Author: AJ Langston

Annual egg hunt

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Please donate plastic Easter eggs and non-chocolate candy by 2pm on Saturday, 3/24 for our annual Easter Egg Hunt after church on Palm Sunday – March 25th. Note: we will Not be dyeing hard boiled eggs this year, so no need to donate any.

On Saturday, 3/24 at 2pm the youth and anyone who wants to join will be filling the plastic eggs with candy. Bring your tape! We’ll have some extra too! Kids will be practicing for the Palm Sunday palm processional Saturday as well, so make sure they’re there.

Categories: Newsletter

Plaques and Memorials Policy

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Plaques for memorials and / or gifts will be placed on the wood wall just inside the Sanctuary from the Narthex. The plaques will be 2” high, 4” wide, polished brass, with black lettering that is 1/4” tall.

Memorials for the Johnson Memorial garden will be bricks that have the names, dates etc. water jetted into them.

Requests to place ashes into the Johnson Memorial Garden will follow the following rules:

  1. Ashes will be limited to no more than a tablespoon full
  2. Ashes will be placed into one of the large potted plants with the soil being lifted / pulled back for the deposit of ashes and then covered back up.
Categories: Newsletter

Annual Easter Breakfast

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Annual Easter Breakfast served by the youth, to support the youth programs. Join us for breakfast on Easter Sunday from 8:30-10:30am. Don’t worry – there will be plenty of bacon!

We will be raffling off 3 – $25 gift cards and 1 – $50 gift card as well! Raffle tickets are $1 a piece of 6 for $5. Put in as many tickets as you want to up your chances!

Pre-sale tickets will start March 4th – if you can’t make it, you can still support by purchasing a ticket. IF you don’t get a ticket – DO not worry, you are still welcome to join us and pay at the door! There will be plenty to go around!

Categories: Newsletter

Thy Will be done

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March 18 2018

I Peter 2

We have been working our way through the Lord’s Prayer over the past few months.    This is the most familiar and most universal prayer in all of Christendom.  In this prayer we find the model for all our  praying.  In the Lord’s prayer, we learn what God is like–a caring Father–and we learn why we are put on earth–to work for God’s kingdom and to seek God’s will.

The theologian Karl Barth once said that, “To clasp hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world.”  According to Barth, when we pray, we unleash the forces of God’s power upon the world.  That is why we pray for an end of the enmity between Israelis and Palestinians, for the alleviation of suffering in Syria, , for healing from cancer, for the redemption of a disintegrating marriage.  That is why Jesus teaches us to pray, “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

So today I want to talk about this third petition of the Lord’s Prayer: Thy will be done.   I want to lift up two words which describe God’s will, and they both begin with the letter “P.”  God’s will is persuasive.  Second, God’s will is purposeful.   So I have crossed you up, and instead of having the usual three points a preacher makes, I am making only two, thus to guarantee that you will be out of church early and beat the crowds to Brother’s restaurant.    God’s will, persuasive, God’s will purposeful.  


To launch out into our subject, I want to say that God works his will in ways that unfailingly persuasive and non coercive.  There are only two kinds of power in the arena of human relations.  One is coercion; the other persuasive. One is compulsion from without.  The other is devotion from within.  One is power over people, the other is power with people.  Go back into history as far as you like and you will find these two concepts struggling for the mastery of the human mind.  Dostoevski said that this was the acid test for any civilization–that a nation could be properly called civilized when it began to put more emphasis on the forces that persuade than on the cruder forces that compel.

I heard about a company over in Glendale and they were introducing a new insurance plan for the employees.  To be able to be eligible for this insurance plan all of the employees had to sign up and pay a participating share.  Well, there were over 60 employees in this small company and everybody signed up except for one man.  No matter how much is fellow employees and the boss tried to persuade him, he just couldn’t see the benefits.  Finally, one day the boss called him in and said to him, “George, you’ve been a good employee but your refusal to sign up for the plan is undermining the company morale.  Either you sign it or you’re fired.”

George, with a big smile on his face, took a pen off the boss’s desk and grandly signed his name to the contract.  And the boss, exasperated, looked at him and said, “Why did you do it so willingly–and why didn’t you do it long before?”  And George replied, “Well, nobody ever explained it to me so clearly up until now.”

Well, God is not like this.  God’s will is shown in non-coercive love.  And this love is most seriously and remarkable demonstrated in the cross.  The accruals of sin are always bitter and negative.  We know that hate begets hate, jealousy begets jealousy, suspicion begets suspicion.  Our only hope is for someone to absorb an indignity or an injury and not return it in kind, The cross is God’s way of saying, “The hate stops here.”  Or as Peter puts it in speaking of Jesus, “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return.  When he suffered, he did not threaten.  He himself bore our sins in his body of the tree.  By his wounds, we have been healed.”  God will never coerce us, only draw us to his side in love.


