Aug 18, 2019 sermon

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BIG thanks to Sunday’s guest preacher, Rev. Jack Veatch. Jack was ordained July 14th of this year by the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Jack grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, little sister to Chicago, but has loved living in Hyde Park while he completed his Masters of Divinity program. Next month Jack will leave Chicago to move to Switzerland to complete a six-month Complimentary Certificate in Ecumenical Studies program which associated with the World Council of Churches and the University of Geneva. Jack hopes that his time in the program leads him to explore new ways for God's people to experience rest and renewal.

From Jack’s sermon:

It’s hard to take our rest seriously. The world, in so many ways, demands so many things of us. Their exists the superficial demands of businesses, and entertainment, trying to command our attention and our dollars. The real demands of how we scrape our lives together, how we pay bills and put food on plates. The demands which make life worth living, friendships, stories, adventures, love, weddings, birthdays. The demands of folks whose lives are in  turmoil are real and important.

And our holy creator also demands of us that we rest.God did not finish creation on the sixth day, but creation was finished when God sanctified the seventh day and rested. Divinely modeled for us and Divinely demanded of us, that we rest.

Read the whole thing here.

Bethany Stories: Chris Bresky

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During our Bethany Stories series, we’re hearing stories about our namesake, a town outside Jerusalem where Jesus’ friends Martha, Mary, and Lazarus lived. We’re also hearing stories from our Bethany, especially from the past year.

On Sunday June 2nd, we heard four stories. One of them came from Chris Bresky, an actor, artist, author of The Twelve Days of a Great White Christmas, and the brains (and heart) behind the Aquarius Project at the Adler Planetarium. Here’s Chris’ Bethany story:

“Would you call yourself an anxious person?” my therapist asked out of the blue. I was sort of stunned, I had actually been describing a thing that I thought was unrelated, so it caught me off guard……Well, I thought - my dad has anxiety, all of his six brothers and sisters do as well, my mom can’t sit still to save her life, and depression runs rampant throughout my family tree… “Would I call myself an anxious person?”  Weeeeeeeell…….

Huh!

Wow, to understand, own, and even speak that  word as a part of me: my leg, my arm, my Anxiety... was actually, incredibly freeing — overwhelmingly so… so much I had to tell somebody —

“Bud, guess what!”

I often walk my dog with my friend and fellow Bethany attendee Bud Longhauser. While walking our dogs “Freddie” and “Mr. Robot,” we often celebrate the deep emotional wins in our week’s therapy sessions… as bros are wont to do.

“Bud! I’m anxious! … I have anxiety!”

“Sure. I mean, great,” he said, ”but yeah, so do I. I mean, I’m glad you figured it out, but, many people do.”

It was such a non event. That was radical for me. To admit it, own it, and at the same time be reminded that I...and the majority of people I know, are humans...anxious, anxious humans.

The more I recognized it in myself… and finally fully heard the things my wife, M. (with her doctorate in psychology), had been telling me for the past seven years of marriage… oops.

I started recognizing it more and more, and how it affected me. It hit home when hearing Vince preach on the beautiful simplicity of the “Crappy Dinner Party.” The audacity, to not scrub to an unrealistic expectation, your floors, bathroom, and kitchen while trying to pull off the perfect - most nuanced recipe you randomly googled online minutes before their arrival.  

In this particular sermon, Vince confessed his overly effortful acts of hosting at his home, where every guest towel is neatly folded, every visiting minute of a guest is crafted to specifically entertain the friend’s precise wants, both voiced, and inferred, and that they’re genetically are incapable of skimping on fanfare for a guest… and then he offered an alternative experience, a time where an old friend, after much too much time had passed, invited him over. The invite was during a time that wasn’t perfect, but was free...and he arrived to a messy house, where kids were far from “well behaved,” but life was real, and as a result, so was this long overdue reunion.The connection was deep. The value of his presence was not in question, even when he had to step over laundry piles to find a place to sit.

