Funeral Services for Marcie Kroll

Funeral services for Marcie Kroll will be on Monday, October 5 here at St. John’s UCC in Rosenberg at 10:00 a.m. in the sanctuary.  A reception will follow in the Parish Hall with the burial being held in Marlin, Texas.

Visitation will the family will be on Saturday, October 3 at Garmany & Carden Funeral Home in Rosenberg from 3:00 until 5:00 p.m.

Please keep the family in your thoughts and prayers at this time.

Of blue-ribbon bunnies and pastors

The fair is on! On its very first day military personnel and school children get in for free. That tells you that the Fort Bend County Fair is made to create community. The fair is a place for everybody regardless whether you enjoy going on carnival rides or kick back a few cold ones. At the fair you can live your dream of becoming a queen and you can indulge in all kinds of traditional foods for good causes that support the local community.

The fair is also a place that strives on competitions. After all it started out as a livestock stock. You see blue ribbon bunnies right next to prize turkeys. PRCA rodeo competes for attention with the county’s best cookies and cupcakes. There is something in it for everybody. Kids crafts and professional cowboys side by side show the the bread and butter attractions and make the fair a bedrock of the community. Who does not love to show off and win the BBQ Cookoff? The fair is the local community coming together and celebrating their best.

You can look at the church the same way: There are all kinds of groups that offer food and fellowship. There are educational opportunities for all ages. We offer community outreach programs. There is something in it for everybody. And twice a year we can go to our own fair and find out how our sister churches are doing when the Houston Association of the United Church of Christ meets. On October 10th you have the next chance to meet with representatives from 17 local congregations just like ours. And yes, food is important there as well: We start by getting together over a light breakfast, share lunch, celebrate worship and music together.

There is even some judging going on like with the bunnies at the fair. On this meeting’s agenda we have three ecclesiastical councils. An ecclesiastical council is an official meeting of an Association for the purpose of authorizing ministry and acting on questions of authorization. Three pastors are requesting authorization to do ministry on behalf of the United Church of Christ and you as a member of our denomination have the right and responsibility to examine them.

So here is my challenge to all y’all. We can have up to five delegates from St. John’s UCC at the meeting. I need you to be one of them. We have numerous people engaged in various committees but since I have been here we have never had a delegate at the actually meetings. Please accept my challenge and tell me you are going to join me on October 10th, from 8:30-2:15 at Bethel Church UCC, 1107 Shepherd Dr in Houston. Be one of our five delegates and take part in shaping the future of our church’s wider mission!

Who is the greatest?

Who is the greatest Christian?
Do we measure that by letter grades or percentage?
Is there a final exam on judgment day or does your Karma count like a GPA spanning all your life?

Father Abraham had many sons

abrahamic religions
“Father Abraham had many sons. Many sons had Father Abraham. I am one of them and so are you.” Are you humming along yet? Right arm, left foot…
This is not only a nice little children’s church song but also a very profound truth that speaks to three major religious events that are all happening today:
1. Pope Francis arrives for his first visit to the US.
2. The Hadjj attracts millions of pilgrims to Mecca.
3. Yom Kippur reminds Jews around the world of God’s forgiving grace.

Why should I as a Protestant care about the Pope?
The Bishop of Rome is a fellow Christian! All our denominational split identities mask the truth that there is only the one holy, catholic church. Now in Rome they think they perfectly embody it like nobody else. And as Protestants we cannot recognize that. But the way the Roman Catholic Church symbolizes and lives unity of a global Christian community is a beautiful witness in the body of Christ. As a Protestant I care for the witness of our Catholic brothers and sisters because we are called to work together toward unity in the body of Christ. We share a common Baptism and we are sent by one Lord to serve all God’s children. We are called to work together and be one.

Why should I as a Protestant care about the Hajj?
Pilgrimages are one of the oldest and most profound spiritual exercises there are. The once-in-a-lifetime journey to Mecca is a beautiful symbol of people putting a lot of effort into their faith life. Jihad means making effort for God. As Protestants we talk about free grace all the time and that is true. But the huge amounts of time, money and effort every able-bodied Muslim is supposed to invest in this journey is a powerful expression of dedication. Like our Muslim brothers and sisters we are called to make an effort for our spiritual well-being.

Why should I as a Protestant care about Yom Kippur?
The Jewish Day of Atonement has a clear message: People can change. Yom Kippur symbolizes getting rid of our sins and starting afresh. A new start with a clean slate. Our trespasses are forgiven. You think the Reformation invented that? Think again! The power of God’s forgiveness has always been important to God’s people. When we are reminded that God forgives, then we are free to forgive ourselves and others. The blame game ends: I am okay. You are okay. God loves you. I love you. We can all change for the better. And we will be in need of change again next year for Yom Kippur.

Father Abraham has many sons. Many sons has Father Abraham. The three most important sons of Abraham that we need to understand as siblings in faith are Jacob, Isaac and Ishmael. As Christians we subscribe to the lineage of Isaac. Abraham was almost prepared to give his son’s life to honor God. Ultimately the early church saw Jesus’ death as a reflection of Isaac’s sacrifice. As sons and daughters of Isaac it does not matter whether you are the Bishop of Rome or just a regular Joe. As Christians we are all children of Isaac. The Jewish people are descendants of Israel which is another for name Jacob. And Jacob is Isaac’s son. Families are complex: Abraham had another son: Ishmael and eventually Islam develops in his lineage. As Jews, Christians and Muslims not only do we all serve the same God but we are also part of the same family. And when family members have special days you celebrate with them.

Change is the only thing that remains constant

Last week I wrote about the concept of time. Let’s stick with that another week because fall is in the air! How do I know that: Well, it is cooler and we are in that period between Labor Day and the September equinox both of which are commonly used to determine the beginning of fall. On a personal level people talk about the fall season of their lives either when the kids move out of the house or when they retire.

I like fall because it is easier to spend time outdoors. And the prospect of a quiet house and more free time sounds appealing as well. But in reality retirement is not as calm as people usually expect it to be and an empty nest can feel pretty lonely. Every season has its advantages and downsides. Here is the good news: Every season is just that: a season. This too shall pass. All aspects of life go through cycles: Relationships, finances, and yes, also faith expressions.

A lot of times churches tell themselves that they need to have the biggest and greatest children’s ministry because young families are the future of the church. Don’t get me wrong here: I am one of the strongest proponents of youth and children’s programs, but: I am not interested in a church that focuses on young families. I love the church when it has something for everyone. Here is a radical suggestion for people who are church shopping: Don’t look at the congregation that you visit only from the angle of how it fits into your life right now. Also consider how it will serve you in the fall season of your life: Are you confident they will provide the best memorial service at your death?

Yes, I know I am a dinosaur of pastor that actually still believes in this old-fashioned church model of cradle to grave. Only if there is something in it for everyone can it be relevant to all the people in all their ever changing seasons of life. “Here I stand; I can do no other. God help me.” as Martin Luther said.

Who are you, Jesus?

Who is Jesus for you?
Are you suffering from bad behavior and want to change yourself?
Do you want others to change so they fit your standards?
Do you want to keep your compassion alive?