No matter who you are, or where you are on life's journey, You Are Welcome Here.

January 29, 2017

1 Chronicles 16:8-27

Acts 2:43-47

Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman

 

The word “remember” shows up over a hundred times in the Hebrew Scriptures alone. “I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature.” (Genesis 9:15) “Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.” (Exodus 20:8)

“Remember the wonderful works [God] has done, [God’s] miracles, and the judgments [God] uttered.” (1 Chronicles 16:12) “Remember his covenant forever, the word that [God] commanded, for a thousand generations.” (1 Chronicles 16:15)

Remember. The Bible is filled with reminders to remember. Remember our covenant with God. God remembers God’s promises to us. Remember the wonderful things God has done.

Remember – it’s also a pretty common word in our daily lives. Did you remember to pick up milk? Remember that so and so is coming over later. Do you remember the time we went there? I think we say it so often because we have trouble remembering.

At one of our Exploring Membership gatherings, someone shared that they remembered exactly what their spouse was wearing the day they met them – in high school. That is a pretty good memory. The spouse did not even remember what they were wearing that day.

Memory is an interesting thing. In his book, Cognitive Hypnotherapy, Trevor Silvester writes, “Our memory is a storage facility for ideas [-] we use to decipher the way the world works [-] that we then use to create a tunnel to walk through.” (pg 17)

Our memories of the past help us figure out our present and imagine our futures. Our memories actually help create our futures, but memories are also a tricky thing as Silvester goes on to write, “For many years it was thought that the brain was like a video recorder, laying down memory tracks in a concrete, unchangeable way. We now know this isn’t so. Memory is malleable.” (pg 18) which is why families members can remember a shared event so differently and why one partner can remember what the other was wearing while the other doesn’t even remember the day.

Memory is a fascinating and tricky thing. Our memories of the past create our future, and yet our memories can change; they can be elusive; even and often forgotten.

We do not always remember the wonderful things that God has done in our lives and in our world.

We do not always remember the good, so on this Annual Meeting Sunday, as we reflect upon our year together as a Christian community, I want to intentionally reflect on our blessings from God. I want to remember with you the wonderful things God has done in our lives, and I am going to invite you to remember in small groups the wonderful things we have done together, united in Christ’s ministry of love.

It was a bitterly cold February day, and yet the Spirit was warming this church up with love on February 14th last year when we celebrated our first Transforming the World with Christ’s love. Kimberly Carmichael and Barbara Damon, were here on behalf of Bristol Hospital’s Parent and Child Center and the Prudence Crandall Center, and we honored them for the amazing acts of love they and their staff share with the community of Bristol.

And while we had nominated her while still living, it was our honor to lift up and celebrate the life of 103 year old Caroline Smith Warner, who had been a Christian missionary in Turkey as well as a teacher in the United States. Caroline, the Parent and Child Center, and the Prudence Crandall Center truly transform our world with Christ’s love.

October was much warmer when we celebrated the 10th anniversary of the adoption of our Open and Affirming statement. We were blessed to have the Rev. Paula Degree preach, and blessed by her sharing as well as the sharing of others at Paula’s Q&A that followed worship. What a blessing to offer hospitality to transgender folks who have been wrongly told by others that they are not God’s beloved children. What a blessing from God to be trusted with their stories.

The fall also brought Family Promise’s first Walk Away Homelesssness event. We had 10 walkers and raised over $ 4,500, and of course the fall also brought the Rally Day picnic, the Children’s Ministry Halloween parade and party, the Halloween concert, Commitment Sunday and Commitment Supper and for the first time in almost a decade, our pledges went up, with members of this Christian community joining together to build a firm financial foundation for our transformational ministry.

December was filled with blessings: The Advent of the Messiah series, reaching out to the community at the Children’s Holiday Parade, Jesus’ birthday party, the Advent workshop and the Chrismon tree on Christmas Eve. And of course, the demolition and excavation work for our much needed safety and accessibility renovation. A renovation that could not have happened without the support of this entire congregation, united in ministry.

“Remember the wonderful works [God] has done” (1 Chronicles 16:12)

Earlier, we invited our 25 and 50 year members to share their favorite memory of a time at the First Congregational Church. Now, I invite you to gather in groups of 3 or 4, maybe even get up and move to be with people you don’t usually sit with, and share your favorite memory of this past year.

What wonderful work of God are you remembering at the First Congregational Church? What are you thankful to God for? What would you like to celebrate about the ministry of the First Congregational Church?

“Sing to the Lord, all the earth.

Tell of his salvation from day to day.

Declare his glory among nations,

His marvelous works among all the peoples.

For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;

(1 Chronicles 16:23-25)

“Remember the wonderful works [God] has done” (1 Chronicles 16:12) Remember the wonderful things God has done for you as an individual. Remember the wonderful things God has down through this Christian community, the First Congregational Church United Church of Christ. Remember, celebrate, and your memories, our memories, will help create a future of hope and possibility, a future in which we continue to welcome all in Christ’s love, nurture all with Christ’s love, and go forth to transform the world!