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The Phoenix Flamings

Phoenix Community Church UCC
Friday, July 3, 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

While Jesus is instructing his disciples in the gospel of Matthew, he warns them of hardship, even death, if they follow in his footsteps. Certainly, that’s where the path of healing and justice-seeking led for Jesus himself. Preaching peace and justice, trying to heal people’s lives, threatens the status quo. It will frighten people who are afraid of the consequences and afraid of the unknown. It will anger the powerful who build their power and wealth on the backs of the oppressed. That doesn’t exactly make the job of disciple seem very desirable, does it? But this talk of death isn’t just a warning, it is also a life-giving promise. Jesus says in losing your life, you will find it. And he’s not talking just about a reward in some far away heaven.
 

What if the death Jesus is talking about is not a literal death but the dying of our old way of life? Losing and finding our life as a consequence of following in Jesus’ footsteps is something that happens in the here and now. It means undergoing a spiritual transformation, a resurrection, that brings healing and wholeness as it draws us closer to the Divine and closer to our true selves. Paul gives the same teaching in his letter to the Christian community in Rome when he talks to them of dying to injustice (sin) and being alive to God (love and justice).
 

In this radical transformation of becoming alive to God we are united with the Divine, but we are also united with each other. Becoming alive to God, to justice, means we care for each other, we look out for each other. As Paul says elsewhere, when one rejoices we all rejoice, when one suffers, we all suffer. It is in being united, in recognizing our inter-dependence, that justice can take hold. Although we may sometimes disagree with what actions need to be taken, there is no question that if we are to follow in Jesus’ footsteps we are called to address the problems of injustice in our society: racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, and so on.
 

We have a lot of work ahead of us. If we don’t know where else to begin, we can begin with small steps. We can read, attend a workshop, educate ourselves about what is really happening in the world… and not just from the perspective of the people in power but especially from those suffering from injustice. As Jesus did, we need to hear the voice of the oppressed. And then we need to go into the world healing and declaring the kin-dom of God, a justice-oriented way of life.
 

We might also begin our work of justice-seeking by engaging in some deep reflection over own motivations in what we say and do. Paul tells the Jesus-followers in Rome that they are alive to God in Jesus and then says “so don't let sin rule your mortal body and make you obey its passions.” According to the theologian Ted Jennings, Paul is talking about passions such as fear, anger, greed, and resentment. These are not sexual but social, or rather anti-social, passions. These are the passions of injustice, of sin. So we might begin our striving for justice, for the kin-dom of God, by asking ourselves if and by how much we are ruled by fear and anger, by greed and resentment… and trying instead to nurture within ourselves trust in God, love, generosity, and forgiveness. These, I think, we might call passions of justice.
 

Let us be alive to God. Let us follow in the footsteps of Jesus and be not afraid. Let us hear his teachings and his commission to go into the world to heal and proclaim the kin-dom of God, to proclaim justice. And in finding our life in Jesus we may lose a life of worshiping the idols of power and greed, but in losing that life we will find true life, united with the Divine and each other in the love of God.
 

Blessings,
Rev. Ken Arthur
 

Note: This reflection is inspired by the sermon, “Alive to God,” from June 19, 2020. This and other sermons can be heard at https://phoenixchurch.org/home/phx-sermons/.

Join us for Spirit Talk on Monday, July 6, 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.
 

The Book Study group started reading “The Cross and the Lynching Tree” by James Cone this week. We read together during meetings so there is no need to buy the book unless you want to. Please join us online at 3:30 pm on Thursdays for what promises to be an enlightening read. The connection information is the same as for Sunday worship.
 

Steering Committee will meet next on Friday, July 10, at 7 pm via Zoom. Anyone is welcome to attend. The connection information is the same as for Sunday worship.
 

Kayak Trip! On Saturday, July 11, we’ll gather at Liquid Therapy in Three Rivers, MI around 11:30 am for a kayak trip on the St. Joseph River. Kayaks are $30 and canoes are $35. Call Linda Cross if you have questions or want to make sure a kayak gets reserved for you.
 

Time for a Summer Picnic! Everyone is invited (weather permitting) to a socially-distanced picnic at 5 pm on Saturday, July 18, at the church. 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) as we are still in the middle of a pandemic.
 

Pastor Ken will be on vacation from July 20 through July 26. If you need assistance while the pastor is unavailable, contact a peer minister or our moderator, Angie Willard.
 

When can we gather in person again for worship? We are currently targeting Sunday, August 2, for resuming in-person worship services. Of course, this assumes we don’t see an increase in COVID-19 infection rates before then. Steering Committee will discuss what precautions will need to be in place for us to gather together and those will be communicated in a timely manner. 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!
 

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.

 

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

For July please remember:

  • First Congregational Church, Athens, MI, and their leadership, Deb Brandt and John Blaskie

  • St. John's UCC, Watervliet, MI, and Pastor Dani Veenstra

  • Association Council: Rev. Caroline Meyers, Moderator; Rev. Mary Beth Moran Cross, Vice Moderator; Rev. Adam Bohland, Secretary; Ms. Kristi Blythe, Treasurer; Rev. Ken Arthur, Registrar; Rev. Ruth Moerdyk, Liaison to MI Board of Directors and SWA Search & Call Minister; and Ms. Melanie Johnson, Member-At- Large
     

Also remember and pray:

  • For victims of racism and Black, Indigenous, 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/. 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

One-time events through July
Monday, July 6: 7 pm, Spirit Talk (online)
Friday, July 10: 7 pm, Steering Committee (online)
Saturday, July 11: 11:30am Kayaking @ Three Rivers
Saturday, July 18: 5 pm, Summer Picnic @ 2208 Winchell
Monday, July 20: 7 pm, Spirit Talk (online)
 

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