Epiphany 2021, Part 2

Matthew 2:1-12, 16-18
Reader’s Guide: Adult Sunday School Class
Windsor UCC, 1/10, 1/17, 9:30apx
Zoom (please email me for Zoom invite to class)
Resources: Herod the Great | Infancy Narratives (Star, Magi)
Everyone is Welcome!

Immediately following worship (apx 9:30) this Sunday, January 17th, we will continue our study of Epiphany, three foreigners traveling from the East following the star to find the Christ child.

To deepen our conversation and study of this text, I have invited some of our members to study and prepare for me to “interview” them and for us to ask questions together:

Bob Mutton: Herod the Great.
Carol Barth: The Star and the Magi
Gretchen Lord Anderson: Massacre of the Innocents, Jeremiah (Matt. 2:18)

Returning with New Perspectives: Reread Matthew 2:1-12, 16-18 in whatever Bible you are accustomed to using or read the text online here

  • What do you see after our discussions that you didn’t see before?
  • What ideas stuck from our discussion stuck with you through the week?
  • What new questions emerge as you reread the text? 
  • What  understandings are confirmed as you reread?

Interpreting the Story: The practice of our tradition is to open our hearts to the inspired word of God–the Spirit animating stories and teachings and events (actions, movements). These discussion prompts are offered to help us talk about what the Spirit reveals to us today and for our world through our study of scripture together.

Plot and Characters: Herod: Last week, much of our attention focused on Herod. We found the causal link between events–the plot–defined Herod’s reign.  Our conversation began by asking why all of Jerusalem would be frightened (verse 3c) by strangers looking for the child who had been born king of the Jews (verse 2a).  We saw that the fear of the people was explained by Herod’s fury at being tricked, resulting in the massacre of innocent children.  

  • What does this story help us to see about God?
  • How does this story help us to understand human tendencies: in this instance, we might talk about Herod’s sinful use of power and authority, the effect of this power on people, how Herod serves as a counter-example of what God intends for humanity, as revealed in Jesus Christ.    
  • Why does Matthew allude to Jeremiah and Rachel’s unconsolable lamentation for her lost children? 
  • What does the prophetic lamentation of Jeremiah help us to see about God’s response to injustice, suffering, and despair.  

Plot and Characters: Magi: We noticed different names given to these figures depending on which translation or interpretation of the story we read.  We found that the name “Wise Men,” describes their decision to go home by another way rather than foolishly returning to report to Herod.  

  • What significance do we find in the foreignness of these characters?
  • How do these characters deepen or diversify or challenge our understanding of the birth of Christ and how we and others follow the light outside of ours

Windsor Word, January 2020

I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live; 
moreover, it is God’s gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil –Ecclesiastes 3:12-13

This week I learned from Facebook that two of our members have received the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine.  As health care workers both are in the 1a category, first in line to be vaccinated.  

This is glad news.  We are all grateful for our healthcare workers, and we understand that we wear masks, practice social distancing, and wash hands not only to keep ourselves, families, and friends safe, but to protect healthcare workers and the capacity of our hospitals. 

This glad news also suggests that this time of isolation will end in 2021.  Most people I talk with hope the vaccine will reach us by middle to late spring, in time for children to return to school in fall.  

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven, says Ecclesiastes.  We are learning through this season of pandemic how very hard it is to trust ourselves to God’s time–we desperately want to this season to end, our desperation making us vulnerable to the illusion that we are in control of time, or that we need not live in time with others, or share with them our mutual, human vulnerability to time.  

And yet we are also likely to miss the resolution of the problem of time; God wants us to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we live and take pleasure in food and wine and companionship, for our lives are not merely about toil and sacrifice and waiting for a better time.  

Surely, 2021 will be a better year; we all pray that it will be.  But no matter how time is shaped by vaccine distribution, one thing I know for sure: when this time comes at last, we will experience what God intends for us; it will be time to celebrate, and we will experience pleasure unlike any other time in our lives.  

God bless you in 2021 and keep you safe until we can at last be together again for the first time :-).
Pr. Craig

Epiphany 2021, Part 1

Matthew 2:1-12, 16-18
Reader’s Guide: Adult Sunday School Class
Windsor UCC, 1/10, 1/17, 9:30apx
Zoom (please email me for Zoom invite to class)
Resources: Herod the Great | Infancy Narratives (Star, Magi)
Everyone is Welcome!

First Impressions

Read Matthew 2:1-12, 16-18 in whatever Bible you are accustomed to using or read the text online here.  Take a moment or two to consider your first thoughts:

  • What words, phrases, names, ideas jump out at you?
  • What impressions arise within–memories associated with this story from any context?
  • What new things (people, places, story events, etc)  do you notice that you have not noticed before?
  • What most interests you about this story?  What would you like to learn more about?

Reading Story

This text is a story.  We will first make sure we understand the basic sense of the story.  These ideas will guide our discussion of the story:

  • Plot: What are the causal links between the events that happen in the story?  
  • Characters: What characters appear in the story?  Which characters seem central to the story, and which marginal to it? 
  • Setting: What do you notice about the setting of the story?  Where do events take place? What do you understand about the sense of time in the story?
  • Narrative: What events or stories precede and follow this story? How is this story connected to the Gospel of Matthew’s narrative of the Good News of Jesus Christ?

Next Week

After we discuss the story of Sunday, we will identify themes, characters, ideas we will discuss next week.  A second reader’s guide will be sent.

Ready for Riding Help

Dear Windsor-UCC-Person-Whose-Name-I-Forgot,

You called and we talked soon after I came to the church in July.  

