Blessed To Be a Blessing

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Just about everyone you talk to around our church would agree that we are a “blessed” church. We have dedicated lay leadership, a caring, down-to-earth pastor, great music and worship, and a wonderful congregation that supports our church with their time and finances. In fact, things are so great here that it’s easy for us to get comfortable and enjoy the blessings we have and forget that one of our purposes for gathering together as a church is to bless others.

The church is God’s plan to bless the world. God has gathered us (including you!) to be a part of God’s Kingdom that Jesus proclaimed is here now (Mark 1:13-14). Like our forefather Abraham, God has blessed us to be a blessing to the world (Genesis 12:3).

I invite you to join us in worship on Sundays from October 19th – November 9th as we explore God’s instructions and stories from scripture about being a blessing to others. We will also take the opportunity to explore the many ways that our church is currently blessing our community (I can almost guarantee one or two might be new to you!)

I am looking forward to spending these weeks together, wrapping up on November 9th when we promise our financial gifts to God for the new year and celebrate the many ways God is blessing the world through us.

 

 

Evening of Worship and Prayer

The_Art_and_Practice_WIDEYou are invited to join us as we begin a new tradition at First Congregational United Church of Christ. Each month on the third Wednesday we will gather together to worship and pray. We will sing hymns and simple songs, engage a series of teachings on “The Art and Practice of Prayer,” and lift up one another and our world in prayer. Let’s take the opportunity to turn our hearts toward God and practice together living in His presence.

If you play and instrument or would like to assist in leading worship, see Pastor Jason.

SpirtKidz Explore Peace

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Our SpiritKidz elementary Sunday school class just wrapped up a month learning about peacemaking and getting to know some peacemakers of the Bible. From Abraham to Jesus, they experienced the power of making peace.

SpiritKidz is for kindergarten through fifth grade. After the children’s story in the worship service they go to their own class with two trained, caring adults to engage scripture and spiritual concepts at an age-appropriate level.

Silent Contemplative Prayer Day

prayinghandsNancy Lydon

March 24, 2014

On a misty, quiet morning, with the music of birds singing, the Monday meditation group began a day of silence and contemplative prayer. A group of seven people met in the serene church parlor from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM.

The day was broken up into six thirty-minute segments of meditation, interspersed with spiritual readings and free time to walk around the lovely grounds, reflect, and pursue personal time to read, journal and pray.

We felt fortunate to have such a peaceful, relaxing day and an opportunity to become closer to God.

Our group meets every Monday, from 10:30 to 12 noon, and we welcome anyone interested to join us. It has been a life-changing experience.

We are planning another day of silent prayer in mid-to-late June.

The Wounds


I start to sit up but am arrested by the sight of my hands. The skin’s perfection, smooth and glowing. Not only are the scars from the arena gone, but those accumulated over years of hunting have vanished without a trace. My forehead feels like satin, and when I try to find the burn on my calf, there’s nothing…“Oh, they did a full body polish on you,” says Flavius enviously. “Not a flaw left on your skin.”  
 The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins

 

HungerGames_Updated_CCMy wife, a fan of the dystopian trilogy, The Hunger Games, mentioned this passage to me after a sermon I preached a couple of weeks ago on the Resurrection. For those unfamiliar with the story, it involves the plight of Katniss and Peeta, two competitors in the “Hunger Games.” A fight to the death between two “tributes” from each of twelve districts that surround the Capitol. The Capitol is a city of extreme, grotesque opulence, while the inhabitants of twelve districts, which support the Capitol with all of their goods, live in poverty. If you haven’t read the book and wish to, you may want to stop reading here.

Katniss wins the 74th annual Hunger Games. When she returns the victor to the Capitol, she is celebrated and, as the victor, is invited to enjoy the benefits of the Capitol. To say the least, she is a fish out of water. One of her experiences involves the above scene. The “body polish” is one of the luxuries of the Capitol, where all of one’s scars are removed. Inhabitants of the Capitol want no reminders of anything unpleasant, even while they are surrounded by suffering.

I don’t like remembering my wounds either, the ways I have been hurt, the ways I have hurt others. However, those wounds are a part of who I am. I think that it is interesting that when Jesus appears to the disciples after his resurrection, he appears to them with wounds. In the Gospel of John it is made explicitly clear that the only way Jesus is truly recognized by his followers is by the wounds in his hands and feet.

Yes, we must deal with our woundedness (it should be noted that Jesus’ wounds were not still bleeding when he appeared in resurrected form to his followers). However, as much as we would like it, the “full body polish” may not be the best choice either. Like Jesus, our wounds reveal our humanity and our divinity. They make us who we are. They make us human.

Daily Readings: Saturday December 14, 2013

Readings: Psalm 146:5-10 (NRSV, The Message); 1 Samuel 2:1-8 (NRSV, The Message); Luke 3:1-18 (NRSV, The Message)

The Lord makes poor and makes rich;
   he brings low, he also exalts. 
He raises up the poor from the dust;
   he lifts the needy from the ash heap,
to make them sit with princes
   and inherit a seat of honor.      1 Samuel 2:7-8 (NRSV)

What counts is your life. Is it green and blossoming? Because if it’s deadwood, it goes on the fire. Luke 3:9 (The Message)

As the people were filled with expectation…    Luke 3:15 (NRSV)

As I was reading Hannah’s song in 1 Samuel, my question was: really? how? We don’t always see the poor lifted up. Many folks’ experience is not that of Hannah’s song.

I amy have found an uncomfortable answer in John the Baptizer’s words in Luke 3 – “if you have two shirts, give one away.” Is my life green and blossoming? Am I growing spiritually? And is that spiritual growth producing fruit in my life? Are shirts being given away?

