Monday, December 26, 2011

Gifts of Joy

As I have mentioned a few times, my congregation is AWESOME!!  I'm always amazed at how caring they are towards me and this Christmas is no exception.

My parents decided to come up for Christmas this year and multiple people have invited myself and my parents over to join with their family Christmas celebrations.  And even more shocking and wonderful is they had just small gifts for each of us so that we would not be the only ones without.  So on Christmas Eve at midnight I participate in a Brazilian feast and on Christmas Day I played nerf gun wars with some of other parishioner's grandkids*

I also received some gifts and I have to share the irreverent ones with you.
A little stuffed church, Holy Toast and a Jesus pen that came in a box that says "Join the Religious Write".  I also received two really cute heart shaped stockings with my dogs names on them and they are filled with dog treats.  (I need to take a picture of those).

But probably the best present was my congregation members making sure that Bob was able to be here for Christmas.  No they didn't chip in for a plane ticket for him and somehow get around all the visa rules he has right now,  instead he was sitting in his normal pew:

He is wearing a french beret and a scarf (not academic robes or dressed up like Martian Luther).  I first spotted "The Bob" (as I have dubbed him) while walking down the aisle while lighting candles during Silent Night (we do it early in the service during the 5pm worship) and of course started cracking up.  Silent Night is has laughter in it right?

So like I said: My Congregation is AWESOME!!!

*Side story that I have to share: the grandkids are from England and during the nerf gun wars would say over and over again in the politest of British accents "Becca, I'm going to kill you."  I think Doctor Who should make an episode where aliens invade young children's bodies and they say over and over again "Doctor I'm going to kill you."

Christmas Expectations

Christmas Eve was a wonderful yet crazy day for me.  Two worship services at 5 & 10, parents in town and I'm still coughing some - actually to the point that during the 5pm service I had to take an intermission during the sermon in order to drink some water to help with my cough.  

Below is my Christmas Eve sermon.  What are some of your Christmas expectations and your expectations for God?

There are a lot of expectations around Christmas.  We have expectations about what food we are going to eat.  About whose home we are going to.  We have expectations about what gifts we are going to get and the reactions from people who we bought gifts for.  We have expectations about the music we will hear.  The kids here are expecting there to be presents from Santa under their Christmas tree tomorrow and they are expecting toys and not clothes. 

Most of these expectations are because of traditions.  We based our expectations based on what we have done in previous years, the memories we hold most dear.  So what are some of your expectations for Christmas? 

Don’t you just love traditions?  They help form our expectations, but we have also made expectations because we make Christmas to be this picture prefect time of the year.  It is the most wonderful time of the year! And yet so often our expectations are not met. The cookies did not turn out exactly like how grandma used to make them.  The family gets in a big fight after dinner (and yet somehow we forgot that we actually have this fight every year).  We don’t receive the gift we were expecting or someone doesn’t like the gift we bought them as much as we thought.  A loved one is not able to make it home for Christmas. 

We even have these expectations with God.  We expect to come to worship and sing all the carols that we know and love.  We expect to have candlelight during Silent Night.  We expect to hear the story of Jesus’ birth.  And hopefully thus far we have meet those expectations. 

And yet we expect to go home, unchanged.  Maybe with some warm fuzzies or good memories, maybe with our favorite carol stuck in our head, but we don’t expect to be greatly changed by the experience.  But yet Jesus changes everything!

The shepherds weren’t expecting angels to come to them in the fields.  Mary wasn’t expecting to give birth in a stable.  Joseph wasn’t expecting to have a son who was not actually his.  And yet with Jesus’ birth all these things happened.

We don’t expect God to be a baby and yet in Jesus birth, God is there. We don’t expect the infinite God to become finite and yet in Jesus’ birth God is made flesh and blood.  We don’t expect the God of heaven to come down to earth and yet on Christmas God was made flesh.  We don’t expect the lowliest people hear this news first yet the angels came to proclaim Jesus’ birth to the shepherds instead of kings.  We don’t expect to see God in our daily lives and yet because of Jesus’ birth Christ lives in each of us.  We don’t expect that God would be willing to die for us and yet in Jesus a savior was given to us that loves us so much he died for us.  We don’t expect that God to come to us and yet in Christ, Emmanuel God is with us, here and out there in each and every day of our lives because Christ comes to us not just on Christmas but always, constantly.  And for that reason, maybe we should change our expectations, because Jesus changes everything.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Sick, and still sick

Almost 3 weeks ago now I started coughing, at first nothing bad, just a minor cough every once in awhile.  But then it started to become more persistent and deeper, more in the chest.  And I spent pretty much the entire second week of Advent at home, in my pajamas, coughing with bronchitis.

While being sick during Advent as a pastor is never a good thing, I have been lucky that with bronchitis I was pretty much just coughing and tired but no sinus, nasal or stomach issues.  And my congregation has been wonderful in picking up some slack I've had or allowing other duties to not be pressing.

But being sick does have some advantages.  I've lost about 5 pounds and with all the coughing I've been doing my abs are probably the flattest they have ever been.   I was also able to finish my youngest niece's Christmas stocking in plenty of time to get it in the mail so she will have it on Christmas Eve.
I've also officially started my PhD project with the first 200 or so stitches done in one tiny corner of my canvas.

And now 3 weeks after those first few coughs and less than a week till Christmas, I'm still coughing, I'm still tired and my voice sounds horse.  Each day I'm feeling a bit better though I'm exhausted each evening.

Meanwhile I have a new appreciation for Advent waiting.  As we are awaiting the Christ child to be born and Christ to come again, I'm waiting to feel better.  And just like how Christ comes in our hearts, it is not a sudden thing, I know I will not wake up one day and instantly feel better, instead each day my faith grows stronger, each day Christ comes more into my heart and each day my bronchitis is getting a little better.

MMC: Christmas is almost here!

Good Morning Bethlehem

Thank you to everyone who made yesterday such a wonderful day.  I am always humbled by how much you all minister to me and yesterday was no exception as we had a wonderful sermon conversation and so many hands came together to make the church sparkle for Christmas.  

Christmas and New Year’s Schedule
Christmas Eve Worship:
 5pm & 10pm
Christmas Day worship: 10am – suggest your favorite carol as we celebrate Christ’s birth
New Year’s Day: 10am – come as you are as we ring in the new year with worship. 

Book of Faith Puzzler
The question from last week: What is John the Baptist’s relationship with Jesus?  A) Friend, B)Student-teacher C) Cousins D) Brothers
According to Luke 1:36 Elizabeth and Mary, the mothers of John and Jesus, are relatives (sometimes translated cousins).  This would make John the Baptist and Jesus second cousins. Congratulations to Aidan C for winning this week's puzzler. 

This week’s question:  What is the longest the season of Advent can be? A)24 days B) 25 days C)28 days D)30 days.  Get you answer to me by noon on Wednesday to be entered into this week's drawing.

Yesterday's Sermon
As I mentioned earlier, we had a wonderful conversation yesterday about "What great things does God want to do through you?"  In case you missed it, you can read my written portion here

Those serving in worship
Thank you to everyone who has volunteered to serve in worship for Christmas Eve.

I could still use some help at the 10pm service, especially a communion assistant.  Please let me know if you can serve. 

