New directions. Challenges. Transformations. Re-orienting ourselves. These themes from Sunday’s Scripture of The Gospel According to Matthew, 4:12-23, align with the themes which our own church is facing right now. As we pause before our Annual Congregational Meeting to worship God and connect with one another, we need to ask ourselves and each other, Where is God leading us? Are we following? Are we open to new directions? How are we facing the multitude of challenges that seem endless? How are we trusting God for what’s next with our church? What are our core values – and how are we living them out? In the story from Matthew, two sets of brothers leave everything – businesses, family, comfort, community, security – to follow an itinerant preacher into the great unknown. We see God using the ordinary to bring about the extraordinary. How have we experienced – and how will we continue to experience – the extraordinary?
As we consider new directions and transformations, we will be welcoming new members into our church family .
Looking forward to seeing you all on Sunday for our Worship Gathering and our Congregational Meeting afterward!
Monday, January 20, 2020, is observed in the United States as Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. We will be celebrating this remarkable individual through word, song, and images during our Worship Gathering on Sunday.
While many people recognize the Rev. Dr. King as a powerful political leader in social justice arenas, particularly in the areas of Civil Rights and equality for African Americans, it is often overlooked that he was more than a reformer and political activist. He was a pastor, preacher, teacher, and follower of Jesus, desiring to live out the teachings of Jesus. During our Worship Gathering, we will be exploring the different ways in which the Rev. Dr. King expressed through words and actions the gospel message of transformation. We can bring true change to the world through our lived-out expressions of God’s love, if we allow such a powerful, incredible love to sink into our hearts and minds, transforming our attitudes and conduct.
The children will be lighting candles on the Chanukah menorah during our worship service on Sunday, Dec 29, as they help retell the story of the fight for religious freedom for the Children of Israel. Please join us as we celebrate the Festival of Lights.
Please join us on Christmas Eve for a quiet, contemplative, candlelight Worship Gathering as we engage with the story of the birth of Jesus through Scripture and Songs. Julia and Diane will each sing a solo, and our UCC Simi Valley Choir will sing as well. The musical selections will inspire, captivate, and delight us!
This time of year can be difficult for many people, and the busyness of the season, with so many things demanding attention, can increase our stress levels. This worship experience is intended to help you slow down, pause, rest, and reflect on the hope, peace, and love the season brings. It is a time to help you center yourself, calm your racing thoughts and hearts, and focus on the Presence of God. It is, however, an intergenerational event, and children are warmly encouraged to attend with adults.
Let us gather together to experience the wonder of God, the light and peace of Christ, and the comfort of the Holy Spirit on this special night.
On Sunday, December 15, we will be exploring God’s call to Mary to be the mother of Jesus, and her song of praise to God, the glorious Magnificat. This story is found in the Gospel According to Luke, rather than the Gospel According to Matthew, so we will be spending our time with Luke on Sunday. Traditionally, Mary’s story is in connection with the lighting of the Third Candle of Advent, the Joy Candle. Mary’s story is indeed one of joy, as is her Magnificat. But it’s also a story of wonder, apprehension, and social justice. Mary’s song is a powerful one of God’s victory and liberation of the “lowly” from their oppressors. Mary’s song is just as relevant today in the midst of immigrants and refugees seeking shelter and safety; of those who are poor seeking food, clothing, shelter; of those who are ill seeking medical care and assistance; of the grieving seeking relief; of children, of people of color, of those who are LGBTQ+, being bullied, tortured, and murdered. It is a song of hope, peace, joy, and love that reminds us that God is with us, God journeys with the immigrant and the refugee; God sits with the hungry and the homeless at places like The Samaritan Center; God waits with the sick in the Emergency Departments and Urgent Care and on the phone with insurance companies; God grieves with those who are grieving, crying with those who cry. And God is with those who are bullied, traumatized, violated, tortured, and killed at the hands of evil. God is in the business of liberation. And Mary reminds us, too, that if those who are in positions of power do not help those in need, they will receive their due – God will cast down the mighty from their thrones and send the rich away hungry (“empty”). How scandalous! How disruptive! How offensive! But isn’t this the core of the gospel – the Good News? Isn’t Revolution what the oppressed poor needed then and what we need right now?
Join us for worship on Sunday as we explore joy, peace, and hope through Mary’s story and song, and the lighting of the Third Candle of Advent. We will sing two hymns from The New Century Hymnal (#116, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” [verses 1, 2, 7] for our Closing Hymn and #119, “My Soul Gives Glory to My God” [verses 1, 2, 3] for our Opening Hymn). Our Peace Song will be “Let There Be Peace on Earth,” which we will continue singing through Epiphany. Our Closing Circle song is “Go Tell it on the Mountain,” which we will continue singing through Epiphany, as well.
Looking forward to spending time with you on Sunday,
For the Second Sunday in Advent, we are confronted with a story in the Gospel According to Matthew in which John the Baptist appears, calling the people of Israel to repentance and baptism. Historically, in the Christian tradition, Advent was a serious time for fasting, prayer, penitence, and daily readings focusing on themes of judgment and purification. Historically, Advent was a time of waiting and preparation. It was not a time for feasting, decorating, overspending, and gift-buying. Today, we don’t want to hear about judgment, repentance, challenges to our lives. We don’t want to spend any time at all in the wilderness, because we already spend enough time wandering in the wilderness, wondering why God doesn’t hear us and “fix it,” whatever the “it” is in our lives that needs fixing. But John insists that we take time to prepare our hearts, change our hearts, our minds, our directions, because we’re not ready for what God is going to do, even already doing, in our lives, in our communities, in our families, in our congregations, in our nations. It’s challenging for us today to think about preparing our hearts and redirecting our lives in anticipation and expectation for something that God has already done in the person and life of Jesus. We already know how the story ends – that Jesus is punished, killed, yet was resurrected. What can it possibly mean for us today to wait, to wonder, to prepare during these weeks of Advent? What does it look like for us to wait and to prepare? For what exactly are we waiting? For what do we hope? How do we seek and find peace in the season of Advent? What is John the Baptist saying to us today?
In our Worship Gathering on Sunday, our Choir will be singing “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” with lyrics by Natalie Sleeth. For our Opening Hymn, we will sing verses 1, 3, and 4 of “Get Ready,” which is in the Burgundy Songbook (#36). Our Closing Hymn is Hymn #101 in the New Century Hymnal, “Comfort, Comfort, O My People.” Our Closing CIrcle Song is the chorus from “Go Tell it on the Mountain!” Our Peace Song is “Let There Be Peace On Earth.” The Stivers will lead our Advent Candle Lighting as we light the candles of Hope and Peace this week.
I look forward to spending Sunday morning with you all! ~Rev. Stacy