The Gospel in Community

“Some say I am DNA. Some say I am a product of my society. Some say I am merely a smart animal, a mass of brainwaves, or a calculating will to power. The evolutionary biologist, the psychologist, the environmentalist, the biochemist, the sociologist, the economist, the Ivy League ethicist, they all call me something. But you in the church, who do you say that I am?”
– The Rev. Peter Speckard, quoted in Scott McKnight, Embracing Grace.

Dear BPC members and friends,

The quote above is part of a sermon delivered at the national meeting of the Lutheran Church a number of years ago. In his book Embracing Grace, Professor Scott McKnight answers the question: “Peter, you are an ‘Eikon’, you are the image of God.” McKnight goes on to say that C.S. Lewis’ words express this better than anything he has ever seen: “Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses.” What he is saying is that your neighbor in the pew is an ‘eikon’, the image of God, and you yourself are an ‘eikon’ to your neighbor in the pew. McKnight uses the Greek word ‘eikon’, meaning image, and spelled e-i-k-o-n deliberately, so we don’t think of “computer icons” or think of “cultural icons” like we see on the cover of People magazine.

On Sunday our Gospel lesson is Mark 2: 1-12, the story of Jesus healing a paralyzed man who is carried into Jesus’ presence by the man’s friends, lowering him through the roof of the house in order to access Jesus. The friends clearly saw their friend as being made in the image of God, and they wanted healing and wholeness for him. I Corinthians 13 captures the motivation of the friends: “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” The word Paul uses in Greek for love is agape, a selfless, unconditional love that wants the best for the other person, and is willing to make a sacrifice that will make the other person’s life better. It means seeing the other person as made in the image of God, an eikon, and so deserving of our best efforts to help that person live fully in God’s love.

The title of my sermon is “The Gospel in Community”, about how it is that we in the church are not just individuals pursuing our own faith journey; we are each one of us bound together in a community of faith that shows forth God’s unconditional love to the world.

Summer 2015 Crossroads

Don’t Forget!
Sunday July 5th we’ll be worshipping with our UCC Brethren in their sanctuary at 9:30 am. That kicks off our summer hours – we’ll worship at 9:30 am through September 6th. After that we return to our 10:30 am services.

Summer Picnic after worship service

Spring Brook Park has decided not to open on weekends this year. In order to have our Church Picnic, we had to find a new venue. The Morrisons have very graciously offer to open up their home and yard to us.
They will provide the meat. Please bring a side dish, a salad, or a dessert to share. Please sign up on the list in Fellowship Hall and indicate what you plan to bring. They have enough chairs for 40 people. If you are #41 signing up, please bring your own chair! There will be games for the children. If you have a favorite yard game, please consider bringing it along. Our aim is to have a good time. If you have any questions, see Sally or Brad. Come! Join us!

A big thank you to…all who helped with Duncan’s service. It was a graceful way for us to express our love for Duncan. As the hymn says, “They’ll Know We are Christians by Our Love”.

Thank you
…goes out to our dedicated Christian Education staff for their good, nurturing work during 2014-2015. A recognition service took place, followed by the annual CE cookout, on June14.

…and likewise to all the folks who gave so much so that we might have a successful Yard Sale on June 20, especially co-coordinators Judy Brunner and Sally Morrison (an unbeatable team!). Many came on a hot Saturday to shop.

Food Pantry Needs
We will be at UCC the first Sunday of July. Our next regular collection will be August 2. Remember, we are committed to providing 20 oz. bottles of dish detergent and individually wrapped bars of soap. Other non-food item, which need to be purchased by the pantry, are also welcome.

We need you
…to drive George to church
…to be a Worship Assistant
…to be a Greeter
Training available for Worship Assistants and Greeters
Please sign up today!

Yard Sale
We had our annual yard sale on June 20. It was a beautiful day and we sold a lot of “stuff”. Thank you, thank you to all who contributed. We earned a net of $1,234.24.

We worked hours in preparation and clean-up. Thank you to those who sorted and priced items and those who packed up the leftovers and hauled them to the thrift shop. Our sore muscles and feet are beginning to feel better. Thank you to all who baked cookies, pies, cakes and breads for our first attempt at a bake sale along with a yard sale, all looked delicious. Thanks to all who set up the tables.

Judy and Sally

Food Pantry Updates
by Amanda Moak

This past month has been a good one at the pantry. We are establishing normalcy and “regulars” with our cooking and nutrition classes, and we are finally getting fresh produce from the farm and soon the community garden.

What I like about the cooking classes is the variety of foods Nancy exposes us too. The only place I’ve ever had barley before was in a soup, and two weeks ago we made a barley summer salad. We also shop for most of the ingredients for the class in the pantry to show the clients just how doable fun recipes are.

Now that the CSA has started for the summer season, we are also able to incorporate fresh vegetables into the mix. This is especially exciting because a lot of clients (and also me) are not sure how to use all of the vegetables donated by the farm. Nancy has been giving us the confidence to branch out and do more cooking on our own. On several occasions clients have told me that after leaving the cooking class they went home and cooked the same food that Nancy made and it tasted just as good.