Christmas Text
Saturday's gospel is probably one of the most well know stories from the bible, the birth of Jesus found in Luke 2:1-20.  What is your favorite part of the Christmas story?  What is your most memorable telling of this story - a Sunday School Christmas pageant, a movie, reading it on Christmas Eve with the family?  How can I retell this story to make it new to you?

Hope you all have a great week as we prepare for the birth of Christ.  
~Pastor Becca 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Great Things Through Me

One thing that I'm learning from having conversational sermons is that I cannot predict where the conversation will lead or how much I will learn from my congregation.

All week I have been wrestling with the question "What great things does God want to do through me?" as I have prepared this sermon based on the angel coming to Mary in Luke 1:26-38.  Quite honestly I have had a hard time answering that question.  Yet into today's sermon conversation when I asked that question, we ended up in a great discussion about living a life that proclaims Christ so that others may know him through us, feeding the hungry physically with food but also those hungry for attention.  There are multiple teachers in the congregation who all agreed and can attest to just being the person that asks about the kids day is a powerful ministry.  Or by visiting a home-bound person you often not only make their day but their week as they often are alone.  And these simple acts may not seem like great things but they are to the person being ministered too and all these little acts add up. 

These are things that I never thought of before today sermon, and yet ones that I'm still pondering and reflecting upon hours afterwards.  

Truly I am humbled after these conversations.  I am no longer the preacher but the one being preached to and for me that is a great thing.  

So what great things does God want to do through you?

Enjoy the sermon

This is again one of those bible stories that I just think the reaction of the people have been edited over time.  An angel comes to Mary, tells her that she is favored and the Lord is with her and she is just perplexed and ponders what this could mean?  And then the angel tells her she is going to have a son who she will name Jesus and he “will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David.  He will reign over the house of Jacob forever and his kingdom will have no end.” And after hearing these words, within the course of a few sentences Mary goes from questioning how this could possibly happen to saying “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” 

I can pretty much guarantee that Mary’s reaction would not be my reaction at least not my initial reaction.  I would be more than perplexed and pondering what the angels words could mean.  I think terrified and in a flat out state of denial would be closer to my reaction. 

So if an angel of the Lord came to you and said that God wants to do great things through you, how many of you think your reaction would be to be terrified and flat out deny what God wants from you?  How many of you think it would be closer to Mary’s reaction of “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”? Would your reaction be somewhere in between.

We sometimes think Mary was able to respond this way because she was extraordinary, that she herself was born without sin through immaculate conception or that she was a perpetual virgin or that her body was taken to heaven through the assumption.  But Mary was just an ordinary person.  She was the wrong gender, from the wrong place, and the wrong economic class than one would assume that God would come to and yet God came to her.  And she said yes to God.

And we too and just ordinary people.  We are people who don’t live in a major city, none of us are on any lists as the richest people in the world, in fact, as far as I know, none of us would make it on any list for the richest people in our town.  We don’t have connections with major power players and yet God is coming to us.

God is coming to us because God wants to do great things through us.  God wants to make the world a better place through us.  God wants others to hear about him through us.  God wants the hungry to be fed, the homeless given a place to rest, the sick cared for, the widow and orphaned support, and imprisoned visited through us. 

So what great thing does God want to do through you? 

We have all the right to respond to this request by God with terror and denial because we are just ordinary people, but the hope is that we realize that God wants to do these things through us because God has found favor with us and the Holy Spirit will come to us and guide us and work through us for nothing is impossible with God. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

MMC: Advent 3

Good Morning Bethlehem

Is the anticipation for Christmas killing you or are you starting to dread that Christmas is just two weeks away?  Are you patiently waiting for Christmas to get here, chomping at the bit for it to arrive or trying to push it off as long as you can?  We are already in the 3rd week of Advent, Christmas is coming, it is almost here, and yet not yet here.  I hope that the next two weeks find you you excited and full of anticipation (and in good health). 

A Few Announcements
  • Poinsettia and wreath orders are DUE! If you have not yet gotten your order in call Becky P TODAY 
  • If you forgot your gifts for St. Luke's Life Works, please drop them off at the church or parsonage by Wednesday.  You can also call Ellen G
  • Confirmation is meeting on Tuesday at 6pm at the parsonage
  • Celebration Choir is rehearsing Tuesday at 7:45pm at the church. 
  • Help decorate the church inside and out! Next Sunday after worship we will be putting up the wreaths, decorating both the tree in the sanctuary and the one in the yard, putting up candleabras and more.  Please plan on decking the halls after worship.
  • Grow 2 Gather is meeting on Sunday at 9am.  We will be hearing about Jesus' birth and making a decoration for the church.  Please bring Christmas ads that you have received in the mail on newspapers as we will be using those for our craft.
Book of Faith Puzzler
The question from last week: What was the name of the angel who told Mary that she would have a child? A) Gabriel, B)Michael C)Raphael D)Uriel

In Luke 1:26-27 is says that “In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.”  Gabriel told Mary that she would give birth to a son and name him Jesus. Congratulations to Heloisa H for winning this week's puzzler. 

This week’s question:  What is John the Baptist’s relationship with Jesus?  A) Friend, B)Student-teacher C) Cousins D) Brothers  If you know the answer or are willing to look it up, email me the answer by noon on Wednesday to be entered into this week's drawing. 

Yesterday's Sermon
If you missed it you can read it here.  Who have been Johns in your life?  Who are you called to be John to?  How have those people been John to you?  And how can you be John to other people?

Serving this Sunday & on Christmas Eve
The following people have signed up to assist in worship on Sunday 
Worship Assistant: Mark H
Reader: Cheryl M
Communion Assistant: Lillian J
Ushers: ________ & _________
Bread baker/bringer: __________
Communion set up & clean up: ____________
Offering Counter: Frank C 
Coffee Hour Host: M Family

And the following people have signed up to serve on Christmas Eve
5pm Worship:
Greeters & ushers: ____________, __________ & ___________
  • Isaiah 2:1-5: Ellen G
  • Luke 1:26-35 __________
  • Isaiah 9:2-7: ___________
  • Luke 2:1-7: ____________
  • Luke 2:8-14: ___________
  • Luke 2:15-20: __________
Communion Assistants: Cheryl M & Tori M
Prayer Leader: Mark H

10pm Worship
Greeter & Usher: _________ & __________
  • Isaiah 9:2-7 __________
  • Titus 2:11-14 _________
Communion Assistants: Lillian J & __________
Prayer leader: _____________

Please let me know if you are willing to serve this Sunday or on Christmas Eve - I would LOVE to have all the positions filled this week for Christmas Eve so next week I don't have to track down people who are willing to read, usher, pray, etc.

This Week's Texts
For our 4th Sunday in Advent we continue to prepare for Christ's birth, especially in our gospel reading Luke 1:26-38, where Mary is told by Gabriel that she is pregnant.  Mary is told that she has found favor with God.  Why do you think Mary was the "lucky" one to get to birth the Christ?  Do you actually think she was lucky or was she baring a heavy burden? Mary response by saying "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word."  How would you respond if you were told your life was going to drastically change and probably make your life difficult (at least in the short term) but it was all because God loves you?  

Hope you all have an anticipatory Advent!

Who Has Been John to You?

