Doug's Distractions

  • Compassin Fatigue

    It’s that time of the year, again! The mailbox is full of calendars from a plethora of entities including, but not limited to, charities, insurance companies, non-profits and people I’ve never heard of before. Catalogues are numerous and useless as a swarm of stink bugs and almost as hard to dispose of as are the bugs. Right behind them are the requests for support, envelopes with envelopes for the purpose of sending a few dollars to help the important work of dozens of agencies, national charities, local charities, and educational institutions. I can feel it coming on…compassion fatigue. Even if I shed tears with each successive request and their heart-breaking stories, I do not have the dollars in the bank to support them all, not even a portion. I would like to buy gifts for everyone I know, but, again, I do not have the dollars to make that a reality. I imagine you experience similar feelings as the stress and pressures of the “Holiday Season” mount. And, no, I don’t have any answers, except to suggest picking one or two places to give this year and a different one or two next year, etc. Another way might be to sit down and make of list of all the requests and rank them in importance to you, then choose how many you can realistically support starting at the top of the list. Alternative giving is a way to give to others as well as providing a meaningful gift to friends and loved ones. Donate in their name(s) making it a double gift.

    Over the years, it has been suggested that we consider alternative gifting through the various charities that the church supports throughout the year. Those include places like Heifer International, Kentucky Refugee Ministries, Jeffersontown Area Ministries, the Center for Women and Families, the Society of St. Andrew (gleaners), the House of Ruth, and of course Jeffersontown Christian Church! As the year comes to close, please be sure your giving for the year is up to date and consider making an extra gift to help meet our budgeted expenses.

    As a pastor, I am somewhat concerned about the possibility that Congress will enact tax reforms which will affect the future of charitable giving across the board, including the church. I believe many of us will continue to give according to our ability and our faith commitment. But I am concerned that the loss of certain deductions for individual itemizers will result in taking a standard deduction without itemizing. This could result in some people not reflecting of their charitable giving since it does not benefit their tax liabilities. In addition, the potential loss of local and state taxes as deductions could make personal and family budgets that much tighter.

    There is much to consider as we seek to be faithful stewards of our resources: giving meaningful gifts, supporting charitable groups, supporting our church and doing it all with a sense of joy and not guilt. My prayers are with us all.

  • Advent Activities

    Whoa! Thanksgiving is behind us and Advent is upon us; really! We will all be attending to the preparations for Christmas in the coming weeks. From Black Friday shopping to Cyber Monday surfing to dragging out the decorations, trimming the tree, wrapping presents, cooking and baking, the season is super busy. We spend a great deal of time and money and energy on Christmas. We worry about finding and giving perfect gifts as well as about what end of the year charitable giving we will make. We sometimes feel the shadow of “compassion fatigue” spread over us when we are supposed to be uplifted by the season. Let me say this: try and take time during Advent to focus on your spiritual nature while attending to all the stressors of the holidays. One way to do that is to come, worship the Lord and share in the fellowship of other believers who are awaiting the return of the Christ Child.

    December 3 10:45 am Worship (led by our young people and always uplifting!)     December 4 10:00 am Monday Morning Bible Study and Fellowship (Library)                                             7:00 pm Bonnie Circle Women’s Fellowship (Library)                         December 5 10:00 am Sisters Circle Women’s Fellowship (Brownsboro Park)       December 7 10:00 am Grateful Threads Fellowship and Service Group (Library)                                        12:00 noon Agape Circle Women’s Fellowship (Selby Home)            December 8  6:00 pm Primetimers’ Potluck & Game Night (Fellowship Hall)         December 10 10:45 am Worship (featuring Joyful Spirits Band & T2B2 singers)                                            12:00 noon Second Sunday Potluck Lunch (bring a dish to share!)   December 11 10:00 am Monday Morning Bible Study                                                                                    6/6:30 pm Cabinet & Board Meetings                                                December 13 12:00 noon Out-to-Lunch-Bunch Potluck & Gift Exchange (FH)        December 14 10:00 am Grateful Threads Fellowship and Service Group              December 16 10:00 am Elders’ Prayer Breakfast (Bob Evans)                                                                       10:00 am Winter Farmers’ Market (Fellowship Hall)                                                                   5:00 pm All Church Christmas Dinner & Cookie Exchange (FH)   December 17 10:45 am Chancel Choir Cantata with Instrumental Accompaniment                                      12:00 noon Lunch, and Caroling to homebound members (FH)       December 18 10:00 am Monday Morning Bible Study and Fellowship                    December 21 10:00 am Grateful Threads Fellowship and Service Group              December 24 10:45 am Family Worship with live Nativity & Candle Lighting                                                 10:45 pm Candle Lighting and Communion Service                        December 25-January 1 Office Closed!

    Watch the eCaller, snail mail Caller, our facebook page and the website for details about many of these opportunities for spiritual renewal, fellowship and worship. It’s going to be an exciting season of preparing for the birth of the Christ Child!

  • Remembering

    By the time you are reading this, I will have traveled to Washington, D. C. to officiate at my aunt’s funeral on Monday. My uncle passed away 2001 and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery in January of 2002. Her service will be there just two days after the national day of celebration for veterans of the Armed Forces. It’s a day with a long and rich history. Originally called Armistice Day, it celebrated the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 when the armistice went into effect. Other countries continue to use that title, while some prefer to call it “Remembrance Day”. By an act of Congress in 1954, the title was changed to “Veterans Day”. Veterans Day is not to be confused with Memorial Day, a U.S. public holiday in May; Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans, while Memorial Day honors those who died while in military service. It is also not to be confused with Armed Forces Day, a minor U.S. remembrance that also occurs in May, which specifically honors those currently serving in the U.S. military.

    My mother’s brother and her sister’s husband served in World War II; my uncle in an armor unit stationed in the Pacific Theater of the war. My father also served in the Pacific Theater from December, 1941-January, 1946 with the 37th Infantry Division. In addition to him, three brothers and four brothers-in-law served during that war as well. We have a photo of my mother’s brother, one of my father’s brothers and my father on an island in the Pacific where they accidentally crossed paths. Fortunately, all of these men returned from the war intact. Of the ten, my father was the first to pass away in 1961 and with the death of a brother-in-law a while back, they are all gone. Only one of my father’s sister’s survives from that generation of the Meister family and no one from my mother’s generation in her family.

    In our congregation, we have men, who served in World War II and likely every conflict since. I hope that you were able to take a few minutes last Saturday to remember those from your family who have served in the Armed Forces: Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard. Their willingness to serve on our nation’s behalf should be noted and given proper recognition whether in time of war or peace. They deserve the nation’s thanks.

    In memory of those who gave their lives in the service of their country:

    Words to accompany the playing of Taps

    Day is done, gone the sun,
    From the lake, from the hills, from the sky;
    All is well, safely rest, God is nigh.

    Fading light, dims the sight,
    And a star gems the sky, gleaming bright.
    From afar, drawing nigh, falls the night.

    Thanks and praise, for our days,
    'Neath the sun, 'neath the stars, neath the sky;
    As we go, this we know, God is nigh.

    Sun has set, shadows come,
    Time has fled, Scouts must go to their beds
    Always true to the promise that they made.

    While the light fades from sight,
    And the stars gleaming rays softly send,
    To thy hands we our souls, Lord, commend.

    May they Rest in Peace.

  • Good Stewards

    The fall stewardship campaign is in the books…well, almost! We had three Sundays of stewardship moments by Sue Sullivan, Sam DeShazer and Josh Mabe, each of which reminded us of the many ways Jeffersontown Christian Church provides ministry for our faith community as well as the many ways we do mission in the world around us, locally and to the ends of the earth. Not everyone was able to celebrate in worship on September 29th. If you could not be with us, there is still time to turn in an estimate of giving card for the 2018 operational budget of the church. Our congregation is an important mission and ministry station in Jeffersontown, Metro-Louisville, the Commonwealth of Kentucky, the nation and beyond. You can help guarantee that our witness and work for the Lord continues into the next year and hopefully, as Josh put it, “until he can bring his children here.”

    As always, much happens around here that goes unnoticed and some things go undone. Let me say thank you to everyone who helped make the Fall Festival a success! What a fun evening and what great food we had to share. The costumes were fabulous and the fellowship delightful. We have much for which to be thankful!

    The trustees have been hard at work on projects around the facilities. I can report that the garage is about to be remodeled so that the “new” bus will fit inside. It will require several weeks of demolition and construction, so in advance…please be patient with the mess! When it’s over, we’ll be thankful for the place to protect the bus. We have also been in consultation with LG&E concerning the lights around the building and grounds. We will be making some changes there as well, being good stewards of resources. Our conversations with the City of Jeffersontown and the proposed Veteran’s Park renovations and their impact on us continue and we should begin to see some work in the park in the not too distant future.

    Keep our world, our nation and our state and our community in your prayers in the coming weeks. Give thanks for what we have and pray for what we become as individuals and as a family of faith!

  • Civility and More

    I’ve been thinking a lot about civility lately or maybe I should say the lack of it. I see it all the time, everywhere it seems. I watch a disgruntled customer disrespect a server in a restaurant, as though the server were responsible for the over/under cooked food. On the highway, cars dodge in and out of traffic without turn signals as though they are not responsible for alerting their fellow drivers as to their intention to be rude, not to mention dangerous. People use language that used to be reserved for only the worst of enemies like it is the most natural way to converse. And don’t get me started on the recent trend to NEVER slow down on a caution light, but ALWAYS speed through the traffic light AFTER it turns red.

    I was thinking, too, about the ways people use the freedom of speech as a vehicle for demeaning others, for spreading falsehoods and making innuendos about people in order to disgrace them. Is this where we have arrived? Even Pope Francis has received his share of disrespect for of all things, advocating for the poor, for children, for women, for refugees and for Muslims; yes, for advocating for the least of these. Caring for the poor is at the heart of the Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John as well as the Gospel according to Francis. Biblical stories like the good Samaritan, the prodigal son, healing on the Sabbath and the woman caught in adultery exemplify the Christianity espoused by Francis. People are more important than rules. Salvation comes from how we treat other people rather than some blind/strict adherence to a codified set of proscriptions.

    Yet, it seems that too many people are concerned only about their own personal needs. Little interest is paid to the needs of others. Laws are made to enhance the wealth of those who are already wealthy and deny benefits to those in need. No one wants to hear the cry of the poor. So, disrespect towards those who acclaim the images of Christian compassion, mercy, healing and love has become a staple. We need to remind those who have forgotten that we are all neighbors, and whatever we do for the least of our brothers and sisters we do for the Lord.

    Government officials, religious leaders, corporate managers, alt-right groups, leftist groups, school bullies and more use social media to demean each other and call into question the ethics, morality, patriotism and faith of others. Disrespect, incivility and intolerance make it hard to see much hope for the future. As Disciples of Christ, we are a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world. We are called to bring hope to the world through our words and actions. We need to champion a return to civility, to dialogue, to cooperation in addressing the pressing issues facing the world, the country, our state and our community. We need to start somewhere, soon.

  • Numbness

    I am numbed by the news, the numbers and the aftermath of it all. Las Vegas, Nevada: 59 dead, 527 wounded. Orlando, Florida: 49 dead, 58 wounded. Blacksburg, Virginia: 33 dead, 17 wounded. Newtown, Connecticut: 28 dead, 20 wounded (mostly children). Killeen, Texas: 24 dead, 27 wounded. San Ysidro, California: 22 dead, 19 wounded. Austin, Texas: 18 dead, 31 wounded. Edmond, Oklahoma: 15 dead, 6 wounded. San Bernardino, California: 16 dead, 24 wounded. Fort Hood, Texas: 13 dead, 33 wounded.

    The untold numbers of family members and friends affected by the loss of loved ones must be staggering. We ask ourselves, “Why?” We hear answers like “terrorism”, “hate crime”, “mental health issues”, “hatred of women and ethnic minorities”, “going postal”, and “radicalization”. We ask ourselves, “What can we do?” We are told a lot of things, none of which are adequate or make us feel safer. We ask ourselves, “When will it end?” We are faced with the truth of the times in which we live, that the rights of individuals seem to outweigh the good of the community. Because, when the Second Amendment to the Constitution was added, nobody trusted the Crown in England to remain defeated after the Revolution of the American Colonies. So, it was believed that local militias should be comprised of citizens who each had a weapon in case of a call to muster. Those weapons were single shot, muzzle-loaded rifles and pistols. Now we live in a time when invasion by another nation’s army is a virtual impossibility. We are certainly vulnerable to attack via cyber-space, but not only remotely so physically. So, now the Amendment is mostly seen as a means of self-protection from criminals and/or irate family, friends and neighbors who have a weapon of their own and chose to use it indiscriminately.

    I am afraid that we will not hear satisfactory answers to our questions anytime soon. The chasm between supporters of individual rights and the supporters of community well-being is wide with no obvious bridges. Our elected leaders who have the mandate to deal with issues like this are just as divided. Some are supported by influential political pacts and indebted to gun industry lobbyists. Others are supported by civilian organizations of police chiefs and sheriffs. Some believe that the immediate aftermath of one of these mass shootings is not a good time to talk about the issue of gun control and violence on our streets. The memory will fade and the anger will subside and we will be distracted from the conversation by another media cycle of frenzied feeding. It’s likely we will not know for sure know the why of it, or hear options of what to do about it, or see it all end.

    So, we are left to pray: for those who are victims as well as their families and friends; for forgiveness for the shooters and their families; for forgiveness for not doing anything ourselves; for the communities who suffer after such disregard for human life happens on their streets; and for God’s Kingdom to come sooner rather than later. We who gather around the table each week as a community represent a glimpse of that Kingdom. May our tears mingle with God’s tears as we mourn the loss of life, the shattering of community and the feeling of hopelessness that grows out of the darkness of evil. There is nothing more for me to say this day except that I hope you can find a place of peace in your heart.

  • It's Distracting!

    Well, life has certainly lived up to the title of “Distractions”.  These last few days and weeks have been nothing if not distracting. The controversy over peaceful protest and respect for the flag/national anthem/country has reached cacophonous levels of insult, derision, name calling and vitriol. I’m not going to weigh in on the matter directly. I can see the reasons for the protest: racism in general, the shooting of unarmed African-American men in particular and the need for true and honest dialog in our country. I can also see reasons for the counter-protests: perceived disrespect of the country and its symbols, fear of honest dialog about racism and a desire that all Americans are Americans first.

    So, let me just say this: I have a deep respect for the flag of these United States of America and those who have served in the Armed Forces. I have ancestors who served in the Revolutionary War against King George and his Red Coats. Three of my great-grandfathers served in the Union Army during the “Civil War” in order that slavery might finally be dismantled. My father served in the Pacific Theater for four years in order to preserve this country’s freedoms including the right to peaceful protest and counter-protest. In addition, nine of my uncles served in WW II and two more in the Korean Conflict. So when I hear people disparage those who choose to speak out, not about hatred, but about injustice and prejudice, about equality and peace, well, it saddens me and even angers me.

    Where is the outrage about disrespecting the flag when it’s tied around someone’s head or silk screened in pieces on a halter top, or embroidered on their back pocket where they can conveniently sit on it? Where is the outrage when the folks in line to get another beer and hot dog at Slugger Field or Papa John’s Stadium don’t even turn around and remove their hats as the National Anthem is being played? Do they stand up at home when it’s played on TV? Where is the outrage when groups of white supremacists march down streets carrying Nazi flags and saluting Hitler-style? While there is no code of conduct concerning the National Anthem, there is a code of conduct for the Flag of the United States. United States Code, Title 36, Chapter 10, Section 176, Paragraphs:

    (a) The flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.

    (b) The flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground, the floor, water, or merchandise.

    (c) The flag should never be carried flat or horizontally, but always aloft and free.

    (d) The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery. It should never be festooned, drawn back, nor up, in folds, but always allowed to fall free.

    (i) The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever. It should not be embroidered on such articles as cushions or handkerchiefs and the like, printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard.

    (j) No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform. The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing. Therefore, the lapel flag pin being a replica, should be worn on the left lapel near the heart.

    Well, now that that’s off my chest, I can get back to the issues of racism, the state of health care, “fiddling” with Medicare that I hear is coming and other issues bigger than taking a knee.

  • Elders on Call

    Been thinking about the elders of the church this last week or so. Our retreat in Southern Indiana was informative, insightful and spiritual. My friend, Colette Lane, led them in an exploration of three questions: where have we been, who are we now and where are we going? We looked at the responsibilities of an elder from the church By-Laws, a survey of elders from a number of congregations, a description of an elder written by Dick Hamm, our former General Minister and President, as well as a charge to elders at the time of their ordination. I have to say, on the whole, that the elders at Jeffersontown Christian Church are among some of the most (if not the most) dedicated, caring and gifted leaders of any church with which I am acquainted. Sue Sullivan and Johnnie Selby are naturals as Chair and Vice-Chair of the group helping them to maintain their high standards.

    Something many of our newer folks may not be aware of is our “elder on call” service. Each week one of the elders is designated to be on call to assist in delivering the Lord’s Supper to our homebound and hospitalized as well as helping to provide pastoral care where needed. According to our description, “to be in prayer on Sunday morning prior to the worship service for the congregation, for the service, for the ministers and lay leaders as they lead the worship service, and for our awareness of God's presence in our midst.”

    “Be available to members on Sunday morning and during the week, to accept written or verbal prayer concerns and joys. Pray daily for those persons as well as specifically and intentionally for Jeffersontown Christian Church. Be available to members in crisis. Assist ministers when needed in hospital, healthcare facility, or homebound visits. The elder on call is also listed in the "Caller" and “eCaller” each week as well as on the back of the order of worship.” We are very fortunate to have these leaders in our midst.

    Paige Gottlieb, one of these elders (and super talented keyboard/pianist/organist!) sent me this proposal. “Hi! I'm organizing a discussion group at the church about prejudice, starting with the racial kind. This will involve self examination along with study of the current climate in the U.S.

    We'll start by looking at the way we view the world based on our core identity, e.g. attributes like being white, straight, and middle class. We'll discuss how these parts of ourselves affect the way we see the world and the way the world sees us. Then we'll have some meetings with people who have experienced growing up black in the U.S. There's so much I hope we can gain in understanding by having small group conversations.

    Would you be interested in joining our discussions? If so, please email me at paigegottlieb@gmail.com or call 502-377-4196 and leave a voice mail. We'll start by meeting at our church, but will likely have conversations in multiple places in order to include people outside of Jeffersontown. Looking forward to hearing from you!

    Wow! What an opportunity to stretch ourselves and grow in understanding on such a timely topic. Please consider joining the discussion.

