Ecclesiological Etchings: 01-19-17

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Scripture: 1st Corinthians 4:1
Think of us in this way, as servants of Christ and stewards of God’s mysteries.

Thought for the Day: Paul uses two important words in this passage – Servant and Steward. Interesting, though, is that the word we translate as servant is not the one we have seen before (Jan. 14), but one that Paul only uses this one time. It describes the under rowers, those who were below deck doing the necessary work to make the ship move forward. This is an interesting use of the word as the church has often been described as a ship, yet we are not to view ourselves as the captain or even one of the important people calling out directions. Our effort is not seen except in the forward movement of this grand vessel we know as the church. Paul also uses another word, steward. It describes one who is entrusted with the day to day management of the household. The master empowers the steward with authority to be caretaker of the master’s property. In this case, Paul invites us to think of ourselves as caretakers of God’s mysteries, those things that are made known only through the revelation of Jesus Christ. For Paul, this would be the revelation of God’s amazing grace revealed in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. When you think about it in those terms, we have been given a lot of responsibility in the work of God’s Kingdom.

Prayer: There is much to be done for the sake of your church, O God of revealed mysteries. Let us see our work with the heart of a humble servant and the seriousness of a responsible steward. Amen.

Get Signed Up

Let’s Come Together
To Make A Difference
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Ecclesiological Etchings: 01-18-17

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Scripture: 1st Corinthians 3:16-17
Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

Thought for the Day: Paul begins these verses with a question that is in fact a rebuke of sorts. It could even contain a hint of sarcasm, almost like saying, “Any idiot would know that you are God’s temple.” So if folks in the church said they did not know, the implied answer would be that not knowing made them idiots. What is also important to note in this passage are the two YOUs. Too often people reference this passage to speak about an individual being God’s temple, yet Paul was not speaking to the individual members of the church. The YOUs are plural (Greek has that unique ability), and as you probably know, Paul was very interested in the idea of the individual members coming together in a single body, a single entity in Christ. I’m not suggesting that God’s Spirit remains outside of us as individuals, but the temple of God described here is the coming together of the people. It is not a building, but a collection of human beings working together in a beautiful dance of faithfulness. So wonderful is there unified conviction of serving Christ, that we do not see individuals, but a body, a temple.

Prayer: Forgive me, Lord, when I stand outside the temple of your Spirit. Let me continue to work as a faithful participant in your work, doing so without concern for personal recognition or praise. Amen.

JOIN TOGETHER TODAY

Noon and 6:30pm

To continue our look at Paul’s letters
to the church in Corinth
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Ecclesiological Etchings: 01-17-17

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Scripture: 1st Corinthians 3:5-6
What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.

Thought for the Day: If you remember from Sunday, the community in Corinth had splintered over different issues, and in doing so, had forgotten the oneness of the church. People were saying, “I belong Apollos; I belong to Paul; I belong to Cephas.” It is interesting how Paul, in the above verses, does not ask a WHO question but a WHAT question. He is trying to remove personalities from what is happening and have the church think in terms of function. Not that we are uninterested in the unique beauty of each person’s humanity, but when the church divides because of a cult of personality, it is time to step back. They are servants (diakonoi in the Greek – where we get our word deacon), a position of humble service that in this case is chosen through faith. Each has a gift and task into which that gift fits, but we are only pieces in the larger work of God’s kingdom building. Let us strive to appreciate each person’s contribution to the good work, but ultimately pointing to God who gives the growth.

Prayer: Continue to inspire and encourage our gifts, Magnificent God. There is so much to be done; so many good gifts to be used; so many opportunities for those who seek to follow your lead. Bind us together as the church, your community created and held together by your Spirit. Amen.

MEN’S GATHERING TONIGHT

Cramer Retreat Center

Dinner at 6:30pm
Study at 7:00pm


…and FYI for Women:
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Ecclesiological Etchings: 01-16-17

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Scripture: 1st Corinthians 3:1-3
And so, brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food. Even now you are still not ready, for you are still of the flesh. For as long as there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinations?

