Zion United Church of Christ
|Posted on April 8, 2020 at 4:29 PM||comments ()|
An Easter Journey
Every honest person comes to Easter with questions. The unbeliever asks,”Could such a thing happen?” The Christian asks,” Why can’t I live a purer, higher Christian life with the power of the Resurrection available to me?” And many folks come to Easter with disillusionment with modern disciples: “Why don’t church people show more of the power and the presence of the risen Christ?”
We all know the Easter Story. The women’s journey to the tomb. Matthew’s account of the great earthquake. The angel rolled back the heavy door stone of the tomb; and sat on it while the soldiers fainted. The women nearby were told the facts, Jesus has risen: come and see: go and tell. This does raise a question about angels, doesn’t it? Wouldn’t you think if you saw an angel you would believe what he or she told you? But then we have to remember they don’t always have on white gowns with wings and halos. The angels at the tomb where just young men. Mary saw Jesus standing near the tomb and did not recognize Him. Would we? It is understandable because Resurrection is unnatural and unbelievable until you and I actually experience the Resurrection in our own lives. Easter is where in Jesus we receive the power to exchange the old for the new, the dead for the living, the earthly for the heavenly. Easter is where broken dreams and the power of Jesus’ resurrection meet. Easter is where disappointment and angels clash. Easter is where the worst the devil could do is destroyed by the power and love of God.
A Quote from C.S. Lewis “Aim at Heaven, and you’ll get earth thrown in. Aim at earth, and you’ll get neither.”
Today, seek the things that are above. Lift up your hearts and seek the risen Christ.
|Posted on March 31, 2020 at 7:56 PM||comments ()|
As we are getting closer to Palm Sunday we are reminded of how the people in Jerusalem were hoping that Jesus would bring them the peace that they needed. Jerusalem means”city of peace” or “foundation of peace”. How did the Jewish Leaders respond to the “Triumphal Entry” of the Lord? As they watched the great crowd gather and honor Jesus, the Pharisees were quite sure that Jesus had won the day. Perhaps Jesus would perform a great miracle and in that way capture the minds and the hearts of the restless people. How little they understood the heart and mind of this man called Jesus. As Jesus was coming down the narrow streets of Jerusalem thousands of people were there to cheer him. Throwing their robes on the ground for Jesus to ride over. The crowd was cheering and shouting praises to God. The Pharisees in charge thought it was wrong and told the people to be quiet. Jesus answered them (Luke19:40) I tell you that if you keep the people quiet the stones in the street would cheer. Now of course none of us have ever heard a stone say anything but Jesus knew that the people were not going to stop praising God on such a glorious day. So Palm Sunday is upon us. We will be physically apart and unable to worship together. Are you going to praise God for all that he has blessed us with? Or are you going to expect the stones to do all your cheering?
Yours in Christ
|Posted on March 23, 2020 at 10:01 AM||comments ()|
Lent is the period of 40 days which comes before Easter in the Christian calendar. Beginning on Ash Wednesday; Lent is a season of self-reflection and preparation before the wonderful event of Easter. By observing the 40 days of this wonderful season; Christians are reminded of the many sacrifices of Jesus Christ. Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus after his death on the cross. Christian churches that observe Lent use it for a time for prayer and penance. Here is a story to help remind you to pray frequently during Lent.
The Pretzel is a food commonly associated with the season of Lent for some 1500 years now. There are different versions of the story. A common thread in these stories is that a young monk who lived during the early 600s somewhere between France and Italy was baking unleavened bread; which is a Lenten fasting food. A common posture for prayer for these early Christians was to stand with their arms folded across their chest with each hand touching the opposite shoulder. Some versions of the story say it was accidental, others say it was on purpose; that the monk used some leftover unleavened bread dough to create a shape that we now call a Pretzel. It is also said that the monk used his creation to remind his fellow monks to pray during Lent. He called his creation “little arms” which in German is “Bretzel.” It is also said that the monk used his Bretzel as a reward for the Children saying their prayers. As with the Monks or the Children we need to be reminded at Lent and throughout the year to pray. Our reward is not only the tasty Pretzel but that Easter will come. Our Lord and Savior did conquer death; so YOU can count on Jesus Christ every day of your life! Now go enjoy a delicious Pretzel and don’t forget to pray!
In Christian Faith,
Rev. Walter Coy
|Posted on April 23, 2014 at 2:08 PM||comments ()|
I recently drove to North Carolina to sit with an old friend during the end times of her life. Connie was an active member of Zoar United Church of Christ where I served as pastor many years ago and I became close friends with her and her entire family. Not too long ago she moved south to live near her daughter and son as she battled cancer.
We are all aware of the difficulties of watching a friend or family member struggle at the end of their life. We want to help in some fashion but the time comes when it seems there is little we can do except be present. However, I believe, there is always something that helps – prayer! Honest and heart-felt prayer brings a sense of peace and calmness, especially when we are in a situation we cannot control. Jesus often went off by himself to pray to gather strength to deal with the next situation in his life.
Prayer isn't magic. We can pray for healing or a miracle – and that is okay – but ultimately life is in God’s hands. Prayer isn't so much about changing a situation as it is about gaining the strength to handle it. Prayer is a faith event. We will not always like or understand the results of our prayers, especially when dealing with illness, but we need to remember that those who are part of God’s family, will always be a part of God’s family – in this life or some future life. In faith we offer prayers to God and then we trust.
One of the positive experiences I had after sitting with my old friend was what happened after I returned. I went on Facebook and asked for prayers. For those of you who do not understand what I am talking about, Facebook is like writing a letter. Only it is done electronically and is received instantaneously, not several days later. A Facebook message goes to everyone who is a Facebook friend.
After I asked for prayers, within a few hours 25 people from all over the country offered their prayer support and many others even made comments of concern. These were close friends, acquaintances, school friends, church friends and family members. It was like a church prayer circle where people are called on the phone to pray, except it is faster and touches more lives.
As we rejoice in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus we also need to rejoice in the fact that when we want to communicate our hopes, dreams, fears and frustrations with the Lord, he is always just a prayer away. May the days of your life be filled with peace and joy and may you always find time for prayer.
|Posted on March 12, 2014 at 2:37 PM||comments ()|
The Easter season has begun, or as the season is more technically known, Lent is here. So many thoughts come to mind for me as this special time of the year begins. First off, spring is near and for most of us that will be a positive and refreshing change of pace. Before you know it flowers will be bursting forth, the grass will turn green, and the birds will be chirping their joy. Secondly, Daylight savings time has arrived and that can be a psychological boost as we get more sunshine and less darkness.
Every special celebration during the year is also a time of memories. I have vivid memories of dyeing eggs with my mother and sister as Easter approached. Remember the old methods? My mom boiled eggs on the stove top and put vinegar and dye tablets in cups. Then I would put a hard-boiled egg on one of those metal egg holders and dip the egg into my favorite color. I always tried to be creative and dip the egg into several colors, which, of course, resulted in a dark brown egg. I did the same thing year after year hoping the results would be different, but they never were. I also have fond memories of an Easter basket filled with candy. What are your Easter memories?
Ultimately, however, Easter is all about Jesus. With the Lord as our focus, Easter becomes a Holy day. When our focus is on candy, and bunnies, and all of the secular activities, Easter becomes just another holiday. For the next several weeks we need to turn our attention more closely to the teachings of Jesus. This is a good time to ask ourselves questions about our level of faith. Am I closer to the Lord now then I was last Easter? Are my problems weighing me down and am I willing to let Jesus take greater control in my life? When I feel a moment of joy as a result of a faith experience, do I have the courage to share my feelings with someone else?
This is the season of Good News. God sent a son named Jesus into the world to give us a light in the darkness. Although Jesus was crucified by people who didn’t understand him, death and sin were vanquished and the love of God triumphed. Jesus was resurrected and as a result we can be forgiven and our lives can be renewed and we have received the promise of eternal life.
Jesus is alive, yesterday, today and tomorrow! Rejoice and be glad! Praise God from whom all blessings flow!
|Posted on February 12, 2014 at 2:28 PM||comments ()|
Do you like change? That is a difficult question to answer and the best answer is probably “yes” and “no.” Most of us probably can’t wait for winter to end and spring to begin. That would be a positive change. On the other hand, as we age, we can be troubled by the rapid pace in which our world changes. It is very difficult to keep up with all of the modern electronic gizmos. But change happens whether we like it or not, so the key is learning how to adjust.
Way back in 1964 a young musician named Bob Dylan wrote a song he titled, “The Times They Are a-Changin.” I doubt that he could imagine all the changes that would occur over the next 50 years. I've lived through it and sometimes I cannot comprehend everything that has happened – for better or worse. Some change is necessary, but difficult. Jesus told a parable that taught you cannot put new wine in old wine skins. It just doesn't work. Sometimes old methods don’t work with new ideas. That’s reality. We must try and learn to embrace new ways that are positive and allow old ways that have seen their day to fade away. That must happen in the work place, in our personal lives, and even within the church.
A couple of years ago Elaine and I opened our home to a son, daughter-in-law, and two grandchildren. It was hard on them to leave their home in Colorado, but the job situation forced them to leave. I must admit there were many days during the last two years when I wanted a little privacy, but that was secondary to helping a family in need. Now the kids have found teaching jobs in Florida and will be leaving in mid-February. It was hard to adjust to the changes of four new people in our home but it will be even more difficult to adjust to an empty house. Change can be that way – a time of hardship and at the same time, great joy!
