First Congregational Church
(United Church of Christ)
Greg Briggs,
Interim Pastor

101 State Street
Charlevoix, MI 49720

Sermon & Weekly Bulletin- January 26, 2020

01-26-20 Bulletin PDF

  1. Prayer and Introduction
    1. “May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, our rock and redeemer. Amen”
    2. Sermon – Look at the moon, not the finger
  2. Last week’s format – how’d it go?
    1. Got good reviews
      1. To get them out of the way – Suggestions for improvement – Need to pass the mic to the congregational speakers, or have liturgist repeat what they said
    2. Format
      1. Kind of the Early service – starting with asking questions
        1. More people, reach a point of diminishing returns
      2. Bit more content than early service – MLK sermonettes
    3. Content
      1. Heard someone say we need more MLK’s today
        1. Cornel West — ‘Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.’
        2. He might say, we need more Jesus and John’s
      2. Look at the moon, not the finger pointing at it
        1. Zen Buddhist concept
        2. I’m seeking a pithy word in English and\or Christian version
          1. Jesus Christ, divine and human. Look at him, and also through following him, we look through him, to the divine
          2. Trinity
        3. Working idea: “Moon-not-finger” – stating the truth, but also encouraging looking further and deeper
        4. Flipside “finger, not moon” when we are focused on intermediary, not source
      3. 1 Corinthians
        1. Unity, not division – potential “finger-not-moon”
          1. Not sure if it’s heartening to know that we today are as fractious as earliest Christians, or if it’s sad we still need to figure it out.
          2. Back them, named after apostles and prophets (Cephas is probably Peter)
  • Today – beyond just denominations
    1. Red letter Christians
    2. Orthodox
    3. Roman Catholic
    4. Fundamentalists
    5. Evangelicals \
    6. Main Line, Old Line
    7. non denominationals
      1. now forming their own not-denominations
      2. not the first time – UCC has Christian church antecedents – getting back to simple faith
    8. A.L.T. (not all like that Christians)
    9. Literalists and non literalists
    10. Defined by single issue – abortion, LGBT,
  1. When is unity possible, when is it not?
    1. “ecumenical invitations” but we better conform to their expectations
    2. Unity as the end, not the means, drives others away
  • Welcome for all –
    1. If there are irreconcilable groups, how does one decide
    2. “All people are welcome, but all behaviors are not”
      1. Hateful, violent, discriminatory, conniving
    3. Hatred should never be empowered, even in the name of tolerance or unity
    4. Unity in CHRIST, not just unity for unity’s sake
      1. be restored with the same mind and the same purpose”
    5. Unity as covenant
      1. Not between ideas but between people
      2. Clarify the essentials – and reclarify, so that we don’t fixate on them – they are a finger pointing to the moon
        1. Nuance
      3. Modern parlance – essentials as mission
        1. Jesus cared for the least first, not the mightiest
      4. “and here we go” the start of Jesus’ public ministry
        1. Christ, who brings us to unity and seeks to erase all division
        2. Ending of John’s public ministry, beginning of Jesus’?
          1. Now when Jesus heard that John was arrested, he went to Galilee.”
          2. Translations of “went” vary. “fled”, “retreated”, “regrouped in”
  • Went to learn from John? Study underneath him? Continuation of the ministry?
  1. Reminder – Jesus’ ministry started with the arrest of another prophet for preaching the truth – M.L.K. echo
    1. Not hiding, but maybe regrouping, or re-examining strategy
  2. start of his ministry in Galilee – From that time Jesus began to announce, “Change your hearts and lives! Here comes the kingdom of heaven!”
  3. maybe Jesus was inspired by John. Who inspires you?
  1. Seeking Disciples
    1. Distinctive that Jesus sought out his disciples, didn’t wait for them to come to him, as was much more common. Again, like John.
    2. Urgency of gospel of Matthew – “right away” they followed him, “Immediately left the boat”
    3. Fishers of people – building on their strengths, transforming their gifts, not scolding them for being depraved sinners.
    4. Jesus traveled throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues. He announced the good news of the kingdom and healed every disease and sickness among the people.
  2. Kingdom of heaven, in Matthew
    1. Distinct from kingdom of God language in other gospels
      1. Maybe a moon-not-finger move? Focus on heaven (wide open) vs focus on God (singular, pointed)
    2. Announcing the good news, synonymous with healing diseases and sicknesses
      1. Like this church, combining it’s identity with it’s mission work.
    3. Need More MLKs – moon-not-finger
      1. Need more public-lovers – justice is love in public
      2. Tension to create room for change –
        1. MLK quoted Paul from Romans “Be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
          1. Creative malajustment
        2. Philippians “colony of heaven”
  • MLK wasn’t loved by many in his time – need to remember that
  1. Letter from Birmingham Jail –
    1. Last week’s reading left off the deploring the white moderate
    2. Like Jesus’ thoughts on the Pharisees
  2. Who is following in the footsteps of Jesus, John, Dr. King, today?
    1. William Barber
      1. Disciples of Christ minister – started involvement with NAACP in North Carolina – Moral Mondays
      2. Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for a Moral Revival
        1. Direct continuation of Dr. King’s Poor People Campaign
  • Quote after recent Democratic presidential debate that mentioned the Poor People’s Campaign – “We’re thankful for a mention but we’ve got to go further, much further than a mention,” he said. “Republicans tend to racialize poverty. Democrats tend to run from poverty. We must deal with the reality of poverty.”
  1. Kaji Dousa
    1. Pastor of Park Avenue Christian Church which is UCC and Disciples of Christ
    2. co-chair of the New Sanctuary Coalition NYC
  • targeted by US government for her ministry with immigrants, including illegal surveillance and revoked her travel status
  1. “New documents show government targeted NYC pastor for officiating immigrant weddings“
  2. “My faith and belief in ministering to the vulnerable brought me to the border,” “It’s now undeniably clear the government targeted me for this very calling, based on the language contained in its own documents.”
  1. Growing up, wondered, what I’d do in the civil rights era, or WWII Germany
  2. Believe future generations will ask the same about us, now
    1. Climate collapse, climate catastrophe
    2. Partisanship @ politics – instead of principals @ politics
  3. How did we follow and support Xians like Dr. King, Dr. Barber, and Rev. Dousa
    1. Where is our creative maladjustment?
  • Moon-not-finger
    1. A related word for this is Epiphany
    2. Blindspots – negative version
      1. What are some places you are aware of having blindspots?
      2. Challenge of blindspots, we don’t know we have them
  • Lenten focus?
  1. Commitment to moon-not-finger
    1. Positive and negative parts
  2. Commitment to unity in Christ
    1. Covenant, not litmus test


