Monday, January 30, 2012

The Word of the Week: Intentionality

This past week was my last installment of Baby Pastor School.  The format has been greatly changed and it is not officially called "Leadership Guild" instead of its previous official name "Institute for Congregational Ministry." Unfortunately, it has never officially been called Baby Pastor School ;-(   And I have to say I like the changes, though there was most definitely some growing pains this year.

Realizing that the 100 or so participants gather have a diverse range of calls and passions, the organizers got rid of the workshops and keynote speaker whose topic varied greatly from year to year.  Also gone was mass gatherings with everyone in our "year" and small groups were transformed.  To steal a term from a friend, baby pastor school was previously a tube sock event - it was meant to cover all but in and of itself it was pointless and void.  In other words it was trying to be everything to everyone and as a result there wasn't much content.

Instead for the time being, each year they will focus on developing leadership skills to make us baby pastors and roostered leaders better leaders regardless of what type of call we have.  The keynote speakers will address those skills and the small group time will be spent developing those skills greater with people who have been called roughly the same amount of time.  But this year those leadership skills development started a little too basic and our small group as a result rebelled.

It really wasn't until Wednesday that the information presented became not just stuff we already knew.  As one friend stated on Tuesday "Today I learned that in order to get to know someone you should have a conversation with them."  Seriously!?  No wonder I haven't been getting to know anyone, I have just been talking to my dogs this entire time.  Therefore practicing conversations with people was not helpful.

So what did I get out of this experience?  Just the idea of intentionality.  Yes that might also seem like a no duh, but sometimes I need to be reminded of that.  To intentionally take time to get to know new people in my congregation, people in the greater community and even people in my congregation who I have known for the last 2 1/2 years.  To intentionally take time for planning ministry.  To intentionally take time for reading ministry books and further development of my own ministry skill sets.  To intentionally review how events, sermons or worship went to better those in experiences in the future.

So what will I be intentionally working on in the future?  Well now that I just wrote that, I have almost too many to think of.  But I think I will try and stick with two - one professional, one more personal.  The professional option is that as Bethlehem partners with ARE and we start this transformation process, to take time to make sure that people are adapting to the changes.  That doesn't mean go so slowly that glaciers are moving fast, but more to check in with people to make sure their concerns are heard and validated.

On the personal side, it is to be intentional about getting out of the house/church for at least an hour Monday through Thursday.  Even though I'm an extrovert, it is way to easy for me to hole up, especially since Bob is not at home.  Tuesday and Thursday should be easy as I have text study and stitch and bitch on those days.  And on Mondays and Wednesdays it means visiting homebound members, meeting with community members and church members (you know that conversation piece up above), or even just going to the coffee shop if what I really need to do is read and write.

And no, even with the changes I would not want to go back to Baby Pastor School next year, but at least I have hope that it won't be such a dreaded experience in the future and the organizers are headed in the right direction.

MMC: Looking towards Lent

 Good Morning Bethlehem

Thank you to everyone who attended yesterday's annual meeting.  I enjoyed listening to your comments and concerns about the year past and the year ahead.  I especially want to say thank you to our outgoing council members - Vernon Beck, Ellen Grunsell, Jeff Kapec and John Santorella.  Thank you for you leadership and dedication to Bethlehem. Some people also wanted to know more about the narrative lectionary.  You can find that information here and at their FAQ site.

As January turns into February, we are starting to gear up for Lent which means a busy calendar.
  • Mutual Ministry Committee Mon Jan 30, 7:30p
  • Confirmation – Tue, Jan 31, 6pm
  • Conference Meeting – Sat Feb 4 10am, Salem Bridgeport
  • Grow 2 Gather Sunday Feb 5 9am - we will be hearing about Samuel and kids who do great things today. 
  • Installation Service for Pastor Cathy Rohrs – Sun Feb 5 3pm at Grace, Stratford 
  • Souper Bowl of Caring is next week.  Bring your change (though we will accept checks and bills as well) and vote with your money on who you think will win the Super Bowl: the Patriots or the Giants.  All money will got to Kids Care which packages meals for people who are food insecure in New England.
  • Celebrate Mardi Gras at Bethlehem! Mark your calendar for Saturday February 18th at 6pm for an evening of dinner and entertainment.  Dinner will be a variety of crepes and all proceeds go to Camp Calumet’s Campaign for Today. 
  • Ash Wednesday is February 22 this year and there will be a mid week worship each Wednesday in Lent - more information to come.
Book of Faith PuzzlerThe question from last week: In  John 21, who decided to go fishing after Jesus’ death and resurrection?  A) Simon Peter B) Thomas, C) Nathanael D) James & John E) All of these
In John 21, many of the disciples returned to the Sea of Galilee.  Simon Peter decided to go fishing and the other disciples listed above decided to join him. Nobody submitted their answer this week which means the bread and candy is all mine!
This week’s question:  According to Matthew 22, what is the greatest commandment?  A) To love the Lord B) To love you neighbor C) You should have no other gods D) Do not murder
Let me know your answer by noon Wednesday to be entered into this week's drawing. 

