A few weeks ago, seven of us gathered around the conference room table to imagine, brainstorm, create and reflect on the upcoming season of Advent. This season, typically four weeks in length, leads up to our celebration of Christmas, or Jesus’ birth. But we do not merely celebrate an event that is 2,000 some odd years old but also the affirmation that Christ is in the world today, and that Christ will come again. This season reminds us that we live in the “now and not yet” or “between times.” One writer puts it like this, “[A]s the church celebrates God’s inbreaking into history in the Incarnation, and anticipates a future consummation to that history for which ‘all creation is groaning awaiting its redemption,’ it also confesses its own responsibility as a people commissioned to ‘love the Lord your God with all your heart’ and to ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’”
This season is characterized by waiting, longing, preparation and expectancy. We long to be delivered, like our faith ancestors who were slaves in Egypt, from all that oppresses, all that binds, all that keeps us – and our neighbors - from being less than we were created to be. It is from this longing that our hope springs, that God – ever faithful and steadfast – will heal and recreate the world and us along with it. So we wait. And while we wait, we prepare.
This year, our theme for Advent is, Out of the Box: The Gift that Cannot Be Contained.
Those of us gathered around the table were invited to share what that phrase, “out of the box” means to us and what we might imagine to be “the gift that cannot be contained.” Every inch of the board along the wall was filled as our group of seven shared ideas and images that bounced off of each other’s. People shared stories that came to mind, ideas that sprung up, and painted pictures with their words. A gift that cannot be contained isn’t just for one person, the receiver, but for many! Being out of the box means we’ll be uncomfortable because it will involve new things, non-traditional things, maybe even unusual things! A gift that cannot be contained probably isn’t an object but maybe more relational. It can take on a life of its own. Being out of the box means that it will be unexpected.
Having started with so many ideas, the team then heard and reflected on each of the upcoming scripture passages for the season. Finally, we put all of our senses to work – our eyes, our ears, our noses, our hands – to consider how we could embody the theme during the next four weeks. Our hope is that worship will enable us to encounter God anew, invite us into the work of preparing and making a way for the Christ child to arrive, and inviting us to say, “Yes!” – like Mary – once again to a life filled with the Holy Spirit.
You’ll note that our worship order will be different and that new worship elements will be included. You’ll notice some familiar, traditional elements might be missing. All of this might make you a bit uncomfortable. We invite you, nevertheless, to enter with an open mind and an open heart. We trust that God will meet us where we’re at.
May we move into this season ready to receive more than we can imagine…and to give all that we have!
*Welcome to the Season of Advent! You are invited to participate in this season by: - Making a donation to the "comfort bag" fund today! - Showing up any/each Saturday from 11:00 a.m. - noon to prepare for dramatic readings or space preparations. - Bringing a few spare shoe boxes to church by Dec. 4th (They will be used in worship on Dec. 18th.)
*If you would like to purchase a poinsettia plant to decorate the sanctuary with on Christmas Sunday, please connect with Peggy. Poinsettias are $10 each.
*Mission Report Back - Alvin Leung is eager to share his experiences from this past summer in Costa Rica with this community. You are invited to a wonderful dinner at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 2nd, followed by an engaging presentation and conversation with Alvin. RSVP's are appreciated. Please connect with Becky.
*Annual Charge Conference - CCUMC will hold it's annual Charge Conference on Sunday, Dec. 11th at 1:00 p.m. The Rev. John Oda from sister circuit church, Lake Park UMC, will preside. A simple lunch will be served at 12:30 p.m. Our time together will be bilingual. Please make every effort to be a part of our time together.
*Christmas Outreach Party - Will you help hosts a special party for our Homework Club students and families on Sunday, Dec. 18th? Please look out for ways to get involved next week!
*Advent Candle-Light Worship Service will be held on Friday, Dec. 23rd at 7:30 p.m.
*Happy, Happy ThanksLiving - Our congregational study of Treasures of the Transformed Life concludes this week. We pray that it has been a meaningful time of exploring, growing, and...transforming! May you have experienced something of the wonderful treasures that are a part of our lives of faith. May we continue from this season of stewardship holding the spirit not just of Thanks-Giving but also of Thanks-Living!
*Please note: The church office will be closed Thursday and Friday, Nov. 24th and 25th.
