Personal perspectives on faith, by members and friends of Zwingli United Church of Christ.

Is Your ‘Go’ Broken?

posted Aug 3, 2021, 9:52 AM by Cameron Hubanks   [ updated Aug 3, 2021, 9:52 AM ]


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BY DR. JACK GRAHAM

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the

Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I

am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20

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It’s the love of Christ that compels us to follow

the Great Commission and to go share Christ

with others. So don’t live life with your “go”

broken. Whether you cross the street or the

globe, go and share Jesus with those who don’t

know Him!

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animal one day when it stopped working. She

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wasn’t proficient with her vocabulary yet, so she

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took the toy to her mom and said, “Mommy, I

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think its go is broken.”

I think that’s an appropriate diagnosis for many

in the church today. Their “go” is broken. They

have the command from Jesus to “Go and make

disciples,” yet, for the sake of comfort,

convenience, or some other excuse, they stay

put and never even cross the street for the sake

of sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ.

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Go and share Christ with others who don’t know

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him, wherever it takes you.

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But the Lord’s commission stands as

unwavering and uncompromising today as it did

when He uttered those words 2,000 years ago.

That means our mission is the same: to go and

make disciples. Obedience to this command is

one of the most important parts of the Christian

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life!

Dr. Graham was ordained to the Gospel ministry in 1970,

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and has a master of divinity degree with honors and a

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doctor of ministry degree in Church and Proclamation

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from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Life with greater joy, flow, and freedom.

posted Jul 3, 2021, 2:26 PM by Cameron Hubanks

 We usually think of July 4th as Independence Day. But as Christians, every day is Independence Day because, as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3:17: “Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” 


When we learn to trust God and the Spirit dwells within us, we are free. Free from fear, anxiety, addictions, doubt and limitations. We are released from anything that will restrain us. Because of this freedom, we can attract what we want into our lives and be the best that God intended us to be. In the words of Jesus, Mark 10:27, “And Jesus looking upon them said, with men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.”


Being our best and trusting in God means ultimately letting go and letting God lead us and guide us. Self help books, courses, seminars and reading inspiring material (I do my best to inspire and encourage!) are all good in feeding our soul, but our freedom comes when we cast 


our burdens on the One who came to save us. Jesus said, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30


As Americans, we are blessed to live in a country where we can enjoy our freedom. We be mindful of our spiritual independence and freedom. May we live in the spirit to make each moment count and bask in our unbridled freedom to be all that God intended us to be.


*Jackie Trottmann is an international, award winning author of two books and three meditation CDs. She helps people experience God's presence in a deeper way so that they can live their life with greater joy, flow, and freedom.


Lent

posted Feb 28, 2021, 4:45 PM by Cameron Hubanks


Lent is a season of forty days, not counting Sundays, which begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday. Lent comes from the Anglo Saxon word lencten, meaning “lengthen” and refers to the lengthening days of spring. The forty days represents the time Jesus spent in the wilderness, enduring the temptation of Satan, and preparing to begin his ministry. 

Lent is a time of repentance, fasting and preparation for the coming of Easter. It is a time of self-examination and reflection. In the early church, Lent began as a period of fasting and preparation for baptism by new converts and then became a time of penance by all Christians. Today, Christians focus on relationship with God, growing as disciples and extending ourselves, often choosing to give up something or to volunteer and give of ourselves for others. 

Sundays in Lent are not counted in the forty days because each Sunday represents a "mini-Easter." This is why you will see the designation "Sunday in Lent" rather than "Sunday of Lent" in the naming of these Sundays. On each Lord's Day in Lent, while Lenten fasts continue, the reverent spirit of Lent is tempered with joyful anticipation of the Resurrection. 

Religion of the Word

posted Dec 1, 2020, 6:49 AM by Cameron Hubanks

Christianity has always been a religion of WORD. The Bible begins with a creation story in which all that comes into being is brought forth by God’s word (…and God said, let there be…. and there was!). And it ends with a solemn warning against either adding to or taking away from the “words” of God’s prophecy (Rev: 22). 

Closely related to word is truth and freedom: “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free….” 

I believe with every fiber of my being that faith is given to the baptized as a trust. Certainly, it is true that faith serves to benefit the baptized themselves, but any faith that is viewed as just between me and God – period – is not Biblical faith. From the time of Abraham onward, faith has been given to SOME so that those to whom faith is given might be a blessing to ALL! 

If we, the baptized, are endowed with faith for the well-being of all humankind, then we have a 

mandate to seek the welfare and good of all people – to seek TRUTH for all. 

