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August 9, 2016, 10:16 AM

Thank a Teacher

If you are reading this newsletter, thank a teacher!

Somewhere along the line someone showed you how to read and write the letters of the alphabet. And to count your fingers and toes. And what to call the animals and objects in our physical world. And how to express our needs, like “I’m hungry”. And how to identify our feelings. “I’m happy, or sad, or afraid, or angry.” How to feel loved and how to be loving.

For most of us, our first teachers were our parents, especially our mothers. They held us, changed us, praised us for taking our first tentative steps, let us spill our milk and drop food off our spoons until we got it right. They encouraged us to say our first words. They prepared us for the larger world outside our home.

Then came school. In most of the world children do not have the opportunity to go to school. Public education is not guaranteed. We are blessed to live in a place and time that values education and provides learning to our children. What happens in school prepares us to survive and thrive in our society and world.

The basis of education is not school buildings, or books, or pencils and paper. Education is primarily based on the relationship of a teacher and a student. At some point in time we become capable and responsible for continuing our own education. But even then, there is a teacher behind our learning skills. With education should come both increased confidence and increased humility. As has been often observed, in every human endeavor we stand on the shoulders of giants, those who have gone before us and showed us the way.

This month our children are going back to school. They will be greeted by some of the heroes in our communities, teachers. At school, teachers will nurture and guide our young people. Sometimes they will even supply pencils and notebooks out of their own pockets for their students who can’t afford them. They will encourage them and praise their efforts and correct their mistakes. They are the extension of the love and nurture and guidance the children experience at home. Sometimes, they are the substitute for the lack of such nurture at home.

In the New Testament the first followers of Jesus commonly refer to him by two names that tell us who he is. One is “Lord”, and “Jesus is Lord” was the earliest recorded confession of faith in the early church. The other name used when addressing Jesus was “Teacher.” It was a name Jesus accepted for himself, and teaching is what he came to do. He came to teach us what is real and true. He said, “If you continue my words, you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

This month as a church, may we honor our teachers for their important contribution to the lifelong learning that gives meaning to our lives.

Teachers, we thank you!

June 28, 2016, 3:11 PM

We are Stronger Together

We are stronger together.

July begins with the celebration of the birth of our nation. It is an experiment in democracy. Our government is “of the people, by the people, for the people”.  At least that is how our forefathers envisioned and intended it to be. In 2016 we are hearing some voices in politics encouraging divisiveness. Theirs would be a government of some of the people, by some of the people, for some of the people—but not for all. I am reminded of George Orwell’s “Animal Farm”. All the animals were equal. But some of the animals were more equal than others! We must not let political leaders with self-serving agendas create fear among us in order to divide us. Our strength is in our unity.

Listen to wise counsel:

“Do not put your trust in princes,

    in mortals, in whom there is no help.

When their breath departs, they return to the earth;

    on that very day their plans perish.”   Psalm 146:3-4 (NRSV)

We are stronger together.

The Gospel of John records a remarkable prayer of Jesus for his followers:

“I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” John 17:20-23 (NRSV)

Christians united do at least two amazing things. First, they demonstrate to a broken world what life can be like when people get along. Even with our differences we can be at peace. We can have mutual respect. We can help one another. We become living proof of the love of God in an unloving and unlovable world. Second, we can do more together than anyone can do alone. I think that is why Jesus tells his disciples, “You will do greater works than me.” John 14:12

This month at our humble and small church we are working together. And it is making us strong. We just concluded a wonderful Vacation Bible School with over 70 children, our neighbors. The last week of June we are privileged to host 40 young people and adults from Milford, Connecticut UCC, who will be helping families recovering from the 2015 floods. The first week of July we will join with almost 300 youth to do the same kind of work. Then, we will work with First Lutheran Church in San Marcos to host three weeks of Camp Hope, a day camp for our community.

We are stronger together.

