Lent is a time when we recall our baptisms, not in a nostalgic, wistful kind of way, but in a way that brings us back to the beginning of our faith, when we were zealous for justice, insistent on righteousness, and uncompromising in our devotion. Time has a way of softening the edges of our practices, with God coaching us into more understanding and effective ways of living our faith. But we should never lose our enthusiasm for or commitment to its basics. We offer to any who would be followers of Christ opportunities to study, worship, pray, fast and sacrifice. We do so because all of us have a baptism with which we are to be baptized (Luke 12:50, CEB). All of us have things we have to face in our lives that threaten to undo us.

We are tempted to think that we will not be tried by dire circumstances, but we have seen too much of life to believe that we will never have to suffer, never experience abandonment, never be tempted, or never face death. In all of these things, we will be baptized – carrying the mark and seal of God’s love and witnessing to the world how God works through us

What crises do you anticipate in your life that will cause you distress? How does your baptism make a difference as you face them? What particular trials are particularly hazardous to your faith? What can you do this Lent to shore up the chinks in your faith armor? Who and what can help you with that?


God’s Peace with Justice,
Pastor Dave

And the twelve called together the whole community of disciples and said, “It is not right that we should neglect the word of God in order to wait on tables.” (Acts 6:2, New Revised Standard Version)

Happy New Year! I trust you have done the required wrestling with what kind of resolution you will endeavor to keep in 2014. Often times, we trot out the standard fallback resolutions to lose weight, be kinder (That’s vague enough to avoid any real change) or stop smoking/drinking/eating so much. The desire to undertake this whole process rests in the underlying awareness that our lives are not what they could be and that with a little extra effort on our part they would be healthier and happier.

A new year in some ways is no different than the old. We put up a new calendar, remind ourselves to write “2014” (until sometime in March), and life goes on as it did before. It is up to us to make sure we change those things that we want to be different. What is God leading you to change in your life? Is it really that hard, or is the hard part committing to do it? Would it help if your faith community knew what you were working on and was supportive? What would you risk by sharing your goal? Wouldn’t it be worth it? None of us wants to neglect what God calls us to do!


Pastor Dave

My spouse has never been enamored with train travel. It is probably due to some bad experiences traveling to and from college by train. I, however, love traveling the rails. There is something soothing to me about the rocking, the repetitive noises and the ability to stroll from one end of the train to the other. Often, I have gotten acquainted with other people and found out a little about them and what they hope to do on this trip – visit an old friend, attend a memorial service, see a new place. If I want to, I can read a book or work on a sermon. If the mood strikes me, I can go to the club car and enjoy a beverage or a sandwich.

One of the things about Urbandale United Church of Christ that we value is the notion that we are a community of spiritual pilgrims. We understand our lives individually and corporately as having a path or an evolution that brings us closer and closer to what God wants for us. There is never a time in this life when we “have arrived,” or are perfected. We also strive to invite others to join with us in this common endeavor of discovering God and discovering who we are in God’s family. So we encourage one another to cultivate our gifts and our understanding. We share our experiences of faith and we confess our frustrations in trying to live faithfully.
We keep working, and struggling, and engaging with the world so that our faith is both challenged and strengthened.

As you look back on the road that has brought you to where you are in life, and as you look forward to the road ahead, where do you see God putting experiences in place that are bringing you to the place God has for you to be? Who is on this trip with you? How do you help each other on the way? Make the most of the time you have on the rails.

Pastor Dave

We welcome into this community of faith, in all aspects of church life, persons of every race, gender, nationality, ability, and sexual orientation; AND we will continue our efforts toward inclusiveness, and stand against all forms of discrimination.

This adaptation of Urbandale UCC’s Open and Affirming statement, offered by the Discernment Team in May of 2007, is a good reflection of what the congregation values and how it hopes to operate in the world. It expresses both how we reflect the welcome of Christ and how we will need to continue to work on this aspect of our communal life.

