Pastor's Corner and Sermons


Upcoming Events at MRC and Worship for January 23

posted Jan 21, 2022, 10:13 AM by Tricia Sheffield

Dear Middletown Reformed Church Family and Friends,


Epiphany blessings to you! I pray you are staying healthy and well.


I write this Friday to let you know of some upcoming events in the life of our church. 


First, please make sure you attend worship on January 30 as we will have our annual congregational meeting. Come and find out about all the ministry we have continued to do even in the pandemic. We will be voting on our Consistory nominees slate — For the Office of Deacon: Pam Ehrlich and Jamie Zeller; For the Office of Elder: Angela Hank and Peter Larson.


Second, beginning February 1 we are, once again, collecting shoes in partnership with Four Corners International Mission. Bring your shoes to the parsonage garage Monday - Saturday, anytime between 9 AM - 3:30 PM. Our goal is to collect 30,000 shoes to be repurposed in order to raise money for school renovations for orphans and homeless  children in Uganda, East Africa. 


Third, on February 5 from 1 - 4 PM we are hosting a drive-thru COVID-19 testing site in partnership with TopLab, a company for whom MRC member Chris Poyner works. The tests administered will be PCR tests so please let people know they may come to our church campus and get tested on that day.


And last, but certainly not least, on February 19 from 1 - 4 PM we are having a free COVID-19 vaccination clinic on our campus as we did in October. This is in partnership with the Monmouth County Regional Health Commission No. 1, Aetna, CPC Behavioral Health, and the VNA. There will be other activities besides vaccines given, so please let your friends and family know to come to MRC and get vaccinated or receive their booster.


If you would like to volunteer and be a smiling, welcoming face on February 5 or February 19, please let me know. I am so grateful that MRC is a place where God has called us to provide not only spiritual love and support for people, but also community services for the health and benefit of our neighbors.


I look forward to being with you in worship this Third Sunday after Epiphany at 10:30 AM. Due to the very high transmission rate of COVID-19 in our area, we are online only and are offering two ways for you to worship — either through our FaceBook page or through Zoom. (Please note that music is best heard and less distorted through FaceBook). Andrew Olenik, violin is our featured musician this week and he will be playing  “Arioso” by J.S. Bach,  “Gabriel’s Oboe,” “The Heavens are Telling,” and “In Christ There Is No East Or West.” I will be preaching from Luke 4.14-22 and my sermon title is All Eyes on Jesus. 


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


Pastor Trish

In This Time of Winter

posted Jan 14, 2022, 10:57 AM by Tricia Sheffield

Dear Middletown Reformed Church Family and Friends,


Blessings of Epiphany light to you! I pray you are staying healthy and well.


In my Classis peer group meeting this week, our facilitator asked us what is sustaining,  encouraging, and helping us to be well in these challenging pandemic times. Hmmm. The grace of God? That’s the obvious answer. I told my colleagues, though, that if I was honest, I wasn’t feeling particularly encouraged right now. This is, in part, because I am still grieving the loss of my dear seminary friend, Jen. As a pastor I have often encouraged people to stay in their grief, and not try and rush to the place where one says, “Everything’s fine!” knowing that it is not. So, I’ve been listening to my own advice and taking space to remember my dear sister-friend, while lamenting the fact that she is no longer with us, and wishing how much she was. 


And yet still, my colleague’s question got me to reflect on what is sustaining me in these extraordinary times. I have discerned that I am being sustained and helped not by frantically seeking out such things, but merely allowing God’s glimmers of grace to wash over me. Like feeding my sweet squirrel Darwin, watching her rip into peanuts with shell fragments flying willy-nilly until she gets to the yummy nut. Or like yesterday when I went for a walk but with no purpose in mind, as in “I need to walk and lose those extra pounds I put on over Christmas,” or “I’m going to walk and listen to God and see if I can find what’s sustaining me.” No. I merely went for a slow, quiet walk, open to anything that would surprise or delight me, not looking for a theological meaning behind every tree or stone I encountered. As I finished my purposeless driven walk, I saw one of our red foxes on the hill. No big answers from the voice of God, just a beautiful creature existing in creation. That worked.


This encounter caused me to reflect that sometimes we don’t need to look frantically for what sustains us, or what will be the quick fix to help us “get over this thing.” But rather, in this time of winter perhaps we should take our cue from creation — be still, rest in the ground, and let the Holy Spirit’s love and grace wrap us up like a warm blanket, until the moment for reawakening comes once more.  In these times, I think that’s enough.


