July 2017 newsletter article

visioning sundays

I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the LORD; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope. When you call me and come and pray to me, I will listen to you. When you search for me, yes, search for me with all your heart, you will find me. I will be present for you, declares the LORD” ~ Jeremiah 29:11-14a

June 11 …
July 9 …
August 13 …

These are all the 2nd Sundays in their respective months, and for us at the Presbyterian Church of Oronoco, they are also our Visioning Sundays.

So what the heck are “Visioning Sundays” anyway?

Well, I’m so glad you asked. 🙂

As you know, we’re in a place of transition, a place of new things and change and transformation. Part of the reason we’ve come to this place is out of necessity. Our budget is not large, and we know that things cannot continue as they have been forever and ever. Things need to change, or we’re going to have to face closing our doors, which is certainly not something any of us want to do.

But we’ve also come to this place out of choice. We’ve come to this place because we want to do something different, try something new, be an active and vital presence for God’s love and grace in this community and in the world. That desire to build ourselves up and embrace what could be is popping up all over the place. Ideas are flying around. Energy is high. Attendance is great (and it’s even summertime!). And I must tell you that because of that attitude – that desire to change coupled with the necessary willingness to actually make those changes and try new things – that attitude is what gives me such strong and powerful hope for this little white church on the hill.

And so we are engaging in Visioning Sundays – chances for all of us who know and love the Presbyterian Church of Oronoco to sit down together, have some refreshments, and talk about our vision for the church:

  • What do we love and/or have we loved about this church in the past?
  • What would we like to do as a congregation?
  • Who are we as the PCO?
  • Who do we need to reach out to, and how can we do that?
  • How can we best present ourselves, our core values as a congregation, and our faith to those who may be looking for a church home?

I know summer schedules are busy. That’s why we put 3 Visioning Sundays on the calendar. If you can make it to one, great! If you can make it to all of them, awesome! It doesn’t matter whether you’re a member or a friend or somewhere in between. We want your ideas, dreams, and contribution. As part of these Visioning Sunday discussions, we’re both looking at how the congregation’s history has shaped us up to today and how we can not only survive but thrive in this community.

I truly believe with every ounce of my soul that God does indeed have plans in mind for this congregation – plans for peace and not disaster, to give us a future filled with hope. So as we embark on this process together – as we think and dream and brainstorm and share in life together, may we remember to do so in conversation with God – praying, listening, discerning together, searching for God with all our hearts.

Pastor Lisa sign

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Sunday’s sermon: Holy Communion

