Lenten Comings and Goings

Feb 10, 2015

Greetings!

We enter into our season of Lent with contemplation on our minds and reconciliation in our hearts. This Christian season remembers Jesus’s 40 days in the wilderness responding to his call to ministry and the 40 years Israel sojourned in the wilderness between Egypt and the Promised Land. In these 40 days, we are invited into new practices that push us to change the way we look at ourselves and our roles in the world. In worship, we will be moving some elements around for Lent, and doing one or two experimental things. In my personal life, I will be reading through all the parts of Mark that we’re missing in worship, and invite you to do the same with posts on our website and facebook page. But we’re starting with Penitential Pancakes tonight at 5:30pm and our service calling us to Holy Lent on Ash Wednesday at 6:15 tonight.

On this solemn note, I also share the news that after several years and four ministers, Jennifer, our church secretary, has decided to resign her position and move on. Join me in thanking her for her service, wishing her well and keeping her in your thoughts and prayers as someone who has been part of this congregation’s life for a long time.

This also means we’ll need some volunteer help in the office while we work on a new job description and engage in our job search. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to call me on my cell phone at 515-639-0602 or stop by community office hours at Cafe Diem tomorrow (or to volunteer to fold bulletins this week).

Blessings,
Nathan

February 1 Pastor’s Letter

February 1, 2016

Greetings, our siblings in Christ!

This year, the season of Lent begins early—February 10. This is great news. For me, at least, February is always the hardest month of the year. Winter slogs on, each snow and subzero day becomes a little more dispiriting, and I just don’t want to leave the house. But in Lent, we are called to contemplate our calling to God as Jesus did in the wilderness. We are called to try something new, and bring a new structure or discipline to our lives. Last year, we read through the book of Lamentations together, and reflected upon it in worship. This year, as we march through the book of Mark in the Narrative lectionary, let us focus on that story in daily readings, weekly Bible studies, and Sunday worship. Our Wednesday night studies are back for Lent, with Medea leading the younger members of our church family in Markan work after we break from dinner to go through our passages for the week and live into them.

We’ll also be offering some worship changes to the beginning of worship as a Lenten discipline. They’ll be minor, but enough to change the feel. We’re moving the Prelude before the welcome, so that our first act of worship together will be to join together in singing praise to God, after which we will invoke God’s name and presence in our call to worship. Our announcements will fall to the end of worship, as we are commissioned to go out into the world and share God’s presence with others. The worship committee may also have one or two other changes for special Sundays in Lent as we explore different ways to bring our congregation closer to God and live out Jesus’s command to make disciples.

Do you have a favorite Lenten discipline? Share it with us!

Blessings,
Pastor Nathan

Church life retreat

Greetings!
Our deacons have just finished a retreat in which we shared our hopes and dreams for the next year in our church life. explored ways to share the identities God gave us with our church family (and how powerful it has been to hear others share that) and, oh yes, planned out the church calendar!

It was exciting to see how productive we were after focusing on what it meant to worship God together and listening to the Spirit move all the people in the room to work together and listen together for what we were called to do.

We’d love you to read the devotional we shared and think about what it might mean for your life in the church: New Church is as Old as Vulnerability and Forgiveness.

Blessings,
Nathan

Martin Luther King, Jr

Greetings!
As we have been reading through the Bible stories in Mark’s Gospel, I’ve been thinking about what Jesus might imagine his ministry to be. So far, he’s been preaching, and healing, but also seeking out people who might have been forgotten, judged, or otherwise left out. In the week before the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, I think, too, of what Dr. King’s public ministry was like. He gained fame preaching for civil rights, but also saw injustice in the fighting of the Vietnam war and in the exploitation of workers (he was assassinated when in Memphis for a sanitation workers’ strike). He was always trying to find the place pain was, and bring the gospel there with him.

And that’s why this country has developed a new tradition, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service. Next Monday, my family will be at Community Youth Concepts in Des Moines, which is hosting activities to help neighbors and folks in Children’s Hospital. If you want information on it, you can find it here. We hope to meet some people in the next town over, just like Jesus did, and maybe find out what draws them out into the community, too.

We’re planning a music-themed theology on tap for tuesday night (come! Even if you don’t come usually. Have tacos. Talk about hymnals. Maybe even sneak into some songs, if you’re so inclined), but if you find a place to serve and want to talk about it, too, bring your stories.

Blessings,
Nathan

Happy Epiphany!

Happy Epiphany!

Epiphany marks the official end of Christmas, and celebrates the visit of the magi (kings, wise men) to the baby Jesus. It’s a traditional day around the world for giving gifts (in honor of the gifts that Jesus received), and also is the day, alas, on which to take down Christmas lights and decorations and declare the feast done. But this also means beginning to celebrate the life of Jesus, and the Holy Spirit that came into the world on Christmas, but reaches far beyond the day of birth. What are the gifts that you have to share with the world? This is a wonderful season to ask that question and be assured that there is an answer.

Blessings,
Nathan

Thoughts for the new year

Dear Ankeny UCC Family-

In my letter from January 2015, I included the following hope: ” By the end of the year, I want us to point back and talk about four different things that we did as a church in our community. Four different times we took Christ’s light out into the world together. Four different times we took the opportunity to work and laugh together side by side to grow in our love of God and our neighbor.” But, as you all know, the moving of God in the world is not something we can plan for, and so 2015 became a year of caring for our family in the midst of grief and sorrow. In 2015, we found new ways to worship, and ways to incorporate new voices into the life of our church. In 2015, we made good on the promise of 2014 and have a new Coordinator for Christian Education, the Rev. Medea Saunders. In 2015, we found new ways to fund more mission partners, and increased our aid both to community organizations and to international partners like Doctors Without Borders. In 2015, we restored traditions from the past like our Advent craft workshop, our Outdoor Worship, and our Quiet Service. But we struggled with some things in 2015, too. With all that was happening, it was increasingly difficult for us to welcome visitors into worship and to look past a current month on the calendar to see what was coming next.

My hope for the end of 2016 is that we can look back on the year and say, “this is the year that we began to really understand who we are and who we are called by God to be as a church. This is the year that we put together our plan for the future, and began to know what we need to do to make it real. And this is the year that, through the grace of God, we came to know ourselves better as builders of the realm of God.”

 
Blessings,

Nathan