From “Who was I, that I could hinder God?”, Rev. Nate Klug's sermon on Acts 11:1-18.

From “Who was I, that I could hinder God?”, a sermon on Acts 11:1-18.

 Listen to this week’s sermon by clicking here

And so finally Peter is inside Cornelius’ house.

And he’s talking with these Gentiles, eating their food, accepting their hospitality.

And they’re getting to know each other.

And then the Gentiles ask Peter to speak a message to them:

“Tell us about Jesus, so we may be saved.”

And Peter has come a long way already.

And still, still, when they ask him to preach the Good News to them…Peter hesitates.

I’m not cut out for this, God.

Why do you have to put me in these situations?

Why can’t you just keep me with the people I know and am comfortable with?

 

And we know what Peter decides to do in the end.

But I want to linger at this moment of hesitation for a minute.

And I want to ask…

Have you ever had a moment that felt like this?

Has God ever put you in the position where you are side by side with a person, or a group of people…

that makes you uncomfortable, for some reason?

And you have to choose how to respond?

 

I’m leading an Inquirers class after worship today.

And in preparing for that, I was reminded of three history-making moments that we claim as part of our tradition in the UCC.

 

The first happened way back in 1785....

When Lemuel Haynes, an African-American veteran of the American Revolution, was ordained by a Congregational church in Connecticut.

The first African-American ordained minister in this country.

 

The second happened in 1853…

When Antoinette Brown, a women’s rights activist and graduate of Oberlin College, was ordained in a Congregational church in New York.

The first female ordained minister in this country.

 

And the third happened only 45 years, in 1973.

When Bill Johnson, a graduate of Pacific School of Religion, was ordained at the UCC church in San Carlos.

The first openly gay ordained minister in this country.

 

And we celebrate each of these moments as part of our church’s legacy. They seem inevitable now.

 

But the truth is, each of these cases happened, because there were a group of human beings gathered together in a room.

Gathered, just like Peter and the Gentiles at Cornelius’ house.

 

And sure, maybe some of them knew the right thing to do right away.

(Of course we like to think we would be one of those people!)

 

But I bet a far greater number of people who voted, in each of these situations, were like Peter in our story.

 

Coming face to face with an other person they didn’t fully understand.

Maybe even a person they had been taught their whole lives to avoid...

Certainly a person who they had not associated with the full holiness of God.

 

And so, as every stereotype, and preconception, and anxiety swirled around in their heads…

they prayed.

And I bet not a few of them prayed something like Peter must have prayed.

 

This wasn’t my idea of serving you, God.

I’m not cut out for this.

Why can’t I just stick with the group I feel comfortable with?

 

And as they prayed, there is no doubt in my mind, that a voice came to some of them…

just as it came to Peter in Cornelius’ house.

 

Don’t you get it?

THIS is what following me is all about.

Breaking down the boundaries of our world… is what my love means.

Vision 2020 and Capital Campaign Midpoint Update Report

Vision 2020 and Capital Campaign Midpoint Update Report

May 24, 2019

Compiled by Linda Young, Vice Moderator, with input from Council & Trustees

 We are well on our way to reaching our goals, both in pledges collected from the 2017 Capital Campaign, and in completing original 2020 planned projects.   Council wishes the congregation to see current progress at this point.  The council has learned about some unforeseen expenses that need immediate attention and is working on prioritizing.  More information will come soon.  

 

Important Opportunities to Give

 The Council, 2020 Planning Committee, Capital Campaign Committee, and Board of Building and Grounds trustees have all worked hard to provide good stewardship of our building and grounds, and are deeply grateful for the generosity of the Congregation during the Capital Campaign 2017, as well as for generous estate bequests and gifts, Endowment Trustees, and our Treasurer’s management of funds. 

 ·       If you made a “one-time donation” to the 2020 Capital Campaign and intended to add another, this is a good time.

·       Perhaps you have still not pledged or contributed to the Capital Campaign and would like to make a pledge.

 If you wish to write a check, write it payable to Arlington Community Church with Capital Campaign in the left bottom corner.  You may put it in the offering plate, or mail to Elena Caruthers at 234 Williamette Ave, Kensington, CA 94708.

 You may recall some of this history:

 2020 Envisioning

 In 2012 a Building Imaging Team was formed to develop a plan for improvements to the church building and grounds. A survey of ideas was conducted and recommendations were made to the congregation in 2013. Planning and prioritizing continued through 2014-15. 

 The Church Council gave the name 2020 Vision to the concept of working through these ideas and formed an advisory committee to work with the Church Council and the Building and Grounds Trustees.   The focus was to imagine what the church could look like in 2020 with a broad horizon. Priorities were adopted to address safety and accessibility issues and then plan improvements that could last at least 50 years.  

 The committee created a comprehensive project list, set goal periods for completion and identified sources of funding. Sources included Endowment funds, memorial bequests, gifts, and funds in the Building and Grounds Trustees budget.

 During the same period, a major solar energy project was undertaken, and while it was not originally part of the 2020 Vision, other projects were done in conjunction with the solar project.   After examining funds available to take us through 2020 projects, the Council decided a Capital Campaign was necessary.