For yesterday's sermon I was inspired by one of the daily Advent devotions from Following the Star, in which it talked about people who have been like John, preparing us to hear Jesus' word.

Well since I have been sick all week, I freely admit I just stole that idea and was excited that we get two weeks of John in a row as yesterday's gospel was the story of John the Baptist from the gospel of John (John 1:6-8, 19-28).  

So who has been John to you?  And who are you called to be John to? 

Enjoy the sermon

John the Baptist came not to be the light but to testify to the light.  John came as the voice of one crying out in the wilderness “make straight the way of the Lord.”  John came not as the messiah, or Elijah, or even a prophet.  Instead John came so that people would get ready to hear the word of the Lord, to hear the word of Jesus Christ. 

John did this because people need to be prepared for the radical love, grace, and forgiveness that is Jesus.  Jesus’ message of unconditional love, grace and forgiveness given to all of God’s children was a radical message.  It still is a radical message.  One that is hard for us to hear. 

Many of us have responded to that message this way: What me?  God forgives me from all of my sins, that is impossible, I’ve done horrible things, God can’t possibly forgive me.  Or..I’m not significant enough to love, I’m a nobody, why would God love me.  Or…Why would God give me grace?  I haven’t done enough to deserve it. 

And we often respond this way because our hearts and minds have not yet been prepared to receive that radical message.  That someone like John has not yet come to us to testify to the light so that we can see God.  And yet we are also lucky enough that people have been preparing us to hear Jesus’ words, to see God since we were born.

Take a moment and think about the people in your life who have prepared and are still preparing you to hear Jesus’ words.  Parents, pastors, Sunday school teachers, friends, spouses, children, coworker, that person in college who you had great conversations with late into the night.  There are many throughout your life you have been Johns to you, who have helped prepare your way so that you may see God.  There should be a notecard in your bulletin, on one side will you write down three of those people’s names. 

And we are also called to be Johns to other people.  To help prepare their way so that they may see God and hear Jesus’ words, Jesus’ radical message of love, grace and forgiveness.  On the other side of the card, will you write down three names of people you can pray for, talk with, support in their journey with Christ.  It doesn’t mean you have to give them a lecture about why they should believe, instead tell them that you are praying for them and actually do it, talk to them gently about your faith, support them in life, invite them to worship, encourage them during times of hardship.  

Monday, December 5, 2011

MMC: Advent 2

Good Morning

It is hard to believe that we are already in the second week of Advent.  And that Christmas is coming and Christmas is coming quickly.

A Few Announcements
  • Wreaths and Poinsettias order forms are due!!! Please contact Becky Pirron (203-644-4208) ASAP to get your order in. 
  • Senior Lunch is Wednesday at Noon. We will be meeting at Plain Jane's (208 Greenwood Ave, Bethel)
  • Council meets after worship this Sunday
  • Grow 2 Gather meets again on Sunday Dec 18. Please bring in and Christmas advertisement you have to help us make a decoration for our church.
Book of Faith Puzzler
The question from last week: Today is the first day of the new church year.  Each year the majority of our gospel readings come from a different gospel.  Which gospel will we hear the most from this year? A) Matthew B) Mark C) Luke D) John
This year the majority of our gospel readings will come from Mark, however since Mark is the shortest of all four gospels, we will hear a lot from John as well, especially during the Lent and Easter seasons. Congratulations to our winner Nancy B. 
This week’s question:  What was the name of the angel who told Mary that she would have a child? A) Gabriel, B)Michael C)Raphael D)Uriel  

Send me your answer by noon on Wednesday to be entered into this week's drawing. And looking up the answer is not cheating, it is encouraged.

Yesterday's Sermon
If you missed it, you can find the sermon here.  How do you see Jesus' story still unfolding?

Serving this Sunday
The following people have signed up to serve in worship this week.  
Worship Assistant: Ellen G
Reader: Nancy B
Communion Assistant: Lillian J
Ushers: ______ & _______
Bread baker/bringer: ________
Offering Counter: ___________
Coffee Hour Host: Heloisa and Mark H

Also people are starting to sign up to serve during the Christmas Eve Worship services
5pm Worship
Greeters and ushers ___________, _______________ & ________
Readers (up to 6 people) ____________, ____________, _________,____________, ______________ & __________
Communion Assistants: Cheryl M, Tori M
Prayer Leader: Mark H
Worship Coordinators: Nini C & Becky P

10pm Worship
Greeter & Ushers ___________ & ____________
Readers (up to 3) ____________, ___________ & _______
Communion Assistants ________ & ________
Prayer Leader: ____________

If you would like to volunteer in one of the ways that is currently not filled, please let me know which position and service you are volunteering for. 

This Week's Texts
The first reading is Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11.  Isaiah says that the Lord will bring comfort to those who mourn and deliverance to those who are oppressed, yet this time of year is very difficult for those who mourn and are oppressed as all the movies, tv shows, stores and radio remind them of memories of love ones or of what they do not have.  How does God still bring comfort and deliverance in the midst holiday and Christmas festivities?

The second reading is 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24.  Paul concludes his letter to the Thessalonians with a few simple instructions: Rejoice always, pray without ceasing,  & give thanks constantly.  When is it easy to rejoice, pray and give thanks?  When is it difficult?  

The gospel reading is John 1:6-8, 19-28. We again hear about John the Baptist, this time from the gospel of John.  John is asked by the religious leaders "Who are you?" and he says he is not the messiah, or Elijah or a prophet but the one calling out to prepare the way of the lord.  If someone was to ask "who are you?" how would you respond? Are you one preparing the way of the Lord? Or are you someone who needs to be better prepared yourself?  Or are you both?

Hope you all have a great week!
Have an Anticipatory Advent
~Pastor Becca

This is Just the Beginning

Yesterday's sermon was on the gospel for the day Mark 1:1-8, or more specifically Mark 1:1 "The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God."  It is a strange opening line, one that has puzzled scholars for generations.  

Oh and I'm not completely avoiding John the Baptist, we get him again this coming Sunday so I'm sure he will actually appear in my sermon next Sunday. 


Either our gospel reading for today and the entire gospel of Mark has the lamest opening line of all times, or there is something truly remarkable happening. The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 

What story begins with “this is the beginning of the story”?  They don’t.  They begin with “Call me Ishmael.”  Or “It was the best of times it was the worst of times.”  Or “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.”  Good stories catch you from the start, from the opening line. Not “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”

How does that draw you in? 
Well maybe it not until the end of the story, the end of what was written that you think back on this opening line.  Does anyone know how the Gospel of Mark ends? 

The Gospel of Mark ends with the empty tomb.  Not with the appearance of Jesus.  Not with Jesus ascending into heaven.  Not with great power and joy.  The Gospel of Mark ends with the two Marys, May Magdalene and Mary the mother of Jesus, going to the tomb, finding the stone rolled away, an angel sitting there telling them Jesus has risen and it ends with the line: “So the women went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” 

So as oddly as this gospel begins, it ends just as oddly. 
So maybe Mark is actually trying to tell us something else.  Not that “I’m going to start telling you a story now” or “hey listen up this is the start of my story.”  But this, the entire story, is just the beginning!  Jesus’ life on earth is just the beginning of the good news for us.  Jesus’ life on earth is just the beginning of how Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God who is present in our lives.  And the entire Gospel of Mark, the entire 16 chapters of scripture is just the beginning, just page one, or a remarkable story about good news of Christ in our lives that still continues today.