As people of God-given truth, we have a divine obligation to oppose all that serves to divide humankind and to oppose firmly and with prayerful resolve those who seek to benefit themselves by dividing others. 

The history of humankind is littered with the detritus of trouble brought upon nations by the selfish actions of those who cannot embrace the generous will of God almighty for the benefit of ALL. It seems to me that the divided state of our nation is a warning sign and cries out for people of faith to stand up for that which is good and true and generous and to oppose all that isn’t. 

During December of every year (apparently, we are forgetful and need to be annually reminded!!) the church walks through four Sundays of preparation which we call Advent.


These are not just four weeks to get ready for Christmas. Advent is not about baking and shopping and parties; Advent is about getting clear that God loves humankind and aches at the ways we distort the good gifts of creation so that those gifts only benefit some rather than all. Advent is about swallowing hard and deciding that in a hurting and divided world, we will partner with God in working for unity rather than division; for peace rather than acrimony; for grace rather than accusation; for kindness rather than cruelty, for truth rather than conspiracy. 

In just a few weeks, we will (virtually unfortunately) “gather” around a manger to worship a baby. Our Christmas worship reminds us that the baby was (and is!) born for all. Not for just for any one race, or nation, gender, or any of the other ways humans (sinfully) divide themselves. God is for all and as children of God we are invited to share in God’s program of blessing for all. 

Yes, these are hard times. But we have no reason for despair. Just as the angels sang to shepherds near Bethlehem, so those same angels sing to you and to me: “Peace on earth, Goodwill to all!” 

May the Advent blessings of joy, hope, peace, and love be yours this month and this Christmas. And may each of us place ourselves into the service of God that we may be instruments to bring that same joy, hope, peace, and love to others. 

God is good! God is coming! Thanks be to God! 

Teaching and Preaching

posted Nov 5, 2020, 6:16 AM by Cameron Hubanks

Many clergy hate teaching and preaching about money and giving. I might be an oddball in that regard, but I’ve always considered it a privilege and a desirable challenge to do so. Jesus talked about a lot of different topics, but the faithful use of wealth is high on any list of things Jesus addressed. If Jesus talked so much about money, then I think it must be an important topic, and one that pastors should also address.


 There are many reasons to believe that money is an important faith issue. I’m especially interested in money as a “heart” issue. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus famously taught that “where your money (treasure) is, there your heart will be also.” In one of the 2000 presidential debates between George Bush and Al Gore (which were far more civil events than what we’ve endured this year), Gore tried to quote this passage and got it turned around. He said, “where your heart is, there your treasure will be also.” That’s probably true, but it’s not what Jesus said.  


Jesus seems to be teaching that among the many ways that money can used (both for good and for evil), spiritual formation is high on the list. In essence, I hear Jesus making a very practical observation here. When we’ve invested very little substance into something, we’re not likely to be much concerned about the future of that thing. But when we’ve put a lot into something (time, energy and particularly money!), then we are much more likely to pay attention to that thing and care about how it goes.  


When one invests in the stock market, one is very likely to watch and care about the market’s ups and downs. When one invests in a business, one is likely to pay attention to the welfare of the business.  When someone invests significantly in a hobby, that hobby is likely to be important to the person. And….if one invests meaningfully in faith and church, then faith and church are likely to become more and more important to that person.  


The fact of the matter is, most Christians don’t invest very meaningfully in faith and church and not  surprisingly,  faith  and  church  are  often sideline interests for those people. But when a person begins to give so much to God that it makes a noticeable difference in their lifestyle and budget, then faith also begins to make more and more of a difference in their everyday living.


Elsewhere in this newsletter is a tear-off response form you might use to indicate your intentions for giving to Zwingli Church in 2021.  Feel free to use the form, or just include a note with your next check to the church, or send an email to our Administrative Assistant (zwingliuccpaoli@gmail.com), but do take the time to think carefully and prayerfully about your giving plans for 2021. Yes, generous giving will be good for the church. But even more, generous giving could be good for you!  Remember, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”


Blessings to you!

