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May 31, 2020

And suddenly from heaven there came a sound
like the rush of a violent wind,
and it filled the entire house
where they were sitting.
(Acts 2:2)
Do you hear it? Do you hear that sound?
You see, that rush of wind—also translated as breath—was experienced by a group of people who had been effectively sheltering in place for seven weeks and a day. Undoubtedly still shell-shocked by the execution of the one they called Messiah, fearful for their own lives, and unsure about the future, this group had nonetheless been, the text tells us in 1:14, “devoting themselves to prayer” when they experienced this moment of Pentecost. Sound familiar?
The week that leads up to Pentecost 2020 has been a difficult one for many people. The murder of George Floyd, a Black man in Minnesota, by an officer of the law and the brazen racism of a woman toward a Black man in Central Park were captured on camera and circulated widely. Today we awoke to news that Covid-19 has claimed 100,000 lives here in the United States and over 350,000 worldwide even as we learn that the total number of confirmed cases here in California has also exceeded 100,000. And safety regulations out of Sacramento confirm that large in-person gatherings like Sunday worship will not reconvene any time in the near future.
But…do you hear it? Do you hear that sound?
You see, the sound of that rush of wind is still audible some 2000 years later! The very breath of God is still rustling among God’s people, still rousing us toward our best impulses, still inspiring our imaginations to see something new happening to and within Christ’s church! Given our 73 days of sheltering in place and counting, we assemble this Sunday in an “upper Zoom” to behold the Pentecost moment of our forbears and consider what it is we have heard…what ‘language’ we might now be better prepared to understand…and what the church might be being prepared for.
We hope to connect with you this Sunday. Your grief, your uncertainty, your fatigue—all of the feelings you are feeling—are welcome.

Rev. Todd Atkins-Whitley, preaching
Music by John Kendall Bailey and Gabrielle Gozée-Nichols

Bulletin at www.danvillechurch.org/bulletins

May 24, 2020

This week, I gathered virtually over Zoom with my leadership development program, the UCC’s NGLI (the Next Generation Leadership Initiative), to catch up and share with one another all that we are doing in our ministry contexts. In total there were about 60 young(er) UCC pastors on the call. The theme of the call was centered around the adaptive challenges we are experiencing in this moment of COVID-19 as it relates to our work as ministers in local church settings. There was profound sharing and I left the call feeling affirmed of the work we are doing together at DCC.

For our closing meditation, Wendell Berry’s poem “The Real Work” was read, and I’d like to share it with you in this space.

It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,
and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.
The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.

This poem written by Wendell Berry reminded me of this coming Sunday’s scripture text from the book of Acts 1:6-14. Up until this point in Acts, the disciples have been certain of what they are to do as it relates to their work—Jesus has risen from the dead and they are to follow him. In this moment in the Book of Acts, however, we read about Jesus being taken up on a cloud to the heavens and is suddenly gone. Before they could grasp what was happening, everything the disciples had known, all that was certain to them in their life and work, had been taken away once again. And the disciples are left behind, unsure of what to do and which way to go.

In Berry’s poem, he writes how in moments such as these—both in the uncertainty of the disciple’s future as well as our own—the “real work” begins and we have come to “our real journey.”

We hope you will join us Sunday as we turn and look at this passage from Acts a little closer and reflect on the “real work” and “real journey” that is before us.

Rev. Eric Sherlock, preaching
Music by John Kendall Bailey and Gabrielle Gozée-Nichols

Bulletin at www.danvillechurch.org/bulletins

May 17, 2020

For many, these times feel unprecedented, disorienting, filled with uncertainty. And yet, as some of us were reminded during this week’s Family Devotional, life is still happening all around us. Folks are facing challenges and joys, flowers are blooming, babies are being born—same as always. All around us, people are reaching milestones, beginning journeys, and dreaming new dreams—all of this within the space of a pandemic.

One such group consists of young people who are preparing to leave the familiar realm of secondary school and move into a space where something new can take shape. Absented many of the familiar rituals and milestones that would have ordinarily commemorated this stage of their lives—these young people are nonetheless about to begin something new.

It is here where both uncertainty and hope are mingled that we encounter our text for this week from John 14, picking up where we left off last week. Jesus, sensing the disciples’ uncertainty, seeks to stoke the hope that had been planted in their hearts by offering them a couple of “pro-tips” for moving through the uncertainty of the present moment and into a future characterized by hope and abundance. [Spoiler alert: we are not alone!]

This morning we support our graduates and commemorate the milestone they prepare to encounter amid such a time as this and see how Jesus’ words—his “pro-tips”—might not only encourage these young people but also inspire the hope that lies within us all.

Rev. Todd Atkins-Whitley, preaching from John 14:15–21
Music by John Kendall Bailey and Gabrielle Goozee-Nichols
Bulletin at www.danvillechurch.org/bulletins.

May 10, 2020

During this shelter-in-place, it feels like one day is blending right into the next. There is Sunday and then there is every other day of the week. Five weeks ago, we celebrated Easter and I wondered with you what it would be like to focus not only on Easter joy but also Easter fear. Remember, the first Easter was not all trumpets and Easter eggs. The women discovered the empty tomb and ran away afraid for the body of Jesus was no longer there.

