Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Glimpsing God's Reign



“This is my favorite night, not just around Christmas, but of the entire year,” the woman gushed to me as we stood in the Auditorium on Sunday night during our “Living Nativity.” I had not met her before. She had already “confessed” that she was not a member of Central. And yet, as she put it, what made the night so special was that all sorts of folks from all sorts of backgrounds and from all around the area were together, joyous, celebrating. “This is my favorite night.” And I had to agree with her.

            Of course, it is an example of what Central Church takes as its core mission—to be Central—to create space where community can gather to celebrate, to learn, simply to be. And Central takes that as its core mission in imitation of what the Bible calls God’s Kingdom, or better, given the sensitivities of language, God’s Reign—a vision of all the people of the world, gathered together with all their beautiful diversity, joyous, celebrating, at peace. “This is my favorite night,” because on that Sunday night in the Auditorium, it was like you could almost glimpse the future for which we still hope, towards which we still press.

            And I wonder, what would your December look like if you spent it on the lookout, not just for bargains to put under the tree, but for times when you could reach out to someone, reach beyond your comfort zone, reach across all that divides us? Might a favorite night be transformed into a way to beat back the deepening darkness of these days, the growing grayness of these times with the brightness of goodness and love?

--Pastor Don Steele

Friday, December 1, 2017

Christmas Cactus



CHRISTMAS CACTUS
It was not blooming when I left before Thanksgiving, but today, when I returned to the office after my Thanksgiving break, the Christmas cactus that sits on my desk was in full bloom. How unexpected! How beautiful!
I think that’s what Christmas can be if we let it—if we don’t give into the cynicism about the holiday, complaining about the commercialism, wearing a chip on our shoulder about how we greet others. If we consciously decide to turn from all of that, I think that Christmas can be beautiful, even in its corniest elements, the deep yearning to connect with the people who mean the most to us, the decency that is at the heart of folks just waiting to be revealed sometimes in small acts of breathtaking goodness.

And I think that it can be unexpected. Oh, to be sure, Christmas is always on December 25, and the countdown to that date has been going on for months, but I think that Christmas can be unexpected in the way it actually happens for us—that moment that we cannot plan when something is born again in us—call it love, call it joy, call it peace, call it hope. The heart stirs. Maybe there’s a tear in your eye, and Christmas happens for you again.

My Christmas cactus is blooming again! And I hope that something unexpectedly beautiful blooms in your life in the weeks to come.

--Pastor Don Steele

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Breathe



I hope that this week feels like a chance to get a deep breath. The holidays can be fun and wonderful with travel, holiday meals and traditions- but they can also be stressful, with lots of logistics to manage and families out of their regular routines. The holidays can bring sadness, as we mourn for people that we have lost, and they can leave us feeling overwhelmed. So this week, I hope that each of you get a chance to breathe - to breathe in, and feel God's blessing and strength, and then to breathe out and know that you rest in the love of God. 

God loves each one of us as precious children. God calls each one of us child- son or daughter, loved and beloved. We can rest in this- we can know it, and feel peace because of it.

So this week, in a moment of quiet, I invite you to take a breath in, and as you breathe out, center yourself, and know that God loves you. 

-Pastor Deborah Huggins

Friday, November 10, 2017

Gratitude



Thanksgiving is coming soon (how did that happen?), and once we hit November, I always start to think about gratitude a little more than usual. Sometimes it's hard, being grateful when we're confronted with the daily news and tragedies in the world. But have you seen a list of what a little bit of gratitude can do to a person? Better productivity, more optimism, better emotional health, greater physical health benefits...the list goes on and on with just how much good some gratitude can do a person. Thanksgiving is always a natural reminder to be grateful, but why can't we celebrate thankfulness all year long? Maybe we don't get to see extended family all year long and enjoy some amazing food that the holiday warrants, but there's no reason we cannot continue the attitude of gratefulness every single day of the year. Imagine if we all tried a little harder - our little part of the world could collectively be healthier, happier, more productive, nicer, kinder, & more willing to give and help others. To me, that's an incredible benefit for just a little bit of focus and effort on the positive. I know it's hard sometimes...but there is always at least 10 things we can offer up our thanks for at any given time. We are pretty fortunate in the grand scheme of things...let's never take that for granted, this holiday season and throughout the year. And most importantly, let's pass that attitude of thanks along to those who may need it a little more than us. The ripple effect could go a long way.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Rooted and Grounded in Love



The news is filled with it—stories of another terror attack, this time close to home, in Manhattan. A man drives a rented truck into the bike lanes trying to kill as many people as he can. There is a sad familiarity to it, echoed not just in other stories about terror attacks, but other stories about the ways human beings deliberately try to hurt each other, or turn a blind eye to the pain of other people. It’s hard to know what to do about any of it, but it’s clear how all the stories can leave us feeling. They can leave us feeling afraid. “Lock the doors. Get a better security system. Buy a gun,” we’re told.
There is an antidote to the fear, and it is administered in religious communities like Central Church. Oh, I know that religion has a lot for which to answer that is not good, but in the process of pointing out the failures, the important contributions of religious communities have been overlooked. As the Apostle Paul put it long ago, the Church is to be a place where people “are being rooted and grounded in love” (Ephesians 3:17), and there is ample evidence that in mature religious communities like Central Church, that is exactly what happens, just as there is ample evidence that, in the rush away from such communities, people are left a bit rootless, ungrounded in anything but fear.
You don’t have to live that way. Our doors are open you, your family. And if you aren’t around here, my guess is that there is a church just like us near to where you are. It might seem a bit old fashioned, but if you look again, that’s really just a sign of the maturity of being rooted and grounded in something deeper than today’s headlines.
--Pastor Don Steele

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Seek Me, Find Me



In Jeremiah 4, God speaks to the children of Israel and tells them that God will “let you find me.” God promises us that when we seek God, that we will find God.  “Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me, says the Lord.”

When we spend time with our children and youth in Sunday School, Youth Group, Vacation Bible School and on Mission Trips, we talk to them about God Sightings. Each day we share places where we saw God.  Older youth share their God Sightings as part of worship and in small-group discussions. At VBS the children plugged in light bulbs for each of their God Sightings.  It can be something small, like when I fell during games, my new friend helped me up, or it can feel providential, like, the family lost their mother three years ago, and the blanket that she always had is in tatters- the prayer shawl that we brought is the same color. When we notice and share these signs of God’s nearness and action in the world, it helps us to be closer to God.

By talking about God Sighting, we hope that our young people with learn to look for signs of God in their relationships, in their work and in their service to God and to others, and we trust that this understanding will help their faith to grow.

As we move into the stories of the prophets this month in worship, we will be thinking about how God spoke through them, and how God still speaks to us. I encourage each of us to take some time thinking about those places where we hear God’s voice most clearly, to give thanks for them, and to work to spend extra time this month seeking them out. 

-Pastor Deborah Huggins