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!