And a second facet of God’s will  is that God’s will is purposeful.    God has a plan in mind for us and for our world, whether we can see it or not.   And it’s here that we begin to identify with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane when he prayed, “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.  But nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.”

Jesus sensed that he was on a collision course with the Jewish and Roman authorities, and that the outcome would not be pleasant.  I love this story in the Garden of Gethsemane so much, because it shows how human Jesus is,  just like you and me.  Part of himself wanted to opt out, to avoid the horrible days ahead.  He must have considered leaving Jerusalem, going back to Galilee, and continuing his ministry there.  But in the end, he was willing to lay aside his own ego, his own desires, to be obedient to his Father’s will.

I think I most identify with Jesus here.  First, trying to be obedient to God’s will instead of following my own will is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  Trying to put God’s priorities first instead of my own priorities.  Trying to dance to God’s tune, instead of two-stepping to my own.

Before I came to Arizona  I was  in Mississippi, the hardest two years of my life, serving a declining church in an alien culture, with many people who just thought I was the worst thing to happen to Mississippi since Sherman came through and burned Jackson.  I had to ask myself, “Oh, my God, why did you send me here?”  And then I wondered, “Maybe God didn’t send me.  Maybe it was just a bad decision on my part.  A bad choice.  We all make them.”  But to know that doesn’t help, at least in the midst of the pain of a difficult situation.

We’ve all been in Mississippi haven’t we?  In a marriage that didn’t work out.  With a child acting up    With a job that is just soul-numbing.  With an illness that lays us low.

And we’re not sure in these situations how much of it is our fault or our fate or the will of God.

I can only tell you what I have learned.  I never believe that God sends us hardship, but I do believe with Helmut Thielicke that all evil which befalls us must pass through the hands of God before it reaches us.  God doesn’t send us Mississippis but God can bring us through Mississippis,  still erect, still proud, still standing on our feet.  Two things can happen from Mississippis.  We can become bitter or become better.   And if we are  extraordinarily blessed, God can bring us from a Mississippi to the First Presbyterian Church of Peoria, Arizona.      

In the eighth chapter of Romans we read, “In everything God works for good for those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.”  God has an unquenchable will to redeem.  What more is the cross that the world’s minus turned into God’s plus?

There was a woman diagnosed with a terminal illness.  As she was getting her affairs in order, she contacted her minister to come to her house to discuss her memorial service what Scriptures she wanted read, what hymns sung.  They laid out the whole service, then the woman

said, “Oh, there’s one thing more, and this is very important.”

     “What is it?” the pastor asked.

     “I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand.”  He stood looking at her dumbfounded, not at all sure what to say.

     “Does that surprise you?”

     “Well, yes it does, to be honest.”

     The woman explained.  “In all my years of attending church socials and potlucks, I always remember that when the dishes of the main course were being cleared, someone would inevitably lean over and say, ‘Keep your fork’.  It was my favorite moment, because I knew something

better was coming…like velvety chocolate cake or deep-dish apple pie.  Something wonderful and delicious.   

     “So when people see me there in my casket with a fork in my hand, and they ask, “What’s with the fork? I want you to tell them, ‘Keep your fork…the best is yet to come’.”

If we allow God to work his will in us, even the worst things can become part of God’s will.  If we surrender ourselves to God, as did Jesus in the garden, we may know suffering and reversal,  but ultimately, we will know resurrection.  And because of that, in life or in death, the  the best is yet to come.    

Categories: Weekly Sermon

Session news from January that didn’t make it into February’s newsletter

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The annual meeting was held January28, after worship. It went smoothly compared to some meetings in past years. We are blessed with our members and so far they do NOT make any waves. Also we have several new members with good ideas for the life of the congregation. End of sermon.

The election of Deacons to serve a term of three years included Dot Bell, Judy Colicelli, Faye Owens, Pat Henningsen, and Jean Salch. Dot, Jean, and Faye are serving their second term of three years each and Judy has served in the past and is coming back on. After serving for six years straight one must go off for at least one year. The same for a Session member, Nomination committee chairman, Seth O’Kelly is working to find two more Deacons to fill the slate of twelve. Going off after a term of three years is Lois Cary. A huge thank you Lois for serving three years.

For Elders to serve on Session we have some new “blood” with new ideas. That is Steve Burt. Steve and wife Sabrina have been in the church family going on maybe two years coming from a similar church near Lake Tahoe where Steve served on Session. Steve and Sabrina “We are glad you are here.” Larry Cary was reelected for another three year term. Having been off of Session for a year and dragging his heels, Ken Johnson was elected for a term of three years along with Steve and Larry.

Sheila Kyer and Pat Powles were elected to serve on the 2018 church nominating committee to seed Deacons and Elders for 2019. They represent the congregation. A Session member will chair the committee and one or two Deacons serve representing the Deacons.

The three new Elders were elected to serve as trustees of the Corporation as required by the State of Arizona. The Session members make up the board of trustees. It is the same people.

