WCUC Goes Apple Picking

  • September 21, 2021

Last Sunday the sun was bright, the picking was plentiful, and the donuts were delicious as almost 30 adults and children joined us for a delightful afternoon at Carver Hill Orchard in Stow for our beloved apple picking tradition. We were so busy picking and visiting and having fun together, I only got a few pictures, but it truly was a blessed event and it felt so good to be together. Hooray for apples and friends!

Teaming Up for the Minute Man March!

  • September 15, 2021

Check out the pictures of our kids having a blast together in outdoor play on the Thoreau School field last Sunday! After getting all sweaty and tired, we joined Sunday Fellowship under the tent to learn about the upcoming Minute Man March on September 25th and to make posters supporting Team WCUC. It was a joy to be together and get excited about this very special event! Read on to learn how you can support the Minute Man March and Team WCUC as well!

TEAM WCUC NEEDS YOU! Join Team WCUC by supporting the Minute Man March – a beloved community event that helps bring life-changing services to 850 children and adults with disabilities in our community. Now, more than ever, Minute Man Arc needs our support to continue its vital work. Click HERE for general information about the March.

TEAM WCUC NEEDS FEET! Join us on September 25th for a spirited one-mile walk through Concord Center, followed by an outdoor party with music, games, prizes and food. Email Melissa Tustin at mwtustin@gmail.com if you plan to join Team WCUC and walk with us!

TEAM WCUC NEEDS FUNDS! Even if you can’t march with us, you can still be a part of Team WCUC by making a donation. Please visit our TEAM WCUC FUNDRAISING PAGE and share the link with friends and family, or check out the brand new MMArc Silent Auction and place a bid!

Thank you for your support, and God Bless Every Body!

Walking Prayer Soothes the Soul

  • September 14, 2021

WCUC’s walking prayer group has resumed its in-person meetings on Monday mornings beginning at 9:30am. Alternating weeks between the Welcome Garden and Walden Pond, this is a group of fellow travelers who come together to share life’s challenges and celebrations, enjoy the company of friends, and walk in nature to absorb the beauty of creation and listen for God’s guidance.

Quaker author and activist, Parker Palmer, writes:

“When the world’s heartbreak threatens to take me down, it helps if I can remember that this is not the only world to which I belong. Like every human being, I have “dual citizenship.”

I’m not talking about another country, or a world we create with wishful thinking. I mean the vast and very real world of nature that stretches from our bodies to all the life around us, then to the stars, and on to the immensity we call the cosmos. I mean a natural world so vast that we can never do the harm we have done on earth.

Remembering my “dual citizenship” is not an effort to evade the world of human heartbreak. By understanding that I belong to a cosmos that has seen it all, embraced it all, and folded all of it into what is, I have a better chance to “see life steadily and see it whole”.

When I can look at life that way, I’m better able to engage creatively with the here and now, neither crushed by a sense of inadequacy nor lost in fantasy.

Rooted in the serenity of that cosmic reality, return to the heartbreak of everyday life to contribute whatever you can to healing and peace.”

Scenes from our walk this week:

Newcomers are always welcome! Please email Joyce DeGreeff (joycedegreeff@gmail.com) for more information.

God’s Dwelling Place

  • September 14, 2021

A sermon for September 12th, 2021 on 1 Kings 8

The people Israel have been through a lot of big changes when we meet them in the first book of Kings. They’ve gone from being a nomadic people journeying in the wilderness, to a nation established in a land. They’ve gone from being a people led by Prophets and Judges, to being a people ruled by a King.

These new circumstances have created new challenges. One of them is this: the tent of meeting that has served as their holy place no longer feels quite right. In fact, Israelites are spending more time in Canaanite temples than they are at their own tent of meeting.  So King Solomon builds a great temple, a magnificent stone building in honor of the Israelite God.  Then he has the ark of the Covenant, the tent of meeting, and all the holy vessels transported to the inner sanctuary, underneath the wings of cherubim. And he calls for a celebration.

You might think that the dedication of the temple would be a moment of triumph for Solomon. By building this temple he’s finally succeeded in carrying out the dreams of his father, King David. It’s taken years and enormous resources and by all accounts, it’s very impressive.  Which is as it should be – this is, after all, the place where Solomon has proudly proclaimed, God will dwell forever. 

But when it comes time for the dedication prayer, King Solomon seems to doubt himself. He says, “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Even the highest heaven cannot contain you, much less this house that I have built!” 

Where is God?  The answer we get depends on what parts of our scripture or tradition we are paying attention to. God is found in special places, like mountaintops and temples.  And God is found in unexpected places, like out in the wilderness. God is fixed high above us in heaven. And God goes before us, as we travel. And, According to Jesus, God is so present in our everyday lives that it’s as if the holy is a small amount of yeast, mixed into the flour of our days.

Where is God?  The easy answer is: everywhere. And yet, many of us experience God and the good the most in particular places. Beautiful places in nature. Community and family gathering places. Churches, cathedrals, and other holy places. Whether we’re in these places only once, or return to them over and over, some places hold special power in our hearts.

