Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ in Des Moines, Iowa seeks a full-time Director of Child and Family Ministries. We are a progressive congregation of approximately 3,200 members, committed to inclusivity and diversity. We are looking for someone with the creativity and commitment to help us build upon our vibrant tradition of engaging children in the life of our church. Working closely with the Senior Minister, lay leaders and church staff, the Director of Child and Family Ministries will direct the faith formation programming for children, including weekly church school, Vacation Bible School, and other family activities. Strong organizational skills and a proven ability to oversee effective programs for children are a must, as well as a bachelor’s degree (preferably in a related field) and five years of related professional experience. Position includes competitive salary and full benefits. A criminal background check is required. Applicants should submit a cover letter and resume to firstname.lastname@example.org
“The only Commandment I ever obeyed — ‘Consider the Lilies.”
This week our Rooted in Creation series continues with an excerpt from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. It is, among other things, an invitation to stop, listen and learn from the creation.
The lilies are trying to tell us something.
25“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? 28And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34“So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
This text is part of Jesus’ longest and best-known sermon –the Sermon on the Mount. It comes early in Matthew’s Gospel. After the birth narrative, we hear a little about John the Baptist. Jesus is baptized by John, driven into the wilderness for a season and then launches his public ministry –preaching, teaching, healing and calling his first disciples.
By the time we get to chapter 5, Matthew’s Gospel feels like it is building some momentum. And then Matthew—who is very interested in exploring the continuity of Jesus with the Hebrew Bible—tells us that, like Moses before him, Jesus goes up to the mountain to deliver a new law to the people. And, like Moses on Sinai, Jesus does more than merely present a new law; he forms a new people. The Sermon on the Mount is constitutive of the people of God.
In this section, Jesus speaks to our anxiety about acquisition. Why do you worry about your life?
It is hard to add much to the words of Jesus. But in the spirit of our Rooted in Creation series, let me make two related comments.
First, this passage invites us to recognize all the ways we have bought in to the Myth of Scarcity.
(I owe that phrase to Walter Brueggemann’s wonderful essay The Liturgy of Abundance; The Myth of Scarcity. You can read it here).
The Myth of Scarcity is that belief, ingrained in us from the moment we are born, that there simply is not enough –not enough money, not enough resources, not enough for everyone to get their fair share. From our earliest age, deep in our bones, we are brought up to believe that there simply is not enough.
Our belief in scarcity makes us afraid, and fear can make us do some ugly things. We grab as much as we possibly can. We hoard and hold on to as much as we possibly can. We learn to be ruthless –not because we want to be, but because we think we have to be, because we truly believe that we do not have a choice. So we turn a blind eye to suffering, refuse to share our stuff, or even consider the needs of others. After all, there may not be enough for me and for mine. From family life to the federal budget, so many of our decisions are driven by fear; so much of what we do is determined by our deep belief in scarcity.
And the environmental impact of our belief in scarcity is especially pronounced. Our belief in scarcity leads us to hoard our resources and harden our hearts against those who have less than we do.
But notice (and I am still cribbing from Brueggemann here) how often the Bible speaks, not of scarcity, but abundance: Long before Jesus preached these words, when Israel wandered for forty years in desert places, God fed them with manna from heaven and water from the rock –abundance in a barren place. And in John’s Gospel, we have the story of so much water being turned into so much wine. A little later in the Gospel according to Matthew, five loaves and two fish will become a feast for thousands (with a fridge full of leftovers to boot).
Again and again, in the face of some need, Jesus will answer in an overwhelming way; Jesus will go above and beyond and then some; Jesus will provide far more than is necessary.
Can you hear what the Spirit is trying to say? Maybe scarcity is merely a myth. Maybe, in the economy of God, there is always enough, more than enough, abundantly more than enough. Maybe we do not have to worry after all. Maybe we can learn to walk a little softer on the earth.
Second, note the way that Jesus gets to this insight: Consider the lilies! He explicitly invites us to notice God’s abundance in the creation.
Why does this matter? The theologians who most influenced me (John Calvin, Karl Barth) tended to take a dim view of “natural theology” –that is, the attempt to figure out the truth about God through reason alone. Calvin and Barth insisted (in very different ways) that if we try to read our theology off of nature we will, inevitably, make God in our own image and more or less stumble into idolatry.
But! Calvin also believed we could see the truth in creation if we look through the lens of Scripture. (This blog post goes into more detail if you are interested). If we are shaped by the stories of God’s abundance, we will start to see signs of it all around us. Little by little, we will learn to let go of our fear and lean into God’s gracious provision for us and for the entire world.
Creation is speaking loud and clear about God’s abundance. But you have to be ready to notice it.
Having begun with Emily Dickinson, I will conclude with Elizabeth Barrett Browning:
“Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God,
But only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round and pluck blackberries.”
Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ in Des Moines, Iowa—a vibrant and progressive congregation of approximately 3,200 members—seeks a full-time Director of Operations and Finance. We are looking for someone with the vision and creativity to help us become the church we are supposed to be. Working closely with the Senior Minister, the Director of Operations and Finance will think strategically about the future of the congregation and facilitate its work in the areas of finance, facilities, human resources, communications and risk management. Qualifications include a bachelor’s degree in accounting or finance. 7+ years of finance and operations management with supervisory experience is desired. Religious faith is not required; however, the successful applicant will respect and support the values of Plymouth Church. Position includes competitive salary and full benefits. A criminal background check is required. Applicants should submit a cover letter and resume to email@example.com Visit plymouthchurch.com for more information.
