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06/16 Pastor's Note PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 03 June 2016 15:50

 

 

Dear friends:

I hope that June finds you well. We started summer this last weekend, Memorial Day weekend, with a Singing the Old Songs. We did that not only because it was a 5th Sunday and we try something a little different on those days but also, and primarily, one of the activities we tend to do more of in summer is go to concerts, which worship was closer to being than it often is. We may do that again on the last Sunday in August too.

Another thing we do is go to movies. This summer, Congregational UCC and guests will have the opportunity to go to the movies as well. Many Sundays we will use film clips to illustrate the theme of the day. We will also offer a showing of certain of the movies, either on Sunday afternoon or an evening.

In addition to many of us adapting to the slightly more relaxed rhythms of our culture during the summer, we are also in this time called Ordinary Time or Sundays after Pentecost in the church. We can take that amazing transformation of a bunch of scared followers of Jesus with that wherever we go or whatever we do, no matter how “Ordinary.”

The Spirit empowers us to live out the love that Jesus’ life and teachings embodied. We focus on the transformation that God offers to each of us individually and to our faith community and we focus on how we live that out to bring wholeness to our communities.

As you enjoy the Sabbath rhythm of summer, I encourage you to continue to live out Christ’s love to those you encounter and to think about how God may be calling us to serve Jacksonville. How can you, how can I, how can we touch people in community with God’s love? How can we work for a more just world for all people? What should our mission focus be? What stirs your heart?

I cannot wait to hear how you hear the call to something greater.

In God’s peace,

Pastor Lynn

 

 

 
PAstors note 5-16 PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 04 May 2016 16:17

 

Dear friends:

I have been doing a lot of talking with our pastors and leaders in the United Church of Christ as well as in other denominations, mostly United Methodist, ELCA Lutherans and PCUSA Presbyterians. It seems that so many congregations are struggling and worried. Cultural shifts occur at lightning fast speeds, at least compared to past shifts. (That has many positives to it. The shift is very affirming of many values we hold dear, even if it may be scary as well.)

My reflection is that the mainline church is spending quite a bit of time in survival mode, chasing the money and making money and numbers the sole focus of health and well-being. And the money is important for mission, ministry, and programming. If money and numbers become the sole focus of health and well-being, however, then isn’t that what the church becomes? Isn’t it easy to fall back on what our culture defines as success: a “successful” church is one that can balance its budget and fill its pews? In the absence of another metric, it is understandable that those markers become the focus.

Yet, that focus runs counter to the Easter story. The early disciples and the early followers of the Way of Jesus were not a huge movement of people. They were scared out of their minds that the same terrifying fate that Jesus encountered would happen to them. But after receiving the Holy Spirit, they became on fire for God and for the mission and ministry that Jesus began. They gave their lives over to a mission and ministry.

God brings new life. But that new life can happen in almost imperceptible ways compared to the world’s barometers of “success.”

Sometimes, I think God can become an afterthought in a progressive Christian Church. We are different from the messengers of hate that often are the only public voice of Christianity. We understand the character of God and humanity differently. So we either keep quiet so as not to be confused with something hateful or because we hope our actions on behalf of the community will speak for us. Some of us may even expect God to bless us as because we are more open.

I think we, as a church community, should help define what those measures of “new life” should be. If we use the ancient wisdom of Scripture, how would we say that new life is either happening or not happening in our church? How are we living out our values as a church that values religious literacy, the gifts of other cultures and traditions, justice and peace, and being open and affirming to all? Are we being good neighbors? Do we speak and act with relevance? If those are not the questions for discernment, what should they be? And how do we make that resurrection narrative flow through our whole system as a local church community?

Just some things to ponder as our resurrection story moves into Spirit story. Please start a conversation and share your thoughts with me and others.

 

Peace,

Pastor Lynn

 

 
pastor note 2-16 PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 04 February 2016 17:05

 

Dear friends,

 Starting Wednesday, February 10th, 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 Lenten Gatherings, offered on Tuesdays throughout Lent. We will also gather on Maundy Thursday  in Holy Week. [Information about these will be in the March 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

 

 
pastor note 12-15 PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 28 November 2015 20:49

 

 

Dear friends:

As I write this letter, I can smell turkey broth cooking on the stove, I see Lucas’ gingerbread turkey and I sit at still decorated table from last night’s Thanksgiving dinner. I am filled with gratitude for family, friends, a home, plenty of food to eat, relative security and many other tangibles and intangibles. I am grateful for all the blessings that I have. I hope all of us can take that heightened awareness of the Good around us into this next season.