There are lots of organizations and institutions that recognize the importance of diversity. We work very hard to make sure that various minorities and interests are represented when there are decisions to be made. It is glaring to us when groups are all-male, all-white or all-WASP. We feel much better when there is wider representation. But most of the time, it is simply tolerance that we espouse. We tolerate those who are different or whose beliefs and values conflict with our own. If you have ever been in a situation where your presence was “tolerated” you know what that is like. Contrast that with “welcome.”

I remember what it was like to walk into my grandparents’ house. No matter how busy they were or what was going on that day, their faces lit up and they greeted me warmly. I knew that they were overjoyed to see me and that there would be a bottle of pop and a treat before much time had passed. I was welcome!

Do we light up when we see diversity, or do we merely tolerate it? Are we willing to offer the treats of hospitality, or just what civility requires? Is difference seen as necessary, or is it embraced as an asset?

How does your life reflect a welcome to those who are different from you and with whom you disagree?

Pastor Dave

Not long ago, I was sorting through some papers at the church and ran across (again!) the Open and Affirming Statement. It was something familiar to me and yet this version was different! There was some additional text!

Now, as a pastor, I deal with texts all of the time. I am familiar with how a text might get corrupted. Some well-intentioned editor can’t resist inserting an explanation or a comment. Something written in the margin gets included in the body of the document. Or a copyist finds something objectionable and decides the text would be better without it. It seems that our Open and Affirming Statement is not immune from these “corruptions.” The question is, though, was the text added, or was it taken away? Some of you who have been here longer than I may have a handle on that. What I want to offer today, though, is a consideration of the text in question. It is in the genre of an introductory remark. It states: “We covenant to be a Community that remains open to the challenges of the Christian Faith!”

What is implicit in this statement is that there are challenges involved in being a follower of the Way of Christ. I like that this finds expression in our community of faith. Too many times, the Christian faith is touted as a means of avoiding challenge, of being simplistic in dealing with issues, of painting the world as black and white. I have been challenged over and over again by what I read in scripture and how I apply it in my life. And I think if I am no longer challenged by the Gospel, I should probably do some hard thinking about what my faith really means.

Challenge is not a bad thing. It keeps us sharp and growing in our faith. How are the challenges in your life prodding you to grow and mature in your faith?

Pastor Dave

In unpacking boxes and files, I ran across something that I think was culled from another church’s newsletter a long time ago. It is a prayer attributed to Eleanor Rooseveldt, but I have not been able so far to verify that she is the author or that it is an accurate quote. One sentence in particular seems to me to be redundant, and I have left it as it is, but I have made changes to make language inclusive. I share it with you as a devotional aid as I begin my work at Urbandale UCC:

Our (Creator), who has set a restlessness in our hearts and made us all seekers after that which we can never fully find, forbid us to be satisfied with what we make of life. Draw us from base content and set our eyes on far-off goals.

Keep us at tasks too hard for us that we may be driven to Thee for strength. Deliver us from fretfulness and self-pitying; make us sure of the good we cannot see and of the hidden good in the world. Open our eyes to the simple beauty all around us and our hearts to the loveliness (others) hide from us because we do not try to understand them. Save us from ourselves and show us a vision of a world made new.


I am drawn to this prayer I think because it seems to reflect both a realism that says our eyes have to be wide open and an idealism that believes in a future that can be brought into being by the faith-full application of our gifts, energy, and resources. There are always events in our lives that threaten to sap our energy and our enthusiasm. The trick and thing that often eludes us, is to keep revisiting, each day, the vision that animates our lives and allows us to relish life and overcome our pain, our disappointment, our failures, and our fear.

God’s place in our lives is the source of that vision. I am going to try each day to find and lift up that vision. What is the vision that you perceive working in your life?

God’s Peace with Justice,

Pastor Dave

If those of us who have written these reflections on “Come to the Table” have done our job, you have been challenged and stimulated, had your faith deepened and renewed and have begun to develop a renewed sense of what it means to be a Christian and member of Urbandale UCC.  Unfortunately for me, I don’t know what richness has been shared since I write this the last week in April.

