Weekly Thoughts


Merry Christmas!!

posted Feb 19, 2019, 5:58 AM by Cameron Hubanks

Oh….Christmas was a couple months ago, wasn’t it!?!  In fact, Christmas comes whenever we recommit ourselves to the revolutionary idea that God is interested in the everyday affairs of you and me – so interested that God became human (Jesus) so that we’ll know how God intends for human life to be lived.

 

In our Sunday-by-Sunday walk through the “Big Stories of the Bible,” we’ve come to Christmas.  And I like Christmas…even (especially?) if it comes in February!

 

And besides that, we’ll be celebrating with Kason Mansfield as he is baptized into the Christian church.  It’s a big deal and it takes a community to do it right, so please join us on Sunday as we all recommit ourselves to the corporate work of making disciples!

 

Blessings!  Stay warm!

 

Rich Pleva, Pastor

Zwingli United Church of Christ

Paoli, Wisconsin

608-845-5641 – voice

608-574-9465 - text

 

Zwingli UCC – A small church with a big and open heart!

God's Call

posted Feb 8, 2019, 4:26 AM by Cameron Hubanks

The meteorological see-saw continues – snow, bitter cold, rapid melting, mixed precipitation, and more bitter cold.  Please be careful.

 

Last Sunday we considered Isaiah’s response to God’s call.  This week it’s Mary who hears God’s call.  

 

Calling is what God does.  We’re not surprised to know that God calls some to be prophets, some to be pastors, others to be missionaries and so on.   We expect God to call people into work we consider “ministry.”  Mary’s call, of course, was unique – to be the mother of Jesus.

 

But does God call “ordinary” folk?  Might some be called to nursing, or to accounting, or to milk cows, or to build houses?  Might it be that ALL the baptized are “called?”

 

I think the answer is yes.  I’ll try to explain on Sunday!

 

One more thing.  As most of you know, Curt Brown died this past Sunday evening.  We’ve prayed for him and his family for the several years since he learned he had cancer.  Please continue to keep his family in your prayers.

 

Blessings to each of you!


Rich Pleva, Pastor

Zwingli United Church of Christ

Paoli, Wisconsin

608-845-5641 – voice

608-574-9465 - text

 

Zwingli UCC – A small church with a big and open heart!

 

God’s Vision

posted Feb 2, 2019, 8:33 AM by Cameron Hubanks

The brutal cold of this week reminds us how much even modern conveniences cannot entirely shield us from forces beyond our control.  Schools were cancelled, mail wasn’t delivered, it was COLD!!

 

2500 years ago the prophet Isaiah had a mind-boggling encounter with God.  He came face-to-face with an experience he couldn’t control – he found himself captivated by God.  God’s majesty and purity and vision overwhelmed him and he found himself eager to follow that God even into a difficult and unknown future.

 

God’s vision for the future of humankind is unlike anything you or I would likely imagine.  It is a vision of seemingly impossible harmony and justice and peace.  Isaiah’s vision isn’t set before us merely to tickle our imaginations – God has an agenda here.  God is wondering – hoping! – that there are still men and women like Isaiah who are willing to follow God into a radical vision of justice and peace.

 

Even more than brutal weather, God Almighty is beyond our control.  But even so, God invites us to step out and walk into seemingly absurd places.  Dare we?

 

See you Sunday!

 

With great hope!

 

Rich Pleva, Pastor

Zwingli United Church of Christ

Paoli, Wisconsin

608-845-5641 – voice

608-574-9465 - text

 

Zwingli UCC – A small church with a big and open heart!

God’s Ever-giving Love

posted Dec 24, 2018, 4:58 AM by Cameron Hubanks   [ updated Dec 24, 2018, 5:05 AM ]

Dear Zwingli Church!

 

Christmas reminds us of God’s ever-giving love.  As much as newborn babies and singing angels and visiting kings are romantically appealing – the fundamental message of Christmas is that God’s love for you and me is so intense and so creative that God willed to become a human being so that God’s love for us might be experienced on terms we could more easily grasp.  

 

God shows up in a stinky barn under stunningly unlikely circumstances so that we’ll stop for a moment and wonder whether the trajectory of our living is in line with what God’s love hopes for us.  It’s right to make a big deal of Christmas – God doesn’t step into human life every day of the week.  Let’s pay attention to this remarkable event!!

 

On Sunday we mark the final Sunday of Advent by listening to the song that Mary sang when we she learned the complicated news that she would become a mother – THE mother of God!

 

On Monday night we’ll sing the familiar carols of joy and peace and wonder and hear again the unlikely story of Jesus’ birth.  

