The Link

Westminster Presbyterian Church, Ann Arbor, MI Volume 23, number 8: August 2010



More of Jesus, Less of Me

by Rev. Stephen Carl

Westminster Alpha Audrey Buck shares a happy moment during the Alpha mission trip to Niagara FallsA few weeks ago I was privileged to join our Alphas on a mission trip to Niagara Falls. The theme of the week was “More or Less” based on John 3:30. Some of you may remember that this verse is a favorite of mine. The New Revised Standard Version translates it as, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” These are the words of John the Baptist when he was questioned about the Messiah. John had become an influential man of God with a message of repentance, but he knew that it wasn’t about his own importance or reputation or fame. He knew that he should get out of the way in order that Jesus would become the focus of the people’s hearts and lives.

The Alphas and other middle school students and adults (from Pennsylvania and Maryland) spent the week reflecting on the theme of “More Jesus, Less Me,” all the while serving others. It was a week full of engaging opportunities with local people, some of whom were served, and some of whom were caught up in what God had called them and equipped them to do–such as reaching out to children who lived with extreme conditions, women who knew no other way to make a living than to walk the streets, elderly unable to afford upkeep on their homes, people desperate for help–in some cases just desperate for someone to listen.

For me, one of the strong lessons reinforced through the week had to do with our God-ordained human dignity. This so often gets neglected because so many of us teeter-totter between self-aggrandizement and self-abasement. We mistake humility for a lack of being important or significant. Human dignity is a gift that God intends each person to experience. God has created us purposefully. One of the greatest tragedies is when people live feeling as if they are a waste, that others think of them as pointless. I saw this deep need in the eyes of children, men, women, and seniors, no matter what race, economic bracket, or education. I saw it in the faces of the youths and adults who were there to serve others. I saw it in my face when I looked in the mirror.

One of the moments when the false barriers that we create came crashing down for me was when we had a picnic at a local park. Mingling together were youth and adults on the mission trip along with many of the locals: some of whom had no permanent shelter, some of whom didn’t know where their next meal would come from, some of whom were filled with anger and hostility over losing work, some of whom struggled with addiction, some of whom felt an enormous burden of self-loathing. All of us were created with a need for dignity–a feeling that we each matter. It was a moving time to watch the people eat together, play together, talk together, pray together.

When John said “He must increase, I must decrease” he was talking about the attention people gave to him, that the message and purpose of the Messiah was what should take center stage in the lives of the people. He wasn’t talking about his ego–though that’s often what gets in the way of our spiritual maturity and relationship with God. We spent a good amount of time talking about “More Jesus, Less Me.” As the week went on though, I got to thinking that God created each of us uniquely and calls each of us, equips each of us. God doesn’t want us to become stripped of who we are, but God does want us to be who we’ve been created to be. So I got to the point of saying “Less of the ego-centric me and More of the me that is redeemed and restored through and by Jesus”– though it is easier to say “More Jesus, Less Me.” But it means more Christ in me so that I become the one God had in mind when I was created.

The Apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians that “to live is Christ, to die is gain.” He was ready to be in an unimpaired relationship with God, but until he moved into the consummation of his spiritual life, he believed that each moment he was alive was to demonstrate the Gospel of Christ so that others might be free of the struggles we experience when we push God to the periphery.

How do you live so that there is more of Jesus and less of your ego needs? How do you live so that dignity of others is increased in your presence?

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Take Time for Playful Freedom in Life and in Faith

by Rev. Cathi King

The sun, when it appears, proclaims as it rises
what a marvelous instrument it is,
the work of the Most High . . .
Great is the Lord who made it;
at his orders it hurries on its course.

It is the moon that marks the changing seasons,
governing the times, their everlasting sign . . .
The new moon, as its name suggests, renews itself;
how marvelous it is in this change,
a beacon to the hosts on high,
shining in the vault of the heavens!

