Zion United Church of Christ
|Posted on August 5, 2021 at 12:00 AM|
Responsibility and Faithfulness
We all know the story of the five maidens who took oil lamps and extra oil, in case the bridegroom was late. The other five maidens who took their lamps with only what little bit of oil they had in them; they took no extra oil with them. Now anyone who has had any part in planning for a wedding knows you have to plan for the unexpected…..This story is chock full of symbolism. The bridesmaids represent the church. In the church only some are really prepared. In the membership of the church there are saints who are prepared and some saints who are saints in name only. The oil represents one’s spiritual preparations. It sounds a warning that each of us must make provisions for his or her own spiritual well being and destiny. I cannot give you any of my spiritual oil and you cannot give me any of yours. Each of us must individually take responsibility for our own life.
Joshua led the people of Israel one thousand years before Christ. To that complete faithfulness he reminded the Israelites that we own our allegiance to the God who has brought us to where we are today. That includes putting away the many other gods that would distract us from following the one and only true God. Life is always confronting us with choices. Allegiance to God or allegiance to materialism; support of war or making peace; being spiritually minded or secularly minded. One of the problems of our world is too many people have not taken responsibility for their lives. Too many have banked on the spiritual reserves of parents or grandparents. Unfortunately righteousness cannot be passed down like genetic traits. All of us must take responsibility of our own lives and spiritual destinies.
Most of our faithful servants who attend and work hard for our church, here in Steubenville are worried about the future of our church. They have every right to be…….there are many empty seats. The offering plates aren’t as full as many years ago. The money does not go as far as it used to. I have to applaud the work that the dedicated people do here at Zion UCC Church. They keep on working, worshiping, and investing in their spiritual future. I have been here two years, at the end of May. But I have been in the same church on a different street, in a different town. It is the same everywhere except for a few churches in each town that are growing by leaps and bounds. Church is not the building. It is the PEOPLE. I don’t know why you left; I don’t know why your live has gotten so busy that the only thing you don’t have time for is GOD. Your answers really don’t matter to me. They matter to GOD and they matter to your future. They matter to the future of this church and the people in it. None of us want to come to the end of our days and as with the five foolish bridesmaids hear the Lord say, ”Truely I tell you, I do not know you.”
I want to leave you with this story: Carol Noren writes - A few years ago a dear friend of mine died, leaving me a large share of his estate and making me executor of his will. After the funeral I stood in his home and tried to decide which of his possessions to have shipped to my house in Chicago and which things I could fit in my suitcase. Because I had visited this friend many times nearly all of the objects around me were familiar. Many were beautiful and most had pleasant associations. I found myself wishing I could take far more than was practical, given the size of my house and the cost of shipping. I realized that what I wanted more than the inheritance was my friend himself. I was trying to hold on to him through the earthly goods he had left to me.
The most precious thing we receive from God in Christ is not eternal life, as wonderful as that is, our inheritance is beyond price because we receive Jesus himself, crucified, risen and alive. The relationship with him, unbroken and unending, is an inheritance we can share with others without having any less of him for ourselves……
Yours in Christ,
Rev. Walter Coy
|Posted on August 5, 2021 at 12:00 AM|
I read a story of a man sitting at a local restaurant having lunch and taking a break from the daily grind, sitting there thinking about how tough he had it lately and how he was sick of what I was doing. He owned a landscape company and never felt he made a difference in people’s lives. As he sat there, feeling sorry for himself, a pretty girl, who looked about 25 years old, walked in and sat down in a booth waiting for her friend. It didn’t take long before he saw she was trying to stay hidden in a way from other people’s gazes and his heart sank. You could see her hair was falling out. She was receiving chemo. He sat there watching, her trying to remain composed. You could tell she was having a tough time of it. He ached for her, imaging what it must be like to go through this and yet he knew some of her pain, you see this man had just buried his wife, the love of his life just a few short years ago and had watched his wife slowly fade away. He needed to get a message of hope to this girl, but how? What could this man do? Then it hit him! He called over her waitress and he explained that he wanted to buy the girl and her friend’s lunch but he also told here you can’t let her know who it was. It had to remain anonymous. In doing so, he handed the waitress a note to give to the girl when she told her that her tab was paid. The note read as follows:”Someone today thought you were beautiful, someone today thought your smile glowed with excitement; someone today thought your eyes lit up the world, someone today cared and wanted you to know this. Enjoy the rest of your day, pretty young lady.” About fifteen minutes later the young girl asked for her check and he watched as she was told it was paid for. She asked:” Why? Who? What for”? The waitress simply handed her the note and informed her that the gentleman who did it left, as to keep him anonymous. He watched as she slowly read the note. Her eyes teared up, for only a moment, and then came the smile! A huge, beautiful, hopeful smile! She lit up the room and then sat up straight, not caring who saw her. Her friend also beamed, not for what was done but because her friend was feeling beautiful again.
