Friday, August 31, 2012

Food Holiday #6

In my family, we marked the year by counting the 'food holidays' - the first was Thanksgiving and we trekked through to the final one - #6 - Labor Day!' Somehow, this little 'family joke' always prompted a conversation about the 'real' reason for the holiday and it reminded us of the reasons we were gathering to share a meal.

Whatever you will be doing to celebrate Labor Day this weekend, take some time to value work - your work, the work of those who make your lives so comfortable, the work of those who care for people you love, the work of those who bring you beauty, entertainment and joy..... AND, remember the workers - those who work long, hard hours for little money, those who work with their imaginations and ideas, those who work several jobs, those who long for jobs.
Loving, Working God,
On this Labor Day weekend we ask your special blessing on all people
who labor, either for pay or as volunteers, in jobs or at school, in
the workplace or at home, in the U.S. and around the world.
We especially pray for your blessings on workers who do not have
jobs and for those whose inadequate pay does not allow them to
live the full life you intend for each of us. 
Creator God, help us to build a new world in the midst of the old.
A world where all workers are valued.
A world where those who clean houses are also able to buy
houses to live in.
A world where those who grow food can also afford to eat
their fill.
We pray for the coming of a world where all workers everywhere
share in the abundance that you have given us.
We ask these things knowing that you give us the courage and
strength to live out our faith in the workplace and the marketplace,
as well as in the sanctuary.

Written by Edie Rasell, Minister for Economic Justice of the United Church

of Christ. She is also Vice-President of Interfaith Worker Justice.
Wishing you ALL of the blessings of Food Holiday #6 - Laura Lee

Thursday, August 23, 2012

People Get Ready

People get ready, there's a train a comin'
You don't need no baggage, you just get on board
All you need is faith to hear the diesels hummin'
Don't need no ticket, you just thank the Lord
Some of you may remember this hit by Curtis Mayfield as I do. There is a train a comin' to FCC -
September 6-9! Over the weekend, we will have more than 2,000 volunteers here packing over 300,000 meals for Feed My Starving Children!

Fortunately, 'you don't need no ticket' to get on this amazing train and we can all certainly 'thank the Lord' for this opportunity to serve hungry children' and our community.

Some important things you all need to know about and some particular ways that you can help:

1. VOLUNTEER - We need to have 20 - 25 people to help with setting up on Thursday and 20-25 more to help with clean up on Sunday afternoon. We also need 10-12 Support Team volunteers to help with each shift throughout the weekend.

SIGN-UP here: 
OR call Jessie at the office and she will sign you up!

2. T-SHIRTS - We are hoping all FCC folks who will be packing and volunteering as part of our Support Team will wear an FMSC t-shirt - they are in the office for $10 each.

3. WORSHIP ON SUNDAY 9/9 - Since many of us will be volunteering on Sunday morning, FMSC will be using the sanctuary and there will be a lot of noise, Manda, Laura Lee, the Worship Committee and the Youth have planned a worship service for FCC members at the pavilion at Cass Park at 10:00 a.m. - We will sing, pray, experience God's Word, celebrate communion and share in a simple 'Manna Pack Meal (just like the ones we are packing). Join us for this time of worship and fellowship for all ages.

4. FOOD PANTRY COLLECTION - Our FMSC Mobile Pack will feed children who do not live in our country. The planning Team and Outreach Committee are asking us to be mindful of those who are hungry right here at home. So, when you come to volunteer, please bring non-perishable food items that will be given to the Kitchen Cupboard and to the food pantry at the Baptized Church of Jesus Christ!

Remember there's a train a comin' and "You don't need no baggage, you just get on board!"

Blessings - Laura Lee

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Hope in Tough Times

These are tough days...our church is going through major transition, and we have a lot of work ahead of us to discern how to be the church we are called to be. Today, I found hope in reading a story about Joplin, Missouri. Joplin is similar in size to Ithaca, and it's about an hour's drive from where my grandmother lives (and where my parents lived for a time). In May of 2011, Joplin was devastated by a massive tornado - my parents told me that when they drove through the town after the roads had been cleared of debris, there was destruction everywhere. My dad's favorite place to shop - the Home Depot - was completely leveled, as were countless other homes and businesses. The people of Joplin have had their world turned upside down.

