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Pastor's Corner10/14 PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 08 October 2014 15:08

 

Dear Friends,

As we have been journeying through the narrative of the First Testament (the Old Testament), we have been linking our stories in with the longings for God and the experience of God that the ancient people had as well. Last Sunday, we were with the Hebrew slaves in their liberation from Pharaoh’s slavery. As we were invited to cross the Red Sea, we were able to link any fears we have about the future with those of the escaping slaves.

If we keep reading that story of Exodus, we know that as the people wandered for 40 years, biblical shorthand for a really long time, they begin to complain and to think back upon the days of slavery with a certain nostalgia. They are hot, hungry, tired, and thirsty. Why isn’t God making the journey any easier? Why the wilderness?

I think there is something both reassuring and familiar about the whining. I am quite sure that I would be whining too, given the circumstances. It is easy to forget how difficult things might have been when the present moment is a bit complicated. That is human nature. I find it reassuring that for at least 3000 years, people have both felt uncertain and that for at least 3000 years, God has been with people, prodding them and encouraging them and refreshing them.

As we, along with many (most?) Christian churches grapple with existence in a vastly changed culture from when almost everyone in this nation belonged to a congregation, sometimes it can be as easy for us to ask about our income and our growth and our programming. It can be easy for us to wonder why (insert name here) Big Church is prospering but we are not. Why the wilderness.

So, what does Moses do? What can we learn from this story? Moses and a few leaders step away from the anxious people to listen to God for what is next. They listen for God’s voice, the stirring of God’s Spirit, to be heard away from the refrains of anxiety. Rather than focus on survival, they focus on doing God’s work (which might very well include survival!).

I invite all of you to reflect, to listen, to share next steps you see in doing God’s work here in this community. Let’s seek God’s perspective for the big picture and see what steps we take, acting with God, empowered by the Holy Spirit, to make that plan, that hope real.

Peace,

Pastor Lynn

 
Pastor's Corner 9/14 PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 05 September 2014 16:25

 

Dear friends,

One of the lines in the Psalms is “Taste and see how good the Lord is!” (Psalm 34.8).

No wonder Jesus spends so much time eating and feasting with people rather than scolding or even instructing them: most of us learn best by doing and experiencing. We can’t intellectually embrace the sweetness of God; we have to taste it. The words have to become flesh before we understand.

Today, as you read this, we have started a new school year (whether we have any work or family with a school or not), we are back to the more regular rhythms of work and rest, of study and play.

We start another lectionary year, beginning with the covenant promises of God that will culminate in our celebration at Christmas of the birth of Jesus, one who shows us the fullness of life in God. We will be offering opportunities throughout the fall to go deeper into our relationship with God, to allow that transformation that God brings, and to take that passion, healing and wholeness into the world through acts of compassion.

We will host and participate in the CROP Walk to end hunger. We will host another Justice and Witness film, A Place at the Table, dealing with childhood hunger in the United States.

We will also offer the opportunity to participate in small groups that will gather once a week to get to know each other better and to engage in conversation over various texts in the Bible. We are going to use Brian McLaren’s new book, We Make the Road by Walking, as our resource.

We Make the Road has 52 chapters, each with a short text and some conversation starters for reflection and growth. Some things will resonate; some won’t. Some questions may find an answer, at least for now; some won’t. That’s okay, either way. We are on a journey and we feast together as we deepen our relationship with God and to the world.

If you are interested, please let us know. We hope to have morning, afternoon and evening groups, to accommodate the different needs. We hope to meet in coffee shops, etc around town or people’s home, including either at Heritage Health or Knollwood. 

You can comment on our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/pages/Congregational-Church-UCC/108199412555194) or our Faceboook group page (www.facebook.com/groups/54925609563) or via email ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ) or phone (217.245.8213).

Unfortunately the book is so popular that we are back ordered! That is actually pretty exciting – renewal and energy and conversations taking place around our country. The time waiting for books gives us the time to get the groups together.

As we move into September and the season of Fall, let’s taste and see the goodness of God. Not only did Jesus spend more time opening up hearts by feasting with God, he also asked us to go and do likewise. Let’s live awake and alert to beauty and justice, to head and to heart!

Peace,

Pastor Lynn

 

 

 
PAStors note 7/14 PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 11 July 2014 16:54

 

Dear friends,

Throughout this newsletter, you will read of the many activities and goals of Congregational UCC as we endeavor to live out Christ’s call to each of us and as a faith community. I know that the summer is also a time of vacations and catching up with family and friends and relaxing. I hope for all of us that we can both engage is something that deepens our relationship to God and neighbor AND take a break.

