Charlottesville and Sunday Worship

By | 2017-08-14T13:39:15+00:00 August 14th, 2017|News, Worship|

This weekend's news of the White Supremacist rally in Charlottesville once again brought the nation's conflicts and news cycle into our Sunday.  It is always challenging to decide which events to preach about, because the current turmoil brings us a new topic every week.  Each week I try to balance the experience of worship, the integrity of the liturgical season, and the fast-breaking reality of events that impact us.  I chose to say a few words after the sermon; and you can read my  remarks, plus the pastoral prayer; graciously shared by seminarian Lauren Grubaugh.  (She was in Charlottesville and wrote an especially powerful prayer.)  Today I have begun the process of arranging Anti-Racism training for our congregation this Fall through the Massachusetts UCC Conference. Pastor Todd   "I need to add a few words about the storm of bigotry and [...]

Sermon: “Into the Storm”

By | 2017-08-14T14:06:21+00:00 August 14th, 2017|Sermons|

Sermon preached on August 13, 2017 Text:  Matthew 13:22-33 For Pastor Todd's comments on the Charlottesville rally and pastoral prayer from Sunday, click here. As miracles go, walking on water is ostentatious.  Remember Herod’s song in Jesus Christ Superstar, “Turn my water into wine, walk across my swimming pool.”  Notice Herod did not say, fill the poor with good things, and cure the sick.  Those are very practical, compassionate demonstrations of the nature of God.  When we say, “He thinks he walks on water,” we mean the person is arrogant.  So, I’m not wild about this miracle at first glance.   Let’s start at the beginning and give the text its due.  Listen closely to the first line,   “Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the [...]

Sermon: “Everything We Need”

By | 2017-08-08T12:23:12+00:00 August 8th, 2017|Sermons|

Sermon preached by Rev. Todd Weir August 6, 2017 Scripture: Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52 Any busy, overwhelmed pastor and congregation can relate to this scripture passage.  Like many pastors - after the Lenten study series, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday, the crowds and the energy output, Jesus tries to take a mini-vacation.  He rents a boat, I imagine it was a little sailboat.  Jesus spent a lot of time with fisherman boating around the Sea of Galilee, so he probably knew port from starboard.  He gets out into the water, the wind fills his sails, and he starts to relax and ponder.   If Jesus was a modern-day pastor, he might have already consulted his ministry coach by phone call to define what issues he needs to discern.  Based on Matthew 13, he has 3 big issues.  Number one, he [...]

Sermon: Who Plants Mustard?

By | 2017-07-31T16:43:05+00:00 July 31st, 2017|Sermons|

I have preached on this passage many times and I realized this week that I have often missed the real point.  This is a great passage to run out to the Indian grocer, buy some mustard seed for the children’s sermon, and talk about what a wondrous plant comes from humble beginnings.  Therefore, if the Kingdom of Heaven is like a tiny mustard seed, we can have hope when we feel our efforts are unremarkable compared to the world’s need, and trust that God is going to do great things from our small plantings, and spread the Kingdom among us.  Don’t be afraid to start small in life, because God always has a bigger plan.  Small is beautiful! That is not a bad sermon to preach.  I do believe that God can often be found in the small things and [...]

Sermon: Jesus Knows His Weeds

By | 2017-07-24T13:17:58+00:00 July 24th, 2017|Sermons|

Sermon by Rev. Todd Weir July 23, 2107 Matthew 13: 24-30, 36-43 I learned more about weeds than I ever wanted to know growing up in Iowa.  I walked the soybean fields pulling weeds as my summer job from age 13.  A wise farmer taught me that all weeds were not the same and could not be destroyed in the same way.  A cockle burr had shallow but widespread roots and had to be pulled to get all the roots.  If you hacked it off at the ground level, it would be back in a week.  A milkweed had a very long tap root that could not be pulled out.  If you did try to pull it, three separate sprouts would be back.  Milkweeds had to be hacked off and would die as the sap ran out.  If you didn’t [...]

