Dear CCOV Family,
God gave humans stewardship of this beautiful world. I know that many of us, as God’s stewards, are concerned with environmental headlines in the news today. The Amazon, which produces 20% of the earth’s oxygen, burns; the Arctic burns; and looking out the window as I type, I can see smoke from Prescott-area fires. Glaciers melt, bees continue to decline, temperatures soar, and the oceans are full of microplastics. Sometimes we feel overwhelmed because the news seems to be so bleak all of the time. Take heart though: There is good news, when people make a concerted effort to make a change. For example, The World Economic Forum reports that in Europe forests are again blanketing the continent as a result of increased protection and better land management. Trees now cover almost a third of France—even more forests cover Sweden, Finland and Spain. We know that trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and help fight climate change as well as produce oxygen, which we need to breathe. Additionally, forests safeguard biodiversity.
to issues of environmental justice, our denomination is running a campaign
called Three Great Loves: love of children, love of neighbor, and love of
creation. The three loves, of course, are
all interrelated. When we safeguard
creation, we help to safeguard our children and our neighbor. Below
are some simple things we all can do, that when done broadly enough, will have
- Demand climate solutions from our elected officials: vote, educate others, call our representatives, get politically active…
- Reduce energy needs in our homes: unplug computers, buy energy-efficient lightbulbs and energy-star label appliances, wash in warm or cold water, program your thermostat…
- Push for renewable energy: solar, wind, divest from fossil fuels…
- Eat differently: try “meatless Mondays,” buy organic and local, buy shade-grown coffee, grow your own…
- Explore alternative transportation: use public transit, ride a bike, carpool, buy electric or hybrid vehicles, fly less…
- Consume less: “pre-cycle” when shopping, avoiding over-packaged products, recycle, compost, buy biodegradables over plastics…
all do what we can to steward wisely our God’s great creation. See you in church!
Dear CCOV Family,On Sunday morning we gathered with heavy hearts in the aftermath of the El Paso and Dayton mass shootings that left 29 people dead and scores injured. When tragedy strikes and we are grieving, many of us turn to our churches. We want solace, understanding, guidance, inspiration, and prayer. Increasing waves of domestic terrorism cause us to feel insecure and fearful for our own families, friends, and selves, because we realize that no school, workplace, house of worship, or shopping center is truly safe. We prayed together on Sunday, to be sure. But we’ve prayed after other tragedies, and the violence keeps coming. While our prayers don’t magically fix anything, they do go to work on our own hearts and convince us of the need to make changes and take action, which we can do. Below you will find a link to a statement our UCC denominational leaders, including Rev. Dr. John Dorhauer, have published in the wake of these tragedies. Per the article, besides prayer, our denominational leadership is urging all UCC members “to call on the Senate to act immediately on pending gun violence legislation.” Click here to go to UCC website
Additionally, they want us “to attend town halls and candidate appearances and ask the candidates what they plan to do to end gun violence.” I have already called my senator and asked her to pass Background Checks and a strong Red Flag Law. Please join me in taking concrete action. With Caring,Pastor Sandi
is a great time to mix things up a little bit.
Not only are we sitting around the table during a more informal and
intimate type of worship (while eating some really good food), but toward the
end of the hour, we have also begun discussing what the sermon brought up for
you. Such sharing increases our knowledge
of not only the text but of one another. We have different reactions to a given Bible
story or sermon because we connect them with our own unique experience and understanding
of the world. As we continue this practice of discussion in the coming weeks,
let’s listen deeply to one another without judgment. Here are some great discussion guidelines from
the University of Michigan’s Center for Research on Learning and Teaching:
- Respect others’ rights to hold
opinions and beliefs that differ from your own. When you disagree, challenge or
criticize the idea, not the person.
- Listen carefully to what others are
saying even when you disagree with what is being said. Comments that you make
(asking for clarification, sharing critiques, expanding on a point, etc.)
should reflect that you have paid attention to the speaker’s comments.
- Be courteous. Don’t interrupt or
engage in private conversations while others are speaking. Use attentive,
courteous body language.
- Support your statements. Use evidence
and provide a rationale for your points.
- Share responsibility for including all
voices in the discussion. If you have much to say, try to hold back a
bit; if you are hesitant to speak, look for opportunities to contribute to the
- Recognize that we are all still
learning. Be willing to change your perspective, and make space for others to
do the same.
sample guidelines are helpful for all places where we engage in discussion—not just
in church. If you want more information,
go to http://www.crlt.umich.edu/examples-discussion-guidelines
where I found the above bulleted points.
I look forward to lots of stimulating discussion!
CCOV Family and Friends,
all of you are enjoying your summers so far, wherever you might be. If you are still in the Valley, don’t forget that
worship continues in Hayden Hall at 10 AM. More relaxed and informal, our summer services
involve eating and fellowshipping together, singing a cappella, and a more
interactive teaching/preaching style. In
the coming weeks I will be preaching out of Amos and Hosea, minor Old Testament
prophets who have major things to teach us about God’s justice and
righteousness. This week we will explore
Amos 7:7-17, and on Sunday, July 21, Amos 8:1-12. You will hear that the prophetic voice is imaginative
and calls us out of our comfort zones by not upholding the status quo. In fact, the prophetic voice may even
conflict with the priestly or pastoral voice at times, and you learn how to
measure such voices by “God’s plumb line,” which is the Divine standard of morality. Biblical prophets are primarily forth-tellers
concerned with justice in a society, not so much of the foretellers as we might
think. You will hear how Amos’ vision informs
our Christian response to the crisis at the border today. I look forward to seeing you in church!
ever wonder if and when there is a right time to run an intervention in someone’s
life? Do you struggle with the nuances
involved in advice or critique giving, or do you feel tempted to tell others
what to do? On Sunday, July 7 we will talk about these often-difficult
issues during our 10 AM, around-the-table worship in Hayden Hall as we consider
Paul’s words in Galatians 6:1-18. From
my sermon called “Practical Advice,” you will hear how Paul exhorts the
Galatians to restore those who have transgressed in a spirit of gentleness, yet
you will also hear how Paul calls us not to deceive ourselves. We will talk about how we sometimes focus on
the failings of others but neglect to reflect on (or be aware of) our own sin. In short, it is not our task to persuade
others to believe as we do or to control their lives. The poet Archibald Macleish once said it
best: “Religion is at its best when it makes us ask hard questions of
ourselves. It is at its worst when it
deludes us into thinking we have all the answers for everybody else.” I look forward to exploring this topic with
you during the first Sunday in July!
“Then he went about among the villages teaching. 7He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. 8He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; 9but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics.” —Mark 6:6b-8
Many of you have returned to your more northernly locales or
are embarking upon your summer vacations. I wish you a safe summer and
much refreshment and eagerly await your fall or winter return! So here is
a question for you: how much baggage are you taking? Last summer Clint
and I challenged ourselves to travel with only a carry-on bag for a three-week
trip to Europe, and I’m pleased to report that it can absolutely be done!
Inspired by an article in Conde Nast Magazine, we rolled our
clothes densely, packed a few Tide pods so we could do laundry, wore our bulky
sneakers on the plane and only packed sandals. We took no appliances and
left our hair to dry naturally, and we stuffed our socks into the carry-on’s
corners. We depended upon the hospitality of hotels and our European
friends to supply the rest. Those little carry-ons rolled neatly along
many a cobblestoned street!
In Mark 6:6b-8 Jesus orders his disciples to travel lightly
for their commission. He wants them to have faith and to trust. If
they were dragging along all kinds of baggage, how easy would it have been for
them to reach out with healing and kindness to the ones they were ministering
to? Those disciples might have had to exert too much effort in watching
their bags, which would be a real distraction from their ministry. And if
they already had all they needed, how would they receive the gifts of those
they encountered in their journey? Sometimes part of others’ healing is
when they can give of themselves, so perhaps those who would be offering
hospitality to the twelve were in effect participating in their own
healing. So it’s okay, even biblical, to be on the receiving end!
We often want to be self-sufficient to the extent that we
over-pack and over-plan. And sometimes if we pack and plan for every
eventuality, we may not be open to what God has for us. Carrying around a
lot of baggage to be self-reliant, be that baggage material or spiritual,
sometimes translates to a lack of faith. Clint often points this out to
me: “Where we are going, they will likely have a pharmacy. You don’t need
to take our entire medicine cabinet.” In short, have faith, trust, and
travel lightly. Be open to what God may have in store. May your
summer be blessed!
a congregation full of people with servant’s hearts! Through the years I have seen many you
respond so gracefully to needs that come up in our community, our congregation,
and in your own families. Sometimes servers
and caregivers get stressed and even burned out. We talk about service a lot at church, especially
because of Jesus’ great example, but what we sometimes do not give enough
attention to is setting healthy boundaries. Believe it or not, Jesus set boundaries and
practiced self-care. We, like Jesus, can
take steps to help, but we cannot control how people are going to respond or ensure
that they participate in their own healing.
If we exert undue influence and control, we are actually working too
hard and may end up enabling folks so that they never break free. Times certainly arise when we have to set
boundaries and limits, say “no,” and practice self-care to keep ourselves fit
the Bible story in John 5:1-14 when Jesus asked the invalid if he wanted to be
made well? This man felt sorry for
himself and offered excuses for his 38 years of lying ill by the Sheep Gate
pool, but ultimately the man responded to Jesus, who asked the man to do
something: stand up, take up your mat and walk.
It was up to this man to take responsibility for himself. Not everyone assumes self-responsibility, and
we need to avoid shifting into overdrive when people’s old patterns repeat over
and over. Sometimes, instead of being
the rescuer, we just need to trust God with the outcome.
practiced self-care and boundary-setting by withdrawing from the crowds who pressed
in upon him so that he could have some prayerful alone time with God. You will notice in the Bible stories that Jesus
did not heal everyone; after a while, he just had to retreat and recharge. One of my favorite seminary professors used to
say, “We ought not climb onto every cross.”
