2017 December Chimes





Unit ed Church of Christ 276 F Street

Chula Vista, CA 91910 Phone: 619-422-9263

communit ycong@sbcgloba l.net



Youth & Young



Men ‘s Breakfast

37:15AM Fellow- 4 5 6 7 8 9


FOVWomen’s Group Meet


8:15AM Worship Service

10AM Worship 11AM Fellowship 11: 15 Pressure Relief Session 11 :30AM Search Committee


Boy Scouts Laubach/ESL 7PM

FOY Youth Group


Qui lters 5PM

American Youth Meet

10AM Mission Board Prep

10:30AM Staff Meeting

2PM Social Re- sponsibility

6PM Liaison Meet


Bible Study

11AM Tower Party 6PM

Youth & Young Adult Meet 7PM

Choir Practice

10 11 12 13 14 15 16
7:15AMFellowship 8:15AM Worship Service

9AM C.E Board 10AMWorship 11AMFellowship 11:30AM Church Boards Meet


Boy Scouts 7PM

FOV Youth Group


Quilters 5PM

American Youth Meet

10:30 Women ‘s Fellowship

6PM Quilt Guild


Bible Study 11:15 Staff Meet- ing


Choir Practice


Youth & Young Adult Fellowship


Healing Touch

17 18 19 20 21 22 23
7:15AMFellowship 8:15AM Worship 9AM C.E Board 10AMWorship 11AMFellowship 11:30AM Church Council 6:30PM

Boy Scouts 7PM

FOVYouth Group


Quilters 5PM

American Youth Meet


Staff Meeting


Bible Study 6PM

Youth & Young

Adult Meet 7PM

Choir Practice

24 25 26 27 28 29 30
11AM Worship



Fellowship Potluck

Office Closed 9AM

Quilters 5PM

American Youth Meet


Staff Meeting


Bible Study 7PM

Choir Practice


Youth & Young Adult Fellowship


11AM Worship




I        Return Addres s Requested                        I         Sun                                                                  Mon                         Tue                                                                                   Wed                         Thu                                                                                   Fri                         Sat

















CHIMES Newsletter published monthly by

Comm unity Congregational Church

276 F St reet,

Chula Vista, CA 91910

www.chulavistachurch .com


Interim Minister Rev. Dr. Sharon Graff

Associate for Senior Ministry Rev. Victoria Freiheit Minister of Visitation Pastor JamesD on ah oo

Parish Visitor Erika Dennis

Associate for Church Program Development

Amber Ashford Choir Director James Easley Organist   Lionel Jasmin

Healing Touch Pract itioner Val Jean Zieber Parish Nurse

Luz Barrera Memorial Service and Wedding

Coordinat or Sylvia Campbell Custodian

Pelito Capistr ano Preschool Director Kim Appleget


Community Congregational Church (UCC)

“No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey… you are welcome here!”




























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Date 8:15 AM Greeter s/ Ushe rs 8:15 AM Readers
1 2/ 3/ 2017 Judy & Jerr y May Jerry  May
1 2/ 10/ 2017 Sy lv ia Cam pbe ll Caro l Bl ack
1 2/17/ 2017 Norma & Frank Brain ar d Norma Brain ard
1 2/ 24/ 2017 Ch rist m as Eve One Service  
1 2/ 31/ 2017 New Years Eve One Service  



Sunday Greeters, Ushers and Readers        I

:from the Search Committee to the Congre9ation



























10:00 AM Readers
12/ 3/ 201 7 Sylvia Cam pbell
12/ 10/ 2017 Kyle Lim bo
12/17/ 201 7 Belen Hebreo
12/ 24/ 2017 Er i k a Dennis
12/ 31/ 2017 Ester Banayo


Sund a M orning
Sche dule

1st Service

7:30AM Fell owship 8:15AM Worship


2nd Service 10:00AM Worship 11:00AM Fellowship


SundaY’. School




I   I     Inside Th is I ssu e:

Month at a Glance                1

Greeters, Ushers & Readers 2 Mission Board        3

Memor ials                          8

Visitation Minister               5

Information              4, 8, &9 Just A Thought                    6

Rev. Frei h eit                        7

Nu r s-ery Provided                  Rev. Dr. Graff                    10

Page 2

Witfi tfie comy[etion of tfie CCCCV yrofi[e, our con­ gregation              fias now                   advanced to tfie next stage  of our  cfiurcfi’s interimyeriocl You may                   fiave noticed a co[orfu[yoster disy[ayed in ‘Brad[ey J-fa[[ Tfie sec­ retary of tfie Searcfi Committee wi[[ cfieck off eacfi of tfie eigfit steys of tfie searcfi yrocess individua[[y, as it is comy[etecl Our committee         fias been y[edged to strict confidentiafity. Tfiis is ahso[ute[y neces­ sary because we  are deafing witfi                   fiigfi{y sensitive information entrusted to us by ayyficants seeking a ca[[ Tfiis work requires sufficient  time for inten­ sive study resu[ting in tfie best decisions yossih[e.