And they continue to struggle to find their way. Recently, a mosque in Joplin was burned to the ground in an arson attack. Because it is Ramadan and the mosque was hosting nightly iftar dinners (the nightly meal to end the fast), I can only imagine how devastating was the loss of their sacred meeting space to the Muslims who gathered and worshiped there. Local congregations came together and held an interfaith iftar, hosted by St. Phillip's Episcopal Church. What a sign of hope and peacemaking in the midst of struggle. Click here to read the story.

This Sunday, I'll be leaving after worship to join Syed and his parents in New York City for our annual celebration of Eid al-Fitr, the end of the holy month of Ramadan. As Muslims bring their month of fasting to a close, I hope that we also will find ways to renew our faith and recommit to our community. May we all seek to offer hope in tough times, and to make peace with one another.


Thursday, August 9, 2012

Pace to You

In this difficult and confusing time, we want to share some wisdom from the alpine climber, Phil Powers. It was first aired on NPR's "This I Believe" in April, 2006. And, we offer prayers for 'pace'. Blessings for the days ahead - Laura Lee & Manda 

"I believe in the importance of pace. I grew up in a frenetic household, both parents working jobs that demanded their attention 24/7. I was little and fast and rushed around, and I still have that person inside me, always at risk of moving too quickly, missing the connection, making mistakes.

The forest behind our house offered a peaceful respite. My passion for the vertical world took me from tall trees in my backyard to climbing steep cliffs and crags. As a teen, I was moving easily over the landscapes of the American West and was drawn to higher summits. When I was 19, I learned something called the “rest step” from an old mountain climber named Paul Petzoldt. He advised me to rest in the middle of each step completely, but briefly. The rest step, which I still practice today, allows me to walk or climb with little effort. I can move very quickly yet still find a pause in every step. 

The awareness of pace I owe to my teacher has served me whether I am seeking the world’s highest summits, sharing my love for the mountains with others or kneeling to look my son, Gus, in the eye when he has a question. 

It serves me as I drive, adjusting my speed to gain a bit of calm and reach my destination only minutes behind the “record time” a faster lane might provide. It serves me at home where we maintain a tradition of gathering each night at the dinner table to eat and talk to each other.

In times of crisis, pace comes to my aid. Another of Petzoldt’s lessons was when faced with an emergency, sit down, collect yourself, make a plan. When needs seem most urgent — even life-threatening — the practice of slowing down offers calm and clarity. 

In 1987, I was in Pakistan to climb Gasherbrum II, one of the world’s highest peaks. We were a small group and it was a very big mountain. Our expedition faced more than its share of difficulty: A long storm wiped out most of our food rations and an avalanche devastated our camp, obliterating our tents. One of our party developed altitude sickness; blood poisoning threatened another. In the face of each disaster, we carefully developed a new plan. Snow caves replaced lost tents. Soups replaced full meals. Eventually we climbed slowly to the top, then made our way safely down.

Concentrating on how I move through the world is important. It’s why I reach mountain summits and life goals with energy to spare.

There is magic in any faith. Every once in a while, rushing about, my belief in pace rises up, slows me down and grants me a view of a sunset, a smile from a stranger or a conversation with a child. I owe these moments to what I learned from an old mountain climber and have practiced ever since."

Phil Powers is the executive director of the American Alpine Club. He has made dozens of mountaineering expeditions to Alaska, Asia and South America since he began climbing as a boy in Oklahoma. Powers has written two books on mountain-climbing and lives in Denver with his wife and children.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Supporting Campus Ministries

Friendship, Money, Faith, Grades, Roommates, Jobs, Romantic Relationships, Sex and Sexuality, Family, Self Esteem, Fitness, Wellness,  Politics, Death, Balance, Goal-Setting. These are just some of the issues that college students deal with as they navigate the transitions from high school to full time employment, from dependence to greater independence. Campus ministers play a vital role in students form their own sense of identity apart from their families of origin, make decisions about their futures, and develop spiritually.

