Messages from Our Pastors

Messages from Our Pastors

Star of Wonder

January 2020

By: Rev. Marisa Brown-Ludwig

As we step over the threshold of the New Year, we are still walking with the story of Christmas, and the early life of the infant Christ.  As characters in the story who show up some time after Jesus’ birth, perhaps the Magi have something to say to us in this first month of 2020!

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi[a] from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”  (Matt 2:1-2)

What was it the Magi understood about the special one who was born, some message of hope that the Magi saw in the rising of the Star?  Whatever it was, they were willing to risk, to journey a long distance without knowing exactly where they were going.  It is significant that this message then came not only to one people in one place but drew people from another country.

          Perhaps it is this same message of hope that terrified Herod, and all of Jerusalem with him – so the scripture says.…

Will Christ be in Christmas?

By: Rev. Pam McGrath

Will Christ be in Christmas this year? Will he make it to Egypt?

This Christmas, as every Christmas, we Christians will read about a family who were turned away: “No room for you here!” We feel with Joseph and Mary, who were about to have a child and yet were refused even a warm place to sleep. Like many of us, I would like to believe that, if I were in Bethlehem on that day, I’d say on behalf of my family, “Don’t sleep in the barn. Come in with us. It may be crowded here, but there’s always room for someone in need!”

This Christmas Day, though, a new executive order goes into effect in the United States, with this equivalent result: unless the Mayor of Bethlehem and the Governor of Judea have specifically agreed to accept them before Christmas Day, no new refugees will be allowed in any location in the country. (Just think, if the Governor of Egypt did the same, Jesus might not have survived Herod’s executive order!)

At Christmas we often see ourselves in the nativity story, but who would have thought we’d be siding with Herod and Rome?

Don’t get me wrong.…

LOVE IN ACTION

By: Rev. Marisa Brown Ludwig

Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10 love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord.[a] 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers*1  (Romans 12:9-13)

The apostle tells us how to live the love of God.

Dear First Church Friends,

As the colors of Autumn accompany us into colder nights and shorter days, my heart prepares for the upcoming Thanksgiving Holiday . . . becoming more quiet, conserving energy, watching the trees exultantly and boldly move toward the hibernation and rebuilding of winter.  It’s time to think about the ones I love, and to consider more often the role of love in my life.   As we make plans for the Thanksgiving holiday, we are united with all Americans in bringing family and friends around a table together in gratitude, no matter their faith tradition, their abilities or economic status, their ethnicity, their political affiliation, or their position on social issues.  I find myself praying that every time we gather to pay attention to love around a table, it may get easier to extend that love out across more boundaries throughout our neighborhoods and to the world.…

How To Catch A Monkey

Rev. Pam McGrath

How do you catch a monkey?

Place peanuts in the bottom of a jar. The opening needs to be just large enough so that the monkey can get its hand inside. Set the jar down and walk away.

The monkey is drawn to the nuts. He sticks in his hand and grabs the peanuts in his fist. But the monkey’s fist is too wide for the opening. And the monkey is literally caught.

He could let go of the peanuts, pull his hand out and run away. But he doesn’t. All the monkey has to do is let go. The whole world is waiting for him, yet he sits trapped by his own desire.

Money is not a four-letter word.

This month we begin our Stewardship campaign—a time when we talk about money and what role it plays in our life, our relationships and our church.  Don’t be afraid. Money talk can make people uncomfortable. But talking about money is not that frightening.

Jesus talked about money all the time. He was constantly telling us not to let money separate us from God or our neighbors. Money can be used to bring hope and healing to broken places in the world.…

OUR Community

By: Rev. Marisa Brown Ludwig

September 1, 2019

Dear Friends and Members of First Church,

This sunny cool morning I am thinking about the challenging issues of our time, and what it means to me to be a part of this First Church Community, in the United Church of Christ.  Not just any community, but our community.  Especially when times are tough, I look to my faith for direction, guidance, and discernment – for moral compass and a way forward!

Our headlines are full of justice issues screaming for attention and you no doubt have some you care very much about.  If you are like me, you may feel overwhelmed by trying to sort out how we can work together as a greater community to work for change we believe is right, or maybe to fight things from being changed because we feel like they were on a just path before now: Immigration, Climate Change, Reproductive Justice, Gun violence, health care, poverty, homelessness, the opioid crisis . . . How can so many needs be cared for, one person at a time?

Well, we belong to one of the most active denominations of Christianity with an extensive history of justice work in our country.  We gather at local (Association), regional (Southern New England Conference UCC – new!) and national level UCC regularly to discern together on issues of conscience and vote to put out Resolutions of Witness.  We are clear that these statements speak to but not for all member churches – but we also agree to listen to and engage deeply with these Resolutions in our local areas.  Here are some of the issues we are speaking to currently:  https://www.macucc.org/changingourworld.  So we are not alone working on these things – we are part of a greater web of justice action.…

Anniversary…Ahhh…

By: Rev. Pam McGrath

August 20th is the anniversary of when I came to First Church of Christ in Longmeadow!

This August 20, Doug and I will be driving on the Blue Ridge Parkway. We’ll stop to hear gospel and bluegrass music and watch buck dancing at the Floyd Country Store. We’ll hike paths through pine forests to raging water falls.

There are quicker ways to get from Longmeadow, MA to Atlanta, GA. But any travel that keeps me from this view is not how I want to spend my vacation. This photo is from the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Driving on the Blue Ridge Parkway, we’ll pass mile after mile of vistas, of the kind that literally take my breath away with their beauty. I expect to find myself, as I have in the past, pulling over at every scenic vista, getting out of the car, and breathing deeply—with the kind of breaths that let healing, peace and calm flood your spirit.

And I’ll spend quiet time reflecting appreciatively on the two years I have spent at First Church of Christ in Longmeadow as your Senior Pastor. I expect to find myself remembering times we spent taking deep breaths of healing, joy, sorrow and hope together.…

Civil Rights Journey

By: Rev. Marisa Brown Ludwig

Dear First Church Members and Friends,

Most of you know that I went on a Civil Rights journey this past April with five First Church members:  Marieke Burt, Dianne Doherty, Mary & Matt Friedman, and Anne Landry.  We traveled on a tour planned by Rabbi Mark Shapiro and led by Rabbi Devorah Jacobson with Jewish Community Center Exec. Dir. Michael Paysnick, and 26 more Jewish Community friends and neighbors. From April 7 – 12, 2019, we travelled to Atlanta, Birmingham, Selma and Montgomery retracing major places and events of the 1960’s Civil Rights era in our country.

The trip combined standing in places of heroic non-violent witness and tragic violent response, haunting museum exhibits and personal storytelling. Though all of us on the trip lived through the momentous events marked at museums and churches and bridges, truly we had no idea of the scope of the suffering, the injustice, the killing, the dehumanizing horrific violence that is our heritage as Americans lived by people of color in our country. We learned details of historic civil rights milestones that we never knew, both in making connections from the founding of our country’s economy on the back of slavery through the Civil War and the devastating failure of the Reconstruction, into an epic backlash of white supremacism with thousands of lynchings and Jim Crow Laws in the early-mid 1900’s, redlining segregation that cemented separation after black and white veterans came home after WWII, through the passage of new laws meant to liberate in the 50’s and 60’s only to require life-threatening protests to make them be a lived truth.…