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Monday, 03 February 2014 17:45

 

Dear friends,

   As many of you know, we are exploring Jesus’ life as told by the author of the Gospel of John. This Gospel presents Jesus a little differently. Jesus is said to speak of himself in ways that we don’t find in Matthew, Mark or Luke and the stories he tells are longer. In the other Gospels, Jesus tells more parables, stories that invite the hearer to think and reach an understanding. In the Gospel of John, Jesus himself is the parable.

   There is much poetry and mystical language in John and there are also passages and words used that can be troubling. Unfortunately, John’s use of “the Jews” as the enemy of Jesus has been used over the centuries for horrible treatment of Jewish people at the hands of Christians over the centuries. Those days are hardly far behind us as some of these texts were used in support of the Nazi Holocaust. As you read John, please remember that Jesus and his followers were Jewish. The faith community that John writes to and for has been kicked out of the synagogue as the tensions between followers of Jesus and non-followers, particularly after the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE, heated up. We will read the texts with “Jewish leaders” or “Jewish religious leaders” to help clarify and avoid an anti-Jewish reading of the text.

   The texts of John has also been used to impose a certain orthodoxy in Christianity that don’t ring true for many. Yet the beauty of the texts and the truths to be discovered therein remain appealing and mysterious. We, a group of followers that don’t demand adherence to a creed, will explore the texts, seeking to gain knowledge of what God may be saying to us in these words and stories.

   To aid in our journey, the Congregational UCC Library has acquired a copy of The Fourth Gospel: Tales of a Jewish Mystic by John Shelby Spong. Spong is a leader in the progressive Christian movement and has been featured in many of the Living the Questions segments. I am currently reading this book and am finding it insightful. He helps to unpack the story, clarify and reclaim the Jewish roots inherent in the telling and gives much food for thought. I would encourage anyone interested in going deeper, to borrow our copy (or come by and curl up on a couch in the parlor).

Looking forward to discerning more with you all.

Wishing you God’s peace,

Pastor Lynn

 
pasgtor's note jan14 PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 08 January 2014 15:09

 

Dear friends,

I have never been much for making new year resolutions. Or, maybe more accurately, I have never been much for keeping them. I am still carrying the same 20 lbs I wanted to get rid of a couple of years ago. I am still not exercising regularly. How hard can it be to start walking? Apparently, pretty hard.

Throughout the year, I will set goals and work to keep them. Yet, for some reason, the ability or desire to start or stick with some new habit at the beginning of the year seems more of a problem. I don’t usually make them because I don’t want to set myself up for failure.

This year I am going to adopt a practice that speaks to the good in looking for a freshening up of our lives that resolutions can do but lacks the potential for failure that comes with such a concrete goal.

This year, I am going to pick up the practice of an online friend in choosing a word or phrase that captures the hope or intention I have for the new year.

Serendipitously to reading Ruth Everhardt’s blog that suggests this practice, I just discovered a poet probably known to some of you, Naomi Shihab Nye. I came across her poem, Kindness, that really spoke to me.

So, this year, for myself, I will choose kindness or “be kind and gracious.” We can all use more kindness and compassion. Like many of you, I sometimes find it easier to act in kindness than at other times. Yet it is often the moments I would most like to turn away or pretend that I didn’t see that I need to act in love and kindness.

I have no illusion that I will always succeed, but every movement towards kindness bears fruit. The intention, and the committing to actualizing it, anchors the practice.

What about you all? What is a hope or intention that calls to you? What might be an intention for our faith community?

Wishing you all God’s peace.

Pastor Lynn

 
Pastor's note PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 04 November 2013 16:50

 

alt


Dear friends,

I write this letter on All Saints Day, a day that we stop to remember all those who have gone before us, loving us, teaching us, modeling faith for us. While our understanding of “All Saints” certainly differs from that of Pope Boniface in 609, we honor our connection and interconnectedness with our lives through our faith.

Many of us have lost friends and family and we remember them with love and thanksgiving, as we also remember the members of this faith community and the broader community. I feel incredibly blessed to have been touched by so many saints, both living and dead. I am grateful to be surrounded by the “great cloud of witnesses” as the author of the Letter to the Hebrews puts it (Heb. 12:1).

November is a time for expressing our gratitude and sharing our joy. We begin with All Saints Day and the gratitude we have for those who have gone before us. We end with Thanksgiving, a day where we celebrate and give thanks for the Harvest and for all other blessings that we have.

We also give thanks that we follow the Prince of Peace as we gather at our Peace Pole to pray on the first Monday. On Veteran’s Day, we give thanks for the willingness to sacrifice their lives and health when our nation asked them to do so. We also honor those whose convictions led them to serve as conscientious objectors.

God has blessed us all in ways large and small. During this season of giving thanks, we are invited to reflect on how we respond to God. There is a Venezuelan song: “Va Dios mismo en nuestro mismo caminar (God himself walks on our own path).” The words translate as:

The one who gives for God will shine like the sun. Give and it will be given to you with joy, with joy that which is given for God, with joy that which is for God.

God has called each of us into this community of faith, and has invited each of us to allow God’s Spirit to be active within and among us in ways that are transformative both for us personally and for our neighbors near and far. Friends and members of Congregational UCC have generously and joyfully given of time, treasure and talent and we are all grateful. It is exciting to see how God transforms even our relationship with money in ways that move us toward more fully embracing the joy of giving as people created in the image of the One whose giving knows no end.

The ministry we all so cherish at this church is only possible through the mutual investment and commitment of all of us! Thank you for all that you have done! Thank you for all that you will do!

