Thanks for coming. Wherever your life seems to be taking you, we are glad you're here.
We invite EVERYONE to join us for worship at 10:00am Sundays, year-round. During the time of sheltering at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, including April 5 & 12 (Palm Sunday and Easter) we are offering worship on the pastor's Facebook page "RVUMC" and we hope on the church's also (Rondout Valley United Methodist Church).You can find us at 25 Schoonmaker Lane in Stone Ridge, NY, at the corner of Schoonmaker Lane and Route 209.
Today, April 9th, is Maundy Thursday, so called from the "mandate" Jesus gave his disciples to Love One Another. Our service of Holy Communion with Handwashing and Tenebrae (Shadows) will have to be via "videoconference" this year. Please contact the pastor in advance if you wish to particpate to get the Zoom access numbers, an order of worship (and reading if you're willing!) The Zoom access numbers are NOT the ones used by the Bishop for service earlier today.
DUE TO THE STATE AND COUNTY STATES OF EMERGENCY AND OUR BISHOP'S DIRECTIVE, RVUMC IS CLOSED FOR ALL PUBLIC GATHERINGS, INCLUDING WORSHIP, THROUGH at least EASTER. RVUMC will be a satellite pickup location for RV Food Pantry Emergency Bags again on Saturday, the 11th, 10 to noon. To limit potential viral spread, if you're picking up we will put your bags on a table next to the circle for you to put into your car. Church phone is 845 687-9090. Watch this space and Facebook for updates; stay safe, stay in touch with others by phone and email; and let us uphold each other and our world in prayer. On Sunday the 29th, we put "Facebook Live" worship at 10 via the page RVUMC, on the pastor's Facebook. It's there, and at FB Rondout Valley United Methodist Church. We did it again for April 5th, Palm Sunday. Please contact the pastor if you would like a brief "order of worship" emailed to you Sunday morning, and a "print-your-own" palm to color for Palm Sunday. While working on higher-tech remote options for future Sundays, we'll post a version of Pastor Caroline's brief reflection from Sunday, followed by the ones from the 29th and 22nd of March.
Please contact the pastor if you would like to join in Maundy Thursday/Good Friday worship by phone or video connection!
Palm Sunday in COVID-19 wilderness, April 5, 2020
Hosannas, Handwashing and Holy Week
Well—here we are, wherever we are. Palm Sunday! Even though worship the past couple of weeks has felt weird, today feels weirder. Palm Sunday is a day that runs the gamut of religious experience, from the glorious and joyful all the way to the vicious and despondent. There’s a sort of built-in chaos when we do the dramatic reading of the entire “passion narrative” in parts—accentuated by the fact that often several people end up with more than one part! And it’s a day for children, of ALL ages and sizes, to wave a palm frond and shout “Hosanna!” That’s the happy part. Think about it: there aren’t many occasions to shout Hosanna. It means “Save, Now” and is directed to the Lord as he enters [as in hymn “Hosanna, Loud Hosanna”] “in lowly state”: a humble king, a living oxymoron. The masses greet Jesus with desperate hope and joy. They yearn for and seem to expect the overthrow of the Powers That Be. But—yes, you knew there was a “but”—that isn’t all there is to this day. As the gospel reading continues, you descend from the excitement and optimism of Hosanna to…Jesus dead in a sealed tomb. Trying to do all of this in solitary splendor in our own homes is so UN Palm-Sundayish.
If you’re interested in reading the “passion narrative” that comes between the Hosannas of chapter 21 and the Resurrection of chapter 28, check out Matthew chapters 26 &7. As I’ve reread that stretch this week I’ve been reminded how NO ONE except maybe Jesus ends up looking good. And Jesus—well, he ends up dead. And THAT’s not a good look.
For centuries, there has been disagreement about Who Is Most To Blame for Jesus’ ending up crucified. One persistent interpretation was to Blame the Jews—yes, all of them!—because They were clearly in on this, and Jesus was after all one of their own. Another is to Blame the Romans, because They were the ones ultimately in charge. But as you hear the story unfold in chapters 26 & 7, the distinctions get fuzzier and it’s harder to tell who’s a Good Guy and who’s a Bad Guy. As with most human experiences, it is complicated. The upper crust of the Jewish leadership—the council, the Sadducees—was clearly threatened by Jesus, and were all too willing to be complicit with the Romans if they could just Make Jesus Stop Stirring Everyone Up. The Top Roman Guy, Pilate, is clearly out of his depth in dealing with the combination of imperial subjugation and religious intensity. In the end, he doesn’t handle either well. Both the high priest and Pilate are hyper-sensitive to how their decisions will play with the crowds, so there’s a lot of passing the buck (or the denarius) and manipulating of the crowds. Neither Caiaphas nor Pilate wants to be the one to “sign off on” this particular execution. Pilate famously “washes his hands” of the matter, basically telling the crowd it’s THEIR fault.
