If you have been following the news of our Central Atlantic Conference of our United Church of Christ, you may remember that this month marks the conclusion of Rev. Roddy Dunkerson’s service as our Interim Conference Minister. We have elected Rev. Freeman Palmer to begin work as our new, full-time Conference Minister on February 1.
Rev. Dunkerson came to us from Nebraska when our previous arrangements for an Interim Conference Minister ran into trouble. He has faithfully served, by participating in events and activities in each Association within our Conference, including many here in the Shenandoah Association. I have enjoyed his help with meetings, a memorial service for a friend, and other important occasions here.
I have also enjoyed his open letters to our Conference, which have been published by email as part of a periodic “CAC Happenings” newsletter.
[You are welcome to subscribe to it:
email firstname.lastname@example.org (Angela Megna) or
email@example.com (Tristan Battle).
Our dollars to Our Church’s Wider Mission at work!]
Here is Rev. Dunkerson’s most recent open letter:
News from the Interim Conference Minister
“Epiphany” has wriggled into our vocabulary as a flash of insight. But, in the church, this Greek word has been used to describe the coming of the foreign astronomers (astrologers) who have been led to the baby Jesus by an appearance in the heavens.
Epiphanies can be uncomfortable. And this story is not an exception. This story is about God using something that the people of Jesus’ family would not have seen because they associated those who looked for such signs with foreign gods.
For those of us who are very unlikely to be genetically connected to Jesus without going very deep in our genetic history, this story is our entrance point into Christianity.
God used a Pagan thing to invite the Gentiles into the family.
Yeah, that is an uncomfortable sentence.
It has elements of “insiders” and “outsiders” that can make us wince.
Religion, by its very nature, creates insiders and outsiders. But, if God is God, surely everyone is an insider.
When we think of the complexity of the universe, we are drawn to ponder the enormity of time and the question of whether time actually works as a concept. What does it mean to have no beginning? But, if there is a beginning, what was before that?
Without settling any of the unsettling questions, we have come to understand that God may not like our concepts of Insiders and Outsiders. Paul seems to see this when writing Galatians: “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you belong to Christ Jesus.”
As a human being, I am always grateful when I read other words from Paul that suggest he didn’t get the full meaning of the words he wrote.
Boundaries can keep us safe, but, they also can limit us.
As we ponder these “wise” travelers, may we be open to the fact that God might want us to step into the uncomfortable reality that there are not friends and enemies, just people we are called to serve.
Rev. Roddy Dunkerson (1/4/2019)
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This Sunday is the traditional day to remember The Baptism of Our Lord, and a good time to remember our own baptism and reflect on what it means to us— and to those whom God has included in our spheres of influence and blessing.
Yesterday, while on chaplain duty in the hospital, I was shaken by sacred moments with a patient who was struggling with big questions. One question was, “Am I worth anything ?”
Do you ever have to ask yourself that question ?
Or do you smugly assume about yourself (as I catch myself doing, sometimes), “I’m good” ?
It is deeply humbling to accept that God has gifted EVERY creature, every person — including you and me – with intrinsic value. Not because we are good, but because God loves us.
It is deeply humbling to grasp Jesus’ offer, to name you and me his sisters and brothers as children of God. This is part of the meaning of our baptism.
Thus says the LORD: ... you are Mine.
- Isaiah 43:1