 

In Christ’s peace,

Pastor Lynn

 
October2013 Pastors note PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 02 October 2013 16:07

 

From the Pastor

One of the joys of serving God in pastoral ministry involves the privilege of being with people through the seasons of life: from births and adoptions to death and funerals, from new love discovered and relationships ending and all the steps in between. There are the sad and joyful times of ordinary life, punctuated with the extraordinary moments of life.

These moments exist for us both as individuals and families but also as a community of people choosing to come together to be about the work of deepening our own path of discipleship to Jesus Christ but also to take God’s love and heart for justice out of our beautiful sanctuary in order to be an agent of God’s transforming grace in the world. I love the privilege that ministry brings of being in communion with God’s people as community.

While I know that our union with God and our spiritual growth can occur outside of a faith community, I also know that we need each other. To use the metaphor of the Body of Christ, we are a living body. As followers of Jesus, we aren’t primarily a collection of individual seekers. Because there are times when we need the nurture of another’s presence, and there are times when others are encouraged by our presence, we gather together, sometimes stumbling, to find our way to God and to find God’s way for us. To build the Beloved Community that Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke so eloquently about, we need to gather together. We need to be able to worship together.

We meet God in a unique way in worship. That means that we as worship leaders and participants need to use our time on Sunday morning in ways that are creative, experiential and grounded in mystery as well as practical application. We have talked of other patterns of worship and possible other times for alternative worship expressions. Please let me, the Faith Ministry Team, an officer or anyone else you trust to get the message to us if you have ideas, suggestions, feedback, etc.

Because we meet God in community, there are no invisible members. Some people engage the church and act out their commitment to our faith community or service to the broader community outside of worship. Yet, however we engage, our practice of being faithful is expressed by caring for one another and building trust and love together as Christ’s body. There are other ways, to be sure, but our practice is grounded in being together in community.

My hope is that as this fall ripens into harvest, we might take some time to reflect on our habits concerning Sunday worship. How often each month do you come into community in worship? What strengthens your participation and what keeps you away? Are you at peace with this rhythm? Are there ways you wish to go deeper? We are not rigid about worship attendance. Yet, the more you are present the deeper our community can become in love and compassion. Ultimately, this depth impacts how well we love, serve and act for peace and justice.

Worship is where we learn how to practice living into the counter-cultural grace of Jesus. We practice being open to God’s way of living in the world. Our nation is in the grips of fear and cynicism and a sense of powerlessness. We, as a people of faith, can offer hope and compassion; we can answer our call to love and to serve and to work for the wholeness of creation. But, as parenting has taught me, we cannot give what we do not have. As followers of Jesus, to give and love and serve, we need to nourish our faith and drink from the well of hope before we can share it with another. While there may be other ways too, it all begins with worship in our tradition.

I don’t say this to be a nag. I truly believe that sometimes rest and family time is the most restorative, nurturing act a person can take. And I understand how often Sundays are the only time for various other activities as well (remember, I did agree to let my son play on a travelling soccer team that will take him out of worship a few times in fall and spring; I do get it). I also believe, though, that God counts on people of faith to be God’s arms, legs and heart in this world. Something about being salt and light?

Please reflect on what we can do to make worship a time of transformation and how your presence can help. In the meantime, let’s nourish our awareness of awe and beauty and work together to practice kindness and compassion.

Wishing you God’s peace,

Pastor Lynn

Last Updated on Monday, 07 October 2013 16:37
 
Pastor's note PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 03 September 2013 16:14

 

pastors note

I love to hear a good story and I love getting the chance to tell a good story, too. One of the things we do when we gather to worship is to hear part of God’s story. As people who work to follow the path of Jesus, we hope to learn more about his life, his teachings and the path to God that he embodies.

One way that I look at what we try to do, in worship and in our own walk as disciples, is to tie our story into God’s story. Admittedly, sometimes this challenge is easier than at other times.

   Beginning this month, on September 8, Congregational United Church of Christ will use the Narrative Lectionary to help follow the arc of God’s story as it is revealed in the Bible. We had been following the Revised Common Lectionary pretty closely.

The Revised Common Lectionary has a 3 year cycle, with readings appointed for each Sunday that follow a liturgical year, meaning that it moved from (church) season to season. One year would be the Gospel of Mark, another Matthew, and another Luke, with bits of John divided among the year. It would start in Advent and end with the Reign of Christ (aka Christ the King).  

While the stories were presented from one Gospel, the sequence often ended up jumping around to follow the season, rather than the order of the story (the narrative arc) that the Gospel writer thought important. You may have noticed this pattern. Sometimes in November, as we are thinking about Christmas coming soon, we hear stories from right before Jesus was executed. Or, after Easter, we would hear stories from before Jesus’ death. The order of the story just doesn’t seem to match up so well.

The Narrative Lectionary was put together in part to address that issue and a few other criticisms of the Revised Common Lectionary. The goal is to help people see the Hebrew and Christian scriptures as a story that is both holds together and moves over time. The hope is that Christians will become more familiar with the stories from the Hebrew Scriptures as well as let people follow Jesus’ story each year, completely from the perspective of one of the gospel writers.

Starting on September 8 and throughout the fall, we will hear stories in the Old Testament such as Creation, the Binding of Isaac, Jacob’s Dream, and the Call of Samuel. Then at Christmas, as we celebrate the birth of Jesus, we will move to stories of Jesus from the Gospel of John. After Easter we will explore stories in Acts and end with a look at Philippians.

Our hope is that following the Narrative Lectionary will increase our Biblical literacy and make it easier to tie our story to God’s story. God’s story. Our story. Let the adventure begin!

Peace,

Lynn Bohlmann

 
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