A top government official who is clearly out of his depth…religious leadership more concerned with their power than with the well-being of the poor…and crowds of gullible, uneducated, desperate people: what could go wrong?!
Jesus is crucified. Remember that? And crucifixion was the ROMAN way of execution. Pilate—the denarius stops there. As we’ve been reminded frequently during the spread of the coronavirus, there’s hand-washing and there’s hand-washing, and most of us aren’t doing it right or often enough. I’ve thought of that lately with regard to Pilate. He THOUGHT his hand-washing was enough to avoid being responsible for Jesus’ death. But he missed a few spots.
And as far as Blame the Jews or Blame the Romans—in the shadow of the cross you can find Jews and Romans who, despite being in positions of authority, were not afraid to speak the truth, and do the right thing, publicly. Think: Joseph of Arimathea—member of the Council--and the Roman centurion.
There is another direction we can look to for finding Who Is Most To Blame, though. And it is probably the most disturbing, because it’s closest to home. Look at the disciples. His beloved companions. Those who traveled with Jesus, ate with Him, learned from Him, loved Him. Judas, the right-hand man and treasurer. Peter, the rock, who would never ever ever desert Jesus…until the cock crows, and he does. James and John, who didn’t even manage to stay awake with Jesus that last night in the garden. When the going got tough, the disciples got gone. Maybe they, too, had listened to the crowds and heard the Hosannas fade and realized that maybe they weren’t on the winning team any more.
And that’s the hard part of Holy Week, isn’t it? That’s why churches usually get a decent crowd on PS and Easter, but Maundy Thursday and Good Friday…? Not so much. I leave you with a poem, from around 2007 I think, by Carol Cruikshank:
TAKE ME, LORD, TO EASTER BY EXPRESS
Take me, Lord, to Easter
I can’t stand Good Friday—
Take me straight to Easter
And its joy.
I can’t stand to watch them
Kill your Boy.
Child, the trip is local;
All must see
How man’s willful ways
Child, if you would taste of
First you need to know: You
Killed my Boy.
--Carol Cortelyou Cruikshank
Meditation for 3.29.2020, worship in COVID-19 exile. [Ezekiel 37 & John 11]
What absolutely extraordinary readings, and to paraphrase the humorist Dave Barry: I am not the one who chose them for this day. The lectionary, set long before coronavirus had appeared on most of our horizons, provided them. And wow: just, wow.
Wow, why? Well, far from painting a rose-colored glasses, pollyanna-ish image of shiny happy people of faith on a sort of Spring Break of the Soul, these scriptures dare to expose a God who is with us even—maybe especially—when things get bad. And not to put too fine a point on it: it doesn’t get much badder than dead, much worse than exile in a strange land, where there are bones of the past as far as the eye can see. Both Ezekiel and John make sure we get just how bad thing are: the valley is FULL of bones, and they are VERY DRY; Martha, ever the practical one, reminds Jesus that if they move the stone from the grave, there will be a stench—Lazarus has been dead four days.
What might be going on here that has ANY possible bearing on where we find ourselves in our time of Viral Exile, with fear and death and economic hardship all around, when even going to church on Easter Sunday is looking out of the question?? Well—the Good News is that the valley of dry bones and the sealed tomb are NOT the end of the story, and God continues to bring life out of desperate times. And you and I need to be attentive to the ways in which WE are called to help out. “Prophesy to the bones”, Ezekiel is told. And he does, despite how weird and awkward it feels. “Remove the stone,” Jesus tells Lazarus’ friends. And they do, despite their worries. “Unbind him, and let him go.”
Speaking hope, moving stones, and loosening people’s bonds…if those are our tasks, let’s do them, confident that the greater future is in the hands of a God who doesn’t hesitate to come among us to serve. Amen.
