Millburn Congregational UCC

"Watching for and celebrating movements of God's Spirit."

For many years now I’ve been taking people to help serve meals at the Holy Family Soup Kitchen in Waukegan. Mostly I’ve taken youth, but I’d like to encourage some adult members to share in this ministry, too.
The Holy Family Soup Kitchen operates under the auspices of Most Blessed Trinity Catholic Church in Waukegan. On the wall near the entrance is a placard that reads, “We ask not who you are. If you are a friend, may you enjoy our hospitality. If you are a foe, may our love transcend your enmity.” I love that.
It’s always a moving experience for me, though they definitely keep you busy. As the people come through the line, and you speak with them, and you hear them speak among themselves, you’re invited into a world very different than the one most of us know. You get a chance to see an aspect of reality that is all too easily ignored. So many of them are very young children.
But whoever they are, everyone receives the
What is All Saints' Day? We celebrate it every year on the first Sunday of No-vember. It used to be called All Hallow’s Day - the day when the hallowed dead were remembered and honored through various rites and celebrations. (By the way, the night before All Hallow’s Day was known as Hallow’s Eve, which we still celebrate as Halloween.) These traditions predate Christianity, but over time Christians appropriated them and made them their own, just as they did the winter and spring solstices. All Saint’s Day is very important in Catholicism, and some of us Protestant types still observe it as well. It’s com-mon for Protestants to do what we do every All Saint's Day: remember those we’ve lost in the past year.
The question is what is meant by that term ‘saint.’ Who are the saints among us, living or dead? We don’t have much use for saints, and that’s partly be-cause we have a distorted understanding of what that means. By ‘saint’ peo-ple usually mean a model for moral perfection or rectitude.
But it seems to me that sainthood actually has something to do with leaving a legacy. We don’t remember those we call ‘saints’ so much for what they did in their own time; instead we remember them for how they influenced what came later, including the present. When we lift up the names of those we have lost in the past year, it’s not so much that we’re remembering the past; it’s more that we’re celebrating all that those folks made possible in the pre-sent, and for the future. Sainthood has something to do with leaving things better than we found them. For Christians, it’s about being part of Christ’s work of redemption, in whatever unique ways God has called each of us to do that. And when we’re gone, that work of redemption continues.
What is All Saints' Day? We celebrate it every year on the first Sunday of No-vember. It used to be called All Hallow’s Day - the day when the hallowed dead were remembered and honored through various rites and celebrations. (By the way, the night before All Hallow’s Day was known as Hallow’s Eve, which we still celebrate as Halloween.) These traditions predate Christianity, but over time Christians appropriated them and made them their own, just as they did the winter and spring solstices. All Saint’s Day is very important in Catholicism, and some of us Protestant types still observe it as well. It’s com-mon for Protestants to do what we do every All Saint's Day: remember those we’ve lost in the past year.
The question is what is meant by that term ‘saint.’ Who are the saints among us, living or dead? We don’t have much use for saints, and that’s partly be-cause we have a distorted understanding of what that means. By ‘saint’ peo-ple usually mean a model for moral perfection or rectitude.
But it seems to me that sainthood actually has something to do with leaving a legacy. We don’t remember those we call ‘saints’ so much for what they did in their own time; instead we remember them for how they influenced what came later, including the present. When we lift up the names of those we have lost in the past year, it’s not so much that we’re remembering the past; it’s more that we’re celebrating all that those folks made possible in the pre-sent, and for the future. Sainthood has something to do with leaving things better than we found them. For Christians, it’s about being part of Christ’s work of redemption, in whatever unique ways God has called each of us to do that. And when we’re gone, that work of redemption continues.Friends:

 

Friends:


I got some positive feedback on a recent sermon in which I reflected on the plight of Hagar, Abraham's other wife, who found herself cast away and needing to fend for herself.  My topic was fear.  Perhaps there's a bit more of that than usual these days.  Anyway, here's an excerpt:

 

"Fight or flight – that's the animal response to a threat in the environment.  We're animals, so we're subject to that.  But the thing about most animals is they don't have a capacity for trust.  So being fully human, with our ability to trust in a power beyond ourselves, means that we don't have to fight or run away.  Instead we can bear the trial, whatever it is, and trust that the Creator's purposes will be worked out.