Even God rested on the 7th day of creation and God put in place a Sabbath, so that every worker had a chance to rest and celebrate life. Whether using your time for the mundane but necessary tasks like laundry or relaxing on the beaches of Michigan, whether you gather with us at our Peace Cross + Gen gatherings these Wednesday evenings (5:45 to 7:00, simple meal served) or marvel at the sunset, know that God is with you and honors your efforts at renewal.

On a personal note, Kate is doing poorly. While there is no apparent physical reason for her decline, she is getting increasingly weak. Currently, she isn’t really eating or moving, all of which contributes to a decrease in mobility. Perhaps this rapid decline has a neurologic cause or is a life-sapping symptom of previously diagnosed issues.

Regardless of cause, Kate’s condition is challenging to all of us. I ask for your understanding and open-heartedness as we all try to navigate these difficult waters. Prayers for her well-being and for our care-giving are appreciated. I want to give a big thank you to all those who have helped us out. Your kindness has touched me deeply.

Wishing us all God’s peace,

Lynn

 
Pastor's Note 4-2014 PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 01 April 2014 14:19

 

Dear friends:

I hope you are enjoying the beginning of spring after such a long, brutally cold winter. Even the rain cannot dampen my spirits too much. [Here’s where I learn from my children. Walking out to the car for the drive to school, J notices the rain and is at first bummed. Not two seconds later, he announces that that’s fine because it is supposed to rain in spring. Off he goes singing.]

We are coming to a season of refreshment and renewal at Congregational UCC. We will celebrate Easter and the new life and new hope that brings. Please note the Holy Week and Easter worship and meal schedules in this newsletter. Please come and invite a friend. A fresh start and a voice of hope, especially followed by a good meal, is always good news and something we all need.

Also, please note the article on Congregational UCC being a Just Peace congregation. We talked at Faith Ministry Team and among the new members before they joined about how many of the designations we bear were made before the time of many people joining. They may be reasons people were attracted to us but many of us were not part of those conversations and so lack the institutional memory that so many others of us share.

To that end, I will periodically select one of these to put some explanation of what the designation means officially and to invite people to ponder what it means or might mean to us. We start with the Just Peace designation. Read the article and then come join us the first Monday of the month at the Peace Pole to pray for peace!

Wishing you God’s peace,

Pastor Lynn

 
March 2014 Note PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 03 March 2014 15:11

 

Dear friends,

Starting this Wednesday, March 5, we begin the season of Lent, that season that invites us to clear out our internal clutter and make room for God. 

When I look back, I am not sure that I thought long and hard about Lent and why it mattered until I was trying to figure out how to observe a holy Lent in a way that my sons would gain in their knowledge and love of God and their compassion to neighbors. 

I want to offer a few thoughts about how we might construct a holy and life-giving Lent for ourselves this year, whether we are single or coupled or widowed or separated or whatever word(s) we would use. 

First, the season of Lent is NOT about simply giving up chocolate or xBox or coffee or Facebook. Lent mostly is not about giving up something. It is more about making room, making room for more faith, more hope, more love.  While this analogy is imperfect, it is like cleaning out a closet, donating the items to someone who can use them and then putting in a replacement.

Lent is about making more room in our hearts for God.  I don’t mean just thinking about God or your favorite Bible story – that’s ok and there is use in that practice. But Lent is not just about ideas.  Lent involves practicing new ways of living that make us more like Jesus.

Second, there are three practices that help us become more like Jesus.  They are fasting, prayer and caring for the poor. And they are spiritual practices, or disciplines, that require something more than thought.

These practices help us to make room so that, as we put some things aside, we practice living in the image of God.  We choose to act more like the image of God than anyone else. That takes practice. 

We will have many opportunities throughout Lent to gather together to learn more about God, to build community and to connect with God and live out service to neighbor. Later in this newsletter, we detail Ash Wednesday and our Cross + Gen Lenten Gatherings, offered on Wednesdays throughout Lent. We will also gather on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday in Holy Week. [Information about these will be in the April, 2014 Parishioner.]

That reason is the only reason we DO Lent:  it helps us practice becoming more like Jesus. We prepare ourselves for a holy Lent by making room.  The more we practice making room for God, the more loving we become.  My hope for all of us is that this Lent will be a time of making more room for Christ. 

Pastor Lynn

 
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