Today is Ash Wednesday. This day begins the season of Lent and our journey with Jesus to Jerusalem.
Last night a small group from Coolwater recorded our Ash Wednesday service. We did this because an
AA group uses our facility on Wednesday night. To get around that conflict of space, especially in this
time of the pandemic, the best solution was to do a recording and upload it for you to view at home
whenever you wish to do so. I want to thank Chris Bonta, Dick Huggins, Lynn Allen, and Sonya Tinault
for working with me to make this service possible. Irv Comstock was also there. Irv deserves special
mention because he has shown up just about every time Coolwater has had anything going on this last
year. It has been a comfort and a blessing to have his steady support and presence.
For this particular Ash Wednesday, you will need to have some items with you when you view and
participate in the service. It is ASH Wednesday. Ashes are usually used to mark a cross on the forehead
of the worshipper during a part of the service. We wanted some way to enact this symbolic part of Ash
Wednesday. However, ashes are not exactly a household item near at hand. Instead of ashes our
service will utilize water in a special way. You will need a small cup or dish of water.
You will also need some sort of bread and cup for communion. Why communion? Communion on Ash
Wednesday, the beginning day of Lent, reminds us of where Lent leads to at the end - on the days we
call Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.
I hope that you will observe this service as we begin Lent together. Lent is considered to be the most
important time of the year for Christians. It is a time to remember and be ready for the sacrifice Christ
made for us and his ultimate gift of love and grace for us. Lent is a journey of just 40 days. However,
the impact of Lent can last a lifetime….and even beyond.
Blessings to everyone this Lenten Season!
February 10, 2021
“Well I’ll be! There’s a church behind those trees.” Someone might make that
exclamation passing by our church property now. This week many trees and shrubs were
removed from the front of our church property. Coolwater needed to become more
In order for a church to attract interest, it has to be seen in some form or fashion. Being
seen physically is one way to attract attention. Coolwater needed to be more visible in the
physical sense. As the trees and shrubs grew over the years, the church became harder to
see. When something is hard to see, people tend to not notice it much at all. Now people
may be very surprised as they drive by our church property and see Coolwater much
Another way to make Coolwater more visible is through the ministries of our church. As
we live out our mission to serve Christ, we will also draw attention to this church
reaching out to others in the service of Christ. By cleaning up the shrubs and trees we are
creating more visibility for our mission activities. Each month in 2021 banners on our
property will advertise our special outreach weekend. Now people will be able to see
those monthly banners more clearly. Those banners are just one way we are drawing
more attention to a church engaged in reaching out around us. Every month we will also
advertise our special outreach weekend with the ads in papers, posts on social media
sites, our webpage, and fliers.
The immediately obvious way we are more visible is because you can now physically see
more of our church facility and property. More importantly we are making Coolwater
more visible through our emphasis this year on our mission driving our ministries. In
2021 we are set on becoming a more visible and vibrant church. You know, the kind of
church that people will come to recognize as the visible and vibrant church that emerged
from behind those trees. And maybe also from behind a burning bush.
Sr. Interim Pastor
February 3, 2021
Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, which happens on February 17 this year. Lent lasts 40 days from Ash Wednesday to Easter. During Lent many Christians engage in prayer, study and preparation as they remember the life and ministry of Jesus as he draws closer to Jerusalem. During Holy Week we remember the events of the last week of His life before he goes to the cross on Good Friday.
Coolwater is offering you the opportunity to be a part of a prayer group during Lent. A prayer group may be two, three, four people, or perhaps more. In a prayer group you might reflect and discuss your thoughts about some scriptures from the Bible. You might discuss what is going on in our congregation. You might talk about prayer concerns you may have or others may have. You might pray for certain people, certain situations, certain needs, our country, and our world.
You don’t have to pray out loud to be a part of a prayer group. Some people may be hesitant to participate because they are not comfortable praying out loud with others. That is okay. Having to pray out loud is not the point of a prayer group. Being with others in study, discussion, and prayer, whether the praying is out loud or silent, is the point.
For Lent there is a devotional booklet available from our Disciples of Christ publisher, Chalice Press. Some groups may want to use this as a basis for reflection and discussion in their prayer groups. This devotional could be a discussion starter. The devotional could give a prayer group some thoughts to ponder together. Whether you use the Lenten devotional in a prayer group or for your own personal resource, it will give you words to enrich your spiritual journey during Lent. You certainly do not have to be a part of a prayer group to acquire this devotional booklet!
Contact Chris Bonta if you wish to be a part of a prayer group. She will be putting people together for these groups. Chris and Karen will be working together to get the devotionals. Please contact either Chris or Karen if you want a Lenten Devotional. The devotional booklet is $3.99.