 

Daily Readings: Thursday December 12, 2013

Readings: Psalm 146:5-10 (NRSV, The Message);  Ruth 1:6-18 (NRSV, The Message);  2 Peter 3:1-10 (NRSV, The Message)

 

Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
   whose hope is in the Lord their God, 
who made heaven and earth,
   the sea, and all that is in them;
who keeps faith for ever…       Psalm 146:5-6 (NRSV)

But Ruth said,
‘Do not press me to leave you
   or to turn back from following you!
Where you go, I will go;
   where you lodge, I will lodge;
your people shall be my people,
   and your God my God.       Ruth 1:16 (NRSV)

Don’t overlook the obvious here, friends. With God, one day is as good as a thousand years, a thousand years as a day. God isn’t late with his promise as some measure lateness. He is restraining himself on account of you, holding back the End because he doesn’t want anyone lost. He’s giving everyone space and time to change.       2 Peter 3:8-9 (The Message)

 

The obvious, here, in 2 Peter 3, is that God “doesn’t want anyone lost.” The believers in Peter’s day, as now, must have been frustrated that God was withholding God’s wrath. They were getting antsy to be vindicated, rewarded for their good behavior while the unbelievers were punished. It’s not that God is slow; it’s that God wants to give everyone space and time to change. And God is God, what God wants done will be done. God will give everyone space and time to change. Because, hey, with God a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like a day.

The Psalms this week continue to be a wonderful reminder that we are blessed, happy, never disappointed when we put our trust in God.

It’s Advent, so the daily lectionary readings re-familiarize us with Jesus’ human lineage. Ruth, an ancestor of Jesus, chose to remain with her mother-in-law Naomi. This is one of the most beautifully descriptive scriptures concerning relationships in the Bible. We are fortunate when we find someone to whom we can say “wherever you go, I will go.” To those of us who have this, nurture it. To those who are still seeking, we lift you up in prayer.

Daily Lectionary: Monday September 30th, 2013

journalingokeeheelleeReadings: Psalm 62 (NRSV, The Message); Amos 6:8-14 (NRSV, The Message); Revelation 3:14-22 (NRSV, The Message)

For God alone my soul waits in silence,
for my hope is from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
On God rests my deliverance and my honor;
my mighty rock, my refuge is in God.      Psalm 62:6-8

Here’s what I want you to do: Buy your gold from me, gold that’s been through the refiner’s fire. Then you’ll be rich. Buy your clothes from me, clothes designed in Heaven. You’ve gone around half-naked long enough. And buy medicine for your eyes from me so you can see, really see.         Revelation 3:18 (The Message)

 

The Revelation passage is rich…and graphic with God spewing the lukewarm out of his mouth! Jesus, standing at the door and knocking is also within this passage. But what stands out most to me is this verse 18. I can get everything I need from God – God’s gold, God’s medicine, God’s clothes. How much am I willing to trust? How much am I willing to engage? And on the other hand, how much can God accomplish in my life if I don’t? Maybe we have to say with the Psalmist “you alone are my rock and my salvation” before God is able to work mightily in our lives.

Daily Lectionary: Sunday September 29, 2013

lazarus_at_rich_mans_house_c-922Readings: Amos 6:1a, 4-7 (NRSVThe Message); Psalm 146 (NRSVThe Message); 1 Timothy 6:6-19 (NRSVThe Message); Luke 16:19-31 (NRSVThe Message)

Don’t put your life in the hands of experts
    who know nothing of life, of salvation life.
Mere humans don’t have what it takes;
    when they die, their projects die with them.
Instead, get help from the God of Jacob,
    put your hope in God and know real blessing!         Psalm 146:3-4 (The Message)

A devout life does bring wealth, but it’s the rich simplicity of being yourself before God. Since we entered the world penniless and will leave it penniless, if we have bread on the table and shoes on our feet, that’s enough.          1 Timothy 6:6-8 (The Message)

Tell those rich in this world’s wealth to quit being so full of themselves and so obsessed with money, which is here today and gone tomorrow. Tell them to go after God, who piles on all the riches we could ever manage—to do good, to be rich in helping others, to be extravagantly generous. If they do that, they’ll build a treasury that will last, gaining life that is truly life.      1 Timothy 6:17-19 (The Message)

But Abraham said, “Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony.       Luke 16:25 (NRSV)

 

The story from Luke is disturbing. At first glance, it may seem like the reason the rich man is living in torment is that he is rich. A careful reading of the first verses provides more illumination. Lazarus spent every day at the rich man’s gate living on the scraps from his table with the dogs licking his sores. The rich man walked by that sight each day. Each day ignoring the suffering and torment of a fellow human being, which, in the long run, drove the rich man to a place of torment.

It’s not about the money, it’s about what we chase. Common wisdom tells to chase after what is temporal – nice place to live, looking good, feeling good (Peterson’s paraphrase of Amos 6 is fantastic), but none of it lasts, none of it truly satisfies. The scriptures today implore us to seek after what truly blesses, what truly satisfies, what truly gives salvation life not because that is what is “the good Christian” thing to do, but because that is how life works best – for others and ourselves.

 

Fall Life Groups Begin in October

lifegroupswebOctober may seem a long way away, but it is right around the corner. So be planning now to become involved in one of our Life Groups. A Life Group is an opportunity to become involved for a limited period of time with a small group of people to learn together and experience a particular topic. Some of the opportunities offered will be a Holiday Cooking Class, Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University, Eating for a Better World, Your Dreams Are Alive! and Animate: Faith.

You can download a full listing here.