What is a Friend? Rev. Jeff Rider October 14 2018
Job 2 11-13
Faith isn’t an idea, something we agree or disagree with. Faith is something we do. Together. We’ve been saying it all Fall: the single most important word in the Christian faith is…with. At its core, faith is about sharing lives, the good, the bad, even the ugly moments with friends. Keep that in mind as we listen to this story of three men and what happened when they visited their friend, Job, who had fallen on hard times.
That They All May Be One Rev. Dave Stambaugh October 7 2018
John tells how Jesus prayed for unity, that we may all be as close as he was with God. That unity is expressed in the motto of our denomination, the United Church of Christ (That They All May be One) and in the GFC covenant. And it is the hope behind World Communion Sunday, celebrated by churches around the world for the last 85 years.
Seeing and Being the Face of God Rev. Dr. Allen Hilton September 23 2018
Luke 6: 12-16 Genesis 33: 1-11
The lead passage from Genesis tells the very unlikely reconciliation of Jacob and Esau. Jacob has screwed his brother Esau at every turn since they were kids. Then, when Esau got mad enough to kill him, he fled north and stayed away for 14 years. Coming back south with his now-large family, he fears death at Esau’s hands, sends gifts out in front of his entourage to appease his brother’s anger, has bad dreams the night before because he’s so anxious, and finally arrives at the moment of truth.
Shockingly, Instead of throwing weapons AT Jacob, Esau throws his arms AROUND him instead. An overwhelmed Jacob says, “Truly to see your face is like seeing the face of God — since you have received me with such favor.”
The second passage is boring on the surface. It’s a list of the men Jesus chose to be his 12 disciples. But within that list stand Simon, the Zealot (a Jewish revolutionary trying to overthrow the Roman Empire's rule of Palestine) and Matthew, the tax collector (a revenue agent for the Roman Empire). Imagine a member of Antifa and a KKK guy. Jesus intentionally recruited Jacob and Esau before the reconciliation.
All of this points to a part of God’s character that we’ve been ignoring lately in the American church and culture. Today we celebrate that urge to reconcile people as a part of God’s character and look for how it could manifest itself in our lives — personal, professional, political.
Ops! I Did It Again Dave Stambaugh August 5 2018
2 Samuel 11-12, Psalm 51, John 6:32-35
If God can forgive David for coveting, adultery and murder, what can he do for you? When we take part in the first sacrament of the church, baptism, we ask for the power to resist evil in all its forms. In the second sacrament, communion, we start with the Prayer of Confession and ask for forgiveness. The two parts of us do battle with each other and, like David, we (to quote Britney Spears) often find ourselves saying over and over: "Oops I did it again." But Jesus feeds our hunger for forgiveness: "“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty."
Family Matters Dave Stambaugh July 29 2018
'Family matters' can be two things: a noun, describing all the things all of us go through, or a declarative statement that family is important. Families come in all shapes and sizes, united by love. Paul's letter explores how, when we are rooted and grounded in God's love, we experience all the fullness of God - as a faith family, and in our own family.
Slaying Giants Dave Stambaugh June 24 2018
1 Samuel 17
How do you find the courage to do battle with the difficult things in life - to go out and slay giants, every now and then, or day after day? Dave Stambaugh took us to the Valley of Elah, where David withstood the trash-talking of the giant Philistine, Goliath, was undaunted by his size and weaponry, and went to the river to find five smooth stones to put in his shepherd's pouch with his slingshot. David then ran to the battle line - and slew the giant. Dave talks about finding your own five smooth stones to slay your giants, and those of other people and our wider community.
Doorknob Moments Rev. Megan Cullip June 17 2018
Romans 12:9-15; Philippians 4:4-9
How often do we wait until the moment of leaving to share our true feelings? Rev. Megan Cullip's final sermon reminded us of those 'doorknob moments' and focused on the hope of Paul's letter to the church at Philippi, written in chains during a dark time but mentioning joy more than an other letter.
"Finally, my brothers, whatever is...That's why I have dubbed Philippians 4: The Whatevers," said Megan. "Notice Paul is not saying the entirety of anything or any situation will be good or noble or praiseworthy or virtuous or praiseworthy. We won't get to that this side of heaven. This is why he implores the Philippians "whatever is," whatever you can pull out of any circumstance that is Good and True and Beautiful then by all means do it...for that is where you will find peace and you will find joy."
An Unfunded Mandate? Rev. Dr. Allen Hilton April 29, 2018
1 Corinthians 12:4-11
Rev. Dr. Allen Hilton asked if God has given us a "unfunded mandate" when he commanded us to love one another.
