55 MAGNOLIA AVE, TENAFLY, NJ
The Session has cancelled all events and worship services
through April 20th.
55 MAGNOLIA AVE, TENAFLY, NJ
The Session has cancelled all events and worship services
through April 20th.
We are a friendly church that seeks to witness to the love and grace of God as we know it in Jesus.
Our desire is to minister to our youth, adults, families and elderly.
We strive for their active participation in a wide range of religious and secular programs, as well as their increased personal involvement in mission opportunities and church life. Through our efforts, we seek church growth, not only in members, but also in personal faith. Part of our mission is to maintain our high quality of worship, music and facilities.
Worship for March 29, 2020
Thursday, March 26, by Liz Leavitt
Read: I Corinthians 13: 12
For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.
I sat next to Kevin in the church basement, which was open that day as a drop-in community center, and asked him how things were going.
“OK, I guess,” he said with his typical hesitancy.
I asked about his new day program, a placement his caretakers had fought to secure in a center for adults with intellectual disabilities.
“Actually, I don’t like it that much,” he mumbled. I felt myself growing impatient. So much work had gone into finding that opening. I asked him why not.
“Because the work they have us do ... it’s not really real, is it?” he said.
He was right. The phones to answer, the making of change, the field trips — they were all preparations for a job he would likely never have. I was humbled. I had been too quick to feel satisfied with my efforts, to imagine the work of being beloved community for Kevin as a task completed rather than the ongoing work of transforming the world.
If we’re lucky, we see glimpses of it in church: a sense of meaning and belonging, authentic relationship and thriving for everyone. We work for it in all places — justice, dignity and love for all. But so often we fall short, our e orts too meager and too brief. In Lent and always, we repent of those shortcomings, trusting that the mercy of God is “really real” and that someday we will be known completely and welcomed despite our failings. One day, we will take our place in that great heavenly chorus where all can join in the work of praise. And we will give thanks.
God of mercy, help us to see ourselves completely. Strengthen us for the long night of work ahead. Forgive us for the times we fail to embody your ministry of justice and welcome. Assure us of your unending love, expressed through your presence with us in the person of Jesus, in whose name we pray. Amen.
Friday, March 27, by Bethany McKinney Fox
Read: Mark 2: 3-12
Then some people came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and after having dug through it, they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this fellow speak in this way? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” At once Jesus perceived in his spirit that they were discussing these questions among themselves; and he said to them, “Why do you raise such questions in your hearts? 9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and take your mat and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”--he said to the paralytic-- “I say to you, stand up, take your mat and go to your home.” And he stood up, and immediately took the mat and went out before all of them; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”
A good friend of mine is an ordained minister who has cerebral palsy, and he uses a power scooter to get around. He has a tremendous mind and heart for ministry. When he was doing his pastoral internship, a number of folks in the congregation had a difficult time with his needing to preach from a seated position, instead of standing at the pulpit. The whole time he worked at the internship, each time he’d preach, there would be some grumbling that he was sitting to do it.
When I think of my friend’s experience, I think about this Scripture, and how a group of folks carrying a man on his mat realized that there was a barrier in getting to Jesus, so they cut a hole in a perfectly good roof in order to make sure the man they knew could get to Jesus. And how did Jesus respond? He commended their faith. Destroying a barrier between people and Jesus, even if it was something (like a sturdy roof) that had been helpful at other times, was something Jesus commended.
Being locked into a rule that a preacher needs to stand while preaching (or any other rule that excludes people from sharing their God-given gifts) creates a barrier that can keep people from encountering Jesus. In this text, we notice Jesus celebrating that barrier’s removal.
God, we thank you that you have gifted all people and desire for them to use those gifts. We ask that where there are systems and barriers that exclude some people, particularly people with disabilities, from being able to share those gifts, that you would give us imaginations for a truly accessible community where everyone’s gifts are received and all can be blessed by the gifts of others. Amen.
Saturday, March 28, by Bethany McKinney Fox
Read: I Corinthians 12:4-7
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
Years ago, I remember going to church with one of my close friends who has Down syndrome. She had grown up going to church, loved Jesus deeply and connected well with the rhythms of the service — though admittedly, she did tend to nod o during lengthy sermons. It would make me sad and angry when people would patronize or underestimate her because of her disability, because getting to know her faith and praying with her changed my life.
She once prayed asking Jesus to wipe her face with kindness, and she often tells Jesus that she loves him from the bottom of her speechless heart. Her belief in Jesus’ fierce love for her has been stronger than anyone’s I have known, and her level of faith has challenged and shaped my faith as well. My friend now has dementia, something that happens for people with Down syndrome at a much younger age. She doesn’t express herself in the same ways she once did. But I know she is still filled with the Spirit and God continues to activate her gifts even as they are taking a new shape in this new season.
Generous God, thank you for the abundant gifts you give to your people. Help us be more aware of the ways your Spirit is moving in us, and in the people around us — especially people who have often been considered merely objects of ministry or recipients of our help. Allow us to perceive ourselves and other people as you perceive us, noticing and being grateful for the wide and beautiful ways you activate every single one of us to live as your people in the world. Amen.