We  reafize tfiat at times tfiose of you wfio are wait­ ing for tfiese decisions may       fee[ a hit “out of tfie [ooy.” P[ease know tfiat you can ask any    of tfie Searcfi Committee for an uydate at any time. We assure  you tfiat we are a[[ sti[[ one congregation and we wou[d       fike to ask for everybody’s yrayers and good tfiougfits, wfiicfi are needed to bring tfiis searcfi to tfie conc[usion tfiat wi[[ he a h[essing for


In Cfiristian Love,

Erika J-{. Dennis, Searcfi Committee Communicator


Page 11







“…the truly contemplative life [is lived by] people living extremely busy lives

and yet prayer is the undercurrent of whatever they are doing… [it is] entirely unselfconscious

life full of dance and celebration… not at all pious or solemn,

a life lived close to God just as it [is] close to neighborhood and the natural world.”

-From The Celtic Way of Prayer, by Esther De Waal


We are embarking upon one of the busiest, most hectic times in the calendar year-the season from Thanksgiving through Christmas and into the New Year. Yet, each of us, in one way or another, wants to slow down so we can enjoy family, friends, and the holidays. How to do that?


The ancient Celtic Christians may have a path to help us! And it’s called living the “contemplative” life. Stay with me, here…


I used to think “contemplative” meant a lot of silence and retreating from the normal routine, with large doses of formal prayers, and precious little connection to the natural world. However, over the past many years, I’ve learned (and experienced!) differently.


The description above, from Esther De Waal, suggests that our spiritual peace is inher­ ently connected to the business-the busyness-of our daily living. Prayer is an activity not relegated to one day a week or to established times each day. Prayer is the language of our days and of our nights, the language that enables us to complete our tasks; prayer is the lan­ guage through which we are attentive to the presence of the Divine with us in each and every moment; prayer connects us to one another and to the world in which we live.


Such is the contemplative life. It is and can be a life that moves with us as we live and serve and love. Sure, it is great to get away on retreat from time to time. But such is not nec­ essary in order to live a contemplative life. One only needs to take a breath…a very deep breath…and breathe in the Divine…then exhale…deeply…thoughtfully…prayerfully… and open your eyes to the shimmering trees and the brilliant flowers and the clouds in motion and yes, even, the dirty dishes in the sink…in the truly contemplative life, there is no place where God is not present.





Pfease ‘Bring :New, 11.nwrayyeaToys :for





Blessed to be on this journey with you,



Rev. Dr. Sharon R. Graff, Interim Minister

The ‘Drum is in the :Narthex





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Please call the church office and ask for Pastor Jim Donahoo, at 619- 422-9263, if you have a prayer request. Our Prayer Chain Ministry is available for you, a friend, an a cqua intance, or a loved one.


Blessings from your Church Family






‘The Decem6er 13th Eusiness Meeting starts at 10:30 .JLM in Eradiey J{a[[ ‘The “‘Thank Offering” was co[[ecter£ in Novem6er. ‘The Program wi[[ 6e at [[:oo .JLM, afso in 13rar£[ey J{a[[ ‘The CCCCV

Pre-Schoo[ wi[[ 6e yresenting their Christmas Program for us. .Jlt Noon, a caterer£ [unch is server£. Cost is $10.00. Reservations for [unch can 6e mar£e 6y ca[fing Xay       Rouse at 1-(619)-421-3826, 6y

:frir£ay. Dec. 8th, anr£ cance[[ations neer£ to 6e mar£e 6y Sunr£ay, Dec. 10th.

. Don’t fo1•get to visit 010• Cluu•ch’s ve1·y olvn website. .




.       :r 1·yMay is 010• new Web Maste1• anti wonl,I a111n·ecia

  • 11icttu·es that n·e taken cltu•ing ch1u·ch events to be sent

tobin1so that he can u11loacl the1n to the ‘lvebsite.

Send to: (ge1•alcl.111ay@procligy.net)



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,- – – – :E:L:LI:Y  ::R:P      S –  –  –  –                          7





All-Church Worship Service and Christmas Lunch Party- Sunday, December 24th -11:00am                                                                                                                                                                      I

All are invited to share in ONE special worship service on 12/24, beginning at 11:00am in the Sanctuary,

I                                                             I


and featuring our congregation’s children and youth! You can expect a high energy, memorable retelling of the Christmas Story! Following will be a POTLUCK LUNCH and Christmas Party. Games, Christmas caroling, and other holiday fun… done by 1:00pm…a great day to bring a friend!

IAll-Church Worship Service –       Sunday, December 31st-11:00am                      I

Once again, for the holiday, we’ll gather in ONE worship service in the Sanctuary, beginning at 11:00am.

I             Please take note of these two special holiday worship times!                                         I

L   –      –      –      ————–









Scripture Reading: Isaiah 40:1-11


THOUGHT: If you can’t fin,/ the spirit of the holidays in your heart, you'[[ never find it under a tree.                                                       -Michael Holbrook           


s usual, the sanctuary was packed for the annual Christmas pageant presented

by the children. There was the flurry of activity and last-minute adjustments as costumes were arranged and rearranged, while frantic adults scurried around looking for the gifts of the Magi and the shepherds’ crooks. At last, all was ready.

The innkeepers played their parts well, faidy yelling, “There is no room for you at this inn.” Finally, of course, one kind innkeeper added, “Well, there is hay in our stable. Perhaps you can take shelter there.”

As Mary and Joseph shuffled off to the stable, in wandered the sheep looking lost.

