Weekly Update 20 March

This Sunday: Lent is a season of repentance and re-turning to God. This third Sunday of Lent is an opportunity to think about when to change, how to make change, how to embrace change.  See Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18 and Luke 13:1-9.

LUCC Concert: The Lakewood UCC Concert Series continues with Randy Wilson and Gabriel Dansereau this Friday, 22 March. Randy is a fifth generation eastern Kentuckian who served as folk arts director for 25 years at the Hindman Settlement School, an institution that has served mountain youth since 1902. He plays several different stringed instruments- guitar, autoharp, Celtic drum, and tells stories of his people in the mountains. But he specializes in banjo and banjo history, playing several different banjos from Africa to Appalachia, particularly banjo styles and tunes from Knott County. Banjo pickers, both men and women, from this region used a variety of techniques and tunings on the banjo. Randy Wilson will be joined by his son, Gabriel Dansereau, fiddler and jazz guitar player, just graduating from the University of North Carolina Greensboro School of Jazz. Join in an evening of stories and songs from the mountains! $20 suggested donation at the door. All proceeds benefit the musicians. Doors open at 6:30PM, show at 7PM.

Square Dance: Jenny & the Stray Dogs with Randy Wilson calling. 1-4pm on Saturday, 23 March. Come square dance on a Saturday afternoon with a live band and renowned caller from Kentucky! A rare opportunity to experience authentic square dancing in Florida. Jenny & the Stray Dogs with Gabe Dansereau will play live Old Time tunes with amazing Randy Wilson calling our dances. Have a sweet tooth? Bottomless dessert bar to keep you fueled. All ages, all abilities, everyone welcomed! Put on your dancing shoes or just come listen to music. $10 suggested donation for the artists.

1:00-1:30 … Dance lessons and refreshers … you will be ready to dance in no time!
1:30-3:30 … Dance!
3:30-4:00 … Mingle and eat up the dessert! 

One Ticket Available: A group from the church is attending Haydn’s Creation with the Florida Orchestra Saturday March 23 at 8pm.  There is one free ticket available please contact Claire Stiles or the Church Office if interested.

Sunday Celebrations: Celebrate March birthdays after church on Sunday, March 31 with a potluck lunch. 

Theological Orientation Discussions: On Tuesday April 2, Dr. Robert “Coke” Coughenour will offer a presentation on how the word “Christ” is used in the Bible.  Coke is a retired Biblical professor.  This will be a very informative and engaging evening.  The gathering will begin at 6:30 and end at 7:45 in the Fellowship Hall at church.  All are welcome.  Please contact the church office if you would like transportation.  

Sea Level Rise Conference: Plans are shaping up for the Suncoast Sea Level Rise Collaborative’s conference on climate, a two-day program that will explore changes in the level of climate impacts over four years and highlight action steps individuals and policy-makers could take to mitigate or adapt to those impacts.

The conference, titled [Sea Level] Rise Up: Realities and Opportunities, will be April 5 & 6 at the Conference Center at SPC Seminole, 9200 113th St. North.

The Collaborative, a small group of concerned citizens (LUCC’s Claire Stiles is one of them) committed to educating the public about the challenges and opportunities created by global warming, emerged from the Institute’s 2015 sea level rise conference. Since 2015, a great deal has happened on the climate change front to heighten the need for action to deal with the impacts of a warmer Earth. Register online.

Earth Day: April 13th from 10am to 5pm St. Petersburg will celebrate Earth Day with a community celebration in Historic Williams Park (350 2nd Ave N).  Earth Day is celebrated by over a billion people in hundreds of countries around the globe. By celebrating Earth Day we join with others and share our common reverence and respect for this beautiful but fragile planet. LUCC is considering having a booth at this event.  Those who are interested in helping, please contact Claire Stiles. For more information visit earthdaysp.com.

World Dance Day: April 13th from 1 to 2pm at William’s Park. This Global Celebration Dance For Humanity creates an international dance celebration that unites humanity. Registration Cost is just $5 and includes the download of epic 1 hour global mix of music for your dance party. Access to a private online Facebook community for dancers worldwide. Global Organizers: The Liberators International. Local Organizer: Wally LeBlancRegister online.

