CCC Blog

Making Meaningful Connections

I recently joined a clergy devotional group.  We meet 90 minutes every other week virtually.  Three of us are in Illinois, and two are located in Kentucky.  The focus of the conversations is a handbook based on the writings of Thomas  Merton entitled, Bridges to Contemplative Living.  This past week’s theme was “Purity of Heart,” and Merton believed this was rooted in humility.  To be pure in heart, he said, is to “renounce all deluded images of ourselves,” as well as “all exaggerated estimates of our own capacities” so that we me might obey God’s will for us.  He then said that meditation is necessary for this to happen:


Meditation is then ordered to this new insight, this direct knowledge of the self in its higher aspect.  What am I?  I am myself a word spoken by God.  Can God speak a word that does not have any meaning?


As part of our discussion, each of us was asked to identify the word or phrase that stood out to us in the much longer reading from which I’ve quoted just a part.  For me, it was that last sentence from the quote above: Can God speak a word that does not have any meaning?  Clearly, this is a rhetorical question, and the answer is “no.”  Isaiah 55:11 says, “...My word that goes out from my mouth shall not return to me empty but shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”  And Psalm 139:14 says “I praise you (O God), for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”  If each of us is a word spoken by God, of course we have meaning.  It says so right there in scripture. 


But what is more intriguing for me is how words really only have meaning when placed in context with other words.  Alone, a single word merely signifies or represents something or possible a variety of “somethings.”  But only when connected with other words does it have the potential to convey many meanings.  It is not enough, then, that we exist as a creature “fearfully and wonderfully made” by God.  For us to accomplish any kind of purpose at all is to build connections with others.  It is in our connections with others that we realize the full potential of  what would otherwise lay dormant inside us if we remain isolated or disconnected. 

Perhaps this is the “deluded images” and “exaggerated estimates of ourselves” Merton seeks for us to renounce; the feeling that we are somehow great and worthy on our own – simply existing as we are and for ourselves alone.  And perhaps that is further why Jesus instructed us to “love our neighbor” as the greatest of all commandments.  For love is that divine force that always draws us outside ourselves and seeks to make connections – with others, with our true selves and with God.  And perhaps – having a less self-aggrandizing view of ourselves and seeking rather, in humility, to make connections with others – would be a good “cross” for us to “take up” as we seek to follow Christ today. 

Blessings – Michael


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Walking By Faith

The Book of Hebrews, toward the end of the New Testament, seeks to make connections with the Old Testament and indicate a unified line of faith from the beginning to the end of the scriptures.  In Chapter 11, the author lists some of the great ancestors of our spiritual past and describes the faithfulness each  exhibited.  As the summer winds down and we gear up for another academic year, this will be our focus in worship.  Each week, for 5 weeks, we will look at one of these Heroes of our Faith.  In their own way, they trusted in God’s ability to lead us even when the path ahead isn’t entirely clear.  We will recount their storied pasts as well as look forward in our own lives to how we can Walk By Faith as they did.  


August 7 Hebrews 11:1-7

Hero: Abel

Theme: “To Thine Own Self Be True” (Be true to yourself)


August 14 Hebrews 11:8-16

Hero: Abraham

Theme: “If God is your Co-Pilot... Change Seats” (Courage is the strength to let go)


August 21 Hebrews 11:21

Hero: Jacob and Joseph

Theme: “Just Hold On” (Faith is about holding on to what really keeps us going)


August 28 Hebrews 11:23-31

Hero: Moses and Miriam

Theme: “Who’s in Your Corner?” (We all need behind-the-scenes support)


September 4 Hebrews 12:1-2

Hero: Cloud of Witnesses

Theme: “We Walk by Faith, but Never Alone” (The faith of past saints propels us forward)


-Blessings – Michael


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Food Challenge #3

For as long as I can remember, my mother has baked sourdough bread.  When I was growing up, it was a near-weekly occurrence.  Sourdough bread involves using a “starter” or culture of fermented yeast that is mixed in with the rest of the ingredients.  The portion of the starter that is used for a “batch” of bread is then replaced and kept in the refrigerator until the next time bread is baked.  For the entirety of my upbringing, the back right corner of the top shelf of the refrigerator was occupied by mom’s sourdough starter.  As long as the portion of the sourdough starter is replaced when it is used for baking, the culture is quite literally living.  My mom began making sourdough bread because someone gave her some of their starter and that sourdough starter had it’s origins with a woman from Kansas who had begun it at the turn of the 20th century.  For years my mom would gift other people portions of her sourdough starter so they could make sourdough bread of their own.  And every time she did, she included some written notes about the woman from Kansas who started it all decades earlier.  



When new families moved into our neighborhood (and there were a lot of families that lived on our block), mom would deliver a loaf of her bread as a welcoming gift.  If she knew there was a boy – in my age range – or a girl in one of my sisters’ age ranges – she would take us with her and introduce us to that child.  And when it was mom’s turn to provide the communion bread for Sunday worship (we grew up in a small-ish church where families signed up to provide bread for communion on a rotating basis), it was one of her sourdough loaves she brought – baked in a special round pan reserved for the communion bread.


All this serves as the context for our third food challenge this month.  For every week of our three-week sermons series this month on “The Meals Jesus Ate,” I offered a food-related challenge at the end of each sermon. 

Week 1 sermon theme – The meals Jesus ate connected people to each other, and to God.

Week 1 food challenge – Share FoodSometime this month, share a meal (snack, coffee, etc..,.) with someone with whom you don’t normally eat.


Week 2 sermon theme – The meals Jesus ate were extravagant because God’s grace is extravagant. 

Week 2 food challenge – Save FoodRefrain from going to the grocery store for 1 week.  Instead, eat the food already in your house and avoid contributing to the food-wasting in our country.  Whatever you would have spent at the grocery store that week, consider giving as a donation to a food-serving organization like the Good Samaritan Inn.


Week 3 sermon theme – The meals Jesus ate confirmed the promises of God

Week 3 food challenge – Give FoodProvide food (gift card, loaf of bread, etc...) to someone going through a hard time.  With your gift, consider including these words (or ones like them):

May this food confirm the promise that you are not alone and that the Lord is with you through whatever you struggle or challenge may be.”


Blessings – Michael

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The Meals Jesus Ate

With Memorial Day and the celebration of Pentecost in the rear-view mirror, we begin the summer season with a sermon series to accompany our month-long focus on the capital campaign.  As you know, the theme of the campaign is “Setting the Table.”  The idea of setting the table naturally causes us to think of looking forward.  We set the table precisely to get ready for something.  Additionally, setting the table requires some basic work and effort to make sure the table is ready for the meal that is to come. 


We like the theme “Setting the Table” for our capital campaign because it  encourages us to look forward to, and anticipate, the wonderful things God has in store for our faith community.  And it reminds us that there is preparatory work on our part to get ready for the good things that are to come.


It also seemed only fitting that we spend these next few weeks in worship thinking about tables and meals in the ministry of Jesus.  Jesus spent at lot of time sitting at one table or another.  The meals Jesus ate were about much more than the food consumed.  They were opportunities he took to teach us the meaning of the Gospel and how we can embody it in our lives today.  Here is what we can look forward to over the next three weekends.    


June 12

When Jesus Ate... People Came Together

Mark 2:13-17

At Jesus’ table, there is always room for one more


June 19

When Jesus Ate... The Cost Wasn’t Counted

Luke 19:1-10

The grace of Jesus is both amazing and abundant


June 26

When Jesus Ate... God Was Revealed

Luke 24:36-42

Meals confirm miracles  


Blessings – Michael

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