The season of Advent, the season of awaiting the arrival of Jesus, starts Sunday, November 29. We will light candles, seeking the coming of the light to push the darkness away. At least that is what we do in the Northern Hemisphere. Our brothers and sisters in the Southern Hemisphere are in the beginning of summer, as we are near the beginning of winter. Some of them are having water rituals just as we have candle-lighting rituals.

But since we are basically animals, I do believe in rhythms and cycles, the deep pull of biology, tides and seasons, in and out, up and down, work and play and rest. One rhythm I particularly live by is that there is a time for speaking, and a time for falling silent before the One who made us.

Whatever part of the world we live in, we are creatures that enjoy, maybe even need, the rhythm of seasons. As we are part of the world in which the darkness grows stronger, I find beauty in the lighting of the candles. But the coming of light isn’t the only thing that the season calls out to us.

Advent and Christmas is a time ready-made for falling silent. Ironically, it’s hard to do. Our songs and carols sing loudly about silence. Our prayers and poems pile up tons of words about silence. Christmas concerts and parties and get-togethers, sounds of shopping for gifts, all can make the volume go to the top of the meter.  

So, from the person who loves to talk, who makes part of her living with words, who doesn’t always fully appreciate silence, I would like to suggest we try something. Let’s try to have one minute every day that is completely silent. Immerse yourself in God, in Love, in the Good. I am telling myself (and you too): let’s shut our mouth once in a while, and open our spirit.

Falling silent doesn’t signal a permanent retreat from a world that needs our voices and action. It is a respectful engagement with that part of our God-given soul that demands a period of active rest and listening, in order to engage again more fully and from a more grounded place.

Our God came to be with us in the person of Jesus. We were already so close--but God wanted us to be able to lay eyes on each other. And God came not first as a walking, talking rabbi, but as an infant. A pre-verbal God, as it were, at least for the first 12-18 months.

That’s the God I invite you to spend some time with this Advent and Christmas, everyday. A God who doesn’t need carefully chosen words to connect with you, and know you, and love you. A God who knows you need to rest and be silent.

Enough said. Let’s hush.

Pastor Lynn

 

 

Last Updated on Thursday, 24 December 2015 16:40
 
pastor's note NOV 2015 PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 05 November 2015 15:39

 

For many of us, November is the time when our thoughts turn to celebrating the holiday of Thanksgiving and in practicing the habit of gratitude generally. As US Americans, when we hear the word Thanksgiving, maybe we remember making Pilgrim hats or headbands with a construction paper feather, designed to represent Native American culture. Maybe we think about Pilgrims and Native Americans feasting together. Maybe our minds are more focused on family reunions, the food, the parades and football. For some, this holiday will be the first Thanksgiving minus a loved one’s presence, and that absence will change the tone of the day.

The Bible is full of stories and words of thanksgiving. Our ancestors in the faith thanked God for deliverance from enemies, the end of disasters, for the beauty of creation, for the gift of life and for the gift of healing, redemption and reconciliation.

Every day can be a thanksgiving day. We don’t have to wait for the fourth Thursday of November to give thanks. When we wake up, we can thank God for another day of life and a new day of opportunities. We can be grateful for food, shelter, work, family, friends, our senses, the ability to learn and so much more. We can be grateful for coffee, pets, rain and sun. We can be grateful for all things, large and small, that make life possible or more enjoyable or meaningful.

Take some time to say, “Thanks, God, for giving me the things I need, for providing the basics.” Thank God for Jesus. Thank God for the Holy Spirit. Thank God for the gifts of hope, faith, joy, peace, love, companionship, perseverance and strength. Thank God for this church and all the places and people of faith that have nurtured you. Thank God for each other. I thank God for all of you and for the many ways that you share your life and love.

Give thanks with a grateful heart every day.

Happy Thanksgiving,

Pastor Lynn

 

 
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