Lights of Wonder is Here!

Please join us for this wondering annual tradition of lights, music, fellowship, refreshments, and fun!

2017 dates and times can be found here!

We look forward to seeing you at Lowhill Lights of Wonder!

 

 

Ripe Unto The Harvest

Paul David Hewson is an outspoken Christian activist focused on the justice issues of access to life-saving medicine, the elimination of extreme poverty and the forgiveness of predatory debt. He’s also the lead singer of U2. (You probably know him as Bono).

What does Bono mean when he says our opportunity to end extreme poverty — the kind that causes children to starve to death — has become instead a millstone around our necks?

If the imagery sounds familiar, that’s because it’s from Jesus, as recorded in Luke 17:2:

“It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones [children] to stumble.”

The root causes of extreme poverty, both here and abroad, are important to think about as we prepare to celebrate Harvest Home tomorrow, thanking God for another year’s harvest and collecting produce and canned goods in support of the Lowhill Food Pantry.  Please join us!

Bucket List Update!

Dear Friends,
Thank you to all who have already donated toward our Bucket List drive for disaster clean-up in areas affected by the recent hurricanes! Thanks also to everyone who has been helping to spread the word!
We are still collecting needed items, and I have an update about both the timeline and items still needed to complete our set of buckets.
The Penn Northeast Conference (our regional setting of the United Church of Christ) will be making our region’s first drop-off to Church World Service facilities sometime in next week or so.  The PNEC Disaster relief team will also continue to accept buckets through the rest of the month, as we’d anticipated doing. Working in concert with PNEC helps be an active part of the mission life of the Conference and connects us in mission with our sister churches throughout the region.
We have already collected a 5 completed buckets and we’ve also collected many materials toward assembling more complete buckets!  In and of itself, this is fantastic job! Thank you to everyone who has already responded and to everyone who has been asking about what items are still needed. 

 

We were blessed with a large donation of empty buckets, of which 22 remain. 

Ann Haley took an inventory of remaining items (thank you, Ann!)

Here’s the break down of what we would need to fill every single bucket:

  • (17) large sponges   
  • (15) scrub brushes
  • (22) 12-count packs of Handi-Wipes (or other brand) reusable cleaning cloths/towels. Other counts also accepted. 
  • (8) 50 oz liquid laundry detergent (also accepted as (2) 25 oz bottles).
  • (16) 16-28 oz liquid disinfectant dish soap
  • (19) 12-16 oz household cleaner to mix with water
  • (19) 100 ft clotheslines (also accepted as (2) 50 ft clotheslines)
  • (9) pairs of work gloves (leather or leather palm)
  • (11) boxes of heavy duty contractor 35-40 gallon trash bags
  • (10) non-aerosol inspect repellant (6-9 oz)

Filling every bucket is a pretty big goal, but I think we can do it!  If you’d like to contribute but aren’t able to shop yourself, you can also donate funds toward the effort, 100% of which will be spent on these needed items.  

Thank you everyone!

-Pastor Chris

Celebrate Harvest Home this Sunday!

 

“Our passion is to imitate the ministry of Jesus in the power of the Spirit. This requires we must follow Jesus out of baptismal waters, through our personal deserts, and into the harvest.”

     – John Wimber

Lowhill, we’re getting ready for our annual Harvest Home celebration this Sunday, October 15.  The gathering and blessing of produce (and, in modern times, canned goods) at the altar of the local church is a long-standing tradition among many American churches with Germanic roots.  Lutherans, Mennonites, Moravians, and the German Reformed ancestors of many United Church of Christ congregations like Lowhill brought this yearly celebration with them from Europe, where its roots run even deeper.  This 2013 piece in the Berks-Mont news chronicles some of the tradition’s origins and practices.

The Lowhill Food Pantry, hosted on our property and managed by volunteers from across the community, serves the needs of families and children in the Northwestern Lehigh School District.  All produce and canned goods offered at the altar on Sunday will be donated to the Food Pantry for their essential work in bringing the harvest home to friends and neighbors in need.

Please join us this Sunday as we celebrate God’s good provision through another year. There will be special music, a harvest liturgy, and a message about perhaps the most famous and subversive of Jesus’ agrarian parables about the Kingdom of God:

“What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.”

The mustard plant was considered an invasive weed in Jesus’ day.  What that might say about our own harvest work here and now?  Join us on Sunday!

 

On Harvest and Harvest Home

I worked at a record store the summer before I left for college.

