Archive for March, 2011

3/27/11 Sermon

March 31, 2011

“Willing,” a sermon preached by Abigail Henderson at First Congregational Church of Minnesota, UCC.

Luke 17:20-21; Romans 8:18-30; Revelation 21:1-4

"Postcard from Heaven" by Jean Levert Hood

Last week’s cruel snowfall reminded me of an incident a few years ago in which I fervently prayed as I had never prayed before.

It was a Friday in late October 2006.  The weather was strangely balmy in Boston.  High 50s.  Humid.   I wasn’t even wearing a jacket when I left around noon to make the four-hour trip north to Burlington, Vermont, to spend the weekend with my mother.  I was driving an old, humble Toyota Corolla that I still referred to as my father’s car, even though the title was in my name and he’d been dead about eight months.



Member Lenten Reflections: 4

March 31, 2011

Many thanks to Cynthia Hobbie for this thoughtful reflection on prayer.

Prayer, an Enigma

"Prayer Painting" by Kitty Pechet

For years I have struggled to understand what prayer is, where it comes from and where it goes. Is it an anguished cry in a moment of frustration or deep insecurity? Is worrying  a prayer? Is it that breathlessness that comes when one is looking at a beautiful piece of art or listening to music? Is it sharing a moment of laughter with someone you love? What does saying the “Lord’s Prayer” with others in worship mean? What does it mean when someone says they will pray for you? I have approached the meaning of prayer and circled around it, but honestly, I just don’t get it.


Member Lenten reflections: 3

March 28, 2011

Thanks to Russ Hobbie for this photograph of prayer flags on St. Simon’s Island, GA.

Member Lenten reflections: 2

March 21, 2011

This beautiful post comes from Kris Felbeck, who writes about the profound experience of loss and grief in the family.










In Fall 2000 my father was dying.


Teach Us to Pray

March 20, 2011

March 20, 2011    Luke 11: 1-4; Matthew 6: 7-15

A sermon preached by Rev. Jane McBride at First Congregational Church of MN, UCC

In the novel “Push” by Sapphire, we meet 16 year old Precious Jones. Beginning in her toddler years, Precious suffers abuse at the hands of both of her parents. At 12, she gives birth to her first child. At 16, she is kicked out of school amid her second pregnancy. She enters an alternative school, where a compassionate, determined teacher realizes that she is completely illiterate. Despite the enormous obstacles she faces, Precious grabs hold of the life-line her teacher offers, slowly learning to read and write.

Today we begin our exploration of the Lord’s Prayer, with the first line: Our God, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Even though we use inclusive language at First Church to name God in this prayer, the “Our Father” of scripture and tradition stands in the background. The story of Precious provides a heartbreaking reminder that envisioning God as a parental figure (whether Father or Mother) can be traumatic for some of us. It shows us that naming the divine is, by nature, an incredible risk. Our images and concepts of God are always incomplete and inaccurate; they are a landmine of unintended consequences. Whenever we speak of God, we must tread humbly, holding to an awareness of the fragility and limitation of language, taking responsibility for the fact that our words will mean different things to different people.


UCC in the Philippines

March 17, 2011

Thanks to Elena for preaching last Sunday, Mar. 13, 2011, on the Minnesota UCC Conference’s relationship with the UCC-Philippines.  Here is the text:

Partnership is Personal: UCC Philippines 2011

The Rev. Elena Larssen

March 16, 2011

United Church of Christ in the Philippines Digu-an, Ozamiz City, Philippines

In my mind, it is always night in the Philippines.  Not because it was, obviously, and not because we were out a night that much; often we were tucked snug into our bunk in the UCCP guesthouses to be ready for early morning breakfast of rice and soup and fresh mango.  But the night time was so exquisite; away from the thrum of the air conditioner, in the darkness, which seems darker when it’s humid.  Maybe it’s because we went on the pilgrimage in January, and left behind the truly frigid, bone dry coldness of this past January.  Maybe it’s because the air was damp and lovely, maybe it’s because the day’s sights, lavish banana leaves and fetid mud and the pristine greenery of the rice paddies seeped into consciousness.  But there was something exquisite about night, indeed there is something exquisite about the Philippines.


Member Lenten reflections on prayer: 1

March 17, 2011

Thanks to Kathy Haskins for contributing the first selection, a poem written for the occasion of Ash Wednesday.


Ashes to ashes and

Dust to dust

Star dust and Earth dust we are


Of death come to fleeting life


Baptism: the conversation continues

March 14, 2011

Depiction of baptism in an early Renaissance tapestry

Recently, Clyde Steckel, emeritus professor of theology at United Theological Seminary and First Church member, responded to my post about baptism.  You can read his response below.  He makes  a compelling case for retaining and exploring the symbolism of “washing clean” in baptism, rather than shying away from it.  Thank you, Clyde, for deepening the conversation!  Readers, stay tuned for more words from First Churchers as we consider our Lenten theme, “Teach us to Pray.”

Clyde’s response:


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March 10, 2011

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Ash Wednesday reflection

March 9, 2011

Ash Wednesday reflection delivered by Abigail Henderson on 03/09/11 at First Cong. Church of MN.

Psalm 51:1-17; Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

Psalm 51 is a tough one.  It uses the “s-word” five times.  You know the one I mean.  Sin.  These verses even declare that sin is original—“I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me.”  Yeesh.  That one’s hard to swallow.  Yesterday afternoon, I read a book about animals to my niece, aged fifteen months, and she fell asleep right in my arms.  As I felt her little body breathing against mine, sin was about the farthest thing from my mind.

And you know what?  It was a moment of rest and relief, because I actually think about sin quite a lot.  Not sin as it’s popularly understood or described—the sin of pride, the sin of lust, the sin of… whatever. It’s risky to talk about sin because it’s a loaded term, one that’s been used as a weapon in so many unjust crusades.