Friday, December 28, 2012

"Anything is Possible" as Sunday Night Live returns to Church Street

The new year is just around the corner and that means Church Street is getting ready for the 2013 kickoff Sunday Night Live. Our first event will be held on Sunday, January 6 in Parish Hall. Hallerin Hill is our speaker as he reminds us, "Anything is Possible in Knoxville."

Come listen as Hallerin helps inspire us to start the new year off on the right foot and really make a difference in our community!

There will be a supper served from 5:15-6 p.m. Cost for adults is $6.50 and children under 12 are $4.50. RSVP to the church office 524-3048 by Thursday, January 3. 

Other Sunday Night Live events include Book Club, Medication Safety Course, and various adult Bible Studies. Watch the Messenger and the church website for more information. 

We hope you will join us for this great series of events that will help you grow in your faith and your ministry to the Knoxville community. 

Upcoming Speakers
  • David Dewhirst, "Future Development in Downtown Knoxville," February 3, 6 p.m.
  • Helen Ashe and Ellen Turner, "The Love Kitchen," March 3, 6 p.m.
  • Charles Maynard, "An Appalachian Quilt of Stories," April 7, 6 p.m.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve at Church Street

As we celebrate the coming of Christmas, enjoy the sights and sounds from our services here at Church Street. Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Guest Post by Laura Still

Traditions of Christmas: Walk through Bethlehem

Sixteen years ago I volunteered for a new Advent celebration at Church Street, because though I was already teaching Sunday School in the Children's Department, I wanted to get more involved by participating in an intergenerational event. Just kidding—I did it because it sounded like fun. A bit crazy maybe, but fun. When Sue Isbell first told me about her plan to convert the Parish hall into the town of Bethlehem as it might have been on the night Jesus was born, I thought it was a wild idea, but if anyone could make it happen, Sue could. I definitely wanted to help, just to see if we could pull it off. The first year was full of surprises, both pleasant and otherwise, but pull it off we did. The church had never had so many visitors in one afternoon, and they were both amazed and touched at the effort and attention to detail we put into that first Walk Through Bethlehem.

Since then, Walk Through Bethlehem has become more than a church-wide event. It is an interdenominational staple in the Knoxville Christmas calendar. Churches from all over town and East Tennessee bring vans and busloads of people to Church Street every year to walk back 2000 years to the town of David on a night when its streets were packed with the tribe of Judah returned for the census decreed by Caesar Augustus, a night full of strange stories from shepherds and rumors about angels, visions, and the birth of a child. We've had visitors from other states, other countries, and even other faiths attend this once-a-year miracle.

I use that word advisedly, because that's what it is. Every year when November rolls around, someone asks the question, “How are we going to do it again? Because of (fill in the blank here with whatever problem you can think of), I just don't see how we can.” But we do it. Praise the Lord, with the  leadership of Sue and her husband Rick, and the devoted efforts of a core group of almost fanatical volunteers, every year obstacles are overcome, issues solved, and snafus untangled.

Why are our volunteers so devoted? I can't speak for everyone, but I believe Walk through Bethlehem is a life-changing event. I know it has altered my idea of the Advent season forever. This may sound a little strange, but my Christmas doesn't really start till I hear the sound of duct tape tearing and smell dusty shade cloth, a smell as hard to describe as it is to forget. By that time I'm wearing a faded navy blue shirt with a Biblical village skyline on the front and a verse from Luke on the back: “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened that the Lord has made known to us.” (Luke 2:15) I'm climbing ladders, using a staple gun, wiring walls together—things I never attempt at home, but don't think twice about surrounded by other volunteers doing the same or even harder things.

Volunteering for Walk Through Bethlehem has inspired me to do lots of things I may have been scared to try otherwise. I decided to walk through the real Bethlehem on a faith pilgrimage to Israel in 2001, along with several other faithful volunteers. Sue still has a picture of the group that day, wearing our WTB shirts in the streets of Bethlehem. A year later, when we decided to change our Sunday School to a Workshop Rotation method, I volunteered to head the drama workshop and wrote one of the first plays from the perspective of the angels, based on my experience of being the angel at Walk Through Bethlehem.

That's right. Since the second WTB 15 years ago I have had the privilege of being the Angel of the Lord for at least a few hours every year. When we had an evaluation meeting after the first WTB. Sue asked for feedback to improve the event for the following year, and I suggested including an angel to sit on the stable roof or somewhere “on high” to watch over the shepherds. When everyone else said they were afraid of heights, I laughed. The next year I spent the entire event sitting outside in the frosty air on top of scaffolding above the shepherd's fields. It was one of the most intense spiritual experiences of my entire life, and still is. Since that first long vigil, I have recruited younger, prettier angels to sit on high for at least half of the six hour event, but my time watching over the little town of Bethlehem is very precious. So many people completely miss seeing the angel, but there's always at least one small child who looks up and is just the right age: old enough to understand who I am but young enough to believe I might be real. That look of incredulous joy is something I never get tired of. For the last couple of years, one of the faces I've seen it on is Sue's granddaughter Hallie. Last year she had her mother and grandmother bring her back outside countless times to wave to me, then continued to call me “the angel up top” every time she saw me in Sunday School or church. This year she was determined to stay and watch till I flew away. Someday soon I know Hallie will figure out I'm not really an angel, but I'm not looking forward to it. 

But maybe by then she'll understand, because she'll be part of it, helping us tell the story. That's really what Walk Through Bethlehem is about: telling the story, the most important story in a way that makes each person part of what is happening. The gift we want to give to our community is a new vision of how that night in Bethlehem changed the world and is still changing the world. Many times during the last 16 years at Walk Through Bethlehem I've looked over the crowds and felt that Jesus himself might be there somewhere, seeing us bring His story to life. I think it makes Him happy.  

Welcome to the Church Street Blog!

This week in The Messenger and in the Order of Worship you may have seen a  QR code to help you find our church's blog more easily. We're glad you're here! If you've never visited the blog before, we encourage you to look around. You'll find videos, photos, reflections from the pastors, and more.

Our blog changes frequently and new posts are added several times each week. Please check back often to stay up-to-date with the latest events at Church Street. We also want you to share your part of the Church Street story with the congregation. If you have pictures or other content to share, please e-mail them to Remember you can connect with the church on Facebook and Twitter as well. 

Thanks for stopping by the blog today and we hope you'll continue to join us!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Sunday Morning Schedule for December 30

We will have Sunday School at 9:40 a.m. and only one worship service at 11:00 a.m.
All adult Sunday School classes and others are invited to Parish Hall to hear Dianne Hackworth, a noted and accomplished storyteller from Clinton, Tennessee, and a relative of Sarah Varnell. Dianne has received a MA degree in storytelling and has been artist-in- residence in schools in NC, SC, VA and TN since 1993. She is the founder of the High Country Yarnspinners in Boone, NC, and co-founder of the NC Storytelling Guild.

There will be coffee, hot chocolate and time for fellowship beginning at 9:40 a.m. with Dianne beginning her storytelling at 10 a.m. This is a great time for holiday fellowship after Christmas and to hear a great storyteller. To learn more about Dianne, check out her website at: 

Merry Christmas from the Church Street UMC Staff

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Christmas Eve Services for Everyone

On Christmas Eve, we will have four candlelight communion services at Church Street—each one designed to meet a slightly different need. We hope that one of these services can become part of your Christmas tradition. This would be a wonderful occasion to invite extended family and neighbors to join you at church.

5:00 and 10:30 pm—These are the great services of Christmas Eve that everyone knows well. The times listed indicate the beginning of the musical prelude. The liturgy begins 30 minutes later in each case. The Parish Adult Choir will sing excerpts from Handel’s Messiah, accompanied by a chamber orchestra. Each service usually lasts about 90 minutes including the musical prelude.

3:00 pm—The Family Service. This service, which includes candlelight and communion, is designed for families with young children. This service is designed around the Children’s Sermon; the children are actively involved in several ways. This service lasts 50–60 minutes.

12 noon—The Midday Christmas Eve Service. This new service, which includes candlelight and communion, is designed for those who want to come out and get home before dark. We will sing many of the traditional Christmas carols. This service should last about 50–60 minutes.

Click here to return to the main church website.

Blue Christmas Service

Wednesday, December 19, 12 noon in the Chapel
Again this year we will offer a Blue Christmas Service in the Chapel. This service is designed particularly for those who might have suffered some type of loss during the past year—a death, an illness, a loss of relationship or employment, or just about any life change. Our theme for this year’s Advent services has been “Life Changes” and on this Wednesday we consider how the changes of life, however complex and difficult they may be, come in the midst of our ever-present, ever-loving God. The invitation is to all who find themselves feeling “blue” this year for whatever reason to reflect on how God in Jesus Christ is coming into our ever-changing lives with a message of hope. All are welcome.

