Saturday, February 28, 2015

Presbyterian Women in March

Spring is coming and PW has had a full calendar of events so far this year. I hope that you have enjoyed our Gatherings and your Bible Studies have been fulfilling. We have more planned, so watch The SPIRE and your Bulletin for announcements!

Celebrate the Gifts of Women is held on Sunday, March 8th. We honor women who contribute their gifts to the church and to the community and lift up the bond between young and senior women in God’s household. I quote the November/December 2014 Horizon’s Magazine, "Celebrating the Bond Between Young and Senior Women."
The story of Ruth and Naomi is a favorite for many largely because of the bond between these two women. Ruth is one of the only two books in the Bible named after a woman and the only book named after a person who is not Jewish. In gratitude to God, we acknowledge the gifts of young and senior women, who are dear members of our family in the household of God.
Forgive me for quoting but I could not have said it so eloquently.

There will be no CT Meeting in March. The next CT meeting will be Wednesday, April 1st. Officers, Coordinators and Circle Leaders, please plan to attend.

There is no Gathering planned for March. However, we do have a fun Gathering planned for April; see below.

March 7th is the PW Presbytery of Grand Canyon SPRING GATHERING at Desert Palms Presbyterian Church in Sun City West, 9:00 am to 3:00 pm.  The theme is “One Can Make a Difference, Many Can Change the World.”   Let Diane know if you are attending so we can carpool together.

  • April 22nd - Salad Luncheon Fashion Show by Drapers and Damon. You won’t want to miss this event. Be sure to mark your calendar.
  •  April 25th  - Bible Study Overview of the 2015/2016 Bible Study at Faith Presbyterian Church, 8:30 am to 11:00 am.
We hosted the Church Women United Human Rights Celebration on January 30th, and I would like to thank all of you who helped with the meeting. We had a lovely Continental Breakfast with those wonderful scones made by Nancy Childress. Blessings come in many forms and you all are a blessing to me.

If you have any PW related announcements you would like to include in this space, please let me know. I also welcome suggestions.

Blessings to all,
Diane Nestlebush, Moderator

Friday, February 27, 2015

University of Life in March

During the month of March, University of Life will explore four prominent cities of the Holy Land and the events that happened in these communities. The studies will be done in combination with a 30 minute DVD, Bible readings, and discussions. These four very interesting DVDs of Holy Land cities were a special release from Day of Discovery and will eventually find their way to our Church Library.

University of Life meets in Swain Hall promptly at 1:30 PM on Thursday. Guests are always welcome.

  • March 5th we begin with Hebron, The City of Promise, presently known as Al Khalil. The city was originally called Arba, meaning four, because of its location amid four hills. Abraham believed that Hebron might possibly be the promised "Land of Milk and Honey."
  • March 12th we continue on to the city of Beersheba, A Place of Surrender, the home of Abraham and Isaac. What circumstances made Beersheba such an important community in the book of Genesis?
  • March 19th we travel to Jerusalem, The City of David, the old and the new. This DVD is a thrilling journey into the unpeeling of the centuries happening now beneath the city of present day Jerusalem, we will see and tour these amazing excavations.
  • March 26th we visit Capernaum, The City of Skeptics, located on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee. Capernaum was Jesus' home-town and also fot four of His disciples. Jesus is believed to have performed more miracles in Capernaum than anywhere and yet the citizens rejected Him as their Messiah.
This series on cities of the Old Testament will conclude University of Life for this season. For those of you who have participated in Univ. of Life my committee and I thank you for your loyalty, you have been counted and greatly appreciated.. I especially thank Rev. Harrell Davis, Dr. David Glenn Walker, Dr. Douglas Wright and Rev. Richard Zabriskie who have so generously contributed to the quality of our programs. We could not have done this with out you! Our sincere thanks to you for your willingness to share your expertise. I also extend my deep gratitude to my loyal Committee: Trish and Bert Blom and Barbara and John Szantho, Thanks Gang, for being there!

Elder Donna Roth: Christian Education Committee

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Journey

Adam Hamilton is a pastor, writer, teacher. He’s a popular speaker, workshop leader and sought-after expert in the field of church growth. He’s the pastor of a large growing metropolitan congregation which sets him apart, but even more, he’s the pastor of a mainline Protestant congregation.

