During this Lenten season we’ve been doing a few different things on different Sundays. A couple weeks ago on the first Sunday in Lent we had a lay-lead ‘Brunch Worship’. The whole shared meal was shaped into worship with pieces of ritual/liturgy to begin and end and scripture-based conversation in the middle.
This Sunday (March 4th) we’ll use some prayers created for Amistad Sunday, lifting up the piece of our heritage shaped by our spiritual forebears’ defense of African slaves who took over the ship transporting them. On the 11th we’ll have a worship shaped around three different interactions with scripture and one another. On the 18th, people will offer their witness about favorite hymns.
And then it’s Holy Week. Palm Sunday on the 25th, with Condon UCC’s traditional Palm Sunday brunch, Maundy Thursday, and yes, Easter falls on April 1st this year!
The varied and randomly placed collection of candles offers an image of our varied and un-pigeon-holed lives—all of which bear the light of Christ within.
For those unable or who chose not to join us, here’s a link to the complete service. You are in our thoughts and prayers:
blue christmas 2017
Thursday December 21st 7:00P.M.
Not able to feel the “Holly-jolly Christmas” mood?
The Blue Christmas service recognizes that for many the holidays are a particularly hard time—perhaps because of a death or other loss, because of family tensions, or just the weight of expectation to be joyful when for whatever reason life is sad.
In this service, together, we can recognize this truth, support one another, and begin to taste God’s care in all the reality of our lives.
All are Welcome.
Advent is the season of anticipation, waiting, preparation. Interim ministry resonates strongly with this time. Part of preparing for new possibilities is both claiming and releasing present realities. There’s a tension here (isn’t there almost always?) This congregation is in an in-between, both-and place of deeply engaging with our shared ministry right now while also looking ahead toward a possible search and call process and settled, sustainable leadership. Yup, this is Advent stuff—the time in the church year when we particularly recall that God’s reign is both already present and not yet fully realized.
One of the Advent traditions is assigning themes—hope, peace, joy, love—to these four Sundays leading up to Christmas. One way we can try to dwell faithfully in in-between, both-and times is to back off a bit from struggling to figure things out, trying to nail down a meaning for these themes. Instead, we can rest a bit with non-verbal modes of presence. To that end, I’d like to offer to your imagination some images for Advent. I’m giving you words to call up images, because the best pictures are often in your own memory and imagination. So, as part of your Advent preparation, I invite you to take a few moments with these now, and dwell with each further on these Sundays and throughout the season.
Hope—a bit of green sprouting out of a dung ball.
Peace—a baby fallen asleep at its mother’s breast.
Love—the whole chocolate chip cookie, of which we are the bits.
Joy—a spring-snowmelt-rushing stream dappled in sunlight.
This past Sunday one of the things we talked about are ways we practice remembering and noticing the presence of God every day. This practice is foundational for a growing faith life. God is a deep mystery, at the same time closer than the closest friend, and so much more. We don’t come to a perfect relationship with God all at once; that relationship is a lifetime work. God is with us, eager to deepen our experience and trust. Daily practices are simple ways to do our part. They help us get below thinking about God and into the habit of feeling God’s presence always.
Many of us are used to the ideas of daily Bible reading, using a devotional guide like Upper Room, saying grace at meals. These are wonderful practices. Here are a few more that might be a bit different than what you’ve tried before:
- Every morning, as you rise from bed, say out loud the words of the psalm “This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.
- Set aside, in advance, one meal per week that you’ll eat in holy silence—no conversation, no TV, radio, computer, phone, no reading the paper—only full concentration on the blessing of the meal you are eating: noticing the taste and texture, remembering that all we have is God’s gift, offering thanks with each bite.
- Here’s a somewhat hard habit to start, but amazing when you remember: every doorway is a threshold; every moment is a threshold into new becoming in God’s ongoing creation. Every time you go through a door, any door, every door, take one intentional breath thinking “I breath in God’s blessing” and as you exhale thinking “I thank God for new life opening before me.”
- Try to reframe questions to be less about ourselves and more about God. Instead of “What do I want?” perhaps “What will deepen connections with God today?”
If you try any of these, let me know how it goes. I’ll just confess up front that I try all kinds of faith practices. Some of them I maintain well for years, others never quite take hold in my life, often my practices are spotty. It’s all good. No need to worry about feeling guilty. Just try something. God’s grace will find its way though even the smallest cracks in our too self-centered ways. Indeed, God is already closer to you than your own skin.
It’s full of contradictions, terrible behavior, implausible stories, and is a complete hodge-podge of differences all lumped together. Just like human life. Through it all flows hope, devotion, liberation. Just like human life.
I love the Bible precisely because it is a very human creation. It’s the testimony of people just like us who are trying their best to express how God is at work in their lives. They didn’t have all the answers any more than we do. They didn’t live perfect lives any more than we do. They did look for and find God’s transforming power at work right in the midst of their difficult humanity. Reading the Bible, we can look at our own lives the same way.
I love the Bible because it insists that we continue to interpret it in conversation with God’s working in our own times, in our lives as individuals and communities. If the Bible were one clean consistent set of doctrines and rules for life, we could claim we have it all figured out, nothing more to worry or wonder about. We could claim that we fully understood God’s way for us. We don’t. We are limited, fallible, small parts of creation. We don’t have the Creator in our pocket, understood, tame. God remains a wild mystery. The sprawling, wildly varied texts of the Bible invite, even demand, an ongoing openness to God still speaking to us in new ways through all these stories, sermons, songs—all that the Bible offers us.
I love the Bible because it challenges and sustains me. Often enough the call from scripture feels uncomfortably clear. Always the words of scripture offer me assurance of God’s complete love and faithfulness.
On the 24th, Pastor David will be attending the Annual Meeting of the UCC Central Pacific Conference in Pendleton, but we’ll still be worshiping together—sort of. The Conference has sent out ‘Worship in a Box’: an order of worship complete with prayers, hymns, scripture and a message. Condon UCC, along with other UCC churches around Oregon, Idaho, and Washington will join the people at the Annual Meeting in using the same resources that Sunday. Pretty cool idea.
The worship will include a simple song that’s probably new to most of us. You can get a head start learning it by listening to YouTube linked below: