This week, we will read and reflect on a story from the gospel of John in which Jesus drives money changers and merchants from the temple in Jerusalem. The theme of close ties between the temple and the marketplace in Jesus' day raises questions about the relationship between communities of faith and the economy in our own time. How does the church - both the wider institution and our community specifically - relate to the wider economic world? In what ways do our society's economic tendencies toward the commodification of absolutely everything affect our ability to experience the presence of God? What exactly was going on in the temple in Jerusalem that had Jesus so upset? What might this story call us to think about in terms of how the church and contemporary followers of Jesus ought to interact with our wider economic world? Join us Sunday as we incorporate this fascinating story into our journey through the season of Lent.
In our text for worship this week, the disciples experience the transfiguration, or dramatic change of Jesus. From teacher and rabbi to Christ figure - prefiguring the resurrection, and thus the crucifixion as well. Whether this change in appearance or perception - or both - happened all at once - as in this text - or over time is not so important to the writers - instead, it is the strength of the experience - the depth of Jesus' relationship to God that is the important take away. In a sermon entitled "You Look Different?!" We will consider when and where you experienced a dramatic change in your life - and what that kind of change could mean for our faith. Join us for worship this Sunday in the Chapel - and stay for our Shrove pancake brunch and festivities in the parlors after worship!
-Rev. John H Pomeroy
Our text in worship this week is an account of Jesus healing a number of persons with various diseases and casting out demons who "recognize" him as the Messiah. Jesus retreats to pray and the disciples come to find him, and his response to the growing demand for healing others is to make a choice to continue a journey to neighboring towns to proclaim his understanding of God and heal persons elsewhere. As we face a period of transition and perhaps making some choices about the ministry of our own community, we will consider where we are called as a church. Most of us come to church for healing and renewal - and also to ask for direction in our lives. Where can we serve in our community of Pasadena and Los Angeles - what might change look like for us and for our future? Come join us on Sunday for worship at 10AM in our Chapel!
-- Rev. John H. Pomeroy
In Mark's Gospel, it gets straight to the action! No birth narratives to start things off; just John the Baptist preparing the way and then Jesus appears. by the 21st verse of the first chapter Jesus is already teaching and healing with such authority that people take notice. Whoa! Who is this? We must pay attention to him! We too are invited to see Jesus for the trailblazing truth-teller and healer that he was back in his day. If our response to the words of Jesus is just "meh," are we really listening to his words - of inclusion and challenge and insistence on building the God's community of love here on earth? Let's look again and hear who Jesus is and what he says. See you in church on Sunday!
- Rev. Marlene W. Pomeroy
Scripture: Book of Jonah
This Bible text only shows up in the Revised Common Lectionary (a three year cycle of readings from the Bible that is used in many churches including ours), only two times. It is such a short and powerful story that I can't resist preaching on it this week. Tucked into the last part of the Hebrew Bible between Obadiah and Micah, Jonah is only a three chapter book; hard to imagine if you google utube versions of songs and skits on Jonah and you will find a huge selection! See below for a utube version of Louis Armstrong singing a Jonah and the Whale song that he recorded of this and other spirituals.
Jonah's entire book can be read aloud in under 7 minutes - and I invite you to do so before Sunday! It is such a rich little book packed with rich imagery and important teachings and questions for us all, such as - why did God choose Jonah to go to Ninevah? What does the whale represent in our lives? What does our prayer look like when we are in great despair? What group of people would we be angry at if God chose us to minister among? Jonah is far from a perfect prophet and yet God's unrelenting call to use his gifts to help others is a fascinatingly modern tale. I urge you to read the story, ponder the text and come join us in church on Sunday for worship as we explore these themes.
