Noticing

—by Julian DeShazier

Transcript of the video:

Yesterday was the first day of Advent, the period in the Christian tradition each year when we await the birth of Jesus. That waiting is not merely sitting still, but a deep slowing down, a willingness to sit in the silence of one’s life/the courage to create silence or space for the big questions. The questions that, like this little child, point us to our redemption. To our purpose.

We lit the Candle of Hope and opened up Isaiah 64 and talked about Discernment – the act of deep listening, as a way of tuning in, as a way of anchoring one’s self instead of being swept away. Discernment is not only for folks entering ministry but for people that want to become all that is possible, recognizing that each of our lives is a ministry. We are engaging discernment.

And each day during Advent we’ll have a devotional for you, maybe a video or a reading, or a poem, to aid you in that process. TODAY I want to start with noticing. Because as soon as people hear DISCERNMENT it becomes “what should I do?”

We move to the end of that line, and because we move so fast, what usually happens is we get overwhelmed. There’s SO MUCH, or we feel so far away that it makes our head hurt, our bodies tighten…but I don’t want you to DO anything yet. In fact, discernment done well should make pretty clear what needs to be done (the HOW to do it…another thing) but it all begins with noticing.

And when I use that word – NOTICING – it’s something different that seeing or observing. To NOTICE means that something lingers once we observe it. It stays with us. It asks us to spend a little more time with it. This is not JUDGING. This is not COMMITTING. This is not ACTING. This is the act of noticing.

The wise men see a star and it lingers with them. Eventually they pay enough attention to follow it. Then they find Jesus. But first they have to notice.

Friends – what are you noticing right now? About yourself? About the world? A thing happens: what do you notice about your response? What do you notice about how you exist in the world right now?

That I am…

and remember, NO JUDGMENT. Simply noticing. You will want to say harsh things about yourself. It won’t help you. Take a moment and NOTICE yourself. Take note. And keep this, to begin, about you.

I notice corruption over here and…

Great! What do you note about your response?

It would be great if you took the next few minutes – or found some point later to come back to this – to spend some time jotting down what you notice about yourself. I’ll offer you this prayer in closing:

God, help me – in seeing others, in moving about so fast and taking in so much – to slow down enough to notice myself being alive. Give me courage to sit with what I love and what I am shameful of. Thank you for loving me, and for trusting me with all that love requires. Amen.

Stewardship 2021: This Little Light of Mine

One of the biggest differences between my daughters and me is how we understand light. I mean this quite literally. They think light appears magically during the day: I know it’s about the sun and earth’s rotation, yada yada yada. They think there should always be lights on (even when no one is in the room!): I know lights cost money. They think light is how you get rid of darkness, and, well…they are spot on! When they are afraid of the dark, they call on their parents to make the light happen.

When you first observed University Church, or felt its light, you knew it was something special. But like those little kids, you didn’t know where it came from: it simply was. But if that light reached you, or anyone else, it had an origin.

If it was in 2020, it meant there was a Sanctuary Task Force dedicated to meeting the needs of immigrants in the city, even if it meant opening our building in a different way. There was a Finance Committee + a Housing Minister working with them. There was an abrupt stop to our regular rhythm (Really? What happened this year?), and a Worship team that moved entirely online. There was a pastor speaking into a camera, wondering if anyone could feel…that…light. There were thousands in benevolence distributed, clothes and food given away, activities for kids, new songs, new ways of being emerging, just like you ― figuring out, in this mad darkness, how to make the light happen.

Your church makes light. And it’s not because ??? makes it happen: WE make it happen. By God’s grace. Together. This time every year, we use our time, talent, and treasure to create a little light where the darkness reigns, to keep the lights on, and to contribute to the warmth and glow of God’s Beloved Community in this city, nation, and world. We are University Church, a little light that happens to be a mighty light, and it’s Stewardship Season.

I’m calling on you to help sustain our work for love and freedom. We are asking you to make a pledge this year that will help us continue to reach people in their homes each week. We are asking you not to help us be the church, but to BE THE CHURCH with us. Be God’s Love and generosity, and let’s be more than little lights; let’s use our collective light to cast out the great darkness.

Enclosed is a pledge card, which we will use to determine next year’s budget and possibilities. Be prayerful over your finances as you prepare to turn in your pledge card. For some, a 10% “tithe” of your income will be what you write, and less for others. What we ask is for 100% participation: full participation of our congregation, of any amount that is significant for you. If you’ve been blessed, be a blessing!

Stewardship Sunday this year is November 15 (when we’ll also celebrate my being your pastor for 10 Years! Time flies!), and we’ll receive pledge cards through the end of November. You can also call or email the office with your pledge, or make your pledge ONLINE.

THANK YOU for being part of this place, because we know that it isn’t enough to wait on the light: we must make light happen. Take care over there. Love.

―Pastor Julian