During the month of February, the University of Life group has discussed some of Hamilton’s observations about the church and what Christians “get wrong.” Hamilton says that young people, particularly in the age range of 18-40, are not rejecting God. They’re not attending church because of church people. In other words, when young people experience churches that say one thing and do another, when they don’t practice what they preach, they’re turned off.

Here’s how another well known theologian describes the dilemma. Barbara Brown Taylor writes: 
According to most reports, the church as we have known it is now on the endangered species list. While faith in God has remained high in this country, faith in the church has been on a steady decline, until many of our mainline denominations are wondering how they will survive…. We have lost our consensus about what it means to be Christian, and we have lost the language of faith we once had in common (or thought we did)…. Who can blame young people for looking elsewhere for God? Or for deciding—based on the behavior of churchgoers they know—that there is not much reason to look for God at all?
Hamilton and Brown Taylor paint such a bleak picture it’s difficult to imagine solutions. Here’s one possibility. The solution to this and other aspects in our relationship with God is not ours to give. God chose us. We did not choose God. God’s purpose for us and for God’s church is still unfolding.

The liturgical season of Lent provides both for us and the church a helpful metaphor. David W. Johnson of Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary writes:
“Journey” provides the metaphor…in this Season of Lent. There is a physical one, of course, that we follow as Jesus makes his way to Jerusalem. There is also the many-faceted spiritual journey of Christian discipleship: the journey from our false selves to our true self, the journey from our solitary self to living with others, and the journey of our soul to God.
This year, during Lent, I invite you to experience the richness of journey, the promise of new life, the freedom in discovering that God has called us; God has chosen us; God is renewing us, both individually and as a congregation. God loves us; we are God’s children. We are on the journey. Thanks be to God!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Shop with a Smile

NEW: If you plan to buy books, music, or other items from, you may donate to PW (free to you!) by signing up for and shopping through Amazon Smile.

Visit and select Presbyterian Women as your favorite charitable organization. From then on, shop through Amazon Smile just as you would through “regular” Amazon, and a portion of the purchase price of eligible items will be donated to PW. You shop, Amazon gives, PW receives!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Be a Busy Bee

NEW! Join the Busy Bee Club and help with the chores needed to keep our church clean. The group will meet from 9:00-11:00 am in Swain Hall on the first and third Thursday of every month. If you have questions or would like to help get things rolling, please call Tina at 623.910.4231.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Are you fasting or feasting?

This year, Ash Wednesday was February 18 and Maundy Thursday is April 2, so the entire month of March is part of the 40 days of Lent. In recognition of that, we are reprinting this article Evelyn Haas submitted.
Lent should be more than a time of fasting. It should also be a joyous season of feasting. Lent is a time to fast from certain things and feast on others. It is a season in which we should:
  • Fast from judging others; feast on the Christ dwelling in them.
  • Fast from emphasis on differences; feast on the unity of all life.
  • Fast from thoughts of illness; feast on the healing power of God.
  • Fast from words that pollute; feast on phrases that purify.
  • Fast from discontent; feast on gratitude.
  • Fast from anger; feast on patience.
  • Fast from pessimism; feast on optimism.
  • Fast from worry; feast on divine order.
  • Fast from complaining; feast on appreciation.
  • Fast from gossip; feast on affirmation.
  • Fast from bitterness; feast on forgiveness.
  • Fast from self-concern; feast on compassion.
  • Fast from blame; feast on personal responsibility.
  • Fast from discouragement; feast on hope.
  • Fast from suspicion; feast on truth.
  • Fast from thoughts that weaken; feast on promises that inspire.
~Author Unknown

May the promise of Easter inspire you during this Lenten season!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Photos from the 2/7 Handbell Read & Ring

First Presbyterian Church in Sun City was chosen as one of the many locations within the United States to host a Read and Ring event this year. The Handbell Musicians of America, a nationwide membership association, started putting on this event 3 years ago. The plan is that all over the U.S., handbells will ring the same music at the same time. Five events were being hosted here in Arizona along with hundreds in other states. Handbell ringers brought their bells and chimes and their love for music, and together went through 16 new songs for handbells just released for 2015. This is a wonderful way to hear the new music, and if the ringers decide they like it, the scores can be purchased at a discount on the day of the Read and Ring. This 3-hour event gives ringers a chance to meet other ringers and share stories and talents together. The Great Bells of Fire were very excited to be hosting this event!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Why Pancakes? The Story Behind Shrove Tuesday

Shrove Tuesday, Pancake Day, Malasada Day, Carnival, Mardi Gras - whatever you want to call it - is the day before the start of Lent, the season the Christian calendar leading up to Easter.

