Prayers for these times

Last night we had our first live-stream Rainbow worship gathering. You can find the recording here:

We are going to try and do this every Wednesday at 5:45 pm for the foreseeable future. Hopefully some of us can work that in our ever-changing schedules.

For those who would rather read, here is what I tried to convey:

Hello to all, gathered near and far.  At Rainbow we have congregants living in Ireland (Hello to Erin and Aaron, Rory and Nathan!) and Australia (Hello to Freddy Rhoads and family!), Japan (Hello Kate Duncan), and Hawaii (Hello Bill Duncan and family!)

Former Mennonite Voluntary Service worker, Eba, sent this note from Africa:

“Thank you for remembering me and saying hi. I’m taking the necessary measures to keep my family safe. Africa had the lowest cases over the past weeks but now the numbers are starting to rise and our government closed schools and public gatherings. My sister and I enjoy walking our dog every evening, at least until we are asked to stay home, Peace, Eba.”

We are also spread out in the United States. We heard this week from Anna Marie Petersen in Wayland, IA, and Ralph and Laurel Kaufman in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Their retirement community is locked down.) Caitlin Buerge, a traveling pediatric nurse, is waiting to see if she’ll be called and asked to take care of adult patents. Christian Buller is taking classes remotely, helping his sister Sarah and John with childcare. Dustin and Robert are hunkered down in St. Louis. The list goes on. Hello to all!

We are probably all checking in with loved ones near and far. Please feel free to share your prayer requests and concerns with the Deacons or me.  Speaking of Deacons, we thank those who have offered to run errands or bring groceries to people. And we want to thank our medical professionals and those in the social service mental health world who are responding to people’s distress. We have members working in clinics, hospitals, prisons, homes, as social workers, therapists, nurses, doctors, surgeons, teachers, and advocates of many kinds.

The ripple effects are rather astounding when you think about it. Trips are being canceled, spring break plans are changing by the hour. I think of all of you parents out there with kids at home. You are figuring out childcare or child activities as you work from home or out of home.We know a lot of school-aged children depend on food that they get at schools. We are currently figuring out how to make Harvester Backsnack deliveries available to our community children.

Many of us also have parents or grandparents who are vulnerable, isolated, and lonely. And many of us have already comprised immune systems or other health concerns.  And many are concerned about losing their jobs, businesses, or losing retirement funds.

So yes, these are concerning and challenging times.

Let’s take a deep breath collectively.

Here is a reading by Brother Richard Hendrick called “Lockdown.”

Yes there is fear. Yes there is isolation. Yes there is panic buying. Yes there is sickness. Yes there is even death. But, they say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise you can hear the birds again. They say that after just a few weeks of quiet the sky is no longer thick with fumes, but blue and grey and clear. They say that in the streets of Assisi people are singing to each other across the empty squares, keeping their windows open so that those who are alone may hear the sounds of family around them. They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland is offering free meals and delivery to the housebound.

Today a young woman I know is busy spreading fliers with her number through the neighbourhood so that the elders may have someone to call on. Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples are preparing to welcome and shelter the homeless, the sick, the weary. All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting. All over the world people are looking at their neighbours in a new way. All over the world people are waking up to a new reality to how big we really are; to how little control we really have; to what really matters; to Love.

So we pray and we remember that Yes there is fear, but there does not have to be hate. Yes there is isolation, but there does not have to be loneliness. Yes there is panic buying, but there does not have to be meanness. Yes there is sickness, but there does not have to be disease of the soul. Yes there is even death, but there can always be a rebirth of love.

Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now. Today, breathe. Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic. The birds are singing again, the sky is clearing. Spring is coming, and we are always encompassed by Love. Open the windows of your soul and though you may not be able to touch across the empty square, Sing.

And for further reflections on Psalm 91, click here:  In the trenches








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Rainbow Radio Hour!

Welcome to Rainbow Radio Hour sponsored by your favorite brand of hand sanitizer.

Missing you all. Now open your Bibles to John chapter 4…..