communion bread

Texts used – Luke 22:7-20 and Ephesians 3:14-4:6

  • Flour. Water. Oil. Salt. An egg. And a little bit of yeast. That’s it. It’s nothing fancy. It’s nothing complicated or elaborate. But when you mix them together, let them sit a while, and bake them, you get bread. Soft, warm, delicious, down-home-feeling bread.
    • Difference in recipes? Of course.
      • Add different amounts
      • Use variations on the ingredients
        • Bread flour/rye flour/semolina flour
        • Regular salt/sea salt/pink Himalayan salt
        • Olive oil/canola oil/sesame oil (for a little zing)
      • Use completely different ingredients
        • Different herbs and spices
        • Add a sweet element – brown sugar or molasses
        • Cheese bread or fruit bread or cinnamon raisin bread
    • Each new and different element added to the dough changes the bread – makes it look different, smell different, taste different. The ingredients can change the way you treat the dough – how long you knead it (if you even need to knead it!), how long you let it rise, how many times you let it rise, how long you bake it. You can follow the same recipe 100 times and come up with a slightly different loaf of bread every time.
    • True beauty of bread = in its simplicity and its simple necessity → For thousands and thousands of years – 30,000 years, according to scholars![1] – this simple recipe, in one form or another, has been a basic staple of every civilization in the world.
      • France = baguette
      • Italy = ciabatta
      • Ireland = soda bread
      • India = naan
      • Congo = chapati
      • Israel = challah
      • Mexico = tortilla
      • Mongolia = sesame flatbread
      • No matter where you are in the world, someone at the shop around the corner is baking fresh, local bread, and they would all be more than happy to share it with you … not just the bread itself but the story of the bread – how the recipe was passed down from generation to generation; how no one’s bread tastes quite as good as this one; how the family has been built up around this bread, what this bread means to not only the family but the village, the province, the country as well.
        • Bread = more than just a recipe → bread = a story
          • Ingredients tell the story of country and even pantry of origin → who made it
          • Technique tells the story of care and wisdom → kneading just enough, letting it rest and rise just enough
          • Even the things with which the bread is served tell a story. Butter or jam? Some sort of savory spread – olives and cheese, perhaps? Dunked in broth or a rich, hearty stew? Fresh fruit and vegetables? Sugar and cinnamon? Meat and cheese? The stories that go along with the bread are as varied as the ingredients – as simple and as complicated as the lives behind the recipes.
  • Bread plays significant part in our Story of Faith as well
    • Part of the Passover Meal – established when Moses led the Israelites out of captivity in Egypt[2] → unleavened bread
    • One of the many offerings deemed acceptable by God in the Old Testament[3]
    • Bread brought to prophet Elijah by an angel in the desert after his escape from Queen Jezebel and King Ahab[4]
    • David was on a simple mission to deliver loaves of bread to his brothers when he found the Israelite army cowering from the giant, Goliath[5]
    • Bread sustained David and his supporters as they hid in the temple from King Saul, who was trying to kill him[6]
    • Crazy incident when Jesus turned 5 loaves and 2 fish into a meal for 5000 men and their families[7]
    • And then there’s that strange and sacred final meal that Jesus had with his friends.
      • Disciples were jazzed – they just re-entered Jerusalem in a hail of cloaks and palm branches and shouted praises → riding high!
      • Then Passover arrived – holy day in Jewish faith
      • Jesus sent Peter and John on strange quest → Now, don’t Jesus’ instructions sound a little bit like something out of a spy movie? – text: Jesus sent Peter and John with this task: “Go and prepare for us to eat the Passover meal.” They said to him, “Where do you want us to prepare it?” Jesus replied, “When you go into the city, a man carrying a water jar will meet you. Follow him to the house he enters. Say to the owner of the house, ‘The teacher says to you, Where is the guestroom where I can eat the Passover meal with my disciples?’ He will show you a large upstairs room, already furnished. Make preparations there.”[8]
        • Have to wonder how Jesus had this all set up ahead of time
      • But no matter how it happened, no matter how they got there, the meal is prepared and the disciples all arrive at the Upper Room. And they break bread together.
        • Something they’d done hundreds of times before – traveling with Jesus for 3+ yrs. = celebrating other Passovers together but also simple meals together at the end of the day → They surely didn’t expect this Passover meal to be all that different. Holy, yes. An observance of a central moment in their collective story of faith as God’s chosen people of Israel, yes. But then Jesus takes it even further: After taking the bread and giving thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”[9] And in those seemingly simple words, Jesus created community, that night and for centuries to come.
          • Community that we honor and celebrate every time we gather together at this table
            • Every time we break bread together
            • Every time we pass that bread to one another
            • Every time we share in that holy feast together
            • Quote from Rev. Asher O’Callaghan (program dir. for Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, an ELCA organization that provides support and resources for LGBTQ persons seeking a call in the ELCA): When you take the body of Christ every week with people, you BECOME the body of Christ with them. → Every week … every month … it doesn’t matter. The power of the statement is the same. When we take the body of Christ together time and time again, some of us for decades together … when we sit down with each other amidst this broken bread and are reminded of our own brokenness, as individuals and as a community … when we are fed and nourished by the grace of God even in the face of that brokenness … we are changed.
  • Community = not so unlike the bread
    • Different communities look, feel, are experienced differently → We all bring our own stories to this table, to this feast. We bring all the pieces of who we are – the pieces we love and display for all the world to see, the pieces we try to hid in the deepest parts of our being, and everything in between.
      • Like each culture’s bread comes with its own story, this table is enshrouded in stories
        • Stories of those who have come before
        • Stories of those who come now
        • Stories of your experiences at other tables
        • Article: We recall the post-Resurrection meals as a biblical witness of the past; we share the meal with Christ in our midst in the present; finally, “we anticipate the feast for which we wait” in the future. The fullness of communion comes for those who understand that at the moment of this meal, time—past, present and future—collapses into that single moment.[10]
        • When we come to this table, we come to Story. Before we break bread together, we recount the Story of our faith in our prayer – from creation through the Exodus, from the warnings of the prophets to the coming of the Savior. And some of the most sacred stories I’ve heard from others in terms of their own experiences with Church center around this table.
          • From Young Clergy Women International:
            • Cardelia: “One year I took my 4yo daughter with me to camp. I was the worship leader and the last night we had communion on the dock. People came down in small groups or one at a time to be served. My daughter came by herself. I have her communion. She turned to me and pulled me down to my knees. Then she repeated the words ‘The body and Blood given for you Mommy’ and she gave me the bread and cup. She stood with me the rest of the service whispering the blessing to everyone who came down.”
            • Leigh: “We do an outdoor camp communion service on Memorial Day Weekend, and for the last two years, after the service has ended they ask if they can have the rest of the bread and the juice. Two years ago, they all gathered around the table and served bread to one another and they all kept dipping it in the juice. It was amazing. The best example I’ve ever seen of Communion.”
    • Like the different ingredients in bread, we each bring our own different, individual element/flavor – our different gifts that make this community what it is → Some of us are sweet. Some of us are a little bit spicy. Some of us are the flour that forms the solid base. Some of us are the leavening agent that makes everything rise up. Some of us are the binding agent that hold everything together. But we all come together in community here, creating our own little slice of the body of Christ as best as we know how.
      • NT reading speaks to how we are supposed to come together – READ EPH PASSAGE → When we take the body of Christ together, when we share in this holy communion – this sacred meal – with one another, we indeed get to know, to experience, to share in “the love of Christ that is beyond knowledge so that [we are] filled entirely with the fullness of God,” as Paul put it.
        • Words of the hymn that we’re about to sing: We gather here / In Jesus name / His love is burning in our hearts like living flame / For through the loving Son / The Father makes us one / Come take the bread / Come drink the wine / Come share the Lord / No one is a stranger here / Everyone belongs / Finding our forgiveness here / We in turn forgive all wrongs[11] → Alleluia. Amen.

[1] Sarah Lohman. “A Brief History of Bread” from The History Channel website, http://www.history.com/news/hungry-history/a-brief-history-of-bread. Posted December 18, 2012, accessed July 1, 2017.

[2] Ex 12:1-32.

[3] Lev 23:17-18.

[4] 1 Kgs 19:1-8.

[5] 1 Sam 17.

[6] 1 Sam 21:1-6.

[7] Mt 14:13-21.

[8] Lk 22:8-12.

[9] Lk 22:19.

[10] C. Michael Hawn. “History of Hymns: Come, Share the Lord” from https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/history-of-hymns-come-share-the-lord. Accessed July 2, 2017.

[11] Bryan Jeffrey Leech. “Come, Share the Lord,” © 1984, 1987, Fred Bock Music Co.