What happens when we cannot be in our special places? 

Diana Butler Bass, a leading historian, thinker, and writer in the progressive Protestant church in America, wrote an article back in April. Lots of people had been asking her: what is the church of the future going to be like? Given the pandemic, where are we headed?

She didn’t have any answers. So instead, as a good historian, she turned her attention on where we’ve been, and where we are.  We’ve been through a lot of loss, she said. And most of us are still feeling lost.  We’ve lost our sense of time. We’ve lost our sense of history. We’ve lost our sense of community. And we’ve also lost our sense of physical place.

So many of the places we go, we go through a screen!  How can we be grounded, without the physical places that are special to us, that make us who we are? 

What are the places that you’ve missed during this time?

Spaces and places matter. Including this place: our sanctuary, where many of us are used to coming regularly to open our hearts to God’s presence. It’s been an adventure, worshiping at home, worshiping at Thoreau, worshiping in our garden. But maybe you, like me, long to worship all together here. The fact that we can’t do that safely right now is a profound loss. We’ll be looking for ways to get folks into this space, who wish to be.  We’ll be waiting and planning for the day when we can be here, all together. But this time is forcing us to remember that God is most essentially not a where.  Not even King Solomon, with all his wisdom and resources, with grand designs and brilliant execution, could contain God in one earthly place. God is most essentially not a where, but a with.  Church is most essentially not a where, but a with.  It’s relationships, holy and human, that make a home for our spirits.

Please pray with me. God, we wish sometimes that you were easier to pin down: that we could capture you in a building, or on a plot of land, and make a visit whenever we felt like it. But you cannot be contained. You have chosen this whole creation as your dwelling place, and invite us to abide in you, as you abide in us. Give us courage and patience for this time in which we cannot safely gather in all the places and way we long to gather. Inspire us to recognize your presence right where we are, to recognize all the places where our feet touch as holy ground. In your company, may we find a home for ourselves; through your love, may we create a home for one another. Amen

Read the article by Diana Butler Bass here.

Bread & Fish: How Jesus Feeds Us

  • September 7, 2021

A sermon on Mark 6:31-44, 8:1-10 for September 5th, 2021 from the Rev. Hannah Brown

Jesus likes to host dinner parties. But he isn’t your average host.

If you’ve hosted a party before, or watched someone do it, you know that hosting a dinner party can be a lot of work. You choose a date and a location, maybe a theme. You plan a guest list and send out invitations. You decide on a menu, and buy and prepare a meal. You may need to do some cleaning, or decide to decorate. You might dress up, play some music, or light some candles.

Jesus likes to host dinner parties. But he doesn’t do any of these things. In our scriptures today, we hear two different stories of Jesus hosting a meal. Both times, the party happens with absolutely zero prior planning. And the date, the time, and the place are not only unplanned; they are really inconvenient.  Not only that, but the guest list is enormous. These stories are known as the feeding of the five thousand and the feeding of the four thousand, but these numbers only include adult men. They were the only ones biblical writers recorded. So if you count the women and children that we know were also there, we’re talking upwards of 10,000 unexpected dinner guests.

So — it’s not surprising that the disciples hesitate. “What about the budget?” they wonder. “What about the supplies?”.  They only have a little food, probably whatever they packed for themselves: Five loaves of bread, and two fish; seven loaves of bread, and a few small fish. It doesn’t sound like enough to satisfy Jesus and the disciples, let alone thousands and thousands and thousands of other people.

But Jesus isn’t worried. He just tells everyone to sit down, right where they are. He blesses and breaks the bread and the fish, and he tells the disciples to pass them around. You probably know what happens next. Everyone eats, and not only that, they are filled. And even after they are filled, there are still baskets full of broken pieces of bread and fish left over.

How does this happen?  People have opinions. There are two main camps.  Some folks say: God made a miracle! God multiplied the scant resources that were there. Other folks say: the people are the miracle!  Enough people were able to share what they had as the basket went by, that no one went hungry.

Maybe you have a favorite explanation out of these two.  If so, great. I also wonder: couldn’t both be true?

Bread and fish both have important meanings in Christian tradition.  Bread is a staple food among the peoples who wrote our bible. And it’s what Jesus blesses, and breaks, at the last supper, when he teaches his disciples that he will be present with them in a new way after his death, whenever they eat together in his name.  

Fish show up in all kinds of ways, both in our scriptures and in the early church.  Jesus tells his disciples they will fish for people. Jesus grills some fish on a beach for a special breakfast for the disciples after his death and resurrection. The fish is also sometimes called the sign of Jonah, who spent three days in the belly of a great fish, and it has become for many Christians a symbol of the resurrection. 

After Jesus’ death, Christians began to use a simple symbol of a fish, with two curving lines.  Maybe you’ve seen this shape on the back of a car. Some folks think it helped followers of Jesus recognize one another. If you wanted to know if someone you met was a follower of Jesus, you could make the first arc of the fish shape in the dirt. The other person would complete the shape.  Then you knew you were in the company of another member of what was then an underground movement. You were in community.

Too often, we get stuck in situations where it just doesn’t seem like there’s enough to go around. If you crunch the numbers; if you evaluate what’s on hand, there’s no way that what you have will meet the needs that exist.  There’s a lack of money; a lack of resources; a lack of time; a lack of emotional capacity; there’s just no way to make it work. These situations are real, and they’re hard, and too often, they are created by prejudice and the desire for profit.  

And, sometimes we can still find a way to meet the needs that emerge.  It helps, if we take a Jesus kind of party planning approach.  If we decide to forget about etiquette, and expectations. If we throw out the spreadsheet, and the menu.  If we realize there never should have been a guest list at all.  If we invite the power of God’s blessing and the power of holy community to meet hungry people, whenever we find them, whenever we are them.  All we really need is bread: the presence of God among us.  All we really need is fish: the power of a community bound together.

God, sometimes there’s just not enough,
and people who tell us it will all be OK just make us angry.
Help us to know that you are with us, right where we are, just as we are.
Open our hearts to the possibilities you and your people produce:
Finding way after way after way out of no way;
Breaking apart bread and fish, as well as chains of injustice;
Filling hungry bellies, and aching hearts, until all are satisfied,
And there are baskets and baskets and baskets of extra
For whoever might show up later.
Thanks be to God. Amen.

In Process

  • August 17, 2021

Mark 8:22-26

Fame & Fellowship

  • July 18, 2021

Mark 3:7-19

Like a Mustard Seed

  • July 6, 2021

How is the kingdom of God like a mustard seed? And how does mustard really grow? A sermon on Mark 4:30-33:

Extra bonus from worship on July 4th: this beautiful excerpt from Copland’s Appalachian Spring, played by Jim Barkovic with friend and colleague, Terry Halco:

Seeds that Grow Secretly

  • June 30, 2021

A sermon for outdoor worship on June 27th, based on Mark 4:26-29

This season we’re exploring some of Jesus’ parables as found in the Gospel of Mark. Today’s parable is sometimes called the Parable of the Seed Growing Secretly. It is only found in this gospel.

Although the parable is unique, the topic isn’t; many of Jesus’ parables begin in this way: “The kingdom of God is like…” or, “the kingdom of God is as if…”  Which begs the question – what is the kingdom of God, and why do we need to know what it’s like? 

The Greek word basileia, traditionally translated kingdom, could just as easily be read as realm, reign, rule, or sovereignty. Today, we sometimes use the word kindom instead.  So when we’re talking about the kingdom of God we’re talking about the place, or the time, or the ways, or the loving community in which God’s desires for us become fully realized. How can we work towards it? How can we recognize it? How can we receive it?

This topic is mysterious, and Jesus devotes a lot of his teachings to it. Each time, he describes the kingdom of God with a story or a metaphor.  Even Jesus can’t tell us exactly what God’s kingdom is; only that it’s sort of like this; or sort of like that.

In this case, Jesus tells us that the kingdom of God is as if someone scatters seeds, and then ignores them.  Meanwhile, the seeds sprout and grow. The earth produces a stalk, and then a head, and then a full grain for harvest.

One commentator said that we don’t talk about this parable much because it’s boring! There’s no drama in this story. I wonder if it may still be a helpful message for us, boring or not, in this culture that encourages us to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, and demonstrate our self-worth through achievement, and prove our morality through sacrificial effort, and continuously improve ourselves through the relentless force of our own will.

I invite you to consider a moment in your life when things went right without your forcing them to.  You abandoned a task only to discover that someone else eventually completed it, maybe even better than you could have. You gave up on a problem only to have a solution drop into your mind a few days later.  You stopped fighting with someone and something shifted, in yourself or in someone else, or both, for peace, for healing, for good.

I’m not suggesting that the key to life or spiritual health is to stop trying altogether.  But I do think we can get trapped into thinking that our determined efforts are the only solution to problems; problems that are often much larger than us.  We forget to leave any room for other folks to take a role, or for the Holy Spirit to intervene.

Of course, allowing anyone to help us, human or divine, means letting go a little.  It means not being in total control.  The outcome may be a little different than what we had in mind.  The time frame may not really meet our expectations. That seed which Jesus said grew so well on its own — how many days and nights did it take to sprout and grow and bear grain, to be ready for the harvest? 

This parable of the seed that grows secretly reminds me of one of my favorite prayers. It was written by Pierre Tielhard de Chardin, a Jesuit priest, paleontologist, theologian, philosopher and teacher. He writes:

“Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new.

And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.

Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our God the benefit of believing
that their hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.”

Please pray with me. God, we long for all things to be good, to be right, to be how you would have them be; or at least, how we would have them be. Help us to work faithfully in your fields as we are called and also to recognize opportunities to rest, to ask for help, to embrace uncertainty, to wait for an outcome that is beyond our capacity to reach alone. May we wait for the seed to sprout, for the stalk to grow, for the grain to ripen, for the harvest to come, through your grace, and with your kindom, and in your time. Amen.