The past two summers we met Sunday mornings in Hayden Hall over a potluck breakfast. In 2018 congregation members offered various presentations and facilitated discussions, and in 2019 we had worship services around the table with a brief discussion to follow. Those intrepid enough to brave the Valley summer heat (and who didn’t flee to more temperate climes) came to enjoy these more informal and intimate fellowship experiences. This coming summer, starting on June 21, we thought we would try something still informal but a little different. We will open with a prayer and then engage in a discussion based on questions that you all pose ahead of time. Everyone has faith/biblical/theological questions that they always wanted to explore, so this summer will be a great time to get to those. My aim is to explore one question per week. I can’t promise you pat answers, but we can talk about how various scholars and traditions have answered some of those questions. Here are some examples to get you thinking: Why are there pain and suffering in this world? How would Christianity and other world religions fare if we found out for certain that there is extraterrestrial life? What happens to us when we die? I ask you to start submitting your questions by email either to me or to the church office, and we will explore them over Sundays in the summer. If we can’t meet safely in person and share a breakfast potluck by June 21, then we can certainly meet together by Zoom for these 10 AM Sunday discussions. I look forward to seeing you all—in person or on Zoom! In the meantime, please let me know if any pastoral needs come up; we can easily talk by phone, etc.
Dear CCOV Family and Friends,
I hope your home Easter celebrations were blessed even if they were pared down this year. Also, a hearty thanks to Patty Hersh and Carol Powell for baking and distributing Easter cupcakes to spread some much needed love and cheer to the congregation! It warms my heart to see all the creative ways people are serving and reaching out to one another from their quarantines.
I know the news can get overwhelming and seem so bleak at times, but if you dig around, you will find wonderful stories of people serving others and finding joy during this unprecedented time. Consider these uplifting examples:
- Amish communities join people from all walks of life to sew thousands of masks for hospitals and other facilities in need.
- A Maryland mom puts bag lunches on an outside table every day for folks who need them.
- A Santa Barbara teen and his friends develop a website for vulnerable seniors in need of grocery delivery; then, those teens deliver the groceries.
- Jewish families and friends organize Zoom Seders to commemorate Passover.
- A neighborhood math teacher teaches a struggling algebra student on her porch, separated by a window, using an easel and paper pad.
- The CEO of Texas Roadhouse forgoes his salary and bonus to keep his employees afloat.
May we all continue to find joy in sharing creatively, even during this unprecedented time. Again, please let either one of your pastors or church know if you need anything!
Grace and Peace,
this finds you sheltering in place, healthy, and well supplied. If you need anything, please let the church
office know or immediately get in touch with one of your pastors or council
members. We will continue calling you in
the coming days to check in.
One Christian recently quipped this on Facebook: “This is the lentiest Lent I’ve ever lented.” If we think of the church season of Lent as a time when we traditionally give up something, then yes, this is probably the lentiest Lent ever, because we’ve give up more than we could have ever expected. In our efforts to maintain a safe physical and social distance, we’ve given up physical contact with one another. Our social calendars are wiped clean for several months. We’ve given up groceries that just aren’t available at times in the stores—including more than just toilet paper. My daughter panicked over the weekend when she ran out of food for her dogs and couldn’t find any in the stores. We’ve given up our gyms, trips, and restaurants. Some of us have given up our jobs or in best-case scenarios, have had to do them in a whole new way.
through all of this, in some ways I’ve gained new things. I’ve learned to Zoom, or use my computer or
smart Phone to attend gatherings and meetings.
Yesterday I even connected with family back East by Zoom to celebrate my
sister’s birthday. We’ve adapted to
offering worship by video. My neighbors
are keeping close tabs on one another, texting daily to check in, and in some ways
we are all feeling closer than ever. Without
the usual gym routine, Clint and I researched and found new Prescott hiking
trails that have astounded us by their beauty.
My dog and cats are thrilled that we are home so much. I have all day to gaze at the gorgeous peach
tree in full pink bloom out back. So is
this really the lentiest Lent ever? I
guess it’s all a matter of reframing.
Thessalonians 5:18 exhorts us “to give thanks in all circumstances; for this is
the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
We don’t have to give thanks for all circumstances—only in
all circumstances. We can certainly look for things to be
thankful for in the midst of this strange new world. Let us therefore start each day at a place of
See you in worship for Transfiguration Sunday, the last Sunday
of the Epiphany church season! The Transfiguration
is the event in which Jesus shone on the mountaintop in radiant glory to three
of his disciples—and is perhaps the granddaddy of all epiphanies! You will hear all about the Transfiguration
in Matthew 17:1-9 as well as explore a related theme in Psalm 2 this week as we
talk about “The View from the Mountaintop,” or the long view that God has (and
offers to us). So often we get caught up
in the brokenness of this world and miss the larger picture, the second sight
and deeper look that offers us the good and abiding news that we call the Gospel. The end of Psalm 2 calls people “happy” who
take refuge in God rather than put trust in the powers of the world.
Year CCOV family and friends! We find
ourselves in the church season of Epiphany, which focuses on sudden perceptions
or insights of God that come into our midst.