Actually,  I worked at Best Buy.  But I worked in the media department, and two of my main jobs were keeping the expansive CD aisles organized and making sure no one was stuffing Snoop Dogg, Everclear, or Blink 182 into the pockets of their late-90s cargo pants.

Over the course of the summer, I developed a compulsion for farming the product, organizing the albums alphabetically by artist and title.  At the end of the season, I used my employee discount to buy my dorm-room mini-fridge and one exquisite piece of music:  Harvest by Neil Young, released 26 years prior.

“The Needle and the Damage Done.”  “Old Man.”  “Heart of Gold.”  “Alabama.”  All classic songs that helped make Young’s fourth solo album a breakout record and establish him as a breakout solo artist.  “Heart of Gold” is the best known, “The Needle and the Damage Done,” about the death spiral of heroin addiction, and “Alabama,” a response to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” (itself a response to Young’s “Southern Man”) about the pernicious longevity of racial hatred,  are the most important (and, sadly, still the most timely).  The title track, “Harvest,” is the most understated and lovely, the most closely observed.

Much of Young’s music is about growing up, falling in love or out of love, understanding the process of loss that leads us to adulthood.  Harvest, the album, dominated my late teens and early 20s.  45 after its release, “Harvest,” the song, keeps asking important questions:

Will I see you give
more than I can take?
Will I only harvest some?
As the days fly past
will we lose our grasp
Or fuse it in the sun?

When I first met my wife, these were the kinds of questions I was asking about the persistence of relationships.  Our first date was a Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young concert.  One of the first things I ever bought her was a “Heart of Gold” t-shirt. It was the early 2000s, but our souls were very much in tune with the early 1970s.

When Harvest was released in 1972, the haze of hippie possibility had already dissipated.  Harvest is in part about what happens after fleeting first love fades. The older I get, the more I understand love to be a choice, and the less I think about my feelings.

At Lowhill, we’re celebrating a Harvest Home service on October 15. Prevalent in churches and denominations first organized by early German Americans like the Pennsylvania Dutch, the Harvest Home tradition is hundreds of years old. I’m part Dutch, but I didn’t grow up in one of those kinds of churches.  A Lehigh Valley native, I’m about as familiar with always-present agriculture as someone who grew up in the suburbs can be.  But every bit of planning I do for Harvest Home brings me back to “Harvest.”

Will I see you give more than I can take?

If I’m addressing this question to God instead of my wife, and if I’m being honest, the answer is always yes.

Will I only harvest some?

Yes. But only because God’s provision of love and grace is so vast and unwieldy.  Jesus says the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, a seed that grows into a plant so invasive, so tenacious, so all-consuming, that it was actually illegal to grow, even in private gardens.  God’s longing for us is so outsized and uncontainable, Jesus compares to it contraband.

As the days fly past
will we lose our grasp
Or fuse it in the sun?

That’s the question left to us in every season of life.

In the book of Malachi, the foretold Messiah, who Christians believe is Jesus, is seen as “the sun of vindication,” rising with healing in his rays. (Hence the lyric from “Hark, The Herald Angels Sing:” “Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace, hail the Sun of Righteousness, life and light to all he brings, risen with healing in his wings!”). In the Gospel of Luke, Zechariah (the father of John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus) prophesies powerfully:

“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
    because he has come to his people and redeemed them.
He has raised up a horn of salvation for us
    in the house of his servant David
(as he said through his holy prophets of long ago),
salvation from our enemies
    and from the hand of all who hate us—
to show mercy to our ancestors
    and to remember his holy covenant,
    the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
to rescue us from the hand of our enemies,
    and to enable us to serve him without fear
    in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.

And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
    for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
to give his people the knowledge of salvation
    through the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God,
    by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
to shine on those living in darkness
    and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.”

We undoubtedly find ourselves straying from God’s path. But God longs to grasp hands with us, to fuse us in the sun of his grace, love, and peace.

“Give,” a worship song by Third Day, puts it this way:

All I want is love
I confess to this
I will take it, Lord
All You have to give.

That’s a harvest prayer.

Please bring your produce and canned goods to harvest on October 15 for donation to the Lowhill Food Pantry, and I look forward to seeing you as we celebrate the God who is our Harvest Home.

Blessings!

– Pastor Chris

Worship Elements, World Communion Sunday

This morning, we celebrated World Communion Sunday with congregations across the world.  Each year on the first Sunday of October, Christians of all denominations, backgrounds, and cultures,  set aside differences and together celebrate the things we cherish in common: the call of Jesus to love God and one another.