Yesterday's Sermon
Thank you to Ryan for leading us in a wonderful discussion about what is an unclean spirit.  I appreciated being able to not worry about preaching when I was at a conference all week.  So we pretty much decided that we all have unclean spirits - what are some unclean spirits that you battle against?

Serving this Week
A new worship leader sign up sheet is out, but therefore mostly empty.

Worship Assistant: Mark H
Communion Assistant:________
Ushers:_______ & _____________
Altar set up & Clean up:_________
Bread baker/bringer:___________
Offering Counter:_______________
Coffee Hour Host:______________

If you can help fill some of these empty spots, please let me know. 
Sunday's Texts
The first reading is Isaiah 40:21-31.  Isaiah is trying to get his listeners to realize it is God who created the world and that same God we give them strength while in exile.  When have you looked to the majesty of nature in order to find inner strength?  When has being able to look at creation helped you realize that there is a God?

The second reading is 1 Corinthians 9:16-23.  Paul writes that he has become like others in order to win those people for Christ.  Writing that sentence makes me both want to identify different ways that I can transform myself so I can better communicate the gospel to others and it makes me want to crawl out of my skin as it seems very manipulative.  How can we become like others in order to better preach the gospel and yet remain true to ourselves so that when we do transform it does not seem like we are doing this just to manipulate the other?

The gospel is Mark 1:29-39.  Our gospel begins with Jesus healing Simon's mother-in-law and many other people in town.  The next day Jesus went to a dessert place to pray and the disciples went looking for him because many other people were looking for Jesus.  Even early in his ministry, Jesus needed time to pray alone.  When do you take time to be alone with God?  Do you find it easy or difficult to take such time?

Hope you all have a great week
~Pastor Becca

Monday, January 23, 2012

MMC: Last Baby Pastor School

Good Morning Bethlehem

I'm actually writing this on Sunday night as I'm leaving (have left) early this morning for my last stint at Baby Pastor School.

That being said, if you have a pastoral emergency this week please call Pastor Geoff Sinibaldo of St. Michael's New Canaan at 203-807-6474.  You can reach me on my cell phone though I more than likely will have to return your call later in the day.  I will return in plenty of time for our annual meeting on Sunday January 29th.  

A Few Announcements
ARE Gathering Saturday Jan 28, 9am-3:30pm Holy Trinity- Trumbell
Annual Meeting – Sunday Jan 29, after worship
Confirmation – Tue, Jan 31, 6pm
Conference Meeting – Sat Feb 4 10am, Salem Bridgeport

Book of Faith Puzzler
The question from last week: In the gospel of John, Andrew, Simon Peter, Philip and Nathanael were the first disciples to follow Jesus.  Who were the first disciples to follow Jesus in Mark (hint look near the beginning).  A)Simon, Andrew, James & John B) James, John, Bartholomew & Matthew C) Andrew, Simon, Thomas & Jude D) Judas, Philip, Matthew, Mark.
In Mark 1:14-20 (our gospel for today) Jesus calls Simon and his brother Andrew to follow him and fish for people.  He then calls to James, the son of Zebedee and his brother John who also leave their boats to follow Jesus.  Congratulations to Nancy Beck for winning this week's puzzler. 
This week’s question:  In  John 21, who decided to go fishing after Jesus’ death and resurrection?  A) Simon Peter B) Thomas, C) Nathanael D) James & John E) All of these  Email me with your answer by noon on Thursday to be entered into this week's drawing.

