Pastor's Corner


The Discipline of Choosing Gratitude

posted Jul 3, 2020, 10:08 AM by Tricia Sheffield

Dear Middletown Reformed Church Family and Friends,


Grace and peace to you!


Every once in a while I read something so succinct and Spirit-filled, there are no words to add by way of commentary. Thus was the case this week when I saw a post from Judy Daugherty wherein she quoted theologian Henri Nouwen. It is called “The Choice of Gratitude.”


Gratitude . . . goes beyond the “mine” and “thine” and claims the truth that all of life is a pure gift. In the past I always thought of gratitude as a spontaneous response to the awareness of gifts received, but now I realize that gratitude can also be lived as a discipline. The discipline of gratitude is the explicit effort to acknowledge that all I am and have is given to me as a gift of love, a gift to be celebrated with joy.


Gratitude as a discipline involves a conscious choice. I can choose to be grateful even when my emotions and feelings are still steeped in hurt and resentment. It is amazing how many occasions present themselves in which I can choose gratitude instead of a complaint . . . The choice for gratitude rarely comes without some real effort. But each time I make it, the next choice is a little easier, a little freer, a little less self-conscious . . . There is an Estonian proverb that says: “Who does not thank for little will not thank for much.” Acts of gratitude make one grateful because, step by step, they reveal that all is grace.


Come this Sunday in gratitude when we will gather online at 10:15 AM to chat with one another, and then worship together at 10:30 AM. Our anthem was recorded in the Sanctuary, featuring Sarah Gordon on flute playing “He Shall Feed His Flock/Come Unto Him.” Judith Daugherty on piano will play our Sermon-Prayer-Reflection “One Bread, One Body.” I am preaching from Matthew 11.16-19, 25-30 and my sermon title is A Kind Yoke. We will also celebrate the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper so please have bread and juice/wine with you during worship. 


In our current times, let us choose to practice the discipline of gratitude. And as we do, may we learn — no, may we know deep within our souls and live out the truth — that all is indeed grace.


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


Pastor Trish

Holy Imaginings

posted Jun 26, 2020, 10:31 AM by Tricia Sheffield

Dear Middletown Reformed Church Family and Friends,


Grace and peace to you!


I hope you are continuing to stay safe and healthy during these challenging times.


Challenging times. Uncertain times. Difficult times. 


These are just a few of the phrases we have read and heard so often in 2020. And here we are in June, halfway through the year and these words still hold true for us, especially as we are witnessing the out-of-control spread of coronavirus in other parts of our country due to the hasty reopening of businesses. As we begin to reopen more places here in New Jersey and New York, perhaps we are wondering what will happen as a result of this move. We wait; we watch; and we listen to our medical and scientific community, even as we continue to physically distance and wear our masks, while tentatively going to outside dining or the hair salon. But still, the wondering and uncertainty lingers . . .


And yet, even through these challenging, uncertain, and difficult times, I’m sensing a movement from the Holy Spirit calling us to be the church in a new and profound way. I’m discerning that these are also holy times. I was encouraged and inspired by the words of Tracy Keenan, Missional Presbyter, New Castle Presbytery who wrote, We have spent the past two and a half months learning new ways of being church without having the church building be the central focus . . . Instead of jonesing to get back to the way it was, how about asking God what’s next? This is our time to let the Holy Spirit have its [Her] way with us. We are being changed. What’s the rush? There’s no deadline. There’s only the very real danger that we may hurry past this holy invitation in order to crawl back into a past that will not offer the comfort we dream it will. Something new is emerging. Give it time.


I’m not sure that we will ever be able to go back to what we were, and I think that might be the point of what the Holy Spirit is doing. Keenan adds,  . . . [R]ead the signs of new life nibbling at the edges of your newfound virtual gatherings. Pray together. Let yourselves do some holy imagining. Stop trying to force the past to return.    \


So come this Sunday for some “holy imagining” when we will gather online at 10:15 AM to check in with one another, and then worship together at 10:30 AM. Our anthem was recorded in the Sanctuary, featuring Nancy Coffin singing “When a Poor One.” And Nancy will also sing our Sermon-Prayer-Reflection “Help Us Accept Each Other.” I am preaching from Matthew 10.40-42 and my sermon title is A Holy Welcome


Indeed, something new is emerging within this pandemic and global movement for racial equity and justice. It is a holy invitation and one in which I am hoping we are willing to answer yes.