It’s not how we look or what we have. It isn’t how big our house is or how many cars we have, nor is it how much money we can earn, No, it isn’t. You see it is all about how much we care and what we do, even if it is making someone feel pretty only for a moment. Yes, lunch cost only a few dollars but you see the wonderful part, THE MAGIC WAS FREE. It is so important to pay attention to people and life around you. Things you do or Don’t Do can change people’s lives completely. With just a smile, letting someone cut in line at the grocery store, or letting someone with road rage go ahead of you at a traffic light. (It may be safer to have them ahead of you). You just never know what they are going through in their lives. Something so small, that you do, can change their lives for the better. You can’t just say you are a Christian. You have to get out of the boat and throw out your net and be a fisherman of men…… All of you here at Zion UCC Church can do it. You all are wonderful people! You serve the risen Savior. I know you can reach out to those in need. I have seen you do it. The act of kindness you show of love to people change their lives and in turn that one small act of kindness can change the world. Pass the love of God on to everyone you meet. You can change your life and the world around you. To think it could all start with a smile….. GO try it today…. By the way! It makes you feel great in the meantime.
Happy Spring to everyone! I will be thinking and praying and sending all of you a blessing and a smile from me.
Yours in Christ,
Rev. Walter Coy
|Posted on August 5, 2021 at 12:00 AM|
A member of the church who previously had been attending services regularly stopped going. After a few weeks the pastor decided to visit him. It was a chilly evening. The pastor found the man at home alone, sitting before a blazing fire. Guessing the reason for his pastor's visit the man welcomed him, led him to a comfortable chair near the fireplace and waited. The pastor made himself at home but said nothing. In the silence he contemplated the dance of the flames around the burning logs. After some minutes the pastor took the fire tongs carefully picked up a brightly burning ember and placed it to one side of the hearth all alone. Then he sat back in his chair still silent. The host watched all this in quiet contemplation as the one lone ember flame flickered and diminished. There was a momentary glow and then its fire was no more. Soon it was cold and dead. Not a word had been said since the initial greeting. The pastor glanced at his watch and realized it was time to leave. He slowly stood up picked up the cold dead ember and place it back in the middle of the fire immediately it began to glow once more with the light and warmth of the burning coals around it. As the pastor reached the door to leave his host said with a tear down his cheek. “Thank you so much for your visit and especially for the fiery sermon. I will be back in church next Sunday.'
We live in a world today which tries to say too much with too little, consequently, few listen. Sometimes the best sermons are the ones left unspoken.
In Christian Love,
Rev. Walter Coy
|Posted on August 4, 2021 at 11:55 AM|
No Need to Fear
God, abounding in steadfast love, wants to welcome us home, not punish us. Lent is the season in the church year when we look into our hearts to see how we have wandered away from God’s path. Lent is a good time to pay special attention to the words and actions of Jesus who has revealed to us the human face of God. So we pray together as a family this Lent. Not out of the fear of God’s punishment, but because we have faith that we will grow closer to God and to one another as a result.
Ash Wednesday is the beginning of the season of Lent which is made up of the forty days (excluding Sundays) leading us to Easter. It is a season of repentance, self examination and preparation during which we try to make ourselves ready for the journey to the cross.
Easter is also a time to reflect with increased understanding of Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection. It is a time to renew the bows of baptism and recommit to the Christian life. Because of Christ’s death and resurrection, our lives can be renewed. We can also renounce sin and begin to live for God. As we grow in even deeper trust in the saving love of Jesus, fear loses its hold on our hearts, and we become more confident, more forgiving, and more compassionate people.
The Journey Begins!
|Posted on February 22, 2021 at 1:53 PM|
THE STRENGTH OF LOVE
Love is so strong, that it can redeem you from the darkest of circumstance. D. L. Moody tells this story of redeeming love: In Brooklyn I saw a young man go by without any arms. My friend pointed him out and told me his story. When the war broke out, he felt it to be his duty to go to the front. He was engaged to be married and while in the army letters passed frequently between him and his intended wife. After the Battle of the Wilderness, the young lady looked anxiously for the accustomed letter. At last one came in a strange hand. She opened it with trembling fingers and read these words: “We have fought a terrible battle. I have been wounded so awfully that I shall never be able to support you. A friend writes this for me. I love you more tenderly than ever, but I release you from your promise. I will not ask you to join your life with the maimed life of mine." That letter was never answered; the next train that left, the young lady was in it. She went to the hospital. She found out the number of his cot and she went down the aisle, between the long rows of wounded men. At last she saw the number; she threw her arms around his neck and said: “I’ll not desert you, I'll take care of you.” He did not resist her love. They were married and there is no happier couple than this one. You're dependent on another. Christ says: "I'll take care of you."
