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Weekly Letter

New Every Morning

May 24, 2018
By Connie Weaver
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. "The Lord is my portion," says my soul, "therefore I will hope in him."
Lamentations 3:22-24, NRSV
 
"The Lord has promised good to me, his word my hope secures;
he will my shield and portion be, as long as life endures."
John Newton, "Amazing Grace"
 
Greetings, on this day that the Lord has made! Like many others, I grew up hearing and singing a version of John Newton's famous hymn, "Amazing Grace." I say "version," because this hymn has been adapted over the years since it was first published in 1779. The hymn as I heard it in my home church came first from the Broadman Hymnal, which we used until I was a teenager; then from the Baptist Hymnal. This hymn became tattooed on my brain, as we sang it often, and enthusiastically. Growing up in a traditional Southern Baptist church, I experienced long altar calls nearly every Sunday, and "Amazing Grace" was a favorite of our pastor for altar calls. I took to counting how many times we'd sing through the hymn during a long altar call, and though I can't remember for certain now, I know that some Sundays we sang it through a dozen or more times (yes, really!). The hymn, "Amazing Grace," became for me part of what one friend describes as "one's musical canon."
So, imagine my surprise upon becoming Presbyterian and hearing a verse of "Amazing Grace" that I'd never heard, before (see, above)! I looked it up, and this verse is part of Newton's original hymn. Why it wasn't included in the version we sang from the Baptist Hymnal, I don't know. There was another verse we sang that I don't think is part of Newton's original hymn; this is what I mean by "versions" of this old hymn, that has been adapted over the years. In any case, the verse above spoke powerfully to me, and it has become my favorite. It echoes the words from the Old Testament book of Lamentations, "The Lord is my portion," says my soul, "therefore I will hope in him." (3:24) The book of Lamentations is a collection of laments over the state of Jerusalem and its inhabitants following the overthrow of the city by the Babylonians in the 6th century, BCE. The third chapter reflects the desolation of the people there, and their attempts to make sense of what has happened to them. The speaker sees the hand of God in what has occurred, as punishment for sin, and yet proclaims the Lord's steadfast love and faithfulness. While you and I as contemporary readers may wince a bit at the speaker's attributing such broad calamity at the hands of other humans to God's willful actions, it's important to note the speaker's acknowledgement of the complete sovereignty of God. Whatever state they finds themselves in, and however they got there, God has not forgotten them. God's mercies for them are "new every morning," as they are also new each day, for us.
"The Lord has promised good to me, his word my hope secures; he will my shield and portion be, as long as life endures." Can you claim these words from John Newton's hymn for whatever circumstances you find yourself in, today? I hope so. I testify to the truth of God's steadfast love for us, and for the delightful newness of God's mercies each day.
With blessings for your journey...
Connie Weaver
Pastor

A few reminders:

This Sunday, May 27th - I'm just gonna say it. Memorial Day weekend is typically a time of low attendance at worship, so if you can come, please do, for the sake of us all. This happens to be Trinity Sunday in the larger Church calendar. No special colors for this Sunday, but we will have lapel stickers that say "3/1" (joking, there; no stickers!). The sermon text is John 10:22-30, and the sermon title is "The Father and I."

Next Sunday, June 3rd, I will be away for family vacation at Holden Beach, NC. This vacation week was booked several months before I knew I would be coming as your pastor, and if I could have planned otherwise, I wouldn't have been away from Sunday worship three times in five weeks. We've been delighted with two family weddings in May, and after June 3rd, I don't expect to be away again on Sunday for quite some time. Rev. Donald Marsden will be your preacher and worship leader on June 3rd. Please make him feel welcomed as he returns to Hebron.

Many thanks to all those who stayed after worship last Sunday for the youth Fiesta! Lunch & Talent Show. It was a fun time and a successful fundraiser for the youth summer mission trip.

If you know a child who could be blessed by being part of our Day School at Hebron, please encourage his or her parents to register for this coming 2018-2019 school year. They can go to the church website, www.hebronpresbyterian.com, for info about the Day School and contact information.

Remember our outdoor worship service coming up on Sunday, June 10th, at Dover Lake. There are rumors of donuts that morning. We'll see what transpires.

See you Sunday!

Praying the News

May 17, 2018
By Connie Weaver

Greetings to all! Often when I sit down to write this weekly message, I want to talk about something in the news, but it's hard to know where to start. Just today, there are residents of Kauai Island in Hawaii who are waiting on a volcano to blow, the immigration debate continues to rage, public school teachers continue to protest over wages and education funding, and the intrigue over Russia's apparent attempts to meddle with U.S. elections continues to occupy the news cycle. Add to that the fascination this week with a royal wedding in Britain, along with all the other things either intriguing, heart-rending (or both) in the world, today, and the whole bundle of what we encounter each day in "the news" can be overwhelming. It's difficult for a caring person to know where to begin in responding. 