Christ is still active in our lives.  This story still continues.  New pages are being written each day.  New members of the body of Christ are being added to daily as people come and are baptized with the Holy Spirit.  The body of Christ is still being strengthened and added to as we confess our sins. 

This story has not yet ended. 
How do you see this story of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God still being written?  

Monday, November 28, 2011

MMC: Advent is here!

Good Morning everyone

I hope that you had an enjoyable Thanksgiving and are already preparing for Christmas as we have kicked off the Advent season.  If you would like to participate in a daily Advent devotion, I have a few suggestions:  There is Busted Halo's  which has a tv or movie clip each day along with an activity to do.  There is also that has multiple options, Rediscovering the Christmas SeasonCountdown to Christmas (family focused), Carols (look at the words behind your favorite carols) and The Christmas Story (only 5 days long).  Each of the devotions from YouVersion you can also get on your smartphone.

A Few Announcements
  • Confirmation is meeting on Tuesday at 6pm
  • A service of Advent Lessons and Carols will be at Christ Church (184 Cross Highway) at 4pm on Sunday December 4th
  • Senior lunch is Wednesday December 7th at noon at Plain Jane's in Bethel
  • The Georgetown Community Association is having a Christmas party on Friday December 9th at 6pm at Gilbert & Bennett School, bring a dish to share, drinks are provided.  
Book of Faith Puzzler
The question from last week: How often did God give manna to the Israelites while they were in the desert?  A) Just once B)Once a week C)Every day D) Every day but the Sabbath
In Exodus 16, God provided food for the Israelites as they wandered in the wilderness, in the form of manna.  It was one the ground each morning and the people would gather up what they needed for each day, except on the 6th day of the week when they gathered up twice the amount since the manna did not come on the Sabbath. Congratulation to Cheryl M for winning this week's puzzler. 

This week’s question:  Today is the first day of the new church year.  Each year the majority of our gospel readings come from a different gospel.  Which gospel will we hear the most from this year? A) Matthew B) Mark C) Luke D) John  If you know the answer (or ever winning to Google it) let me know your answer by noon on Wednesday to be entered into this week's drawing.  And I'll give you a hint - there is a big hint to the answer somewhere in this email. 

Yesterday's Sermon
 You all were fairly quiet yesterday, so answer me now - How do you see things that have failed away but God's love, grace, mercy, forgiveness and Jesus' words not passing way?  When have you see love, community, caring, or forgiveness take place even after buildings have been destroyed or items have been lost, stolen or broken or even after death?  If you missed the sermon you can read it here.  

Serving on Sunday
The following people have signed up to serve in worship this coming Sunday
Worship Assistant: Mark H
Reader: Paul D
Communion Assistant: Cheryl M
Ushers: _____ & _______
Communion set up & clean up:________
Offering Counter: _________
Coffee Hour Host: Barbara C

If you would like to serve in one of the ways that are currently open, please let me know.  Also this coming Sunday I will have a sign up sheet for Christmas Eve worship leaders.  At the 5pm service we will need 2 to 3 ushers, 3 to 6 readers, 2 communion assistants, 1 prayer leader, and 1 worship coordinator.  At the 10pm service we will need 2 ushers, 1 or 2 readers, 2 communion assistants and 1 prayer leader.  So please start thinking about if you are able to and willing to help on Christmas Eve and at which worship.time. 

Sunday's Text
During our second week of Advent, we prepare and anticipate Jesus' birth through prophecy.

The first prophecy is Isaiah 40:1-11.  Isaiah talks of the voice that cries out to prepare the way of the Lord and the Lord will feed his flock like a shepherd, gathering them into his arms.  How do you prepare the way for the Lord?  How are you preparing for Jesus' birth this Christmas?  How are you preparing others to hear more about Christ?  

The second reading is 2 Peter 3:8-15a.  The author writes that with God one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like one day.  But we are told to wait for the new heaven and a new earth with patience and peace.  Anyone who can remember childhood knows that December can seem to take FOR-EV-ER as you await to open the presents under the tree.  How is the waiting for Jesus to return still taking forever, and how has time seem to have passed by quickly?

The gospel is Mark 1:1-8.  We skipped ahead in Mark last week, almost to the end, but no we are back at the beginning.  But Mark does not being with Jesus' birth but Jesus's baptism.  And before Jesus is baptized, John the Baptist is preparing the way for Jesus.  John tells the crowds being baptized that one person more powerful than him is coming and while John baptizes with water, the one to come will baptize with the Holy Spirit.  Most of us have been baptized, often when we were too young to remember, and during the baptism we "sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever".  What does that mean to you?  How does the Holy Spirit work in your life?  How has Christ marked you with the cross?

I hope you have had a great long weekend and are not in too much of a tryptophan coma to get back to work today
~Pastor Becca

Busy Day, Quite Church

Yesterday we had quite the crowd in worship.  We had about 10 friends and family that were visiting, mainly due to Thanksgiving.  And on top of that we had a baptism which brought in another 20 or so people.  So yes we were a crowded (for us) and busy church.  

However as a result, people were a little shy during the sermon.  Normally I can't get people to be quiet when I open up the opportunity for them to talk during worship, whether it is when I ask them how they have seen God in their lives or during the sermon.  Well yesterday, not so much.  

So I ad libed a lot of my sermon.  I preached on Mark 13:24-37 but mainly on the 31st verse "Heaven and earth will pass away but my words will not pass away."  

Now that there are 30 plus people you don't know that well listening, how do you see Jesus' words, love, grace, mercy and forgiveness not passing away even when things have passed away?  

So the kids were just asked what they want for Christmas this year, but I have a different question now, what did you get for Christmas last year? 

Did it take you a few moments to remember?  Can any of you name more than 3 items that you received?  I’ve been thinking about this all week and I still cannot remember more than a few items that I received from my family and that was even after I looked at the picture from Facebook.

But what do you remember from last Christmas? 

Hmmm memories are longer lasting than stuff, shocking!

In our gospel today, Jesus says: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” That the stuff that we are surrounded by whether that is new Christmas presents or family heirloom decorations or even this building and stone – all of that is stuff and it will eventually all pass away.  We will forget what gifts we have received, the decorations will eventually break, this building will some day cease to exist, even the earth one day will be consumed by the sun before it burns out. 

However Jesus’ words will never fade.  The love and grace that is given to us will never cease to exist.  The ways that we experience God through love and kindness from family, friends and even strangers is stronger, longer lasting, than any physical object. 
The water that is poured out upon us at baptism, the water poured on Logan today, will dry up, but God’s love for us as Logan and each of us are claimed as God’s children will never stop. 

How else will Jesus’ words and God’s love last longer than any object, than heaven and earth itself? 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

What Are You Thankful For?

Yesterday I had the privileged to preach at the Redding Interfaith Thanksgiving Service.  Each year the worshiping communities of the town come together at a different house of worship to give thanks in prayers, readings, and song.  Worship leaders were represented from Episcopal, Congregational, Catholic, Lutheran and Reform Jewish houses of worship.  

