April 6 – Holy Week – Maundy Thursday

Maundy Thursday, April 9, at 7:00 p.m., you are invited to share in Holy Communion, via Facebook.com/irvineucc. Yes, it will be fine for you to pour a glass of good wine for this (I will!) but grape juice or any other juice you have will do just as well.

If you can, pair your drink with a matzo cracker. Again, anything will do, but an unleavened bread is a little better as we recall that Jesus’ Last Supper was a Passover meal. Place your bread and drink near your computer (or wherever you’re watching the videocast) and be prepared to raise them as I raise mine and pray with me.

Before anyone ever called it a Holy Week, these days we are remembering were a helluva week for Jesus and his friends. I feel that truth more sharply this year than I have for a while. It’s a strange time and it’s gonna be a helluva week. There’s no way around it. But I know we’re going to get through it. I know there is something beautiful, full, and free on the other side of this. I know that God is not done with us yet.

I’ll see you (online) in church
Pastor Dave

March 29

This Sunday we’ll consider a favorite passage from the Book of Ezekiel in which the prophet shares a vision of being led by the hand of God to look out upon a valley of dry bones. And there he is commanded to declare God’s will that these dry bones should be tied together with new flesh and sinew, that they should breath afresh and live again.

In the day of Ezekiel’s vision there wasn’t much left of Israel except for dry bones. Weakened by corruption for too long, reform efforts had come too late to save the nation. Judah had been conquered, Jerusalem and its temple destroyed, its people scattered and many of them carted off to Babylon as captives.

Ezekiel heard the voice of God saying to him and to a devastated nation near to death, “I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live.”

Notice, please, that the prophesy is not a vision of recovery by doing the same old thing the same old way. Rather, the promise is that renewal in God’s spirit will give them new life.

I believe that if we listen closely, we will hear this voice still speaking in our day, calling us into a spirit of community and cooperation, of honesty and integrity, of humility before God and generosity toward one another, building up our weakened institutions, restoring respect for learning and science, for facts and expertise and truthful speech, honoring all persons near and far as neighbor and kindred made in the image of God.

“Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.” (Ezekiel 37:5-6)

I’ll see you (online) in church,
Pastor Dave (he/him/his)

March 22

Loving our neighbors as ourselves and taking care for the health of all, we are adapting to the current restrictions on gathering, but I want you to know how much we miss seeing you, hearing you, sharing with you in person. Social distancing brings into very sharp focus our deep need for community in the faith that makes us one!

We are finding new ways to be gathered together, and are doing everything we can to facilitate lively connections! This Sunday we will again livestream the 11:00 a.m. worship service at www.facebook.com/irvineucc. A bulletin is also available for Sunday’s worship service, with all readings and song lyrics, plus announcements. You might find it helpful to print it and follow along on Sunday morning. Click here.

Also, MYP director David Perez is organizing an online ministry with young people. You’ll want to check out the video link from him! Bible study and book groups are continuing through Zoom video meetings. As you read on, if you see something you want to join, just email steve@iucc.org to request a link.

And all of the church staff are doing the best we can to be available and helpful by telephone, e-mail, text message and online. I’m making calls, writing notes, joining lots of video meetings, and I’m always glad to hear from you. Contact me by email, PastorDave@iucc.org, by telephone, 949-733-0220, or by text message to my cell, 773-255-8095.

Our online connections provide an easy way for you to give too, and we are counting on all of our members and friends to continue in financial support of the church, doing the best you can through this time of crisis. You can make a contribution at https://www.iucc.org/giving/give-online or, if you prefer to send a check, be assured that we are keeping normal office hours and receiving the mail every day.

Especially in this difficult moment, we are called to be faithful stewards of the gifts we have, the facilities and ministries we have built, and the mission that gives us courage and hope for the future. Let the world see the beauty and power of God’s love at work in us as we choose to do the best of things in the worst of times.
I’ll see you (online) in church,
Pastor Dave (he/him/his)

March 14

Dear friends,

Grace and peace to you in the love of God.

We will not be gathering in person for worship this Sunday.  Until further notice, worship and all other in-person programming are suspended.  Please do join us this Sunday for live broadcast of the 11:00 a.m. worship service via Facebook Live.  More than ever, we need to connect in faith, with each other and with our God.  Worship will include music from Chris and Josh and our choral interns; David Perez, our new director of ministries with young people, will offer a fresh word; and Christine Roy will serve as our worship leader.  I will lead prayers of the people and offer a sermon, In the Eye of the Storm, based on Mark 5:35-41.  Go to the church’s Facebook page – www.facebook.com/irvineucc – where you can “friend” us and find the broadcast on Sunday.

Out of concern for the welfare of our whole community, the coordinating council has made this decision for our church.  In-person worship, classes, meetings and fellowship groups on the church campus are suspended until further notice, with the exception of the Early Childhood Center which, for the moment, remains open, and the meeting of the Administration Board which will proceed as scheduled, 7:00 p.m., Monday, March 16.  Please monitor our website, www.iucc.org, and our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/irvineucc, for the latest updates.  We’ll keep you posted on everything we know, just as soon as we know it, including ways that we can get together by internet connection during this period.

As I have requested in previous writings, members of the congregation have been checking in with their small-group/fellowship-group contacts and/or with the church office, iucc@iucc.org, just to say where they are and if they have any special needs.  Thank you.  This is a terrific way for us to take care of each other and to relieve anxiety.  Please, keep it going.  In whatever way you can, communicate!

