(Posted June 1, 2018)
This week, more than most, has illustrated the very words Jesus left us in the New Testament that still instruct us about how to live our lives today. Our gospel this Sunday shows how he teaches that “common sense theology” is required of us, instead of blind adherence to human-imposed law. His is a rule fashioned by compassion for others, not by what the power brokers say is right.
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Services begin at 10 a.m. All are welcome.
This Sunday in Mark, Jesus is traveling on the Sabbath with his disciples when they come to a mostly picked-over field of grain. They are very, very hungry. We must note here that it was part of Jewish tradition that farmers were to leave a little bit of grain in a field after harvest so that the poor and any widows or children could pick it. (Any woman without relatives who was widowed was not supported by the community and had to fend for herself and her children.) But … Jewish law also said that no one can work on the Sabbath, and gleaning leftover grain was “work.” Jesus and the hungry disciples began eating what was left, were seen by the Pharisees, and they scolded the disciples for breaking Sabbath law. It was at this point that Jesus pointed out the folly of blind adherence to law: “The Sabbath was made for humankind, not humankind for the Sabbath.”
Compassion and respect for others is what God expects of us, far more than dotting the “I’s” and crossing the “T’s” of manmade law. There are many times when the need to be kind trumps the need to be right. This particular passage also reminds me of another, this time in Matthew. It reminds us that there are consequences for the words we choose to launch at one another. The disciples were eating, and the Pharisees, again seeking to trip up Jesus, noted that they had done so without washing their hands first—a violation of Dietary law. Jesus replied, not in defiance of basic sanitation, but by pointing out how the Pharisees were missing the REAL SIN of the way they treated others… by the vile, devious things that they held in their hearts and which spilled out of their mouths toward others.
Jesus said: "So, for the sake of your tradition, you make void the word of God. You hypocrites! Isaiah prophesied rightly about you when he said: 'This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines.'" Then he called the crowd to him and said to them, "Listen and understand: It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles..."
And, when Jesus’s own apostles didn’t comprehend what he was saying, and they were more concerned that his words had upset the pharissees, he spoke to them personally. “Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth enters the stomach, and goes out into the sewer? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile."
This, indeed, has been a week when there were terrible consequences for someone who, in an unguarded moment, revealed what REALLY lived in her heart about others. The truth of the matter is, we may pretend all we like about how unjudgmental we are toward others. But unless we truly have allowed God to cleanse our hearts of our prejudices, it’s just a matter of time before the truth spills out. This week we will look at those moments when honoring God’s rule of compassion has meant “breaking” the laws of human authority or convention. Please join us to look at some very current issues facing the church and the world. - Pastor Pat Kriss
(Posted June 29, 2018)
Two special Sundays are coming up for First Congregational Church. On June 10 we all have a chance to give thanks and recognition to our wonderful Choir under Jim Moriarty’s direction, as well as Cindy Tyrseck and Riley Duhamel for keeping our Church School as dynamic as it is.
Both School and Choir perform a role that might not be the one we first think of. Both School and Choir are Teachers of the Word of God. It’s clear that our Church School teachers are bringing Jesus to our youngsters in a way they can comprehend it. But by the same token, our Choir instructs the congregation to the presence of God by leading them with the beauty of song and lyric. More than anything else that happens in church it is music that lead people back to church when they choose to come; it lets them get in touch with something profound that happens when their lives connect with the sound of the Spirit.
Worship with Us
Services begin at 10 a.m. All are welcome.
On Sunday, June 17, and again on June 24, we are scheduled to have Baptisms. But more than being a “Hallmark Holiday,” June 17 is a day to celebrate the seed of faith that a father brings to his child. The gospel for that day is about having faith “as small as a mustard seed.”
It was, I think, no coincidence that this week I came upon the story of a little boy in a very poor parish on the outskirts of Rome, where Pope Francis paid an unexpected visit on April 15. The pastors set up a microphone so that the people, especially the little kids, could ask the Pope any questions they might have. One little boy, fittingly named Emanuele, was very, very timid, and when he got to the mike he started to cry, and said to the priest, “I can’t do it.” But the priest knew the urgency of the question, since little Emanuele’s father, an atheist, had just died. The priest put his arms around the boy and had him go right up to Pope Francis, and whisper his question in the Pope’s ear. Francis drew him close and when he heard the weeping boy’s question, he wrapped him in his arms and held him tight. He was clearly moved. And when the boy finally climbed off his lap, Francis spoke to the crowd. He said he had asked permission to share what the boy told him with the crowd. Emmanuele had whispered, “A little while ago my father passed away. He was a nonbeliever, but he had all four of his children baptized," the pope recalled the boy saying. "He was a good man. Is dad in heaven?'”
Francis told him “That man did not have the gift of faith, he wasn’t a believer, but he had his children baptized. He had a good heart….If only we could cry like Emanuele when we have pain in our hearts," Francis replied to the crowd after consoling the boy. “The one who says who goes to heaven is God… But what is God’s heart with a Dad like that? A Father’s heart. God has a Dad’s heart. And with a Dad who was not a believer, but who had his four children baptiized and gave them that bravura, do you think God would be able to leave him far from himself? Does God abandon his children?”
Francis asked the children in the crowd if they thought God would abandon a father like Emanuele’s, who was a good man. The children shouted back: “No!" He said,“So there is your answer, Emanuele. God surely was proud of your father because it is easier as a believer to baptize your children than when you are not a believer. Surely this pleased God very much. Talk to your Dad. Pray to your Dad.”
All we need is that mustard seed of faith that places the well-being of those we love above any weighty debate about theology. That’s what dads do, and who better to affirm that than Francis?
(Posted June 9, 2018)
This Sunday is when special attention is given to the church choir. I am so fortunate to have such a small group of people of different backgrounds, professions, ages, personalities and talents come together for one purpose – to make each and every piece of music they sing sound the best it can. Their voices may not be “operatic” in quality, but they each have their own unique beautiful tones, which they have shared throughout this year when singing solos.
Recall this past Advent Stephen Dickson’s interpretation of Mark Hayes’, “Prepare the Way of the Lord”, or Cheryl Hill’s version of “Wade in the Water”, of Nancy Wildman’s “You’ll Never Walk Alone” solo. I could go on and on as each and every member has done a solo. When they usually are the soloist for the day, they also have to lead the congregation in singing of the hymns.
Our rehearsal/dinners have also given them an opportunity to discuss the events of the day, or learn about each other’s lives, or just vent. So it isn’t just a song for the moment that we’re celebrating. It is a special venture starting with the choice to get up out of bed, and get to an early morning rehearsal, to work with each other, to make a song sound like ‘one voice’ in harmony, or to give up an evening to rehearse...snow or no snow, and finally to have to work with me! Is it gratifying? You shouldn’t have to ask. Thank you, choir.
Peace and Joy through music sung by a terrific choir,
First Congregational Church
164 Deer Hill Ave.
Danbury, CT 06810
Phone: (203) 744-6177
Monday 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Tuesday 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Wednesday 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Thursday 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Friday 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Thrift Shop Hours:
Friday 9:30 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Saturday 9:30 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Sunday 10 a.m.–11 a.m.