Sunday, March 29, by Rae Chen Huang
Read: Mark 10: 17-22
As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’ ” He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.”
Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”
When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.
The good news that Jesus preaches is not just about personal salvation, nor is it merely a call to discipleship.It’s a call to an economic vision that is revolutionary.
The reason that millions over the centuries followed a radical named Jesus was not because it was easy, but because his vision was transformative for the people who followed him. His vision is still necessary today.
We live in the richest nation in the world, yet 64 million make less than $15 an hour and 32 million lack health insurance. Basic needs like water, health care and living wages are being attacked and those attacks are further hurting the poor. No matter who we are, all of us are feeling these effects of disparity.
God created a world where we have sufficient resources to protect the environment and ensure dignified lives for everyone. The problem is a matter of priorities, as wealth is being accumulated on the backs of the poor and amassed through the exploitation of the earth and God’s creatures.
How do we inherit eternal life? How do we create the beloved community? We live into a vision where we share our riches and our wealth and make sure that all have enough. And there, we will find life everlasting; not only for the chosen few, but so that all may live and have life abundantly.
God who has made enough, thank you for the divine wealth that is this earth, its people and its creatures. Help us to imagine, preserve and co-create a world where there is enough for everyone. Amen.
Monday, March 30, by Peter Dunn
Read: I Peter 2: 24
He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.
My storyteller inhabited a thin and bony frame, with painful muscle strains all over his neck and arms from living with multiple sclerosis for the past 10 years. It was obvious he loved sharing every strained word, entrusting me with his biography. Each new vignette of what it was like to grow up in one of the most notorious gang neighborhoods in America was more captivating then the last.
Willie was the founding member of Watts Powerhouse Church in Los Angeles. His joyful attitude, despite the circumstances, is one of the clearest examples of what the transformative work of the Holy Spirit can do in a person’s life. As a man, he was literally the walking wounded, and yet he woke up every Sunday morning ready to worship with his whole body. A few triumphant handclaps from Willie in a worship service and we all knew God was close.
He couldn’t cover up his wounds, even if he wanted to, and during the times when the pain was so great he could no longer take care of himself, people in the community considered it a privilege to give back to him in a small way what he gave in such large helpings. Willie’s strength in weakness blessed an entire community and led many closer to Jesus.
Lord Jesus, we come to you with our wounds. You know us and love us for who we truly are. Empower us to go to those in our care and let them touch our scars. Help us to celebrate the cracks in our lives, understanding they are the places where your grace is most transmitted from one human soul to another. Amen.
Tuesday, March 31, by Peter Dunn
Read: John 8: 31-32
Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
In his book The Paradox of Choice, psychologist Barry Schwartz takes aim at a central tenet of western societies: freedom of choice. In Schwartz’s estimation, choice has made us not freer but more paralyzed, not happier but more dissatisfied. Anyone who has found themselves paralyzed by having to choose just one of the 175 salad dressings at the supermarket may relate. Our society values freedom and it seeks to maximize freedom by maximizing choice.
What all of these options do is set our expectations so high, no one individual choice could ever satisfy them, leaving millions with the feeling “I have everything I could ever need, so why do I feel so unhappy?” is dogma has made its way into every aspect of western industrialized society, and Schwartz argues that it is responsible for the dramatic increase in depression and suicide over the past decade.
What if a beloved community of people decided to go in a different direction? Jesus teaches us that freedom comes from knowledge of the truth. So how do we discover the true way to live in a culture that seduces us into thinking that we are entitled to endless options? Dr. Cornel West, a professor at Harvard University and author of several books, including “Race Matters,” writes: “ the condition of truth is to allow suffering to speak.” What can we learn today by listening to the voices of those who are hurting all around us? What truths about living a meaningful life might they reveal? Jesus, on many occasions, took the time to hear the cries of the suffering.
God of hope, we pause and breathe deeply, praising you that life is a gift that we get to unpack each day. Help us to be present to you and discover just how wonderful this journey is. Amen.
Wednesday, April 1, by Victoria Barner
Read: I John 3: 17
How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?
One morning, I was waiting for a green light. I looked to my right and saw a very serious-looking African American woman walking toward the crosswalk. God spoke to my heart and said, “Give her $20.” I took $5 from my wallet, as it was the first bill I saw in my wallet, and waved it to the woman. She ignored me. I sighed. I went to work and forgot all about her.
On my way home, I decided to buy some groceries when I saw the same woman walking toward where I was going. I parked my car, reached down to my purse and, this time, took out a $20 bill. I got out of my car and hurriedly walked toward the woman.
“The Lord told me to give this to you,” I said.
The woman quietly took the money and continued walking. I was expecting her to say, “Thank you!” or at least show an attitude of gratitude, but she just took the money without saying anything. Strangely, I was not upset. I was just grateful that God gave me another chance to be present for this woman. I never saw that woman again, although I take the same route every morning on my way to work and home.