I decided I couldn't have a complete conversation, but did ask them a question: What are you thankful for?  After a brief moment of slightly awkward silence as people realized that I actually wanted to talk to them, one of my congregation members spoke (Thank God for ringers!) 

After the worship service I received so many fantastic comments from people about how great it was that I was interactive and engaging.  It truly was humbling.  

So enjoy the sermon, and what are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving is a very American holiday that speaks to many people regardless if their families have been here since the days of the pilgrims or they just immigrated here last month. There are many traditions that make up Thanksgiving that people delight in across the nation, regardless of age, or gender, or ethnicity, or religious affiliation or family make up.  There is the turkey, and all the trimmings, pie for dessert, watching a parade in the morning, either in person or on TV, and watching or playing football in the afternoon. For me, one of my favor traditions is going around the table and each person saying what they are thankful for. 

So this Thanksgiving what are you thankful for?
We as a people, as a nation, do not do this often enough, pause and reflect on what we are thankful for.  We get so carried away in the hustle and bustle that is daily life that we forget to pause and give thanks.  And yet there is something humbling about giving thanks. 

When we say we are thankful for something, whether that is telling God that we are thankful for what has been given to us or saying “thank you” to a fellow person or just having a feeling of thanksgiving we are admitting that we do not have complete control over what has been given to us. 

When we are thankful, we are admitting that we didn’t receive our jobs or nice home or expensive car just because of our own hard work.  That others have helped us along the way, by educating us, or giving us break when we might not have deserved them.

When we are thankful, we are admitting that the love from our family and friends is not our own doing. Sure we are adorable, who wouldn’t want to love us and we love them. But as many of us know too well, just because you are loving, doesn’t mean that you will be loved in return.

When we are thankful, we are admitting that often we are just lucky.  We have been the lucky ones who have been born into a country where diseases like malaria and tuberculosis are basically non-existent even when they still kill thousands world wide each year.  We are the lucky ones who have not developed cancer, or diabetes, or heart disease, or Alzheimer’s, and just because we haven’t yet develop such a disease doesn’t mean that it still won’t strike us. 

When we are thankful, we are admitting that others have not been so abundantly blessed.  When we are thankful for the food that is on our table, we realize that not everyone has a table, that not everyone has food. That a child dies ever 4 seconds in this world often due to malnutrition. That there are 430 thousand people in Connecticut that are considered food-insecure. 

Giving thanks means admitting that we have been blessed.  We have been blessed by God, we have been blessed by others.  And we are blessed in so many ways that we should take more than one day a year to spend in Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Bob is Gone...

...and I'm home alone.

Bob, my husband, left for France last Monday evening where he will be there off and on for 3 years while he works on his PhD.  Meanwhile I'm still in Connecticut, getting used to my new norm.

My lovely dogs seem to have gotten more obnoxious about waking me up in the morning when Bob is not here, so they have pushed me out of bed earlier this past week than I have gotten up in the past with Bob at home.  Which has given me a bit of a routine which makes the day go by quickly-ish.

I've also been busy with meetings, home visits and seeing friends this past week so when Sunday afternoon came and I was free for the rest of the day, I hid in the home office and needle-pointed and watched TV.

Before Bob left, I decided that I needed my own PhD project, and Edwin Longsden Long's painting Babylonian Marriage Market seemed like a great fit. The final product will be about 4 feet by 2 feet (aka HUGE!)

But I haven't been able to start it just yet, first I must get some Christmas stitching done.  So this week I've been working on a smaller project for a swap partner on Ravelry which needs to go out in the mail by December 7 and then I'll try and get a Christmas stocking done for my youngest niece before Christmas actually comes.  But my fingers are itching to start my PhD project so hopefully I can finish up those stitches quickly.

Monday, November 21, 2011

MMC: This Congregation Makes Me Smile

Thank you to everyone who put on a hairnet yesterday before and after worship.  We made over 3000 meals with Kids Care (well over our goal partially in thanks to matching funds through Thrivent).  The meals will be going to Daily Bread Food Pantry in Danbury.  Did you enjoy making the food, even if you had to wear a hairnet?  Are you sad that you missed if?  I would love for us to make even more meals in the spring, are you up for it?

A Few Announcements
  • Redding's Community Interfaith Thanksgiving service is this Wednesday at 7:30pm at St. Patricks Catholic Church (169 Black Rock Turnpike).  Join me in this moment of prayer and worship with people throughout the community as we spend time giving thanks to God this week.  I'll be preaching.
  • Next Sunday we celebrate the baptism of Logan McGuire.  Logan is the great-nephew of Eva and Connie Beote.  
  • A public thank you - last week when I dropped off all the food we collected from Ingathering Sunday, the employees at Redding Social Services practically fell at my feet in Thanksgiving.  Normally Redding Elementary School, does a food collection but they didn't this year (though they did ask for monetary donations however, they did not receive nearly as much as normal).  They were quite tight getting together all the meal bags for the members of the community who have asked for Thanksgiving help but knew they could count on Bethlehem to not just bring food, but lots of food including fresh produce.  So thank you for making it a delight to bring 3 grocery carts worth of food to RSS (next year, we will actually fill my car, I'm positive of it)
  • On a personal note - Bob has made it to Paris safely and is starting to settle in.  Thank you to everyone who has sent emails, called or stopped by this week, it is really humbling, as the pastor, to be ministered to, but I do appreciate it and please continue to check in with me every once in awhile.
Book of Faith Puzzler
The question from last week: In today’s gospel, the NRSV translate the amount of money the slaves received as “talents” (I use the word “million”); how much money was a “talent”?  A) A day’s wage B)A month’s wage C) a year’s wage D) 20 years of wages
A talent was worth about 6,000 denari, and a denari was a day’s wage.  Meaning a talent was worth over 16 years of wages if you worked every day of each year.  Or more likely 20 years after taking a weekly Sabbath and holidays off. Congratulations to Paul Bengtson for winning this week's puzzler.
This week’s question:  How often did God give manna to the Israelites while they were in the dessert?  A) Just once B)Once a week C)Every day D) Every day but the Sabbath  
As of now I have no entries for this week, so grab your bible (or wikipedia) and send me your answer by noon on Wednesday to be entered into this week's drawing.
Yesterday's Sermon
Well I didn't preach yesterday so I can't direct you to my blog to read the sermon if you missed it.  But how is God commanding you to feed the hungry, care for the sick, cloth the naked and visit the imprisoned?  
Serving in Worship this Week
The following people have signed up to serve in worship this coming Sunday
Worship Assistant: Ellen Grunsell
Reader: Cheryl Muniz
Communion Assistant: Anna Hawley
Ushers: ________ &______
Communion set up & Clean up: Nancy Beck
Coffee Hour Host: Jeff Kapec

WHOA!  I think that is probably one of the most filled weeks we have had.  If you would like to be an usher on Sunday, please let me know.
Sunday's Texts
Sunday we start a new church year, which means we will leave behind the gospel of Matthew for a few years and be focusing mainly on the gospel of Mark, though some weeks we will hear from John. Sunday is also the first Sunday of Advent, the season when we look forward to Jesus' birth.
The first reading is Isaiah 64:1-9.  The reading ends with the sentence "Now consider, we are all your people."  Isaiah is pleading to God to remember that everyone belongs to God, not just those who worship God.  This was written after periods of war and famine when many people have turned from God.  Times of trial brings some people closer to God and others turn away from God during such times.  When have you prayed to God to remember those who have turned from him?  When have you had God remember you, even if you weren't remembering him?
The second reading is 1 Corinthians 1:3-9.  Paul gives thanks to God for all the ways that they have been enriched by Christ, especially in speech and knowledge.  As we enter into Advent and prepare for Christmas, our greater culture is pushing us to prepare with presents, decorations and buying stuff (lots of stuff).  But God is preparing us for Christ's birth through knowledge and speech.  How can you prepare for Christmas this year by spending time with family, reading scripture or otherwise enriching yourself through Christ?
The gospel is Mark 13:24-37.  Yes we are starting the church year off towards the end of the gospel, not at the beginning (that is next week).  But first we are reminded that Jesus promised that the Son of Man is coming and that "heaven and earth will pass away, but [Christ's] words will not pass away."  What are the Advent and Christmas memories that you hold most dear?  Do they involve presents or people?  Do they involve the consumer culture or a religious culture?  