 

2020 Capital Campaign Progress:

In 2017 a Capital Campaign Committee was formed and began collecting pledges and donations to further the work of projects on the 2020 Projects list.

 Financial Secretary, Elena Caruthers, reports the following:

 ·       June 30, 2019 marks the mid-point of our Vision 2020 Capital Campaign.

·       Our pledges to the campaign at the end of 2016 were $157,425.

·       As of May 15th we have collected over $106,500 or 68% of the pledges.

·       This leaves just under $50,000 remaining in outstanding payments. 

 

In the meantime, the Board of Building and Grounds Trustees has been working hard to see that projects are fairly bid and effectively completed. 

Capital Improvements completed as of May, 2019:

Inside:

·       Kitchen Remodel: including floors, cabinets, freezer, counter tops, sinks, appliances, lighting and paint

·       New Fixtures and improved lighting in the Narthex

·       Social Hall improvements:  curtains around the room and on the stage, window repairs, and repainting

·       Furnaces:  Sanctuary, Classrooms, Fireside Room and Social Hall

·       Repair of Steinway

·       Fireside Room: TV,  windows in room doors, carpeting -including up the back stairway

·       New blinds and light fixtures in Conference Room and lounge

Outside:

·       Major concrete work around the building that has been bring our facility up to the requirements for safety

·       South end railings

·       Roof on Social Hall

·       Solar Paneling

·       Painting upper wall outside office

·       Landscaping in front of the church

·       Wood deck rehab south of sanctuary

Schools

·       Montessori School Flooring

Some 2020 Projects  “In the Works” and coming up very soon.

·       Urgent Roof replacement for the sanctuary and offices due to wind and rain damage.  (The social hall roof was replaced when we installed solar in 2015.) This was not on the original 2020 plan, but recent rain and wind damage requires us to list it as a priority. The council has reviewed several bids and has agreed to work beginning July 8th of this year. This project requires additional funds.

·       Concrete work on the north side of the church including a wall, new steps, new patio and labyrinth, deck, and fixing the sidewalk in front of the church.  This work has been scheduled.  This concrete work will begin in August is a major project which will rebuild a critical retaining wall and improve access to the schools from Arlington Avenue.

·       Sound system in the Social Hall. A team of people are already exploring the needs and looking for solutions.

 Council is looking at the remaining list of 2020 projects along with new developments in the needs of both the facility and the Congregation.  Updated information will be available soon. 

Again, if you’re interested in giving: to write a check, write it payable to ACC with Capital Campaign in the left bottom corner.  You may put it in the offering plate, or mail to Elena Caruthers 234 Williamette Ave, Kensington, CA 94708

From “Mother-er God,” May 12 sermon by Rev. Nate Klug

From “Mother-er God,” May 12 sermon by Rev. Nate Klug

 Listen to this week’s sermon by clicking here

There is a word that certain feminist writers have been using it in their work, hoping that it will catch on.

The word is “Motherer.”

It’s mother…but with an extra “er” at the end. 

 

And a motherer, is one who mothers.

Well, OK!, you might say.

 

But this new word, motherer, is meant to remind to us of a few things.

First of all, it makes “mother” into a verb, “to mother.”

 

This is meant to acknowledge that mothering is work.

It is labor… often unpaid, and unrecognized, in our society.

We are still the only industrialized nation not to guarantee its citizens paid parental leave.

And that still forces many women to choose for a time, between their careers and their kids.

 

But the word “motherer” also reminds us that mothering isn’t only labor or drudge work.

No, it is work that shapes another human being as they come into their own.

It is imaginative, playful, deeply creative kind of work.

 

The psychologist DW Winnicott tells the amazing story of how children learn how to be by themselves.

At first, of course, separation from our mothers for almost any period of time is agonizing.

We used to live inside them, after all!

 

But slowly, month by month, babies start to sit up and play. And crawl around and investigate.

And eventually they can create whole worlds out of their imagination.

 

But what Winnicott found, was that the initial phase of exploration, of starting to discover the world on your own…

it could only happen, if the baby was absolutely confident that their mother, or caretaker, was nearby…

Right close by, reading a book, or scrubbing dishes, or sending emails…

and peeking down the hall every minute or two to check in on them.

 

That’s how each of us learned to be individuals!

And as much as we like to think we’re independent and self-reliant…

Winnicott reminds us, that we only learned to be ourselves…

because of the presence of someone else.

 

And lastly, this new word, “motherer,” is meant to remind us that caring for someone else is a quality that we can all share.

 

Some of us had great relationships with our mothers. Some of us didn’t.

 

Some of us knew they always wanted to have children.

Some of us didn’t. Some of us haven’t been able to.

 

But a motherer can be anyone, anyone…

whose better self is brought out in the sacrificing of their own needs. In the act of nurturing.

And in that sense, it’s something we can all aspire to, regardless of our gender.

Richmond Emergency Food Pantry “Protein” Offering May 5th

Richmond Emergency Food Pantry “Protein” Offering May 5th:

THANKS to all those who contributed to the Protein Offering for the Richmond Emergency Food Pantry.