  • The World is Going

    Hurricanes, missiles, floods, human trafficking, Equifax hacking, climate change, wild fires, remembering 9/11, personal concerns for friends and relatives, melting of the polar ice caps, it feels like the world is going to hell in a hand basket and rather quickly I might add. Some of these issues are of our own making and some Mother Nature’s way of reminding us that we are not in control. While there are still some who would hold that the climate is not changing, it looks as though that is a weak position these days.

    Thousands of Texans, Louisianans, Floridians and Islanders find themselves without power, without homes and surrounded by water from swollen and overflowing creeks and rivers. People in the west are witnessing a season of unparalleled forest fires destroying everything in their path. More hurricanes are forming in the Atlantic Ocean and heading our way. Countries are looking at tapping oil reserves in the Arctic Circle as a means of “cheap” energy adding to the carbon emissions destroying the atmosphere of earth and contributing to the greenhouse effect. We need to be conscious of our use of fossil fuels and work toward more sustainable energy sources like wind, solar and hydro power.

    I remember it like it was yesterday, watching the planes crash into the World Trade Center Twin Towers; staring at the screen as they crumpled to the ground taking precious lives with them as they fell. This morning another report comes of North Korea testing yet another missile designed to take human life in giant hunks. Other countries are developing weapons which can do likewise. It’s as though we have lost our sanity.

    Mass shootings happen with ever greater frequency, identity theft threatens to ruin individual’s lives as well as the national economy, and people’s lives seem to be of little value except to exploiters. Racism, homophobia, Fascism, greed and hatred run rampant in our neighborhoods and cities. Again, it’s as though we have lost our sanity.

    I heard this week that the two hurricanes were God’s actions to punish people in Texas, Louisiana and Florida. By extension, the wild fires must be to punish people in the western states. Really? I have friends in those places and relatives who I know are not bad people. Okay, they may not be perfect, but they certainly don’t merit the wrath of Almighty God. Certain Christians have been claiming these activities as acts of God for centuries, but modern technology and science have shown us their natural causes.

    What are we to do? Well I can think of several things: use the rational intelligence God has given us to critically consider the world around us, stand up for the value of every life, and pray for the leaders of the world, the exploiters, the greedy and the power hungry. Remember the less fortunate, work to reduce racism, stand against Fascism, hold elected officials accountable for their actions and freeze your credit reports. And never doubt that God is active, not in punishing us, but in loving us, being present to us and sustaining us through all that the world throws at us.

  • Grandma's Wisdom

    I was cleaning out some email files that had become too cumbersome to deal with and ran across a piece entitled “Wise Things Your Grandma Told You.” As I read down the list, it seemed to me that many of “her” words of wisdom could apply equally to God passing on wisdom to people. After all, the entire book of Proverbs in the Hebrew Scriptures is about older generations passing on wisdom to younger generations. I know that in our modern world, the younger generations tend to think the older generations have nothing of value to pass along (that may have been true of my generation as well!), but I’m not convinced that’s the case. So, here are a few of Grandma’s little gems of wisdom and you can be the judge.

    You are special. (God believes each one of us is special and is of great value.)

    Manners matter. (God wants us to act respectful towards others.)

    Don't put limits on yourself. (God hopes that we develop and share our gifts.)

    Always play fair. (Do unto others; don’t lie; don’t covet; don’t steal.)

    Count your blessings. (Be thankful for all that you have received.)

    It's never too late. (God believes in second chances, and third and fourth….)

    Worrying is a waste of energy. (God knows worrying will not solve anything or prevent anything or let you get your rest.)

    Friendship is a good investment. (We are created to be in relationship with others.)

    Don't take things too seriously. (We are the only creatures who have a keen sense of humor, the ability to see irony in life and to be cynical! Laughter is the elixir for life.)

    The longer you carry a problem, the heavier it gets. (God tells us to forgive as well as live in the present because the past is done and the future is not guaranteed.)

    A little love goes a long way. (Love is of God and is the most powerful force in the world.)

    Thanks Grandma (and God)!

  • Chaos and the Light

    Perhaps it was providential, or maybe just a strange coincidence, but this week the same stream of thought occurred in several different contexts: in a discussion with Kofi Frempong , the Lexington Theological Seminary student that I serve as a mentor; on any number of news broadcasts; and again during Monday Morning Bible Study. Kofi and I were discussing the topic of “created in the image of God” for his class, then there was the continued news coverage from Charlottesville, South Carolina, Hurricane Harvey, which has inundated Houston, Texas, the total eclipse of the sun (in Hopkinsville, at least) and lastly, on Monday morning we were discussing differences in the Lord’s Prayer as it appears in the Gospels according to Luke and Matthew. What do you suppose they all had in common? Chaos.

    In the Hebrew text of Genesis, the vivid language of the first chapter captures the image of chaos represented in the darkness which surrounds everything, by the uninhabitable mass and by the waters of the deep. Chaos reigns where there is no light, so God begins the act of creation by bringing order to the churning morass, “Let there be light!” And so it began, but the darkness is not eradicated, the waters are not dried up and the uninhabitable mass still needs work. Those ancients, who wrote this story down after generations of oral tradition, believed that evil lurked in the darkness, swam in the deep and was ever threatening to return it all to the chaos of earlier times. Even a modern eclipse can create thoughts of the darkness overcoming our world.

    “ Thy will be done.” we pray each week in worship. Again, the ancients understood nothing of science and believed that it was God or a god who caused the hurricanes, the floods, the tornadoes, the earthquakes, the volcanic eruptions, the tsunamis and the lightning strikes. Could God be responsible for these devastating natural disasters? Was God the source of the chaos? If evil is not of God, does it come from people, from free will? Questions without easy or simple answers.

    People run over by a car while walking down a street, rain in Houston not unlike that pictured in Genesis as Noah completes the building of an Ark, flooding of epic proportions, shootings in a library (a library!?!), and multiple deaths in Barcelona, Spain at the hands of terrorists. Chaos reigns in the streets of the world, still. People are afraid and fear is a byproduct of chaos. And God said, “Let there be light!” And we saw it. The sun returned to light the sky; the people of Barcelona went into the streets to show they are not afraid; the people in Charlottesville, Boston and elsewhere exposed the hatred of the neo-Nazi/Klan/white supremacists; the people of Texas came to the aid of their friends, neighbors, and even strangers offering rescue, shelter and food; “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not overcome it.” Praise be to God!

  • Acts of Nature

    Hurricanes, eclipses, tornadoes, lightning, earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, landslides, droughts, blizzards and floods are all acts of nature. We understand scientifically how they occur and in some instances we can even predict when they will occur. In most cases, we have developed early warning systems to help us prepare for the chaos that results when one of these natural disasters impacts the world around us. Hundreds and thousands of years ago, such natural events were believed to be the activity of the gods, or as Christians have claimed, acts of God. According to most insurance companies, certain of these natural disasters are uninsurable as acts of God, as if God is still deliberately manipulating the physical world. The Bible records such events with vivid images in prose and poetry: blood moons, eclipses, columns of fire and smoke.

    About the eclipse which occurred last Monday, it was total (almost) and we knew it was coming. We know that another one will happen in 2024. Science can predict these occurrences with a high level of accuracy. So imagine my surprise when I saw that Jim Bakker had a totally different take on the event. I’m speaking of the former televangelist who with his then wife, Tammy Faye, hosted the PTL Club and later the Jim Bakker show. He preached a Gospel of Prosperity not unlike that proclaimed by Joel Osteen. He also founded Heritage USA and Heritage Village Church before fading from prominence.

    Mr. Bakker was convicted of numerous counts of mail fraud totaling $158 million dollars and served eight years in prison for those and other crimes. During his incarceration, God told him of the coming nuclear Apocalypse and the fallout from the Eclipse. Upon release he founded Morningside Church and Community, remarried and established the Jim Bakker Show. As a part of their preparation for the coming end of the world, he and Lori sell freeze dried food packets with a 30 year shelf life so their followers will survive the nuclear winter. I am not one to say he could not have received word from God about this coming nightmare, but I will say this: the impact of the nuclear winter following a nuclear apocalypse will not be over in a mere 30 years. I trust science and scientists over self-proclaimed religious fanatics. However, on Monday, during the coverage of the eclipse, Mr. Bakker resurfaced, proclaiming that the eclipse was God’s judgment on the past administration of the United States. Yes, really he did! Never mind that the eclipse passed through other countries and has been expected for YEARS.

    We live in a time where facts, science and truth are often scoffed at and even discounted because of religious intolerance, ideological rigidity and just plain greed, a desire for power and disdain for other humans. Sadly, some will follow the darkest visions of the future instead of looking to and working toward a future which reflects a hopeful future for all of God’s children!

  • Too Much

    One of the biggest distractions each week is writing this Distraction. I don’t mean the composing of the words, but the timing of the articles. I am working on this on Tuesday afternoon, however, it will not appear on the website or in the eCaller or in the hardcopy of the Caller until the following Tuesday morning. So I am always trying to write about something for the next week, which is to say, I am frustrated that events occur and I am a week late in addressing them. Take this week.

    Over the weekend (August 11-13), events in Charlottesville, Virginia made the national news. The moving of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from the Emancipation Park to another location prompted some groups to come to Charlottesville to protest the decision of the city council. It shouldn’t be overlooked that this statue of a Confederate General was located in a park named for an Act passed by the Congress to end the ownership of people by other people. Charlottesville made the decision to move the statue to a more appropriate venue months earlier and after careful consideration. It appears to me that this was a reasonable decision by the city council. A statue commemorating the primary leader of the Confederate armies during a war to preserve the slavery of African individuals who had been abducted from their ancestral homes and shipped to the Americas like cattle probably doesn’t belong in Emancipation Park. That would akin to erecting a statue of an SS officer of the Nazi Party at the site of the ovens in Auschwitz.

    And that is who showed up to protest the city’s decision: members of the Neo-Nazi Party (neo=new; Nazi=Nazi); members of the Ku Klux Klan; white supremacists. That violence ensued is neither surprising nor unpredictable. It is sad, disgusting, and unsettling that these people came from across the country to a city where they don’t live, at a park they will likely never visit again, to protest something that really isn’t any of their business and to intimidate the people who do live there. As if that were not enough, one of these people deliberately drove his automobile into a crowd of Charlottesville citizens and University of Virginia students who came in counter-protest. The people he left in his wake did not deserve to be killed or injured.

    The City Council of Charlottesville deserves our support as does the Mayor of Lexington, Kentucky who is facing a similar protest, but is standing fast with the decision to relocate statues there. While I recognize the historic value of these statues, it is time they were placed in appropriate venues and not used as symbols to rally racists, Neo-Nazis, white nationalists/supremacists and others who would tear apart the rich fabric of American diversity and culture. The War Between the States is long over, World War II is long over, slavery and Jim Crow are long gone, so let us leave the racism, the anti-Semitism and the false glory of those days in the past as well. Too much blood and life has been lost already.

  • Courage, Determination and a Positive Attitude

    This has been a long summer and a difficult week for the congregation, losing yet two more members who have succumbed physically. Both Skip Taylor and Judy Moore were extraordinary people who battled their individual illnesses with courage, determination and positive attitudes. I posted a piece on facebook in honor of Judy the other day and thought I would also share it here.

    No matter how you feel: Get up, dress up, show up and never give up.

    This morning I opened an email from my brother-in-law, Don. He sends one every morning, continuing a tradition started by his neighbor, who began the practice when his children went away to college. Each day appear two or three gems of wisdom from some pretty savvy people down through the ages and into this 21st Century. To my pleasant surprise, the entry for today was about strong people, like Skip and Judy, Margarett Ann Phillips and Sally Marcus. Chris Witten is showing that same kind of courage, determination and positive attitude as he continues to press on after his accident. How fortunate we have all been to have known these folks and others who have been role models of the faith in the face of such difficult circumstances. So, this morning, in my daily dose of wisdom and encouragement from Don, I found this:

    The Strength of a Person
    The strength of a person isn't seen in the width of their shoulders.
    It's seen in the width of their arms that circle you.
    The strength of a person isn't in the deep tone of their voice.
    It's in the gentle words they whisper.
    The strength of a person isn't how many buddies they have.
    It's how good a buddy they are with kids.
    The strength of a person isn't in how respected they are at work.
    It's in how respected they are at home.
    The strength of a person isn't in how hard they hit.
    It's in how tender they touch.
    The strength of a person isn't in the hair on their chest.
    It's in their heart---that lies within their chest.
    The strength of a person isn't in the weight they can lift.
    It's in the burdens they can carry.

     Words of wisdom for sure!

  • Summer (gone)

    Summer is quickly coming to a close. School starts in mid August these days, so we will follow suit and begin the church year a little of ahead of normal. Since we have a number of new committee/ministry chairs, they will need our help in maintaining our continuing programs and mission work as well as looking at some new and avenues for worship, spiritual formation, fellowship and discipleship. If you get a call to help in one of these areas, please say “yes” WITH enthusiasm and commitment! It’s going to be an exciting year with all sorts of opportunities for each of us to grow and serve.

    It’s also time for us to produce a new directory of the congregation’s membership as well as its various officers, board, groups and ministries. If you have moved, changed your cell phone number or home phone number in the past year, PLEASE let us know so we can make the changes. Also, it would be helpful if you would check your entry from the last directory and send us any corrections that may need to be made so your entry is up to date and correct.

    Something I would find helpful is suggestions for educational, spiritual growth, or interest groups. Is there a particular study that you would find interesting or of value, perhaps a book study, a part of the Bible, a history of the Disciples of Christ, a study of the universe, or another religion? Write it on a pew card Sunday and I’ll share it with the appropriate folks (me included). If you have an hour or two you would like to give to the church, there are some things around here that are calling for some TLC and are not too physically demanding.

    As the weather gets cooler, we will be working on the garage and getting it ready for some remodeling! We are trying to get the “new” bus inside and away from the weather or mischief. Speaking of the bus, we will look at a pick-up and return for some of our studies and activities if they are scheduled for the evening. We may need a driver or two for this service who is under 60 with a safe driving record and who can handle the bus.

    So, watch the calendar and the Caller/eCaller for dates and times and details! Chancel Choir and Kirkringers return to practice on August 9, while the youth and children’s activities begin on August 20 after worship. Off we go, into the wild…oops…wrong song!

  • Two Stories

    It’s summertime and I am distracted by the weather, the cicadas, the crickets, the robins sitting on their nest outside by bathroom window awaiting their newborns, the squirrels as they dig up Diane’s flowers, and watching the grass grow. In other words, I am passing this distraction off to others! Thank you to my brother-in-law for a story about a little boy and his first experience of an echo. That reminded me of another that has been around for a very long time, but speaks volumes about who we are as people.

    TWO WOLVES

    An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

    “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

    The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

    The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

    YOUR LIFE IS A REFLECTION OF YOU 
    A father and his child were walking in the mountains. Suddenly, the child falls and screams: "AAAhhhhhhhhhhh!!!"
    To the child's surprise, he hears the voice repeating, somewhere in the mountain: "AAAhhhhhhhhhhh!!!"
    Curious, he yells: "Who are you?" He receives the answer: "Who are you?"
    And then he screams to the mountain: "I admire you!" The voice answers: "I admire you!"
    Angered at the response, he screams: "Coward!" He receives the answer: "Coward!"
    He looks to his father and asks: "What's going on?" The father smiles and says: "Pay attention."
    The father screams: "You are a champion!" The voice answers: "You are a champion!"
    The child is surprised, but does not understand.
    Then the father explains: "People call this an ECHO, but really this is LIFE.
    Life will give you back everything you have given to it.
    Your life is simply a reflection of your thoughts - positive or negative - and actions - good or bad. This applies to everything in your life.

  • Welcome Reverend Teresa (Terri) Hord Owens!

    Information from the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada: The General Board voted to forward the name of Rev. Teresa (Terri) Hord Owens to the 2017 General Assembly as the nominee for General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). A Disciple since young adulthood, Hord Owens is currently dean of students at the University of Chicago Divinity School and pastor of First Christian Church of Downers Grove, IL.

    Search Committee Chair Jackie Bunch reviewed the process for the General Board before the members of the board had the opportunity to meet Hord Owens in small groups and in the plenary. Of more than 40 people recommended last summer, nine were screened in accordance with the executive search process. Four were then interviewed in person in October by the search committee. Just prior to the General Board meeting, three candidates were interviewed by the Administrative Committee to determine which candidate to recommend to the board.

    Rev. Owens is widely sought after as a preacher, speaker and workshop facilitator. Her ministry and intellectual interests include a theology of reconciliation, cultural intelligence, developing inclusive and multi-cultural congregations, and the mentoring of youth and young adults. She is married to Walter Owens, Jr., with whom she will soon celebrate 30 years of marriage. They are the proud parents of an adult son, W. Mitchell Owens, III and new granddaughter.

    “We saw in Terri that unique combination of pastoral, leadership, active presence in all expressions of the Church and administrative experience that the search committee believed was most needed,” said Search Committee Chair Jackie Bunch. “She has experience as a local pastor, theologian and leader.

    “The committee particularly noted her skills in discernment, spiritual discipline and proclamation of the Word, but also as a listener. The search committee recognized that leading the Church in this day and age requires a certain business acumen as well as a heart for ministry. We see that Terri brings that special mix of academic, executive and pastoral qualities that are required for leading the Disciples through this time in our North American culture. She has a background of bringing together diverse groups for dialogue that will serve the Church well.”

    I was very impressed by the poise and confidence that Rev. Owens displayed during the assembly and her election to lead our church. We are in good hands! 

  • 25 Years of Ministry

    As I said on facebook the other day, “Well, it's the morning after and it feels surreal.” Thank you to everyone who surprised me with a celebration of 25 years together in ministry! It has been a rewarding, cooperative ministry that has also been a blessing to me. Thank you! It is worth noting (to me) that another anniversary passed quietly by on June 12. There was a photo of the event in the pictures my sister put together for the celebration Sunday. It was from June 12, 1977, at First Christian Church, Mansfield, Ohio when I was ordained into the Order of Ministry in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). It got me to thinking about the many influences that led me to that day and to this ministry. In no particular order, I thought I might pay due recognition to some of them.

    Reverend William C. Newman, Senior Minister at FCC, Mansfield from my childhood through seminary, who taught me to always question everything, always read the verses before and after any Bible reading, and you’ll know the ministry is right when can’t think of anything else you’d rather be doing.

    Reverend Elizabeth “Beth” Schwede, Associate Minister at FCC, who encouraged me and taught me about church work.

    Nancy (Smith) Harry, who literally came and picked me up to take me to youth group each week when I started High School.

    Bluffton University for having faith in me as a transfer student in Religion from a chemical engineering program.

