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Pastor's Monthly Newsletter Message

January 2014

~ “The Ever-Circling Years” ~

It is God who sits above the circle of the earth...who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to live in.” ~Isaiah 40:22


Dear Members and Friends,

            The earth is a circle.  The sun is a circle.  Moons, and stars, and planets, too.  The great journey that the earth makes around the sun—at 67,000 miles per hour!—is a nearly perfect circle.  We can't feel the spinning motion, but we observe it in seasons of warmth and cold, as days grow shorter or longer.  Light yields to darkness; darkness yields to light.  At the dawn of 2014, we’re completing yet another one of those great spherical journeys known as a year.  It's strange to think that “time” is nothing more than our circle (the earth) making a circle (its orbit) around another circle (the sun).  It can be dizzying, all this spinning in circles.  The New Year makes me think about circles.

            Several years ago, when I was in Rochester for my doctoral program, one of our professors took the class outside to walk the labyrinth.  A labyrinth is not a maze.  It's a winding path, usually laid out in stones, and it runs in a roundabout circle.  Walking at your leisure, the path finally brings you to the center.  Walking labyrinths is an ancient form of prayer.  It was revived in the Middle Ages and again in recent decades.

Our class was made up of about thirty pastors of all denominations, with many African Americans from Baptist traditions.  We were serious people, for the most part, and uncertain about the labyrinth.  We had come here to learn, not to indulge in frivolity.  Besides, it didn't look very promising, this circular walkway to nowhere.  It looked useless to most of us.  For me, the labyrinth was just a little too public, too.  It sat close to a busy street.  I didn't want passersby to stop and stare at all of us strange religious people at the divinity school, wandering in a circle and gazing at our toes.

               The shady campus was abloom with lilacs in purple, and white, and blue.  The fragrance was otherworldly.  The day was perfect, cool but bright.  We started walking the labyrinth uncertainly, just wanting to get the exercise over with.  But blame it on the lilacs and the birdsong.  Blame it on the constant circular motion of the labyrinth itself.  By the time we had finished, every last one of us was deeply moved.  Later, the same professor asked us to describe the experience, and one of my classmates (a tough, sarcastic fellow who pastored a large, conservative church in the inner city) spoke with real tears in his eyes.  “That labyrinth taught me how to forgive someone I've needed to forgive for a long time.”  And I thought, “Hmm.  Isn't forgiveness a kind of circle, too?”

            Wedding bands.  Rose windows, like the one in our chapel.  Protestant prayer beads, which are not the same as Catholic rosaries.  Mandalas.  These are just a handful of circles in the life of faith.  Resurrection, too, is the old eternal circle of life, death, and new life.  By God's grace, our congregation has been  traveling its own circle in the past few years, journeying into a bright new day of positive energy and forward motion.  The ever-moving circle can bring new life to old institutions, and nations, and philosophies.  It revives music and literature that the world all but forgot.  It sends its unexpected blessings into our personal lives, too.  The darkest day (like the brightest) does not last forever.  Things can come full circle.  In this New Year, God give us the wisdom to entrust it all to the One who makes and moves all these many circles.

In Christ's Peace,