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   The 11 a.m. Worship Service


      Our 11 a.m. worship service has been our traditional service since 1872.  It is a time to worship and give thanks for the grace of God.  It is a time for challenging and inspirational sermons by Rev. Burns, liturgy, contemplative prayer, a special time for children and our uplifting music program.  Before or after worship, it is an opportunity for members and friends to enjoy fellowship, learn of ways to help out in the different ministries of the church, and to reconnect with their Pastor, Associate Pastor and the church family as prayers, cares, concerns, stories or laughter are shared.  Members and friends are missed when they are unable to come and coming to church uplifts you for the week to follow - it truly means and feels like "home".  Our 11 a.m. service is recorded by the deacons.  A CD of the service is delivered by the deacons to our ill and shut-ins and are available upon request. 

The 8:45 a.m. Worship Service

     Our 8:45 a.m. worship service began in August, 1998, to help alleviate congregation growth at our 11 a.m. worship service, which filled the Sanctuary and almost all of Fellowship Hall.  It is a time of worship and thanksgiving for the grace of God.  It is an alternative worship service for those who work on Sundays or otherwise cannot attend the 11 a.m. worship service, and answered the need in our community for an early worship service.

The differences between the two services are:

  • The 8:45 a.m. worship service is more informal and may have special music or solos, duets, etc. by Chancel or Youth Choir members, or any of the 3 youth choirs singing. 

  • The 11 a.m. worship service features the full Chancel Choir, their Anthem, special music during the Offertory such as solos, duets, etc., and the Story of Faith, Hope and Love for children.




Sunday, July 8, 2007

Oakland Christian Church United Church of Christ

"Select From Among Yourselves"

The Rev. Mark L. Burns, Pastor

Reading: Acts 6: 1-7

There is a commercial on the Golf Channel, yes, there is a TV channel just for Golf! This golfer is getting into his car, clubs in hand, and there you see standing before him Bobby Jones. As the two get into the car, then you see Sam Snead, and then further down the road, you come across Ben Hogan, waiting for a ride, the caption then reads, "no one plays alone". This commercial about golf captures what I have said about our faith; there are no solitary Christians; so to paraphrase the commercial, when it comes to our God, no one faiths alone.

Our faith is personal, but it is not private. By our saying "yes" to God, we in turn become a part of a much larger and wider community, by the waters of our baptism, we become a part of the family of God; which often can lead to an internal struggle within our hearts, minds, and spirits. Our faith invites us to expand our horizons, to see the big picture of Godís plans and purposes for all Godís creation, to go beyond ourselves. However the tug, the pull can be to contract, look at only ourselves, and to ask, "What about me?" This give and take, this back and forth goes on all the time. As individuals, we are part of a larger community, and in turn the wider community, of which we are a part, needs to remember and take care of the individuals.

You can see this lived out here at Oakland; on the one hand, our seeking to care for ourselves, our members. We provide Sunday morning worship, Sunday school classes for all ages, fellowships for men and women, young and old; The Oakland ACEs (After Church EaterS), Sweetheart Dinners, Bible Study, Family Fun Night, trips to Busch Gardens with our youth. On the other hand, in responding to the wider world, serve lunch down at the Salvation Army, hosting the Ruritan dinners, Relay for Life, baking pies and raising money in the fight against cancer, March of Dimes, our Fall Fest in November, when all the monies raised in one form or another go back to the community in benevolences, our food pantry, even offering our outside bathroom to the bike riders. It is all about finding a balance, because at one time or another, you will hear the voices, "What about Me?", "What about us?" "What about them?"

What I especially like about the Bible is that at some times you and I are invited into the everyday life of those early believers, those early Followers of the Way. Our lesson for this morning is one such case, as the scriptures say they "were increasing in number." The number of followers of the way was growing. What we are talking about here are Jewish followers. The term "Hellenists" is not referring to Greeks or to Gentiles, but "Hellenists" is probably referring to Greek speaking to Jews of the Diaspora, Jews, who at one time or another had been dispersed across the Mediterranean basin. The word Diaspora refers to this dispersal of the Jewish people; and now these Greek speaking Jews have come back to Jerusalem, and now they have become followers of the way.

Their sons and daughters were speaking out; the scriptures use the word murmur, which is probably best translated, a word that begins with a "B", but since it is Sunday morning, let us stick with Murmur. As author William Willimon puts it in his commentary on the Book of Acts, "Ö the Greek speaking Jews feel that their widows are being neglected in the daily distribution of goods, there was along tradition of care of the poor within the synagogue, and Christians continued this practice." As I said earlier, but now we find it right here in the Bible, it is just another case of voices being heard; "What about me?, What about us?, What about them?"

So, what would you do in this case? They are Jews, but they are Greek speaking Jews, they are not like us. Let them go back to where they came from, let their own take care of them. Sometimes it is rough being a Christian, or we may know what to do, we just donít know how to do it. Either way, we come to a crossroads, and where ever you and I may find a crossroads in our lives, at such times, there is no avoiding the cross in the road, since we are followers of the one who died upon a cross. At those crossroad times in our lives, look to the cross, look to our God!