I hope you all have a great week and a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 14, 2011

MMC: Christ the King

Thank you to everyone who made worship so enjoyable yesterday.  In some ways it was a little disjointed with Ingathering (thank you Ellen for setting up such a beautiful altar), a very weird gospel text and the farewell and godspeed for Bob, but there was also such a great sense of community in the sanctuary which is my favorite thing about Bethlehem.  (Well I have many favorite things but they all seem to go back to the sense of community in this congregation.)  Also if you forgot your food for Ingathering, please drop it off at the church or the parsonage by tomorrow at noon. (If I'm not home please leave it on the porch, and if you can't make it by the church, please either bring it Redding Social Services, at the Community Center, or any other food pantry that would appreciate a donation.)

A Few Announcements
  • Confirmation is meeting tomorrow (Tues) at 6pm at the parsonage
  • Senior Lunch is this Wednesday, Nov 16, at the Redding Roadhouse
  • Council is coming Sunday, Nov 20 after Worship
  • Grow 2 Gather is on Sunday, we will be packaging meals with an organization called Kids Care.  Everyone is invited to help us package 1002 meals in a morning. 
  • Redding Community Interfaith Thanksgiving Service is Wednesday Nov 23rd at 7:30pm at St. Patrick's Catholic Church (169 Black Rock Turnpike).  I will be preaching so you know the sermon will either be good or bad, depending on what you think of my preaching ;-)
Book of Faith Puzzler
The question from last week: How many plagues did God send on Egypt before Pharaoh allowed the Israelites to go (well before he then changed his mind and chased them to the Red Sea)? Chapters 5-12 of Exodus discuss the plagues that came to Egypt – blood, frogs, lice, flies, diseased livestock, boils, hail, locust, darkness and death of the first born – 10 plagues in all.  I decided to be generous and give all the kids who entered a prize; Nini C, Anna H, Anna R and Dylan R are our winners this week. 

This week’s question:  In today’s gospel, the NRSV translate the amount of money the slaves received as “talents” (Pastor Becca will use the word “million”); how much money was a “talent”?  A) A day’s wage B)A month’s wage C) a year’s wage D) 20 years of wages  If you know the answer, let me know, as of now I have had no guesses.

Yesterday's Sermon
What a wonderful conversation we had yesterday!  But I also know that I had to cut the conversation off due to time concerns.  For those of you waiting to say something and didn't, what were you going to say?  Have you thought of other ways that God is presented to us by society that doesn't make sense when you believe in a God full of love and grace?  If you missed the conversation, you can read the first part of it here.  

Serving this Sunday
The following people have signed up to serve in worship this week
Worship Assistant: Mark H
Communion Assistant: Anna H
Usher: __________ & __________
Bread Baker: Lynn T
Communion set up/clean up: ____________
Offering Counter: Frank C
Coffee Hour Host: ___________
If you would like to serve in one of the ways that is currently blank, please let me know.

Sunday's Texts
This Sunday is Christ the King, the last Sunday of the Christian church year.  And as you may guess by the title for the day, a lot of the readings have to do with Christ being the King of Kings.

The first reading is Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24. This passage actually refers to God being like a shepherd who seeks out his flock from among the many sheep.  How does God seek you out?  How does God feed you and care for you?

The second lesson is Ephesians 1:15-23.  The author is praising God for making Jesus not just the Lord of the church but the Lord of the whole universe.  How do you see Jesus as Lord of the whole universe?  

The gospel is Matthew 25:31-46.  Jesus envisions a future conversation where he will thank the righteous for giving him food when he was hungry, water when he was thirsty, and clothing when he was naked.  The righteous however will not realize that it was him when they did those things for the least of God's family. And a similar conversation will occur with the unrighteous however they never helped the least of God's family.  How do you help the least of God's family?  How could you be more giving of what you have?  

Hope you all have a great week!
~Pastor Becca

Sunday, November 13, 2011

God is Not Always Who is Presented to Us

Today was a busy day in worship, multiple ways of people talking about how they saw God, Ingathering day were the altar is decorated with produce and people bring forth non-perishable items for the local food pantry and we had a farewell and godspeed for Bob before he leaves for France on Monday.  In all honesty it was a little disjointed with so much going on, but yet worship was full of joy, love and a sense of community.  

Below is the written portion of today's sermon.  Like last week, I opened the sermon up to conversation and we had a great discussion about the negative ways God is portrayed in our society, some ideas I would never have thought of.  But please read the gospel for today Matthew 25:14-30 before you read this sermon.  Most often this parable is taken literally but when you do so it makes many people cringe because it is a difficult one to interpret that way.  


Altar from Ingathering Sunday 2010
This gospel lesson does not make any sense to me.  How can this be the kingdom of heaven?  There is a master who is harsh and reaps where he does not sow and gather where he does not scatter seed.  The ones who double their money are praised and the one that does what a trustworthy steward at the time would have done, buried the master’s money, is berated and thrown into the outer darkness.  And the master insist that the one who buried the money should have put in the bank in order to get interest even though that is one of the big no-no prohibited by Jewish scripture.

Therefore I, and many biblical scholars, can only conclude that Jesus wasn’t actually saying this is what the kingdom of heaven is like but that Jesus was saying this tongue-in-cheek.  That Jesus’ original followers, after hearing a multitude of parables about what the kingdom of heaven is like, were starting to think allegorically – oh the master represents God, and we humans must be the slaves.  But then Jesus pulls the rug out from under them and all of a sudden this is not actually a straight allegory of what heaven is like.  He switched things up on them, to make sure that they were listening.

But isn’t that often the case.  That the God that is presented to us does not often make sense.  I’m sure we have all heard the argument that you must “accept Jesus as your personal Lord and savior in order to be saved.”  Well that doesn’t make any sense!  A God who sent Jesus to die for our sins isn’t going to say that you must admit that this happened in order to reap any benefits. 

Or we have heard that you must do good works in order to receive God’s love and blessing.  What?! God loves us regardless of our actions, and often when we the most turned from God is when we need God’s love the most. 

And there is the idea that there is only so much in this world and if we are blessed then others must suffer.  Nope, doesn’t work either because God is full of abundance and blessing and giving. 