Come this Sunday at 10:30 AM to gather with your church family. Due to the very high transmission rate of COVID-19 in our area, we are online only for the rest of January and are offering two ways for you to worship — either through our FaceBook page or through Zoom. (Please note that music is best heard and less distorted through FaceBook). Tim Anderson is our featured musician and he will be singing “My Lord, What a Morning,” “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and “Irish Blessing.” I will be preaching from John 2.1-11 — Jesus’ first miracle — and my sermon title is What Mary Said. 


I leave you with this prayer. May it sustain, encourage, or help you in its own quiet way.


“As the sun revives”


God of all seasons,
in the dreich, wet, cold and windy days of winter
our spirits long for the warmth and comfort of spring.


As the sun revives
and brings life to the whole of creation
so we long to be part of that renewal and rebirth.


Hear our prayer for the reawakening of hope and love and peace
in ourselves and in the world.


And hear our songs of gratitude and praise
as we join together with one voice
in the universal song of love.
— Katy Owen


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


Pastor Trish

For Worship in January

posted Jan 11, 2022, 11:54 AM by Tricia Sheffield   [ updated Jan 14, 2022, 10:56 AM ]

Dear Middletown Reformed Church Family and Friends,


Epiphany blessings to you. I hope you are staying warm on this frightfully cold day.


Last night the Consistory had our monthly meeting, and one of the items on the agenda was our COVID concerns. With several people in our congregation sick, with Monmouth County currently red, meaning very high risk of COVID transmission, and with hospitalizations for COVID in New Jersey at an all-time high since the beginning of the pandemic, we discussed whether our continuing to meet in person for worship was loving, safe, and wise. 


These three things — loving, safe, wise — along with the best scientific information, have been our guiding principles since March 2020 as we’ve made decisions concerning the safety and health of our church family. As has been the case for the past 22 months, your well-being is always my utmost concern. As your pastor who loves and cares for you, it is my prayer that each and every one of you remain healthy. So, after some discussion, the Consistory voted unanimously to return to online only worship for the rest of January, hoping that we can get through the peak of Omicron safely, and at the beginning of February we will reevaluate where we are. We will offer two ways for you to worship — either through our FaceBook page or through Zoom. Please note that music is best heard and less distorted through FaceBook.


Beloved of God, I know we are all so very weary of this pandemic, with all of the shifts we’ve had to make as a church body, and I am grateful for your strength and endurance through it all. I leave with you this prayer I read to the Consistory last night in hope that you will remember that it is indeed God’s light, love, and grace that sustain us.


God of ever-new beginnings, 

God in whom past, present and future perpetually coalesce,
as a new year unfolds before us,
through the dark days of January,
through the vagaries of the weather,


though storm, flood, ice or snow may unsettle us,
though personal difficulties may beset us,

help us always to remember
that your light shines through the deepest darkness,
that your love surrounds and summons us,
that your life is stronger than death itself,

and that your grace sustains us
and is sufficient for all our needs.
— Norman Shanks


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


Pastor Trish

Worship Links for January 2 and January 9

posted Jan 10, 2022, 6:40 AM by Tricia Sheffield

Dear MRC Family and Friends,

Greetings of peace! I hope you are staying healthy and well. I have two links to share with you this Monday morning. The first is to our Epiphany Sunday worship, January 2: https://youtu.be/mlVbhiVNlJQ and the second is to our Baptism of Christ worship, January 9:  
https://youtu.be/jTKfhrL3gOg 

May the Lord bless you and keep you this week and always. 

Epiphany blessings,

Pastor Trish

Beloved is Who We Are

posted Jan 7, 2022, 7:49 AM by Tricia Sheffield

Dear Middletown Reformed Church Family and Friends,


Blessings of Epiphany light to you from the winter wonderland of Coventry House!


We have a beautiful and joyous worship coming up this Baptism of Christ Sunday at 10:30 AM! Mayumi Grasso, cellist, will be our featured musician playing “The Swan” for our Prelude and “River Flows in You” for our Anthem, just to name a few selections. And, we have three people joining our church this Sunday — Juliet Gallagher, Michelle Reno, and AnnaRose Rotondi-Kauser. I will be preaching from Isaiah 43.1-7 (my favorite passage from the prophet Isaiah) and the Gospel of Luke 3.15-17, 21-22 and my sermon title is You Are God’s Beloved! 


I look forward to seeing you in church, whether online or in person. Until then, I leave you with this promise from Scripture upon which to meditate and in which to glory: Thus says the God who created you and formed us in God’s image: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” Assuredly, you are God’s beloved, and there is nothing in all of creation that can ever change that Truth. Stay safe and healthy.


