Starting last year, we decided to provide some context for the numbers that we present at our annual meeting each year. Do you wonder? Here’s our narrative budget for 2016!
Potlucks give us a great chance to share our individual gifts and come together in mutual labor to clean up afterwards!
Tonight’s theme is pasta. As always, we haven’t run out of food yet, so if you don’t have anything, come anyway, particularly if the weather makes it unsafe to hurry. We’ll be discussing communities of care and wondering what it means to care for different people and populations that are part of our church family.
Paul’s letter to the Philippians was written in response to some aid the church in Philippi gave to Paul while he was in prison. This act itself provides us a model for care, but Paul’s response reminds us how to think about one another in community:
Philippians 2:3–5 (CEB)
Don’t do anything for selfish purposes, but with humility think of others as better than yourselves. Instead of each person watching out for their own good, watch out for what is better for others. Adopt the attitude that was in Christ Jesus:
So, how do we watch out for others in our community? We talk often of people who are no longer able to get out of their homes, but we also have our children and high school students, people busy with their work lives, struggling to keep up with family activities, and facing personal demons. How can we live such that we show care for all these and more? Come tonight to talk about it.
And come this Sunday not only for our annual meeting, but also to hear the children of the church sing in worship with us!
By this time, we are indeed no longer Strangers and Aliens. Here’s some original music by my friend the Rev. Jack Davidson, to kick off today’s theme of Music. Tonight, we’ll gather for our soup potluck (hot soup, cold soup, sweet soup, savory soup, stone soup) before turning to different ways people use music in church settings. The large group meeting will involve a lot of watching music videos, so kids are welcome.
Psalm 98 gives us our inspiration for music in worship–
Psalm 98:4–6 (NET)
Shout out praises to the Lord, all the earth!
Break out in a joyful shout and sing!
Sing to the Lord accompanied by a harp,
accompanied by a harp and the sound of music!
With trumpets and the blaring of the ram’s horn,
shout out praises before the king, the Lord!
We sometimes have difficulty expressing emotion in worship. How do we show joy when we are gathered all together? How can we be excited? How do we open ourselves up to the tears? The psalmist knew. As we use our own energy to shout and to sing, and to clap and to strum, our bodies ca turn emotion outwards, leaving us changed by the presence of God in song and drum. Sing a song today, see how you feel. Ask what it is about music that moves you to a different place. What are the songs that are the soundtracks to the different parts of your lives?
In my case, college was dominated by the Greg Brown song “the Iowa Waltz,” as I found myself far away from home (as he says, “in the midst of the corn, the middle of the U-S-A”) and the Rolling Stones telling me that “You Can’t Always Get What You Want (but if you try sometime, you might find that you get what you need). Post-college, well, those songs still affect me, years later, and you’ll need to ask me. But I can still sing them for you. Many of us have particular church songs that remind us of moments when we felt God’s grace and mercy, too. What are those going to be in the next five years?
Dinner’s at 5:30, programming at 6 (or when we finish cleaning up).
Can you believe Daylight Savings Time is here already? Get ready to fall back this weekend.
In Paul’s letters to the Corinthians, we see his hope for our faith.
2 Corinthians 10:15–16 (CEB)
We don’t take pride in what other people do outside of our boundaries. We hope that our work will be extended even more by you as your faith grows, until it expands fully (within the boundaries, of course). We hope that our work grows even to the point of the gospel being preached in places beyond Corinth, without bragging about what has already been done in another person’s work area.
Tonight, we gather for our second potluck of the year. We’ll be talking about Faith Formation. I’ll have another presentation and some more talking about different ways churches help people to grow in faith, and then we can talk in small groups. Potluck starts at 5:30. Bring a pie! Any kind will do! Or just eat some. We’ll have some activities for the kids, too. Come and join us as we continue our imagining journey and figure out what it would mean to grow in faith.
This Sunday is All Saints Day. We’ll turn the paraments to white and remember all those we have lost in the past year. If you have a name you’d like remembered, just send an email to me at [email protected] .
In John’s Gospel, we are presented with a dialogue between Jesus and a woman:
Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but you and your people say that it is necessary to worship in Jerusalem.”