Days later, when I hear M. say to me, “I invited our friends over for dinner tonight,” I want to say, “Oh it’s been too long!” and really mean it, but my anxiety creeps in and I feel my chest tighten, my eyes dart to the long abandoned two year old’s finger paint project that has swallowed our kitchen table, the pile of dishes in the sink, and the dog (who should probably go out for a walk)chewing on god knows what... then I remember that M. and I have agreed with our friends that this dinner will be crappy… needs to be crappy… has to be crappy. I exhale, I take a pizza out of the freezer, and walk the dog. Our friends show up early, the pizza is still frozen solid, but that’s fine, cuz’ they brought half a bag of trail mix they found in the cupboard. A perfect pairing.

The night was perfect: Messy, disorganized, unplanned, and perfect. At one point they turned to us and said, “Ya’ know, we can do this more. We know your time is limited...we’d also just be open to just give you a night off some time.” … With a three year old, that gift, with no strings attached, the value...I can’t… all born from this beautiful crappy dinner.

I realized all the more how my anxiety, stuck in the unnecessary, was keeping me from rooting to the necessary: connecting with the ones I loved most. As I analyze my own anxiety I do often wonder about some of it coming from my embedded Christian goal to be a perfect “christ-like” individual. I wonder if it would help if I could reframe those narratives somehow. Like even the image of “The Last Supper.” To perhaps think of it less as this pristine, table clothed Last Supper,  illustrated in classical paintings, but more of that night as “Jesus’ Last Crappy Dinner Party,” where although the bread and wine had meaning, the true gift was the love that he shared with his friends.

Bethany Stories: Scott Beaderstadt

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During our Bethany Stories series, we’re hearing stories about our namesake, a town outside Jerusalem where Jesus’ friends Martha, Mary, and Lazarus lived. We’re also hearing stories from our Bethany, especially from the past year.

On Sunday June 2nd, we heard four stories. One of them came from Scott Beaderstadt, an artist who’s worked for Marvel, DC, Disney, and created Trollords. He’s a long-time Bethany member, here since birth! Here’s Scott’s Bethany story:

As many of you know I am a sequential artist, which is a fancy pants way of saying I've made a profession of  drawing comic books.

Part of this profession is attending the Comic Book Convention circuits. Comic Cons are events that geeks, nerds and trekkies would gather to meet creators, movie stars and artists. In most cases, comic conventions are multi-day events hosted at convention centers, hotels, or libraries throughout the country. They feature a wide variety of activities and panels for the whole family of kids of all ages.  Comic book conventions are also used as a vehicle for the comic book industry, in which artists like myself would meek and greet new fans sign books and display sketches, original art and prints for sale.

If you where to attend one of these Comic Book Convention and stop by my booth you could look through my many portfolios and you would see a menagerie of prints of  pop culture images like  Spider Man, Bugs Bunny and Squidlly Didlly.

You would also find some more personal and spiritual works that I have done. 

On occasion fans and perspective buyers would stop and give these images a second glance. 

Many would say " I didn't expect to find this here". 

I've never questioned what they meant by that. 

You Didn't expect to find it at a comic Con?

You Didn't expect to find it in Artist Alley?

You didn't expect to find it in MY portfolio?

HUH.

I've always considered myself to be an open book when it comes to my religion. However I never mean to hit people over the head with my beliefs. God IS the constant source of creating and creation. ALL things come from GOD.

“See, I will not forget you. You are carved in the palm of my hands” (Isaiah 49:16)

I will let you in on a little secret about Artists. We  never throw anything out.

If you could come over to my studio you would see pencils and erasers  worn down to the nubs, Sketchbooks and little pieces of papers with notes and unseen ideas. Brushes and markers that have seen better days awaiting to be recycled. 

About thirty years ago Paul Fricke and I did a black and white variation of these six Bethany Programs. 

So this idea for these have been creeping and crawling in my noggin for a while now. Early in this year I presented these images to Rebecca and Vince. They gave their approval and said GO for IT. So I thought NOW was the time to give this "idea" a new fresh coat of paint. 

Maybe in another thirty years I'll be more comfortable with my water color abilities and give these another go. (Mark your calendars.)

Now what I was going for here are images that while they stand on their own when put together they form something with a deeper meaning.

Every artist leaves a piece of themselves in every work that they do. Sometimes it's pretty darn obvious. Sometimes its' so subtle we don't even realize we are doing it. I'll admit, Many many times I'll get run down and discouraged. Dreams and projects have been so long in coming that I feel cast away and forgotten. 