Loving God & Loving Neighbor

posted Oct 26, 2020, 9:02 AM by Cameron Hubanks

From 
Pastor Rich
"Loving God & Loving Neighbor"
Greetings, People of Zwingli Church!
Back on October 4, the Biblical text for worship was the story of God giving Moses the 10 Commandments. On Sunday we’ll consider a story that happens nearly 1500 years (very roughly speaking!) later than the time of Moses – a Jesus story. Even though it happens centuries later, it’s nonetheless a story closely connected to the 10 Commandments. In the text for Sunday, the religious authorities are continuing to question Jesus; continuing to look for ways to discredit him with the people and to convict him of treason before their Roman overlords.
The question put to Jesus is simple enough; “Teacher, which law (everyone present understands, of course, that this isn’t a question about Roman law – it’s a question about GOD’s law!) is the most important?” Jesus’ first answer was not controversial: “Love God with your entire being.” Jesus didn’t, however, stop there. He immediately went on to assert that there is a second law just like the first: Love your neighbor as yourself. Join us on Sunday as we think about the juxtaposition of loving God and loving neighbor. 
As has been the case since March, the worship video can be found (on Sunday, or later) on our Facebook page, or after the fact on our YouTube channel. A printed copy of the entire worship script is posted after the fact on the church website, and an abbreviated version can be found by clicking here.
We are soon coming up on the Women’s Guild raffle and auction. Raffle tickets can still be purchased (for yourself or for resale to family and friends) by contacting Trina Pauli (608-345-1877). You are also urged to peruse the online auction website (https://hibid.com/catalog/241999/zwingli-united-church-of-christ-benefit-auction/) and to bid generously on what you find there. I’m providing the two chocolate pecan pies. You’ll need to bid generously for those, or Ruby will outbid you!  (Smile)
A word about worship for the next three weeks: As with many of you, pre-pandemic plans that Ruby and I had made for vacation and travel didn’t happen this summer and fall. That means that I’ve only taken a little of my vacation for the current year. I’m going to take a part of what remains during the first three weeks of November and consider the remaining two weeks a gift to the church. That means there will be no worship video from the sanctuary on Nov. 1, 8 & 15. There WILL however, be videos posted from our neighbors at the two Monticello UCC churches - Zwingli UCC and Washington Reformation UCC. Or, if there’s another congregation whose worship you’re interested in experiencing, do that! There will be no midweek email the next three weeks, and no mailed mini-NL (most of those who get the weekly mini-newsletter don’t use email, so they won’t see this note!). The one exception to this break in church life is Confirmation. There WILL be confirmation on November 1, but then not on November 8 or 15. 
Your Pastoral Search Committee recently sent you a survey. Please do complete that survey. Your thoughts and hopes for pastoral leadership after I’m finished at the end of the year are very important!
 
One more thing: the November newsletter will contain a form you might use to communicate your giving intentions for the coming year. As you can imagine, the economic future of many organizations – including congregations – is very tenuous in these pandemic days. Your willingness to continue to support our common ministry and to tell your leaders what that support will be is a very important gift to the life of our church. Thank you!
 
God is good! God aches for all of us to show our love to all those around us. When we do that, we prove our love for God! Blessings to each of you!


   Pastor Rich Pleva 

church closeup

Zwingli United Church of Christ 
PO Box 530, Belleville, WI 53508


"A small church with a big 
and open heart!"



Rich Pleva, Pastor
608-845-5641 – voice
608-574-9465 - text

Zwingli United Church of Christ | 1338 Cty Road PBPO Box 530Belleville, WI 53508
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Money & Politics

posted Oct 16, 2020, 9:54 AM by Cameron Hubanks

From 
Pastor Rich
"Money & Politics"
Dear Zwingli UCC,
There are plenty of folk who’d prefer not to hear about money and politics at church. There’s only one problem with that preference: One would need to ignore Jesus an awful lot. Sunday’s text combines these two difficult topics, and it’s Jesus who does the combining.
 
In a nutshell, the Jewish authorities were coming to a consensus that Jesus was a serious problem and needed to be dealt with. Their own positions of privilege and power depended on keeping their own bosses – their Roman overlords – convinced that “good order” would be maintained in Palestine. Jesus was clearly becoming a threat to “good order.”
Even then, lip service needed to be paid to “due process” and that precipitated a series of set-ups – contrived scenarios by which Jesus might be trapped in his own words and then disposed of. During worship on Sunday I’ll share some thoughts about Jesus’ response to the “gotcha question” of whether or not it was legit for a Jew to pay taxes to the Roman Caesar. I hope you’ll watch or read the service script at a time convenient for you.
Speaking of….the service scripts for each Sunday can be found on our website. If you prefer reading, that’s the best way to take in the worship life of the church during these days of pandemic distancing. And if you prefer to watch videos, the weekly worship video can be found on the church’s Facebook page, or on our YouTube channel. 
This coming Sunday, our friends at First UCC in Belleville are doing a “Tailgate to Go” fundraiser. They were kind enough to promote our drive-thru breakfast a few weeks ago; let’s return the favor by driving through for hot dogs or brats from 11:30 am to 2:00 pm at their church building – 130 E. Church St.
It’s virtually certain (I’m sort of sorry for the pun) that we won’t be gathering physically for worship by Christmas (which is only a little over 2 months away!). How do we make Christmas worship compelling when we can’t be together? If you have ideas that are creative (and not technically too difficult), I’d sure like the benefit of your thoughts. Thanks!
 