March Birthdays: Happy birthday to Carol Shores (3/1), Claudia Rodriguez (3/3), Grace Lewis and Yvonne Riesen (3/13), Ron Huff (3/19), Earl Waters (3/25), and Charlie Lewis (3/27). Someone missing? Contact the church office with birthday information.

Circle of Concern: Don Ritchie, Christy Martin, Carolyn Moore, Ann Quinn, Willy Zessoules, and Ann Rogers.


Weekly Update: If you are involved with an activity or event that you would like to share with the LUCC family, please send the information to the church office by Tuesday since the Update usually is sent out on Wednesday.

Sermon 3.17.19 The Fox and the Hen

Scripture Lessons: Isaiah 55:1-9  and  Luke 13:31-35

Sermon: The Fox and the Hen

Pastor: Rev. Kim P. Wells

When I was a child, one of my favorite songs to sing was “The Fox Went Out on a Chase One Night.”  We learned it in school and our family has a record with the song sung by Harry Belafonte.  I loved the tune and I liked a song with a story.  I still do.  But every time we sang the song, the goose and the duck got killed.  Every time.  The fox got into the pen and killed two of the animals who thought they were sleeping in safety and the farmer was unable to protect them.  

And so, that subtle process begins, instilling in us the way of the fox.  In our collective imagery, the fox is a sly, devious, predator.  It is cunning, evil, and dangerous.  The fox is a trickster.   The fox takes; it doesn’t give.  It gets the hens, the geese, and the ducks, and whatever else it wants.   And so, in the story we heard this morning from Luke, Jesus refers to Herod as a fox.  It’s not a complement.  Jesus is  calling out Herod as someone who is devious and cunning.  Not to be trusted.  Not interested in the welfare of others.  He will definitely save his own skin, no matter the cost.  Kind of sounds like a lot of politicians today.  The fox sees death and destruction as the cost of doing business.  The fox takes advantage of others for personal gain.  No qualms about that.  By using power to threaten and intimidate, the fox instills fear and then capitulation ensues.  We see this pattern happening all around us.  We see fox style leadership in the political and economic realms of our society.  We see people taking advantage of others, preying on them, through policies and practices that cause harm and destruction.  We see the steady cultivation of fear and intimidation used by the fox.  The fox approach to life and leadership surrounds us.  We are surrounded by the fox world view, the fox reality.  

But there is another animal image in this story from Luke.  Jesus also refers to a hen:  “How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings. . .” [Luke 13:34]  This image of the hen implies protection, security, safety, nurture, and care.  The hen does not prey on the young of others.  The implication is that the chicks under the charge of the hen are cherished, precious, beloved, vulnerable and frail.  Each life deserving of love and care and protection.  The image of the hen offers a vision of community where everyone is safe and protected and provided for.  The picture of the hen echoes other references in scripture that portray God with these kind of nurturing traits.  Here are some examples:  

Deuteronomy 32:11-12  This is in reference to Moses and the Exodus –

“As an eagle stirs up its nest,                                                                                                          and hovers over its young;                                                                                                                as it spreads its wings, takes them up,                                                                                        and bears them aloft on its pinions,                                                                                              the Lord alone guided him;                                                                                                              no foreign god was with him.”  

Ruth 2:12  This involves Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi, gleaning in the fields of Naomi’s kinsman, Boaz.  Boaz hears the story of these refugees and responds:

“May the Lord reward you for your deeds, and may you have a full reward from the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge.”  

And from the Psalms –                                                                                                                 Psalm 17:8                                                                                                                                     “Guard me as the apple of the eye;                                                                                             hide me in the shadow of your wings. . .”

Psalm 36:7                                                                                                                                      “How precious is your steadfast love, O God!                                                                              All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings.”  

Psalm 91:4                                                                                                                                        “The Most will cover you with pinions,                                                                                        and you will find refuge. . .”   [adapted for inclusive language]

And from Isaiah.                                                                                                                              Isaiah 31:5                                                                                                                                        “Like birds hovering overhead, so the Lord of hosts                                                               will protect Jerusalem;                                                                                                                     The Lord will protect and deliver it,                                                                                            The Lord will spare and rescue it.”  [adapted for inclusive language]

Isaiah 49:15   Describing God’s care for God’s people –                                                             “Can a woman forget her nursing child,                                                                                        or show no compassion for the child of her womb?”