Traditionally Lent was a penitential time, and many (particularly in the Catholic church) "gave up" something for Lent.  Now that might mean forgoing smoking or chocolate, but at one time it regularly involved abstention from meat, dairy, eggs, and sugar, and any food made with those substances.

Lent lasts for 40 days, so in the era before refrigeration any meat, dairy, or eggs left in the larder at the beginning of Lent wouldn't still have been edible at Easter.  This must have been unacceptable to frugal housewives.  Over time, people got into the habit of using up those leftover perishables on the night before the start of Lent - and making pancakes, which contain eggs, milk, and sugar, and go well with a side of bacon or sausage, was a great way to do that.

Some cultures eventually took the idea farther, throwing elaborate parties or staging parades and celebrations as if to use up Lenten-inappropriate high spirits in addition to rich foods.

According to Merriam-Webster, "Shrove" is derived from the Middle English "schrof," meaning "shriven," and "to shrive" means "to administer the sacrament of reconciliation to" or "to free from guilt."  Does that mean that eating pancakes at our Shrove Tuesday Fellowship Dinner will free you from guilt?  Well, no - but we do expect to have good food and a good time!

Shrove Tuesday Fellowship Dinner
Pancakes, Sausage, and Fresh Orange Juice
Music by Ed Dawson of Fletcher Music on the organ
Tuesday, February 17, 2014
5:00 pm in Swain Hall
First Presbyterian Church of Sun City
12225 N. 103rd Ave., Sun City, AZ 85351

Call 623-974-3605 to reserve your place now!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Photos from the January 21 Soup Supper

Those present enjoyed their choice of turkey noodle or bean and ham soup, plus a presentation on the services offered by the Arizona Humane Society.  This month's Fellowship Dinner will be the annual Shrove Tuesday pancake and sausage supper with Ed Dawson on the organ, Tuesday, February 17, at 5:00 pm in Swain Hall.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Time is Fulfilled

This is the text of the sermon preached by Rev. Harrell Davis of First Presbyterian Church of Sun City on Sunday, January 25, 2015.  To hear the recording of this service, click here.

Psalm 66: 1-7
Mark 1: 12-15

What time is it?  Have you ever asked that question?  When you ask that question, what are you really asking?  I think that's the more important question.  Not so much what time is it, what does it mean when you ask?

If we say, for instance, that time is a way of measuring the sequence of events from the past to the present into the future, we create a context, the so-called Arrow of Time, that gives rise to structures like clocks, calendars, and file cabinets.  But is that time really?  Is the ticking clock a measure of some "thing?"  Is there a thing called time?

When I was reading about time, preparing for this sermon, I learned that physicists can split the measurement we call a second into a million, billion, quadrillion smaller units.  By using laser light to illuminate chemical reactions, it's possible to split time like one splits atoms.  In fact, it seems that we are limited only by our current technologies in our ability to measure shorter and shorter intervals.

Here's another one that always blows my mind: astrophysicists use the amount of time it takes for light to travel from one place to another to measure distance.  As in the amount of time it takes for light to travel from one galaxy to another.  The Hubble Space Telescope gathers light from distant sources.  You can measure time and distance because we know that light travels at a constant velocity, roughly 187,000 miles per second.

A light year is the distance light travels in the span of a year at the rate of 187,000 miles per second.  That's not only a long distance, that's a long time.  In fact, when we say that a certain galaxy is 20 light years away, we're saying that galaxy is not only a long distance away, we're saying that it took the light from that galaxy, traveling at 187,000 miles per second, 20 years to reach us.  And that's a long time.

Light, in other words, left that galaxy a long time ago.  When we look at points of light in our universe, depending upon how far away they are, we are looking backward in time.  It takes the light from our sun roughly eight minutes to travel the distance from the sun to the earth.  For light to travel 20 years is an enormous distance and a very long time.  When we look at a galaxy 20 light years away, we're looking at history.

Some theorists say that the farthest stars and galaxies we can presently see take us backward in time, closer and closer to the moment of creation, to the so-called Big Bang.

The Big Bang itself boggles the mind.  The theory is that heat, and gravity, all organic and inorganic molecules, everything, the building blocks of the entire universe, the universe itself, came into being in a cataclysmic moment.  Boom!  The Big Bang.  In the first nanoseconds of creation, was time also created?  Did a cosmic clock start ticking?  Is the arrow of time a concept, or an actuality?