The service begins at 12 noon and will last about 30 minutes. Lunch will be served in Parish Hall following the service; cost: $6.50. Please call 524-3048 to make meal reservations. 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Rise Up Shepherd and Follow

This morning was Church Street's Music and Readings offered by our Parish Adult Choir. He is a sample of their offerings featuring Daniel Webb. If others have taken videos from either service, please contact Marc Gamble at to share your videos.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Music & Readings

This Sunday, December 16, Parish Adult Choir will present A Service of Music and Readings at both worship services. The choir will be joined by the UT Faculty Brasswinds Quintet; the brass will begin playing fifteen minutes prior to the worship services and accompany congregational carols. Services will include familiar carols such as Love Came Down at Christmas and Sans Day Carol, as well as music by Poulenc and Pinkham. Soloist Daniel Webb will sing Rise Up, Shepherd, and Follow with the choir. Jami Anderson will sing Wexford Carol accompanied by strings and Anne Jackson, harp. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Reflections on the Fiscal Cliff at Christmas

December 11, 2012
            In the days of Obama the President and Boehner the Speaker of the House, a decree went out from Washington that all the world should register for the Fiscal Cliff. And everyone watched the news daily for signs that the cliff might be averted -- even at the last moment -- by the two great leaders of the realm.
            In that region along Pennsylvanian Avenue, there were cab drivers sitting by the curb, waiting for a fare in the hours near midnight. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord stood before them and the glory of the Lord shone round about them, and they were afraid (and it takes a lot to scare a cabbie). But the angel of the Lord said, "Do not fear. Hey, I have good news. Unto you is born this day in the back of the subway station a Savior, who  is the Messiah, The Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find the child wrapped in an old newspaper and lying in a shopping cart."
            And when the angel had gone away from them back into heaven, the cabbies said to one another, "I know that station. Let's go to see this thing that the Lord has made known to us."
            But one of them said, "I'll be along later. I'm waiting on Boehner. Don't you think he'll want to see it too?" (I don't know whether Mr. Boehner rides in taxis; since this is my story, he does.) The other cabbies scoffed, "Big people like him don't have time for this. He will yell at you to take him straight home."
            But the waiting cabbie said, "No. He must know and the President too what the angels have told us." And he pulled his coat around him against the cold December air.
            And lo, the hours passed as the great leaders talked inside the White House. When Boehner appeared, Obama walked with him; they were deep in conversation. The waiting cabbie hesitated, should he interrupt their talk? Should he just take them to that station without asking? Just then, the President and the Speaker glanced up and saw the cabbie staring at them. Seeing his excitement, the Speaker asked, "What's going on?"
            I leave the story for you to finish. Just wonder with me: Could the Christ Child be born in a time like this? Would the two greatest decision-makers of 2012 allow God's Christ to interrupt their long night? Will we?

Andy Ferguson

Monday, December 10, 2012

December 9, 2012 - The Messenger

Luke 3:1-6
Malachi 2.17

     Celia and I have a long-time friend, Kathy. She loves Christmas. Her house at Christmastime is a wonderland of lights and magic. The tree goes up early; the packages are out by the first Sunday of the season, each perfectly wrapped. The only problem with having Kathy as a friend is that she is working on her Christmas all year long. She really buys Christmas decorations at the half-price sales after Christmas. At annual conference, her mind is focused on December. If we travel with them, she is always shopping for Christmas gifts. All of this obsession would be maddening except that when the Christmas season comes, she is ready – really ready – from the very beginning of the season. Once the Christmas season begins, she is calm and relaxed and makes the season a pleasure for everyone around her.
            One year, I visited in their home just after Christmas. The children began to bring out their treasures. Her husband was looking good in some new bit of clothing that fit perfectly. We must have been with them a lot over the year leading up to that Christmas. It seemed that everything they showed us was something I had seen Kathy choose on one of her summertime shopping trips. As we saw their Christmas displayed that day, I understood why each of those shopping trips over the past year had been important. She really had prepared for a great Christmas.

            To read the Prophet Malachi is watch God at work preparing as only God can for the perfect Christmas. 400 years before the birth of the Christ Child, God was addressing the people of Israel, calling them to watch, sharing the sort of Christmas that God had in mind, and reminding them that God is already preparing for the day.

I. TEXT: The Prophet Malachi comes at the end of the Christian Old Testament. The book was most likely written in the years after the Exile when the Israelites had returned home to rebuild Jerusalem. Life is hard; patience and faith are in short supply. Instead of being a nation among the nations of the earth, Israel is just a province of Persia with a foreign governor. Jerusalem is not a great capitol; it is not at the center of anything. The people are living in poverty; and they are morally failing.
            Malachi understands the objections and misery of the disappointed people, and so his entire book is set out as a series of disputes between God and the people. The concerns of the book are fairly common ones, which might apply in any age or community:
+poor service by the priests;
+the breakdown of marriage;
+people are disillusioned with God’s justice – or lack of it;
+misuse of the tithe;
+finally, there is sorcery, adultery, false witness, oppression of working people, against the widow and the orphan, and mistreatment of the alien among them.
In the center of this listing of commonplace sins, stands the passage we have read this morning. It turns to the promise of God returning in power and in justice. Without it, we might set aside Malachi as a fussy teaching on everyday living. With this passage at the center, all that is happening becomes the context for God’s great intrusion into history and the world.