Which calls to mind a short article I read recently in the Presbyterian devotional booklet, These Days. Perhaps you saw it, also. It was an introductory article by Ginna Bairby, who is a young Presbyterian pastor in Taos, New Mexico. Ginna gets complete credit for the excerpts I'm about to share with you, here. See if her words resonate with you. 

"I have a love/hate relationship with reading the news...I care about and want to know what is going on...on the other hand, learning each day about another mass shooting, another devastating storm, another bombing of innocent people can quickly drain the soul. How do we remain faithfully engaged with the world around us without sinking into despair? I have recently tried to answer this question by 'praying' the news. I start my day...browsing through the major news headlines and articles that catch my attention. After each, I pause for a moment, close my eyes, and whisper a short response: 'Lord, hear our prayer,' 'Lord, have mercy,' or 'Thanks be to God.' It's a simple, ritual attempt to lift the life of our world to the hands of God. And then I stop. I turn off my phone, shut down my computer, turn off the TV. It would be entirely possible...to stay tuned in all day long. But prayer is not just talking; it's also about listening to God. In order to hear a word from God, I need to turn off those other voices. As a pastor, I have watched this practice start to change the way I pray in worship. Regularly praying with the news means I come to the Prayers of the People with more on my heart than just whatever disaster has gripped us that week...as one of my members put it, 'It's important that we pray for the whole world; if we are the body of Christ, those people are our brothers and sisters, too.' Reformed theologian Karl Barth has famously described the faithful Christian holding the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other...I believe that means holding the places where Christ continues to be crucified today in the light and promise of resurrection, trusting in the God who is in the business of transforming death into new life." 

Connie again, here. What do you think about Ginna's idea of "praying the news?" Is this something that would help you, as you encounter the unsettling stories you see and hear each day? Maybe you are already doing something like this. It's a faithful and powerful alternative to simply feeling fearful or angry or discouraged, or to disengaging entirely from the stream of information that may feel like more than you can bear.  

With prayers for your journey,  
Connie Weaver 
Pastor 

A few reminders of upcoming events:  

This Sunday, May 20th - It's Pentecost Sunday! This is the day we celebrate the coming of God's Holy Spirit upon early believers in Jerusalem, as described in the second chapter of Acts. You are invited to wear the colors of flame (red, yellow, orange) to worship this Sunday, in remembrance of "the divided tongues, as of fire" that rested upon the believers that day as they testified. I'll be sorry to miss this first Pentecost Sunday with you since my arrival, but I'll be happy to be gaining another sweet daughter-in-law as our second son is married this Sunday, in Raleigh, NC. Please make Mr. David Frost feel welcomed, as he returns to preach and lead worship again at Hebron. We'll also be commissioning Grace Alford for her summer work during worship this Sunday.  

Fiesta Lunch & Talent Show - You have another great opportunity to help support our youth for their summer trip to Kentucky, just by eating lunch! Our youth will host a fund-raising Mexican meal after worship this Sunday (May 20th). Please consider staying for this meal and donating to this good cause. A few of our youth will also be sharing their talents, so be sure to cheer them on!  

In three weeks, on Sunday, June 10th, we'll enjoy outdoor worship at Dover Lake at 10:00 a.m. There will be no Sunday School that day. Plan now to come on out to Dover Lake for a casual worship service in a lovely outdoor setting.  

Vacation Bible School is just over a month away! You may register a child for VBS by going to our church website: www.hebronpresbyterian.com.  

On Sunday, July 8th, we'll welcome the Rev. Mai-Ki Kadade from the Evangelical Church of Niger. Plans are in the works for a potluck lunch after worship that day, with an opportunity for Rev. Kadade to give us an update and answer any questions you may have. We hope to continue the strong support from our congregation in helping to meet some of the needs in Niger.  

Don't forget! Sunday, October 21st, will be a special Heritage Sunday at Hebron Presbyterian Church, as we celebrate the congregation's 175th anniversary!  

In Our Cars, And Elsewhere

May 11, 2018
By Connie Weaver
On my way to the church, today, I was behind a car with a license plate that read, "UBSWEET." I took it as a reminder that I should "drive nice," and in that regard, I thought it was a pretty clever personalized plate. I read one time that research showed that most people driving their cars feel like they are in personal space, even though there are windows on all four sides! I imagine that to mean that we feel sometimes like we are in "tiny houses" when we are in our cars, and that we do things we wouldn't do if we were standing in line at the grocery store or walking outdoors in a public place. Sometimes, it's just embarrassing little things (usually having to do with grooming), but other times, it's behavior we exhibit while driving that we wouldn't think of exhibiting if we were outside our cars in a public place; name-calling, "gestures," or driving rudely or aggressively. That's when we might benefit from having a license plate in front of us that reads, "UBSWEET."
 