 

We all have our own appointed tasks; we all have a purpose in life.  God gives us all the seeds for these tasks and purposes - they're all different, of course, but they all come from the same source.  And God calls us into the garden to plant and nurture them.  What is your thing, by the way: what is the promise, the hope, with which we've been entrusted?  I ask everyone: What is your task?  What is your purpose? 

 

So we set out into the garden to plant that seed and do what we can to help it along.  At some point, inevitably, we feel the fear – we think ourselves ill prepared - not strong enough, smart enough, articulate enough. Too young, too old.  And when the fear kicks in we decide we were right in the first place – that we've set out on a hopeless, mindless wild goose chase without hope of success.  And we look upon our fledgling little plant, waiting for it to wither in the sun.  Hey, this thing was supposed to be knee-high by the fourth of July, but it's wilting away. 

 

It takes courage to plant that seed, to help it along as best we're able - to follow the call, in other words, whatever it is.  It's so demanding; it requires so much energy.  And there's always risk - there are no guarantees - there is always the very real prospect of failure.  So how easy it is to fall away from the call.  Having ventured some in the garden, where there are so many contingencies, where there are so many threats, where there's a very real chance that the envisioned thing of beauty will never, ever emerge, we look for a more controlled environment, where things are more predictable, the outcomes more certain.  There's not much of living in that, either, but at least it's safe...

 

But a voice calls out, perhaps the same one that called out to Hagar.  The voice says, "Live those dreams.  Live that hope.  And live your life with open arms rather than clenched fists."

 

Peace and Love,

Pastor Jed 

Lent is fast approaching. It's quite late this year, but it's upon us. I al-ways encourage folks to take the Lenten season seriously - to take ad-vantage of the opportunities it offers to grow in faith and Christian love. I've always found individual Lenten practices worthwhile and have bene-fited from quite of few of them myself over the years. But I think learn-ing and growing together, in community, is far preferable.
In that light, I have decided to offer an Adult Education program this Lenten season for the Millburn Church Community. I've chosen a book study of Parker Palmer's The Active Life: A Spirituality of Work, Crea-tivity and Caring. The book is about 20 years old now but it has stood the test of time, as have most of Parker's many contributions to Chris-tian faith.
The author's aim is to provide some guidance for living our faith lives even more deeply and passionately. It's one thing to enjoy the gift of faith; it's quite another to live it fully, making God's purposes the cen-terpieces of our lives. In doing so we can find the meaning and purpose God intends for us.
Here's a brief description, from the book cover: "The Active Life is Par-ker J. Palmer's deep and graceful exploration of a spirituality for the busy, sometimes frenetic lives many of us lead. Telling evocative stories from a variety of religious traditions, Palmer shows that the spiritual life does not mean abandoning the world but engaging it more deeply through life-giving action. He celebrates both the problems and potentials of the active life, revealing how much they have to teach us about ourselves, the world, and God."
I'd like to lead this class on three consecutive Thursday evenings, March 6, 13 and 20. We'll begin at 7 p.m. each evening and go until about 9 p.m. I ask that everyone bring a copy to each session. The book, in pa-perback, is available at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com (and proba-bly elsewhere, too) for about $12.
I hope to see you in March.

We’re into the dog days of summer again, when attendance starts to
drop and offerings decline. It’s true most every year and it’s true this
year, too. We were holding our own fairly well through June but it
seems that we started to fall behind in July. Folks are away, taking advantage
of the summer’s last opportunities for rest and relaxation. We
We’re into the dog days of summer again, when attendance starts to
drop and offerings decline. It’s true most every year and it’s true this
year, too. We were holding our own fairly well through June but it
seems that we started to fall behind in July. Folks are away, taking advantage
of the summer’s last opportunities for rest and relaxation. We
understand that.
drop and offerings decline. It’s true most every year and it’s true this
year, too. We were holding our own fairly well through June but it
seems that we started to fall behind in July. Folks are away, taking advantage
of the summer’s last opportunities for rest and relaxation.

