How family members care for each other

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“Bigger kids, bigger problems”, or so they say. When they were little a band-aid used to be enough to cure almost anything. But as life’s worries grow, parents become increasingly helpless. Independence increases and crises become more severe: health issues, loss of a job, relationship breakups. Young adults have a hard time giving and receiving help to and from their parents. It did not use to be so complicated, did it?

Oh, the good ol’ days. Things used to be so easy. The entire family would live together on one farm. Great-grandpa started it and every generation since has lived and worked there from cradle to grave. When little ones were born, grandparents were there to raise them, because their parents were too busy tending livestock and working the fields. Everybody was useful as long as they could. And that’s were things got tricky and weren’t so good anymore. When gout cripples old hands, when worn out knees couldn’t be replaced, grandpa and grandma were no longer productive, the farm didn’t need them anymore and more often than not they neglected them and let them fend for themselves, without proper nutrition, clothing, shelter. Those were the shortcomings that the ten commandments address when they implore God’s people, “Honor your father and your mother”. Young adults have always needed the reminder to keep feeding grandma and grandpa even though they can’t work anymore!

Fast forward a couple of thousand years: The enlightenment makes people aware of their individual personhood beyond the ties of family. The industrial revolution drives younger generations away from the farms into the factories. The family is no longer an economic necessity but it becomes an emotional bond. Family are not the people you live and work with but the people you care about. But what happens when someone gets hurt or loses their job? The family farm is no longer there to absorb family members when they fall. Now it is up to the individual to find their own resources. Jesus advises, “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.” In this day and age we are all on our own. Family can be a resource for those who have one that is somewhat functional but for the most part we have to create solutions for every single challenge ourselves. Ask, search, knock!

Your kids have to ask for help. You cannot give them help they are not equipped to receive. Jesus did not heal people on his own initiative, but he asked for permission, like physicians ask for informed consent. Jesus asked the sick man: “Do you want to be made well?” It would be so easy to jump to fixes when we see our kids hurting. But that may not help them. Ignatius of Loyola taught that life is full of consolation (“ups”) and desolation (“downs”). What may make you feel down may actually be a time of productive challenge and correction. What may give you pleasure and feel good may actually be denial or distraction. You don’t know what your kids are experiencing just because you see them cheerful or sad. But one thing is sure: God is at work in their life! Trust God and let your kids do their own asking, searching, and knocking.

Please note: St. John’s UCC will hold the congregational budget meeting during church on Sunday, December 2nd, 2018 at 10 am.

Veterans Day – Save a life, help a poor beggar, promote peace!

Why do we celebrate Veterans Day on November 11?
Last week I posed this question to a Bible Study group at Del Webb Sweetgrass. They did pretty well. They remembered that Veterans Day was initially called Armistice Day. Then it got a little more shaky: Was it to commemorate the ending of World War I or II? A slight majority got it right and settled for World War I.
– A great way to commemorate Veterans Day is to promote peace!

Why did the 1918 Armistice take effect on November 11?
Negotiating and drafting the Armistice took well over a month. So what made them decide to let it take effect on 11/11? This day is dedicated to Saint Martin, the patron saint of soldiers. Saint Martin was famous for using his sword for charity. Martin was a soldier in the army of the Roman Empire and he was stationed in Gaul (modern-day France). One day he was approaching the gates of the city of Amiens, where he met a scantily clad beggar. He impulsively cut his military cloak in half to share with the man.
– A great way to commemorate Veterans Day is to promote charity!

So, Veterans Day is a day that remembers peace-making and charitable giving. In 2018 Veterans happens to fall on a Sunday. That will be a special weekend at St. John’s UCC. On Saturday, November 10th, 2018, Young and Old with self-made paper lanterns will follow Saint Martin on his horse through the neighborhood around St. John’s United Church of Christ. It all starts with the making of the paper lanterns at 6:00 pm. On Sunday, November 11th, at 10 am, the Rev. Mirjam Haas-Melchior will lead the worship service at St. John’s UCC where pictures of our veterans will be prominently displayed. I will be bringing my presentation on suicide prevention to St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church in Needville that Sunday. So much is heard of veteran suicide, but it is really an epidemic that affects all our communities – including churches.
– Save a life, help a poor beggar, promote peace!

Your Monthly HELPER Newsletter for November 2018

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Stay vigilant!

They were not just eleven Jews. The worshipers killed in Pittsburgh were persons:
Joyce Feinberg, 75
Richard Gottfried, 65
Rose Mallinger, 97
Jerry Rabinowitz, 66
Cecil Rosenthal, 59
David Rosenthal, 54
Bernice Simon, 84
Sylvan Simon, 86
Daniel Stein, 71
Melvin Wax, 88
Irving Younger, 69

I heard their names read out loud at a vigil at the Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center of Houston. I had been choking and fighting my tears all through the vigil because the moment we arrived a lady walked up to us, recognizing us as Christian clergy and she opened her heart, “Thank you for coming. I am sorry. I am so sorry because I am so angry. My parents fled from South Africa to the Congo and eventually to America. We thought Jews were safe here. Here in this country. I am so angry”. Her tears became my tears.