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From ashes to the living fount, the church journeys still

At Rainbow we will begin the season of Lent with an Ash Wednesday Service, February 26, at 5:45 pm. During this 40 day period (not including Sundays), we start with ash and move toward the living fount of resurrected life.  Join us!

“They are a curious thing, ashes; they are terrible and remarkable by turns,” writes Jan Richardson. “Ashes come as a reminder of the ways that humans across history have been horrible to one another, of how we have, with an awful finesse, reduced to literal ashes one another’s homes, buildings, cities, histories, and very bodies. Ashes can also be a thing of wonder. Ashes—dust, dirt, earth—are the stuff from which we have been made, and to which we will return. Ash Wednesday, and the season it heralds, seeks to ground us, to make us mindful of the humus, the humility, the earthiness of which our bones and flesh are made. And yet, in the midst of this, the season calls us to open ourselves to the God who brings life from ashes, who works wonders amid destruction, who cries out and grieves in the presence of devastation and terror, and who breathes God’s own spirit into the rubble. It is this God who breathes into us, calling our awful and glorious ash-strewn selves to speak words of life and freedom and healing amid violence and pain.”


To take the sign of the cross
means to allow oneself  to be stretched out wide
in solidarity with the Christ and in compassion for all, even at cost,
and to believe against defeat and despair
that hope can rise and life begin again.

-Liturgy of Ashes

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Ruebens and Pacifism

A guest blog post entry by none other than my spouse, Jesse Graber. I should note that both Jesse and I are Bethel College graduates.

On a Wednesday night quest to find a Rueben sandwich for my wife, I stopped by Browne’s Irish Marketplace.  It was late, and the place was practically empty.


As the guy behind the deli was making my sandwiches he was talking to the only other person there about where they went to high school. The other guy looks at me and asks where I went to high school. I shrugged and told him I was from central Kansas and he’s never heard of it, but he asked where, so I told him I went to Newton High. Close to Wichita.

He told me he knows Newton. He went to Bethel College, in fact. He said he grew up in Junction City and followed a girl to Bethel. The first day of class another student was looking at his shirt. He knew this meant he’d have to fight him, even though he was some big farm kid. So he gets all in his face and yells “WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING AT? YOU WANT TO GO?” The other kid looked horrified and said no, he was just trying to read his shirt, he was a pacifist, and he didn’t want to fight.

“THAT’S RIGHT YOU DON’T” my new rueben friend said. He acted tough, but was pretty relieved. Later he went back to his roommate and asked “…What’s a pacifist?”

My rueben friend said he grew up fighting, but Bethel taught him a new vibe.

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Mennonite Women and Football

This feels like a confession and I’m not sure it has to be. (I’m sure each reader will have and express their opinion about that.) 

In my lifetime I have tried and enjoyed countless sports and yet, playing tackle football as a kid might be one of my favorite sport memories (unless you count crawdad fishing a sport). 

For me there was nothing like the thrill of going out for (or throwing) a long pass on a crisp January afternoon. Still today, at least once a year, I feel the urge to tackle my spouse or kick a football as far as I can. Yes, there are issues with the game—traumatic injuries and the corrupt dealings and behaviors within professional (and college) sports are just two of many potential problems. Still, when I heard there was a women’s tackle football league in Kansas City, starring two Mennonite gals from KS who I knew when they were young, I was in those football stands before you could count to ten (with posters, friends, and family/church members to boot!

I even rushed the field a couple times, threw and kicked some balls, and began to contemplate whether my 40 year old body could try out for the team (and whether the church I pastor would support this side gig).

That dream of trying out for the Kansas City Titans ended when, during one of the games I watched, the ambulance was called onto the field for an apparent neck injury. That’s the moment I decided to continue sticking my neck out as a preacher and not a football player.

These two gals I mentioned earlier will be in Miami this weekend for the Super Bowl. Katie Sowers will be serving in her role as the 49ers offensive coach and her twin sister Liz will be cheering her heart out. I hope to see both of them rush the field at some point. These two are inspiring to watch as they compete, support each other, and support athletes of all genders inspiring people of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities. They take after their parents—both of whom are inspiring in their own ways. (Floyd Sowers was my college basketball coach who taught me the power of the bounce pass.) 

