to learn what compassion entails, and what lies at the heart of empathy. Needing help is rarely if ever convenient.
One key thing at the heart of our walk with Jesus is learning to be other not self-focused. Interruptions, if we allow them, can teach us to live from the place of being other focused, not self-absorbed. Said another way, interruptions, if we let them, can teach us to live more like Jesus, accepting interruptions as they come and attending to what is right in front of us in the midst of what else is going on.
Yes, I think I am coming to learn that interruptions are in fact islands of grace in the sea of too much busyness and getting things done. And I believe the more we accept interruptions, even embrace them, the more and more we will become like Jesus, full of hearts of compassion and the love of God. And I pray that when we are interrupted, we might learn to hear such interruptions as God knocking at our door.
Recently my family and I traveled to Upstate New York to visit friends and a community of faith where I served as Rector a number of years ago. While the Finger Lakes region of New York is not where I am from, it is spectacularly beautiful and rural, with stunning vistas and gorgeous glacially carved lakes.
On one particular afternoon, my son Peter and I joined our friend Mark to explore an area known as Carpenter Falls. In this specific area of Upstate New York, there are a number of waterfalls, but the main one Carpenter, is around 90 feet high. Typically, as described on a state website, “the falls fall as a powerful ribbon that cuts through a notch in the massive overhanging limestone caprock where it plunges into a deep pool.”
The water flow is described as variable and over the years I have seen just a trickle of water to quite a bit more. When the three of us recently went, it was an entirely different story. Such a massive amount of rain had fallen that Carpenter Falls made those at Niagra look small.
As we walked we stood at the top of the falls. We were each silent as the roar of the falls and the scene of the volume of water flowing was breathtaking. After a few minutes, we hiked across the top of a hill to gain access to a trail that one can take to get near the base of the waterfall. The ground was muddy and slippery as ice as the trail was covered with clay over limestone.
Our son Peter, nimble and flexible Peter, had no difficulty on the trail. I, on the other hand, when I tried to follow Peter, slipped and fell down a 70 degree pitched hillside nearly 50 feet through trees, branches, and rocks. Both Peter and Mark thought at first it was the end of me. A bruised body, sprained wrist, and cuts on my torso was all I sustained.
As I was lying at the bottom of the hill recovering, Jesus’ parable of a house built on sand came to mind. Clearly sand is not something to count on as Jesus points out in the story. Jesus, in Matthew’s Gospel chapter 7 said in essence, “When you build your life upon me it is like building a house on rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit, but nothing moved that house. It was built on rock.” After my experience at Carpenter Falls, I can make the same point using the metaphor of hiking on wet clay or a dry trail as an example.
This week is July 4th. A wonderful holiday with fabulous traditions that have been part of our great nation for a long time. It certainly is a day to ponder the blessings of what it means to live in America, to reflect on all who have made our country possible, and to give God thanks for freedom, which is from God to begin with.
While our nation’s independence is central to who we are, I believe it is important we not view our relationship with our creator in the same way. When it is all said and done, our loving God does not seek our independence from Him, but rather our complete and utter dependence. And while we live in a great incomparable land whose DNA is grounded upon freedom, I believe it is essential for us to remember this July 4th, that Christ is our rock, our foundation, and the basis from which we are called to live.
With the massive snowpack and predicted runoff, we might just be able to have campfires this summer. Whether or not you are a camper, many of us have memories of sitting around a fire talking with friends and family, looking up at the stars, and perhaps even roasting marshmallows. Whether lightly toasted or fully roasted, they certainly are a tasty treat.
In the 1960’s, a Stanford University professor conducted experiments which explored how long children could delay gratification with marshmallows. Basically, children were put in a room with a marshmallow. They were told they could eat the marshmallow immediately or, if they waited 15 minutes, they would be given two marshmallows. Some kids waited, others satisfied their marshmallow cravings immediately.
I am not sure how I would do as a child were this experiment conducted now in 2019. After years of being surrounded by technology in which everything is instantaneous, I’m afraid I might be the kid that eats the one marshmallow instead of waiting 15 minutes for two.
The other day I had to make a trip to Denver on I-70. Little did I know the highway would close in the midst of the drive for a few hours. Regina and two of our children were with me. At first I was frustrated, tried to connect to the Colorado road condition website on my phone, and allowed my mind to be filled with thoughts that were anything but peace inducing. Fortunately, after a bit of time, my focus shifted to my family in the car and we talked. Too bad that had not been my first reaction to the traffic stoppage.
Interruptions, delays, lines, wait times, learning to be patient, and letting go of the need to have everything on demand can be an incredible gift. For it is in such places, I believe, we not only have the space to connect with those around us and ourselves in a meaningful way, but we also have the chance to encounter God. All relationships demand something our instantaneously gratifying world cannot provide, and that is space for things to graciously unfold and time.
I pray we each will learn to see moments in which we do not have control over timing to be gifts we can choose to embrace or not.
As a human being, knowing what your life is about and what your goals are is fundamental for success, as defined in a broad spectrum of ways. The same of course can be said for any organization, including communities of faith.
At the Chapel, as many of you have heard repeatedly, we take Jesus’ great commandment seriously. Jesus said loving God and loving others is at the core of what it means to be a Christian. In fact he said love is central to what it means to follow him. Inherent in all of this is the necessity of learning to love ourselves as God does.
The fundamental purpose, or mission of the Chapel, is to love God, love people and to love ourselves. Matthew 22:34-40.
Related to our purpose is our vision, or what our goals are and where we are headed. Through a lot of work with many people, including our Board, we have a new vision statement for the Chapel. It is as follows.
To be the most thriving, healing, advocating, affirming, mold-breaking, outward-reaching, worshipping, life-changing, high impact, loving network of Jesus followers possible.
To help flesh this out, here is a brief breakdown of what is meant by each word.
Thriving. Full of Spirit-filled energy, a community growing in all ways. Think of a plant bursting through the soil into a robust life.
Healing. Healing is embraced and the norm at Snowmass Chapel, not an exception, and certainly nothing that warrants shame. We ensure there are programs, people, and practices in place to help those who need healing in mind, body, and spirit.
Advocating. We advocate for the resolution of tough issues facing this valley and beyond. Advocacy is one of the means through which we demonstrate God’s love in action.
Affirming. Every person. Always. For who God made them to be. Discrimination is not consistent with the core of the Gospel, which is love.
Mold-breaking. We try new things and do old things in new ways. Change is continual and if we want to be faithful to our mission, we must continue to evolve.
Outward-reaching. We are hopeful Easter people taking action in a world that sometimes feels like the hopelessness of Good Friday.
Worshipping. We live each day with loving intention and a focus upon Christ. We gather as a community of faith to worship God with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength. We put Christ first.
Life-changing/High-impact. Through our relationship with Christ and friendships in our community, all people at the Chapel will understand and be transformed by God’s love, grace, and forgiveness.
Loving network of Jesus followers possible. As people of the Chapel, our lives are interconnected, a network. We are not bricks and mortar, we are people in relationship with each other. It is Jesus we follow, Jesus’ love we act upon, and we seek to achieve our vision to the greatest extent possible.
Over the months ahead, we will continue to speak of our mission and vision and how to put it all into action in a variety of settings through varied means. We are planning steps we will take to act on our mission and vision.
One immediate step we are taking this summer is to start small groups, the goal of which is to deepen our relationships with Christ and with each other. Small groups will meet 2-3 times per year for six weeks and we hope you will take part in a group to help us extend that vision!
We invite each of you to join us in praying for the Chapel: that we will continue to be led by Christ, and that we will be faithful in striving to meet our mission and vision. We are so blessed that you are part of what we call “Snowmass Chapel.”
Happy Mother’s Day:
I thank God for mothers past and present this day and not only this day, but each and every day.
With few exceptions, most mothers I have known in life are incredibly committed to the health, joy, and growth of their children. And most mothers I know struggle with feelings of inadequacy in raising their children. My hunch is that most moms do a much better job mothering than they give themselves credit for. So as we celebrate Mother’s Day later this week, I’d like to remind mothers everywhere just how wonderful they are and to thank them.
Having lost my mom last year, I also want to acknowledge that for those of of missing our mom’s, Mother’s Day can feel especially poignant and I pray for all of us who feel the absence of our moms.
I have shared the following prayer before, but I find it to be powerful. I invite you to join me in praying this prayer this week.
God our Creator, we pray:
for new mothers, coming to terms with new responsibility;
for expectant mothers, wondering and waiting;
for those who are tired, stressed or depressed;
for those who struggle to balance the tasks of work and family;
for those who are unable to feed their children due to poverty;
for those whose children have physical, mental or emotional disabilities;
for those who have children they do not want;
for those who raise children on their own;
for those who have lost a child;
for those who care for the children of others;
for those whose children have left home;
and for those whose desire to be a mother has not been fulfilled.
Bless all mothers, that their love may be deep and tender,
and that they may lead their children to know and do what is good,
living not for themselves alone, but for God and for others.
Whether it is the loss of a life long partner, the despair of a teenage child, the anxiety of tenuous employment, loneliness or simply the pressures of day to day living, the chances and changes of living challenge us all.
It is my prayer that we will be sustained and encouraged by Easter.
In the Gospel of Matthew chapter 28 we find, “After the Sabbath, as Sunday morning was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look in the tomb…an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled the stone away, and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow…The angel spoke to the women. ‘You must not be afraid,’ he said. ‘I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has been raised…’”
The words, “he has been raised,” are, perhaps, the greatest words in Scripture, for it is through these words that we learn God has power over everything, even death itself.
If God can transform death into eternal life, then there is nothing on this earth which God cannot overcome and transform in our lives. When the angel of the Lord rolled back the stone that first Easter morning, despair was transformed into hope and doubt into trust.
It is my prayer that we will each receive the gift of trust and hope this Easter. Trust that God is in charge regardless of how outward circumstances appear and hope that God can mold any situation into His purposes for our lives.
The fundamental reason I get up every morning is Easter and it is through Easter that you and I can be assured that God is in charge of everything, no matter what. Fear not, my friends, for He has been raised. Happy Easter!