Pastor's Corner


God as Our Refuge

posted Apr 3, 2020, 11:04 AM by Tricia Sheffield   [ updated Apr 3, 2020, 11:05 AM ]



Grace and peace to you in our continuing season of Lent.


This is the last week of our Prayer Station. Even though we can’t gather together in the sanctuary, I am bringing the Prayer Station meditation to you for your reflection. It is based on Psalm 61 and I invite you to read it over the weekend and do the activity, listening for how God is your source of stability.


Lead me to the rock that is higher than I; for you are my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy. — Psalm 61.2-4


“A refuge, like a tower, is a place where you don’t just hide — it’s a place that lets you see what’s coming. But being up high can also be dangerous. What if you slip on the rock? What if the tower is not strong?


Build a tower with some flat rocks. Build it strong.


Then, carefully, take it apart. No matter how strong you built it, it would have been easy for your tower to tumble.


We cannot build our own refuges and safe places. They will always tumble. God is our only source of stability.”


And the writer asks us to reflect and pray on the following question, When has God’s stability helped you up?


Come to worship God who holds us up through all things this Palm Sunday at 10:30 AM. I will open the Zoom worship meeting at 10:15 for us to gather and chat, and then begin worship at 10:30. We will share a hymn “All Glory, Laud, and Honor” and our anthem “Hosanna in the Streets” via YouTube. I will be preaching from Matthew 21.1-11 and my sermon title is Hosanna. Also, we will celebrate the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper together. Yes, we will share the sacrament online. Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them” (Matthew 18.20), and I know Christ is present and will be present with us wherever and however we gather. I would request that you have some bread and juice/wine ready for when we partake it together. 


Since we are unable to give out palms this year, I invite you to put a branch on the door of your house or on the window, to celebrate Palm Sunday. It could be any green branch you can get. We may be physically isolated, but not separated. We are united as the body of Christ. We are the Church! And please share your palm photo on FaceBook as a way of encouraging one another.


MRC beloved, I’m praying for you each and every day that you find refuge under the shelter of God’s wings, and that you will feel strengthened by the presence of God’s love during this pandemic. Let us cling to the rock of our salvation, to God’s ever-present and comforting stability . . . always.


In gratitude for the privilege of being your pastor and the holy call of loving you,


Pastor Trish



A last note: We know that not only is this an emotionally and physically stressful moment for us all, but it is also one where some of us will experience financial hardship. That said, we are thankful for those who have sent in their tithes and offerings, and would be grateful for your continued giving — as you are able — in these difficult times. Please send your offering to 121 Kings Highway, Middletown, NJ 07748 or you may drop off your offering in the white mailbox on the front door of the Education Building. Thank you!



What Do You Need God to Hear?

posted Mar 31, 2020, 7:25 AM by Tricia Sheffield



Dear Middletown Reformed Church Family Member, 

Blessings of peace to you in these uncertain times.

I just came from the sanctuary where I changed our Lent Prayer Station. This is important for me to do in order to provide us with some sense of normalcy -- however one can define that right now -- and continuity as we journey through the season of Lent. Even though we cannot be at the station together, I want to bring the station to you, somehow, someway. With that in mind, below is the meditation for the Prayer Station for this week based on Psalm 130. I invite you to read the text first and then reflect on the meditation. 

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord! Lord, hear my voice!
Psalm 130.1-2

"The bottom of the ocean was one of the most frightening, faraway places the psalmist could imagine. It still is, for us: we can fly to the moon, but we can barely explore the depths of the ocean.

It doesn't matter how deep, how far away we go; God can still hear us. And it doesn't matter what we have to say, because God wants to hear us.

What do you need God to hear? Take one of the marbles from the table and place it in the basket. Even if it comes from the deepest places, God will hear and hold what you say."

Assuredly, we can't pick up the marbles in church, so I invite you to find a stone, a rock, or even a marble if you have one around the house, and place it somewhere special, as you whisper what you need God to hear. Truly beloved one, you will be heard.

