Posted in Children and Youth

This is Our Story…Youth Lead the Way in Worship

  • March 5, 2019

What a blessing it was to see the youth in action this past Sunday when they shared their many gifts with the congregation. It was truly a team effort and a wonderful picture of this amazingly thoughtful, talented, and generous group of young people. God’s spirit was shining bright!



Youth Reflections

On March 3rd, our Youth shared their reflections on Luke 9:28-43.

Speaker 1: Good morning. Thank you for inviting us to lead worship on this Youth Sunday and for giving us the opportunity to share with you some of our reflections on this story of Jesus’ Transfiguration.

During our exploration of this story, we wondered together about a number of things. We noticed and applauded Jesus’ desire to get away from the crowds, to spend some quiet time with God, and to bring three of his closest friends along for company. We wondered what made him do this at this time in his ministry?

We also noticed how God invites Moses and Elijah to show up too, which seems to us evidence of Jesus’ connection to the Law and the Prophets as well as God’s desire to elevate the importance of this event. We wondered what the disciples were thinking and feeling when they saw these two figures appear to be talking with Jesus?

After speculating about possible answers to these questions, our attention turned to the event itself. In the Transfiguration, Jesus is made known more fully by his changing appearance and by God’s voice affirming his identity and his mission.

“This is my child, my chosen one, listen to him!”

God’s words here powerfully declare the essence of who Jesus is and point to his purpose – his call – to live into the role that God has given to him. We imagined that this must have made Jesus feel profoundly loved and empowered to fulfill his mission in a spirit of truth and freedom.

Speaker 2: Many of us can relate to this experience of being seen and appreciated for who we are. Our friends, family, teachers and other mentors often play this role in our lives. Their ability to recognize our gifts, gives us confidence and inspires us to be our best selves.

One time I felt empowered was when I received a position as a junior coach at my figure skating rink. When I was younger, a couple of my teammates were repeatedly mean to me, most likely because I was an easy target. Ever since that experience, I worked to become a positive role model and to advocate for younger girls so no one else would be on the receiving end of such unkind behavior. Earning an official leadership role made me feel recognized for these efforts, and I felt empowered because I had a chance to use my own position to help other people.

Speaker 3: When the disciples witness Jesus’ Transfiguration, they realize the sacredness of this moment and want to build dwelling places so they can all remain on Holy Ground and continue to enjoy this mountain top experience together. But they are interrupted by God’s voice and reminded that there is important work yet to be done.

Created and known by God, we too are called to be our truest selves and to trust in God’s invitation to bravely share who we are – our passions, our life stories, our identities and our perspectives – with other people so that we might all grow in faith and love. When we do this for each other, amazing things can happen.

I spent the first half of my junior year up in Maine at a semester school: Maine Coast Semester at Chewonki. It’s in Wiscasset, about an hour north of Portland, a 400 acre peninsula shaped sort of like a hand. There were 45 of us in my semester, and those people, along with the staff, created the warmest, kindest, and most welcoming environment I have ever been a part of. I have never felt more free to be myself, and I can say wholeheartedly that everyone else felt the same way. There was no subtle judgement or assumptions made or anything that seems to happen in a regular high school setting. I was seen right away by these absolute strangers for who I was on the inside, and as a result I was able to learn and grow more profoundly than I ever would have back at home. I am now close friends with 44 other people I never would have been friends with at home, and I am much better and more open person because of them.

Speaker 4: One of the other lectionary texts assigned for Transfiguration Sunday comes from 2nd Corinthians where Paul is talking to the early Christians. In this passage he reminds the people of the power of God’s spirit and encourages them this way:

“Since we have such a hope, we act with great boldness. … Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit is, there is freedom. And all of us, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed. … Since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart.”

Just as Jesus was known, revealed, and transformed on the mountaintop, so too are we recognized and affirmed by God who loves us unconditionally and offers us the privilege to be fully who we are as we come down from our mountains and share our authentic voices with the world. It is here that we find Courage. It is here that we find Hope. And it is here that we find Freedom.

Amen.

Blessed Assurance: Then and Now and Forevermore

  • March 5, 2019

On Sunday, we sang this old familiar hymn with a bit of a twist with lyrics adapted to fit the themes that the Youth so eloquently brought forth to the congregation as they led worship together.

Blessed assurance, God’s love is mine. Oh what a free gift, from the divine. Known for who I am, called to be me Born of the Spirit, loved tenderly.

This is my story, this is my song. Living in God’s love, all the day long. This is my story, this is my song. Living in God’s love, all the day long.