*Black Friday or Buy Nothing Day?! - The shopping frenzy will kick-off on Friday, Nov. 25th with a day that has come to be known as "Black Friday." In 1992, a group of people organized "Buy Nothing Day" in Canada to reflect on and examine the issue of over-consumption. In the spirit of the Advent Conspiracy - to worship fully, spend less, give more, and love all - you are gently invited to prayerfully discern how best to live out your faith on this day and to mark the birth of Jesus..
*You're Invited - Pastor Peter and Jasmine, along with Wesley and Vivian, invite you to join them in giving thanks to God. This special gathering will be held on Friday, Nov. 25th, from noon to 2:00 p.m. at New Vision UMC (450 Chadbourne) in Millbrae. BARTing is a good encouraged. However, drivers are needed for 4 elders of the CM congregation for whom movement is difficult. Might you volunteer and serve in love?
*The Advent Season begins on Sunday, Nov. 27th. Our theme this year is: Out of the Box: The Gift that Cannot Be Contained. We pray to experience God's coming anew and invite you to pray for this special season and our church's celebration of it.
*Mark Your Calendars Now - Dec. 11th - CCUMC Charge Conference at 1:00 p.m. Rev. John Oda of Lake Park UMC to preside. Please make it a point to be present! Dec. 18th - CCUMC hosts a special Christmas gathering for the Homework Club families at 2:30 p.m. Make this YOUR ministry! Dec. 23rd - Advent Candle-Light Service at 7:30 p.m
Week Six: Filling the Bucket to Overflowing Today begins the last week of our congregational study that promised to support us in identifying our thirst for more and to show us how to experience more as we (re)commit ourselves to relationship with God. We give thanks for each who wrote in the Messenger for the series Derek Lang, Laura Chan, & Frances Fong.
Over the last six weeks, we have explored the treasures of a transformed life:
Preparation - We’ve been invited to “prime the pump” to enable God’s life-giving water to course through us. We do so by recognizing our thirst and longing for more and (re)committing to God and our relationship with God. Mathison writes, “If you give God more of yourself, he will give you more of himself” (p.12). Does that sound scary or exciting?
Prayer - We’ve been invited to regularly “draw water” by talking to God. Mathison calls prayer more than “a list of things we want; it is actually a means to partner with God in his work” (p.65). Isn’t it amazing to know that the God of the universe, our God, knows each one of us by name and is longing to talk with and partner with us?
Presence - We’ve been invited to commit to showing up and being part of Christian community...not because we have to, not because it’s our habit to, but because we really want to. Mathison shared this by giving us the image of “jump in with both feet.”
Giving - We’ve been invited to release “our” money “back into God’s atmosphere” to honor our master and to continue the cycle of blessing in our life. Mathison points to the words of Jesus in the gospel according to Matthew: “Give as freely as you have received.” We give freely just as if we were tossing “pennies in the fountain.”
Service - We’ve been invited to serve because in doing so we become “more flexible,” our gifts are strengthened, we’re reminded that “God is constantly at work around us,” and most importantly, because “it allows us to be more like Jesus.”
Today, we enter the last week of this series. In this last section, “Filling the Bucket to Overflowing,” Mathison invites us to consider: “What are we going to do with all of this new understanding” that has come to us through our reading, reflecting, sharing, learning and praying? He invites us to consider how we’ll put our learnings into practice. He writes, “[Spiritual maturity] not only takes time, it also takes discipline” (p. 282). But this is the promise: “[If] your dream is for a transformed life, one in which your spirit overflows with the goodness of God, you’re going to get there. You’re going to know the taste of that living water that satisfies your thirst like nothing else can” (p. 309).
May your week of Thanksgiving be filled to the brim with remembering and lifting up the goodness and generosity of God. May your remembrances cause your heart to sing. And may the song of your heart illumine how you might take hold of these treasures God has given.
Our worship planning retreat gave rise to many creative and “out of the box” ideas for the season and our worship. We invite you to get ready to experience something new.
You are invited to enable everything to come together. Here’s how:
Each Saturday (11.26, 12.3, 12.10, 12.17) from 11:00 a.m. – noon, we’ll hold a time of worship preparation. All those who’d like to take part in creative and (sometime) dramatic readings of the scripture are invited! All those who like to use their hands to create the visuals are also invited. Please come!
