Centre Congregational Church
We Welcome Everyone: An "Open & Affirming" Church
Phone: (781) 334-3050; Fax: (781) 334-6463; Email:
Douglas W. Hodgkins: Organist/Choir Director
August 29, 2007
Seeing God. I Want to Know!
Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him." (John 14:6-7, NIV)
I want to know: Why did Jesus say that the disciples had seen God in this text from John 14? In other places in scripture we are led to believe that no person has ever seen God:
So, why would Jesus say to his disciples that they had seen God when everything else in Scripture indicates that we cannot see God, that we cannot see God and live? I have been in ministry for 33 years, have read that text at almost every funeral I've ever conducted, and I have always asked myself this question every time I've read this text, but this, this is the first time I've ever publicly asked it. Even as I write these opening words I do not know the answer. So, let's see where I go with this. Ready?
Some would say that the answer lies in how all who saw the resurrection of Jesus Christ, saw God, the Father in him. Philip, like many of us, wants to see God and asks Jesus, “Show us the Father” and we will be satisfied.
Like Philip, it's natural for us to desire to have a God we can see. Witness how we carry crosses in our pockets, how we buy statues, hang symbols on our walls, etc. Some have gone so far as to make “things” and pray to them. There are some churches that buy “prayer” trees and/or bushes for their parishioners to kneel and pray at. (I'm suspicious that this is a gimmick through which the church property can be landscaped, but, be that as it may.)
The key to the answer is found, I believe in these words of Jesus, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (Matthew 5:8). In biblical times the heart represented the sum of a person's mind and will, not primarily a feeling and sentiment as we think of it today. Therefore, those who have purity: honesty, integrity, unity with God, who are faultless are, perhaps, in a good position to see God.
The word, “seeing” has more than one meaning, more than just physical sight. It refers metaphorically to insight, understanding, perception, and vision. We can see God in metaphorical ways.
Seeing God is not just something, though, for the extremely religious and straight laced because Jesus spoke to all in the Beatitudes. Living in the words of 1 Corinthians 13 are helpful: “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face.... faith, hope, and love abide....” These are the qualities that help us see God, perceive God, know the nearness of God.
To have a pure heart is, perhaps, to see God all around us and to see as God sees. Seeing God may imply that it is possible to see God in all that is made. The Christian mystic Meister Eckhart encouraged his readers to perceive God in all things, “Every single creature is full of God and is a book about God.”
To see God in all things may also imply the ability to know of God in every human being and all human situations. I know this can be hard when we think about the evil that is found in the heart, soul, mind, and actions of some human beings and yet, I often feel able to perceive and know God in people, their words, their actions, and in their very souls.
May we have eyes to see: Being still and listening for God's presence is important, I believe, to knowing God is near and present to us. Reading scripture and meditating on its meaning for us is helpful. Spending time with people in whom we experience the presence of God is also important to our seeing God, knowing God. And yet, God is not limited. God may make God's self known to us without any effort on our part. Suddenly and/or slowly we may become aware that God is before us.
I believe I felt the presence of God when talking with my two late grandmothers as they spent time with me, gave me advice, gave me love. I felt that God was near when spending time with my grandfathers, as I had the pleasure of working with them in fields (Grandpa Bailey) and in housebuilding (Grandpa Shaffer). The challenges they had faced, were facing, their age and wisdom, and their love of me to spend time alone with me, made me feel special, unique, at one with them.
And then there is the song, “He walks with me and talks with me,” (In the Garden). I often, in fact, feel as if I'm seeing God when with the special people I have the pleasure to know as friends and/or parishioners in this life. Their words, the sound of their voices, the light in their eyes, and the compassion in their hearts make me feel as if I am seeing God. Yes, I could say these experiences are metaphors of God, but, in my most honest moments I will confess to you that I do not believe it is a metaphor. I believe that I am, in fact, seeing God.
Yet, I do not experience this as being limited to people who have reached a certain age. I have this experience of seeing God when with children, and people of all ages. When I experience people being pure of heart, seeking to give without a desire for gain or a return favor, who give and move on..., there, there is where I see God.
Yours in Christ,
P.S.: Don't be bashful. Feel free to share your thoughts with me.
IN THE CHAPEL
September 2, 2007 – 9:00 a.m.
Service of Holy Communion
Sermon by the Rev. Dr. Dennis C. Bailey
IN THE SANCTUARY
September 9, 2007 – 10:00 a.m.
Reception of New Members
Are You Seeking Something?
Do you feel as if God is seeking you? Do you feel as if you have something spiritual going on inside of you? I would like to put together a group of people who would be interested in sharing with each other along these lines in hopes of giving each other mutual support. The group might be aided with the presence of a trained facilitator and meet for a limited period of weeks.
Please be in touch with me.
Yours in the search,
Rotation Sensation begins on Sunday, September 9.