Rev. Rick Gates
Interim Senior Pastor
Last Saturday was the day for the Food Drive. Renee Ryan organized this event. We had people drop by and donate food. We also had people drive by and donate money.
We collected around $500 to give to Foothills Foodbank. With $500 Foothills can buy a lot of food items. They go in with St. Mary’s and St. Vincent-Depaul to increase the buying power. It was a successful first event for our once-a-month Coolwater outreach project.
During the event Dave Ryan, Mansoor Rowhani, Wes LaDuke and I went for a walk into our undeveloped property east of the parking lot. As we wandered back our path took us by an old post. One of us wondered if that post was still firmly in the ground. I took the opportunity to make a pronouncement. I declared, “He Who Draws This Post From The Ground Shall Be Pastor of Coolwater.” Monsoor gave the post a couple of mild shoves. Then Wes rocked that post back and forth vigorously for a little while. He stopped and pulled upward on the post…and it came up out of the ground. We proclaimed him Pastor Wes instantly.
On Sunday in the sermon I described the season of Epiphany as a season of signs of
God’s presence revealed all around us. Saturday was a day of signs. The participation in the Food Drive was a sign that people want opportunities to make a difference and to help others. It was a sign that what we are doing matters.
Saturday was also a sign reminding us that people are in need. Around 10 people came
by in the hopes of getting food. Coolwater is exploring the possibility of becoming a
food distribution location one Saturday a month.
Saturday was a sign that laughter and good company are good for the soul. I laughed a lot as I took the walk with Dave, Monsoor and Wes. We were enjoying being together and being outdoors and walking our church property. It was also a sign that people are getting bored with all the Covid containment. Why else would Wes take a walk with 3 old guys? On second thought, maybe he actually enjoyed being together with people from his church. A church community can be special that way, you know. For me Saturday was yet another sign that in these troubled times, Coolwater is acting as a caring community of people sharing the life, love and hope of Christ.
Rev. Rick Gates
Senior Interim Pastor
Early in the sermon last Sunday I referenced verses from Isaiah 58:6-10 about God voicing His dream of reaching out and helping those who are downtrodden, oppressed, hungry, treated unjustly, smashed down and used for the gain of others. You can read it and see what God has in mind for this world. Jesus announced this dream as His mission when he read words from of Isaiah 61 in Nazareth. The account is in Luke 4. I also said on Sunday that there are some more words frpm Isaiah 58 that it would be good for us to hear. Those words, especially those last words, brought an image to my mind of a place and a people. Coolwater.
Isaiah 58:11 says, “And the LORD will guide you continually, to satisfy your needs in parched places, and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters shall never fail.”
God is sending on a mission with blessing and hope and strength found in our humility and our reliance on God. God is with us in our journey. And we have a mission. Today the mission of the church begins from our doorstep. The mission of the church begins from our doorstep out, even to the ends of the earth. And our purpose is what the purpose of the church has always been -- to faithfully and effectively proclaim God's love to the world.
Here is the Mission Statement of Coolwater Christian Church – “Opening our doors for all and sharing the life, love and hope of Christ.”
It is our plan in 2021 to live out our Mission Statement throughout the year. Our Mission Statement will guide what we do as a church. How will our mission statement guide our outreach, stewardship, worship and discipleship throughout the year? We are envisioning specific ministries, projects, programs, studies, themes and opportunities to give substance to this task as the year goes along.
One of our first steps comes this weekend. Coolwater is having a food drive this Saturday and Sunday. We are hoping to build on to the success of the Food Drive we had in October. We are creating banners each month to promote our major outreach project. The banner announces the outreach projects and the weekend for the project. We are advertising. We are putting this project out on numerous forms of social media. We are hoping to make these once a month projects a big deal at Coolwater. People who come by to donate will receive an information page announcing the project for the next month.
The idea is that people are looking for ways to reach out in these difficult days. People want to help. To help fulfill our mission, Coolwater is providing opportunities for people to participate and provide help. At the same time we want to raise awareness of our church and our God given mission to reach out and make a difference in the world.
What were those words again from Isaiah 58? “And the LORD will guide you (Coolwater) continually, to satisfy your needs (the needs around you) in parched places (like the desert area where we reside), and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water (Coolwater!), whose waters shall never fail.” That’s got a nice ring to it.
We have the opportunity to make this a rich rewarding time for the church. How bright our future is will depend on you and me as we live out our mission together in the months ahead.
