Pastor's Corner and Sermons


Worship Link and Worship Ways for Next Sunday, April 18

posted Apr 11, 2021, 2:12 PM by Tricia Sheffield

Dear Middletown Reformed Church Family and Friends,


Blessings of Easter joy be with you!


For those who were unable to attend church this morning in person or online, here is the link to our Second Sunday of Easter worship: https://youtu.be/h38u-_LwPfI


As you are aware, I am taking this week off for some sabbath rest. I am grateful to the Consistory for giving me this much needed time to soul-refresh, spend quality time with Jamie, and practice the spiritual discipline of raphah — being still before God — after such a challenging year. You may have noticed that with the pandemic, worship now is multi-pronged with several platforms. Our congregation consists of those who are in person, those on Zoom, and those who watch live stream via YouTube. Our congregation is certainly bigger now than our four walls. All of these platforms work together so that we can worship together safely and inclusively. If someone had said at the beginning of 2020 we’d be doing all this technology, we wouldn’t have believed them! Certainly, technology has afforded us new ways to stay connected when we had to be apart from each other.


To be sure, though, that means our technology adds some challenges when it comes to having a person preach and lead worship when I’m out, as they would have to be adept at all these platforms and more. In addition, I would have to write the liturgy, create the bulletin, and create access to our Friday email before I left. I would have asked Mark Poyner to preach, but he is now back in person with his congregation, and most of my colleagues are also leading their own congregations. When I was discussing these issues with the Ad Hoc Church Re-Opening Committee and Consistory — the difficulty of finding an available person and my doing all this preparatory work — they agreed that such work isn’t really a vacation. So, we decided to get creative and innovative (our pandemic theme!), and offer something some of my other colleagues have offered when they’ve taken time off. We are asking for next Sunday, April 18 for you to please worship online or in person at another church. Let me suggest a few places where you can worship:


Community Church of Keyport: Pastor Dawn warmly welcomes you all to their worship at 10 AM via Facebook live. Simply like their page on Facebook, Community Church of Keyport, and you will be able to worship with our sister congregation. Pastor Dawn said the bulletin usually is available on Facebook the Saturday night before or on Sunday morning.


Feel like taking a road trip? As mentioned above, Pastor Mark is back to in person worship at the Community Reformed Church of Whiting at 10 AM. I’m sure he and his congregation would be delighted to welcome you. See his website: https://www.communityreformedchurch.org


Holmdel Community United Church of Christ: Pastor David “Bo” Bocock offers in person and live-streamed worship at 10 AM. Please visit their website as they require reservations for in person worship: http://holmdelucc.org


Colts Neck Reformed Church: Pastor Scott Brown offers in person (11 AM) and live-streamed (9:15 AM) worship. Please visit their website as they require reservations for in person worship: https://coltsneckreformed.org/worship/worship-times-and-faq


Or, please attend a church of your choice. In addition, if you would rather spend some time in quiet prayer and reflection, perhaps with your family and/or friends, Izaak Thorpe has compiled some of our sacred music from this past year. You may find it at this link: https://youtu.be/pTLt_OquX-4. And I have attached a sermon I wrote several years ago from the Lectionary reading for April 18, Luke 24.36-48, called We Are Now the Witnesses


Beloved, I hope you will view next Sunday as an opportunity to visit a different congregation, enjoy community with other siblings in Christ, and to share the love of Christ with people you don’t often get to see. Please note that Ms. Judy will also be taking this week off for some well-deserved rest, especially after giving us such musical beauty for Holy Week and Easter. 


As I take sabbath, I will be praying for God to look after you, keeping you safe, and giving you good emotional, physical, and spiritual health until I return. I end each Friday email with the following statement, and I hope you know how much I truly mean it — In gratitude for the privilege of being your pastor and the holy call of loving you,


Pastor Trish


Rejoice and Be Glad!

posted Apr 9, 2021, 8:37 AM by Tricia Sheffield

Dear Middletown Reformed Church Family and Friends,

Blessings of Easter joy be with you!