1 Corinthians 1:10-18 Common English Bible (CEB)

10 Now I encourage you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ: Agree with each other and don’t be divided into rival groups. Instead, be restored with the same mind and the same purpose. 11 My brothers and sisters, Chloe’s people gave me some information about you, that you’re fighting with each other. 12 What I mean is this: that each one of you says, “I belong to Paul,” “I belong to Apollos,” “I belong to Cephas,” “I belong to Christ.” 13 Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you, or were you baptized in Paul’s name? 14 Thank God that I didn’t baptize any of you, except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that nobody can say that you were baptized in my name! 16 Oh, I baptized the house of Stephanas too. Otherwise, I don’t know if I baptized anyone else. 17 Christ didn’t send me to baptize but to preach the good news. And Christ didn’t send me to preach the good news with clever words so that Christ’s cross won’t be emptied of its meaning.

18 The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are being destroyed. But it is the power of God for those of us who are being saved.


Matthew 4:12-23 Common English Bible (CEB)

Move to Galilee

12 Now when Jesus heard that John was arrested, he went to Galilee. 13 He left Nazareth and settled in Capernaum, which lies alongside the sea in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali. 14 This fulfilled what Isaiah the prophet said:

15 Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,
        alongside the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles,
16     the people who lived in the dark have seen a great light,
        and a light has come upon those who lived in the region and in shadow of death.

17 From that time Jesus began to announce, “Change your hearts and lives! Here comes the kingdom of heaven!”

Calling of the first disciples

18 As Jesus walked alongside the Galilee Sea, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew, throwing fishing nets into the sea, because they were fishermen. 19 “Come, follow me,” he said, “and I’ll show you how to fish for people.” 20 Right away, they left their nets and followed him. 21 Continuing on, he saw another set of brothers, James the son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with Zebedee their father repairing their nets. Jesus called them and 22 immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

Ministry to the crowds

23 Jesus traveled throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues. He announced the good news of the kingdom and healed every disease and sickness among the people.