God, provider for the helpless, help me to have a heart like yours that loves the poor and the helpless. Amen.
Thursday, April 2, by Victoria Barner
Read: Matthew 5: 42
Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.
It was raining and I needed to put gas in my tank before I went to work. As I was putting the nozzle back in its place, a woman approached me and asked, “Could you please take me to my motel, which is not very far from here? I don’t have a car.”
I had never been in this situation before. I was nervous to allow a stranger into my car and I heard myself saying, “I have to go to work. I don’t want to be late.” When she said the motel was close, I reluctantly said, “All right, hop in.”
Lord, please protect me as I help this woman.
I took her to her motel, and she thanked me profusely. I pulled away in the pouring rain with so many emotions, among them thankfulness that I did not allow my concerns for my personal safety to prevent me from helping this woman.
All I could think of was that the Lord wanted me to help this woman by providing her a ride and that those who look like they are “throwaways” in our society need a friend to get them home, even if home is a temporary motel.
Dear Lord, when you want me to help a beloved, help me to completely trust you, for you will guide and protect and provide all I need to be a friend to the stranger. Amen.
Friday, April 3, by Victoria Barner
Read: Mark 14: 7
For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me.
My husband and I were going somewhere in our old car. We were about 15 feet away from a bus stop when I saw a woman with three kids in tow. One was a toddler. Suddenly, it started to rain hard and the family of three ran toward a bus stop that had no roof.
“They’ll get wet,” I told my husband.
Without a word, my husband stopped the car by the curb. Both of us called to the mother in our broken Spanish.
The mother understood us and hurriedly entered our car with her kids. Now what? The mother could not speak English and our Spanish was very poor. I tried recollecting what little Spanish I learned in high school. I tried my best to ask her where she was going, but I realized I was using the wrong terms. We both laughed and, amazingly, the woman understood me. She gave us directions of whether to turn right or left or go straight. Finally, we reached her destination — home was the “poor” part of the community. After mumbling “gracias,” the family got out of the car and ran toward their home. My husband and I continued on our way in quiet, listening only to the rain. Finally, my husband spoke: “There are so many of them. We don’t even have to look for them. We just need to be willing to help.”
Dear Lord, please help us to intentionally look for people we can help. Amen.
Saturday, April 4, by Neema Cyrus-Franklin
Read: Psalm 118: 26, 28-29
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD. We bless you from the house of the LORD… You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God, I will extol you. O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.
When I was a child, the elders in my home congregation would recite Psalm 118 seemingly every Sunday. As a “preacher’s kid,” I often overheard the hardships faced by those in our church as my parents prayed on their behalf. There were countless struggles and challenges: untreated mental illnesses, homelessness after losing a job, discrimination at school and the workplace, wrongful incarcerations and years of legal bills, to name a few. I knew those in the congregation were living through a nightmare and I couldn’t understand why or how they could extol the words of the psalmist amid such seemingly insurmountable odds. Years later, I understood this lesson from my youth.
At times, our world seems to spin out of our control; out of our ability to will a favorable outcome. When I found myself in di cult circumstances as an adult, I reflected on the lessons from my childhood. I remembered that during these moments, I didn’t have to suffer in silence.
During the prayers of the people at church, I gave my worries and situation over to God. We stood together, cried together and praised together the God who created us to be more than conquerors. Life’s difficult circumstances provided for me and my congregation an invitation to meet with God front and center — together. It was an invitation not to journey alone, an invitation to an ongoing, dynamic experience of humanity connecting with God, an invitation to the beloved community.
Dear Lord, there are times when I feel so alone and troubled. Light my path and guide my feet, so that I may come to know and experience your loving grace through your beloved community. Amen.
Sunday, April 5, by Amanda Adams Riley
Read: Romans 12: 6
We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith…
Our church meets in a garden in downtown San Pedro, California. Worshipers come from a variety of backgrounds, from white-collar working adults, retirees and families to the unhoused, food insecure and those with mental illness. Our garden, which grows primarily produce and herbs, is run and maintained by volunteers.
One Friday, Jonny walked in, pointed to the short palm tree by the front fence and said, “I planted that. His name is Daddy.”
I looked at the palm and replied, “Its branches need to be trimmed.”
Jonny retrieved a saw and got to work. Jonny is a schizophrenic, and he has been housed and unhoused, addicted and now sober. Not five minutes later, Charles walked in, chatting about what a good job he had had that morning, working on the electrical wiring for a local restaurant. The next thing I knew, Charles was breaking down the palm branches and hauling them to the back of the garden. Charles is Native American and has been unhoused as long as I have known him. Like Jonny, Charles has a mental illness. Yet they come to the garden and find solace. They find purpose. They find community. They come to the garden to tend to Daddy the palm tree, taking pride in its healthy fronds. And, as they do, they smile, realizing they both play a part in nurturing something so beautiful.
Gift-giving God, help our eyes to be open to look beyond labels, so that we may see the beloved child of God you have put in front of us. Amen.