Entryway to a Sacred Christmas

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The more quiet and reflective Season of Advent that Christians observe each year coincides – and contrasts in many ways – with the generally frenzied and consumption-focused season of holiday preparation for a secular Christmas. This, itself, makes Christians countercultural in the face of generally prevailing commercial values and pressures. This year, we are invited to look at the coming Christ Child as a clear call to engage in doing justice and, in the process, opposing the very Empire that drives the large commercial and secular celebration around us. In these seasons of Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany, we will ponder the many “isms” of Empire, and are encouraged to place ourselves in a very different position – squarely beside God and others among God’s people who yearn for justice and peace to be alive and evident in all relationships between God, people, and creation. The yearning for justice, as well as for peace and love, caused God to act and provide a voice and model for God’s desired realm in Jesus of Nazareth.

This is an approach that challenges our usual December perspective, traditions, and activities. It changes our preparation (Advent), our celebration (Christmas), and our perspective on all the days that follow (Season after the Epiphany). We do these things in the belief that they will contribute to a more meaningful Christmas celebration, and a life to follow that is more open to being the beloved community, Body of Christ, and redeemed creation, all under God’s – rather than any empire’s – rule.

Consider engaging with our daily devotional to create some quiet space throughout Advent. You are invited to join our Monday Morning Meditation Group for their December silent meditation day. Take a Saturday morning to serve by gleaning.

So let us enter Advent – the season of expectation and preparation to meet the Holy One and participate in turning empire on its head.

Day of Silent Meditation

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The Monday morning meditation group will hold it’s next Day of Silent Meditation on Monday, December 15th, from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM. Bring lunch, drinks and a jacket. Requested donation is $20. Call Nancy Lydon at 632-5040 if you have questions.

Painting the Stars

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Beginning Thursday evening, January 8th, we will begin a new 7-week series of teachings and discussions on science, religion, and evolving faith. The study, facilitated by Pastor Jason and featuring over a dozen leading theologians and progressive thinkers, celebrates the communion of science and faith. Each session will include a 20 minute video and guided conversation. This will be a great opportunity to invite friends and family who have a hard time reconciling scientific and spiritual knowledge. There will be a $15.00 for materials.

Painting the Stars Trailer from Living the Questions on Vimeo.

Evening of Worship and Prayer November

glennonsmallYou 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.

On Wednesday, November 19th at 6:30 PM,  we come together to pray and sing and hear a brief teaching on “Pray Ceaselessly” by author and blogger Glennon Doyle Melton, a member of Naples United Church of Christ who writes at momastery.com.

Evening of Worship and Prayer October

Fr-Richard-RohrYou 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.

On Wednesday, October 15th at 6:30 PM,  we come together to pray and sing and hear a brief teaching on “Prayer and Surrender” by Franciscan priest and spiritual teacher, Father Richard Rohr.

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.