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Friday, 02 August 2013 15:25

 

From the Pastor

One of the spiritual practices that has been practiced from the liberation of the Hebrew slaves from captivity in Egypt is the keeping of sabbath. One of the radical ideas that is foundational in Judaism is that there should be a time to honor God and a time in which no one was required to work. The Hebrews were not enslaved. They had value and dignity as people created in the image of God, people through whom God declared that God did not want anyone enslaved. That observation of a day of rest set aside to allow not only for worship of God but renewal of all that is life giving has fallen away. There have been efforts to reclaim that. A tradition of sabbath -to take a rest and find renewal - is perhaps one of the most counter-cultural things we can advocate in a world of extreme busyness (and I know that is not only my life I am talking about!). 

So, I am off on vacation. I hope to find relaxation and refreshment, just as I hope that you all do in these last days of summer. When we come back, I pray that God will use our rest to renew our mission of love and service to those in and around the greater Jacksonville community.

 

Peace,

Pastor Lynn

 
Pastor's Note PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 02 July 2013 16:21

 Dear friends,

Transformation has been on my mind. I remember one of the Hebrew Testament professors at Eden Seminary, Prof. John Bracke, saying that the goal of reading the Bible was transformation, transformation of our selves, transformation of our culture. No doubt Prof. Bracke hoped that those of us who, presumably, were going into some sort of professional ministry would remember that imparting knowledge alone rarely offers transformation.

I think of transformation as an outcome of discipleship. We seek to deepen our relationship with God and how we follow the path that Jesus trod. In doing so, we encounter transformation and become agents of transformation ourselves.

Most recently, transformation has been on my mind because of the Annual Celebration of the Illinois Conference of the United Church of Christ. Our keynote speaker, Diana Butler Bass, made the following statement: “Change happens; transformation is intentional.”

Dr. Bass was talking about the “Church” but her words ring true in all areas, I believe. It isn’t really news to most of us that the world we live in is seriously different than it was 50 years ago, or 20 years ago, or even 10 years ago.

While some in the church bemoan the loss of central standing that Christianity and the Church had in our society 50 years ago, many of us welcome the growing freedom of thought and expression and understanding that has developed in the interim. There is something both scary and exciting about new ways of being. Again, perhaps the key is to be intentional. Take the situation as it is and transform the change into something that gives meaning or renewal or greater clarity.

As we reflect on our own church life here at Congregational UCC, we have signs of transformation and renewal. Congregational has ministry teams that tend to be more gift-based than traditional committees. There is room for transformation within this kind of structure, too, to be more fluid and open to all people and their gifts, interests and time availability.

There are more opportunities to explore faith, through service, through gathering in prayer, through education and through fellowship. We have people with all kinds of ideas that are looking for ways to bring those ideas forward. How can we make sure that happens? We have youth who have the fresh eyes to look at what we have been seeing. How do we invite them to shape us and the church. We have guests who come to eat with us. How do we invite them to transform us?

We are in a historic week. The Supreme Court of the United States advanced the civil rights battle of the GLBT community even as it set back the rights of African-Americans and other ethnic minorities to access the ballot box. Both are opportunities to participate in the transformation of our culture.

Let’s take that energy and apply it to our lives and our church as well. We are in the season of Pentecost. The season that celebrates the enlivening of the Holy Spirit in our church. Listen to the Spirit blow. Where do you think we might be called to go? What opportunity for transformation and renewal awaits?

In God’s Peace,

Pastor Lynn

Last Updated on Friday, 12 July 2013 02:15
 
Pastor's Note PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 03 June 2013 16:50

 

From the Pastor

Greetings all,

In the midst of all the rain and cool temperatures, it is hard to imagine that it is summer, or will be in just a few weeks! Even before having kids, I never really got out of the school calendar way of thinking of time. Every spring, I am ready for a breath of fresh air (if not an actual break) and every summer, I want to enjoy a time of greater play and rest. Summer invites an relaxation and encourages playfulness and connection.

We have started this season at Congregational UCC with a bang, with the confirmation of 3 youth. We continue with opportunities to slow down and connect with one another. One of the obvious times to connect or reconnect is after worship during hospitality. Another time will be at the Salad and Purse Auction luncheon on June 26.

Perhaps a less obvious way is through joining in worship itself. The texts for last Sunday and this coming Sunday (June 2) talk of the glory of God. While God certainly has glory and deserves our praise, all the talk of glory reminds me of a favorite tidbit of wisdom from the Franciscans, who emphasize the humility of God as an attribute of God.

Both are present in worship. We sing praises to a God whose glory is shown in the majesty of creation. But we come close to God, or are invited to draw closer to God, through the humility of a God made known as a poor infant, born to an unmarried mother in the backwaters of the Mideast.

Jesus talked about the Reign of God (Kingdom of God) in terms of a mustard seed plant. One of the main images of God and God’s Reign in the Hebrew Scriptures is of the cedars of Lebanon. Not only is Jesus’ image more ragtag, it is also more playful.