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


Pastor Trish


As you are quite aware, the highly transmissible Omicron variant of COVID-19 is everywhere, and Monmouth County is currently red, meaning very high risk of transmission. If you are feeling unwell, please stay home and take good care of yourself. If you are uncertain as to whether you should attend in person, we will livestream worship on our FaceBook page — Middletown Reformed Church. For those worshiping in person, masks are required and we ask that you practice social distancing.

Worship Link for January 2

posted Jan 3, 2022, 10:35 AM by Tricia Sheffield

Dear MRC Family and Friends,

Greetings of peace to you! I pray you are staying healthy and well.

Our video editor is out of town so we have not been able to upload our Epiphany Sunday worship to our YouTube page. However, you may watch it here on our FaceBook page: https://www.facebook.com/295264663314/videos/317196506982382. And allow me to thank Deacon Dan Pannebaker for a wonderful job in shepherding you all and bringing a good word this Sunday while I was on vacation.

Christmas blessings,

Pastor Trish

Your Light has Come! -- Epiphany Sunday

posted Dec 31, 2021, 6:39 AM by Tricia Sheffield

Dear Middletown Reformed Church Family and Friends,


Christmas blessings of joy to you!


Come to church on Sunday at 10:30 AM when we will celebrate the light of the Christ Child on this Epiphany Sunday. Dan Pannebaker is our guest preacher and he will be preaching from Isaiah 60.1-17 and Matthew 2.1-12 and his sermon title is The Gifts of the Magi Today


As you are quite aware, the highly transmissible Omicron variant of COVID-19 is everywhere in Monmouth County. If you are feeling unwell, please stay home and take good care of yourself. If you are uncertain as to whether you should attend in person, we will livestream worship on our FaceBook page — Middletown Reformed Church. For those worshiping in person, masks are required and we ask that you practice social distancing. Furthermore, I consulted with some of our leaders and we have decided to halt congregational singing until we discern it is safe to do so once again. 


Beloved one, as has been the case for the past 21 months, your safety and health is always of my utmost concern. As your pastor who loves and cares for you, I strongly urge you to keep doing what you’ve been doing — wear your mask, wash your hands frequently, and practice safe social interactions — as it is my prayer that each and every one of you remain well. Let us look forward to a new year filled with God’s hope for a brighter and healthier tomorrow!


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


Pastor Trish

For Christmas Eve and Beyond

posted Dec 24, 2021, 6:38 AM by Tricia Sheffield

Dear Middletown Reformed Church Family and Friends,


Greetings of Advent love to you!


Beloved ones, as you are quite aware, the highly transmissible Omicron variant of COVID-19 is prevalent in Monmouth County. As has been the case for the past 21 months, your safety and health is always of my utmost concern. As your pastor who loves and cares for you, I strongly urge you to keep doing what you’ve been doing — wear your mask, wash your hands frequently, and practice safe social interactions — as it is my prayer that each and every one of you remain well. That said, with the NJ Board of Health and CDC warnings I was getting through emails and texts, I consulted with our leaders and staff as to what our next steps should be as this new variant dominates our area.


First, know that you are warmly welcomed to Middletown Reformed Church for our Christmas Eve Traditional and Family Friendly Candlelight worship at 6 PM. However, if you are feeling uncertain as to whether you should attend in person, we will livestream worship on our FaceBook page — Middletown Reformed Church. You may light your Christ candle and sing in the safety and comfort of your home. For those attending in person, masks are required, and we request that you refrain from physical contact with members outside of your “bubble” as much as possible, and not linger too long after worship. 


Going forward, we have decided to cancel coffee hour for the foreseeable future until it is safe to do so again. Also, there will be no Joyful Noise Adult Choir or New Jericho Choir rehearsals for the first two weeks in January. We will re-evaluate where we are with the Omicron variant later in January.


And after Christmas Eve and then Christmas Day, please come to church on Sunday at 10:30 AM — the First Sunday after Christmas. As I will be out on January 2, we will celebrate (safely) the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper this Sunday and not in January. I will be preaching from 1 Samuel 2.18-20, 26 and Luke 2.41-52 and my sermon title is Who is This Child?


Beloved of God, I know we are all so very weary of and exasperated with this pandemic, with all of the shifts and pivots we’ve had to make as a church body, but as I write to you on Christmas Eve, I am clinging to this truth: Our help and hope is in the name of the One who is bringing light into the world, and the darkness will never be able to overcome it. May the Light be welcomed into our world so desperately in need of its luminescence.


In light and hope,


Pastor Trish

Christmas -- How Strong is the Power of Love

posted Dec 20, 2021, 8:02 AM by Tricia Sheffield

Dear Middletown Reformed Church Family and Friends,


Blessings of Advent love to you!