Challenging times. Uncertain times. Difficult times. And also, Holy times. Let us "holy imagine” together as we eagerly wait to see what the Holy Spirit is up to next.


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


Pastor Trish

Restore to Me . . .

posted Jun 19, 2020, 6:58 AM by Tricia Sheffield

Dear Middletown Reformed Church Family and Friends,


Grace and peace to you!


I hope you are continuing to stay safe and healthy during these challenging times.

 

First, allow me to thank the Elders of the Consistory/Great Consistory for leading worship last Sunday so I could recover from my illness. I heard they did a faithful and wonderful job, as I knew would be the case. As you all were worshiping online, I went to the Meditation Garden to talk with and listen to God, and to pray. It was some much needed alone time with the Holy One.


Still basking in the glow of that time with God, I must say I had a moment afterwards this week that stopped me in my tracks. Have you ever read something and felt like the Holy Spirit was looking right at you with her hands on her hips, saying in a strong voice “See there?” You know, rather like she was tapping you incessantly on the shoulder in order to get you to pay attention, saying, "God is here now." It was a blessing posted on Facebook by one of my friends that gave me this pause.


For One Who Is Exhausted, a Blessing


When the rhythm of the heart becomes hectic,

Time takes on the strain until it breaks;

Then all the unattended stress falls in

On the mind like an endless, increasing weight.


The light in the mind becomes dim.

Things you could take in your stride before

Now become laborsome events of will.


Weariness invades your spirit. 

Gravity begins falling inside you, 

Dragging down every bone.


The tide you never valued has gone out. 

And you are marooned on unsure ground. 

Something within you has closed down; 

And you cannot push yourself back to life.


You have been forced to enter empty time.

The desire that drove you has relinquished.

There is nothing else to do now but rest

And patiently learn to receive the self

You have forsaken in the race of days.


At first your thinking will darken

And sadness take over like listless weather.

The flow of unwept tears will frighten you.


You have traveled too fast over false ground;

Now your soul has come to take you back.


Take refuge in your senses, open up

To all the small miracles you rushed through.


Become inclined to watch the way of rain

When it falls slow and free.

Imitate the habit of twilight,

Taking time to open the well of color

That fostered the brightness of day.


Draw alongside the silence of stone

Until its calmness can claim you.

Be excessively gentle with yourself.


Stay clear of those vexed in spirit.

Learn to linger around someone of ease

Who feels they have all the time in the world.


Gradually, you will return to yourself,

Having learned a new respect for your heart

And the joy that dwells far within slow time.


from To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings by John O’Donohue


I believe as we live now in the fourth month of a pandemic many of us may be exhausted, weary, tired — emotionally, physically, spiritually. But hopefully, as we claim the blessing above, no longer rushing through the small miracles around us, we will carve out the space to return to ourselves with “a new respect for our hearts” and the joy which “dwells far within slow time.” This is a joy that only God can give; it is a joy that even though suffering and hurt may surround us, is always beckoning us back to the Source of our life.


I hope to see you online this Sunday when we will gather at 10:15 AM to check in with one another, and then worship together at 10:30 AM. As this Sunday is Father's Day, we will celebrate the fathers among us who love and care for their families and beyond. Our anthem was recorded in the Sanctuary, featuring Sarah Hanvey and Dan Pannebaker singing “Waterlife.” Judith Daugherty will be playing “Grace Alone” on the organ for our Sermon-Prayer-Reflection. I am preaching from Genesis 21.8-12 and my sermon title is Water-Life in the Wilderness. I’ve attached the Scripture readings and bulletin to this email for your reference.