I so miss being with you in person. But, we will get through this, one day at a time.

In gratitude for the privilege of being your pastor and the holy call of loving you,

Pastor Trish

Lament Believes in Hope

posted Mar 20, 2020, 11:44 AM by Tricia Sheffield   [ updated Mar 20, 2020, 11:46 AM ]

My eyes are spent with weeping; my stomach churns; my bile is poured out on the ground because of the destruction of my people, because infants and babes faint in the streets of the city. They cry to their mothers, ‘Where is bread and wine?’ as they faint like the wounded in the streets of the city, as their life is poured out on their mothers’ bosom. What can I say for you, to what compare you, O daughter Jerusalem? To what can I liken you, that I may comfort you, O virgin daughter Zion? For vast as the sea is your ruin; who can heal you? (Lamentations 2.11-13)


Lament. We don’t do that too often as a church. But sometimes, we need to lament. As theologian Walter Brueggemann describes it, “Lament is our most vigorous mode of faith. It is a spirituality of protest and is our way of recognizing that all is not right in the world.” Lament holds God accountable for what has gone wrong, doesn’t seem just, or just plain aches in our souls. When we raise our voices in protest and say, “No!” this speaks to a protesting, active relationship with God.


Lament. It is the resistance to new life — my eyes are spent with weeping —  and also the embrace of new life — who can heal you? Lament is the cry that the world should not be the way it is, AND the vigorous belief that the world can experience and have new life. Lament can move us to rejoicing so that even within our cries of protest and grief, we know the Lord is near, hears us, and holds us. Through our lament, we have the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding that guards us and protects us. 


Right now, I am lamenting. We are lamenting in this new way of being in our world because of COVID-19. I am crying out where is God in all this mess and pain and fear and suffering and uncertainty? And as I lift my voice, I feel that God is near, and perhaps even cries out with me through the Spirit who groans with sighs too deep for words. I have come to realize in my faith journey that I am most aware of God’s presence when I shake my fist and say, “Show up, God!” As Brueggemann describes this faithfully defiant act of lamenting, “It is in voicing despair that the soul is most keenly alive to the reality of God. The power of hope is enacted in the utterance of despair.”


Come in lament and hope to worship online via Zoom this Sunday at 10:30 AM. If you would like the link to the Zoom meeting, please email me at sheffield.tricia@gmail.com. I will open up the Zoom video meeting at 10:15 for us to gather and chat first. Tim Anderson will be joining us via Zoom and will sing “Irish Blessing” for our Benediction, and Judith Daugherty will play “Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross” for our Anthem. I will be preaching from Psalm 23 and my sermon title is Where is Our Shepherd?


Since we have closed the church buildings, several people have asked me where they can send in their tithes and offerings. We know that not only is this an emotionally and physically stressful time for us all, but it is also one where some of us will experience financial hardship. Please know we have gone to “bare bones” with our expenses, but there are still utility bills, insurance payments, and salaries to be paid. We would be grateful for your continued giving — as you are able — in these difficult times. Please send your offering to 121 Kings Highway, Middletown, NJ 07748


Beloved ones, lament believes in hope. And so, let us continue to faithfully lament as we journey toward a future hope.


In gratitude for the privilege of being your pastor and the holy call of loving you,


Pastor Trish

Worship and COVID-19: Update 03.14.2020

posted Mar 14, 2020, 7:50 AM by Tricia Sheffield

Dear Middletown Reformed Church Family Member,

As I've said over the last week, the COVID-19 pandemic is a rapidly evolving situation.

I have made the difficult, yet correct decision to cancel in person worship for at least the next two weeks, perhaps through March, depending on where we are with this pandemic. I have come to this conclusion based on the following:

  • The township has closed its offices to the public
  • Schools have closed in our district
  • Christ Church has closed until further notice, along with many of my other colleagues who are not having in person worship
But most importantly, I made this decision because as your spiritual leader and as a steward of God's church, I love you and I'm called to think of the health and safety of our congregation and our larger community first. It's not about what I wish could be, but what must happen, or in this case, not happen, for the greater good. Gathering for 45-60 minutes this Sunday is just not worth risking the spread of this virus any further, especially to those who are most vulnerable, and possibly hurting people we are called to love.