This church is facing changes. Can we continue to stay where we are? What alternatives are possible? Are we being good stewards spending money on a building much too big for us? Would we be faithful to our heritage to leave? The questions are difficult and the answers will not always be satisfying. Nevertheless, change can be dealt with when the Lord is in the lead. When we allow Jesus to be our source of strength we are empowered. We read in 2 Corinthians: “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” Don’t fear change – embrace it – and give God control of it!
|Posted on January 15, 2014 at 10:22 AM||comments ()|
My least favorite month of the year is January. I do not like the cold or the snow or the darkness. The ironic thing is that my birthday is in January. What was my mom thinking? The best thing about the month is that it only lasts 31 days. In God’s creation – things change. Winter eventually turns to spring and new life bursts forth.
But it isn’t just nature that is renewed – so are we. All of us go through difficult periods of time. All of us face uncertainty. All of us have periods of loneliness and sadness. Nevertheless, if God is our focus we will overcome the negatives of life and be refreshed and transformed. The positive changes may not happen as quickly as we would like, but during the process, God will give us peace and hope.
One of the nice things for me about January of 2014 is that I get to meet new people at Zion UCC and that lifts my spirits. I am fascinated with people. I admit I am terrible with names so I ask for your forgiveness in advance when I forget your name. On the other hand, if you tell me a story about who you are I will not forget. I’m good with stories and I am looking forward to hearing the stories about your life.
So let me use the rest of this article to tell you a little about myself. You already know Elaine and between us we have five children. Three children live in Carrollton, one in Boston and one in Seattle. I am a smart-aleck and have a hard time with authority, other than God. I grew up in Olmsted Falls, southwest of Cleveland, and didn’t attend church much until I was a junior in high school. By the time I was a senior I realized God was calling me into ministry. This year will mark the 45 year since I first started serving in a church.
My sense of humor is a little strange - perhaps quirky is a better word. Besides being a pastor, some of my jobs over the years include working in: a box factory, a department story, a dime store, and an electrical supply store. I have worked for the Department of Human Services, as a sports writer and photographer, and as the curator of a museum.
It is a blessing to have the opportunity to serve you and I am looking forward to discovering where God is leading us. If we trust and obey then the journey will be filled with joy.
|Posted on November 15, 2013 at 9:05 AM||comments ()|
We use that phrase a lot and have even created a word where the two words becomeone: ‘Thanksgiving’ and we call it a holiday. Then we shop for all of our favorite foods and most of the time we eat what our parents and grandparents ate and we call it a tradition. We even say things like, “ It just wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without turkey!” or whatever your family’s favorite food is. We place the holiday in an historical frame and we recall Pilgrims and Indians sharing a great feast together.
Thanksgiving is the great harvest feast - when we are encouraged to remember that EVERYTHING - EVERYTHING is a total gift from God. The food we prepare comes forth from Earth, Sky and Waters.
Thanksgiving is a time to recommit ourselves to the preservation of the phenomenal resources that we have been given to sustain our life on planet Earth. If we who live here and depend on Earth, Sky and Sea for our sustenance continue to destroy and live as if we are separate from these powerful sustaining resources – the day is coming, sooner than we think that Thanksgiving will be a memory of what we once had and wasted, destroyed andlong for.
So on this Thanksgiving Day – take amoment to pray this prayer with your loved ones – for that which we need to cherishand care for above all else: EARTH, SKY, SEA.
O Great Spirit,
Earth, Sun, Sky and Sea
You are inside and all around me.
Creator God, fill each of us with a longing for all that you have made to sustain our human existence.
Bring us the wisdom and the courage to make the changes in our lives that will allow our planet home to thrive and continue to sustain those who come after us.
Jesus you modeled deep love and caring for creation.
You went to the mountains to meet your Ancestors.
You floated on the Sea and caught fish and cooked them to open the eyes of your apostles.
You calmed the storms to teach us the power of your protective love.
You showed us how much your Father and ours loved the lilies of the field and the birds of the air
….and how much your Father loved us in sending you to guide us on our journey of life.
Thanks for Giving us this opportunity that we call life.
Thanks for Giving us all that we need and all that we can share to fill the needs of others.
Thanks and Thanks again,
|Posted on September 11, 2013 at 12:22 PM||comments ()|
While you are reading this, I am with my Mom on a small cruise ship with less than 90 passengers, meandering inland waterways from New York to Montreal. On August 17 my Mom celebrated 90 years of life. She has declared that instead of ONE birthday party – she would celebrate the entire year. Mom has extended an invitation to family and friends and anyone else who would like to celebrate that she is available all year to do that.
