Worship: Palm Sunday

Even if you don’t have a Facebook account, you can view the live stream here at 9:30 AM on Sunday.

You are invited to worship with Pastor Liz and her mom, Esther, tomorrow morning at 9:30 a.m. for our Palm Sunday live-stream worship service. You can find the live stream on Community Congregational Church of Chula Vista Facebook page or you can check back here, tomorrow afternoon to watch the worship service. Please follow along the communion liturgy and sing with us, the two hymns for Palm Sunday. Make sure to have some bread and juice prepared ahead of time so that you and your family can participate in communion together. We know that this is not the way we usually celebrate Palm Sunday but we do so from our homes, knowing that Christ will still be praised!

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Celebration of Holy Communion

Palm Sunday, April 5, 2020

Communion liturgy written by Rev. Maren Taribassi. Used with permission from the author.

Invitation
For Holy Communion this morning,
I invite you to lend Christ your table.

On the first day of Holy Week long ago,
people throughout Judea arrived
at the dusty gates of Jerusalem,
primed with “Hosanna” in their hearts
and Jesus asked to borrow a donkey.

On the Thursday that followed,
Jesus rented or was given
John Mark’s mother’s Upper Room
to celebrate the Passover with the disciples.

On the afternoon of the resurrection,
Jesus was invited into a house in Emmaus
and used the bread of that hospitality
to break and bless.

Lend Christ your table, your bread, your cup and your heart,
for, as the disciples told the person who loaned the donkey,
“The Lord has need of it.”

Prayer of Consecration
Leader: We are one bread, one body, one cup of blessing. Though we are many throughout the earth and this church community is scattered, we are one in Christ. In your many kitchens, and living rooms, rest your hands lightly upon these elements which we set aside today to be a sacrament. Let us ask God’s blessing upon them.

Unison: Gentle Redeemer, there is no lockdown on your blessing and no quarantine on grace. Send your Spirit of life and love, power and blessing upon every table where your child shelters in place, that this Bread may be broken and gathered in love and this Cup poured out to give hope to all. Risen Christ, live in us, that we may live in you. Breathe in us, that we may breathe in you.

Words of Remembering
Leader: We remember that Paul the apostle wrote letters to congregations throughout places we now call Greece, Turkey and Macedonia, and they were the first “remote” worship resources. Our online service has a long heritage. The Communion words sent to the church at Corinth were these:

For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

Sharing of the Elements
Leader: Let us in our many places receive the gift of God, the Bread of Heaven.
Unison: We are one in Christ in the bread we share.

Leader: Let us in our many places receive the gift of God, the Cup of Blessing.
Unison: We are one in Christ in the cup we share.

Prayer of Thanksgiving
Leader: Let us pray in thanksgiving for this meal of grace, rejoicing that, by the very method of our worship, we have embodied the truth that Christ’s love is not limited by buildings made with human hands, nor contained in human ceremonies, but blows as free as the Spirit in all places.

Unison:
Spirit of Christ, you have blessed our tables and our lives. May the eating of this Bread give us courage to speak faith and act love, not only in church sanctuaries, but in your precious world, and may the drinking of this Cup renew our hope even in the midst of pandemic. Wrap your hopeful presence around all whose bodies, spirits and hearts need healing, and let us become your compassion and safe refuge. Amen

Hymns for Palm Sunday

All Glory Laud and Honor                                               #249, Red Hymnal

All glory loud and honor to Thee, Redeemer, King.
To whom the lips of children made sweet hosannas ring.
Thou art the King of Israel, Thou David’s royal Son,
Who in the Lord’s name comest, the King and blessed one!

To Thee before Thy Passion, they sang their hymns of praise;
To Thee, now high exalted, our melody we raise;
Thou didst accept their praises accept the praise we bring,
Who in all good delightest, Thou good and precious King!

Rejoice, Ye Pure in Heart                                                #394, Red Hymnal

Rejoice ye pure in heart, rejoice, give thanks and sing;
Your festive banner wave on high, the cross of Christ your king;
Rejoice, rejoice, rejoice, give thanks and sing.

Then on, ye pure in heart, rejoice, give thanks and sing;
Your glorious banner wave on high, the cross of Christ your King;
Rejoice, rejoice, rejoice, give thanks and sing.

Worship – March 22, 2020

Homily Given on March 22, 2020

Originally shared via Facebook Live Stream

Scripture Text is John 9:1-12

Rev. Liz Aguilar

Community Congregational Church of Chula Vista UCC

The scripture reading is one of the many stories about Jesus’s miraculous healing. On the surface that is what it is about. But it’s also about some other important things. As this is the season of Lent it is customary for the Christian church to focus on reading scriptures that depict events leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection.

Context: there was this blindman walking about. The disciples notice this blind man and ask Jesus what sin Jesus thinks the man must have committed to have been born blind. Jesus doesn’t spend time focusing on their question. Rather, Jesus he focuses on what the work is to be done. (Verses 4-5) In other words- Jesus was saying, “while I’m around, I must do the work that is at hand.” Jesus then proceeds to cure the man.

Afterwards, people then begin to speculate who it is and how it is that the man who had been blind can now see. (In other words, they continue to focus on the wrong thing.)

This tells me and cautions me NOT to waste time focusing on the wrong thing. We can focus speculating why this happened. Some have wasted time accusing others of having lived sinful lives and that somehow this is a punishment from God. BUT GOD DOES NOT WANT TO HARM US. If we can learn something from the hardship we face, then so be it. But let us not waist time speculating on the who and the why.

Instead, let us be of service- helping one another as much as we can; a phone call, a grocery drop off; a card in the mail, a kind text, an email, praying for one another (I covet your prayers), living peacefully with those with whom you live, forgiving one another, being kind to one another, not keeping score, not wasting time on petty matters.

I have an example of a recent event when a group of people decided to not waist time but instead came together in order to help people in need of food. This last Friday I was so humbled to be serving with a large group of mostly millennials who worked hard for several hours packing groceries in bags and then giving them to the many people who drove up in cars at Community Through Hope. (CTH) is the only social service agency that is dedicated to needs of unsheltered people in Chula Vista and it holds the only operating food bank (besides San Diego’s) in all of South Bay. (South Bay comprises all the cities south of San Diego).  This was the first day of our new “shelter in place order” and stores were already running out of food.  CTH volunteers had already been giving food out all week every morning. On Friday the number of cars that drove up, doubled in size.

Another way that our church decided not to waste time was to form a new “care team.” The care team made phone calls to all of our members and friends on our roster in order to see if everyone had what they needed and also prayed with some of you. If anyone needed anything they then gave those list of items to the other part of the group (called runners) who then made the drop offs to people’s homes. I am grateful that we know that this is indeed not the time to speculate as to the why and the how but instead we have mobilized into action so that we may be of spiritual and practical support to one another. Therefore, we know it is time to organize and serve others.  Jesus was here and came to teach us how to serve others. Let us be His servants but serving our fellow brothers and sisters. Let US be His hands and feet!

I end by reading from one of my favorite theologians, Henri Nouwen. I’m reading a portion of his chapter on “Community” from one of his books that is a compilation of his writings. It’s called, “The only Necessary Thing.” To follow Christ means to relate to each other with the mind of Christ; that is, to relate to each other as Christ did to us- in servanthood and humility. Discipleship is walking together on the same path. While still living wholly in this world, we have discovered each other as fellow travelers on the same path and have formed a new community. Compassion then can never be separated from community. Compassion always reveals itself in communion in a new way of being together. It is in the Christian community that we offer it a compassionate response. For when people come together in Christ’s name, he is present as the compassionate Lord (Matthew 18:20). Jesus Christ himself is and remains the most radical manifestation of God’s compassion.”  (The Only Necessary Thing, Henri Nowen., Wendy Wilson Greer, editor. Crossroad Publishing Company. New York, NY. 1999)

Worship – March 14, 2020

March 14, 2020

Church Closed through end of March

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

It is out of an abundance of love and care for our church family and partners in ministry that we have come to the conclusion that it is indeed necessary for our church to suspend all worship services and close down the church facilities effective immediately. We will review this decision at the beginning of April to determine a further course of action. Thank you to our Church Council members who have helped Mike Bishop (church moderator) and me, to make this decision.

We now share this letter with you to give you more information as to why we needed to make this decision. Also, it contains important information as to how we will be moving forward, in light of these unusual times.

Firstly, it was in response to the official advice from the CDC, and our own denomination that we took this step. Our denominational leadership has sent out “strong suggestions” to all church clergy that worship not be conducted beginning this Sunday. Our national gatherings and meetings have all been cancelled.