June 28, 2016, 10:07 AM

Looking Forward

Looking Forward

When the political and religious leaders of Jesus’ day tried to trap Jesus by asking him for “a sign from heaven” to justify his work, this was his response:

 “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. (Matthew 16:2-3 ESV)

I’m looking forward to this summer. I’m not looking forward to 100+ degrees heat. I’m not looking forward to any more flash floods. But I’m looking forward to the new season of the year. School is out, many of our students have graduated and are looking forward to the next phase of their young lives, and most are happy for a break. Some of us will take a vacation. Many of us will enjoy the company of family and friends. And for our church, summer brings new opportunities, experiences and adventures.

I’m looking forward to June with anticipation and joy for many reasons, but for two reasons especially:

  1. I have faith in the God of Jesus. For those of us who share that faith, it gives us a confidence about the future, long-term and short-term. Life can certainly be hard at times, but if we know that our lives are ultimately and intimately in the hands of God, we can look forward to what lies ahead. This is the basis of our world view, and it is filled with hope and expectation.
  2. I am happy about the activities and events that we will share together in our church life this summer. For starters, in June we will have our annual Vacation Bible School. That is a common event for churches everywhere, and First Christian San Marcos is no exception. It is one event that the whole church participates in. It is organized and directed by Mattie Howard. She always does an inspiring job of bringing church and community together for faith-deepening experience. But one person can’t do this alone. So many of our people come together to transform our facilities into a magical environment (a surf shack this year!). Some will design and create scenes and posters and crafts. Some will prepare dinners and snacks. Some will tell stories. Some will lead games. Some will serve as counselors. There is much work to do and many people needed to do it. Every summer we work together. It’s hard work, but always worthwhile and always lots of fun.
  3. I’m happy about 40 people from a church in Connecticut coming to stay in our building the last week of June. They are coming to serve Jesus by helping families with the continuing recovery from last year’s two floods. They will sleep and eat in our building for a week. They will work and worship and play together. We are blessed with their presence among us.

Unlike the critics of Jesus, we who have faith know how to interpret the times. Time with God is good. The summer looks promising. We are looking forward……

May 4, 2016, 3:47 PM


This year Pentecost comes in the month of May. The date varies from year to year, being based on the Hebrew lunar calendar. “Pentecost” means “Fiftieth” and refers to the 50th day after the giving of the law of Moses in the Old Testament. For Christians, Pentecost always falls 50 days after Easter.

Pentecost has great significance for Christianity. As described in the 2nd chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, Pentecost is the “birthday of the church”. Following the death and resurrection of Jesus, his closest disciples and family experienced life-transforming encounters with the risen Christ that prepared them to proclaim the good news to the world. Here is the account of what happened:

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken….

….Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.

 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”

When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

This is the month of Pentecost, the birthday of our life together as Disciples of Christ. Happy Birthday, Everyone!

March 25, 2016, 4:04 PM

The Season of Joy

The Season of Joy

April is the month of the Easter season—called Eastertide. Eastertide is the period of fifty days from Easter Sunday to Pentecost Sunday. Each Sunday during that period is a Sunday “of Easter”.

Eastertide occurs during springtime, a time of new life, with the colors of buds and blossoms, the stirrings of animals, the rising of temperatures from cold to warm, the lengthening of daytime, and the general feeling of anticipation of good things to come.

For Christians, following the liturgical calendar, the sense of anticipation comes in no small part from our joy at the story of Jesus. This is not merely the story of the birth of the Christ child, comforting as that is. No, this is about the victory of faith over despair. It is about overcoming evil with good. It is about God living among us, experiencing all that humans experience, good and bad. It is about the importance and value of sacrifice for something greater than ourselves. It is about the transcendent spirit over the limitations of physical mortality. It is about fellowship and family and forgiveness and love.

When we contemplate Easter we are reminded that the Grace of God is the most powerful force in the world. And that we are safe. It makes us happy. What a great time of year. Eastertide. The Season of Joy.

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