Jesus said to her, “Believe me, woman, the time is coming when you and your people will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You and your people worship what you don’t know; we worship what we know because salvation is from the Jews. But the time is coming—and is here!—when true worshippers will worship in spirit and truth. The Father looks for those who worship him this way. God is spirit, and it is necessary to worship God in spirit and truth.”
Tonight, we gather for our first potluck of the year. Because the topic is worship, our study will be an all-ages study; we will be watching some short videos in the sanctuary and then talking in small groups about what we like about worship and what we can imagine worship being. Depending on the number of kids, I’ll host the kids’ discussion.
I was over in Grinnell on Sunday for the installation of Cameron Barr as their 20th pastor (on the occasion of their 160th anniversary). UCC General Minister and President John Dorhauer preached a sermon with the challenge to not only accept the stranger in our midst, but to love the God who has already accepted them. It’s a funny turn of phrase, but what I heard in it was a need to look at our worship, music, faith formation, outreach, and communities of care to understand the nature of God that they reflect. God is, of course, too great for us to fully imagine. And so, in Christian history our response has been to reflect back certain of God’s attributes as part of building God’s kingdom.
And so we have different models of social justice, different models of what it means to be a person of the resurrection, different emphases in worship, different concepts of what we are doing in worship–are we prayerfully reflecting in community, or are we dancing with joy? It’s the challenge of this century, as we understand where God is calling us to be in our time and our place.
I hope you can join us in our 5-week series of imagination on Wednesday nights beginning next week, but if you can’t, consider looking at Reinhold Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer in new light.
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. The courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” It takes courage to think about the things that need changing, and to admit that we can make a difference.
I was thinking a lot about our practice of confession this week, as you might have guessed from the sermon. I shared a link in last week’s email to a powerful public confession from my friend the Rev. Tiffany Thomas, and the video above (which is a bit different) came up in my feed from the SALT Project’s on Facebook.
Why have I been thinking about confession? I think church is best when it is about telling the truth, avoiding convenient fictions, and confronting the lives that we live. It is best when we are vulnerable, open to both pain and deep reconciliation. And I’ve been thinking about confession, because that’s where we are most vulnerable, and where we are most able to confront the truths about ourselves and the world we are living in. It’s hard to lift up our deepest sorrows and greatest joys, and leave ourselves open to the attacks and snark of others. It’s scary. But Jesus came to free us from our fears. And confession is when we get to put them out in front of us, look at them, and take the power of shame away, so we can get on with the job of building God’s kingdom.
What’s happening this summer? Let’s find out!
We are in the Easter season for all of April! But our Easter worship on Sunday was fabulous. Thanks to all the people who helped set up for our breakfast and decorated all the tables. Thanks to all the Deacons and their helpers who dressed the altar, and thanks to all who worked hard hiding eggs. We really started on the right note and celebrated well.
We want to continue that celebration throughout the Easter season and beyond, so we’re making a couple of changes to worship planning to make it easier for everyone to sing loudly and energetically. I was really touched when, at the end of Lent, I heard Martha singing our hymn of reflection, “Prepare the Way of the Lord.” I talked with the worship committee about changing up the music a little bit, and we’re excited to share with you the results of our discussions.
I always choose hymns to match the worship theme of the day, but the list of hymns appropriate both to a week’s text and upbeat/easily sung to open worship tends to be small. So to set the tone, we’ll have an opening hymn of the month (This month: To You Be the Glory). Because of the sense of worshipfulness and focus that “Prepare the Way of the Lord” brought during Lent, we will continue with that, using it to center ourselves before our Prayers of the People. Finally, we’d hoped to introduce the congregation to new hymns through different responses to benedictions at the end of the service, but it never quite worked like we’d hoped. So we’ll close with a seasonal hymn of departure.
I love to hear us singing! Alleluia!
John 16:16–24 (CEB)
16 Soon you won’t be able to see me; soon after that, you will see me.”
17 Some of Jesus’ disciples said to each other, “What does he mean: ‘Soon you won’t see me, and soon after that you will see me’ and ‘Because I’m going to the Father’? 18 What does he mean by ‘soon’? We don’t understand what he’s talking about.”