Our church supports two campus ministries: Protestant Cooperative Ministries at Cornell University, and the Protestant Community at Ithaca College. We've invited the chaplains of each of those ministries to preach and share in worship leadership over the next two weeks. This Sunday, we'll be joined by the Rev. Taryn Mattice from Cornell, and the following week by the Rev. James Touchton of Ithaca College. During the school year, they are both very busy serving their student communities. So I hope you'll take the opportunity to come and hear them and get to know them a bit. Their ministries play a vital role in the faith formation of college students and in the life of our church and the broader Ithaca community.

Hope to see you on Sunday.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Mystery of Miracles

One of the Lectionary texts for this Sunday is from the Gospel of John, the story of Jesus feeding the multitude and then walking on water. While we won't read this one in worship on Sunday, it's worth reading John 6:1-21 on your own.

In September, we'll be starting up our "Spirit:Uncorked" gatherings again at Corks & More. For those who have not joined us before, we often reflect on some quotes and/or questions about a particular topic and talk in pairs or small groups. This week, I invite you to find a friend or family member (or maybe even someone you don't know!) to reflect on these quotes and questions about miracles. Comment on this post to share your thoughts!

Focus Scripture
John 6:1-21

After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, "Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?" He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, "Six months' wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little." One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to him, "There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?" Jesus said, "Make the people sit down." Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, "Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost." So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, "This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world."

When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself. When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. But he said to them, "It is I; do not be afraid." Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land toward which they were going.

Focus Questions

1. How would you define a "miracle"?

2. What are your expectations of God?

3. What is the difference between abundance and excess?

4. What is the "success" we hope for in our life of faith, as individuals and as congregations?

5. What makes a person, or a church, "great"?

For further reflection

C.S. Lewis, 20th century
Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see.

Chinese Proverb
The miracle is not to fly in the air, or to walk on the water; but to walk on the earth.

Augustine, 5th century
Miracles are not contrary to nature, but only contrary to what we know about nature.

Sue Monk Kidd, 21st century
I realized it for the first time in my life: there is nothing but mystery in the world, how it hides behind the fabric of our poor, browbeat days, shining brightly, and we don't even know it.

Frederick Buechner, 21st century
A miracle is when the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. A miracle is when one plus one equals a thousand.

These come from "Weekly Seeds": Weekly Seeds is a United Church of Christ resource for Bible study based on the readings of the "Lectionary," a plan for weekly Bible readings in public worship used in Protestant, Anglican and Roman Catholic churches throughout the world. When we pray with and study the Bible using the Lectionary, we are praying and studying with millions of others. Click here to read the whole Weekly Seeds reflection.

Blessings and peace - looking forward to seeing you soon!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

In Our Ending Is Our Beginning

These words from one of the most ancient communion liturgies and are often used at FCC. Christ is our ending and our beginning. The communion table is a place where we can end our pain and suffering and begin a new life. Worship is the same: both the ending and the beginning of our week.

Every milestone in our lives represents both an ending and a beginning. Developmental stages. Dating to marriage to family. Education to training to working to retirement. None of these paths are ever clear or very smooth, but we do know when things have "shifted."

This is also the case in our relationships. When we learn things about each other, a relationship can begin to deepen - ending an acquaintanceship and beginning a friendship. And, when we end an argument with someone we love, it can be a beginning of deeper understanding and new ways to be in relationship.

Alpha and Omega, copyright Chantal Pare

Last Sunday, Steve Gray shared a wonderful song by Susan Ashton, "Agree to Disagree" [Click here to listen to the song, and here to read the lyrics] and led some of us in a discussion at a cookout for the Men's Breakfast Group and their spouses. As I listened, I realized that coming to a place of 'agreeing to disagree' can certainly be the end of an argument, but more importantly, it can be the beginning of deeper understandings, more creative solutions and unimagined paths forward. For, once we move to this place, instead of being right we want to be in relationship. I think this is what the communion table is really all about, isn't it?

Hoping to see all of you on Sunday and Blessings for the days ahead - Laura Lee

Texts for Sunday: