Saturday, January 23, 2010

Hamster Sunday Readings

Here is what I've been reading in preparation for Hamster Sunday:

Can You Milk a Hamster?
This one comes at the suggestion of our Conference Minister. A funny clip from a company that promises to answer any question you text in to them...including "Can you milk a hamster?" Check out the video to find out the surprising and "delightful" answer.

Pope recognizes "Hamster Jesus"
A fake news story from the satirical news website The Spoof. This story was copy and pasted whole sale into the back page of the Hamster Sunday Order of someone other than me. Seriously, I went to church, fired up the computer, went to work on the bulletin, and this story was pasted in there waiting for me. That was the moment when I realized Hamster Sunday had taken on a life of it's own.

The Other Side of Music
In case you were wondering what it would sound like if a Hamster sang the Books of the Bible. No really.

Hamster Care Guide
For anyone who was motivated by Hamster Sunday to go out and get one of those cute little furballs for yourself, then here is an guide to taking care of your hamster...

Zhu Zhu Pets
...or if you don't think you can handle a real hamster (or prefer for you hamster to drive around in a little car) then might I suggest this link for the world's most in demand toy hamsters and accessories.

If you've read this far and still don't get what in the world we are talking about with "Hamster Sunday" at the Encanto Community Church, then check out this link to an earlier blog post explaining the whole thing.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Martin's Big Words

On the Sunday before the MLK Holiday, we built the worship service around a children's book that my wife and I bought for our son on his first MLK Day three years ago.

I used the book (and the actual quotes from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that frame the book) to guide my Sunday sermon. Which is to say, I preached without a manuscript. Thus, no page on the church's website where you can find it, and no Wordle rendering of the sermon this week.

Instead, I want to use this space to plug the book we built the service around: Martin's Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Doreen Rappaport with illustrations by Bryan Collier. It is an excellent resource, a wonderful story adorned with beautiful artwork. It is one of my son's favorite books, and one of my favorite things to read to him because, frankly, I want Henry to grow up in a world that is shaped by the big words of the Rev. Dr. King. And I want to believe in a church that continues to strive for justice and peace in the name of the God that inspired the Rev. Dr. King. Follow the link up above to learn more about the book and even purchase a copy for yourself or a young person in your life.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

I've been thinking about...

Being a Servant.

It is the Sunday before MLK Day, which has me thinking about my favorite quote from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In seeking to redefine our notions of “greatness” Dr. King offered these powerful words on, of all things, service.

The following quote comes from “The Drum Major Instinct” and it turns our notions of greatness on their head.

If you want to be important—wonderful.
If you want to be recognized—wonderful.
If you want to be great—wonderful.

But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. That’s a new definition of greatness.

And this morning, the thing that I like about it: by giving that definition of greatness, it means that everybody can be great, because everybody can serve.

You don’t have to have a college degree to serve.

You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve.

You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve.

You don’t have to know Einstein’s theory of relativity to serve.

You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve.

You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love. And you can be that servant.

As we strive to live out our own Christian faith in the world, may we too find greatness in being a servant.

Yours in the journey, Rev. Brian

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Three Things from Church Council

Church Council had their regularly scheduled monthly meeting on January 13, 2010. Here are the three things you need to know from that meeting:

  1. The All Church Workday is scheduled for Saturday January 23 starting at 8:30 AM. Bring your work gloves, your work ethic, and a snack to share as we declutter, rearrange, and make the church beautiful from top to bottom.

  2. We have installed Church Windows as our database software on the church computer. This suite of programs will allow us to keep digital records of the church's members, track visitors, keep up with expenses, payroll, pledges and more. We will have a training event on Saturday February 13 at 1PM for any folks interested in volunteering to learn to input data and information into the program.

  3. I am proud to announce that the Encanto Community Church will be helping out with the UCC Habitat for Humanity build here in the Valley of the Sun. Our friend Ron Caputo is organizing the build and we will be partnering with the Church of the Beatitudes, First Congregational Phoenix, Shepherd of the Hills, and Shadow Rock (as well as two Catholic Church joining the coalition) to build a house in downtown Glendale. We will need volunteers to help out on the worksite and provide meals/snacks for the work crews. Look for the sign-up sheet in the Fellowship Hall or see Rev. Brian for more details.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Wordle: On Baptism

On the second Sunday in January, the first Sunday after Epiphany, we celebrate Christ's baptism.

