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The Phoenix Flamings

Phoenix Community Church UCC
Friday, April 10, 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

It’s hard to believe we’ve been in this stay-at-home mode for almost a month now. I hope you are finding a routine that allows you to be grounded and connected to others while still keeping the physical distance that is so important to curtailing this virus. For me, each day seems a little better as I get used to doing things in new ways. But it will be a while before we’re all done processing what is happening right now in our lives, the life of our church, and across the nation and the world. We probably have a mix of emotions – fear, anger, grief – that we’re dealing with and that is ok.
 

When Jesus’ friend Lazarus dies (John , chapter 11), Mary and Martha are overcome with grief and perhaps are a little angry as well. Mary wants to know why Jesus hadn’t come to them earlier, before Lazarus died, and saved him before it was too late. We’ve probably all experienced that question of why. Why does it have to be this way? Why can’t God, or won’t God, fix things for us? Why does anyone have to suffer? The easy answers people tend to give to those questions are never very satisfying. For me the comfort comes in knowing that God always walks with us in the midst of the grief and anger and the questions of why. When Mary and Martha wept, Jesus also wept.
 

And in the midst of their weeping, they continued to trust in Jesus and in God. When Jesus told them to move the stone that closed the grave, they didn’t seem to really believe Jesus could do anything at that point. But they moved the stone anyway and Jesus called Lazarus out from that grave into a renewed life. We continue to trust in God even when things look bleak or impossible because there is always the possibility and promise of new life.
 

We are the hands of God. And the voice of God. And the feet of God. It is the hands of those who believe in him who removed the stone and cleared the way for Lazarus to live. God will often need us to roll some stones out of the way to make new life possible. What does that look like in our current environment? It means we keep practicing social distancing. It means we keep in touch with each other via phone, text, and email. It might mean risking our own health to get groceries for someone who can’t do it themselves. It might also mean rolling away stones of hypocrisy and hype, greed and selfishness – seeing through and calling out those who would place wealth above lives. We need to hear truly prophetic voices in this time because standing up for justice is also an act of love for the marginalized – those most at risk.
 

If we are to be followers of Christ, if we are to open our hearts so that Christ and the Spirit are to dwell within us, then we have to open our hearts to love, putting love first. Love brings renewed life. We often see this blossoming of neighborly love in times of stress and turmoil. And it’s a wonderful thing. People going out of their way to help each other in the midst of disaster. I marvel every day at the courage and selflessness of health care workers. They are heroes. And whether they happen to be Christian or not, that kind of neighborly love is what it means to be Christ in the world.
 

Just as Jesus called Lazarus out of the grave and into renewed life, we too are called out of the grave created by our selfishness and into a renewed life in the Spirit of Love. Just as Jesus called out to Lazarus, Jesus calls to us: “Come Out! Choose to live!” Answering God's call to us, living in the love of God, can reanimate us and bring us new life.
 

New life is possible! Even when it may not seem so. We may sometimes feel that life presents us with a walking death, but the promise of God is that new life is always available to us through God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Let us roll away the stones that stand between us and new life, opening our hearts to the Christ within, who can reanimate us, body and soul.
 

Blessings,
Pastor Ken
 

P.S. This reflection is inspired by the sermon from March 29, 2020, “Out of the Grave.” A recording of this and most other sermons can be found online at https://phoenixchurch.org/home/phx-sermons/.

 

 

Our calendar of activities has been changing frequently. Due to the ever increasing restrictive guidelines regarding the current COVID-19 pandemic, all Phoenix Community Church in-person activities are suspended through at least the end of April. We are not closed, we’re just moving online for now. It is best for all if we do what we can to keep each other healthy at this time. It’s going to be tough 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.

A list of online gatherings appears below. Note that if you don’t have a computer, you can also call in to Zoom via phone (connection or long distance charges from your phone service may apply). If you need help connecting contact the church for more information.
 

Good Friday Worship, April 10, 8 pm – We cannot afford to ignore the darkness in our world. And so we will meet online via Zoom to observe Good Friday this year. This service will have a special meeting ID on Zoom. Contact the church if you would like the connection information to join us. We will recount the tragedy of the last hours of Jesus' life through scripture and (hopefully) music while modern readings remind us of the evil and despair that still exist in our world today. This evening we sit with the darkness, yearning for the light that returns Easter morning.
 

Easter Worship, April 12, 6 pm – Christ is Risen! Come and celebrate! In the midst of our uncertainty, let us gather online via Zoom to celebrate the new life found in Christ!
 

Steering Committee will meet on Friday, April 17, at 7 pm via Zoom. Anyone is welcome to attend. The connection information is the same as for Sunday worship.
 

Join us for Spirit Talk on April 20 at 7 pm! We normally meet for a time of relaxed discussion over the refreshment of your choice at a local restaurant. As that is not possible at this time, we’ll meet online via Zoom. This is a great opportunity to talk about whatever spiritual questions have been on your mind.
 

Donations to Phoenix Community Church: Many have asked how they can continue to give when we are not meeting in-person and we are grateful for that. Even though we’re doing church differently at the moment, the normal costs of being a church 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 your bank so that your offering is automated. At this time we don’t have a mechanism for making online donations but could investigate that possibility if there is demand for it. Thank you so much for you continued support of our community!
 

One Great Hour of Sharing was not observed as planned this year due to the suspension of in-person gatherings. This is an offering we collect once every year and the money collected goes to disaster relief. If you can still give a little extra for those in need, send a check to the church office and clearly mark it “For OGHS”. For more information about how funds are used or to give online visit https://www.ucc.org/oghs.
 

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.
 

The annual Phoenix Rummage Sale originally scheduled for Saturday, April 25, has been canceled.

 

 

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 April please remember:

  • Congregational UCC, Galesburg, MI, and Rev. Whitney Brown.

  • First Congregational Church, St. Joseph, Michigan, and Rev. Jeffrey Hubers.

  • Southwest Association Chaplains: Rev. Beth Code, Rev. Caroline Meyers, Rev. Mary Beth Moran Cross, Rev. Vincent Lavieri.
     

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

  • That hospitals 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

  • That our leaders 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 (at least through the end of April) communion will be observed every Sunday. If you wish to participate, have something to eat and drink with you as we gather together online. The current plan is to post sermons a couple of days before Sunday and only do a short summary 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.
 

 

Please also see our online calendar at: https://phoenixchurch.org/home/calendar/.

Sundays, 6 pm: Worship (online)

Thursdays, 3:30 pm: Book Study (online)

Friday, April 10: 8 pm, Good Friday worship (online)
Friday, April 17: 7 pm, Steering Committee (online)
Monday, April 20: 7 pm, Spirit Talk (online)
Tuesday, April 28: 12 noon, ONA Team meeting (online)
Monday, May 4: 7 pm, Spirit Talk (tba)
Friday, May 8: 7 pm, Steering Committee (tba)

 

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