Yesterday's Sermon
If you missed worship yesterday, you can read my written sermon on my blog here.  What is Jesus calling you to do? 

Serving this week
The following people have signed up to serve in worship this coming Sunday
Preacher: Ryan Hawley
Worship Assistant: Ellen Grunsell
Reader: Nini Constable
Usher: Paul Degener & ________
Communion Assistant: ________
Communion set up & clean up: __________
Bread bakers: Grow 2 Gather
Offering Counter: Nancy Beck
Coffee Hour Hosts: Mark & Heloisa Hasskarl

If you would like to serve in any of the available areas, please let me know. 

Texts this week
The first lesson is Deuteronomy 18:15-20.  During this reading God says to Moses "I will raise up for [the Israelites] a prophet like you from among their own people."  Who do you see being lifted up in our congregation, in the greater community?  How does God lift you up to help others?

The second lesson is 1 Corinthians 8:1-13.  The Corinthians are fighting over whether or not people should eat the food sacrifices that have been set aside for other gods.  Paul's point is that while we are free in Christ, some of us are stronger in faith than others and those strong in their faith should not use that freedom if it causes others to sin.  When have you refrained from behavior that in and of itself is not sinful in order to keep another from sinning?  An easy example would be when you refrain from drinking alcohol in front of someone who is an alcoholic.  

The gospel lesson is Mark 1:21-28.  This is the first time we hear that Jesus taught in the synagogue and the people we astounded by Jesus' teachings.  And yet when an unclean spirit speaks up and Jesus commands the spirit to come out of the man, the crowd is more amazed that even the spirits listen to him.  Have you ever been amazed by someone's authority, presences, knowledge, only to be more amazed when it put to the test? 

Hope you all have a great week.  I'll be thinking about you in Pennsylvania.  

Soon to be a toddler pastor
~Pastor Becca

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Are You Called to Abandon Everything?

I'm still finding the balance in these conversational sermons of how much I should prepare, how much I should leave up to conversation.  About what questions I should expect answers for and which questions need to be left hanging.  Today was a day in which there was more silence as people were thinking than answers, which I think is a good thing at times.  Today's gospel was Mark 1:14-20, in which Jesus' calls his first disciples and they immediately leave their nets, boats and father behind in order to follow Jesus.  

I was struck by the idea that we often don't leave behind everything and more than likely that is not what Jesus is calling us to do to be his disciples either.  And so my questions if Jesus is calling us to abandon everything to follow him requires more thought than a simple yes or no.  

Enjoy the written form, and as always the spoken version was fairly different

What would make you want to drop everything in your life, your career, your family, your home, in order to pursue something unknown? 

That is basically what Jesus was asking of his disciples, Simon, Andrew, James and John.  “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.”  And with those words they drop everything and left their boats, their family (including their father still sitting in the boat), their entire lives behind. 

Don’t you wish in some way that Jesus can come to you and in an instant you would be willing to leave everything to follow him?  But isn’t that scary as well?  We don’t like to leave our lives behind and go entirely into the unknown.  Most of the time when people move today it is because of school or a job, or a loved one – there is something known on the other side of that move.  Yes occasionally it is just a dream – the dream of making it big in Hollywood or the dream of becoming a music star.  But even then the dream becomes the known. 

But for these 4 and the 8 other disciples that will follow them, there is completely unknown on the other side of Jesus’ invitation – Where are we going?  When we will get there? Who will we meet?  Why are we doing this? What are we going to do? 
The only answer they have is that Jesus will make them fish for people, whatever that means. 

Why do you think the disciples, left everything to, followed Jesus? 

Is Jesus calling you to abandon everything to follow him?

How is Jesus calling us to follow him? 

We don’t need to abandon our lives to follow Jesus – in fact Jesus doesn’t ask them to abandon their boats, the disciples do that on their own.  Jesus was calling them to be who they were, to see what they have and to do what they were called to do to the glory of God.  And that is what Jesus is inviting us to do.  Who are you?  What do you have?  What are you called to do?  Who are we as Bethlehem?  What do we have?  What are we called to do?  And how do we do it to the glory of God?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Youth Ministry NOW

Yale Div School is hosting a series of four lectures/forums about youth ministry over the first four months of 2012.  The first such one was this past Tuesday and the speaker was Dr. Andrew Root from Luther Seminary.

