Foolish People

Saugatuck Congregational Church, UCC
© Rev. Willie Salmond – Saugatuck Church member
April 30, 2017

Mud in the Eye

Saugatuck Congregational Church, UCC
© Rev. Alison J. Buttrick Patton
March 26, 2017

Scripture: John 9: 1-41

I was just sitting there, hoping my neighbors might be feeling generous that day.  I had a couple coins in my cup to clink together – barely enough to buy a bit of bread, but enough to get the attention of passers-by. It being the Sabbath, I was feeling optimistic.  Folks always gave more on the Sabbath – although my need was just as great the other six days of the week.  They would pass by on their way to or from the temple, stirring up the dust where I sat, and toss a coin my way in hopes that their act of charity would put them in a good way with God.

I often wished I could look those people in the eye, wished I could stop them in their tracks with a piercing gaze…. because I wanted more than anything else for them to look at me, to really see me, not just the cup in my hands; or the holes in my robe; not just my bowed head…  but ME – a person, alive and breathing, a person who laughs and cries, feels frustration and joy, fatigue and hope and hunger – just like any other person. Continue reading →

Living Water

Saugatuck Congregational Church, UCC
© Rev. Alison J. Buttrick Patton
March 19, 2017 – Third Sunday of Lent

Scripture: John 4:5-42

Last week we listened in on Jesus’ conversation with a Pharisee: a Jewish insider by the name of Nicodemus, who came to Jesus after dark to interrogate him about the things Jesus had been saying and doing. This week, Jesus has a very different encounter with an unnamed Samaritan woman – an unexpected twist, because the Jews and the Samaritans hated each other. Unlike the exchange between Jesus and Nicodemus, this encounter takes place outdoors in broad daylight, between Jesus and a woman who was herself an outsider. Hear the story in the woman’s own words...

I didn’t realize that I was waiting, or for whom.  When I set out late that morning, I thought I was just headed out to collect water, like I did every midday, as the sun beat down. This was my routine: walking one way along the well-worn path with an empty jar perched on one shoulder; walking back with the water-filled jar balanced on my head. Day in and day out, that’s what I did.  It was as routine as grinding the barley flour, baking bread, preparing the lentils and sweeping the house, milking the goats, chasing the children…out to the well and back again.

It was only later, much later, that I realized I’d been waiting my whole life to meet the man who waited for me at the well that day. Continue reading →

Born Anew?

Saugatuck Congregational Church, UCC
© Rev. Alison J. Buttrick Patton
March 12, 2017 – Second Sunday of Lent, Annual Meeting

Scripture: John 3:1-17

This is the first of four encounters we will read about during the season of Lent, conversations that Jesus has with four different people:  This morning, we listen in on the exchange between Jesus and a Pharisee, a pious Jew, named Nicodemus… Hear the story, told this morning in the voice of Nicodemus…

I didn’t ask to have my life disrupted.  I was content with my routine: reading and interpreting the Talmud with the other Pharisees, considering its daily applications to Jewish life. I appreciated the methodical nature of this work, the careful parsing of each Hebrew phrase, to discern what Yahweh intends for Yahweh’s people. I was always a numbers guy: I love the symmetry of the texts, how every Hebrew character has a numerical value that can reveal something about The Holy One’s purpose. For example, the characters that spell the word ‘Chai’  add up to 18. ‘Chai’ means ‘life’ so we know that the number 18 is a life-giving number – good for a blessing on special occasions.

The people seemed to appreciate my ability to reason out the scriptures – which is how I became a leader among the Jews of our community. I am trusted, reliable. Just like the Good Book. In these disrupted times, with the Romans imposing their rule and their pagan ways, I was convinced that it was best to keep to ourselves and live according to generations of tried and true Jewish law.

So when this man Jesus arrived on the scene and started teaching and preaching, I was troubled. Continue reading →

Forty Days and Forty Nights

Saugatuck Congregational Church, UCC
© Rev. Alison J. Buttrick Patton
March 5, 2017

Scripture: Scripture: Psalm 32:1-11 and Matthew 4:1-11

“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil…” – Matthew 4:1

Hundreds of battered, dusty backpacks form a wall at one end of the exhibit hall. They are bags left behind by undocumented migrants crossing the arid Sonoran Desert from Mexico to the US.  They are piled close to 20 feet tall.  Their owners struck out into the harsh wilderness to flee poverty, drug cartel violence or political instability, to reunite with family or to begin a new life north of the border. Between 2001 and 2009, at least 2,500 migrants perished in the desert – probably many more –  overcome by the heat, dehydration or assault by bandits. Continue reading →