    Perry Yoder, professor of Bible at Bluffton (Ohio) University, who gave me a solid foundation for reading and relating the Biblical story.

    Vanderbilt University Divinity School for building on that foundation and expanding the box where I had kept God until I had no box.

    Madeline Meister, Diane (Meister) Knight, Don Knight, and Fay Barber who supported me throughout the transitions from childhood to adulthood, from Army ROTC scholarship student in chemical engineering to minister, and from Campus Minister to Associate Minister to Regional Staff to Minister/Pastor/Preacher at Jeffersontown Christian Church.

    And a host of others including Reverend Fabaus “Bob” Landry, FCC, Knoxville, TN; Joe Rector, Bill McClain, Diane Lovin, Knoxville; Reverend and General Herman Norton, Dean of the Disciples Divinity House, Vanderbilt; Reverend Bronson Netterville, Regional Minister, Nashville, TN; literally hundreds of campers at Bethany Hills Camp, TN; Reverend Herald Monroe, Regional Minister, Ohio; Walter Pigeon, counselor at Camp Christian, Ohio; and dozens of other friends, ministers and even some strangers who provided words of encouragement.

    And…all of you! 25 years of ministry is not just my milestone, it is our milestone, together.

  • Remember?

    I’m having trouble focusing tonight (Thursday, June 22.) I am still thinking about the service for Sally Marcus last Sunday while thinking about the pending service for Margarett Ann Phillips tomorrow. I hope that my focus sharpens in the coming hours.

    I read something today that was encouraging, an article on memory. We all have memory issues; sometimes not being able to remember something we want to remember and sometimes not being able to forget something we’d rather not remember. The bad news, we all forget things. The good news, we aren’t supposed to remember everything. Really! So say two neuroscientists. According to them, the brain/memory isn’t supposed to act like a video recorder, but instead like a list of useful information that helps us make better decisions. Our brains are programmed to erase useless memories not necessary to navigate a world that is random and ever-changing. So, not remembering every detail of my 65 years is okay, natural even.

    “We have yet to find the limits of what the human brain can store, and there’s more than enough room, so to speak, for us to remember everything. Still, the brain actually spends energy making us forget, by generating new neurons that “overwrite” the old ones, or by weakening the connections between neurons. But why does it do so if our brains aren’t running out of space?

    Firstly, forgetting old information can make us more efficient (something I can certainly use help with!) Forgetting old information can also keep us from generalizing too much from one piece of information. Unfortunately, the process of which, and how much, information the brain should forget can be trial and error. Our brains tend to forget memories of things that happened quickly and recently (can’t remember what I had for breakfast type things.) The brain is trying to help us survive and thrive in the environment around us, hence we feel uncomfortable in new places as we have no memories to help guide us. But it explains why we often cannot remember the name of a person, place or thing until they become integral for survival. Many of them will not be necessary for survival or navigation in the world.

    So, that makes me feel better about not being able to focus tonight. It’s my brain processing which memories and information I need for survival and which ones I don’t. At least that’s what I’m going to tell myself!

  • The Presence of God

    Every so often, I read an article or see a news story that presents ideas which are not substantiated by facts. Sometimes they deal with religious issues or Biblical material and sometimes with scientific issues; occasionally religion and science intersect. I’m a fan of Neil deGrasse Tyson, an astrophysicist, author, and science communicator of note. He has produced videos which explain some of the physics of the universe as well as the world upon which we live. The ones I have seen are excellent and understandable even for non-physicists. I saw an interview with him last week during which he talked about death and spirituality. As an agnostic, he believes the “feeling” we get from time to time (which I might describe as in communion with God or the Holy Spirit) as a connection to the universe. I think I’m okay with that for him, but I’ll keep my belief that there is a presence in the universe which is beyond my ability to understand and describe adequately: a presence which is represented by me as I live my life in connection to others in this world.

    That said, I agree with much of what Mr. Tyson presents as the facts of the universe we live in and the world we live upon. For instance, I the age of the earth is unquestionably greater than 7,000 years. The evidence for the forming of the Great Smoky Mountains required millions of years of wearing away in order for trees to grow on top of the rocks. The Grand Canyon similarly required thousands upon thousands of years for the wind and water to cut that great ravine into the stone. To claim that dinosaurs were active at the time of Noah is to deny the evidence from archaeology and carbon dating. To claim that they were left off the Ark because of their immorality is at nonsense and not supported to my knowledge by any sources. The Bible was not written as a science book nor a history book, at least as we understand those concepts.

    Rather, the Bible was written as a record, of sorts, by people of faith, who believed in and experienced a mystical presence; a presence which described itself as “I AM” in the Hebrew Scriptures. The stories of their encounters with this presence make up the books we often refer to as the Old Testament. Centuries later, this presence came to live as one of us in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. The Greek Scriptures that we call the New Testament are, again, a record, of sorts, of people of faith who believed in the presence and experienced it through contact with Jesus. Following the death and resurrection of Jesus, the presence came to be known as the Holy Spirit. And it is what followers of Jesus, down to the present day, describe as that feeling we get when we are in true communion with God and with the other children of the earth. Throughout the Bible we read and listen to the stories of God’s presence in the world, but see or hear no claim of scientific or historic accuracy. We are left to use our powers of observation and reasoning to understand the rest. More about that another time!

  • A Strange Thing

    A strange thing happened on the way to the convention center…in Raleigh, North Carolina, that is.

    Diane and I were there last week to attend the 2017 National Genealogical Society Conference. Several thousand members and friends descended on Raleigh, many looking for clues to their family history, the places of their origin and unknown relatives through DNA databases. There were three “class” time slots before lunch and three more after lunch each day. In each time slot, eight options were offered, for a total of 144 different sessions, not including options for Saturday which had an abbreviated schedule of only 24. People learned how to interpret DNA evidence, search military records for every North American conflict beginning with the French & Indian War and continuing through the American Revolution, the War of 1812, the “Recent Unpleasantries Between the States”, two World Wars, the Korean conflict, the Vietnam conflict, Desert Storm and the Second Persian Gulf War.

    I attended a session led by a woman who lost 167 family members in the Holocaust. Believing all of her family (except her own parents who survived stays at Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen) to have perished, she was amazed to find her family DNA indicated that at least two of her parents’ siblings survived and so she went looking for them in Poland and Sweden. For the first time in her life, she had cousins! She also went to Germany, Poland and Hungary to look for the towns where her ancestors had lived before the rise of the Nazi Party in Germany. She found several of them and even found some folks who had known her grandparents and great grandparents. At an archive she found records of weddings and other matters which miraculously escaped destruction during the Nazi occupation. There was not a dry eye in the house.

    But back to the strange thing that happened on the way to the convention center…. Raleigh has a free bus line that encircles the downtown area called the “Circulator”. We rode it to and from the hotel each day. On the first morning, there were a lot of eager conferees waiting to board. As the bus arrived and we piled on, filling seats AND the aisle, two young men, already on the bus, graciously gave up their seats for others and then stepped off the bus to make more room. It happened again the next day as well. Sure, they caught the next bus, but it was encouraging to see young people being so thoughtful. I think of it as sign that God’s children have reason for hope!

  • Great News!

    Great news from the Kentucky Council of Churches and a great honor for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Kentucky!

    The Kentucky Council of Churches names new Executive Director

    The Reverend Kent Gilbert, President of the Executive Board of the Kentucky Council of Churches and Lead Pastor, Union Church of Berea, announces the selection of the Reverend Doctor Donald K. Gillett, II as the Executive Director of the Council.

    In accepting the call to serve as Executive Director of the Council, Dr. Gillett noted:

    “I have enormous respect for the work of the Kentucky Council of Churches and am honored to have been selected as its Executive Director. I believe in the collective wisdom and faith power of God's church to bring about meaningful and sustainable change for the least of these and look forward to our ministry together."

    The Reverend Dr. Gillett holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mathematics from Jarvis Christian College in Hawkins, TX; a Master of Divinity from McCormick Theological Seminary, Chicago, IL; a Master of Business Degree from Indiana Wesleyan University, Marion, IN and an earned Doctorate of Ministry Degree from Lexington Theological Seminary, Lexington, KY.

    He also currently serves as the chair of the UMCS Board and co-chair of B.U.I.L.D. an organization dedicated to building a speaking for and with those underserved and underrepresented in the community. He is the Vice-President/President Elect for the National Convocation Board of Directors for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

    The Reverend Dr. Gillett has four children, Jeremy, Liyah, Tasia, and Donald, III (Trey) and one grandchild Jayda. He is married to Dr. Charisse L. Gillett, President of the Lexington Theological Seminary.

    The transition from Interim Director Peggy Hinds to Dr. Gillett will occur mid-summer. We are excited about the future of the Council under the Reverend Dr. Gillett's guidance.

    Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Philippians 4:4 ESV

    Jeffersontown Christian Church will be hosting the 2017 Kentucky Council of Churches Assembly in October and the Jeffersontown Ministerial Association will be leading the initial worship service for the assembly delegates. We will be a part of that historic moment of ecumenism in Kentucky! What an honor for us, as well!

  • A Time Away

    Our busy lifestyles often keep us from pursuing quieter, more relaxed time. We have our “to do” lists, our planners and our social media, each demanding a fair share of our time and attention. And that doesn’t account for the demands of family and church which are not far behind. Yet, nearly every authority on lifestyle (the Bible, psychologists, sociologists and medical experts) has volumes of evidence pointing to the need for people to have less stress, less activity and more rest in their lives as well as time away from the routine of busyness. A Rabbi friend in Portland, Oregon publishes a newsletter called the “77% Weekly”. He came up with the name because he sends a newsletter every Monday except the last Monday of each month, hence, 40/52 or 77%! He does that to remind his readers that we all need to take some time off from the busyness.

    I will be doing just that, with Diane of course! We will be attending the National Genealogical Society Convention in Raleigh, North Carolina, before going to the beach for a week. Then we will visit Diane’s cousin who lives nearby and my Aunt and cousin who live in Charleston, South Carolina. On the way back to Louisville, we hope to spend some time with friends in Knoxville, Tennessee.

    Rabbi Brian leaves us with this from his most recent “Non-Issue” (the name for the last Monday of the month newsletter.) Here are two of my favorite quotes on the topic of not-striving.

    Rilke:

    I would like to beg you to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart, and to love the questions themselves as though they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you wouldn’t be able to understand them. The point is to live everything – live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday, far into the future, you will gradually, without even knowing it, live your way into the answer.

    Lao Tzu:

    Shapeable as a block of wood, receptive as a valley,
    clear as a glass of water, do you have the patience to wait until your mud settles?
    Can you remain unmoving until the right action arises by itself?
    The master does not seek fulfillment.
    Not seeking, not expecting, but present and welcoming the outcome of all things.

  • Random Distractions after Easter

    With Holy week and Easter behind us and Music Ministry Sunday a fresh memory, what is it we have to look forward to these days? Of course, the Kentucky Derby is just a week or so away and we have Mother’s Day the week after that as well. In the life of the church, the Day of Pentecost is still weeks away. It’s not one of the more celebrated Holy days of the year, certainly not on the scale of Christmas or Easter, not even Epiphany really. Yet it is the story of the birth of the church. Jesus has gone on, the Disciples are still uncertain about what to do, but they are about to get out into the world and begin a movement like none had seen before!

    Some other more random distractions come to mind this day.

    "Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy." Leo F. Buscaglia

    According to my news feed, it appears that Bill O’Reilly has been fired at Fox News for a series of sexual harassment situations. Mr. O’Reilly has written a number of books concerning the deaths/last days of Ronald Reagan, Abraham Lincoln, George Patton, the Rising Sun Empire of Japan, the Third Reich of Adolf Hitler and Jesus. These have received rather good reviews by critics. It’s seems a shame that a man with such obvious talent should not respect others while expecting it for himself.

    Also, according to a Netflix report referred to by a ministerial colleague, people have spent 500 million hours watching Adam Sandler movies on Netflix. I will admit, Adam Sandler can be extremely funny at times (and equally annoying at others), but 500 MILLION hours; really? My friend’s final thought on the matter: “So. Many. Hours.”

    Several times over the years, the Primetimers have sponsored overnight trips. Such is the case for June 20-21. We will travel to Cumberland Falls State Park on Tuesday while doing some sightseeing and return on Wednesday doing the same. Our final itinerary won’t be decided until we know what/where the participants want to go and see. There are two double occupancy rooms left if you are interested. First come, first reserved. Cost of the room is $107 per night. Here’s a chance to take a trip on the new bus, see some sights and dine at the park restaurant on Tuesday evening.

  • Life

    A little something for the week after Easter...

    Life

     Life is an opportunity, benefit from it.

    Life is beauty, admire it.

    Life is a dream, realize it.

    Life is a challenge, meet it.

    Life is a duty, complete it.

    Life is a game, play it.

    Life is a promise, fulfill it.

    Life is a sorrow, overcome it.

    Life is a song, sing it.

    Life is a struggle, accept it.

    Life is a tragedy, confront it.

    Life is an adventure, dare it.

    Life is luck, make it.

    Life is too precious, do not destroy it.

    Life is life, fight for it.

     - Mother Teresa

  • Between Sundays

    The great procession of Palm Sunday is behind us; just a memory of the day when Jesus rides into the Holy City of David, Jerusalem. It is the week of the Passover and thousands of Jews from across the countryside have come to the city to remember the days of old when Moses confronted the Pharaoh in Egypt. There Moses invoked the power of God ten times, each plague more terrifying than the one before. Finally, in the tenth, the angel of death visits the Egyptian households and Pharaoh sets the Israelites free from their bondage as slaves working to build monuments to the greatness of Egypt.

    Jesus begins the week by visiting friends in a village near Jerusalem and symbolically anointed as the Messiah, for whom the Jews have been waiting centuries. Tuesday, as some traditions hold, is when Jesus visits the Temple and overturns the tables where Roman money is exchanged for Temple currency. On Wednesday, Judas Iscariot visits the leaders of the Temple and the Sanhedrin (city council) where he accepts a bribe to betray Jesus. Preparing for the upcoming Passover, Jesus meets with his disciples and other close followers in a second floor room in Jerusalem. As they share a meal (Seder) together reclining around a table, Jesus breaks bread and shares a cup with them, the first Lord’s Supper. Hours later in a garden where he is praying, he is arrested, betrayed by a kiss from Judas, and paraded before the Chief Priests and Herod, the King of the Jews. Unable to mete out their own justice, these leaders send Jesus to be tried by Pontius Pilate, fifth prefect of the Roman province of Judaea. Accused of blasphemy, Jesus is sentenced to death by crucifixion. He expires on Friday afternoon and is entombed before dark, in keeping with Sabbath law. Saturday passes in darkness for his disciples. Women going to the tomb to complete the necessary burial rites are startled to find it empty. It is Easter morning!

    As a community of faith we can only really understand the miraculous nature of Easter without first experiencing the rest of Holy Week. So, we will have a family oriented potluck luck dinner on Thursday evening with a brief description of a Jewish Seder, followed by a brief service of the Lord’s Supper. Our prayer vigil will begin then (please take 30 minutes sometime during the 24 hours to join others in prayer) and will end as our Good Friday service begins. The Chancel Choir will present "Whispers of the Passion" accompanied by instrumentalists from the Louisville Orchestra. Holy Week culminates with Resurrection worship on Easter morning! 

    This is the foundation of the Christian faith: death into resurrection, darkness which cannot overcome the light, despair turned into hope and assurance. The Christ lives among us, yet again, now and forever! Amen.

  • Respect and Concern

    Something happened the other night; something that surprised even me. I was watching the after game interviews following the UK/Northern Kentucky basketball game that was part of the NCAA tournament. Coach Calipari came into the room and took his seat at the table. Before the sportswriters asked their first question, the coach made an impassioned proclamation. Something like: we’re only going to take a couple of questions and then we’re leaving. It’s 12:30 a.m. and these college kids should not be have been playing basketball at this hour. And…to my surprise, I agreed with something a coach of a nationally recognized program said about March Madness. He may get fined by the NCAA for calling into question their decision to schedule games in the eastern half of the United States for broadcast on the West Coast during prime time there. Such scheduling is a matter of $$$ instead of concern for the players and fans of the teams. Perhaps it is just a bit too much money. At least, that’s my opinion.

    I saw something yesterday (Monday, March 20) that me sad, angry and disgusted. I had just finished a service remembrance and celebration at Owen Funeral Home on Taylorsville Road. We were headed to Louisville Gardens West off Dixie Highway at I-64 when it happened. As we were crossing the intersection (hearse, family limo, my Ford, more family cars, and friends’ vehicles) of Taylorsville Road and Stony Brook, just passed Target, people turning left from Stony Brook onto Taylorsville Road actually forced their way through the funeral procession between clearly marked members of the funeral party several times. Now, I’m not so old fashioned as to think, that in this modern time of getting places in a hurry, people should pull off the side of the road for a funeral procession to pass or to not pass a funeral procession on the highway. However, I do believe in the right of way for funeral procession to travel in town without disruption. Respect is not old fashioned, and is in this case, by the way, the law.

    The law gives funeral processions the right-of-way at intersections when headlights are lit. The lead vehicle must comply with stop signs and traffic lights, but once it has done so, all the following vehicles can proceed without stopping, provided they exercise due caution.

    I had another thought I was going to write about, but it has slipped my mind in what I can only describe as yet another Senior Moment. Perhaps I will remember it next week…and then again, maybe not!

  • Are you here?

    I read a column the other day by a Disciple minister, one of many that pass across my desk or through my Facebook page. Its title caught my attention right off: “Sorry, but if you’re a Christian, you need to go to church. Regularly.”

    It went on to explain the provocative title with a thought from a church expert. That, if we want to progress in our faith; if we hope to become mature, complete, functioning Christians, we must not only join a congregation, but stay there for the “long haul” and become active participants. The author has some caveats before going further: he is not talking to non-believers; he is addressing persons of other faiths; he isn’t saying people who rarely go to church are fake Christians; he is not contending that failure to attend church is a one-way ticket to the Nether World; he is not saying a believer should suffer abuse in an unhealthy church.

    Here is what he means to say: Christianity is a team sport. (Seemed a fitting description for this time of March Madness!) No matter how good an individual Christian believes oneself to be, progress along the faith journey will not occur unless there is a community of faith, a congregation of others who can walk along beside you. It just can’t be done alone. I’m pretty sure that Jesus understood this principle of faith development as well. Jesus went to the temple at a young age and became a regular attender as well as a teacher. When he began his ministry, he instituted the “discipleship” model by which he recruited potential believers who could then become a mini congregation. As time went by they would learn from each other, support each other and explore their future missions together.