We gathered with well over 1,000 people – Jews, Christians, and Muslims and we sang, “Hinneh mah Tov umah naʿiym sheveth aḥiym gam yaḥadh”, the first verse of Psalm 133, “How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity.” All the speakers stressed our unity against hate and violence, the Muslim representative being the most powerful, “the entire Muslim community stands with our Jewish brothers and sisters.” Let that sink in! That’s how peace-making works!

Mayor Sylvester Turner had a sobering thought, “It will happen again.” And he is right. That’s why vigils matter. Because we have to stay vigilant! We have to stay awake and alert! Wherever hate speech gets normalized, wherever one group is pitted against any other, people of faith need to find the strength to stand up for love. If you weren’t there on Sunday, do not dismay. There is another vigil on Thursday, November 1st at 7pm. And it’s even closer to home at Congregation Beth El, 3900 Raoul Wallenberg Ln, Missouri City, Texas 77459. Come out and stay vigilant!

Martinszug in Rosenberg

For the fourth time, St. John’s is bringing St. Martin to Rosenberg, Texas. Celebrating one of Germany’s most cherished holiday traditions please join us for a Saint Martin’s Procession on Saturday, November 10th, 2018.
Young and Old with self-made paper lanterns will follow Saint Martin on his horse through the neighborhood around St. John’s United Church of Christ.

It all starts with the making of the paper lanterns at 6:00 pm. Please bring your own supplies. If you need assistance with that please contact the church.

A Soup Dinner is provided free of charge. Everyone is invited to bring dessert and a free will offering.

After our meal a skit will introduce the legendary episode of the cloak. Then the procession will circle around the neighborhood. Even though this is a German-language activity the skit will be bilingual for your convenience.

Please RSVP on Facebook

Zum vierten mal bringt die Johanniskirche St. Martin nach Rosenberg, Texas. Alle sind herzlich eingeladen eine der beliebtesten deutschen Feiertagstraditionen zu feiern am Samstag, den 10. November 2018.
Jung und Alt folgen St. Martin, der hoch zu Ross unterwegs ist, mit selbstgebastelten Laternen durch die Nachbarschaft um St. John’s United Church of Christ.

Es geht los um 18:00 Uhr mit dem Laternenbasteln. Bringt bitte eure eigenen Materialen mit. Wer dabei Hilfe braucht, melde sich bitte bei der Gemeinde.

Zum Abendessen gibt es kostenlose Suppe. Wer möchte kann Nachtisch und eine freiwillige Spende dazu beitragen.

Im Anspiel nach dem Essen erleben wir die berühmte Geschichte mit dem Mantel. Dann geht der Zug los durch die Nachbarschaft. Für unsere englischsprachigen Gäste wird das Ganze bilingual veranstaltet.

Bitte meldet euch auf Facebook an

All Saints Sunday October 28

Jesus Christ is the Light of the World!

Sometimes it is hard to see the light. With the holidays coming up there will be all the more occasions to miss the ones you have lost to death and remember the wonderful times you had together.

It is this season of the year, when the days get shorter and it seems like darkness would be able to overcome the light that the church has always reminded itself that All Saints are resurrected to eternal life. The Sunday before All Saints Day is a reminder that the light will cast out every darkness, a reminder that life will win over death.

Please join us at St. John’s United Church of Christ on Sunday, October 28th 2018 at 10 a.m. to celebrate the memory of loved ones who have passed on. Everyone is invited to light candles in memory of people they have lost. Members of our congregation who died since last All Saints Sunday will be lifted up by the entire congregation and next of kin are specifically invited to light a candle for them.

Whether we live or whether we die we will always be in God’s loving hands. May our God be with you also as you are adjusting to a life without having the ones who died around.

Church, Vets, or Pets?

Between my wife and I we juggle three jobs, two major educational programs and three kids each with a different sport. Our schedule is crowded and we embrace it. However sometimes it is hard to set priorities. I am inviting you into a glimpse of my Saturday schedule for this coming weekend.

For about six months I had planned to attend the Fall Meeting of the Houston Association of the United Church of Christ. Our denominational family has 16 congregations in the Houston area. We meet twice a year. 5 lay members plus the clergy of all our churches are invited to come and live our covenant commitment with one another. This meeting is being hosted by St. John UCC, located at 4606 Mangum Road, Houston, TX 77092. Lunch will include spaghetti, salad, kimchi, garlic bread, and dessert and will cost $5 per person. Please RSVP to ucchoustonassociation@gmail.com Registration begins at 8:30 AM and a short worship begins at 9:00 AM. Following worship we’ll have a business meeting that will include approval of the minutes from the Spring Meeting, a 2018 Financial Report, the 2019 Budget, and a presentation about the grant given to the association by Bethel UCC. St. John will present a program entitled “Local Church Leadership Points.” It will deal with a variety of leadership needs within the local church and include questions and discussion from those present. The association meeting will conclude with lunch. This is an inspirational time and for me also a professional obligation. High priority on the scheduling scale.

