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Archive for December 2016

#sacred

Our Advent sermon series this year is called, “Sacred,” and I am hoping to challenge you to see our preparations for Christmas through the Advent season through the kaleidoscope of the sacred.

When you see or hear light in the darkness, hope in the despair, I invite you to post it to social media with the hash tags: #sacred #adventlight

Rev. Paula

Christmas Eve: The “God Clause!”
Christmas Eve is nearly upon us! How can it be?

This is an incredible opportunity for the congregation at the Presbyterian Church of the Eternal Hills, because we will host over 400 people during that one sacred and beautiful evening.

We will be telling the story of Jesus’ birth through scripture and your favorite carols. The pastor’s message will be one of hope for this world — that although Santa keeps a list of naughty and nice, and Santa’s gifts reflect your behavior, the gift of Jesus surpasses all of those things. Whether we are naughty or nice, we still receive the amazing gifts of grace and mercy as shown to us through Emmanuel — God With Us!

In the spirit of being a “Community of believers with open hearts, open minds, and open arms,” I encourage you to come early and help welcome visitors and old friends into our fellowship. We are working on new name tags, and most of them will be hanging on the new green clip stands in the foyer. We hope to remove all the old name tags and the huge board from the foyer, so check the rotating stands first when you arrive. There are two stands, and the clips are organized alphabetically. Wearing nametags will let others know that they can ask you questions, and will be a friendly way to help our guests feel welcome. If you can’t find your nametag, please check at the greeter’s desk. . Jill has been working overtime to tidy up that area for our holiday visitors.

As a quick update, we have two services on Christmas Eve, Saturday, Dec. 24:

5:00 Family Living Nativity Service — this service is designed for families with young children. The children themselves will get to dress up in costumes and become a living part of the nativity story, which we will tell through scriptures and carols. The service is followed by Birthday Cake for Jesus in the fellowship hall.

8:00 Traditional Christmas Eve Candlelight Service — this service, as I described above, will be lessons and carols, with a short message about God’s unconditional love. We close this service every year with “Silent Night” and the spreading of the Christ light through the sanctuary with the candle-lighting ritual.

The next two Sundays will have “Come-as-you-are Services” at 10:00 am with Communion. Can you imagine better days than Christmas and New Year’s to worship God and partake of the joyful feast of the people of God?

Thank you for being a part of our church family. Whether you live near or far away, I pray that you will be filled with light and love this holiday season and into the new year.

With Hope in the Coming Light,

Rev. Paula

CEH Encouragement

During our recent Extravagant Generosity Stewardship Campaign, I asked those in attendance to write down the reasons why they support CEH through their gifts of time, talent, and/or treasure. We had so many wonderful responses! I’ll be featuring them over the next month or so. I hope you enjoy reading the reasons why people attend and support CEH:

▪ We give because we want to support all the wonderful things this Church does for the members of the community.
▪ First of all, I love CEH. I feel the spirit of Jesus as I walk through the doors. The fellowship is so nurturing to my soul. I have been praying to find my stewardship at CEH. My life has been filled with stewardship in my family and community. Hopefully, I will find my place in CEH. (Vivian)
▪ Love. Give. Forgiveness. Pray. Talent.
▪ I am committed to this church because of love: love of God, members of this congregation and love of the leadership have drawn me close to this church as a whole. We are blessed to have such a loving family of God in Church of Eternal Hills. (Claudia Stock)

#sacred

Our Advent sermon series this year is called, “Sacred,” and I am hoping to challenge you to see our preparations for Christmas through the Advent season through the kaleidoscope of the sacred.

When you see or hear light in the darkness, hope in the despair, I invite you to post it to social media with the hash tags: #sacred #adventlight

Sacred Space

Selections from Isaiah 35:
“The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad,

the desert shall rejoice and blossom;
like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly,

and rejoice with joy and singing. . .

“Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,

and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then the lame shall leap like a deer,

and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.
For waters shall break forth in the wilderness,

and streams in the desert;
the burning sand shall become a pool,

and the thirsty ground springs of water;
the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp,

the grass shall become reeds and rushes.

“A highway shall be there,

and it shall be called the Holy Way;
the unclean shall not travel on it,

but it shall be for God’s people;

no traveller, not even fools, shall go astray.
No lion shall be there,

nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it;
they shall not be found there,

but the redeemed shall walk there.
And the ransomed of the Lord shall return,

and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;

they shall obtain joy and gladness,

and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.”

Say — that sounds pretty good doesn’t it? A Holy Way where everyone who travels it is safe and filled with joy and gladness.

That’s what I call “Sacred Space.” But I don’t think sacred space has to be located in any one specific geographical location — sacred space can be anywhere that the eyes of the blind are opened, the deaf can hear, the lame leap like deer. . .

That doesn’t happen, you say? We just don’t see miracles like that anymore?

