Christian holiday of Pentecost, which is celebrated fifty days after Easter
Sunday, commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and other
followers of Jesus Christ while they were in Jerusalem celebrating the Feast of
Weeks, as described in the Acts of the Apostles( Acts 2:1-31).
redefines success for us. To Jesus, the measure
of success has to do with doing God’s will. If we were to compare Jesus’ life
with our modern definition of success, he would fall far short. He did not have
many earthly possessions. He had no place to lay his head. Many of his friends left him. And yet, Jesus is the definition of a success.
He completed the work that God gave him to do. He could say that he
accomplished all of the goals set for him. How many people can say that about
themselves? Jesus finished the work that
God gave him to do. He did not do what others wanted him to do. As hard as they
tried, he never let others take his eyes off of the work that God gave him to
complete. Jesus did not do what others wanted, but what his Father wanted.
Jesus said, “I have revealed you” (V. 6). Jesus’ work included revelation. He
revealed who God truly was. He took the world beyond the definition of God
given to the people by the religion of his day. He presented God as one who “so
loved the world” Jesus said, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father”.
He revealed God’s true character to humankind.
Jesus said, “I gave them the words you gave me” (v. 8). The Word that was made
flesh brought the words of God to us. With both authority and compassion, Jesus
changed the world with his words. His
words instructed, comforted, convicted, and guided.
prayed, Jesus was living in the midst of his final work. Ultimately, his final
work was completed on the cross when he exclaimed, “It is finished”.
question arises, what if Jesus had not completed the work that God gave him to
do? What if any part of the work had been left unfinished? The significance of
that question brings on new meaning when we ask. What are the consequences of
tasks that we have left unfinished?
Hope to see you in church
honest person comes to Easter with questions. The unbeliever asks,”Could such a
thing happen?” The Christian asks,” Why can’t I live a purer, higher Christian
life with the power of the Resurrection available to me?” And many folks come
to Easter with disillusionment with modern disciples: “Why don’t church people
show more of the power and the presence of the risen Christ?”
all know the Easter Story. The women’s journey to the tomb. Matthew’s account of the great earthquake.
The angel rolled back the heavy door stone of the tomb; and sat on it while the
soldiers fainted. The women nearby were told the facts, Jesus has risen: come
and see: go and tell. This does raise a question about angels, doesn’t it? Wouldn’t you think if you saw an angel you
would believe what he or she told you? But then we have to remember they don’t
always have on white gowns with wings and halos. The angels at the tomb where
just young men. Mary saw Jesus standing near the tomb and did not recognize
Him. Would we? It is understandable
because Resurrection is unnatural and unbelievable until you and I actually
experience the Resurrection in our own lives. Easter is where in Jesus we
receive the power to exchange the old for the new, the dead for the living, the
earthly for the heavenly. Easter is where broken dreams and the power of Jesus’
resurrection meet. Easter is where disappointment and angels clash. Easter is
where the worst the devil could do is destroyed by the power and love of God.
Quote from C.S. Lewis “Aim at Heaven, and you’ll get earth thrown in. Aim at
earth, and you’ll get neither.”
seek the things that are above. Lift up your hearts and seek the risen Christ.
As we are getting closer to Palm Sunday we are
reminded of how the people in Jerusalem were hoping that Jesus would bring them
the peace that they needed. Jerusalem means”city of peace” or “foundation of
peace”. How did the Jewish Leaders
respond to the “Triumphal Entry” of the Lord?
As they watched the great crowd gather and honor Jesus, the Pharisees
were quite sure that Jesus had won the day. Perhaps Jesus would perform a great
miracle and in that way capture the minds and the hearts of the restless
people. How little they understood the heart and mind of this man called Jesus.
As Jesus was coming down the narrow streets of Jerusalem thousands of people
were there to cheer him. Throwing their robes on the ground for Jesus to ride
over. The crowd was cheering and shouting praises to God. The Pharisees in
charge thought it was wrong and told the people to be quiet. Jesus answered
them (Luke19:40) I tell you that if you keep the people quiet the stones in the
street would cheer. Now of course none of us have ever heard a stone say
anything but Jesus knew that the people were not going to stop praising God on
such a glorious day. So Palm Sunday is upon us.
We will be physically apart and unable to worship together. Are you going to praise God for all that he
has blessed us with? Or are you going to
expect the stones to do all your cheering?
Yours in Christ
Lent is the period of 40 days which comes before Easter in the
Christian calendar. Beginning on Ash Wednesday; Lent is a season of
self-reflection and preparation before the wonderful event of Easter. By
observing the 40 days of this wonderful season; Christians are reminded of the
many sacrifices of Jesus Christ. Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus
after his death on the cross. Christian churches that observe Lent use it for a
time for prayer and penance. Here is a story to help remind you to pray
frequently during Lent.
