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Thoughts from Pastor Dan

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Dear Friends Church Family,

 

 

In the sermon I preached last week, I ended the message with a question, “You worship a God of deliverance and salvation.  That is your faith.  What difference does it make?”  Faith is a gift.  If we do not utilize that gift with some measure of consistency, then, like any other gift, it becomes another of our possessions that is called out at the end of this life by the famous line from a classic play of the same name: “You can’t take it with you.”  Faith is not a possession we cling to and carry around for our own preservation.  It’s a gift that we use, by God’s grace, for the betterment of our neighbor and ourselves mutually.  It’s meant by its very nature to make a difference.

 

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Dear Church Family,

 

About 30 years ago, members of our now 35-year-old congregation were moving into a church building after holding worship services in school gyms and cafeterias.  The grounds around their new church home had no trees, so the congregation took it upon themselves to plant some and raise them from seed.  Those trees now pepper the grounds of Friends Congregational Church, providing shade and giving our children places to climb and play.

 

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Dear Friends Church Family,

 

Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. –Matthew 18:18, NRSV

 

Let me start this midweek devotional with a shameless plug: Tonight our church is starting a midweek worship service, 6pm.  These Wednesday services hope to foster community building and faith formation.  In other words, in an environment of friendship and safety, we’re going to ask engaging questions and have open conversations together about God, et. al.  Tonight’s theme in particular is “Imagining God.”  It asks a question that’s floating around the Millennial-minded Christian blogosphere these days: How big is your God?

 

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Dear Friends Church Family,

 

Thousands of people flocked into Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church in St. Louis on Monday for the funeral of Michael Brown, which was also called his “homecoming” service.  Among the many images that struck me from that day of mourning was the picture of a sea of people clad in their traditional Sunday best holding their hands up in the air as they poured into the sanctuary.  An eye witness to Brown’s murder reported that the unarmed 18-year-old ran from a police officer with his hands in the air yelling, “Don’t shoot!” when he was gunned down.  Service attendees holding their hands up was a sign of more things than words can describe: solidarity, defiance, protest…hope.  Although it meant different things for many people, what that image looked like to me was a sign of promise.

 

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Dear Friends Church Family,

 

Last week I offered a devotional, “Breaking the Cycle of Violence,” where I shared thoughts on depression and how we as a society stand to be more educated about it.  The midweek message was dedicated to Robin Williams, but in hindsight it was dedicated to so many others who have taken their lives or attempted suicide under the ambiguous yoke of depression.  A dear friend of mine and seminary peer, Rev. Todd Simmons, read that devotional and offered some words of reflection for my further understanding.

 

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Dear Friends Church Family,

 

“Doesn’t it make you angry?” he asked.  A childhood friend of mine had recently died from an apparent suicide by drug overdose.  “It’s selfish, don’t you think—your friend killing himself?”

 

This sentiment resurfaces every time a celebrity takes their own life.  News of Robin Williams’ death by self-inflicted asphyxiation went public and social media exploded with judgments against the epic actor and comedian.  Scathing commentary on Twitter about Williams’ presumed selfishness was so toxic that Williams’ daughter deactivated her Twitter account for her own well being.  A radio personality and a cable news anchor decreed that Williams’ suicide was selfish.  Worse yet, we hear again the religious assertion that if someone takes their own life, they’re simply not leaning heavily enough on their faith.

 

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Dear Friends Church Family,

 

“We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us.” –Romans 12:6a

 

We have opinions that differ.  We have concerns, desires, and viewpoints that differ.  We have outlooks and perspectives that differ.  But gifts?  In our culture of individualism, where compromise is viewed as a weakness, our differences are worn on our sleeve as opinions, concerns, and perspectives that we must defend at all costs.  Understood this way, differences are threats that we teach ourselves to stay away from, so as to keep our way of looking at things from being torn down.

 

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The following is part of the clergy column I wrote for our August e-newsletter, The Connection, available on August 1st at www.friends-ucc.org...

 

With the summer rapidly coming to a close, many of us who determine our annual workload by the fall and spring semesters in our community are squeezing in whatever ounce of adventure, vacation and relaxation we can seize. Some make a pilgrimage to the beach. Some take that trip to the place of their roots to see family and old friends.  Some hop on a bike and travel across the country.  Some spend time in the garden or take in that reading list that's been calling for attention for months. Some deal with affairs, whether obligatory or celebratory, left unattended for far too long in the shadows of our busyness.

 

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Dear Friends Church Family,

 

Then little children were being brought to him in order that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples spoke sternly to those who brought them; but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.” And he laid his hands on them and went on his way.Matthew 19:13-15, NRSV

 

Earlier this week, the front page story of our local paper said that we were “beefing up the border” in response to the recent surge of immigrant children coming to the United States from Central America by way of the Texas-Mexico Borderlands.  A word to better describe “beefing up” is ‘militarizing.’  One thousand National Guard troops are being deployed to the area where undocumented kids are crossing into the region.

 

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Dear Friends Church Family,

 

For this week’s devotional, I offer a prayer that I wrote for a conference call.  Have you ever prayed over the phone?  The first time I ever had prayer on the phone was with a teenager who called me—then her youth minister—to talk through something challenging in her life.  I was on my cell phone walking down the street in a semi-crowded area when the voice on the other end of phone said, “Will you pray for me?”  Taken aback, I said, “Well…sure!”  I stopped walking and stood still right there on the sidewalk with people passing me by on either side.  Then the words came, and then the ‘amen,’ and then a mutual exhale of relief and peace on both ends of the phone.

 

This Week @ Friends

Thursday - Sep 18th

Sep
18


7:00-pm 9:00-pm

Sunday - Sep 21st

Sep
21


9:15-am 10:15-am

Sep
21


10:30-am 11:30-am

Sep
21


5:00-pm 7:00-pm

Sep
21


7:00-pm 9:00-pm

Tuesday - Sep 23rd

Sep
23


7:30-am 8:30-am

Wednesday - Sep 24th

Sep
24


6:00-pm 6:45-pm