Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Being Salty

Mark 9:38-50 is a challenging text. We hear Jesus talking about cutting off your hand or plucking out your eye, referencing hell three times, and telling us to be salty. It was also this past Sunday's sermon text, that gave reason to talk about discipleship and the nature of our relationships with God, self, and other.

Here is the wordle rendering of that sermon. You can find the full manuscript on the church website by clicking here. And you can see the fullsized wordle by clicking on the image.

I've been thinking about...

...the calendar.

There is a lot going on at the church this time of year! Some familiar events, some brand new offerings, and a great new place to keep up with it all!

The company that hosts our website just made a whole slew of new features available to us. And what’s better, they did it for free! The coolest new feature is an online, interactive calendar. Just click on the new “Calendar” button toward the top of our website: You’ll see all the upcoming events in our church. And if you click on an individual listing it opens a pop-up tab with even more info about the events. Check it out and check back regularly!

Along those lines, we have a change in the regular calendar. Effective immediately I am changing my weekly day-off. I had been using Wednesday, but now I’ll be taking Monday as my regular day off. My wife was no longer able to keep Wednesday as her day off, due to schedule changes at her church, and we rather like having our time off together! That also means that Church Council and Trustee Meetings have been moved to the second Wednesday of each month.

Finally, many of you have noticed “Sandals AM” and “Sandals PM” showing up regularly on the church calendar. Those are the two prayer groups that Rev. Liana Rowe is holding at our church with local community organizers and activists. “Sandals AM” is the first Friday of the month at 7:30 in the morning and “Sandals PM” is the first Wednesday at 5:00 in the afternoon. Feel free to join them, they are both great groups!

Yours in the journey, Rev. Brian

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Weekly Bibliography

Howdy friends! Here is what I've been reading this week:

Geoffrey Black's words of hope for the UCC
Our General Minister and President-elect (he'll fully assume the role in October) the Rev. Geoffrey Black recently posted an article on the Washington Post's "On Faith" blog. He talks about the realities and opportunities for the United Church of Christ. In many ways his larger vision reflects the kind of hope and energy we are feeling at the Encanto Community Church on a local level.

Neighbors in Need
We will receive our annual Neighbors in Need special offering on Sunday October 4. Neighbors in Need(NIN) is a special mission offering of the UCC that supports ministries of justice and compassion thoughout the United States. Follow this link for Neighbors in Need stories, FAQ's, resources, and even a secure place to donate on-line.

Working Preacher
Commentary on Mark 9:38-50 by Paul S. Berge, professor Emiretus of NT at Luther Seminary. It is a nice overall introduction to the Sermon Text this week. This thought provoking reflection really helped me organize my own comments for Sunday. (Note: make sure and click on the "Gospel" tab)

Salty Stewards Share Rev. Sharron R. Lucas' brief and poignant reflection on power, sharing, and ministry based on this Sunday's sermon scripture.

Traveling Together: A Guide for Disciple-forming Congregations
This one isn't a web article. It is an actual book. One that I'm reading this week. An excellent resource on discipleship and vital congregations by Jeffrey D. Jones. The link will take you to Alban's website where you can preview the book and order it for yourself.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Three Things from Church Council

Church Council met Monday September 21 for their regular monthly meeting. Here are the THREE THINGS you need to know from that meeting:

  1. The Pastoral Search Committee is putting the finishing touches on the Ministerial Profile. They will be meeting with our Conference Minister, the Rev. Dr. John Dorhauer, and submitting copies of the profile to Church Council before next month's meeting. Once the Ministerial Profile is officially submitted they will begin receiving packets of information from potential pastoral candidates.

  2. We agreed to place an order for Church Windows and begin using it as the church's database management software, pending a larger conversation on finances.

  3. Rev. Brian will be switching his day off from Wednesday to Monday. As such, Church Council and Trustees agreed to move their meetings from the third Monday of each month to the second Wednesday. Our next meeting will be Wednesday October 14.

Three things from Trustees

The Trustees met on Monday September 21 at 6PM for their regular monthly meeting. Here are the THREE THINGS you need to know from that meeting:

  1. Ted Shepherd will be doing his Eagle Scout project by building shelves in the upstairs education wing. Which means, we'll have a church library! Construction is scheduled to take place Saturday November 7, with wall painting and prep work to proceed the project.

  2. Trustees and Church Council will host a joint meeting to discuss future finances, the state of the church budget, and necessary plans to move forward.

  3. There was a detailed discussion of church expenditures, with particular attention to church energy use over the summer and our escalating costs in that regard.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Wordle: The Meaning of Servanthood

Here is the wordle of this week's sermon. For the full text, check out the church's website here. Or for the full size image just click on the picture below.

I've been thinking about...

...Today’s Justice and Witness Listening Session!

Don’t go anywhere after worship this morning. Just come next door to Fellowship Hall, grab a couple of cookies and a cup of punch and join us for an hour of good conversation!

We are hosting our Justice and Witness Listening Session today immediately following the worship service. Every single UCC Congregation in the Southwest Region has been asked to participate in one of these sessions, and today is ours!

It is a one-hour conversation built around two questions:
Can you tell me EVERYTHING that your congregation is doing for your community?

What issues are on your heart - locally, nationally and globally - that need to be addressed?

Those two questions are purposefully open-ended and vague. The hope is that they elicit good conversation and get us thinking and talking about the justice issues that face us.