The Pretzel is a food commonly
associated with the season of Lent for some 1500 years now. There are different
versions of the story. A common thread in these stories is that a young monk
who lived during the early 600s somewhere between France and Italy was baking
unleavened bread; which is a Lenten fasting food. A common posture for prayer
for these early Christians was to stand with their arms folded across their
chest with each hand touching the opposite shoulder. Some versions of the story
say it was accidental, others say it was on purpose; that the monk used some
leftover unleavened bread dough to create a shape that we now call a Pretzel.
It is also said that the monk used his creation to remind his fellow monks to
pray during Lent. He called his creation “little arms” which in German is
“Bretzel.” It is also said that the monk used his Bretzel as a reward for the
Children saying their prayers. As with the Monks or the Children we need to be
reminded at Lent and throughout the year to pray. Our reward is not only the
tasty Pretzel but that Easter will come. Our Lord and Savior did conquer death;
so YOU can count on Jesus Christ every day of your life! Now go enjoy a
delicious Pretzel and don’t forget to pray!
In Christian Faith,
Rev. Walter Coy
I recently drove to North Carolina to sit
with an old friend during the end times of her life. Connie was an active
member of Zoar United Church of Christ where I served as pastor many years ago
and I became close friends with her and her entire family. Not too long ago she
moved south to live near her daughter and son as she battled cancer.
We are all aware of the difficulties of
watching a friend or family member struggle at the end of their life. We want
to help in some fashion but the time comes when it seems there is little we can
do except be present. However, I believe, there is always something that helps
– prayer! Honest and heart-felt prayer brings a sense of peace and calmness,
especially when we are in a situation we cannot control. Jesus often went off
by himself to pray to gather strength to deal with the next situation in his
Prayer isn't magic. We can pray for
healing or a miracle – and that is okay – but ultimately life is in God’s
hands. Prayer isn't so much about changing a situation as it is about gaining
the strength to handle it. Prayer is a faith event. We will not always like or
understand the results of our prayers, especially when dealing with illness,
but we need to remember that those who are part of God’s family, will always be
a part of God’s family – in this life or some future life. In faith we offer
prayers to God and then we trust.
One of the positive experiences I had
after sitting with my old friend was what happened after I returned. I went on
Facebook and asked for prayers. For those of you who do not understand what I
am talking about, Facebook is like writing a letter. Only it is done
electronically and is received instantaneously, not several days later. A
Facebook message goes to everyone who is a Facebook friend.
After I asked for prayers, within a few
hours 25 people from all over the country offered their prayer support and many
others even made comments of concern. These were close friends, acquaintances,
school friends, church friends and family members. It was like a church prayer
circle where people are called on the phone to pray, except it is faster and
touches more lives.
As we rejoice in the resurrection of our
Lord Jesus we also need to rejoice in the fact that when we want to communicate
our hopes, dreams, fears and frustrations with the Lord, he is always just a
prayer away. May the days of your life
be filled with peace and joy and may you always find time for prayer.
Easter season has begun, or as the season is more technically known, Lent is
here. So many thoughts come to mind for me as this special time of the year
begins. First off, spring is near and for most of us that will be a positive
and refreshing change of pace. Before you know it flowers will be bursting
forth, the grass will turn green, and the birds will be chirping their joy.
Secondly, Daylight savings time has arrived and that can be a psychological
boost as we get more sunshine and less darkness.
Every special celebration during the year
is also a time of memories. I have vivid memories of dyeing eggs with my mother
and sister as Easter approached. Remember the old methods? My mom boiled eggs
on the stove top and put vinegar and dye tablets in cups. Then I would put a hard-boiled
egg on one of those metal egg holders and dip the egg into my favorite color. I
always tried to be creative and dip the egg into several colors, which, of
course, resulted in a dark brown egg. I did the same thing year after year
hoping the results would be different, but they never were. I also have fond
memories of an Easter basket filled with candy.
What are your Easter memories?
Ultimately, however, Easter is all about
Jesus. With the Lord as our focus, Easter becomes a Holy day. When our focus is
on candy, and bunnies, and all of the secular activities, Easter becomes just
another holiday. For the next several weeks we need to turn our attention more
closely to the teachings of Jesus. This is a good time to ask ourselves
questions about our level of faith. Am I closer to the Lord now then I was last
Easter? Are my problems weighing me down and am I willing to let Jesus take
greater control in my life? When I feel a moment of joy as a result of a faith
experience, do I have the courage to share my feelings with someone else?
is the season of Good News. God sent a son named Jesus into the world to give
us a light in the darkness. Although Jesus was crucified by people who didn’t
understand him, death and sin were vanquished and the love of God triumphed.