You can say that, but I’d like to share some stories with you:

“The tongue of the speechless sing for joy.”
Christine is a middle school girl, who after years of bullying learned not to speak up in class. It wasn’t only her peers who poked fun at her when she asked questions, but oftentimes even her teachers would ignore her or refuse to answer her questions. At home, a bulk of her time was spent alone, as her single father worked late, and she was asleep before he got home. So she just remained silent. Christine found her way to youth group, and after a few weeks built up the courage to speak up. Do you know what happened? Her peers actually listened to her. Her youth pastor tuned into her questions and helped her find answers.

“The lame shall leap like deer.”
Mabel is an elderly woman who just celebrated her 80th birthday. She’s lived a rich life full of family and friends. She used to spend hours at the church, volunteering in many capacities. But lately she has attended several funerals of her closest friends, and does not have the mobility or energy to get to the church much. She has started to feel useless — consumed with the thought that she doesn’t serve any purpose to anyone. “I’m just a burden on everyone,” she thinks to herself as she sits at home, alone. But her church family noticed, and a neighbor offered to pick her up to come to worship on Sundays. Once there, Mabel began to feel a sense of wholeness and belonging that she had forgotten. And though she was daunted by the idea of walking through the ice and snow, and concerned about the number of little people running around, the fellowhsip of her church family gave her the courage to participate. She found purpose in worshiping God, and realized she had not lost the ability to be a prayer warrior, or to crochet prayer shawls.

“The ears of the deaf unstopped.”
And then there is David, a young man who just doesn’t fit into any “normal” categories. He didn’t do well in school, and didn’t want to go to college. He repeatedly heard, “You’ll never amount to anything” and “You’re a failure.” After so much negativity, David stopped listening. Somehow, he entered a mentoring ministry through church, and began to hear words of hope: “You can do this,” and “Look how far you’ve come.” Now David has a set of goals and some tools under his belt to help him succeed.

“The eyes of the blind shall be opened.”
Shelly is a single mother with two young children. She escaped from an abusive relationship, only to find herself barely keeping her head above the water. The cost of childcare takes more than 60% of her income, even working over-time at the local grocery store. She feels safe in this community, and doesn’t want to leave, but she sees no hope. When the preschool offered her a scholarship for her children, everything seemed to fall into place. She now sees that she can get back on her feet, and feels confident and grateful for the great environment where her children can learn and thrive. When they are old enough to go to public school, Shelly sees a future that includes completing her bachelor’s degree through online schooling.

These stories are the proof of sacred space. Places where those rough spots are becoming smooth. Where Mary’s song from Luke 1 seems to be coming true:

He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,

and lifted up the lowly;

he has filled the hungry with good things,

and sent the rich away empty.

He has helped his servant Israel,

in remembrance of his mercy,

according to the promise he made to our ancestors,

to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’

These places are indeed sacred space. Christine, Mabel, David, and Shelly are not specific people — they are all of those who struggle and feel beaten down, but find new life in Jesus and in being part of a fellowship of Christians. What if we were to look at all the places where we live and dwell and pass through as sacred space, where these miracles could come true if we only shared the light and love of Christ, and offered the encouragement of connection to everyone we encounter?

In this season of Advent I ask that you challenge yourself. Please don’t raise your hands and shrug your shoulders in helplessness. Please don’t wait for some future date when Jesus will return to make all of these things come true. Please start now to believe in transformation, and embrace your own call to make the ground you stand on sacred space.

I remind you of these beautiful and inspiring words from a woman named Teresa of Avila:

Christ has no body now on earth but yours,
no hands but yours,
no feet but yours,
yours are the eyes through which Christ’s compassion
is to look out to the earth,
yours are the feet by which He is to go about doing good
and yours are the hands by which He is to bless us now.

–St Teresa of Avila

With great hope and expectation that we can indeed provide the sacred space for the “Holy Way,”

Rev. Paula

***
CEH Encouragement

During our recent Extravagant Generosity Stewardship Campaign, I asked those in attendance to write down the reasons why they support CEH through their gifts of time, talent, and/or treasure. We had so many wonderful responses! I’ll be featuring them over the next month or so. I hope you enjoy reading the reasons why people attend and support CEH:

▪ It’s out of love for Christ and the family that we’re so fortunate to be part of.
▪ I am loved, and I am forgiven. How can I not return love and forgiveness to others? I have everything I need, and most of what I want. How can I not share my abundance with others? How can I not give, when I have been given so much?
▪ My goal is really only to make other people’s lives a little better.
▪ Love of God. Love of people in this fellowship. Because “I Can” give of time, talent, gifts. Bring peace to my heart and soul. Helps keep life in perspective. What’s important.
▪ Love and support.
▪ I share as a “thank you” to God for this talent.

#sacred

Our Advent sermon series this year is called, “Sacred,” and I am hoping to challenge you to see our preparations for Christmas through the Advent season as truly sacred.

Sacred Time

We began our Advent Journey on Nov 27 by thinking about Sacred Time. One of the ways we measure “sacred time” in the Church is through our pattern of the liturgical year. The liturgical year measures the way we break our calendars into a series of seasons, holidays, and festivals. Advent is the beginning of the liturgical year, and it is an observation of waiting for the arrival of the Messiah. Of course as Christians, we claim to be a people who have already received Jesus Christ as the Messiah. So why do we claim also to be waiting and watching for the Messiah?