As a military chaplain I make it a point to stay involved with veterans organizations in the community. Our local VFW Post 3903 also has a good portion of our church membership in its ranks. They are my second option for this coming Saturday: VFW Post 3903 will be having a breakfast for Veterans 7-10am at 1903 1st St., Rosenberg, Texas 77471. All veterans in the greater Fort Bend county area are welcome to join them for a time of food and fellowship. With free food and good company, this one is hard to pass by. Also there will be booths from other vet organizations educating about benefits. This one is sure to be yummy and important.

Finally there is Bark in the Park. A church member is heavily involved with the local arts community and she is in charge of the dog festival in downtown Rosenberg. Besides the dogs in the park, this event will feature a street fair with lots of live music, food trucks, vendor booths, art cars, art receptions, puppet shows, jugglers, and special appearances by both an autumn faerie and an autumn queen. I find it crucial to get involved with our thriving downtown community. It’s such a fun place to be.

To be honest, I haven’t decided where I’ll be yet. Discernment is an important spiritual exercise as Paul reminds the Corinthians, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, so that they may be saved.” (1 Corinthians 10:31-33) It almost sounds like Paul would be pressuring me into the following madness: Be at the VFW at 7 am to eat breakfast. Rush into Houston to make it on time for the Association meeting. After lunch head to downtown Rosenberg and relax with the puppies. If I wanted to please everybody I could try to pull that of. But honestly, I would not be fully present anywhere because my mind would always be in the car already, driving to the next thing. So I’ll stick with Paul’s first phrase there, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.” I will probably do one thing and do it right – to the glory of God. I still haven’t decided which one. But where are your priorities: Church, Vets, or Pets? I look forward to seeing you on Saturday wherever that may be!

Neighbors in Need 2018 Offering

At St. John’s we will receive the Neighbors in Need Offering this Sunday, October 7th.

Are you ready?
Neighbors in Need supports ministries of justice and compassion throughout the United States and abroad.
One-third of Neighbors in Need funds support the Council for American Indian Ministry (CAIM).
Two-thirds of Neighbors in Need funds go to grants from the UCC’s Justice & Witness Ministries (JWM) to support a variety of justice initiatives, advocacy efforts, and direct service projects.

In 2017 two recipients in the South Central Conference benefited from your generosity:
Slumber Falls Camp / Twill Do Accessibility Project
Friends Congregational Church / Interfaith Network: Building Sanctuary

The Neighbors in Need offering is a part of making our congregation 5 for 5
Thank you for helping your neighbors. And thank you for your support!

Be a Responsible Citizen

The deadline for voter registration in Texas is fast approaching on October 9th. Please check with the secretary of state that you are properly registered. Why would a pastor have to remind me of that? Church is not supposed to be political! Well, I am following the example of the Apostle Paul reminding the Romans to be responsible citizens:

“Be a good citizen. All governments are under God. Insofar as there is peace and order, it’s God’s order. So live responsibly as a citizen. If you’re irresponsible to the state, then you’re irresponsible with God, and God will hold you responsible. Duly constituted authorities are only a threat if you’re trying to get by with something. Decent citizens should have nothing to fear. Do you want to be on good terms with the government? Be a responsible citizen and you’ll get on just fine, the government working to your advantage. But if you’re breaking the rules right and left, watch out. The police aren’t there just to be admired in their uniforms. God also has an interest in keeping order, and he uses them to do it. That’s why you must live responsibly—not just to avoid punishment but also because it’s the right way to live. That’s also why you pay taxes—so that an orderly way of life can be maintained. Fulfill your obligations as a citizen. Pay your taxes, pay your bills, respect your leaders.” (Romans 13, The Message)

The greatest danger to our system of government is when citizens do not do their part and the most formidable thing you can do to fulfill this commandment is to vote. You know the consequences of what happens when you don’t:

There is a biblical example of that as well. If you don’t follow Romans 13 and check your voter registration you may end up with worse than Taco Bell – the beast of Revelation 13:
“The Beast had a loud mouth, boastful and blasphemous. It could do anything it wanted for forty-two months. It yelled blasphemies against God, blasphemed his Name, blasphemed his Church, especially those already dwelling with God in Heaven. It was permitted to make war on God’s holy people and conquer them. It held absolute sway over all tribes and peoples, tongues and races. Everyone on earth whose name was not written from the world’s foundation in the slaughtered Lamb’s Book of Life will worship the Beast.”