Donate worship / seasonal supplies: Shoe boxes! That’s right, we need approximately 40 empty shoe boxes of various sizes. Bring them asap! Ribbon. We’ll need these on Dec. 4th. Comfort package funds: you’ll be invited to pitch in $3-5 to purchase warm socks, mittens, and teeth cleaning supplies on Sunday, Nov. 27th.
Intentionally prepare your heart and mind to receive the Christ child anew!
Week Five: Offering a Drink to Others We are in the midst of a six week congregational study that promises to support us in identifying our thirst for more and to show us how to experience more as we take hold of the freedom, promise, and rewards that come with committing ourselves to a closer relationship with God through the treasures of prayer, presence, gifts, and service. This week, Frances Fong reflects on the practice of service.
I started coming to CCUMC when I was in grade school and have stayed with CCUMC all these years. Reflecting back through the years, I could see that many of our programs and activities have changed to adapt to our changing needs and lifestyles and to that of the community we serve. For 124+ years, CCUMC continues to be a vital part of Oakland’s Chinatown because of the SERVICE by its members. By our SERVICE, we give back to CCUMC and to the community, but foremost, to God, who calls us to give of ourselves in doing His work. Reflecting on my service at CCUMC, back then, there were limited after school programs and activities, thus church on Sunday and the activities the church offered were the things to do. I attended Sunday school, and it was expected that one day we would take on teaching Sunday school, which many of us took on the task without question. Sunday school was taught as we observed those before us. I recall that I was excited and at the same time a bit nervous being a Sunday school teacher, many times feeling inadequate and not qualified. Thinking about this now, in my inadequacy, God was with me and He must have placed me in that role for a reason, gently guiding and helping me. He helped me to sow the seeds for His kingdom. In my earlier adult years, I was asked to serve as recording secretary on the Council on Ministries and the Administrative Board. I felt good at being asked to take on such an important role at the time, not knowing that this required paying close attention at meetings so that important discussions will be documented. I recall the monthly meetings were especially trying, having to transcribe my scribbles to official minutes to be passed out at the next meetings. Knowing that I was doing God’s work helped me to do the best job I could. I have also served as United Methodist Women (UMW) President and Missions Chair, then as Evangelism Chair, Bazaar Chair, and as lay member to Annual Conference. Looking back now, I must have had more energy than I thought; however, it must have been the excitement that God instilled in me to keep serving with passion and diligence. With the support of the pastor, committee members, and congregation, we all learned, experienced, and worked together. Many times I was allowed the freedom to envision and suggest programs and events that have not been tried before. We had our first Women’s Retreat together with the Lake Merritt UMW with an overnight at an off site location and with guess speaker. We had several missions programs where we learned about a featured country; together with dinner, sampling foods from that country; learning a bit about that country’s culture by its music, crafts, etc.; and having a guest speaker. At that time, we thought of missions as what we read about, never thinking that any of our members would some day venture out as missionaries, as to Uganda. As a congregation and with invited friends, we learned together to make joong. Participating together in this fun activity, yet hard work, we felt we made the best “Methodist” joong in town. Carrying on the traditions of our Annual Bazaar, we continued to involve the whole church, reaching out to the community with open doors, and at the same time having fun (though it was said that we never raised enough monies to equal our hard work and efforts.) As lay member to Annual Conference, I learned about church politics and participated in the celebrations when Methodists gathered together. It was a refreshing and new learning experience, meeting so many leaders and lay people from our local churches, district, and conference. From all these experiences, I could sense that God must have had a hand in the planning and outcome.
My last undertaking was that of Church Treasurer, not because of financial training or background but because I worked at a savings and loan at the time. Being part of the Finance Team and part of BOAT, I learned the importance of finance in supporting the church in furthering God’s work in our midst and in the community. Looking back now, coming down to church for several hours on most Saturdays was a commitment and dedication in following through on God’s calling. With the support of the pastor, and those on the finance team, this was an important responsibility and a very interesting and challenging learning experience in church finance.
Finding that devoting so much time to church work and neglecting work at home and because of time constraints and fatigue, I felt a need to better balance my life, something the church has been very respectful of. The recent space has allowed me to recharge and to pick and choose what I had time to participate in. I also believe that freeing up long held positions allow opportunities for others to experience God at work in their lives and in the church. This time of rest has allowed me to participate without stress in being greeter; taking part in worship, hospitality, adult Sunday school, and small groups; and participating in events where there is a need for a presence of volunteers.