Finally the shepherds managed to gather them on one side of the chancel as they wiggled and pointed to the “stable,” which had not only Mary and Joseph but also a small cradle with a good-sized rag doll baby Jesus.

Then a commotion as angels floated down the aisle with paper wings askew as the youth choir sang out “Angels We Have Heard on High.” They were soon followed by the majestic wise people: two grade 6 boys and one girl, presenting their gifts solemnly to the baby Jesus.

All the children then tu1ned to the congregation and began singing the traditional Christmas carols, just as they had rehearsed, except for one boy standing by the cradle who picked up the baby Jesus and began swinging him back and forth, as though he was dancing on air in time to the music.

One could only imagine what the child’s mother – the choir director- was saying to hitn. But the congregation clearly heard his response, which came just as the singing stopped: “But Jesus was so happy he wanted to sing and dance too.”

– Mela nie Silva



Prayer: God ofus all, may we so live our lives that Jesus will want to dance with joy. Amen.

Pages                                                                           Page 5




                JUST A THOUGHT                                RE\(. \IICTORIA FREIHEIT




By Ei-ili.a De11nis

In the month of December, choices of tours through central and northern Europe are limited and dependent on weather conditions. Skiing enthusiasts can find a great variety of ski slopes within easy reach by train. For the sun-lovers, the answer is a southern country with balmy breezes. Non-athletic traditionalists, however, may concentrate on the Christmas markets found in many European cities. Usually, these markets are open air, with display tables set up under large umbrellas in a town square. There is something magical about seeing the vast ar­ ray of 01naments and decorations after sun-down, bathed in warm, soft lighting. However, the illusion of warmth is quickly dispelled by the icy breeze turning noses red and fingertips un­ comfortably cold even in warm gloves. This kind of tour might be too challenging for coastal Calif01nians who prefer to find Christmas spirit in a warm store. So, let us relax and take an mmchair tour of a well-known place in Germany, the Lueneburger Heide, which may be on the travel agenda for 2018.


Heide is the Geiman name of a plant, as well as a large area in northetn Ge1many that is densely covered with these plants. In season we can find them in our local nurseries, 8-inch­ tall pot plants with small magenta flowers. Growing up in Germany I heard people talking about the Heide in the North and the very poor people living there in small settlements that could hardly be called villages. Buckwheat was the only grain that grew in the nutrient-poor quartz sand, and the fa1mers raised sheep for wool, meat and hides. Poets wrote sad, romantic poems about life in the Heide; songwriters set them to music, and to this day there are people who remember the lyrics and the tunes.

In 1921, the Geiman government took steps to preserve this highly unique area for future generations to enjoy, declaring four square miles a nature park. The entire heath is located be­ tween two major rivers. It extends for 55 miles in a south-easterly to north-westerly direction. It is now the largest single area of heathland in Central Europe. Most of the land is covered in Scotch heather and common heather, dotted with an occasional small group of juniper trees.

In the North, there are some stands of oak, birch and beech trees. The heather blooms from

early August to early September, covering the ground in vibrant  purple, turning  to  dark  blue at the far horizon. Words fail to describe the intensity  of the effect evoked by nature’s  artist1y. It has to be seen and absorbed by all senses.

Having traveled through large forests in Germany, tourists may wonder how the Heide, this oddly beautiful natural feature, ever developed. It is estimated that about 12,000 years ago Asian hunter-gatherers walked across the glaciers covering northern Asia to ice-covered northern Europe. Turning south, they found a vast sandy area with vegetation adequate to feed their sheep, and decided to settle down. Since sheep are browsers, they pick and choose among the plants, leaving some to grow undisturbed. One might say, they “groomed” the heather plants by eating vegetation that might have overgrown and killed them.

Since the 1950’s, the Heide has become a major tourist attraction. Several small towns around its periphery offer all the amenities tourists may want. There are rides and animal petting are­ as for the children, wild animal parks, horses for a ride on bridle paths, luxury hotels, as well as overnight stays in authentic farmhouses, and excellent restaurants. One might say, we owe it to the sheep and the far-sighted governments that the Heide now provides a better 1living for the indigenous farmers as well as recreation and relaxation for tourists.

Dear Ones: I recently took a test from a book called, “The Four Tendencies.” It is official: I don’t like to wait. You’ve heard that saying about people like me who pray,”Lord please give me patience, and I want it right now.” Therefore, Advent is not my favorite time of the year.

The church calendar has 4 Sundays before Christmas that are devoted to

waiting for  the birth of  our  Saviour,  Jesus.    Advent  means  arrival,  and 1 tho      se        4 Sundays are devoted to hearing prophecies from the Old

Testament about the coming Messiah. This year, the last Sunday of Advent is on Christmas Eve Day!


What is wrong with this picture? Is there anyone else out there who wishes we could just concentrate on Christmas beginning the day after Thanksgiving? Yes, I know the department stores do-they call it “Black Friday.” It’s an accounting term meaning they are out of “the red” (debt) and into “the black” (profit).

Starting the day after Thanksiving, I’d like to get my Christmas card list completed; put up the Manger Scene our family collected over the years; plan what gifts need to be purchased or made; decide which Christmas cookies to bake this year; find out when Handel’s Messiah will be performed; find out when our youth will go Christmas caroling so I can invite myself along; decorate the house and the front steps; and choose CD’s of my favorite secular and sacred Christmas music for the car.