When I feel doubtful, alone, or afraid
Longing for comfort from friends who have stayed Close by my side and – who see the real me Blessed child of God, I – am thankful and free.

This is my story, this is my song. Living in God’s love, all the day long. This is my story, this is my song. Living in God’s love, all the day long.

Filled with God’s goodness, all is at rest
Mind, body, and soul are peaceful and blessed. Jesus walks with me, holding my hand
Called to share God’s love, throughout the land.

This is my story, this is my song. Living in God’s love, all the day long. This is my story, this is my song. Living in God’s love, all the day long.

*We also discovered an amazing history of this beloved hymn. Read on!!

Fanny Crosby: Legendary Methodist Hymn Writer (1820-1915)

“Blessed Assurance” is one of the most beloved songs in the United Methodist Hymnal. The person who composed this classic, Fanny Crosby is credited with writing 8000 hymns in her lifetime–despite losing her sight six weeks after birth in 1820. This blind, musical visionary was a lifelong Methodist who began composing hymns at age six. From the age of 15, Crosby attended the New York Institute for the Blind and later joined the faculty and met her husband there. Alexander Van Alstyne, blind himself, was supportive. He often transcribed his wife’s poems since Crosby could not write and composed the lyrics entirely in her mind.

The Rev. Alfred T. Day: “Fanny Crosby was not held back at all by her blindness. And probably the words of her poetry and hymns helped more people to see and know and experience Jesus as anybody with two working eyes and 20/20 vision.”

Crosby’s writings never brought her wealth. She was often paid just a dollar or two per poem with the rights to the songs being retained by the composer or music publishers. At one point, the songstress was destitute but Crosby wrote in her autobiography that the songs were God’s work and not for profit. Any royalties she received were often donated toward the mission work she championed with prisoners, homeless people, immigrants and the poor. Crosby was most drawn to her denomination’s work with the marginalized and her songs spoke to social issues of the day including the temperance movement and the campaign against child labor.

Middle class women in nineteenth-century United States had little voice in worship, however. One of the only ways for a woman to claim the authority to be heard was by direct personal revelation from God. Fanny Crosby readily claimed God’s personal revelation as a source for her hymns; her personal revelation then became a communal inspiration as Christians throughout the world sang her hymns and confirmed her faith experience as their own.

So it is in honor of Fanny Crosby, and in the spirit of inclusivity, that we sing this song today.

Game Faces On!

  • February 27, 2019

Seventy people of all ages and abilities came together on February 17th for the second installment of “Food and Fun” a fun new experiment Sunday Fellowship is trying this winter. After a delicious lunch of pizza and salad, it was GAME ON with Candyland, Connect 4, Giant Uno, Legos, puzzles and more! Check out the silly and serious game faces below.

And if you missed it, don’t worry, there is one more edition of Food and Fun on March 3rd when we’ll be singing and signing to music from the Greatest Showman.

Searching for the Lost

On Sunday our Multiage class read the Parable of the Lost Sheep and the Parable of the Lost Coin and spent the morning searching for lost things! Have you ever lost anything special? Do you remember looking for it? How did you feel when you found it? These were questions we asked and wondered about as we celebrated how amazing it feels to be “found” by God and welcomed into God’s Kingdom with a joyful party – even if we do something wrong. Check out our pictures for a description of our WONDER-ful day together!

Deep Sea Fishing with Jesus

This sermon was offered on February 3rd by Jessica Torgerson, Director of Children’s Ministries. The focus text is Luke 5:1-11.

I have taught this story to children probably four times since I began teaching at WCUC.  I love this story.  Jesus is blossoming at the very beginning of his ministry.  He is baptized, he spends 40 days tempted in the desert, then he returns to Nazareth and begins traveling, preaching, and healing.  Word spreads about this guy really fast.  So fast, in fact, that by the time this story begins in Luke, there is such a crowd pushing in on Jesus that he has to escape to the water in Simon’s boat where he continues to teach.  Now Simon is a fisherman, and perhaps a sub-par fisherman at that, as he tells Jesus he was out all night and literally caught nothing.  He’s probably exhausted and frustrated, and I’m betting he just wants to clean his nets and go home.  But he welcomes Jesus into his boat and pushes out into the water – allowing Jesus to finish teaching to the crowd.