Here are some pictures of Katie and her friends leading a football clinic for our Rainbow Summer Program.

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You can read all about Katie and Liz online. There is so much wonderful press out there about these two. I am thinking about adding to that press and writing a sequel to “Mennonite Girls Can Cook,” called “Mennonite Girls Can Tackle.” What do you say, Katie and Liz, are you game? 

I hope to see both of your contagious smiles on the big screen on Sunday. And Katie, on Sunday how about wearing that Rainbow scarf we gifted you when you preached at Rainbow?

Here is a video link to that sermon she preached at Rainbow in June of 2019. (Katie, your mom gave permission for me to post this on your behalf! Does she do that often?)


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Imago Dei

“Me,” I heard this young boy said, as he pointed to our one-of-a-kind Advent light sculpture. Meanwhile I stood back and saw this young one’s beautiful face reflected in the sculpture’s mirror. Yes, you, I thought. And me. We are all sparkling light.  

The creator of this light sculpture, Arlie Regier, is no longer living so I can’t ask him why he put a mirror front and center. Perhaps he was hoping we would see ourselves through and in the light of God. If Advent and Christmas is a time of celebrating Immanuel—God with us—the mirror  reminds us that we, too, are part of this unfolding truth and drama. Imago Dei—made in God’s image and light, created to shine, not shrink in fear. You, me, us, made in God’s image and light. 

Many of us have complicated relationship with mirrors, especially brightly-lit ones. Sometimes we like what we see in mirrors, sometimes we don’t. Like glass itself, we are both fragile and strong, capable of shining and shattering.   

I remember as a teen facilitating between avoiding mirrors and spending too much time in front of mirrors. I experienced first-hand what David Giuliano writes in his article, Mirrors for Youth:  “Many of the mirrors (both figuratively and literally) that youth encounter reflect back soul crushing messages—too fat, ugly hair, crummy clothes, zits, not enough money, failure, stupid, unloveable, the list is endless.”  

Giuliano believes faith communities have great potential as places where people of all ages learn to see themselves and others beyond social acceptance or a culture of consumption, or narrow notions of success. While he focuses on teens in his article, his word of encouragement could apply to all ages: “In our eyes youth need to see God’s eyes, reflecting back to them their beauty, lovability, and freedom, and calling them to live lives that manifest those truths. We need to hold God up to youth as the mirror they carry into adulthood.” He poses such a good question: Are we holding up God-shaped mirrors— mirrors that help people of all ages see themselves as the loved, free, beautiful miracles they are; that we all are?

For the remainder of Advent and through Christmas, I encourage everyone to linger in front of this sculpture mirror and contemplate to what degree we see or don’t see the light of God in ourselves and others. And perhaps we can join in this prayer/hymn, hoping that that we will indeed make manifest God’s image and light in the world. 

Let there be light, Lord God of hosts!

Let there be wisdom on the earth!

Let broad humanity have birth!

Let there be deeds, instead of boasts!

Within our passioned hearts instill

the calm that ends all strain and strife.

Make us thy ministers of life.

Purge us from lusts that curse and kill!

Give us the peace of vision clear

to see each other’s good, our own,

To joy and suffer not alone:

the love that casteth out all fear!

Let woe and waste of warfare cease,

that useful labor yet may build

its homes with love and laughter filled!

God, give your wayward children peace.

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Native American Heritage Month

Earlier this month, Rainbow’s Director of Faith Formation and Youth Ministries, Sarah Neher, invited our church’s middle and high school students to reflect on the following questions:


What images come to mind when you think of/imagine native or indigenous American people(s)?

What stories inform these images?

What are your experiences with native/indigenous people(s)?

She then asked the students if they had heard of indigenous-related movements or protests such as the Keystone XL pipeline? Or have they ever heard of what is called a Land Recognition? And finally, did they know that November is Native American Heritage Month?

They then watched this video:

I share this in part because Sarah is going to preach with these matters in mind on Sunday, November 24. What if we all reflected on these questions as we prepare for Thanksgiving?

Thank you Sarah!

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