From the Pastor's Study...

“Winter Lent”

    
     Our Christian year begins with Advent - a time of waiting in hopeful anticipation that human life will be different.  During this season, we prepare ourselves for the birth of Christ who is the fulfillment of God’s great promise and the very presence of God in our midst.

 

     It is not only a time of preparation, but also a season when we are to be introspective and penitent.  For that reason, it is often called “Winter Lent.”

 

     But let’s face it, who has time to sit quietly and enjoy meditative moments when we are bustling about shopping for that last-minute gift, driving children to pageant rehearsals, trimming the tree, baking several hundred cookies or writing a few dozen Christmas cards?

 

     Churches, like individuals, also can get swept up in December madness.  It is all too easy to become so focused on “doing” that we forget “to be” - to be quiet and calm, to be open to the mystery of the manger.

 

     Advent is a time of anticipation and preparation - a time to be theologically introspective.  It is a time to raise the hard questions:

 

  • What do I believe? 

 

  • Does this community of faith 
  • meet my spiritual needs? 

 

  • How do I live out my relationship
  • with Christ?

 

     My prayer is that in these weeks before Christmas we allow ourselves a  few precious moments to contemplate God’s special gift of love to us - God’s son - and that we know that  love through Advent and in all the seasons of our lives. 

                                             Yours in Christ, 

                                               Pastor Joyce
 
 

Another excerpt from “This Church” from Searching for Shalom by Ann Weems 

We don’t pretend to understand
      the mystery of what goes on
      in God’s Church.

 We just know we feel a pervading
      spirit of love that reaches
      into the niches of all of us
      and pulls us out into the open,
      free and alive and
      belonging.
 We believe this spirit of love exists
      within this Church,
      this unity of persons trying
      to be the Good News.
  We see this Church as a circle of persons
      holding hands…
      and dancing…
      supporting each other,
      accepting each other,
      loving each other.
 Each person in this dancing circle
      is facing outward…
      reaching into God’s world,
      listening for the whimpering,
      watching for the hurting,
      willing to offer a cup of cold water
      in His name.
 Sometimes they need the water;
      sometimes you need the water;
      sometimes I need the water. 
      Being a part of the Church means
      knowing that the cup is always filled
      in His name.

                                             Peace, Joyce

"This Church"

This month I will celebrate twelve years of being your pastor.  I thank God each day that I have been given the privilege of serving this church.  As I have mentioned a number of times, I’m very fond of Ann Weems’ writings.  So when I read her piece titled, “This Church,” I thought, “That sounds like Faith United.” 

This Church
We don’t pretend to understand the mystery
      of what goes on in God’s Church.
 We just know we feel a pervading spirit of love
      that reaches into the niches of all of us and
      pulls us out into the open, free and alive and
      belonging. 
We believe this spirit of love exists because
      God’s spirit lives within this church,
      this unity of persons trying to be the
      Good News.
 We see this Church as a circle of persons
      holding hands…and dancing…
      supporting each other,
      accepting each other,
      loving each other.
 
Each person in this dancing circle is facing
      outward…reaching into God’s world,
      listening for the whimpering,
      watching for the hurting,
      willing to offer a cup of cold water
      in His name. 1 
But, if I may be so bold as to add to Weems’ piece…
 
We are a church that nurtures our children
      so truth and wisdom takes root and
      grows strong in them.
      
With gratitude for allowing me to be your pastor,
 
Pastor Joyce

1 Ann Weems, Searching for Shalom (Louisville,
Westminster/John Knox Press, 1991), p. 54 
 

The Risen Christ invites us to join him at the Table! 

“…the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is broken for you.  Do this in remembrance of me.’  In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood.  Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’  For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”  - I Corinthians 11:23-26
 
On Maundy Thursday, we will remember the Passover meal Jesus celebrated with his disciples and the events that followed the Passover meal - Jesus’ arrest, his trial before Pontius Pilate and Herod, his agonizing death on the cross. We will remember that Judas betrayed him, Peter denied him, and most of his followers deserted him.
 
At the Lord’s Table on Maundy Thursday, we will remember Jesus’ words, “Do this in remembrance of me.”  We will remember his commands: “Follow me.” and “Love one another, as I have loved you.”  And we will remember his promise, “I am with you always to the end of the age.”
 
At the Table, we will remember, “Our Lord is Called Hope:” 1
 
 
      Our Lord was a Lord who turned things
          Upside down and inside out -
          A man who dined with sinners;
          A man who befriended prostitutes
          And tax collectors.
          A man who was called heretic;
          A man who broke the Sabbath rules;
          A man who changed water into wine.
      And he bids us to follow him -
          To turn things upside down and inside out;
          To go where the hurting is;
          To change water into wine;
          To change who we are into the
          Kingdom of God.
  
The Risen Christ invites us to join him at the Table; to come hear his pledge to us, “This is my body that is broken for you.  This cup is the new covenant in my blood.”  We are offered so much more than bread and the cup; we are offered forgiveness, life and hope.
 
Peace,
Pastor Joyce

1 Ann Weems, Searching for Shalom
  (Westminster/John Knox Press, 1991)

"Lent is for Listening"

The following poem was written by D. Jay Losher, Jr. and appeared in The Presbyterian Outlook (February 19, 2007).  Enjoy…
 
Lent is for listening.
 
     A season of hushed voices and uncomfortable 
     silences; of hearing and overhearing - hearing the 
     creak and groan of the church building; overhearing 
     the muffled cough, the stifled sigh - in worship, 
     the silenced infants cry.  
     Outside, the oblivious, uncooperative, noisy 
     world goes on.
 
Lent is for listening - forty days of listening.
 
     Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness ministered by 
     angels - tempted by evil itself.  After days upon 
     days of being alone but not lonely, after days upon 
     days of opened-up silence, the white noise fades, 
     and then its memories.  
     And Jesus heard, really heard, beyond the hunger,
     past the thirst, behind the silence, under the
     soundless, the voices of calm within.
 
Lent is for listening - forty days of listening.
 
     Moving us over, under, around, and through all 
     the noisome distractions encumbering our lives, 
     engulfing us – 
     For us to hear, really hear, behind 
     the silence, beyond the wordless, 
     the calm, compelling call of God.
 
Lent is for listening.
 
     Absorbing the change of colors in our banners –
     the purple mood of royal mourning.  
     Surprised by the dark wreath around the
     Christ Candle - a candle extinguished each 
     week closer to the cross.
 
Lent is for listening.
 
     Longingly, lovingly with great expectation to
     hear the very voice of God in the early dawn
     pronouncing victory over the ancient enemy:
          Death, where is your victory?!
          Death, where is your sting?!
 
Lent is for listening.

As we begin a new year...

Lord, our sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with honor and glory. 
- Psalm 8:1, 3-5
 
As we begin a new year, let us remember these words of the psalmist and not forget to celebrate God’s glory and rejoice in the God-given dignity of all human beings.  We can begin by resolving to praise and give thanks for God’s grace and steadfast love poured out to each and every one of us.  Make a special effort to invite someone to join you for the Sunday morning worship service.  This is a sacred time when we come together joining our voices with our brothers and sisters and all creation to say, “O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”
 
In this New Year, we can also resolve to pray for one another.  Look around the sanctuary on Sunday morning, choose someone, maybe someone you don’t know very well, make an effort to get to know them a little  better, and then pray for your “adopted” person.  Remember to pray for your children, tell them you love them.  And children, pray for your parents and give them thanks for all they do for you.
 
Give thanks for Bethlehem’s promise and pray for the fulfillment of God’s Kingdom of peace for this troubled world.  Especially pray for all those who are being persecuted or tormented because of their faith.  In many communities around the world, being identified as Christian is to invite scorn, rejection and ridicule.  Some are forced to flee their countries, leave homes where their children were  born and raised and their grandchildren now play.  Pray for those who are in prison cells because they claim Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior.  Pray also for those who persecute and imprison, that their hearts will be turned from hate to love by God’s Holy Spirit.  Remember when we pray for one another, those we know and those around the world, we are rejoicing in the God-given dignity of all human beings and strengthening the body of Christ.
 
My New Year prayer is to thank God for your God-given dignity and pray that you have a healthy, happy New Year filled with hope, joy and love.
 
Shalom,
Pastor Joyce

Advent...a time to contemplate God’s special gift of love to us...

Our Christian year begins with Advent - a time of waiting in hopeful anticipation that human life will be different.  During this season, we prepare ourselves for the birth of Christ who is the fulfillment of God’s great promise and the very presence of God in our midst.
 
It is not only a time of preparation, but also a season when we are to be introspective and penitent.  For that reason, it is often called “Winter Lent.”
 
But let’s face it, who has time to sit quietly and enjoy meditative moments when we are bustling about shopping for that last-minute gift, driving children to pageant rehearsals, trimming the tree, baking several hundred cookies or writing a few dozen Christmas cards?
 
Churches, like individuals, also can get swept up in December madness.  It is all too easy to become so focused on “doing” that we forget “to  be”- to be quiet and calm, to be open to the mystery of the manger.
 
Advent is a time of anticipation and preparation - a time to be theologically introspective.  It is a time to raise the hard questions:
  • What do I believe? 
  • Does this community of faith meet my spiritual needs? 
  • How do I live out my relationship with Christ?
My prayer is that in these weeks before Christmas we allow ourselves a few precious moments to contemplate God’s special gift of love to us - God’s son - and that we know that love through Advent and in all the seasons of our lives.
 
Yours in Christ,
Pastor Joyce

Why not…Just Do It? !

Everything we have comes from God.  Everything that is good and helpful is a gift from God.  Gifts that are given, not because we deserve them, but because God’s love is unconditional and abundant.  Our capacity to work and earn money is built upon gifts that we did not do anything to earn: intelligence, talent, health, and the opportunity for education.

On November 14th, we will be called to express our gratitude for God’s generous gifts by pledging our time, talent and treasure to build up the church - its programs and its mission in the community and around the world.  Why not…Just do it? ! 

Worship and Music

We have an outstanding music director and program which gives us great joy but, like everything else, the price of music continues to rise and the cost of maintaining the instruments also climbs.

Christian Education

Our Christian education of children and adults is superb.  But, here too, the cost of quality, teacher-friendly curriculum is quite high.

Mission and Outreach

We are commissioned to show the love of Jesus Christ to a world in need.  Faith Church enthusiastically supports mission projects such as Heifer International, City Mission, Cradle Beach, Hospice, AA, Habitat for Humanity, the Presbyterian Church (USA) mission programs and disaster relief programs.

Fellowship

We have a responsibility to love and care for one another.  Dinners, Movie Night, Broadway Night, tailgate parties and apple festivals all require time, talent and treasure.

Maintenance of the Building

The upkeep of the building and grounds is a major expense, but the largest portion of the church’s budget is its personnel costs and utility bills (which are rising).

A portion of our 2011 budget will come from the following:  Loose offerings, building rentals, fund raisers, Bridge Club, Home Crafters and gifts.

Stewardship involves how we use everything God has provided for us, including our planet and environment, our talents, our time, our ability to think and to feel and even our lives themselves.  Good stewardship is based in gratitude for all the gifts from God who makes all things possible!

Yours in Christ,
Pastor Joyce
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