This could be anyone's story. Whether we are maimed on the outside or maimed on the inside we are loved. No matter what war we are fighting, one on foreign soil or an emotional one inside our hearts; if we believe and give our lives to Jesus we will be saved.
The young soldier had the faithful, undying love of his fiancé. We have a Savior who is waiting for each of us. Waiting to wrap his arms around each of us, to protect us, to love us, and to journey with us through eternity.
Yours in Christ,
|Posted on January 18, 2021 at 12:23 PM|
New Year in Faith
By now all the presents have been put away. The worries about what we are buying for whom and where we have to be are behind us. Hearing all the same stories about the baby being born in Bethlehem have been told. To most of us it still is a fantastic miracle. We try to pass it on to a new generation; but some sadly don’t seem to care. We keep trying because it is an important message for their future. It is a new year, a new beginning for you, for me and for the church. If you think our church here in Steubenville is the only church going through changes think again. Many churches are making big decisions about the pandemic and low attendance, even when the virus is not around. Many churches are wondering where they are going and what they can do to put church back in people’s lives. Just like our own personal lives the church must make decisions about life and we worry are we doing the right thing, moving in the right direction. As long as your decisions begin and end with Jesus Christ you won’t go wrong. Jesus knows what is best. Even if we stray from his direction He waits for us to move back towards Him. Luckily we don’t have to go through life or decisions alone. We have our family, our friends and our church family that we have grown to share and form a bond with. Jesus is never far from our side.
Remember for the New Year to choose happiness. Count your blessings and thank God for them. Constantly strive for goodness and goodness will come back to you. Be kind, show love and it will shine from your face. People may be grumpy back to you but do these things anyway. Life is a journey so make it a worthwhile ride.
This year we will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called opportunity and its first chapter is News Years Day. -Edith Pierce
All your opportunities are possible with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Have a wonderful New Year,
|Posted on January 18, 2021 at 12:22 PM|
The Promise of Advent
In Advent we are called to take the risk of birth. We can avoid such a practice by over scheduling ourselves, an easy feat this time of year. We can avoid such a practice by making our way through the season singing the familiar carols. But we are called to take the risk of birth. This might lead us to make room in our own lives for the stranger who comes in the form of the Christ Child.
The fulfillment of the promise of Advent is the celebration of Christmas. This grounds our belief in the Incarnation, the word made flesh, full of grace and truth (John 1) We are more familiar with the Christmas stories in Matthew and Luke, which focus on Joseph and Mary, respectfully; from these accounts we recall the dreams and visions, the birth of Jesus and the manger, the gifts of wise men and the praise offered by shepherds.
The story of Christ’s birth is told in somewhat different fashion, however, in the Gospel of John. The central message of early Christianity, the Incarnation , was scandalous, especially to the Gnostics, who would not believe that God would take human form. This core Christian belief, that God enters into the material world of human flesh, takes on an ironic meaning at Christmas. We are often urged to avoid, protest, and rebel against the creeping materialism of the season; we are encouraged, instead, toward more “spiritual” pursuits. Such advice is ironic in light of the essential meaning of Christmas: that Jesus is the incarnation of God, the word become flesh.
What might it mean for us, during the season of Christmas, to fully embrace the Incarnation? We might begin to see our material acts of gift-giving as occasions to express human love, or gifts of charity as demonstrations of our faith ad representative ministries. We can envision our participation in the material world as a response to a God who comes to live among us, and calls us to follow Jesus.
I read a story by Jeannie C. Williams. The gist of the story is we come into this world like newly created snowflakes falling freely and effortlessly from the sky. As you know each snowflake is different, each snowflake has its own unique structure, just as we are all unique in our differences and, just like each snowflake we are all subject to extreme changed in temperature, humidity, wind and relationships with other snowflakes as we continue our journey, spiraling slowly but sometimes swiftly to our destination. Our journey through infancy, childhood and adolescence develops our individuality even more and it is hoped that a true sense of identity is established before our snowflake hits the ground, because and it is unfortunate, that in many instances an individual snowflake becomes just one of many others that merge together to form a seemingly endless and barren field of snow or in the worst case is swallowed by the ground and never seen again. Unfortunately this analogy is true of our society, many of us lose our individuality when we fall to the ground, merge and become part of the snow field, rather than a complex community of individuals which God intended us to be. Life can take away the snowflake in all of us if we allow it to happen. We follow the crowd instead of the light of God with the blessings and gifts He has given us. One of our many gifts is individuality. That spirit and energy of singular essence that determines who we are among all the other snowflakes that have come and gone before and after us. On this whole planet there is NO ONE quite like you.
The moral of this story is to tread softly as you make your way through the snow fields of your life … and remember to step gently so as to not damage other snowflakes who may, for a time be beneath your feet. Because the time may come when someone may have to walk on YOU!
May the peace of Christ, God with us, Emmanuel, be with you in these days.
Rev. Walter Coy
|Posted on November 11, 2020 at 9:18 AM|
One Sunday morning at a small southern church, the new pastor called on one of his older deacons to lead in the opening prayer. The deacon stood up, bowed his head and said, “Lord, I hate buttermilk.” The pastor opened one eye and wondered where this was going, the deacon continued, “Lord I hate lard.” Now the pastor was totally perplexed. The deacon continued, “Lord I ain’t too crazy about plain flour. But after you mix’em all together in a hot oven, I just love biscuits.”
“Lord help us to realize when life gets hard, when things come up at us we don’t like, whenever we don’t understand what you are doing, that we need to wait and see what you are making. After you get through mixing and baking, it’ll probably be something even better than biscuits. Amen.” Romans 8:28 (And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His PURPOSE.)
That is one of the hardest things that we, as Christians. Have to do in our work as sheep is to follow. To work together for good with God who are called for His purpose. When decisions get hard and they always do, God is with us. When life is rocky, God is with us. That is when we lean on Him the most. That is when we ask for things in prayer. If the answers are yes; we are thrilled and we move on. But if the answer is no; that is where a problem can begin. We find out how strong our faith is. Not all our prayers are going to be answered the way we want. Some of our prayers will not be answered at all. It doesn’t mean God did not hear our words. Things do not happen in our time, They happen in God’s time and in God’s way. That is where most of us have the problem with HIS PURPOSE. God knows what we need. We know what we want.
So our job is to work according to God’s purpose. Pray especially when times are tough. Be thankful always. Know that we are to be faithful in waiting for an answer, even though it may not be what we hoped for. But know that our God loves us, protects us and through the gift of his Son, Jesus Christ gives us forgiveness. God our everlasting Lord will give us what we need. It will be wonderful beyond words. I bet it will even involve a few biscuits.
Yours in Christ,
Rev. Walter Coy
|Posted on October 7, 2020 at 1:47 PM|
A psychologist walked around a room while teaching stress management to an audience. As she raised a glass of water everyone expected they would be asked the “half empty or half full question" Instead with a smile on her face she inquired" How heavy is this glass of water"? Answers were called out 8oz-20oz. She replied," the absolute weight doesn't matter". It depends on how long I hold it. If l hold it a minute no problem, if l hold it an hour I’ll have an ache in my arm. If l hold it for a day my arm will feel numb and paralyzed. In each case the weight of the glass doesn't change, but the longer l hold it the heavier it becomes.
She continued" the stresses and worries in life are like that glass of water. Think about them for a while and nothing much happens. Think about them for a bit longer and they begin to hurt. If you think about them all day long you become paralyzed, incapable of doing anything.
REMEMBER TO PUT YOUR WORRIES AND THE GLASS DOWN!
Yours in Christ,
Rev. Walter Coy
|Posted on September 23, 2020 at 11:42 AM|
In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your path. (Proverbs 3:6)
T.S. Eliot wrote, "We shall not cease from exploration and at the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time."
To transfigure vision, it requires faith. Things are constantly changing in our world and things should be constantly changing in our church. As uncertain as change is it has to happen.
I recently read a book that talks about things that are taking place and how you sometimes have to wait or step out of your comfort zone to a world of change. In the story you may recognize, The Wizard of Oz, it refers to Dorothy and how she is picked up, house and all, spinning, whirling as the house and her are taken to another place. You know the story, at first Dorothy is very worried, but as the hours pass she decides to wait calmly and see what the future holds.
Same with us, our hope lies in standing firm in the chaos and waiting calmly with trust in the God who loves us. Change can be scary, but if we step out of our comfort zone and have faith, God will deliver us somewhere amazing. In the midst of everything there is a great God that will heal and guide us. God is providing us with a sacred opportunity, that if we have faith and truly let him lead us, we will end up where we are supposed to be as a person and as a church. God does not want not to do this alone. He wants us to do our part as the disciples He has entrusted us to be.
Like Dorothy, she stepped out on the yellow brick road and so must we. We must tell people about our church. We must make attending church a priority in our lives. We must make working for the church a loving duty in our lives. Why would others want to attend, work and love our church if we aren't doing the same? God doesn't say tell me about it, He says show me. Walk the Walk of Jesus!
I have been privileged to have been on a wonderful journey over the last thirty some years as a minister, and more than that as a human being. I have never known what the future had in store but every time I put my trust in God. I feel I have always ended up where I was supposed to be. Every time I have waited in faithfulness, God has never let me down. It is never easy to move out of ones comfort zone to go in another direction, but God will never let you journey alone.
Whether it is a private journey of faith, or a new path that the church is taking. Have faith in our Lord and Savior. Rely on our God that He will plant us exactly where He wants us to be. Wait in faith and grow in the light of His love.
Yours in Christ, Rev. Walter Coy