So, for this Sunday I will email you my sermon, along with the bulletin, and video myself saying the Lenten blessing and a prayer. Look for me on Facebook live at 10:30 AM! For the following Sunday, I'm going to get a Zoom account and you can join me online in the morning at 10:30 AM. This will be our new way of doing church for the time being. It might be awkward at first, but we will adapt and all shall be well. 

As we are encouraged to practice safe social distancing and stay home as much as possible, I invite you to use this space of staying home to read a book, be more present with your family, call a friend, take a walk (but not in large groups!), pray, read Scripture, listen for God in the quiet, do some baking, write cards to people telling them you love them. 

Beloved, these are very strange times, uncertain times, but we will be okay. Let us continue to pray for our health care professionals, for those who have lost loved ones to this virus, for our community; indeed, for our world. I pray that you will be safe and remain healthy.

The peace of Christ be with us all,

Trish 

In These Times and the Way Forward

posted Mar 13, 2020, 2:39 PM by Tricia Sheffield

Greetings of peace to you.


After a week of praying, listening, thinking, checking in with colleagues, looking at the Centers for Disease Control website, and a whole lot of soul-searching, I have made the difficult decision, in consultation with staff and our Vice President of Consistory, to cancel all programming and meetings at MRC -- effective immediately and until further notice -- in order to do our part in "flattening the coronavirus curve" (https://flowingdata.com/2020/03/09/flatten-the-coronavirus-curve/?fbclid=IwAR3sG7Mkre45ZOQMH-xwWhKZzgRF6PJfydjezgPR8mS8BJ-DuwNqBHTjdUM). Programming includes: All rehearsals for the Joyful Noise Adult Choir, New Jericho Choir, and Hand Bell Choir; Adult Education; Consistory meetings; Caregivers; Dorcas Circle; Momistry; Daisy Scouts and Brownies; Middletown Lions Club; and all special dinners and events. I believe flattening the curve is the most responsible way for us as citizens and people of faith to love our neighbor and to care for the most vulnerable in our midst. The more we limit our face-to-face interactions with each other, the less chance we have of infecting someone who has a medical condition or is immune compromised. To be sure, there are many people in our congregation who fit this description.  


We will still have worship this Sunday and practice safe social distancing (please sit 6-10 feet apart from each other), but there will be no coffee hour or brunches going forward until this pandemic subsides. If at some point we are told by government authorities that we can no longer gather to worship, or if I feel the risk of worshiping is too high, then we will halt that too. This is a fast-evolving situation and each week brings something new, and I will keep us as up-to-date as possible.


That said, even though we won't be gathering together as much physically, I want to keep us connected spiritually. What I’m going to do is set up a "Care Tree," assigning each member of Consistory about 5 people from our congregation. During our programming hiatus, they will call to check in with you, asking how you are feeling and praying with you. I want you to continue to feel loved and held during these uncertain times.


So, come to worship this Sunday at 10:30 AM as we gather as the body of Christ and quiet our souls amidst the tumult. Juliet Gallagher is the featured soloist and she will be singing, "Jesus Met the Woman At the Well" and “Irish Blessing.” I will be preaching from Psalm 95 and John 4.5-42 and my sermon title is What About God Makes Your Heart Sing? Our Lent Prayer Station is available for you to ponder the Scripture Psalm 95.4-5, In God’s hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are God’s also. The sea is God’s, for God made it, and the dry land, which God’s hands have formed, as you reflect on how wonderful and powerful God is. And don’t we need to feel God’s power right now?