The fact is that we are witnesses in our cars, and in every other public space in which we find ourselves. How do you treat the person who bags your groceries? How do you speak to your waiter or waitress at a restaurant? How do you deal with any person who is moving too slowly, taking too long, causing you inconvenience? It's true that these people (and others around them) may never know to make a connection between your behavior and your claim to be a Christian, or your membership in a church. It's true that no impressionable child or teen who knows who you are may see you exhibiting bad behavior. But it's also true that they might (I once observed a deacon from my home church shoplifting in the department store where I worked!). Either way, whether you're observed by someone who "matters" to you, or not, your words and actions are powerful, and can bring goodness or illness into our public life. Your words and actions can either ruin someone's day, or they can lift someone's life. So, "UBSWEET!"
 
See you Sunday. 
 
Connie Weaver
 
A few reminders from your pastor: 
 
THIS Sunday, May 13th - The sermon text will be Luke 24:36-53. The sermon title is, "Touch Me and See." I know the buzz for this Sunday is Mother's Day, and that's great! But it's also the Sunday following "Ascension of the Lord" (May 10th), a day observed by Christians all over the world to recognize and celebrate the ascension of Jesus into heaven following his death and resurrection. In the story from Luke, Jesus invites his startled disciples, who wonder if he's a ghost who's appeared among them, to, "Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have." Sunday's sermon text ends with Jesus' being carried up into heaven, to be with God (where he advocates for us even now, at the right hand of the Father!). 
 
NEXT Sunday, May 20th 

IT'S PENTECOST SUNDAY - You are invited to come to worship wearing "the colors of flame" (red, orange, yellow), in remembrance of the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2). 

MR. DAVID FROST will be your guest preacher and worship leader, as I'll be away for (another!) son's wedding in Raleigh, NC, that day. David has been with you before, and I hope you'll make him feel welcomed, again.

FIESTA LUNCH & TALENT SHOW - Plan to stay after worship to enjoy a "Fiesta Lunch" to help our youth raise money for their summer mission trip. Stay to enjoy some "local talent" from Hebron Presbyterian Church. 
 
REMEMBER to check the bulletin insert each Sunday to see the items being collected for Operation Christmas Child "shoe boxes" for this coming holiday season. Then pick up a few items as you're doing your regular shopping, and bring them to the collection box in the hallway outside Holman Hall. Many thanks!
 
Sunday, June 10th - Plans are underway for outdoor worship at Dover Lake! Be sure and get this on your calendar, and look forward to enjoying a casual worship service and a fun day together at the lake. 
 
Vacation Bible School - It will be here before we know it! You may register a child(ren) by going to our church website, www.hebronpresbyterian.com, and clicking on "VBS 2018."
 
Looking ahead - October 21st will be "Heritage Sunday" at HPC, as we celebrate 175 years of ministry in this community. Make note of this on your calendar, and watch for more details as the date gets closer!

Pentecost

May 04, 2018
By Connie Weaver

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. (Acts 2:1-4, NRSV)

This May is the month I become a new mother-in-law…twice. Ever since we brought our first little boy home from the hospital, I have prayed that I might one day be a good mother-in-law. As my husband and I approach the marriages of two of our sons this month, I’m still not sure I know what it means to be a “good” mother-in-law. Maybe it’s more like raising children; you have an idea beforehand of what it means to be a good parent, and you can determine that there will be certain things you will or will not do when you have children of your own. But when the day comes, you realize that in loving and raising children, there are so many things you can’t control, and that while you’ll do your best, it’s going to be a wild ride. One thing I hope I can do is to remember that my daughters-in-law are not there to meet my emotional needs. Their job is to love and support my sons, and my future grandchildren, and my job for the time being will be to love them and support them as they carry out these responsibilities.

One of our sons is getting married on Pentecost Sunday, May 20th. That means I won’t be with you for one of the most celebratory Sundays of the year. Mr. David Frost will be your preacher and worship leader that day. David has been to Hebron before, and is looking forward to being with you again on Pentecost Sunday. David will have just graduated from Union Presbyterian Seminary the day before, on the 19th. He’s in the process of seeking his first call to a church, so you can pray for him and wish him well when you see him on May 20th.

Another of our sons is getting married on May 5th, in Georgia, so that means I won’t be with you on Sunday, May 6th. The Rev. Clay Macaulay, who preached for my installation service at Hebron, will be your preacher and worship leader that day. Clay is now Director of Alumni Development for Union Presbyterian Seminary, after pastoring several churches, and is a personal friend of mine. I hope you’ll enjoy having Clay with you on the 6th, and his wife, Pam, if she’s able to come.

So, back to Pentecost Sunday; there are two things I invite you to do on May 20th. One is to wear “the colors of flame;” red, yellow, orange, or some combination thereof, so that our sanctuary at Hebron might be alight with the colors of Pentecost. The other is to come having read and pondered the first two chapters of the Book of Acts, and what implications there may be for the work and witness of Hebron Presbyterian Church.

Many blessings to you on your journey of Christian faith.

Connie Weaver

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