Hope, peace, joy, love. We have been on an Advent journey together toward a dusty stable where the soon-coming birth of a child has dared us to hope again. It has been a time of waiting and expectation. And, to be sure, it is often thought of as a magical and wondrous time of year, full of childlike joy and excitement.


Yet, despite all the magic we see around us we may feel like we’re missing something somewhere, or like we’ve been wandering in the wilderness far from home. But the good news of great joy for this time of year is that we’re not alone; that God’s steadfast love is better than life, because such love came all the way down as one of us to be with us: Emmanuel, God with us. What unconditional love is this! Because God dared to risk it all God became flesh, and God’s presence is always with us and never-ending. It is better than life itself; God is our home.


I’ve often wondered, on that holy night, a night without the glitterati but instead a uniquely beautiful and bright morning star, were the shepherds feeling God’s presence when this star shone all around them? And what were Mary and Joseph thinking? Did they feel the Spirit’s comfort in the watches of the night as they struggled through the pains of childbirth? I imagine they were quite scared of what was ahead of them, and may have even felt a desperate loneliness for they were certainly far from the comforts of home. I would like to think, as descendants of King David, that they remembered these words from Scripture, as a form of comfort, “Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; I will lift up my hands and call on your name” (Psalm 63.3-4). 


God’s steadfast love is better than life.


As Rabbi Lizzi Heydemann describes this kind of love: Big love. Deep love. Abundant, overwhelming, sweep-you-off-your-feet, knock-you-over-with-love love. Because that’s the kind of love that God had for our ancestors and has for us. But we’re so often too busy to even notice. So notice,  . . . notice that you are surrounded by, infused with, and kept in life by love — God’s love, that beating heart of the universe.


In this season where we’re hurrying and scurrying all around, when COVID continues to relentlessly hover all around us and make us weary, I invite you to take the time to wait, rest, and be still this week. Pay attention to the light and love that is soon-coming into our world. Let us find a place where we can pause, lift up our hands, call on God’s name, and feel God’s presence in the form of a vulnerable baby who gives us true, abiding peace. Take the time to notice, child of God, you are loved.


So, come and bring a friend this Christmas Eve to celebrate the gift of love coming into the world at our Family Friendly Candlelight worship at 6 PM in person or on FaceBook live. Our Handbell Choir will call us to stillness for the Prelude. The New Jericho Choir will bless us with the song “Shout for Joy” and the Joyful Noise Adult Choir will sing “Some Children See Him.” Michelle Reno will be our featured soloist for “O Holy Night.” I will be reading  Max Lucado’s Itsy Bitsy Christmas for story time with the children. And my message for this Christmas Eve is called When God Dares to Love. In addition, the Consistory and I invite you to send in/bring a special Christmas offering in addition to your regular offering so we can continue to do the good work to which God has called us. Perhaps you would like to give to the Pride Fund, or the Capital Campaign Fund to help pay for building projects, or an additional offering to the General Fund to support the operating expenses of the church. Whatever you give, may you do so with a glad and generous heart.


In closing, I leave you with this Christmas Prayer. I am grateful to serve as your pastor, and, in joy, look forward to celebrating the birth of our Savior together.


May this eternal truth be always on our hearts

That the God who breathed this world into being

Placed stars into the heavens

And designed a butterfly's wing

Is the God who entrusted his life

to the care of ordinary people

became vulnerable that we might know

how strong is the power of Love

A mystery so deep it is impossible to grasp

A mystery so beautiful it is impossible to ignore (Faith and Worship)


Christmas blessings of hope, peace, joy, and love,


Pastor Trish


As you are aware, the numbers of COVID-19 infections have risen rapidly in our area, especially the highly transmissible Omicron variant. As your pastor who loves and cares for you, I strongly urge you to keep doing what you’ve been doing for 20 months — wear your mask, wash your hands frequently, and practice safe social interactions — as it is my prayer that each and every one of you remain healthy and well. That said, every one must wear a mask for worship and ALL indoor church events. Thank you for your cooperation in loving yourself, your neighbor, and keeping everyone safe and healthy.

Worship Link for December 19

posted Dec 19, 2021, 3:26 PM by Tricia Sheffield

Dear MRC Family and Friends,

Greetings of Advent love!

Here is the link to the Fourth Sunday of Advent worship, our Christmas Pageant and a baptism:

Also, here are the words written by one of our young ones, Colin Russo, age 8, for the Advent candle lighting this morning:
The Fourth Sunday in Advent represents love. Love is like kindness. God sent Jesus to earth to spread kindness and love. Love is like a seed, once you plant it, it starts to grow and spreads more seeds and more love. God always gives us love. How will you spread God's love this week?

May you wait in loving anticipation for the soon-coming birth of the Christ child,

Pastor Trish

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