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

101 State Street
Charlevoix, MI 49720
231-547-9122


Sermon & Weekly Bulletin October 20, 2019

10-20-2019 Bulletin PDF

Part One: 

Part Two:

  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. How Are The Children?
    3. Today’s sermon has a question, a goal, and a place for feedback
  2. How Are the Children?
    1. Theme of Mi. Conference annual meeting –
      1. Focus of our keynote address & worship, and our annual reports
        1. Annual report topics: Our mission is \ what work did you accomplish in 2019 that illustrated how we are taking care of God’s children \ our challenges were \ what bold missions do you envision for 2020
      2. Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson – President and CEO of Deaconess Foundation – UCC affiliated non profit, grew out of the Evangelical and Reformed church program in 1889
        1. Deaconesses goes back to Paul’s letter to Romans ch. 16, discussing Phoebe
        2. Fascinating history, read more about the Deaconess sisters in Hidden Histories in the United Church of Christ Vol. 1, edited by BBZ
  • Reminder of how our history informs our current ministry and justice commitments
  1. Part of traditional Masai greetings – even if you don’t have children
    1. Not your children, the children
    2. Alternative measurement to greatness of society
  • “A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.” -Greek Proverb
  1. Children’s Sabbath
    1. Multifaith weekend of devotion
    2. Different from children’s Sunday – about the issues facing children
      1. Keeping them from sabbath
    3. Refocusing from mitigating harm on children to speaking of their well being
    4. Change question from “all children” to “every child”
    5. Wide ranging question – wide ranging set of answers
  2. Why bring it here?
    1. First, Jesus multiple reminders that we are to be like children to enter his kin-dom.
    2. Second, this is a Church of grandparents
    3. Already involved in many ways
      1. Diaper pantry
      2. Reading to children at school
  • Rayder den
  1. Invite a shift in focus from mitigating harm to focus on well being
  2. Starting with something basic, our prayers – A prayer for Children
  1. Lectionary
    1. Standard lectionary texts – not specially selected
      1. Important to clarify this, especially after Jacob Atem last week with healing of 10 lepers
    2. Perhaps that’s the most important lesson – the perspective you use to read the Bible is as important as the words of the text themselves
    3. Read with eyes looking for each child
  2. Jeremiah
    1. Narratives of Hope
      1. Plant anew – not just destroy
    2. Rebut popular phrase of the time “Sour grapes eaten by parents leave a bitter taste in the mouths of their children.”
      1. Children paying for the misfortunes of their parents
    3. Like a common phrase today, “God helps those who help themselves” – thought to come from Bible and it does not.
      1. Ignores God’s grace, removes our responsibilities
      2. “God helps those who help bring about God’s will”
  • Children can’t help themselves – no power
  1. Everyone will die for their own sins (not their parents)
    1. Starsky Wilson “the gift of a clean slate”
  2. I will put my Instructions within them and engrave them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 They will no longer need to teach each other to say, “Know the Lord!” because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord;
    1. Jesus reminds us, be like children –
  3. Luke
    1. their need to pray continuously and not to be discouraged.
      1. Tells us directly what we are to take from this
    2. Widow as one of the lowly, standing up to a corrupt judge
      1. Appalling action of the judge
    3. Parable is more comedic than our translation shows – widow is described in Greek using a boxing metaphor, “because this widow causes trouble for me, I will give her justice, so that she may not, in the end, beat me black and blue with her coming”
      1. Not ha-ha funny, more like a political cartoon
    4. Parable entreats us to keep praying and not be discouraged
      1. “Won’t God provide justice to his chosen people who cry out to him day and night? Will God be slow to help them?”
      2. If consistency will work on the unjust, how much more will it work for the just God?
    5. But when the Human One comes, will he find faithfulness on earth?”
      1. Or will he find children and adults with bitter tastes in their mouth?
    6. Focus on Faithfulness
      1. prayer
        1. Prayer as active
        2. “prayer is not a passive activity but one that actively seeks God and pursues God’s will.” F. Scott Spencer
  • What we choose to pray on also influences our mindset
  1. Children as a center point for justice in our society today
    1. Keep focus on God’s will – for the children
    2. Jesus loves the little children
  2. Parents would do anything for their children
    1. Do anything for our children
      1. Not just dramatic, extreme efforts
    2. Everyday, boring, tedious,
  • Or slightly uncomfortable, for a long period of time
  1. Be like the Boxing widow
  2. Reflect back on “A prayer for children” by Ina Hughs
  1. Question – How are the children?
    1. What better question for a church full of grandparents
      1. How would you answer the question?
    2. See Insert from Children’s Defense fund
      1. 12.8 million children, almost 20% live in poverty
      2. Childhood poverty inflicts lasting damage
        1. Cognitive gaps
        2. Worse health
      3. Charlevoix county has 7.1% early childhood homelessness, while average in Mi. is 2.8%
        1. children are about twice as likely to experience homelessness during their first four years of life if they are living in a rural or midsize county. – Michigan League for Public Policy
      4. Roadmap for sensible, effective changes to policy
        1. Policy changes gets the most effective return on investment
        2. Starsky Wilson’s church’s soup kitchen switched to advocacy
      5. Owners manual for Michigan
  • Goal – Pray for the children
    1. Not just the children you are related to, or know
    2. Love your neighbor as yourself
    3. Not just abstract. “the children” or “all children” become focused “each child”
    4. be tenacious like the widow, who was probably not just advocating for herself
    5. be the people with nothing to lose, because so many of these children stand to lose so much
    6. let us take the bitter taste out of their mouths
    7. let us give them a clean slate
    8. let us pray for, and seek out what we need
  • How do we persist in daunting times?
    1. Being a person of faith, like Parenting, is a largely thankless, but crucial task
    2. I hope you are proud of yourself for the times you’ve said ‘yes’ when all it meant was extra work for you and was seemingly helpful only to someone else. – Fred Rogers
    3. One of the reasons I think this church is so suited for this task
      1. A church full of grandparents is a church full of people who no longer need to please
      2. Like the boxing widow – focused on God’s plan
    4. Focus of future faith formation conversations
      1. Praying for persistence