What time is it?  Most of us seek a more domestic answer to that question.  We ask because we want or need to know where we stand on the scale of measurement for a particular day or hour.  Are we on time or are we late for a meeting or program?  Is it time for our favorite TV program, or did we correctly set the DVR?

And then there are the various culturally relevant times.  In Sun City, when something starts at 5:00, you'd better get there by 4:30 or you'll be late.  When I worked for the denomination as the staff person responsible for the church's ministry to Native American people I learned all about Indian Time.  Indian Time doesn't have anything to do with the clock or schedules or deadlines.  Indian Time is when the time is right for something to begin: a program, a meeting, a presentation.  As long as you didn't have a plane to catch, Indian Time seemed to work.

Actually, Indian Time was not a unique idea.  Carol and I lived in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for several years and everyone there talks about living on Tulsa time.  There's a Country-Western song about living on Tulsa time.

I hope you're getting the sense that time, as Einstein said, is relative.  It's something we all deal with like weather and life and love.  Someone asked him once to describe in simple terms his very complex theory of relativity.  He said: when you put your hand to a hot stove, it can seem an eternity until you take it away.  When you hold the hand of your sweetheart, it can seem an instant before you have to let her go.  That's relativity.  And that's also a definition of time.  Time is relative.  It may be fixed as in the number of seconds in a minute or as the speed of light, but it is not static.

Culturally, we know that time changes all the time.  Carol sent me to the store to buy a box of Borax because she has a cleaning job and she believes that Borax is best.  I set the box on the edge of the table so she'd be sure to see when she got home.

I keep looking at the box and across the top you read these words: "All Natural Since 1891."  What's hilarious about that is not, what's in the box has been the same for 125 years.  It's, what was it before 1891?  What has it been for the centuries of time before it became a commercial product?

Presumably nothing has changed in the 125 years the stuff has been going into boxes and into people's homes.  But it's still the same stuff that cam into being countless years before in the process of creation.  What makes it different is what we think about it.

Here's what Jesus said: "The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the Good News."

Here's what centuries of time and experience and change has taught us.  Time is relative.  Time is not stuck.  Time is not static.  When Jesus says that time is fulfilled it is possible for us to believe that the present moment holds possibility and opportunity right now.  We don't have to wait for change.  Change is possible right now.

When Jesus says that the Kingdom of God has come near, he's not talking about some future event.  The Kingdom of God is not a future, far-off thing.  The Kingdom of God is right here, right now.

The reason why both statements, "change is possible" and "the Kingdom of God is right now," are true is what he said next.  What he said next is: "repent and believe in the Good News."  This is what he meant: change you mind and accept what's possible.

Repent is a word that's gotten a bad rep from years of religious abuse.  What I mean is that religion has reduced that very powerful word to a catalog of vices: drinking, dancing, playing cards, etc.  Repent, however, is far more powerful than a temperance movement.  Repent means change, as in a complete change of direction.  A 180° change of direction is more far-reaching than simply giving up a handful of vices.

Repent means changing your mind.  And when you change the way you think, you change everything.  I used to think that racism was OK ... at least I was OK with it because for many years I simply went along with the collective unconsciousness of racism.  I lived where discrimination was a way of life.  I didn't have to look at magazine pictures of white and colored drinking fountains and segregated schools because I saw those things for myself.  I didn't think anything about them because nothing or no one - certainly no one in my family - challenged my thinking.  I was unconsciously racist until I saw on TV what happened to Martin Luther King and the other freedom marchers.

I was unconscious until TJ and Hattie opened my eyes.  TJ and Hattie were young newlyweds who lived on the first floor directly below our student housing apartment.  They were the first black couple either of us called friends.  When I looked into their beautiful faces, when we shared meals together, when we laughed and cried together, there was no longer any defense for hatred.

You cannot defend the indefensible.  As a Christian there is simply no justification for hatred, or bigotry, or intolerance.  My mind is completely 180°, no turning back, changed about racism.  And guess what?  Once my mind changed about that ... all kinds of change was possible.  There is no ism, no phobia, no category of bigotry that can stand the test of defense.  There is no defense for hatred.  There is no justification for violence.

Now I know we live in a violent world.  I know there are violent people.  It's naive to think that measures to safeguard against violence are irrelevant.  Safety is a God-given right.  But fear is not.  And here is where there's room for change.