However, if you are ill, or don’t feel comfortable being at church during the pandemic, please don’t feel obligated to come. I leave it to you to make the best, and wisest decision for yourself and the welfare of others. You may continue to send in your tithes and offerings to the church at 121 Kings Highway, Middletown, NJ 07748. To be sure, I am currently working on ways for those of us who can’t attend church to still be connected to our Sunday worship; e.g., emailing the bulletin and my sermon. I am also hoping to be able to record worship and share this video online. In addition, I’d like to do a weekly meditation so that we can stay grounded in prayer together. 


Beloved ones, I am confident that we will get through this pandemic stronger than ever, as we cling to God’s love, practice patience, persistently pray, and allow the Holy Spirit to guide us. Spring is coming. New life is coming. Let us hold onto the hope this new life brings.


In gratitude for the privilege of being your pastor and the holy call of loving you,


Pastor Trish

Faith Hike

posted Mar 6, 2020, 12:30 PM by Tricia Sheffield


Lenten blessings to you!


This Sunday we will come out of the dry, barren wilderness and follow Jesus on dusty roads into surrounding villages and towns. As we walk alongside Jesus, we will be called to listen to him, learn from his teachings, and ask him questions. In our journey, we will meet several people — a religious scholar, a Samaritan woman, and a blind man — and each one’s encounter with Jesus will reveal something about ourselves and our faith.


We will walk with Jesus. Better still, Jesus will walk with us.


Our Lent Prayer Station this week asks the question, “When has God walked with you?” and invites us to reflect on our lives as one long hike across a map. To be sure, there are  twists and turns along the way, with hills, narrow paths, deserts, and mountains to navigate. Sometimes the journey is challenging, and at other times, simple and without difficulty. Whatever the trail, our joy in this faith-hike is that we are always kept safe. Because it is God who holds us; it is Christ who leads us; and it is the Holy Spirit who sustains us. You are invited to come early to worship, stay after worship, or visit during the week and sit at the table, read the meditation, reflect, pray, and then answer the question.


So come for the journey this Sunday at 10:30 AM. The Joyful Noise Adult Choir is singing the anthem, “How Beautiful” and Izaak Thorpe is singing the Offertory, “I Love You, Lord.” I will be preaching from Psalm 121 and John 3.1-17 and my sermon title is When Has God Walked with You? As it is the second Sunday of the month, we will take our Deacons’ Offering to support those in need in our community. And don’t forget: Daylight Saving Time begins this Sunday so set your clocks one hour ahead on Saturday night.


We will walk with Jesus come Sunday. Oh, beloved one, the good news is we already are! To God be the Glory!


In gratitude for the privilege of being your Pastor and the holy call of loving you,


Pastor Trish


PS: Let me add that since there are concerns regarding the spread of COVID-19 and the flu, I will show us a new and fun way to Pass the Peace.

Lent Prayer Station: How Has God Comforted You?

posted Feb 28, 2020, 6:36 AM by Tricia Sheffield



Grace and peace to you in this season of Lent!


This Sunday when you enter the sanctuary you will notice something different. You will see a Lent Prayer Station. This is a concept designed by Erica Schemper and it is called Lent Prayer Stations: Walking with Jesus through the Psalms


Each week during Lent there will be an activity for you to engage at the station based on the Psalm for that Sunday. There is also a meditation piece and then a focus question. This week’s prayer station focuses on Psalm 32 and the centering question is “How has God comforted you?” You are invited to come early to worship, stay after worship, or visit during the week and sit at the table, read the meditation, reflect, pray, and then answer the question. The table will change on Fridays to reflect the Psalm for the coming Sunday. In addition, my sermon each Sunday will be based on the centering question for the week so we can fully engage the Psalm together as a congregation. 


