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The Phoenix Flamings

Phoenix Community Church UCC
Friday, February 5, 2021

A progressive Christian experience...
Welcoming and affirming the LGBT community...

As a spiritual community following Jesus Christ we are called by the Holy Spirit:
  • To create meaningful, inclusive Community;
  • To be God’s voice and hands in Service to our neighbors and Creation;
  • To be a Witness of God’s love in and for the world;
  • To deepen our relationship with the Divine through Worship.

Food For Thought

When you need advice, who do you listen to? When you want to learn more about current events, what news sources do you trust? Are there people whose opinions and viewpoints matter more to you than others? We live in a culture that values independence but someone always has authority over us. We’re always giving someone or some thing authority over ourselves even if we don't realize it. Whether it’s a government, or the media, or a psychologist, or a minister, or the Bible, or whatever, we are always deciding, perhaps unconsciously, who we will give the power to influence our thoughts, opinions, and behaviors.
 

These questions are also so important in our nation right now. The truth has taken a beating over the last few years. Leaders declare things to be true that are demonstrably false. People believe nefarious and outlandish conspiracy theories without evidence. But they believe because someone they have put their trust in tells them it is so. Many people begin to question what truth is: what is real and what isn’t? This is what we call gaslighting – manipulating people through lies so they question reality and their own sanity and are left to depend on the people lying to them. It’s been happening on a mass scale. So, how do we know truth? How do we know to whom we should give authority, who we should trust?
 

The gospel of Mark tells us that there was something about Jesus that gave him a sense of authority unlike other religious leaders of his day. This sense of authority amazed those who heard him and maybe even frightened them a little. We’re told even “unclean spirits” recognized Jesus as one who belongs to God and truthfully conveys God’s Word. What are the unclean spirits of our day, that which “contaminates” us and makes us un-holy? Aren’t they things like an obsession with our own selfish pursuits, the devaluing of truth, and our propensity for violence? Such spirits “see” Jesus and are rightfully threatened by his authority because his love stands in opposition to them.
 

This authority we find in Jesus seems to be something special, God-given. Jesus knew who he was and lived in that identity. He was authentic, true to his self as God’s beloved child. He was put on this earth to be God’s gift of love for us and he was and is that love, healing people and confronting the powers of evil. Perhaps this example of Jesus is the test of who we should trust: are they truly doing their best to live authentically in love? Do they exhibit compassion and love for their neighbor and God’s Creation? Or do they worry about themselves first?
 

And in our struggle with authority and authenticity, with trust and truth, these are not only questions we should apply to others. These are questions we need to ask of ourselves as well. Are we aligned with God’s Word in our lives? Can people look to us with trust and see within us God’s love and compassion, God’s hope and justice? To be authentic to our true selves means claiming our own authority as the beloved children of God. This is what Jesus does and I think it is what God desires of us as well. To understand ourselves as having Divinely given authority doesn’t mean God has chosen us to rule over others or that we are somehow better than anyone. Quite the opposite, it means God has created us with the authority to act not as divinity but in harmony with divinity, as servants, to act for the good of all of our neighbors and to live in the Way of Jesus as healers in the world confronting the “unclean spirits” that desire to control us.
 

Let us seek to follow and listen to those who are living in love. Let us not fear but live authentically ourselves, stepping out to use our gifts with courage and boldness. Let the world hear our voices, voices raised in love and compassion in the cause of justice for the love of neighbor and Creation, voices speaking truth and demanding truth be spoken.
 

Blessings,
Rev. Ken Arthur
 

P.S. This reflection is inspired by the sermon from January 31, 2021, “Living with Authority.” Video and/or audio recordings of this and other past sermons can be found at https://phoenixchurch.org/home/phx-sermons/.

 

The Lenten Season is almost upon us! Although Ash Wednesday begins Lent on February 17, we are not planning an Ash Wednesday service this year. Other Lenten observances might be scaled back a bit as well during this time of ongoing pandemic, but I’m sure we’ll at least observe Good Friday. And of course we continue to meet for worship every Sunday and will have a joyous celebration of Easter itself on April 4. Hopefully, we can announce a schedule in the next Flamings on February 19.
 

Steering Committee’s next meeting is Friday, February 12, at 7 pm via Zoom. Anyone is welcome to attend. The connection information is the same as for Sunday worship.
 

Ordination of Tere Krueger: Many of us know Tere, who has in the past participated in the life of Phoenix Community Church. Tere has received a pastoral call in New Hampshire and will be ordained as a minister of the United Church of Christ on February 28, 2021, at 3 pm on Zoom. Everyone who knows Tere is welcome to attend to show your support and help her celebrate! Contact the church office for the connection information.
 

The ONA Team will host a workshop “Some folks are gay, what does the Bible say?” at 7 pm on Wednesday, March 24, 2021. We’ll gather on Zoom to find out what the Bible really says about welcoming and affirming the LGBTQ community. There will be several short presentations, each followed by a short question and answer period. Topics covered will include how we understand and interpret scriptures, scriptures that are commonly used against LGBTQ people and scriptures that suggest an unconditional and affirming welcome. Anyone is welcome to attend. Contact the church office for the connection information.
 