You are a retired teacher, a lover of books and words.  We talked about teaching and writing and you said you were keeping safe during this pandemic. We wondered when we would have the chance to meet, and agreed we just didn’t know. Meantime, you said that if there was anything you could do, any help I needed, to just let you know.  

I promised I would get back in touch with you because I would surely need your help, once I got settled into a routine and got organized a bit.  I explained that I write a lot,  often on short deadlines, and their are tines eye kneed riding help because I tend not to have time to edit out embarrassing mistakes :-).

You said you would be glad to help. When our conversation ended I was relieved to have found a person I could call on at the last minute to help with this work.

But then forgot your name. 

I know; I know:  I should have written it down!  Maybe I did write it down? 

Anyway, I am sorry to confess that though I remember you, I can’t recall your name.

If you would kindly call again, or send me an email, I promise I will remember your name this time, because I am ready for some riding help.

Yours in Christ,
Pr. Craig

A Change is Coming


As we all know, the cornovirus disrupted all the plans we have made, including my plans to use this blog to communicate with you as I begin serving as Pastor of Windsor UCC.

Thanks to the support of the congregation and the leadership of our Council and Finance and Stewardship Board, we have installed membership software. Two of our members, Gretchen Lord Anderson and Susan Norby, entered all of our membership information, including our complete newsletter mailing list.

I will now begin sending communications, including Pastoralia posts, to members of Windsor UCC using our new membership software. If you receive our newsletter AND subscribe to this blog, you will receive duplicate emails: one from this blog, one from me through the church membership software.

So…, if you are on the Windsor UCC newsletter mailing list, you may want to unsubscribe from this blog below. If you are not on the newsletter mailing list but want to be, please send me an email. For all my other friends, it is great to have you following Suppose It Matters. I will continue to update this blog with my writing for the church.

Keep yourselves safe.

Pr. Craig

Can’t Wait

I am thankful the congregation worked together to call me to serve as your Pastor.  We were all hoping the pandemic would fade, so we could meet face to face, say our hellos, and start our work together. 

COVID-19 changed all of this.  We are now facing the sober realization that we likely will not meet together as a congregation for some time, and we are also finding that we have to find new ways to make adjustments and find new ways to celebrate and to stay connected.

Our Hospitality Committee has decided we can’t wait to say our hellos any longer.  Hosts are needed to gather a circle of friends to meet with me, so we can finally meet and get to know one another. To serve as a host, please call (H: 608-825-9986, C-608-334-5498) or email (nmfr7@charter.net) Nancy Miller, and we will schedule a time and place to get together.  

We all hope we will be together again soon, but until it is safe for us to gather as a congregation, we are still the church, and it will be good to finally meet you in small groups face-to-face.

Pr. Craig

Windsor UCC Zoom Cafe Tomorrow :-) 7/19

Please drop in to say hello following Windsor UCC Live tomorrow, apx 9:45. This week, I promise my camera will be work .

See you tomorrow!

Windsor UCC Zoom CafeTime: Jul 19, 2020 09:30 AM Central Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting. https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85465791758

Meeting ID: 854 6579 1758One tap mobile+13126266799,,85465791758# US (Chicago)+19292056099,,85465791758# US (New York)Dial by your location +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago) +1 929 205 6099 US (New York) +1 301 715 8592 US (Germantown) +1 346 248 7799 US (Houston) +1 669 900 6833 US (San Jose) +1 253 215 8782 US (Tacoma)Meeting ID: 854 6579 1758Find your local number: https://us02web.zoom.us/u/kceVzED0YO


Help us stay together while we are apart by signing up to Serve in Worship Online.  We’ll send scriptures and prayers to you by email; you record a video and send it to us.  If you don’t know how to record a video yourself, we’d be glad to help.  

Complete the online form >>>>HERE<<<<   and we will be in touch soon.

Pr. Craig

Hello Windsor UCC :-)

Saying hello and getting started during a pandemic is a challenge, to say the least. While we are getting started, I will use this blog to communicate with you.

Please enter your email address to follow this blog (top right).

Also, now would. be a good time to get Zoom up and running. See menu above for help.

I’ll do my best to keep you updated as we find our way forward. I meet with Council for the first time this Thursday and will soon begin contacted church committees. I am not sure how we will say our hellos, but I sure will find a away.

In the meantime, stay safe.

Pr. Craig


Dear Friends,

With gratitude for our time together, I offer my resignation as your Pastor to accept a call to serve as Pastor of Windsor UCC, just 10 miles north of Madison.  

This decision did not come easily.  When I came to serve as your Interim Pastor in 2014, I intended to stay with you for a brief time, but then it was such a joy to be with you, and we found our footing together and made good progress.  Though I would love to be with you in the coming years as the congregation blossoms and grows, the birth of two grandbabies helps me to see that the time has come for me to make a change.

I came to this decision before this pandemic began and have been encouraged by the response of our congregation in these difficult times.  FCCLive has been a lifeline, and our congregation has shown strength and resilience during this crisis.  Because of your faithfulness, our congregation is sure to thrive in the future. We have found new ways to stay connected and to support one another through this hard time. I am confident we will discover new ways to say our goodbyes, too.  

Our last Sunday together will be May 31st.  Rev. Kathy Lawes, our Illinois Conference Association Minister, will be with us in worship to conduct a service of parting.  

As we prepare to say our goodbyes, we can trust hope and new life will emerge, and the same Spirit who called us together nearly 6 years ago will lead us to new life in the years to come.

Always Yours in Christ,
Pr. Craig Jan-McMahon