The glory of the stars is the beauty of heaven,
a glittering array in the heights of the Lord.
On the orders of the Holy One
they stand in their appointed places;
they never relax in their watches.

Look at the rainbow, and praise him who made it;
it is exceedingly beautiful in its brightness.
It encircles the sky with its glorious arc;
the hands of the Most High have stretched it out.

By his command he sends the driving snow . . .
He scatters the snow like birds flying down . . .
The eye is dazzled by the beauty of its whiteness,
and the mind is amazed as it falls.

He pours frost over the earth like salt,
and icicles form like pointed thorns.
The cold north wind blows,
and ice freezes on the water;
it settles on every pool of water . . .

By his plan he stilled the deep
and planted islands in it.
Those who sail the sea tell of its dangers,
and we marvel at what we hear.
In it are strange and marvelous creatures,
all kinds of living things . . .

We could say more but could never say enough;
let the final word be: “He is the all.”
Where can we find the strength to praise him?
For he is greater than all his works.

Awesome is the Lord and very great,
and marvelous is his power.
Glorify the Lord and exalt him as much as you can,
for he surpasses even that.
When you exalt him, summon all your strength,
and do not grow weary, for you cannot praise him enough.

—Sirach 43 (selected verses)

“God’s playground is creation and the people who dwell in it,” writes Joyce Rupp in her book, May I have this dance?, An invitation to Faithful Prayer Throughout the Year. How often do we step outside and pause drinking in all the beauty we see, smell and hear. . . allowing ourselves to praise God for it all . . . simply allowing the joy of being alive to lift us into the presence of God?

We’re busy people, and although summer is a break from school, it has a pace of its own that, from time to time, doesn’t feel very leisurely. I do hope and pray that you have found some time of rest this summer . . . time to breathe . . . time to laugh . . . time to play. And if not yet, there’s still August.

A group of us met at Sweetwater’s Café tonight to talk about cultivating a playful attitude and approach to life and faith, and in our conversation we admitted to how difficult this can be. Culture seems to push against playfulness in adults, driving more for productivity and results than leisure and relaxed enjoyment. But that wasn’t the case when we were children. Do you remember? I remember long afternoons exploring the woods near my house, climbing trees, swimming, horsing around with friends . . . playing. As we grow, we gain responsibility, and that’s healthy, but what about when we become slave to it and we forget how to play?

In May I attended the Festival of Homiletics, a national preaching conference. There I went to a workshop hosted by a woman who introduced herself as a Baptist minister who held previous careers as a lawyer and a stand-up comedian. I’ve talked about how my previous career in corporate management equipped me for ministry, but she’s got me beat. What better skills to take with you into the pastorate than the ability to debate (and win) and to laugh. She encouraged us to encourage our congregations not to take ourselves too seriously but to have fun together as we worship God . . . to laugh together . . . to shed light on the humor in Scripture and in our lives . . . to allow the “frozen chosen” to thaw a little.

This summer, cultivate an attitude of play. Intentionally pause and be aware of the presence of God all around you. Learn from children and animals. Practice being free. And let’s take this attitude into worship together, so that our hearts may be lifted, we might more easily laugh, and all of the responsibilities that press upon us might melt away for a holy moment. Grace and peace and joy and love be yours this day.

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Man symbolizing leadershipMen’s retreat topic is Christian Leadership

Friday–Saturday, September 17–18;
Howell Nature Center

The teachings of John C. Maxwell on Christian leadership will form the basis for a Westminster fall men’s retreat. We’ll view a DVD presentation; we’ll engage in leadership-building activities; we’ll worship together; and we’ll enjoy time to relax, converse together, and take in the wonders of nature at Howell Nature Center. We’ll begin on Friday at 6 pm and finish around 3 pm on Saturday. The cost will be approximately $55.

Watch for details online and in The Westminster Weekly. Please sign up in the entry to the fellowship hall.