We claim to be waiting and watching for the Messiah not only because we are honoring the generations who awaited the arrival of the Savior and Redeemer, but because we are also still waiting for the arrival of the peace that Jesus’ birth was to bring to the earth. This is the paradox of the “Already but not yet.” Some Christian’s interpret this to mean that we are waiting for Jesus’ second coming. Some Christians interpret this to mean that Jesus already “Came Back” in the Resurrection that we celebrate on Easter. This interpretation encourages us to recognize that Christ is already here and present in the world through the constant work of the Holy Spirit — gifting and encouraging and comforting people. If we see it this way, then we recognize that it is our work, our job to bring about this “Not Yet” Kingdom of God — where “the lion shall lay down with the lamb.”

It isn’t easy or logical to understand the sacred time of the “Already but Not Yet” Kingdom. But our faith is not founded on logic, is it? Dr. David Lose, a professor at Luther Seminary, helps me remember it isn’t about logic:

“None of this makes sense. Except that it God’s way of showing God’s profound love for us, leaving all things behind in order to appear before us in a form we can receive and accept. God as God is too terrifying for mere mortals to behold, let alone receive, and so God comes to us as one of us: vulnerable, weak, frail, subject to illness and disappointment and rejection, all so that we can perceive that God is with us and for us and will not abandon us, as Luther shares in a Christmas sermon from 1530:
If Christ had arrived with trumpets and lain in a cradle of gold, his birth would have been a splendid affair. But it would not be a comfort to me. He was rather to lie in the lap of a poor maiden and be thought of little significance in the eyes of the world. Now I can come to him. Now he reveals himself to the miserable in order not to give any impression that he arrives with great power, splendor, wisdom, and aristocratic manners.
Hard to believe? Absolutely. Which is why there is Advent – four weeks to get used to the idea that almighty God would do anything to convey to us God’s parental, enduring, and redeeming love. And our weeks to be prepared to be surprised yet again by just how far God will go to reach us. Let the preparations begin!” http://www.davidlose.net/2016/12/advent-preparation/
Make your four weeks filled with “Sacred Time” by making every moment, every preparation, every gift sacred.

Sacred People

Last Sunday, Dec 4, we explored the idea of “Sacred People.” Through the stories of two very ordinary people, Joseph and Mary, we listened to how they became extraordinary when they agreed to the mighty tasks that God had called them to. Joseph was called to name a baby, born out of wedlock, as his own. And he did this — we read inMatthew 1:25 that Joseph named this baby, “Jesus.” This is significant for us, for in the tradition of the Israelites, the naming of the child indicated the adoption into the blood line of the family.

Mary was an ordinary young woman, who answered the Call to bear God to the world through the birth of Jesus. She questioned how this could even come about, and was assured that “Nothing will be impossible with God.”

We too, just “ordinary” people, become extraordinary and sacred when we answer God’s call to bear love, joy, and peace to the world. God is made manifest through us through actions and words of loving kindness.

Don’t get overwhelmed! Bearing God to the world doesn’t always mean doing something huge and world-changing. Bearing God in your own sacred Call could be a simple smile, a phone call, a note written, a prayer uttered, a word of encouragement given. These simple actions help us to bring the kin-dom of God into this world.

Even more than that, we are called to all people as sacred people. It can be tough — can’t it? Aren’t there always people who seem to be completely unlovable? But no matter how unlovable a person may seem, they are still sacred. Don’t pray for them to change — pray for your own heart to be like the heart of God and to see that person as God does — a beloved child, called by name and loved deeply by their creator.

If we can begin to see ourselves and others as Sacred People, this Advent season will truly be a season where we move from darkness to light, and the “Not Yet” part will begin to come to fruition.

With Great Hope and Expectation,

Rev. Paula

***
CEH Encouragement

During our recent Extravagant Generosity Stewardship Campaign, I asked those in attendance to write down the reasons why they support CEH through their gifts of time, talent, and/or treasure. We had so many wonderful responses! I’ll be featuring them over the next month or so. I hope you enjoy reading the reasons why people attend and support CEH:

▪ I come to CEH because in a difficult time for me, it is an overwhelmingly welcoming, positive and supportive place, for not only me but for my child. I am learning how to show him how to forgive, let go, and lead a better life.
▪ I share my time and talents offering or providing help. It feels good to help her at at work and hopefully relieves others and helps them feel good too.
▪ Helping people.
▪ I can’t even describe how much I love this community. All the friendly people that support each other, hold each other’s’ hands and that are so giving. And it is wonderful and I am so thankful that the church makes a better person out of me. I love the topics of the services because they remind me of things that are so important but I wouldn’t think about without the church. And I must say that I am not confessed but I just love this community and Church of Eternal Hills. And I just love to see all those happy people!!!