19 Jesus knew they wanted to ask him, so he said, “Are you trying to find out from each other what I meant when I said, ‘Soon you won’t see me, and soon after that you will see me’? 20 I assure you that you will cry and lament, and the world will be happy. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. 21 When a woman gives birth, she has pain because her time has come. But when the child is born, she no longer remembers her distress because of her joy that a child has been born into the world. 22 In the same way, you have sorrow now; but I will see you again, and you will be overjoyed. No one takes away your joy. 23 In that day, you won’t ask me anything. I assure you that the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 24 Up to now, you have asked nothing in my name. Ask and you will receive so that your joy will be complete.
John 13:1–11 (CEB)
13 Before the Festival of Passover, Jesus knew that his time had come to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them fully.
2 Jesus and his disciples were sharing the evening meal. The devil had already provoked Judas, Simon Iscariot’s son, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew the Father had given everything into his hands and that he had come from God and was returning to God. 4 So he got up from the table and took off his robes. Picking up a linen towel, he tied it around his waist. 5 Then he poured water into a washbasin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he was wearing. 6 When Jesus came to Simon Peter, Peter said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
7 Jesus replied, “You don’t understand what I’m doing now, but you will understand later.”
8 “No!” Peter said. “You will never wash my feet!”
Jesus replied, “Unless I wash you, you won’t have a place with me.”
9 Simon Peter said, “Lord, not only my feet but also my hands and my head!”
10 Jesus responded, “Those who have bathed need only to have their feet washed, because they are completely clean. You disciples are clean, but not every one of you.” 11 He knew who would betray him. That’s why he said, “Not every one of you is clean.”
The end of Lamentations!
19 But you, Lord, will rule forever;
your throne lasts from one generation
to the next.
20 Why do you forget us continually;
why do you abandon us
for such a long time?
21 Return us, Lord, to yourself.
Please let us return!
Give us new days,
like those long ago—
22 unless you have completely rejected us,
or have become too angry with us.
16 The crown has fallen off our head.
We are doomed
because we have sinned.
17 Because of all this our heart is sick;
because of these things
our glance is dark.
18 Mount Zion, now deserted—
only jackals walk on it now!
6 We held out a hand to Egypt
and to Assyria, to get sufficient food.
7 Our fathers have sinned and are gone,
but we are burdened
with their iniquities.
8 Slaves rule over us;
there is no one to rescue us
from their power.
9 We get our bread at the risk of our lives
because of the desert heat.
10 Our skin is as hot as an oven
because of the burning heat of famine.
11 Women have been raped in Zion,
young women in Judah’s cities.
12 Officials have been hung up
by their hands;
elders have been shown no respect.
13 Young men have carried grinding stones;
boys have stumbled
under loads of wood.
14 Elders have left the city gate;
young people stop their music.
15 Joy has left our heart;
our dancing has changed
5 Lord, consider what has become of us;
take notice of our disgrace. Look at it!
2 Our property has been turned
over to strangers;
our houses belong to foreigners.
3 We have become orphans,
having no father;
our mothers are like widows.
4 We drink our own water—but for a price;
we gather our own wood—
but pay for it.
5 Our hunters have been at our necks;
we are worn out, but have no rest.
20 Our king, our life’s breath, the anointed of God,
was caught in their traps—
Our king under whose protection
we always said we’d live.
21 Celebrate while you can, O Edom!
Live it up in Uz!
For it won’t be long before you drink this cup, too.
You’ll find out what it’s like to drink God’s wrath,
Get drunk on God’s wrath
and wake up with nothing, stripped naked.
22 And that’s it for you, Zion. The punishment’s complete.
You won’t have to go through this exile again.
But Edom, your time is coming:
He’ll punish your evil life, put all your sins on display.
17 We watched and watched,
wore our eyes out looking for help. And nothing.
We mounted our lookouts and looked
for the help that never showed up.
18 They tracked us down, those hunters.
It wasn’t safe to go out in the street.
Our end was near, our days numbered.
We were doomed.
19 They came after us faster than eagles in flight,
pressed us hard in the mountains, ambushed us in the desert.