All of these examples show the hen side of the nature of God and of our nature.  Jesus  lives out of the hen image of the Divine.  He gives us a vision of a world where all are cherished and cared for as a mother hen attends to her precious chicks.  This world comes into being when we care for each other with divine mothering love.  

The hen vision of the world is a world where everyone is wanted and included and valued.  Where everyone is safe and cared for.  Where everyone is provided for and has the opportunity to make a contribution.  It is a society of compassion and care with special sensitivity to the vulnerable and frail.  When you think about how we treat the children and elders of our society, we immediately see that we do not live in a way that reflects the hen vision of reality and values.  In speaking with David Lomaka, the executive director of Neighborly Senior Services, this week, he mentioned that there are 1,000 people in Pinellas County on a waiting list for Meals on Wheels.  Surely, he said, we can manage to give everyone who needs it one meal a day!  

Jesus is inviting us to live a hen style reality, to create the hen ideal.  It is an alternative to the fox view of reality.  Jesus offers an alternative vision; a different kind of allegiance not to self interest but to the common good.  It is a life affirming, life giving, life valuing conception of reality.  Jesus did not win people over through threat, intimidation, or violence.  He won them over with food, healing, forgiveness, mercy, and solidarity.  That’s the hen style of living, not the fox style.

So let’s look at a few examples of where we see the fox style of reality and the hen style of reality at work.  

Since it is St. Patrick’s Day, let’s look at the traditions surrounding St. Patrick.  First of all, the St. Patrick’s Day holiday has become more about shamrocks, luck, green, and beer than about St. Patrick.  And that may not be such a bad thing because St. Patrick is known for having used intimidation, fear, and even invoking God to kill people to promote Christianity in Ireland.  In addition, his legacy is built on a false presumption.  He was not the first one to bring Christianity to Ireland.  Palladius, Brigit of Kildare, and Columba preceded him.  But Patrick was the most heavy handed, fox style, so he is the one most remembered.  

And many of his prayers include the concept of protection because he was engaged in life threatening conflict.  He got pushback.  He is known for evicting the snakes from Ireland.  Well, Ireland has never had any snakes.  This is considered metaphor for kicking the Druids out of Ireland.  Is that Jesus style?  Jesus was trying to bring his religion back to its original heart, back to justice and compassion.  He was not trying to start a new religion and he was not trying to evict an old one.  The biblical concept is that the Jewish community will live according to the ways of a God of generosity, justice, and right relationship.  People will be inspired and want to live like that too, and will be drawn to that way of living.  It’s hen style.  But by the time Jesus was around, things had gone fox style.  It’s very tempting as we see with St. Patrick who was definitely fox style however noble his intentions may have been.  

Next, let’s look at the situation in Jerusalem and Israel and Palestine today.  In a context of much fear and intimidation, the fox style of managing the situation is prevailing as it was in Jesus’ day, and it is not succeeding in creating peace with justice for all people.  Fox style never does.  It can’t.  You can’t create peace using violence and fear.  Jesus is portrayed crying over Jerusalem several times in the gospels; they just won’t see their way clear to do it God’s way.  Jesus laments, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem. . . Your house is left to you.”   In other words, you will reap what you sow.  And several decades later, Jerusalem lay in ruins.  The lesson is yet to be learned, however.  The fox style of reality is still holding sway today in Israel and Palestine with countless victims in its wake.  

This week, we saw another horrific scene of carnage, this time in New Zealand.  The pope, whom I respect, called the killings senseless.  Well, it is not senseless at all if you are from the fox world view.  From the fox world view, such killing sends a message.  It makes your life worthy.  It is a declaration of supremacy.  It instills fear and trembling.  It is a display of power through destruction and death.  If that is your world view, such carnage is not senseless at all.  And from the hen perspective, it is not senseless, it is sinful, evil, and morally reprehensible.  And this killing was not senseless, in terms of bodily senses.  The killer wanted people to sense, experience, the killing, over the internet – seeing it and hearing it in real time.  No, that act of terror was not senseless.  It was the fox.

