May 20

 Descent of the Holy Spirit by El Greco

Descent of the Holy Spirit by El Greco

Pentecost Sunday  10:30 a.m.

Lectionary Readings:   Psalm 104 and Acts 2: 1-21

Text:  “Suddenly, from heaven, there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind.”  Acts 2.2

Sermon:  “Second Wind”

Tease:  This Sunday we hear one of the greatest narratives of the Christian faith.  It is the story that speaks to us about the beginnings of the Church, the moment when the Spirit of God “blew” into a gathering of Jesus’ followers and forever changed their own life stories.  It is a story filled with amazement and confusion, with disbelief and wonder.  It is a story that has been seen as a beginning… as a new birth.  What do you suppose would happen if we were to hear this story yet again, not as something weird that happened a long time ago…but in such a way that connects it to our own lives and faith today?

May 13

Morning Worship  10:30 a.m.  

 The Choosing of St. Matthias

The Choosing of St. Matthias

Lectionary Readings:  Psalm 1;  Acts 1:15-26

Text:  “…and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was added to the eleven.”  Acts 1:26

Sermon:  “Out of the Ordinary”

Tease:  As we begin our preparations for Pentecost, we examine the story of Matthias, the man chosen to replace Judas Iscariot.  It’s no “burning bush” story, to be sure.  In fact, what stands out is how ordinary the selection process ends up becoming – a casting of lots.  We learn nothing of Matthias’ qualifications.  And we will learn nothing about his subsequent performance.  And yet, his selection tells us volumes about the meaning discipleship and the expectations we bring to our own role within the community as faith – as ordinary as that life ends up becoming.

May 6

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Ascension Sunday     10:30 a.m.

Holy Communion

Lectionary Readings:  Psalm 47;  Luke 24:44-53

Text:   “While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven.”

Sermon:   “On The Edge”

Tease:   The story of Jesus’ ascension defies any human logic.  What does Luke mean when he asserts so matter-of-factly:  “Jesus withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven?”  Surely, his statement demands a few more details.   What actually happened?  How fast did he ascend?  Where did he go?  The author makes a second attempt to recount the same event in his Book of Acts.  (None of the other Gospel writers even give it a try!) In Acts, he simply tells us that a cloud came in and “hid him from their view.”   It’s as if Luke takes us as far as he can … to the point where traditional language suddenly stops working … and we must muster the courage to venture beyond that edge … and into uncharted spiritual territory.

April 29

 Nick Schipper and I visited organic farmer, Jane Wynn on her nature preserve above Port-au-Prince, Haiti.   Here she proudly displays a thriving crop of sweet potatoes.

Nick Schipper and I visited organic farmer, Jane Wynn on her nature preserve above Port-au-Prince, Haiti.   Here she proudly displays a thriving crop of sweet potatoes.

Fourth Sunday of Easter  10:30 a.m.

Lectionary Readings:  Psalm 22;  John 15: 1-8

Text:  “Abide in me, as I abide in you.”   John 15: 4

Sermon:  “All vine and No Taters”

Tease:   I am choosing some old Appalachian wisdom as we reflect on Jesus’ final conversation with his followers.  “I am the vine,” he says, “You are the branches.  Those who abide in me will bear much fruit.”  The image of a grapevine graced the entrance to the Jerusalem Temple. So, he’s reminding us that no matter what the future holds, his teachings remain the true life and way for God’s faithful.   It’s easy to detect the health of a grapevine by counting the clusters of plump fruit.  Not so, with sweet potato vines.  In fact, one can be tending wonderfully verdant vines, but when the time comes to pull the tubers beneath the surface …well, let’s just say grandma won’t be baking no sweet potato pie.  Which is to say, when it comes to abiding in Christ, there’s always the danger of being “all show and no substance.”

April 22

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Fourth Sunday of Easter   10:30 a.m. 

Lectionary Readings:  Psalm 23; John 10:11-18

Text:  “I am the good shepherd, I know my own and my own know me.”  John 10:14

Sermon:  “Hook, Or By Crook”

Tease:   One of my most memorable experiences was visiting a Bedouin encampment on the Palestinian West Bank.  My stay included time in the fields with the shepherds and their flocks.  Once the sun was directly overhead, we guided the sheep to a small watering hole where a number of shepherds and flocks gathered for a time of refreshment.  What was truly amazing was the way in which the flocks intermingled with each other, with no markings to differentiate one group from another.  But, when it was time to go, each shepherd had their own distinct call and the flocks separated themselves and went peacefully on their way.  Each sheep knew the sound of his, or her own shepherd.   Needless to say, this lovely passage offers some welcomed guidance in cacophony and confusion of our own time.

April 8

  "The Incredulity of St. Thomas by Benjamin West

"The Incredulity of St. Thomas by Benjamin West

Second Sunday of Easter

10:30 a.m.

Lectionary Readings:  Psalm 133;  John 20:19-31

Sermon:   “Room for Doubt”

Text:  “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”   John 20:19

Tease:  If it’s the Sunday after Easter, the focus of our worship will be the story of Doubting Thomas. Poor Thomas.  So misunderstood!  How quickly we forget that it’s always Thomas who stands so valiantly beside Jesus.  When everyone cautions Jesus not to visit his sick friend Lazarus for fear of being arrested … it is Thomas who says, “We must go and, if necessary, die with him!”  Thomas is forever criticized for wanting to see the resurrected Jesus, for himself. But, wouldn’t we do the same?  In fact, we may just discover that Thomas has a few things to teach us about finding the risen Christ in our own lives.

April 1

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Easter Sunday, April 1     10:30 a.m.

Lectionary Readings:   Psalm 118;  Matthew 28: 1-10

Text:  “The Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, go and tell the others that I go to Galilee, there they will see me.”   Matthew 28:10

Sermon:   “On to Galilee!    Rev. Garren preaching

Tease:  When three women come to Jesus’ tomb before dawn, they expect to find his body.  Each is heartsick that, yet again, good never seems to prevail against evil.  But as they make their approach and peer into the radiant darkness… a voice is heard telling them that things may not appear as they first seem.

March 25

  "Jesus Enters Jerusalem", by J.F.Flandrin, 1842

"Jesus Enters Jerusalem", by J.F.Flandrin, 1842

Palm Sunday, March 25  10:30 a.m.

Lectionary Readings:  Psalm 118; Mark 11: 1-11

Text:  “Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields.”   Mark 11:8

Sermon:  “People Watching”

Tease:    I am a people watcher!!  I love surveying a crowd and taking in all of the excitement and commotion.   And, the account of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem gives us a wonderful opportunity to do some people watching - Roman garrisons, religious authorities, Jewish rebels, Passover pilgrims, the curious, and the disciples.  In fact, by surveying this crowd …we learn everything we need to know about who Jesus is …and what He asks from each of us.

March 18

 Young Romero celebrating Mass

Young Romero celebrating Mass

Fifth Sunday in Lent   10:30 a.m.

Lectionary Readings:  Jeremiah 31: 31-34;  John 12: 20-33

Text:  “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain.  But, if it dies, it bears much fruit.”  John 12:24.

Sermon:  “A Voice for the Voiceless”

Tease:  In short order, the Roman Catholic Church will be canonizing Archbishop Oscar Romero as a saint.  No doubt, we will be hearing a lot more about this remarkable individual in the weeks and months to come.  As a seminarian, I studied Romero’s writings and found him to be a profound influence in my own spiritual journey.  In fact, I was doing a study leave at the Weston Priory in Vermont the day he was assassinated by a Salvadoran Death Squad in 1980.  Much of my remaining time there was spent discussing the impact the champion of human rights had on our lives and how it becomes our challenge to carry on his ministry to the most vulnerable segments of the human community.  In a world that needs more role models, I can’t think of another individual whose life more gloriously reflects our gospel lesson of the week.

March 11

 Jesus cleanses the Temple

Jesus cleanses the Temple

Fourth Sunday in Lent  10:30 a.m.

Lectionary Readings:  Psalm 19;  John 2: 13-22

Text:   “Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!”  John 2:16

Sermon:   “Freedom from Want”

Tease:   This Sunday is one of those rare opportunities that if you missed last week’s sermon, you have a second shot at it!!  Fact is, of course, last weekend’s Nor’easter prevented everyone from attending worship.  So, I will be giving my reflection on Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple another go.   But be forewarned, this may be the last time you get a chance to hear me juxtapose a passage of scripture, with a bombshell 1943 Saturday Evening Post essay and an iconic Norman Rockwell painting.   It doesn’t get any better than that!

March 4

 "Freedom From Want" by Norman Rockwell

"Freedom From Want" by Norman Rockwell

Second Sunday in Lent      

Holy Communion  10:30 a.m.

Lectionary Readings:  Psalm 19. John 2: 13-22

 Text:  “Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.”   John 2:16

Sermon:  “Freedom from Want”

Tease:  Jesus’ driving the money changers from the Temple is a classic “speaking truth to power” moment.  Needless to say, it sets up his collision course with the religious leaders of the day.  And yet, confronting established practices is often part of the spiritual journey.  Most of us know Norman Rockwell’s classic painting of a family gathered around a Thanksgiving table as the matron is serving an enormous turkey.  Did you know the quintessential painter of Americana was, in reality, speaking a pointed truth to the powers of his day?

 

February 25

 Journey of the Family of Abraham by Giovanni Castiglione

Journey of the Family of Abraham by Giovanni Castiglione

Second Sunday in Lent  10:30 a.m.

Lectionary Readings:   Genesis 17: 1-7,15-16;  Romans 4: 13-25

Sermon:  “Day of Reckoning”     

We welcome the Rev. Holly Adams to the pulpit this weekend.  Holly retired as pastor of the UCC Church in Norwalk.  She has served as the Moderator of the Fairfield West Association.  You may remember Holly when she was a Chaplain in the skilled nursing facilities of Greenwich.  Holly received her divinity degree from Yale, holds an MSW degree from Fordham University, and did her undergraduate study at Smith College.  

February 18

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First Sunday in Lent  10:30 a.m.

Lectionary Readings:  Genesis 9:8-17;  Mark 1:9-15

Text:  “The time is fulfilled; the kingdom of God is at hand.”  Mark 1:15

Sermon: “Society For All”  

Tease:   On Tuesday, February 20, the United Nations will be observing its annual Day of Social Justice.  Throughout the week, delegates will address issues of global poverty, unemployment and discrimination.  A phrase that has come to be identified with this Day of Social Justice is - “A Society for All,” - which coincidentally bears remarkable similarity to the Kingdom that Jesus pronounces “drawing nigh” in Mark 1:15.  But then, perhaps this resemblance is no mere coincidence at all.

February 11

  "The Transfiguration" by Giovanni Bellini

"The Transfiguration" by Giovanni Bellini

Morning Worship 

10:30 a.m.

Lectionary Readings:  Psalm 50;  Mark 9: 2-9

Text:  “And his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them.”  Mark 9: 3

Sermon:  “Get Your Sparkle On”

Tease:   It’s no mere coincidence that the story of Jesus’ Transfiguration comes to us in the midst of  Carnival  -  the raucous festival  preceding the sober observance of Lent.  As we follow Jesus up a mountain and witness his face “shining like the sun and his garments become like white light,” we’re being reminded to get our own sparkle on…get our bodies moving to the rhythms of  the Spirit … and let the shimmering light of God’s grace shine in our hearts and give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory - already shining in the face of Jesus of Nazareth.”  It’s time to Samba!!

February 4

  Jesus at Capernaum by Domenico Ghirlandaio

Jesus at Capernaum by Domenico Ghirlandaio

Holy Communion  10:30 a.m.