            A. The Passage begins with the prophet’s charge that the people have wearied the Lord with their words. The people come back: “How have we wearied the Lord?” You can imagine a lively town-hall meeting in the Temple area – the prophet shouting his message and the crowd talking back with cat-calls and debate. The prophet will not back down: “You have wearied the Lord by saying, ‘Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and he delights in them.’ Or by asking, ‘Where is the God of justice?’”
            I can imagine the prophet shaking his fist in righteous indignation for the Lord. But, I also hear the pain in the crowd. Times were hard: economically, politically, and as a result, spiritually. They were ruled by the Persians; they did not own their nation.
            Their situation, though worse than ours, sounds familiar. We have been through several years of recession. We have just gone through a bruising election campaign. We are the weary ones, too.
            **I was at lunch in early November, just before election day, talking about what the election would mean. Realizing that our group represented more than one political persuasion, we were studiously avoiding any partisan claims that would have divided our fellowship. At some point one of our most conservative friends around the table said simply, “I’m worried about our country.” And, perhaps the most liberal person around the table responded, “Yes, I think we are all worried about our country.” On that we all agreed.**

Well, it is one thing for a group of friends to express their worries around the lunch table. It is a completely different matter for a prophet to start pointing fingers. If the prophet Malachi were among us, would he challenge our city on its moral failings? Would he challenge us on our lack of faithfulness to God? Would the prophet challenge the complaints we are raising against heaven? The Israelites responded: “How have we wearied him?” We would probably respond, “What are you talking about?” And “Who are you to tell us how to live anyway?”
            As we re-read the exchange in the town hall meeting between the people and the prophet, you sense an unspoken worry. It is a worry that is likely the source of their weariness and contentiousness. They speak as people who are not sure about the presence of God among them. Ancestors they can name led them into Exile. Ancestors they can name saw the destruction of Jerusalem. And now the grinding poverty makes the promises of blessing and grace and presence seem very hollow indeed. “Is there any word from God?” They don’t quite state the question so directly, but it is there, just below the surface of the argument.

II. So, before the Prophet lets us get bogged down in our indignation, he pronounces a promise from God.         
3 “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts.

This is a direct promise that the Lord is among us and cares about this world which God created. More than merely watching, our God is coming among us. It is God’s answer to our greatest worry and our fondest hope.

III.  But read on: as this messenger goes before the arrival of Lord, his coming will be a frightful thing. Wait! I thought that when the Lord came, it would be a joyous thing – like Christmas is supposed to be joyous. But the prophecy goes on to say:
            2 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?

There is an ominous ring to these words.
            Well, between the end of the O.T. and the writing of the N.T., the belief grew that this messenger, this forerunner, would be the returning Elijah, the greatest prophet of the Jewish history. For Christians, who heard the stories of John the Baptist preparing the way for Jesus, he was the one foretold by the prophecy.
            Luke recalled this expectation in his description of John the Baptist at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.
During the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3 He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, 4 as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah,

"The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
5 Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth;
6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'"

7 John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our ancestor'; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. 9 Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire." (Luke 3:2-9 NRSV)

Like Malachi, John was filled with fire and brimstone. The people are not ready to see the coming of God. If the people are going to find the joy at his arrival, they will only do it through repentance and return to God’s righteousness. Odd, isn’t it? There is joy in Christmas. There is hope in God’s story. But, God’s hope comes through turning and returning in righteousness.
            So, does God intend the coming of the Christ Child to be a source of joy or judgment? Should we be terrified at His coming or delighted? *Does the modern joy at Christmas miss the point?* Let me explain it this way.
            I am a hand washer – I wash my hands before eating, before handling things that should stay clean, sometimes for no reason at all. I come by it honestly. One of my long-time friends is a doctor who goes through flu season using hand sanitizer before and after each patient. Actually, he does not wait for flu season to start this; he does it year ‘round. He proudly observes that he rarely catches what his patients have.
            I take some grief for my hand-washing fetish but remain unrepentant. As a matter of fact, I was in the hospital recently to visit a newborn baby and her mom. As I entered the room, the mother stated matter-of-factly, “If you are planning to hold the baby, you’ll have to wash your hands.”
            I smiled at her standard: First, she offered to let me hold the baby. Second, everything I believe about washing my hands had been vindicated. It was a good visit. 
          We have arrived at the 2nd Sunday before Christmas. The words of the Prophet Malachi speak in two voices. His words promise a great joy which shall be to all peoples. His words also speak of the preparing for Christmas with righteousness and faithfulness. Both voices must be heard; both voices speak this great message.
            It’s almost Christmas, friends. We wait out in the fields with the shepherds watching our flocks by night, working well through the second shift. When the angels come with Good News, we want to go even unto Bethlehem to see this that the Lord has made known to us. I can already see the old prophet sitting by the door to the Christmas manger watching the crowd straggle in to see the baby. But, he is not silent; he holds up a hand to catch our attention: “If you are planning to hold the baby, you’ll have to wash your hands.”

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

Last night Church Street hosted the annual Christmas Pageant. More than one hundred of people from both our church and our community gathered in Parish Hall for a meal and a very special telling of the Christmas story. Over dinner we sang carols and then those who wanted to participate in the pageant adjourned upstairs to fetch their costumes. It was a pageant unlike any other. Mary and Joseph came in, weary from their journey. Soon the shepherds were watching over the flocks and then a multitude (and I do mean a MULTITUDE!) of angels told them the good news. A baby had been born! We watched in wonder as the star appeared and came to rest over the stable where the baby lay. The same star guided wise men from the east to Bethlehem. Our manger scene was noisy and full of movement, just as the stable was long ago. 

As I sat and watched the pageant last night I realized that it was the very heart of our mission here at Church Street. Sometimes sharing the good news doesn't mean shouting it from the rooftops. Sometimes offering the good news means sharing sandwiches while perched on folding chairs in the Parish Hall. It means watching the children of our church stand with children who are growing up in far different circumstances but deserve this story all the same. And as I watched these children experience the joy of the Christmas story I saw them realize this this was not Church Street's story, but their story as well. 

To everyone who made made sandwiches and baked cookies for last night's event, thank you. For those of you who bought mittens and scarves and gloves, we thank you. Each member of the community in attendance last night was able to take what they needed to stay warm on the cold nights to come. But friends, it is the story of Christmas that we shared with them last night that will keep them far warmer than any gloves we can provide. 

- Caroline Lamar

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Lessons and Carols - CSUMC Youth

Enjoy a musical offering from the Parish Youth Choir from the 8:30 AM service this morning, Tomorrow Will Be My Dancing Day.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Four-Course Fellowship begins in January

Sign-up deadline is Sunday, December 16
The next 4-month rotation of Four Course Fellowship begins in January, and you can be a part of it! In this fun “dinner club” fellowship opportunity, groups will be established and locations, appetizers, salads, entrees and desserts will rotate monthly within the group.

Here’s how it works: You sign up (with a spouse, relative or friend) and are placed in an 8-person group to share a meal and fellowship. Your group gets together once a month (for four months). The days and times of the meals are determined by your group to be convenient for all eight persons. The host pair provides meat, beverage and home; the second pair provides appetizer and vegetable; the third pair provides salad and bread; and the fourth pair provides dessert. Each month a different 2-person team becomes the host pair, and all pairs rotate the portion of the meal for which they are responsible.

Here’s how to sign up: To sign up or for more details, please contact Julia Kelley in the breezeway this Sunday, December 16. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Final SERRV Market - This Sunday!

Every year we have the opportunity to purchase exotic gifts all while helping artisans from Africa, Asia, and Latin America. You are invited to shop SERRV’s unique and handcrafted fair trade items from around the world. Give special fair trade gifts that improve the lives of artisans and farmers worldwide. Come shop with us this Sunday, December 9, beginning at 9 AM in the Parish Hall. All proceeds are returned to SERRV participating artisans. For more information, please visit and see the Fair Trade article in the UMW News insert in the Messenger.

Walk Through Bethlehem 2012

Have you have never attended ?
“Walk Through Bethlehem” began in 1997 and each year has become the largest assembly of persons gathering at Church Street on any day. Please let this be the year that you experience what the village of Bethlehem might have been like over 2,000 years ago...right in our Parish Hall and surroundings. Visit the shops, listen to the storytellers, learn in the synagogue, talk with the townspeople (fellow Church Streeters who will stay in character as 1st century residents of Bethlehem), taste the local Bethlehem foods, see the animals on the hillside, and try to find the special baby born that night.

A few tidbits for those new to Walk Through Bethlehem
  • This is a free event / no reservations needed. 
  • Visit anytime between 1 and 6 p.m. 
  • Line forms in Church Life Center hallway. 
  • We are open rain, snow or shine! 
  • All of Walk Through Bethlehem, except the animals in the shepherds’ field, is situated indoors. Also, if you have to wait to enter Bethlehem, your wait is indoors (in the Church Life Center). 
  • This is not a play or a pageant but an interactive event that allows one to interact with characters while visiting different points of interest in our village of Bethlehem. 
  • Animals (camels, sheep, donkey, etc.) are an exciting part of this event, but our animals are stabled at dusk and in the event of steady rain. 
  • For more information about Walk Through Bethlehem, call 524- 3048 or visit our website at
If you haven’t attended since the early years
Come back to see the changes, such as the canvas backdrop of the Judean hillside, the interactive shops, the camels, and the nave visits. If you have or have not attended and would like to be one of the hundreds of volunteers, call Sue Isbell at 521-0282 as soon as possible. We NEED MORE VOLUNTEERS prior to the event, during the event and after the event.