And look at the responses.  In New Zealand, the government is seeking to tighten access to guns and promote stiffer gun control.  Protect the people.  This is a hen response.  In the US after such a massacre, the response from many is more guns.  That is a fox response.  

One of the places today where we see the most beautiful manifestation of the hen view of reality is in the farm worker movement.  I was in Gainesville on Thursday as part of the farmworker demonstration at the University of Florida.  To put it briefly, the farmworkers are promoting a Fair Food Alliance which is an agreement between growers and farmworkers about working conditions.  The provisions include things like water in the fields for farmworkers to drink, protection from toxic pesticides in the fields, a process of reporting sexual harassment in the fields, being paid a penny more per pound for picking tomatoes, and the like.  It is very basic and rooted in human rights.  Growers who have signed on feel they have a much better relationship with the farmworkers and productivity is increased and things go more smoothly for everyone.  Some growers have refused to sign on to the Fair Food agreement.  The farmworkers are trying to get their cooperation by getting major corporations to buy only from Fair Food growers.  That would pressure more growers to be part of the Fair Food agreement.  The Fair Food campaign targeted Taco Bell years ago because Taco Bell was buying its tomatoes from growers that were not part of the Fair Food Alliance.  Many boycotted Taco Bell.  Eventually, Taco Bell signed on, and so did many growers.  Another target was Burger King.  They have since signed on.  We are still working on Publix and Wendy’s to sign on and to buy tomatoes from growers who agree to the Fair Food program.  

The issue at Gainesville is that there are two Wendy’s restaurants on the school campus leasing space in school buildings.  The effort is to get the school to cut the contracts with Wendy’s.  

When you hear the leaders of the farmworkers talk about their vision, it is of a world where all people are treated fairly and valued in every line of work.  It is a vision of a world where all people have equal rights, human rights.  It is an expansive, inclusive vision.  And they know that they can only achieve this vision by treating others with dignity and respect, including the chairman of Wendy’s and the head of Publix.  At the event in Gainesville, there was mention of fairness and dignity for all, with specific citing of gay, lesbian, transgender, bi sexual people, people of every sexual identity.  It was also notable that a group of people, predominantly African American, from the Fight for 15, working for a minimum wage of $15 an hour in Florida, were right in there chanting and singing and demonstrating with the mostly Latino farmworkers.  It is so inspiring to see a movement of people committed to human rights and dignity for all taking non-violent action to make society more just.  It is based on people power.  And they are firm in the belief that people can be influenced to do what is right without violence or threat of personal harm.  The farmworker movement is based on the power of the mother hen protecting her chicks.  They are using perseverance, dedication, persistence, courage, creativity, and sacrifice to achieve their ends;  not money, status, or privilege.  And they will prevail.  They already have.  Time and again.  The farmworker movement is a hen movement and it just lifts your spirits to be part of it!  I was so glad I went on Thursday even if it did mean 4 hours on a bus!

Where does the church stand in all of this?  Do we see the church living out of the hen perspective of reality?  Or do we see the church serving the fox view of reality?  The hen style, the way of Jesus, is a way of compassion and love and mercy.  It is not a way of intimidation, threat or violence.   It is a way of sharing, giving, and helping.  It is not a way of taking, taking advantage, or taking over.  We who follow Jesus are following one who extolled and honored the mother hen vision of reality.  To live in that reality actually takes much strength and courage.  Jesus knew that he would be going to Jerusalem and that he would be killed there.  And he followed that path.  Anything the Pharisees or Herod, or the disciples for that matter, said was not going to dissuade him.  He knew what he had to do if he was to live fully from the hen vision of reality.  He recognized the fox, he knew the fox, but he would not capitulate to the fox.  

What about us?  Do we recognize the fox?  Do we know the fox for what it is?  Do we capitulate to the fox?  It is easy to be swept up in the prevalent world view, to let your guard down, to let fear in, and then to be playing on team fox.  

