I write to you this morning, dear brothers and sisters, near the end of a week that has been more horizontal than vertical for me. Thank you for graciously receiving words only slightly changed from some years ago when I wrote them to you. I pray they still bring a bit of light to your week. – Jonna
Birthdays! What a wonderful blessing! A chance, saved right on our calendars, to offer someone a tender, joyous, grateful word. A chance to say to someone, “I thank God for you!” A chance to write a love note. A chance to light candles and sing a birthday serenade.
This past Wednesday, we celebrated our 57th birthday as the United Church of Christ. A bite of cake after worship this Sunday would be very nice. There’s time to call a few friends and see if together you can come up with 57 birthday candles. Raise up a rollicking, “Happy Birthday to you … dear UCC!”
Even a bit belatedly, it would be great to send a birthday card to someone who makes the United Church of Christ a blessing for you. Maybe someone in your congregation who makes what is best in the UCC come alive for you. Maybe your pastor. Maybe a leader in your Association or in our Conference. Maybe you’d like to address your card to 700 Prospect Ave. E, Cleveland, OH 44115-1100 and wish everyone at our national headquarters a happy birthday. The most recent round of major budget cuts have left yet more empty desks at 700 Prospect and understandable grief among staff who continue their ministries on our behalf. Your kind and encouraging words might be an answer to someone’s prayer.
Oh, and a gift? Hmmm. What do we give ourselves, our United Church of Christ, for our birthday? You might find some pretty paper and a bow and wrap a present to your congregation – something as simple as crayons or copy paper for the daily work of your United Church of Christ congregation. You might wrap a gift for one of the missions of your congregation –food or laundry soap for your local pantry or bright new socks for guests in a nearby shelter. You might make a special birthday offering of $5.70 or $57.00 or even $570.00 to your local congregation, to the Iowa Conference, or to the national setting of the United Church of Christ with a bright “Happy Birthday” written in the memo line of your check.
Or might this be the time to think of another sort of gift? One that fits less easily into an envelope or a gift box? Now and then I have fun popping shiny bows on the children of one of our congregations, reminding them that they are gifts and then cheering them on as they pop shiny bows on each worshipper with the reminder, “You are a gift.” Our birthday week is an excellent time to listen in prayer for the voice of the Holy Spirit, who gives each one of us gifts to share in the body of Christ. Our birthday week is just the right time to listen for God calling or re-calling us to pop our bows on and pass along the gifts that are ours from the extravagant hand of God.
Thank you for the gifts you are. Thank you for the gifts you share. Happy birthday, everyone!
Jonna Jensen, Associate Conference Minister