We have made a tradition of getting our sanctuary and, hopefully, ourselves, ready for this special season by decorating the Christmas tree with Chrismons and by singing Christmas Carols – all in anticipation of this season of hope and expectation.
Chrismon is a combination of parts of two words: Christ and monogram. A Chrismon is just that; a monogram of Christ that is placed on a Christmas tree. These monograms or symbols are traditionally made in combinations of white and gold. White, the liturgical color for Christmas, contains all the colors of the spectrum and reminds us that Jesus brings to us in himself the fullness of what it means to be human; the gold reminds us of his majesty and glory. We use white lights on the tree to remind us that Christ is the “Light of the World.”
Pastor Jason continues in Matthew:
“Thanks-living” – In this parable from Matthew, Jesus calls those who carry on his mission of feeding the hungry, welcoming the stranger, visiting the sick and imprisoned, “sheep.” These sheep will inherit eternal life because they have given Jesus himself something to eat, have welcomed him, and have visited him while he was sick and in prison. They think that Jesus has made a mistake because they never did any of these things for him, but Jesus tells them that whenever they did these things for anyone, it is like they have done it for him. Why does Jesus identify so strongly with the lowly? And how can Jesus’ message help us to live and share more courageously, and more thankfully?
Exciting News! Our Pastoral Search Committee has selected Rev. Jason Sisk-Provencio as pastor of our church! There will be a Congregational Meeting December 7, 2014 right after our church service. The purpose of this meeting is to approve the committee’s selection.
To call a pastor, a quorum and a 2/3 vote is needed. If you are unable to attend this meeting, please request a ballot by contacting Tim at the office 805-544-1373 or Your completed ballot will then be submitted in absentia. Only current church members are eligible to vote. Not a member? There is still time to join before the vote!
Rev. Richard Kurrasch shares from Isaiah & Joel:
“Is Your Tent Too Small?” – Just imagine … the San Luis Obispo Missionary Society, a ministry of the San Luis Obispo United Church of Christ (Congregational)–SLOMSSLOUCC, for short. Impossible? Unlikely? Scary? All the above? Who can say, but just in case, it might be a good idea to lengthen the cords and strengthen the stakes of your tent … just in case.
“Partners In Service” – Jesus sums up a major theme of today’s scriptures: “But the one who is greatest among you will be your servant. All who lift themselves up will be brought low. But all who make themselves low will be lifted up” (Matthew 23:11-12). In Joshua, the priests bearing the ark of the covenant have to wade into the Jordan River before the waters part, allowing the people to walk across on dry ground. Jesus scolds the scribes and the Pharisees for forsaking servant ministry in favor of earthly recognition: the best seats in the synagogue, honor at banquets, and respect in the marketplaces. Paul reminds the church at Thessalonica that those who brought them the gospel worked day and night on their behalf so as not to be a burden on anyone. The psalmist describes the fate of the wicked and the righteous: The Lord turns the rivers of the wicked into parched ground, but transforms the deserts of the faithful into springs of water. Humility and gratitude for God’s blessings lead to servant ministry and a recognition of our dependence on God, on one another, and on God’s good earth.
What’s Love Got to Do with It? – The religious establishment in Jesus’ day repeatedly tried to trick him into saying something blasphemous or inconsistent with the Torah, the instruction that went all the way back to the foundations of Israel. And yet, Jesus very rarely answered their questions directly. But he does answer the question of what the greatest commandment is—he says that it is to love God with everything we’ve got and that the next greatest commandment is “like it”: to love our neighbor as ourself. What does Jesus mean that the second commandment is “like” the first? Does he mean that all we have to do is love? Does he mean that loving God is somehow connected to loving our neighbor? If so, why aren’t more religious people more loving? And how can we be more loving?
This week we welcome a first time speaker with us, Eldonna Edwards. She shares her message from 1 John 3:18:
“Love is a Verb” - The Bible teaches us that we should not love with deeds or tongue but with action and truth. (1 John 3:18). What’s the difference between deeds and action? How can we better minister to others through authentic service that is born of a genuine desire to make the world a better place?
“Christian Mindfulness” – Paul ends his letter to the Christians at Philippi with some practical spirituality. Focus your mind, Paul says, on things that are pure, worthy of praise, commendable and excellent, and you will experience more peace in your life. In both Eastern and Western religious traditions, the discipline of mindfulness has helped many cultivate inner peace and self discovery. Instead of letting our restless “monkey minds” jump from one task to another, people have been able to slow down and be more present through every activity, and are often surprised at the beauty and wonder all around them. Maybe Paul’s practical advice to the Philippians can help us be surprised by joy and peace today.
Pastor Jason Sisk-Provencio shares from Philippians
“A Far, Far Better Thing That We Do” – In this section of Paul’s letter to the Christians at Philippi, Paul shares some of his regrets. He regrets that he spent so much of his life arguing against those who he now calls sisters and brothers. At one point he calls everything that he had done in the past “rubbish.” Regret is a powerful emotion, and it can sometimes keep us from moving forward and experiencing the joy, peace and love that we can experience now. He shares the way he moved through regret, and it can be just as powerful and healing for us today, injecting new life into us, our relationships with our biological family and our spiritual family. Communion will be celebrated.
Pastor Jason continues in Matthew:
“Walking the Walk” – When a religious group in Jesus’ day asks Jesus where his authority comes from, he refuses to answer. Instead, he asks them questions and even tells a parable. Jesus rarely answers questions–he much prefers asking them, and talking about God in parables instead of direct answers. In this parable, he asks which son does the will of his father–one who agrees to do something, but fails to do it, or the son who says he won’t do something, but later does it? Both the religious group and Jesus agree that it is the son who actually does what his father wants. How does this parable answer the question of where Jesus gets his authority? Is he accusing this religious group of being all talk–of not walking the walk? Is he saying that God is looking for people who will walk the walk, even if they don’t talk the right religious talk?