Now I have heard a lot about Andrew Root, and I have read some of the things that he has published, but I have not had the pleasure of hearing him talk until Tuesday.  And I'm so glad that I was able to go.

Dr. Root titled his talk "Relationships Unfiltered" and he mainly talked about the importance of relationships in youth ministry.  But in youth ministry more than any other type of ministry, we use those relationships for influence.  We hope that by having a relationship with a teenager it will make them want to go to church, or bible study, or even choose moral behavior.  That really there is a hopeful outcome to our relationship though it is hardly ever stated matter of fact-ly.  And instead we need to use those relationships to just be with the teenagers, to be with them for who they are and what they are going through in their lives.

One media clip Dr Root showed was from the bad reality tv show called "God or the Girl" in which a group of people we getting together a few weeks before move in day at a college to plan their "evangelism strategy" and the woman in charge of the meeting was saying things like "put your smiles on" "take them out for ice cream" "play frisbee with them" "become their friend" and then "out of loyalty to me, they will come to bible study."  Now this clip made me squirm because it reminded me too uncomfortable about my days in Campus Crusade for Christ and how they would plan returning students to live on each floor of each dorm in the hopes to get new freshmen and then they would have events each weekend.  I found out once I was more involved that this was because they wanted to basically make it that new students became so entrenched that their only friends were in the group and therefore they would keep showing up.  Granted I'm sure they would never put it this way.

Anyway my point of referring to this clip is that is one extreme of having a relationship for the sake of a specific outcome.  But it happens all the time, we hope to persuade friends one direction or the other, but to do it intentionally "for the sake of the gospel" often is more detrimental in the long run.  People find out that they have been set up and once the friendship seems phony, often the gospel comes off that way too.  

If you are in the area, check out the upcoming youth ministry forums at Yale Div, hopefully I'll see you there. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

MMC: Calling the Disciples

 Good morning Bethlehem

I'm sure many of you are riding high after wins by New England and the Giants this weekend or you are basking in the after-glow of the Golden Globes last night.  And I'm sure even more of you are enjoying this day of celebration as our nation remembers the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.  Please take a moment today to not just give thanks for his life and the many ways our country has changed as a result of his ministry but to also continue his message.  One of MLK's many quotable quotes is this:  "If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?" But the good Samaritan reversed the question: "If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?"  So who can you help today to change that person's life?

A Few Announcements
Senior Lunch Wed Jan 4, noon at – East Ridge CafĂ© in Ridgefield
Grow 2 Gather Sunday Jan 22 9am
Worship Committee Meeting Sunday Jan 22, after worship
American Red Cross Blood Drive sponsored by Girl Scout Troop 50122 will be at First Church of Christ Congregational, 25 Cross HighwayRedding on Friday, January 20th, from 1:45 - 6:45  Walk-ins welcome or donors can make an appointment at or by calling 1-800-733-2767 Reward: A coupon for a free pound of Dunkin' Donuts coffee (Give a pint, get a pound!)


Book of Faith Puzzler
The question from last week: In Acts 8, where does Philip baptize the Ethiopian eunuch? A)In the River Jordan B)In the sea of Galilee C)In the Dead Sea D)In some water near the road
In Acts 8:26-40, it tells of Phillip being sent by an angel of the Lord to the road between Jerusalem & Gaza where he came across an Ethiopian eunuch who wished to be baptized.  In verse 36, “as they were going along the road, they came to some water.” and the Ethiopian was baptized.  This was probably more than just a puddle as he “came up out of the water” put otherwise we do not know how great the body of water was.  Congratulations to this week's winner Dorothy H. 

This week’s question:  In the gospel of John, Andrew, Simon Peter, Philip and Nathanael were the first disciples to follow Jesus.  Who were the first disciples to follow Jesus in Mark (hint look near the beginning).  A)Simon, Andrew, James & John B) James, John, Bartholomew & Matthew C) Andrew, Simon, Thomas & Jude D) Judas, Philip, Matthew, Mark.
Email me your answer by noon on Wednesday to be entered into this week's drawing. 

Yesterday's Sermon
As I mentioned yesterday in worship, I was struggling all week about my sermon. And then it came together during our first hymn when we sang the line "Will you love the you you hid, if I but call your name?"  You can read more about this process here.  What is the you that you hid?  How do you hid it?  Who is the true you that Jesus is saying "follow me" to?

