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Archive for March 2017

A Note from Nate

Getting to Know You

Dear friends,

What a life-giving Sunday we had — a full house for Soul Sparks and Worship! If you weren’t able to join us, know that you were there in spirit.

I knew this time would come: I blinked, and already I’ve been at First Church for a couple of the months. Because my next few newsletter articles are going to be geared towards Holy Week and Easter, I want to take the time this week to comment on a few things you might have noticed in my ministry.

I am serious about getting to know each of you! If you haven’t yet gotten a note or a call inviting you to meet, it will be coming soon. Better yet, reach out to me, and invite me for a coffee at your favorite place in town, or at your home. I know it can seem intimidating to visit one on one with a pastor, but I really have no hidden agenda, just the desire to better understand my people’s hopes, struggles and joys.

-If you’ve been in worship recently, you’ve also noticed that my sermons have invited some participation.   Two weeks ago, thinking about Jesus in the desert, we used Post-It Notes to write down the temptations, anxieties, and uncertainties we wanted to find freedom from. Last Sunday, thinking about the Samaritan woman at the well, we turned to our neighbor and talked about a life-changing conversation we had experienced.

Thank you all for taking a risk, and jumping into these moments with me! We won’t always include “audience participation” during worship, but it is heartening to see the way you have embraced it. “Liturgy,” which is often used as a synonym for the order of worship, actually means “the work of the people” — ie, you!

One advantage of our informal worship space is that no one can really just sit back and watch the sermon and music like a big screen TV. We are all intimately involved, mixed up among each other. As our Scripture stories this Lent have suggested, I think God likes it that way.

God is far more interested in us sharing our full selves than us performing for each other. As you continue to get to know me, and as I continue to get to know you, that’s a great thing to remember. As our bright new banner outside says, “Be the church!”

Serving with you,

Nate

Rev. Nate Klug

 

Today’s News

A Budget is a Moral Document

Dear Friends,

 

What does Jesus talk about most in the Bible? Hint: it isn’t heaven; it isn’t marriage; it isn’t faith…

Believe it or not, it’s money! There are about forty recorded parables in the Gospels (some of them are repeated across different Gospels in slightly different forms) — forty different stories we know that Jesus told his followers. And about half of these parables relate to money, in one way or another.

Jesus knew that how we choose to spend and distribute our money is a good reflection of our faith. Our stewardship tells a story of how we love, and what the Kingdom of Heaven looks like for us.

Last Thursday, the Trump administration unveiled its first budget blueprint. With defense spending set to increase, the budget is proposing to decrease funding for following agencies: Dept. of Housing, Dept. of Education, Dept. of Health and Human Services, and the Environmental Protection Agency. Other organizations, like the National Endowment for the Arts, would be eliminated.

All too often, we separate financial decisions from ultimate values. I’m guilty of this. Sometimes, my planning and spending puts my needs first, which is a great excuse to put off giving away more of what my family earns. It’s as if one part of me reads the Bible, and another part of me rationalizes costs and savings.

On the national scale, it’s only slightly different. We have a deficit, and part of responsible stewardship is addressing our deficit for the sake of future generations. But balancing a budget should not come at the expense of the poor, the uneducated, and the vulnerable.

“Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25). Jesus said that. He knew that budgets and financial decisions were inseparable from how we lived out our faiths.

So what would Jesus prioritize in a budget? What would he choose to cut? Those are hard questions, but they are ones we must ask, as thinking Christians, this Lent.

See you Sunday     (for Soul Sparks at 3:30, and then worship at 5!)

~ Rev. Nate Klug

 

 

Today’s News

Learning and Listening

Dear friends,

It’s been a wonderful, diverse week in the life of First Church.  Here are a few highlights:

-Last Tuesday, Bill, Paul, Howard, and I (plus our friend Henry from UCC Belmont) drove up to Hillcrest Juvenile Hall for our monthly visit. In honor of International Women’s Day, we and ten or so Hillcrest boys shared about different women who have had an impact on our lives. It was moving to watch these young men think and open up, and to hear their reactions to the feminine spirit of Wisdom described in Proverbs 3.

 -The next day, about twenty friends and members gathered at Yat Sing restaurant for our monthly Good Hope luncheon. Over excellent Chinese, I witnessed old acquaintances being renewed, new friendships forming, and — maybe most impressively — two of our elder members learning how to use the cameras on their cell phones!

-Finally, last Sunday, about twelve of you joined me for our first Soul Sparks discussion before worship.   We had a fascinating time thinking about Jesus’ mindset in the midst of  his temptations. We also talked honestly about Sin and confession: how often should we confess, and what for? A great part of a congregation like ours is the chance to ask the big questions and learn from one another — and that’s exactly what I’m hoping for, whenever I offer a learning program like Soul Sparks.

