Cherubs and Grace Notes Cancelled for September 8

Due to unforeseen circumstances we have had to cancel the Cherub and Grace Notes choirs for Monday, September 8. We hope to have the choirs as scheduled on September 15.

Registration for 2014-15 Program Year Continues

Registration for Church School, Children’s Choirs, Confirmation, Guppies, JYG, MSYG, and YG continues. We are so excited for the fall to begin and hope you will register for some of our great programs for Children and Youth!

Church School Registration Form Church School Behavior Covenant
Confirmation Children’s Choirs
Guppies JYG
MSYG YG

 

Kickoff Sunday is September 7!

Please join us for Kickoff Sunday, this Sunday, September 7. Worship Services will be held at 8:00, 9:30, and 11:15am. Church School kicks off for the year at the 9:30am service.

A Kickoff Brunch will be held on the Church grounds at 10:30am. Last names A-J please bring fruit; K-Z please bring a pre-sliced breakfast baked good.

Also during the brunch, the Park Street Parsonage will be open: walk through and learn about plans for a renovation and capital campaign.

The 8:00am worship service has been so popular over the summer that we have decided to carry that format into the fall! We will continue to gather in the Memorial Garden in the fall (as long as weather allows), communion will be served by intinction each week, and there will by hymns with piano accompaniment. All are encouraged to come and experience this lovely time of worship!

High School Assistants Needed for Sunday Mornings

Our Preschool and Kindergarten classes benefit from an additional welcoming presence in their classrooms through our High School Assistant Program. Over twenty-five of our youth volunteer their Sunday mornings to assist our teaching teams.   It’s been a mutually-enriching and comforting experience for both the children and the high school assistants as they enjoy crafts, music and bible stories together in the classroom.

Please contact Kelly McGinn at churchschool@godsacre.org if you or your high school aged child is interested.  Thanks!

Summer Book Group

critical_journeyJoin Rev. Dr. Anne W. Coffman and Rev. Jonah Smith-Bartlett who will co-lead a summer book study of The Critical Journey: Stages in the Life of Faith beginning Sunday, July 13 and running through Sunday, August 23.  The group will meet each Sunday at at 9:00am in the Library, and childcare will be available.  Copies of the book are available in the Church Office for $20 each.

June 29, 2014 Sermon

Sermon

“As God Welcomes Us”

June 29, 2014

The Rev. Chris M. Delmar 

Matthew 10:40-42   (Page 11 of the NT)

40 ‘Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; 42and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.’

 

Will you pray with me?

 

Gracious and loving God, open our hearts and minds to embrace what your Spirit is speaking to us today.  And may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable to you O God, for you are our strength and our redeemer.  Amen.

 

 

“As God Welcomes Us”

 

In this second week of summer, I have been thinking a lot about teams.  Our U.S. team in the World Cup (how exciting is that, that they are still in the game!).  And also our mission teams:  our intrepid OG (Old Group) who have journeyed thousands of miles to Kenya to work with our Maasai partners, and our high school Questers serving in the Rockaways on post Sandy repairs.

Both out in the greater mission field in response to God’s call.  And as I have been holding all of them close in prayer, I’ve also been thinking about the faithful remnant, the church team, here back home, including you and me.

 

Some folks have said to me that they wish they could have gone on the OG trip, but they couldn’t afford it, or they couldn’t get away due to other commitments, or they didn’t understand the need for mission work so far away when there are many needs closer to home, or they were afraid to take the risk of going to Kenya at this time, given recent travel warnings. I am happy to report that the OG team is safe and doing well, and if you are on Facebook, you can check out the pictures and videos that both teams have posted there.

 

Today’s Gospel reading draws our attention to the first mission team of nearly 2,000 years ago.

Twelve people handpicked by Jesus to join in proclaiming that the kingdom of God has come near—in curing the sick, raising the dead, and casting out demons.   As you may recall, the twelve were not highly educated or sophisticated.  They were from the lowest and least powerful socio-economic strata: fishermen and peasants, and in the case of the apostle Matthew,

a reviled tax collector.  They had absolutely zero experience in casting out demons or raising the dead, so they hardly seemed qualified to take on what Jesus was calling them to accomplish.