Baptism is about beginnings. It is about welcoming folks into the fullness of life in God. It is about humbly following the path of Christ and courageously taking up the work that defined him and his ministry.

To read the full sermon, check out the manuscript at the church website by clicking here. To see the full sized Wordle rendering then just click on the image below.

I've been thinking about...


Yep. You read that right. Hamsters. As in those fuzzy little balls of fluff that some folks like to call pets.

You’ll remember that in November we raised funds for the 2009 Community Turkey Drive. To promote our fundraising efforts I offered to raffle off a sermon. For every $5 Turkey Ticket you bought your name went into the hat (well, actually offering plate, that’s what I collected ‘em in!). If your name was drawn, then you got to tell me exactly what I was preaching on at a future date.

You might also remember, that we raised $455 for the Community Drive and since we know that $5 buys a turkey for an individual or family in need, that means that we provided part of a Thanksgiving Dinner for 91 folks or families who would otherwise have gone without.

You might also also remember, that when it came time to drawn our winner out of the hat (okay, fine, out of the offering plate!) that Ted Shepherd was the big winner. And true to his word, Ted requested a sermon about hamsters. His exact words were, “Hamsters. Absolutely. Hamsters.”

Which is why I am proud to announce that Sunday January 24, 2010 at the Encanto Community Church is hereby officially re-christened Hamster Sunday! I hope you can join us for what will prove to be a lively, fun, and different kind of worship service. What will it include? Well, I don’t know yet. But I can promise you this: lots of hamster stories. (By the way, I’m still collecting hamster stories. Feel free to help me out here!)

Yours in the journey, Rev. Brian

3 Things from RE

The Religious Education Committee met on January 10, 2010. Here are the three things you need to know from that meeting.

  1. The church collected 258 pairs of socks (or 516 individual socks, if you care to count them that way!) that were distributed to Shoebox Ministries as part of our Christmas Sock Drive. Our donation put Shoebox Ministries grand total up over 32,000 pairs of socks...well on their way to their total goal of 40,000.

  2. We will launch our Little Heifer campaign on Sunday February 2 and keep that collection going until Easter Sunday. Our goal this year is, dare we say it, a cow! Look forward to more info about supporting our RE Outreach ministry.

  3. The Elementary Sunday School Class is almost done with their Noah's Ark Mural. The grand unveiling will be on Sunday February 14. Come see what our youngest members have been working so hard on in Sunday School!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

New Year's Wordle

A whole new year, a whole new decade, and a whole new wordle!

On the first Sunday of the new year (and a new decade!) we look back at the last 10 years and look forward in hope to the next 10 years. For the full manuscript of the sermon, check out the church's website by clicking here. For the full sized wordle rendering of the sermon, click the image below.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

I've been thinking about...

...the New Year!

It is hard to believe that this is the first Sunday of a New Year. And a new decade to boot!

With the dawning of a New Year comes all the hopes and excitement of a fresh beginning. As we remember the blessings of this past year and look eagerly toward the bright future of this new year, I want to share a special New Year’s Prayer with you all. It is the same one that our Tuesday Noon Prayer Group used this week.

O God of new beginnings and wonderful surprises, thank you for the gift of a new year. May it be a time of grace, a time to grow in faith and love, a time to renew commitments to following Your Son, Jesus. May it be a year of blessing, a time to cherish family and friends, a time to renew efforts at work, a time to embrace faith more fully. Walk with us, please, in every day and every hour of this new year, that the light of Christ might shine through us, in spite of any weaknesses and failings. Above all, may we remember this year that we are pilgrims on the sacred path to You. Amen.

I pray that 2010 will be a blessed year for you and yours, and for all who gather in faith here at the Encanto Community Church! Happy New Year!

Yours in the journey,
Rev. Brian