Our Lenten theme is All Things New.  For all things to be new, we need the hen view of the world, the way of Jesus, the path of transformation through compassion and non-violence.  And, like Jesus, we must be relentless, unswayed by the fox.  We must be fighting fear at every turn.  You can’t be a hen and a fox, the two just don’t mix biologically or metaphorically.  And to be of the hen heart and mind is to be part of living into a world where every person, every single person, is sacred, and where Earth is sacred, as a mother, a home, a provider, to be revered.  That takes vigilance, sacrifice, and bravery.  The hen is fierce about cherishing, protecting, preserving, and nurturing especially those who are vulnerable and frail.  It’s not a passive approach.  The fox wants to take you at every turn.  We must be vigilant so that we are not taken in but we must never succumb to fear because that opens the door for the fox to get into the henhouse. 

So, we are expecting our first grandchild in June.  I know I will want to sing that favorite song of my childhood, “The Fox Went Out on a Chase One Night,” to this new family member.  But I think I’ll have to think up some new words.  It won’t do to have the fox steal a goose and a duck and celebrate the feast.  Maybe the farmer, John, and his wife, can give the fox some tofu to take home to the family for dinner.  Amen!

A reasonable effort has been made to appropriately cite materials referenced in this sermon. For additional information, please contact Lakewood United Church of Christ.

Sermon 3.10.19 All Things New

Date:  March 10, 2019, First Sunday of Lent

Scripture Lessons: Joel 2:1-17 and Luke 4:1-13

Pastor: Rev. Kim P. Wells

Our daughter, Angela, spent a semester in college at the University of Nottingham in England.  When we arrived at the school, we were greeted by a student who was from Kenya.  She was assigned to help Angela get settled in.  I mentioned that we had been to Kenya about 10 years before and had a wonderful time.  And I can remember the host’s response.  She thought about it.   And then she announced with great delight and glee, “Yes, we Kenyans are amazing!”  Frankly, I was a bit taken aback, but I readily agreed with her because she spoke the truth. Kenyans are amazing!  

In the reading from Joel, we heard a very vivid portrayal of the character of God:  Gracious.   Merciful.  Slow to anger.  Abounding in steadfast love.  Relents from punishing.  Bestower of blessing.  How amazing is that?  And if that is how God is, then we know that that is how we are to be because we are created in the image of God.  This description captures the capability and potential inherent in every human being.  It conveys our nature and our calling.  Gracious.   Merciful.  Slow to anger.  Abounding in steadfast love.  Relents from punishing.  Bestower of blessing.  How amazing is that?!  

When the Kenyan woman proclaimed that Kenyans are amazing, I remember feeling surprised.  Yes,  Kenyans are amazing, but I wouldn’t have said that about myself.  To me a statement like that would feel boastful and prideful.  And maybe even socially boorish.  And as a Christian, thinking about cultivating humility we try not to pepper our speech with braggadocio.  We don’t want to think too highly of ourselves.  But the other side of that is thinking too little of ourselves. When we perceive ourselves as weak and of little significance, this contributes to apathy and indifference.  What can I do?  I don’t deserve any better. And neither do you.  And then we are easily swayed and manipulated.  

With a degraded sense of worth we settle for less and yet we desperately seek approval.  We want to belong.  Be part of the in crowd.  We want wealth to show that we’re successful so that other people know we are worth something.  We want the latest fashion and technology to demonstrate that we are up to date, “with it.”  We seek these outer trappings to build up our worth in the eyes of others and ourselves.  We are constantly seeking approval.  On her speaking tours in the United States, Mother Teresa was always quick to point out that the obscene abundance of the West fostered malnourished souls. [Suzanne Guthrie, http://www.edgeofenclosure.org/lent1c.html ]   And so our poverty of spirit leaves the door wide open for evil to creep in, seep in, or storm in to our lives and our society.  

Jesus was able to resist the temptations of evil because he centered himself on the God within.  He was focused on manifesting the attributes of God that were within him and are within all of us:  Graciousness.  Mercy.  Slowness to anger.  Full of steadfast love.  Not interested in punishing.  Bestower of blessing.  Jesus was centered on God and that kept him fully occupied so that he was not concerned with being a people pleaser or a devil pleaser.  He wasn’t obsessed with accruing acclaim and being a powerful ruler.  He was not tempted by the trappings of wealth and power.  He was not out to win a popularity contest.  He didn’t want to wheedle his way in with the rich and powerful.  He knew his worth as a creature created in the image of God and that was enough.  With that foundation he set out to love his neighbor as himself.  In Jesus’ world view, success comes from embodying the traits and characteristics of God, being true to God alone.  Success does  not come from impressing other people, amassing wealth, and certainly not from negating yourself.  