The nutrition classes are also fun because the clients who attend are sincerely interested in what Harriet has to say. They are active participants, asking questions and adding their thoughts. I always learn something new, and Harriet is an extremely knowledgeable teacher. She is great at listening to the attendees and answering their questions. I hope these classes are able to continue after I am gone because they have been a great service for our clients, and I think Nancy and Harriet love to teach them just as much as we love attending.

These past few weeks have been very exciting on the vegetable front as well. The CSA has officially started for the summer season, which means we’ve been seeing a large amount of fresh produce. We have also been planting in the Burlington Community Victory Garden. The plants are still to young to harvest, but soon we are hoping to see kale, broccoli, beans, eggplant, squash, and many other summer and fall vegetables. The garden is special to us because it is completely run by volunteers and all of the produce is donated to the pantry. I can’t wait to start using the Burlington-grown food in our cooking classes. It will be a fun day when we can say everything we cooked was grown and prepared right here in Burlington. If you would like to work in the garden (and trust me, you will always be welcome), please feel free to reach out by calling (339)-234-9221, or sending a quick email to

Sue Hadsell

Hello Everyone
Kudos to everyone who helped make the total contribution to Pentecost a total of $877 $40% will go to our congregation which will help us with our YAV program. Thank you.

Secondly we have received a total of $2891 for our per capita, which is more than received last year (thank you) but is shy of what we need to contribute to Presbytery for this year. If there is anything you can contribute to per capita this year it is more than appreciated.

Each year the Presbytery of Boston requires member churches to pay a “Per Capita Apportionment” to support the mission and ministry of the Presbytery, Synod and the General Assembly. “Per Capita” means a certain amount to be given for each adult confirmed member of the church (children who are below confirmation age are not included.) This year’s Per Capita is $51.07. Two adult members in a household would each contribute $51.07; a family with two adult members, one confirmed youth and two younger siblings would be asked to contribute for only the three household residents who are church members. The Session invites you to use the Per Capita envelope in your envelope sets (if you use envelopes) or to use the Per Capita envelopes that can be found in the narthex. Please make checks out to the Presbyterian Church in Burlington. Every Per Capita payment received will free up money for use elsewhere in a very tight 2015 budget

Christian Education

Summer Celebrations is the summer Sunday School program for Pre-K to grade 2 (children entering Grade 2 in the Fall). It starts on June 21 to September 6. So that our fabulous teachers can take a much deserved break, we are asking for volunteers to teach and assist a summer class (or two). Just grab a prepared lesson folder, which includes materials for craft activities. The theme for this summer is the Parables of Jesus. Come and pick your favorite ones. Please contact Kim Oey-Rosenthal or Mary Lou Lynn.

Fourth of July

Once again, the parade organizers are using our parking lot to kick off the annual parade. If you live in Burlington (even if you don’t), come down to help show our hospitality and make them feel welcome.

Who Are We? Who is our Neighbor? What is God calling us to do?

From the Interim Pastor:

In May I led a Session Retreat in which the Elders were asked to look at the mission and ministry of the church. Session members were invited to look at the life of the congregation through several “lenses”: Bible Study; the cultural context in 21st century America; Leadership Styles; Membership, Attendance, and Giving; and the Life Cycle of the Church.

It’s easy to recognize that the cultural context in which the Church is called to ministry has changed dramatically since the time of the church’s founding in 1962: Mainline decline shown in loss of membership across the country, the rise of the “Nones” (those with no religious affiliation), a shift in definition of “regular attendance” at church from what used to be 3 or 4 Sundays a month to perhaps two times or even one time a month; 90% of pastors wishing to make their own housing arrangements, whether owning or renting; and movement through what is called “The Life Cycle of the Congregation”.

Let’s focus on the Life Cycle for the moment. The Session and I looked at a model of church life cycles that I had learned at an Interim Ministry Workshop in Florida. Other models use terminology like “Start, Incline, Recline, Decline, and Death” to cover the stages of a congregation’s life cycle. Those words are a bit mechanical, so we used a model which compared a living congregation to a living human being. The broad stages are Birth, Growth, Prime, Redevelopment or Revitalization, and Aging.

In looking at the internal life of a congregation, there are four main areas that contribute to a church’s vitality: Vision (Purpose, Core Values, Mission); Relationships (Experiences, Discipleship); Programs (Events, Ministry, Services, Activities); and Management (Accountability, Systems, Resources).

At the start of any church’s life, Vision is paramount: Who Are We? Who is our Neighbor? What is God calling us to do? This grows into Relationships and Programs, along with Maintenance, and a church at its prime of “Adulthood” is characterized as VRPM—all cylinders are firing, and everything is strong.

As with any living organism, the church can change, and as something becomes less of a priority or less of a stated purpose, it gets characterized by a “small v” or “small r” or “small p” or a “small m”. As a church moves past its mature peak, more letters are in lower case.

Working independently, two groups of elders each came up with the same conclusion of where BPC is at this point in its ministry: vRpM. Relationships are important, as is Maintenance, but vision and program have suffered. The Elders all agreed that some degree of revitalization is necessary for the church.