God is with us even when we can’t be together. The love of God is not dependent on life being easy or like we prefer. Keep the faith – God is good and God is love! Blessings to each of you.

   Pastor Rich Pleva 

church closeup

Zwingli United Church of Christ 
PO Box 530, Belleville, WI 53508


"A small church with a big 
and open heart!"



Rich Pleva, Pastor
608-845-5641 – voice
608-574-9465 - text

Zwingli United Church of Christ | 1338 Cty Road PBPO Box 530Belleville, WI 53508
Unsubscribe hubanks@tds.net
Update Profile | About our service provider
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Did you know?

posted Oct 2, 2020, 6:57 AM by Cameron Hubanks

There’s an election coming up!  😊


Sloppy thinking has always been a challenge for human beings! Most of us are inclined to get an idea into our heads and then hold it like a bulldog would. When the idea is well thought through, that may be a good thing, but too often we are inclined to cherish certain ideas whether or not they really make sense.


One idea of long standing that floats around in churches like ours is the notion that church ought not get involved in politics. There are actually two ways (at least) to think about this question. There is a perspective from the laws of the land and then a perspective that comes from God. When the two disagree (and sometimes they do), then obviously God’s viewpoint trumps the perspective of human law (see the book of Acts where Peter famously asserted that he and the followers of Jesus had “to obey God rather than any human authority.”)  But happily, God and human law do not disagree on this question. People of faith and their churches DO have an appropriate and necessary role to play in human politics.


First the matter of human or governmental law.  In the United States (this isn’t true in many other countries) there is a constitutional separation of church and state. The first amendment clearly states that Congress may not establish any official religion, nor may it prohibit the free exercise of any religion. But nowhere does the constitution prohibit religious entities from involving themselves in political processes. Religious entities have made a bargain with the government in one respect:  In exchange for tax-exempt status, religious entities agree not to endorse specific candidates for political office. But it is well established that religious bodies (churches, synagogues, temples, mosques, and so on) may comment freely on political issues. And many certainly do!  


Then there is the matter of God’s perspective. If God truly created the entire universe, then it is silly to imagine that God chooses to be indifferent to any part of human affairs, including government. The old saying that “All truth is God’s truth” certainly applies to government as much as to religion. In fact, God is deeply interested in government and the social and legal affairs of humankind. And invariably God comes down on the side of those who are disadvantaged, poor, sick, displaced, discriminated against and more. God’s attitude in a nutshell seems to be that the rich will be able to take care of themselves, but the institutions of human society (and certainly that includes government) ought to be ever and always looking to advance the welfare of the poor, and the displaced and disadvantaged.  Undoubtedly God doesn’t much care about fine detail of tax policy or environmental regulation or immigration policy, but God certainly cares very deeply about whether immigrants are treated with care and respect, and whether tax policy doesn’t unduly burden the poor (and make life even easier for the wealthy!) and whether the interventions of government serve to protect and restore the environment rather than to allow its degradation. Racism and structural inequalities of all shapes and sizes are certainly abhorrent to God.


As Christian people prepare to exercise their free right to support a particular candidate, the vows of our baptisms demand that we ask important and deeply faith-based questions about how we will vote. God cares both about the morality of our leaders and God cares about the morality of the policies they will enact. If God cares about those questions, then so must we.  


The people of the New Testament – Jesus and his followers – could never have imagined a form of government in which the citizens of the nation would choose their own leaders. That’s why the matter of voting is never addressed in the Bible. No Bible writer could have imagined such a thing. But we have that freedom and right – and as baptized followers of Jesus, we have an obligation to use our votes to advance the kinds of values that Jesus would have supported – the one who time and time again came down on the side of the poor and oppressed while warning the wealthy how dangerous was their moral state. In the end, Jesus agreed that the wealthy might enter the realm of God, but only with difficulty – like getting a camel through the eye of a needle.  Yikes! Most of us, from the perspective of Jesus are certainly wealthy. I hope we use our votes in ways that would make Jesus smile!


In fact, my ballot is upstairs lying on the kitchen counter. I’ll think I’ll go and try to make Jesus smile (or least not frown)!


Blessings to each of you!

From the Pastor's Desk

posted Aug 28, 2020, 11:07 AM by Cameron Hubanks

Like most schools, churches tend to begin their new program year in September. And like most schools, churches – including Zwingli Church – are figuring out how to begin a new program that will be unlike anything any of us have ever seen before. How do we worship and how do we train our children and young people in the truths of the Christian Gospel, and how do we give feet to our convictions through mission out-reach in a time of COVID-19 pandemic? 