- Rev. Marlene W. Pomeroy
In our text for worship this week, the writer thanks God for being "fearfully and wonderfully made". Why fearfully? For some writers, our fear is a sign of our understanding of and respect for the power of God - the One who Creates also has the power to destroy. Somehow this psalm feels much more compassionate and personal than that kind of theology - the writer assumes that God knows us so intimately that we are self-conscious about our flaws, our mistakes and our transgressions. In a sermon entitled "Fearful or Wonderful?", we will consider together how our view of ourselves and our sense of God are intertwined in a life of faith. Are you afraid of God's call, or purpose, or work as somehow at cross purposes to your own thriving or success? Are you free to claim how wonderful you are, created in the image of God and given life in a universe full of possibilities and freedom? Come join us as we ask how these questions might change the way we approach our day to day choices! We worship in the Chapel at 10AM each Sunday and invite you to bring a friend to meet us!
Rev. John H. Pomeroy
This Sunday we'll celebrate what we in the church call the "Feast of the Epiphany," the official close of the Christmas season. Did you know that ninety (!) percent of people in the US were expected to celebrate Christmas this year? And that our spending on Christmas totaled more than 680 billion dollars? In Canada, if past Christmas statistics give us an indication of how things played out this year, 21.8 million turkeys were raised and 6.5 million poinsettias were grown for Christmas consumption. Retailers expected to make between 20 and 30% of their annual sales.
Christmas is clearly a big deal, culturally and economically, but statistics also tell us that celebrating Jesus' birth is on the decline. Less than half of Americans said in a recent survey that they would celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday, a number that has dropped since 2013. I don't report this because it bothers me (I love that we live in a diverse and pluralistic society) but rather because it raises this question: if Christmas can be celebrated just fine by a majority of people without any mention of Jesus, why do we in the church make such a fuss about him? Why do we sing about Jesus "the heaven-born Prince of Peace," and in read about Jesus, God's very "word [who] became flesh and lived among us?" Why do we tell and retell such fantastic stories about him, like the story of the magi (the story we tell at Epiphany) where these great astrologers and philosophers travel far and long and from distant countries to fall to their knees in awe and reverence of this baby, bringing with them offerings fit for a deity?
If there is one thing we can take away from the Christmas season at church it's that Jesus is important to us - world-shaking - but can we say why? Can we give our own answer? If I had to posit an answer I'd say that Jesus is important to us in the church because he reminds us of what is real, and I'll be talking more about this on Sunday! Hope to see you there as we transition from one season into another!
Rev. Kristin Philipson
One of our core values as a church is "welcome" and Advent asks us where and when we are ready to welcome others - even God - into our daily lives. The UCC curriculum Faith Practices puts it this way... "Hospitality begins when we perceive ourselves and others as strangers in a community of welcome. Seeing Christ's presence in the other enables us to welcome Christ into the midst of the community, with all of the costs and joys of discipleship. Gentle, attentive, patient, and consistent care is required to create a community where members are intentional about seeking and welcoming all, especially those whose abilities, experiences, and cultural traditions are different from the mainstream of the current community. A community of hospitality is aware, sensitive, and open to divergent cultural practices. It reaches far beyond the limits of the familiar in a highly mobile world, transforming both the newcomer and the established community".
-Rev. John H. Pomeroy
Bible Text: Mark 13:24-37
The 13th chapter of Mark's Gospel has been termed "the little apocalypse," for it speaks of the sun being darkened, the moon not giving light, the stars falling from the heavens, etc. It's an ominous chapter; and then it turns toward the hope of the Human One, whom we know as Jesus coming in clouds with great power and glory. Mark addressed a first-century community of Christians facing persecution and urged them to endure suffering for the hopes of Jesus' imminent return. In our day we hope for relief from the suffering and persecution in our time. We wait. We watch. We are alert in our waiting, filling our time with Godly pursuits.
Rev. Kristin Philipson will be preaching on this first Sunday in Advent. Kristin and her family are here from Toronto, Canada. Kristin earned her undergraduate degree at the University of Alberta and her M.Div. from Emmanuel College at the University of Toronto. She is currently on sabbatical from her staff position as the Minster of Children, Youth and Families at Rosedale United Church, and is working on her Doctor of Ministry in Preaching from McCormick Theological Seminary at the University of Chicago. We welcome the Rev. Philipson to our pulpit this Sunday.
-Rev. Marlene W. Pomeroy