But I do know that when we share with one another—our hopes and dreams, our joys and sorrows, our excitement and reservations—we know each other better, our understanding is increased and our commitment to our life together is deepened.  That is what happens when we “come to the table” with open hearts and minds.  When we share the feast of the people of God, we make more room for the Spirit to strengthen and enliven our shared faith.

So as Pastor David becomes a part of our special segment of Christ’s church, he will want to learn from us just as we want to learn from him.  He will want to share experiences of camaraderie and worship.  He will want us to share what being in mission means.  He will encourage us to hear what mission means to him and how we live out our shared mission together.  He will help us learn more about being part of the faithful people of God.  He will not live our faith for us.  Put briefly, we will be “partners in Christ’s service.”  That is what happens when we “come to the table.”

Gayle V. Strickler, Jr.

(If you have access to a New Century Hymnal, please take time to read the words of Hymn 495.)

Every tomorrow has two handles.
We can take hold of it with the handle of anxiety
or the handle of faith.

Henry Ward Beecher

Beecher has a way of making those two handles sound evenly matched, equally accessible to us all. But are they? Anxiety has a way of creeping into our systems before we even realize what is at work in our bodies. At school I often have children complain of headaches, they’re edgy, and often have a hard time focusing when they know a big challenge or a new experience is coming up. I think we often grab that handle of anxiety without even realizing we’ve done it. Anxiety robs us of our openness, using our imagination, and causes us to blame others for problems that appear in our lives. Have we grabbed the handle of anxiety in our church family? Have we played it safe, blamed others, and stuck to routine in an effort to keep ourselves a float?

A new chapter in our church history is about to begin and along with this new step more anxiety will follow, but we do have the chance to grasp the handle of faith. We have a chance to renew our trust and willingness to take that big step together. It will be our faith that carries us forward, that binds us together, that allows us to serve our God. We need to let go of that handle of anxiety and purposefully grasp the handle of faith. That will require us to take risks and take responsibility for the health of our congregation. That handle is there just waiting for us to grab it!

Bonita Wiley

I love this phrase and the possibilities that are wrapped up in this simple yet profound invitation.  When I think of coming to the table my mind first wanders to the kitchen tables of my childhood.  My family was always found around someone’s table sharing food and laughter.  I observed many of my family and friends share not only laughter but tears, heartache and love in this space as well.  I have come to expand my meaning of table from a wooden piece with four legs to a space where our church community gathers.  It may be the sanctuary where we gather for Sunday morning worship, or Fellowship Hall where we gather for meals, receptions and fundraisers or it may be a home where we come for planning or meet for a small group.  Whatever the reason is we come to the table to be together.

When we “come to the table” we come to be not only affirmed but challenged.  In a world that is quick to tell us we are not enough we come to the table at UUCC to be loved for who God created us to be.  We have been given a variety of gifts within our church family and continue to led by God as we discover how to use them.  We have had many opportunities to stretch and grow this past year in particular.  As with all transitions there are feelings of sadness and pain yet there is also a space for new growth.  I am filled with joy again as we open our hearts and our tables to Pastor David and his family.

I invite each of us to “Come to the Table” and ready ourselves for new life.  We come with a lifetime of experiences that make us unique and a gift to this church family.  How will you participate in the life of UUCC?  What ministries are calling you?  How will you prepare your heart and soul to enter in to a new relationship with Pastor Dave?  What do you need to do and share with God?  Prepare yourselves and look within to see what you need to do in order to come and be fully present at the table….

Come to the table acknowledging your gifts
Come to the table acknowledging your past
Come to the table with an open heart
Come to the table ready to hear God
Come to the table to be transformed
Come to the table to experience love and reconciliation.


Pastor Amy Murray

The Mountain, copyright 2010 Jane Robinette | All Rights Reserved

Jane Robinette

There is a small Franciscan church in Nazareth, built in 1861. Within the church is a large slab of rock that according to tradition is the rock on which Jesus dined with his disciples after he had risen. This “communion table” looks nothing like the images created by artists over the centuries or our own table for that matter. What intrigues me is the image and symbolism of the material, a rock…a foundation.

On Palm Sunday 2010, I was out of town visiting my mother and aunt in Florida. My sister and I agreed to visit a local church in Coral Springs, specifically The First Presbyterian Church. We were warmly greeted by one of the deacons. When we came to the part of the service in which we shared communion, the preacher made it clear who should not partake of the sacraments of bread and cup.

The experience of “closed communion” practice is foreign to me. In most UCC local churches, the Communion Table is “open to all Christians who wish to know the presence of Christ and to share in the community of God’s people.”

The openness of our communion experience is the foundation of our community of faith. Next month Pastor David will join us and will receive that same extravagant welcome which we provide to all. God chose us to be the outstretched hand to embrace all who yearn to explore and celebrate one’s Christian faith. Let us praise the StillSpeaking God every day!

David Yurdin

The image of the dining room table has been at the forefront of my thoughts since last December, when my husband Jeff and I decided it was finally time to “grow up” and replace the tiny dining room table that we originally purchased for our first apartment with a larger table at which we could comfortably host our extended families for holiday dinners. Once committed to this upgrade, it didn’t take long to purchase a used table on “Craig’s List” that met our perceived needs. We were ready!

Or so we thought.  Then we realized none of our tablecloths were long enough to fit the larger table.  A trip to the neighborhood Kohl’s produced a new table covering that would work for a festive Christmas gathering.  Now we were ready!

But no, our current set of china would have clashed considerably with the patterns on the new tablecloth.  So the purchase of a new set of china in a neutral color that would work for other holidays besides Christmas solved the problem and we were back in business.

Now, I excitedly prepare myself spiritually for Pastor David’s arrival at our Urbandale UCC family table.  I think I’m ready, but do I have room at the table of my heart for everyone to feel comfortable and welcome? Do I have the appropriate tablecloth and china, the skills and supplies?  Am I bringing to the table a “grown up” attitude and sense of responsibility to do my part in hosting and celebrating as a family?  I invite you to reflect on your own experiences of hosting a family dinner, and bless you as you prepare to welcome David and his family into our UCC home.

Wendy Sontag

The “Road to Emmaus” story is one of my favorites.  It takes place after the Resurrection, though at that point the disciples don’t know that Jesus has risen.  As some of them are walking down the road, a stranger joins them and conversation turns to the events of the past three days.  When they stop for a meal, the stranger breaks bread “and they knew Him”!  It was the living Christ in their midst.

When we listen to sermons and anthems, when we sing hymns and read prayers, are we open to discovering again that the Christ is also in our midst?  Are we ready to listen with fresh ears as Pastor Dave joins our congregation to help guide our ministry?

These communion hymns invite us to celebrate Christ’s message of unconditional love both inside the sanctuary and out in the world:

As we gather at your table, as we listen to your word,
help us know, O God, your presence; let our hearts and minds be stirred.
Nourish us with sacred story till we claim it as our own;
Teach us through this holy banquet how to make Love’s victory known.
NCH 332

Come, gather in this special place; the table here is long and wide;
For all who heed communion’s call, there’s room for thousands side by side.
NCH 335

Be known to us in breaking bread, but do not then depart;
O Savior, stay with us and spread your table in our heart.
NCH 342

Elsie P. Naylor, Music Program Director

“Another name for God is surprise.”
Brother David Steindl-Rast

As I prepare for a special event, be it a meal with friends at our home or Evan’s graduation party, time is spent planning the little details.  Our house must be cleaned.  Flowers are plucked from the gardens.  Thought is given to how our guests will be welcomed and made comfortable.  The menu is written and re-written.  We converse about the event, in anticipation, and sometimes argue as to whose aesthetics or food choices best meet the party’s theme.   But sometimes the most memorable parties are those with a surprise or unexpected event – like when a grieving friend was seated at our table and his chair broke, resulting in tension giving way to emotional release.