Jesus’ way – the path of welcoming all, living compassion, and slowing down enough to savor God and God’s path run counter to the prevailing culture and they always have. They are counter-cultural now; they were counter cultural then.

Because they are so counter to how we as humans may naturally tend to see, we who strive to follow Jesus as disciples need to practice these traits so that they become more and more our habitual response. Then, when it is hard to show compassion, or welcome, or stand for justice, we will already have the desire and ability (to one degree or another) available to draw upon.

One way we deepen these traits is in worshipping together. We gather in worship to praise God and to build community and to learn to practice the upside down ways of Jesus and the Reign of God. We gather together to deepen our relationships with God and each other, rest in the presence of a playful God who manifests Godself in ways both humble and majestic, and be strengthened to love and serve others. In doing so, we learn the tools of authentic faith.

Wishing you all peace! See you on Sunday!

Pastor Lynn

 
Pastor's Note PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 06 May 2013 17:06

 

From the Pastor

We have a lot to celebrate this month! We could start with the beautiful greening of our world and the fact that we do not have 8 inches of snow as our friends to the north and west of do on May Day.

We are in the midst of the season of Easter, which invites us all to ponder the various signs of renewal and resurrection that we see around us. Members and friends are practicing resurrection and new life through various acts on behalf of the earth as part of the United Church of Christ’s Mission: 4/1 Earth.

In a few weeks, we will celebrate Pentecost, the day that we celebrate God’s presence with us through God’s Spirit. Sometimes, we call this Spirit the “Holy Spirit.” Some of us, of certain ages or of certain faith backgrounds, call this Spirit the “Holy Ghost.” Often people think of the Day of Pentecost as the birthday of the church, because we observe it as the day that the disciples of Jesus, without the physical presence of Jesus, became transformed with God’s ongoing presence with them through the presence of God’s Spirit. With the Spirit of God enabling and encouraging them, the disciples transformed the world. And disciples of Jesus Christ, continue to transform the world.

So as we contemplate where the Spirit of God might be leading us as a faith community, and as we reflect upon how the Spirit might be enlivening our lives as disciples, let’s join in celebration as three of our youth either make or affirm their baptismal vows to live as disciples of Jesus Christ. On Pentecost, Dylan Henderson, Mackenzie Prewitt and Lucas Bohlmann will be taking this next step on their life-long journey with God.

We pray that the Holy Spirit will animate their lives and our.

Peace,

Pastor Lynn

 
Pastor's NOte PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 02 April 2013 16:02

 

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(parts of this letter come from Easter Sunday’s sermon)

 

Happy Easter, everyone!

After a dark season, the light of new life bursts out all around us. This is part of the story of Easter. When we read the Gospels, we see all four authors sharing a story of finding an empty tomb where they expected to find the dead body of Jesus. All the Gospel writers tell us of intimate friends and disciples having encounters with Jesus after the crucifixion. This, too, is part of the story of Easter.

As we dedicate ourselves to the practice of following Jesus, we follow the early disciples’ lead. We hear Mary tell Jesus’ disciples: “I have seen the Risen Lord" and in that we hear the invitation to become fully alive.

If we believe that life conquers death, then we must learn to practice resurrection. If we even want to believe that life conquers death and that love conquers hatred and betrayal, then we need to practice resurrection, recognizing, supporting, encouraging new life and new hope wherever we can.

I see stories of resurrection practice and of the refusal to be dominated by fear, despair, grief or hatred. In this congregation there are so many stories that my heart cannot hold them. A woman with cancer holds on with the toughness of a spiritual prize-fighter. A widow takes her grief and becomes a tireless volunteer for a group and a cause she believes in. An addict finds or maintains sobriety. People unemployed or underemployed volunteer to help around the church and in feeding the hungry. And you can add to that list.

A list of examples of resurrection from an online chat (revgalblogpals.blogspot.com): Resurrection is when sobriety is achieved. Resurrection is when two countries find a peaceful resolution to differences. Resurrection is when mothers and daughters and fathers and sons embrace. Resurrection is when the post-chemo scan comes back clean. Resurrection is when the resignation letter for the job you can't stand comes off the printer and onto your supervisor's desk.

Resurrection is when a cancer treatment survivor is well enough to WHATEVER...work, play, laugh...again. Resurrection is putting one foot in front of the other and discovering that you're skipping... Resurrection is emerging from the black treacle fog and feeling the sun on your cheek.

Resurrection is when forgiveness heals a wounded relationship between friends. Resurrection is when the phone rings and it's a long-estranged family member or friend. Resurrection is no longer being afraid of the results...no matter what they are. Resurrection is hearing the words "I forgave you already" when you are trying to apologize. Resurrection is when the cold shoulder thaws into a warm embrace.

It takes enormous hope to practice resurrection. But resurrection is God’s path. When we make the new life of Easter ours, we open our hearts and our lives to host the unimaginable. We offer hope and renewal to those whom we love as well as to the larger world, a world desperate for renewal.

Transformed by the new life that Easter brings, compassion pushes our apathy out the door; and justice reigns forever and ever. Let’s practice the work of resurrection in the world together.

Peace,

Lynn

 

 
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