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The Phoenix Flamings

Phoenix Community Church UCC
Friday, July 31, 2020

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

In the parable of the sower Jesus uses a garden metaphor to ask us how will we live in this world. When God comes planting the seeds of the kin-dom, what kind of soil will we be? It’s almost like one of those Facebook quizzes that ask what kind of Disney princess we are. After a few questions, the quiz attempts to guess some of our personality traits by matching us as Snow White or Cinderella. Well, when Jesus explains the parable of the sower in the gospel of Matthew, he basically says there are four kinds of people:

  1. Path people: the seeds of God’s Kin-dom bounce right off us because our hearts are like a hardened path, beaten down. Path people wall themselves off from others, avoiding intimacy, never taking risks. The seeds of love can’t take root in such hard ground.

  2. Rocky soil people: we are excited to hear the message of God’s love, but there are so many rocks, so many fears, so many burdens and obstacles, grudges we hold, anger we can’t let go of, that those seeds of the Kin-dom can’t take root. They stay on the surface and when things get difficult, when we are faced with trouble, we give up, the seeds blown away by a strong wind.

  3. Thorny weed people: we hear the message of God’s love but it is overcrowded and overwhelmed by the thorny weeds of the world, the ideologies of wealth and power. The seeds of the Kin-dom wither as we are seduced by selfishness and the world’s me-first attitude.

  4. Fertile soil people: we hear the message, we nurture the seeds, water them, and they grow in our hearts and produce the abundant fruit of God’s love in our lives.

In other words, if we open ourselves to risk and intimacy instead of walling ourselves off from life’s risks; if we learn to forgive, letting anger go when it is no longer useful; if we turn to God's Way and reject the selfish, oppressive ways of the world; then love will blossom in our hearts, in our lives, and in the world around us.

When we plant a garden we not only care for the plants but we also tend the soil, the hearts in which the seeds of love are planted. Soil needs to be tilled so it doesn't harden again. Just when we thought all of the rocks have been removed, the tilling will turn up a new one. Pulling weeds seems to be a never ending process. Good soil can take years to cultivate. It must be fed and nurtured by the remains of plants that have come and gone – that is, learning from our past, successes and failures. Good soil must be worked and reworked so that it becomes supple, but not worked so hard that its structure is broken down – we also need to take time for rest, sabbath. And Good soil must be replenished, as seeds grow and draw on its nutrients – we must keep coming back to the Divine Source for renewed energy.

The soil of our hearts, whether it be hardened, or rocky, or full of weeds, can be tended and nurtured so that love will blossom not only within our own hearts but within the world. If the soil of our hearts is turned and tilled making it vulnerable to the roots of love; if the rocks of past pains are removed and forgiven; if the choking weeds of selfishness are pulled; then we prepare within us a place for the love of God to weave its roots deeply into our souls. And once firmly rooted, those seeds of love will bear their fruit not only in our lives but in a world that desperately needs the love of the Divine Presence. And the amazing, beautiful garden of God will blossom in peace and justice.

Blessings,
Rev. Ken Arthur

Note: This reflection is inspired by the sermon, “Planting a Garden,” from July 12, 2020. This and other sermons can be heard at https://phoenixchurch.org/home/phx-sermons/.

 

When will we gather in person again for worship? Because there has been an increase in COVID-19 infection rates recently, Steering Committee decided that we will not begin in-person services in August. We will re-evaluate for a possible September start-up at Steering Committee’s August meeting. 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!
 

Join us for Spirit Talk on Monday, August 3, at 7 pm. We’ll meet online via Zoom for this open discussion time. This is a great opportunity to talk about whatever spiritual questions have been on your mind. The connection information is the same as for Sunday worship.
 

Time for a Summer Picnic! Everyone is invited (weather permitting) to a socially-distanced picnic at 5 pm on Saturday, August 8, at the church. (Out last try at a picnic in July was canceled when the National Weather Service issued a heat advisory for that day.) Please bring lawn chairs, your own plates and utensils, and a food dish to share. Burgers, hot dogs, and veggie burgers for grilling will be supplied. Everyone is also asked to make sure we keep our distances and wear face coverings (when we’re not eating, of course) as we are still in the middle of a pandemic.
 

Steering Committee will meet next on Friday, August 14, at 7 pm via Zoom. Anyone is welcome to attend. The connection information is the same as for Sunday worship.
 

Donations to Phoenix Community Church: Many thanks to everyone who continues to support the church in whatever way they are able! Even though we’re doing church differently at the moment, the normal costs of a church community continue. If you are able to make your usual, or even additional, offerings at this time it would be much appreciated. Checks can be mailed to the church office (address below). Some might want to set up “bill pay” with their bank so that their offering is automated. At this time we don’t have a mechanism for making online donations.
 

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.

 

A Service of Installation for Rev. Mike Tupper will be held at 2 pm on Sunday, August 2, at First Congregational Church in South Haven. Mike will be officially installed as their Associate Pastor. Please note that although this is an in-person service, we are still in a pandemic and everyone is asked to take appropriate precautions (masks, 6 feet apart, etc.).
 

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.
 

Register to Vote! This is an important election year. Please remember to register and vote in our fall elections! For Michigan residents you can find more information and register at the online Michigan Voter Information Center: https://mvic.sos.state.mi.us/.

 

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

For August please remember:

  • Wide Awake UCC, a new church start in Benton Harbor, MI, and Rev. Dr. Oscar Varnadoe

  • First Congregational Church, Union City, MI, and Rev. Don Mason

  • SWA Church & Ministry Committee: Mr. Dale Muyskens, Chair; Rev. Deborah Kohler, Rev. Bob Bond, Ms. Michele Bush, Rev. Jennifer Fair, Rev. Dr. Scott Luppe, Rev. Kyle Tade, Mr. Ken Warren, Mr. Doug Stahnke, Rev. Ken Arthur (registrar)

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 returning to “normal” routines

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

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  

Peer Ministers for 2020 are Linda Cross and Arlene Scholfield. 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.
 

Weekly Events:
Sundays, 6 pm: Worship online
Thursdays, 3:30 pm: Book Study online

One-time Events:
Sunday, Aug. 2: 2 pm, Installation of Rev. Mike Tupper @ FCC, South Haven
Monday, Aug. 3: 7 pm, Spirit Talk online
Saturday, Aug 8: 5 pm, Picnic @ 2208 Winchell
Friday, Aug 14: 7 pm, Steering Committee online
Monday, Aug. 17: 7 pm, Spirit Talk online

 

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