Serving on Sunday
The following people have signed up to serve in worship this coming Sunday
Worship Assist: Mark H
Reader: Paul B
Communion Assistant: Heloisa H
Ushers_____ & _______
Communion set up:________
Counter: Nancy B
Coffee Hour Host: Barbara & Nini C

If you are able to serve in one of the ways that is currently blank, please let me know

Sunday's Texts
As we continue this season after Epiphany, our stories continue with themes of calling, this time we hear about Jonah and some of Jesus' first disciples.  
The first reading is Jonah 3:1-5, 10.  Jonah really is a funny book.  Personally I think that if you don't laugh while reading it, you either don't get it or you are taking your faith much too seriously.  Here is a guy who is told by God to go to Nineveh but he runs the other way, gets thrown out of the boat, swallowed by a fish and then given a 2nd chance by God to go to Nineveh.  This time he goes and while he doesn't preach exactly what God tells him to, he tells the city that they are doomed.  Within a day the people repent and then Jonah gets upset because God decided not to destroy the city.  When has God given you a second chance?  (or a third? or a fourth?) Have you ever changed your ways (repented) after being warned that your current actions were going to cause you to be destroyed?

The second reading is 1 Corinthians 7:29-31.  Paul says that if we are married or mourning or rejoice or rich, that we should not act that way because the world is passing away.  Paul thought that Jesus was coming back in his lifetime, but now 2000 years later, Jesus has not returned and we, as humans, live life including marriage, and mourning & rejoice and even buying things.  How do you keep in tension that the fact that we are living life as God has created us, but Jesus is coming?

The gospel is Mark 1:14-20.  Jesus calls 4 disciples who all leave their nets, boats and family and follow Jesus.  Are you called to leave behind part of your life to follow Jesus? Or can you follow Jesus while still keeping your career, your family, your life?
Hope you have a great week!
~Pastor Becca

And It All Came Together

I was struggling all week with how exactly I wanted to approach the sermon.  Three of Sunday's readings were about God calling us: Samuel being called by God (1 Samuel 3:1-20), a praise of God for searching us out and knowing who we are even when we do not (Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18) and Jesus calling the first disciples (John 1:35-51).  But there are four lessons and that one can be sung "One of these things is not like the others, one of these things doesn't belong" - 1 Corinthians 6:12-20, Paul writing against fornication as it is a sin against the body.

It was however that 1 Corinthians reading that struck me in the light of the others.  That God is calling our whole selves to follow Christ, not just part of us.  And when we escape through sins such as sexual fornication, but you can add drug & alcohol addiction, fornication with money, even giving into peer pressure and acting in ways that are not our true self, then we are not able to truly follow Christ.

And so I struggled all week as I tried to express this.  I wrote one version of the sermon, but wasn't a real fan of what I wrote.  And on Saturday I heavily edited it and added to it.  But still I didn't like what I wrote.

And then it all came together as God and God's word struck me through song.  Our first hymn was The Summons or as it is better known as Will You Come and Follow Me.  The 4th verse has a line "will you love the you you hid if I but call your name?"  And that is the nugget that I needed, the phrase that pulled my entire sermon together.

We hid behind sin, or behind ways that we feel that we should act, through peer pressure, through how the media portrays people.  We feel like we can't truly be disciples of Jesus because we aren't willing, or don't feel called to be the person who asks people on the street corner if they have accepted Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior.  Or the person who takes a knee and prays in the endzone in front of millions of people.  Or the person who can follow blindly, without questioning what the church or what Jesus truly means.  And yet Jesus doesn't want us to act that way.  Jesus doesn't want us to be someone we are not.  Jesus wants us, our true selves to follow him.  Jesus wants the person who we often hid to follow him because that if we are too busy hiding we aren't able to come and see.

And so my sermon was re-written, in the moment, in the midst of this song, in the midst of hearing the congregation sing God's Word to me so that we were able to preach the damn gospel together in conversation.

Friday, January 13, 2012

I have been happily stitching away on both my PhD project and my travel projects and thought I would post a few updates. 

I'm getting to the point that I getting antsy to finish the first page of pattern of the PhD project - though it still doesn't look like much considering it is just a wall.