Plymouth Church is humbled in gratitude for all that we have freely received from God. We continue to grow in generosity by giving to the less fortunate food, clothing, furniture and money. We want our monetary gifts to flow out from Plymouth Church and into the hands of organizations or initiatives serving people most in need and that works toward social and/or economic justice.
It is in this spirit that the Plymouth Church Board of Benevolences is now accepting applications from Metro Des Moines area nonprofit agencies for its Easter Special Offering gifts. These are modest gifts, where the amount gifted depends on the total Easter collection and typically ranges from $3,000 to $4,500. These are a one-time gift and requires a report back to Plymouth’s Board of Benevolences upon utilization of the funds, but no later than six months following receipt. This report should include the impact of the awarded gift and quantify persons served.
As a Just Peace Church, the Board of Benevolences seeks grant applications from non-profit organizations with projects that identify a need that will facilitate social justice for clients or an obstacle that restricts clients from obtaining economic stability. Gift applications for Plymouth’s Easter Special Offering are due March 15, 2019 and can be downloaded from the Board of Benevolences on the Plymouth Church website, or by clicking here.
Plymouth Church is humbled in gratitude for all that we have freely received from God. We continue to grow in generosity by giving away of our possessions that include food, clothing, furniture and money. We want this monetary abundance to flow out from Plymouth Church and into the hands of deserving organizations for people most in need and striving for social and/or economic justice.
It is in this spirit that the Plymouth Church Board of Benevolences is now accepting applications from Metro Des Moines area nonprofit agencies for its Christmas Special Offering gifts. These are modest gifts, where the amount gifted depends on the total Christmas collection and typically range from $3,000 to $5,000. These are a one-time occurrence and require a report back to Plymouth’s Board of Benevolences upon utilization of the funds, but no later than six months following receipt. This report should include the impact of the awarded gift and quantify persons served.
As a Just Peace Church, the Board of Benevolences seeks grant applications from non-profit organizations with projects that identify a need that will facilitate social justice for clients or an obstacle that restricts clients from obtaining economic stability. Gift applications for Plymouth’s 2018 Christmas Special Offering are due Nov. 2, 2018 and can be downloaded from the Board of Benevolences on the Plymouth Church website, or by clicking here.
We all know that the Plymouth congregation is incredibly talented, filled with intelligent, clever, artistic people, sometimes hiding in plain sight! We would love to know about your talents and find ways to get you better involved in the Arts@Plymouth through those gifts.
Please take a few moments to complete our online survey, or pick up a paper copy in the media rack outside the church office, adjacent to the Tower Room.
Questions: contact Christopher Goodson, Director of Music and Fine Arts at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The September – August Planner will help you connect with Plymouth events, prepare for worship, and attune yourself more fully to the rhythms of our program year and liturgical seasons.
We will print a limited number of these planners. You can reserve your copy by signing up on the website between now and July 16. Planners are $10. (You can also reserve a copy during fellowship gatherings in Waveland Hall on select Sundays during May and June.) The planners will be available to pick-up at the church starting in mid-August.
Details are being finalized, but the Planner will be a month-at-a-glance format that is 8 ½ by 11 inches and coil bound. The Planner will be custom-designed for Plymouth members and will contain information to deepen your connection to Plymouth Church and your faith. The 75-85-page Planner will include the months of September 2018 – August 2019. Other content will include:
- Background about Plymouth’s theme for the program year
- Scripture for worship each weekend
- Key church event dates and times
- Helpful information about Plymouth Church
- Key contacts
- Introductions to Plymouth programs
- Material for your personal spiritual growth
*For those who use digital calendars or other planner systems, this Planner will also be designed as a tool to deepen your faith with inspiring ideas, reflection prompts, and suggestions for “30-Day Spiritual Practices.”
Hotels and motels are primary locations for sex trafficking both across the nation and here in Iowa. The Iowa Network Against Human Trafficking and Slavery estimates that 75% of sex trafficking takes place in hospitality venues, often unbeknownst to managers and staff. Traffickers bring women, many of whom are minors, to hotels and motels where they are sold for sex. It’s been shown that trafficking increases significantly during major events but these events are not the root cause of sex trafficking.
The root causes are greed, and a subculture that accepts treating people, especially women and children, as sex objects that can be bought and sold.
In order to stop this heinous crime, the Plymouth Human Trafficking Task Force is facilitating a training program. As part of this team, you’ll learn how to go into local hotels and educate their staff on the signs of trafficking, and tell them what to do if they suspect it is occurring in their hotel.
If this is something that you feel God is calling you to do , call Shirlee Reding at 515.778.6724 or email her at email@example.com for more information.
Plymouth will continue to explore race during Lent using books as our conversation partners. Adult members are invited to read Michael Eric Dyson’s Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America and Plymouth youth members are invited to read All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Keily.
We will have weekly meetings at church and around the community to gather and discuss these books. There will be special sessions for the parents of younger children to share age-appropriate book titles and talk about how to read them with your kids.
Books will be available at the church and at Beaverdale Books. Watch the monitors, website, and church publications for more details.