As I said in last Sunday’s sermon regarding the Pope’s visit to America, “We like this Pope.” He seems to embody Jesus’ call to service and to leading by being least and last. His gesture to eat lunch with the poor and homeless in Washington, D.C. was a powerful witness. In an age where most of what we read about Christianity is about Christians being mean and judgmental, it’s refreshing to see this side of the Pope getting air time.
Maybe we like him so much because here is a person who has reached the pinnacle of his profession and instead of grabbing for all the privileges offered to him, the Pope is offering himself for others. And frankly, that resonates with us because it is something we do well here at First Congregational. Much of our work as a congregation is focused on giving ourselves for others. We’ve had 200 people show up the last two months for the mobile food pantry that we host and staff along with Eastern students. Our shops are providing clothing for children and adults at minimal cost. We host the Interfaith Sewing Group and several of our members work with them providing school bags and kits for Church World Service, baptismal gowns for Haiti and a host of other projects. We are heavily involved with the work of Windham Area Interfaith Ministries (WAIM) and support the No Freeze Shelter and the Covenant Soup Kitchen. Our ministry parallels much of the Pope’s witness and we respond positively.
But we also have a witness that is beyond the Pope and the Roman Catholic tradition. We recognize the full value and capability of women and take the ordination of women as natural and positive. We go beyond an absence of condemnation to give open welcome to LGBTQ individuals and support and offer marriage celebrations for them. So we celebrate the servant witness of Pope Francis while also having our own distinct and valuable witness for Christ in the world. Let us continue to work with all people of faith, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, etc… to transform the world for God’s love, grace and justice.
Summer is a great time to relax, renew and refresh. Family vacations, summer camps, and unscheduled time are often part of summer. Just to be out of routine provides a change that can help us feel more relaxed about life.
But now school reopens and life seems to shift gears for us and for those around us. Reluctantly, students may go back to school and we may come back from vacation. Despite this, the opportunity to see friends and reunite can also be a time of excitement.
As we come back to church after our traveling summer activities we come back to a loving community of faith. Here we find support for life with all of its joys and challenges. Here we have the opportunity to learn and mature no matter what our age.
September is a time of friendship and community. We celebrate Rally Day with a unified worship experience and a church family picnic. Church School begins and children and families become more active. We receive new members into our church family. Come back, join in. Together we help ourselves and others know, “NO MATTER WHO YOU ARE, OR WHERE YOU ARE ON LIFE’S JOURNEY, YOU ARE WELCOME HERE!”
11am Combine Worship Service
12pm Church School Registration
Picnic to Follow
Church School begins Sept. 20 at 11:15
Our church school backgrounds can give us great preparation for our faith. We often learn the stories of the Bible that can then be resources that we draw on for the rest of our lives. But to be useful in our adult life these stories need to be reexamined and explored at greater depth than we were capable of when we first learned them. While we may think of them as nice children’s stories often the Bible passages were meant to handle much more grown up problems.
A case in point is the new movie, “Noah”. There has been much criticism leveled at the movie and its presentation of the story. But the real contrast may be between the movie and the version of the story we first learned as an elementary student. While the animals coming two by two, a dove discovering dry land and a rainbow appearance can be cute, the story in the Bible is much more involved. The real story may be too mature for a Sunday School audience. The real story may wrestle with questions that only adults can really handle. And it may be over our heads as well.
On May 18th we will shape our worship around the Noah story. I invite you to see the movie first if you would like to. I invite you to read the story again for yourself. Let’s build on the foundations of our faith to bring maturity and depth for our adult lives.
As I sit and write this, many of us are tired of what seems like a very long and brutally cold winter. We hope for spring! But we don’t get spring. Even toward the end of March the frigid temperatures persist and we find ourselves fortunate to be just missed by what forecasters were calling a Nor’easter bomb. Despite the cold, we still hope for spring.
As we enter April, we come to the most significant time of the Christian year as we celebrate Palm Sunday, Holy Week and Easter. We remember that 2,000 years ago people were hoping for the Messiah. Some thought they had discovered him in Jesus of Nazareth and looked forward to the culmination of God’s plans only to have their hopes dashed when he was crucified by the Romans. And then came Easter. The impossible happened and hope was restored.
Our own lives reflect the disappointed longing for spring, the emotional roller coaster of Holy Week. We may have times where we feel our lives are finally ordered, steady and complete. But then disaster or disappointment hit us when we least expect it. Overwhelmed we may see no way out. God is there to see us through though. Hope can be reborn. Resurrections can happen in our own lives.
Join us for worship during Holy Week and Easter to confront the painful realities of our own lives and the hope that God can bring us.