Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
The Greater NJ Annual Conference wrapped up yesterday in Wildwood, NJ, with the reading of the appointments, and I return to my appointment at Denville for another year of ministry and mission! Marcia Brands, our Lay Delegate, attended on behalf of DCC and will be presenting a brief “wrap up” in the coming weeks. For me, the most memorable moments at the Conference include: the Service of Ordination, in which newly approved candidates are commissioned for ministry, those who have been serving effectively are ordained for a life of service; the Service of Remembrance in which is celebrated the lives of clergy who have died in the past year, and their hundreds and hundreds of years of leadership/service; and seeing friends/colleagues with whom I have shared 37 years of ministry, leadership, and celebrations.
As I was driving toward home yesterday, up the Garden State Parkway, thinking about returning for another appointment-year, the word “Jubilee” came to mind… because I always associate the biblical idea of Jubilee with the number 7. (It really comes at the end of 7 years in the Bible, but I had a strong feeling about Jubilee, so here you go… at the beginning of year 7!)
The word "jubilee" is derived from the Hebrew word jobel, which means "ram's horn"; since it was precisely that horn which was used as a trumpet, whose sound indicated to everybody the beginning of the jubilee year. The book of Leviticus, in the code of holiness, is the source which tells us of the significance of the jubilee year, a year of liberation "par excellence". (Leviticus 25, 8-10).
There are hundreds and hundreds of commentaries in the Jewish tradition, all of which end up sharing the same basic scriptural understanding summed up here: It falls on every generation to revive the expectation and search for the Lord, of the gift which gives itself, of a novelty of life where liberation, consolation and rest, which, from time immemorial and forever is the design of mercy and of goodness which God has for every person and every people.
If, in the year now before us, we continue to revive the expectation and search for the Lord Jesus… it will be a “par excellence” year for us! We start the year ahead with plans unfolding for the completion of a beautiful Memorial Prayer Garden, now under construction. One of our members, Noah Penkrat, who is working on his Eagle Scout project, will continue this highly collaborative project, which will include a gorgeous bronze butterfly sculpture. We start this new year, with the Trustees having overseen the completion of our Solar Panel Project, and are generating and feeding electricity back onto the power-grid, generated by the photo-voltaic panels on the roof over the Education wing. I am most grateful to the Trustees for seeing the long-term environmental value associated with this project, and the decadeslong savings this will represent in our annual budget.
I am also grateful to many people in the congregation who have committed to deepening their spiritual lives through the “Tres Dias” Retreats. Janice McCrostie has continued her long-standing commitment to the winter spiritual life retreats for our DCC confirmands and other young people in the NNJ area; and, this spring, Marcia Brands has provided oversight for the adult retreat that took place just last weekend. These retreats represent a deepening commitment on the part of many people in our congregation, and have quite a lasting effect on the spiritual formation of the congregation. You may remember that I envisioned “spiritual formation” as one of the most important dynamics that I would try to encourage when I came to DCC seven years ago… and I am so pleased to see it unfolding before us.
Planning for Graduates Sunday, the ASP Mission Trip, and DCC Vacation Bible School is gearing up, as Sunday School/Christian Education is winding down for the school-year; and it gives me one more opportunity for sounding the Jubilee trumpet!!! Hundreds of people engaged in these vital ministries for the sake of Jesus Christ is cause for rejoicing!!!
Over the summer months (in July), Gabriele and I will be taking our oldest grandson, Dylan, to Germany for 2 weeks to celebrate his 8th grade graduation. Among all the other things we hope to do, we will be traveling to Gabriele’s home town, Obereichenbach, to show Dylan his grandmother’s birthplace (it’s historic)! We will also travel to the Bavarian Alps to kiss the “Gipfelkruess”, (trans., Cross at the Top of the Peak) atop the highest mountain in southern Germany; traveling northward to the beautiful, historic Cologne Cathedral; visiting family members along the way; headed to the north-westerly border with Holland; and returning to Bayrueth in Bavaria to visit with our German “son”, Fritz, (who lived with us as an exchange student over 20 years ago), and his family! The vacation will be a jubilee for us, as grandparents!!!
I hope the coming year is a JUBILEE for all of us here at DCC. The commentary on the biblical idea of celebrating a jubilee puts it this way: “It falls on every generation to revive the expectation and search for the Lord, of the gift which gives itself, of a novelty of life where liberation, consolation and rest, which, from time immemorial and forever is the design of mercy and of goodness which God has for every person and every people.”
May it be so…
Deep peace of Christ to you all! -Pastor Ed
Spring is in full swing… the dogwoods are just bursting out in bloom… the daffodils are standing tall toward the sun… the goldfinches have returned… and a little after 5 am, the birds begin to sing in the treetops. “All nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres”, so go the words to one of the verses of “This is my Father’s World”.
Not more than a few hours after Gabriele placed a colorful Easter wreath on the front door, a pair of beautiful house wrens decided to build a nest in it. It’s a perfect spot, out of the rain, no direct sunlight to overheat it, and within a day or two there were eggs laid… and mother wren is keeping watch. It has been a source of excitement, and one of life’s little gifts to us, as we await the hatching of the tiny blue eggs and the chirpy new life within them!
The season of Eastertide is upon us, that time we set aside to consider the pull and tug of the Resurrection in our lives. All of nature responds… migrating birds and fish become active; the hawks, osprey and eagles begin to soar overhead; the deer and bear become active after the winter months, and get ready to give birth, the water warms in response to the longer days and shorter nights. After the dormant winter, the season turns and spring is all around us!
All of this can easily go unnoticed, depending on what is happening within and around you! Eastertide is like that, too! Our celebration of the Resurrection often goes unnoticed by many, too… especially if there is no connection between what others see as we live out our belief in the Risen Christ and our witness/behavior toward those to whom he came to bring life in its fullest.
As spring continues to make way for the coming summer months, I invite you to take some extra time to notice Resurrection in your relationships! Simply paying attention to the little things can be quite powerful, and expose the beauty and wonder within the people God places around you every day! As Easter Good News reminds us, Christ died and was risen for everyone, showing no partiality or favorites… and offers this new life to everyone! It’s God’s immense and awe-inspiring Easter promise… and antici-pating the beauty that God’s promising love unfolding, or hatching right in front of you, or being born anew, is energizing!
In the month of May there is a lot to energize us in the worship life of our faith-community! We will celebrate Confirmation on the 7th, Mother’s Day on the 14th – with our Annual Tools and Blankets Offering in Honor/Memory of loved ones on the 14th, then a special service of Baptism and reception of new members on the 21st … all leading up to Memorial Day weekend!
The energy and activity supporting our ASP Summer Mission Trip is building, several exciting landscaping projects around the church property are under construction, our Solar Panel project atop the Education wing will be activated this month and begin generating energy for the power grid!
I invite you to pay a little more attention to the little things! Just like our busy nest of wrens on the front door, there are things going on all around us, all the time, that can serve as reminders of the new, regenerated, reborn, resurrected life that is God’s intention for each of us !
Happy Eastertide… Happy Spring… Enjoy the life that is unfolding right before your eyes… Pastor Ed