When we look around the church, there is ample work that can fit anyone’s passions, interests, talents, skills, or needs. From my experience, if we allow ourselves to be open and receptive to the nudge, calling, tap on the shoulder, or whatever form the SERVICE may reveal, and then saying YES to God – I assure you that you will not be disappointed and you will experience God’s fulfilling love, joy, peace, and blessings.
*You're Invited to a Special BOAT Meeting TODAY - BOAT is calling a special meeting today to pray about and discern our relationship and future with Youth & Child Visionary Ministries. How is God leading us? How might we respond - like Paul - with courage and gentleness? Where's this all going? Your presence and prayers are important. Please gather in the Annex. *Stewardship Response Cards - Stewardship response cards are out! You’re invited to pray about the 5 areas of stewardship and to listen intently for God's invitation. Please return cards during worship on Thanksgiving Sunday, Nov. 20th. The cards are meant to be a way for you to prayerfully practice the "treasures" of our transformed life in Christ. Please connect with Pastor Emily if you have any question, concerns or would like to think together. Thank you!
*We Give Thanks! We will celebrate Thanksgiving Sunday on Nov. 20th at 9:30 a.m. This Sunday will be a culmination of our stewardship series: Treasures of the Transformed Life. You are invited to come, celebrate and give thanks. Worship will be followed by an all church potluck. You are invited to bring a meat or veggie/salad dish to share (No dessert is necessary as the church will provide the sweets.)
*Preparing for Membership - Jonathan Snoek has begun preparing for membership reception! This is wonderful news. Let us hold Jonathan in our prayers during this time of reflection and preparation. Let us also continue to pray for this church and our growth as a community.
*You're Invited - Pastor Peter and Jasmine, along with Wesley and Vivian, invite you to join them in giving thanks to God. This special gathering will be held on Friday, Nov. 25th, from noon to 2:00 p.m. at New Vision UMC (450 Chadbourne) in Millbrae. Carpooling is encouraged!
*The Advent Season begins on Sunday, Nov. 27th. Our theme this year is “Out of the Box: The Gift that Cannot Be Contained.” We pray that this will be a time to experience God's coming anew and invite you to pray for this special season and our church's celebration of it.
You’re invited to pray about it, and to listen intently for God's invitation. Please return it during worship on Thanksgiving Sunday, Nov. 20th. The cards are meant to be a way for you to prayerfully practice the "treasures" of our transformed life in Christ. Please connect with Pastor Emily if you have any question, concerns or would like to think together.
Week Four: Pennies in the Fountain We are in the midst of a six week congregational study that promises to support us in identifying our thirst for more and to show us how to experience more as we take hold of the freedom, promise, and rewards that come with committing ourselves to a closer relationship with God through the treasures of prayer, presence, gifts, and service. This week, Laura Chan reflects on the practice of financial giving.
It was at MYF (Methodist Youth Fellowship) where Mrs. Wong, our youth leader, would challenge us. One of the first things she taught us was about how our new faith would manifest in how we view or handle our money. It is not "ours" to do with as we please, Mrs. Wong taught, but what we have is given to us by God. As I grew in Christ, I've learned through scripture the many references to money, tithing and offerings. I’ve learned that the love of money can keep us from a closer relationship with God. When we surrender to Him and give Him our "first fruits" we are not only acknowledging that relationship but witnessing to others where our loyalty lies.
Who do we love more, God or Mammon (Matt 6:24)? I believe God is a jealous God who wants our serious commitment. It is the one-on-one from God that only we can answer. No excuses or reasoning will suffice and doing less will fall short of His expectations. Remember what Jesus told His disciples after the rich young man asked Him "What do I still lack?” Jesus said "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (Matt 19:24).
These were challenges that I faced early in my walk with Christ. For me it became basic and elementary to my faith - if I couldn’t give up my "treasures" (at that time, I had no permanent full time job but an allowance that my father gave me for helping in his kitchen at Harrington's Bar in SF on Saturdays), then what kind of faith did I have? It wasn't preached much about in church. But at various retreats outside of church, the message would hit me like a bulls’ eye. Maybe it's because I was better in math than science or English in school but it definitely spoke to me. So I had to test it out. "Taste and see that the Lord is good" (Psalm 34:8)...I wanted God's goodness. One week in the offering plate, I put in my whole week's allowance. Nothing major happened but I realized that I was none the worst for the wear. In fact, it felt satisfying and right. However further study does not say that this challenge only applies to certain believers but to all who call Him Lord. "We tithe because we're commanded to, plain & simple." (ToTL, pg 211). Surely if we say we trust God, we can certainly trust Him in this area of our lives.