Overcome evil with good! (Romans 12:21)

I’ll see you (online) in church!

Pastor Dave

The Rev. David Pattee

March 12

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear.  (Psalm 46:1-2)

COVID-19 is dangerous.  So is anxiety and isolation.  We must be prudent, making use of the best information and advice for avoiding infection, but we cannot allow fear to lead our decisions. Fear begets fear.  We make our choices out of faith, praising God for the good gifts and graces that are ours to use and share, among them intelligence, courage, compassion and community.

As I wrote to you last week, we are monitoring ongoing developments, being vigilant with the sanitation of our facility, and making adjustments to the way we share our life together but, again, we have every intention of holding both of our regularly scheduled Sunday worship services at 9:30 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.  However, this week, we will experiment with live broadcast of the 11:00 a.m. worship service via Facebook Live.  Go to the church’s Facebook page – www.facebook.com/irvineucc – where you can “friend” us and find the broadcast on Sunday.

If you decide not to attend in person, please follow up with some kind of communication about how you are.  Check in with friends in your Comma Group, or some other fellowship group, or contact the church office, iucc@iucc.org, just to let us know where you are and if you need anything.  This is a moment where active communication is very important.

Adding to the innovations introduced at last Sunday’s worship services – forms of greeting and connection that don’t involve touching hands – I will recommend that those who attend this Sunday sit one chair apart from their neighbor in the row. And do use the pump bottles of hand sanitizer positioned at the entrances to our buildings, and available in all meeting rooms, offices and lavatories.

Check the church’s website, www.iucc.org, and Facebook page, www.facebook.com/irvineucc for updates and bulletin notices. 

Finally, I want to share with you a good-humored SIX COMMANDMENTS for dealing with COVID-19 borrowed from my friend Matt Mardis-LeCroy, senior pastor of Plymouth Congregational UCC in Des Moines, Iowa.

THOU SHALT PRAY. Pray for all people everywhere who are impacted by this disease. Pray for health care workers, first responders and all those serving others in this time. Pray for local, state and national governmental officials, that they will have strength and good counsel to make wise decisions. Pray for our church and for all churches everywhere, that our work and witness will be faithful.

THOU SHALT WASH THY HANDS. THOU SHALT WASH THEM FRQUENTLY AND THOROUGHLY. Please wash your hands with hot water and lots of soap. It is the single best thing that you can do to cut down on the risk of spreading the virus. Scrub for at least 20 seconds.

THOU SHALT TAKE A BREAK FROM HANDSHAKES. Church is a wonderful place to connect, but now is a good time to swap out those hugs, handshakes and high fives for bows or nods, elbow bumps or meaningful eye contact.

IF THOU DOST FEEL SICK, THOU SHALT STAY HOME. (Please). Maybe it is just your allergies; maybe it is a spring cold. Whatever the cause may be, if you have symptoms, we (and the CDC!) ask you to err on the side of caution. We will miss you, of course, but we will feel better knowing that you are taking care of yourself. And let us know where you are!

THOU SHALT CONNECT TO YOUR CHURCH ONLINE.  You are invited to get better acquainted with our social media presence. “Like” our Facebook page. Check in at our website. 

THOU SHALT SERIOUSLY CONSIDER ONLINE GIVING. Now would be an excellent time to look into our options for electronic giving to IUCC.  At https://www.iucc.org/giving/give-online/ you can make a one-time donation or even set up a recurring electronic gift (by automated checking account withdrawal or credit card –wrack up those miles for the days to come!). Making arrangements to give electronically is one of the best things you can do to support your church.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. In the days ahead, I pray that you will know God’s peace. Together, we can live free from fear.

I’ll see you in church,
Pastor Dave

March 5

As many of us have concerns about the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), I want to assure you that the church and its leaders are being disciplined and proactive in care for the physical and spiritual welfare of our community.  I ask you to share in our efforts both to defend against the virus and to resist the dangers of exaggerated anxiety and unnecessary isolation.  Best practices for dealing with this moment will come out of our commitment at all times to love God, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. (Mt 22:34-40)

Know that we are being especially vigilant with the sanitation of our facility.  Our cleaning service uses a hospital-grade cleanser to wipe down all hard surfaces.  We have pump bottles of hand sanitizer strategically positioned at the entrances to our buildings.  In all meeting rooms, offices and lavatories we have hand sanitizer and antiseptic wipes out and available.  Also, in our Early Childhood Center, we are teaching the children to cough/sneeze into their elbow, to avoid touching their nose and, if they must, to use a tissue, and to wash their hands often and thoroughly.  We encourage you to do the same at home, here at church, and wherever you go.

On Sundays and in general practice we will experiment with postures of greeting and connection that don’t involve shaking hands. I am promoting a gesture commonly used in India and south Asia, to greet another by pressing your own hands together, fingers pointed up, holding them at the level of your heart and slightly bowing your head. Often accompanied by the Hindi word, Namaste, it affirms that “the sacred in me recognizes the sacred in you.” I think Christians can very well respect and borrow this practice from Hindus.  Also, for the time being, we will change the standard closing of our worship services, forming a circle as we sing for our benediction, holding each other with eye contact rather than touching hands.

