Welcome Back Potluck

Let’s gather for a delicious potluck and reconnect with our friends
who have returned to the valley for the winter!!

When: Sunday, January 12, following worship
Where: Hayden Hall

Bring your favorite main dish, salad or dessert to share. Crockpots can be plugged in before the service or use the oven or microwave. And there is plenty of space in the refrigerator for cold items. We will provide beverages.

Mary and Gabriel (Glowing Mary)

Preached by Rev. Sandi Anthony, 12/5/19

Luke 1:26-38

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”[a] 29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”[b] 35 The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born[c] will be holy; he will be called Son of God. 36 And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

Sermon

During my senior year in seminary, for a Christian Leadership Development Class, I had to write a lengthy paper called a personal spiritual development analysis.  This was essentially a collection of 24 stories from my life—stories that shaped my Christian journey, and after each, I needed to write an interpretive comment and a spiritual application.  One of the stories in the analysis I titled “Glowing Mary.”  I want to share it with you today, because it works into today’s scripture well, as we continue this Advent with biblical women who are part of the Christmas story.

Back in 1972, my father was suffering with metastatic colon cancer.  Since the disease had spread to his liver, there were no options for him like there might be today.  My mother and uncle took him to Mexico for laetrile, a supposed cure made from apricot pits, which was common in the 70’s, but this did nothing to cure him.

My father grew up in a big Catholic family even though he had become Protestant upon marrying my mother.  His mother was still a devout Catholic, and her sister was a nun in a local convent.  One afternoon my Catholic aunt and grandmother took me to see Sister Maria Helen, my great aunt.  We got to see Sister Maria Helen’s room as she gave us a tour of the convent.  Next to Sister Maria Helen’s bed was a small, glow-in-the-dark figurine of the Virgin Mary.  She told me that the figurine had curative powers, and she gave it to me and instructed me to put it by my father’s bedside and God would heal him.  I fully expected a miracle.  The miracle never came.  My father died shortly thereafter; I was one bereft twelve-year-old.

Now I had never heard about miracles and cures at the UCC where I grew up, but in my desperation, I eagerly embraced the notion that religious figurines could cure.  Sister Maria Helen told me that the very Bible I read was full of stories of healing.  I had never realized or been taught at my UCC that the stories could be appropriated in the same way.  The truth is that they most often cannot. Later I felt that God had let me down.    

I know now after wrestling out the problem of suffering and evil, something many of us were doing in seminary, that God does not cure everyone.  Jesus’ healings in the New Testament were for a higher purpose—the mission of God, so that the good news would catch on and spread—like Dorcas’ being raised from the dead by Peter that we talked about some time ago.  I suspect that Jesus would have healed everyone in the streets or brought back all of those who had just died if this were God’s plan, but God’s plan was more about eternal healing than ephemeral healing.

In any case, Mary’s life wasn’t about curing people’s diseases or having glow-in-the dark figurines fashioned after her likeness or anything like that.  Mary is not some sort of golden calf.  Rather, she is someone from whom we have much to learn about our relationship with God.  She is also a profound exemplar of faith for us.  Our scripture today tells us that the Angel Gabriel announced that she was favored by God, that God was with her, and that she wasn’t to be afraid.  And the take-home point for us today is that those same angelic announcements that Gabriel delivered to Mary apply to all of us, no matter what is ahead of us in life:  God favors us, God is with us, and we too are not to be afraid of the future, whatever that may bring.  So, let that give us hope, that thing we focus on the first week of every Advent.

Let’s unpack the scripture a bit and get to know Mary, mother of Jesus.  Here we have a young girl living in a backwater town about 130 miles from Jerusalem called Nazareth.  Maybe that’s something like Black Canyon City as compared to Phoenix, just that Black Canyon City is closer to Phoenix.  Scholars claim at this point, when Gabriel came to her, that Mary was somewhere between 13 and 15 years of age.  Catholic tradition claims that her parents were Joachim and Anne, though our Bible does not make any of this clear.  She is engaged to Joseph, the carpenter, who we know is of the house of David.

Now let’s talk about what engagement looked like back then.  Mary’s father would have arranged her marriage.  An engagement then would have lasted for one year.  Mary and Joseph were engaged or betrothed, so custom was, they prepared for their wedding, just as a young couple would prepare for their wedding and marriage. Mary likely would have sewed: dishcloths, washcloths, towels, clothes for her wedding and marriage. She was focused on preparing for that day. Joseph, on the other hand, as a typical Jewish man would have prepared by building their future house and their furniture, all the while living with his parents until the wedding. Also, during their engagement, the couple would get to know one another more deeply and build their relationship, and hopefully start to fall in love with one another.  Now Jewish law took engagement seriously.  If Joseph died, Mary would be considered a widow already.  If they separated, it was considered a divorce.