Rotation Sensation, Centre Church’s Christian Education program, is open to all children and youth ages PreK-8th grade. Children will worship briefly with their families and then go to the chapel and their workshops. Children and youth will be dismissed from the chapel at 11:15 a.m. The Rotation Workshop Model is based on recognizing that children learn through different mediums. Our first rotation will be Abraham and Sarah. Come and enjoy the story and learn with us through cooking, computers, movie and Upper Room.
Parents should register their children for Rotation Sensation in the Narthex before or after the service on September 9. All children must be registered with medical and allergy information in writing. This is of the utmost importance, please register on the 9th.
All youth in grades 5-12 and their parents are invited to an informational meeting on Sunday, Sept. 16 at 6 p.m. Dinner will be provided. Parents, please be sure to bring your calendars as we are asking each family to sign up to provide a meal. This year we will have 3 groups. All groups will be meeting from 6:00-7:30 p.m. on Sunday evenings.
The Middle School Youth Group would like to say thank you to everyone who donated beach towels for the Warm Blankets Orphan Care Project over the summer. The efforts will continue through September 9. Please feel free to donate new and gently used beach towels. A donation box is located outside of the Chapel and will be moved to the Narthex when the services resume in the Sanctuary. Thank you again. Your donations are very much appreciated.
Sunday Nursery Care
Nursery Care during worship services (infants through age 3) will resume on September 9.
Do You Wish To Become a Member?
Six people are ready to join the church on September 9 during the morning worship service. If you would like to be a part of that group, please communicate with Rev. Bailey right away. He can be reached at 781-334-3050 or firstname.lastname@example.org. All are welcome here!
If you are in the 9th Grade or above, you are invited to become a member of the Confirmation Class of 2007-2008. Confirmands and parents are invited to join us at an Information Meeting on Sunday, September 30 after church. Please return the registration form you received in the mail or call Rev. Bailey to let him know you will be part of the group.
Centre Church Golf Tournament
The 5th Annual Centre Church Golf Tournament will be held on Friday 9/21/07 at 1 PM. Once again we will hold this at Thomson Country Club in North Reading.
Please mark this date on your calendars. This is a scramble/best ball format. The entry fee which gets you 18 holes of golf, cart rental and dinner afterwards is only $125. All net proceeds go to support the Missions program at Centre Church. See Phil Johnson if you have any questions. Teams will be chosen and each will vie for the right to have their names engraved on the coveted UnHoly Grail Trophy. See Phil Johnson if you have any questions.
Church Fair – November 10
We need YOU to make our fair successful. The Craft Group meets each Wednesday from 10-12 in Todd Hall to work on projects. If you cannot come to the meetings, we would love for you to work on projects at home and bring them in for the fair. Let us know what you can do.
Donna Marino 781-581-2022
Marcia Stevens 781-334-4273
Wine Tasting Two
Save the Date! The Membership Commission is hosting Wine Tasting Two on Saturday September 22, 2007 – 6:30-8:30 p.m.
The event will be open to Church members and their friends. Hors-d’oeuvres will be provided.
Water and soda will also be provided – to cleanse your pallet. The wine will be provided by the wine experts at: Our Glass Wine Co.
Suggested donation is $20.00 to defray expenses.
The Knitting Group resumes weekly gatherings on Tuesday, September 4. They work on squares for the “Warm-up America” project of the Red Cross, and have made hats for homeless veterans and baby items for those in need. Meetings are 7-8:30 p.m. in the Fireside Room and no experience is necessary.
A workshop to construct “sewless” fleece blankets to be donated to the local Linus Project chapter will be held on Wed., September 26 in the Library. Please join us for this one-night workshop (or you may donate funds for the fleece.) The Linus Project provides blankets to seriously ill children and other children in need. More details to come.
There is a great need for non-perishable food for local food pantries. Why not bring a bag of food when you next come to church?
News From Around the Parish
Our congratulations to Meredith Everson and Kevin Lamont who were married in North Andover on June 30. Meredith is the daughter of Janet and Bill Everson and granddaughter of Margaret Markham.
Our prayers and love are extended to the family and friends of Shirley Jaquith who died on July 22.
We extend our love and sympathy to the family and friends of Lew Batchelder who died on August 21.
Our love and sympathy are extended to:
|Holy Communion - Chapel
Punch and Fellowship
|All Day||Church Office Closed for Labor Day|
|7:00 pm||Knitting Group - Fireside Room|
|Bread & Roses Meal Preparation
Craft Group - Todd Hall
|6:00 am||Golf Group - Reedy Meadow|
|10:30 am||Scripture Study - Pastor's Office|
Our thoughts and prayers are with:
Sunday Worship in the Sanctuary
Resumes on September 9 at 10:00 a.m.
Church Office Hours
Beginning September 4 9:00 am – 3:00 pm Monday - Friday.
Will be published weekly beginning the week of September 4. Material to be included should be in the church office by Monday at noon.