Posts by The Rev. Dr. Joanne Whitt

Tuesday, February 20

Read through the Psalms, beginning with Psalm 1 and reading one a day through Psalm 150. Read with a sense of where the psalmist is speaking to you and your life.



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Monday, February 19

Create an altar.  Select a space in your home that you will see regularly, to remind you to take time to pray. Select “sacred” items that you feel connected to: objects from nature, photos, candles, stones.  Be creative and playful.  As you pass it each day, say a short prayer of intention that you might see the whole world as sacred as this altar.



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The Practice of Prayer

The third Sunday of the month is Family Sunday at First Presbyterian Church.  This sermon was a hands-on, interactive sermon in conversation with the young people of the congregation, and intended for everybody.

Lessons: Psalm 139:1-12; Philippians 4:4-7

Today is the first Sunday in Lent, and during Lent we are talking about ways to practice our faith – ways to practice loving God, our neighbors, our selves and the earth.

Remember the hearts we made a few weeks ago? SHOW HEART (A construction paper heart with the words, “God loves everybody, including me, and including _____.”  The children were asked to fill in the blank with the name of someone they do not like.)

That was a practice. The heart helped us to remember that God loves everybody.

Today we are going to talk about the practice of prayer.

On the cover of your bulletin, it says that prayer is paying attention to God. And in the passage Isaac read,[i] the apostle Paul says we are to pray to God about everything. Absolutely everything. Bring everything, every part of our lives to God.

First, let’s talk about prayers.

We say prayers in church: Prayer of confession, the Lord’s Prayer, silent prayer, Prayer of Dedication, and so on.

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Saturday, February 17

If you don’t already do so, begin each meal with a simple grace or prayer of gratitude.


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Friday, February 16

Take up journaling every morning: two or three pages about whatever comes to mind and whatever is on your heart.  Do not edit, check your spelling, worry about grammar or go back and read what you’ve written, at least not for several days.


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Thursday, February 15

As you fall asleep, ask a question something like, “Where in this day did I feel truly myself?  Where did I feel authentic?  When did I sense joy in who I am and what I was doing?”



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Wednesday, February 14

Wednesday, February 14: Take a 15 minute break from your morning routine to attend the Ash Wednesday worship service at First Presbyterian Church of San Anselmo.  Worshipers may come and go between 7:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m.  Scripture readings, communion, imposition of ashes and contemplative music.


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The Practice of Paying Attention

Lesson: Mark 9:2-9

Everyone knows safety on an airplane is important, but almost no one pays attention to the safety instructions. Whether it started with the flight attendants themselves or elsewhere, airlines have found a solution. Flight attendants inject humor into the routine safety speech: “If you are sitting next to a small child, or someone who is acting like a small child, please do us all a favor and put on your own mask first.” “Please refrain from smoking until you reach a designated smoking area, which for California, is Las Vegas.” “Your menu choices are chicken or pasta. If we’re out of your choice by the time we get to you, don’t worry; they all taste the same.” “We just found a wallet in the aisle. Now that we have your attention here is some important safety information.”

Sometimes it takes something special to get people’s attention. That’s part of what’s going on in today’s passage in Mark. It’s a story we find in Matthew and Luke as well;[1] a story we hear every year on Transfiguration Sunday. Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up the mountain, and there, Jesus is “transfigured.” His clothing becomes white with a brightness that’s not of this earth. Two other figures appear – Moses the lawgiver and the prophet Elijah. Don’t ask me how the disciples can tell who they are. They just know. Then God speaks: “This is my beloved son. Listen to him.” Suddenly they understand in a new and unforgettable way who Jesus is and what he is doing. Read more →

A Deserted Place

Lesson: Mark 1:29-39

I suppose it says something about me and my life that I find it more thought-provoking and even challenging that Jesus took time off to pray by himself than that he healed Simon’s mother-in-law. I’ve never liked that story much, anyway. Not only is she nameless, but as soon as she’s healed of her fever, she’s expected to play the hostess. Come on, now; couldn’t the disciples get up and get their own drinks for a while, so she could rest up? The point, say biblical scholars, is that in an honor/shame culture like first century Palestine, a crucial part of the story is that Jesus has restored her to her place in the community. In her case, that means showing hospitality to guests in her home; that’s what gives her honor.[i] Okay, I get that; but still, it’s Jesus’ retreat from the clamoring crowds that catches my attention. With the whole city gathered around the door, with his own disciples hunting for him, he still takes time out in the early morning before dawn to find some solitude and pray.

He must have needed it. He needed time away from the noise and all the demands to devote to his prayer life, his spiritual life; he needed to spend quality time with God. Jesus needed this. Jesus. Jesus needed to spend time on his relationship with God. What does that tell us about what we need? Read more →


Lesson: Mark 1:21-28

I went to high school with a kid everybody knew as Ted, but his real name was George. I don’t know why his nickname was Ted, but he hated to be called George. No one ever called him George, except every year on the first day of class, when a teacher who didn’t know him yet called roll. Except for one teacher I’ll never forget. Instead of calling roll from the sheet of paper the office had provided, this teacher went down the rows of desks and asked each of us to say our names. For the first time, Ted was just Ted. The teacher also learned that E-V-A was pronounced “A-va,” and that you don’t pronounce the “g” in Montinguise. It was the first thing he did. It told us a lot about him, right off the bat. He cared enough to ask us what we wanted to be called and how to say our names.

First things matter. In this morning’s passage in Mark’s Gospel, the very first thing Jesus does is pick a fight with an unclean spirit, and it tells us a lot about him, right off the bat. It happens on the Sabbath, the day of worship and rest, in the synagogue. Jesus, a young rabbi, teaches. That’s not so unusual, but the people are unusually interested in what he says. In fact, Mark says, “they were astounded” because he taught “with authority.”[1] What does “with authority” mean? That he was confident, that he was persuasive or charismatic or said what people wanted to hear … or what? We don’t know for sure. But I bet there was something authentic in him that the people could see. I bet they could tell that he honest-to-goodness believed the kingdom of God was at hand. He could feel it, taste it, see it, and he wanted others to, as well. Read more →