Now just to give you an inkling of the zeitgeist, or spirit of her age and her Jewish cultural milieu, all around her, almost all the people, were expecting the coming of the Messiah, the Savior, long prophesied in the Hebrew scriptures, with which Mary would have been most familiar.  So, I imagine that Mary might have been thinking to herself, “Will I be the one who is to be the mother of our Messiah?  Will I be chosen to give birth to the anointed Savior of the Jews?”  The anticipation was likely in all the hearts of the young women back then, that maybe they would be chosen to be the mother of the Messiah.

So, enter Gabriel with an announcement from God for Mary.  This is what angels do: they bring God’s messages to humans.  Gabriel says to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”  Is it any wonder that she was, as our reading tells us, “much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.”  If an angel, something totally out of the mundane, came into your midst, wouldn’t you too be puzzled, worried, a bit suspicious, and especially afraid, even if there was a hopeful expectation of a messiah coming.  But really, an angel coming with such an announcement?!   As angels always do, he said to her “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.”  We hear the point of today’s sermon right there in that sentence: Do not be afraid of your future; you have found favor with God.  The very nature of fear is to be afraid of the future, what is going to happen to us or our loved ones.  We fear the future: disease, death, disability, lack of income.  And God’s message sent via Gabriel is that Mary is not to fear her future.  And we, knowing how the story continues and finishes—know that Mary and her son are going to experience much pain.  She, as his mother, was going to be with him through his whole, earthly life—even thinking about him before he was born, as all mothers do when they are carrying a child.  Yes, she would be there when he turned the water into wine, but she was going to have to endure the scorn directed to an unwed mother, ride on a donkey while in labor, give birth in a cave among animals, flee to Egypt as a refugee, lose her son briefly at the temple, see him beaten and crucified as she weeps at the foot of the cross…We know now—as surely God knew then—that what is coming for her is not going to be easy.

And yet the Bible calls her the most blessed among all women.  She was the recipient of God’s favor.  Wow!  Do we really want God’s favor, knowing what was in store for Mary; what could be in store for us?  Could it be that favor means there is a higher calling upon our lives, one that could require of us sacrifice?  It would be so much easier to have a glowing figurine at our besides to grant all the answers to our problems. 

For you have found favor with God, Mary.  Instead of Mary, substitute your own name: Bob, Joe, Dorie, Nancy, Gary, Elizabeth.  Elsewhere in the Bible, God says, “Do not be afraid, for I am with you wherever you go.  What good news that is for each one of us.  God is actively at work, with us always, bringing ultimate and perfect blessing out of life in this woefully imperfect order.  Don’t doubt for a minute that God favors you too: If God’s nature is to look favorably up the prostitutes, tax collectors, adulterous kings, and marginalized, common teenage girls in backwater towns in the midst of a land occupied by the Roman Empire, then God favors you too.  By the way, those who do not seem to receive God’s favor in the biblical canon include the oppressors, the powerful, and the smug and self-righteous.

The angel goes on to say, “The power of the Holy Spirit will come upon you.  The Holy Spirit will be like a shadow over you.”  When Luke said, this, his readers would have known he was hearkening back to Genesis and the creation story.  The Holy Spirit shadowed over the waters before the beginning of time, and God created life in those waters.  In the same way, the Holy Spirit is now shadowed over Mary and creating life in her.  (adapted from Rev. Dr. Ed Marquart, Sermons from Seattle).

Isn’t that so like God: creating life everywhere, supplying life from emptiness?  Mary was overwhelmed, but the messenger was not done delivering his message:  Your aged Aunt Elizabeth is pregnant.  With God, nothing is impossible.  God who creates out of nothing has caused life in old, barren wombs; remember Sarah?  Now it’s old Elizabeth’s turn.  Remember how having babies, having sons especially as we have learned in this series on biblical women, is a big, big deal.  Might this all be why?  Might these pregnancies in barren wombs and dry bones rising be foreshadowing the coming of Jesus?  And we will talk about Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist next Sunday.  And God does the impossible in Mary too—God creates a miraculous life, fully human and fully God, in an erstwhile virgin.  And Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”   

Protestants, if they focus on Mary at all, do so because of the utter exemplar of obedience she is—the way she submits her will to God… the way she trusts. Here’s a great little three-line poem I found about Mary in this exact situation.  It was written by female pastor, Sam Gutierrez:

It seems everyone (else) wants at least 3-5 years experience.

