September 17, 2017: Be the Church: Enjoy this Life!

Posted on : Sep 14th, 2017 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

One of the comments I often hear from people is that we have way more fun in worship than most churches.  It is said with joy and pride.  I think that’s true and I hope that’s true.  I believe worship should be joyous.  It should be a celebration of the goodness of our lives in the presence of God.

Many Christians have taken all the fun out of Christianity.  This whole thing about the Fear of God, Reverence, and Awe, has resulted in a stifling style of Christian worship.  In the Christian tradition, every Sunday is supposed to be a remembrance and celebration of the Resurrection.  Easter Day is probably the most joyous day in our tradition.  So why should we revert to deadly worship on the other 51 Sundays of the year?

A number of years ago my brother worked in fundraising and capital campaigns for churches.  He traveled around the country and had the opportunity to worship in a lot of different churches.  When people would ask him what our churches had in common, he would say, “all of our worship services are boring, and we like it that way.”

In our Protestant tradition, the Puritans of our UCC heritage and the Calvinists in Presbyterianism, along with a whole bunch of the other Protestant Reformers, took all the fun out of life and Christianity.  They were so serious and so afraid of “sinning” that their lives became very ordered and oppressive.  Today in the UCC, we hope the opposite is true.  The final theme of our “Be the Church” series is “Enjoy this life.” 

Life is good and meant to be enjoyed. That does not mean that life is not without pain and struggle, but it does mean that we as Christians are exhorted to enjoy our lives, to enjoy this life.

For many years, we have provided scholarship assistance to kids participating in the Peace Kids and Peace Camp programs of United University Church on the USC Campus.  It’s a program that teaches kids who live with the daily violence in south Los Angeles how to break that cycle in their lives as they learn new ways to respect one another and love one another.  Dr. Susan Stouffer and Britany, one of the youth interns, will be with us on Sunday to share their stories of how they are helping kids transform their life experience from bad to good; how they are learning to have hope and enjoy this life.

We’ll also remember the life of Edith Windsor, who died this past Tuesday at the age of 88.  Edith and her partner/wife, Dr. Thea Spyer, a psychologist, lived together for 40 years.  They were legally married in Canada in 2007. Dr. Spyer died in 2009, and Ms. Windsor inherited her estate. But the Internal Revenue Service denied her the unlimited spousal exemption from federal estate taxes available to married heterosexuals, and she had to pay taxes of $363,053.  The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) prohibited the Federal Government from recognizing her marriage.  As she often said, “If Thea’s name were Theo, this wouldn’t be an issue!”  She challenged the injustice of DOMA through the courts.

In 2013 the US Supreme Court in the Windsor decision, ruled that DOMA was unconstitutional.  The decision was limited to 13 states and the District of Columbia.  Two years later, in 2015, the Court ruled DOMA unconstitutional in all 50 states.  Edith is credited as having championed one of the two most important judicial cases for equal marriage in the history of the United States.

Edith said it was her love for Thea and their love for live that compelled her to address this great injustice.  In addressing audiences of supporters for equal marriage rights, and especially when speaking to young people, Edith often said, “Don’t Postpone JOY!”

God bless her!  And may her spirit inspire us to Enjoy This Life!

More on Sunday.

Blessings,

Dan

~ This Sunday’s Scriptures ~

 Readings from Ecclesiastes

So I concluded there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can. And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God.  (Ecclesiastes 3:12-13 )

So I decided there is nothing better than to enjoy food and drink and to find satisfaction in work. Then I realized that these pleasures are from the hand of God. For who can eat or enjoy anything apart from God? (Ecclesiastes 2:24-25)

Enjoy life with your husband or wife, whom you love, all the days of this life that God has given you under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 9:9)

So I recommend having fun, because there is nothing better for people in this world than to eat, drink, and enjoy life. That way they will experience some happiness along with all the hard work God gives them under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 8:15) 

Luke 1:46-55

Mary rejoices upon learning that God has blessed her.

 And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies my God,

    and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

for God has looked with favor on the lowliness of God’s servant.

    Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;

for the Mighty One has done great things for me,

    and holy is God’s name.

God’s mercy is for those who show reverence to God

    from generation to generation.

God has shown strength with God’s arm;

    God has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.

God has brought down the powerful from their thrones,

    and lifted up the lowly;

God has filled the hungry with good things,

    and sent the rich away empty.

God has helped God’s servant Israel,

    in remembrance of God’s mercy,

according to the promise God made to our ancestors,

    to Abraham and to Abraham’s descendants forever.”

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