I would like to share a story with you. The author is unknown, but I think the true meaning of belonging to the kingdom comes out in this story. It shows the treasure of the kingdom, not of money or power, but the treasure of love and acceptance. Our task is to embrace this kind of kingdom…. not to ignore or condemn but see the beauty of people through the eyes of God.
It was a beautiful Sunday morning. People were filling the church to its fullest capacity! As they entered, each were given a bulletin filled with announcements, topic of today's sermon, what songs they would sing and who to pray for. At the end of the line stood an older man. His clothes were filthy, and you could tell that he had not bathed in days. His face was covered in whiskers where he had not shaved for a very long time. When he reached the usher, he removed his tattered old brown hat in respect. His hair was a long, dirty, tangled mess. He had no shoes on his feet, and wore only soiled, black socks. The usher put his fingers to his nose and glared at the old man and said, Uh, I'm sorry sir, but I'm afraid we can't let you in. You will distract the congregation and we don't allow anyone to disrupt our service. I'm afraid you'll have to leave.
The old man looked down at himself and with a puzzled look on his face, he placed his old brown hat back upon his head and turned to leave. He was sad as he loved to hear the choir sing praises to the Lord. He loved to watch the little children get up in front of the church to sing their little songs. He carried in his pocket a small worn out Bible and loved to see if the minister preached a passage from the Bible that the old man had underlined. He was respectful enough and didn't want to cause any commotion, so he hung down his head and walked back down the steps of the big brick church. He sat down on the brick wall near the edge of the churchyard and strained to listen through closed doors and windows to the singing going on in the church. Oh, how he wished he could be inside with all the others.
A few minutes had passed by when suddenly, a younger man came up behind him and sat down near him. He asked the old man what he was doing. He answered, “I was going to go to church today, but they thought I was filthy, and my clothes are old and worn, and they were afraid I would disrupt their service. Sorry, I didn't introduce myself. My name is George. The two gentlemen shook hands and George couldn't help but notice that this man had long hair and a beard like his. He wore a piece of cloth draped over his body tied with a royal purple sash. He had sandals upon his feet, now covered with dust and dirt. The stranger reached out to touch George's shoulder and said, "Hello, George, don't feel bad because they won't let you in. My name is Jesus, and I've been trying to get into this same church for years. They won't let me in either." … Rev. Liz Miller
The term “sabbatical” is closely related to the Hebrew word Shabbat, or Sabbath, meaning a rest from work, or a break, often lasting one month to one year. In Greek, the similar word, sabbatikos, literally translates to “a ceasing.” My sabbatical, my three-month rest or “ceasing from” work, is rapidly coming to an end. We return from Texas on December 4 and I return to the pulpit on December 16. I’m very grateful to Jack and Liz Miller for filling in for me, to the elders for expanding their pastoral care responsibilities, and to all of you for providing me this opportunity.
During my time away, I’ve had an opportunity catch up on my reading, but have barely made a dent in my stacks of books and Kindle downloads; and I’ve pondered, meditated on, and discussed with Lela and others a variety of topics, but continue to have more questions about life than answers. All-in-all, though, it has been a marvelous chance to take a deep breath; spend more time with family; consider future ministry activities with MVFCC; read every bi-weekly issue of Christian Century from cover to cover; visit Lela’s nephews and their families in northeast Texas; complete Ann Cleeve’s Scottish mystery series Shetland, while also reading and contemplating Anne Lamott’s latest thought-provoking book, Almost Everything: Notes on Hope; and relax – something I’ve not always been able to do. This has been an enjoyable and much needed break; but I’m about ready to return to work. Lela and I are both looking forward to being back in Mount Vernon, but especially being back with all of you.
As many of you probably know, the church board has approved my request to revert to a part-time status beginning January 1, 2019. This is no reflection at all on the church. Lela and I just decided we needed more time away to spend with our families, friends, and each other. I basically have been working and going to school full time since we were married many years ago. It was time for a reorientation of priorities. We’ll try it for a year, and see how everything goes.
We haven’t worked out all the details, but I will basically be serving the church 50% of the time I previously did. This will mean reductions in the number of Sundays I’ll be in the pulpit, office hours, and Sunday classes and Bible studies. Happily, Liz and Jack Miller have agreed to serve during the times I’m off. After we return from Texas, we’ll be working with the Pastoral Relations Committee and the church board on just how that schedule will look. Rest assured, though, even when I’m not scheduled to work, if I am in town, I’ll still be available for emergency pastoral care support.
Serving as your pastor family has been one of the highlights of our lives together. Lela and I are looking forward to continuing this special relationship.
With peace and love, Steve
Those of you who were at MVFCC in January 2004, may remember the daily updates I emailed when we stopped in the evenings on our long trek from Tennessee to Washington. Those of you who were part of our MVFCC congregation in 2011 may recall the messages I sent during that sabbatical, though I wasn’t as faithful sending them that time. This sabbatical I have been really lax. In my defense, we have been totally distracted by enjoying our time here in Austin with our “kids.” It has been such a blessing and a joy having the extended time here. Our evenings have been full of together time – sometimes watching Ainsley play softball, at times watching our various teams play on TV. We have eaten out and we have cooked together. We have laughed and we’ve shaken our heads in disbelief. We attended programs at Oak Hill Elementary School and watched with pride as Ainsley sang and recited her lines with great aplomb. In our last few days here, we will celebrate Ainsley’s 10th birthday and watch the last softball tournament of the season. Thank you for this time to be with and to be family.
