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Walk to Benefit Autism Coalition of Luzerne County

The Church and Community Ministry Team will participate in a walk to benefit the Autism Coalition of Luzerne County on April 25th and we  invite you to join us. Information and registration forms are posted on the bulletin board. Registration will also be conducted the morning of the walk and online at: www.ACLCWalk.com.

We also have plans to participate in a walk in the fall, we will keep you informed.

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Advent Series on Mary- Lunch Bunch

Remember to join us at Lunch Bunch on Thursdays at 11:00 a.m. for our Advent Series on Mary.  Lunch Bunch meets in the Lukens Lounge next to Fellowship Hall.

December 4:  Mary, Full of Grace

December 11:  It was Not a Silent Night

December 18:  Mary’s Role Model

If you would like more information about Lunch Bunch, please contact the church office at (570)288-8434.

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December Worship

December 7- Second Sunday in Advent- Communion- The Candle of Peace

Sermon:  Tidings of Comfort and Joy

Scripture:  Isaiah 40: 1-11 God Comforts the People; Mark 1: 1-8 John the Baptist Prepares the Way

Hymns:  Blessed Be the God of Israel 209; Comfort Now My People 87; Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus 82; Creator of the Stars of Night 84; Communion Invitation

December 14- Third Sunday in Advent- The Candle of Joy- New Members Received- Pageant- All Church Brunch

Sermon:  Getting the Message Right

Scripture:  Isaiah 61:  1-4, 8-11 God Delivers the People; John 1: 6-8, 19-28 John’s Baptismal Identity

Hymns:  O Come, O Come Emmanuel 211; On Jordan’s Bank the Baptist’s Cry 96; O Lord, How Shall I Meet You? 104

December 21- Fourth Sunday in Advent- The Candle of Love- Delivery of our Angel Tree Gifts

Sermon:  Something to Sing About

Scripture:  Luke 1: 26-38 Mary’s Magnificat; Psalm 27 Wait for the Lord

Hymns:  Angels from the Realms of Glory 220; Angels We Have Heard on High 238; The First Noel 245

December 24- Christmas Eve- 7:30 p.m. Wednesday- The Christ Candle Completes our Advent Wreath

Sermon:  New Beginnings

Scripture:  Isaiah 9: 2-7 The People in Darkness See a Great Light; Luke 2 Jesus’ Birth

Hymns: O Come All Ye Faithful; It Came Upon a Midnight Clear; Away in a Manger; What Child Is This?; Break Forth O Beauteous Light; Silent Night; Joy to the World; Peace, Peace

December 28- First Sunday of Christmas- Christ’s Story Continues in Our Stories

Sermon:  Sermon will be given by the Rev. Dr. James L. Harring

Scripture:  Isaiah 61: 10- 62: 3 God Sends a Savior; Luke 2: 22-40 Jesus is Presented in Temple

Hymns:  Hark the Herald Angels Sing 240; Good Christian Friends, Rejoice 224; Joy to the World, the Lord is Come

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Pastor’s Message- December 2014

“If we live, we live unto the Lord; and, if we die, we die unto the Lord.  Whether we live, therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s.”  Romans 14:  7-8

I have preached this passage from Romans at funerals, of course, and taught the theology of trust in God’s provident grace.  But deep in my heart I know I haven’t lived what I professed to believe.  Do any of us?  Our money tells us ‘in God we trust’ but most of us anxiously scan the stock market reports for its ups and downs and worry about our bank books lasting as long as our long list of needs and wants.  We profess that we are children of God, beloved and precious, but secretly believe we are judged on our works and our worth is dependent on others’ shifting opinion of our performance or ‘likability’.  We talk of God’s grace, the unmerited gift of acceptance and forgiveness, but we run harder and faster and work longer to buy things for ourselves and loved ones that will ‘buy’ our acceptance in the marketplaces of life.  That little recognized ‘last’ Sunday in the church calendar year called ‘Christ the King’, which most of us celebrate as Thanksgiving Sunday, declares that Jesus alone is Lord of all, the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end; who has brought life and immortality to light.  So whether we live or die, work longer or harder, have ‘success’ by the world’s measures- a meaningful job, a happy well-adjusted family, sustainable income, caring friends, earthly security- in our heart of hearts we believe all this is up to us.  We must keep all those plates spinning at once- until like Humpty Dumpty, “it all falls down and couldn’t be put back together again.”

Under the category of pastors are people too, 2014 has been quite a year for the ‘Floomers.’  We accomplished a 25-year dream of building a retirement home on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, only to have a minor ground floor flood one month after moving in, and a major fire destroy the back of the home two months in.  We had two judicial court cases, one divorce, two unplanned pregnancies, one marriage, at least one emotional meltdown, a life and job threatening medical diagnosis, one birth, three moves, lots of counseling and family dramas.  Sound familiar?  I know many of you have similar plates to balance in your own lives.  And when it all comes tumbling down in the same year, stress levels go through the roof.  Why?  Because we believe it is all on our shoulders.  It is our responsibility to put Humpty Dumpty back on the wall so everyone can see and believe there are no ‘cracks’ in our image.  I’m glad to close the door on this particular calendar year!  But I have also learned a great deal about what psychologists call a ‘non-anxious’ presence, and theologians call ‘the peace that passes our understanding’.  When we finally realize we can’t ‘keep it all together’ no matter how hard we try, we open our lives to that grace, to the Lord of all, in ways we haven’t before.  Prayer takes the place of worry.  Deep breaths take the place of clenched fists and stomachs.  It really is not all about us- nor dependent on human efforts alone.  Letting go and letting God puts life back into perspective.  In life, in death, we belong to the Lord.

For God so loved the world…that a baby was born in a stable; God moved into our neighborhood, Jesus shouldered and shares the burdens, the ups and downs of our lives so we don’t have to carry them all alone.  In our beginning, and in our ending, there is God- and if and when we put our trust and faith in God’s provident grace, it truly is somehow enough.  This difficult year taught me I am accepted and loved for who I am, as I am, God’s beautiful unique creation that God called ‘good’; not as someone else thinks I should be (even, or especially not, my perfectionist, critical self!)  I am God’s child, and God’s child has come into my life not only as my judge but as my redeemer.  That is the beauty and the meaning of our journey in this Advent season.  God is Emmanuel, with us- when we are precariously balanced on top of that wall, and even more so when we lie in pieces at the bottom after we ‘all fall down’.

“What then shall we say to this?  If God is for us, who is against us?  He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with Him?  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?  No, in all these things I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Roman 8:  31-39

May you know this truth in your inward being during this Advent journey.  It is our Way, our Life, and our Peace.

Pastor Carol

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Stitch Ministry

Stitch Ministry will meet November 5th, 12th and 19th at 7:00 p.m. in the Education Office at Church of Christ Uniting.  We will be working on projects to be donated to local and worldwide organizations.  All ages and skill levels are invited to attend.  Yarn is provided.

In the past year, we have made many different items including hats, scarves and baby items.  We are looking to expand our ministry making other items throughout the year including prayer shawls and hats for chemo patients.

If you would like more information, please call Lesley O’Boyle at the church office at (570)288-8434.  We have members willing to teach anyone who would like to crochet or knit.  Please stop by one of our meetings and make a wonderful gift for someone.

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Angel Tree Ministry

The Church of Christ Uniting is again a proud participant in the Angel Tree Ministry (ATM) program.  This partnership with Prison Fellowship Ministry gives us the opportunity to comfort and minister to children having a parent who is in prison at the Christmas season.

On the first Sunday of Advent, November 27, a Christmas tree will be on display in the Narthex decorated with angel ornaments listing the names, ages, sizes, and Christmas gift wishes of these children.  We invite you to select one (or more) of the angels from the tree, as you are able, and purchase at least one gift of $20 to $25 for each child.  The goal of the Angel Tree organizers is to serve every eligible child and, as a result, they have reduced the minimum from two gifts to one.  However, let your conscience be your guide on the number of gifts you purchase.

When you select your angel, please remember to complete the attached white contact angel form with your name, phone number and the angel’s code and leave it in the basket provided next to the tree.  Attach the yellow angel form to the gift.  If you purchase more than one gift, please group your gifts together and put the child’s name and code on each package.  The wrapped gifts should be left under the tree in the Narthex on Sunday, December 14, and no later than Friday, December 19, at 12:00 noon.  We are also looking for volunteers to help deliver the gifts.  Please call the church office at (570)288-8434 if you are interested in helping.

Please join in for a rewarding experience of joy.

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Annual Tree Trim

The Annual Church of Christ Uniting Tree Trim will be held Sunday, November 30th from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Please join us in making ornaments and decorations for the tree that will decorate fellowship hall during the advent season.  Enjoy time with the congregation and local community while enjoying pizza and refreshments.

You will also be able to have a family picture taken to be used in an ornament.  And we will be working on tie blankets to be given as gifts to the Catherine McAuley House.

