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New Things

Dear Friends,

When Kit and I moved in January, we noticed that our new bungalow had raised garden beds in the backyard, installed by the last tenant. We didn’t think twice about them as we unpacked, and settled in.

But then spring came around, and we said: “Why not?” Neither of us had ever really gardened before. But we bought some seeds and seedlings at a local nursery, looked up a few videos on YouTube, and planted our garden.

Now, in mid-May, we have started to see some results. The middle bed is overflowing with swiss chard and tomato vines — actually, it needs to be weeded, as I write this! The far bed is growing calmly, with spinach and squash plants that haven’t yet emerged. And the near bed isn’t doing much. It has produced a few strawberries, but it’s not probably getting enough sun to flourish.

“Some results,” I said — but that’s not really what it’s been about, for me. Sure, it’s been great to pluck out a few plants and cook with them. But what I’ve savored most is the surprise of it all, the different responses of each bed, and the way a weekend of sun, or rain, can change the look of the garden.

Whenever we embark on something new, we risk failing. And when things do take off, we want to measure and quantify, as a way to reflect on how they’re going.

I’m not sure God looks at life this way. I imagine God cheering on each fantastic risk for its own sake. Each time we step out of our comfort zone. Each time we say “Why not?” Each time we stand up for what we know is right, even if it causes the anxiety of conflict.

For “God is new each moment,” as the theologian Edward Schillebeeckx says. With the comfort and security of God’s love at our roots, how can we not branch out!

Which new things await you, this month of light and growth?

* * *

Come join us as we celebrate God’s mothering presence, this Sunday at 5. We’ll have a full evening of worship and community dinner.

To those of you whom I won’t see on Sunday, I wish you a Mother’s Day filled with gratitude and joy.

Serving with you,

 

Nate

Rev. Nate Klug

 

 

TODAY’S NEWS

 

Unity in Diversity

Here’s an obvious statement: we don’t all see the world in the same way. Here’s one less obvious statement: this is a good thing!

When I taught our Inquirers class on Wednesday, the seven of us talked about the far-ranging history of Christianity and our denomination. One unique hallmark of the United Church of Christ, I said, is what we call “unity in diversity.”

Our denomination allows for extensive freedom in what each individual congregant believes, and how we interpret the Gospel. As we discussed on Wednesday, unlike some other denominations, we don’t regularly repeat any kind of Creed in worship (though we do say the Lord’s Prayer). In not confining our sense of how God works to a checklist, we take our cue from the English Congregationalist John Robinson, who preached to a group of nervous Pilgrims sailing to America that “the Lord hath more truth yet to break forth out of His Holy Word.”

When we worship together, each person has a slightly different conception of “Who” God is and “How” She works. And we’re pretty good at celebrating that!

What’s a little harder to celebrate is when people in any church have real political differences — when they don’t see eye to eye about social issues or policy priorities. At every church I’ve served, this has been the case. And it’s a challenge: how do we talk about important political stuff together, when we might disagree? How do I stand up for what I believe in (which reflects my understanding of the Gospel) without alienating someone else?

This is a big question, and I don’t have a quick answer! What I will say is this: just as we expect and support diversity in our theological beliefs, so should any church expect and support diversity in our political viewpoints. Again, this doesn’t mean biting our tongue when it comes to sharing our own values and priorities. But it does mean not making the assumption that everyone is on the same page that we are.

“Unity in diversity” means taking the time to explain a little bit about where you are coming from, theologically or politically, for the benefit of others. It means being ready to listen when someone speaks up with a different point of view — and even inviting that person to share.

Over and over again, we hear about how divided our country is. How people on one side of the aisle hardly interact with people on the other side. How technology and social media are pushing us further and further into our bubbles. Guess which old-fashioned, radical, frustrating, inspiring kind of community can work against all that? You’re right: church!

Church, as Quinn Caldwell says, might be one of the last places left — besides family reunions — where you voluntarily encounter someone who thinks very differently than you. And you are called to break bread with that person. And you each are called to listen to one another, and set aside your assumptions.

That’s “unity in diversity.” And right now it’s something everyone needs.

Thanking God for you,

Nate

Rev. Nate Klug

 

Today’s Newsletter

 

Why Church?

Dear friends,

This Wednesday, we will hold an Inquirers class, for people who are interested in becoming members of our church.

In our wider culture, the very idea of “membership” is changing. People are less and less willing to commit to organizations — be they Rotary, town councils, or religious groups.

So perhaps it’s a good time to ask ourselves: why church? Why are we involved in First Church, and what would we tell these folks who are thinking of joining?

For me, when I think about church among all the other programs and events that I participate in, the answer is simple: church is a time when we learn about, and connect with, God.

And our “Immortal, Invisible God Only Wise” is a God whose presence can be felt in everything else that occupies our time — in our condo association meetings, in our days spent caring for parents or grandchildren, even in our favorite TV shows!

So, perhaps when we come to church, we don’t come in competition with all the other programs in our lives. We come because there is so much else going on.