Ethel McCarty met with us to discuss some ways to make our financial bookwork more efficient. She left the meeting after a period of discussion. I was lost the whole time because I do not understand the computer or Servant Keeper as well as Quickbooks. Thank you Ethel for whatever you told us. That is not my cup of tea.

Pastor Terry received the resignation John Guy, as they have moved to Casa Grande (in Spanish it is Large House), about 65 miles south on I-10. Thank you John and Katrina for serving in our church family. John served on Session and Katrina served as a Deacon. You will be (are) missed and we wish you well.

Easter Sunday was discussed. The youth (and parents) are serving breakfast as a fund raiser for summer conference fees. The campers need about $3,100 for the group of campers that are going. Any donation of bills or pocket change is appreciated. Thank you!

Categories: Newsletter

Dr. Michael Hegeman Leads Lenten Study at FPC

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Dr. Michael Hegeman will be teaching a Lenten Course called “The Meaning of the Death of Jesus” on the four Tuesdays in March, March 6, 13, 20 and 27 at 12PM.

Michael Hegeman holds a PhD in Homiletics (Preaching) and New Testament Studies from Princeton Theological Seminary where he taught speech, preaching and liturgy courses for ten years. An Arizona resident since 1978, Michael graduated from Grand Canyon University (1990) with a degree in Music Education. Michael taught at the First Presbyterian Academy, formerly housed in the Historic First Presbyterian Church (Phoenix), where he served as an elder before going to Princeton Seminary in 1993. Michael has worked and taught in China and Israel/Palestine and is a composer of choral music, having just recently had new choral works premiered at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City and the Berlin Cathedral in Germany. Currently Michael teaches courses in Spiritual Studies and frequently lectures on diverse topics dealing with faith and religion around the Phoenix metropolitan area. Michael is currently managing director of the Pinnacle Concert Series and is on staff of the Frank Park Center for Faith and Life.

Pastor Terry Swicegood, in commenting on Hegeman, said, “He is one of the most gifted and interesting Biblical scholars I know.

Categories: Newsletter

We Stay

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“There were … women looking on from afar, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome; who, when [Jesus] was in Galilee, followed him, and ministered to him; and also many other women who came up with him to Jerusalem.” (Mark 15:40-41)

There is a phenomenon in nursing training, I am told, called the discipline of staying. The doctors may come and go, fleeing if need be from what they cannot control or alleviate; but the nurses stay. They are taught this business of “staying” to look on that which others cannot bear: the suppurating wound; the face horribly disfigured by burns; the gangrenous limb which awaits amputation; the agony of death itself.

The synoptic gospels – Matthew, Mark and Luke – all agree that only the women stayed when Jesus was dying. Standing at a distance, to be sure, possibly pushed a distance away from the spectacle of torture and death by the Roman centurions. Crucifixion was politically necessary, for it reminded everyone that the pax Romana came at a price.

We note that the male followers of Jesus were not at Golgotha, or if they were they cowered so far the distance that they are not mentioned in the gospels. Instead it is a few women who stayed, women who were last at the cross and first at the tomb. To watch helplessly as someone suffers and dies is beyond the heart to bear. Yet they stayed,– being present with all the love and devotion they could muster.

In my mother’s last hours she was in hospice care at the Woodmark in Sun City. We visited her every day. There was very little to do or to say. She mostly slept, the sleep that comes from blessed morphine that makes the last hours more bearable.

I wanted to be with her when she died. She wasn’t a perfect mom, but she did all she could to be a good mother, and I hoped that she knew that I was there, sitting quietly by her bedside.

On the last day of her life I sat with her all afternoon. I think I was there four hours in all. She was breathing peacefully; she didn’t have “death rattles” which is a sign that the end is near.

So I went home, had dinner with our family, and went to bed. The phone call from the hospice nurse came at 9:30 p.m.

My wife, my daughter (here from Holland), and I drove up to Sun City to see her with our final goodbyes.

I am to this day sorry that I didn’t stay on a few more hours.

I know a woman from Lake Forest who stayed around the clock for three weeks in the care center where her husband lived out his last days. I know a man from Sun City who visited his wife, an Alzheimer’s patient, every day, all day, for years. I know many couples who stay together for the sake of their children. (So many experts say this isn’t a good idea, but looking back I am thankful that my parents stayed together despite a rocky relationship.)

The first and pressing question on Good Friday, then, is whether we are willing and able to “stay” – to stay in awful situations when our love and devotion is summoned forth. To stay with the horror of Jesus’ death— like the women followers of Jesus, like the nurses who train themselves not to look away – and accompany him through the darkness of his three final hours of suffering.

We stay with him not only as a sign of our love and devotion. We stay with him also to reflect on our complicity in his death. Isaac Watts asks, “Was it for sins I have done, he suffered on the tree.” (“Alas and Did My Saviour Bleed”) I Peter declares, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.”

The women stayed. The nurses stay. Looking upon that which others cannot bear–the awful evil of the world, the evil that infects even our own hearts.

Categories: Newsletter