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Pastoral Letter, July 17, 2023

To the Saints in San Carlos:


A happy mid-summer week to all.  Here are some lovely hymns transcribed for violin and accompaniment.  I do not know much about Taryn Harbridge, but she loves Jesus and loves to make beautiful music.

 



 

Our own Sharon MacArthur was beloved in the wider world of the United Church of Christ.  Here is something special about Sharon from the webpage:

 



 

The Celebration of Life service for her is Saturday, July, 22, 2023 at 11:00am.  While this service is for family and close friends (by invitation only), the service will be streamed so that others may join.  The link: https://youtube.com/live/rx0kZrIsIOc?feature=share

 

Also note that the service at Sycamore Congregational Church (1111 Navellier St, El Cerrito, CA 94530) at 3:00pm on Sunday, July 23, 2023, is open to all.

 

Let me say again how much I miss Sharon, her good spirits, her wise counsel; I am sure you all do as well.  

 

Last Sunday special prayers were requested for Phyllis Stowell, who is having mobility issues; for Siv's son Rex; for Siv's son Mark and family on vacation in Mexico; for relief from heat, fires and floods.  Give a though to how lucky we are to live here on the Peninsula, where so far, thank God, we have none of those troubles this summer.

 

This coming Sunday our main scriptures will be from Paul's Letter to the Colossians.  Here is the passage in two translations, the latter of which is unusual but helps convey the meaning:

 

Colossians 1:15-20 He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation; for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities -- all things were created through him and for him. 


            He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.  He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the first-born from the dead, that in everything he might be pre-eminent.  For in him all the fulness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. 

 

Colossians 1:15-20  (The Message translation)

            We look at this Son and see the God who cannot be seen. We look at this Son and see God's original purpose in everything created.  For everything, absolutely everything, 

above and below, 

visible and invisible, 

rank after rank after rank of angels – 

everything got started in him 

and finds its purpose in him. 

            He was there before any of it came into existence and holds it all together right up to this moment.  And when it comes to the church, he organizes and holds it together, like a head does a body.  So spacious is he, so roomy, that everything of God finds its proper place in him without crowding.  Not only that, but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe - people and things, animals and atoms - get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of his death, his blood that poured down from the Cross. 

 

Last Sunday's sermon appended.

 

Have a blessed week!

 

 

- Pastor Richard Hyde


Community Church of San Carlos


Sermon San Carlos July 17, 2023

 

The Lord established a testimony in Jacob,


and appointed a law in Israel,


which he commanded our fathers


to teach to their children;


that the next generation might know them,


the children yet unborn,


and arise and tell them to their children,


so that they should set their hope in God,


and not forget the works of God,


but keep his commandments.

 

So wrote the psalmist, perhaps King David himself, some three thousand years ago, certainly well aware of the story of Jacob wrestling with an angel, which is our Old Testament reading for today.

 

As we continue our series of sermons on the Holy Spirit, we note, in light of this psalm, that one of the fruits of the Spirit is steadfastness, steadiness and a sense of continuity with past generations.  As our ancestors have been inspired, so are we.  Steadfastness is certainly characteristic of good fathers and good mothers; good parents in general.  In light of the famous story of Jacob wrestling with an angel, we note that almost no great accomplishment on earth comes without steadfastness and perseverance.

 

What a privilege it is to serve a church with the task of saying something based on the Bible, perhaps of historical value, bearing on current events or events long time since, far away or close at hand, perhaps even interesting or edifying on Sunday morning.  

 

I’m delighted to be here and particularly in the summer.  All of the seasons of the year are wonderful; each has its virtues and vices.  Worship of a Sunday morning in the winter is wonderful because of the community gathered in adversity.  Worship in the summer is a bit less solemn because summer is simply a time to celebrate.  We come to church in the summer not to huddle together around the hearth, but to continue the constant celebration or even wild party that is summer; continue with steadfastness.

 

Speaking of parties, the United Church of Christ, the larger Christian body of churches of which we are a part, met for General Synod about a month ago in Indianapolis, Indiana.  I believe that Rev. Tauoa attended.  Although I did not go – you may have noticed that I have been here every Sunday since February and I am not capable of bi-location – I can report that the major news from that gathering this year is that it will now take place every three years instead of every two years.  The next synod will therefore be in 2026 and I believe the same time of year.  I’m still reading the various accounts of what happened at this year’s Synod and may have more to say about it in the weeks ahead.

 

We worship together as a congregation, we are united in an association of churches and we are united as all the churches of Christendom, inspired by the Holy Spirit. Every Sunday through worship we encounter the living Christ as well as we are able in an almost unbelievable array of worship styles.

 

As we all know, all of the Christian people of the earth are united by the Holy Spirit and at the same divided by all the things that divide us.  There are three major divisions Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, divisions within those divisions . . .

 

You know that I spend some time at the University of Notre Dame every year and occasionally lecture for the university's Washington Program.  Let me bring in some words from Father John Jenkins to help us understand the work of the Holy Spirit in a divided world.  

 

You are all aware that it is not easy to be a university president these days. Most do not last in the job very long because it so difficult: there are too many disparate people to work with and placate; the job requires a lot of fund-raising, which involves a lot of travel and that gets very wearisome.

 

On top of that, you have to invite people to receive honorary degrees and sooner or later someone is not going to like the choice that you and the commencement committee made.   President Father Jenkins had to introduce President Obama in 2009 and Vice President Pence in 2017, to the delight of some and the dismay of others, as usual.

 

What President Father Jenkins said about each person is worthy of note but let me focus instead on what he said about the purpose of a Catholic university:

 

"More than any problem in the arts or sciences - engineering or medicine – easing the hateful divisions between human beings is the supreme challenge of this age. If we can solve this problem, we have a chance to come together and solve all the others.

A Catholic University – and its graduates – are specially called, and I believe specially equipped, to help meet this challenge.

As a Catholic university, we are part of the Church – members of the 'mystical body of Christ' animated by our faith in the Gospel. Yet we are also – most of us – citizens of the United States – this extraordinary evolving expression of human freedom. We are called to serve each community of which we’re a part . . . "

 

I like the way he said, “we are part of the Church’ members of the “mystical body of Christ” animated by our faith in the Gospel.”

He meant I believe ‘the Church’ in the largest widest possible sense, meaning Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox. We are all members of the same body. He did not have to put it that way that morning, but he did.

Then he went on to say: “we are also – most of us – citizens of the United States – this extraordinary evolving expression of human freedom.”

 

With these words President Father Jenkins challenged everyone to respect one another despite differences and to celebrate how much we have in common.

 

I firmly believe that an individual Christian congregation, like this one, is also specially called, and I believe specially equipped, to help meet this challenge; even a small church, in a small building, in a small neighborhood of a small city.

 

Just showing up here of a Sunday morning, reciting a psalm, singing hymns, listening to the word of God, praying, makes a difference.  

 

Our ability to listen respectfully to one another as Christians, as citizens of the United States, as members of smaller communities, as members of small churches, as citizens of the world, to be free, yet responsible people – that is the issue. What I believe we Christian Americans offer the world most importantly is not our economy or our technology, but our civility, our ability to govern ourselves as free people.

 

There was book written some fifty years ago that was required reading for many history and political science majors called "The First New Nation," meaning the United States of America, but the Christian Church was the first new nation, a new self-governing entity never before seen in history. The Church is likewise an extraordinary evolving expression of human freedom. What an honor, what a privilege, what a thrill it is to live out the Gospel today, on this continent, in the United States of America. 

In order to conclude this sermon, let me call upon the greatest celebrator of America ever, namely Walt Saint Paul Whitman. Listen to Whitman’s foreword to Leaves of Grass, first published this time of year in 1855, 162 years ago:

 

The Americans of all nations at any time upon the earth have probably the fullest poetical nature. The United States themselves are essentially the greatest poem. . . 

Other states indicate themselves in their deputies . . . . but the genius of the United States is not best or most in its executives or legislatures, nor in its ambassadors or authors or colleges or churches or parlors, nor even in its newspapers or inventors . . . but always most in the common people. Their manners speech dress friendships -- the freshness and candor of their physiognomy -- the picturesque looseness of their carriage . . . their deathless attachment to freedom –-- these too are unrhymed poetry. It awaits the gigantic and generous treatment worthy of it.

 

Brothers and sisters in Christ: A glorious summer day awaits. The whole summer stretches before us. Every day may we be shaken and filled with the Spirit.

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