We come, because only here do we have the ability, together, to learn about and thank the God who stands behind all this other busy and incredible stuff. If church is done well, it should be about more than itself. It should send us back out into our busy lives feeling a little more connected with the source of all goodness and peace.

It should send us back into our lives feeling a little more assured about why we do all the other things we do. It should be that place where we find our center and seek our meaning.

Thanking God for you,

Nate

Rev. Nate Klug

 

 

Today’s News

TAKING IT EASY AFTER EASTER

Dear friends,

What a joy it was to be joined by over twenty of you for our outdoor sunrise service this Easter Sunday! We had keyboard, electric guitar, and flute. We had poetry and a cross bursting with lilies. We had coffee and mittens and folding chairs. And though it rained later that day (as it has every Easter I’ve been in California!), we had pretty clear skies and a sun flaring on the horizon.

Most importantly, we had you — in body or in spirit — as we sang and prayed and heard the story of Mary Magdalene, drawn from weeping into hope as Jesus calls her by name.

“I have seen the Lord,” Mary says, when she runs to tell the disciples. In the worship you experienced, in the meals you shared with friends and family, in the quiet moments of Easter Sunday, I hope you had your own versions of Mary’s story.

So — now what? Now what, in these first days after the Resurrection? Let me suggest one possibility: that you celebrate God’s redeeming love…by relaxing. Find a day, or half a day, or just an hour in which you are intentional about doing nothing. Nothing other than recognizing all that God has done for you, through Jesus.

One of my favorite preachers tells this story: A horseman is riding through the night, anxious to reach a town that lies on the edge of a great lake.

The horseman rides and rides, never knowing how far he has gone, or how fast he is going. When he finally reaches the town, it is long after dark. He asks the first person he sees how much further it is to the lake. She points behind him. It becomes clear: he has already crossed the frozen lake, without knowing. He has passed over the worst possibility, and felt nothing. He falls to his knees in gratitude.

I’m still figuring out how I think salvation works, but one thing is clear to me. We can’t do it ourselves. No matter how much we huff and puff, no matter how busy we get with our hours, the matter of eternity is out of our hands. And on Easter, with that empty tomb, God communicates once and for all that God is on the side of life and love.

Maybe some Easters, we feel that truth like a burning coal.  Maybe some Easters, we feel not much more than nothing. But God has done God’s job. As with the horseman, the worst possibilities are behind us. We have passed over that frozen lake, into new life.

All of that is to say: we don’t have to do anything, to earn God’s love. We already have it — that’s the Resurrection. Now, we can bask in it, and discover ways of shaping the world according to its promise.

Thanks be to God! Happy Easter,

Nate

Rev. Nate Klug

 

 

Today’s News

An Easter People

Dear friends,

What does it mean to be an Easter people? This is the question I am asking myself this week.

Many of you joined us on Sunday, during Soul Sparks and worship, as we began the Holy Week journey. We thought together about the twists and turns of Jesus’ final days in Jerusalem, under the watchful eye of the religious authorities and the Roman Empire. We talked about how, in our world, things aren’t that different. A foreign prophet who welcomed the ill and children, drove out the loan sharks, and captivated thousands — he might well fear for his life in this country today.

We waved our palms in the air, celebrating Jesus’ triumphal march, at the beginning of worship. But by the end of the service, when we sang, “Were you there, when they crucified my Lord?”, we had settled into a different mood.

Across our world, it can be difficult to see signs of Resurrection. The ongoing news from Syria, the tragic bombings on Palm Sunday in Egypt. And, on a smaller scale, the ridiculous, violent de-boarding of a passenger from a United flight in Chicago, which has gone viral online and symbolizes the cruelty of a financial system where the bottom line now means everything.

What it means to be an Easter people is to “practice Resurrection,” in the words of the poet Wendell Berry. It means, first and foremost, seeing possibility and hope where on first glance there appears to be none.

In your own life, maybe there is a relationship that seems to have worn out. Maybe there is a fear that keeps gnawing at you.  What we know from our story of the empty tomb is that God works unexpected outcomes from our current situations. Our faith lets us see a little further than we might see otherwise. And it empowers us to take action on behalf of what we believe. Despair and frustration are part of this life — and no honest Christian should deny that. But Easter reminds us that there is always another chapter to the story.

“Love gets the last word,” as one of my ministers liked to say around this time of year! I hope that for you, and for the people you love, the Resurrection story comes alive this week and the next: in the ongoing possibility of change, in the joy of slowing down and savoring life, and in small acts of justice that foreshadow our Risen God’s reign.

Whether or not I see you bright and early on Easter morning (worship details on the following page!), know you are in our thoughts during this powerful time of the year.

God’s peace,

Nate

Rev. Nate Klug

EASTER SUNRISE SERVICE

EASTER SUNDAY

April 16, 2017

6:15 am

Greet the dawn and celebrate Easter with us at a brief outdoor worship service in our parking lot.

Then join us for a light breakfast inside.