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First Congregational

United Church of Christ

... exploring the frontiers of faith in Jesus

A public witness

When I think of a person who witnesses publicly that they belong to Jesus ...

I think of a person who stops in their tracks, who pauses to listen, who hesitates before speaking, a person who makes careful consideration before deciding or before doing.

I think of a person who is daunted, grieved, heartbroken by what they see and hear, but not enough to be brought to despair, because they believe in prayer, because they believe in God.

I think of a person who is not too afraid to not fit in, a person who pledges allegiance to no cause or party or nation, but only to God.

I think of a person who is not too afraid to act, to stick their neck out, to say what needs to be said, to tell the truth, to do the truth, to make sacrifices, because they believe in God, because they love Jesus more than anything else.

I think of a person who may not be outspoken or demonstrative about their faith, but a person you know you can trust, a person you know you can count on, a person you know is invested in doing the right thing because it is right, a person who can be changed, a person who is changing every day, paying attention to the winds of the Spirit and to the voice of the God who is still speaking ...

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Making disciples

My friend, Rachel, and her colleagues invest themselves in caring for the children and youth of Chişinau at La Via Community Center. "La Via" means "the way," the way of Jesus.

This is Jesus' way:

Go to all peoples everywhere and make them my converts: baptize them and strive always to add to the numbers of people in my church.

Is that what Jesus said? Did you hear when I read the gospel? Is this Jesus' way? No! Jesus said:

Go to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples.

What is the difference between making a convert and making a disciple? Which is easier? Making a disciple requires time, a long term personal investment, consistency, endurance, discipline, and integrity. Integrity because it is your life, not just your words, that make a disciple ...

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Shalom

We wait for what God has promised

Earth

... new heavens and a new earth!

• Read my essay, Heaven can wait

Staff Corner

"I was hungry and you fed me."

It's clear. It's specific. It's indisputable. Jesus said this is what righteous people do.

The author of the gospel of Matthew places this message at the end of the twenty-fifth chapter, just before beginning the account of Jesus' last days -- his passion, his arrest, trail, and execution. These are Jesus' "final words," his "parting message," to his followers. This is what matters. It is by this standard that you will be measured. "I was hungry and you fed me."

But when did we ever see the Lord hungry and feed him? Whenever you did this for the least of my brothers and sisters, you did it for me. That is Jesus' message. Clear. Specific. Not metaphorical, but quite literal. You see a hungry person? Feed her and you feed Jesus.

I was overcome with grief and horror when I read about the plight of the people of the Horn of Africa as I was doing research for last Sunday's sermon. Twenty million people in Somalia and South Sudan and Yemen at risk of severe famine. The equivalent of the entire population of Iowa and Wisconsin and Minnesota and Missouri combined, all starving to death.

If that were indeed true here, we would think it a crisis of apocalyptic proportions. It is a crisis of apocalyptic proportions! I could not do nothing: "I was hungry and you fed me." If you want to do something, consider a gift to the American Relief Agency for the Horn of Africa (ARAHA), a relief organization based in Minneapolis. A gift of $150 supplies one family with a relief package that includes a "food basket, nutrition packs for children, and water" (https://araha.org/drought-relief-2/).

In rural Haiti, only half the people have access to an improved water source, water free from contamination. "I was thirsty and you gave me a drink." If you want to do something for thirsty people in Haiti or elsewhere around the globe where people lack access to potable water, consider a donation to charity: water (https://www.charitywater.org).

"I was a stranger and you received me in your homes." As followers of Jesus, we must be at the center of the debate about the response of our nation and local communities to the immigrants and refugees among us, because Jesus told us that our welcome of strangers is a measure of our welcome of him. As a church, we have welcomed a community of Burmese worshippers into our "home," and that matters. Other churches have sponsored refugee families, or provided legal services to refugees and undocumented immigrants, or advocated for a compassionate response to foreigners among us. Some have chosen to identify as sanctuary churches. There is no one "right" response, but we must respond in some way because the stranger among us is Jesus.

Tim