Saturday, March 3, 2012


The Kingdom

Scripture:  The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near…Mark 1:15b

What does the kingdom of God look like?  Smell like?  Sound like?  Feel like?  And where is it? A physical place in real time or a lofty space up there in the sky?  And who is included?  
Every time we recite the Lord’s Prayer, we pray “Thy kingdom come.  Thy will be done.”  But what are we really saying? 
Shortly after his baptism and John’s subsequent arrest, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near.’  We know that he was talking about himself – Jesus is the good news – and the kingdom has come in him.  But the crowd to whom he was speaking had no clue and more than 2,000 years later, the “church” is still trying to sort it all out.
What does good news sound and look like for you today?  Discovering that “perfect” mate you have been looking for?  A new job?  A promotion?  Forgiveness of a past fault?  A doctor’s report of good health?  My guess is, all of the above in one variation or the other.

But maybe there is even better news.  The kingdom of God is here for us today regardless of our situation or circumstance.  God is breaking through on us from every direction.  Can you see, smell, hear, feel it?

Prayer:  Thy kingdom come.  Thy will be done.  On earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread.  Forgive us.  Lead us.  Deliver us.  For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever and ever and ever.  Amen.  

 The Reverend Dr. Cathy Gilliard

Friday, March 2, 2012


Crossing Boundaries

Scripture:  This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.”  Genesis 9:17a

I love living in New York City.  I love its rich diversity and the variety of people, places, and experiences so readily available. Geographically, we are divided into many parts: east side, west side, upper east, lower east, upper west, midtown, downtown, below 14th Street, Harlem, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island - you get the picture. 

Sometimes, I get lazy and want to stay on “my” side of town but the truth is, I am always blessed when I venture out to learn, embrace, and experience a different way of life.   Barbara Brown Taylor writes in her book, An Altar in the World, "Sometimes the hardest spiritual work in the world is to love the neighbor as the self - to encounter another human being not as someone you can use, change, fix, help, save, enroll, convince or control, but simply as someone who can spring you from the prison of yourself, if you will allow it.”  

What I am most clear about - clearer than anything else I know - is God’s unwavering determination to embrace all of humanity, and to do so without any conditions at all – this is his covenant promise.

I live in a city that calls us to embrace not only our differences but also our common bonds.  You do too.   

Why not go out of your way to discover a new part of town? Walk around. Eat the food. Smile and see who smiles back. Take a peek into a synagogue or mosque and ask the questions you’ve always wondered about.  Begin a conversation with someone from another country or state.  And listen, really listen.  My guess is you will discover that your own faith will be greatly enhanced beyond your wildest imaginings. 

Prayer:  Loving God, thank you for binding us together as one people.

 The Reverend Dr. Cathy Gilliard

Thursday, March 1, 2012


Beautiful Rainbows

Scripture:  When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.  Genesis 9:14-15

When I was a child I used to love to see a rainbow - the beautiful array of colors displayed across the sky, usually after a spring or summer rain.  As the sunlight passes through the water droplets, the rainbow is bent toward the ground and split into majestic hues of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet.   It is as if God is passing through the clouds lifting away the darkness and bending himself towards us.  Who can miss God’s majesty in such moments?  

And so it was, God set the rainbow in the sky as a reminder to Himself and to us that He would never again destroy the earth.  I’m not sure how literal we are to take the story of the flood – whether it actually happened or happened as we have imagined.  But there it is nonetheless, right in the first book of the Bible as a reminder of God’s relationship with His creation.  It is also a reminder of God’s frustration; how angry, grieved and saddened God was by our hard-headedness and hard-heartedness.   

But God did not stay angry.  Frustration, darkness, and chaos gave way to love, forgiveness, mercy and grace.  “Never again will I destroy what is mine,” says the Lord.  To which all us are bound to respond, “Thanks be to you, Loving One.  Thanks be to You.” 
You might want to be on the lookout for rainbows and welcome them as a reminder of the Holy One who remembers his promise forever. 

Prayer:  Loving God, we know that you love us even when we refuse to grow up and be mature adults.  Like the colors of the rainbow, you call all of your creation to live together and make a beautiful display upon the earth.  Help me to do my part.

 The Reverend Dr. Cathy Gilliard

Wednesday, February 29, 2012


A Lenten Prayer for the Day

Scripture:  To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.  Psalm 25:1

Holy God, my worries are not new to you
   You know them quite well –
   even as you know every aspect of my being
   the deep places too tender to name - 
   You know them.
Help me not to fret but to trust –
  to rest
  to cleave
  to receive your goodness.   
This day is my gift; a sign of your love
   tomorrow and all of my tomorrows
   are held in your hands
   no one can pluck them out or take away what have given
   help me to guard them as the treasures they are. 
I will lift up my head
   for you alone are my strength
   you alone are my shield; my protection
   you alone are my guide leading me in the right way
   you are my all and all. 
And I will praise you, yes, I will praise you
   and sing songs of praise
   I will shout and be glad
   I will declare your glory to all I meet
   Thanks be to you Almighty God.