 “Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit,” prays the Psalmist (51.12). I needed the blessing from John O’Donohue this week to remind me of God’s joy and the need for rest. Perhaps you do too.


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


Pastor Trish


Pride and Trinity Sunday

posted Jun 5, 2020, 9:54 AM by Tricia Sheffield

Dear Middletown Reformed Church Family and Friends,


Grace and peace to you.


Here is the link for today’s devotion — “The Practice of Pronouncing Blessings” from Barbara Brown Taylor’s (BBT) book, An Altar in the World. Our world, our community, your family, your friends need you to pronounce a blessing. And if you don’t think you are one of those people who can bless, then as BBT says, “All I can tell you is how much the world needs you to reconsider."


https://us02web.zoom.us/rec/share/5ZRvAYvM9XlLb6P3x2DmQLxiJ5SmT6a8g3MW8vdemsoZbIl8UfHSzvKu84domY4Password: 8y%882XW


I hope to see you online this PRIDE/Trinity Sunday when we will gather at 10:15 AM to check in with one another, and then worship together at 10:30 AM. Normally for this Sunday, we would be marching in the Asbury Park Pride Parade but it was canceled due to COVID-19. However, we can still celebrate the truth that all of God’s people are welcome into the full life and ministry of the church by showing our Pride in worship. With that in mind, I invite you to wear rainbow colors to worship. Judy has arranged for some very special music with Sarah Gordon singing “You Are Mine” and “Let Justice Flow” from the Sanctuary! Izaak Thorpe recorded the songs on Thursday, and you don’t want to miss these special videos. I will be preaching from Psalm 139.1-18 and Romans 8.38-39 and my sermon title is Made By, With, and For Love. Bob Kinley is our liturgist. We will also celebrate the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. Please have bread and juice/wine with you during worship. 


It is with joy I anticipate worshiping with you this PRIDE Sunday. In this desperately hurting world, go and bless someone today. They need it, and they need it from you, beloved one of God.


May God’s peace and justice flow down, down like a river; down to the valleys where the helpless cry. Let righteousness flow, through us forever, lead us to the stream that will never run dry.


Pastor Trish

Pentecost . . . Come, Holy Spirit!

posted May 29, 2020, 8:29 AM by Tricia Sheffield



Dear Middletown Reformed Church Family Member,


Grace and peace to you.


Here is the link for today’s devotion. It is a reading of something I wrote to you all in May 2018 and it seemed appropriate to share again with you this May 2020.


https://us02web.zoom.us/rec/share/6-tlP-D-0VtJfM_qsmjbVfYFOdrOT6a813IbrvReyB3ZtF-qiyd5bHSBFdI7pnUs Password: 7a?8g@s6 


I hope to see you online this Pentecost Sunday when we will gather at 10:15 AM to check in with one another, and then worship together at 10:30 AM. Judith Daugherty will be playing “Every Time I Feel the Spirit” for our Prelude and “Spirit of God, Descend Upon My Heart” for our Sermon-Prayer-Reflection. We have a special anthem “Kaamulan,” a song in Manobo, the language of the Lumad indigenous people in the southern Philippines. The song is composed and sung by Rev. Goel B. Bagundol, a pastor in the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, a dear friend of Deborah Shields when she worked in that area. Lastly, we have a very special Pentecost Litany called Reversing Babel, adapted from the work of Sharon Veltema. Several of our members will be praying this litany in various languages, evoking a Pentecost-like atmosphere. Since it is Pentecost Sunday, I invite you to wear red, orange, or yellow and have a candle with you for our prayer time.  


It is with joy I anticipate worshiping with you this Pentecost Sunday. And when we do, let us remember to claim our Spirit-filled promise from God. May we prophesy, see visions, and dream the dream of God’s reign. May the Spirit, gentle as a dove, be our comforter. May the Spirit, burn like fire in our lives, giving us a spark of life when we need it. May the Spirit blow through our lives like a mighty wind, and give us breath to face another day to proclaim God’s love and grace. And may the Spirit be boisterous, loud, and unsettling, provoking us to embrace new possibilities. A new wind has been set loose on the earth, giving a fresh breath of hope to all. So breathe easy, breathe deeply . . . you’ve been given new life.