While doing all these Christmas preparations, I feel a little guilty. I should be spending more time on Advent thoughts and scriptures-waiting. Like Psalm 40:1 “I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry.” or Psalm 25:5 “Thou art the God of my salvation, for thee I wait all the day long.” or Isaiah 40:31 “But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”


How many years did the people of Israel wait for their Messiah? How many times did they read the sacred words, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Almighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. And of his kingdom there shall be no end.” Isaiah 9:6 They waited a long time.


I guess I can wait the 4 weeks of Advent. I can find hope in the prophetic scriptures that tell of his coming. I can be full of joy while waiting-for unlike those ancient people–who hoped, but did not know for sure–I do know for sure. They hoped for a Messiah, we know He came. “I know that my redeemer lives.”Job 19:25. He didn’t come in power and majesty, but in a lowly stable “for there was no room for them in the inn.” Luke 2:7


After long years of waiting, God incarnate allowed God’s self to be a helpless baby-but one who would grow up and teach us how to live, how to die and how to wait. Yours in Advent, Rev. Victoria Freiheit




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11-19 “Thanksgiving”


A meditation based on Psalm 100

November 19, 2017

Rev. Victoria Freiheit


O give thanks unto the Lord, O give thanks all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness and come before him with a song.” Congratulations! Every time you come to church, find your seat, sing God’s praises—you are obeying Psalm 100. If illness causes you to miss attending, you can still serve God with gladness and sing at home. We can be thankful every day, not just Thanks-giving Day, the 4th Thursday in November. In Canada, they celebrate Thanksgiving on October 9.


According to Google, Mexico does not have a Thanksgiving Day. Dia de los Muertos is a similar holiday, and there is a Catholic celebration in the pueblos–one day a year to celebrate their Patron Saint with music and food. They give thanks for good harvest, health, and happiness. In many pueblos now they celebrate Thanksgiving in their homes just as in the U.S. for the simple reason that their loved ones live in the U.S., or they returned back to Mexico bringing with them Thanksgiving celebration.


I’d like to learn about Thanksgiving Days all over the world, but today, we concentrate on why we have Thanksgiving in the U.S. You’ve heard the story about the Pilgrims who came over on the Mayflower. You can Google the list of Mayflower passengers. They had some interesting names: Desire, Resolved, Humility, Oceanus, Love, and Wrestling. Our own Dr. Bradley used to admit that his forbears had come over on the Mayflower. One of the strands of the United Church of Christ is Congregational, and they trace their roots to the Pilgrims. We are grateful for Nathaniel Philbrick, who recently researched the Puritans and what happened to them when they got here in 1620.


In school we learned that they sailed on the Mayflower to achieve religious freedom. They were Separatists who believed you should read directly from the Bible, not from the Church of England “Book of Common Prayer.” Their congregation began with a covenant between a group of believers and God. They saw a person’s conscience as the “voice of God in man.” But all who sailed on the Mayflower were not Separatists. There were a few more families. Miles Standish was a military man, John Howland an indentured servant. He married and had 10 children and 88 grandchildren.


We do not know the exact date of the first Thanksgiving—probably in late September or early October when all had been harvested—corn, squash, beans, and barley. The barley came in handy for brewing beer, which they had become accustomed to, due to the bad quality of drinking water in England. Then, the feast: ducks, geese and wild turkeys—probably some bass, bluefish and cod as well. Then came 5 freshly killed deer by the Indian Massasoit and a hundred Pokanokets who joined the party. At that first Thanksgiving, the Indians outnumbered the Puritans 2-1!

Chief Massasoit and Squanto both helped them in that hard year since they first arrived. Squanto spoke English and showed them how to use fish for fertilizer on their corn. He also helped arrange the pact which allowed the Pilgrims and Indians to live in peace. But still, half of them did not survive that first year. Have you ever been in a survival situation? Only once for me—I was taking care of Seth, my new grandson, while his Mom and Dad had their first weekend away from home after his birth. They lived in Gunnison, Colorado and it was icy, snowy and cold.


They had a wood stove which had to be fed every two or three hours. “Does that mean I have to get up in the middle of the night to keep the fire going?” I asked my daughter and son-in-law. “Yes, if the fire goes out and you can’t get it started again, you will have to bundle up Seth and go down the road to our nearest neighbor and stay there until we get back.” “Survival,” I thought, “me and Seth and the fire.” So, I set the alarm for every two hours just in case.


Survival was not to be for many of the Puritans who did not all make it through that first year. Diseases, lack of shelter, pneumonia and scurvy were responsible for 51 deaths of the 102 who had come on the Mayflower. At one point there were only six of them to care for all those who were sick. They had to build homes for each other, hunt for game, plant vegetable gardens, pick whatever wild plants they could eat, and always worry about being attacked by Indians. Chief Massasoit’s assistance came in the form of men to help build, sharing of some food and fending off other Indians.


Let us remember that the Puritans were willing to pay a great price for the privilege of freedom of worship. They were profoundly grateful to God! Here, in the New World, no established church harassed them, no government agency restricted them, and no one ridiculed them. They were free to worship in the manner they chose. On this Thanksgiving, let us be grateful for our abundance, thankful for our many blessings. Let us also profoundly appreciate our freedom to worship according to our hearts and minds.