Central to our worship, liturgy, and conversation today were the images of bread and cup. Continuing our series on Jesus’ teachings about the kingdom of God,  we explored this parable:

Matthew 13:3

    He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.”

as well as this teaching from Paul’s letter to the Galatian church:

Galatians 5:22-27

   But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

 

This was our Call to Worship:

This is the day that that Lord has made! 

Let us rejoice and be glad in it!

We gather as one Body,

we gather for worship, fellowship, and celebration!

We are united, always, with brothers and sisters in Christ

across the world,  across the pages of Scripture, across the passing of time.

We gather for worship, fellowship, and celebration.

We gather in the name of Jesus.

We gather for story and song, for prayer and praise, for bread and cup.

We gather as one Body, together building the kingdom of God.

Jesus said the kingdom of God is like a great vineyard, that he is the vine, and we are the branches.

Jesus said the kingdom of God is like leaven, like yeast in bread, living, active, transforming everything.

Like the stretching of branches across the vineyard, let us bear fruit!

Like the baking of bread, let faith arise!

+++

We then sang I Lift My Hands by Chris Tomlin, with the uplifting refrain “Let faith arise, Let faith arise!”  We continued this theme in the Children’s Chat and during Kid’s Table, our youngsters made salt-dough creations to share with our shut-ins.

Our Communion liturgy was adapted from the United Church of Christ Book of Worship, using elements below followed by prayer and the blessing and sharing of the elements.

Merciful God, we know that you love us and that you call us to fullness of life, but around us and within us we see the brokenness of the world and of our ways.  Our successes leave us empty; our progress does not satisfy.  Our prosperous land is not the promised land of our longing.  Forgive our willful neglect of your world, our insensitivity to the needs of others, and our failure to feed the spirt that is within us, the Spirit of Christ Jesus, and through Jesus our Redeemer we pray, Amen.       

Beloved, we are beloved by God. Fashioned in God’s image, forgiven through God’s grace, free in the way of Jesus. Amen!

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

Jesus said:  I am the bread of life.  You who come to me will not hunger; you who believe in me shall never thirst.  Luke, the evangelist, wrote of our risen Savior, who at the table with two disciples took bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them.  Their eyes were opened, and they recognized the risen Christ in the breaking and sharing of bread.

In company with all who hunger for spiritual food, we come to this table. In company with all believers in every time and beyond time, we come to know the risen Christ in the breaking and sharing of bread.

God be with you!

And also with you!

Lift up your hearts!

We lift them up to God!                                                                   

Let us give thanks to God.

It is right to give God thanks and praise.

+++

We prayed together, sang together, and shared the bread and cup.  We reflected on the connections between the kingdom of God being like yeast in dough to the imagery of Jesus as the Bread of Life and the breaking of bread in Communion. We talked about connections between the cup of Communion and the image of the kingdom of God as a vineyard, each of us branches drawing sustenance from Jesus, the vine.

If you couldn’t join us this week, please make plans to be with us soon.  We’ll continue our series on the parables Jesus told about the kingdom of God for the next two weeks, with a special focus on the parables of planting, harvesting agriculture on October 15, our Harvest Home Celebration.

See you in church and in the community!

-Pastor Chris

What is World Communion Sunday:

This Sunday, October 1, 2017, Christ’s Church at Lowhill will join with thousands of Cristian congregations around the globe in celebration of World Communion Sunday.

So what is World Communion Sunday?

 When I need to cut to the core of something, I tend go right to Wikipedia. It’s usually where Google sends me anyway.  According to the editors of the internet’s most popular encyclopedia:
World Communion Sunday is a celebration observed by several Christian denominations, taking place on the first Sunday of every October, that promotes Christian unity and ecumenical cooperation.[1] It focuses on an observance of the eucharist.

 

The tradition was begun in 1934 by Hugh Thomson Kerr who ministered in the Shadyside Presbyterian Church. “Davitt S. Bell (the late Clerk of Session and church historian at Shadyside) recalled that Dr. Kerr first conceived the notion of World Communion Sunday during his year as moderator of the General Assembly (1930). Dr. Kerr’s younger son, the Rev. Dr. Donald Craig Kerr, who is pastor emeritus of the Roland Park Presbyterian Church in Baltimore, was sixteen in 1933. He has related that World Communion Sunday grew out of the Division of Stewardship at Shadyside. It was their attempt to bring churches together in a service of Christian unity—in which everyone might receive both inspiration and information, and above all, to know how important the Church of Jesus Christ is, and how each congregation is interconnected one with another.”[2] It was then was adopted throughout the US Presbyterian Church in 1936,[1] and subsequently spread to other denominations. In 1940, the Federal Council of Churches (now the National Council of Churches), led by Jesse Moren Bader, endorsed World Communion Sunday and began to promote it to Christian churches worldwide.