Jesus said: believe, accept the Good News.  The Good News says there is an alternative to fear.  There is an alternative to violence and cynicism and sin.  The Good News changes everything.  If you want to see an end to violence. to warfare, to hatred, then accept the possibility that there is an alternative.

When you see a movie like American Sniper, which from all indications is a brutally accurate depiction of war, you can leave the theater like one person interviewed on the street, who said seeing that movie makes him want to go and shoot some Arabs.  Or, you can see something like that and realize that war is a terrible reality that makes one want to find an alternative.

War is real and war is terrible and it can never be anything but what it is.  But it is not the only option.  Hatred is not the only option.  Not even death can overcome the love of God.

What time is it?  Jesus said: Time is fulfilled; the time has come; change your mind; accept possibility; believe in the Good News.  The Kingdom of God is near.  All things are possible.  Thanks be to God.  Amen.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Shared Lenten Services

This year the schedule for shared Lenten services will be as follows:

First Presbyterian chapel stained glass
Ash Wednesday
Wednesday, February 14, 11:00 am
Church of the Palms
14808 N. Boswell Blvd.
Sun City, AZ 85351

Maundy Thursday
Thursday, April 2, 11:00 am
Faith Presbyterian Church
16000 N. Del Webb Blvd.
Sun City, AZ 85351

Good Friday
Friday, April 3, 6:00 pm
First Presbyterian Church
12225 N. 103rd Ave.
Sun City, AZ 85351

The Good Friday service will be a service of Tenebrae, featuring the First Presbyterian vocal choir.

Palm Sunday and Easter services will be held at each of the three churches at their normal worship times.

For more information about Lenten services in the Presbyterian church, including an explanation of the service of Tenebrae, go to

Monday, February 2, 2015

February 7 - Handbell Read and Ring

First Presbyterian Church in Sun City has been chosen as one of the many locations within the United States to host a Read and Ring event this year. The Handbell Musicians of America, a nationwide membership association, started putting on this event 3 years ago. The plan is that all over the U.S., handbells will be ringing the same music at the same time. There are 5 events being hosted here in Arizona along with hundreds in other states. Handbell ringers bring their bells and chimes and their love for music, and together go through a dozen new songs for handbells just released for 2015. This is a wonderful way to hear the new music and if they decide they like it, the scores can be purchased at a discount on the day of the Read and Ring. This 3 hour event gives ringers a chance to meet other ringers and share stories and talents together. The Great Bells of Fire are very excited to be hosting this event!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

The Meaning of Ashes

On February 18th, Ash Wednesday, we begin the journey to Easter. This spiritual journey will take us to the foot of the cross where Jesus died. The journey ends, however, at the empty tomb, where on Easter Sunday we will stand with Martha, Mary and the disciples and experience the power of resurrection. The beginning of the journey is as dramatic as the end. We begin the journey to Easter with the sign of ashes. Ashes remind us that we are formed from the earth; and in death it is to the earth our human bodies return. This is an amazing cycle of life.

Traditionally, ashes marked the penitence of religious communities. They symbolized human sin as well as human frailty. They were used to remind us that Jesus cancelled sin’s power. In the words of the gospel hymn:
Would you be whiter, much whiter than snow?
There’s pow’r in the blood, pow’r in the blood;
Sin-stains are lost in its life-giving flow;
There’s wonderful pow’r in the blood.
There is pow’r, pow’r, wonder-working pow’r
In the blood of the Lamb;
There is pow’r, pow’r, wonder-working pow’r
In the precious blood of the Lamb.
Here’s the thing about gospel hymns. Like the ashes we use, these hymns remind us that it took the “precious blood of the lamb” to save us from our own “sin-stains.” Theologically, they tell us that Jesus’ death sets us free from the debt of sin. Psychologically, they remind us that we are nothing more than “slimy worms,” to borrow some of John Calvin’s more colorful language.

It’s theological to remember the role sin plays in our relationship with God. It’s psychological to consider how a concept like sin continues to impact and affect human thinking. In Jesus Christ, God made sin irrelevant. In human thinking the focus on sin still falls on brokenness and separation.

Here’s where a reframe of ashes can help. Consider that all creation is present in all things. All the carbon and hydrogen, oxygen and so on is present in the redwood trees, the stars in the sky, and in you and me. Our ashes returning to the earth is nothing more than recycling. This year, on Ash Wednesday, let the ashes remind you—above all else—that you came from God, and the journey leads you back home. Thanks be to God!