Where do all these snapshots come together, you might ask? Well, for me, they unite in the chance to learn from different perspectives — to listen, to try to table any prejudgments we might have, and to take this Lenten opportunity to humble ourselves in the midst of life’s great mysteries.

Are we ever done discovering? I hope not!

Grateful to be the church with you,

Nate

 

Today’s News

 

A Note from Nate

A Week for Women

Dear Friends,

When I arrived on the scene at First Church, several of you told me proudly how you had participated in the Women’s March on January 21.  On January 22, my “Candidating Sunday”, your faces were still beaming from the support and energy you experienced the afternoon before.

March 8, this Wednesday, marks International Women’s Day. What better way to observe Lent this week than to find your own way to celebrate this day? As I preached on Ash Wednesday, Lent is not just a time to number our individual sins (though this is important). Lent is also a time to reflect critically and creatively on our culture at large: Whose lives are we undervaluing? And how can we help shift the emphasis?

As Princeton professor Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor puts it, “women’s work or women’s labor is at times unseen. It can be undervalued, underpaid.”  We have come some way in addressing this inequality. But I don’t need to tell you how far we still have to go.

Some people are choosing to spend part of March 8 by protesting, sharing inspirational quotes on Facebook, or wearing red in solidarity. Here’s one other idea, in addition: open a Bible and read about the persistent widow in Luke 18, who kept pestering a corrupt judge until he granted her justice. Or check out the Syrophoenician woman who begged on behalf of her sick daughter (Matthew 15).  Or consider the feminine divine, personified as Wisdom, in Ecclesiastes and Proverbs.

Holy Scripture is full of words about women of faith, often on the margins of their society, who stood up for justice and mercy.  Indeed, one reason that we still call these stories Holy is because we see their truth reflected in our daily lives, every day–in the mothers, daughters, sisters, teachers, bosses, and colleagues who inspire, nourish, challenge, and help to shape us.

God’s peace,

Rev. Nate Klug

PS — See you Sunday:  “Soul Sparks” at 3:30     Worship at 5!

 

 

Today’s News

SCHEDULE for LENT

Join us – All are Welcome!

Sunday March 26

Soul Sparks Lenten Study     3:30pm

Worship     5:00pm     (followed by a casual supper)

Sunday April 9

Soul Sparks Lenten Study     3:30pm

Worship     5:00pm     (followed by a casual supper)

Friday April 14

Good Friday Worship     7:00pm

Joint worship with other local churches at College Heights UCC, 1150 West Hillsdale Blvd, San Mateo 94403

Sunday April 16

Easter Sunrise Service     6:15am

Celebrate Easter with a brief outdoor Sunrise Service (in our parking lot) followed by brunch (inside)

A Note from Nate

About Lent and Resistance

Dear First Church,

“Why Lent?” is a question every minister has to answer once in a while.

“Do we really need a whole season for repentance and saying sorry? Isn’t there enough guilt to go around in our culture already? And besides, I thought we were a forward-looking church?”

I’ll admit that my own experience of Lent has changed over time. When I first started going to church seriously, at the age of 20, Lent was a time to test my devotion. I had an equally zealous friend who put a small stone in his shoe, every day during Lent, to remind him of God! Ouch.

If Lent is no longer a time of testing my spiritual athleticism, I think I value it even more today. Lent, of course, is the season where we remember Jesus’ 40 days in the desert. 40 days, for him and for us, to figure out what really matters! That’s a huge gift–if we take the opportunity.

Here are three aspects of Lent that I am grateful for this year:

Lent is slow. It’s just an accident that the French word for “slowly” is “lentement”! But when you think about it, Lent is all about slowing down. The world values frenzy and rewards keeping busy. Lent demands that we catch our breath and prune back our priorities.

Lent admits mistakes. The whole Christian framework of sin becomes empowering, and even liberating, when we realize that we are not expected to be perfect. When I practice repentance, it feels like God is lifting a burden from my shoulders.

Lent is about resistance. When Jesus retreats to the desert, he is saying “No!” to a whole bunch of worldly pressures. It’s hard to say “No” in today’s world. And yet in our country’s current administration, there are many impulses and movements worth resisting. What will you stand up against this Lent?

And one last thing, friends. Easter, like the summit of a long hike, feels a whole lot better when we have been paying attention during Lent!

I hope you will consider joining us at our Ash Wednesday service, and at the Soul Sparks discussion series before Sunday worship in March and April. Come explore what Lent means to you.

Thanking God for you,

Nate