The Presbyterian Church in Burlington is indeed a living, breathing organism with a rich history, but there are issues to be faced as the congregation seeks to live up to its full potential. The Session’s evaluation leads to the conclusion that new work has to be done on Vision and Program to restore some of the vitality of previous years.

This is the point at which you, the members of the church come in. Session will be making a final decision on July 15 on what the Mission Study we are required to do will look like. No matter what shape the Mission Study takes, your input, your opinions, your thoughts, your prayers, your concerns are all necessary to helping the church plan for the future under a new pastor. The church must re-establish its vision and begin to rebuild some of its program, and put all that in writing, which will be the basis upon which the pastoral search is conducted. Essentially, this is the church saying to potential pastors: “This is who we are and what we feel God is calling us to do. Do you want to be a part of this and share your gifts to help us pursue our calling?”

When the Mission Study rolls out in the fall, in whatever form it takes, be assured that you will be an important part of that, and your participation is absolutely necessary to help us discern God’s will for the future of the Presbyterian Church in Burlington. Stay tuned for more word from the Session as the summer continues………

The Peace of the Lord be with you,


The Koheleth Syndrome

This Sunday we’re going to hear from two very different voices in the Bible. The first voice is from a man called “Koheleth” (Hebrew for “the Preacher”) who wrote the Book of Ecclesiastes. Folks of my generation (and older) may remember the song “Turn, Turn, Turn (To Everything There is a Season)” in which the late Pete Seeger put the words of Ecclesiastes Chapter 3 to music: “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up” and so on.

The focus on Sunday will be on Chapter 1, in which Koheleth writes, “Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanities of vanities! All is vanity! What do people gain from all the toil at which they toil under the sun? . . .What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun. . .I saw all the deeds that are done under the sun, all is vanity and a chasing after the wind.”

Oh, my! What a downer, we might say. Apparently there was some debate among the rabbis when they were putting together the canon of the Hebrew Bible as to whether Koheleth’s voice should be included. Ultimately, his voice is heard, and in fact the whole book of Ecclesiastes is read during the Jewish festival of Sukkoth, or the Feast of Tabernacles, an especially joyous time. Koheleth’s voice is read to add a serious note to the festivities. Presbyterian minister and author Frederick Buechner summarizes Koheleth’s message this way: “There is nothing new under the sun, Koheleth says, with the result that everything that there is under the sun is both old, and as you might imagine in all that heat, it stinks.”

Over against Koheleth we will hear the voice of Jesus in Mark’s Gospel, the 5th chapter, where he heals a woman who has suffered a terrible physical condition over the course of many years, finding no relief in doctors or other helpers. In the midst of a chaotic crowd pressing in on Jesus, who is on his way to respond to another request for help, she touches his cloak—and is healed, with Jesus saying “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease. ” She can live once again in wholeness.

Jill Duffield, editor of the Presbyterian Outlook points out that out of chaos and confusion, there can be newness and healing as she reflects on the church murders in Charleston SC, and the powerful voices of forgiveness that have been raised. Little did Jill know and little would Koheleth suspect that by the end of the week, many states, corporations, and institutions would take the step of removing the Confederate flag, due to its association with past terror and racism. Yes Koheleth, there is much that does not change, but as Jesus said in Revelation, “Behold, I make all things new.”


Why I Love the Catholic Church

This Sunday our scripture lesson will be taken from Paul’s Letter to the Romans, the 12th chapter, which includes these words in verses 9 through 13: “Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.” 

In my HarperCollins Study Bible, that portion is entitled, “Marks of the True Christian”. Notice that “hospitality” is an important mark of the Christian life. Paul is referring to hospitality in its deepest, spiritual sense, which is about creating a safe place for the stranger or for one in need, as opposed to having a nice dinner party with your best china for your closest friends. The 23rd Psalm has the image of God as a shepherd, but toward the end the image of God is that of a host, “preparing a table before me”. That’s a reference to the Middle Eastern custom of welcoming strangers in need, even if they were from a different tribe, because you yourself never knew when you might be on a journey, run out of water, and need to knock on a stranger’s door.

Words that include the root of hospitality are, of course, “hospital” and “hospice”, and it’s no accident that the Christian Church going back many years established the first hospitals and hospices to care for the sick and the dying.

Which leads me to my sermon for this Sunday: “Why I Love the Catholic Church”. I’ll pause for a moment to let that sink it. Here’s a clue about what I plan to preach on: it’s not about doctrine, it’s not about church structure, it’s not about the hieararchy—-it is about how the Catholic church in mission very directly impacted my father’s life. My father lived his life in a very small geographical circle, never going any further than perhaps 20 miles or so from New York City, but in his early years and in his last days he was nurtured by the Roman Catholic Church, and for that I am eternally grateful. It’s about how an Irish kid named Johnny O’Brien learned some important lessons that made him into a very good man, and how the people of the Roman Catholic Church were very much part of both his living and his dying. So, on Father’s Day, I invite you to be at church, sing “Faith of Our Fathers (and Mothers)”, and let me share the story of “Why I Love the Catholic Church.”