Yesterday’s Upper Room (Sat. March 28 2020); see the booklets or you can go daily to upperroom.org/devotionals; this one’s entitled “Beyond the Walls”
“….God wants the church to be a family who cares for one another. We can care for one another by thanking the people around us for the blessings they bring to our lives and by showing concern for the trials they may be facing. We can look beyond the walls of our church buildings to tell those who are heading into “war zones” that they are not alone.” Andy Baker, TN USA
Prayer: Thank you, God, for sustaining us through times of trial. Make us aware of the hurts and needs of those around us, and prompt us to help. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
From March 22nd:
Read Mark 4:35-41: Jesus calms storm (parallels Matthew 8:23-7, Luke 8:22-5)
It’s been that kind of a week, hasn’t it?
When you NEED to know that you are not alone, that God still cares and is still WITH YOU, even when we’re supposed to be keeping our distance—6 feet or more, I hope you’ve got your tape measures with you everywhere!—and I kind of feel as if Jesus is looking at me with some of the exasperation He looked at those storm-tossed disciples with: Really, you’re anxious? Be still, be faithful.
All week long, I found myself humming Hymn # 512 in the UM Hymnal, Stand By Me. I don’t know whether that is partly a reaction to our all being told NOT to stand by anyone too close, but the first verse may ring a bell:
When the storms of life are raging, stand by me
When the storms of life are raging, stand by me
When the world is tossing me, like a ship upon the sea,
thou who rulest wind and water, stand by me.
And then I got to thinking about the great 1633 Rembrandt painting, Storm on the Sea of Galilee. If you look for it online, plenty of images are available. It also has a full page in the “Rembrandt and the Bible” book at church. The painting is remarkable for various reasons: it’s by Rembrandt, his only known seascape; it shows a range of human fear and faith and the calming presence of Jesus; and it was stolen 30 years ago last week from the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum in Boston. Within minutes of my thinking about that painting, a piece on the radio came on about that awful theft. The theft of that and 12 or 13 other priceless works remains unsolved to this day; if you happen to see that Rembrandt or any of the other items around, please let the FBI know. The museum would still like them back; they have kept the empty frames on display where the paintings used to be.
But—about that storm. One of the things that stands out to me in the painting is how differently people react to a crisis. Several of the disciples are in the front of the boat, fighting desperately to bring the whipping sails under control while the waves crash into them. Others huddle in fear close to Jesus, hoping that He will get them through this but obviously worried. And one poor guy is leaning over the edge, being seasick. And Jesus: He radiates calm, even in the middle of the whole mess. Here Matthew’s version (8:26) reports Jesus saying “why are you afraid, you people of weak faith?” O ye of little faith!
And that passage, that image, has been with me through the week: of a Lord who is right here with us, not keeping a socially-mandated 6 foot distance, as our days and our jobs and our families churn up and down on the waves. Peace, be still. And the waves were still. May we all know that peace, that passes all understanding, today and all days.
Next Second Sunday Supper was supposed to be--you guessed it--April 12th, which is also Easter.
Thank you to everyone who made our pre-Christmas and pre-Thanksgiving cookies-by-the-pound sales successful; we continue to offer Equal Exchange Fair Trade chocolates, coffees and teas.
The cantata "Lead Me Back to Bethlehem" was on Saturday, Dec. 21, at 2 pm.
Saturday, September 21 at 2 pm we were thrilled to host a brief vocal recital by Julia Caster (accompanied by Linda McCarthy). Julia was invited by the Conductors' Club of NY which met at RVUMC that day and we were ALL blessed by this musical offering!
Thank you to the many participants and volunteers who made last summer's VBS (Vacation Bible School) a wonderful experience. There was plenty of noise coming from our hill--almost all of it joyful. The theme was "Who is my Neighbor?" and five local churches joined for this exhilarating, exhausting endeavor. The "responsible adults" were "exhilarhausted" by Friday!
In order to respond to future domestic [including Puerto Rico!] relief needs we continue to assemble"cleanup buckets" and also hygiene kits for UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief). We sent out 36 completed buckets in response to 2017's hurricanes and floods, and we'll keep filling relief kits as long as there are needs we can address. Donations of money and items for the buckets can be brought to the church when we're there; or call to arrange dropoff of items. Monetary donations can also be made online (see "DONATE" above) or via the "Give Plus" mobile app; specify "Bucket List." For updated bucket specifics, click HERE or scroll to UMCOR link below and on the UMCOR page select "Relief Supplies." We now have LOTS of scouring pads and non-cellulose sponges; we most need the heavy duty garbage bags, reusable "handi-wipe" type wipes and sturdy work gloves.
Here are some links to things about us you might want to know: