Christian Stewardship of Planet Earth

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. 

Responding 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 impact.

  1. Demand climate solutions from our elected officials: vote, educate others, call our representatives, get politically active…
  2. 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…
  3. Push for renewable energy: solar, wind, divest from fossil fuels…
  4. Eat differently: try “meatless Mondays,” buy organic and local, buy shade-grown coffee, grow your own…
  5. Explore alternative transportation: use public transit, ride a bike, carpool, buy electric or hybrid vehicles, fly less…
  6. Consume less: “pre-cycle” when shopping, avoiding over-packaged products, recycle, compost, buy biodegradables over plastics…

Let us all do what we can to steward wisely our God’s great creation.  See you in church!

Peace,

Pastor Sandi            

Gun Violence

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

Discussion Skills

Discussion Skills

Summer 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 discussion.
  • Recognize that we are all still learning. Be willing to change your perspective, and make space for others to do the same.

These 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!

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Sandi

Minor Prophets with Major Messages

Dear CCOV Family and Friends,

I hope 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!

Peace,

Pastor Sandi        

Practical Advice

Dear CCOV Family,

Did you 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! 

Stay Cool!

Pastor Sandi               

Baggage

“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!

Co-Pastor Sandi                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

Good Boundaries

Friends,

CCOV is 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 and healthy.

Remember 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. 

Jesus 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 easier.

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Sandi   

Cleaning House

Dear CCOV Family and Friends,

Here we 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 anything!

One of 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 giving sacrificially.

Two 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!

I look 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.

Peace,

Pastor Sandi

Lent 2019

Friends,

We find 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 in church!

Blessings,

Co-Pastor Sandi

Lots of Good Energy!

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, 

Pastor Sandi