Mission Moments for 2023                        

“Restored” ~ John 9:1-41 ~ March 2023

March 19, 2023 ~ One Great Hour of Sharing Offering
John 9:1-41
For many churches, generations of givers have placed their tithe to the church in a basket or plate that is passed during worship. Usually taking place toward the end of the worship service, the receiving of the offering in this way was both practical and also symbolic of the gifts that each congregation member has to offer. In the past couple of years, spurred by pandemic changes, many congregations have made a shift from receiving the offering in person to receiving it online or virtually. This shift in giving is the tip of the iceberg, a symbol of all the changes that have visited all churches in these unprecedented times.
In today’s story, Jesus’ healing of a man blind from birth is met with skepticism and uncertainty by those who have known the man. They are not prepared for this change and may feel ill equipped to handle it. Like the townspeople, you may feel unready for change. And yet, you have been living with and adapting through change as it happens both without and within.
In your lifetime, there has been nearly unfathomable change in the world. Borders have opened and closed, names of countries have changed, allies have banded together to make war on other nations, and then turned on one another, and the English language has added hundreds of new words to the dictionary. (Before 2020, had you ever heard or used the word “superspreader” before?)
And that doesn’t even count the individual changes that you have adapted to in your lifetime. You have weathered and even thrived through changes in self-understanding, knowledge, relationships, emotional landscape, climate, education, fortune, health, travels, travails, employment status, living arrangements, and multiple television remotes with their array of mysterious black on black buttons.
You may push back against change or wish it would not come so fast, but in fact your whole life has been preparing you for the changes we are experiencing now. Whether your giving is the “old” way in a passed plate, or a “new” way through a computer terminal, you have everything you need to weather the changes around you.
One Great Hour of Sharing® is one of four special mission offerings of the United Church of Christ. This Lenten Offering supports the disaster, refugee, and development ministries of the United Church of Christ within Wider Church Ministries. https://www.ucc.org/giving/ways-to-give/our-churchs-wider-mission/one-great-hour-of-sharing/

“Restoring Beauty” ~ Matthew 5:13-20 ~ February 2023

February 5, 2023 ~ Fifth Sunday after Epiphany

“There are very few real emergencies. This doesn’t mean truly terrible things don’t happen. But if we can do things like breathe, delay gratification, feel our feelings in real time, keep ourselves from too much impulsivity, and reach for the right practice or people, we can survive—we can emerge-and-see—through disaster. And with spiritual hindsight, many of our disasters might turn out to be Holy Spirit portals: the way God gets in.

Life as it stands will keep trying to shake us up or smash our boat onto the rocks. This is not because God is a jerk. It’s because Nature throws novel viruses and earthquakes and worse into our path. It’s also because humans are inventive and wonderful, but then we dream up things that ruin lives, like crystal meth, hypercapitalism, and high-waisted jeans (not a good look for anyone).

If we think we are safe, we are wrong. Nothing can insulate us from loss. But safe was never the point. There are fates worse than death—like not ever really living.

If you are lucky, you are currently between emergencies. Maybe you’ve had a rare chance to get off the roller coaster entirely. Your legs have just stopped shaking, and you think, “I’m never doing that again.” You are sitting in the sun, eating something delicious and terrible for you: fried dough, a corn dog, a caramel apple that will pull out your crown. Enjoy the moment. It’s not going to last.

And if you are in the middle of a fast-moving or slow-motion emergency—a sick toddler, a wayward teen, a relationship at a crossroads, a dance with addiction, a mental health crisis—only time will tell if it really was a true emergency. Because with the right kind of attention, ruptures can reveal us, emerge us, and help us evolve faster than any virus.”

This is an excerpt from How to Begin When Your World is Ending: A Spiritual Field Guide to Joy Despite Everything copyright © 2022 Molly Phinney Baskette admin. Broadleaf Books. Used by permission. All rights reserved. How to Begin When Your World is Ending is available at broadleafbooks.com or wherever you purchase your books.

“Cosmic Praise” ~ Psalm 148 ~ January 2023

Some people make resolutions at this time of year. Others prayerfully select a word or phrase to guide them into the days ahead. Still others prefer to find renewal every day, not setting aside only the first of the year as a day to intentionally promise a fresh start to God or self. Whichever camp you fall into, take your cue from Psalm 148, and begin with PRAISE.

In difficult times (and for many of us these mid- and post-pandemic days are definitely difficult times) praise can feel unnecessary or even inappropriate. Praise – the outward expression of gratitude – can seem like an extra we can’t afford. But scientists today affirm what people of faith have known for centuries. Praise is not just good for God, it’s good for you, as studies continue to show that gratitude felt and expressed lowers stress and increases overall happiness. Here are some ways to make your New Year praise-full

¨ Find and maintain a regular prayer practice.

¨ Notice God in the glory of creation, whether your vista of nature is a vast desert landscape, a stand of towering trees, a small city park, or simply the sun rising and setting.

¨ Make praise a part of your giving to your United Church of Christ congregation. (Haven’t pledged what you plan to give this year to your church? It’s never too late!)

¨ Bring your praise to social media, which too often trades in snark and unhealthy competition. How can you notice what is praise-worthy and uplift that instead?

¨ Look for ways that family members or friends shine God’s light in the world through their own acts of praise. Make sure to notice and thank them.

¨ Keep a gratitude journal, writing down what you are grateful for each evening or morning.