Rev. Rick Gates
Interim Senior Pastor
I was talking with the Assistant Principal today at school. She asked what kind of day one of my students was having. I told her that he was very engaged and gave a great answer to one question in particular. I told her that I made a big deal with the class about his great answer, and that young child beamed. As she walked away the Assistant Principal said, “It’s the little things that can make all the difference.”
It is often the little things that we do that reveal where our heart is. It is often the little things we do that will display our faith. People are looking for light in this darkness of our times. They long for hope, for healing, for a vaccine, and for a new day. Many people are probably noticing acts of kindness and compassion even more now. Some people may even want to do some of those acts themselves and be involved positively in some way. However, some people looking to do good just may not know how or where to do that.
Coolwater is going to give people an opportunity every month. Every month we are having a major outreach effort. We are putting a banner on our property advertising the weekend to those who drive by. We are putting ads in papers. We are distributing material to advertise events. We are advertising the next months project to anyone who comes to donate items. Coolwater is seeking ways for us and for others to do little things that make a difference. When you put a lot of little things together, it can become a big deal.
On Sunday I mentioned a show on Netflix that my wife has binge watched. The show is “Call the Midwife.” In one episode, Jenny a nurse who works as a midwife has tragically lost her boyfriend. Jenny is talking to Sister Julienne. Sister Julienne has invited her to go to a service in the chapel. Jenny says, “I don’t see where God fits into any of this.” Sister Julienne responds, “God isn’t in the event. He’s in the response to the event. In the love that is shown and the care that is given.”
You and I can do “little things” during these dark and troubling times. You and I can be vessels through which God’s love and care are shared in some way in our world.
At the close of the sermon, I asked a question. What does the church need to be in this time? The church is to be a people called by God and sent on a mission. We are to be an instrument of God's healing of the pain and the brokenness in our world. We are to be an answer to the clouds of fear and the clouds of distrust, and the clouds of prejudice and the clouds of inequality. We are sent out to show the world a taste of God's idea of loving kindness and compassion and justice and walking humbly with God. We are to show that God is in the response to the event. God is seen in our actions where love is shown and care is given. Yes, Coolwater, God can be seen through you and me, especially in the little things we do and we say.
In a crazy year when Covid has altered so much about our lives, it was not all that surprising that Covid interrupted the Advent season. However, the Christmas Eve service was not canceled; it was merely postponed. Last night Coolwater had a Christmas Eve service on Epiphany Eve.
I wouldn’t want to do this every year. Christmas Eve belongs where it is on the calendar. However, this year the alternate date worked out quite well. The people involved were determined to offer this special worship service celebrating the birth of our Lord.
Hard work had gone into developing and practicing the parts and the planned production. We gathered to offer this worship service. The pandemic was not getting the last word on the Christmas Eve service. That has been a recurring theme in many places this year. Grit and determination, the hope in our hearts and the tenacity of the human spirit have sustained many in these troubled times.
Perhaps we were determined to offer the Christmas Eve service because of what this service recalls to our minds and hearts. Here is a message of a great hope, light breaking into the world, God’s love taking on flesh and dwelling in our midst. The light and love of God in Jesus working in us and through us. This is a message that needed to be proclaimed and celebrated - no matter what day it happened.
For me, one terrific highlight of the evening was hearing Jenn and Sydney LaDuke sing “Silent Night” in German. Underneath my mask I was joyfully grinning from ear to ear. In that moment there was such joy and wonder. Words can’t adequately describe such moments. And that is exactly why we have a Christmas Eve service, and worship on Sundays – so that God can fashion moments of wonder and joy, choosing to use even you and me to shine His light out to the world. Merry Christmas to you today and every day!
While going through a stack of papers recently, I found a poem called “The Work of Christmas.” Chris Bonta read “The Work of Christmas” during worship on the Sunday after Christmas last year. I had asked her for a copy. Howard Thurman, an African-American theologian, educator, and civil-rights leader wrote this marvelous poem. The poem contends that when the song of the angels has faded and the shepherds are back tending their sheep, the work of Christmas begins. That work is defined as finding those who are lost, healing what is broken, feeding the hungry, releasing those who are captive, rebuilding, forging peace, and making music in the human heart.
As I read the poem again this week, I thought I recognized something familiar in the ideas expressed by Howard Thurman. Something Biblical perhaps. I got out a Bible and began to search, and found a connection in Luke 4:16-21. Jesus is in Nazareth at the synagogue and he reads part of a scroll from Isaiah. He finishes by saying, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” With this statement Jesus defines his mission…and ours.
