Youth Sunday 2017 | Senior Sermon

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I came to Heart of the Rockies during my seventh-grade year in school. It was only my second year in the public-school system, I went to private school for the entirety of elementary school, and I hadn’t been able to make very many connections to make up for the ones I had lost from switching schools. From my family’s first visit to Heart of the Rockies I felt welcomed into the church community and quickly decided to get into the youth group. All of the leaders and fellow youth members were amazing and allowed me to quickly transition into the church and the many service opportunities available. This sense of community that I felt upon entering the church would have an enormous impact on everything I would do into the future inside and outside of the church.

The first event that I can remember going to was a fall retreat that we did in Denver at the beginning of my 8th grade year. The experience was completely new to me as I had never done volunteer work of any kind previously. The main focus of the event was around the idea that we should give without asking for anything in return. We executed this by discussing what it meant to us in our personal lives in a series of small group discussions and then went out to 16th street mall and handed out snacks and water to the homeless and anyone else who just wanted one. I was extremely shy at the time so this activity was very daunting to me, however the people around me made it so much better than I ever could have imagined. I had so much fun competing with everyone to see who could give out their bags the quickest, but more importantly really enjoyed seeing the joy and satisfaction on the faces of everyone I interacted with.These ideals of church community and service have played such a large role in my life no matter what I am doing be it at home, school, or in the community.

Since that point, I have participated in numerous fall and winter retreats, community service projects, and school events. These have ranged from helping to rebuild homes after the major floods in northern Colorado, helping to clean up and replant a park in Oregon, putting on a 5k for cancer victims, and visiting nursing homes to help with events and chat with the residents. All of these events have allowed my Christian values to become strengthened as well as more focused.

I have come to realize that going to church to learn and understand what Christianity is a key part in the religion, however going out into your community and acting it out is just as important if not more. Not only do you get to help out others, you also get to experience the tingly feeling inside you get when you see the joy inside the eyes of those who you’ve helped. In Romans 12:10-13 it says, “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” My interpretation of this centers around the idea with action comes benefits that make the entire worthwhile. If your work is motivated by love and performed in God’s name then you will find yourself enthusiastic and energized by it. God’s love for us shouldn’t remain held deep inside ourselves, instead it should be expressed and spread to the many others throughout our lives so that they can experience its wonders as well. God sends us opportunities every day to positively impact lives around us. One’s service may be as simple as a pleasant smile, an encouraging word, or a listening ear. In different situations however, God may ask for more of you such as sacrificing your time or giving generously of your resources. As you pour yourself into loving them, you’ll discover a sense of fulfillment and joy inside yourself that may never have come about otherwise and also realize what it truly means to be a complete Christian.

Written by Charlie Johnson, a senior at Fossil Ridge High School.  Charlie will attend UC -Santa Barbara in the fall.

Youth Sunday 2017 | Communion Invitation

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Over the past few years, I have seen how Christ moves through us in our everyday lives and when we do good for others, we bring God into that person’s life.  Going on mission trips, I see how much of an impact a good deed has on a homeless person.  Because of this congregation, I have been able to go on mission trips and help feed people in need and show them God through our will to help them and make sure they are alright.  Even though we never went up and down the street doing communion for the homeless people, giving them food and knowing it’s in God’s name makes it just like communion.  Being able to do that is what makes communion communion.  So thank you for letting our youth group do amazing things for others.

Written by Tadan M | 9th grade

Praying with our feet

“In these days of difficulty, we Americans everywhere must and shall choose the path of social justice…the path of faith, the path of hope, and the path of love toward our fellow man.”                                                                                                 FDR, October 2, 1932

The Women’s March on Washington, January 21, 2017. As soon as I heard about plans for this march, shortly after the November elections, I knew I had to be a part of it. I wanted to be present for this historic event not only for myself but more for my daughters and for all of the women in my life. And not just for the women, but also for the oppressed and the downtrodden, the immigrants, the refugees, the minorities: the LGBTQ community, religious minorities, racial minorities…for so many whose voices are not always heard. For decency and respect. For righteousness, justice and truth.

So, off I went with my good friend Ana to Washington, D.C. We were so excited to be a part of this event. On that Saturday morning, we found ourselves crammed in amongst the other hundreds of thousands of people who had made their way to D.C. with similar intentions. In some ways it was a little frightening. For hours we were belly to butt and butt to belly with people we had never met and probably would never see again. We could hear perhaps a quarter of what was being said on the stage, but it didn’t really matter. The message was loud and clear, even if we couldn’t always hear the words. We were surrounded by people, people gathered for so many of the same reasons mentioned above. So much positive energy and so many happy souls surrounded us. So much love and peace united together. So much pure joy, warmth and contentment made the uncomfortably tight crowd so worth the trip.

Amazingly, for me, some of the most moving moments came on the following day, the Sunday after the March. Ana and I headed back into D.C. early that morning. We had planned to spend the day sightseeing – visiting as many of the monuments and memorials surrounding the National Mall that we could squeeze into one day. We got to town early, trying to beat some of the crowds we knew would have similar plans. I have been to DC several times in the past and have visited almost all of the monuments at least once. But today was different. One of the monuments in particular was incredibly moving for me, so much more so than on my previous visits: The Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) Memorial.

