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Archive for May 2013

Peek, Ponder, Pray

 

Ponder: Sea Stars, often called Starfish, are beyond fascinating marine animals with nearly 2,000 species. They appear in glorious splendors of colors, diverse shapes and sizes and can live in varying environments of water. In all their diversity and individuality, each resembles a star. These resilient aqua stars can regenerate a lost or harmed limb. No matter what this sea creature endures in its life span, it remains true to its form–a brilliant star.

Pray: On the far side of the sea and in the depths of life’s rugged waters, You know me completely. In the moments when I feel afraid to be myself, insecure, unloved and different, remind me I am a “star,” fearfully and wonderfully made. When I am broken, regenerate and restore my spirit just as you did when you knit me in my mother’s womb. Help me to let my light shine as radiant as a celestial star in the night’s sky or as brilliant as a sea star in the dark hollow of the ocean. Amen. (Psalm 139)

 From:

http://www.ucc.org/feed-your-spirit/peek/may-21-2013.html

 

                                      A Daily Glimpse

 Did you that the United Church of Christ has been updating it’s website?  I periodically peruse the site, reading up on national gatherings or stories from local congregations.  One of my favorite sections is called “Peek, Ponder, and Pray.”  It is a lovely way to spend a few quiet moments reflecting on an image and resting in prayer.  This past week one caught my eye and so, as a way of introducing you to this wonderful resource, we are reprinting it with the link.  May you be refreshed and renewed as you peek, ponder and pray!  

(http://www.ucc.org/feed-your-spirit/peek/may-21-2013.html)

Click for May 29th Newsletter

No More

When I was a child, most of the adults around me smoked cigarettes.  In restaurants, on airplanes, waiting in lines at the movies.  Smoke billowing into faces, filling public spaces, anddefining a certain kind of cool.  When I was a child, people who got behind the wheel of a car after they’d had too much to drink received a slap on the wrist if they were stopped.  They were tolerated, even accommodated, and you were prudish or over-sensitive if you suggested that it be otherwise.  

But something happened in the past two decades in America.  Groups of passionate people banded together and took on the tobacco industry.  Everyday citizens started organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and slowly but surely the public dialogue changed.  Cigarettes became linked to Cancer instead of Cool, and driving while drunk came to be seen as the height of criminal selfishness.  The people of our country collectively, over a period of time, said “No more” to these two habits which had seemed so inevitably ingrained in our society.

It’s time to do that again.  For far too long we have allowed millions of people to go hungry in the United States.  48 million people — including 16.2 million children- go hungry every day. 14.5% of the people who live in the richest country in the world don’t get enough to eat. It seems both impossible to believe and impossible to change.  It seems like too big a problem.  But it’s not. 

Hunger is a problem that can be solved.  We have enough food in this country that everyone can be fed.  We have the tools and the technology such that none of our neighbors need ever be hungry again.  The only thing that stands in our way is the will to say “No more.”  No more hungry children, no more blaming poor families, no more under-nourished seniors. We have enough to go around, if we choose to make it so.

This past April, Patti Bury and I attended the Second Harvest Food Bank’s annual “Make Hunger History Awards.”  We went to represent this congregation as we received the Spirit Award for the Outstanding faith-based food drive in Santa Clara and San Mateo  counties.  We were honored because of your history of giving to Second Harvest and the innovative way we incorporated our food drive into the 150th Anniversary Celebration.  It was inspiring to listen to the stories of other honorees from companies, and schools, and non-profits, who had banded together last year to change the way we talk about and deal with hunger.  Some of the activists were CEO’s of large companies and organizations; some of the activists were teens; two of the award winners were under 13 years old.  What they had in common was a belief that the long-time societal acceptance of hunger could be changed.  

During the month of May we are collecting food for Second Harvest and for families of the Hoover Learning Center.  Please give generously, as you always have.  We will also be learning more about issues related to hunger, like food accessibility and poverty and legislative policy.  Let’s use our collective voice and our actions to help shift our national dialogue.  It can happen.  We need only decide:  “No more.”

