All Saints Day Wednesday, November 1st by Steven Liechty

“Let the saints be joyful in glory.” – Psalm 149

Every year on November 1, All Saints Day, I remember Sacred Heart cemetery in the town I grew up in. It was a huge Polish cemetery situated on a long sloping hill next to a busy intersection and we passed it every day on our way almost everywhere. Normally, like all cemeteries, it gave me the creeps, especially because at the very top of the hill there was an enormous 19th century abandoned orphanage that scared me so much I wouldn’t even look at it. Naturally, I assumed that all the orphans’ parents were buried in the cemetery.

But on the night before November 1, starting at dusk, the entire cemetery would be lit up with thousands of red votive candles. It made it look like the dead were getting ready for a party, like they had turned on all the lights in the house.

I’m sure it seems odd to say the cemetery looked festive, but it really did. On that night, there was nothing “dead” about it. The effect was to confuse the categories of living and dead. It made the dead seem less separated from us, not so different from us. I used to think all those red candles burning all night on the graves must make the dead people happy, or at least cheer them up.

Of course that was what I thought when I was a kid afraid of cemeteries and orphanages. But now I wonder: why not? If death is not the end, then it’s not the end of cheer or even joy. And not theoretical, pie-in-the-sky joy, either. The real thing, the same happiness we know now, the kind that makes us put up Christmas lights. The kind of happiness that makes us wish it could last forever. Every year on All Saints Day, I wonder if it does.

Prayer

Here’s hoping perpetual light means eternal joy. Amen.

Welcoming Those Living with Mental Illness

W.I.S.E. (Welcoming, Inclusive, Supportive, and Engaged) congregations are learning how to expand their welcome to embrace people living with mental illness, cognitive disabilities and brain injuries. A project of the UCC Mental Health Network, W.I.S.E. is a natural complement to your congregation’s ONA commitment. Learn more at the movement’s next conference Oct. 20 in Venice, FL, and check out the blog for more resources for your congregation.

LEARN MORE

Advent is Approaching! Save the Date: Sunday, December 3rd 1p-4p

Bethlehem Marketplace a non profit event sponsored by

St. John’s United Church of Christ

285 W National Dr, Newark, Ohio 43055

While waiting in the sanctuary for your trip to Bethlehem, music will be provided by various church choirs and musical groups. Once in the Marketplace, guests will experience Bethlehem, as it was 2000 years ago. They will pass the Inn where there was no room and see the Holy Family in the stable. Visitors will receive gifts as they depart the Marketplace and return to the 20th century. Come join us and experience the true meaning of Christmas.

Guests are encouraged to bring non-perishable food items or monetary gifts which will be presented to the Licking County Food Pantry Network.

A Note from Rev Linda Meredith, Past Moderator

These are the times that try men’s souls. So begins Thomas Paine’s The Crisis. His essay talks about choices and change. Matthew’s gospel tells us about the signs of the end of days. Paul, in the New Testament, tells us to persevere and train as if we planned to be in Olympic competition.

Here we are in 2017. Around us are wars and rumors of wars (Matthew 24:6), (Luke 21:11) floods, fires (Joel 2:30 ff), earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, drought, famine, family members quarreling (Matthew 10:21), drug abuse epidemics, climate change, divisions, violence in the streets, technologies that take control of our lives…  If these are not trying times which seem to point to the end of time, I don’t know what is.

We can let the signs and the times overwhelm us. We can allow them to control our emotions, thoughts and actions. We can become immobilized. We can decide to eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die (Ecclesiastes 8:15).  We can also see possibilities. We can bring hope. We can share love. We can believe in ourselves. We can transform the impossible into great realities. Attitude matters. Our actions and words matter.

Look at the example of Jonah. He did not want to be hated by telling people the path they were on was leading to certain destruction. He feared they would mock him or worse. When he became inspired to preach, he condemned folks to violence and death, told them their egocentrism, greediness, apathy were their downfall. When he completes his preaching tour, he watches for God to destroy them. He feels smug, better than them, closer to God, right…

The people who listened to Jonah, responded to his message. They changed. They shared, learned compassion, became less wasteful, and prayed for forgiveness. Repentance showed in changed lifestyles. The path they had been traveling was altered and their painful and horrible end was avoided.

Jonah gets mad about that. And God says how can you be angry that these many people and animals were spared? You did your job well. You changed the world. Get up, there is more for you to do. There was hope for Jonah too.

In our world of negativity, constant change, hectic schedules, unrealistic expectations… We long for something to remain the same, someplace where we know what to expect. Many of us look to our houses of worship for that stability. It is not the church that provides stability, it is our God made known to us in Jesus Christ. Relationships provide our foundations and safe havens. We must have positive, growing relationship with Jesus, ourselves and others in order to remain sane, positive and hope filled. Houses of worship can be destroyed. History can be altered by the latest discovery or revelation. Relationship comes from a deeper more secure place. Relationship is what we are created for. Relationship must not be undermined by tradition, electronics, politics, disasters or fear. Relationship is fluid, relevant, interactive, uplifting, challenging… Jesus calls us to put what we believe into obvious practice in the way we live every day.

The church as we have known it, is not the church we are called to be. Church structure, organization, and mission – must be open to change, growth, new leading from the Spirit. God is calling us to a renewed sense of stewardship of our resources: time, money, volunteers, history, environment, our bodies, our minds and our souls. God knows change can be hard – but it is rewarded with renewed energy and hope.

(Acts 2:17) God says, I will pour out my spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young will see visions and your old dream dreams. Even on servants will I pour my Spirit in those days.

We are called to let die what no longer serves us well (John 15:2). We are called to revive the hope that is ours in Jesus (I Peter 1:3). We all have a part to play that is critical (I Corinthians 12:12-27).

As the United Church of Christ seeks to remain faithful followers of Jesus Christ we change. This is happening on national, conference, association and congregation levels. Clergy are still teachers, preachers and prophets. Clergy are advocates, informers, activists….. Laity are a critical part of the body of Christ. All of us must be equipped, in constant training, self-disciplined, reliable… wise stewards of all of God’s gifts (Matthew 10). We bring those gifts to community. That community near and far, is the church (Romans 12).

Pray without ceasing (I Thessalonians 4 & 5), be team players, never give up on yourself or others, take a Sabbath each week; engage in a lifestyle that witnesses to your faith, vision and dreams.  Together we as the church are great and will save the world.

God is alive and well,

 

Rev. Linda Meredith

Getting to the Root of It

We’ve asked UCC advocates to help us unpack the complex justice issues that we’re working on. Using our scripture and our General Synod pronouncements as the basis for these reflections, we hope to provide insights into the issues you care about that are rooted in our shared faith, and can inform your advocacy efforts.

Justice Events

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