• First Church Staff

Devotion, April 2, 2020

Scripture: Read John 20.1-18



Easter is coming! We will be celebrating Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday on line. Head to our website, www.firstumckenosha.org at the times listed and join us for worship this Holy Week.

Easter is my favorite holiday and celebration of the year. As a child we prepared for Easter by receiving a new dress and shoes for church. My brother and I talked endlessly in the days leading up to Easter of where the Easter Bunny would hide our baskets made out of chocolate and filled with goodies. We went to breakfast at church, petted the live bunnies on the front lawn of the church, worshiped with extended family and then gathered with relatives for Easter dinner and an annual egg hunt.

Easter is an important day for churches. Hours are spent preparing for this one day. Pews are filled. Lilies adorn sanctuaries. Musicians share their most celebratory music. Breakfasts are prepared. Sunday School is held. Egg hunts happen on church lawns or indoors in classrooms. Everything turns from the black of Good Friday to the gold and white of Easter morning! The Hallelujah Chorus is sung and people prepare for family gatherings. Easter is also the most important day of the Christian year. It is the day we celebrate that Christ the Lord has risen; that life is greater than death, light brighter than darkness and love stronger than hate. It is the day we as Christians say that 'God wins' as we proclaim God's power through the resurrection. It is a day filled with great hope no matter what our sorrow or struggle.

Almost everything about Easter has changed this year. The pews of churches will be empty. The choirs will be silent. Families will not gather for worship or meals. Community egg hunts have been postponed.

And yet, nothing about Easter has changed. Easter will still happen. We will still walk with Jesus into the holy city of Jerusalem. We will share a last supper with him. We will watch from afar his suffering on the cross. We will be silent on holy Saturday. When we awake on Sunday morning, the tombstone will be rolled away. Jesus will meet his disciples and meet each of us where we are.

Some of the most profound words are found in the gospel of John when Mary Magdalene recognizes the resurrected Jesus and tries to hold on to him. Jesus tells her not to for he has not yet ascended to his father. In these simple words is a powerful message for us today. We cannot hold onto the past and what we have known. We are to look to the ongoing resurrection power of God through the ascension who will then be with us not only today but in the days to come.

We celebrate the victorious power of God this Easter as in every Easter past. It will not be in church buildings, on front lawns with community members or large family gatherings. The message of resurrection: light, life, and love that God brings to us at Easter will call us forth into the future with hope and joy, even in the midst of uncertainty. For First Church we are celebrating Easter with one another and the community on our website. Nothing can stop God from raising Jesus from the dead and singing as we have since the 18th century, "Christ the Lord is Risen Today." He is risen indeed. Thanks be the hope and victory that is ours in Christ Jesus our Lord, where ever we may be.

  • First Church Staff

For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven:

Ecclesiastes 3


March 30, 2020


Dear Friends,


As the writer of Ecclesiastes wrote these words about life’s rhythms, I wonder if the writer could ever have imagined what we are experiencing today?  In the church, we are in a brand new territory. When we look back into history, we see these moments when we experienced uncertainty, tragedy and suffering. The church has always been a refuge for people of faith and for society in general.  These days, we are called to think about church in brand new ways. We are still the people of God, connected by the Spirit, called to follow Christ in building our diverse community with God's radical love.


We, your pastors and staff are learning new ways to be the church together.   My heart was touched this weekend as I listened to our kindergarteners through second graders read from the Bible during their Sunday School class held over Zoom.  My heart was elated as I saw our Middle School Sunday School class making funny faces to one another as they were participating in this experience during their time.  My heart was full as I heard our elementary children praying together. My thanks to Pamela Garside-Meyers for arranging these classes.


I am enjoying our Disciple class, Christian Believer, over Zoom and meetings I am having with staff and others through Google Hangout.  Our District Superintendent, Forrest Wells, is working hard to care for all of us as pastors so we can care for you by Zoom, email, and text.  Many other committee meetings, classes, UMW groups, and others are using these means of communication to stay connected. I am grateful to those who are using more traditional means to stay connected ie handwritten notes, phone calls.  As the song text says "we are the church together". It may not look the same, but we are the church.


What we know now is this:  in conjunction with federal, state and local guidelines our building will primarily stay closed through April 30.  However being categorized as an essential service, our day care, under strict guidelines, will be reopening, Monday, April 6.


Worship

This is essential to our life together.  We will be hosting worship services on our website, www.firstumckenosha.org.  Our April schedule is as follows:

Palm Sunday, 8 and 10:30 am

Maundy Thursday, 7 pmGood Friday, noon

Easter Sunday, 8 and 10:30 am

April 19 and 26, 8 and 10:30 am  New worship series, “Three Simple Rules”


As we are seeking strength, hope and renewal in these days, I encourage you to experience worship.   The services will be archived after the 10:30 am service each week. We must also continue to reach out by inviting others to join us in worship.


Devotions

Daily devotions will continue to be posted on the website and Facebook.