And, as always, communication is crucial!  Every one of us needs to take responsibility to listen and pay attention and speak up.  Taking care of ourselves and each other, we need to say what’s going on for us and, where we can, follow up with those who need help.  If you feel like you might be getting ill, (whether you think it has anything to do with the virus or not) stay home, and let people know where you are and what kind of help you may need.  Members of Comma Groups, Chancel Choir and other fellowship groups, please stay in close touch with each other.  If you’re not part of one of these smaller groups, and you can’t come to church, stay in touch by email, iucc@iucc.org, or contact me directly by text message to my cell phone, (773) 255-8095.  Check the church’s website, www.iucc.org, and Facebook page, facebook.com/irvineucc for timely information.

Perfect love casts out fear. (1 John 4:18)

I’ll see you in church.

Pastor Dave

Feb. 23

February 23 is the Feast of the Transfiguration, the last Sunday before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent, a turning point in Jesus ministry and in our journey of faith. In some religious traditions the shift is marked by giving up something. You’ve probably heard the question, “What are you giving up for Lent?” My hope and prayer for IUCC is that we will find our meaning in the season by what we take on and make room for.

This Sunday morning we’ll look at the story of the Transfiguration (Mt 17:1-9) in which Jesus is seen to take on a dazzling appearance in company with Moses, the bringer of the law, and Elijah, the prophet of its fulfillment. At the second service, we’ll take on a new appearance ourselves, remembering our mission and working toward its fulfillment as we receive new members.

This Wednesday we’ll gather at 7 p.m. for a mostly-musical service in the sanctuary. The Ash Wednesday liturgy, which dates back to the seventh century, includes a ritual with branches and fronds from last year’s Palm Sunday burned down to ash. Believers are invited to come forward for the sign of the cross to be made on their foreheads with those ashes as these words from Genesis are said aloud: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Remember that you are dust… words not meant to be frightening or discouraging, but a reminder of the truth that what makes us human is God’s love, what makes us more than dirt and dust and ash is God’s love, what holds us through the journey of our living and our dying is God’s eternal love, forever full and free.

I’ll see you in church.
Pastor Dave

Jan. 19

This Sunday in worship we will celebrate the life and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He would have been 91 this year.

In April 1963, from a jail cell in Birmingham, Alabama, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote, “We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. And whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly… I can never be what I ought to be unless you are what you ought to be.”

Living into this “network of mutuality” is a core mission commitment for our church, central to our identity and our joy, but it is not now nor has it ever been easy. There are so many forces at work against mutuality: greed, jealousy, fear, anger, the sins that devil us in this day and the burdens of our history. The diversity and inclusion we seek, helping each other to be what we ought to be, calls us to steady effort and spiritual discipline, walking humbly with God who has clothed all humanity in “thesingle garment of destiny.”

In remembering Martin Luther King, drawing inspiration and strength from his Christian ministry, we continue in the very best traditions of IUCC, building up the community of reconciliation, justice, peace and joy.

I’ll see you in church,
Pastor Dave

Jan. 12

This Sunday we’re going to look at the story of Jesus being baptized, a biblical episode that feels very contemporary to me.

Washing with water to cleanse the stains of the past and create a new beginning is one of the very most ancient religious ideas. For example, think of the story of the flood in Genesis. But where we find Jesus coming to John for baptism in the Gospel of Matthew, there’s a lot more, and something quite different happening.

The baptism of Jesus is not really a cleansing so much as it is transformation. In baptism, Jesus is not washing off humanity, he’s being dunked in mortality, symbolically drowned in the waters and raised to new and everlasting life, fully accepting the embrace of God’s love.

That’s the promise of God’s love for you and me too. We can’t escape our mortality, we can’t wash away our humanity, we can’t pretend that our failures and frustrations didn’t happen or don’t matter but, in love, we can be made new. In love, all of it can be transformed to life.

I’ll see you in church,
Pastor Dave

Dec. 20

It feels pretty cold right now for southern California, but this Christmas, in Irvine, is sure to be the warmest I’ve experienced since 1983 in Kitwe, Zambia, where the Christmas Day temperature was 84 degrees, while back in Evanston, Illinois, where I had come from, it was eleven degrees below zero!

In this climate, a favorite Christmas hymn from New Zealand makes a lot of sense. Maybe we’ll have a chance to sing it before the season is over.

Carol our Christmas, an upside down Christmas:
snow is not falling and trees are not bare
Carol the summer and welcome the Christ Child,
warm in our sunshine and sweetness of air.

Whatever the weather, the birth of the Christ Child comes as a gift that that defies expectations and turns our assumptions upside down. He is a child conceived out of wedlock, born to a teenage mother whose betrothed, Joseph, “being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly.” (Mt. 1:19) His parents were migrants in the most remote and undesirable outpost of the Roman Empire. His life began in a smelly barn, was imperiled from infancy, and he would die young, an enemy of the state. Jesus is not what most of us would want of a savior. He is a very challenging surprise, and the great struggle ofChristian history, the greatest challenge of the Christian faith and the Church is to make room for him, to make room for his unqualified, overflowing, boundary-crossing love.

Right side up Christmas belongs to the universe,
made in the moment a woman gives birth:
Hope is the Jesus gift, love is the offering:
Everywhere, anywhere, here on the earth.
–Shirley Erena Murray

The joy of Christmas is being open to the “wonders of his love.”
I’ll see you in church.
Pastor Dave

Dec. 13

This Sunday we will light the pink candle in the wreath, representing the third of the Advent graces, which is love. The new light of Advent is ignited by God loving us.