Personally, my first concern is your well-being: spiritually, physically and mentally. I took my ordination vows very seriously, 22 years ago, which is when I agreed to indeed care for the well-being of those to whom God has entrusted me. Please know that I will remain available to you and our church family for pastoral care concerns.

I realize that it feels very counter-intuitive for us not to be in community and in worship, together, because as Christians we love to pray for and just be with each other. This is very hard. However, the decisions that our government has taken in order to protect us, dictates at this time, that we must be wise and take every precaution necessary with wisdom and calm.

I have just now been in communication with church staff. Amber will be coming in as needed in order to continue the administrative duties of the church and Pelito will also come in so that our office area and bathrooms remain disinfected as best as possible. I have asked that Pastors Victoria and Jamall be in touch with their groups on a regular basis in order to minister to them as best as they can using phones.

  Moving forward, on Sundays and on Wednesdays I will be sharing a short reflection, prayer, and scripture via facebook live. People do not need to have a facebook account in order to watch. They simply need to go to our church’s face book page and click on “watch.” I will be doing this at 9:30 a.m. on Sundays (starting Sunday, March 22) and at 7 p.m. on Wednesdays (starting THIS Wednesday.) The web address to our facebook page is m.facebook.com/chulavistaucc  or simply type in community congregational church of Chula Vista facebook in your browser and you will be directed to our facebook page.

This unusual situation will be pushing us to do ministry in very creative and effective ways. I ask that all of you remain in touch with one another and always with the goal to edify and encourage one another.

Additionally, I will be sending out reflections and short prayers on a weekly basis via email. I know however, that not all members have email capability. So we will need to send some devotional materials weekly, by regular mail.

I will also be asking members of our visitation ministry along with Victoria, Jamall and myself to call all members as needed, to be in contact with them, for spiritual support. We do not want anyone to feel isolated during this unprecedented time.

 For now, I share with you this verse from Paul’s letter to the Philippians 4:4-6. “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God. And the peace of Christ which surpasses your all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Amen.

In Christ’s service, Pastor Liz

Worship – “The Real Miracle” Rev. Jamall Calloway, PHD – February 23, 2020

Rev. Jamall A. Calloway, PhD

“The Real Miracle”

Luke 13:10-13

I am going to start this sermon off by saying something that can come across as a little biologically silly. But I feel like what I am about to say will encapsulate what I’m trying to express in this sermon this morning. And that is, I believe, that the body has a mind of its own. I know that sounds funny because your mind, your brain, is a part of your body. Of course. But we often don’t think of it that way. We think we have a mind and then we have a body and that is because we, as cerebral creatures, as thinking human beings, live far too much inside of our heads on a day to day basis. We think of things in our mind quietly. We talk to ourselves in our mind as we drive, move and think. We think about things long and hard and when someone asks, “hey what’s going on?” Or, “Hey what’s on your mind?”, we say, “oh nothing.” Once again, we live so far deep into the crevices of our mind. We live so far in our heads that we don’t pay adequate attention to how was the rest of our flesh is involved in, and reacts to, the very condition of our thoughts.

For example, when you smile there is a slight chemical reaction in the brain, releasing certain hormones including dopamine and serotonin. So, with a smile you can literally feed your body positive neurotransmitters. But when you are down, or better yet, when you are stressed, your body responds to that, too. Sometimes we don’t notice that our back problems could be because of something on our mind. Sometimes we don’t notice that our shoulders are tense when we are stressed out. Sometimes we don’t notice that our headaches and migraines are a result of our worrying. Sometimes we don’t notice that we don’t take the deep breaths that we need to because we are so busy working and moving and always in a hurry. And sometimes, we don’t notice that our deepest regrets, our deepest wounds, our past decisions and memories that include a wish to do something over, affects our bodies as well.

And to be honest with you that’s what this sermon is about. Things in our head that make our bodies ache. Things like Stress. Guilt. Shame. Things that live in our memories that sometimes pop up in our minds and cause us to take a deep sigh. Let me ask you, what happens when we are so stressed out, that we don’t realize the constant damage we are doing to ourselves because we are so busy living in our heads?

And these questions bring us to our text this morning. They bring us to our text this morning about a woman whose body also reflected something going on inside of her. Now, I don’t know anything about this woman in our text this morning. I don’t know who she is or where she grew up or what she did, or what was done to her. All I know is, all we know is, the scriptures say she’s been walking around with a spirit that has literally disabled her for almost two decades. This thing, this spirit, was so severe on her body, it was so stressful, that she was permanently hunched over and unable to stand up straight. And I imagine if she tried to stand up straight, it would hurt. I imagine, it would ache; I imagine that it would ache so painfully that she probably would revert back to being hunched over to alleviate the pain of trying to stand up.