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


Pastor Trish



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. Thank you!



The Kingdom is Like . . .

posted May 22, 2020, 8:28 AM by Tricia Sheffield

Grace and peace to you in this last week of Easter.


Here is the link for today’s devotion — “Kingdom.” Jesus didn’t talk much about the church, but he talked a lot about the kingdom (Rachel Held Evans).


https://us02web.zoom.us/rec/share/-tQqAJPX21hOW53W00rfHb97FaDAeaa8gCQb_aUOzkzzqjRysipKmBNJ3dPcysyG Password: 9O+3@&Mc


I hope to see you online this Sunday when we will gather at 10:15 AM to check in with one another, and then worship together at 10:30 AM. We will have special music from Tim Anderson, who will sing “You Raise Me Up.” Judith Daugherty will be playing “Be Thou With Me” (Bist du bei mir) for our Sermon-Prayer-Reflection. I am preaching from Acts 1.6-14 and my sermon title is Grace Has Gotten Out of Hand


It is with joy I anticipate worshiping with you this coming Ascension Sunday, and hopefully Zoom will behave this time! Oh, beloved one, look around you! There are glimmers of the kingdom swirling around us all the time. May you catch its light, especially in these difficult and uncertain times.


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


Pastor Trish

The Offensive, Excessive Gift of Love

posted May 15, 2020, 9:48 AM by Tricia Sheffield

Grace and peace to you in this season of Easter.


Here is the link for today’s devotion — “Perfume,” a remembrance of Mary of Bethany who lavishly anointed Jesus with costly oil in anticipation of his death and burial. As you listen, may you remember her story, and drink in the sweet scent of love so generously given.


https://us02web.zoom.us/rec/share/vJF3H7fJ7GJIWLPT0Ur1AfcGDLrbaaa80CUf_KALy07XTQb3wsQgGSz7WeWJMU5B Password: 8Q^6*#Nk


I hope to see you online this Sunday when we will gather at 10:15 AM to check in with one another, and then worship together at 10:30 AM. The Thorpe family — Caleb, Eli, Henry, Izaak, and Jacie will open our worship with the anthem “Come All You People.” Judith Daugherty will be playing “Traumerei” for our Sermon-Prayer-Reflection. I am preaching from John 14.15-21 and my sermon title is The Truth Within You


It is with joy I anticipate worshiping with you this coming Sabbath day. Until then, I continue to pray for your safety, your health, and your emotional and spiritual well-being. You are loved!


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


Pastor Trish

Taste and See

posted May 8, 2020, 9:17 AM by Tricia Sheffield

Grace and peace to you in this season of Easter.


Here is the link for this morning’s devotion — “Taste and See.” My prayer is that you will experience and know that “our God is in the business of transforming ordinary things into holy things” especially when such things are “hit with the glint of love’s light” (Rachel Held Evans).


https://us02web.zoom.us/rec/share/6v5nJuDrxG9LH4mV6Rn9efU9Rqr7X6a813IZqKUJzUv38DhqZFLgiIXcqIAHX_VG Password: 9M%*2O93


I look forward to seeing you online this Sunday when we will gather at 10:15 AM to check in with one another, and then worship together at 10:30 AM. Mike Steib will be singing a favorite hymn, “How Great Thou Art” and Judith Daugherty will be playing “Reverie” for our Sermon-Prayer-Reflection. I am preaching from John 14.1-14 and my sermon title is That God May Be Glorifed.  


And don’t forget to come by on Sunday for our carnation drive-by for our members/mothers/families from 12:30 - 1 PM. Please drive up the driveway, stop on the side of Coventry House by the back door, and I will give you a carnation through your car window, and wish you a blessing. I will be gloved and masked, and I ask that you remain in your car and also wear your mask. Please let me know if you plan on coming this Sunday for your carnation so we may plan accordingly.