As I said at our Ash Wednesday worship, Lent is not necessarily a time of self-negation, but more a season to look inward, and clean out the spiritual clutter. Lent is a time to go deep with God and to listen to God’s son, Jesus. It’s an opportunity to walk with Jesus as he travels among the people during his last forty days; to listen to him; to learn from the parables he taught; and, yes, to sometimes be challenged by him, as see our own human frailty in his very real humanity. It’s a moment that if we’ve been feeling far away from God to return to God, to reorient our priorities, re-aim the direction of our life, return to the path we once followed because of what God is like — a God who so loved and loves the world that God sent Jesus to show us how to live. The Worship Committee and I are hoping the prayer station will be a space for you to experience all of these things, and that it also will be a moment of calm and quiet during your Lenten journey as you travel with Jesus into the wilderness, to the cross, and eventually to his resurrection.


I look forward to welcoming you to God’s house this Sunday at 10:30 AM. Our Joyful Noise Adult Choir will sing the anthem, “Lamb of God.” I will be preaching from Psalm 32 and Matthew 4.1-11 and my sermon title is How Has God Comforted You? We will celebrate the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper together at God’s wide-open table of grace. After worship, we will have our First Sunday brunch in the Education Building. A free will offering will be taken to support the ministries of the church.


Beloved, Lent conjures up different emotions for many people. As you sit at the prayer station, I pray you will view Lent as a journey of being human, of being vulnerable, of lamenting, of listening, but more than that, I hope you experience Lent as a journey of love. Thanks be to God.


In gratitude for the privilege of being your Pastor and the holy call of loving you,


Pastor Trish


PS: A very special thank you to Dot Bradley for her creative vision in designing the prayer station.

When Glory

posted Feb 21, 2020, 10:45 AM by Tricia Sheffield

Blessings of God’s peace and joy be with you!


And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. Then Peter said to Jesus, ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’ — Matthew 17. 2-4


This Sunday marks the Transfiguration of Jesus, the Sunday before we begin Lent on Ash Wednesday and journey with Jesus into the wilderness. The transfiguration is one of those many instances in the life of Jesus -- and in our own faith stories -- that we place in the category of mystery. It can’t be historically or scientifically verified, and many Biblical scholars are at a loss as to its meaning. However, we can say this — the transfiguration, mountaintop experience was a special time when the veil between heaven and earth was lifted, and where worlds met and collided in the person of Jesus. Not only was it a heaven and earth moving moment, Peter, James, and John got a brief glimpse into the glory of Jesus and his resurrection. Overcome by fear, however, they fell to the ground and covered their eyes. It was not until Jesus touched them that they looked up and heard Jesus say, “Do not be afraid.”


Do not be afraid when the glory comes and shines ‘round us.


Do not be afraid when we are fearful or uncertain.


Do not be afraid of our holy wilderness wanderings for the next forty days.


Do not be afraid when we must leave the glowing mountaintop because as Jan Richardson says, “This blessing is made for coming down the mountain . . . until the moment comes when it will reveal everything it knows, when it will shine forth with all it  has seen, when it will dazzle with the unforgettable light you have carried all this way.”


Come, and bring your light this Sunday at 10:30 AM. The New Jericho Choir will bring us the Word From the Children “Joy to You and Me,” and Beverly Bova Scarano will lead the Word With the Children, highlighting some of her learnings from the APCE Conference. Diane Grady and Linda Schueler will bless us with the anthem “Still, Be Still and Know” and the Offertory “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus.” I will be preaching from Exodus 24.12-18 and Matthew 17.1-9 and my sermon title is Dazzling Reign.


The glory of the Lord is full and bright and is around us every single day. It comes not to overwhelm us but to point us toward the grace, mercy, and love of God given to us in Christ Jesus. My prayer is “that when glory shows up, we will let ourselves be overcome not by fear but by the Love it bears” (Jan Richardson).


In gratitude for the privilege of being your Pastor and the holy call of loving you,


Pastor Trish

Little Broke Leg

posted Feb 14, 2020, 6:06 AM by Tricia Sheffield

Blessings of God’s peace and joy be with you!


Last Sunday, I/we covenanted only to share posts and stories on social media that promote joy, unity, and Christ’s love. In an effort to live out that promise, allow me to share something that happened this Tuesday.