The words translated in our lesson for this morning read, "select from among yourselves", which I chose to interpret, God has already provided the answer for you, and it is right in your very midst, "select from among yourselves". So in this case, seven people of good repute, seven people full of the Spirit are chosen for this duty. It is like the story of the feeding of the five thousand; the answer was already there, it was there all the time. Take, Bless, Break and Give, when it passes through Jesusí hands, there is always more than enough to go around.

People are hungry; the poorís needs are not being met. The answer is already in your midst, You are the answer, or another way of putting it would be, as the numbers grow, as the community increasing in size, are there not seven men or women, full of the Spirit, who cannot care for the widow of the Hellenists in our midst. When you put it that way, seven men or women, full of the Spirit, seven would just be the minimum, but you need to start somewhere. We are the answer. God put us here for a reason.

We are not all the same, each of us has different God-given gifts and graces, some preach, some teach, some bake pies, some organize teams that walk, some gather people together for meals, you name it, within the life of the wider community, is there not someone with the gift to step forward and say "Yes! When it gets back to the age old pull at our time, talent, and treasure, "What about me?", "What about them?" Today, like then, the answer will always be select from among yourselves. God has already provided what we need; take, bless, and give, and there will always be enough to go around with plenty left over! Remember, no one faiths alone!



Sunday, June 3, 2007

Oakland Christian Church United Church of Christ

"In The Ordinary"

The Rev. Mark L. Burns, Pastor

Reading: Acts 3: 1-10

In case I was to lose any of you during this morningís sermon, the abridged version of this morningís message goes as follows: The wonderful healing power of God in the hands of Godís people. Now back to our regularly scheduled program.

Last Sunday being Memorial Sunday, the day we remember and honor those who have sacrificed for freedomís sake, I talked about ordinary men and women finding themselves within extraordinary times and places; and in such times and places, we find ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Why? Because of the Spirit of love; Godís Spirit poured out upon all flesh because we need to remember that last Sunday was also Pentecost Sunday as well. Extraordinary times bringing forth from ordinary people extraordinary things, however, it left me thinking that the extraordinary is not the norm, that is why we call it extra-ordinary. Most of us, most of the time, we are ordinary people who find themselves living in ordinary times and places, so heh, what about us?

Let us go back two thousand years ago, to the Beautiful Gate in the temple of Jerusalem. I find this story of scripture fascinating, because of its cast of characters. We have the lame man, lame from birth, whose feet and ankles were weak and therefore he was not able to walk. We have the "they" referred to in Verse 2, "and a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the Gate of the temple which is called Beautiful to ask alms of those who entered the temple." And last but not least, we have the two followers of Jesus, the risen Christ, Peter and John; and in all good stories, especially in all good stories of the Bible, we are invited to participate, to find ourselves taking the part of one, if not all three of the cast of characters. This scene before the Beautiful Gate had become normal; it had become ordinary for those involved. Day after day, they had brought the lame man to this time and place with the only new cast of characters were Peter and John. I say new because they were from Galilee, they had only been in Jerusalem since the Passover, just two months before. But I am sure that seeing and being in the presence of the lame, especially during their days with Jesus, this was nothing new to them.

So as I said, this is a case of ordinary people, finding themselves in the midst of ordinary times and places, but in this case, something new did indeed happen; the lame man was healed. If you want, you can think back to my abridged version of the sermon, the wonderful healing power of God in the hands of Godís people. You and I each and every day of our lives, we are confronted by the ordinary, the sick, the lame, the poor, the broken, the hurt. So ordinary, that as a defense mechanism, we call it all normal and we say, "This is the way it is supposed to be." Or, we even become enablers to the normal, as did "they", when they carried the lame man to the Beautiful Gate.

I am reminded of a news article from San Francisco, in the face of the growing homeless problem; their answer was to provide brand new shopping carts to the homeless, since it bothered the store owners that their were always being stolen by the homeless in the first place. So into this ordinary time and place come Peter and John, but something is new. First, it is them. They are now new. How so? Godís Spirit has been poured out upon them; they are new persons in the risen Christ. They have the power! And second, instead of facing the same old, same old, the same old way, they looked the lame man right in the face and said, "I have no silver and gold, but I give you what I have; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk!" Gold and silver will keep you lame, but the wonderful healing power of God in the hands of Godís people, that can help make you walk again. I say "help" because even after his ankles and feet are made strong, even after being able to walk, he could go back to the way he was and sit at the Gate begging for alms, as was ordinary for him in times past.

But putting that aside, you and I are not responsible for how other people choose to react to Godís healing power in their lives. You and I are only responsible for how we choose to act, knowing that it is in our power to bring healing to those in need. The ordinary times and places that confront us day by day, need not be the normal in our lives. That child need not go to school hungry, that elderly person need not get sick because he or she cannot afford medicine, and that family need not go without heating or electricity because Mom or Dad was not able to work, or because they were laid off from work, and young people in hurtful and unhealthy homes need not stay there. What are the normal scenes in your life that pull and tug at your heartstrings? What makes you look the other way and say, there is nothing I can do to help make it right? Give them what you have in your life, "in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk!"