In our culture, the Christmas message elevated above all others is a sweet love that we are ready to work at as best we can and happy to talk about in church. The Christmas story we most enjoy telling features gentleness, generosity and joy – sweet love!

But the fullness of love is considerably more, a truth that is much harder to embrace and not so easy to talk about. Facing the challenges of these days, it is especially important for us to acknowledge and respect that love suffers.

Deep love, true love is the amazing risk of suffering another, suffering the world, not just when it’s convenient and affirming, but also when its painful and frightening. Love goes to the places of brokenness and accompanies those who want for health and hope and justice.

Such is the nature of our God and the calling of our faith. In Jesus of Nazareth we see how God lives with us in the fullest pleasures of our humanity and bearing our pains, sharing our struggles, making at each occasion and every turn that sacrifice in love which brings healing and wholeness.

The third candle is for love. I’ll see you in church.
Pastor Dave

Dec. 6

We need a little Christmas.

Every year in December there’s a sharp spike in “performance anxiety,” a fear that we may be running out of time with too much that’s too important, and we’re worried we won’t get it right.Students facing the end of a term and just about everybody trying to complete year-end projects, organizing for parties and presents and performances, travel or houseguests, along with the pressure to connect with family and friends being cheerful in “happy holidays,” the intensity of this month can easily become a burden.

We need a little Christmas.

This Sunday again, we are invited to renew our faith that what we most need and want, and the best of what we have to offer is gift. In the birth of Jesus, we are asked to accept God’s offering of self in love, and to fulfill that gift by offering ourselves, imperfect as we may be, in love for God and others. Of course I want to do my best, to do it all and to get it right. Of course I will fall short. I always do. But, in love, accepting what others have to give and offering what I have the best I can, it is enough and, in love, it is always getting better.

Frederick Buechner said it well…

A crucial eccentricity of the Christian faith is the assertion that people are saved by grace. There’s nothing you have to do. There’s nothing you have to do. There’s nothing you have to do.

The grace of God means something like: “Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are, because the party wouldn’t have been complete without you. Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen.

Don’t be afraid. I am with you. Nothing can ever separate us. It’s for you I created the universe. I love you.”

There’s only one catch. Like any other gift, the gift of grace can be yours only if you’ll reach out and take it.

Maybe being able to reach out and take it is a gift too.

I’m hoping you’ll join us for worship on Sunday morning and for wonderful music with the choir concert on Sunday evening. We need a little Christmas.

We need a little Christmas now.
I’ll see you in church.
Pastor Dave

Nov. 29

This Sunday we light the first candle of our Advent wreath.

The story is told that long ago, in a far north country where the Good News of the Gospel hadnot yet been heard, there was fear that when the days got shorter, in the late fall, the Sun God was abandoning them. As it got colder and darker and the muddy roads turned to impassable frozen ruts, fearful people took wheels from their now useless wagons and hung them from the ceilings of their little huts.

They cut fresh pine boughs, an evergreen symbol of life, to lay upon the wheels and, in succeeding weeks, as the darkness deepened, they added lamps to the wheels in hope that each new light would encourage the Sun God not to leave them, but to return again.

Sure enough, it worked! By the time of the Winter solstice, with several lamps burning brightly, they perceived that ever so slowly, even as the days got colder, the light – the Sun – was returning. New life would soon follow as the ground thawed and the rutted roads became mud again, and they could put the wheels back on their wagons, take their children to the village for festivals, and plant grain, and live without fear of starving.

So, when the Gospel reached these northern people and they learned of Jesus and the stories of his birth – Emmanuel, God with Us– they kept their tradition of the wheels dressed with evergreens and candles, a sign of the light that is never taken away, the love of God that comes to our world and will never abandon us, even at the darkest moments: Jesus Christ, the light of the world.
The first candle is for Hope.
I’ll see you in church.
Pastor Dave

Nov. 22

We are beginning what is sometimes referred to as the “holiday season,” six weeks of morecelebrating than we do at any other time of the year. There’s something wonderful in all of theholidays, but the one in which I experience the most uncomplicated pleasure and find the mostrelaxed joy is Thanksgiving.

Maybe it’s because what we celebrate on Thanksgiving and the way we celebrate on Thanksgiving are still pretty well integrated. The best of our Thanksgiving traditions call up a deeper meaning and purpose that make of it a truly holy day for people of different faiths, and people who wouldn’t think of themselves as religious at all.

I can’t help but believe that God is praised and well pleased when all manner of folk come together in thanksgiving, to name our blessings out loud, to celebrate generosity and make special gifts for the poor, to acknowledge diversity of background and experience and make a place at our table for those who may be lost or alone, to remember our elders and dote on our children, to tell stories of the saints passed on, to be grateful for the harvest, and to revel in the goodness and plenty of the life that we share.

In thanksgiving we recognize that beyond all our striving and struggle, we are provided for by the One from whom all blessings flow. This life, the creation of which we are a part, and the love that makes it all good, these are gifts. The foundation of all that we have and all that we are is a gift.Let’s be grateful, and give thanks.
I’ll see you in church.
Pastor Dave

Nov. 15

The scripture lessons for Sunday point to the expectation of a turning point in history: the Day of the Lord, the day of a new heaven and a new earth when God’s purposes will be fulfilled and all will be put right. 