I want you to imagine her, too.

I imagine that she got used to it after 18 years. After 18 years she probably kept the pain of how she was feeling to herself. And to be honest with you all I’m sure you’ve met her or him or someone like them, or maybe between us, you are her, someone who’s grown so used to their own pain and stress or guilt or shame that you don’t even see the point in mentioning it anymore when someone asks how you’re doing. You’ve met them before. The kind of people who know how to smile and wave and tell you everything is fine, “no worries, I’m doing really good”, but deep down inside they’re in such pain, or they’re scared or stressed out or, they have regrets. But they would rather say nothing is wrong then to say “Hey, I’m not doing so good today…”

Now, I sincerely wish I was there to watch her face before she arrived in the synagogue that day. I wish I was there when they told her about this guy named Jesus from this small town. I wish I was there to see her countenance shift from “yeah right here goes another one of those religious leaders” to… “well maybe he can help me.” So, she packs up her necessities, and slowly walks to the synagogue. I am sure she wondered what she was going to say to him, but that wondering was for naught because the text says that when Jesus saw her, immediately he called her over to him. And I wish I was there to see her face shift from disbelief to nervous. Me? He can’t be calling me. Nobody ever sees me. Nobody ever really pays attention to me. They might notice when I’m in the room by my deformity, or they might notice when I’m in the room by my stressful spirit; they might notice when I’m in the room by all of these negative things, but those things prevent them from really looking at me. From really seeing me.

Have you ever felt like her? Overlooked and dismissed? Has anyone ever made you feel less than what you are?

And that is a child of the most loving, generous, understandable and gracious high God.

And when she gets to Jesus, he says something strange, something peculiar.

He says, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.”

I am sure he called her woman because he may also have not known her name. But notice there was no talking. There was no discussion. She didn’t have to explain what she was going through. She didn’t have to try to convince him of anything. She didn’t have to pay him any money or sew any seeds into his ministry. She didn’t have to make any promises or declare that she would change something in order to receive something from him. He just looked at her and said:

Woman, you are set free from whatever is inside of you that is making you so sick and unable to stand tall.

Now, usually, we would read this story as a miracle story. A story where Jesus miraculously healed someone, gave them vision where they had none, told them to walk when they couldn’t, liberated them from a demonic force that captured them. I’ll be honest with you usually the Bible isn’t so kind to those with different bodies and disabilities or deformities. They’re used as sort of biblical props to prove that Jesus is a healer. But no. Not this time. He doesn’t yell at a demon; Jesus doesn’t say I now declare you to be healed, so to be honest with you, Congregational church, I’m not so sure that Jesus bent or twisted the natural elements of the world or spiritually intruded into her spine and nervous system at all. No. And you may disagree with me, but it seems to me Jesus did something much more natural, much more therapeutic, much more human, and I’ll say it, much more miraculous. It seems to me Jesus saw someone stressed out, either with guilt or shame or trauma or pressure or fear and said “Hey, I see you. I notice you. I care about. you’re okay here. You can Breathe.”

The next verse says: When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God.

It doesn’t say he miraculously touched her, and the issue vanished. It doesn’t say power went out of him and this woman could now stand up. It says he laid hands on her, he put his hand on her shoulder, or he possibly hugged her.

Apparently, she didn’t need a miraculously divine miracle. She didn’t need the laws of physics suspended for her or any biological manipulation. It seems she needed someone to notice her, to speak a kind word to her, to tell her that she is safe, to help her let whatever it was go, to let go of the shame, to let go of the guilt, to let go of the baggage, and to accept that things are going to most likely be okay.

I will not hold you long today. But I will say sometimes, you and I are so busy looking for God to do a miracle when the real miracle is on us to do something much more unnatural to ourselves. And that is to see each other, to notice each other, to get out of our own ways and our own heads and our own self involvement and touch and love on somebody else. We live in a world where it seems that being loving to one another without preconditions is more of a miracle than an actual supernatural miracle from God.

If you and I, want to see a real miracle, then we should start emulating Jesus by seeing those who need help, who need love, who need noticing and asking “hey, how are you doing?” … and meaning it. We should notice the spirits of stress on each other, and if you can, offer a kind word to help them stand.

Amen.