Back then, I studied a Bible correspondence course and this topic was covered. I remember it stated that God ask for the tithe which is 10% of our income - in Biblical days, 10% of their crops. Why 10%? We don't know other than that is what God had said many times in scripture. According to that bible correspondence lesson, God controls the world and what we don't give back to Him He takes back from the earth in form of nature through earthquakes,
floods, hurricanes etc. Don't know how they can prove it scientifically but isn't it strange how with our increasingly selfish world there have been higher incidents of these natural disasters?
In the early years of our marriage, Steve and I committed to tithing although there were times when we could have used that money for our growing family or we just plain mishandled some of it. Yet, Praise the Lord, we never found ourselves to be truly lacking, just needing to review our priorities.
We attended Dr. Chuck’s recent series and last week his talk was titled "The Life and Ministry of the Local Congregation." It was open to questions and small group discussions. The various churches represented talked about the issues that are challenges for their church vitality. Besides the lack of young people or being an aging congregation, budget issues or rather lack of funds were also mentioned . The host church in Berkeley noted that they get visitors from UC. "Should we ask the young people who have financial limits to donate...or rather consider their service instead?" they asked. Rev Chuck responded by saying that even if it's a quarter they should give it. It is a matter of releasing the money and important to their spiritual growth and habit, the symbolic representation of who is Lord. He said he would not attend a church that does not need him in presence, service and money. Pastors should not be afraid to teach that...it's in the Bible after all. I have to agree, where we put our money is where our treasure is.
*Great Thanks for a Festive Halloween Party! Close to 40 children and their families came for a sugar-fueled afternoon of fun, games, and community. Deep thanks for everyone who donated candy, brought refreshments, and shared their presence. Please mark your calendars now for a Christmas Concert and Party on Dec. 18th! *United Methodist Student Day Special Offering - Did you know that the General Board of Higher Ed & Ministry (GBHEM) offers 5 different scholarships just for undergrad students, 4 additional scholarships open to undergrad & grad students, and that any active UM student can apply for college related loans? This is what your offering today enables GBHEM to support! You are invited to give generously!
*You're Invited to a Special BOAT Meeting - BOAT is calling a special meeting next Sunday, Nov. 13th to pray about and discern our relationship and future with Youth & Child Visionary Ministry. How is God leading us? How might we respond with courage and gentleness? Where's this all going? Your presence and prayers are important. Please plan to attend.
*We Give Thanks! We’ll celebrate Thanksgiving Sunday on Nov. 20th at 9:30 a.m. This Sunday will be a culmination of our stewardship series: Treasures of the Transformed Life. You are invited to come, celebrate and give thanks. Worship will be followed by an all church potluck. You are invited to bring a meat or veggie/salad dish to share (No dessert is necessary as the church will provide the sweets.)
*Stewardship Response Cards - Stewardship response cards are going out today. You’re invited to take it home, pray about it, and to listen intently for God's invitation. Please return it during worship on Thanksgiving Sunday, Nov. 20th. The cards are meant to be a way for you to prayerfully practice the "treasures" of our transformed life in Christ. Please connect with Pastor Emily if you have any question, concerns or would like to think together. Thank you!
*A Note From Our Children’s Sunday School -For the past several weeks, our Sunday School has been experiencing a new model, an intergenerational model, similar to a one room school house. The entire hour is structured as worship and includes music, prayer, scripture and story telling, a time to respond through activities/crafts, and offering of ourselves and our gifts. You are invited and needed to lead any of the above mentioned activities. They are in segments of 5 -18 minutes, depending on the activity. For example, Aeri teaches and leads singing for 8-10 minutes and leaves to attend adult Sunday School. The ministry team has been doing a great job but your participation is also needed. Please connect with me (Jane) to sign up for one Sunday or a short series of Sundays. Come and experience this new way to teach and learn. You'll love spending time with the children, too.