I’m still thinking about Jonah, and the models of leadership it shows. You know by now that Jonah decided to run away from God rather than facing the people it was his job to face, while the leaders in Ninevah looked at the world around them and decided to change what they were doing,
It is back-to-school week in Ankeny. I received an email from the Principal Wichman at Prairie Ridge today laying out the back-to-school schedule. He also reminded us to check Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter for important announcements (apparently wanting to make sure that all of us parents also get to experience that Fear Of Missing Out we have heard plagues generation Z), but invited our emailed questions and laid out the policies that are responses to it. Principal Wichman and his team have identified that we are in an impossible situation and done the work to make the best of it for us.
At the University of Iowa, they’ve worked to make as many of the classes available online as they can, and thinned out the classrooms somewhat. At the same time, I saw University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld’s note to students reminding them that it was their choice to come to campus and therefore their responsibility to not think and act as if they were invincible, and his sternly-worded letter to local bars reminding them of state-mandated rules for distancing, suggesting that the outbreak in Iowa City was their responsibility. It was clear where his responsibility began, even though the giant spike in cases that has been reported in Iowa City was predicted by, well, everyone. Meanwhile, UI Athletic Director Gary Barta spent two minutes with athletes in the four sports he is cutting and then left the call without answering any questions or hearing their reactions, in a message that he did not want to be accountable for his actions.
At the state level, the governor’s office has taken charge of all communication about not only coronavirus policy, but also testing and data, away from the IDPH. But, as you may have read, there have been significant problems with the reported data, and the governor’s office did not take responsibility for its accuracy, instead dismissing and minimizing the errors and urging individuals and institutions to stop trying to understand how the state arrives at the numbers and take them at face value, even though they report 40% fewer cases in Dubuque County than have been confirmed over the past two weeks. In contrast to Prairie Ridge, the message from UI and the state has been, “individuals, take responsibility. As leaders of institutions leading and guiding you, we will not.” A message God was sending to Jonah, and by extension to us, was that no choice is truly individual. Each choice affects others, and we do bear some responsibility. But those choices also come within the framework of institutional leadership. Without God leading Jonah, or the rulers in Ninevah modeling and calling for mourning, and changing their ways, bad things happen. When Jonah faced the responsibility for leadership, good things happened.
James gets at the crux of the matter: what does it mean for you to have faith? Do you have faith that there is one God, or do you have faith in the Good News of Jesus Christ, prepared for us all? How do you show it?
James reminds us that listening and being slow to anger leads to mercy. Quickly judging others often trips us up, since our standards are different from God’s. So when in doubt, show mercy.
Have you ever treated a wealthier person better than a less wealthy person? Are you sure? Why?
Today’s reading gets into the question of how to seek wisdom from God, and also what it means to be rich or poor in the world we are trying to cocreate with God. It’s always good to remember when reading James that this book seems written from a different perspective from the works Paul wrote. How would an assumption that works show faith be revealed in James?
While we are looking for breaks and enrichment in times of isolation, we’re going to be reading through the book of James together.
James, thought to be the brother of Jesus, wrote this book sometime in the 20-30 years after Christ’s death. It’s not a letter, per se, in that the audience is not clear. Instead, it seems to be a collection of general thoughts and reflections. It is one of the few examples of post-Christian writing in the New Testament that does not originate with Paul. Instead, James seems to be concerned with the ideas of Jewish Christianity. Martin Luther disliked this book because it seemed to emphasize works as well as faith. As we go on, I’d ask you to think about that question, too.
April 1, 2017
It’s two short weeks until Easter, and with it an end to our journey in the gospel of Luke. Throughout the spring, we’ve seen Jesus’s journey from the manger in Bethlehem to the Jordan River in Jerusalem, synagogues in Galilee, and back now one last time on the road for his final confrontations and meditations in Gethsemane. We’ve seen throughout Luke a warning that deliverance will not come to us just because we are from the right family or worship in the right way, but that God seeks most of all to reach people we put outside our boundary lines. This theme has come up over and over again in Luke’s Gospel, and we’ve tried to echo it both in our sermons and in our studies, as we’ve listened to different stories of people outside boundaries we are familiar with: boundaries of language, boundaries of national identity, boundaries of gender. As we come into the conclusion of our Insiders and Outsiders theme and move back into our annual series on church identity, I encourage you to keep reading the scripture and looking for ways that God has brought people from the outside to the inside. As you do, look around and wonder what it is that defines insiders and outsiders for you. How can we broaden the net, just as the Jesus Luke portrays has?