In Sunday school, whenever we present bible stories to the children, we always spend some time wondering.  “I wonder how that story made you feel,” “I wonder why that story is in the bible, “I wonder what happens next.”  Sometimes our wondering is general, sometimes it is specific.  In this story, I wonder a lot.  I wonder if Simon grumbled when Jesus asked him to use his boat.  Or did he offer without hesitation?  I wonder if the two of them knew each other before this.  Were they buddies? What was their relationship?  Turns out just before this story in Luke, Jesus visited Simon at his home and miraculously healed his sick mother-in-law.  So maybe Simon figured he owed him one – you saved my mother-in-law, I’ll let you use my boat for a bit while you teach.  Little did Simon know how central he would become to this story very soon.

So Jesus is in Simon’s boat and finishes teaching.  Interestingly, Luke says nothing about what Jesus was teaching to the crowd.  That part isn’t important – it’s what follows his teaching that becomes vital to the story.  Jesus says to Simon, “Put your nets out there in deep water.”  Jesus is not a professional fisherman.  Not even sure if Jesus has ever fished before.  So Simon responds, “yeah – we tried that all night and caught nothing.  But sure!  If you say so!”  So the experienced fisherman, on the advice of Jesus – again, not a fisherman – trusts him so much that he does it.  Doesn’t even really hesitate about it.  “If you say so, I’ll let down the nets.”  I wonder – could I do that?  Could you?  Could you trust someone so deeply that you respond to a call or an invitation with very little logic behind it?  Would you say yes?  Would I?

So we all know what happens next – nets so full of fish they begin to break, boats so full of fish they begin to sink.  Simon becomes overwhelmed with fear and wonder and expresses his complete unworthiness, falling on his knees, telling Jesus “Get away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!”  Jesus comforts him saying, “Don’t be afraid.  From now on you will be catching people.”  The boats full of fish are brought to shore, and Simon and his partners James and John leave everything behind – leave behind the greatest catch of their fishing careers – to follow Jesus. 

This encounter with Jesus has completely turned the lives of these fishermen upside down.  There is really nothing extraordinary about Simon Peter and his fishing partners.  They were doing what they did every day – fishing (not particularly well), cleaning nets, getting ready to go home when Jesus comes along and changes everything.

Jesus calls Simon and his partners exactly as they are.  He doesn’t ask for Simon to get his act together and come back with a resume for a detailed interview for a discipleship position in his ministry.  He accepts them with all their sins and vulnerabilities and inadequacies.  And what’s more amazing to me – these fishermen say yes! 

In the past when I have heard and taught this story, I always end up thinking – I could never do that.  Literally drop everything to follow Jesus?  I can’t.  I’m definitely not worthy.  Not prepared.  Not trusting enough.  But I wonder – what would it be like to go deep sea fishing with Jesus?  Would you go with him if he called you?  Stepping out of your comfort zone, letting go of certainties and logic?  Because the truth is, we have all let down our nets in response to a call from God.  That is why we are here. 

In each of your bulletins you will find a little paper fish.  I invite you to think for a moment – what brought you to West Concord Union Church?  Every one of us has heard a call or an invitation to join our community, maybe to get involved in a ministry.  Why did you say yes?  When you cast out your net, what did you catch?  On your fish, I invite you to write down what has brought you here to our church.  What call are you responding to?  How is God inviting you?

Thank you God for calling us in so many different ways to get to know you and each other.  Thank you for catching us in your deep, wide net of mercy and love, as we continue to cast our nets out and fill them to bursting.  In your holy name, Amen.              

Food, Fun and Epic Stories from Jericho

  • February 5, 2019

Over 80 people of all ages and abilities came together on February 3rd for Food and Fun, a fun new experiment Sunday Fellowship is trying this winter. This session of Food and Fun featured a taco bar (THANK YOU TEAM TACO!) and an interactive program of stories, songs and crafts with Doria Hughes, a professional teller from Cambridge, MA http://doriastories.com/.

Check out the Wall of Jericho we built and knocked down (cathartic) as well as the tree we covered in decorated leaves for Zacchaeus to climb! Join us for the next session of Food and Fun: Game Day on February 17.

Youth Group Fun in Winter

  • February 4, 2019

We’re beating the winter blues with some good old fashioned playtime! WCUC high schoolers headed into to Boston to “Escape the Room” – using their brain power, creativity, and teamwork to try to solve The Dig. They came very close and had a blast together. Meanwhile, the WCUC middler schoolers went to the Altitude Trampoline Park to bounce off some of their energy, climb the rock wall, battle their friends on the balance beam, and work together in a game of dodgeball. Always fun to be out with these amazing teenagers!