Worship Center Children Gain the Vote

The children of our Worship Center classes earned the right to vote in June! For several years the children’s weekly Sunday school offerings have gone to support foster children in other countries. This year one of our sponsored children moved out of the program, leaving us with a $300 excess of offerings received for the school year.

Children were given information about three women in developing countries who needed micro loans to start and maintain a business so they can support themselves and their families. The children voted to support Jeannette in Rwanda who runs a small drink stand. Jeannette’s goals are to expand her business, help her community by offering others jobs, and eventually buy her family a house and plan for her children’s futures. Through the generous support of our children Jeannette received the remaining $250 she needed to pursue her goals.

With the remaining $50, we purchased two sets of five ducklings that will go to families who will raise them for their eggs, for their downy feathers, and for more ducklings.

The children can be proud that through their generosity, several families have work to do to give them a better life. God bless the little children!

 

Vacation Bible School 2010Vacation Bible School 2010: Saul to Paul: A Journey to Share the Good News of Jesus Christ with the World: Over 50 children, along with adult and teen volunteers, enjoyed music, drama, crafts, storytelling and food. Together we learned the story of Paul’s travels throughout the Roman world, bring the Good News to many. Vacation Bible School 2010

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Westminster financial status is reviewed

June 2010

Pledges received $50,695 
Other income +12,360 
June expenses –69,081 
Receipts minus expenses <6,037>

Fiscal year 2009–2010

Pledges received $574,299  (99% of budget)
Other income +101,849  (96% of budget)
June expenses –668,917  (95% of budget)
Receipts minus expenses 7,231 (after transfers
from Reserves)

Missions 2009–2010

Transfer from Budget for the fiscal year $61,569 
Additional Faith Promise donations for the fiscal year +61,683 
Total disbursed to budget and Faith Promise causes 117,828 

Questions or concerns? Please contact Jeff Kennedy, Treasurer or David Hammond, Financial Secretary.

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FAQs about the Westminster Gardening Project

What is the purpose of the garden?

• To produce fresh vegetables to share with the hungry of our community. Weekly harvests will be collected for the Riverside Community Gathering Wednesday night meal. Additional groups identified to receive fresh vegetables from our garden include Hope Clinic and Food Gatherers.

• To provide a sacred space for the neighborhood. Our garden design will include a prayer walk with Scripture verses for quiet reflection.

• To educate. Families are encouraged to participate in the planning and care of the garden teaching stewardship and care of God’s creation, the process of food provision from seed to plate, nutritional benefits of naturally grown food and the importance of gardening for sustainable communities. Sunday school teachers are encouraged to creatively use the garden to bring to life agricultural teachings of Jesus. Where possible, biblical herbs and plants will be incorporated into the garden.

• To join other faith-based congregations as a partner of the Faith and Food Network of Washtenaw County. For more information about this initiative, see the Growing Hope website.

Where will the garden be?

Tentatively, the garden will be located in the northwest corner of the property near the pine trees, with vegetable gardens on either side of the sidewalk. There is a water source nearby, the pine trees provide privacy for the sacred space, and this location provides good sun. Before digging begins, the neighbors will be invited into the conversation and the utility companies will be contacted.

What will the design of the garden look like?

This is still yet to be determined. If you are interested in submitting a garden design, your ideas are most welcome! Pictures of the location are on the website, but a walk through the area will be helpful for your design process. Designs should be clearly marked and placed in the Mission Committee mailbox by Easter Sunday for consideration. Designs will be chosen for efficient vegetable production, aesthetic quality, maintainability, and incorporation of natural landscape.

How will the garden be maintained?

Care and maintenance of the garden will be provided by anyone in the congregation with a passion to participate. Th e hope and dream is that this ministry will be multigenerational.

How can I be a part of this exciting “growing” ministry?