Like Jesus, we are called to encourage the God within us to rule our lives, to guide our behavior and our relationships and the way we go through life in this world.  We, too, want to cultivate the attributes of God within us.  

At the end of the passage from Joel, the desperation of the people is expressed.  With destruction looming, they are afraid of being humiliated in the eyes of of the world.  They plead:  “. . . do not make your heritage a mockery, a byword among the nations.  Why should it be said among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’”  [Joel 2:17]   Where is their God?  Where is the grace and mercy?  Where is the restraint of anger?  Where is the abounding love?  Where is the pardon and the blessing?  These are standard character traits of God.  Where is this God?  This God is within us, each of us, as human creatures.  The world sees God when human beings exhibit these traits in the world.  Where is their God?  God is within us.  Eager to be expressed.  Hungering to be shown to the world.  

Gracious.  Merciful.  Slow to anger.  Abounding in steadfast love.  Relenting from punishing.  Bestower of blessing.  Truly, we human beings are amazing!  Amen.  

A reasonable effort has been made to appropriately cite materials referenced in this sermon. For additional information, please contact Lakewood United Church of Christ.

Randy Wilson with Gabriel Dansereau

Randy is a fifth generation eastern Kentuckian who served as folk arts director for 25 years at the Hindman Settlement School, an institution that has served mountain youth since 1902 (attended by some of Jean Ritchie’s siblings). He plays several different stringed instruments, but he specializes in banjo and banjo history, playing several different banjos from Africa to Appalachia, particularly banjo styles and tunes from Knott County, KY. Banjo pickers, both men and women, from this region used a variety of techniques and tuning on the banjo.

Randy serves the region in several different capacities. He calls dances, plays at the nursing home, advocates for miners, and searches for economic opportunities in a just transition from coal to more sustainable future. He has represented the region at the Smithsonian Festival on the national mall.

Randy will be joined by his son, Gabriel Dansereau, fiddler and jazz guitar player, just graduating from the University of North Carolina Greensboro School of Jazz. Join us for stories and songs from the mountains.

At Lakewood UCC:
3/22: Randy Wilson & Gabriel Dansereau, Friday night, 7PM
3/23 Saturday Afternoon Square Dance with Jenny & the Stray Dogs and Randy Wilson calling. 1-4PM
2601 54th Ave. S., St. Petersburg, FL 33712
Contact: Yoko Nogami

Coalition of Immokalee Workers Fair Food Tour Concludes in Gainesville


On the final day of the five-city, two-week “4 for Fair Food Tour,” nearly 500 protesters – equal parts farmworkers, students, and community members – wove as one through the University of Florida’s picturesque campus in a colorful and boisterous demonstration. They were fed up with the UF administration’s willingness to turn a deaf ear to students’ concerns, calling on UF President Kent Fuchs to cut the university’s contract with Wendy’s, without further delay, until Wendy’s joins fast-food industry leaders McDonald’s, Burger King, Subway, Chipotle, and Taco Bell in requiring its tomato suppliers to meet the stringent human rights standards of the Presidential medal-winning Fair Food Program.

The CIW’s sincerest thanks go out to all the allies who worked tirelessly to organize last week’s march, and all the actions of the 4 for Fair Food Tour, from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, to Ann Arbor, Michigan. The logistics of housing, feeding, and transporting a busload of souls from Immokalee (two buses, in fact, once the tour hit Gainesville!) on an odyssey covering thousands of miles, from cold climes to warm, with impressive actions and presentations at every stop along the way, cannot be overestimated. And the tour’s conclusion on Thursday in Gainesville would never have been possible without the selfless assistance of innumerable members of the vast – and fast-growing – Fair Food nation. Now safely back home in Immokalee, all of us extend our deepest gratitude to all of you.

For more photos of the event go to ciw-online.org. To read an article about the coalition’s efforts to get Wendy’s to join the Fair Food Program see The New York Times.