|Rev. Dr. Thomas Clough, Interim Eastern Regional Minister|
This week's author is the Rev. Dr. Thomas Clough, Interim Eastern Regional Minister for the Connecticut Conference, UCC.
When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming to him, Jesus said to Philip, "Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?"
I just realized that (regardless of what Cameron Trimble may tweet this week), the decline of the Mainline Church is all my fault. And, if you grew up going to Sunday School as I did, it is probably all your fault, too.
Remember what they taught us in Sunday School about the loaves and the fishes "miracle?" Remember how the hero in this story was the strange little boy who just happened to be wandering around complete with a personal supply of bread and fish? Remember how his willingness to share his lunch must have inspired all the other picnic-packing Galileans to share their concealed meals? Remember how this story taught us that God has given us everything we need to make this world a better place?
I guess it was at this point in the development of our theological understanding that we assumed God had gone back home and left us in charge of the sharing.
And, as my therapist is wont to say, "Well Tom, how did that work out for you?"
Well, for quite a while I got Jesus confused with Carl Rogers, and understood the goal of the church to be simply this: to render itself unnecessary. For the past fifty years we have done a remarkable job of dismantling the institution of the church, as we have striven to become "fully functioning individuals." Yet, somewhere along the way to this bliss of "individuation," we seem to have forgotten to attend to this sharing stuff.
So, maybe the bit about God leaving us in charge missed the mark. Maybe the bread and fish story wasn't so much about the generous boy as it was about the Savior who assumed that his disciples must feed the oncoming crowd? Perhaps we still need this kind of direction in our lives today and even tomorrow? As the Methodist Bishop William Willimon (who never had an idea I didn't preach) once put it, "In my church these days we have an almost exclusive focus upon Jesus as the one who feeds, loves, and heals, and an almost complete neglect of Jesus as the one who saves."
Could it be that we desperately do need the church, even after we have grown up? Could it be that the world needs us to be the church of the one who saves?
O God, thank you for the gift of discipleship rather than perfection. Amen.
Grace Congdon, daughter of the Rev. David Congdon, pastor of the Elmwood Community Church UCC, who is undergoing tests for a yet undetermined illness;
the Rev. Stephen Camp, senior pastor of Faith Congregational Church UCC in Hartford, who is recovering from severe injuries suffered in a fall;
those left wounded in body, mind, and soul; those left grieving; and those who care for those injured by the shootings in Aurora, Colorado, on July 20;
those grieving or wounded by coordinated attacks in Iraq this morning; and
all the staff, volunteer leaders, and conferees at Silver Lake this week.
the Rev. Carl F. Schultz, Jr., pastor emeritus of First Church of Christ Congregational UCC in Glastonbury, who is recovering from surgery for a broken hip;
the Conference Minister Search Committee as they begin to consider potential candidates;
those grieving, homeless, or temporarily displaced by floods in Krymsk, Russia, over the weekend of July 7th.
the Rev. Dr. Barry Cass, the staff, members, and friends of the Somers Congregational United Church of Christ, which lost its 170-year-old meetinghouse to a devastating fire the night of January 1-2;
the Rev. Alison Buttrick-Patton, the lay leadership, staff, members, friends, and community of the Saugatuck Congregational Church UCC, which suffered severe damage from a substantial fire on the night of November 20;
the Conference's partners in the Kyung-Ki Presbytery and their communities on the Korean peninsula;
the Conference's partners working for peace in Colombia amidst violence;
the leaders of this nation, that they may meet the challenges of the day with insight, wisdom, and compassion;
this nation, that it may continue its difficult work to end the practices of racism;
those suffering due to the ongoing financial woes of the nation, be they struggling to meet an unaffordable mortgage, seeking employment, or working to find just resolutions; and
those serving or living in war or conflict zones around the world, or where terrorists have struck.
To be added to the prayer list, please send an email to Rev. Eric Anderson at: email@example.com.
First Cong'l Church
SU Mr. Greg Griffin
Iglesia Hispana Unida deCristo
P Ms. Juana J. Villavicencio
King Street, UCC
P The Rev. Cindy Maddox
Westfield Cong'l Church
IN The Rev. Alice L. O'Donovan
CE Ms. Bethann Muller
South Killingly, First
P The Rev. Frank C. Perkins
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The Spirit Calendar: July 23, 2012 by Rev. Dr. Thomas Clough, Interim Eastern Regional Minister