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Pastoral Letter, July 4, 2023

To the Saints in San Carlos:


Happy Fourth of July!




I hope you are looking forward to worshiping with our Lutheran neighbors this coming Sunday at Burton Park at 10:30.  I think it will be greatly rewarding to meet some new neighbors from a parallel tradition which, after all, is the source from which all Protestantism springs.

 

And . . . there will be a picnic lunch afterward.

 

We will meet at the Chestnut Picnic Area next to the bocce courts.  Bring a folding chair if you can and a side dish to share.  Grilled hamburgers and bratwursts will be provided by our Lutheran friends.  From our church, just walk up Arroyo towards the hills.  Burton park will be on your left after about four blocks.  Look for the picnic area and bocce ball courts on Chestnut Street just about where the street ends. Gray star marks the spot:




I attach the bulletin, which has a few unfamiliar elements, but nothing really unusual. 

 




Also, please make every effort to attend church on Sunday, July 23 to welcome our UCC Conference Minister Davena Jones, who will join us afterward for our monthly council meeting.  More about Davena:

Last Sunday's sermon continued our series on the Holy Spirit, which will keep on continuing for a while:

 

What connects our scriptures today is a direct quotation from Psalm 44 in Paul’s letter to the Romans:  

 

for thy sake we are slain all the day long,


and accounted as sheep for the slaughter.



This is a difficult line with which to begin a sermon.  In our Psalm for today this line is the turning point, the climax of the complaint against the Almighty and the protestation of the innocence of God’s people.  After this cry of despair comes the direct address to God to wake up and come to their assistance:

 

Rouse thyself! Why sleepest thou, O Lord?


Awake! Do not cast us off for ever! . . . 

Rise up, come to our help!


Deliver us for the sake of thy steadfast love!

 

Saint Paul then quotes this well-known line about sheep to the slaughter in the central portion of his letter to a Christian congregation in Rome, and it is also the turning point of that remarkably important letter.  He asks, rhetorically 

 

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?  As it is written, "For thy sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered." 

And he answers his own question - “Shall anyone or anything separate us from the love of Christ?” - with three much-quoted and stirring verses:

 

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For 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. 

In all these things, we are more than conquerors; no thing can separate us from the love of God; we are forever connected to the love of God in Christ.

 

All of the questions asked of God in the Psalms are answered by the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus.  By having faith in this Jesus, we are connected to God once and for all.

 

Christianity is all about connection; and the Holy Spirit is the Connector-General.  The Spirit connects the Father to the Son and connects us to God and to each other on earth.  We come here on Sunday morning to deepen that connection, to bring to God’s attention our problems, our hurts, all those things make us feel hopeless and disconnected.  We pray for the connection to be restored.  Without that connection we are lost; with that connection we are forever found.

 

Every Sunday morning, having restored and deepened our connection, we release ourselves to coffee hour and to the rest of the week; to practice our faith that the whole world does make sense, that good triumphs over evil.  We do our best to follow the inclinations of the Spirit to meet people halfway and to look for the non-violent alternative.  If we are really in tune with the Spirit, we do good even when it doesn’t make any sense.  We practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty.  Why?  Because that is how God created and redeemed us.  It was not by our merit that we are connected to God, but by God’s surprising kindness.  

 

As God loves us, so we love others.  That is our mission.

 

Psalm 44:20-26

 

[20] If we had forgotten the name of our God,


or spread forth our hands to a strange god,


[21] would not God discover this?


For he knows the secrets of the heart.


[22] Nay, for thy sake we are slain all the day long,


and accounted as sheep for the slaughter.


[23] Rouse thyself! Why sleepest thou, O Lord?


Awake! Do not cast us off for ever!


[24] Why dost thou hide thy face?


Why dost thou forget our affliction and oppression?


[25] For our soul is bowed down to the dust;


our body cleaves to the ground.


[26] Rise up, come to our help!


Deliver us for the sake of thy steadfast love!

 

Romans 8:33-39

Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies; who is to condemn? Is it Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us? [ Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?  As it is written, "For thy sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For 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. 

 

- Pastor Richard Hyde


Community Church of San Carlos



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