You can help during set up days by...

  • Stopping by anytime between 9 am and early evening Tuesday through Friday, December 11–14, and there will be a job for you (stringing lights, setting up and decorating shops, etc.)
  • We especially need many helping hands on Thursday morning, Dec. 13, with shovels and wheelbarrows to move the wood chips into Parish Hall.

You can help on event day, Dec. 16, by...
  • Being a costumed character during:
    1st shift (1:00–3:30 p.m.) as a ...
    • Storyteller in the Storyteller’s Tent (short biblical stories provided to tell)
    • Wise Man
    • Shepherd
      2nd shift (3:30–6:00 p.m.) as a ...
    • Storyteller in the Storyteller’s Tent (short biblical stories provided to tell)
    • Wise Man
    • Shepherd
    • Medicine Shopkeeper
    • Food Shopkeeper
    • Textile Shopkeeper
    • Jewelry Shopkeeper
    • Innkeeper
  • Bring snacks and goodies to the break room for hungry shepherds & keepers!

You can help during clean up days by...
  • Coming on December 17 or 18 to help take down shops, store items, and take out the wood chips.
Contact Sue Isbell at the church with questions:

Saturday, December 1, 2012

November 25, 2012 - Royal News

Christ the King Sunday
John 18.33~37

[CONNECT ~ Our Fascination with Royalty]
            The British and most Americans along with them are fascinated with royalty ~ especially British Royalty.
+A year ago, the big story was Kate and Prince William’s wedding ~ the wedding of the century.
+Now, we are waiting breathlessly for the announcement that Kate is pregnant. According to The Examiner on Sept 5:
The latest out of Buckingham Palace suggests that the Duchess of Cambridge and Prince William are having a baby and a royal bump may be seen soon.

Hollywood Life posted a story Wednesday about an insider's claim that Will and Kate have finally hit another milestone in their marriage by conceiving a child.

[QUOTE] The Duchess of Cambridge is pregnant with William’s baby, according to a person close to the news and happenings at Buckingham Palace. "Friends say Kate is convinced it's happened, and while she and William are keeping the news close to the vest, they're delirious with joy.” [END]

However, if Kate Middleton is really pregnant, it will likely take a royal announcement to make believers out of skeptics on baby~watch for Will and Kate. The royal couple appears to still be in the twilight of their honeymoon; all evidence suggests they are still deeply in love.
According to Body Language guru Linda Talley, "William sits in a very open position. Both Kate and her Prince have genuine smiles as they gaze at each other. Even after a year, it appears the honeymoon is still on." (1).

Can you believe that there is such a job as “Body Language Expert”? Oddly, had no more reports on the baby news since early September, so I can claim nothing further than what I just shared with you from The Examiner story.
            My guess is that your ears perked up at the mention of Will and Kate. And that is my point: even Americans, who fought one of the few wars on our own soil to throw off British rule are fascinated with all things royal.

            Well, today we come to the end of the Christian year. We have told the story of Jesus Christ from the days of anticipation in Advent 2011, through the birth of the Christ at Christmas, through his ministry, through the gathering storm of Lent leading to the cross and then Easter joy, through the day and season of Pentecost. Today, this great story is completed in a day we call “Christ the King Sunday.”
            We will read from John 18.33~37. Jesus is on trial before Pilate the Roman Governor. As Pilate examines Jesus, he asks, “Are you the King of the Jews?” This passage will not only point us to the claim that Jesus of Nazareth deserves the title: “King.” It will also teach us what the title means. I’m guessing that the popular fascination with all things Royal does not really do justice to the claim that Jesus Christ deserves the title: *King*.
            I hope you will get your Bible and turn to John 18 so you can read along with me. As you are finding your palace, let’s listen as our Parish Choir sings for us…
[FIRST SONG] “With a Voice of Singing (1:44), Parish Adult Choir

[SCRIPTURE ~ john 18.33~37 Good News Translation GNT]
            33 Pilate went back into the palace and called Jesus. “Are you the king of the Jews?” he asked him.
            34 Jesus answered, “Does this question come from you or have others told you about me?”
            35 Pilate replied, “Do you think I am a Jew? It was your own people and the chief priests who handed you over to me. What have you done?”
            36 Jesus said, “My kingdom does not belong to this world; if my kingdom belonged to this world, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish authorities. No, my kingdom does not belong here!”
            37 So Pilate asked him, “Are you a king, then?”
            Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. I was born and came into the world for this one purpose, to speak about the truth. Whoever belongs to the truth listens to me.”