In doing these covers I was re-Inspired. 

When looking at the final pieces all coming together People would pause and question,  Are you divinely inspired ?

I don't know how to answer that. I suppose we ALL are. We each carry inside of us a Divine purpose. Why God loves us so much is beyond my human understanding. I tell others not to give up. Keep believing. Keep praying. Keep being wonderful. You may be ready to give up on a dream but God isn't. He still has a way to bring it to pass. He still has a plan and He's working right now to line up all the right pieces that will all fit together. 

After all when it comes right down to it ...It's God's will.  

Try topping that!

Bethany Stories: Bethany Arrington

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During our Bethany Stories series, we’re hearing stories about our namesake, a town outside Jerusalem where Jesus’ friends Martha, Mary, and Lazarus lived. We’re also hearing stories from our Bethany, especially from the past year.

On Sunday June 2nd, we heard four stories. One of them came from Bethany Arrington who first came to Bethany UCC only back in March (do you remember praying with sandpaper?). She’s an artist, an actor, a nanny (her smarty-pants kiddo says “glorified chauffeur”), and a new Sunday regular.

Here’s Bethany’s Bethany story:

The irony is not lost on me. I had been quite sure there was no church for me and this one has my name plastered on the front so when my future mother-in-law suggested we attend Bethany United Church of Christ she said (and I quote), “I think this Vince guy knows what he’s talking about and plus it’s your name! You have to go!” She knew that Alex, my fiance, and I had been searching for a new spiritual home. To Alex attending Bethany seemed like a no-brainer plus his mom suggested it! We have to go! I was not so sure.

When we stepped into Bethany for the first time I remember being greeted by the nicest gentleman and being handed a small sheet of sandpaper. I remember feeling relieved that Alex would have something to fiddle with during the service so I could focus on not having a panic attack and wait to catch someone judging what I was wearing. I was used to the subtle judgement one feels attending a new church. But, surprisingly, I didn’t catch anyone staring at me or my outfit. Instead I was overwhelmed with the hospitality and warmth of the congregation during the offering of the peace. You guys love to give peace! You practically jumped over those pews to shake Alex and I’s hand. I was also struck by the beautiful front altar and those stained glass windows. I was again surprised at finding myself comfortable in a church so unlike the one I grew up in.

I was raised non-denominational and in a mega church. Yes, think electric guitar, fog machine, rock-out-to-Jesus type worship with witty yet conservative sermons. Think sleek walls, three huge projector screens with aggressive graphics, and women not allowed in the proverbial pulpit.

When I moved to Chicago in 2011 for college I never would have attended a place like Bethany. I was desperately homesick and sought out a church like the one I grew up in. I ended up in a growing, non-denominational church in the Loop complete with the electric guitars and witty sermons. After college I devoted a lot of time volunteering there and they even hired me to teach and lead worship for their vacation bible school.

But I kept a lot of my life hidden from my “church family.” I didn’t tell them I affirm LGBTQ people, and always have. Even though I’m a professional actor, and my art is a huge part of my identity, I didn’t invite anyone to my shows, specifically ones where I kissed other women or swore even though I have a bit of a potty mouth in “real life.” I carefully skirted around my dating life, my political beliefs, and the people I spent my time with scared that church wouldn’t accept them or me. I sensed it wasn’t totally safe to say or be those things. I sensed there were lots of unspoken rules, and lots of strict ideology not on their website. I’d assumed for a long time this is what you did with people from church. Who the heck knows what plays might offend their pure Christian sensibilities? I get it. But the Creator I knew in my heart didn’t want people to be alone, to hide themselves. We are built for community but how can we safely enter community when judgement is one of the foundational blocks?

So after a few years of fear and subtle judgement in that other congregation I simply walked away and never went back. I was tired and scared and 8 months later when Alex and I walked into Bethany it was a big step for me. I think Alex was eager to make a new memory...to prove that church wasn’t always scary. He believed that we could find a church home accepting of all peoples in all places of life doing all sorts of things--including being artists who do plays that maybe aren’t “church appropriate" all the time. That we could find a place where I didn’t have to hide parts of myself. I talked to pastor Rebecca after our first service and Alex made me share a little of what had happened at the last church. Rebecca cut me off, “you’re tired of all the things that aren’t on the website” she said, her eyes warm and understanding. “You’re tired of not knowing if you’ll be accepted.” I felt so seen, so heard, and, most importantly, safe. The judgment I had become accustomed to had no home between these walls. It was obvious. I could bring my full self to Bethany UCC and I have. Thank you.

Bethany Stories: Ann Ridge

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During our Bethany Stories series, we’re hearing stories about our namesake, a town outside Jerusalem where Jesus’ friends Martha, Mary, and Lazarus lived. We’re also hearing stories from our Bethany, especially from the past year.

On Sunday May 26th, musician, PhD candidate, and Bethany member Ann Ridge shared a story from the neighborhood, and about the ways a sermon changed her life (who knew!?). Here’s Ann’s Bethany story:

Mine is not a dramatic story. But it is a story of openness, projection, friendship, opportunity, and dare I say, transcendence.

As some of you know I live right up the street on Irving Park Road between Paulina and Hermitage. I bought my house thirty years ago when I wanted a home where I would be able to play music and not disturb my neighbors. At that time my neighbors were older German people who were fine neighbors, but everyone kept to themselves. Since then they have passed on and the new owners have renters, mostly young people who come and go. So, in a way, we have felt a little isolated. I’ve often wondered what it would be like to live in a real Chicago neighborhood with block parties and people getting to know each other. In my most envious moments, I’ve felt a little put out that no one from Paulina or Hermitage ever invited us to a block party. Even though I carved my Halloween pumpkins and religiously put them on my front porch, we’ve never even had a trick-or-treater.

So, last year, when Pastor Vince gave a sermon on being a neighbor during the Front Porch Series, to be honest I can’t remember exactly what he said, but whatever it was it charged me up. After church I marched home determined to reach out to my neighbors. That day, at my first opportunity, I saw our neighbors behind us across the alley—Amy, Chris and their towheaded little boy Jackson, about seven years old. As some of you know Greg and I have a jazz group called The Irving Park Trio that plays at Mrs. Murphy & Son’s Irish Bistro the first Friday of the month. So, I invited them to come an hear us play that Friday night. Amy said, “that sounds just great.”

That Friday night, when we walked into the Bistro to set up our equipment, who was there having dinner but Amy, Chris, Jackson, and their neighbors, Brian, Megan and their little daughter, Amelia. I was thrilled! It was so good to see them and what a wonderful surprise. Once we started to play, I was totally into the music, and if some of you have seen us play you know I’m totally focused on my sheet music and rarely look up. But then I did and what did I see but Amy, Chris, Jackson, Brian and Amelia—all dancing. I was just amazed and what a joy it was to watch them. How alive and fun and good. When we took a break Chris and Amy came up and told us how much they loved the music and would we be willing to play at the block party they were planning for the summer. A block party!  “Of course,” I said. We would be happy to play.

The block party was that August and as planned we set up at the end of our block with all the food and people and kids playing scattered along the street. It was a beautiful, light-filled day and so very much fun. At the end of the day I was talking to a neighbor whose father had lived in the building at Paulina and Irving Park. She told me he had been the organizer for the block parties they used to have “back in the day.” It turned out that after her father left, they hadn’t had a block party in thirty years. I suddenly realized during all those years I felt excluded from block parties that never happened. All those years projecting my own thoughts onto the isolation I felt. Perhaps others felt isolated, too. It was a real eye-opener. Perhaps there is a new opportunity and it is right next door.

Bethany Stories: Hannah Rumsey

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During our Bethany Stories series, we’re hearing stories about our namesake, a town outside Jerusalem where Jesus’ friends Martha, Mary, and Lazarus lived. We’re also hearing stories from our Bethany, especially from the past year.

On Sunday May 19th, regular Bethany visitor and dedicated Refugee One volunteer Hannah Rumsey shared some of her experience helping to resettle a refugee family (as part of our partnership with our friends and neighbors at Pilgrim Lutheran).