This quote made me pause this week as I reading from The Book of Awakening.  I know both in my heart and head that our Holy One is ever-present in my life.  And, I have experienced that God surprises me, appearing in mysterious, wondrous ways.  I want our congregation to continue to carefully prepare and be intentional as we enter our new covenant with Pastor David.  However, I also want to be open to see the mystery in the unexpected and unplanned, to know that our Surpriser is present, and that our lives may be richer from these surprises   Just as I can over-prepare for a party such that I no longer allow myself any spontaneity or freedom to just “let go,” we can over-prepare for our new church-pastor relationship. I pray that we have the strength of spirit to also accept our Holy One’s surprises as we “come to the table.”

Elaine Lundstrom

Probably the largest come-to-the-table experience in all of the New Testament is when Jesus fed the multitudes. It must be an important lesson/miracle because it is the only miracle repeated in all four Gospels. One of the symbolic interpretations is that the story is about God’s grace, and by grace I mean Christ vital and active in our lives, being offered to any who are willing to receive, and the beauty is we can receive “as much as [we] want.” In addition to feeding everyone “as much as [they] wanted,” there were leftovers, there was abundance, and Jesus collected the abundance so that “nothing [would] be wasted.”

What would be more apparent in this scripture than each of us feeding the multitudes? How else are we ever to see God active in the world today than through God’s grace being freely given through God’s people? And how might we give this grace? The sky is the limit as to how we might spread the kingdom of God.

Yes, we can live this miracle. We can receive as much of God’s grace “as [we] want,” but we can also give back to God, each other and the world “as much as [we] want.”

Randy Jedele

“All you who are thirsty, come to the water!
You who have no money, come, receive grain and eat;
Come, without paying and without cost, drink wine and milk!
Come to me heedfully, listen, that you may have life.
I will renew with you the everlasting covenant.”

Isaiah 55:1,3

When was the last time you were really, really hungry?   Do you remember when quenching your thirst became your prime goal?  Hunger and thirst are powerful physical forces, as our bodies seek nourishment and replenishment of the energy within us.  Spiritual hunger and thirst are the cravings of our spirits. They cannot be satisfied with earthly food and drink, as the writer from Isaiah reminds us.  The hunger for God and the thirst for community are the basis for our yearnings for the nourishment from our common table.

We who are thirsty and hungry are called to come to the table, to come to share life and food and drink, to remember and renew our sacred promises to each other.  We do this in times of sacrament and symbol—in baptism and confirmation, in sharing communion.  We do this in times of meetings and manual labor and sharing coffee and prayer, in Sunday school, camps, and retreats.  We come to the table hungry and thirsty, to know in our community fullness and satisfaction.  We come seeking life, that we may share that abundant life with others.

Linda Grathwohl

“Do not neglect to show hospitality, for by that means some have entertained angels without knowing it.”
Heb 13:2

The table is set with my best china, wine glasses, cloth napkins folded just “so-so”. The silverware has been polished and fresh flowers grace the table. The aroma from the kitchen of fresh bread is tantalizing. I’m almost ready. The “new pastor and his wife” are coming for dinner!

Extravagant Hospitality? Well, perhaps the description above is the “Martha Stewartized” form, but the Christian model for hospitality isn’t limited to home-cooked meals. It certainly isn’t about the polished silver! It’s about building a welcoming community by showing an authentic, extravagant spirit of graciousness, openness and warmth that people sense. Yes, wonderful dinners are great! Having Pastor Dave and Susan over for dinner is terrific. Go for it – regardless of your style! Just don’t stop there.

For about 300 years in the early Christianity, homes were the churches. Lydia, the first convert of the western world made her home a church. Imagine her hospitality! How can I bring these same attitudes of community every Sunday to our church table? Paul Wadell in Christian Reflection calls congregations to move beyond “safe neighbor love” to risking “the dangerous love” of Christian hospitality.