Every other week Pastor Dick is revealing epiphanies in his “From Good
to Great” sermon series. On the alternating
Sundays when I preach, I will be revealing epiphanies in some of our beloved
psalms. Psalms 29, 27, 112, 2, 121, and (of
course) 23 are all in my late winter/early spring Sunday line-up. Come and hear some of the reasons why the Psalms
speak so poignantly to us today, even some 3000 years after they were composed.
Here is a little background: The Psalter was Israel’s hymnbook. The Psalms communicate the Israelites’ experience of the God who came to Israel, their response to this God, their God’s glorious characteristics, their confessions of faith, and their deepest emotions. No wonder people have derived comfort from them through the ages—the whole fund of human emotions can be found in them. In general , there are psalms of lament, thanksgiving, praise, and even royal psalms used to coronate a king. We can turn to them when life gets difficult and see that we are not alone in what God’s people are feeling. We can see how the psalmist pours his heart out to God in lament—and we can do likewise. We can read incredible words of comfort like we find in Psalm 23, which we often choose for celebration of life services. We can pray and sing their ecstatic expressions of thanksgiving and praise. This Sunday I will delve into Psalm 27, which is all about being confident and fearless in life, even when suffering some terrible injustice. We, just like the psalmist, can affirm our trust in God even amid life’s troubles and become confident. And here is one of the coolest things about the Psalms: As the book progresses, the Psalms move away from so much lament on a trajectory toward a great clattering of praise at the end! Isn’t this another example of the believer’s ultimate good news? I look forward to being with you in church!
Dear CCOV Family,Our observance of Advent is culminating tomorrow as we celebrate Christmas! Each week we lit a different candle—for hope, peace, joy, and love—qualities God has already implanted in our nature and are there for us to act upon when we open ourselves and say “yes” to God.
Two Sundays ago I talked about Mary’s interaction with Gabriel, the angel God sent to Mary to inform her that she found favor with God and was chosen to bear the long-expected Messiah (Luke 1:26-38). Mary responds that she is willing to be used of God. Effectively, she says “yes” to God. She opens herself to the divine and gives physical expression to the long-awaited hope, peace, joy, and love of the incarnation, the stunning event when God becomes enfleshed, human like us.
We all have Mary’s freedom to say “yes” to God and actualize for ourselves and one another the hope, peace, joy and love this world so desperately needs. Let us continually remember to invite God unto our hearts and lives this Christmas and New Year. Let us continue to bless our greater community with ministries like UMOM, Healthy Packs, Adopt a Family, as well as find new missions and ministries in the coming year. Always remember that God made us to be good and gives us the freedom to say “yes”! Merry Christmas!Co-Pastor Sandi
is a good reminder to be intentional about practicing gratitude for all of life’s
blessings. According to a study
published in 2015 by two psychologists (which you can read more about here: https://dailyhealthpost.com/gratitude-rewires-brain-happier/),
people who feel the most gratitude are happier and healthier. It turns out that practicing gratitude even
rewires our brain and causes measurable physiological changes. People who start each day from a place of
gratitude have increased amounts of dopamine, which is a pleasure hormone. No wonder God calls us to be thankful!
that many of us, especially as we move into the holiday season, face struggles
because things aren’t the way they used to be.
Many are grieving the loss of a loved one, caring for a loved one, experiencing
financial stressors, or coping with health issues and difficult relationships. These stressors are weighty and difficult to
be sure. It’s easy to get bogged down in sadness. Studies like the one for which I provided the
above link tell us that we can improve our mood and health when we are
intentional about starting each day at a place of gratitude—rather than with a
litany of complaints. We can name or
journal specific things for which we are thankful and start reaping psychological
and physical benefits.
scripture passages attest to this truth.
One in particular is Luke 17:11-18.
This is the story when Jesus healed the ten lepers. Only one of them turned back, praised God and
fell on his face at Jesus’ feet as he gave him thanks. Jesus wondered where the other nine
were. What Jesus says to him is most
interesting: “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” Starting at a place of gratitude is
intimately bound up with our faith, and that can indeed make us well. Isn’t it great when neuroscience confirms
spiritual principles? I wish you a
wonderful Thanksgiving and meaningful Advent season.
Our world’s religions all emphasize hospitality and kindness to the stranger. Christians can’t claim those values solely. Because most of us get few chances In life to spend significant amounts of time with members of other faiths, we don’t get to experience being on the receiving end.
Earlier this month Clint and I were privileged to travel throughout a large chunk of Turkey, a country that is 98% Islamic. Because of that and the current geo-political environment, well-meaning friends and family expressed fear for our safety. All I can say is that we felt safe and well cared for—and completely delighted by a gracious, hospitable people. One incident that struck me was when a Muslim man on our bus tour surprised Clint and me
Dear CCOV Family,
After a wonderful summer of a more intimate and interactive
worship experience in Hayden Hall, we have moved back into the sanctuary and
look forward to a blessed and full fall ahead of us! Choir practice
starts up again on October 13, and the choir will strive to present a
well-known anthem on that same Sunday. Our members slowly start their trickle
back from cooler climes, and we rejoice in their return!
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.