Hannah’s Bethany story:

For several months I’ve visited the refugee family from Burma. The father, Mohammad, speaks some English—and with him I can have short conversations, like remarking on the weather, or pointing to the sports game on TV and asking him if he likes to play. The 3-year-old girl, Nur Ritzke, is extremely outgoing, always chattering and bossing me around in Rohingyan, and saying occasional English phrases like, “OK,” “come on!” or when we leave, “thank you so much, bye-bye!”

The mother, Husen, speaks almost no English, and because of that I think, she is the most withdrawn when we’re there. The first couple of visits, she would sit a little removed from us, or be buried in cooking or cleaning. She has opened up more and more over time, but because of the language barrier I just didn’t know how to connect with her. So, I started by pointing to objects and asking her how to say it in her native language, Rohingyan, and I noticed that her usual look of vague panic or confusion would relax into a smile. So I kept doing it. Over time she’s taught me the words for many objects and animals, and the ONLY one that I’ve managed to remember is the word for horse. GOOLA.

The first time she taught it to me, was when Nur Ritzke got a wooden rocking horse. She dragged it out to the middle of the living room excitedly, chattering incessantly as her parents giggled and watched on from the couch. She got on the horse and then turned to me, pointing behind her and telling me what I assume was: “Get on! Get behind me.” I kept saying “I can’t, I can’t fit!” Because there was about this much space behind her, and there was no way that I would be able to fit without injuring me, her, or the horse, but I couldn’t explain that to her, so I eventually gave in and squatted in the air behind her, and we went on the fasted, silliest, rowdiest horse ride I’ve ever been on, yelling and “yeehaing!”—and if there was a landscape it would be ZOOMING past us, and the most amazing thing happened. We were ALL laughing, but Husen was laughing hysterically—hardly able to breathe, rocking back and forth on the couch, tears streaming down her face--the kind of laughter that happens when you’re with your best friend, and you’re doubled over, clutching at each other, dizzy and light and drunk with joy.

This went on for several minutes, and it was so simple, and spontaneous, and beautiful, to all be breathless and happy together.

For weeks after that, I kept going back to that horse. I was like a child telling the same joke to her parents over and over again, because it made them laugh that first time. “Goola!” I’d say, pointing to the horse, and we’d pull it out and play on it again, and it’d get a smile and a few chuckles, but it just wasn’t the same.

Nur-Ritzke pulled it out again several weeks later. I watched from a distance as she rocked faster and faster, and right when I started to think that she might be going too fast, the horse tipped over and she crashed onto the coffee table. She screamed and cried immediately, and in less than a second Husen was scooping her up, clutching her to her chest, frantically checking her head and limbs for injury, and then promptly whisked her away to the other room. I sat there, stunned, not knowing whether or not she was hurt, not knowing how to help. A few seconds later the crying stopped, and Husen slowly walked back into the room and sat on the couch with a teary Nur Ritzke in her lap. We were all quiet after that, not really knowing what to do or say, and I dragged the horse back to its corner.

And I was a little sad. Like the kind of sadness that I felt in high school when I got together with my old middle school friends and we would tell stories of the fun times we had together, but each time we told them we’d laugh less and less, because it had faded into something we could no longer grasp; like a memory of a memory.

I’ve found that there’s a melancholy that follows extreme joy. Especially when it’s shared. Because you know that you can’t experience it again, and you can’t recreate it. So I’m trying to be grateful that I did have a moment of intense connection, and look forward to the next one—which will probably come, as it always does, as a complete surprise and without any effort.



Bethany Stories: Sara Haas

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During our Bethany Stories series, we’re hearing stories about our namesake, a town outside Jerusalem where Jesus’ friends Martha, Mary, and Lazarus lived. We’re also hearing stories from our Bethany, especially from the past year.

On Sunday May 12th, elementary school principal and Church Council member Sara Haas shared some of what it’s like to teach our growing Sunday School cohort. (We meet, ages 4 through 2nd grade, every other Sunday during 10:30 worship. Come join us!)