This is grass-roots style organizing at its very best. Instead of our Conference Justice and Witness Committee telling us what we need to be doing and imposing actions upon us, they want to hear our voices. They want to know our passions. They want to help us share our stories with other UCC churches that we can build strong alliances and covenant partnerships together.

So don’t go anywhere after worship this morning. We need your voice and your story at the Listening Session!

Yours in the journey, Rev. Brian

Three Things from RE

The Religious Education Committee met this past Sunday immediately after our Justice and Witness Listening Session (full disclosure, we went to La Pinata for lunch; and yes, you should be jealous). Here are the three things you need to know from that meeting:
  1. Sunday School classes are underway following Rally Day. The younger kids class will begin a series on Noah's Ark, featuring a wall mural that they will paint themselves week by week!

  2. The RE Committee will sponsor a trip to Greek Fest immediately after worship on Sunday October 11. Everyone is welcome. Come out and join us for some baklava, dancing, and Greek culture!

  3. Teddy will begin his Eagle Scout project (building a library upstairs in the church house!) starting in November. He'll meet with Trustees this week to present his full plan.
The next meeting will be on Sunday October 25.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Not-So-Weekly Bibliography

I know, I know. I've been terrible about posting this supposedly weekly piece. Anyway, here is what I've been reading this week.

International Day of Prayer for Peace
World Council of Churches member churches worldwide are once more invited to pray for peace on 21 September 2009. The International Day of Prayer for Peace offers an opportunity for church communities in all places to pray and act together to nurture lasting peace in the hearts of people, their families, communities and societies. Overcoming Violence: Churches Seeking Reconcilation and Peace present resources for Monday September 21's International Day of Prayer for Peace.

JPANet: Pray and Act for Peace The UCC's Justice and Political Action Network's resources for the International Day of Prayer for Peace. It includes an email-able letter to President Barack Obama supporting his vision of a nuclear free world, and also has a prayer from UCC General Minister and President John Thomas.

i.UCC: Feed Your Spirit
The sermon this week draws heavily from Rev. Kate Huey's weekly blog at i.UCC. Her post this week is titled "First in Caring."

Diamondbacks 7, Rockies 5
It was Church Night with the Diamondbacks for the good folks at the Encanto Community Church on Friday night. It was a rough start for the Dbacks, but a big 4th Inning made a game of it and same late inning heroics put it away.

And speaking of late game heroics...

Cardinals 3, Cubs 2
Welcome to the rivalry, Matt Holliday. Let's here it for the good guys!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Why We Worship Wordle

This past Sunday was Liturgy Sunday at the Encanto Community Church. I know, I know it's a terrible title. But we dedicated the entire worship service to walking through the Order of Service, and explaining what each part is about.

In that vein, here is a word of explanation about these Wordle renderings. These are graphical representations of my sermon manuscript from each Sunday. They couldn't be easier to make. You simply go to It is a program created by Jonathan Feinberg that visually represents written text in a graphical way. You cut and paste your text into the window, and the program does the rest. The more often a word is used, the bigger it shows up in the picture. You can mess with the colors, the layout style, and the font. Or, you can just let the program randomize all of that for you. Which is what I do.

To be honest, I started making Wordle's for my sermons as a way of making sure that my own verbal ticks weren't showing up in my sermons. But honestly, I kept doing it just because they looked cool. And it gave me something else to post on the Blog and another way of sharing what we do here at Encanto on Sundays. I hope you enjoy 'em.

For the full manuscript of this Sunday's sermon, click here. To see the full-size image just click on the picture below.

I’ve Been Thinking about...


And as I’ve said in the space many times before, when I think about heavy theological things like that, the first place I usually turn to is to author, theologian, and humorist Frederick Buechner. His book “Wishful Thinking: A Seeker’s ABC” is an instant classic, and a mandatory resources.

When it comes to defining “worship”, Buechner says this:
Phrases like Worship Service or Service of Worship are tautologies. To worship God means to serve him. Basically there are two ways to do it. One way is to do things for him that he needs to have done — run errands for him, carry messages for him, fight on his side, feed his lambs, and so on. The other way is to do things for him that you need to do — sing songs for him, create beautiful things for him, give things up for him, tell him what’s on your mind and in your heart, in general rejoice in him and make a fool of yourself for him the way lovers have always made fools of themselves for the one they love.

A Quaker Meeting, a Pontifical High Mass, the Family Service at First Presbyterian, a Holy Roller Happening — unless there is an element of joy and foolishness in the proceedings, the time would be better spent doing something useful.

On this day may we be filled with that joy and foolishness that are the truest signs of love and devotion! We will dedicate time in worship this morning to examine exactly what it means to worship God and how we do it here at Encanto. Thank you for being here today and for adding your own gifts to the service of the Lord.

Yours in the journey, Rev. Brian

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Extravagant Welcome Wordle

Here is this week's Wordle based on this past Sunday's sermon -- Extravagant Welcome.

For the full text, visit the church's website here. Or for the full sized picture just click on the image below.

I've been thinking about...


Next Sunday we mark the official kick-off of the Fall Program year here at the church.
  • Which means the Choir will be back!
  • The Sunday School Classes will start back in earnest!
  • I’ll start wearing my robe and stole again!
  • And we’ll have a delicious potluck luncheon to celebrate the new beginning of it all!
I hope you’ll join us! I hope you’ll bring your enthusiasm and excitement for all that God has in store for us in the coming months! And I hope you’ll bring a dish to share at the potluck!
It is going to be a great time, made even better by your participation in it all!

Yours in the journey!
Rev. Brian