The problem is that powers and principalities thriving on violence and injustice don’t just give up. Before the Good News takes hold there is a lot of bad news as the old order comes unraveled. 

In such times of high anxiety we tend to wonder if this age isn’t coming to its end and the new one should begin soon.  Our calling as people of faith is not to psych out history. 

Our calling is to live into the Good News of God’s love, because such love is its own reward, and the Kin’dom is being revealed among us right here, and the hoped for day of the Lord is always right now.

I’ll see you in church.
Pastor Dave

Nov. 8

Can we talk about race(ism)? As people of good will who want justice for all, as folks of diverse experience and perspective who all acknowledge the painful history and legacy of race(ism), can we listen generously and speak considerately in an honest and constructive conversation that might lead to mutual understanding and creative change?

As a community of faith, called to ministries of reconciliation and wholeness, can we just talk about race(ism)?

Too often, the answer is “no!”

Too often, the kind of engagement we would seek is subverted by defensiveness, by anger, or by the sentimentality that withdraws from critical conversation, believing that race(ism) can be overcome by our being nicer to each other. Too often we splinter into groups of grievance or denial that never move toward transformation.

The strength of IUCC, its faith and people and vision and commitments lead us into an opportunity to advance where some may retreat or resign. We can have the kind of honest and constructive conversation that leads to mutual understanding and creative change.

This Sunday we’re going to look at a story of Jesus healing a girl whom he at first rejected because she was the wrong tribe (Matthew 15:10-28). It says that she was possessed by a demon, and I think we are meant to recognize that it was race(ism), an evil that can be transformed… if we can face it and talk about it.
I’ll see you in church.
Pastor Dave

Oct. 19

This coming Sunday, the youth of our church are leading. They’ve been working hard to prepare, and I’m excited for what they will bring. It has gotten me to thinking about the participation of youth in religious life and our church in particular.

If Jesus were to walk into our church today, we might very well think that he was a brash kid. Remember that he was about 30 years old at the beginning of his public ministry, and would almost immediately be identified as a troublemaker, labeled a firebrand by a calcified religious establishment.

He was an ambitious and aggressive young man, interesting up to a point but dangerous after that: dangerous in his unrelenting drive, dangerous as he energized people at the margins, dangerous in refusing to settle for the familiar mediocrities. Remember that in the end of his public ministry he was legally executed, accused of blasphemy by the religious leaders and convicted of insurrection against Rome.

Just about any reformer you could name and, probably, every terrorist you’ve ever heard of was shaped toward a radical vision very early in life; and history is always debating who should be labeled reformer and which ones are terrorists.

All of which goes to say that youth is an aspiring time, a struggle to find purpose and place, searching for a truth that gives meaning through all the twists and turns, doubts and fears and disappointments. Youth is a time to explore and test what can be trusted in the fulfillment of life, and if we do not join, empower, and nurture youth in that search, we lose them and our soul.

William Sloane Coffin, Jr., wrote that, “The art of living well is to die young…as late as possible.” And I believe this is our calling as a Christian community, not to dismiss the past but to call it to life, to energize its aspiring youth in a striving after the truth that God Is Still Speaking at the center of our lives, speaking a love that is new life forever full and free.

I’ll see you in church.
Pastor Dave

Oct. 11

Coming Out? It’s not just for “them.”

Every year on October 11 (or, in churches, on the closest Sunday) National Coming Out Day commemorates a turning point in the LGBTQ human rights movement when half a million people participated in the Second March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay rights and the AIDS Memorial Quilt was first displayed on the Capitol Mall. Remembering this unprecedented visibility that changed our national conversation, Coming Out Day is an encouragement to bear witness and affirm your true self, to remember that Silence=Death, to celebrate a history of creativity and contribution, to claim the rights and responsibilities of full participation in community.

And it’s not just for “them.”

Living with integrity and dignity as your authentic self is a calling to each and allof us. It’s not the roles we play or the masks we hide behind that move us tojustice and joy. The culture of conformity is very powerful, but not so powerful asGod’s truth. We find our peace through living the integrity of our true selves,children of God living in trust that God is love, that God made us in love, and thatGod made us for loving. Taking the risk to really live – not out of fear but into love – that’s the route to justice and joy for all people.

Come Out with us this Sunday. Worship at 9:30 and 11 a.m. And, if you haven’talready, sign up for our Out & Proud Bowling Party at Irvine Lanes, 2 p.m.

I’ll see you in church.
Pastor Dave

Oct. 4

I am so excited for the coming week. This Sunday, October 6, is Worldwide Communion, a special celebration of extravagant welcome and global community in Christ for which our worship committee and choir have made beautiful preparations. And right after the second service we’ll have the first gathering of our 2020 Confirmation class. I’m eager to see who comes!

Wednesday, October 9, at 7 p.m., my dear friend Ron Buford will be here to work with us on strategies for overcoming structural racism through new initiatives in “anti-racism.” Widely known in the UCC as architect of its God Is Still Speaking initiative, Ron brings a rich mix of experience and talent to his work on behalf of Racists Anonymous. He’s a pastor with a background in business, and an African-American gay man. Blessed with a keen intellect and an easy sense of humor, Ron is a most engaging speaker and one of the sweetest guys you’ll ever meet. I do hope you’ll come to this event, Wednesday at 7 p.m., sponsored by our Diversity & Inclusion Task Force.

