Due to the heat advisory forecast for Saturday with high humidity and temperatures approaching 100 degrees, the Peter Griggs Guitar Concert has been cancelled. It will be rescheduled and when that information is available it will be posted here.
We're a go for CROP Walk 2019 at the Sunderland Congregational Church. The Recruitment Rally will take place on Thursday, August 15th at 6PM. Amy Novak, chair of the Benevolence Committee, and Rev. Randy will attend. At that time we will receive materials for team members to begin collecting donations for this worthy cause.
25% of everything collected stays in our own area to help those in need. The other 75% is used to support efforts around the globe to help people in need become more self-sufficient.
If you would like to become a member of our church's team, please speak to either Amy or Rev. Randy. The Walk will be held in Sunderland on October 13th with registration beginning at 1PM. Even if you can't walk on that day, you can be a team member and help us with your fundraising assistance. And if you can walk, even better! What a great feeling it is to join with others for such a good cause.
Thanks to everyone in advance for your time, effort and generosity.
In the Fall, we are going to start a new Bible Study Group. This past Spring we finished reading the Gospel of Mark. We read each line and discussed the text. What we are going to be doing in our next round of Bible study, is look at the Bible in an overview, and to do so we will be using the Massachusetts Bible Society's "Exploring the Bible" series.
It comes in three volumes: What is the Bible; Introduction to the Old Testament; and Introduction to the New Testament. These texts will need to be purchased by each member of the class. I saw on Amazon that the price is anywhere from $11 to $4 per text.
Wunderley mentioned to me before Service yesterday that she was raised with the tradition that you discover three biblical quotes that are extremely meaningful to you, and that you memorize them and then use them as guides in life. The only way to do this is to be familiar with the Bible. We're hoping this Bible Study Group will help with this.
If you are interested in joining our Fall Bible Study Group, please let Rev. Randy know.
Good Samaritan Sunday
“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” (Ps 19:14)
Let’s jump right into this morning’s Gospel. I think it has to be the most famous of all parables – the parable of the Good Samaritan. And it begins with a question. The answer, which is the Good Samaritan parable, is so familiar that it can capture all the attention, and then the question gets ignored. But it’s the question that sets the stage for everything that follows.
A lawyer, a man of precise definitions and expectations, is the questioner. A good contract lays out what is expected and what is paid. This congregation, for example, has a contract with me. It explains what the church expects and what I can expect in return from the church.
The lawyer’s question of “‘What must I do …?’” asks Jesus what he is obligated to do in a virtual contract with God. In return for doing his part, the lawyer expects to be paid, which is the second part of his question: “‘What must I do … to inherit eternal life?’” The lawyer, as a lawyer would, approaches his faith as a contract of obligations and payments.
This guy is not like Peter, Andrew, James and John who immediately left their fishing businesses behind to follow Jesus. He’s not like Matthew who left a lucrative tax collecting job to follow Jesus.
He’s not impassioned. He only wants to know what must be done, just enough in other words to fulfill the contract, and then “‘inherit eternal life’” for himself.
The lawyer has no qualms or questions about love God completely. What he needs Jesus to clarify is this notion of “love your neighbour.”
Let’s try and think about this in terms of paying taxes quarterly. We approximate as closely as possible how much we’ll owe on April 15th. Then imagine though that our taxes need to be paid in full or face a heavy, harsh penalty, but that there will be no tax refund for anything we overpay.
Imagine how upset we would be if we overpaid and wouldn’t get it back. That’s sort of like the logic of the lawyer. He wants Jesus to tell him what must be done so he can get into heaven, but he doesn’t want to go overboard with this love-your-neighbour-stuff. So he asks a second question: “‘And who is my neighbour?’”
I have heard amazing sermons based on this parable that Jesus gives as His answer. I’ve heard it told from the perspective of the Good Samaritan, of the man who has been left for dead, and even from that of the priest and the Levite. But for me, at least for me right now, the key to unlocking this perfectly Christian parable is the context, that it is an answer to the question “‘What must I do to inherit eternal life?’”
In answer, Jesus offers something completely, radically unexpected.
Let’s give the priest and the Levite the benefit of the doubt that they are not completely uncaring men. Maybe we’ve been in situations ourselves where to help seemed dangerous. Maybe seeing someone hitchhiking on a dark road, for example. Do you stop or do you continue on wondering about the possibility of being robbed or worse?
The priest and the Levite think through the options and choose not to do anything, but the Good Samaritan helps immediately, without thinking. He acts spontaneously, naturally.