I also have made some progress on the "Pray without Ceasing" travel project I've been working on at Stitch & Bitch.  
I'll probably finish the skin this week - thank God, there is only so much flesh tone stitching I can take and be able to start the shirt.  My goal is to be able to finish it up while at Baby Pastor School the week of the 23rd. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

I'm Cool

I'm sure you already knew that.  ;-)

But I'm stating it today because my friend Joe over at Lutheran Grilled Cheese has asked me to be an occasional guest blogger and write about the spiritual practice of identify God active in your life - or as I more commonly say "Where have you seen God this week?"  Check it out.

Monday, January 9, 2012

MMC: Calling and Being Yourself

Good Morning Everyone

I hope you having a good start to the week and a good start to 2012.

A Few Announcements:
ARE Conference Call Monday Jan 9, 7pm
Confirmation  Tuesday Jan 10, 6pm
Council Sunday Jan 15, after worship
American Red Cross Blood Drive sponsored by Girl Scout Troop 50122 will be at First Church of Christ Congregational, 25 Cross Highway, Redding on Friday, January 20th, from 1:45 - 6:45  Walk-ins welcome or donors can make an appointment at or by calling 1-800-733-2767 Reward: A coupon for a free pound of Dunkin' Donuts coffee (Give a pint, get a pound!)

Book of Faith Puzzler
The question from last week: How many days after his birth to the Magi come bearing gifts to Jesus? A)3 B)7 C)12 D)40 E)We don’t’ know
According to scripture, Jesus was circumcised when he was 8 days old (Luke 2:21) and presented in the temple when he was 40 days old (Luke 2:22).  Herod asked the Magi when they had first seen the star (Matthew 2:7) and on that basis killed all the boy age two and under (Matthew 2:16).  So based on that information, Jesus was between the ages of 41 days and 2 years old – so really we don’t know how old Jesus was when the Magi came to visit.  No one won this week's puzzler, which means more bread for me. 

This week’s question:  In Acts 8, where does Philip baptize the Ethiopian eunuch? A)In the River Jordan B)In the sea of Galilee C)In the Dead Sea D)In some water near the road  Look up the chapter and send me your answer by noon on Wednesday to be entered into this week's drawing. 

Yesterday's sermon
Yesterday's sermon was very different - pure complete conversation about baptism.  You and read my recap about the dialog on my blog here. Where you not here and have your own thought about baptism?  Did you think of another point/question after we ended or too shy to speak up?  If so please send me any additional thoughts you have.  Also are there topics that you would like to discuss, let me know what questions you are pondering so we can ponder them together.

Serving this Sunday
We again have a week were few people have signed up to serve in worship (Barbara C has volunteered to count the offering).  Otherwise the following positions are available for volunteers:
Worship Assistant
Communion Assistant
Ushers (2 people)
Communion set up/clean up
Coffee Hour Host

Please let me know if you are willing to serve in one of these ways.

Sunday's TextsAs we are in the season after Epiphany, we hear stories of baptism, calling and light.  This week we hear a lot about God calling people.

The first reading is 1 Samuel 3:1-20.  Four times God calls Samuel and the first three times Samuel thought it was his mentor/employer Eli.  Have you ever had God call you but you thought it was something/someone else?  Or have you ever turned from following God's call because it was easier or less scary?

The second reading is 1 Corinthians 6:12-20.  Paul uses the sins of fornication and prostitution to illustrate that God wants our whole bodies and lives to follow Christ, not just part of us.  As we have recently heard about a Catholic bishop who announced he had multiple teenage children or find out that other Christian leaders actually have secret lives, society often marks them as hypocrites.  Yet God calls all of us to fully worship him with every part of our lives - not just Sunday Mornings.  How then are we hypocritical in this faith? and how can we by claiming those inconsistencies help others in their faith?  I will start this conversation - I swear like a sailor and can be quite irreverent in my faith (have you seen the collection of Jesus toys I have in my office?).  And yet because I am this way, I feel like I can actually speak of faith to those who feel they are not "holy enough" without making myself seem superior.  The great question is - should I change my behavior to be more in line with biblical teaching or should I be true to myself which often is greater in sharing the faith?