In addition to the carnation drive-by, we would be grateful if you would bring food items to donate to the Community Outreach Group's Calico Cat Food Pantry when you receive your carnation. The Food Pantry has reopened and as such they are struggling in keeping their shelves stocked during this pandemic, as area food banks are running low on items. We would be grateful if you would bring some of the items listed below:

  • Macaroni and cheese
  • Any type of cereal
  • All kinds of boxes of pasta
  • Peanut butter
  • Jelly/jam

We will stage an area in front of the Education Building so that when you come around the other side of the driveway this Sunday you may drop off the food in a receptacle -- Ms. Bev's little red wagon and our green recycling tub, lined with a garbage bag. I know we are quite eager to help one another in this pandemic, and as founding members of the Community Outreach Group, this is something that is relatively simple for us to do -- giving the gift of food for those in need.


Beloved one of God, look for God’s glory nestled in the stuff of everyday life; look for holy things all around you as you taste and see that the Lord is good.


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


Pastor Trish



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. Thank you!


Holy, Healing Hands

posted May 1, 2020, 9:36 AM by Tricia Sheffield

Grace and peace be with you.


Here is the link for our daily devotion, “Holy, Healing Hands”:

https://us02web.zoom.us/rec/share/_f0pbKHz_0NJS6POuH_mZY5-EdX9aaa80XIdr_tfnU-Y1iaiBWt1JzWChbpxe-3x Password: 6Y&1!##q 


My prayer for you is that as you go about your day — and especially in this time of physical distancing — you will take the time to observe your hands. And as you do, may you realize that “through touch, God gave us the power to injure or to heal, to wage war or to wash feet. Let us not forget the gravity of that. Let us not forget the call” (Rachel Held Evans).


I look forward to seeing you online this Forth Sunday of Easter at 10:15 AM. Judith Daugherty will be playing the Prelude, “Precious Lord, Take My Hand” and Stephanie Curry will be joining us all the way from Pennsylvania and singing the anthem, “Let Us Break Bread Together.” I will be preaching from Acts 2.42-47 and my sermon title is The Beloved Community. As this is the first Sunday of the month, we will celebrate the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper together. Please have bread and grape juice/wine with you during our worship.


Do not neglect the gift that is in you, dear one. For you are called by God and you are beloved. I continue to pray that you will remain safe, healthy, and well in this pandemic.


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


Pastor Trish

Now Every Drop is Holy

posted Apr 24, 2020, 8:51 AM by Tricia Sheffield

Grace and peace to you in this season of Easter!


Here is the link for this morning’s devotion, a reading from Rachel Held Evan’s book Searching for Sunday: https://us02web.zoom.us/rec/share/3ZI2HbWp9G1OUtbqzWPaQYksHbrgaaa81ShI-qYLyEpZ6aqDc2TxfYbBr4JiXvCL Password: 4o^.0p9% 


On this chilly, rainy day in New Jersey, my prayer for you is that as you watch the rain come down you will meditate on how “every drop [of water] is holy” because of what God has done for us through the resurrection of Christ Jesus. And as you do, may you recall the covenantal words at your baptism, Water cleanses, purifies, refreshes, sustains. Jesus Christ is living water.


I look forward to seeing you online this Third Sunday of Easter. We will gather at 10:15 AM to chat and greet one another, and then worship will begin at 10:30 AM.  Judith Daugherty will be playing the anthem, “Meditation.” I will be preaching from Luke 24.13-35, the story of the two travelers’ encounter with the risen Christ on the road to Emmaus. My sermon title is Seeing Through Resurrection Eyes. In addition, our last Evening Prayers will be this Sunday at 5 PM. If you would like the Zoom link for worship, please email sheffield.tricia@gmail.com and I will send you the link.


I continue to pray that you will remain safe, healthy, and well in this pandemic. You are so loved . . . more than you could ever ask or imagine!


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


Pastor Trish


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