Readings

Jeremiah 31:27-34

Today’s reading, found on page ______________ comes from the part of Jeremiah referred to as Narratives of Hope. He, like many of the prophets, did not just prophecy judgement, but promises from God of a renewed covenant and the coming of God’s kin-dom.

27 The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will plant seeds in Israel and Judah, and both people and animals will spring up. 28 Just as I watched over them to dig up and pull down, to overthrow, destroy, and bring harm, so I will watch over them to build and plant, declares the Lord. 29 In those days, people will no longer say:

Sour grapes eaten by parents

    leave a bitter taste in the mouths of their children.

30  Because everyone will die for their own sins:

    whoever eats sour grapes

    will have a bitter taste in their own mouths.

31 The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. 32 It won’t be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt. They broke that covenant with me even though I was their husband, declares the Lord. 33 No, this is the covenant that I will make with the people of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my Instructions within them and engrave them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 They will no longer need to teach each other to say, “Know the Lord!” because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord; for I will forgive their wrongdoing and never again remember their sins.

Luke 18:1-8

 Today’s reading from the Gospel of Luke, found on page ______________, continues Jesus’ instructions to his disciples on the nature and power of prayer, as well as a reminder to not lose heart

18 Jesus was telling them a parable about their need to pray continuously and not to be discouraged. 2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected people. 3 In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him, asking, ‘Give me justice in this case against my adversary.’ 4 For a while he refused but finally said to himself, I don’t fear God or respect people, 5 but I will give this widow justice because she keeps bothering me. Otherwise, there will be no end to her coming here and embarrassing me.” 6 The Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 Won’t God provide justice to his chosen people who cry out to him day and night? Will he be slow to help them? 8 I tell you, he will give them justice quickly. But when the Human One comes, will he find faithfulness on earth?”

The Word of God, for the people of God

Thanks be to God