    Biblical materials support this: Hebrews commands us to never forsake gathering for worship. The congregation becomes an extended family with all the inherent difficulties, the adjusting, the negotiating, the blessings and the unconditional love. The church is not about us; we’re sent to church to serve others as much as we’re there to be served. We each possess gifts and talents others need. If we’re not present, we’re denying them the benefits from those gifts and talents God intends for them to enjoy and grow in faith. We receive encouragement and support from each other. Supporting Christ’s church is the same as supporting Christ.

     Come worship, share your gifts, receive the blessings of the community, and progress toward mature faith!

  • Welcome Places

    I saw something the other day, posted on a friend’s facebook page. It not only caught my attention, but it also made me smile and think at the same time. It is the welcome sign at the Coventry Cathedral in England. The Cathedral, also known as St Michael's Cathedral, is the seat of the Bishop of Coventry and the Diocese of Coventry, in Coventry, West Midlands, England. The city of Coventry has had three cathedrals. The first was St Mary's, a monastic building, only a few ruins of which remain. The second was St Michael's, a 14th-century Gothic church, later designated cathedral, that remains a ruined shell after its bombing during the Second World War. The third is the new St Michael's Cathedral, built after the destruction of the former. The welcome sign:

    “We extend a special welcome to those who are single, married, divorced, widowed, gay, confused, filthy rich, comfortable, or dirt poor.

    “We extend a special welcome to wailing babies and excited toddlers.

    “We welcome you whether you can sing like Pavarotti or just growl quietly to yourself. You’re welcome here if you’re ‘just browsing,’ just woken up or just got out of prison. We don’t care if you’re more Christian than the Archbishop of Canterbury, or haven’t been to church since Christmas ten years ago.

    “We extend a special welcome to those who are over 60 but not grown up yet, and to teenagers who are growing up too fast. We welcome keep-fit mums, football dads, starving artists, tree-huggers, latte-sippers, vegetarians, and junk-food eaters. We welcome those who are in recovery or still addicted. We welcome you if you’re having problems, are down in the dumps or don’t like ‘organized religion.’ (We’re not that keen on it either!)

    “We offer a welcome to those who think the earth is flat, work too hard, don’t work, can’t spell, or are here because granny is visiting and wanted to come to the Cathedral.

    “We welcome those who are inked, pierced, both or neither. We offer a special welcome to those who could use a prayer right now, had religion shoved down their throat as kids or got lost in the city centre and wound up here by mistake. We welcome pilgrims, tourists, seekers, doubters…and, YOU! With kind permission of Coventry Cathedral

    Some things to smile about and some things to really think about…just how welcoming are churches, or is our congregation? How serious is the church (are we) about serving the community inside the walls, in the neighborhood, down the road, or across the pond?

  • Compassion

    By the time you read this, our celebration of the Week of Compassion will be old news; real news, but old news. The office for the Week of Compassion answered requests for grants from around the world and across the United States in 2016. 2017 will not likely be any different. Week of Compassion is the relief, refugee and development mission fund of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada. It seeks to equip and empower disciples to alleviate the suffering of others through disaster response, humanitarian aid, sustainable development and the promotion of mission opportunities. Its rich history dates back to 1938 when a dinner was held with the goals of increasing a sense of cohesiveness in order to become a greater force of advancement in the Kingdom of God, creating a more vital awareness of being a part of the fellowship of churches and strengthening local congregations.

    Then in 1941, 1n an effort to raise relief funds, which were intended to be sent out as a result of the Emergency Million Campaign, the Board of Trustees of the United Christian Missionary Society designated March 1st as a Day of Compassion. This offering would be organized by The Committee on Relief Appeals, and would serve as the Disciples way of reviewing requests and promote offerings for relief efforts around the world. In May of 1943, the Wartime Service Fund is approved. This sets the goal of raising $250,000, which will be done through the first ever Week of Compassion (WOC). This fund is to assist "the work of the Committee on War Services, pensions for Chaplains in the armed forces, and the inadequacies of our response to the call of the Church Committee on Relief and Reconstruction." The Committee on Relief and Reconstruction was an organization of the Council of Churches which responded to needs which emerged from World War II.

    February 20-27, 1944: The 1st Week of Compassion!!!  Funds raised through this week of collections will go to the Wartime Service Fund. On the advertising material, there are pictures of malnourished children and American troops receiving aid. That’s 73 Week of Compassion offerings and still counting. If you didn’t use the envelop provided in your box of offering envelopes, please consider digging it out of the recycle bin and using it this week. Gifts to the WOC can be made anytime during the year by designating your check as such. 2016 saw the WOC provide 150 grants for Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance and 40 grants for Development and Long-Term Recovery and Rehabilitation. Compassion is in our DNA as Disciples of Christ!

  • Welcome Al Heeti Family!

    The Al Heeti family has arrived! On Monday, February 13, around 11:55 PM, they touched down at Louisville International Airport. Their adventure began at the Bagdad, Iraq airport where they boarded a plane to Amman, Jordan. From Jordan, they flew to Chicago, Illinois and from there caught the flight that landed in Louisville. Needless to say, they were a bit tired when they arrived! A group of JCC folks met them at the airport including Janet Beck, Tommee Clark, Ben Florence, Ben Gritton, Nikki Kovacs, Diane & Doug Meister, Edwin, Heather, Max & Tony Thomas, and Nancy Wortley. Lee Welch from Kentucky Refugee Ministries also came. We worked with her all those years ago when we sponsored our first two refugee families from Bosnia: Elvir & Aida; and Dzevad & Alisha and Ajla. The Al Heeti’s will be Lee’s last family to work with as she is retiring in March. She has been a vital person in the welcome and resettlement of hundreds of refugees to Louisville.

    Mazin Al Heeti (62), Rajaa Marsool (52) and Abdullah (20) Al Heeti will be living in an apartment on Goldsmith Lane. There is a family from Iraq which lives below them, so they will have some folks to get to know who will have experienced the move to America as well. Over the next few days, they will be filling out all sorts of paperwork as they adjust to living in their new homeland. We will be looking for ways for them to meet people and have conversations in English. Mazin worked with the United States forces as a translator during the Iraq War. His work qualified him and his family for special visas to enter the country. As time goes by, they all three will be looking for work in an effort to become self-sufficient within three months. I believe they will achieve their goals as they strive to become good citizens of Louisville, Kentucky and the United States.

    On behalf of Emily DeVuono, Chair of the Resettlement Team and the team members, let me say a huge Thank You to everyone who donated furniture, household items, kitchen ware and food! We managed to set up a nice place for the family to live with all that generosity. A special Thank You to Janet Beck, Judy Edwards and Diane Meister for some extra cleaning in cupboards and drawers, plus Nikki Kovacs, Mini Wright, the Thomas family and Kevin Manning’s movers for all their efforts getting everything up the stairs and put away in the apartment. I watched as all these folks gave 100%! Thanks to Ben Gritton for trying to keep up with all the donations as they arrived or were promised. Of course, we had more than enough items to fill one apartment! So, we will be calling KRM to collect them for other refugee families in need. Our generosity has multiplied like fish and loaves!

    Don’t forget to purchase tickets to the Clifton Pizza fundraiser on March 6 as soon as you can so we will have enough pizza on hand! The proceeds will be used for our resettlement efforts as well as for KRM’s continuing needs. Musical entertainment will be provided by the Joyful Spirits Band! Come and join us for an evening of food, fellowship and fun while supporting our resettlement of the Al Heeti family!

  • WOW!

    Some weeks and months around a church are expected to be busier than others; Advent/Christmas/Epiphany and Ash Wednesday/Lent/Easter. Occasionally, a busy time comes when it is least expected and one of those times is the next few weeks. So, consider this my attempt to pass along as much pertinent information as I can.

    By the time you read this, we will have welcomed the Al Heeti family into our community for resettlement. They are from Iraq. The father worked with the US Army during the conflict there. His wife is well educated and they have a young adult son. All three speak English. They will be living in an apartment on Goldsmith Lane. We also anticipate the opportunity to work with a Syrian family who arrived in Louisville in December, but did not have a church to co-sponsor their resettlement. We will assist them as they continue to adjust to life in their new country.

    On Saturday, February 25, the Jeffersontown Ministers are sponsoring the Community Prayer Breakfast. Our speaker this year is Scott Davenport, coach of the Bellarmine’s men’s basketball team. Coach Davenport is a fine speaker and a devout Christian who will share with us some reflections on his faith and how it has informed his life’s work. We are very fortunate to have him during the season. Tickets are $6 per person. Please see me this Sunday before they are gone!

    On Sunday, February 26, we will observe the Week of Compassion offering. This special offering is used to provide emergency aid during disasters, continued help during recovery and long term investment. Nearly 100% of the dollars given to WofC are used to provide humanitarian aid with a small percentage used for administrative and promotional purposes. This arm of our church mission and outreach works around the world; in 2016 the WofC provided aid to well over 150 places on 5 continents (including two places in Kentucky!) There is a WofC envelope with your offering envelopes, please be generous.

    Tuesday, February 28, is the night before Ash Wednesday and we will be having a pancake “breakfast” that evening, our own little Mardi Gras before Lent begins. We’ll have sausage, bacon, syrup, butter and more as we prepare for the somber days leading to Easter. More on this later.

    The Kentucky Womens’ Chorus will be here for their annual retreat, March 3, 4 & 5. They will practice, eat, and have devotions in the Fellowship Hall and sanctuary before leading us in worship on Sunday (sermon that morning through music!) We will need some folks to help with logistics, but that is well worth the reward of having Linda Jo Jones bring the chorus here!

    The next day, Monday, March 6, at Cliffton Pizza, the Joyful Spirits Band will host a fundraiser to help cover the costs of helping resettle refugees. There will not be a silent auction, but there will be opportunities to contribute to the cause! Tickets are $15 per person for the pizza buffet and soft drinks. Please buy your tickets early as it helps the owner of Cliffton’s to prepare for us.

    As if we haven’t been busy enough, (we will be in Lent as well) our youth will be preparing for their summer mission trip. “Dancing with the Stars 3” will take place at the Community Center on March 12. Tickets are available from Ben or the church for $15 per person including dinner and entertainment. We have six members who will be dancing with professional partners…this is too good to miss! Come support the youth!

     WOW! Talk about a full and exciting month! We are a part of a caring, loving, generous and busy community of faith, folks following the teachings of Jesus and making a difference in the lives of others. Praise be to God.

  • The Dark Side

    After 146 years of entertainment, come May it’s over. Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is permanently closing “The Greatest Show on Earth”. P. T. Barnum’s most famous quote is probably, “There's a sucker born every minute.” But, we have to give that some context. Barnum understood that we humans are drawn to things, dark things, forbidden things, “dangerous” people, authoritarian ideologies, lower things and strange things. This quote, “Nobody ever lost a dollar by underestimating the taste of the American public.” may say it best.

    For some reason, we Americans are particularly susceptible to the baser side of life. We fill stadiums and arenas with thousands upon thousands of screaming fanatics who claim to be supporting their favorite teams as they engage in boxing matches, soccer matches, football games, baseball games, tennis matches, softball games, hockey games and more. Some of the “sports” require a degree of finesse as well as certain skills and of course, speed and power. But let me be honest here; we savor a certain amount of controlled violence in many of our sports. Video games are designed to elicit particular feelings of power, subjection and death. We find it hard to produce movies without an adequate amount of profanity, violence and sex. The industry relies on a rating system which guarantees these elements are necessary to not receive a G or PG rating.

    This pull toward the lurid side of things has seeped into nearly every aspect of life. Look at the political climate in the country. We just experienced campaigns with the most vitriolic, crude, hateful, divisive and debasing rhetoric in my memory. Social media has become a tool for expressing angry feelings in what was once taboo language for public discourse. Some are even proud of their rants against others, calling for punitive actions and violence. Even from the pulpits of America, ministers call for the establishment of their “favorite” version of Christianity as the rule of the land, demeaning people of color, members of the LBGT community, refugees from places where Authoritarian and Fascist governments indiscriminately kill their own citizens, practitioners of other faiths and anyone else who doesn’t follow their lead.

    And, then, we remember that the faithful are called by God to model “a better way to live” for the world around us. We are not to give in to our basest selves and lowest standards. Instead, we are called to affirm the value of every person, to lift up the oppressed, to be compassionate, empathetic, merciful, and forgiving, while practicing honesty, living with integrity and loving every one of our neighbors regardless of religion, race, nationality, sexual orientation, gender identity or economic status. We are called to love them all!

  • Religions

    Something to consider as we move into an uncertain 2017. One clear connection between the major religions of the world is the way we treat each other. 

    (Found on facebook without proper identification or citation of origin.)

  • Christmas Cards

    Christmas is a time of nostalgia for many us who have attained a certain maturity in life. We remember fondly times when the pace as we approach Christmas seemed slower, more about the birth of Jesus than the frantic race to locate and decorate the tree, deck the halls along with the yard and house, purchase and wrap gifts, bake and entertain. We remember stockings with a few things stuffed into them like a toothbrush and paste, a candy cane and a chocolate Santa, maybe a pen and a pencil, a small toy or a little stuffed animal. Excitement peaked with the arrival of the daily mail certain to bring greetings from family and friends both near and far. Cards with “Hallmark” scenes, cardinals, snowmen and trees all aglitter filled the mailbox. Many came with special letters to recap the past year and send best wishes for the year to come. Several weeks ago, Diane and I were reminiscing about our memories of opening cards, we decided to send a card to members of the church family to which we belong. We hope the cards help you to recall some of your Christmases past and the traditions which made those celebrations so special. For you younger folks, just enjoy the moment of receiving a physical reminder of the reason for the season. Think of it like a sort of incarnation of our love for our church family.

    A poem to go with my thoughts:

    Christmas Mail

    By Ted Kooser

    Cards in each mailbox, angel, manger, star and lamb,

    as the rural carrier, driving the snowy roads,

    hears from her bundles the plaintive bleating of sheep,

    the shuffle of sandals, the clopping of camels.

    At stop after stop, she opens the little tin door

    and places deep in the shadows the shepherds and wise men,

    the donkeys lank and weary, the cow who chews and muses.

    And from her Styrofoam cup, white as a star and perched

    on the dashboard, leading her ever into the distance,

    there is a hint of hazelnut, and then a touch of myrrh.

    And from all the staff: Ben, Mary Catherine, Rebecca, Paige, Deby, Randee, Danny and myself, “MERRY CHRISTMAS!”

  • No Surprises Here!

    It’s Wednesday morning and here I sit in front of my computer staring at the blank page staring back at me. So be it.

    It’s Wednesday afternoon and here I sit in front of my computer staring at the almost blank page staring back at me. Between these two moments I have visited by phone with several members, checking on their health situations, have hosted the monthly brown-bag lunch for Disciples ministers in the Metro area and have received boxes of stuff from the UPS man as well as the USPS man. I imagine that the boxes have gifts for people in my or Diane’s families that I ordered online earlier this week. There is some level of excitement about opening them when I get home that I cannot explain. There will be no surprises in them, for I know what I ordered, but still, there is this sense of anticipation to actually see and touch the objects which will hopefully bring smiles to the faces of our loved ones.

    Perhaps Christmas is that way as well. We know the story, how it begins, how it ends and all the action between. There will be no surprises on Christmas Day. Jesus will indeed be born into the world, yet one more time. Angels will announce his arrival with a cacophony of sound like the world has rarely witnessed. Shepherds will cower in fear at their sight, but will soon find the courage to travel to the little town of Bethlehem to seek out the child born in a stable and wrapped in swaddling cloth. They will find him there in the stable because the nearby inn had had no room at dusk. In a manger meant to feed the animals, they will see him and they will be awestruck once more. There will be no surprises, yet there will still be an unexplainable sense of anticipation even in us more mature folks.

    We know this story and we know what will happen later when Jesus has become an adult. Suspicions, intrigue and conspiracy will bring him to a cross where he will be executed. Early on the first day of the week, his tomb will be found empty. No surprises here, either. We expect to hear the words of resurrection, read out on Easter morn. And yet there continues to be a certain sense of excitement about the Goods News that Jesus Christ is no longer earth-bound.

    Jesus, the Christ, is born! Jesus, the Christ, is risen! Jesus, the Christ, is Lord of all!

  • Tis the Season!

    Advent, Christmas and Epiphany are the second most important Holy days of the Christian year; second only to Lent, Easter and Pentecost. Like Lent, Advent is a time of preparation. Christmas marks the beginning, as Easter marks the end of Jesus’ time on earth. Epiphany announces the Magi’s visit to baby Jesus representing the global mission of the Good News while Pentecost announces the birth of the church which will carry the Good News into the world and be the agents of God’s love along the way.

    We have special activities and sharing opportunities this Advent – Epiphany. If you have offering envelopes, there is one for our Christmas Offering. This offering is a vital part of our congregational ministry and mission; ½ supporting the Seminarians/Educational Fund and ½ the Minister’s Discretionary Fund. We are able to help defray the costs of books and expenses for our seminarians and/or interns as well as providing assistance to people in need within the congregation and through JAM. We also collect socks, mittens, hats and scarves on a tree in the Gathering Area to be delivered to agencies like the Center for Women and Families and the House of Ruth. A second tree is for Christmas cards to support our music ministry by defraying unbudgeted expenses, like the instrumentalists who accompany the Chancel Choir as it leads worship on December 11.

    Activities scheduled for the coming weeks:

    November 27 Thank you to the youth and children who lead us in worship

    December 4 Joyful Spirits Band leads in worship at 10:45 am

    Caroling after worship to homebound (light lunch provided)

    December 10 All-church dinner at 5:00 pm (visit from a very special Biblical person!)

    Each family is asked to bring 2 dozen HOMEMADE cookies: 1 dozen for dessert and 1 dozen for a cookie exchange!

    December 11 Chancel Choir leads worship (instrumental accompaniment) at 10:45 am

    December 14 Chancel Choir and Kirkringers’ Christmas party at 7:30 pm

    December 18 Kirkringers lead in worship at 10:45 am

    December 19 Youth & children to Derby Dinner Theater for “Once Upon a Snowflake”

    December 21 Out-to-lunch-bunch Christmas potluck & gift exchange at noon ($10 limit)

    December 24 Children’s Christmas service and “no practice” Pageant at 5:00 pm

    Candlelight Christmas Eve Service at 10:45 pm

    December 25 Christmas Day worship at 10:45 am (NO Sunday School classes)

    December 30 Staff Christmas and New Year Dinner (TBA)

    January 1 New Years’ Day worship at 10:45 am

    January 8 Epiphany worship at 10:45 am

    Wow, what an exciting time we have to look forward to in the coming days!