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November Worship

November 2- Celebration of All Saints and Holy Communion

Sermon:  Crossing Over Jordan

Scripture:  Joshua 3: 7-17  Israel crosses the Jordan into the promised land

Hymns:  Come, Let Us Join Our Friends Above 709; My Life Flows On 821; For All the Saints

November 9- Recognition of our Veterans & Annual Meeting of the Congregation after worship

Sermon:  Get Ready, Get Set, Go

Scripture:  Matthew 25: 1-13 Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids; Joshua 24: 1-3, 14-25 Covenant Renewal

Hymns:  O Church of God United 547; Fight the Good Fight 846; Eternal Father, Strong to Save 8

November 16- Stewardship Sunday- Rev. Phyllis Bowers of the United Methodist Stewardship Foundation Preaching

Scripture:  Matthew 25: 14-30 Jesus’ parable of the talents;                  1 Thessalonians 5: 1-11 Salvation in Christ

Hymns:  Heralds of Christ 567; The Church of Christ in Every Age 589; Lord, Whose Love Through Humble Service 581

November 23- Thanksgiving Sunday- Celebration of the Reign of Christ the King

Sermon:  Women of the Church- lay speakers Donna Dickinson, Cindy Kazinski, Leslie Bullock

Scripture:  Matthew 25: 1-46 The judgement of the Nations; Ephesians 1: 15-23 Inheritance of the Saints

Hymns:  We Gather Together 131; Now Thank We All Our God 102; Come, Ye Thankful People Come 694; Praise My Soul, the King of Heaven 66

November 30- First Sunday in Advent

Sermon:  Waiting on the Lord

Scripture:  Isaiah 64: 1-9 God will come from heaven;                                 1 Corinthians 1: 3-9 Wait for revelation of Christ

Hymns:  Blessed be the God of Israel 209; Comfort, Comfort Now My People 87; Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates 213

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Pastor’s Message- November 2014

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God.  (Romans 12:2)  You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.  (Deuteronomy 6:5)

This final ‘truth’ describing our reformed faith is one of the most important; we bring all that we are to our relationship with God, including our hearts and our minds.  Ours is not ‘blind’ acceptance but a reasoned and thoughtful faith that continues to grow in our understanding of God and the world.  Often the gospel requires that we call into question beliefs at which we have already arrived; the acceptance of slavery, women as second class citizens and church participants, the prejudice against homosexuals are just some examples.  The gospel may also lead to a rending of the heart, because it summons us to reexamine some of our strongly held opinions in an effort to open ourselves to God’s Holy Spirit.  Our understanding of God is always finite and too small to comprehend the height, depth, and breadth of all that God is doing in our world.  We are a community of pilgrims who have not yet arrived, but who are constantly on the way to the ‘city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.’ (Hebrews 11:10)

Thus the gospel call us to repentance- turning from ourselves to God; turning from our self-destructive and idolatrous ways to the abundant life promised in Jesus Christ; turning from our easy answers and feel good solutions to the costly grace of Jesus who alone is Lord.  Repentance and belief in the good- news requires constant death of the old self and resurrection to new life.  Repentance is an ongoing experience that continually opens us to the transforming power of Jesus our Christ.  Through our redemption in Christ, the renewal of our minds is now possible.  Repentance is indeed a radical rethinking of everything before the face of Jesus Christ.  Yet how often do congregations and Christians take it upon themselves to become centers for the radical rethinking of their relationship with money, status, privilege, family heritage and values, sex and marriage and children, ambition and success, by bringing it all under the scrutiny of God’s living Word?  Too often we separate faith from practice; personal belief from political and social justice.   It is a false distinction!  God wants ALL of us.

A telling story from scripture tells us of the rich younger ruler who comes to Jesus asking, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”  Jesus replies that he must follow the commandments to love God and neighbor.  Ever humble, the man replies, “You’re right, and I have kept them all!  In fact, I’ve lived an exemplary life from my youth.  I have faithfully kept the law of God; I don’t lie, I don’t steal, I don’t cheat, and I never take the Lord’s name in vain.  But I’m still empty on the inside.  Tell me what to do.”  And Jesus said- because he is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, not just the law; “There is one thing causing your spiritual emptiness.  You love your possessions and your money more than you love God.  Go and sell of your stocks; find some people who suffering inequity in life, and make their life better by giving what you have away.  Once you’ve done that, your hands may be empty but your heart will be full; then come back and follow me.”  Nothing from the past can remain at the center of his life except the desire for faith and obedience.  So the ruler went away sorrowful because he loved God in part, but himself more.

The transformation of the human mind and its renewal through assimilation to the mind of Christ , is something that has to go on throughout our whole life.  It is a never ending discipleship in repentant rethinking as we take up the cross and follow Christ.  May it be so for you and for me!

Pastor Carol

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Al Beech/ West Side Food Pantry- October Weekly Food Offering

Thank you all for your generosity. The weekly food offering is a great help in supplementing the Al Beech West Side Food Pantry. Below is the list of items for the month of October. The baskets are located in the Narthex where you can drop off your items. We will make the food offering at the same time as the collection each week.

October 5    Canned vegetables

October 12   Spaghetti and spaghetti sauce

October 19 Cereal

October 26 Canned fruit cocktail

Cereal, macaroni & cheese and peanut butter & jelly are welcome any time.


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October Worship

October 5       World Communion Day       

Sermon:  God’s People are a Covenant Community

Scripture:  Exodus 20: 1-17 The Ten Commandment Given; Philippians 3: 4b-11 To know Christ

Hymns:  548 In Christ There is No East or West; 568 Christ for The World We Sing;  526 Let us talents and tongues Employ; 431 Let there be Peace on Earth

October 12    

Sermon: God’s People R.S.V.P

Scripture: Exodus 32: 1-14 Worship of a golden calf; Matthew 22: 1-14 The Wedding Banquet

Hymns:  100 God Whose Love is Reigning O’er Us; 616 Come, Sinners to the Gospel Feast;  308 O God in Whom All Life Begins

October 19    

Sermon:  God’s People Set an Example

Scripture:  Exodus 33: 12-23 Moses talks with God; 1 Thessalonians 1: 1-10 A Living Faith

Hymns:  714 I Know Whom I Have Believed; 351 Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior686 God of Our Life

October 26     Anniversary Sunday – Homecoming

Sermon:  Rev. Marion Hartman- UMC Superintendent of Scranton Wilkes-Barre District

Scripture:  Deuteronomy 34: 1-12 Moses passes leadership to Joshua; Matthew 22: 34-46 Disciples ask Jesus what is the greatest commandment

Hymns:  305 Come Sing, O Church, In Joy!; 584 Lord, You Give the Great Commission;  571 Go Make of All Disciples

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Pastor’s Message- October 2014

I AM THE CHURCH! YOU ARE THE CHURCH! WE ARE THE CHURCH TOGETHER. ALL WHO FOLLOW JESUS, ALL AROUND THE WORLD, YES – WE’RE THE CHURCH TOGETHER

That wonderful song we sang at Vacation Bible School together reminds us of an essential truth of our faith. We are not Christians alone. We are in this together. Jesus promised that, after his death and resurrection, he would send another, the Holy Spirit, to be within and empower disciples to be Jesus’ body on earth forever. While Jesus was on earth, the gospel was for one people, in one geographical location. Now, through the Spirit, God’s power will be released throughout the world. Before his ascension back to the Father, Jesus commissioned his disciples; Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And Lo, I am with you always,” Matthew 28.19.

Too often we tend to limit our vision of ‘church’ to a single building or congregation; to a ‘balanced’ budget with limited resources of people, time and money. God wants the church of Jesus Christ to be airborne by the power of the Holy Spirit and to soar with divine purpose. We are rather like the T.S. Elliot character who laments, “I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.” The Presbyterian Book of Order describes, “The Church of Jesus Christ is the provisional demonstration of what God intends for all of humanity.” The gospel’s canvas is indeed large, as large as all creation – to gather up all things in Christ as Paul describes in Ephesians 1.8. The church is to bear witness to God’s new creation in which the brokenness of human life is healed, sin against God and neighbor is forgiven, reconciliation between warring factions is accomplished, and the dividing walls of hatred between human beings are demolished. This is the joy to which we have been called, writes Stephen Plunket in This We Believe. Because our image of God is too small, we fall into the trap of thinking the church is limited to what we can envision and do. We fail to be Pentecost people who believe in and ask for God’s empowering Spirit.

We are rooted in God’s covenant promise: I shall be your God, and you shall live as my people. Our relationship with the sovereign God of the universe is possible because of the covenant God has made with us in Jesus Christ; and the church is the community of that covenant. Holy Communion is the ceremony of covenant renewal – each time we receive Christ in the bread and wine, we become the body of Christ for the world, called to be His agents of reconciliation and ambassadors in and for the world. Ecclesia is the Greek word for church which literally refers to a people called out of the world to render service to God. John Calvin refers to the church as our mother. Just as God is our Heavenly Father, so also the church is our mother where we are nourished in faith, taught how to live as Christ’s disciples. We Christians are bound to the church because the ‘called out’ people of God need the life-giving nourishment that only our mother can give, and we need this nourishment in order to be made into faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. We are not a happy-go-lucky camaraderie of like-minded volunteers, but a disciplined community of disciples in the making. We have not yet arrived, but we are on the way because the church is a community where followers of Jesus are taught and shaped and corrected and forgiven and nurtured and challenged and trained and loved. The church is the company of those who have heard the today of Christ’s call and have responded with the now of commitment. To each is given a gift of the Spirit to use for the common good. What are your gifts? How can you serve Christ?

 

Pastor Carol

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