 Lectionary Readings:   Psalm 147; Mark 1: 29-39

Text:  “And the whole city was gathered around the door.”  Mark 1: 33

Sermon:  “This American Pie”

Tease:   Within hours of Jesus’ first appearance in the synagogue at Capernaum, we’re told “all the people of Galilee” were at his doorstep, many with friends and relatives hoping to be touched by his healing hand.  Anticipation is rampant. The young rabbi is capturing the hearts and imagination of a new generation.  But, as we know all too well, reality often falls short of expectation.   What can the past teach us about maintaining confidence and hope in tomorrow, even in the midst of disappointment, or impatience?

January 28

  Healing in Capernaum Synagogue by James Tissot

Healing in Capernaum Synagogue by James Tissot

Morning Worship

Lectionary Readings:  Psalm 111;  Mark 1:21-28

Text:  “And he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?”  Mark 1:24

Sermon:  “Heckle and Hide”

Tease:    We follow Jesus to a local synagogue where his first public sermon is rudely disrupted by a heckler.  “What have you to do with us?” the man shouts.  “Are you here to destroy our way of doing things?”   We’re told that the man is possessed by an “unclean” spirit – a term that is used extensively in scripture and can refer to anything from mental illness to institutional tyranny.  I find it interesting (and by no means coincidental) that our Lord’s first public confrontation with society’s “darker” side takes place in a house of worship.  As He says in another version of this incident, “Physician … you must first heal yourself!”

January 21

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Morning Worship  10:30 a.m.

Lectionary Readings:  Jonah 3: 1-5;  Mark 1: 14-20

Text:  “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.”  Mark 1:17                  

Sermon:  “Fish out of Water”

Tease:   The metaphor of “fishing” is appropriate for Jesus to use as he teaches his disciples about discipleship.  Most of them had first-hand knowledge of what was involved with the job of fishing.  But what implications does this image have for those of us who now experience fishing only as a recreational pastime, if at all?  What are we actually being summoned to do?  Though my list of suggestions will not be exhaustive, it promises to get us thinking about what it may mean to follow Jesus and his directive into this new year.

January 7

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Epiphany Sunday  10:30  a.m.     Holy Communion

Lectionary Readings:  Isaiah 60: 1-6; Mathew 2: 1-12

Text:    “…Wise men from the East came to Jerusalem.”   Matthew 2:1

Sermon:   “On the Fourteenth Day of Christmas”

Tease:   Once again, we join ranks with those strange men from the East, who journey from afar - field and fountain, moor and mountain. They bear gifts that are tools of the magian tradition.   In fact, the word “magi,” simply means wise ones.  Through the millennia, these “wise ones” have become shrouded in myth.   And yet, their appearance in the birth narrative bears profound symbolic significance as the “Old” Testament begins blending with the “New.”

December 31

 Presentation in Temple by Andrea Mantegna

Presentation in Temple by Andrea Mantegna

First Sunday after Christmas  10:30 a.m.

Lectionary Readings:  Psalm 148; Luke 2: 22-40

Text:  “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel.”  Luke 2:34

Sermon:   “Baby … It’s You!”

Tease:  We share a tender moment as Jesus is presented in the Temple and the aged prophet Simeon takes the infant Jesus in arm and makes an astonishing claim regarding the child’s future.  If true, his words introduce us to the entirely new and unexpected way God acts in the world.  Simeon’s predictions not only place trust in God, they place considerable  trust in us, as well.

December 24

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Christmas Eve Candlelight Service

Sunday Evening, December 24 at 5:00 p.m.

At the magical twilight hour, we gather to hear the story of Jesus’ birth.  Our traditional service of lessons and carols will include special music.   The anthems will be the traditional “Lo, How A Rose E’er Blooming and Don Besig’s haunting “Advent Carol.  The evening offertory will Felix Mendelssohn’s “Song Without Words" with Carlos Avila on piano and Mihai Marica on cello.

Rev Garren will deliver a short meditation, entitled “Comfort and Joy.”

It is a joyous, yet reflective hour, guaranteed to put you and the entire family in that Christmas spirit.

There will be no morning service.