Mom has been living with me for a year now. During this year we have traveled back and forth between our home in Medina and the parsonage in Wintersville every week. I watch my Mom and wonder at her joy and her spirit. When I spoke with her about bringing my work at Steubenville to a close this past May – she suggested that I hold off until the end of the year. I thought the drive and the intense lifestyle of being a wanderer was too much for her. She is full of surprises. Now as we enter the fall season, I don’t think she ever wants to stop making this trip. She has come to love and look forward to being with so many of the Zion Church Family.
When we visit the scriptures there are folks who are advanced in years who are also full of surprises. Moses and Aaron were chosen to lead the Israelites out of Egyptian bondage at the ages of 80 and 83 (Ex 7:7). Joshua was given the charge of leading the conquest of Canaan during the last thirty years of his life and he lived until he was 110 (Josh 24:29). Caleb was also very much involved in the conquest and he was in his eighties (Josh 14:6-11). Daniel served God from the days of his youth for over 70 years (Dan 1:21). He was well over eighty when he served as one of three governors over the kingdom of Babylon Dan 6:1-3). He was thrown into the Lions’ den and received visions. Zacharias and Elizabeth, the parents of John the Baptist, were both advanced in years. Zacharias was serving in the temple and Elizabeth gave birth to John!
What I realize as I ponder the characters in the scripture stories and watch my Mom live her life in its fullness, is that it isn’t about the people and their stamina, it is about our God and our Call to fullness of life and abundance.
So often we can get caught in the fear and the “woe is me” mentality. Truth is – it simply is not about us. It is all about way more than us. We are so tunnel visioned and have the hardest time seeing outside the boxes that we have self-inflicted that sometimes it takes a real shake to get us to wake up to the possibilities and the personal power that each of us have within our hearts and souls to make a difference.
I am sailing right now, and my Mom is sailing with me. I am so blessed to be sharing these precious years, months, days, moments of her life with her. That is part of the abundance that I have become aware of.
Sometimes the most precious of gifts comes in a disguised wrapper. Every now and then someone says to me,” It must be really hard taking care of your Mom,driving back and forth, caring for two congregations, and on and on….
Yes sometimes I am not sure how I will get through one more day – but that’s only when I let the “woe is me” attitude triumph.
Truth is I am so blessed every moment of every day and when I wake myself up to that reality and see the Divine Presence in everything and everywhere- then I can see with Divine eyes the reality of what it means to be me.
Why have I shared this? Because every one of us has the same potential to either wake up to the Divine Presence in your own life – or to let the “woe is me” attitude take over. Which will you do? How are you blessed? What do you need to do to become aware of the rich blessings and once you do – how will you handle the magnificence that you call your life?
The Rev. Dr. Carol Vaccariello
|Posted on August 16, 2013 at 10:21 AM||comments ()|
Tonight,as I ponder what to share in this Pastor’s Pen, I am so aware of the fullnessin my heart and being.
Have you ever wondered at the total awesomeness of what it means to be alive?
Have you ever thought about the billions of cells that are your body?
Have you ever wondered how each cell was fashioned and what about the intricate workings of each cell?
At the beginning of the summer I had the privilege of being in the presence of NASA astronauts who brought the wonder and awe of the Universe alive and present in new and mysterious ways.
When I ponder the unique intricate design of the cells of my body and the huge, vast, stupendous Cosmos in which God allows us and invites us to live – I am filled with awe, gratitude and wonder.
And what about relationships?
There are so many relationships that each of us enjoys.
There are all of you. Many of you have known each other and each other’s families for years. How fortunate you are to have those rich and deep relationships. How blessed you have been through the care that you have experienced from each other over the years.
There is our relationship with the cells of our bodies. Each and every one is part of what it means to be the unique person that each of us is. We can’t see or experience the workings of even one of our cells yet without each one of them we could not exist as the persons that we are.
There is our relationship with the Stars and the Heavens. The Psalmist reminds us of the work of God’s hands.
And there is our relationship with God the Father/Mother and God the Son/Brother and God the Holy Spirit/Comforter.
Now that’s a whole lot of relationship to ponder. We really can’t just say that we have a relationship with God. Not when we know that God manifests to us in such a variety of ways, in different circumstances, through people, animals and all of creation. It is like our relationship with God is the complex experience of many and varied experiences of God.
The Scriptures have a great variety of names and references to God. In our next newsletter we will explore some of the names of God and the variety of names that help us to know God through the attributes, the ways that God has manifest God’s presence through time.
Till then,ponder, simply ponder. Pay attention to the fullness of your own heart and the relationships that surround and uphold you in love.
See you in Church,
Reverend Doctor Carol Vaccariello