  • Post Election Thoughts

    (This is my Distraction from 11.15 which for some reason didn't post to the site. The Distraction for 11.22 is just before this one.)

    The internet is full of commentary today, the day after the general election revealed a 50/50 divide in America. There is some celebrating and some wringing of hands. There is a bit of gloating by some and a bit of name calling by others. There is some denial about supporting the 45th President and there is some call for punitive actions against those who opposed Mr. Trump’s candidacy. There is also some serious reflection on what will be the future of our nation and if Christians will find a way or ways to reconcile their deep differences. Perhaps the uncivil rhetoric from this election will be the catalyst for a serious civil discussion on the issues which are not going to be solved by this or any future election: racism, anti-Semitism, intolerance toward Muslims, refugees, Latinos, immigrants, the gay community, and others who may look or think differently.

    Other concerns for many are the possible privatization of Social Security, the dismantling of Medicare for seniors, insufficient support for Veterans, and the dishonoring of Congressional treaties with Native Americans. I don’t have any grand solutions, but I’m pretty sure that solutions will not be easy to arrive at in the current atmosphere of a divided nation. We should be able to look to our faith communities for some guidance, but the chasm between theological conservatives and theological liberals makes this seem like an unhelpful direction to go.

    So, I believe we will have to rely on the words of Jesus as recorded by Matthew’s account when he answers the question, “Which commandment in the law is the greatest?” put to him by some Pharisees. Jesus responds with these words, “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” In Luke’s account, Jesus follows the answer with a story, of a detested Samaritan stopping to aid a half-dead man on the side of the road and doing what a neighbor does. Let us hope that we are able to do what makes us a neighbor to those we encounter in the coming days as well as to stand and speak for those who have no voice or have been left to die on the margins of society. Then the world will see our witness as followers of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ.

  • My Digital World

    (Just relized my last two Distractions didn't post on the site, so this is 11.22 and I'm looking for the week before!)

    The other day I was taking stock of my footprint in the digital world. In some ways in that world I am a true dinosaur: I use a flip phone. I can receive ordinary text messages and can respond, though it takes me a while to type my responses. I have a GPS unit in the car which works pretty well if Diane and I need to find a place we haven’t been to before. I am on the Internet every day. I do not have a twitter account…actually that’s not exactly true; I do have a twitter account I’m told, but I don’t know how to access it or post a clever remark. I have no Instagram, Snapchat or other social media sharing accounts that I am aware of, except of course my Facebook account and email accounts.

    Facebook has proven to be a blessing and a curse. I have 998 friends on Facebook as of this writing. That’s 998 people I have known and now have a way to keep in touch with…sort of…. There are friends I went to high school with in Mansfield, Ohio as well as a site which notifies us when class members pass away. I have friends who worked with and for me during the summers I lived in Mansfield as well as classmates from the colleges I attended: University of Cincinnati, the Ohio State University (Mansfield Campus), Bluffton College/University, Vanderbilt University Divinity School, and Lexington Theological Seminary. Folks from churches where I have been a member are friends: FCC, Mansfield; Vine Street Christian Church, Nashville; FCC Knoxville; and JCC, Jeffersontown! Colleagues from across the US, and relatives from Ohio to South Carolina fill out my list.

    I’m telling you this because this has been a blessing, indeed. The curse comes from having enough time to keep up with so many folks. Facebook recognizes this and tries to help by cycling my friends through my news feed, meaning I see a limited number of my friends’ posts on any given day. Coupled with the time limits I put on myself for surfing the Internet or looking at Facebook, I find myself not keeping up so well. I very often miss big events and the related photos from people’s lives. So I don’t always respond to posts, due to the fact I likely never saw them. And that is a sad reality for which there is no clear remedy.

    The other part of the curse is reading posts by friends which are filled with volatile, hateful and disrespectful words. I did not defriend anyone because of their political views during the recent campaigns. I did delete some of their posts from my personal news feed, but friends are friends. I don’t know what the future holds for us as a result of the elections on November 8, 2016, none of us do. So, I hope that old friends will continue to be friends and that we will all make new friends in the coming year.

  • November 8

    Lately, I’ve been in a kind of melancholy frame of mind: according to the dictionary, “a feeling of pensive sadness, typically with no obvious cause.” I suspect that it might have something to do with the endless incivility of the campaigning for office we see everywhere. Then it again, it could be a result of unrest among my clergy friends as they seek to do ministry in an ever more difficult cultural milieu. Or maybe I’m just not adjusting well to this seemingly endless summer of pollen and mold. Even my passion for college football or the World Series is diminished. No, really, I think it is the effects of political campaigns that spew forth misinformation, innuendo, and even outright falsehoods.

    I was reading John Opsata’s blog earlier and, like him, I am finding it difficult to write these days about the things of which I most concerned without becoming too political. Yet, the cacophony of candidates’, commentators’ and self-acclaimed experts’ voices makes it hard to focus on much else. Everyone seems to be entangled in the mess of this election. Friends are “unfriending” friends on facebook. Colleagues are drawing lines in the proverbial sand and some younger voters are just too disillusioned to vote. November 8, cannot arrive soon enough. One of the things I am most concerned with is the effects this incivility will have on the nationally and locally. That we are even considering not accepting the results of the election is frightening to me; are we becoming a Third World Democracy which validates election results through intimidation and violence? The history of our Republic testifies to our determination to be united after elections in purpose and in support of those elected.

    I will have voted in 12 Presidential elections on November 8. I have voted for candidates in both of the major parties. I have been in the majority and I’ve been in the minority. I have seen my candidate of choice become President and I have watched as my candidate has given a concession speech. Never have questioned the integrity of the system we use for elections. According to independent sources voter fraud in America is near zero (26 cases in three years of FBI searches out of 197,000,000 votes during the George W. Bush Presidency.) Of greater concern could be electronic voting machines and the ability of hackers to actually change the tabulations, but that is unlikely. So we vote and hopefully are committed to being a supportive citizen afterward.

  • Take a Break to Remember and Celebrate

    By the time you read this, it will be Tuesday, November 1, 2016. The elections are a week away and I’m sure the commercials, infomercials and news commentaries are going to be even more vitriolic than has been the case for the past several months. Tonight there is a game 6 for the World Series (if necessary) in Cleveland, Ohio. Last night we treated the children of our various neighborhoods to candy: superheroes and ghosts, ninjas and witches, princesses and Darth Vaders. So, tonight at Jeffersontown Christian Church we are going to take a break from Trick or Treating, a break from the rhetoric of politics and a break from the game of baseball (we WILL be done before the first pitch) in order to do some remembering and celebrating.

    Tonight is the service for All Saints Day. It is a service of prayer, reflection, and remembering those in our congregation who have passed away since last November 1, as well as friends and family members of our community of faith. On the communion table will be candles to be lit for those who wish to remember a person or persons by this act. A bell will toll the names of our members who have joined the great company of saints that crossed over to the next world. Please come and join us as we remember and celebrate the gifts of life that have touched our own lives.

    Several things have happened over the last few weeks that have made me happy (I’d have said “proud”, but we all know that’s like tempting fate!) A visitor left a card in the offering plate which had this note on the back, “You have a beautiful church. I have never felt so welcome, as I have today. Your church members are amazing.” At today’s shooting of directory photos, one of the people from Lifetouch came to tell me that every person he encountered after coming in the door was friendly, greeted him and smiled. In a conversation yesterday, I was reminded by yet another person that we are a welcoming community and a mission oriented congregation. Nice words to hear; good words to hear. Hopefully, it won’t go to our heads!

    During the Fall Festival on Sunday, a family of Indian descent (perhaps Hindu as well) came to thank us for letting them use some tables and chairs from the garage. They had come earlier in the afternoon in quite a state of anxiety. Their son was turning 5 and they had planned to use a pavilion in the park to have a little party for him, but upon arrival found all the pavilions occupied. After the story became clear, they had called to make reservations and had been told it wasn’t necessary. We went out to the garage and rolled two of our old round tables out into the grass under the trees and carried a dozen folding chairs over as well. After their party, the couple came in while we were eating and playing to thank us and ask if they could do something for the church. I was able to tell them that we were honored to have been able to help in their time of need.

    Take a break to remember our saints and to celebrate who we are as a community of faith.

  • Take a Breath

    Yikes! Distraction number one: the video card in my desktop is not doing its designated function; hence, I am forced to write on my laptop. Not so bad, you say? No big deal? My fingers are not meant for such close and small keys. Of course the rhetoric of the various campaigns is an even bigger distraction. Between the commercials and the commentary and the rhetoric of the candidates, themselves, I suspect we can all use a breather. Scott Colglazier, a former pastor at Beargrass Christian Church, had the same thought after the Third Presidential Debate and shared some images of the human journey. I thought you might enjoy some breathers, too.

    This past week a couple picked-up dinner and delivered it to a neighbor recovering from serious surgery.

    This past week a child went to school, as she has every day this fall, and discovered the joy of reading a book and writing a report about it.

    This past week two friends finally secured a jobs after long and arduous searches; they are feeling like they have turned an important corner in life.

    This past week several folks I know continued on courageously with chemo-therapy treatments, never complaining about their illness.

    This past week two folks celebrated significant anniversaries for their sobriety, and in turn, the reclamation of their lives.

    This past week two people fell in love with one another, and overcoming years of hurt, they have begun to open their hearts to one another. 

    This past week a musician friend reminded me of an old song given new meaning, and an artist down in South Carolina finished a painting, and a poet-friend in West Virginia wrote a poem.

    This past week a family sat down for a rare family dinner, and without phones or iPads or televisions, they actually talked to one another. 

    This past week a friend had to say good-bye to a beloved pet, but the pain is mitigated by good memories of the companionship they enjoyed through the years.

    This past week a young couple, while taking care of their newborn son, paused for a moment of wonder and love and gratitude as they worshipped with us.

    Now breathe…

  • Our Story in Pictures

    The story of Jeffersontown Christian Church is now over 175 years in the making, from those early days off Billtown Road right up to the various activities going on this week here on Taylorsville Road. Minutes of Board meetings and historical records tell much of the story and, in more recent times, photos and videos have provided images enhancing our story. A great way to continue to record our growing and changing church family is by periodically producing pictorial directories with as many folks as possible included. Now is the time for a new directory. I want to personally invite every member and friend of the congregation to be a part of this valuable addition to our history, even if it has been a while since you were last in worship.

    Life Touch, the company we have chosen to produce our new directory, has been around since 1936 doing mostly school portraits. Recently they acquired Olan Mills and expanded their work to include churches. Their approach is both professional and friendly. Each family will receive a complimentary 8”x10” portrait and a directory with a “no pressure” opportunity to purchase additional photos, greeting cards with your photo, or even photos with your favorite pet. Multi-generational photos are also possible for grandparents, parents and children to have a keepsake for future generations of family members to ask, “Who are those people?” Just kidding!

    More information concerning dates, times and scheduling opportunities are available on the church’s website: www.jeffersontownchristian.org as well as after worship this Sunday. As an added bonus, if you bring a canned good or non-perishable food item for Jeffersontown Area Ministries, you will get a $5.00 discount certificate to use should you decide to purchase additional photos or greeting cards. What a deal! Helping feed the hungry, providing a picture for the directory, getting a family portrait and having a directory to refer to when needed, all by just getting your picture taken! The time slots are filling up, so don’t wait. Sign up today!

    So, I hope to see you on a shooting day and if it’s been a while, in worship, too!

  • Election Perception

    I suspect that over the years I have made the idea “that perception is more powerful than truth” the point of a great many sermons. I believe it I can make it again in these weeks leading up to the elections. Much of what we see on television, hear on the radio and read on the internet is based on the perception of the person(s) who we are relying on for information and not necessarily on facts. It is not my place to suggest for whom anyone should vote. That is a very personal decision each of us needs to arrive at as best we can. I can suggest some thoughts and basic guidelines on how we reach our decision.

    Candidates for office do not always tell the “truth” exactly. Exaggeration, innuendo and allusion often skew the facts to provide a better “spin” on the truth. Those who produce the news have become more interested in commentary than on reporting facts. We hear about the “liberal news media” and the “right wing news organizations” all the time as each side casts doubts and dispersion on the other. The internet has become a place where we avoid either of those choices, but then are confronted by wholly undocumented and unverifiable articles written by anyone who has a computer and internet access. All this provides for an atmosphere of uncertainty and confusion. Add to that the amount of disinformation deliberately provided by lobbyists, PACs and other “interested parties” and what we have is elections based on feelings, not on positions or programs to strengthen the country.

    So, here are a couple of my thoughts:

    • Look at two or more diverse news outlets.
    • Don’t believe everything you see or hear on the internet (check it out at one of these independent sources: snopes.com or truthorfiction.com or factcheck.org).
    • Avoid websites which seem to use fear and hate as motivators, rather than rational statements and content oriented material.
    • Be careful reposting articles on your facebook page that use vitriolic or accusatory language as it reflects on you.
    • Try to focus on significant issues which face the country and be aware of people using smokescreens, mirrors and misdirection to keep you from considering them.
    • Ask yourself if what you see or hear sounds like actual facts or is meant to lead you to a certain perspective and away from the truth.
    • There is no reason to hate any candidate or office holder; that serves the interests of no one and is not grounds for voting against someone who may be the better candidate.

    Now, just seven weeks until the distractions of elections are in the past!

  • House Keeping

    As world events weigh heavy on my mind, reality reminds me that there are issues near at hand which must also be addressed. So, pushing all else aside for a moment, let me paint a picture of reality.

    As everyone knows, Marlon Cummings resigned as our custodian after a decade of service to the church. Now, we are accepting applications for the position and would like to fill the position sooner rather than later. Job descriptions are available from the church office. At first glance it seems a bit daunting, but there is a good deal of repetitive detail involved. If you know of someone who might be interested in the position, please have them contact me so I can discuss the job description with them. The only caveat for this position is that the person cannot be a member of the congregation.

    We are also in the market for a person to provide child care for 2-3 year olds during worship and possibly through the after church activities as well (lunch provided). We are treating this position under the preschool portion of our personnel policy, so it can be a member of the congregation. This person must also be willing to submit to a background check.

    Speaking of background checks, the Commonwealth no longer provides basic background checks for non-profits and religious groups. We are looking at two companies recommended by our insurance carrier who provide this service for a reasonable fee. They recommend we recheck folks who have previously been vetted every 3-5 years, so we will likely be asking for everyone who works with our children, youth and young adults to submit their information and be included in this process.

    A couple of years ago, we produced an in-house photo directory which is already out-of-date. This week we have contracted with Life Touch, a company that purchased Olin Mills and is now doing church directories, to produce an up-to-date directory for us this fall. Shooting dates will be October 26-29. Sign-ups will be both online and in person. They will shoot intergenerational family photos, photos with pets, and regular family portraits and will accept other submitted photos for inclusion (in alphabetical order with theirs!). In addition to photos, you may also order Christmas/greeting cards. As soon as we get our leadership team confirmed, we will notify the company and get this project rolling! I hope that we can get at least 80% of our participating families, individuals, and attending non-members of the congregation to be included, although our goal will 100%!

     The pew cushions have been ordered and should be here before Thanksgiving! If you would like to purchase an individual back cushion, please let us know as soon as possible so we can add them to the order. If you think you ordered one already please confirm it with Mary Catherine.

  • Red Planet

    At the Christian Care Communities’ Auxiliary meeting on Wednesday, the devotional delivered by Chaplain Andreas Price began with a reading from Isaiah. It included phrases about God “holding the oceans of the world in the palm of his hand”, “measuring the sky with the span of his hand” (a span being the distance between the tip of your little finger and the tip of your thumb when they are spread wide), and “”weigh the mountains in a scale”. The grandeur of God is ever before us and we are awe stricken when we try to comprehend the works of God in the universe. We are also fascinated by the prospect that we are not alone in that universe, that there may be life similar to ours out there somewhere. Just last week, it was announced that a planet orbiting a Red Star, Proxima Centauri, the closest star to our sun, holds the possibility of having liquid water on its surface which is a requirement for life as we know it. But our fascination is not recent; it can be traced to the very earliest accounts of human beings as they tried to explain the purpose and origin of the stars.

    More recently we have become enamored of a planet in our own solar system, Mars. Do you know how many movies have been made with Mars as the subject? 52! Here is a representative list: 1924 Aelita; 1938 Flash Gordon’s Trip to Mars; 1945 The Purple Monster Strikes; 1953 The War of the Worlds; 1980 The Martian Chronicles; 1990 Total Recall; 1996 Mars Attacks; 1999 Escape from Mars; 1999 My Favorite Martian; 2000 Red Planet; 2000 Mission to Mars; 2001 Ghost of Mars; 2001 Stranded; 2005 War of the Worlds; 2005 Doom; 2012 John Carpenter; 2015 The Martian. This doesn’t even cover television shows or movies about space other than Mars.

    We really are fascinated by the possibility of not being alone, albeit we tend to think in rather violent terms about how we will encounter other humans, aliens and species. Yet we want to believe that we are not the only “sentient, cognizant beings” in the universe. And we want to believe in something greater than ourselves, something or someone who is the beginning, in control and with a plan for the future. A by-product of our belief is that recognizing that the greatness of God reveals the smallness of the issues of life over which we obsess and worry and stress. And it reminds us that there is hope in creation, in life and in the universe through our faith in a God of love, love large enough to measure the universe!

  • The morning news?

    I watched the news this morning before I got ready to come to church for this month’s Committee on Ministry interviews. One of the ways we serve alongside the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Kentucky is by making our facilities available for use by groups and committees of the region. On the fourth Wednesday of nearly every month, the Region’s committee dealing with candidates for the ministry uses our library. One of the committee’s interview teams (Louisville) meets with two or three candidates to follow their progress in seminary, examine their ability to articulate their call to ministry and provide encouragement as well as honest feedback. It happens that Larry Lakin and I are on that interview team and I serve as the convener, so we meet here at JCC. Other regional groups meet here, too, because of our location and ease of access. Thought you might like to know one of the ways we serve with the Region.

    Then, there was the news this morning. The brief respite from the sweltering heat and humidity is officially over according to WLKY. Of course it is; Diane and I are going to the State Fair on Friday (before you read this). We will spend the morning visiting the cow barn, sheep and goat pens, and whatever other animals remain from the previous days. After some refreshment, we will tour the counties of the Commonwealth area and sign up for all the giveaways which we will not win. No, really, we won’t win any! Then, we’ll check out the art works, quilts and aquariums before some additional sustenance before moving to browse the “commercial” section and make one more donation to the educational enterprise operated by the state. Usually a rest period and dinner happen before heading home. All in all, it’s a good day…WLKY says it will be 92 and humid…of course!