Pastor Jason Sisk-Provencio shares from Matthew:
“Radical Generosity” – In a parable, Jesus tells us about God’s generosity. He says that God is like a landowner who hires some workers early in the morning to work in his garden. He then hires a few more later in the morning, and more around noon, and even a few more only an hour before the day ended. This landowner surprises the latecomers and angers the early birds by paying all of them the full day’s wages! Those who worked all day said, and we might agree, “That’s not fair!” But the landowner responds that he has done no wrong to those who arrived first; he is being generous to those who arrived later. What is Jesus trying to tell us about God and God’s graciousness and generosity?
Rev. Richard Kurrasch returns to us and shares from Acts:
“Thoughts While Standing at Mile Marker Eleven” – Bend over … pick it up … put it in the bag … take a few steps … repeat. So it goes if you are part of a team that has “adopted” a highway: two, maybe three, times a year you walk the mile or so along “your” highway and pick up other people’s litter. It is a yucky task, to say the least. We call it caring for the earth and as a warming planet is inescapably teaching us, the earth needs more care than we are currently giving it. At issue, of course, is what is required of each of us, personally. What does it mean to do our part? What changes are now required of us? As members of a faith community, how do we nurture and live what Al Gore calls a new “environmentalism of the spirit” (Earth in the Balance), for it is increasingly clear, as he says, that the global environmental crisis is, at its roots, “the outer manifestation of an inner crisis that is, for lack of a better word, spiritual.”
Pastor Jason continues in Romans:
Believing in One Another – In this section of the letter to the Christians in Rome, Paul continues to talk about the practical consequences of God loving and including everyone. Some in Rome thought that only vegetables should be eaten; some thought that people should be free to eat meat, too. Paul doesn’t pick a side but says rather, “Let all be fully convinced in their own minds.” What might this mean for our current Christian disagreements, especially over hot button issues like the full inclusion and participation of the LGBTQ community in the Christian church? Could this be a way forward for a number of disagreements in the church today?
Pastor Jason share a message from Romans:
“Love is Stronger Than Hate” – Like Jesus, Paul knows that hate cannot overcome hate—it just perpetuates it. Jesus rejected the conventional wisdom of “an eye for an eye” in his Sermon on the Mount. If we return violence for violence and hate for hate, it escalates the cycle of hate and, as Ghandi said, “makes the whole world blind.” How can we, as people of faith, break this cycle? How can we as humans, who naturally experience anger at wrongdoing, learn to forgive and overcome hate?
Pastor Jason Sisk-Provencio shares a message from Romans:
“Rebel With a Cause” – Paul’s letter to the Christians in Rome makes an abrupt shift in chapter 12. In chapters 1-11, he argued that because of Jesus, God had entered into covenant with Gentiles as well as Jews. Now everyone had the possibility of new life with God. In chapters 12-16, Paul considers how our ethical understanding has to be updated as well. One thing that Christians are going to have to let go of is the world’s tendency to exclude those who don’t share the same ethnic background or cultural customs. Paul challenges us to resist being conformed to this way of thinking about strangers, and instead see them, and those closer to you, in light of the divine inclusion of all people.
Spiritual, not religious? – Americans are increasingly pursuing spiritual practice and connection outside of traditional Christianity. Can we reframe our Christian practices to celebrate a more intimate and experiential relationship with God? Can spirituality be both bliss and balance, individual and communal? The answers I am finding in books such as “Christianity after Religion” are preliminary, but potentially very exciting.
Pastor Jason SIsk-Provencio returns with another message from Matthew:
“When We Walk On Water” – Jesus’ first disciples were not heroes of faith. They doubted, they misunderstood and they disappointed Jesus often. Jesus told them that they would do the kinds of things that he did. But when Jesus commanded Peter to walk on water, as Jesus had done, he began to sink. It started off well enough, but when a strong wind arose, he doubted his ability to do what Jesus commanded. Jesus rebuked Peter for not having enough faith—for not having enough faith to do the thing that Jesus told him to do. How often do we believe that we can’t do the things that Jesus told us we can do, and what might happen if we as individuals and as a community of faith had the same kind of faith in ourselves that Jesus does?
In this passage from Matthew’s gospel, Jesus spends a whole day teaching a great crowd about the kingdom of God. When evening (and dinner time) came, Jesus’ disciples encouraged Jesus to send the crowds away to local villages to find food for themselves. But Jesus, full of compassion, told them that the crowd didn’t have to leave, and that he and disciples would feed them. The disciples didn’t understand how they could feed such a large crowd with only five loaves of bread and two fish. When Jesus blessed the small meal, it became enough to feed all of the women, men and children there. Jesus’ disciples chose fear and tried to turn others away; Jesus chose compassion and was able to do something incredible. When we are moved by compassion in our own day, we are able to do much more than we ever thought possible.
Join us as Pastor Jason Sisk-Provencio brings his message from Romans 8.
Paul knows that some of the Christians living in Rome in his time are facing persecution and personal struggles. He encourages them to continue living with confidence and faith in God, because “all things work together for good for those who love God.” God’s love and faithfulness to his creation, demonstrated in the life of Jesus, is the new context in which to understand their (and our) present struggles. God’s love has been shown to be stronger than the political powers, than violence, than our own faithlessness, and even stronger than death. Christians then and now can live with an unshakeable optimism that God’s purposes are always being achieved around—and through—us.