It was early morning, and as I peered out the window, I saw that some deer and their young ones had come up to the house. As is my custom, I went out and poured the corn into their troughs. I noticed the lead deer was Nina, and she usually runs with Hopping Hazel; but oddly, there was no sign of Hazel. (You may remember that Hazel is the one with the damaged front leg, and she hobbles and hops around on her three good legs. She’s been doing this for almost three years now, proving she is one tenacious deer). As I was feeding Nina and her clan, I noticed there was a young one who was also hobbling. On closer inspection, I saw that its leg was terribly broken, and whenever the little one tried to put weight on it, her leg bent and bowed. My heart went out to this little one . . . so young to have this injury. “Little broke leg,” I said aloud.


I went back inside and began my morning routine. After a few moments, I looked out the window again. Little Broke Leg was eating corn, and next to it, munching away, was her mother —  Hopping Hazel. Although it pained me to see her injury, I couldn’t help but smile. If anyone could teach Little Broke Leg how to get around on three legs, it was fierce Hazel.


You may wonder how is this a story of joy, unity, and Christ’s love. For me, Hopping Hazel has always been a sign of the Holy Spirit. Whenever I’ve experienced challenging or difficult times, or wondered where God was during moments of frustration, Hazel has taught me to persevere. Hazel reminds me of the Advocacy and Comfort and Fierce Nature of the Holy Spirit who will never leave us or forsake us. Hazel shows me that whatever may come, the Holy Spirit persists with us, because it is God who created us, who saves us, and who keeps us — no matter what. This glimpse from nature on Tuesday was the encouragement I needed to continue to share God’s love and joy in a world that so desperately craves it. What the world needs now, is love, sweet love . . .


Come this Sunday at 10:30 AM to listen for how the Holy Spirit is speaking to you. Our featured musician is Mayumi Grasso, cellist. She will be playing the “The Swan” for the Prelude and Leonard Cohen’s  “Hallelujah” for the Anthem. I will be preaching from Deuteronomy 30.15-20 and Matthew 5.21-26, 33-37 and my sermon title is ‘But I Say to You . . .’


Oh, that Holy Spirit! She’s always there, prodding us, reminding us, asking us to observe and listen, and saying with assurance, “I’ve got you.”


In gratitude for the privilege of being your Pastor and the holy call of loving you,


Pastor Trish


PS: Yesterday at twilight, Nina, Hazel, and their clan came up for dinner. And yes, Little Broke Leg was there with them.


What Jesus Said

posted Feb 7, 2020, 6:47 AM by Tricia Sheffield

Blessings of God’s peace be with you!


As I’m sure you are aware, this has been a week filled with divisiveness, rancor, and just plain nastiness. It has been exhausting to witness — social media has become a place not to share expressions of joy or encouragement, but has been used as a space for argumentation and posturing. I don’t know about you, but our communities and our nation so at war with each other has burdened my soul.


Amidst all this swirling turmoil, I kept praying, repeating, chanting one Scripture text from the Gospel of John 13.34-35: I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.


Love one another. 


As Jesus loves us.


So people can see Christ’s love through us.


This is my simple encouragement for us this Friday morning. This is my simple prayer. As followers of Christ, I invite us to practice and live out this commandment wherever we go or whomever we are with. No matter how much we may disagree with each other, let us put down our words of weapons and take up words of Love. And then maybe — just maybe — we will see God’s love go forth and heal a world, taking what is divided and making it whole and at peace.


Let us embody this new commandment from Jesus this Sunday at 10:30 AM as we gather for worship. The Joyful Noise Adult Choir will sing the anthem, “Light of the World.” I will be preaching from Isaiah 58.1-12 and Matthew 5.13-20 and my sermon title is Salt and Light. As it is the second Sunday of the month, we will take up a Deacons’ Offering to help those in need in our community.


I will see you on Sunday, beloved one of God. Go and love fiercely.


In gratitude for the privilege of being your Pastor and the holy call of loving you,


Pastor Trish

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