What the Good Samaritan did cannot be expressed in the language of “What must I do ..?” and the Good Samaritan does not act because of some reward about getting into heaven. The Good Samaritan acts because he can’t not act.
When Jesus finishes the parable and tells the lawyer “Go and do likewise,” it’s a broad rejection of the whole idea of loving God and loving neighbour as a contract, if I do this then God gives me that.
The parable speaks to Jesus’ expectation that there’s a better self within every person. The Samaritan would not have been accepted as a religious person by the Jews around Jesus or even as a good person, but here he is held up as the one who gets what God is all about, and what God hopes us to be all about.
This had to be disconcerting. It’s really a whole new way of looking at humanity and human nature. It’s hope-filled. It's in no way contract.
Apollo 8 was the first time human beings left earth’s gravity and ventured out into space. It was the first time we left home in a sense. Some science historians consider this to be even more important than Apollo 11’s landing on the moon. It was our first step that would take us to the moon, the planets and then beyond.
When the astronauts came around from the dark side of the moon, they captured the first-ever image of an Earth-rise. That’s this picture.
Against the barren landscape of the moon and the darkness of the sky, one of them mentioned that the earth was the only colour out there in space.
When we look at our home from this perspective, I hope we realize that we all live in the same house. We’re all in this together. In God’s eyes, we’re all one people, more similar than we’d like to admit.
Maybe in the Good Samaritan parable Jesus is asking us to try and see like this, like from space, like from God’s perspective. Maybe our ideas of borders would become more all-encompassing.
Maybe this perspective helps us humans become more humane, and maybe that’s what the parable of the Good Samaritan is trying to help us see, our shared humanity.
Can we accept a new way to see? To see like God sees, that we are a glorious mess of colour all mixed together haphazardly, but oh so beautifully. Can we see that others and us aren't all that different, and can this Good Samaritan insight inspire us to compassion and empathy?
For this may we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
3rd Annual WATER PALOOZA FAMILY FUN WALK/RUN
To SUPPORT MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS
Saturday July 20, 2019
Registration starts at 9:00am
Start/Finish Lawn Adjacent to library
39 Main Street Hatfield, MA
Easy 2 mile loop around town with optional water obstacles along the way
**New Color Run Option**
To register go to
https://www.RunReg.com/water-palooza-family-fun-runwalk or register at the Event
$15 pp or $25 per family
Rain or Shine!
“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” (Ps 19:14)
A friend of mine plays occasionally at 30 Boltwood in Amherst, the old Lord Jeff in the center of town. A week ago Thursday was his last night until sometime again in the Fall so I definitely wanted to be there.
Sharon and I try and go see him when we can. Last Thursday though was the choir party. Sharon went there, and I went to 30 Boltwood all by my lonesome. On my way through the hotel lobby, I grabbed their copy of the New York Times. I was all set to sit at the bar, listen to a little jazz, read the newspaper and enjoy a beer.
My friend’s musical partner came over to say hello to a friend of his, Peter, and then to me. That common denominator introduced us to each other and also started our conversation. It started off casually and then I mentioned that I am the pastor here in Hatfield. From that moment forward, our conversation, at the bar, was all about religion.
I imagine we were the only ones at 30 Boltwood talking about Jesus, but what’s even more rare is that we were two people talking about religion who looked at the faith from very different perspectives, and we were enjoying each other’s company.
Keeping that story in mind, let me now turn to when I met Rev. Brenda this past Monday. One of her favourite Smith College professors was her New Testament professor who was also my thesis advisor at Smith.
We have a similar orientation when it comes to the Bible, partly from sharing a similar education journey, and our conversation reflected this. And again, what a pleasant encounter.
But now back to 30 Boltwood. It’s a whole different animal when you talk religion with someone who thinks, believes and practices differently. What I ended up mentioning to Peter was that it was so healthy to be able to have a pleasant conversation about a hot-topic-subject like religion, to be able to disagree about it, and still to be able to enjoy each other’s company
It’s easy to relate to someone who is like you. It’s almost like patting yourself on the back. But it’s just as nice relating to someone who is unlike you and in the process discovering that different doesn’t have to mean anything other than different. Good can be reflected in different ways.
The other day I ran across a story that quoted William F. Buckley, the late conservative columnist. He told his son about the moment he heard of a friend’s death. Buckley said, “It came to me last Thursday when the news of Clurman’s death reached me just after midnight, that I have always sub-consciously looked out for the total Christian, and when I found him, he turned out to be a non-practicing Jew.” (Stealing Jesus, p. 322)
You know, Jesus didn't look at designations or titles. He looked at the person. That’s the whole story of the Gospels told one way or another. And it’s told to us today in the story of the Samaritan village.