 

Ruby and I wish you all the very best in this holy season.  I’ve attached our Christmas letter.  It will give you a little window of insight into our extended family and our plans for the coming month.

 

Speaking of which:  Ruby and I will be on an extended vacation to visit family in Southeast Asia ...  Should an urgent need for pastoral care arise while I’m gone, you should contact Council President Laura Herfel.  Laura will know who to contact on your behalf.  Laura can be reached by calling 608-886-8282.

 

Christmas blessings to all of you!

 

Rich Pleva, Pastor

Zwingli United Church of Christ

Paoli, Wisconsin

608-845-5641 – voice

608-574-9465 - text

 

Zwingli UCC – A small church with a big and open heart!

 

Let’s all keep alert!

posted Dec 14, 2018, 6:17 AM by Cameron Hubanks   [ updated Dec 14, 2018, 6:17 AM ]

Good evening, Zwingli Church!

 

We are well into the season of Advent.  Have you noticed Christ in any usual places?  The promise of Advent, of course, is that Jesus is likely to show up at unlikely times and in unlikely places.  Let’s all keep alert!

 

On Sunday we’ll co-mingle Advent and Christmas.  I’m sure God won’t mind!

 

That “co-mingling” will happen, of course, in the form of the Children’s Christmas Program.  It’s a delight to have our younger members bring a message for those of us who are older.  Who knows….perhaps Christ will come to us through our children!?!  There will be coffee and refreshments after the program.  Plan to stick around.  In fact, you might stick around for choir practice!  That will also happen after the program ends.

 

Finally, please be sure to note that our Christmas Eve service this year will begin at 5:00 pm.  More and more churches are finding that earlier rather than later services on Christmas Eve are better attended.  This is an experiment.  If you do show up at 7:00 pm….well, perhaps you’ll enjoy a quieter service of silence and solitude!  😊

 

Advent blessings to each of you.  Come, Lord Jesus!

 

Rich Pleva, Pastor

Zwingli United Church of Christ

Paoli, Wisconsin

608-845-5641 – voice

608-574-9465 - text

 

Zwingli UCC – A small church with a big and open heart!

“Big Stories”

posted Dec 7, 2018, 9:52 AM by Cameron Hubanks   [ updated Dec 7, 2018, 9:55 AM ]

Dear Church,

 

On this second Sunday in Advent we will leave the “Big Stories” series and focus on a more traditional Advent text – Luke 3:1-6.  In this short passage John the Baptist summarizes his calling with bracing clarity:  My job is to prepare the way for the coming of Messiah (the coming of God!).  

 

There are many reasons why humans aren’t really sure that we want God to come NOW.  On Sunday we will consider some of our ambivalence and remind ourselves that doubt is fine, but that God loves us regardless and will assuredly come.  

 

Amen!  Come, Lord Jesus.

 

See you Sunday!

 

Rich Pleva, Pastor

Zwingli United Church of Christ

Paoli, Wisconsin

608-845-5641 – voice

608-574-9465 - text

 

Zwingli UCC – A small church with a big and open heart!

Happy New Year!!

posted Dec 1, 2018, 5:07 PM by Cameron Hubanks


You probably are thinking, “Huh?”

 

Tomorrow is the first Sunday in Advent and the church year begins with Advent, so “Happy New Year” is an appropriate greeting for church people.

 

The better question to ask, of course, is about the meaning of Advent.  Before leaving the “Big Stories of the Bible” series for a few weeks, we’re considering the story of the crossing of the Red Sea.  It’s not a traditional “Advent” story.  But if Advent is about unexpectedly finding God in unlikely places and at unlikely times, then getting the Hebrews safely across (through?) the Red Sea is a very Advent-ish thing for God to do.  

 

Even on a cold, rainy Saturday – most of us live lives unmistakably blessed by God – very much unlike that of the ancient Hebrews.  For that we should be thankful – and joining in worship is one way to do that.  Who knows, perhaps on the first Sunday in Advent, we’ll even encounter God!

 

In hope!

 

Rich Pleva, Pastor

Zwingli United Church of Christ

Paoli, Wisconsin

608-845-5641 – voice

608-574-9465 - text

 

Zwingli UCC – A small church with a big and open heart!

What will happen next?

posted Nov 24, 2018, 10:21 AM by Cameron Hubanks   [ updated Nov 24, 2018, 10:21 AM ]

Dear Friends,

 

Humans are almost always fascinated with the future.  We instinctively wonder, “What will happen next?”