Sermon: Gardening is Harder than it Looks

By | 2017-07-18T11:48:51+00:00 July 18th, 2017|Sermons|

Sermon by Rev. Todd Weir July 16, 2017 Scripture: Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 My favorite part of gardening is putting seeds in the ground.  Planting is the time of possibility, dreaming of a bountiful harvest.  Winter is gone, warmer days beckon, and little green shoots are everywhere.  I’m the same way about most projects, I love the brainstorming, creative work, collaborative envisioning, but I always struggle to get through the last 20 percent.  So I relate to the parable of sower.  I envision the happy farmer, scattering seeds, then checking every morning to see if something is peaking above the ground.  If that is all there was to farming, I would have stayed in Iowa.  But Jesus is a realist.  The birds are going to eat some of your seeds, rocky soil does not produce, just ask all my Village Hill [...]

Sermon: “Crossing the Tumult”

By | 2017-07-10T12:28:04+00:00 July 10th, 2017|Sermons|

Sermon by Rev. Todd Weir July 9, 2017 Psalm 46   Its summer time, and we hope for a more relaxed pace.  We try to get a little vacation, whether in Maine or the Cape or even just a good stay-cation.  Some of you may even venture to Niagara Falls.  How many have been there, maybe taken a ride on the Maid of the Mist, with your raincoat on, to get near the powerful torrents.  The Falls became a huge destination in the summer of 1859, when a circus tight rope walker named Charles Blondin crossed the Falls on June 30, 1859.  Not content with braving the thundering torrents, Blondin upped the ante with increasingly theatrical performances.  He crossed the tightrope in a sack, then he did it backwards, the next day blindfolded, he rode a bike across the Falls, [...]

Hidden Blessings

By | 2017-07-05T13:18:41+00:00 July 5th, 2017|Uncategorized|

The Rev. Sarah Buteux July 2, 2017 Matthew 10:40-42 Before worship began last Sunday a man came to the door of the church on crutches needing help. Ernie welcomed him in and made him comfortable before he set off to find me and let me know we had a guest. As soon as I heard, I went up, offered him a cup of cold water - (because that’s just what you do, I swear I hadn’t read ahead in the lectionary) and I sat down for a few minutes to hear his story. This is not an unusual occurrence here at First Churches. We are a downtown church, after all, and I’m thankful to say that church still means something to people, especially when they’re down and out. Whether or not they are religious, people seem to feel a little [...]

Rebels with a Cause

By | 2017-06-28T16:03:19+00:00 June 28th, 2017|Sermons, Worship|

by the Rev. Sarah Buteux June 25, 2017 Matthew 10:24-39 Sometimes I just want the Bible to be easy. It’s summer after all. We’ve all worked very hard this past year and - I don’t care how old you are - it has not been an easy year. But now, schools out. Our van is packed. My family is ready to head up to our cabin in Maine as soon as church is over and I’ve spent a respectable amount of time at coffee hour. It’s hot. And frankly, I just don’t want to have to think very hard …about anything …for like 2 months. So when I checked the lectionary this week, I was really hoping for a few nice words from Jesus, maybe some encouraging words; a healing story perhaps or something about the need to take it [...]

Common Ground: an innovative farm-to-table dinner ministry where people make church together

By | 2017-06-13T10:52:06+00:00 June 13th, 2017|Common Ground|

By the Rev. Sarah Buteux; Published by The Christian Citizen It’s Thursday night and people are starting to arrive for Common Ground, a farm-to-table dinner ministry at First Churches of Northampton, Mass. Folks come through the door, hang up their coats, and then put on aprons because worship for us starts in the kitchen. Our liturgy actually begins with a recipe that will highlight food we have either grown in our community garden or sourced as locally as possible. Once the soup is on and the salad is prepared, people spread out to set tables, learn music, catch up with one another or explore the evening’s theme through art that will grace our worship space. By six o’clock, most everyone has arrived, and I begin to sing a simple call-and-response melody. As I sing, the congregation gathers in a circle [...]