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The Phoenix Flamings

Phoenix Community Church UCC
Friday, May 22, 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

During this time of pandemic and stay at home orders, we have a great opportunity to think about what’s important in life and how to balance our desire for freedom with our responsibilities to our neighbor and to God’s Creation. What things have we put on hold that we really need back in some form? Are there things we can continue to live without? What changes do we want to see come out of this crisis? Are there things we’d like to do differently, that we’d like our government to do differently? Whatever happens in the next few months, Jesus tells us in the gospel of John that he came into this world that we might have an abundant life. Jesus wasn’t talking about wealth either. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells a rich young man to sell all of his possessions. Wealth can actually be a hindrance to an abundant life!
 

But if not wealth, what else might an abundant life be about? I think Jesus isn’t talking about quantity, but about quality. When I think of an abundant life I think about being happy and feeling loved. I think about rejoicing in the journey of life. An abundant life is not about just surviving, it’s about flourishing. It’s not just getting through the day, but thriving in whatever we are doing. It’s about living life to the fullest, given what we have. This is what God desires for us! But, how can we flourish when so much in life is uncertain? When we are worried about being able to pay our bills? When we’re lonely or depressed? When loved ones are getting sick or dying? How do we flourish during a time such as this? Jesus says that he is the gate. We can find abundant life through him. It’s in this time of fear and uncertainty that we need to turn to Christ to find the abundant life that he promises.
 

First, we need to trust in the voice of the shepherd (Jesus) that leads us. We need to trust in what Jesus has taught us and in the model of how he lived his own life. We need to trust that if we walk through this gate we will be all right. Second, while Jesus is our shepherd, we are to be shepherds for others and that means we have a responsibility to care for others, to care for Creation, to live and teach as Jesus did, to love our neighbor. Abundant life is found in the act of loving others! Abundant life is not just a promise or a dream, but it’s real and it’s something we can choose. It’s not about life being perfect, but it’s about trusting in love, living with gratitude, living in the moment, and putting relationships, with God and with our neighbors, first.
 

The early church described in the book of Acts is another image of an abundant life. The early church gathered to teach, fellowship with each other, eat together, pray together, and keep all things in common, giving to those in need. That is a radical image of community, especially in our culture of the lone wolf capitalist who’s supposed to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. It may seem idealized but elsewhere in the book of Acts it also makes it clear that the early church was not perfect. They had disagreements and arguments with each other and yet they still came together in supportive community. They nurtured their relationships and sense of belonging. They acted on behalf of those in need. Their community was participatory. It was a vision of hope and it was blessed. We’re told they had grateful and generous hearts.
 

We too can have abundant life! We can choose to follow the gate opened through Jesus and walk into God’s kin-dom. We can put our trust in God and give thanks for what we have! If you take a moment to just be in the present, not dwelling on the past or worrying about the future, and inventory your blessings, there are probably more than you realize at first. And we can nurture our relationships, loving God, neighbor and Creation. God wants us to live full lives, to be who we were created to be – the loved and loving children of God. But we have to get up and follow the voice of the shepherd, to be shepherds ourselves, letting God’s love flow in and through us to the world. We don’t know what the future holds. It won’t be perfect. It might be difficult. But in God it can also be abundant with love and joy!
 

Blessings,
Pastor Ken
 

P.S. This reflection is inspired by the sermon from May 3, 2020, The Promise of an Abundant Life.” A recording of this and most other sermons can be found online at https://phoenixchurch.org/home/phx-sermons/.

 

Due to the ongoing guidelines regarding the current COVID-19 pandemic, all Phoenix Community Church in-person activities are suspended until further notice. We are not closed, we’ve just moved online for now. We look forward to the day, hopefully soon, when we can resume in-person gatherings. In the meantime, it’s best for everyone if we do what we can to keep each other healthy. It’s difficult being apart so let’s try to keep in touch with each other via phone, text, etc. That is especially important for those who aren’t able to join the online gatherings. Thank you for your continued patience and support!
 

When can we gather in person again? That’s a question on all of our minds. Here are some thoughts from the United Church of Christ’s national leadership: https://www.ucc.org/news_pastoral_letter_should_churches_return_to_worship_in_their_sanctuaries_05192020. The letter also includes a link to this helpful post: https://www.erinbromage.com/post/the-risks-know-them-avoid-them. We will continue to prayerfully study this question and develop a plan to be discussed at upcoming Steering Committee and Congregational meetings in June.
 

The Timid Poet Open Mic tentatively scheduled for May 29 has been canceled. The Open Mic nights will be back once we can safely meet in person again.
 

Steering Committee will meet on Friday, June 12, at 7 pm via Zoom. Anyone is welcome to attend. The connection information is the same as for Sunday worship.
 

A Congregational Meeting will be held online after worship on Sunday, June 14.
 

Join us for Spirit Talk on Monday, June 1, 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.
 

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.

 

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.

 

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

For May please remember:

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

  • Portage UCC, Portage, Michigan, and Revs. Mary Kay Schueneman and Kyle Tade.

  • UCC Clergy serving churches outside the UCC: Rev. Julie Kline (First United Methodist Church, Kalamazoo) and Rev. Ruth Moerdyk (Skyridge Church of the Brethren, Kalamazoo)
     

Also remember and pray:

  • 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 and health care workers

  • For hospitals, that they may receive the supplies they need

  • For those whose jobs have been lost

  • For those that continue to work and are thus more at-risk, such as grocery store staff

  • For those who are struggling to feel connected to others

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

  • For churches and their leaders struggling to be community in new ways
     

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/. 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.
 

Sundays, 6 pm: Worship

Thursdays, 3:30 pm: Book Study

Monday, June 1: 7 pm, Spirit Talk
Friday, June 12: 7 pm, Steering Committee
Sunday, June 14: 7 pm, Congregational Meeting
Monday, June 15: 7 pm, Spirit Talk
 

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