Kim

They will hunger no more,  
and thirst no more   
the sun will not strike them,
nor any scorching heat
For the Lamb at the center of the throne 
will be their shepherd
and will guide them to springs of the water of life
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
 

 (Revelations 7:16-17) 

Click here for the May 22nd Newsletter

Are You a Follower?

 Is there a distinction between being a believer in Christ and a follower of Jesus?  That question was posed to us at Annual Gathering, and I have been pondering it ever since. 

87 times in the gospels Jesus used the word “follow” when he laid out what he wanted us to do.  Follow.  Not explain, ortheorize, or philosophize.  Those things, while interesting, allow us to keep a distance from Jesus, as if studying him is enough.  Following requires actively responding. Following requires really looking at the ways Jesus lived and died — and then shaping our own lives accordingly.  Early followers referred to this as The Way, and it was a real path for them.

As Christian communities became more settled and structured, and as the Church grew into an institution, the focus shifted.  Creeds and doctrines became more and more important as a means of bringing uniformity to the movement and identifying who was “in” and who was “out.”  What one believed became the litmus test of whether or not one was a true Christian, and thus long Confessions and Credos were taught and memorized, and Christians began to define themselves by the words they said.

Always, however, there were those among us who reminded us of the original call:  to follow Jesus.  From Francis of

Assisi to the nuns on the bus (look them up! http://www.networklobby.org/nuns-bus-trip),

 there have been Christians in our midst whose lives witness to the power of simply following Jesus.  Love God.  Love one another.  Take care of the least among you.  Turn away from the need for power over others, and find a way to serve.  Let go of the desire for more money than you need, and make your treasure count. Choose community over individualism.  It’s a counter-cultural call, because The Way of Jesus is really, truly counter-cultural.  

At our finest, Christian communities help each other to stay true to the call to follow.  Yes, we veer into doctrine and

intellectualism sometimes.  But it is in hearing together the stories of Jesus and sharing together how they have an impact on our lives that we become followers.   

It is a fine thing to be a believer in Christ.  But are you a follower of Jesus?  

May it be so.  Kim

 

Click here for the May 15th Newsletter

The Songs We Sing

Were you ever told to “Think before you speak?”  If you had conscientious parents, as I did, you probably heard that many times in your growing up.  Not because impulsive thoughts are bad, but because we know words can help or harm a situation — or person.  So we think before we speak (sometimes) and try to do the best we can with the words we have.

Were you ever told to “Think before you sing?”  Not as likely.  So often we sing along with the radio, or sing the words of a hymn or praise song at church, and let the music carry us away, leaving the words far behind us.  This weekend at the Annual Gathering for the Northern California/Nevada UCC, Rev. Bryan Sirchio, a songwriter and longtime UCC minister, challenged us to think more about the theology we sing.

His book, The 6 Marks of Progressive Christian Worship Music, led us in an encounter with Christian music — new and old– that shapes our faith.  His own music is a gift to the church, in that it is contemporary and deeply grounded in a theology we can claim.  All 6 characteristic bear talking about, but the one that I want to highlight is #4:  An emphasis on both the individual and the community.

Much of the newer Christian music is almost exclusively about a personal relationship with Jesus.  “I and Me” music.  The more we actually listen to Jesus, though, the more we know that a personal relationship is only the beginning. Jesus “called his disciples to be a part of a community…we don’t always need other people in order to be closer to God personally, but to be a Christian is to be a follower of Jesus, and Jesus was about creating a people — not just a bunch of individual believers.” (Sirchio)

Please notice:  he didn’t say that a personal relationship with God is unimportant or unnecessary.  He just linked it, as did Jesus, to our relationship with community, and suggested that everything in our fellowship, including our music, “remind us that we need each other to truly follow in the ways of Jesus… ”

We do need each other. The work we do, the grief and the joys we share, the faith we express:  all are richer when we join with other followers of Jesus.  How will you join with others to live out your call this summer?  How will you join your voice with those of other Christians so that the songs we sing — of love, of justice, of hope — can be heard in a world waiting to hear?

Kim

 

Click here for 5-8-13 Newsletter