That first Thanksgiving was joyful for the Puritans–they knew they were going to make it in the New World. But it was sad, because they missed their loved ones who had died. Perhaps we can identify with them—we too know we can make it—sometimes not so easily—with hard work and prayer. AND we can identify with those who celebrated that first Thanksgiving, because we too must celebrate without our loved ones who have died.


Today, as we sit around the tables laden with a bountiful turkey dinner, we silently take notice of those who sat with us last year or in years gone by. We say a prayer, thanking God for all who have had an influence on us; thanking God for the good life we have now; thanking God for those immigrants who came in 1620, 1780, 1890, 1929 and last year as well. We are all immigrants except for Squanto and Massasoit and the other Indians here before us. We are survivors. Amen.

11-12 “Covenants, part 1 and 2”

“Covenants, part 1 and 2”
A meditation based on Psalm 25
November 12, 2017
Community Congregational Church of Chula Vista
Dr. Sharon R. Graff
* * * * *
Part 1
Covenants! That’s what today is really all about. And the Bible is filled to overflowing
with teaching about covenants. From Genesis to Revelation, 380 times, the word covenant
appears. From the very beginning, as God is corralling the wanderers, forming them into tribes,
and eventually leads them into their own land with monarchs and structures and civic duties
and community privileges, that theme of covenant weaves through the whole story.
The first official covenant in scripture is the one God makes with Noah. Remember
that? God promises Noah and his family safety in the ark, then after the floodwaters recede,
God appears again to Noah with another promise for he and his family: “Never again will I
destroy the earth with floods.” And the sign of that promise? A beautiful rainbow in the sky;
and it seems no matter how many times we look up and see those vibrant colors arched across
the sky, they still take our breath away!
God and the people go on through history to make one covenant after another. Some
of the covenants promise land and prestige and family. Some promise loyalty and honor and
worship. Covenants in scripture tend to be two-way, with the promises moving in both
directions between both parties. So covenants were intended to bring the two closer together,
God to humans, humans to God.
Covenants form the relationship we have with God, that God has with us, and that we
have with one another. Covenants practiced through the years strengthen those many
relationships. Covenants are not tests. Nor are they grading sheets that record our failures as
big as our successes. Covenants are the foundation and the walls of our relationship with God.
And they also extend outward to form our relationships with one another as humans on this
planet. We covenant, for example, every time we get in the car to drive. We covenant with
our fellow drivers to color inside the lines, to follow the rules of the road, to watch carefully so
our actions do no harm to another.
One covenant teacher of mine years ago, referred to the image of a cross to describe
the full effect of covenants in our spiritual growth. Covenants move us up and down to
strengthen our relationship with God, and they move us back and forth to bring us more fully
into community. This is basic Covenant 101! And it comes directly out of scripture.
Now, fast forward from the scripture stories to this sanctuary on this day. You are
each holding a symbol of covenant…we call it a Lego. The word “Lego” means “play well…!”
We could add to it, couldn’t we?! Play well with others…Play well by yourself…Play well with
God…Play well everyday…Play well at work…Play well at school…Play well with your family…
Play well with your enemies… (Ah, now we’re just meddling…!). Play well mindfully and
intentionally…Play well with your time, your talent, your treasure… This “play well” theme
sounds like covenant to me!
And so it is that today, we pause to make covenants, one with another, and each of us
with God. In a few minutes, after we sing, you are each invited to come forward with your
Lego piece; if you have them with you, be sure to also bring your commitment cards forward.
If you got out the door this morning without your commitment cards, you may turn them in
later in the church office.
This is a time of great joy! Where you, as people of God in this place, step out in faith,
literally and symbolically! Your literal covenants are your commitment cards—where you
commit time, talent, treasure for the moving forward of God’s mission of love right here in this
place. Some of you brought these commitment cards today. Some of you will bring them in
later. Some of you make these important commitments of time, talent, treasure as the year
unfolds. However that works for you, it is blessed and it is good. In addition, I’m inviting all of
us to make a symbolic commitment today, by using this little “play well” Lego in our hands. As
we sing, hold your Lego, and think about the many ways you already do (or perhaps can), how
you embody the love of God right here. Let that Lego represent your personal covenant, your
symbolic covenant to God and to this community of faith.
Now, let’s sing like the saints God has called us to be!
[After song…]
Now it’s time for a commitment parade! Bring your commitment cards forward, and place
them in the basket. Bring your Lego forward…attach it to another piece or to one of the
bases. And let’s see what God builds through us today!
Part 2
[Looking at the creation on the altar…]
So I preached Part 1…now it’s your turn… ?
Check out this creation! Check out this basket! Both of these are signs of the covenant
between you and God, between you and you. So I ask, as you gaze at these two signs, what
does it look like you are you building here? I’ll bring the mic around, so all can hear.
What does it look like you are building here?
The psalmist has a great handle on what makes a covenant. Here’s how it breaks down:
• 2 parties: person; God
• Person’s part:
o Open up to God (To you, O God, I lift my soul…)
o Trust God (“My God, I trust in you…)
o Eyes open (“Show me your way…”
o Mind open (“Teach me your paths…)
o Future open (“Lead me…”
o Patient with confidence (“I wait all day for you…”)
• God’s part:
o Merciful
o Ancient, unwavering love
o Forgiving and forgetting “the what”
o Remembering “the who” with love
o Good, upright
o Paths full of love and faith
o Protective
o Healing
o Deliver
o Gracious
o Our only hope!
This table of fellowship—filled to overflowing with color and vibrancy and hope and
commitment—becomes today a table that points the way forward for you. You are, indeed, a
family of faith. You are, indeed, a place of safety and learning, of care and curiosity. You are,
indeed, a place where God is still speaking and you are still listening, and all will be well, and all
manner of thing will be well.
Amen and Blessed Be!