Except God, that is.

He looks for the one willing to try something new.

She was willing to try something new, young and inexperienced as she was.  And Mary said yes to God and became pregnant with the holy child.  And as with most pregnancies, I imagine Mary glowed—glowed with the special knowledge that she was favored by God enough to be chosen to fulfill the expectation of her time: to bear the long-expected Messiah. God was also with her as she bore life’s pain, just as God is with all of us when we do…just as God was with me through my young father’s death, slowly bringing about my recovery and life’s calling and purpose in the wake of such profound loss, even when the glowing figurine of Mary didn’t deliver.  Yes, there are times of darkness in life, even as there is the glow of hope, that one day, all shall be truly well.  I imagine that Mary glows from her place in heaven now, a place beyond space-time, as she fully grasps the big picture—the holy purpose her life has fulfilled.  She is, in fact, blessed indeed. May we all glow as well today, as we anticipate Christmas and ponder our own roles as carriers of Christ within.  May it be so, Amen.  

Justin Rollefson will be our soloist on December 1st

Known for his beautiful, expressive tone and vibrato, Dr. Justin Rollefson showcases the diversity and flexibility of the saxophone through exploring unconventional chamber ensembles and actively commissioning new works for these ensembles. In 2014, he founded the Rogue Trio. In 2016, Rollefson founded the Eos saxophone sextet. In 2017, he co-founded Lotus, a saxophone trio. Finally, in 2018, he founded Zinnia, a trio consisting of saxophone, cello and piano. Rollefson has not only been active in chamber music, but has also appeared as soloist with numerous orchestras and wind groups. Rollefson has performed on saxophone and clarinet in the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra. Dr. Rollefson completed his Doctor of Musical Arts degree in saxophone performance under the direction of Dr. Christopher Creviston at Arizona State University, where he also completed his Master of Music degree in saxophone performance in 2014. Dr. Rollefson’s past instructors and chamber coaches include Dr. Kenneth Tse, Joseph Lulloff, Dr. Andrew Campbell, Dr. Robert Spring, Dr. Joshua Gardner, the Shanghai String Quartet, and members of the Fifth House Ensemble.

Fighting the Good Fight

1 Timothy 6:6-19

6Of course, there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; 7for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; 8but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. 9But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains. 11But as for you, man of God, shun all this; pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness. 12Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life, to which you were called and for which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

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Our Next Service Opportunity is Tuesday, August 27th

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We always need 7-8 individuals to serve dinner at this United Methodist Outreach Ministry (UMOM) event and we welcome families with teenagers 14 years old or older to join us. We leave CCOV at 4PM and are usually back around 7:30 PM.

“Preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words.” 

This is your invitation to live and love as our faith calls us to do.

Plan to meet at CCOV and then carpool to Halle Women’s Center, 3424 East Van Buren.

Contact: Janet at 480-391-3905 if you have any questions or need more information.

I’D RATHER SEE A SERMON THAN HEAR ONE ANY DAY

James 1: 17-27

A Sermon by Dr. Richard A. Wing, June 30, 2019

The best expression of faith is SEEN RATHER THAN SPOKEN St. Francis said: “Preach the good news; and if necessary, use words.”

Text:  James 1:26   Anyone who sets himself up as “religious” by talking a good game is self-deceived. This kind of religion is hot air and only hot air. 27 Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world.  

From Psalm 15:  What is it that God delights seeing in us? “That we walk straight, act right, and tell the truth. God says, “Keep your word even when it costs you; make an honest living, never take or make a bribe.  There is no regret in people who live like this.”

Christianity is a faith that has a bias. That bias is in favor of the poor.  Neglecting the poor was done by those who looked good in public and in private totally ignored the poor.   The Pharisees were big on RULES while allowing CRUELTY AND NEGLECT OF THE POOR to exist in front of them. Jesus called them on it. Jesus bent the rules to accommodate the poor.  So did Queen Victoria on one occasion.  There was a diplomatic reception in London. The guest of honor was an African chieftain of no wealth and no understanding for the English traditions. Finger bowls were on the table for use of washing one’s fingers. The African Chieftain picked his up and drank the whole thing. Five hundred guests were horrified. The chieftain put his bowl down. Queen Victoria silently took her finger bowl in her two hands, lifted it, and drank its contents! And so did 500 guests. Victoria changed the rules of hospitality to include a man from a great distance to be included in their circle of hospitality and joyous celebration. 