Easter Sunday, we’ll once again be celebrating at 9am with breakfast, followed by a 10am Easter Egg Hunt and worship led off by the bell choir at 10:30. Come and worship!
This week’s scripture lesson continues the theme in Luke that we have been seeing of Jesus’s compassion in ministry. He announced to his synagogue that he was fulfilling Isaiah’s call to declare freedom to the oppressed and relief to the poor; when some fishermen were discouraged after a day with no catch, he brought them fish. When he saw suffering in front of him on the sabbath, he healed anyway. And this week, Jesus heals a Roman centurion’s servant. Jesus could easily have seen this Roman as an enemy, and turned him away in retaliation for the harms Rome was doing in Israel, but he showed compassion. And, then, to finish, Jesus sees a widow who is defenseless in the patriarchy of the time, with no husband and no sons, and performs a miracle resurrection!
In these acts, we are reminded that we are called by Christ not to have stone hearts as Pharoah did, but to have compassion for others-to suffer with them-even when we are afraid or aggrieved. It is why Christians across the country are deeply involved in refugee resettlement (as Ankeny UCC was, back in the 70s), and see the pain that people suffer in countries beset by war who, after years of waiting and processing, hope to come to the United States for a new life, and in the name of Jesus and the Hebrew prophets welcome them with love and compassion.
Grace and Peace,
Here’s your hot-off-the-press November 2016 Newsletter!
Greetings in Christ-
One of the constant struggles we have is grappling with the fierce urgency of now. When we are locked in our routines, in church and in life, it is only natural that we block out some of the stories that lie outside our own circles, and forget that there is work we can be doing, neither so far away, nor so impossible to change. The more we engage with poverty, with food insecurity, with de facto segregation, the more stories we can hear, and the more we can see what role we are to play in building the kingdom of God. This week in worship, we will share two Biblical stories of urgency. In Amos’s oracle against God’s people, we see the wrongs people have committed against the oppressed. In the famous tale of Jesus upsetting the tables in the Temple, we see one person’s protest against an unjust system. Where are the places we see, as these prophets did, injustice that demands action? Come answer that story in the Story of Now.
This Summer, we’re going to embark on a sermon series on Worship. Worship 101, really. What are the different parts of our worship, and why do we do them?
This will start on Holy Trinity Sunday, May 22, with the Invocation.
May 29: The Passing of the Peace and Benediction
June 5: Communion
June 12: Call to Worship
June 19: The Lord’s Prayer and Prayers of the People (outdoors)
June 26: Offering
July 3: Confession
July 10: Scripture
July 17: Sermon
July 24: Hymns
I hope you’ll join us as we read scripture, sing hymns, and otherwise explore our worship together!
If you miss the worship of God this morning, here are the sermon texts and a brief meditation on Mark’s Gospel and how to deal with our own shame and not doing more with all the help our broken world needs.
As part of our commitment to celebrating intergenerational worship, I’d like to introduce a couple of new practices.
First, we have started intentionally seeking out worship elements that may speak to the primary-age youth (we are also working on ways to provide leadership and participation opportunities for the senior youth). We started last week with a responsive reading that specifically included them, but we are planning more activities for the future.
Second, we have decided to involve them in the offering. Every week in worship during the offering, we will have youth running around with coffee cans for your loose change. This offering will go to our quarterly mission focus. In Q1, this is the Ankeny BackPack Program, which partners with schools to send backpacks full of food home with students who are facing food security issues at home. Come and make a joyful noise!
Sunday School registration is now open! We’d love to know how many people to expect in our classes this year, so if you want to head on over to https://www.ankenyucc.org/registration/ and sign up, we’ll plan on seeing you September 7!