What a beautiful Resurrection day of worship we had last Sunday, beginning at 7 AM in the Meditation Garden with the sun rising through the trees and later at 10:30 AM. As I was standing on the ramp anticipating your arrival that morning, I could hear Ms. Judy practicing on the organ. As I listened to the birds singing their song of new birth, the music coming from the sanctuary blended with the birds’ calls and I got a little teary. After such a long year of enduring the pandemic and being apart from each other, I paused to breathe a prayer of thanks to God for bringing us back together again safely.

This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it (Psalm 118.24).

And so I rejoiced. And so we were glad as we worshiped our resurrected and living Savior.

I’m looking forward to rejoicing in the Sabbath day God has created once again when I welcome you back to church in person, via Zoom, or live stream this Second Sunday of Easter. Judith Daugherty is our featured musician and she will be playing four songs that will certainly stir and bless our souls — “Come, Ye Faithful, Raise the Strain,” “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling,” “Breathe on Me, Breath of God,” and “Thine Is the Glory.” I will be preaching from John 20.19-31 and my sermon title is A Week Later Story. If you are attending in person, please wear your mask, practice social distancing, and sit where you see a white gratitude card on the pews.

See you this Sunday, beloved one! Until then, let us continue to rejoice and be glad for the day God has made.

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

Pastor Trish

Please note that I will be taking a week off for some sabbath rest and rejuvenation, April 12 - 18. If you should have a pastoral emergency please contact Rev. Dawn Seaman, pastor of the Community Church of Keyport. I will send out an email on Sunday afternoon with our worship plan for April 18.

Easter Sunday Worship Link

posted Apr 4, 2021, 2:17 PM by Tricia Sheffield

Dear Middletown Reformed Church Family and Friends,

Grace and peace to you on this Resurrection Day!

If you were unable to attend worship today, here is the link for our Easter Sunday worship: 

Also, if you participated in the Four Corners International Mission Lenten Booklet reading, we would be grateful if you would send in your check for $46 made out to Middletown Reformed Church with FCIM in the memo line. Please do so by the end of this week. Thank you!

Alleluia! Jesus is risen! He is risen indeed!

Pastor Trish

Palm Sunday Worship Link

posted Mar 28, 2021, 9:02 AM by Tricia Sheffield

Dear Middletown Reformed Church Family and Friends,

For those who were unable to be online this morning, here is the link to our Palm Sunday worship, a wonderfully creative "Jerusalem News Broadcast: Palm Sunday" written by Henry Admiraal: https://youtu.be/4AadfkRlrA4

Hosanna! Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord!

Pastor Trish

Holy Week News

posted Mar 26, 2021, 8:27 AM by Tricia Sheffield

Dear Middletown Reformed Church Family and Friends,


The grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you during this season of Lent.


I have some exciting news to share with you regarding Holy Week and Easter!


Last evening the Ad Hoc Church Reopening Committee met to discuss the possibility of reopening the sanctuary for in-person worship on Easter Sunday. It was a long, yet fruitful discussion, going over the latest updates from Governor Murphy and the New Jersey Board of Health, while taking into consideration the many people in our congregation who have been vaccinated. To that end, the committee made the following recommendation to the Consistory which was unanimously approved:


To open the church for Easter Sunday with a Sunrise Service in the Meditation Garden at 7 AM. To open the church at 10:30 AM for in person worship with limited capacity of 30, excluding staff of 3 and musicians of 2, and then to continue to stay open subsequent Sundays for in person, Zoom, and livestream worship, with one exception — that while Pastor Trish is on vacation from April 12-18, to encourage the congregation to worship online with other suggested congregations. 


Remaining open would be subject to change based on local COVID-19 conditions, CDC recommendations, and the Governor’s executive orders. Reservations for Easter Sunday (and following Sundays) would be requested for 7 AM and 10:30 AM so Pastor Trish may prepare the Lord’s Supper accordingly and so we don’t go over capacity indoors. Congregants would need to be masked, practice social distancing of 6 feet, and not touch one another


So, yes, beloved ones! Our church building will be open for Easter Sunday! I know it has been a long, challenging year, and continues to be so, but how fitting that on the day of resurrection — of new life — we can once again gather safely in person to worship our risen Savior. Please let me know if you wish to attend Easter Sunday 7 AM or 10:30 AM by Friday, April 2. Be assured that no one should feel any pressure to come back to in person worship. We will continue to offer Zoom and live stream for those who prefer to stay at home. Everyone is encouraged to make the wisest choice for themselves, their family members, and fellow congregants, living out the Greatest Commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves. 


