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Doing Things Differently

A choir sings together. That is almost the definition of a choir! So, when schools shut down to slow the spread of the coronavirus in California, one would expect a school choir to be among the most obviously prevented from continuing. After all, how could they possibly sing together if they could not even be together?

Perhaps you know where this is going, because the story went viral. If not, click here and give it a listen!

Chino Valley USD

Rather than giving up, this group in the Chino Valley School District found a way through the obvious barrier that could have prevented them from being a choir. They did not get around it by neglecting the “social distancing” needed, but by using common technology, some out-of-the-box thinking, and presumably extra work to make it happen. And, while they were unable to perform at the choir festival as planned, this group has brought joy to many more because of how they responded.

What a great model! Right now we (individuals, households, cultures, organizations, states, countries, and the world as a whole) are trying to figure out how to do basic life stuff while avoiding group gatherings and generally maintaining physical distance from others. It is tempting to give up. After all, how could we possibly serve together, learn together, work together, worship together, grieve together, celebrate together, have fun together, etc., if we can’t even be together?

Life is different in these days of social distancing, and there are plenty of extra challenges. But let’s not let the obvious barriers keep us from living life. Let’s think in new ways and use the tools we have available to love well in every situation.

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Advent Blog

Glimpses: December 10, 2017

December 10 was the second Sunday of the Advent season, which is the four-ish weeks leading up to Christmas Day.  It is a time of waiting and reflection, remembering the years of waiting for the birth of Jesus, and recognizing also that we are waiting now for his return.

Mike preaching

So, what happened on that second Sunday of Advent? Sunday School classes continued in the Advent theme, including the children making shepherd’s crosses as an art project. Several enjoyed showing their work to adults and other friends after class. During 11am worship, Malachi and JJ read the Advent text and lit the two candles for the morning’s worship. Mike preached from Isaiah 40:1-11 about imagination and hope in such passages, and called us to respond with faith and action, preparing for and responding to Christ.

During these weeks of Advent, there are scripture readings each day. Here are the readings for this second week of Advent:

 

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Advent Blog

Faith of the Magi

men and camels“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, in the time of King Herod, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is the one who is born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” …. After listening to the king they left, and once again the star they saw when it rose led them until it stopped above the place where the child was. When they saw the star they shouted joyfully. As they came into the house and saw the child with Mary his mother, they bowed down and worshiped him. They opened their treasure boxes and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh” (Matthew 2:1-2, 9-11).

The characters of the Christmas story are fascinating. There is much we don’t know about the ones known as magi or wise men, but what we do know is plenty interesting. They seem to be men who came from another country, who recognized something different in the sky and understood it as a divine sign.

And what did they do? Without knowing where they were going or what to expect, but they packed up and started what was probably a long journey, taking gifts with them, too.

I’ve heard this story plenty of times before, but what stood out to me this week is their faith. They didn’t insist on knowing all the details before they decided to move forward and started on their way. And when they found Jesus, they didn’t sit around waiting for the child to grow up and prove himself; they acknowledged him as worthy of honor, and their gifts reflected it.

As I think of the wise men this year, I am drawn to their faith and action, to their decision that while they didn’t know everything, they knew enough to take the next right step. That’s a pretty good path to walk.

–Pastor Debi

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Advent Blog

Glimpses: December 3, 2017

Advent wreathIn Christian tradition, each new year begins with the start of Advent on the 4th Sunday before Christmas. It is a time to recognize and reflect on the promise of the long-awaited Messiah, which we will celebrate at Christmas. We are also reminded to wait expectantly for his future return. This year, Advent began on December 3.

So, what happened on that day? At 9:45am, new Advent-focused Sunday School classes began for children, youth, and adults. These will continue through December 17. During 11am worship, Kyle and Amanda read from the Bible and lit the first candle of the Advent wreath — the candle of hope. Pastor Kevin preached from Isaiah 64:1-9, recognizing struggles and regrets as we go through life, and proclaiming that God is at work in the midst of it all.

In announcements and other news…

  • Sunday School classes are available for children, youth, and adults. The focus of these groups will be on Advent through December 17. Of note, Sunday School classes will not meet on December 24 or 31.
  • There will be a Christmas Eve candlelight service on December 24 at 6pm, with songs and readings of the Christmas story. Come enjoy this final evening of preparation before Christmas Day.
  • On New Year’s Eve, Rosewood Lane will have a party to ring in the new year, 8pm until midnight. Bring a favorite game to play and cereal to share.
  • For those planning to make a year-end financial gift, please note that any charitable contributions for the 2017 calendar year must be received or postmarked no later than December 31. A statement of contributions will be sent by January 31.

During these weeks of Advent, there are scripture readings each day. Here are the readings for this week:

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Blog

Admiring the Ceiling

See this?

sanctuary ceiling

This is a ceiling.  It’s nice, with long rows of beautiful wood and strong support beams.  But that’s not why I love it.  I love it because when I sit in the sanctuary and look up, I think of fingerprints.

Soon after I arrived at Rosewood Lane, I visited Glenn and Ruby in their home.  Glenn would pull out old photos of the building through the years and show me how it had been adapted over time.  He and others spent many hours on these labors of love.  Glenn passed away several years ago, but that ceiling with their fingerprints still stand, providing sanctuary to people seeking God.

Ultimately, the Church is not a building; it is people.  What lasting impressions will you leave on the lives of the people around you?

 

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all…  

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ…

From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

(Ephesians 4)

 

— Pastor Debi

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Blog Easter

Not Just a Day

Easter egg hunt 2017We celebrated Resurrection Sunday recently through a morning filled with special times — a shared breakfast, prayer and fellowship time, Easter worship service, and an egg hunt for the kids. After church, some enjoyed rest, others spent time with family or friends, still others went out to appreciate the beauty of nature. It was a lovely Easter Sunday.

And it’s not over yet! In the traditional Christian calendar, Easter is not just a day, nor even a week, but an entire season that starts on Resurrection Sunday and continues for fifty days until Pentecost, when we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Church. So it can be said that today is not simply the Sunday after Easter, but the second Sunday of Easter.

One of the lectionary texts for today is John 20:19-31.  At this point in the story, Jesus had been crucified and then was raised to life again after three days. Mary Magdalene encountered him at the tomb and was very surprised to find him alive, and she went to tell the disciples. And yet, just a few verses later we find the disciples together in a room, with the doors locked because of their fear. And yet again, Jesus shows up.

Why were they hiding? I’d like to say they were being foolish in hiding away, but I imagine I’d have been right there with them. Imagine the emotional roller coaster they’d been on — the excitement of entering Jerusalem to shouts of “Hosanna!”, the anger of an unfair trial, the despair of the crucifixion, the uncertainty about the empty tomb, the fear of those who had orchestrated the death of their leader. But then Jesus shows up, as Jesus does, and their hope is resurrected.

Except for Thomas, who was not with the rest of them, and proclaimed, “Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” And I love Jesus’ response. He met Thomas where he was, and offered himself — not an idea or an argument, but himself in person — as evidence. Interestingly, after Thomas’s earlier declaration, we don’t see him taking Jesus up on the offer of his nail-scarred hands. He simply responded to the person of Jesus, the One he knew: “My Lord and my God!”

Jesus isn’t afraid of our questions. He provides enough to meet our needs, then makes space for us to step toward him in faith.

Happy Easter!

— Pastor Debi

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Blog Easter

Resurrection Sunday

John 20 was read in many churches around the world on this Easter Sunday. It tells of Mary Magdalene finding the stone removed from the tomb where the dead body of Jesus had been laid, then running to tell Simon Peter and (probably) John. Those two explored the situation, then left again, with Mary still crying outside the tomb.

That’s when the story becomes intensely interesting, because that is where Mary encountered Jesus. She didn’t know it was him, though, until he spoke her name. After all, who would have expected Jesus — the one whose death she had watched a few days before — to show up, fully alive and conversational?

What captures my heart is Jesus’ response: “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God’” (emphasis mine).

What a statement of connection!

Take a look at these words from the Apostle Paul: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs — heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory” (Romans 8:1, 15-17).

Easter is central to the Christian faith because through the death of Christ we have forgiveness of sin, and through the resurrection of Christ we have amazing hope. These are available to all people — absolutely everyone! — who believe Jesus, confess their need for him, and invite him into their lives.

If you have reason to celebrate this hope, then celebrate like crazy today. And if you don’t yet know Christ, take this opportunity to meet him. If you’re not sure, and would like to talk more about what this means, I’d love to talk with you.

Happy Easter!

–Pastor Debi