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First Congregational

United Church of Christ

... exploring the frontiers of faith in Jesus

Humility

When I look at the sky which you have made,
the moon and stars that you set in place:
Where do human beings fit in the picture?
What are we?

What are we?

Are we evolution's crowning achievement? Are we the unquestioned masters of this planet, beings of unmatched power and ambition, eager to fulfill our self-proclaimed destiny to become masters of the universe? Isn't that our dream? To overcome, to subdue, to triumph, to tame the universe itself?

Or are we merely the random outcome of a particular genetic mutation, a species bent on self-destruction, existing only for the briefest of moments in one tiny corner of this vast universe, a universe for all we know, or for all we don’t know, may itself be just one tiny speck in all that is? Do we matter? Do we matter to anybody or anything other than ourselves? Or is our overblown self-importance merely a byproduct of our narrow perspective -- we don't know any better because we just don't know?

What are we?

Pascal said this:

What sort of freak [are human beings]! How novel, how monstrous, how chaotic, how paradoxical, how prodigious! Judge of all things, feeble earthworm, repository of truth, sink of doubt and error, glory and refuse of the universe!

Is he right?

Read the rest of the sermon

Grace

Craig Driver, Jo Tefft, Leah Reisinger, Steve Peters. This is who we are, the people gathered in this particular room at this particular hour, each of us bringing our own stories: stories of finding our way, some of us having an easier time of it, some of us a harder time; stories of making a living and making a life, of falling down and rising up, of gaining and of losing; stories of leaving our mark and of being marked by the people who come into our lives.

This is who we are. But when we gather here in this particular room at this particular hour, we are something more. We are together a community, a people, a church, and when others come into this room at this particular hour, they won’t come looking for Craig or for Jo or for Leah or for Steve or for me. Who will they come looking for? Will they find what they are looking for? Will they find God here?

They will find God here, if they find grace. Because where there is grace, there is God.

Grace. It's all about grace. That's what Jean Kimball liked to say: "It’s all about grace." And she was right.

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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

Happy Easter! Jesus is alive!

Easter is not over. It is just beginning. Or, to put it more accurately, Easter was a beginning, a new beginning, a new beginning for God's people, for all of God’s people. All of us, then and now, live in a world where Jesus is going still to heal and to reconcile and to bring peace, and where Jesus invites us to go with him, healing and reconciling and bringing peace.

Our work continues. And, for a little while more, it will still be our work -- yours and mine. And then there will be another called to teach and lead and discern and motivate and, most of all, be with you as you follow Jesus together.

I have reached the home stretch of my ministry at First Congregational United Church of Christ -- three months and nine sermons left. What do you do with your last nine sermons? I have chosen to focus on the main themes of my ministry or, I might better say, the themes and texts I consider to be at the heart of the Christian gospel as I understand it. These are the values, the ideas, the distinctive features of the story of God and God's people about which I am most passionate, about which I believe God is most passionate! These are the nine ...

grace (April 8)
God has made us what we are
We are what we are, we have life at all, our life has meaning at all, only by grace. All is gift, God's gift.

humility (April 15)
Happy are those who are humble; they will receive what God has promised!
If pride is the cardinal sin, refusing to acknowledge God as God, then humility is the cardinal virtue, letting God be God, and embracing what we are -- creatures -- which is our frailty and our glory.

creation (April 22)
And God saw that it was good ...
Good! This is good! The earth, our bodies, all of creation, come from God. The material universe does not distract us from God. It is the place, the only place, we can and do know God.

music (May 13)
They never stop singing ...
We will never stop singing, because song is the language of praise. Music is one of the best of God's gifts to us. Music allows us to express our joy, but music also creates joy!

community (May 20)
The Spirit's presence is shown in some way in each person for the good of all.
You cannot be a Christian alone. God created us for community, for communion with God and with each other.

courage (June 10)
Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you ...
It takes courage to follow Jesus, to go a way which often runs counter to the ways of this world.

beauty (June 17)
Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.
Truth is beautiful and beauty is truth. Beauty is not merely subjective, but is a reflection of God's glory. We see God in the beauty of the earth, in art and music and language, in acts of love, in each other.

shalom (June 24)
Let us walk in the light which the Lord gives us!
God created the world in and for shalom. Shalom is where we have come from and where we are going, what we are made for, and what we are made to do.

gratitude (July 1)
I thank my God for you every time I think of you ... I do! I thank God for you and for all God's good gifts to me, for all God's good gifts to us.

You, Lord, are all I have, and you give me all I need;
my future is in your hands.
How wonderful are your gifts to me; how good they are!

Tim