All of us must discern our personal calls to service and focus our
energies as they are given to us. And
when it gets overwhelming? You have two
pastors at CCOV with whom you can talk, pastors who care for you! You have wonderful friends in the
congregation and elsewhere. You can ask
for help. Don’t be afraid to state
clearly what you need. We are, after
all, yoked to both Jesus and one another, and that makes life’s burdens much
CCOV Family and Friends,
are almost at the end of Lent, and I find myself wondering, how is this church season
going for you? Did any of you adopt a
Lenten discipline this year or adopt Sandi’s “helpful household hint” (and her
own 2019 Lenten discipline) of going through closets and donating to charity
things no longer used or worn anymore? I
challenged myself to find one article of clothing for each of Lent’s forty days
but ended doubling that so far. I’ve
made three trips to Goodwill and will make one more before Easter. My closets look great and I don’t miss
the greatest themes of the Christian life is that we are blessed in order to
bless. We are healed in order to
heal. We are restored in order to
restore. In fact, Jesus’ miracles in the
gospels follow this pattern. The multiplication
of the fishes and the loaves made sure everyone ate. When Jesus’ healed the bleeding woman, he
ended her isolation and she was restored to community. When Jesus opened the eyes of two blind men,
they went out and spread the news about him.
When we are gifted with abundance, it is for sharing. Some even rise to the highest challenge of
Sundays ago a woman came by the church during early-morning choir
practice. She was in tears and on the
way to visit her father, who was suffering from cancer. She needed gas money. I was so heartened to see choir members who
had cash in their pockets give to her.
One hugged her and comforted her because she too knew what it was like
to battle cancer. What joy it is to
belong to such a deeply Christian family marked by generosity!
forward to seeing you this Sunday and hearing Pastor Dick preach Part III of
his sermon series, “Seeking a Better Way to be Christian, from Lost to Found”
(Jonah 3:1-2; Matthew 4:18-22). The following
week I will be in the pulpit for Palm Sunday.
The scripture will be Luke 19:28-40.
In the meantime, prayers for the remainder of a meaningful Lent! It’s not too late to clean house and give, whatever
that may look like for you.
ourselves once again in the church season of Lent. The UCC Book of Worship defines Lent as “a
penitential season of self-examination, prayer, and fasting that precedes the
observance of the Triduum (Maundy Thursday evening, Good Friday, and the Vigil
of Easter, which begins on Saturday night)” (Book of Worship, pp. 21-22). Lent
is the season in which we reflect on the life, suffering, and death of Jesus,
and what his giving of himself on the cross means for our lives. Some follow a
Lenten devotional guide. Some participate in intentional prayer and study.
Others give up something. In recent
years it has become more popular to do something extra, like offer special service
to someone or even give things away. This year I heard of yet another Lenten practice
that follows this vein, which seems to be gaining momentum, at least on
Facebook. That is, some folks are
combining Lent with spring cleaning. The
suggestion goes as follows: “Instead of giving up something for Lent this year,
why not try the 40-day-40 items challenge?
Each day of Lent, remove one item from your house which you don’t use or
wear anymore and place it in a bag. At the
end of Lent, donate these items to a charity shop or to a homeless
shelter. They’ll be shared with those
who really need them.” I rather like
this idea. Sometime we just accumulate
too much, and there is so much need in the world. I look forward to seeing you all on this
first Sunday of Lent. The scripture will
be Luke 4:1-13, and we will talk about growing stronger even during the
wilderness times of our lives. See you
Dear CCOV Family,
Wasn’t there lots of good energy in worship last Sunday? I am so grateful that you voted at our annual meeting to give Dr. Dick Wing and I an opportunity to co-pastor for the next few months. And I heartily hope this will turn into a permanent arrangement. He certainly brings a lot of new energy to the pulpit! And wasn’t the music was absolutely spectacular? We were blessed to get to know yet another FOL (Friend of Larry) as we do the first Sunday of every month. I’m glad we had such a crowd to hear both Larry Loeber and Lan Qui, who offered his invigorating violin music that celebrated Chinese New Year. Adding to the crowd and energy were the Boy Scouts from Troop 649. Each year CCOV UCC looks forward to our joint worship celebration when we get to see and hear these fine young men and their leaders and thank them for all they contribute to the life of our church.
Troop 649’s recent contributions involved coordinating our joint collections of coats for refugees and nonperishable food items. Clint and I stuffed dozens of coats in our car—all donated by you and Troop 649—and drove them to Tucson on January 27. We gave them to members of Casa Adobes UCC who are leading the drive there so that no border refugee goes cold. Casa Adobes UCC will take all collected coats to Catholic Charities, who will ultimately distribute them. Additionally, there were so many nonperishable food items collected that the Boy Scouts had to call for a truck from St. Mary’s Food Bank to come haul everything away. Over the past few weeks I kept thinking to myself when I walked into the narthex, which was overflowing with coats and food: This is one thoroughgoing Christian church here! We have truly heard Jesus’ words from Matthew 25:35-36: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”
Let us continue living lives
marked by such well-directed energy and generosity. See you Sunday!
Grace and Peace,