Thursday Thoughts
     Phillips Memorial Baptist Church

Phillips Memorial Baptist Church
565 Pontiac Avenue
Cranston, Rhode Island  02910

401-467-3300

pmbcoffice565@gmail.com

Rev. Dr. Amy Chilton: phillipsmemorialpastor@gmail.com

  Pastor Amy's Thursday Thoughts

Thursday Thoughts

The Next Big Thing

by Rev. Dr. Amy Chilton on 05/23/24

June is a month of transitions - especially for students and teachers. The preschool children at Little Shepherd have been going to and from the sanctuary all week to practice for their upcoming graduation. I spent the other evening at the Honor Society awards night for my own daughter, who is graduating highschool in just a few weeks. Our teachers are finishing up an academic year and starting their much deserved summer break before they return next year to a fresh crop of students.

Life is full of transitions, from our first breath to our last. Some of them are large transitions - moves, graduations, marriages, divorces, job changes - and some of them are small - outgrowing your favorite shoes or pants (for kids or adults!). Growing up programs us to ask and expect that there will be a NEXT BIG THING, a graduation, a job change, a move. I don’t know about you, but I find it easy to get caught in trying to figure out and control what that NEXT BIG THING is.

Even Jesus worried about the next big thing. Remember the time he knew his end was near and he spent the night praying in the garden with his sleepy friends who couldn’t stay awake with him in his own dark night of the soul? That night he was “distressed and agitated,” “deeply grieved” and begged God to change what he was facing (Mark 14:32-36).

What I want to suggest is that when we are facing the NEXT BIG THING we might lower our gaze from the hoped for or feared future to what is right in front of us. Are there things we need to do now, today, to live out our faith in this world? Are there people who need to be loved now with a kind word or small act of service? And are there moments now that we might pause in prayer, much like Jesus did?

In Philippians 4, Paul encouraged his readers to substitute worry for prayer. “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (4:6-7).

So, during this month of transitions for our students and educators and during lifetimes full of transitions, I encourage you to find some moments in your day to take your eyes off the NEXT BIG THING and look around you. How can you love and serve and pray now?

And, when you get a moment, send some prayers up for our students and educators that they will finish this year strong and that the Spirit might guide them into whatever is next!

Blessings,

Pastor Amy

Let the Little Children

by Rev. Dr. Amy Chilton on 05/16/24

This time of year leaves those who have children in their lives in a state of shock - how is the school year already over? And, how are these kids already old enough to finish this grade?! I’m reeling a bit over the fact that my daughter is about to graduate from highschool and a week later will be at college orientation. HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?! Children really do pull us into the future at a breakneck speed.

I love that each May we celebrate the PMBC kiddos with our Children and Youth Sunday. This year it coincides with Pentecost (May 19th). I cannot imagine a better text than Acts 2:17-18 for the Sunday on which our young people will lead us in worship. 

In the days to come–it is our God who speaks–I will pour out my Spirit on all humankind. Your daughters and sons will prophesy, your young people will see visions, and your elders will dream dreams. Even on the most insignificant of my people, both women and men, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.[1]

There aren’t a lot of references to children in the Bible, especially not in the New Testament. The childhood death rate was high and children had little social power. But, we do have that little story in Matthew 19:13-15 in which the disciples try to shoo the clamoring kids away and Jesus stops them from doing so and blesses the kids. I guess they didn’t hear Jesus tell them they had to become like children to enter the kingdom, had to welcome children, and had better not harm a child (Matthew 18:1-7)!

We love our kids and youth here at PMBC. But, what if beyond just being thankful they are here and enjoying the children’s story we also remembered that when the Spirit came upon the church on its day of birth, the promise was that young people would also be God’s spokespeople? If we remembered that, we might seek out their wisdom more often or look around at how they are making themselves heard nationally and globally and ask ourselves how God is speaking through them. Youth are often the folx who are not yet encumbered by social norms and more bravely speak out the truth of what they see.

So, on this Pentecost, remember that the children were always part of the Spirit’s promise. Perhaps look around at the young people in your life and ask yourself how you can be more like them. And definitely come and be led by them in worship this Sunday!

Blessings,

Pastor Amy



[1] The Inclusive Bible.

Mothering

by Rev. Dr. Amy Chilton on 05/09/24

Mother’s Day is one of those Sundays that promises to be a whole lot of fun and oftentimes turns out to be complicated for a whole lot of folks. When I was a kid my church would have “contests” during service and give prizes away to moms. They changed the categories each year, but they would ask things like “Who has the most kids?” (always my mom, of course), “which mom came from the furthest away?,” etc. But, not all of the women in our church who wanted to be moms could be moms. So, for some women in our congregation Mother’s Day was painful. And I imagine that some of the women without children didn’t want to be moms and had to answer a lot of questions about when they were going to get married or have kids.