'd like to lead this class on three consecutive Thursday evenings, March 6, 13 and 20. We'll begin at 7 p.m. each evening and go until about 9 p.m. I ask that everyone bring a copy to each session. The book, in pa-perback, is available at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com (and proba-bly elsewhere, too) for about $12.
I hope to see you in March.
As I write this I'm preparing for the second session of our Adult Educa-tion class. We're studying a book by the outstanding Christian educator, Parker Palmer. In "The Active Life" Palmer encourages us to take some time from our busy schedules and make room for a little contemplation, or reflection. The idea is to focus the mind so that we recall what is im-portant in our lives and in the larger world around us. Perhaps most im-portantly, it reminds us of our dependence on the Spirit of God, which gave us life in the first place and sustains us every moment of our exist-ence. It's good to be quiet and still for a moment, if only for a moment, and experience the nearness of the Holy One.
One of Parker Palmer's mentors was the famous monastic Thomas Mer-ton. His many published prayers are all products of a deep and disciplined contemplative life. I share one of those prayers below, in the hopes that it might inspire you to pray one of your own:.
"My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this, you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. Amen"

As I write this I'm preparing for the second session of our Adult Educa-tion class. We're studying a book by the outstanding Christian educator, Parker Palmer. In "The Active Life" Palmer encourages us to take some time from our busy schedules and make room for a little contemplation, or reflection. The idea is to focus the mind so that we recall what is im-portant in our lives and in the larger world around us. Perhaps most im-portantly, it reminds us of our dependence on the Spirit of God, which gave us life in the first place and sustains us every moment of our exist-ence. It's good to be quiet and still for a moment, if only for a moment, and experience the nearness of the Holy One.
One of Parker Palmer's mentors was the famous monastic Thomas Mer-ton. His many published prayers are all products of a deep and disciplined contemplative life. I share one of those prayers below, in the hopes that it might inspire you to pray one of your own:.

I hope to see you in March
During the March Christian Education Committee meeting we decided to offer two adult education opportunities this summer. Summer is a good time for book studies. It’s relaxing to get lost in a good book while resting on the beach or lounging in the back yard.
The first book study will be on the Life of Pi, by the Canadian author Yann Par-tel. The novel is about 10 years old now but a recent movie version has rekin-dled interest in the work. Many of you have asked me about it so I decided to offer the course.
The story follows the life of a man from adolescence through adulthood and recounts his spiritual journey. He finds that his engagement with the major religions, including Christianity, Islam and Hinduism, add depth and meaning to life. He struggles with doubt but discoveries the futility of unbelief. His journey is not unlike the one many of us have taken up. According to the au-thor, the story can be summarized in three statements- "Life is a story... You can choose your story... A story with God is the better story."
I’d like to lead a conversation about Pi’s journey and about our own journeys, too. Popular works like these are often very good for lifting up big religious and spiritual issues that matter to people in their time. I look forward to an interesting and enlightening time together.
We’ll hold the class on three consecutive Thursday evenings, June 5, 12 and 19, at 7:00 p.m. We’ll go until about 9:00 each session. Weather permitting, we’ll have the class outside. The book is widely available online at a reasona-
We’re into the dog days of summer again, when attendance starts to
drop and offerings decline. It’s true most every year and it’s true this
year, too. We were holding our own fairly well through June but it
seems that we started to fall behind in July. Folks are away, taking advantage
of the summer’s last opportunities for rest and relaxation. We
understand that.
As

We’re into the dog days of summer again, when attendance starts to
drop and offerings decline. It’s true most every year and it’s true this
year, too. We were holding our own fairly well through June but it
seems that we started to fall behind in July. Folks are away, taking advantage
of the summer’s last opportunities for rest and relaxation. We
understand that.
We’re into the dog days of summer again, when attendance starts to
drop and offerings decline. It’s true most every year and it’s true this
year, too. We were holding our own fairly well through June but it
seems that we started to fall behind in July. Folks are away, taking advantage
of the summer’s last opportunities for rest and relaxation. We
understand that.
We’re into the dog days of summer again, when attendance starts to
drop and offerings decline. It’s true most every year and it’s true this
We’re into the dog days of summer again, when attendance starts to
drop and offerings decline. It’s true most every year and it’s true this
year, too. We were holding our own fairly well through June but i