In The Work of Christmas, Howard Thurman eloquently phrased these ideals and actions that Christ claimed that day. God’s light and love broke into the world in a new, wondrous way when Christ the Savior was born. The day has come and gone now. Our celebrations and quiet reflections are past. But what Christmas means shines on in the world and for the world. Christmas is a beginning. The work of Christmas carries on for us as we share the light and love God sent into the world in Christ.
Luke 2:19-20 tells us that Mary treasured these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned from Bethlehem, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. Part of the work of Christmas is to treasure and ponder. We need to reflect, study, worship so that our faith and our hearts are sustained for the Christian journey. And part of the work of Christmas is to do as the shepherds did, returning from Bethlehem to share the good news as we live our lives.
How will you treasure ponder Christmas? How will you return from Bethlehem? Will people see and hear the good news of Christmas in you and me? It is time to continue the work of Christmas.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Someday I will reach the point that I finally retire. I am contemplating a future career of writing for greeting card companies. Here is an example of the work I could offer:
“Santa is red. His toes are blue.
Cookies are sweet. Merry Christmas to you!”
I may have a remarkable new career in front of me.
You are familiar with getting cards for special occasions or events. Perhaps you have gotten a card that really struck you just right, whether the thought was funny, uplifting or poignant. Christmas is a time many of us send and receive cards. There are some Christmas cards that put thoughts about the season just perfectly. I found one of those on the desk of the Pastor’s office. The card came from Marilyn Fiddmont. She works with the Christian Church Foundation, one of the parts of the Disciples of Christ General level headquartered in Indianapolis. The card read: Rejoice…In the spirit of Christmas which is PEACE, the miracle of Christmas which is HOPE, and the heart of Christmas which is LOVE.
This card reminds us of the timeless gifts that last beyond the day of Christmas. When the tree is taken down and decorations are put away, these gifts will still be there. You will not find these gifts under the tree. However, you might find them gathered around the tree. You may be blessed to find them warming your heart. You may be fortunate and find them at work in you wherever you go. You may discover them shining out to the world with the Light of the World heralded by the Christmas star. They are gifts given to the world, born to us in the city of David, which is Bethlehem. Those who keep Christmas in their heart will know the blessing of the Christ child not only one day, but every day.,
A very, Merry Christmas!
First of all I must confess that I am the reason the newsletter is arriving on Thursday instead of Wednesday. I had the articles ready but forgot to email them to Karen. Karen texted me on Wednesday morning. When I saw that the text was from her, I had a sudden flash of insight – I had forgotten to send the newsletter articles. They were on the computer at home and I was at school. I called Karen and she said that she could send the newsletter on Thursday. Thank you, Karen! We decided that she would send an email announcing the newsletter would arrive on Thursday – and I promised that I would tell you why. So now you know…the rest of the story.
I love listening to Christmas carols and songs of both the secular and religious variety. Christmas music is one of my favorite things about this time of year. When I was growing up in Atlanta, I usually got out the Christmas music on Thanksgiving Day to start getting ready for Christmas.
The Christmas songs have a message of hope, joy and love that warms the hearts of those who sing and hear them. That is one way for me that Christmas lifts my heart and soul. That is one way I experience the wonder and the joy of the gift of Christ. Yet, I have realized recently that I haven’t listened to Christmas music this year as much as I normally do.
In years past many of us have experienced the hecticness of the Christmas season. Decorating, shopping, cleaning for guests, writing cards, wrapping presents, parties, concerts, school programs, church programs…Our reality this year is much different.
This season feels profoundly different for some because of many things we associate with the Christmas season are cut back significantly, greatly different this year, or just not happening. For some it may not feel much like Christmas at all. For practically all of us, our celebration of the season has been more low key. We are not doing many of the things we normally do this time of year.
However, while we may be missing ways we are used to celebrating this season, the reason for our celebration remains. The good news is that Christ still comes into our world. Christmas doesn’t depend on cold weather and snow. Christmas doesn’t depend on presents and shopping. Christmas doesn’t depend on large family gatherings.
In this less busy Christmas time you can have the opportunity for more quiet reflection, and prayer, and giving thanks for your blessings. In those moments savor the wonder of the gift of our Savior, who is Christ the Lord. As long as there are moments like those, the good news of Christ has the opportunity to come again to you this year, and the opportunity to enter your heart and life anew. That is the real message of Christmas.
No matter what shape our world or our lives are in, Christ still comes to us. Christ comes to bring gifts of love, joy and hope to the human soul. ,
Maybe it is time for me enjoy some Christmas music and some quiet moments and reflection that those songs can bring to me. That might help me be ready for Christ to enter my heart anew. Christmas is coming. How are you making ready this year?