Sara’s Bethany story:

I identify myself as an educator.  For those of you who might not know, it is what I spend over 40 hours a week doing to earn a paycheck.  But I am a mother too, so I am proud to say that my role as educator doesn't end when as I drive away from my school each evening.  So putting on my teacher hat when on Sunday mornings feels right to me.   Teaching kids about God would be a breeze!  I grew up in Sunday School, I attended summer camp at church, went through confirmation class and sang in the high school choir.  But have you ever sat to think about how much death, and destruction, and sadness there is in the bible?  I open my daughters story bible and Daniel is sentenced to be eaten to death by lions, Moses is sent down the river after babies are ordered to be drown, Jonah is swallowed by a whale and lives to tell of it.   

I remember the first time I questioned how I was going to explain some very grown up ideas to some very young kids.  It was the story of Lazarus, raised from the dead by Jesus.  Our family cat had recently died and so death had been explained to my then three year old, the permanence of it emphasized.  Our kitty was not coming back.  So how was I going to reconcile that with this story of resurrection.  

But logic and order and the black and white reality that I apply to my adult view isn’t a issue for young kids.  They already live in a world of fairy tales and believe in happy endings.  They readily accept that God will take care of us in our darkest time.  They see the good and joy in the world before they see the hurt and are ready to project that good back towards others.  And seeing this easy faith that comes to kids in the Sunday School room makes mine that much stronger.  

CMA Spring Meeting

Looking for more information about the Annual Spring Meeting of the Chicago Metropolitan Association? You’re in luck!

Included below is information from Rev. Wayne MacPherson, who you can contact with any questions (ilconfwayne@gmail.com, 773-324-7650). And here’s Wayne’s full letter and the registration form (which can be emailed or printed out and mailed; see form for details). We can’t wait to welcome you to Bethany! Want to volunteer that day? Reach out to us at info@bethanychicago.com


Greetings to the Chicago Metropolitan Association congregations, clergy, laity, and UCC-related community, health and educational institutions. Let us gather together at Bethany United Church of Christ, Chicago, Illinois on Saturday, May 4, 2019 for our Annual Spring Meeting. This will be a time for celebration, worship, fellowship, learning and faith sharing.

Bethany UCC is located at the corner of Paulina and Cullom Avenues in Chicago. Cullum is one block south of Montrose and Paulina is one block west of Ashland Avenue. The church is located three blocks east of the Montrose stop on the CTA’s Brown line. Street parking is available as well as parking in the lot of Ravenswood School at 4332 N. Paulina Avenue. Entrance to the lot is on Cullom Avenue.  As usual we encourage ride sharing.

Registration begins at 8:00 a.m. A continental breakfast will be served. There will be a pick-up choir for the worship service and the choir will gather at 8:15a.m. – 8:45 a.m. in the choir room downstairs. Childcare from 8:45 - 12:30. Gather at 9 a.m. for worship, meeting, presentations. 

After greetings from CMA and Illinois Conference leadership as well as our host pastors, we will join in worship led by our host congregations. The rest of the agenda will consist of a business meeting along with three presentations. The first presentation on the Illinois Conference’s Lilly Grant will be led by Rev. Dr. David Russell, Associate Conference Minister of the Illinois Conference. The second presentation will look at Storytelling in Worship and will be led by Rev. Rebecca Anderson, one of our host pastors.  The third presentation will look at the Opioid Epidemic. Discussion will be led by Ms. Deborah Dillon on the Illinois Opioid Alternative Act.

There will be a separate youth event sponsored by Off the Pews.  Attendees will join us for worship but then have their separate program. Program and Registration information will be sent separately.

The registration fee of $25 ($30 on-site) includes continental breakfast, snacks and lunch. There is a reduced registration fee of $15 for Members-in-Discernment and Retired Clergy.  The programOff thePews will cover the registration costs for Youth (23 years and under).

Enclosed with this letter is a registration form. Please register one person per form. Please make additional copies as needed. Early registration is greatly appreciated. Early registration deadline is Friday, April 26, 2019.   

 In an effort to be environmentally responsible, we will be preparing fewerpackets with Annual Reports for thebusiness meetingThese reports will be available around April 25, 2019 at the CMA website, cma.ilucc.org.

* * For further information, contact Rev. Wayne MacPherson, CMA Administrator, at ilconfwayne@gmail.com or 773-324-7650. * *