10-22 “Setting An Example”

“Setting An Example”
A meditation based on I Thessalonians 1:1-10 (NRSV)
October 22, 2017
Rev. Victoria Freiheit
I Thessalonians was one of the first letters written by St. Paul to the churches he
founded. That congregation was one of the longest relationships he had.
Thessalonica was the capital city of the Roman province of Macedonia—an
important place in that day. That congregation kept his letter, and well they would,
since it begins with such words of praise for their actions. By Paul’s standards it was
warm and almost gushing. He uses the Trinity of Virtues here—Faith, Love and
Yes, that is the same list used in I Corinthians chapter 13, the one you always hear at
weddings. But this time, he puts hope last. Does it matter? Paul wrote to each church
according to their needs at the time of his writing. The church in Corinth had many
problems of division and strife within. And the church in Thessalonica did not—they
were united in their works of faith, labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our
Lord Jesus Christ.
Hope is what keeps us going when the going gets tough. Martin Marty, author and
pastor, tells of a time when he had no hope. In the depths of depression, he cleaned
out a file and decided to go through his Christmas cards. The notes he received from
friends and family and the message of Christ’s birth lifted him up and gave him hope
again. He came up with two house rules: 1)Hold the railing; and 2) No whining. A
good example for us.
I have another story about a good example—Arthur Ashe. He was a world-class
tennis player, and a world-class father. He believed in leading by example. He
remembered when he used to tell his daughter not to put her elbows on the table
during dinner. One night, after dinner, Arthur Ashe put his elbows on the table and
his little daughter said, “Dad, you have your elbows on the table.” Here’s his reply:
“You have to be man enough or woman enough to say, ‘You’re right,’ and take your
elbows off the table. In fact, I think she learned better by watching it happen, than
just by hearing me say it.” She listened and she learned. It takes actions rather than
mere words to teach our children. We all know that, don’t we? Actions always speak
louder than words.
I love children’s stories about examples—another one is about a 3-year-old
grandson who wanted to learn to play golf, just like grampa. So, one day at a family
cook-out the little boy jumped up and grabbed one of grampa’s clubs and a golf ball
and said,”Watch me play golf!” He swung and missed, said a word we can’t repeat
here and flung the golf club up into the pear tree. That little guy learned more than
just how to play golf. And he did it simply by observing grampa’s example.
St. Paul praised the Christians at Thessalonica for being “an example to all the
believers in Macedonia and Achaia.” The people in Thessalonica had been
worshipers of idols, but now they were imitators of Christ. And they made this
transition in the midst of persecution. There was nothing phony in their witness;
they were the real thing. And everyone who heard their story was compelled by it.
That’s what we need today. People who are willing to be examples. People willing to
surrender their own wishes for the greater good. People willing to be role models.
An unknown author describes the present:
“We have taller buildings, but shorter tempers. We spend more, but have less; we
have bigger houses, and smaller families. We have more conveniences, but less time.
We have more experts, but more problems. We have multiplied our possessions, but
reduced our values. We’ve learned how to make a living, but not a life. We’ve been to
the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to greet a new neighbor. We
have fancier houses, but broken homes. There is much in the show window, but
nothing in the stockroom.” Have we ever needed role models more than we do now?
A good role model a few years ago was Dave Thomas, the founder of Wendy’s
hamburger chain. My son Mark moved to Louisiana when he was 19 and got a job
learning plumbing. He told me how he went to Wendy’s every night—a wonderful
salad bar where he ate his fill. He never met Dave, but he heard the story of how
Dave quit school at 15 and moved out on his own. Dave got a job in a restaurant,
learned the business, saved his money and founded Wendy’s.
In spite of his success, he regretted not finishing high school. So he got his GED. It
wasn’t easy, and the kids at Coconut Creek High School knew that. They adopted
Dave and his wife and asked them to come to the senior prom that year. They
crowned them King and Queen of the prom, so they could honor Dave for going back
and taking care of business. One reason Dave did it was so that young people would
not follow his example and would not quit school. When other people his age were
retiring, he was going to High School—what an example.
We need people who are willing to set an example. People who don’t say one thing
and do another. There was one such a woman, whose name was Dranafice–also
known as Rose. She lived in Albania and was very poor. But no matter how little
they had, Rose and her husband helped others by inviting people over for dinner.
Every time one of Rose’s daughters would ask who was there for dinner, Rose would
say it was a relative. Her daughters believed they came from a very large extended
Even after Rose’s husband died, she found a way to feed the hungry and help the
destitute. One of her daughters was influenced by Rose’s example of sacrificial
love—Agnes was her name. She grew up to become an advocate for the poor and
dying. Yes, you have guessed who she was—Mother Teresa, the 20th century’s living
example of Christ and the world. Mother Teresa became who she was because of
Rose’s example—Examples matter.
We have examples right here at Community Congregational Church. You know who
you are, and might even be embarrassed if I named you out loud. You are the ones
who are here week after week, even when it is hard to get ready on time, even when
you don’t feel too good. Worship, Bible Study, Board meetings. You are being an
example of one who loves God and shows up, sometimes sacrificially.
You are the ones who do the work—count the offerings, sing in the choir, plan
events, keep up the kitchen, buy flowers for worship, and give all you can in the
offering plate and in life. You have invested yourself in God’s work here in church
and in your life. You are the ones who invite others to come to church, who help the
poor, who raise your children to love and serve the Lord. The first question in the
old catechism was, “What is the purpose of life?” and the answer–”To love and serve
the Lord.”
You are the examples like the church people in Thessalonica. Today, we give thanks
to God for you and for your work of faith and labor of love and stead-fastness of
hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. People come to Christ because they encounter Christ
in those who follow Him. That is why Paul was praising the Thessalonians. This is
how children grow into responsible adults. They see by example–your love, your
courage, your persistent presence.
I’d like to end with another children’s story. It is about the mother cleaning her
house and tripping over her little 4-year old son every time she turned around. To
get him out from under her feet, she kept saying, “Why don’t you go out and play?”
or “Wouldn’t you like to go swing on the new swing set?” Finally she asked him why
he was under foot all the time. His answer, “In Sunday School my teacher told me to
walk in Jesus’ footsteps. But I can’t see Jesus, so I’m walking in yours.”
And that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? Role models still count. After 2000 years of
Christianity, worthy examples still make a difference. Perhaps , if the Christians at
Thessalonica all those years ago had not been faithful under hardship—setting
examples of sacrificial love for their neighbors—you and I would not be Christians
in 2017. Are you willing to stand up for Christ today? Are you willing to continue to
participate (this goes beyond just showing up) and to be an example? Is there
someone you know who is waiting for you to invite them to church? Someone who
wants to know what Christ means to you? Someone who knows because they see
how you live? Be an example.