Breakthrough Prayer and Prayer Requests

Our Breakthrough Prayer is being prayed at 9:19 am and 9:19 pm on Facebook.  Prayer requests can be submitted to Pastor Susan or Pastor Justin by email or text.  We are working on an on-going online prayer request submission but have not perfected it yet.  Keep watching our website.


Sunday School

Our children’s and youth classes are meeting each Sunday over Zoom.  Email Pamela Garside-Meyers or Pastor Justin if you have not received the link to join in each Sunday morning.ConfirmationConfirmation continues to meet each Wednesday evening through Zoom.


Congregational Care

If you are in need of care, conversation or prayer do not hesitate to contact Pastor Judith, Justin or Susan.  We are happy to talk with you and pray with you.


Giving

Thank you to all who have taken the time to mail in your contributions and gifts.  They are so appreciated. I have included our Easter offering envelope for your giving. During this season, I am hoping to be able to continue to meet payroll and other financial obligations that we have as we encounter them.  I have also scaled back as many of our expenses as possible. We are fortunate to have a strong pledging base for our church finances. Thank you for your giving. It is also a tentative time as this is one of the highest income periods for our congregation for non-pledge giving.  


Meetings

Many meetings are continuing through Zoom.  The church calendar is on the website and updated regularly.


Service to the Community

Our doors to the building are not open, but our hearts are open to those in need.  Thank you to the Missions Team who is continuing to meet and lead us into opportunities to care for others.  


If there is any way any of us can be helpful to you in these days, please do not hesitate to contact us.  I have been so grateful for the many ways in which you are caring for each other and continue to pray for us as your pastors as we do daily for you.  Thank you.


On behalf of Pastor Judith and Justin,

May you know God’s peace and strength in this season,




Pastor Susan                                    Pastor Justin                              

susan@firstumckenosha.org           justin@firstumckenosha.org 

414-614-4006, cell                            262-748-2124, cell


Pastor Judith

judithchristoperh49@gmail.com

262-818-3396, cell


encl:  Easter offering envelope

  • First Church Staff

Devotion, March 31, 2020


Scripture:

Read Matthew 5.3-12



A few weeks ago, the Beatitudes were one of the readings for Christian Believer. They are often known as the rules for right living. Tradition tells us that the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew, chapters 5-7, was given by Jesus in what has become the most idyllic sites on the Sea of Galilee. The Church of the Beatitudes and its’ lawns are beautifully landscaped. It is a restful and peaceful place. We sometimes think about the Beatitudes as restful and peaceful. Blessed are….


The Beatitudes that we know are a translation of Greek from the Septuagint or the Greek New Testament. Most likely the Beatitudes were recited in the language of Jesus, Aramaic. Translations of Greek and Aramaic are very different. In the translation of Greek, we have a very linear understanding of words. Concepts like body, mind and soul are separate entities. In Aramaic, the language is more nuanced, full and complex. There are multiple meanings and words are often concepts. In Aramaic, as compared to Greek, you enter into a picture and discussion. In the case of the Beatitudes, the words lead us not to a simple picture of a disciple of Jesus but to a more mature follower of Jesus. In preparing for class, I pulled out one translation of the Beatitudes from the Aramaic. This translation was done by Neil Douglas-Klotz. It reads as follows.



Tuned to the Source are those who live by breathing Unity; their “I can!” is included in God’s.


Blessed are those in emotional turmoil; these shall be united inside by love.


Healthy are those who have softened what is rigid within; they shall receive physical vigor and strength from the universe.


Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for physical justice; they shall be surrounded by what is needed to sustain their bodies.


Blessed are those who, from their inner wombs, birth mercy; they shall feel its warm arms embrace them.


Aligned with the One are those whose lives radiate from a core of love; they shall see God everywhere.


Blessed are those who plant peace each season; they shall be named the children of God.


Blessings to those who are dislocated for the cause of justice; their new home is the province of the universe.


Renewal when you are reproached and driven away by the clamor of evil on all sides, for my sake…


Then, do everything extreme, including letting your ego disappear, for this is the secret of claiming your expanded home in the universe.


For so they shamed those before you.


All who are enraptured, saying inspired things - who produce on the outside what the spirit has given them within.


I share these in the spirit that life is not straightforward these days. We are living in the midst of recreating life as we have known it into something new. There is not one way over another way. There are multiple thoughts about how we are to change to have health and life. It doesn’t seem as easy in the midst of the pandemic as it did a few weeks ago. Perhaps what Jesus teaches us is that the path to living fully in the midst of our circumstances has never been as clear as we have thought. Maybe what Jesus has known along is that conversations along the path are needed, that people see the world differently, and our experiences are interpreted through multiple lenses. In the midst of these understandings we come to a fuller picture of the life that Jesus wants for us.


Prayer:

Eternal God, in these days when everything has been turned upside down, help us to broaden our understanding about our lives and our place in your world. In the moments when we can only see what we have known, broaden our understanding to the possibilities you are trying to place before us. Assure us of your presence as we settle into new ways of living. Amen.


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