Or that if things aren’t going your way or if bad things happen to you it is because you have done bad things to others.  Well sure if you sexually abuse children in your workplace there is a pretty good chance that you will end up fired and in jail because our actions often have consequences.  But God doesn’t have your grandma die in order to punish you for making fun of someone. 

How else is God presented to us that often doesn’t make sense? 

See the God that is presented to us by society, sometimes even by religious institutions, is not always God.  God is full of love and grace.  God forgives us before we even realize that we have sinned.  And sometimes God even has a sense of humor as Jesus told this parable tongue-in-cheek to make sure that people were listening.  

Monday, November 7, 2011

MMC: Power Outage Aftermath

Good Morning Bethlehem

As we continue to clean up from the storm, I know that a few of our congregation members along with our great community members still did not have their electricity restored as of yesterday.  Please continue to check on neighbors and others until all are back to normalcy.  Also tomorrow is election day so please plan on voting tomorrow for your town selectmen, school board and other local positions.  I'm sure we can all agree that this past week we have learned a little more about the importance of local government. 

A Few Announcements  
  • Confirmation is Tuesday night at 6pm at the parsonage
  • Due to scheduling conflicts Senior Lunch has been postponed a week to November 16.
  • Sunday is Ingathering Day, please bring any non-perishable food items which will be donated to Redding Social Services.  Last year my car was nearly full, this year our goal is to fill it to the brim. 
  • Also this coming Sunday is Bob MC's last Sunday with us before he departs to France so we will be having a farewell and godspeed for him at the end of the worship service. 
  • Sunday November 20 we will be making meals with Outreach Inc/Kids Care.  Our goal is to package 1002 meals before and after worship so please come ready to learn a little about this great ministry.  It cost $0.25 per serving, and the first 100 meals are being paid for out of our education budget so bring your quarters to help pay for the meals. 
Book of Faith Puzzler
The question from two weeks ago: We are already at the 19th Sunday after Pentecost.  How many “Sundays after Pentecost” are there this year: A) 20  B) 21 C) 22 D) 23 E) 24
This year there are 23 Sundays after Pentecost, with the last one on Sunday November 20.  That day is also known as Christ the King Sunday, the last Sunday of the church year. Congratulations to Frank C for winning this week's puzzler. 

This week’s question:  How many plagues did God send on Egypt before Pharaoh allowed the Israelites to go (well before he then changed his mind and chased them to the Red Sea)?
If you know the answer, or think you do, let me know by noon on Wednesday to be entered into this week's drawing.

Yesterday's Sermon
I really enjoyed yesterday's sermon and the conversational dialogue we had about being a saint now.  If you missed it, you can read the written portion here.  What did you think about the sermon?  Both content and style.  Have you thought of other ways you are living into your sainthood now?  Or have other thoughts come to mind after our conversation ended?  Did you enjoy the dialogue that occurred or did it make you uncomfortable?  Do you wish there was more time or was it too long of a conversation?  Any feedback you have is helpful as I craft sermons as I try to think of what will connect with you.

Serving this week
The following people have signed up to serve in worship for this coming Sunday:
Worship Assistant: Ellen G
Reader: _________
Communion Assistant: ____________
Bread baker/bringer: ____________ (any bread leftover from the previous weeks was thrown out after the power outage)
Communion set-up/cleanup:___________
Ushers: ___________ & _________
Offering Counter: 
Coffee Hour Host: Mark & Heloisa H

Please let me know if you are willing to serve in a way that is currently not filled. 

Sunday Text
The first lesson is Zephaniah 1:7,12-18.  Zephaniah is one the minor prophets at the end of the Old Testament and he wrote shortly after the end of a reign of a tyrant king and his overall message was that the day of the Lord is coming and it will be filled with judgement and wrath.  Has the day of the Lord already coming?  Is it still to be?  Is it full of judgement and wrath or is God more just and kind?  

The second lesson is 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11.  The author tells us that the day of the Lord is coming and it will be like a thief in the night.  But "God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ."  How has Jesus saved us and the world from God's wrath?  Do you think one needs to be threaten to believe or that belief can come out of love?

The gospel is Matthew 25:14-30, the parable of the talents.  The first two servants take the money that we given to them and doubled the amount.  Yet the third only gave back what he was given.  Who does God call us to be?  And how does this parable fit with conversations in our greater society such as the Occupy Wall Street movement and the the top 1% or earner having made much gains in wealth while the other 99% have not.  Or various tax plans that have been throw around by politicians about how much different people should pay to support the greater society?  Are we suppose to be like the first two servants who double what was given to them, though we are not told how?  Or like the landowner who is harsh and reaps where his does not sow and gather where he does not gather seed?  Or the 3rd servant who buries what is given to him and is therefore thrown into the darkness?  Or are we to be like none of these people?

Hope you all have a great week, that the power (and more importantly heat) is back on soon for those still without and to see many of you at Mark & Heloisa's wedding on Friday
~Pastor Becca

Sunday, November 6, 2011

God's Children NOW

Today I used a progessional dialogue style of worship.  I started with some thoughts on All Saints Day and the second reading 1 John 3:1-3.  I then asked a pointed question which lead to myself and others responding to one another and how we are currently living into our sainthood. It was a great conversation and I know sparked more conversation as a few people were talking after they marked one another on the forehead with a cross.  

I haven't included what people responded mainly because I thought that would be inauthentic to the conversation as I did not take notes.  

Enjoy and let me know how you are living into your sainthood. 

I have a love/hate relationship with All Saints Day.

I Love All Saints because it is like a communal funeral.  We, all of us, get together to pray for family and friends whose death we mourn individually.  We are reminded that we are not alone as we mourn; that others mourn along-side us and together, we support one another.

And yet I hate All Saints Sunday because of all that focus on death.  Let’s face it All Saints Day can be depressing.  We are reminded yet again of people in our lives that we have lost.  And if we are lucky enough to not have experienced death in our lives recently, then on this day we are forced to realized that death does happen and we will all eventually die.

But that is not the real reason I, at times, hate All Saints Day.  The real reason, I hate it is because both All Saints Day and many All Saints worship services, make it seem that to be a saint one must first die. 

Yet we are all saints and sinners, sinners and saints.  We are not just sinners now and have to wait to die in order to claim our sainthood, that we must die to live into our sainthood.  We do not have to hope that we live a good life or do enough good deeds or confess our unwavering faith on our death bed or have the right type of funeral or even have people remember us after we have died in order to claim the fact that we are now saints. 

Our reading from 1 John says “Beloved, we are God’s children now!”  Now!  Not in the future, not based on who we hope to be or who we try to be or who we are hoping to become.  We are God’s children now!  God has claimed us as sons and daughters.  We are saints now in Christ.

So how do you live into your sainthood now?  How are you God’s child now?

Will you do me a favor, turn to your neighbor and make the sign of the cross on their forehead and say their name “you are a child of God now and forever”

Today is All Saints Sunday and we are saints now and forever. Amen!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

I've Survived October!

I was going to write on Saturday about surviving my crazy October but instead decided that there were a few days left of the month so I wrote my week away.  And it is a good thing I waited to talk about surviving the month.