Prayer:  Thanks be to You!

 The Reverend Dr. Cathy Gilliard

Tuesday, February 28, 2012



Scripture:  In those days, Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.  Mark 1:9

We begin the Lenten season with Jesus’ baptism.  Why would Jesus allow himself to be baptized at all?  We know he was human as we are, but there is no record about him being guilty of sin or transgressions.  What would he have to confess and repent?

Even John knows that he is not worthy to baptize Jesus.  Earlier in verse 7, John acknowledges that he is not fit to untie the thongs of Christ’s sandals.  If anything, it should have been the other way around – Jesus should have been baptizing John.    

But Jesus won’t have it.  He humbles himself and is baptized.  By doing so, I think Jesus was marking something new and wonderful in his own life and ministry and also modeling for us what true discipleship looks like.  

The season of Lent invites us to turn from the old to the new.  It is a time of letting go of whatever needs to be let go of and embracing whatever needs to be claimed.   

How will you mark these days?  What difference will they make?  Where are the places God may be calling you to consider in a different way?  Are you willing and able to have that kind of honest chat with yourself?

So often, friends and congregants tell me they are planning to give up items like Coca Cola, coffee or chocolate for Lent and there is certainly nothing wrong with that.  Nothing wrong with it at all.  For some of us, even this kind of self-denial proves to be a great hardship.  But I’ve been challenging folks differently this year.  Why not choose to go a little deeper; a little farther than you have in the past.  Whatever you have done before, why not stretch a bit and see what God will do. 

Prayer:  Lord Christ, I cannot imagine what it must have been like for you to begin the lonely journey toward Jerusalem and the Cross.  Help us to walk with you so that we might also rise with you in Resurrection.

 The Reverend Dr. Cathy Gilliard

Monday, February 27, 2012


Membership Matters

Scripture:  In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.  Mark 1:9

“Pastor Cathy, will you baptize me?”  This was the question Edmund asked a few weeks after I assumed my new appointment on July 1 last year.  It was clearly something he had been thinking about for quite some time.  

Edmund has been one of the church custodians for the past five years.  His early life had not exactly been trouble-free but recent years had seen a marked turn around.  He is married with a solid job and trying to move forward in the best of ways.  At 57, he wanted to be baptized.  What was Edmund really asking?  What was he getting himself into?  

It was a joy to baptize him a few weeks later.  Not long after that, he stopped by my office again –this time wondering why “they” (meaning the stewardship committee) had sent him a letter about making a pledge for the coming year.  I explained that since he was now an official member of the church, he was expected to make a financial contribution.  The amount did not matter; anything would do.  I could tell Edmund was giving it a lot of thought and he did make a pledge – an amount that surprised me and one that I knew was probably a stretch given his salary. 

I have been watching him over these days and weeks.  He finds his way into my office more often - just to say hello or sit for a brief chat with no particular agenda and I am enjoying getting to know him.  On Christmas Eve, though he was not scheduled for work, he was one of the first to arrive wearing his finest dress pants and leather jacket and volunteering to serve as an usher.    Again, on January 2nd – another day off – he was around the church throwing out dried up poinsettias and making sure to take down outdated holiday signs.  

I’m not sure Edmund can rightly explain his renewed sense of ownership and pride in “his” church but something has clearly taken a hold of him. He is a “member”.  He belongs. 

Prayer:  Loving God, thank you for the waters of baptism that continue to wash away the dirt and grime of life and makes us clean by your love.

 The Reverend Dr. Cathy Gilliard

Sunday, February 26, 2012


The Promise of This Season

Scripture:  2 Corinthians 6:3 
We are putting no obstacle in anyone's way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry...

The season of lent is a time of preparation.  We fast, we give offerings, we sacrifice in anticipation of a renewed relationship with God and with one another.  God gives the Church a natural period to clear the air with Him.  We are invited to unearth our sins, inadequacies, short-comings, anger and hurts and to be set free from them.  What does it mean for us to engage our human relationships in a similar fashion, knowing that at the conclusion of the season of purging there is the promise of a new beginning?  This is Jesus' promise to us. 

Is there a relationship in your life which is broken.  Regardless of whether or not you are to blame for the state of the relationship, this is an invitation for you to make a radical step today to make a repair to the relationship.  This is an invitation for you to take responsibility for sustaining the relationship.  It could be as simple as calling a friend that you have not spoken to in a long time, it could be saying, I love you, to the spouse or child who acts like they don't love you back, it could be giving a gift to a difficult fill in the blanks...  The point is to engage in the radical act with the expectation of receiving nothing in return.  Take note of what happens in the coming weeks, in the coming months...  In particular, take note of what happens inside of your heart, what happens with you?

Prayer:  Loving God, thank you for the radical way in which you gave your Son, Jesus, to the world with no assurance that we would accept or appreciate the gift you gave.  You risked loving us completely without the assurance of our love in return.  Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you.  We  love you.  Amen.

The Reverend Tiffney Marley

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