The gospel for Sunday John 1:43-51.  Jesus calls Philip as a disciple and Philip, in turns, calls his friend Nathanael to join him.    Philip doesn't ask Nathanael to change his mind set before he see Jesus, nor does Jesus ask him to do this after they meet, instead Philip tells Nathanael to come and see Jesus and Jesus flatters him.  Who are you inviting to come see Jesus?

Hope you all have a great week and that you are inviting others to come and see
~Pastor Becca

Shortest Sermon EVER!

Yesterday I had probably the shortest written sermon EVER - in the history of the world.  In fact I felt guilty printing it out it was so short.  It only consisted of 3 questions.

  • What is baptism?
  • What does baptism do?
  • Why do we baptize?
On the Sunday when the church celebrates the Baptism of Jesus and the gospel was Mark 1:1-13, I thought it was appropriate to have a discussion about what baptism means for us as individuals and as the church universal.  

So what did we actually discuss?

Well I first asked "what is baptism?" got a few blank stares so started instead with "Why do we baptize?"  I have to say I was kind of shocked where the conversation started - it started with legit theological reasons.  Any pastor can tell you those often are not the reason that parents bring their child to be baptized.  In fact I had to go fishing for those reasons - because Grandma will be upset, because it is tradition, because by having  the child baptized it will keep them from hell, or ward off the devil.  Instead the reasons I was first given was - because Jesus commands it (Matthew 28:19), because it is a sign of God's grace that should be given to all, because it is a sign of our faith - are ones that would make many pastors sing if a parent came to them with that reasoning for having their child baptized.

So then we moved to "What is baptism?" and referenced Luther's Small Catechism in which Luther says baptism is water and the Word of God.  We also discussed how it is a sacrament and compared it to the other sacrament of Communion.  

And "What does baptism do?" Well it is in baptism that God claims us as sons and daughters.  It is in baptism that we are given a tangible moment of God's love and grace for us.  In witnessing a baptism, we are reminded of our own baptism, that God's love us so much to claim us as a son or daughter and if we cannot actually remember our baptism we are reminded that someone loved us so much to bring us to be baptized so we would never not know that love.

I must admit, I was a little afraid to do this.  I have been asking questions in my sermons for, well, just about as long as I have been at Bethlehem.  But they started out as almost rhetorical - yes I wanted actual answers but they didn't change where I was going with the sermon - maybe I would use the answers as examples later in the sermon.  And even of late, when I have had more conversational sermons, I still have started out with some content.

And you would think 3 questions would mean that I would have spent less time preparing for this sermon than normal - well no.  I knew on Tuesday that these questions would be my sermon but since then I have read commentaries, I read the baptism sections of Luther's small & large catechism, I listened to podcast commentaries on the texts and I didn't get to as much as I wanted to.  I wanted to take time to read the BEM document from the World Council of Churches (BEM stands for Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry) and read a little book that the congregation often gives to families when they are preparing for a baptism.

So will I do this completely conversational sermon again - without a doubt.  Just about ever person in the sanctuary on Sunday was engaged in the conversation - that hardly ever happens in a traditional sermon.  People were actually thinking about what baptism is, why do we do this funny rite.  Questions were asked that were left hanging for future sermons - adult only baptism verse infant, how much water is needed - and many people were shocked that in case of eminent death anyone can baptize.   Realizing that faith practices have reach this inner place of knowledge and having the two connect is a goal of mine and this style of sermon worked so much better than a traditional sermon ever would. 

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Adventures in Childhood Part 2

Since Bob was going to have to stay in France for Christmas, my parents decided to come out to visit.  They ended up coming up the Tuesday before Christmas, late, it was actually Wednesday before we got back to the house from the airport.  And they just left on Thursday morning.  Yeah going from living alone to having two additional people in my house, and parents at that, for over two weeks was a little rough, but actually things went better than I expected.

Other than worship, we had a few adventures in the area, mainly in New York.

My parents at Rockefeller Center
The Wednesday after Christmas we went to Manhattan and walked around.  We started at Grand Central, went up to Rockefeller Center, hit the northern end of Times Square (God I hate that place), walked through Columbus Circle and explored Lincoln Center a bit.  We then took the subway up a few stops, walked across the park.  We had hoped to get into the Guggenheim but the line was around the block so we went to the Met instead. There we mainly explored the American Wing and then I showed my parents the Ancient Near East stuff so they can see what Bob studies.  We also stopped by Macy's to see the windows before we took the train back home.
We spent two days exploring some of the towns around the Hudson - New Paltz, Tarryville, and a few others that I can't remember the name of.