Their apparent lack of credentials reminds me of a joke that Levora D’Acosta shared with me—about imaginary consultants giving Jesus their professional assessment of those he had selected for his team:

 

“Memo To: Jesus Nazareth

 

Thank you for submitting the resumes of the twelve men you have picked for management positions in your new organization.  All of them have now taken our battery of tests; and we have not only run the results through our computer, but also arranged personal interviews for each of them with our psychologist and vocational aptitude consultant.

 

It is our opinion than most of your nominees are lacking in background, education, and aptitude for the type of enterprise you are undertaking.

 

Simon Peter is emotionally unstable and given to fits of temper.  Andrew has no qualities of leadership.  The two brothers, James and John, place personal interests above company loyalty.  Thomas shows a questioning attitude that could undermine morale.  Matthew has been blacklisted by the Greater Jerusalem Better Business Bureau.  James, the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus have radical leanings, and they both registered a high score on the manic-depressive scale.

 

One of the candidates, however, shows great potential. He is a man of ability and resourcefulness, meets people well, has a keen business mind and has contacts in high places.  We therefore highly recommend Judas Iscariot as your controller and right hand man.

 

Wishing you every success in your new venture.
Jordan Management Consultants”

 

I know from my husband, Dan, a real-life Management Consultant that CEO’s sometimes choose a different direction than what consultants recommend.  But Jesus knew what he was doing.  He didn’t need highly credentialed or powerful people. He just needed ordinary folks open to his

teachings about God’s dream for the world, and who were willing to serve with him on behalf of that divinely given vision.  And not without cost or risk to themselves, for they drop everything to go with him, with little more than the shirts on their backs.

 

Today’s reading is only three short verses, but it provides much for us to reflect on as we seek to better understand our own call as followers of Christ.  To fully appreciate this passage, we need to review its context, as we have not been hearing the Matthew lectionary texts the past few weeks.

 

These words of Jesus conclude a long set of instructions to the apostles just before he sends them out on their debut mission trip.   Up to this point, Jesus has been travelling around, with the fledgling disciples in tow, teaching about God’s kingdom.  Through the Sermon on the Mount,

and by revealing the deep compassion and welcome of God’s realm: by healing the suffering crowds, restoring the outcasts to society, and giving them all hope that they are not only beloved to God, but that God was seeking to bring the world to wholeness, justice, and peace.

 

But Jesus had not yet sent the twelve out on their own.  So he now commissions them for mission work. Giving them power to heal in his name, telling them to travel light, to imitate what he, their teacher,  has demonstrated, and he warns them about the dangers they will face.  Jesus also assures them of God’s empowering strength and love, but then shocks them by saying that he has come not to bring peace, but a sword, that they will need to take up the cross, and find their lives by losing them!  Very challenging words indeed; some of the hardest of Jesus’ teachings about discipleship.

 

And then Jesus wraps up with these verses about welcoming those he sends as welcoming him and God, and giving a cup of cold water to little ones.  When he says “little ones,” he means the disciples, who are “little” because they are vulnerable folks who will endure much hardship, including hunger and thirst while they are on the road.  What he is doing, is introducing yet another dimension of faithful discipleship: welcoming those God sends to us.

 

I don’t know about you, but I find these verses somewhat of a relief.  Like a cup of refreshing water, for those of us trying to understand what Jesus wants from us.  Because taking up the cross and losing one’s life are so difficult to comprehend.  Not that these final words of instruction are without challenge.  But they help us to see that discipleship does not require only heroic acts or grand gestures, or only mission service far afield.  Those are all valid and significant ways to live out God’s call.  And don’t get me wrong.  I am not against mission trips.  They are very important and I have been on several myself, and they were very much a part of shaping my sense of call to ministry.  But I think what Jesus wants us to see that the Christian mission field is both broadly and closely drawn, and includes how we respond to God’s call right here on God’s Acre, and in the greater local area.

