Beyond Wood and Stone

Rev. Elisabeth's Cedar Park Blog site

The Great Invitation

In a world where being a progressive/liberal/affirming Christian seems to be getting weirder if not harder, it’s perhaps not surprising that more of you are asking “How on earth do I talk about my faith with friends or colleagues, or family?”   I hope you’ll discover that at Cedar Park,  season of Epiphany is  being designed just for you and your questions!

The lectionary – the list of Biblical readings – gives us a series of texts that churchy folk like me often  refer to as “call stories” – but that’s church-speak.  What would happen if we were to read these texts  not as ‘call stories’  but as invitations?   When Jesus shows up near the sea of Galilee, he’s issuing an invitation -take it or leave it – to find out a bit more about what makes him tick as a spiritual human being.  When it comes down to it, that’s probably all we need to share with friends, skeptical or otherwise when they look wide-eyed at us when they realize we are church-goers.   If they’re curious at all, they’re probably curious to know why on earth we do such an archaic thing,  especially when the word “Christian” is being dragged through some particularly muddy pastures right now.

If you can’t join us Sunday mornings, you can read the sermons on this blog site . Just go to the sermon tag, and you’ll find the sermons in this series posted each week.   Once our church website team have completed the upgrade and reconstruction, you’ll be able to find them there too, along with audio podcasts of at least some of the sermons.

January 15: The Great Invitation: Come and See!

January 22: Come and Follow – a Daunting Invitation


No Rose of Such Virtue

This poem was written to accompany the singing of the choral work by the same name, by Chrysogonus Waddell OSC, sung at Cedar Park’s Christmas Choir Celebration.  Some of you have asked to read it again.

No Rose of Such Virtue

Semper Virginem,
upon your pedestal
to the left of the high altar
all dressed in the palest of blue,
with the pinkest of blushes on the sweetest of cheeks,
your mouth with the barest hint of a holy smile,
and your fine-boned hands cradling
– ever so gently –
a thorn-less red rose.

How unreachable a mystery
you were to this
rag-tag wild child
with skinned knees,
black-lined finger nails,
and a nettle-stung nose.

They taught me to sing
of your virtue,
having none of my own.
At least not the pale,
alabaster virtue of
that eludes me still.

Now, though,
I know something
of your true virtue.
the strength it takes
to bear a child.
To truly bear,
from birth to death,
– whose is no matter-
a child of your flesh,
cradled in care-worn hands,
blood red,
like a rose.

Elisabeth Jones. December 11, 2016

Advent’s gone dark blue! Why?

This is a really good question, asked recently by one of our Cedar Park children.  Here’s the answer:

We use dark blue during Advent – the colour of the sky just before the dawn breaks, as a symbol of waiting for the Light (Christ) about to break in upon the world at Christmas.  Neat?! (Some traditions also associate blue with Mary, Jesus’ mother).

Now you’re curious; here’s a quick explanation of why and what the other colours are.

Stoles designed by Jan Laurie, of Alberta Canada.

The use of different colours to mark the different seasons of the Christian year is an ancient tradition, going way back to the fourth century.  For a few hundred years, Protestants did not follow the colour changes – but in the mid 20th century the ecumenical “Liturgical Movement” encouraged churches like the United Church to get colourful – replacing the favourite burgundy velvet with the colours of the liturgical calendar for banners,  stoles (the scarf like coloured cloth the minister wears) and communion tables.

For much of the church year, the colour is green – the colour of growth.  You’ll see green between Epiphany (Jan 6) and the beginning of Lent, and again from Pentecost (usually in mid to late May) until the beginning of Advent (December).

Lent is considered to be a penitential season (a time to ‘turn around’ from ways that lead us away from God, and to turn back towards a life of faith and witness), and the colour is purple.

Easter and Christmas  are celebrations of the brilliance of the glory of God. How better to celebrate these feasts than with brilliant gold (or white)?

Pentecost is the day when we read the story of the coming of the Holy Spirit like tongues of fire.  So the colour we wear use is flame red.

For funerals at Cedar Park we don’t use black, the colour of mourning,  but we use white/gold, the colour of resurrection, because a funeral or memorial worship is a reminder that “In life, in death and in life beyond death, God is with us!”