To get from Galilee in the north to Jerusalem in the south you have to pass through Samaria. The Jews and the Samaritans are not friends. The people of a particular Samaritan village will not welcome Jesus because He is Jewish and is heading to Jerusalem for the Passover.
John and James, two disciples, respond in kind. They want to call down God’s wrath on all the people of this village for their insult. They want them dead.
Instead, Jesus rebukes the disciples. His followers are not to imitate the prejudices and anger of others. They’re to set a better example. Jesus will not allow for differences to separate. Jesus simply moves on to the next village and tries again. And all those people in the second part of today’s Gospel, are they Samaritans? Are they impressed by Jesus to the point of almost leaving everything behind for Him?
It is in this spirit that the church should operate. It is according to this example, that we should act. And this is why we should be proud of our church’s extravagant welcome. Understanding that difference doesn’t have to lead to separation is pure Christian gospel.
Friday was the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riot in New York City. It is considered now to be the beginning of the Gay Pride Movement. I’m not certain if this anniversary is the reason, but today, in the United Church of Christ, we celebrate Open and Affirming Sunday.
We are an Open and Affirming congregation, which means, as we print in our bulletin every week that “Whoever you are, young or older, gay or straight, single or partnered, believer or seeker, this is God’s House and all of you are most certainly welcome here.”
Open and Affirming, in other words, is not limited to any group. “Whoever you are … you are most certainly welcome here.” To anyone who may feel unwelcomed or even persecuted by church because of who they are, they are welcome here.
When Jesus accepted the prostitutes, the tax collectors, the diseased … the Samaritans, He gave us an example of extravagant welcome to follow.
Non-Jews were once persecuted in the church and then Jews were; women were insulted by the church; slavery was once accepted by the church. We grew out of these mistakes by continuing to listen to Jesus’ gospel of extravagant welcome. And now as an Open and Affirming congregation we continue to move forward in this direction. We don’t let how someone loves define them as immoral. Jesus was much more attuned to the immorality of hatred.
Marty read for us the story of Elijah and Elisha. Once Elijah had been taken into heaven, Elisha picked up his mantle and continued Elijah’s work. That’s the symbol for what we are supposed to do as Christ’s presence in the world today.
We are called upon and empowered to continue the ministry of Christ to all people. We pick up Jesus’ mantle and we practice extravagant welcome. We are an Open and Affirming congregation because Jesus didn’t turn people away and neither will we.
Whoever you are, you are most certainly welcome here. May this be our prayer in Jesus’ name. Amen.
For larger print text or to download, click the PDF file below.
Want to help make a difference?
I received the email below today about the annual CROP Hunger Walk. These are inspiring events for the ones involved, and they help people in need around the globe and in our own backyards.
This walk is in Franklin County, but it is hosted by our sister church, Sunderland Congregational, UCC.
INTERESTED???? Let me know.
June 25, 2019
Ever felt you have a gift to help the world, but can’t quite figure out what it is? CROP Hunger Walk may be it! A first step in the voyage of eradicating worldwide hunger and poverty is having someone in your group become a recruiter, attending the Recruitment Rally of Annual Franklin County CROP Hunger Walk, where all pertinent CROP Hunger Walk information will be distributed.
2019 Franklin County CROP Hunger Walk
Thursday, August 15, 2019 at 6:02 PM
Sunderland United Church of Christ
A light supper will be provided.
Not only do our funds benefit the hungry around the world, 25 percent of the proceeds are returned to aid Franklin County food assistance programs.
2019 Franklin County CROP Hunger Walk is Sunday, October 13 at 2:06 PM, starting and ending at Sunderland United Church of Christ at 91 South Main St.. Registration begins at 1:00 PM.
Please start now publicizing CROP Hunger Walk in your bulletins, newsletters, and calendars. Be sure to post news on your organization’s online publications; much of 2019 Franklin County CROP Hunger Walk news will be advertised online.
For information or clarification, please call Steve at 413-863-2850. We look forward to seeing you or a member of your group at the Rally!
Steve Damon, Coordinator
Franklin County CROP Walk
P.S. This is CROP Hunger Walk's 50th anniversary.
Faith, love and chitchat.
Sunday 10-11am (9:30am July + August)
Children Sunday School 10-11am
Nursery care available during worship