While looking back over our time here, I noticed an internal wrinkle of something I haven’t felt in a while when considering what is happening in this world. Hope. The time spent in the company of beautiful, smart, fit, dedicated, aware children nudged awake a hope for our future. I see in them all we need to come through this time of anger, fear and hate. I see in them acceptance of differences and differences of opinion. I see in them the grace of God. I see in them the hope all shall be well, all manner of things shall be well.
Looking happily forward to being home again!
Check the bulletin board for updated information about our congregation and the Disciples of Christ organization.
News From the Pews
Join us on Saturday, December 1st at 9:00 am for the Hanging of the Greens, as we decorate our building for the coming Advent season. There will be many Sundays of Christmas worship you will want to attend. Check the calendar for events this month.
We will hold a congregational meeting on Sunday, December 16 following worship. This meeting will include the election of officers for the 2019 year, as well as updates on what has been going on this quarter, and a report on the new schedule of rotating Pastors coming in 2019. Join us as we welcome Steve & Lela home from their 3-month sabbatical. We are eager to hear all about their travels and adventures.
We also want to send out our thanks and appreciation to Rev. Jack & Rev. Liz Miller, who have served us so well this fall. We look forward to a new relationship in faith that we will have with them in 2019.
We were delighted to welcome back Beth Carson to church on Sunday. Beth has been recovering from a bad fall, and we are so glad she is up and moving again.
We will keep our homebound and traveling members and friends in our thought s and prayers this month.
We will again partner with Lincoln Elementary School in providing Christmas gifts for Lincoln students. Look for the sign-up sheet at church. This will be the last year we partner with Lincoln, as the school will close to students at the end of this school year. We will plan to partner with another school next year to continue the outreach ministry in our community.
To the congregation: Rev. Liz and I would like to express to all of you our deep gratitude for allowing us to share our Sunday’s together while Steve and Lela were on sabbatical. With only a few more weeks remaining before they return, we wanted to take a moment to say how blessed we have been by your friendship and hospitality. You have made us feel more and more like family each week, and we have completely enjoyed our time together in worship and prayer. We also appreciate the times of fellowship away from church; the men’s breakfast, gal’s night out and the summer BBQ. There is an old African proverb that says, “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” It is our fervent prayer that we have become better people, stronger friends and a closer community of believers by sharing this time together. These past few months have gone by so quickly, but by the grace of God, our journey together will continue to go far, as we walk together on the road God has set out before us. Peace and blessings and many thanks … Rev. Liz & Rev. Jack Miller
"A Caring, Welcoming Community of Faith"
God throws open the door of this world — and enters as a baby. As the most vulnerable imaginable. Because he wants unimaginable intimacy with you. What religion ever had a god that wanted such intimacy with us that he came with such vulnerability to us? What God ever came so tender we could touch him? So fragile that we could break him? So vulnerable that his bare, beating heart could be hurt? Only the One who loves you to death. —Ann Voskamp, The Greatest Gift
The Perfect Gift
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry said, “Love does not consist in gazing at each other but in looking outward together in the same direction.” At Christmas we celebrate God coming to earth to look outward with us in the same direction, from our perspective and experience.
Jesus was an ordinary person: He learned to talk and walk like any toddler, learned a trade from his father and acquired the habits of faith from his family. In adulthood, Jesus experienced life as we all do: the challenge of hard work, grief at a loved one’s death, heartache over oppression and the world’s great needs — but also joy in celebration, fellowship with neighbors and deep friendship.
God personally knows our every experience, emotion and need — because Jesus, while fully divine, lived as a full human being. He has gazed at the world, life and even death from our direction, giving us the perfect Christmas gift: love.
Here and Now
Bishop Stephen Bouman stood behind an altar in a small crypt chapel of the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth, supposedly at the location where Mary heard she was going to have a baby. Carved into the altar was the Latin for “The Word was made flesh,” but Bouman noticed an addition: hic, or “here.” Verbum caro hic factum est, “The Word was made flesh here.”
Whoever authorized that inscription probably meant it to refer to that specific location. In reality, however, the Incarnation means God became flesh here on earth, for all of us. The Incarnation means we can speak of the nearness of God. It means God walks with us on earth, and that if we are saved anywhere, it is right here.
While Waiting …
Advent does not lead to nervous tension stemming from expectation of something spectacular about to happen. On the contrary, it leads to a growing inner stillness and joy allowing me to realize that he for whom I am waiting has already arrived and speaks to me in the silence of my heart. Just as a mother feels the child grow in her and is not surprised on the day of the birth, but joyfully receives the one she learned to know during her waiting, so Jesus can be born in my life slowly and steadily and be received as the one I learned to know while waiting.
—Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Genesee Diary
The Mount Vernon First Christian Church gathers together as a community of faith, declaring Jesus our Christ, the one who reconciles us with God and with each other. We provide a place of traditional worship in a forthright, supportive, and open atmosphere. We are a congregation committed to serving local and global outreach ministries.
Steve & Lela Coleman will be away from the congregation from September 14-December 15. Please call an Elder if you have an emergency or other matter you might need help with. We will be available any time you need someone.
MVFCC Elders: Jill Allen – 360-855-2216
Marcie Labo – 360-424-8503
Don & Joyce Leak – 360-629-0524 o
Beverly Madlung – 360-708-3352
Art Neumarkel – 360-293-3079
Jim Paget –360-420-3321
June Steen – 360-293-0472
And: Rev. Jack Miller – 360-318-6068
Rev. Liz Miller – 360-510-9081