Advent Bible Exploration: Texts and Textures

scripture-reading-1For the season of Advent we are enjoying the opportunity to gather, on Wednesday evenings, or Thursday mornings, or here in virtual space, to explore one of the  Bible readings for each week of Advent.  Go to the link above “Texts and Textures”, and there you’ll find added, each week, a new page which has the course handout, a powerpoint, and other resourcees to help you midrash these texts.  (Midrash is about ‘minding the gaps’  or exploring interpretive possibilities in a Biblical passage.)

Feel free to add a comment or ask a question, using the comment box at the bottom of each page. If you’ve never commented before, don’t be surprised if it takes a day or two for your comment to appear.  Hope to see you in this space, at some point during the Waiting Season!

God: Between Rocks and Hard Places

I don’t normally post sermons here, but a number of you have asked for this one, so here you go.


Rock hard place
God: Between Rocks and Hard Places     (Luke 21:5-19)
Seated, teaching, is Jesus.
But have we heard what he said?
We, as in those who wear his name,
comfortably or otherwise,we fundamentally, or evangelically, or liberally named followers of this Jesus?
I wonder, did we watch his lips shape the words,
but not hear them?
“When you hear of wars, and rebellions,
earthquakes, disasters, disease, terror plots….
do not be alarmed.”
It seems to me that far too often those who wear his name,are precisely those who drum up the fear, the alarm! But didn’t he say some of us would?
“Many will come in my name, saying ‘I’m the one, now is the time!’”
We know them: the ones who traffic others’ terror,
the ones who blatantly read the political tea leaves
as a sign of divine impending wrath, when he said no such thing!
But we, do we hear what he said?
“Don’t be alarmed.
Don’t be deceived.”
Oh, Jesus, that’s easier said, than heard!
We are too on edge.  We too live in an ugly world,
everything you talked about is happening now.
War, earthquake, disaster, disease, corruption,
vainglorious self-serving elevated to alarming political
proportions,where the stakes are globally high.
Pipe bombs and truck bombs kill those who wear your name,
and no name, for no good reason,
and for the life of us,we are now begging you,tell us,
Where is God in between all this?
Your “Don’t be alarmed. Don’t be deceived.”
Don’t feel like the answers we need.
Back in June, while I was on study leave in St Paul,
Minnesota, just after the gay nightclub shootings in Orlando,
just as the horrifying spate of racially motivated killing
was erupting all around the US, I wrote on this blog , perhaps too glibly,
that despite all this gunmetal grey ugly mayhem,
“God does have a Dream, a future for creation, and
for us, as God’s people called to be blessing in it.”
I wrote that because I believe it, and I need to believe it.
But it was not convincing to one reader,  who wrote back to me (and I have their permission to share)
“I don’t think God has a dream. In fact I’m feeling less
certain every day that God even cares about us… I
don’t see the evidence – just a world wallowing in
despair, hatred, cruelty, selfishness, corruption…Maybe God has wandered off to another
For this person, and for many, God is nowhere to be found
between these rocks and hard places.  Evidence suggests
we’re on our own.

I struggled long and hard with how to frame a helpful,
faithful response.
I needed to read this Gospel.
I needed to sit at Jesus’ feet.
I needed to listen, to let those shaped words
get past my ears, my head, to sink into my soul.
And until I did, I’d never noticed this:
that as Jesus points to a Temple
that was indeed crushed to rubble,
as Jesus points to a world Hell-bent, then and now,
he did not point to God in between,
he did not rush to God’s defence, (as I had done),
he did not try to answer the  unanswerable problem
of God’s supposed goodness and human suffering,
he pointed right back to us.
There then. Here now, and said (I’m paraphrasing, obviously!)
“When all of this happens… and it has and it will,
and it will continue to happen…I invite you to do three things.
First,”Don’t be alarmed.”
……. You know how much work it takes not to be
frightened? (image of a frightened first time mother in
labour, who knows that being alarmed won’t help!)
We know that to practise non-alarm, non-worry, non-fear,
that sort of non-violent, non-fearful response
to fearful, violent times
is hard, disciplined, spiritual work.
It takes prayer,
it takes presence,
it takes practice,
it takes community supporting one another
to be not-alarmed.
The second invitation Jesus gives
is for when the fear-mongers fill our newsfeeds,
when the alarmists seduce us with their weapons of mass defence,
for when we are told “the sky is falling!”
“the church is dying!”
He says, “Don’t be deceived by these messengers of doom,
and don’t follow.”

This is a practice of resistance; resisting the urge to act out
of fear, or hatred, or despair.
It is also a practice of honesty.
The truth is, despite war, earthquake, famine, disease,
corruption, decay, despair,
life is born again, and again;
love erupts across the planet far more frequently than lava
flows from volcanos,
courage creeps out from the craters of ruin all the time.
The practice of honesty, the defiance of deception,
the refusal to waste precious energy on fear,
is to hold onto and hold out for others to see,
this truth: Life and Love win.
Which brings us to the third invitation
that Jesus offers:
“When hell is knocking on your doors,
This is your moment, your chance to be
who God made you to be.”
When, not if,
the world is hell-bent,
we are formed, knit us together to be,
a person, a people made in the image of
a healing, mending, justice demanding God.
A wiser follower of Christ than I once declared,
that “the glory of God, is the human fully alive.”  (Irenaeus of Lyon)
Being the we, we are made to be,
means practising non-alarm,
practising courage,
practising honesty,
resisting evil and its evangelists,
and instead being the hands and feet, the lips of Christ
when the walls come tumbling down,
standing beside, upholding,
the ones imprisoned, hated, or hurt,
because of the name they wear,
be that name Islam or Israel or Jesus,
they, we, are all God’s own.
If we want to see where God is
in a world hell-bent,
in between the rocks and the hard places,
then look in the mirror.
Look at the person beside you.
Look at your children.
Look at all who don a face mask and pull at the rubble
of the latest disaster in search of life.
Look at all who burn the night-light pushing refugee
paperwork through the machineries of state.
Look at the retiree who drives a neighbour to their doctor’s
Look at the seed that sprouts in the ashes.
Look at every dawn, every rainbow.
Look at…every smile, every tear of compassion,
Listen to every voice raised against hatred and bigotry,
Look at every connection of care…..
and there you will see God in Between.
Maybe sometimes that’s not enough for some of us,
but that one, (pointing to the chair/Jesus)
seated under the shadow of his own cross,
that’s what he lived,
that’s what he called the Kingdom,
the Dream of God,
that’s what he’s invites us to do and be.
Don’t be alarmed,
Don’t be deceived.
Be the people of God.


August 28,2016.  Elisabeth R. Jones

D.Min Update

LS Banner

Wow!  Thank you so much to all those of you who came out on a HOT Thursday evening to find out more about my D.Min journey.    I’ve attached a link here; it’s a pdf version of a powerpoint. It should work on most browsers, if you have adobe… and most computers do.   Just click on the link below. Enjoy!

D Min Update PPT

What on earth is next?


Thearth-rat’s another way of asking “What future does God dream for this world?”  This was the topic for our second week in the D.Min programme at Luther Seminary.  Needless to say, such a question is especially ‘loaded’ this year with the freight of the shocking attack on LGBTQ party-goers in Orlando, the upcoming Presidential election in the US, not to mention the daunting refugee crisis facing the world, and the growing impact of humanly compounded global warming.  What a time to be asking  question, “What on earth is next!”  I remain in deeply in awe of and grateful for the extremely talented cohort members with whom I am studying. Thanks to them, the conversation was rigorous, and at times troubling, as you can imagine,  (which may explain why my Facebook posts were few last week!).

There are no simple answers, no one-size fits all solutions to the world’s crises and possibilities.  Except one:  God does have a Dream, and God does have a future for God’s creation, and for us as God’s people called to be blessing within this earth.  All we need to do now, is figure out just what our particular, peculiar gift is to this unfolding future!  And that’s where you come in, Cedar Parkers:  we get to figure this out together, in community, gathered in prayer, worship and exploration of the texts of Scripture and of our lives. What on earth is next is both in God’s hands, and ours, and that’s awe-inspiring, isn’t it?

Pride and the Passion of God

I thought I was going to write about “my week at Luther Seminary” in this post. I thought I would be waxing poetic and lyrical about a rich week of learning how to embody the lively Word, how to get in touch with a more gutsy (as in less cerebral) engagement with Scripture, Culture and context……..