10-29 “From ‘Here I Stand’ to ‘Here WE Stand'”

“From ‘Here I Stand’ to ‘Here WE Stand!’”
A meditation based on Matthew 22:34-40
October 29, 2017
Community Congregational Church of Chula Vista
Dr. Sharon R. Graff
* * * * *
Every 500 years, whether we need it or not, there is some sort of major shake-up in
the religious world. Every 500 years, like clockwork! 500 years ago was the Protestant
Reformation, 500 years before that was a major schism between east and west in the Church,
500 years before that was the Council of Chalcedon and Gregory the Great, 500 years before
that was Jesus. Each of these mile-markers pointed the way to a whole new way of seeing the
relationship between God and people. Yet, this is not only a Christian narrative, for Islamic
scholars have noted a similar 500-year pattern in their faith tradition as well.
Returning to the Judeo-Christian story, 500 years before Jesus was the Jewish
Babylonian Exile, and 500 years before that was the Age of the Judges out of which came Kings
Saul, David and Solomon. So now, we’re at 3,000 years of human spiritual and religious
history, and like clockwork, these expressions of faith seem to change every 500 years or so.
Every 500 years, there comes along a new leader, a new paradigm shift, a new way of
realizing, of experiencing, of living an old old hope. The old old hope? To draw closer to the
Divine, of course…to grow into God, some might say…that’s our hope! And from that hope,
realized, flows all manner of good things…from that hope to be more deeply connected to the
Divine, comes our purpose and a realization of our gifts and the courage to put those two
together for the benefit of the world around us. Do you see? And history teaches us that we
humans need a recharge about every 500 years.
We are in such a season now. That alone might explain the seeming chaos in the
religious world around us…change, friends, is rarely tidy! For 500 years ago, this coming
Tuesday, Father Martin Luther of Germany, declared his 95 beliefs—most of which demanded
radical change in the church he served—and Luther made sure that the religious authorities
heard about it. He put his mind and his heart and his feet to work, together, to courageously
speak truth to the powers of his day.
The truth he spoke was not his own…it was of God…and that truth declared that the
most effective way for people to draw closer to God was through the pathway of grace. That
was a radical notion in Luther’s day. And a whole movement flowed from his declarations…
Luther declared that God is, at the heart, a God of love, not of fear; a God of love, not of
distance; a God of love, not of judgment or hatred. As you can imagine, in a world where the
church was making a lot of money on fear and hate and judgment, as was true in Luther’s day,
his declarations were not well-received!
Nevertheless, Luther continued to declare, “Here I stand.” Those three words have
found their way into this holy space that is your spiritual home. Look over there. There is the
Luther window, or more broadly, the window that claims our UCC heritage within the Protestant
Reformation. “Here I stand I can do no other.” Legend has it that these were Luther’s words
when confronted by the Church for his supposed heresy. Shortened to “Here I Stand,” they are
a quick reminder of his courageous witness to his own faith and his willingness to stand up for
what he believed in.
His pathway can become a model for our own. That pathway begins with the personal
and moves to the public… That pathway honors the personal, the individual, but it does not
stop there. It is not enough for you to have a wonderful relationship with God if you shrink
from sharing your witness with others. I’m not talking about street corner preaching. I’m
talking about witness that makes a difference. The type of courageous witness that in Luther’s
day, brought about a whole re-formation of the institution of Church.
Now, Luther did not start from the point that modern-day consultants might suggest.
He didn’t look toward 3-5 year plans, nor did he do demographic studies or collect relevant
data. He and Spirit started with the personal. What does Luther believe to be true of God? Of
Jesus? Of Church? Of the Christian pathway in the world? What does Luther believe of these
weighty matters? And from that core, from that “Here I stand” strong rooted location, Luther
and the other reformers spoke their truths to power. They changed the world, literally! And so
can you, my sisters and brothers. So can you.
Let’s try a little “Here I Stand” exercise this morning. What is one thing that you
believe fully? Luther had 95! We only need 1 for today. One thing that is the core of your
belief system? One belief that is unshakable? I invite you to write that one thing down on your
bulletin… Look at what you’ve written… Ponder that belief. Close your eyes, if you’re
comfortable doing that, or fix your gaze on something besides me. Visualize the words you’ve
written…words that communicate your deeply held belief. Let the parade run through your