But before we get to resurrection Sunday, see the worship schedule below for what we pray is a meaningful Holy Week.


Holy Week


April 1: Maundy Thursday worship at 6 PM via Zoom. Special music from Sarah Hanvey, with the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper


April 2: Good Friday worship at 6 PM via Zoom. Special music from our trio — Juliet Gallagher, Diane Grady, and Izaak Thorpe


April 4: Easter Sunday Sunrise Service at 7 AM in the Meditation Garden. Special music from Mike Steib. Please bring a sturdy lawn chair, wear a mask, sanitize your hands, and practice social distancing. The Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper will be celebrated. 


April 4: Easter Sunday worship at 10:30 AM in person, via Zoom, and livestream. Special music from our brass ensemble and Nancy Coffin. Please wear a mask, sanitize your hands, and practice social distancing. The Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper will be celebrated.


Beloved of God, let us come together in joy this Palm Sunday when we shall gather online at 10:15 AM to chat with one another, and then worship at 10:30 AM. We have pre-recorded the worship, so we will watch it together on Zoom and have our Prayers of the People afterwards. We have a wonderfully creative worship for you called Jerusalem News Broadcast: Palm Sunday, written by Henry Admiraal, and featuring Juliet Gallagher, Dan Pannebaker, James Steele, Caleb Thorpe, and Jamie Zeller. And a special treat — the New Jericho Children’s Choir singing! I will offer a reflection called Waiting in Bethany. 


In addition, I look forward to seeing you tomorrow at 2:15 PM for our get-your-palms drive by. Please come up the driveway and stop at the back door area of Coventry House and I will hand you the palms. If this time doesn't work for you, please reach out to me and I can arrange another time for you to receive your palms. Please know the Middletown Arts Center has classes on Saturday from 9 AM - 2 PM, and it is one of their busier days, so any palm pick will have to be after 2:15. 


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


Pastor Trish

Fifth Sunday in Lent Worship Link

posted Mar 21, 2021, 9:36 AM by Tricia Sheffield

Dear Middletown Reformed Church Family and Friends,

For those who were unable to be online this morning, here is the link for our Fifth Sunday in Lent worship: https://youtu.be/Xigu0HAVVwg

May the remainder of your Sabbath be holy and restful,

Pastor Trish

Abide, Live, Remain

posted Mar 19, 2021, 9:31 AM by Tricia Sheffield

Dear Middletown Reformed Church Family and Friends,


The grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you during this season of Lent.


I want to share a reflection with you by Chuck DeGroat from his book Falling into Goodness: Lenten Reflections because, well, it’s just that good. And challenging. And encouraging for our journey with Jesus through the wilderness.



“Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.” - John 15.4


Abide.


What a strange word. I don’t use it much. Do you?


Some Bible translators use the word “remain.” Remain in me. But that sounds off to me — sort of like “you must remain here until the officer says you can go.”


Abide.


When all else fails, when I’ve done my Greek studies and consulted my lexicons and bored my wife and daughters with questions about their observations, I go to my pastor-translator Eugene Peterson. His books on life, and particularly pastoral life, have formed and shaped me. His Bible translation (some might not like that term!) brings new insights and surfaces some of the original flavor of the first writers. Peterson’s translation goes like this: 


Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you.


Whoa. That hits home, quite literally.


The great St. Augustine once said, “God is more near to me than I am to myself.” He called God our “homeland.” If the Bible, Peterson, and Augustine are right and God is “home” in us, then I’ve got a confession to make: I’m not home.


It’s actually kind of like this: I live somewhere in the backyard. In fact, it’s not even a comfortable place. It’s a tent on the hard cold ground. And, even more, I don’t even look at my home very often. I’ve got lots of other distractions to keep my attention. And sometimes, I even begin to think a damp tent is as good as it gets.


God is at home but I am away. Can you relate? Imagine living on the grounds of a palatial estate, but never entering the doors. Imagine peeking through the windows but never living within. Franciscan priest Richard Rohr says, “We cannot attain the presence  of God because we are already totally in the presence of God. What’s absent is awareness.”


Jesus says, Make your home in me just as I’ve made mine in you.


Abide in me as I abide in you.