Dangerous love? Is my spirit ready to practice that? Do I warmly seek out visitors or returning members instead of only hugging my friends? Do I invite people to attend services? Do I write caring notes to those I haven’t seen for awhile? (Or, do I expect the faithful Caregivers group to do this?) Do I really want to build a diverse community or am I satisfied with having church as a comfort-zone time? Who else could I invite to my church table that would stretch me, stretch us? And, if I see “strangers in our midst” would I include them with the same metaphorical “good wine and warm bread” of hospitable warmth, openness, affirmation, inclusion and sharing? Would they sense God’s loving spirit through me and in us as a congregation? Could UUCC become extravagantly hospitable and dangerously loving for everyone? If we knew an angel were at our table would it change how we treat them?

Maryellen Knowles

I love to eat meals at a round table.  It reminds me of camp.  Everybody gets a chance at camp.  There is no head of the table. You take turns doing each of the different chores.  Some set the table, some get the food, and some clean up.  You taste a little of everything, and try not to throw food away.  A good camp counselor gives everybody a chance to talk.  And when everyone is finished, we get to sing songs.  Maybe a round.  Dona, nobis, pacem.

I love potlucks.  Everyone contributes and everyone eats.  I like trying new dishes (perhaps an Asian salad) as well as savoring the tried-and-true (like Randy’s carrot cake).  Sometimes I have time to make a really great dish, and sometimes I don’t, and the really great thing about this church is—that’s OK.

I like that this church is structured to share the table.  We have a moderator, not a president or chair.  And when we have a difficult decision to make, we usually try to set up a process to allow different viewpoints to be heard.  I am learning to value process, to truly listen, and to recognize that if we pool all our ideas we may actually come up with a better solution.  And if the group comes up with the same solution as one mentioned early on, the process can still be valuable.  Because at least people feel a part of it—and isn’t that what community is all about?

Gail George

heal your life, copyright 2004 Jane Robinette | All rights reserved

Jane Robinette

What does it mean to “Come to the Table” when we are beginning the journey with our new Pastor Dave?  It means each one of us participates and has a part to play in the new journey.  It means creating a time of extravagant welcome in large and small ways.  It means looking for ways to integrate Pastor Dave into the life of our church as smoothly as possible.  He will be largely unfamiliar with us, who we are and how we do things.  We will be largely unfamiliar with him, who he is and how he does things.

So, as our Lombard Center training suggests, the major focus during our first year together will be on building relationships.  It will be good for us to take plenty of time to learn about each other in creative and intentional ways.  What can each of us do to let Pastor Dave know who we are and our hopes and dreams for our church life together?  What can we do to get to know Pastor Dave, who he is and what is important to him?  How does he see his role as our pastor?

Another focus of our first year will be on helping Pastor Dave learn how we do things and why we do them that way.  What is our history?  What is important to keep?  And what are the things we may be ready to change?  Our Lombard Center training suggests we go slowly at first and give Pastor Dave time to learn about what is already in place before making major changes.  Of course, this does not mean that nothing will change during our first year together.  Our new pastor will not be the same person as our former pastors, so we know some things will change just because of this.  Part of extravagant welcoming is to be open to new and somewhat different ways of doing things.  Part of extravagant welcoming is laughing when we make mistakes and forgiving the other person and ourselves when we are not perfect.

Gracious God, please guide us as we “Come to the Table” with our new pastor.  Let us be aware of your love and guidance.  Give us patience as we learn to know each other and give us flexibility and openness as we explore our new path together.  Amen.

Amy Christensen

Sounds like the migrations of the Spring, doesn’t it? We cannot expect a pastor to visit our families in every home; that’s almost an impossibility in our modern work-a-day world.

Why then don’t we make an effort to visit with our Pastor, instead of waiting for him or her to visit with us? In our church meetings, our milling about in the halls, and in his study as we make appointments to do so.  Visiting on a one-to-one basis or as a family will help us get acquainted and be closer, sometimes will lift the Spirit of God into the occasion.

Surely, Jesus had a great ministry with crowds. But his greatest ministry was with one or two of his disciples, touching two disciples, touching their lives and being touched by them. They found God together with the Master!

Howard Eldrenkamp