Jesus broke rules in his culture: he healed on the Sabbath; he worked on the Sabbath; he ate with sinners and unclean people; Jesus was an “against the rules” guy. Why? BEHIND THESE RULES PEOPLE NEGLECTED THE POOR which he has a bias for.  Jesus broke many rules IN ORDER TO SERVE THE NEEDS OF THE LAST, LEAST AND LOST BEFORE HIM. 

Mother Theresa said: “there are no big deals anymore; just small things to be done with great love.” Also she said, “Don’t think you will change the world with your small acts of kindness, and IT IS SO IMPORTANT THAT YOU DO THEM.”

Helen Keller: “I am only one, but I am still one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something. And because I cannot do everything I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.”

James reminds us that true religion includes being slow to speak and quick to listen and slow to anger. Being doers of the word and not merely hearers. All Godly work must begin with holy silence like the Native Americans. “Silence was meaningful with the (Native people) like the Lakota. Their granting a space of silence before talking was done in the practice of true politeness and regardful of the rule that “thought comes before speech.” And in the midst of sorrow, sickness, death, or misfortune of any kind, and in the presence of the notable and great, silence was the mark of respect. More powerful than words was silence with the Lakota.”

LET US BEGIN WITH SILENCE THEN ACT ON THE THINGS FROM OUR TEXT:  TO FEED ALL GOD’S CHILDREN; HOUSE ALL IN DIGNITY; CARE FOR ALL IN THEIR ILLNESS. James says: those who serve and fight for these causes are truly religious in the best sense of the word.  Amen.

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

Jill Marderness will be our guest soloist on Sunday, November 4th

Jill’s musical journey spans over 30 years with Quintessence Chamber
Ensemble and Michigan’s Bay View Music Festival plus concerto performances
with orchestras across the country. She performed with Chamber Music
Sedona and Red Rocks Music Festival, for children at Matsumoto Gakuen in
Tokyo, Japan and as orchestral musician with Flint Symphony, Duluth
Symphony, Colorado Philharmonic and more. Her awards include Silver Medal
of the Minnesota Orchestra Young Artist Competition presented by Neville
Marriner and both Fischoff Competition Best Wind Group prize and Munich
Competition semi-finalist selection with Quintessence.

Renowned as an artist teacher, Ms. Marderness addressed “The Performer as
Educator” at Chamber Music America and Music Educators National
Conferences. She taught on the faculties of Saint Cloud State University,
Interlochen Center for the Arts, Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp, Grand Canyon
University and for 25 years Arts in Education Roster Artist with the
Arizona Commission on the Arts. At Bay View Music Festival she is resident
bassoonist, private teacher and ensemble coach for college students from
across the nation plus Youth Music Coordinator overseeing the Music &
Munchies family concerts plus Behind the Scenes and Rising Stars Recital
for the Bay View Association summer community.

Ms. Marderness joined Arizona Opera Orchestra as second bassoon in 2000
and is regularly engaged by the Phoenix Symphony, Tucson Symphony and
Arizona Musicfest Festival Orchestra. She is Co-Founder and Director of
Operations for Scottsdale Neighborhood Arts Place and resides in
Scottsdale with her husband Fred Marderness, percussionist with the
Phoenix Symphony.

Tuesday, October 24th, at 4PM, UMOM visit

We always need and welcome 7-8 individuals to serve dinner at this United Methodist Outreach Ministry (UMOM) event (Serving dinner to the homeless).

Families with teenagers 14 years old or older are welcome to join us. We always have fun when we go and there are many learning and teaching opportunities after being at UMOM. We leave CCOV at 4PM and are usually back around 7:30 PM.

This is your invitation to live and love as our faith calls us to do.

Plan to meet at CCOV and then carpool to Halle Women’s Center, 3424 East Van Buren.

MARVELOUS BROADWAY LIVE!

calendarOn Friday, July 22, all are invited to a wonderful production of MARVELOUS BROADWAY LIVE! featuring some of the most talented kids in the area and led by our own Larry Loeber as Music Director and Tina Khalil as Director/Choreographer. It’s our yearly tribute to the music of Broadway featuring some exciting new songs from today’s Broadway hits. If you haven’t seen one of our shows before, you will be amazed by the talent of our performers who put the show together in only 9 days.

The Music Theater Camp Performances are at 1:30PM & 7PM in our sanctuary. All are welcome.