Normal can be good, ordinary can be good, but those are not the normal or ordinary times in our lives of which I speak, and I think you know what I am talking about. Let me know, let your church family know about the lame man sitting at the Beautiful Gate times and places in your life, it need not be so. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, it need not be so. When and if, we together as a church family, can give to him or her, we can give to them what we have; and in the wonderful healing power of God in the hands of Godís people, God willing, our willing, and their willing, they can get up and walk.

The story ends with verse 10, "and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him." Maybe they never really knew the power that was truly available to them, if, in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, they had only tried to help him walk. But you and I, we now know the rest of the story.


Sunday, May 27, 2007

"Like the Rush of the Mighty Wind"

The Rev. Mark L. Burns, Pastor

Reading: Acts 2: 1-13

The settings and the circumstances may change, but the conversation remains the same. For example, in my talking with a newly discovered person with diabetes, and they share about their having to give themselves insulin shots. I can hear myself say, "I could never do that". In the old TV show M*A*S*H*, when Hawkeye and Trapper were away, Radar, received directions over the phone from the two doctors and gave a patient a tracheotomy so that he could breathe and live. To which you might hear someone else say, "Oh, I could never do that." However, settings and circumstances arise when ordinary people are put into the midst of extraordinary times and places. Precisely at those times and places, will our saying, "I could never do that" be enough?

I look at our lesson for this morning as such a time and place in the life of ordinary people. Gathered together in one place, and like the rush of a mighty wind, Godís Holy Spirit comes and fills the house where they were sitting. Like tongues of fire, resting upon each of them; they are filled with the Holy Spirit, they began to speak in tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance, speaking and sharing the mighty works of God to all gathered that day. "Oh, I could never do that", but they did. So the next human response to this very extraordinary time and place might be, "Well, hush my mouth, what got into them?" Well, that might be their response if they came from southern Jerusalem, but the point being, "What got into them?" the answer being, Godís Holy Spirit.

This being Memorial Day weekend, and this being our time to pause and give thanks to all the men and women of our country who have made the sacrifice, and especially all those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for freedom. Finding the time to talk with our veterans, once again we are introduced to very ordinary men and women who find themselves in extraordinary settings and circumstances, times and places. And when you listen and hear their stories, they too will say, after recounting a particularly difficult memory, "I donít know what got into me, but I had to do something." A lot of them will say it was fear and as many of us already know, fear can be a powerful motivator, and for others, they will say that it was their training that kicked in to see them through. Not wanting to discount either fear or training, I do want to focus upon the third reason that many give for their doing extraordinary things in extraordinary times and places; and that is, I did it for my friends. I did it for my buddies, my comrades in arms. I did what I did because if the shoe was on the other foot, they would have done it for me.

Brotherhood, sisterhood, fellowship in extraordinary times and places, ordinary people do extraordinary things for others; but, "what got into you?" Underlying brotherhood, underlying sisterhood and fellowship; what you really come down to is love. All these macho men and women in the armed forces, and what it comes down to is the spirit of loveóthey love each other! Thatís what got into them!

On the day of Pentecost, our lesson for this morning, Godís spirit is poured out upon all flesh. In the back of our hymnals our UCC Statement of Faith puts it this way:

"God bestows upon us his Holy Spirit, creating and renewing the Church of Jesus Christ, binding in covenant faithful people of all ages, tongues, and races."

This is why Pentecost is called the birthday of the church, because as our UCC Statement of Faith says, creating and renewing the church of Jesus Christ. But the word I want to focus on is binding. The Spirit of God binds together people, all different kinds of people, young and old, male and female, white, brown, yellow, red, and black; different languages, not just bringing them together, but binding them together, that is a much more powerful word. We sing the old, old song, "Blest be the tie that binds, our hearts in Christian love; the fellowship of kindred minds, is like to that above."

Godís Spirit binds us together, it is a spirit of brotherhood, it is a spirit of sisterhood, it is a spirit of fellowship, and it is that binding together that brings forth from ordinary people like you and me, extraordinary things, in extraordinary times and places. Heh, what got into you? The Spirit of God, and it is that very same Spirit that puts a finger to our lips, and tells us to hush when left to our own devices. When challenged by extraordinary times, we might say out loud, what we always say at such times and places Ė "Oh, I could never do that!" Godís Spirit says Yes, "Yes you can, and I will show you how."

We need more of that. We need to trust Godís Holy Spirit more and more in our lives. As Paul writes to the church in Galatia, "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance." And no matter how you translate the words from Greek to English, I cannot think of one extraordinary time in our ordinary lives, when Godís Spirit will not be sufficient, especially if it is the Spirit of Love to see us through.

Which only brings me back to this being Memorial Day and to our honoring and remembering the men and women of our country who have sacrificed for us, so that freedomís bell might ring from shore to shore. Be it brotherhood, sisterhood, or fellowship, it is the spirit of love that binds us all; Godís Holy Spirit, poured out upon all flesh this day. Breathe deep, so you will know how and what to answer when after you have moved mountains, someone will ask, "What got into you?"


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