Obviously, these are challenging questions. Even more than a business or a school, the fundamental values of a Christian church dictate that we take care of the welfare of our members: particularly our most vulnerable members. Jesus taught the necessity of never forgetting the needs of “the least of these” when we make everyday decisions about life and work, and obviously that includes church life. 


The church is not a building, it’s the people. 

Even so, our mandate to care for each other doesn’t invalidate other responsibilities. We still have a mandate to worship and to educate and to engage in service. These three – worship, education, and service/mission – are at the very core of any church’s reason for existence.

 

In a context of a communicable disease that is harmless for many, but potentially fatal for some, this is a challenging mandate. Without getting into much detail, suffice it to say that the work of Zwingli UCC will continue this fall, but in ways different from what any of us have ever known. 


For now, worship will continue online and in print. A combination of Facebook Live, YouTube, documents posted to our website, and paper documents mailed to a few members, seems to be a way to continue our worship life that works well. In addition, drive-in worship has been well received and the Church Council is considering the purchase of our own transmitter (they’re not very expensive) so we might do this a bit more frequently. 


Our de facto Sunday School Superintendent (Kriss Ace) and I have been speaking about ways to resume Sunday School in ways that use more online learning and more parental involvement. And there will be a Confirmation class this fall, probably unlike any confirmation class in the history of the church! (If you know of someone who’d like to be included – please have them contact me!) 

Our mission and service also continue – at this point mostly through support of the local foodbanks, but we will also participate in the Belleville CROP Walk and are open to other mission and service projects. 


So many aspects of life are different than what any of us have ever before known. But change is part of life and being flexible is essential in times of stress. As a church, we are seeking to be flexible. I think God approves. Your support is essential. Please try these new things and don’t hesitate to make suggestions. I can’t promise we can do everything you might suggest, but every serious suggestion will be fully considered. 

Blessings to all of you! 

Does anybody presume

posted Aug 1, 2020, 10:06 AM by Cameron Hubanks

Does anybody presume to listen to God in angry, fearful, divided times?   


I am sure that back in the late winter when the “novel coronavirus” first began to get some press, not a one of us could have imagined in our worst nightmares how life would be disrupted for months and months and months starting in March, continuing into the summer and now with no end in sight.


Obviously, life goes on. People must eat and be housed and more. We attend to these human necessities as best we are able under the circumstances. But we aspire to more. We crave physical company and recreation and enjoyment.  And it is precisely many of those beneficial activities that have become problematic for the welfare of the whole community.


Humans have evolved in such a way that when things go wrong, we instinctively want to know why and who to blame. This is not new – it is as old as the human race itself.




But just because we want a thing – relief, enjoyment, escape or even a scapegoat – doesn’t necessarily mean we can have it. I think it is precisely this reality that strongly contributes to so much stress in our nation.  For many people like you and me, life has been good for so long that we have come to believe that the freedom to come and go as we please and to order our lives with little concern for others has come to feel normal – as a “right.”  


I’ll set aside for this conversation the reality that not all Americans experience life in as privileged a way as we do. The fact is people like you and me have been blessed. But one of the dangers of blessing is that over time it comes to feel like something we’ve earned and deserve rather than something which is a gift.


The ancients were more acquainted with this hard reality than are we. People in ancient times were less shielded from the ups and downs of weather and disease and war than are we. They more frequently experienced wrenching loss and undeserved tragedy. This doesn’t mean it was any easier for them; it only means they had a little more experience in grappling with it.  


 The story of Job in the Old Testament (the Hebrew Scriptures) may be the oldest literature in the Bible.  Job was a wealthy man (a man of faith, by the way!) whose life came completely and utterly undone.   Job had friends who attempted to comfort him in his grievous loss, but their comforting seemed to boil down to suspicion and accusation that Job must have sinned, or things wouldn’t be going so bad for him. His friends were unhelpful, and they were wrong. Eventually God came and spoke directly with Job. I imagine Job figured that at least God would explain why this life had taken such a painful turn toward disaster. But God gave no such answer -- God only offered awesome presence.  


I am planning a short sermon series based on the story of Job starting Sunday, August 9. I’m certainly not God – so don’t expect any earth-shattering explanations for why life sometimes turns toward disaster – but hearing the story of Job may help us nurture faith and each other in difficult times.  


Remember this, my friends. We are loved. We are loved by God and we are loved by each other. This is a very good thing – it is precious. Hold on to it tenaciously.


With Great Hope!


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