 

I have no crystal ball and my knowledge of the future is pretty limited.   But here’s something I’ve learned pretty clearly over my life:  In terms of my OWN future, those things I’ve planned for and committed to have more often come to pass than the things I’ve merely thought about and more-or-less left to chance.

 

On Sunday I’ll be talking (again!) about giving.  Jesus talked a lot about money and about giving and therefore it seems a faithful thing for a pastor to talk about as well.  

 

On Sunday there will be an opportunity – an invitation, really – to take good intentions and turn them into something concrete.  During worship there will be an opportunity to write down one’s giving intentions for the coming year.  

 

This invitation will not be high pressure and there will no shame assigned to those who don’t complete a pledge.  Nonetheless, I suspect many of us will find this a step worth taking – a step that might even bring pleasure and joy.

 

I want you to see the letter that will be included in the bulletin on Sunday.  It’s included as an attachment to this note and is also copied below (in case opening a PDF is something hard for you to do).

 

Blessings to you as you think and pray about your response.  If you know you won’t be in church on Sunday, you can return your pledge card later in December, or you can mail it to the church (PO Box 530, Belleville, 53508), or you can email it back to the church address.  

 

Oh!  Maybe bring a pencil or pen on Sunday….though we’ll have some extra on hand!  

 

Rich Pleva, Pastor

Zwingli United Church of Christ

Paoli, Wisconsin

608-845-5641 – voice

608-574-9465 - text

 

Zwingli UCC – A small church with a big and open heart!

Train our ears to hear, train our hearts and minds to understand

posted Nov 17, 2018, 3:09 PM by Cameron Hubanks   [ updated Nov 17, 2018, 3:10 PM ]

Good morning, Zwingli Church!

 

In some circles Christian faith is conceived as something almost entirely consisting of my relationship with Jesus.  

 

Clearly that’s important, but any system of faith that excludes others in the interest of an exclusively privatized relationship with God cannot be reconciled with Biblical religion.  God is particularly attuned to the voices and lament of those who have little and who suffer and are pushed to the edges – and so we must train our ears to hear those same voices and train our hearts and minds to understand how God would have us respond.

 

On Sunday at Zwingli Church we will be focusing on some of those “others.”  It’s Native American Sunday and Judy Batker and Jeanette Bossingham will invite us into a taste of native spirituality and help us better understand their respective work with native peoples in South Dakota.

 

And….we’ll be doing two other things to remind us of those whose voices God hears – those who are hungry in our own communities and children living in poverty far away from us.  We’ll be gathering non-perishable food items for donation to area food banks, and we’ll be filling shoebox-sized gift boxes for children who otherwise are unlikely to receive gifts at Christmas.  

 

For the second project you are invited to bring a “wow gift” (appropriate for a child living in a non-western culture – and remember, it has to fit in a shoebox!), as well as personal hygiene items, or simple clothing items, or school supplies.  If you’d like, you can assemble your own box, but mostly some of our youth will be filling these boxes after worship – so bring as much or little of the “box-fillers” as you’d like.  It’s also expected that we donate $9/box for shipping, so your gifts of cash will also be appreciated.

 

Blessings!  See you Sunday!

Rich Pleva, Pastor

Zwingli United Church of Christ


 

Zwingli UCC – A small church with a big and open heart!

Sunday is Polka Sunday

posted Nov 10, 2018, 9:36 AM by Cameron Hubanks

Good evening, Zwingli Church!

 

Sunday is Polka Sunday – if you intend to dance down the aisle (and that’s CERTAINLY permissible!), then be sure to wear your dancing shoes!  😊

 

I’ll also be preaching – and the sermon pushes more than a little bit, I suspect.  It’s about Moses and his perfectly sensible impulse to beg off the work God wanted him to do.  I’ve felt pushed in writing this sermon and perhaps God will use it to push you, too.  I think that’s what preaching is supposed to do – for all of us!

 

A week from Sunday we’ll be inviting ourselves to two different mission projects.  You can embrace one or the other, or both.  We’ll be gathering donations for an area food bank, AND we’ll be assembling small packages of Christmas gifts for children who might otherwise not receive any gift at all.  I’ll give more detail on Sunday, but if you’re curious, check out the Shoebox Project at https://www.samaritanspurse.org/operation-christmas-child/pack-a-shoe-box/.

 

Blessings to each of you!

 

Rich Pleva, Pastor

Zwingli United Church of Christ

Paoli, Wisconsin

608-845-5641 – voice

608-574-9465 - text

 

Zwingli UCC – A small church with a big and open heart!

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