    Then, there was the news this morning. Football is in the air! Everyone is excited about their favorite team(s) and the prospects for the upcoming season. I have a number of favorites, places I have attended. The Mansfield (Ohio) Senior High Tygers (yes, that’s right, spelled with a “Y”); reunited from two schools, it has become a regional power again. The University of Cincinnati Bearcats were decent during my two years there. The Ohio State Buckeyes are in a rebuilding year after losing 22 starters to graduation or the NFL. The Bluffton College (now University) Beavers lost 27 straight when I was a student, but do some better these days. The Vanderbilt University Commodores…sailors trying to play football, enough said. Plus three others where I didn’t attend: whoever plays the school up north (_ichigan), whoever plays ND (my apology to Notre Dame fans, but I do bleed Scarlet and Gray!) and my wife’s alma mater, the University of Louisville.

     Then, there was the news this morning. Oops, looks like I’ve run out of room. Good thing, I suppose, since it was so depressing. Better to talk Ministry, State Fair and football!

  • Bumper Sticker Theology

    With the Olympics behind us and the return of the political campaigns ahead, I thought we might need a little levity in our day. Below are some examples of “Bumper Sticker Theology” most of which come from an article by Richard Kauffman in Christianity Today and some from the Dictionary of Christianese.

    I’m not religious, I just love the Lord.

    Jesus loves you, but I’m his favorite.

    Caution: never drive faster than your angels can fly.

    Forget world peace; visualize using your turn signals!

    Where am I going and why I am in this handbasket?

    Your silence will not protect you.

    Jesus came to take away your sin, not your mind.

    Thank God I’m an atheist!

    I don’t recall questioning your existence. God

    Lord, walk beside me with your arm on my shoulder and your hand over my mouth.

    God said it; I believe it, which settles it.

    Do You Follow Jesus This Close?

    Don’t let the car fool you, my real treasure is in heaven.

    Honk, if you love Jesus.

    If you love Jesus, tithe. Any fool can honk.

    Well, that about does it for me tonight. Going home to catch a little more of those Olympics before they’re gone (now you know how far in advance I write some of these distractions!)

  • There is hope

    It’s hot. Much of the world is in pain from one or more of any number of inflictions: natural disasters, regional conflicts, civil war, threats of terrorism, relentless poverty, refugees forced from their homes, oppression of women, exploitation of children, human trafficking, political unrest, disease and famine. Were we not Christian, we might become susceptible to the darkness around us and lose hope in the future. But, we are Christian and we will not lose hope. Fortunately for us, there are signs of light in the world as well; perhaps not extremely bright, but there none the less.

    Pope Francis has set up a panel to study whether women could serve as deacons, a role now reserved to men. The Vatican said Tuesday, August 2, Francis "after intense prayer and mature reflection" decided to set up the commission, with 12 members — six men and six women — including priests, nuns and laywomen. It noted that he had told superiors of nuns' orders in May that he intended to "set up an official commission to study the question" of the diaconate for women "above all regarding the early times of the church." Some historians point out there were female deacons in the early church. Married men who serve as deacons can preach and preside at weddings, baptisms and funerals. There is hope.

    Big yellow buses are on the road again full of excited children (at least for now!) headed to schools where they will learn to be social, discover the world in all its fascinating splendor, and receive instruction in subjects which will help them find meaningful purpose in life. They will enter as novices and graduate as young adults ready to enter the work force or prepared to seek additional education and skills. There is hope.

    In Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for this two week period, the very best of the best athletes in the world are gathered to compete for gold, silver and bronze medals as well as to perform for themselves, for their families, for their friends and for their countries and this year a group of refugees without a country. It’s unfortunate that they all cannot win, but they all are to be respected for their courage, determination and effort. The sportsmanship displayed at the games is breath of fresh air as athletes from different nations and cultures embrace each other after competition with dignity and respect. There is hope.

    Part of our Christian heritage and our heritage as Disciples of Christ affirms the place of women in the life of the church, part of it attests to the importance of developing the mind as well as the spirit, and part of it celebrates the diversity of humanity with respect, integrity and compassion. We celebrate an open Lord’s Table every week as a sign of God’s grace and a witness to the world that the Kingdom of God is here and now, just not yet. There is hope.

  • Ups and Downs

    Is it hot enough for you, yet? “You” being those folks who thought it was too cold last winter. ‘Cause it’s plenty warm enough now! Mowed the yard today and had to take a shower in cold water to cool down.

    Lately, the church has been experiencing a time of ups and downs in its life. In May we closed our preschool after more than three decades of service to the community. Staffed almost entirely by members of the congregation, it was a powerful and positive ministry to the families of the children who came here to prepare for kindergarten.

    On Monday we celebrated the 46th anniversary of the hiring of Mary Catherine Selby as the church secretary. She became the first full-time employee other than the minister at this church. Her duties have expanded and her title has changed over the years until we know her as the Minister’s Administrative Assistant today. What hasn’t changed over the years is her dedication to her position and her commitment to the congregation. I have been fortunate to work with her for these past 24 years and look forward to the years ahead. Thank you, Mary Catherine.

    Also last week, the Personnel Committee received a letter of resignation from Marlon Cummings as custodian of the church. Marlon has given a decade of service to the church and we appreciate his always having been ready to answer the call in an emergency. We have contracted with Samantha Pierie to provide basic custodial services while we explore the various options open to us at this time. We will consider commercial cleaning companies as well as individuals who might be interested in the position.

    In the meantime, we will continue to do what we do; worship, fellowship, ministry and mission. We will gather around the table, meet in groups to discern meaning and direction from God’s words, share meals together, visit the sick and the incarcerated, recycle an abundance of materials and items, and seek to find new mission opportunities in our neighborhood, around the metropolitan area, and beyond.

  • Challenging the Bible

    I have been cleaning out my email accounts; too many unread or saved for some future use which always escapes me the day after I don’t delete something. Somewhere in the back of my mind is an embedded command: save. It also affects my ability to discard books which have reached the end of their usefulness for me, pieces of paper which might have been helpful for a sermon five years ago, but not so much these days, and nearly everything I have acquired over my sixty-four plus years on planet earth. I give credit to Diane who has helped me address my “saving” state of mind and to dispose of a fair amount of stuff (still lots of stuff to go!) and to Vickie DeShazer who guided me in filling several recycling totes with unnecessary paper from my office (I now, she needs to come back and guide me some more!) But, I digress.

    As I was deleting and rerouting emails today, I tried to assess the content before assigning each to its next and often final destination in the digital cyberspace world. One in particular caught my eye (which is a reason not to delete everything) and gave me pause. The American Library Association publishes an annual list of the most challenged books on their shelves. Mostly these tombs are challenged on the grounds that their content is too explicit for certain age groups or promotes an undesirable ideology. Number six on this year’s list is most curious: The Holy Bible, in all translations. Really? Yes, really. Mostly it’s a protest about having the Bible in the library and the separation of church and state, as though its mere presence is likely to have an adverse effect on our democratic way of life. I would think you would need to open it for it to be a threat, but there are also other concerns about its content including violence, sexual immorality, domestic abuse and more.

    I understand the challenges to the other nine, although I might not think that they deserve to be removed from a library. This year’s other nasty nine are: Looking for Alaska, Fifty Shades of Grey, I am Jazz, Beyond Magenta, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, Fun Home, Habibi, Nasreen’s Secret School, and Two Boys Kissing. To be honest, I haven’t read any of these, so my opinion isn’t informed. I suspect a couple of them are on the list because they refer to people with unfamiliar sounding names, not their content. A couple of them are clearly there due to the explicit sexual content or point of view. The Bible at number six still has me a bit perplexed since it is a work of literature as well as a religious book, but then I’ve also read it.

  • People of the Red Cup

    I ran across something recently by S. R. Fisher, spouse of an Army chaplain, as she described what it is like for her meeting people from other faith traditions at their various assignments. They ask about her/his denomination because they may have heard about Baptists, or Methodists, or Lutherans, or Roman Catholics, but for many, they are unfamiliar with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). She has the opportunity to share about who we are and why it is important that we are who we are. Her summary statement was the first thing to catch my attention: We are diverse, we are faithful, we are God’s people but not God’s only people. We are the Disciples of Christ: People of the (Red) Cup. They also have humorous (to us) perceptions of the Chalice and Cross we use as our “brand”. She goes on to explain why THIS red cup matters. (Edited for length.)

    The red cup means that the Table is our focus.  This red chalice – representative of what was used by Christ during the Last Supper – shows that we are people of the Table. We have differing interperetations of the Bible, and have differing ways of living out our faith, but the Table unifies us.

    The red cup means that ALL are welcome to the Table. We welcome all to the Table as God has welcomed us. There is no ten-page doctrinal statement to sign, no list of rules by which we must abide. We require no proof or documentation to partake. We do not tell anyone they aren’t good enough – or anything enough – to celebrate the Lord’s Table. 

    The red cup means that we are a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world.  As an Army wife, I am ever aware of the fragmentation of our world, of the conflicts that cause blood to be shed, families to be torn apart, and people everywhere to draw lines in the sand about who is in and who is out and why. People are hurt by the church; people suffer with loneliness and suffer because of oppression. Disconnection leads to all sorts of tragedies. We are continually fragmented from the earth and the interconnectedness of all life. And yet, as people of God, we are called to bring wholeness. We are called to live into God’s realm in the earth today, not only waiting for some future hope, but making that hope a reality now. I cannot think of any greater identity statement for a denomination. Which is why… 

    The red cup means that I am home. Brand recognition matters. Driving through a new community, a sign that says “Christian Church” could mean almost anything. But when I see that little red chalice with St. Andrew’s Cross? I know I’m home. We’ve been to Disciples churches all over the country, and each is remarkably different. And yet, in each, we are welcome; in each, we worship God together; in each, we celebrate communion every Sunday; in each, we are home.

  • Summertime Memories

    “Summertime, summertime, sum sum summertime….” Those lyrics from the Jamies 1958 hit for Epic Records are the kind that get stuck in your head and then you can’t get them out, but at least they’re happy lyrics!  Over the years, a number of people have written songs for the summer season, among them: “Summertime” by George Gershwin and performed by Ella Fitzgerald (and others), “Summer in the City” by the Lovin’ Spoonful, “Hot Time in the Summertime” by Sly and the Family Stone, “Crazy for You” by Best Coast, “Here Comes Summer” by Jerry Keller, “You Are My Sunshine” by Elizabeth Mitchell, “Summer Days” by the Beach Boys (and nearly everything else they ever recorded!), and “Schools Out for Summer” by Alice Cooper.  I attended an Alice Cooper concert way back in 1970 at the Akron Rubber Bowl (in the early summertime) where the band performed that song as its closing piece.  Needless to say, the stadium went crazy!  Music is such a connector of time, events and memories.

    Diane and I occasionally meet people who ask about our trip to Europe two summers ago.  It happened, again Tuesday evening at the reception at the Uptown restaurant following Nancy Shepherd’s memorial service.  We were sitting with one of the musicians from the service and the conversation somehow segued into trips abroad and our experiences in Europe.  In Ireland, we were surprised at how warm the reception was for Americans.  We expected that Ireland would be a welcoming place, but it was beyond imagination.  When we arrived at a new hotel on July 5, we were curious as to why the American Flag waved from the flagpole in the courtyard.  We asked why (always the American way) and found out that they were still celebrating the American Independence Day.  Really!  The day before, they even had a parade and fireworks to mark the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia on July 4, 1776.  Confused?  They celebrate our day because we were the first colonial possession to successfully separate from the most powerful Empire on earth.  So, there you have it.

    But there’s more…really.  In Belfast, Northern Ireland (still a British possession) and in Dublin, Ireland we found something interesting.  In both cities, on the grounds of their city squares are “monuments”; in Belfast one to the Queen and in Dublin one to their Independence, in both cities one to the United States Army Air Corps which operated out of their lands during WWII, and in both cities a plaque in honor of former US President William Jefferson Clinton.  He is credited with ending the conflict between England and the IRA when he, Senator George Mitchell and a Canadian official traveled to Northern Ireland in order to spur both sides toward peace.  Everyone there loves America and Americans.  It was a humbling and educational experience to be sure.

  • Pioneers and Patriots

    Grandpa Doug here, coming to you from a cabin on the Cane Ridge, near Paris, Kentucky where there are near 40 young pioneers participating in the 2016 version of Vacation Bible School.  Life on the frontier in the early 19th Century makes for a lot of things to learn: hunting deer, squirrel and bear for meat, foraging for nuts and wild fruits and berries, making and baking bread, collecting sap to make maple syrup, “borrowing” honey from a beehive, Sitting astride your horse on the way to town, awaiting a visit from the Circuit Rider (preacher) to hear some Bible, sing a song or two and share in the Lord’s Supper, not to mention the wedding on the front porch of the neighbor’s cabin or the baptism down in the creek and a visit to the cemetery to say a prayer over the graves of those who have passed on since his last visit.

    By the time you read this, we will have concluded VBS for this year. We will have celebrated Independence Day on July 4, as well.  Diane’s sister enjoys it as both her birthday and the National holiday.  My sister, Diane, celebrates her birthday on another National holiday, November 11, Armistice Day, later known as Veterans’ Day and finally as Armed Forces Day.  My brother-in-law, Don, celebrates his birth on April Fool’s Day…and, NO, I am not going to make a joke about it, at this time!  I don’t know what it would be like to celebrate my birthday on a holiday (although I have done it back when we used to recognize Columbus Day and it fell just right), but I imagine it has emotional pluses and minuses.

    Independence Day is emotional enough on its own.  It is a day to remember the freedoms and rights we have as citizens of this nation.  We remember the Patriots who chose to risk their property, livelihoods and very lives to deny the rule of England here in America.  We also remember all those who have served their country and protected that liberty and those rights of citizenship.  If you have ever been to a battlefield from the Revolutionary War, Civil War or one of the World Wars or any war, there is something about the reverence that overwhelms people in places like: Fallujah, Khafji, Hamburger Hill, Khe Sanh, Pearl Harbor/U.S.S. Arizona Memorial in Hawaii, the beaches of Normandy, the Ardennes, Anzio, Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima, Inchon, Flanders, San Juan Hill, Gettysburg, Antietam, Chancellorsville, Shiloh, Fredericksburg, Bunker Hill, Trenton, Lexington, Concord and thousands more.  Let us remember the men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country. 

  • Teaching our children

    I was reading facebook posts by folks this morning.  On my day off I give myself permission to spend a couple or three hours just letting the thoughts of friends and acquaintances occupy my own thoughts.  I happened across a post of one of my former youth charges in Knoxville who also happens to be the daughter of Fabaus Landry, the former senior minister at Knoxville, First Christian Church.  After his death last year, Shana managed to “rescue” some of her father’s writings and notes and quotes that he scribbled on all sorts of pieces of paper. 

    I had to laugh a bit, after all it was Bob (Fabaus) who told me to never throw away anything I wrote and to keep things I read that might come in handy someday.  He also told me to never have more than three file cabinets (he had nearly two dozen of his own!)  What he forgot to tell me was that I shouldn’t put stuff in boxes when the cabinets got full.  But that’s a distraction for another time….

    At any rate, Shana ran across an interesting piece which she posted today.  I believe it is a quote from the lyrics of a song in “South Pacific.”  It seems to speak volumes to situations in the present day. 

    "You've got to be taught to hate-
    You've got to be taught-
    You've got to be very carefully taught-
    Before you're six or seven or eight"

    It occurred to me, that it had a familiar ring, like something from say the fourth century before Jesus.  “Give me a child until he is 7 and I will show you the man.” ― Aristotle.  The idea is that, if you give a child over to some institutions for training and indoctrination from birth until age seven, he/she belongs to that institution forever.  It has been alluded to by others including St. Ignatius of Loyola, Balthasar Gracian, and perhaps Adolf Hitler.  The Catholic Church used to say that about age eight.  Hitler tried to indoctrinate young children in the Hitler Jugend in order to create loyal cadres.  The Egyptians trained young Christian boys to be Janissaries.  Likewise, Communist regimes take young people into groups such as Komsomol.  

    Any early child development specialist would agree. The most lasting aspects of a child's relationship to the world -- is the world a safe place? is it a good place? am I lovable? am I valued? -- are all decided unconsciously based on the child's interactions experiences.  I worry some days what, and by whom, today’s children are being taught about hate, bigotry and violence as a way to address problems.  Hopefully, places like JCC are making a difference by teaching love, compassion and forgiveness.

  • Difficult Dialog

    It’s the elephant in the room, so to speak.  No one wants to talk about it, but it’s there and it isn’t going away any time in the near future.  It’s so weighty that it raises questions about not only our country’s founding documents, but also our core religious beliefs.  You know what I’m talking about without my verbalizing it, but we must have some meaningful dialog if we are ever going to address it at all.  It is the violence in our culture that continues to pervade every segment of our lives.  From human trafficking to domestic abuse to crime related events to militarized civil authorities to mass murders to worldwide terrorism and regional conflicts, we live in a world of violence.


    Some political candidates tell us we should be afraid of everyone who is not exactly like us, that we should see a mass murderer behind every rock and tree.  Some activists believe we should overthrow our government and replace it with what I don’t know.  Media outlets swarm to every story which they believe will improve their ratings, some make up “facts” or deal in innuendo and suppositions which have no basis in reality.  The various groups with personal interests in either the prolongation or the abridgement of the violence are lined up against each other prepared to do battle in the media, in the courts and in the legislative houses of federal and state government.  It’s a difficult and highly emotional issue for every member of society.

    I have no definitive answers or solutions to where we are or where we seem to be going.  I can say this: I do have a problem with the language used to describe the perpetrators of mass killings.  Because a person is of a faith tradition does not make them a terrorist.  In my mind, people who commit these crimes are mass murders, unless their actions are clearly aimed at the government or government agencies.  The event in Orlando is a hate crime performed by a person who acted against what he perceived to be immoral people.  Had he been a Christian, he likely would have been called a mass murderer, but since he was a Muslim, he was named a terrorist, as though being Muslim is a defining characteristic of terrorists.  Timothy McVey, when he attacked the federal building in Oklahoma City was a terrorist, while Adam Lanza when he invaded Sandy Hook Elementary School was a mass murderer.  This might seem like splitting hairs, but it is important that we do not use language in ways that frame people inaccurately.  While Omar Mateen claimed allegiance to Islamic State (IS) and IS celebrated his action, no evidence has been found at this writing to indicate he had real ties to IS.  He committed a hate crime against the LGBT community in Orlando.

    What also concerns me is the ease with which he was legally able to secure an assault rifle to commit his crime of hatred.  My grandfather always had shotguns to hunt with in his house.  Many of my friends do as well.  I know people including former law enforcement who own handguns for protection.  I believe all of these folks are exercising their Second Amendment right.  Assault weapons are not made to hunt with or for self-protection, nor in my mind for target shooting; they are made for killing people in combat situations.  I believe that law enforcement officials (and many former soldiers) concur that these weapons should be kept off of America’s streets.  Congress did not extend the ban on these weapons when it expired in 2004 allowing Mateen to purchase his.  It is a complicated issue, but one that we must continue to dialog about or it will remain a part of the elephant in the room for the foreseeable future.

  • Vacation!

    Vacation – a fine word!  And a fine invention it is, the origin of which I am uncertain, but grateful for its existence none the less!  Diane and I were fortunate to be able to string together 16 days of vacation this year.  We visited Hendersonville, North Carolina, Savannah, Georgia, Charleston, South Carolina, Holden Beach, North Carolina, Black Mountain, North Carolina, Asheville, North Carolina, and Knoxville, Tennessee in that order.  We saw mountains, tidewater and piedmont lands, islands, inter-coastal waterways, more mountains, the bluegrass of Kentucky and the ocean.  We visited the only remaining aunt from my mother’s family and her daughter in Charleston.  She celebrated her 93rd birthday in May.  (Last summer we got to visit the only remaining aunt and uncle in my father’s family when we traveled to Mansfield, Ohio.)  We also spent some time with Diane’s cousin and his family as well as Candy and Dick Wilson in North Carolina before crashing one evening at the home of very close friends, Joe and Amy, in Knoxville.  It was a great trip!  I appreciate T. and Ben providing the Sunday morning messages.

    Vacation is indeed a fine word.  To vacate one’s place and circumstances in order to rest, relax, recharge, and re-enter the “routine” world is important to the health of people.  We all need time away to allow our bodies, minds and spirits to refuel their enthusiasm for life and all that it encompasses.  Sometimes that comes when sitting on the porch watching the waves of the ocean roll endlessly toward the shoreline or when walking through the foam left behind.  In those moments we are encouraged to consider the vastness of the ocean knowing it touches the shores of distant lands and people at that very moment.  The universe is no less vast touching stars and planets that are even light years distant, beyond what we are able to view through our most powerful telescopes.

    Sometimes we are refueled by words written to challenge our imaginations, or tickle our funny bones or send shivers up our spines.  We can find fuel for the soul in so many ways in the world.  Being unengaged from the routine of work or school is an important part of encouraging this to happen.  The same holds true for our faith community.  Sometimes we need to be disengaged for a time to refresh and then to reconnect.  So, if you find it necessary to be absent from worship, it’s okay, just don’t let that become your habit. 

  • Busy as a Bee!

    Busy, busy as a bee…as someone in my family used to say. I can’t remember who it was, but I remember the saying. And these several weeks leading up to some much needed and anticipated vacation time certainly resemble it. We have had adult baptisms, folks joining the church by transfer from other faith traditions, baby dedications, Mark and Mini Watts’ wedding, a Mother/Daughter Banquet, a Pentecost celebration, Max Hazell’s ordination service, an open house to celebrate 33 years of the JCC Preschool and its final class of graduates, the nominating committee is making calls for the coming church year, our YAMs represented us at the Battle of the Bounce during Derby Festival in support of the Christian Care Communities, the Pitt Academy and the Stroke Foundation (oh, and there was the fastest two minutes in sports!), Mother’s Day, the Kirkringers’ and Chancel Choir’s end of the spring party and the Joyful Spirits Band gig playing for AIDS Interfaith Ministries. Did I mention, “Busy as a bee”?

    And that didn’t include the routine stuff which happens here every month: circles meeting, rehearsals for all the musical elements of worship, cards from Monday Morning Bible Study to folks needing a word of comfort, encouragement and congratulations, worship, children and youth music and faith development, Sunday School, Primetimers potluck and game night, the Out-to-Lunch-Bunch, Pairs & Spares, members of the Diaconate serving in various ways, and elders being elders, not to mention on-going mission projects to support our commitment to the prevention of human trafficking (get your hand made graduation cards before they’re all gone!), used shoes for WaterStep to provide clean water in remote and disaster affected areas, the Grateful Threads knitting blankets and skull caps for the hospitalized and babies, and used greeting cards and hearing aid batteries for Christian Care Communities.

    ‘Twas just another “routine” busy as a bee week and month in the life of Jeffersontown Christian Church (Disciple of Christ): doing ministry and mission with and for others while practicing good stewardship of the earth resources and having fellowship within the congregation who gathers for worship at 10631 Taylorsville Rd. in Louisville, KY.
    My thanks to Bill Bernauer, Vicki Poole-Adams and Susan Bernauer for serving in worship while Ben was on family leave and to T. Coleman, Jr. and Ben for leading worship in my absence! What a blessing to have so many with such diverse talents sharing their gifts with so many!


  • Celebrations

    What a week! Jeffersontown Christian Preschool will close its doors for the last time on May 20, 2016 after 33 years of faithful service.  It is a sad day for our church and the community.  Based on an average of 30 graduates each year, I would estimate that more than 1000 children have benefited from the care and preparation they received while at the preschool.  I am sure they are dozens more who for various reasons did not complete their two years.  At the reception/open house on Sunday, around 250 or so folks came to say thank you to our teachers and reminisce about the funny things that happen in a 3 and 4 year old preschool.

    During worship we were fortunate to have most of teachers present to receive the gratitude of the congregation.  Jennifer Lakin was here for all 33 years, many of which she was director and teacher.  She is followed in longevity by: Nancy Wortley with 17, Lorraine Steele with 15, Vickie DeShazer with 13, Sheila Quire with 11, Missy Witten with 8, Gail Schimke with 5, and Kim Nalley with 3.  It is a testament to this congregation that all but one of these teachers are members.  Our community and church has been strengthened by their dedication and passion for educating young children.

    What a week! Max Hazell, our former intern and candidate for the ministry had his final meeting with the Committee on the Ministry Interview Team last Wednesday where he was approved for ordination into Christian ministry.  As his sponsoring congregation, we have the honor of hosting and participating in his ordination service!  He will become the fifth Timothy/Phoebe from our congregation, joining Phillip Cook, John Opsata, Jennyfer Norvell and Betty Dawson.  It looks like Ben Reece will be the next one in 2019 followed by Ben Gritton.  Due to scheduling difficulties, Max‘s service of ordination will be Saturday, May 14, at 2:00 PM.  Please make every effort to be here to witness and participate in the laying on of hands as we celebrate with him.  Max will be moving very soon to Maryland where he will hopefully be enrolled in an advanced Clinical Pastoral Education course moving toward credentialed Chaplaincy.  Our prayers and best wishes for his future go with him on his journey in ministry!

    Don’t forget: Saturday, May 14, 2:00 PM!

  • Wisdom

    To tell you the truth, I am just out of steam today.  Maybe it’s the rain, maybe it’s the meetings I had this morning, maybe it’s the lunch I ate after the meetings, but whatever the case, I’m tired.  So, instead of trying to develop a piece of brilliant wisdom, I’ll share some wisdom from others.

    From Omar Bradley, WW II General in European Theater of Operations

     

     “The world has achieved brilliance without conscience.  Ours is a world full of nuclear giants and ethical infants.  We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about living.  If we continue to develop our technology without wisdom or prudence, our servant may prove to be our executioner.”

    From Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German Pastor/Theologian who returned to Germany from America after Hitler came to power and after two years in prison was executed on April 9, 1945, two weeks before United States troops liberated the camp.

      

    I have come to the conclusion that I made a mistake in coming to America. I must live through this difficult period in our national history with the people of Germany. I will have no right to participate in the reconstruction of Christian life in Germany after the war if I do not share the trials of this time with my people.”

    “There is no way to peace along the way to safety. For peace must be dared. It is the great venture.”

    “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

    “Being a Christian is less about cautiously avoiding sin than about courageously and actively doing God's will.”

    From Mark Twain, American writer and satirist

    “Truth fears no questions.”

     

  • The Bible as Token

    The political rhetoric has reached the lowest levels in recent memory, even lower than when President Obama ran for office the first time.  Why do so many of us persist in believing that the person who is using the most crass language and showing the least amount of respect is the best person for the highest office in the land?   Perhaps, we church people should employ the same technique to inflame the other members of our faith communities to condemn, vilify and disrespect people who are not like us or don’t agree with us.  No, wait, we already have at least one candidate that uses his faith to justify his unseemly words and promises for the days after he is elected…if he is elected.  Politics is not a field of interest for me and certainly not Presidential politics as it is currently being showcased.

    Of more concern to me are the actions of state and local governments in recent weeks.  The states of Mississippi and North Carolina have passed laws similar to the one passed in Indiana a while back that is, according to the writers of the bill, aimed at protecting us Christians from…from people who do not hold the same beliefs as we do.  In my entire lifetime, I have never been denied the right to pray.  I have also never prayed at a public event as though my faith tradition trumps someone else’s or as though my prayer is better than theirs.  The framers of the Constitution of the United States were very clear that no religious tradition or organization could become the “official” one for the country.  Religious persecution is the reason many of the early settlers in America came here in the first place including: the Pilgrims, the Quakers, the Baptists, some Catholics, the Reformed churches, and some Presbyterians, not to mention Mennonites, Amish, Brethren, Huguenots and Hutterites, etc.

    Tennessee tried to do the other states one better by presenting a bill naming the Bible as the “official” book of Tennessee. Really, they did. The Bible would join the “official” state tree, bird, flower, mascot, fruit and rifle.  It passed.  Really, it did.  They managed to reduce the Bible to the equivalent of a token of their state.  The Governor vetoed it after an unexpected backlash from all sorts of folks including Christians.  The State Senate was unable to override the veto, so it will have to wait until next year to be proposed again.  This flies in the face of the Constitution, of respect for others’ faith, of the tolerance that the nation was founded upon and serves only to inflame some of the worst attributes of people. 

    Christianity is in danger of being destroyed from within, I’m afraid.  Next thing you know there’ll be a move to begin another Inquisition, this time here in the United States rather than Spain, Italy, France or England.  Places from which many of our families fled to find religious freedom here in America.  Let us remain their defenders and those who follow in their path.  It is a part of the fabric of our great society and culture that all people are free to believe and worship as they see fit, but not to require that the rest of us believe and worship just like them.

     

  • A Disciples of Christ Understanding of Christian Unity

    Our VBS theme for 2016 will be about our identity as Disciples of Christ.  In anticipation of that week, here is a brief statement of one of our "polar stars", Christian Unity.

    Basic Understandings of the Disciples of Christ about the Unity We Seek

    1st – As the starting point, our unity is in Jesus Christ, not in structures or instruments or theological agreement, but in the grace and love of God offered to us and to the world in Jesus Christ.

    2nd – Thus, unity is God’s gift. It is not something we vote into being. Rather, we receive unity and oneness as a gift from God as we enter into new relations in mission and ministry, service and witness.

    3rd – As Disciples of Christ, unity begins at the Lord’s Table where we are made one in Christ; and from the Table, we are called to witness to the message of reconciliation, welcome and hospitality that we have experienced in our being welcomed.

    4th – Unity is being lived out at home—that is, unity exists in congregational life and in seeing our congregations today as ecumenical communities of faith.

    5th – Unity is more relational than institutional. Christian unity finds its life and reality in relationships as we worship together, serve together, and engage in mission together. Today, we are not working on “plans of union” or statements of theological consensus; but rather, we make commitments to engage in deepening relationships with other Christians and churches in worship, confessing our faith, and addressing issues of social justice and peace together.

    6th – The task of Christian unity is really about the task of sharing gifts: of learning to give and to receive, in offering the best of our Disciples heritage and tradition, and being open to receive the best from other denominations and traditions in their histories, theologies, understandings of faith, worship styles and spiritualities.

    7th – Unity does not mean uniformity in belief or practice: it is not based upon our agreement as Christians, but upon a profound humility arising from our shared life in the Risen Christ. We are seeking oneness in Christ, not sameness is our theologies or worship or practices.

    8th – Thus, unity will be lived out with a great deal of diversity. The challenge is to embrace an understanding of church that is bigger and wider, richer and older than we are today as Disciples of Christ. Unity is not about a loss of our identity as Disciples, but the claiming of a larger identity in Christ.

    9th – The challenge of Christian unity in our world today is also a call to interfaith engagement and dialogue: learning ways to encounter people of other faiths in order to live in community with them; to learn from them, develop mutual respect, and discover areas of commonality; and, to witness to God’s love for all peoples in breaking down barriers between persons and nations in the pursuit of peace.

    10th – The unity we seek in being reconciled to another as individuals and as churches is finally personal, not simply institutional – and it is grounded in a shared passion for God’s justice. That is, all exclusion, prejudice and division based upon race, gender, nationality, theology or belief are not simply issues to be addressed or programs to be undertaken, but are experienced personally by individuals—both within the church and in society.

    Great food for thought!

  • Gifts and Breaks

    It’s been over a two weeks since we celebrated Easter and the life at the church is finally getting back to “normal” at least as much as it is possible for the church to be that!  The Christian Women’s Fellowship circles (Sisters, Bonnie & Agape) have met, the children and youth’s Sunday activities have resumed, the April Board meeting happened last night, and the list goes on as we wait for the next celebration before our summer break.  Pentecost, fifty days after Easter, is the day the Holy Spirit comes upon the disciples which is May 15.  That day we will have our “Second Sunday” lunch as well due to Mother’s Day on May 8.  Then, it’s summer break…let’s not get carried away though! The Chancel Choir, Kirkringers, children and youth sponsors will get some much deserved time off before we resume programs in August.  During the down time of summer, I hope everyone has a chance to spend some quality time with family as well as take some time to recreate.  Play is good for the soul!  But, don’t forget that the church is still here and worship is every Sunday in between your summer diversions.

    On a different note, as I was straightening up the Thompson Study after the baptisms on Easter and other places around the church, I was reminded of the many gifts we have received over the years from individuals and from other religious institutions.  Some of them have become a part of the fabric of the church and others are reminders that we are not alone in seeking to make the world a better place for people to live.

    Some examples:

    The gold tone communion plate which we use on Sundays in honor of the members of the

                            now closed Fairview Christian Church who have joined our congregation,

    The antique pump organ in the Gathering Area from Alice Severance,

    The wood rendering of the Last Supper above the organ from Rebecca Henderson after

                            the 2000 Oberammergau trip,

    The hutch against the post in the Gathering Area from Beth Kinney,

    The glass rose in the hall case as a sign of peace from the Buddhist Temple in Corydon,

    The Last Supper 3-D relief above the case from the Neal family,

    The porcelain cross from the Gulf Coast for our first mission trip after Hurricane Katrina,

    The paraments in the glass case hand made by Rosie Westerfield, Larry’s mother,

    The quilt, Paten and Chalice (used on the communion table the first Sunday of every

                            month) from our sister church in Port Elizabeth, South Africa,

    The 175 anniversary cabinet made by Jim Kreko,

    And many others that room here prevents me from naming, but which are no less appreciated by us all as well as gifts of music, teaching and leading!  Gifts abound!

  • Thank You and Change

    I had several ideas for what to write about today, but I got distracted and, well, you know what happens when you get distracted!  I would like to thank all the folks who worked so hard to create such a meaningful Lenten season, Holy Week and Easter.  We had the communication team which connected everyone to the various events, volunteers who did the egg hunt, volunteers who showed up on a chilly Saturday to weed and mulch the flower beds, mowers and trimmers, the front “bank” man, the lily grower (really?), the Fellowship Committee who prepared breakfast on Easter, parents who brought their children to the pastor’s class for baptism, not to mention the Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services, the Chancel Choir, Kirkringers, Joyful Spirits Band and other musicians who provided so much beautiful music, readers and leaders for the worship services, including the Bernauers who provided a reflective service for Wednesday nights, the Worship Committee, actors for Easter, and the staff: Ben, Rebecca, Mary Catherine, Paige, and Deby.  It was truly a cast of dozens! Again, thank you one and all!

    This is the first week of the new system for delivering the weekly newsletter.  If you have an email address that we don’t have at the church, please call and we can add it to the eCaller mailing list.  It’s our hope to provide an electronic copy of the newsletter to each person in a household who has access to email, not just the head of the household.  This may take some getting used to (all change does!), but it is a good stewardship decision as well as a more effective way to communicate with everyone in the congregation.  Many of the articles from the Caller will be in the eCaller, but some of in house notices will appear as links (like my Distractions!)  When you click on a link in the eCaller, you will be connected directly to the church’s website where more information is available (including my Distractions!)  Give it a try every week for a few months and see how it works!  Of course, we will continue to have a limited supply of hard copies of the Caller available on Sunday mornings and those without email access will receive a copy through the mail as always.

    I’m sure there was something else really important that I meant to write about as well, but it will have to wait until I remember what it was.  Maybe next time!

  • Compassion and Hatred

    Easter is over.  We have waved our palm branches, watched as Jesus over-turned the money tables in the temple, sat on the hillside as Jesus lamented the future of Jerusalem, prayed with Jesus in the garden, sat at the table as Jesus broke bread and passed the cup, struggled through the nightmare of Friday as Jesus was tried, mocked, beaten and crucified, waited through the dark hours of Saturday and awoke to the empty tomb on Sunday.  We even managed to hunt a few colored eggs and munch on some chocolate bunnies along the way.  It’s break time; fifty days until Pentecost, plenty of time to catch our breath, grab a beach holiday, take in the mountains or trek off to Disneyland.

    But before we can actually get through the Holy Week roller-coaster of emotions, our world is shattered once more by violence.  Not just violence across the pond, as the British are fond of referring to the Atlantic Ocean, or in Syria or Iraq or Afghanistan, but right here, just down the road.  A husband, son, father, former Air Force officer and church volunteer snaps (for a still unknown reason) and commits triple murder, arson and suicide in that order.  We cannot fathom how this tragedy can happen; it is beyond our ability to comprehend.  We grieve for the parents/grandparents, for the extended family and for the community of faith which must deal with it in the coming days and months.

    And before we can possibly be ready, another blow to the sanctity of Holy Week lands, hard enough to knock the wind from our lungs.  We gasp at the sight of dozens and dozens of people in Brussels, capital city of the tiny country of Belgium, as they cower under chairs, lie in pools of blood, stare blankly into the sky and are wheeled to awaiting transports, ready to rush them to hospitals for emergency care and treatment.  Some are not so lucky.  This will be their final moments of life.  We cannot fathom how this tragedy can happen; it is beyond our ability to comprehend.  Once again, our hearts are full of grief for parents and grandparents and children and siblings and a city and a nation and all of the communities in the world which feel even greater fear than yesterday.

