I also didn't notice last week that starting today they're switching to decaf at Coffee Hour "in order to accomodate health concerns of some of our congregants." *rolls eyes* It doesn't matter to me 'cause coffee=gross, but couldn't you just have two urns?
Anyway. They're also doing a six sessions "Beginnings: an introduction to Christian Faith" Wednesdays -- "The evening will begin at 6:30pm with the sharing of a meal, after which there will be a DVD presentation and small group discussions." The blurb opens with "Come explore some of life's deepest questions about Christianity!" so of course I'm seriously tempted. It starts February 15, and they ask that you sign up so they can plan accordingly. Putting my name down on six lists intimidated me (like people would be asking after me or whatever), so I just signed up for the first week.
A baby is God's opinion that the world should go on.
They did a church survey way back when I was visiting in mid-November and had the results today. Pastor Hamilton listed a few and one was "74% believe the Bible is the Word of God" and I thought, "Bzuh?" but then he finished the sentence with something like "as interpreted through time and historical context" and I understood, though I am mildly discomfited.
He said there are several new church years throughout the liturgical calendar and this is the start of one of them -- 'cause with the Annual Meeting last week they have a new roster of church officers.
He made another comment about global warming being not so bad, huh? and geez, who would have thought I would miss an Environmentally Covenanted church? Someone announced that due to the weather -- there is no snow anywhere -- there is no tubing today (a planned activity for the I think jr. high crowd) and I thought, "See, even if you don't have my love for the bitter cold, there is badness to the 50F in February."
Moving into the next part of the service, he said that even though it is grey outside let's think of this as a new beginning and I thought, "It's unseasnably warm and you've gotta hate on the cloudiness?" United has for some time now been opening worship with a responsive "This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it." and I found myself seriously missing that. Do I have too high expectations for clergy types to want them to see God in everything (or at least try to look for God in everything) and as a side issue, to be thoughtful and not take cheap shots?
Responsive Call to Worship:
Love is all around [I immediately thought of the opening of Love Actually and winced.]Processional Hymn: "Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee" (to the tune of Beethoven's "Ode to Joy")
God's love is deep within.
Love acts in sharing,
Love resides in quiet listening.
Love comes as a friend to rejoice with us when joy arrives.
Love is all around,
God's love is deep within.
Stronger than death,
Setting loose a song of joy.
This is one of my very favorite hymns, and the joy theme was reminding me of wisdomeagle and how I was thinking recently about how I don't do Joy Sadhana (mylittleredgirl) so here's the full text.
Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee, God of glory, Lord of love;After the Prayer of Invocation, the next hymn was "Santo, Santo, Santo." I was pleased that they sang it in Spanish first without prompting
Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee, opening to the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness; drive the dark of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness, fill us with the light of day!
All Thy works with joy surround Thee, earth and heaven reflect Thy rays,
Stars and angels sing around Thee, center of unbroken praise.
Field and forest, vale and mountain, flowery meadow, flashing sea,
Singing bird and flowing fountain call us to rejoice in Thee.
Thou art giving and forgiving, ever blessing, ever blessed,
Wellspring of the joy of living, ocean depth of happy rest!
Thou our Father, Christ our Brother, all who live in love are Thine;
Teach us how to love each other, lift us to the joy divine.
Mortals, join the happy chorus, which the morning stars began;
Father love is reigning o’er us, brother love binds man to man.
Ever singing, march we onward, victors in the midst of strife,
Joyful music leads us Sunward in the triumph song of life.
The 100th anniversary of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's birth was yesterday. According to Pastor Hamilton, he believed that confession is integral and that we cannot approach God until we have cleared our consciences. The Unison Prayer of Confession was a variant of one of his:
Heavenly Teacher, we do not always pray as we ought.A woman named Claudia did the Children's Message. It was obvious she was new at this, and I definitely felt for her. (Looking at I think the minutes of the Annual Meeting posted outside Fellowship Hall I saw a thing about increased laity participation in ministry.) But she said that Naomi was a very good person, a very good Christian, and I winced. Later she said that Ruth followed her [Naomi's] Christian ways. And when she was talking about Ruth choosing to go with Naomi, she said that she wasn't a blood relation so she didn't have to and I was confused because earlier she had said it was a rule that the daughter(s)-in-law stayed to help their mother-in-law because she didn't have any men to take care of her (and given the church, I was surprised she didn't make a disclaimer about socio-historic circumstances/norms).
Help us to speak the truth and to listen for your forgiveness:
When we pray, "Our Father in heaven," but forget to embrace all people as your children...
When we say "Your kingdom come" without working for your kingdom on earth...
When we ask for our daily bread, but do not recognize it as your gift...
When we request forgiveness for ourselves, but fail to pardon others...
When we plead not to be led into times of trial, but walk willingly into temptation...
