Thursday, October 27, 2016

Reformation DNA

            Johann Alexander Dubendorffer was born in 1701/02 in Schriesheim, Pfalz, Switzerland.  As far as we know, his family would live in the Palatinate area of German before emigrating to Pennsylvania.  He was a staunch member of the Reformed Church.  His son, Gottfried Diefenderfer married his bride in 1753 at the Great Swamp Church.  The last name changed in spelling until it became the “Diefendieffer” I recognize.  The church where the wedding was solemnized is now Trinity Great Swamp United Church of Christ in Spinnerstown, Pennsylvania.  My family roots trace back to the period of the Protestant Reformation.  This year, 2016, we begin the 500th Anniversary year of that turning point in church history.

            On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses on the door of the Wittenburg castle-church.  That public event was action that dates and defines what we know as the Protestant Reformation.  Although it is nice to have a calendar date, the event itself was a culmination of many years of prayer and thought.  It was also the beginning of a larger discussion about what it means to be a church.  How does a church conduct its worship?  How is scripture understood?  What is the nature of faith?

            We find ourselves  asking the same questions in 2016.  The “landscape” of the church is changing.  Some churches are losing members and members are losing interest.  Other churches are flourishing and filling major stadium sized spaces.  Other churches are just beginning and are meeting in bars and restaurants and homes with no intention to build their own building.  Perhaps the 500th anniversary year of the Reformation might be a time for reflection.

            Martin Luther as well as Ulrich Zwingli, the person most connected with the Reformed Church, were concerned that the Church in Europe in the 16th Century had gotten off track – had misplaced her priorities.  There are those who offer the same criticisms today.  It is a topic worthy of conversation.

            However, this is a blog entry and not a format for the “pros and cons” of the 21st century church.  It is also a blog where I have said I wanted to name those touch points where scripture meets the seasons of our lives.  This week that season is the Reformation and Renewal of the Church.  I offer some scripture passages that are my personal touch points as a person of faith grounded in the Reformed Church tradition.  I invite you to think about your own touch points.

Romans 5:1 – Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to the grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.

1 Peter 4:10 – Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.

2 Timothy 2:15 – Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth.

2 Timothy 3:14-15 – But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that were able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

            To these passages I would also add the words of a 17th Century pastor out of the English Reformation and also out of my personal family history and “Reformation DNA”.  Pastor John Robinson, when speaking to those Pilgrims leaving Leiden, Amsterdam on a voyage that would take them to Massachusetts, said:
            “I am verily persuaded the Lord hath more truth yet to break forth out of His Holy Word.”

            As we enter the 500th Anniversary year of the Protestant Reformation I believe the words of Pastor Robinson are both a promise kept and a hope to be revealed.

Grace and Peace,

Rev. Clara

Monday, October 17, 2016

Halloween and a Psalm???  

            Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays.  For many years it was the time to pull out the sewing machine and make the costumes our son and daughter would wear that evening.  That simple act was actually an important part of our family story.  The fun of Halloween for our family was the preparation – deciding on a theme, locating patterns and material and then producing the costume.  We would also go on the hunt to find that perfect pumpkin – just the right size, with a side that could be carved with a smiling face and big round eyes.


            The fun of “Halloween On the Square” celebrated in Woodstock the Saturday before Halloween is far removed from the solemnity that once surrounded this holiday.  All Hallow’s Eve (Halloween) was a sacred time in the Church’s liturgical calendar.  In the Eighth Century the Church designated the feast day for All Saints, followed by the feast day in honor of soon-to-be saints, the feast of All Soul’s.  All Hallow’s Eve  became the way you prepared for these days.  It was a Vigil of prayer remembrance.

            Part of that Vigil time was to attend Evening Vespers.  One of the traditional Psalms used in the Vesper service is Psalm 130.  Because these words were heard in the setting of grief and loss they became particularly powerful.  Psalm 130 (129 in some translations of the Bible) is also known as the De Profundis.  You can hear it as an ancient chant through U-Tube.

Psalm 130

Out of the depths, I cry to you, O Lord,
Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my supplications!

If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with you,
so that  you may be revered.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
more than those who watch for the morning,
more than those who watch for the morning.

O Israel, hope in the Lord!
For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
and with him is great power to redeem.
It is he who will return Israel from all its iniquities.

            This Psalm, which is sung or read every time Evening Vespers is celebrated, is also often a part of services in commemoration of those who have died.  It is an appropriate accompaniment to a holiday that treads the narrow space between the joy of living and the fear of dying. 

            Halloween can be more than a time for children and youth to load up on candy.  It can even be more than the family bonding time we experienced as we got ready to “make-believe”.  It can be a time of prayer and reflection.

            This Psalm of confession can challenge us with whether we truly feel we have anything to confess.  This penitential Psalm can provide the words we often cannot find to express our personal sorrows and pains.  This Vesper Psalm can serve as a goodnight prayer placing our trust in God for the night and our hope for the morning.

            May each of you find new meaning for Halloween this year.

Grace and Peace

Rev. Clara

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Seasons and Seasons

         The first tinge of color is appearing on the maple and sassafras trees.  The ninety degree temperatures of summer are moderating to reading in the sixties and seventies.  Farmer Market fare has shifted from blueberries and peaches to squash and pumpkins.  A change of seasons is upon us.

            These are the words of the “Teacher” in the Book of Ecclesiastes:  For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.”  Ecclesiastes 3:1 is a good summary of this “Pastor’s Blog” project.  I want to explore the seasons of our lives and the seasons of our church year.  Occasionally I may sprinkle some “seasoning” on my remarks such as “Alleluia” or “Lord, Have Mercy”.  I want this blog to be part inspiration and part education (Bible study).  My goal will be a weekly entry accessed primarily through the website of St. Paul’s United Church of Christ, Woodstock, VA.

            The book of Ecclesiastes, found in the Hebrew Testament under the name Qoheleth, was likely written, or compiled, around 200 BCE.  It is an anthology of sayings and proverbs common to that time and put within a religious framework.  Reading this book in the context of the Mediterranean world of that time, we can see the struggles of faith and skepticism and even disbelief.  We might even say such thoughts continue into the 21st Century.

            Ecclesiastes concludes with the verses (12:13-14) The end of the matter; all have been heard.  Fear God, and keep his commandments, for that is the whole duty of everyone.  For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every secret thing, wether good or evil.

            Until that time we will continue to live in that holy tension between God’s time for things to happen and our ideas about what should occur and when.  During this holy tension there will be times when we will experience our “autumning”. Leaves flutter to the ground.  Leaves are caught in the winds of change.  Leaves themselves change.  We cannot predict with certainly when that happens.  We, as the leaves, will eventually land on Holy Ground in God’s good time and we will be changed by the Mystery of God.  The promise of the God and the Church is that there will be a greening in Easter glory.  We meet this change not with the fear of fright but with the fear of awe at the Grace bestowed upon us.

            I invite you to join me in naming the seasons of our lives as they are touched by the seasoning of God’s Grace.

Grace and Peace

Rev. Clara

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Welcome to our Church Blog!!

This is a blog for Rev. Clara Young to post comments and thoughts that may help you think about your life with Christ! She will be posting soon and you can comment if you'd like.  Please stay tune for our first official post!