Mainly we just took time relaxing and shopping and enjoying each others company - well when I wasn't kicking them out of the house to do something or hiding at the church getting work done. So maybe I am growing up a little.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Works in Progess

About a week before Christmas I finally started on my PhD project, granted I got all about 20 stitches in before Christmas.  However this pass two week, while my parents were visiting, most evenings we would spend some time sitting around the table working on our various stitching.  Well really my mom would fall asleep on the couch but my dad would work on his project and I got some stitching done on my PhD project. 

Someday it will look like this: 

But for now it looks like this:

I've only had one problem thus far.  The chart has what I'm dubbing normal colons, overweight colons and obese colons (really bold and super bold).  I didn't realize this and ended up stitching about 100-150 obese colons were the overweight ones should have been.  If the colors were close I would have let it be but the obese is a dark grey and the overweight ones are a light blue.  And of course I didn't notice this until I had already stitched about 10 other colors so I couldn't just stitch backwards.  Oh well.  Now I know to be careful with colons.  

Otherwise I'm loving how the stitching is working up.  The colors are beautiful and on 20 count fabric the stitches are nice and full with none of the fabric showing through. 

But since this project is so huge, it is only for home.  So the other week when I was headed to Stitch and Bitch I realize that I didn't have a project to bring with me.  So I went through my stash and found a project half done in my stash.  It is probably close to 10 years old and I don't remember working on it at all.  So this will be my travel project for the time being. 

Here it is before Stitch & Bitch last night. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

MMC: Baptism & the New Year

Good afternoon & Happy New Year!

I hope that you are all are adjusting to life post-holidays as the kids have gone back to school, you've gone back to work or company has gone back to their homes.  

A Few Quick Announcements
  • Grow 2 Gather is this Sunday at 9am.  We will be hearing the story of Jesus' baptism and discussing the symbols of baptism as we make a reminder that we are loved children of God. 
  • Confirmation is NEXT Tuesday, January 10th at 6pm.  
  • If you ordered poinsettias, they are available to take home.  If you forgot what size you ordered, please ask. 
Book of Faith Puzzler
The puzzler from the last Sunday in Advent was: What is the longest the season of Advent can be? A)24 days B) 25 days C)28 days D)30 days. 

Advent starts 4 Sundays before Christmas, regardless of what day of the week Christmas is on.  This year since Christmas was on a Sunday, we had 4 full weeks of Advent, or 28 days, the longest Advent can be.  Congratulations to Ryan and Tiina H for being our winners as they duked it out and hurried to be able to count the calendar the quickest.

You should also come to worship as you never know when I'll surprise you with a bonus question and you can receive a loaf of bread on the spot.  This week's bonus question was: Sunday was the 8th day of Christmas.  What happened to Jesus 8 days after he was born?  Well my dad answered the question, even though it was his bread I was giving away, which was that Jesus was circumcised when he was 8 days old as was and is customary in the Jewish tradition.  Mark H stepped in and stole his answer in order to receive the loaf of bread. 

This week’s question:  How many days after his birth to the Magi come bearing gifts to Jesus? A)3 B)7 C)12 D)40 E)We don’t’ know  If you know the answer or willing to look it up email me by noon on THURSDAY (yep you get an extra day this week).  Thus far I haven't received any answers for this question and I have a loaf of my dad' bird seed bread sitting waiting to be given away plus I haven't baked in over 2 weeks now. 

Serving on Sunday
The sign up sheet for Sunday is blank except that Ryan H has volunteered to be the worship assistant.  If you are willing to read, usher, count, serve coffee hour, assist with communion or set up for communion, please let me know.  Try something new this year and volunteer to serve in a way that you have not served 

Sunday's Text
This Sunday we celebrate Baptism of our Lord and many of the readings concern baptism and water: Genesis 1:1-8Acts 19:1-7 and Mark 1:1-13.  I have 3 main questions for you: What is baptism? What does baptism do? Why do we baptize?  Think about those this week as we prepare to discuss Jesus' baptism along with our own this week.

Have a blessed week
~Pastor Becca