And then . . . remain there! The distractions aren’t nearly as satisfying.


Beloved, let us continue to make our home and remain in Christ this Fifth Sunday in Lent when we shall gather at 10:15 AM to chat with one another, and then worship at 10:30 AM. We are planning to pre-record the worship, so we will watch it together on Zoom and have our Prayers of the People afterwards. Linda Schueler is our featured soloist and she will sing “This Is the Day of New Beginnings,” “The Potter’s Hand,” and “Tree of Life and Awesome Mystery.” I will be preaching from John 12.20-33 and my sermon title is Falling into the Ground. 


DeGroat ends his reflection with a prayer: Abiding God, I long to be at home in you and you in me. That you are far closer to me than I realize is a mystery, but one that captivates my distracted mind. Would you patiently but intentionally pursue me, invite me, and never, every give up, even when I look away? Amen


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


Pastor Trish

Fourth Sunday in Lent Worship Link

posted Mar 14, 2021, 9:17 AM by Tricia Sheffield

Dear Middletown Reformed Church Family and Friends,

For those who were unable to be online this morning, here is the link for our Fourth Sunday in Lent worship: https://youtu.be/IuY8N5otv0M

May the remainder of your Sabbath be holy and restful,

Pastor Trish

My Bird Teachers

posted Mar 12, 2021, 10:26 AM by Tricia Sheffield

Dear Middletown Reformed Church Family and Friends,


The grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you during this season of Lent.


Have you ever read or heard a Scripture often enough that it becomes so familiar, almost commonplace, but it’s only when some event happens that you finally get the meaning? 


This type of revelation happened to me a few weeks ago when I was working upstairs in Coventry House and heard a pecking at the window. There, perched on the windowsill, was a little wren looking in at me. I stopped what I was doing and moved nearer in order to observe her more closely. To my surprise, she didn’t fly away but continued to look for bugs, obviously hungry, as deep snow still covered the ground. It then occurred to me to get some seed and put it on the windowsill. A blessing for her and for me — she could eat and I could enjoy her company. She didn’t seem that interested in the seed as bugs were more to her liking, but soon enough, a little junco came and nibbled away at the seed. I was amazed at how quickly its tiny beak moved, crunching through the shells to get to the kernel.


A day later a white-throated sparrow arrived to partake of the windowsill feast. With just a pane of glass dividing us, I sat right next to the sparrow; so closely, in fact, that I could see the yellow tufts over its eyes. Quietly, I observed whatever little feathered friends showed up for the day, often talking softly to them. And that very familiar verse came to mind, Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they (Matthew 6.26. For the full text, see Matthew 6.25-34)?  


Look at them, Jesus says. And what I realized about this sentence is the verb “look” is not a suggestion or a figure of speech. It’s a command, an imperative. Look at the birds. As I took the time to look, it dawned on me that these little creatures wake up every morning, go out to search for food and water, and then in the evening they roost. They don’t seem to worry about whether they will find food, or if a hawk will swoop down and get them, or if they will get sick that day. Instead, they trust their Creator to provide for them, live one day at a time, and then rest. Oh, my tiny feathered companions, I thought, you have much to teach us about trusting God.


Beloved, let us continue to trust God in all things this Fourth Sunday in Lent when we shall gather at 10:15 AM to chat with one another, and then worship at 10:30 AM. We are planning to pre-record the worship, so we will watch it together on Zoom and have our Prayers of the People afterwards. Nancy Scharff is our featured soloist and she will sing “God So Loved/We the Kingdom” and “How Beautiful.” I will be preaching from John 3.14-21 and my sermon title is Turn On Your God-Light. 


I continue to put out seed for the junco, the sparrow, and whoever else wants to show up on the windowsill, because now, I think I finally understand what Jesus was trying to teach us — Look at the birds; look at what they do, then trust God.


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


Pastor Trish


Third Sunday in Lent Worship Link

posted Mar 7, 2021, 12:01 PM by Tricia Sheffield

Dear Middletown Reformed Church Family and Friends,

Greetings of peace.

For those who were unable to be online this morning, here is the link for our Sunday worship, including the Ordination and Installation of Deacons and Elders and the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper: https://youtu.be/wFtNB3sXWVU

May the remainder of your Sabbath be holy and restful,

Pastor Trish

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