We, however, are fortunate enough to know the end of the Easter story. We know that Jesus has risen. We know that Jesus appears to his disciples and friends. We know that death does not win, that life ultimately wins.

This Sunday in our scripture text, we are taken back to that night before Jesus is crucified. It’s Jesus’ final moment with his disciples around the supper table when Jesus says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.”

I imagine in this moment many of us have troubled hearts. There is so much going on in our lives and world for our hearts to be troubled. Perhaps that is why each day is blending right into the next. My heart is troubled with the state of the world and I need to find my way back to the center.

I hope you will join us Sunday, whether your heart is troubled or not, so that we may join together once again in community to be a support and encouragement for one another.

Rev. Eric Sherlock, preaching from John 14:1–14
Music by John Kendall Bailey and Gabrielle Goozée-Nichols

Bulletin at: danvillechurch.org/bulletins


May 3, 2020

This Sunday, we turn our attention to another inspiring image—the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd found in John 10. In this text, Jesus describes his presence with us in terms of not only the trustworthy voice of a shepherd (“He calls his own sheep by name”) but also as one who is a gatekeeper—both protecting the sheep and also leading them into abundance.
As people who belong to a society that values independence and autonomy, perhaps we can relate to what it might be like to be penned up like sheep looking wistfully at what lies outside the gate. And as we contemplate what several more weeks of sheltering might mean for us, along with the potential for a gradual loosening of restrictions, this texts invites us to imagine the abundant life the gatekeeper—the one who knows us each by name—is preparing to lead us into. With the world forever changed by Covid-19, we hear anew the words spoken by that familiar voice,
“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”
This Sunday, we invite you to wonder what this abundant life might consist of for ourselves, for our communities, and for our world.
Rev. Todd Atkins-Whitley preaching
Music by John Kendall Bailey and Gabrielle Goozée-Nichols

April 26, 2020

This Sunday we are met with a familiar story, a story that we’ve heard before. Our reading for Sunday comes right after the road to Emmaus story. The story when on Easter evening two disciples are walking alone on a road, exhausted and defeated by the news of Jesus’ death and confused by the rumors of Jesus’ resurrection. And it is there, on the road, along the way, that the Resurrected Jesus appears to them as a stranger. They don’t recognize him. It is a story that gives us that great promise that Jesus can still be with us even when we do not recognize him. Today we are reminded of this story and the promise it holds—that God is always with us, accompanying us on whatever road we may travel on.

Rev. Eric Sherlock, preaching “Scars” from Luke 24:36b–49.

Music by John Kendall Bailey and Gabrielle Goozée-Nichols Bulletin at www.danvillechurch.org/bulletins.

April 19, 2020

Fresh from our Alleluia-filled experience of Easter Sunday, we turn our attention to that room of fear-filled folks Jesus appeared to not long after his resurrection and to one disciple—Thomas—who was missing that day. Thomas gets a bit of a bad-rap for his response to the appearance of Jesus he missed and has been forever nicknamed Doubting Thomas. But this week, Pastor Todd wonders whether doubt might actually be a moment of discernment that can lead to a deeper faith. Afterall, the text tells us, Thomas eventually believed.

Rev. Todd Atkins-Whitley preaching “Redeeming Thomas” from John 20:19–31
Music by John Kendall Bailey and Gabrielle Goozee-Nichols

April 12, 2020

The original Easter Sunday was not one of joy and celebration. There was no brass quartet. There was not decorated communion table and chancel area bursting with colorful flowers. There was no egg hunt. Instead, there were people who loved Jesus most, filled with grief at the state of their world, trudging toward the tomb. We, my friends, have the fortune of knowing the end of that story. Let us gather together this Easter Sunday, during a season of pandemic, and remember the promise of resurrection—the promise of God’s new life for us.

Rev. Eric Sherlock preaching, “Joy and Fear”
Music by John Kendall Bailey and Gabrielle Goozee-Nichols

April 5, 2020

Today’s Palm Sunday Worship Service at DCC follows Matthew’s telling of the events of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem to his arrest in the garden of Gethsemane, highlighting a few narrative moments in between. A hybrid of worship and dramatic reading, this service engages us in new ways using the ancient tradition of midrash, helping teach and immerse us in the narrative flow of the Passion story.

Our gratitude to the folks at “A Sanctified Art” for this beautiful service, to our liturgists and midrash readers, and to UCC pastor Rev. Maren Tirabassi for her communion liturgy and healing prayer for those serving in medical professions and healthcare during the COVID-19 pandemic.

March 22, 2020

March 15, 2020

Our worship for this third Sunday of Lent was fully online and streamed via the web. The sermon was preached by Senior Pastor, Rev. Eric Sherlock, entitled Surprising Connections, and was based on John 4:5-42.

March 8, 2020

The sermon for this second Sunday of Lent was preached by Senior Pastor, Rev. Eric Sherlock, entitled Certain Uncertainty, and was based on John 3:1-17.

March 1, 2020

The sermon for this first Sunday of Lent was preached by Senior Pastor, Rev. Eric Sherlock, entitled Consumer Temptations, and was based on Matthew 4:1-11.