Jesus was resurrected and as a result we can be forgiven and our lives can be
renewed and we have received the promise of eternal life.
Jesus is alive, yesterday, today and
tomorrow! Rejoice and be glad! Praise God from whom all blessings flow!
you like change? That is a difficult question to answer and the best answer is
probably “yes” and “no.” Most of us probably can’t wait for winter to end and
spring to begin. That would be a positive change. On the other hand, as we age,
we can be troubled by the rapid pace in which our world changes. It is very
difficult to keep up with all of the modern electronic gizmos. But change
happens whether we like it or not, so the key is learning how to adjust.
Way back in 1964 a young musician named
Bob Dylan wrote a song he titled, “The Times They Are a-Changin.” I
doubt that he could imagine all the changes that would occur over the next 50
years. I've lived through it and sometimes I cannot comprehend everything that
has happened – for better or worse. Some change is necessary, but difficult.
Jesus told a parable that taught you cannot put new wine in old wine skins. It
just doesn't work. Sometimes old methods don’t work with new ideas. That’s
reality. We must try and learn to embrace new ways that are positive and allow
old ways that have seen their day to fade away. That must happen in the work
place, in our personal lives, and even within the church.
A couple of years ago Elaine and I opened
our home to a son, daughter-in-law, and two grandchildren. It was hard on them
to leave their home in Colorado, but the job situation forced them to leave. I
must admit there were many days during the last two years when I wanted a
little privacy, but that was secondary to helping a family in need. Now the
kids have found teaching jobs in Florida and will be leaving in mid-February.
It was hard to adjust to the changes of four new people in our home but it will
be even more difficult to adjust to an empty house. Change can be that way – a
time of hardship and at the same time, great joy!
This church is facing changes. Can we
continue to stay where we are? What alternatives are possible? Are we being
good stewards spending money on a building much too big for us? Would we be
faithful to our heritage to leave? The questions are difficult and the answers
will not always be satisfying. Nevertheless, change can be dealt with when the
Lord is in the lead. When we allow Jesus to be our source of strength we are
empowered. We read in 2 Corinthians: “This means
that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is
gone; a new life has begun!” Don’t fear change – embrace it –
and give God control of it!
least favorite month of the year is January. I do not like the cold or the snow
or the darkness. The ironic thing is that my birthday is in January. What was
my mom thinking? The best thing about the month is that it only lasts 31 days.
In God’s creation – things change. Winter eventually turns to spring and new
life bursts forth.
it isn’t just nature that is renewed – so are we. All of us go through
difficult periods of time. All of us face uncertainty. All of us have periods
of loneliness and sadness. Nevertheless, if God is our focus we will overcome
the negatives of life and be refreshed and transformed. The positive changes
may not happen as quickly as we would like, but during the process, God will
give us peace and hope.
of the nice things for me about January of 2014 is that I get to meet new
people at Zion UCC and that lifts my spirits. I am fascinated with people. I
admit I am terrible with names so I ask for your forgiveness in advance when I
forget your name. On the other hand, if you tell me a story about who you are I
will not forget. I’m good with stories and I am looking forward to hearing the
stories about your life.
let me use the rest of this article to tell you a little about myself. You
already know Elaine and between us we have five children. Three children live
in Carrollton, one in Boston and one in Seattle. I am a smart-aleck and have a
hard time with authority, other than God. I grew up in Olmsted Falls, southwest
of Cleveland, and didn’t attend church much until I was a junior in high
school. By the time I was a senior I realized God was calling me into ministry.
This year will mark the 45 year since I first started serving in a
sense of humor is a little strange - perhaps quirky is a better word. Besides
being a pastor, some of my jobs over the years include working in: a box
factory, a department story, a dime store, and an electrical supply store. I
have worked for the Department of Human Services, as a sports writer and
photographer, and as the curator of a museum.
is a blessing to have the opportunity to serve you and I am looking forward to
discovering where God is leading us. If we trust and obey then the journey will
be filled with joy.
We use that phrase a lot and have even created a word where the two words becomeone: ‘Thanksgiving’ and we call it a holiday. Then we shop for all of our favorite foods and most of the time we eat what our parents and grandparents ate and we call it a tradition. We even say things like, “ It just wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without turkey!” or whatever your family’s favorite food is. We place the holiday in an historical frame and we recall Pilgrims and Indians sharing a great feast together.