The large bulletin board in the entrance to the fellowship hall is currently dedicated to this project. Add your name to the growing list of interested people and look for more details to come! For more information, please see one of the following people: Gail Arnold, Robin Hess, Arthur Howard, Marie Howard, Jeff Kaiser, Joanne Keeling, Pastor King.

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EVENTS & ANNOUNCEMENTS

Sixty Plus members to learn about Ten Thousand Villages

Friday, April 16, St. Andrews Fellowship Hall
Lunch and program beginning at noon

Ten Thousand Villages works with over 130 artisan groups in more than 38 countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East to sell fair trade jewelry, home decor, gifts and more. A representative from the Ann Arbor store will tell us more about this organisation that helps artisans earn a fair wage and realize a better quality of life. RSVP to Phoebe Vance (734-971-4870) or Bonnie Terpstra (734-668-8677).

 

Men will consider religion’s role in American history

Men’s Breakfast, Saturday, April 10, 8 am

Westminster men and friends will view the DVD Rediscovering God In America which explores the important role that religion played in early America. A walking tour of Washington, D.C. shows the reflection of our forefathers’ religious beliefs in the architecture of many government buildings in our nation’s capitol. Bring a friend for breakfast and great conversation.

 

Square dancing is great fun!

Friday, May 14, 7 pm; $5 per person

Time to dust off those cowboy boots, plaid shirts, bandanas and poodle skirts for a square dance at Westminster. A professional caller will start promptly at 7:30 pm.

Even if you’ve never square danced before, you’re guaranteed a great time. Sixth graders through adults, singles and couples, are encouraged to come and enjoy the evening. The dancing will end around 10 pm.

Bring some snacks to share. Drinks will be provided. Please contact Al Banning (734-971-6163) with questions and sign up in the entry to the fellowship hall.

 

Bike ride aids Hope Food Bank

Saturday, May 22, 11 am
Start at Mitchell Field, 1900 Fuller Road

Get your bike ready now for a Ride for the Hungry to support the Hope Food Bank. This is a family-friendly ride along Washtenaw County’s Border to Border Trail. Fill your backpack, panniers, and trailers with nonperishable food items. The Hope Clinic web site lists current needs. Elizabeth Tidd, ride captain, can answer your questions (734-662-0205).

 

Sign up now for summer campout

Still in a quandary to find some fun and exciting things to do with the family this summer? The 37th annual Westminster campout will fill the bill. There are plenty of fun things to do: crafts, swimming, bicycling, outdoor worship, and of course campfires and s’mores.

The weekend is August 6–8 at the Port Huron KOA. Campsites and cabins are available. Please contact Al Banning for reservations by June 13. This is a great opportunity for members new and old to spend time together and get to know each other better.

 

Phoebe and Roger Vance bring greetings from Julie Chamberlain. The Vances recently were in Costa Rica on a mission trip with Methodist friends. They were delighted to also spend time with Julie, who was on the Westminster staff here some years ago and who now directs the Spanish Language Institute near San Jose.

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April class looks closely at resurrection

Adult Education classes encourage discussion, reflection, prayer and disciplines of life-long learning, discernment and faithful and Christ-centered action in the world. You are welcome to join any class at any time.

Bible study: Exodus An in-depth study, led by Andy King. A variety of resources and perspectives are used to explore this foundational book of the Old Testament. Meets Sundays at 10 am in room 32 on the lower level.

A Deeper Look at Resurrection What does it mean to be human? Join us as we draw upon biblical anthropology and neuroscience to explore anew such theological concepts as the resurrection, the “soul,” and sin, freedom and salvation. The class is led by Pastor King and Bill Kuhn and meets Sundays, April 11, 18 and 25 at 10 am in room 30 on the lower level.

Looking ahead to May Rent-a-Kid is Sunday, May 2 at 10 am. This is your opportunity to get some spring chores taken care of and support our youth program at the same time. Adult classes will not meet.

Sundays, May 9, 16 and 30 and June 6, Andy King will lead a class entitled Creation Care.

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