And please don’t forget that this coming Friday, October 11, is National Coming Out Day. We’ll remember and celebrate together as a church on Sunday, October 13, with worship at 9:30 and 11:00 a.m., and a bowling party for LGBTQ people and Allies, 2 p.m. that afternoon, at Irvine Lanes, 3415 Michelson Drive. Everything you’ll need for bowling and a snack will be provided, a financial donation is suggested but certainly not required, and you are asked to register in advance at iucc.org/register.

October 11 is designated National Coming Out Day because on that date in 1987 half a million people joined in the Second March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. It included the first public display of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, and it was a turning point in a movement that would come to include bisexual and transgender people too. It was also a turning point in my life. I went to that march in 1987 heartbroken and angry, and came away from it renewed in hope and recommitted to working for justice, not just for LGBTQ people but for all people.

Every year, it is an occasion to remember that Silence=Death and to reaffirm thatbeing out and proud and responsible as our authentic selves saves lives! That’s something to pray and sing about, and it merits having a party too! Why not invite friends to come and experience with you, on October 13, the strength and encouragement of an Open & Affirming community of faith.
I’ll see you in church.
Pastor Dave

Sept. 27

As the days turn cooler the church schedule is really heating up. Please take note of thesespecial Sundays coming in our Awesome October.

  • October 6, World Communion Sunday, with music, dance, story and décor celebrating our global fellowship in faith.
  • October 9, Wednesday, 7:00 pm, Ron Buford, founder of Racists Anonymous, “Racism: Ignore It…and it won’t go away”
  • October 13, ‘Coming Out’ Sunday, celebrating our Open & Affirming community and this church’s continuing commitment to LGBTQ equality and human rights.
  • October 20, Youth Sunday, celebrating the young people of this church and their leadership… not just for the future, but right now!
  • October 27, Reformation Sunday, with guest preacher John Dominic Crossan.

I’ll see you in church.
Pastor Dave

Sept. 20

The United Church of Christ joyfully affirms that God Is Still Speaking!
The Bible is not a dead letter and our faith is not stuck in the standards and understandings of ancient cultures. A livingand loving God, the author of timeless truth, calls to us right now.

God Is Still Speaking, but that joyful affirmation also begs some challenging questions: Are we listening? Are we open and attentive? And when we do believe we may hear the voice of a still speaking God, how do we understand the call? What are we supposed to do?

This Sunday we’ll look at the call to Samuel (ref. 1 Samuel 3,) a young boy serving in the temple at a time when “…the word of the Lord was rare… [and] visions were not widespread.” He heard a voice, but didn’t understand. He needed help to recognize the call, to understand what he was supposed to do.

It’s a good story for our time, and for this moment in the life of our community. Are we open and attentive? How is it that we are listening for the voice of our still speaking God? And where we believe we may recognize God’s voice, how do we understand the call? How do we discern what we are supposed to do?
I’ll see you in church.
Pastor Dave

Sept. 13

Lots of us are thinking critically about leadership these days. Whether the question is “who do we need to lead our country?” or “who do we want in the lead of our church?” the real issue is “where do we want to go, and what kind of leadership will we trust and empower to help us get there?”

For the last few weeks, and continuing into November, our Sunday morning worship services have been tracing the formation of Israel, An Old Story for A New Day; and one of the recurring themes of this story is the struggle to establish effective leadership. We see quite a mix with ancient Israel: prophets and patriarchs, elders and chieftains, judges and kings, each type emphasizing a different kind of authority. And we see in many moments of decision and commitment along the way that God wants for a nation and leadership quite a bit different from what the people appear willing to trust and empower.

The history of Israel living into its freedom and purpose tells a story of struggle for effective leadership. How do we hear and respond to God’s call in circumstances that are always compromised, with people who are always imperfect?

This Sunday we’ll look at Samson, the last of the judges, exploring what this old story might have to say to our new day.

I’ll see you in church.
Pastor Dave

Pastor Dave is in the office on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturday mornings (10-1). He writes and studies at home on Wednesdays, and Fridays he is off. Sundays, of course, are for worship and church events. You can leave a message for him at 949-733-0220 or email him at PastorDave@iucc.org – and in times of need he is available by cell at 773-255-8095.

Sept. 6

Sometimes life is just “one darn thing after another,” and it can feel very unfair.

We wonder, if we do our best to be good and faithful, shouldn’t things work out better than this? What good is God when we’re miserable? Is God on our side, or not?

As they made that long journey through the wilderness, from bondage in Egypt toward a land of promise, Israel faced such circumstances and asked the question many times, “Is the Lord on our side, or not? Hungry, thirsty, frightened in not knowing exactly where they were and anxious about what would come next, they wondered who they could trust.

As with ancient Israel, so in our time, we have to wonder if God is on our side, and why would God who loves us leave us feeling so vulnerable in a world that is such a mess?

This Sunday we’ll look at how the wilderness experience of our forebears in faith would inform this moment of our journey… God is still speaking!

I’ll see you in church.
Pastor Dave

Pastor Dave is in the church office on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturday mornings 10-1. Wednesdays are reserved for reading and writing, and Fridays are his day off. If you have an urgent need, please call his cell phone, 773-255-8095.