            In the African American Spirituals tradition, there is a great old hymn, “Ride On, King Jesus” edited by Steve Bell. The spiritual imagines Jesus riding down the Mount of Olives on Palm Sunday:

**King Jesus rides to Jerusalem
Hosanna to King David's son
He rides upon a donkey small
The King of peace, the Lord of all

The children sing and they dance and shout
If they won't praise, the rocks cry out
King Jesus done just what He said
He healed the sick and He raised the dead

The light of God shines on His face
He offers all His pardoning grace
Come join the throng, your voices raise
The King of love deserves your praise

[CHORUS] Ride on King Jesus
No one can a~hinder thee
Ride on King Jesus, ride on
No one can a~hinder thee**.

Who is this king: King Jesus? I understand that the people around the world and 250 years ago had experience with kings and queens and such. These were people and positions that had a direct impact on people. The metaphor of the King worked in the past because all the hopes and authority of government were invested in one person who was imagined to be set aside by birth and place to hold this special authority in the life of the nation.
            In our time the king has been replaced by a President and two houses of Congress who are elected by the people. At some point in our lives, we will each know these people whom we elect. And, while they are respected and given great responsibility, they come from the same places from which we come. They are like us; they are us. Thus, royalty is a curiosity for us but not a necessity as it was for many nations until 250 years ago and the ancients. For all of those, kings ruled in almost every nation on earth.
            For us, however, the idea of “king” is foreign. The British institution of constitutional monarchy is no help; the role of the King in Britain is far more circumscribed than the people of the Bible imagined. Biblical kings passed their kingship down from generation to generation and ruled absolutely much like the several dictators of North Africa who have been driven out as a result of the Arab Spring. Further, Biblical kings knew that violent overthrow was always a possibility, so Pilate’s effort to stamp out rebellion, if that is what Jesus intended, was well placed. Pilate knows what kings are, what kingdoms are, where they come from, and how they behave. And he knows that it’s his job to allow no such thing on his watch. So, he asks the direct question: “Are you the King of the Jews?”
            Having little idea of kingship, we do not have many misleading impressions to correct. Perhaps in this narrow sense, we are better off than Pilate was on the day the Jewish leaders brought Jesus before him for trial.
I. 33 **Pilate went back into the palace and called Jesus. “Are you the king of the Jews?” he asked him. 34 Jesus answered, “Does this question come from you or have others told you about me?**”

            A formal trial begins with an arraignment: the charges are read out in open court; the defendant is present to hear and to respond with a plea: *guilty as charged* OR *not guilty*. The leaders of the Temple arrested Jesus and took him to Pilate, the Roman governor, with the charge that he claimed to be “King of the Jews.” Pilate wants to know: is he guilty of this charge or not? For Jesus to claim that he is indeed King of the Jews is the crime of sedition. The common definition of sedition is “*conduct or language inciting rebellion against the authority of the government*.” If Pilate concludes that Jesus is indeed guilty of this charge, the trial will quickly reach its conclusion, and Jesus will be executed.
            But, Jesus does not bite; instead, he answers Pilate’s question with a question. **34 “Jesus answered, ‘Does this question come from you or have others told you about me?’”** Jesus wants to know if this is something Pilate himself believes about him or if he is only quoting the Jewish leaders who filed the complaint against him.             Clearly, Pilate is asking about a political king. Are you, Jesus, king of the Jews in rebellion against Roman rule and against Pilate’s authority as the representative of Rome? As Christians, we know that Jesus has something different and something greater in mind. But, let’s allow the drama to play itself out.

B. 35 **Pilate replied, “Do you think I am a Jew? It was your own people and the chief priests who handed you over to me. What have you done?” 36 Jesus said, “My kingdom does not belong to this world; if my kingdom belonged to this world, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish authorities. No, my kingdom does not belong here!”**

            Pilate confirms that the charges come from the Temple leaders ~ those John calls “the Jews.” But, he still wants to understand what Jesus has done to deserve their anger. “What have you done?
            Jesus begins to explain that his kingdom is not a political kingdom: “My kingdom is not of this world.” The evidence that his kingdom is not of this world should be evident to Pilate: Jesus’ followers have not begun a violent rebellion to keep Jesus out of the hands of those who arrested him. Pilate can confirm this for himself. This kingdom of Jesus is not a political threat to Rome. (I almost said, “This kingdom of Jesus is no threat to Rome” but that would not be correct.) Certainly, it is not a threat with tanks and guns; it is, however, a threat to the foundations of Rome and every government which claims the authority to give or take the life of those living under its authority.
            Jesus finishes by saying: No, my kingdom does not belong here!” “Here” in this palace, here with these soldiers, here with all the trappings of political power. All this leads us to the question: So where does Jesus’ kingdom belong? And how does anyone belong to his kingdom? We are working our way to the question: What sort of king is Jesus?