When we honor you with our lips, but fail miserably with our lives...
O God, forgive us. Create spaces in our prayer, that we might hear and live out your words back to us, words of love and justice, grace and forgiveness.
The Scripture reading was Ruth 1.14-18; 2.17-20; 4.13-17.
The translation they used of that second section called Boaz "nearest kin" and I was like, "ew, squick?" until I remembered that Ruth isn't in fact Naomi's blood relation so it's a moot point.
The introductory blurb for the third section talked about the birth "reversing the cycle of death with which the story began."
I thought it was interesting that the Scripture says of Naomi's grandson, "For your daughter-in-law, who is dearer to you than seven sons, has borne him."
And we end with: "He was the father of Jesse, the father of David." Which to Christians is so powerful because we know about the root of Jesse and the house of David.
In his message, Pastor Hamilton talked first about the royal line and then how according to Matthew the line ultimately produced Jesus, and at first I was taken aback by his not mentioning Jesus first, but then I was thinking about how even within the context of the Old Testament, this would resonate powerfully because Jesse and David were such a big deal, and how it was fitting to mention that first.
Message: "Women in the Bible, II: Ruth and Family Ties"
Pastor Hamilton talked about the Hebrew term chesed -- charity, lovingkindness, with no expectation of anything in return. He related a Talmudic story (Googling, it's Shabbat 156b, Rabbi Akiva) which ends with the the rabbi citing Proverbs (10:2) that "chesed saves from death."
He also talked about how Ruth is in some ways coming out of a tradition (e.g., Abraham, Moses) but how unlike them, she goes on this journey with Naomi without prompting, promise or companionship (though this last one troubled me a bit 'cause duh she's going with Naomi, not a native kinswoman but obviously someone she is very close to).
Pastor Hamilton said he sees Naomis almost every day of the week and named some (I imagine) church members in nursing homes and also mentioned a woman in Charlwell whom he called "ancient" and "90 in the shade" (and lo my age issues resurface yet again) who is always sitting outside her room, stroking a doll like a baby. [Sidenote: The translation they read goes something like "And Naomi took the child onto her bosom and become his nurse," and I was like, "lactating widow miracle much?"] And he mentioned how he doesn't see very many Ruths. He said sometimes someone will quit their job to care for an aging parent but that's very rare, and my immediate thought was, "What about the people who hold down full-time jobs and help care for an aging parent?" I mean okay, my grandma doesn't need a live-in nurse (and God help us all if she did, and how many people are qualified to be that for their parent anyway?) but to spend 45 minutes every night on the phone with her and all day Sunday and all the other things my mom does for her . . . .
Next, the Lord's Prayer (debtors -- I always forget they do this) and the Invitation to Offering.
Offertory: "Precious Lord, Take My Hand" (T. Dorsey)
Bulletin says: "In sympathy for the people of the Chicago Baptist Church which was recently destroyed by fire, and where this anthem was first performed."
After the Offertory, the Doxology and the Prayer of Dedication.
It completely hadn't registered with me that it was Communion Sunday until I was looking at the bulletin. I was still bitter about last week and just don't feel comfortable calling myself a part of this specific church community. I do like the Invitation he did, about how this is from Christ for all of us in a way that evoked for me the Invitation I so love that Kelly (formerly of First Churches) did. But as I have discussed so many times, Communion isn't particularly a Thing for me, and theologically accurate or no it feels far more community-of-believers oriented than communion-with-Christ/God to me. I also liked that he broke up pita bread and put that on top of the trays of white bread cubes so people with weak arms could have pre-broken bread but there was still the unleavened bread option (which is always what I think Communion bread should be -- Passover and all).
Unison Prayer of Thanksgiving:
We thank you, O God, for blessing us with these gifts of bread and cup. In receiving them, we remember Jesus and his saving love. Partaking together we are strengthened as your people of faith and as your church. Now send us out to share your grace and your good news with all the world, in Jesus' name. Amen.Recessional Hymn: "Now Thank We All our God."
Next was the Passing of the Peace, and Pastor Hamilton said: In true congregant spirit, we make sure to always sit next to someone we know, so passing the peace becomes greeting the person who lives next door to us. Without creating too much havoc, let's see if we can try passing the peace to people you don't know or whom you haven't seen in a while.
In the post-service receiving line I asked him if I could chat with him about his Esther sermon or was he busy and he said today was a bad day (diaconate meeting or something) so he asked me to leave my phone number and good times to call on his desk. I'd really rather do this over e-mail (what wouldn't I?) but okay.
The back of the bulletin had Ruth 1:16 broken into 4 lines, with the latter part of each line white text on black (contra black text on white) and I liked that.
Where you go I will go,
and where you stay I will stay.
Your people will be my people
and your God my God.
So when you glance at it you initially read: I will go / I will stay / my people / my God.