mind and heart…the parade of people who encouraged that belief…people who supported
you…people who argued with you, and thereby helped strengthen, clarify, connect what you
really believe…expand that parade of people to those known and unknown—include authors
and teachers and people who lived long ago and larger-than-life personalities and the many
quiet unnamed souls who cross your path…for teachers are all around us and they contribute to
the beliefs we hold dear. You see, looking back, some of the deep roots of your own beliefs.
And this perspective offers you a way forward.
I invite you to bring your thoughts back to this sanctuary, and when you are ready, go
ahead and open your eyes. See your sisters and brothers through the lens of your own deeply
held beliefs, and know that each person in this community also holds a belief or two or ninetyfive
(!) that forms them and informs them and inspires them to move forward on the journey of
faith, right alongside you. Isn’t that wonderful?! It is, and yet, it is not enough. It was not
enough for Luther. It was not enough for all those who just paraded through your heart and
mind. It is not enough for you, Community Congregational Church.
Today, on Reformation Sunday that we also honor as All Saints Sunday, I want to
invite you to move beyond what you believe or what this church believes to be yourselves
inspired to move forward with confidence! For this is the real magic of Luther. His beliefs
propelled him to action. Action that moved far beyond the massive wooden chapel doors in
Wittenberg Germany, to acknowledge a God of absolute and unwavering love…to stand firmly
in that God of love…to speak courageously and knowledgably and consistently…to take the next
best one step forward…and from that step, another, and another. Friends, the magic of this
season of Re-formation, is not Luther. Or Melanchthon. Or Calvin or Zwingli or Hus or Wycliffe
or any of the others. The magic, the miracle, was and is God. The miracle was in how God
spoke to so many in such a concentrated period of time and in such a way that they were
inspired to act as one.
That miracle isn’t just for 500 years ago. For God speaks truth to every single one of
you. And that truth, when you dare to speak it aloud, with love and respect, that truth grows a
confidence in this community of faith that is palpable and magnetic and totally real. Yes, there
is great change going on in this institution we call Church. Every 500 years, whether it needs it
or not! And, yes, this particular congregation has undergone its own deep and sometimes
divisive change. And, yes, God is in it all. God is propelling you forward, from the strong
foundation of “Here I Stand” to the equally strong framework of “Here WE Stand!”
This growth is a process. It happens in marathons, not sprints. It happens in Kairos
time—Spirit time, without clocks and calendars. This growth takes a long and concerted and
faithful effort, from each of you. Yet, I sense that it is not effort for you. I sense that your
growth as a congregation, your growth forward on the journey of faith, is one that, like
Luther’s, emanates from a deep truth within you. You truly believe that God loves everyone,
equally. There are no “innies” or “outies” in your belief system around here. All are equal and
all are loved. Some of you, I’ve heard over the months, some of you take this belief so
seriously that you are truly confused as to why people out there don’t want to be in here. Dear
ones, be confused no longer. God is busy working a new miracle in this season.
God is busy shaking things up; God is busy showering love on so much pain and
sadness; into the chaos of our days and nights, God is busy speaking and acting with love; God
is speaking to you and you and you and me and your next pastor wherever or whomever she or
he might be; and we know that when God speaks so many words into the chaos, what comes
out of it is creative and vibrant and of benefit to all. This every-500-year clean-up—or religious
rummage sale, as one author has described it—it is, I believe, God’s way of asking us “where
do you stand?” … “Where do you want to stand?” … “What’s holding you back?” “What do you
need to let go of?” … and, “What do you need to hold onto, together?”
Community Congregational Church, you stand on the side of love…love of God…love of
self…love of neighbor. You always have. I pray you always will. Your grounding in love is sure
and consistent and historic; this grounding in love is becoming a re-energized magnet for those
who want to love as Jesus loved. You are a part of the long parade that meanders through my
mind and heart and soul when I give thanks to God for those who have made my faith
stronger. You are saints. Not just because you’ve touched my life, but because you continue
to touch and heal and embrace so many other lives. You are family, one to another, in the best
senses of that word. Love is your belief. Family is your mission…where belief hits the road and
becomes real. On this day of Re-formation and All Saints, may God give you courage to take
the next steps forward… Amen and Blessed Be!