At the end of September I wrote about how crazy my October was going to be. I had a 10 day trip to Minnesota for a continuing ed preaching conference followed by some vacation time with family and friends.  Then a weekend trip to Rhinebeck for the New York Sheep & Wool festival with my Stitch and Bitch ladies.  Following that with a dessert/bon voyage party for Bob and finishing up with bishop's convocation.  Well just when I thought I had survived and actually enjoyed the craziness that October brought, it ended with a snow storm.

Now being from Minnesota I'm use to snow in October, but flurries and maybe even some sweep-able snow, but not anything measurable in inches or even feet.  A few years before my family moved up north, there was the Halloween Blizzard of '91 that lasted 4 days and piled a foot and a half to two feet of snow in many places.

But this was different.  It was snow, but it was the heavy icy snow.  And being Connecticut, many of the leaves were still on the trees.  Maybe it was just because I was gone for most of the month but I had yet to be driven crazy by the sound of leaf blowers this year.  So between the ice clinging to the leaves many of the limbs, branches and trees that did not fall over or break off during Hurricane Irene just two month ago came down.  And with the limbs they brought down the power lines.

We were for the second time in 2 months left without power for multiple days.  And this time, being without electricity also meant no heat.  Fortunately with candles, many blankets, long underwear and two compact heats I refer to as our dogs Daisy and Koko, we kept warm.

Worship was cancelled on Sunday, we spent much of Monday at a local library, took showers at the Y, ate out more than normal and about 67 hours later our power was restored.

But we are the lucky ones.  Many people are still without power and will be for over a week by the time everything is restored.

The local schools have been cancelled all week meaning they already have 10 "snow" days and it isn't even Thanksgiving yet.

But life moves on.  Bob is still hear for now, but we are headed to New York City tomorrow so Bob can apply for his student visa at the French Embassy.  Afterwards he will book his flight and will probably be off to Paris before Thanksgiving.

And I'll be home alone in Connecticut hoping that there won't be any more long term power outages because they are much more bearable when we lay in the bed piled with blankets and surround by candles playing cards.

Hope you all are staying warm!

Monday, October 31, 2011

MMC: Blizzard Edition

Hello all

As a Minnesotan I can say that I'm use to snow in October, but flurries and maybe even some sweep-able snow.  And everyone still talks about the Halloween Blizzard that happened in 1991, but that did not take out trees and powerlines.

I hope you all are safe and warm and if not there are some shelters that are opened.  
  • Weston middle school is open as a 24-hour emergency shelter.
  • The Wilton Y is open for showers and a warming center and most of Wilton Center's businesses are open for a place to stay warm or get a hot bite to eat.
  • Ridgefield community center is open as well for showers and a warming place (though I don't know if it is open over-night)
If you know of any other places that are open or you yourself have power and are willing to open your home, please let me or the Bethlehem community know by hitting reply all.

Currently the church and parsonage are without electricity and I'm working from the Westport Library (much less crowded than Wilton) and I'll let you know when we have power back at the church.  But no damage that I can currently see has happened to either building other than a few big limbs being down in the yards.  

The unpreached sermon from Sunday can be found here. I hope you enjoy it and are willing to give some answers to the questions raised because I really feel like those questions need be asked.  Hmm maybe I can just rewrite it a little to fit with the text for All Saints Sunday.

Speaking of which, Sunday is All Saints Day.  Please send me the names of anyone in your life who has recently died, been born or baptized so that we can remember all the Saints in our prayers this coming week.  (And the weather forecast calls for 60 degrees on Sunday so hopefully we won't have a repeat of this past weekend).  

Also start bringing in can or boxed good for Ingathering Sunday on November 13 and money for meals for Kids Care on November 20 when we hope to package 1000 meals during Grow 2 Gather and after worship.  

See you Sunday and in the meantime let me know if there is anything I can do for you to keep you warm and safe or spiritually feed in the wake of the snow. 

~Pastor Becca

An Unpreached Sermon

For the second time in 2 months, we are without electricity at the church and parsonage, only this time due to a October snowstorm of heavy wet snow which took out many trees that still had their leaves on them. 

Therefore yesterday worship was cancelled, many roads in the morning were impassable not due to the snow (actually that was easily plowed) but due to trees being down across roads and powerlines down as well.  And also it was REALLY cold in the church yesterday morning since without power, the heat does not work.  

Hence why this sermon did not get preached.  Which is sad cause I was really looking forward to it as well.  Yesterday was Reformation Day, when we remember when Martin Luther nailed the 95 theses to the door of the castle church in Wittenburg which sparked the Reformation and we celebrate that we are still a reforming and changing church.  So this sermon is about that, but also in response to some of the conversations that I had at bishop's convocation, many of which I should not recount here.  The gospel on Reformation day is always John 8:31-36, Jesus telling those who believe in him that the Son will set them free.  

But as has often been the case for me lately, this sermon is incomplete, mainly cause I was planning on the congregation to fill in some holes.  So here is the outline, the basics of what I was going to preach and I hope you are willing to answer some of the questions and fill in the gaps for me.  


What is your favorite Halloween tradition?  Can you image Halloween without costumes or candy or trick or treating?  But lets be honest, how many of you are expecting more than 10 trick or treaters?  20? 30?  Trick or treating is a tradition that is changing as our communities change, as less people live in neighborhood or know their neighbors, as more parents become overly worried about walking around in neighborhoods at night out in the cold more and more communities are hosting events like Treat or Treat Street at schools or shopping malls.  Halloween traditions are changing and with that we can often feel pain and sorrow over it. 

And yet tomorrow is also Reformation Day, today being Reformation Sunday, when we remember the day that Martin Luther nailed 95 theses to the castle church door at Wittenburg which started the reformation.  And as a result, many traditions changed.  Worships that were once held entirely in Latin were now spoken in the language of the people.  All people (well at least adults) were able to participate in communion, the Lord’s meal, by having both the bread and the wine; the wine was no longer relegated to just the priest.  And speaking of priest, pastors were now allowed to be married and not every worship leader had to be ordained. Luther and many of his fellow theologians realized that the people of the Catholic Church in Germany were slaves to sin and also slaves to tradition.  But when they looked at what God was doing in society, and listen to what God was calling them to do, God was able to free them from many of their traditions in order for them to more fully worship God.

And our church is still reforming.  We are still changing, and God still loves us with such an amazing love that has changed along with the culture.  God is still speaking to us, God is still setting us free from sin and God is setting us free so that we are no longer slaves to traditions.  The Christian church has amazing traditions that we have become part of, but if those traditions were created in one culture that no longer pertains to us, we become slaves to the tradition and if we spend more time trying to understand those traditions than we spend actually worshiping God then those traditions will die and we as a community will die right along with them. 

What are some traditions that have changed in your lifetime? 

Are any of these ones that you truly miss? 

So what are some traditions that we do in this congregation that you do not understand? 

God has set us free from sin so that we do not have to worry about what is the “correct” way to worship.  Worship is not about following one correct format.  It is about opening our hearts and minds to give thanks to God for all that we have been given and all that God has done.  Worship is about lifting up to God our cares and concerns, it is not about worrying that we have the right words or that the table cloth on the altar is straight or that we know the word for what an altar table cloth is called. 

God has set us free from those things.  We are no longer slaves to those things.  We have been given the truth and the truth will set us free to worship with all of our heart, soul and mind.  The truth is God’s words of love, grace and freedom and that is what we really should worship, not tradition.