May 22, 2011: Our 1st UCC Discernment Sunday

Posted on : May 20th, 2011 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

Jaime Escalante, the charismatic former East Los Angeles high school teacher who taught the nation that inner-city students could master subjects as demanding as calculus knew a lot about math and a lot about LIFE!  His passionate belief was that all students, when properly prepared and motivated, can succeed at academically demanding course work, no matter what their racial, social or economic background. Because of him, educators everywhere have been forced to revise long-held notions of who can succeed.  He told his students:

“One of the greatest things in life is that no one has the authority to tell you what you want to be. You’re the one who’ll decide what you want to be.”

~ Jaime Escalante,
1930-2010, Educator

Two thousand years earlier another teacher said:

“Ask and keep asking, and you will receive.  Seek and keep seeking, and you will find.  Knock and keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you.”

~ Jesus; Matthew 7:7

This Sunday we begin a discernment process about our own future as West Hollywood Church.  In early March after sharing and carefully listening to one another, our congregation voted unanimously to begin a process to consider exploring the option of transferring from the Presbyterian Church to the United Church of Christ.

This Sunday we begin that process as we welcome the Rev. Susan Leo as our guest preacher and worship leader.  We have invited Susan to speak with us because in her own life, she has gone through the same experience and spiritual discernment process, that we are going through.  She will share her personal story this Sunday.

Following worship we will have a Congregational Forum from 12:15-1:15 during which you can ask Susan anything you’d like to know about the United Church of Christ (UCC).

As you can read below, God has surprised and changed Susan’s life path many times and in many ways.  How do we know what God’s will is for us?  How do we know where the Holy Spirit is leading us?  This Sunday Susan will share with us how she has sought God’s will for her life, and how we might seek the same for our lives and the life of our church.

And besides that, any preacher who includes a contemporary reading from Dr. Seuss has got to be interesting!

Blessings to you,


A word about Susan Leo:

The Rev. Susan Leo was born in Dallas, Texas.  Raised in a home where God’s mandate to work for justice was always taken seriously, Susan finished high school at 16 and went on to major in geology at the College of Wooster (Ohio), graduating in 1972.  She spent 16 years working in a wide variety of jobs:  from a dishwasher and bread & bun bagger, to a handywoman & paramedic, all the while doing community organizing for a number of causes & organizations.

Susan served with the first Ben Linder Construction Brigade in Nicaragua in 1988.  It was there that she was born again into the body of Christ, much to her surprise.  Susan entered San Francisco Theological Seminary the following year and graduated in 1994.  She spent four years working at the ACLU of Oregon, serving on the national board of Presbyterians for Lesbian & Gay Concerns, and guest preaching and teaching until it became clear that the call she had was to ministry—and not necessarily just to Presbyterians.

In 1998 she led the founding of what would become Bridgeport United Church of Christ, “A joyful community working for justice, nurturing peace, exploring and celebrating our progressive Christian faith”, which now numbers about 200 adults & children.  Rev. Leo is married to Diane Syrcle, singer, minister of music and executive director of the Oregon Ballet Theater and together they scooter around Portland, garden like crazy and raft the Grand Canyon.

This Sunday’s Scriptures & Reading

Deuteronomy 30: 15-20

[Moses said,] “Today I have set before you life and success, or death and disaster.  For today I command you to love the Holy One, your God, to follow God’s ways and keep God’s commandments, laws and customs.  If you do, you will live and increase, and God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess.  But if your hearts stray and you do not listen to me, if you let yourself be drawn into the worship of other gods, and serve them, I tell you today, you will not survive.  You will not live long in the land which you are now crossing the Jordan to enter and occupy.

“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today:  I set before you, life or death, blessing or curse.  Choose life, then, so that you and your descendants may live, by loving your God, by obeying God’s voice and by clinging to God.  For that will mean life for you, a long life in the land which God swore to give to your descendants Sarah and Abraham, Rebecca and Isaac, and Leah and Rachel and Jacob.”

Matthew 7:7-11

“Ask and keep asking, and you will receive.  Seek and keep seeking, and you will find.  Knock and keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you.  For the one who keeps asking, receives.  The one who keeps seeking, finds.  And the one who keeps knocking, enters.

“Is there any among you who would hand your daughter a stone when she asked for bread?  Would one of you hand your son a snake when he asked for a fish?  If you, with all your faults, know how to give your children what is good, how much more will your Abba God in heaven give good things to those who ask!

A Contemporary Reading

excerpt from   Oh! The Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss

Congratulations!  Today is your day.

You’re off to Great Places!  You’re off and away!

You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes.

You can steer yourself any direction you choose.

You’re on your own.  And you know what you know.

And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.

You’ll look up and down streets. Look ’em over with care.

About some you will say, “I don’t choose to go there.”

With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet,

you’re too smart to go down a not-so-good street.

And you may not find any you’ll want to go down.

In that case, of course, you’ll head straight out of town.

It’s opener there in the wide open air.

Out there things can happen and frequently do,

to people as brainy and footsy as you.

And when things start to happen, don’t worry. Don’t stew.

Just go right along. You’ll start happening too.

Oh! The Places You’ll Go!

You’ll be on your way up! You’ll be seeing great sights!

You’ll join the high fliers who soar to high heights.

You won’t lag behind, because you’ll have the speed.

You’ll pass the whole gang and you’ll soon take the lead.

Wherever you fly, you’ll be best of the best.

Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.

Except when you don’t.

Because, sometimes, you won’t.

I’m sorry to say so but, sadly, it’s true

that Bang-ups and Hang-ups can happen to you.