But Orlando happened.  The US awoke this morning to yet another mass-shooting, this one compounded by the racial and gender politics that have this country gripped in fear. Despite this fear, a community of Minnesotans chose to go ahead anyway with their first “Pride Fest”, and I couldn’t imagine being in a better place today. (See this link: ) I can’t pretend to know enough  to speak to the details of this senseless, scandalous tragedy, but my guts know enough to write about what I do know:

I know that when God was creating, at the dawn of time, Ruach (the Spirit of God)  hovered over the chaos and, with a Word, God fashioned beauty, wonder, love, light.  And all that God created was and is beautiful in God’s delighted gaze.  All. Every sweet child, every grey hair of an ageing head, everyone. ALL.

God’s Pride in the manifold diversity of humanity is unabashed, bold, more proud than any Mama or Papa could ever be of their child.  God’s Pride includes my LGBTQ siblings. ALL.  God’s Pride includes every colour of skin,every expression of life affirming, heart enriching, earth-mending spirituality, faith, religion. ALL.  God’s Pride swells to see all who use their political power for the good of society, the good of the environment, the protection of the weak, the celebration of diversity, regardless of the name of a political party, the name on a ballot.

So, God’s Passion – God’s anguish, sadness, agony — is raw and all consuming tonight,  for wanton acts of terror break God’s heart.  Small-minded and small-hearted bigotry breaks God’s heart. Using tragedy to score political points breaks God’s heart.  The ascendancy of a tribal culture of fear breaks God’s heart.

Knowing this, I pray. I pray my own anguish and despair to a God who knows more than we ever shall, the depth of sorrow of a broken world.  I pray that my guts, and God’s passion will stir me and others to share in  God’s  Passion and Pride; to love what God loves, and to live loving as deeply as we can, for God’s sake.


When the Word won’t stay on the page

LS Banner 2

Luther Seminary D.Min Year 2

It’s so good to be back here at Luther Seminary in the Twin Cities! I get to reconnect with a bright, talented, diverse cohort of ministry colleagues, as we re-energize one another with wisdom, curiosity, and a common thirst for learning more about this strange and wonderful calling of congregational ministry. We have an amazing teaching faculty too, who love what they do, and love that we  are eager to learn with them. Don’t get me wrong, dear Cedar Parkers, I LOVE being your Minister, and that’s why I’m here; to quest for richer, deeper veins of wisdom that will help me live my call to serve God in the world with you as well as I can.  This month is about you as much as it’s about me.

So, if you’re interested, follow this blog for the duration of my second year residency. I’ll post twice each week, to try to give you a flavour of  what we’re up to, in courses titled “Preaching as the Proclaimed Word.”  and “Preaching Church into God’s Future”   ( I decided not to take the course on Psalms, but to carve new learning curves, even though I LOVE the psalms…. oh right, y’all knew that already!)

Today, I took a leaf out of Rev. Ron’s  book,  delivering a passage of Scripture learned by heart (you’ll get to experience this text with me in September, until then, it’s a secret!). What a tough discipline, what hard work, and what surprising graces eventually emerged from the learning, and the performing of it in a circle, each of us taking a different text and retelling the  Bible story from Genesis to Acts.  Most of us were new to this skill, very nervous about it, but at the end, we wanted to do it again!  Some highlights:  reimagining the impact of   “Jesus” teaching while cross-legged on the ground.Lee in Luke

That’s enough for today.

Meanwhile, please pray for me, for energy and health to thrive and learn. And, please know that I am praying for all of you, that God hold you all safe, and blessed until we are back together again.

Blessings abound!

Easter’s New Candle

A ‘new to us’ tradition at Cedar Park in recent years is the lighting of a new Christ Candle, and procession of light at the beginning of our Easter Sunday Worship. In many Christian traditions, both of the East and West,  the church is plunged into darkness on Good Friday, to signify the death of Christ. Then, in the dark hours of Easter Saturday/Sunday a new Christ candle is kindled, and then processed through a dark church towards the front, where it will stay for the coming year.

We don’t (yet) gather for a night Vigil at CPU, but this powerful procession of light is such a rich way of marking the Resurrection, and the release of the Light of Christ once more into the world.

We are blessed in the United Church with a freedom to adopt, adapt and create rituals which feed our spiritual imaginations.  This one has always been very powerful for me, and I hope it will become a cherished part of our Easter Celebrations.

Meanwhile, darkness descends, this Easter Saturday, and we wait……

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