Tuesday this week the following donations were accepted with gratitude and smiles by volunteers at the pantry:

•          11 Jars of Peanut Butter

•          37 6oz cans of Tuna or Chicken

•          15 9.75 cans of Tuna or Chicken

•          17 cans of beans and other. 

After church, a couple of people asked where the pantry was located:  It is on Barrett Ave, diagonally across from the Richmond Art Center and is open Tuesdays and Fridays.  

Volunteer Opportunity: You, or someone you know would be gratefully received into the family of volunteers who operate the Pantry if you could give one or two Tuesdays a month -10 AM to 1 PM (substitutes available) to sit behind the volunteers at the window and enter intake information into the computer.  No training necessary.  If you have questions, ask Linda Young, 685-4394, or call the Richmond Emergency Food Pantry at 510-235-9732. 

Board of Missions and Social Justice

From “Do People Really Change?” May 5 sermon on Acts 9:1-6, by Rev. Nate Klug

From “Do People Really Change?” May 5 sermon on Acts 9:1-6, by Rev. Nate Klug.

 Listen to this week’s sermon by clicking here.

After his conversion on the road today…

Saul ends up traveling the world to spread the message of Jesus’ love.

 

He organizes new churches.

He writes passionate, proud, poetic letters about what faith in Christ means.

He ends up in Rome, and dies a martyr himself. Just like Stephen.

 

And two thousand years later, when we look back on the Jewish movement that became Christianity, that spread all over the world…

there is no doubt who is the most important figure in its development.

It’s this same, complicated man. It’s Saul.

 

Do people really change?

 

(Sometimes when I title my sermons, I have some idea of where I’m going to land beforehand. It’s probably a good idea in general.)

But this time, I didn’t have clue where I was going!

I chose my title, because I wanted to figure out what I thought about this question.

 

And any of us who work closely with others in our jobs…

or have a complicated person in our family…

or are in a relationship, or have friends…

does that cover all of us?

 

You have probably wondered about this question, too...

Do people really change?

 

And I don’t know if you can tell by my title, but I approached this question with a fair amount of skepticism this week.

 

Now, I know I’m supposed to say, “Of course, people change! Saul does.

The Bible is full of stories of transformation.”

 

But I need to preach what I feel.

And I realized my skepticism, these days, comes from two places.

 

First, I think our culture too easily accepts stories of transformation, from its celebrities and politicians and powerful people.

We scarf these stories down like fast food!

 

(This is one legacy of our Puritan roots, maybe…

Where you had to testify about your conversion in front of the church, to get welcomed into the elect.)

 

And whether it’s a comedian like Louis CK, or an athlete like Kobe Bryant, or a company like Facebook…

I have seen too many people in power use these narratives to their advantage.

 

A person in power messes up.

You get caught. You apologize. Maybe tear up a little.

And then after a little while, you are back in the spotlight. Behaving more or less as before.

We have saved your seat for you!

 

And secondly, on a more personal level…

I have known quite a few people who have been hurt, because they were in relationships where the other person needed to change.

Some dangerous or painful behavior was happening.

 

And the other person promised they’d do better.

And they believed them, or wanted to believe them.

 

And then the dangerous or painful behavior happened again.

And the cycle began all over.

 

Both these situations are examples of what the theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer brilliantly calls, “cheap grace.”

Cheap grace.

 

Cheap grace is forgiveness announced and received, when it isn’t really earned.

It’s mercy, without the hard work of repentance.

It’s the twelfth step of AA or Al Anon, without the fifth step of saying sorry.

It’s “transformation,” without change.

 

 

“God, grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change,”

the famous Serenity Prayer begins.

 

All the things we can’t change… about the world.

About ourselves.

Help us be OK with who we see in the mirror, tomorrow.

 

A mentor once told me a story about Zusha, a great medieval Rabbi.

Zusha was at the end of his life. And he was troubled about something.

 

And his students all said, “Rabbi, don’t worry!

After all the good deeds you have done, God will certainly welcome you with a great reward in heaven!”

 

And the rabbi said, “No…When I get to heaven, I think God’s going to ask me one question.

And God’s not going to say, 'Why weren't you more like Moses?' or 'Why weren't you more like Sarah?'

No, God will ask, ‘Zusha, why weren't you more like Zusha?'

 

For Zusha, and for Saul…

true change, real change, actually meant becoming themselves.

 

After all, when Saul started following Jesus…

it’s not like this intense man suddenly became a tie-dye-wearing hippie!

He wasn’t suddenly going out to hug trees, and release doves into the sky.

 

No, his letters still show that he was a fiery person.

But now, he was who he was…for God’s love.

All his energy and passion was focused in God.

 

So when we pray for transformation, for ourselves and others…

maybe this is what we should ask for.

If I’m an extrovert… let me be loud and proud, and the life of your party, God!

If I’m an introvert…let me use my listening skills to tune in to your still small Voice.

 

And if we’re praying for someone else…someone who is depressed…

Someone who isn’t on the right track…

 

Let’s ask that they might first find God’s presence in that place.

And learn to love themselves, right now.

 

Change me, God. But don’t replace all the parts of my car, all at once.

Just point my humble, beat-up VW Bug in your direction. Amen.