 

As sisters and brothers in Christ, we are all deeply loved and welcomed by God, and we are each called to share that love and welcome of God with others.  So we are all “missionaries” being sent out by God to proclaim the good news of Christ and to offer gifts of compassion.  As Barbara Brown Taylor writes, we are not only “consumers,” but “providers of God’s love.”  And Church is not a “hideout,” where we can “retreat just for our own safety and assurance, celebrating our good fortune of the many good gifts we have received through God’s welcome of us:  healing, forgiveness, restoration, and resurrection.”  Instead, as Taylor says, “the Holy Spirit comes knocking at the door, disturbing our members-only meeting and reminding us that it is time to share.”[1]

 

Jesus’ words about welcoming others push us to explore more deeply how we are to reach beyond ourselves.  Compassionate welcome—genuine, holy hospitality—is at the heart of the Gospel and at the heart of Christian faith, because it is what God is about and what Jesus modelled for us.  Evan Drake Howard writes, that Jesus “lived in this place of welcome

more than anyone ever has.”[2]  And as he is our teacher, we are to imitate his welcome.

 

It’s interesting that the United Church of Christ proclaims “extravagant” hospitality in its vision of the church, but Jesus doesn’t even speak of extravagance here; only of giving just one cold cup of water, which in the apostles’ day was literally life-giving for a thirsty missionary.  In our day, it would likely be a bottle of water (!), but it is also a metaphor for any service or kindness that meets someone’s immediate or essential need.   Even that much Jesus says will be rewarded and noticed by God.  Doesn’t sound that hard, does it?   Then what keeps us, I wonder, from being even more welcoming than we are?  And from recognizing that when we welcome those who Christ sends to us, we are welcoming him, and also God.

 

Several years ago, I led a Women’s Bible Study at another church.  The group quickly bonded and we were having a marvelous time sharing learning and fellowship together. On our third meeting, a petite woman, flamboyantly dressed, and almost childlike in demeanor, joined the group.   She spoke very slowly, often mispronouncing words and weeping as she talked about the Bible texts and what they meant to her.  She was hard to redirect, and the other women became impatient with her, and they asked me privately to rein her in.  When I talked with the woman afterwards, I learned that she had been severely abused by drug addicted parents.  Yet, she knew that she was loved and accepted by God, and called to help other people through the church and elsewhere.  I came to see that God had led her to the Bible Study not only so that she could continue to grow and heal from all that she had experienced, but also to teach us something about real hospitality. She didn’t need a literal cup of cold water, but she did need patient listening and compassionate welcome, which we slowly learned, with God’s help and grace, to give her.

 

Looking back, I think what kept us from being more welcoming initially and from seeing Christ in her, was that she was just so different.  She didn’t fit the profile of the group, or the church—

well-dressed, well-educated, and well-spoken people.  We were focused on our own needs and comfort, wanting our easy and smooth time together to continue uninterrupted.  And there was an undercurrent of fear also, because she was so openly vulnerable.  It isn’t always easy to welcome as Christ wants us to welcome, because it can be hard to get past ourselves

and our comfort zones.  And let’s face it; some people can be difficult to accept.  But also our pride, ego, self-interest, and fear of the stranger and the strange, can all keep us from extending

the kind of welcome Christ wants us to extend.

 

But, brothers and sisters, faithful discipleship always involves risk.  We hear more about the cost of discipleship, but this passage is about the risk of discipleship.  Whether it is travelling far afield on a mission trip, or welcoming someone closer to home very different from ourselves

who God leads to us, or leads us to.

 

If we open ourselves to genuinely welcoming another, and meeting an essential need they might have, whatever it might be, we are also opening ourselves to welcoming God through them and to God’s transforming grace.  For I find there is a life-giving mutuality that happens in genuine welcoming, and unexpected growth can occur for both giver and receiver.  Emily Townes writes,

“As we extend hospitality to others we may well find that we experience new insights and hear stories of faith that redirect our perceptions.  Such witness can stimulate our theological and spiritual imagination, so that we too become new beings.”[3]  This is the reward that Jesus is inviting us into.  That as we give of ourselves to others, in life-giving ways, we too find our lives.

 

This church does a lot through mission service, but I encourage you this morning to think about how God might be calling each of us and our church to offer a cup of cold water to others.  It is not hard to offer at least that much to someone.  We just need to look around us to see who is in need and then do something about it.  And dear ones, there are so many needs right here in this church, and right outside our doors.  I get calls all the time.  From folks who need help with shelter and sustenance, or making ends meet, due to the lingering effects of the recession.  Many of us have been materially blessed in the past few years, but not all.  And there are also those who just need a word of encouragement or a safe, nonjudgmental listening heart, because they are carrying other heavy burdens of mind or spirit.  If you’re not sure how God might be encouraging you to offer a cup of cold water to someone, come and talk with me or any of the pastors.  We would be happy to explore this together with you.