Thanksgiving is the great harvest feast - when we are encouraged to remember that EVERYTHING - EVERYTHING is a total gift from God. The food we prepare comes forth from Earth, Sky and Waters.
Thanksgiving is a time to recommit ourselves to the preservation of the phenomenal resources that we have been given to sustain our life on planet Earth. If we who live here and depend on Earth, Sky and Sea for our sustenance continue to destroy and live as if we are separate from these powerful sustaining resources – the day is coming, sooner than we think that Thanksgiving will be a memory of what we once had and wasted, destroyed andlong for.
So on this Thanksgiving Day – take amoment to pray this prayer with your loved ones – for that which we need to cherishand care for above all else: EARTH, SKY, SEA.
O Great Spirit,
Earth, Sun, Sky and Sea
You are inside and all around me.
Creator God, fill each of us with a longing for all that you have made to sustain our human existence.
Bring us the wisdom and the courage to make the changes in our lives that will allow our planet home to thrive and continue to sustain those who come after us.
Jesus you modeled deep love and caring for creation.
You went to the mountains to meet your Ancestors.
You floated on the Sea and caught fish and cooked them to open the eyes of your apostles.
You calmed the storms to teach us the power of your protective love.
You showed us how much your Father and ours loved the lilies of the field and the birds of the air
….and how much your Father loved us in sending you to guide us on our journey of life.
Thanks for Giving us this opportunity that we call life.
Thanks for Giving us all that we need and all that we can share to fill the needs of others.
Thanks and Thanks again,
While you are reading this, I am with my Mom on a small cruise ship with less than 90 passengers, meandering inland waterways from New York to Montreal. On August 17 my Mom celebrated 90 years of life. She has declared that instead of ONE birthday party – she would celebrate the entire year. Mom has extended an invitation to family and friends and anyone else who would like to celebrate that she is available all year to do that.
Mom has been living with me for a year now. During this year we have traveled back and forth between our home in Medina and the parsonage in Wintersville every week. I watch my Mom and wonder at her joy and her spirit. When I spoke with her about bringing my work at Steubenville to a close this past May – she suggested that I hold off until the end of the year. I thought the drive and the intense lifestyle of being a wanderer was too much for her. She is full of surprises. Now as we enter the fall season, I don’t think she ever wants to stop making this trip. She has come to love and look forward to being with so many of the Zion Church Family.
When we visit the scriptures there are folks who are advanced in years who are also full of surprises. Moses and Aaron were chosen to lead the Israelites out of Egyptian bondage at the ages of 80 and 83 (Ex 7:7). Joshua was given the charge of leading the conquest of Canaan during the last thirty years of his life and he lived until he was 110 (Josh 24:29). Caleb was also very much involved in the conquest and he was in his eighties (Josh 14:6-11). Daniel served God from the days of his youth for over 70 years (Dan 1:21). He was well over eighty when he served as one of three governors over the kingdom of Babylon Dan 6:1-3). He was thrown into the Lions’ den and received visions. Zacharias and Elizabeth, the parents of John the Baptist, were both advanced in years. Zacharias was serving in the temple and Elizabeth gave birth to John!
What I realize as I ponder the characters in the scripture stories and watch my Mom live her life in its fullness, is that it isn’t about the people and their stamina, it is about our God and our Call to fullness of life and abundance.
So often we can get caught in the fear and the “woe is me” mentality. Truth is – it simply is not about us. It is all about way more than us. We are so tunnel visioned and have the hardest time seeing outside the boxes that we have self-inflicted that sometimes it takes a real shake to get us to wake up to the possibilities and the personal power that each of us have within our hearts and souls to make a difference.
I am sailing right now, and my Mom is sailing with me. I am so blessed to be sharing these precious years, months, days, moments of her life with her. That is part of the abundance that I have become aware of.
Sometimes the most precious of gifts comes in a disguised wrapper. Every now and then someone says to me,” It must be really hard taking care of your Mom,driving back and forth, caring for two congregations, and on and on….
Yes sometimes I am not sure how I will get through one more day – but that’s only when I let the “woe is me” attitude triumph.
Truth is I am so blessed every moment of every day and when I wake myself up to that reality and see the Divine Presence in everything and everywhere- then I can see with Divine eyes the reality of what it means to be me.
Why have I shared this? Because every one of us has the same potential to either wake up to the Divine Presence in your own life – or to let the “woe is me” attitude take over. Which will you do? How are you blessed? What do you need to do to become aware of the rich blessings and once you do – how will you handle the magnificence that you call your life?
The Rev. Dr. Carol Vaccariello