"Is church division a bad habit we can't change? The good news is that we have done this before," said Allen. "When Jesus chose his disciples, he included Matthew, a tax collector for the Romans, and Simon, the Zealot dedicated to overthrowing the Roman empire - complete political opposites. Yet they became part of the unified body that changed the world."
Learning to see our differences as God-given and valuable is vital work for Christians in this time of polarization and division in our country. Read the scripture.
Old Story or New? Rev. Jeffrey Rider, Senior Minister March 25 2018
1 Corinthians 1:20-25
Rev. Jeff Rider invited us into Holy Week by entering deeply into the full, unsettling story of Christ's betrayal and resurrection.
"God switches it up - he wants us to take a leap of faith," Jeff said. "We can share not just the parade of Palm Sunday or the party of Easter but also the story of goodbye and betrayal at the Last Supper. He wants us to look at our world, looks at others, through the eyes of Jesus. Every Lent we gear up to face this big loss during Holy Week. We can glance at it the same way each year. Or maybe this year we can give ourselves permission to take a leap of faith and discover the new story, the new life waiting for us on the other side.”
God’s Top Ten List Dave Stambaugh, Minister for Faith Formation March 18 2018
“Technically the United Church of Christ doesn’t have a creed. Our denomination is known for its commitment to private judgement and liberty of conscience when it comes to doctrine and theology; one of the things I love most about the UCC," said Dave Stambaugh. “But we as a church have a vision statement and a covenant – things that describe the kind of church we want to be, the people we want to be. Our vision statement and covenant are our road signs and traffic lights.
“Warm welcome, respectful acceptance, shared joy, tender compassion, through service, inspiration, instruction, comfort, hope and love. The GFC 10 commandments if you will. Summed up with the 2 guardrails of the great commandment: love of God and love of neighbor - reverence and respect. Or in the words of our covenant a common loyalty to Jesus, and a common passion to serve the world."
Choose Love Rev. Jeffrey Rider, Senior Minister March 4 2018
"So how does love cast out fear? And what do we tell our kids and each other to help us live in a world that can be so frightening?" Rev. Jeff Rider asked. If was a good question after a week when the evacuation of Staples High School brought the threat of gun violence home, and news from Syria and elsewhere brought the suffering of children right into our in-boxes. It was time to make choices, Jeff said.
"As people wrapped their arms around each other, a few things became clear," he said, describing the response to the Staples crisis. "We saw there's a difference between fear and anxiety. Fear is a natural response to threat that has the power to protect us. Anxiety is the fear of fear itself that isolates us, keeps us alone with our thoughts, reviewing them over and over.
"When we challenge anxiety, we choose love. When we accept fear as important information, we choose love. When we find the courage to act on more important things, we choose love. Choosing love is more than a slogan. It's the work of the church.”
You are Never Too Far Gone Rev. Megan Cullip, Associate Minister for Youth February 18 2018
Genesis 9:8-17 Peter 3:18-22
This week's scriptures brought us the familiar story of the flood (Genesis 9:8-17) and the less familiar words of Peter (1 Peter 3:18-22) about Christ preaching to the spirits of those who were disobedient in the days of Noah. Rev. Megan Cullip went through the dark days of the flood, and Noah's own despair and loneliness, to the hope in God's Covenant, both after the flood, and in the resurrection of Jesus.
"Jesus descends into dark places to redeem and bring hope, even to spirits long lost in days long gone. For God may have seemed silent in the midst of crashing waves and hopeless faces. But God did speak, not with an answer but with a promise - a costly covenant that would require divine suffering because humans are still capable of such grievous sin. And Christ suffered. And Christ rose. And Christ preached to those who seemed so far gone. The gloriously hopeful point? You are never too far gone.”
When Words Fail Rev. Jeffrey Rider, Senior Minister February 11 2018
The story of the Transfiguration in Mark 9:2-9 prompted Rev. Jeff Rider to talk about prayer when words fail us, and about seeing through the everyday to hear and experience God.
"God places each of us in moments of wonder, moments of awe, moments of wider possibility. Do we really want to miss it?" asked Jeff. "Sometimes we need a mountaintop moment, something beyond words or understanding, to get our attention. Today’s action takes place high atop a mountain. But Jesus and his disciples don’t stay there very long. Soon enough, they come back down."
Does God Answer Prayer? Really? Rev. Jeffrey Rider, Senior Minister February 4, 2018
Prayers - answered and unanswered - are at the heart of Jeff Rider's sermon. Beginning with the story of Jesus healing Simon's mother-in-law in Mark 1:29-39, Jeff puts prayer in a bigger context than our sudden cries for a miracle.
"Prayer is how we go through life together with God. When we reach out as we long for healing and safety, what are we saying? That we don't want to go through this alone? Which is precisely why God wants us to pray. God wants us to share our lives with him. And he wants the kind of relationship where we share it.”