Be sure to check out our online discussion forum where you can drop in and contribute written comments to ongoing discussions at your leisure. If enough people are interested, this could be another useful tool to keep us all connected. To help us test this concept go to https://phoenixchurch.org/forum and create an account for yourself. This is very much a work in progress so let us know if you have questions or problems with the site.
 

The Spirit(ed) Talk discussion group will meet via Zoom at 7 pm EST on the first and third Mondays of the month for an open discussion regarding topics related to spirituality. On the second and fourth Mondays, Linda will host a discussion intended to be more secular in nature, although the topics may end up being very similar. We’re calling this “Spirit(ed) Talk” since the 2nd and 4th Mondays might not be about “spirit” but they should still be “spirited” discussions. The connection information for these gatherings is NOT the same as worship. Please contact the church office for the Zoom info if you would like to join in the discussions.
 

Because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we are not ready to re-start in-person services yet. Our Steering Committee continues to re-evaluate on a monthly basis. In the meantime, continue to keep in touch with each other via phone, text, etc. and be sure to join us for Sunday Worship online! Thank you for your continued patience and support!
 

Pastor’s office hours are now by appointment until further notice. Meeting online is preferred via phone, FaceTime or Zoom. In-person meetings will only be considered in emergency situations.

 

Covid-19 Information: For those in Kalamazoo County, here is a helpful link from the county Health Services:https://www.kalcounty.com/hcs/covid19.php.
 

Open And Affirming Experience: A 1-Day Virtual Conference: In partnership with the Michigan ONA Coalition and the Michigan Conference, the UCC Open and Affirming Coalition is offering a day-long Zoom event with worship and informative workshops on Sat., Feb. 27, 10 am-5 pm EST. Congregations from any Conference are invited! There will betwo tracks: one for not-yet ONA churches and one for existing ONA churches. Leaders will include Kimi Floyd Reisch, the Coalition's ONA Program Minister, and Andy Lang, the executive director. Registration is free for Michigan Conference members. Go to https://openandaffirming.networkforgood.com/events/26410-2021-michigan-open-and-affirming-experience to register.

 

Please remember the churches and people of the Southwest Association, Michigan Conference, United Church of Christ, in your prayers.

For February please remember:

  • First Congregational Church, Kalamazoo, MI, and Rev. Nathan Dannison and Rev. Sarah Schmidt-Lee

  • Portage UCC, Portage, MI, and Rev. Dr. Mary Kay Schueneman and Rev. Kyle Tade

  • Southwest Association Council: Rev. Susan Greenwood, Moderator; Rev. Mary Beth Moran Cross, Vice Moderator; Rev. Caroline Meyers, Secretary; Ms. Kristi Blythe, Treasurer; Rev. Ken Arthur, Registrar; Rev. Ruth Moerdyk, Liaison to MI Board of Directors and SWA Search & Call Minister; Rev. Calandra Nevenzel, Association Minister; Ms. Melanie Johnson; Mr. Matt Schlutt

Also remember and pray:

  • For victims of racism and Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC)

  • For those who live in privilege, that we may have the courage and compassion to fight racism

  • For those who are ill, whether it be Coronavirus or another ailment

  • For those in at-risk categories such as the aged and those with compromised immune systems

  • For caregivers, health care workers, and the hospitals and organizations they work for

  • For those that work in situations where they are at heightened risk from Coronavirus

  • For all of us as we navigate the questions and issues of living through a pandemic

  • For students, teachers, school staff, and parents in the midst of a pandemic

  • For all whose employment has been affected by the pandemic

  • For our leaders, that they may act wisely and compassionately for the good of all

  • For the future of our nation, that we may be united in compassion for each other

  • For the victims and perpetrators of violence

If you would also like to make a personal prayer request to be included in the Flamings, please email the request to office@phoenixchurch.org. Do not include information unless it is ok to make it public.

 

Worship begins at 6:00 pm on Sundays via Zoom. While we’re meeting online communion will be observed every Sunday. If you wish to participate, have something to eat and drink with you as we gather together online. Sermons will be posted online on Friday with a short summary and discussion time during Sunday worship. Check https://phoenixchurch.org/home/phx-sermons/ for new reflections and to view older ones.

 

Phoenix Community Church UCC
2208 Winchell Avenue
Kalamazoo, MI 49008

Phone: 269-383-3222

Office Email: office@phoenixchurch.org

Web Site: http://www.phoenixchurch.org

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/PhoenixChurch  

If you would like to donate to the church, checks can be mailed to the church office or you may visit our website and click on the "Give" button in the right hand column or visit https://tithe.ly/give?c=2821191.

Peer Ministers for 2021 are Linda Cross, Arlene Scholfield, and Marvel Spencer. Please contact a peer minister if you need assistance or just a listening ear.

 

 

Also see our online calendar at: https://phoenixchurch.org/home/calendar/. Most events are currently being held online via Zoom. Note that if you don’t have a computer, you can also call in to Zoom on a phone (connection or long distance charges from your phone service may apply). If you need the connection information for an event contact the church for more information.
 

Recurring Events

Sundays, 6 pm: Worship

Mondays, 7 pm: Spirit(ed) Talk

Thursdays, 3:30 pm: Book Study

One-Time Events

Friday, Feb 12: 7 pm, Steering Committee
Sunday, Feb 28: 3 pm, Ordination of Tere Krueger
Friday, Mar 12: 7 pm, Steering Committee
 

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