It’s important to note that even though different Christian denominations have different practices and beliefs regarding Communion, or that practices and beliefs often differ from church to church even within the same denomination, World Communion Sunday celebrates what unites us.

Ian Doescher puts it this way:

“The key words for World Communion Sunday are togetherness and unity.  It is a day when we mark the almost universal Christian practice of breaking bread with one another and remembering both the night of Jesus’ betrayal—when Jesus instituted what we now call the Lord’s Supper as a lasting remembrance—and of Jesus’ sacrifice.  World Communion Sunday is a time for remembering that around the globe—in different languages, with different traditions and customs, and in various forms of liturgy—the Lord’s Supper is celebrated throughout Christendom.  At its best, therefore, World Communion Sunday serves two purposes: it is both a joyous and meaningful partaking in Jesus’ sacred meal with his friends and a mind-opening exposure to different Christian traditions from around the world.”

At Lowhill, the Communion table is open.  As the liturgy says, come, for all things are ready.  Let us share the bread and cup with one another and the world!

See you Sunday!

– Pastor Chris

Worship Series: The Kingdom of God is Like…

 

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus uses parables of everyday life to explain the radical hope and promise of the Kingdom of God.  Through stories about things as vital as planting and harvesting, working and leading, preparing food and sharing it, Jesus reveals a compelling vision.

We’ll follow this theme Sunday mornings, September 24 – October 15.  We’re also excited to celebrate World Communion Sunday on October 1 and Harvest Home on October 15 in this context.  Join us!

New Wednesday Night Bible Study!

 

Pastor Chris is leading Bible studies starting this Wednesday night! The first series will look at the Bible as literature and investigate the different genres and themes found within.

 We’ll learn about why certain texts were written certain ways, and what that tells us about the Bible as a relevant resource for our journey of faith now. There are many ways to think about the questions we’ll encounter. One way of framing it: who wrote the Bible…and why? Join us!

Wednesday evenings at 6PM at Christ’s Church at Lowhill!

The Kids’ Table: Worshipping Together as Family

Two weeks ago, we introduced a new way of sharing our worship experience as a family of faith.  Rather than separate our children from their parents and the rest of the church family during the worship gathering, we’ve created a space, “The Kids’ Table,” within the service itself where children are free to engage in age-appropriate crafts and activities building on the Children’s Sermon all while remaining in the same space as the rest of us.

The adage is true: Children are sponges. The things they hear and remember from the service, even while they’re coloring, cutting, pasting, or writing, are remarkable. Jessica Nelson, a children’s minister from Texas, says, “children need calm and security, and they don’t always get that at home. Sitting in worship, holding hands, and speaking community prayers together can give our families a respite. Once families are comfortable with these practices, they’ll be able to use them away from the church when a crisis or difficult situation emerges and they need family spirituality.”

One of our members had this to say about The Kids’ Table experience at Lowhill:  “Keeping the children in the room, having them work on their projects while still being able to engage in what the rest of the church is doing…it reminds me of a living room.  It’s like we’re all in one big family room together.”

Exactly.  That’s how it was in the early church, too.

At Lowhill, we’re committed to helping families worship, grow, love, and serve together.  Life is hectic. Families are separated during the work and school day, during sports practices and extracurricular activities.  Weekly worship, which started in the homes of early Christians, seems like a great place for families to be together.  It also helps the entire church family remember the promises it has made to help parents raise children up in the life-giving ways to which God calls us.

Another old adage says it takes a village to raise a child.  What’s a village other than an extended family of adults caring for each other and sharing in the encouragement of parents and children?  And what’s a church if not precisely an extended family?  What’s a worship gathering if not a place where the whole family can grow together in faith, hope, and love?  We’re called together as the Body of Christ, a family of faith, a community.  A village without borders and a people welcoming children, like Jesus did, without reservation.

At Lowhill, we’re focusing on living out our Christian purpose, mission, and vision in ways that welcome children, families, and neighbors with the love of Jesus.  Because He says so, yes, but also because it’s what gives us life, because it’s what blesses our community, and because it’s what really matters.  We’ll hope you’ll join us!

– Pastor Chris