We arrived at the FDR Memorial around 9 a.m. It was a cool and cloudy morning, with grey skies and a light drizzle coming down. The crowds were still thin; many seemed to have chosen to sleep in on this morning. It felt as though we had the entire place to ourselves.

As I strolled through the memorial grounds and read many of the words spoken by FDR so many years ago (from 1932 to 1945), I was emotionally struck at how his messages are still so very relevant today:

fdr“Among American citizens, there should be no forgotten men and no forgotten races.”                                                                           October 26, 1936

“I never forget that I live in a house owned by the American people and that I have been given their trust.”                                                                                                                                 April 14, 1938

“We must scrupulously guard the civil rights and civil liberties of all our citizens, whatever their background. We must remember that any oppression, any injustice, any hatred is a wedge designed to attack our civilization.”                                                                                                                               January 9, 1940

“We have faith that future generations will know here, in the middle of the twentieth century, there came a time when men of good will found a way to unite, and produce, and fight to destroy the forces of ignorance, and intolerance, and slavery, and war.”                        February 12, 1943

“Unless the peace that follows recognizes that the whole world is one neighborhood and does justice to the whole human race, the germs of another world war will remain as a constant threat to mankind.”                                                                                                          February 12, 1943

“The structure of world peace cannot be the work of one man, or one party, or one nation…it must be a peace which rests on the cooperative effort of the whole world.”              March 1, 1945

“The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today. Let us move forward with strong and active faith.”                                                               Prepared for April 13, 1945

 

My initial reaction was one of deep sadness and fear. How could we have come so far since FDR’s presidency, and yet now it seems as though we are socially digressing, moving backwards in time, becoming a less civil, less tolerant, less peaceful, and less loving society?

I sat there on this cold and grey morning, surrounded by these awe-inspiring words. As I sat, more people began to arrive, taking in this beautiful memorial, and I began to rethink things. Yes, the days ahead may seem dark and difficult. Yes, right now our nation may not be headed on the path that I would have hoped for us. Yes, it seems like we are on a slippery slope moving away from what I see as righteous and just. But hold on for a moment…Was I not just surrounded by hundreds of thousands of people, gathered together to make sure all voices are heard loud and clear? Were there not similar sister groups gathered and marching all over our country? And all across the world? Have there not been hundreds of groups springing up not only in my town of Fort Collins, Colorado, but all over our great country, taking action and taking a stand to keep our country righteous and just?

We are not on a slippery slope; rather we are on a great wave moving forward! Opportunity has knocked in bizarre fashion, but the knock has woken up sleeping giants! I see and understand Franklin D. Roosevelt’s words and message not as a sad reminder of what could have been but as a solid reminder of how great our nation already is and how strong its people truly are!

So I will continue to march, continue to speak out, continue to stand beside those who need support and strength, continue to stand up for what I believe in. I will respect others’ opinions but I will forge ahead and take action for what I believe is righteous, just and true. And I invite you to join me on this journey.

 

“Freedom of speech…Freedom of worship…Freedom from want…Freedom from fear.”                                                                                   FDR January 6, 1941

 Peace Siochá Paix~

Please visit this link for a list of all FDR’s quotes on display at the FDR Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Joann Johnson is a mother, tennis coach, and justice-seeker. 

I Have a Dream

That I can become president

That my family can be together forever

That my friends will cooperate together

 

Oh, I Have a Dream…

That all children will live happily

That adults will all help make the world better

That people will start to act for the best

 

Oh, I Have a Dream…

That people will find peace from the depths of war

That people will learn to be environmentally friendly

That there will be freedom and democracy everywhere

 

Oh, I Have a Dream…

 

Written by Daniel J. Mitchell, future president and current fourth grader. This poem was shared in  worship on Sunday, January 29.fullsizerender-37

 

The light of love will guide you home

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I wasn’t sure how to feel this past Friday night, the twentieth of January, as I drove home from work. I’d made several stops along the way and it was dark by the time I got back to Fort Collins. With a full head and a heavy heart, I drove west on Harmony Road towards home, and suddenly, in the light of my headlights, I saw a small red sign staked into the grass on the side of the road. It said, simply, LOVE. A block later, another one. One mirrored it on the opposite side of the road. I drove past my turn and went on, curious to see how many there were; I counted at least three or four along that one stretch of Harmony Road between College and Taft Hill. Maybe there were more throughout the town.

After I got home, I grabbed my iPhone and left the house on foot. I walked along the road the half mile back to where I’d seen the sign. I had to get a photograph of it. I’m no professional photographer, but it’s become a big enough hobby lately that I put some thought into how I want the shot to look. And I’d decided I didn’t want to wait till daylight; I wanted that red sign illuminated in the headlights of the cars passing by, so it would be shining in a sudden light through the darkness that surrounded us. I took dozens, and finally got a good one.

The whole thing reminded me of a quote attributed to EL Doctorow about writing: “Writing is like driving at night. You can never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

That’s not just writing. Life is like that. I can only see the next immediate moments of my life as they appear in the headlights, a few at a time, never very far into the future. But I never know what will suddenly come into view, and sometimes, what appears surprises me.