Aug. 23

Won’t you be my neighbor?I’m pretty sure that most people who loved the kids’ television program, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, carry it with them now as a memory from childhood. Not me. By the time of its premier on PBS in 1968, I was 12, busy with other things and not interested in children’s TV.

I didn’t catch on to the magic of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood until just before I was going to hear Fred Rogers speak and meet him in person at a clergy conference. Tuning in to his program was part of my getting ready and, almost immediately, I was hooked. The music, the stories, the characters and the diversity of friends, the regular visits to and from exceptional people who did extraordinary things, and the celebration of everyday regular folks being kind and creative and marvelous… I thought, “Wow! I would really like to live in that neighborhood.”

With all their variety, the theme and lesson of each episode was the same, reflecting Fred’s own Christian faith: trusting in the power of love, connecting with others through kindness and generosity is the way to build and enjoy the neighborhood where we all really want to live.
Our Pastor Sarah moving to become pastor in Brea is a wonderful thing that also presents us with some important challenges. But, as in Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood so also with IUCC, challenges can be a place where the power of love, kindness, generosity and creativity shows most clearly.

On September 1st , Pastor Sarah’s last Sunday with us, the “Children’s Time” will receive a new name. We’re going to call it A Fresh Word, and I am inviting all of you to consider what you might have to share in this moment on a Sunday morning in the future, enriching the lives of our children and encouraging the whole community. Do you have a story, a song, a dance, or some other artistic expression that celebrates the power of love? Can you bring a difference that points to how we are all one? What is your Fresh Word of faith for our neighborhood?

I am eager to know your ideas and what you can share. Please, Won’t you be my neighbor? Contact me with your ideas: PastorDave@IUCC.org.I’ll see you in church,
Pastor Dave

Aug. 16

 I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.  John 15:11

This Sunday we will consider one of the Bible’s best jokes, with the matriarch Sarah caught in a side-splitting laugh.

There’s not a lot of outright laughter in the Bible, some, but not much. And, of course, there’s a great deal that’s very sober and heavy. Even so, I’m convinced that a faithful reading of the whole story – in its arc from creation, through struggle, to redemption – an honest engagement with this story of God’s love at work in our lives calls us to good humor!

Especially in these times that are so seriously troubling, I believe we do well to live as serious Christians with a sense of humor. Taking the Good News seriously, we cannot help but find in it the good humor of a love that takes us by surprise – granting the kingdom to the poor, turning despair to hope and fear to faith, liberating sinners to become saints, and transforming the tragedy of the cross into the promise of new life forever full and free.

The joy and challenge of good humor is a reversal of our ordinary expectations that brings delight in a surplus of meaning. We see breaking out of what was always there more possibility than we’d ever before recognized or even imagined.

Christian faith and theology are grounded in trust that God is love, that we are created in the image of God to be creatively loving, and that even when we may be at the end of our wits we are never beyond love’s reach.
It makes me want to laugh!
I’ll see you in church,
Pastor Dave

Pastor Dave is in the church office on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturday mornings 10-1. Wednesdays are reserved for reading and writing, and Fridays are his day off. If you have an urgent need, please call his cell phone, 773-255-8095.

Aug. 9

Let’s talk!
This Sunday, I encourage you to bring your questions to worship. Questions of theology and ethics, questions about the Bible or Christian history, tradition or practice, questions of faith that may have been bugging you for a long time. Please do a little sorting over the weekend andcome this Sunday morning with those that are most important to you.

You may be thinking, “Well, I always come to church with questions.” Yes, but this Sunday I really want you to ask them, and as much as time allows, I will do my best to respond to the questions you ask. We’ll have about 20 minutes, just a little more time than is usually budgeted for the sermon.

There are a couple of different ways to get your question into the conversation. There will be baskets in the sanctuary where written questions can be deposited until the beginning of the prayers (just after the children’s time.) Also, I expect there’ll be some chance to ask questions aloud during the sermon/conversation. We’ll only have time to deal with a few questions, so we’ll save those unaddressed for future conversations.

I’m not quite sure how this will go, and I’ll admit to being a little anxious about it. This will be my first time to do anything like this, and those of you who remember back to the “teaching moment” that was part of the first service years ago may need to coach me! But I do know that my hope is not so much to provide answers as it is to explore truth and seek understanding, yours, mine, and ours.

To prime the pump, encouraging your reflection, I invite you to read one of my favorite passages of scripture, Romans 12, in which Paul admonishes us, “not [to] be conformed to this world, but [to] be transformed by the renewing of [our] minds.”
I’ll see you in church.
Pastor Dave

July 19, 2019

This Sunday we will affirm and install leaders of the church, people elected to support and guide our congregation through a period of transition, shaping the next chapter of this ministry in which you will be welcoming a new settled pastor.

Did you know that pastor is the Latin word for shepherd and comes from a root that means “to lead?”

In our church and in the world where we serve, this is an important moment for us to consider afresh what the Christian tradition offers for leaders and leading, especially as there are so many competing models of leadership asserting themselves right now. As Christians, how would we inspire, encourage and organize a community to seek justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God in these times when blaming, pandering, lying and vilifying appear to be the most effective tools for getting public attention and shaping opinion?

This Sunday, encountering Jesus at dinner with Martha and Mary (Luke 10:38-42,) we’ll reflect on three vital characteristics of Christian leaders and leadership: Service, Sacrifice and Story. We’ll look at how leadership faithful to God makes hope recognizable and real, changing minds and hearts, transforming history.