The mothers of the Bible show us all kinds of ways of being a mother. Some of them desperately wanted children and couldn’t have them easily (e.g., Sarah, Rachel, Rebecca, Elizabeth), many of them lost their children (e.g., Bathsheba and Rizpah), some of them taught their children (the mother of Proverbs 31), some had to resort to desperate means to have children (e.g., Lot’s daughters and Tamar), some had children who fought (e.g., Eve, Rachel, and Rebecca),and some of them raised their children in poverty (e.g., the widow of Zarephath). While we have some stories of women who just couldn’t have children, we can safely assume that those stories happened then just as they do now. There have always been many ways to be a woman and a mother.

What we don’t have in Scripture are clear teachings telling women to be mothers. What we do have in Scripture are maternal images used to describe God as both nurturing and fighting for the safety of God’s children. Even God has many ways of being a mother to creation! (Want to hear more? Come to service this Sunday!)

So, where am I going with this? This weekend, as we celebrate Mother’s Day, I encourage you to expand your definition of a “mother.” Who in your life has been like God, who has nurtured and fought for you? No matter their gender or relationship to you, if they did those things they “mothered” you. Perhaps, in addition to spending time with your own mothers or children, reach out to all who have mothered you and thank them for being God’s presence in your life.

Blessings,

Pastor Amy

Blessing the Mothers

            By Jan Richardson

 Who are our

first sanctuary.


Who fashion

a space of blessing

with their own being:

 

with the belly

the bone and

the blood


or,

if not with these,

then with the

durable heart

that offers itself

to break

and grow wide,

to gather itself

around another

as refuge,

as home

 

Who lean into

the wonder and terror

of loving what

they can hold

but cannot contain.

 

Who remain

in some part of themselves

always awake,

a corner of consciousness

keeping perpetual vigil.

 

Who know

that the story

is what endures

is what binds us

is what runs deeper

even than blood

 

and so they spin them

in celebration

of what abides

and benediction

on what remains:

 

a simple gladness

that latch onto us

and graces us

on our way.

A Prayer for Play

by Rev. Dr. Amy Chilton on 04/25/24

As I am away for a time of rest and renewal with a gathering of other clergy women, I leave you this prayer.


Blessings,


Pastor Amy




God of levity,


Grant us a rest that permeates our waking hours. Mark our days with the recreation and playfulness of our youth. Restore to us the energy for mischief and creativity and competition that we’ve lost as we’ve gotten older. Put people in our lives who inspire us in our play. Game nights, karaoke, gardening, film – we want more than the binary of work and sleep. We want delight in the in-between, those moments of interior rest that can happen while we’re awake. Show us what forms of entertainment and what hobbies lead us into peace. And protect us from the lie that if we are awake, we should be working. Remind us that a light heart is not a heart that lacks depth. That our play does not negate our grief. Let us rest in the way we need to today. Amen.


From Cole Arthur Riley’s Black Liturgies: Prayers, Poems, and Meditations for Staying Human. New York: Convergent, 2024: 159-160.

A Bottomless Well of Love

by Rev. Dr. Amy Chilton on 04/18/24

“For, our Lord God is so good, so gentle and so courteous that he can never assign final failure to those in whom he will always be blessed and praised….For before he made us he loved us, and when we were made we loved him; and this is made only of the natural substantial goodness of the Holy Spirit, mighty by reason of the might of the Father, wise in mind of the wisdom of the son. And so is man’s [sic] soul made by God, and in the same moment joined to God.”[1]

When Julian of Norwhich (14th century English mystic) wrote about her mystical visions of God, at the very center of her retelling was a profound conviction that we are deeply and irrevocably loved by God. This month’s sermons are taking us through 1 John, a powerfully poetic piece written to encourage the church community to keep on in the faith and to not allow themselves to be cowed by fears that they weren’t enough. The most powerful statement of God’s character comes in chapter 4, verse 16: God is love.

To say God “is love” rather than God “loves,” removes all distance between God and love. To say that God “loves” leaves open the possibility that God might not love (like love is a choice that God might one day stop making). But to say that God “is love”reminds us that love is God’s very being. It isn’t a choice, but rather an honest expression of God’s very character.

What greater assurance could John give his readers who are struggling with fear that they aren’t enough than to point to the very essence of God’s character as love! We love - and have faith and walk in the light - because “God first loved us” (4:19). We don’t have to live in fear that we aren’t perfect - we have only to let ourselves be loved and to love the world around us as best we can.

What is one small way you can love the world around you this week? Earth Day is on Monday, can you love the world by planting something or caring for an outdoor space? Can you love the world by reaching out to a friend, family member, or acquaintance who might need some encouragement? Can you make reconciliation with someone you have harmed? Can you help carry someone’s burden through an act of service?

God’s ever abundant, overflowing love can fill us to overflowing if we open ourselves up to it by loving God and loving others!

Blessings,

Pastor Amy

[1] Julian of Norwich, Showings, translated by Edmund Colledge and James Walsh (Mahweh, NJ: Paulist, 1978): 282-84.