Friday night, LOVE suddenly came into my headlights.

In the midst of the and anxiety and uncertainty and fear that I and so many of my friends and acquaintances have been feeling since the election and then through inauguration…in the midst of the helplessness of feeling I was too small to make any kind of real difference in my nation in the months ahead…I got a sudden, surprising reminder. Love. Just love.

Maybe that’s what Andrew and Simon Peter and James and John saw in Matthew 4:18-22. A sudden red sign reading LOVE that appeared in their headlights out of nowhere. And though they couldn’t see where the path would end, their next steps seemed clear. And so they went.

We’re all driving at night through this life we’re in. And some nights are darker than others. This new road we’re on…I don’t know where it will take us, and I can’t say I’m not afraid. But when I saw that sign the other night, I did suddenly know what my job was while I’m on this path.

It’s to heed the LOVE sign. To keep an eye out for the next right thing to do. And to trust that the few steps ahead that I can see will be enough. We can all do that much.

And if we have to, we can make the whole trip that way.

Christine M. Engelen

What we do with our treasures

My grandmother is close to the veil.

This is not a bad thing; her quality of life is not very good anymore and I think she’s ready. She’ll be 91 in October. She’s no longer mobile, and dementia has taken a toll on her in the past few years. And while we love her, there will be a certain release for all of us – her included, when the time comes for her to leave this world.

When I was home visiting my folks this summer, and we went out to see her, much of what she said made little sense. But she was having a good day, relatively speaking: she knew who I was. And this day, what was on her mind was her collection of jewelry. Most of our conversation centered around that topic.

We have it all at the house for safekeeping. And on the last day of my visit, we had some extra time in the morning before leaving for the airport, so I asked if I could see what was in the box.

I’m not sure what I expected to see. She had some beautiful rings, and some pendants my mother sent her from our time in the Far East. Other than that, much of it was trinkets and costume jewelry, most of which were items that could only have had sentimental value, and really only to her. And now, in her present state, that sentimental value could only exist if she were able to remember those sentiments clearly in the first place.

Her charm bracelets fit that category. It’s been decided that they’ll come to me.

I don’t think I’d ever seen them before, yet they seemed familiar to me somehow anyway. They’re old-fashioned charm bracelets, three of them, with big links and gold and brass charms attached by the loops. Travel and golf stuff, mostly: Big Ben is there, a kiwi bird from her New Zealand trip, a membership to her country club back in the Bay Area, a commemoration of the first time she broke 100 in her golf game. The bracelets are jangling with charms, big awkward pokey ones, and chock-full, too…they’re unwieldy and impractical, and not the kind of bracelets one would wear easily today. We probably won’t keep them exactly “as is.”

So…what to do with them?

Well…from when I was twelve, I remember her stories about her New Zealand trip; I’ll keep the kiwi bird. We bonded once over our respective stays in London – mine for a semester abroad and hers from a European cruise, so Big Ben stays too. And the cruise ship will stay, because I know how much she loved her cruises – right up to the last one she went on in 2012, cut short by an ill-fated bout of pneumonia in Jakarta. There are a few other charms that I know the significance of without even asking my mother; they correlate to stories she told me or experiences we shared together. All told, there are probably 8 or 9 charms I would keep because their significance transcends what they meant to her…they mean something else to me…and altogether, they will remind me of our relationship.

In this way, they’ll still be her.

The rest? Well, I think we’ll just “put them in” with her when the time comes. That way, she can keep them. After all, their meaning is in the past. They’re still special, but they belong to an older time.

We’ll keep and treasure what still works, and preserve it – maybe even pass it on – for the future, and, with respect, lay what’s left to rest.

Christine Engelen is one of our fabulous worship leaders at Heart of the Rockies Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).  She shared this reflection as an offering invitation in worship on September 4, 2016.

#tbt summer blessing

This is the blessing we used in response to each of our special guest Sunday preachers this summer.  Many of you have requested it, so we’re sharing it here.  It’s written by the lovely and talented Jan Richardson.

If you could see
the journey whole
you might never
undertake it;
might never dare
the first step
that propels you
from the place
you have known
toward the place
you know not.

Call it
one of the mercies
of the road:
that we see it
only by stages
as it opens
before us,
as it comes into
our keeping
step by
single step.

There is nothing
for it
but to go
and by our going
take the vows
the pilgrim takes:

to be faithful to
the next step;
to rely on more
than the map;
to heed the signposts
of intuition and dream;
to follow the star
that only you
will recognize;

to keep an open eye
for the wonders that
attend the path;
to press on
beyond distractions
beyond fatigue
beyond what would
tempt you
from the way.

There are vows
that only you
will know;
the secret promises
for your particular path
and the new ones
you will need to make
when the road
is revealed
by turns
you could not
have foreseen.

Keep them, break them,
make them again:
each promise becomes
part of the path;
each choice creates
the road
that will take you
to the place
where at last
you will kneel

to offer the gift
most needed—
the gift that only you
can give—

The final lines of the blessing are here.

© Jan Richardson | janrichardson.com