I’ll see you in church.
Pastor Dave

July 5, 2019

Discussion and dispute of the right relationship between religion and politics is a feature ofAmerican life from its earliest days, becoming especially heated and contentious in the last few decades.

Some say that we must have a strict separation of politics and religion. That would be hard for Christians who have heard Jesus preach, teach and demonstrate the coming Kingdom of God. He sided with the poor and marginalized, he embraced the alien and stranger, he healed those who were thought ‘unworthy,’ he challenged the standards and establishments of political power with the proclamation that God’s power is an unyielding love.

Separation of religion and politics? If our faith means anything, it drives our witness in the world, it shapes our politics.

I believe Jesus when he says, I am the way, and the truth, and the life, (John 14) I just wish people would pay more attention to what that way is! Jesus’ way moves by offering and invitation, not by dominance and control. It breaks through petty limits and parochial boundaries imposed on the grace of God. Jesus’ way is to give all he is and all he has so that the vision should never arrest in him, always pointing to the fullness of truth in God’s love, forever full and free.

Following Jesus’ way, Christianity is not so much a religion of virtue as it is a religion of grace. Far more than preaching what everybody else is supposed to do, it is us banding together in grateful response to what God has done, and is doing, and calls us to do.

Jesus Christ is not a prophet of other-worldly razzle-dazzle. He is in himself the advent of a holy politics: an exercise of courage and conviction and power to organize, influence and lead for justice, changing the course of events, creating a different outcome, a new consciousness, a transformed reality.

We turn toward the poor and marginalized, we turn toward the alien and stranger, we turn toward each other in consciousness of all our differences to take up our shared responsibility in faithfulness to God, proclaiming our faith that God’s power is an unyielding love.

God bless America. Happy Independence Day. I’ll see you in church,
Pastor Dave

June 28, 2019

Like many folks, I look forward to vacation time with my family this summer. In fact, one of the very nice things for me about serving in Irvine is easier access to family, almost all of whom live in the West. The fun I enjoy with them is full and rich, and I love them.We share a story that connects us in caring, one to the other, generation upon generation.

Even so, it makes me twitch a little when I hear people refer to the “church family,” as iffamily were the model of what church is supposed to be. In fact, the Gospel stories andteachings about family tend to be critical and sound harsh, not because Jesus didn’tlove and enjoy his family (clearly he did) but because Jesus wants his followers tounderstand that they are being called to considerably more than family norms andvalues.

Does that sound strange? Perhaps so, but in this Pride month, I’d like to suggest thatone of the most powerfully creative things queer folks have done for families is call themto an expansive vision, and a fuller sense of community.Christians of all sorts are called to live into the Kin’dom of God, a mission andmovement of beloved community that reaches out especially to those who don’t belong.

I’ll see you in church,
Pastor Dave

June 21, 2019

As delegates from all over the United Church of Christ begin now to gather in Milwaukee for our 32nd General Synod, I encourage you to pray for them and for their prophetic work on our behalf.

Being prophetic is not so much about seeing the future as it is concerned for recognizing and telling the moral truth of what is happening right now, how we do or don’t honor God’s will for justice, mercy and peace.

So, for example, there’s nothing especially prophetic about seeing that global warming caused by human activity is melting the polar ice caps and may lead to calamity visited upon all life within a generation. The prophetic word is that we are abusing the creation God has given into our care, that the burden of climate change and extreme weather ginned up by human fouling of the environment falls most heavily on the poorest and least powerful, but it will catch up with all of us eventually.

Repent and turn from your wicked ways, says the prophet. Treat the gift with respect, consume less and give more, caring for the least and lost first. And woe to you who could do something to change the course of degradation and don’t. Woe to you who gorge yourselves on the plenty of the earth until what was given as good is turned to poison. Woe to you and to your children and to your children’s children!

It’s not easy being a prophet.

Telling the moral truth, proclaiming God’s will for justice and peace right now is usually a risk, especially risky when addressing those who enjoy comfort, perhaps advantage, in the status quo.

The United Church of Christ is a prophetic Christian movement. From our beginnings, we have been the first, or among the very first churches to recognize, proclaim and teach God’s will for justice…for women, for African-Americans, for persons with disabilities, for LGBTQ people, for the environment, for workers and all manner of exploited or marginalized groups… we have discerned and prophesied God’s will for reconciliation of division, for peace rather than war.

Throughout its history, the UCC has been a prophetic tradition, and it hasn’t always gone easily. But through the years of bump and grind, the prophetic word we have received from General Synod has encouraged and empowered us to live more fully into our faith that God loves all, and that God’s will is for justice, mercy and peace, not just in the time to come, but right now.

See you in church,
Pastor Dave

June 14, 2019

The Trinity? Who knows and who cares?
This Sunday, Trinity Sunday, I’m hoping we might all come to say, “we do!”
The idea of defining God is silly, so I don’t really care whether our understanding of Trinity is doctrinally“correct,” but I do think it is important we see how Trinity might help us grow in our experience of God’s love, following in the way of Jesus Christ, fully human and fully divine.

In the course of the service we’ll enjoy a special video guest appearance by St. Patrick (yes, thatSt. Patrick) we’ll flirt with at least three big heresies, and we’ll come to recognize, I pray, that Trinity does matter!

See you in church,
Pastor Dave

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