C.  37 **So Pilate asked him, “Are you a king, then?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. I was born and came into the world for this one purpose, to speak about the truth. Whoever belongs to the truth listens to me.**”

If Jesus is a king on this Christ the King Sunday, he is a king who has come into the world to speak the truth, and we join His kingdom by listening to him.
            We live in a kingdom that imposes very different rules for citizenship. Growing up in the South, I understood that citizenship comes mainly through birth. Those who are born in the USA are citizens of this nation. That was simple enough when there was little immigration to consider.
            Five years ago, when I came to this church, we at Church Street hosted the district Latino ministry office. Jeanet Berrecos kept the problem of Latinos before us constantly: the difficulty of the route to become US citizens, how hard it is to get the papers to work legally ~ a Green Card, the constant threat of deportation. Immigration laws are designed to mark the boundary between citizens and non~citizens as clearly as possible. As you can see, if the only requirement for citizen in His kingdom is that we listen to Jesus, then his requirements are very different.

D. Someone pointed out that if Jesus is no threat to political Pilate, and if Jesus’ kingdom is open to everyone who listens to him, then Jesus’ kingdom was open to Pilate as it was to the common people of Israel, to the Jewish leaders, and absolutely everyone else. As a result, Pilate was as much on trial in this encounter as Jesus was supposed to be.
            [APPLIC:] And, if the truth be told, we come to church hanging on to our sense of control as well. We do not embrace the sort of faith that gives up control of our lives and our life~styles ~ even if Jesus is the king.
            1. Over the past 20 years, we Americans have allowed the Christian faith to be claimed for political purposes by both parties.
+If we claim the Christian concern for creation, then we are liberals and we must be Democrats.
+If we claim the Christian concern for the unborn, then we must be conservatives and that makes us Republicans.
+In an era of US vs. THEM, those who agree with me are God’s children; those who disagree with me are sinners.
Thus, what should be a searching conversation among people of faith is transformed into a political football to be kicked around looking for an advantage and for votes.
            [APPLIC:] We must remember that every conversation between Christians is a conversation among brothers and sisters in Christ. We will remain brothers and sisters in Christ when the voting is completed, just as we were before the vote was taken.
           [APPLIC:] We must remember that Jesus wants disciples brought to faith through the wooing of the heart and challenge to the mind ~ not through intimidation and power.
+Jesus is not about a crown but a cross.
+Jesus will not ride in on a warrior’s stallion but on the donkey of the humble.
+Jesus does not come looking for servants but to offer service.
+Does does not bring war but the peace of God.

III. The high point of Jesus’ trial before Pilate comes at the end of this passage. Pilate has spent the trial commuting between the Temple leaders who refuse to enter Pilate’s hall and Jesus who being held in that very hall. It is time for judgment. Pilate asks Jesus: “So, you are a king?” From the way he asks, Pilate expects Jesus to confirm the charge. Jesus turns the question aside: “You say that I am a king.” Then, Jesus goes on to answer Pilate with the greatest clarity he can:
“**For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.
Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.**”

What does this mean? It sounds like Jesus is talking in riddles. But, he is not talking in riddles; he is recalling the great themes of his entire ministry. Jesus would not have made a particularly good politician in America: he was not very good at hatching sound bites. To understand Jesus, we have to hear everything he says; it all fits together closely.
            In John 10, Jesus gives the Good Shepherd discourse. As you remember, one of the great images of kingship in the Bible is the *good shepherd*. Beginning in v. 11, Jesus says to the Pharisees:
            11 "**I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away~and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and THEY WILL LISTEN TO MY VOICE**. (John 10:11~16 NRSV) 

+ To know Jesus as our king is to know him as our shepherd (our king, our watchful leader, our loving guide).
+ To know Jesus as our king is to listen to his voice as the sheep listen FOR THE VOICE of their shepherd.
+ To know Jesus as our king is to be drawn to the kind of reign he brings ~ not a place or an address, but a quality of life and a way of life that brings peace.
+Because Jesus has come from the Heavenly Father and speaks for the Father, we are judged, not by Jesus sitting in judgment as Pilate did, but judged by our response to Jesus. Those who come in faith to Jesus thus indicate that they get and commit themselves to all he stands for and all that he is doing. Those who reject Jesus, as Pilate did, thus indicate that they reject what he stands for and all that he is doing.

            So, today the trial continues. Like Pilate, we have questions to ask of this Jesus. Like Pilate, we have to decide: What will we do with Jesus? That is the core question of life. What Pilate did not understand but we must understand is that we do not sit in judgment on Jesus. That power is not in our hands. Instead, we are judged by our  response to Jesus; the power is in his hands.
            Come now, Governor, the Pharisees standing outside have charged this Jesus with claiming kingship. He has claimed a lot of other titles, too: Good Shepherd, the Door, the Light, and the *Word of God now taken flesh*. What will you say? What do you say about Jesus?