 

All of us need to ask for God’s grace and God’s help to open our eyes and hearts to the needs of others, and to give us courage to get beyond our own fears of the stranger or our fear of being changed, so that we might respond from a place of deep welcome, as God through Christ so deeply welcomes us.  For when we offer a life-giving cup of water to someone, whatever it might be, we come a little closer to God’s realm of healing, wholeness, peace, and justice for all of God’s beloved people, including you and me, and we receive the reward that really matters.  God’s blessing of true life.  Amen.

 

[1] Barbara Brown Taylor as quoted by  Kathryn Matthews Huey, “Welcoming Ways,” Sermon Seeds, www.ucc.og/worship/samuel/june-29-2014.html

[2] Evan Drake Howard, “Reflections on the Lectionary: Sunday June, 29, Matthew 10:40-42,” Christian Century, June 17, 2008, p. 21.

[3] Emily M. Townes, “Matthew 10:40-42, Theological Perspective,” Feasting on the Word, Year A (2011), p. 192

Tracking our Missionaries

This week we have two groups on Mission Trips. OG, or “Old Group”, is in Kenya building a library and dormitory for our Maasai friends.  Quest, a high school group, is in Rockaway, New York working to restore houses damaged by Superstorm Sandy. Pictures of both groups are available only on our Church Facebook page at www.facebook.com/CCNC1733 – and you do not need to be a member of Facebook to view the pictures. We’re hoping to have new pictures from both groups throughout the week, so be sure to check back from time to time!

OG Mission Trip

The OG Mission Trip to Kenya leaves June 21.

While there, the team will be working to build a dormitory and library for The Beloved Daughters of the Maasai Rescue Center. To help buy books to fill their library shelves, stop by the Missions and Outreach table in Smith Hall during May and June, or contact Marianna Kilbride for more information at marianna@godsacre.org. We are also collecting new or lightly used shoes for our Maasai friends. Drop them in the box in Smith Hall and as many as can be carried will be on the ground in Kenya on June 22.

Our Mission Team: Jean Barden, Diana Beecher, Roger Bolton, Anne Coffman,Katrina Conde, Joellen Ford, Jeff Hemmings, Maria hemmings, Stephanie Joyce, Marianna Kilbride, Frank Lyon, Eleanor Monroe, PJ Montgomery, Carolyn Mulry,Holly Nelson, Rick Nelson, Beth Picard, William Picard, Paul Schimdt, Debbie Shew, Cindy Still, Mary Jane Swanson, and Neil Swanson.

You can get updates on their progress in Kenya on our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/CCNC1733

Summer Worship Schedule

From June 8 through August 31 we using our summer worship schedule.

The 8:00am Service of Worship will be held in the Garden, weather permitting. In case of rain or extreme heat the 8:00am service will be held in the Chapel.

The 10:00am Service of Worship will be held in the Meeting House.

Refreshments will be served at 9:00am in the Parlor, and Church School will be held at 10:00am.  Childcare is available in the nursery.

The list of Summer Musicians is as follows:

Date Musician(s)
June 15 Jenny D’Alba
June 22 Aram Tchobanian
June 29 Kathryn Crum
July 6 Aram Tchobanian
July 13 Paul Schmidt, organist; Lindsey Simpson
July 20 Jenny D’Alba
July 27 Paul Schmidt, organist; Tony Abate
August 3 Paul Schmidt, organist; Kathryn Crum
August 10 Lindsey Simpson
August 17 Tony Abate
August 24 Nancy Upton
August 31 Nancy Upton

 

2nd Annual MG Barbeque Dinner!

Men of the Church:
The weather’s warm and we’re always hungry – time for a BBQ! Join us for Ribs, fixin’s and FELLOWSHIP at the 2nd Annual MG Dinosaur BBQ Dinner!
When: Thursday evening, June 12
Where: Waveny House – on the West Patio
Fellowship Hour @ 6:00pm, Dinner served @ 7:00pm
Featuring fabulous food from Dinosaur Bar-B-Que!

$45 – everything included!
This will be our final dinner of the season so you won’t want to miss this one!

Please RSVP by June 9 to Don Moyle: donmoyle@gmail.com or (203)966-7472

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