    Then, tomorrow, when it arrives, let our hearts not be full of hate.  That is what terror seeks, demands even, and we cannot give it that validity.  “If it is our way of life they seek to destroy, let us respond instead by standing stronger and taller still,…unshaken by their cowardice and hatred.  Let us remember that good people, of all faiths and nations, suffer from extremist terror and religious violence.  We must be united in both our compassion and our resolve.  There will be those who seek to exploit this bloodshed to their own aims and ambitions, doubling down on their rhetoric and politics of fear and division.  Our mettle as freedom-loving people shall be sorely tested by these attacks.  Whatever we do next, let it be without haste, without hatred.  That is a difficult thing to ask, a very tough and narrow path to tread, but it is the only way through.” Quote from a George Takei internet post. 

  • A memory from 1972

    It’s not exactly “Lent” connected (okay, it's not connected at all!), but I received an email from an old friend and former member of First Christian Church in Knoxville (the church closed last summer and they sold their beautiful building to a property development company.)  Anyway, the email was about a Louisville person who visited there back in the 1970’s and created memories that some folks still share.  It is edited for length.

    "One of the cherished pieces in my scrapbook is an autograph by Muhammad Ali, who came to Knoxville in 1972.  It was not by chance that I got it, but by a concerted effort on my part to welcome the champ in a special way.  I was an assistant to the Mayor, who was out of the city, and designated to do the honors.  Ali was scheduled to speak to the Black Student Union at the University of Tennessee that evening.

     

    He was just as comical in person as he was when I had seen him on television.  He kept us in stitches for the few hours he was here.  Representatives of the UT BSU and the mayor's office met him for dinner at the UT Faculty Club.  Rather than do a usual welcome, I wrote a simple rhyming ode to the champ:

     

    'On behalf of the Mayor and the people of Knox, I salute the Greatest of all those who box.

    He's a man of courage and spirit and spunk, who has no time for off-the-wall junk.

    He is tall in stature and steeped in ideals, and sends his opponents reeling on their heels. 

    Some call him Cassius and some call him the lip, but to his fans he's just plain hip.

    He is a man of character, an ambassador of good will. / He travels far on the merit of skill.

    And so we in Knoxville affix our official stamp in welcoming a man who is truly the Champ.'

    Immediately, he asked who wrote it. When I said I did, he said, 'Can't nobody write poetry like that but me.'

    He said he was happy to be in Knoxville and that he had been to many one-horse towns, but this was his first half-horse town.  As we stood around chatting before the dinner, he said, 'I'm hungry.  When do we eat?'  Someone brought him a salad and he mockingly gobbled it up.  When we sat down to dinner, he asked for seconds and commented on the good food. 

     

    We had no clue about the speech he would make, but it did not matter.  He was a champion in more ways than just boxing, and his talk to the students would be entertaining and enlightening.  He was our champ, and we wanted him to

    know it. 

     

    We remembered the handsome, brash young man who won the Olympic light heavyweight title in Rome in 1960.  Four years later he was the heavyweight champion of the world.  We watched him "float like a butterfly and sting like a bee."

    I am sure his talk at the university would have been memorable, but he received word that his wife had gone into labor and left before his speech was delivered.

     

    My copy of the poem on city letterhead is autographed 'Muhammad Ali, Peace, 1972.'"  Robert Booker, Columnist for the Knoxville News Sentinel

     Just thought it was worth sharing.

  • Fragile! Handle with care!

    In the midst of the current media overload covering the primaries and caucuses in various states, perhaps a word of caution would be useful.  I’m not thinking of anything to do with the actual politics of the campaigns or which of the candidates is more deserving of the nomination within their respective party or even the Electoral College process itself.  No, I’m thinking of the well being of the candidates and the voters.

    Something one of my former parishioners and now ministerial colleague in Tennessee, Dee Moore Wells, wrote the other day reminded me of a basic truth about life for all human beings.  She wrote.

    Morning Friends...with all the lashing out and created chaos I hear over the media these days, let's remember that we are fragile and must be handled with care. We are treasures in clay pots! Be nice to one another. You are loved!

    It’s easy to forget that we all have feelings and flaws and scars from the battles of life that we carry just under the surface of our “everything is fine” personas.  We are not made of steel or stone or rubber.  Insults and accusations do not run off us like water off steel or stone.  Outright lies do not bounce off as though we were made of rubber. 

    It may be fact that we expect our political rhetoric to be mean spirited and derogatory, but that doesn’t make it good for the candidates or the process.  Nor does it mean that our candidates should somehow be inhuman, expected to withstand all of the meanness without feeling.  They, too, are treasures in clay pots, created by God with as much care as you or I was created.  They, too, are loved!  Granted, we may not understand how they can be loved, but we are assured that each individual of the human race is LOVED.

    Churchgoers, spiritual but not religious folks, synagogue and mosque attendees, temple and shrine worshippers, pagan practitioners, even politicians are loved by the God we follow and experience through the person of Jesus of Nazareth. 

    So, as my friend Dee would add,

    Come to worship and know that kind of love -whoever you are and whatever is going on in your life - you are welcomed without judgment -that is the Jesus way!

  • Love in action

    On February 14 we celebrated Valentine’s Day in our culture.  Not the original kind, but more the Hallmark kind.  There are at least two legends about the origins of Valentine’s Day.  One of those concerns one Valentinus, a Christian priest in the 200’s, who was suspected of secretly officiating weddings for Roman soldiers, an act forbidden to the soldiers of the time.  After being arrested and scheduled for execution, on the night before the sentence was to be carried out, he healed the blind daughter of his jailer.  He also left a note for her to see with her new sight, signed “your Valentine.”  Another legend concerns an early Christian, Valentine, who after visiting a friend in prison and seeing the horrendous conditions the prisoners were forced to endure, began sending notes of encouragement. 

    Of course the Hallmark tradition comes from different origins! It starts with a pagan fertility celebration of Lupercalia, from February 13-15 and which the Church “officially” bans in the 400’s.  It remains an unofficial cultural celebration of fertility for 1000 years until Chaucer connects the celebration with romantic love.  And the rest, as they say, is history!  So, now we show our love for family and friends with Valentine’s Day cards.

    It’s no accident that this year we also celebrated in worship the Week of Compassion on Valentine’s Day.  This offering which comes once a year for Disciples of Christ, is received by other Protestant churches as well, but under different names (i.e. One Great Hour of Sharing).  The dollars raised are used almost entirely as short-term humanitarian aid following natural disasters and civilian relief in war-torn areas, plus some long-term relief efforts.  If you haven’t supported the offering yet please consider doing so in the coming weeks.

    As I was typing, I was struck by the diverse multiple ministries/mission projects we support as a community of faith: Project Hope (human trafficking project), House of Ruth, Heifer International, Save the Children, Aids Interfaith Ministries (AIM), and Jeffersontown Area Ministries (JAM).  We collect things as well: used hearing aid batteries and used greeting cards for Christian Care Communities (CCC), used eye glasses for Vision First, Shampoo and food for JAM, peanut butter and canned chicken for AIM, used shoes for WaterStep, yarn for the Grateful Threads to make scarves and head caps for cancer patients, coats and clothes for JAM, hats, scarves, mitten and socks for the Center for Women and Families, education box-tops and ring-tabs for schools (looking for new schools to support) and providing volunteers at Project Hope, Love the Hungry, Inc., St John’s Men’s Shelter, JAM, AIM, and CCC.  See something on the list you would like to be a part of, call the church!

  • Preparing

    Life is busy and messy and confusing and crazy and, well, just about any other descriptor you want to add.  It is difficult and joyful and painful and crazy…no wait, I already said that one.  But it’s true, life is a mixed bag of pleasant things and sad things, of sunny days and dark nights; it’s crazy!

    So, why not take the time to get out of the busy, messy, craziness.  I know, the beach sounds like a winner or maybe a trip to Disney World; right, the beach really does sound better.  But who can afford to just live at the beach forever?  Because once you got there, you’d never want to come back to reality.  I think there may be another option other than a different beach!

    Why not use the coming weeks of Lent to take some time to renew your relationship with God through worship and/or study?  You could make Sunday worship your “Lenten practice” or come to the Wednesday explorations of the three religions of the descendants of Abraham and Sarah of the Hebrew Scriptures.  Just want to have some quiet reflective time?  Susan & Bill Bernauer are offering a Wednesday evening worship experience.  It’s a good way to finish off “hump day.”  We all could use the time to prepare for the most important Holy Day for the Christian faith, Easter.

    Holy Week brings even more opportunities to experience the final week of Jesus’ life on earth.  It all begins with the waving of palms on Palm Sunday as Jesus enters Jerusalem for the last time.  Our day of palms will include the Chancel Choir presenting the musical “Celebrate Life” complete with instrumental accompaniment.  As the week progresses, we find ourselves in an upper room with Jesus, the Disciples and other early followers where Jesus establishes the practice of the Lord’s Supper which we modern Disciples believe is the central focus of our worship services.  A 24 hour prayer vigil follows with people participating in the sanctuary as well as from home and concluding with a Good Friday service to commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus.  By Sunday we will be ready, maybe even excited that at least 6 of our young people will be baptized!  And then, following breakfast in the Fellowship Hall and some educational opportunities, we re-live the wonder of that first Easter morning when the stone is rolled away and the risen Christ is made known.  Perhaps the world will still be the same crazy place on that Monday, but we will be better prepared to face it with faith and hope and love.

  • Only Nine More Months!

    Iowa is history.  By the time you read this, so will New Hampshire.  We will be just nine months from the actual election.  Not sure there will be much sanity left in the nation by then, but hey, it’s the American Way!  I believe that this election process has positives and negatives.  By stretching it out over so many months, the voters (you and me) get to assess the positions of each of the candidates in both parties.  We get to see how they handle themselves under the scrutiny of the media and their opponents.  We get to see how they hold up under the stress of high pressure politics and its relentless scheduling.  These are good things that will help us as we try to make sensible decisions about who to vote for come November.

    We will also get to watch innumerable commercials and infomercials about the candidates (tired yet?)  We will be exposed to misinformation, innuendo, and exaggerations.   We will hear way too many pundits tell us why they know who we should vote for without telling us how they are connected to the candidates or their supporters.  We will be told lies, fed rumors, and be expected to drink it all up without question.  Such is politics in America in the 21st Century.

    Political analysts will become weapons for both parties, each one trying to convince us voters that they are telling us what we need to know about the “other” candidate.  We will hear mostly negative information and the candidates themselves will not tell us what they will do once elected, only what they are against keeping from the previous administration (even if it worked.)  When apologists for various candidates of both parties become the “throwers” of mud, so to speak, it relieves the candidates themselves from accepting responsibility for what it is said on their behalf.  This sort of behavior is part of life, but it can become quite dangerous and destructive if it is the primary form of communication in communities of all types, nations as well as churches.  The sign I used to have behind my desk said it best, “The tongue is the deadliest of all blunt instruments.”  Be careful as you listen to the rhetoric for the next nine months and try to recognize the unfactual, the misinformation and the rumor-mongering that accompanies our political process.  Oh, and try not to be the one spreading the gossip, or repeating rumors, or slinging the mud in your own life!

  • Light in the Darkness

    We have had the first real snowfall of 2016 and by the time you read this, another more significant storm may have left additional accumulations.  Oil prices have plunged to unbelievable levels resulting in lowers prices at the pump and a scary rollercoaster ride for the stock market.  Louisville has experienced another week of multiple homicides.  Terrorists have once again attacked a university full of young students, this time in Pakistan.  ISIL/ISIS continues to enslave civilians, destroy religious and historic sites, and recruit young people around the world through the use of encrypted social media.  These are dark days around the world. 

    What are we to think and do as Christians?

    I don’t have a good answer, except to say, we must not lose faith in the God who acts in history from Moses to King David to the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.  We must trust that God continues to walk with us through the darkest of moments.  And I read something Pope Francis said a few weeks ago, “In the final hours of 2015, Pope Francis is encouraging humanity to hang on to recollections of good deeds, so that gestures of goodness can be seen triumphing over evil.  He mused about how people are sometimes driven by ‘insatiable thirst for power and by gratuitous violence.’  He said it is impossible to forget ‘so many days marked by violence, by death, by the unspeakable suffering of so many innocents.’”  He went on to call attention to what he referred to as "great gestures of goodness, love and solidarity" that don't make headlines.  "These signs of love can't and mustn't be obscured by the tyranny of evil," and that good always triumphs.

    Pope Francis’ words are worth remembering as we look to the future.  Even when the darkness seems to overwhelm the light of Christ in the world, we trust that the God who became one of us in the person of Jesus, is with us still and provide the directions we need to do acts of kindness and goodness.  We also trust that we are encouraged and strengthened through worship together and in the celebrating of the Lord’s Supper.  So, in this time when the darkness seems so powerful and relenting, it is time for us to return to worship and prepare for standing against the darkness by working for justice and peace as well as through acts of love for our neighbors.

     

  • Active Duty

    I saw a meme yesterday on facebook that really made me laugh.  I wasn’t the only one who saw it.  There was a message in my email box this morning with a copy of the meme and a suggestion I use it later in the spring, around the time the nominating committee goes to work.  But I decided it was too good not to use it now as we enter the third week of a new year.

    A man and woman (husband and wife, I imagine) are pictured standing in together looking at a letter in the husband’s right hand.  He holds the envelop in his left and she is looking over his shoulder.  Both have an unmistakable look of foreboding on their faces.  These words escape his mouth, “It’s from our church…we’ve been called up for active duty.”  If this letter had come from the United States Department of Defense, the couple would be looking at perhaps a two year commitment in the Armed Forces, but it came from the church.  Sadly, it’s the experience of many church goers that once you become active in the everyday life of the church, it begins to feel like a life sentence.  Volunteer to serve in any position for education or fellowship or discipleship and you will be there…forever!  At least that’s how it feels.  Part of the reason for that is the limited number of people (the experts say 20%) who actually volunteer from the congregation.  I think that number is a bit misleading for us, because we have so many people who are in the diaconate and Christian Women’s Fellowship Circles as well as worship leaders, greeters, Worship and Wonder story tellers and musicians. 

    On the other hand, we have a sizeable number of folks who neither volunteer nor attend worship on any kind of regular basis.  One of the things I’m certain of when it comes to Christianity is that you can’t be it alone.  Jesus invited people then (and still does!) to come and follow him, to be in a community where each supports the other, where prayer is both a community event and a personal moment, where testimony is acclaimed, where outreach and mission are central to the work of the community, and where worship is a central act of faith.  So, as we enter this “new year”, perhaps we might look at ourselves to determine if we are answering Jesus’ “call to active duty” in our daily lives and on Sundays for worship.  Or, to paraphrase President John F. Kennedy, “My fellow Christians, ask not what God can do for you, ask what you can do for God.”

  • Routine

    Now it’s back to the routine as we head into 2016.  We have made our resolutions which will likely betray us in the not too distant future.  The college football bowl games are over, save for the final “Championship” game.  The NFL is moving into their post-season playoff games.  The college basketball season is now into its conference phase and the NBA continues to play meaningless games in preparation for their playoffs, which don’t come until it’s nearly summertime.  No more major holidays are on the horizon, just a few scattered here and there for a few months.  We are back to work and school and THE routine.  You know, routine isn’t so bad when you consider all the busyness of the past six weeks.  So, let’s all settle in for the ordinariness of the season.

    I do want to share a couple of things.  We are getting a new phone system at the church.  As the result of efforts to enhance our website and upload content to the internet, we found it necessary to change our internet/phone provider.  We are now using TWC (Time Warner Cable) for these services.  We also found it to be an opportune time to upgrade the phone system which has been in use for the better part of 40 years.  Our new system has been installed and if all goes well will have its “final” connections made before the end of January.  The new phones will have voice mail for Mary Catherine, Ben, Rebecca and me as well as a general voicemail box (no more answering machines in the closet!).  It has other features that are not available with our current system, too.  It will take a month or so for the staff to get used to the new set-up, so be patient with us!

    The other day, as I was checking one of the answering machines (see above), I found a message from a woman, Kathy, whose mother is a resident at the Christian Care Communities downtown campus.  She was calling to thank the church for giving her mother a nice Christmas present.  Kathy wanted us to know how excited and grateful her mother was and how appreciative she was of JCC.  I believe the CWF is the real agent of love here, delivering anonymous gifts to residents of our CCC facility downtown.  We do a lot of little things as a congregation that make a difference in other people’s lives. 

    I saw a quote from the Talmud on facebook the other day that stayed with me: “Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief.  Do justly, now.  Love mercy, now.  Walk humbly, now.  You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”

  • The Twelve Days of Christmas

    It’s a pretty familiar song that finds its way into the Christmas season each year.  We don’t find it in our hymnals nor is it a carol in the traditional sense, yet it has been voiced by numerous celebrities over the years.  For me, it is an annoying musical selection, but for some it’s a family song to be sung around the piano or tree.  It’s the “12 Days of Christmas.”  It has an unclear folklore that points to a time long ago when the song was composed as a series of symbols about the Christian faith. 

    Here is the symbolism:

    1 Partridge in a pear tree = Jesus, the Christ

    2 Turtle Doves = The Old and New Testaments
    3 French Hens = Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues
    4 Calling Birds = The Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists
    5 Golden Rings = The first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch", which   gives the history of man's fall from grace.
    6 Geese A-laying = The Six Days of Creation
    7 Swans A-swimming = The Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit, the Seven Sacraments
    8 Maids A-milking = The Eight Beatitudes
    9 Ladies Dancing = The Nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit
    10 Lords A-leaping = The Ten Commandments
    11 Pipers Piping = The eleven faithful Apostles
    12 Drummers Drumming = The Twelve Points of Doctrine in the Apostle's Creed

     The claim is that it was written as a coded message dating back to the days of Henry VIII and his daughters, Mary (a Catholic) and Elizabeth (an Anglican.)  After Henry and Mary’s deaths, the “old worship” of Roman Catholicism was abolished throughout England, a ban which continued until 1829.  Anyone caught practicing the forbidden faith or possessing a “catholic” Bible was to be imprisoned or executed.  Hence, the composing of the song was a means of reminding adults of, and teaching children, the tenets of the Roman Catholic faith.  Curiously, none of the tenets which might distinguish Anglican from Roman practice are in the list.  And even more telling: the folklore can only be traced back to (ready for this?) 1990 or so; not the hundreds of years of the folklore tale. 

    On the one hand, the song does serve well as a teaching tool for children about Christianity.  On the other hand, it’s an equally nice description of lovely gifts for the REAL 12 Days of Christmas; beginning on Christmas and ending on Epiphany (Boxing Day in most European countries.) I can hear the tune in my head, again!