Thought for the Day: I can’t say for sure, but I would guess the Christians in Corinth would not have found Paul’s words very flattering. In modern terms, we might say to someone, “Let me get you a baby bottle and rock you why I try to explain to you something you probably won’t understand.” It feels a little patronizing and pretentious, but Paul wished to make a point…and it might have been a critique of himself. Had Paul pulled back from the Corinthians too soon. As a parent, it is always difficult to determine if this is the right moment to allow one’s child to gain more independence. There are times when allowing room for failure can be good, but I wonder if Paul felt as if this was not the case. In fact, Paul wrote, “Even now you are still not ready…” This is where modern day Christians need to remember that a little children’s education and baptism is not enough. The challenge of Christianity should leave us all feeling like a work in progress no matter our age or experience.

Prayer: Stay with me, Kind and Merciful God, even when my faith appears to be in its infancy. Stay with me, and be my guide to places of genuine growth. Amen.

Men’s Gathering

Tuesday Evening at Cramer Retreat Center

6:30 – Dinner
7:00pm – Study

Ecclesiological Etchings: 01-15-17

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Scripture: 1st Corinthians 2:12-14
Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. And we speak of these things in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things to those who are spiritual. Those who are unspiritual do not receive the gifts of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness to them, and they are unable to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.

Thought for the Day: Years ago I worked with a monk who taught us a prayer that he shared in times of difficulty. The prayer went something like this: “Provide me your perspective on this situation, O Holy Father who came from heaven to earth. Amen.” As we all know, perspective is 90% of people’s understanding of what’s important, what is right and what is truth. Our vantage point can more clearly see what is real if the many biases we have are removed. According to Paul, this vantage point is provided by the Spirit of God. This Spirit, as Paul suggested earlier in this letter, has searched the depths of God. This same Spirit seeks to help us see ourselves and the world around us as God sees things. From our self-centered perspective, things may appear foolish and outrageous, but even a glimpse from God’s vantage point allows us to see what simply was not previously available. What seemed foolish is now the Good News we yearn to have at the center of our lives.

Prayer: Provide me your perspective on this situation of difficulty in my life right now, O Holy Father who came from heaven to earth. Amen.

SEE YOU IN WORSHIP TODAY
8:15, 9:30 & 11:00

Preaching on 1st Corinthians 1:9-13



And Make Sure
To Sign Up For…

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Ecclesiological Etchings: 01-14-17

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Scripture: 1st Corinthians 2:1-2
When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.

Thought for the Day: For Paul, the cross is a terribly complicated and confusing concept. It was, most definitely, the greatest stumbling block for him even after his transformative experience on the road to Damascus. Some suggest that he spent as many as 15 years between the Damascus Road experience and his first missionary journey. This period of time was used to contemplate and reflect on what the cross meant. The information we have about this time period is not very specific, but as we learned in the previous chapter, “we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles” (1:23). Paul was one who found the idea of Christ’s crucifixion to be a stumbling block, yet it eventually became for him a window through which he glimpsed the wisdom of God. This divine wisdom does not follow what we might call common sense, for it suggests that the saving one of God was killed and this sacrificial act helps us to understand the mystery of God’s love. Love does not fit the categories of human wisdom, but it does provide us insight into just how far God is willing to go for the sake of humanity. Paul looks at the Corinthian community through the event of the cross, the expression of unconditional and redemptive love, and it allows him to see the community’s potential despite its failures and self-centeredness.

Prayer: Make me to see, O Merciful God, the unconventional approach you took in the cross. Allow it to be for me a lens through which I view others, not seeing their shortcomings and mistakes, but the goodness and potential that love reveals. Amen.

TOMORROW’S SERMON

Don’t say, “I belong to Bruce”
1st Corinthians 1:9-13


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Ecclesiological Etchings: 01-13-17

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Scripture: 1 Corinthians 1:28-31
God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, in order that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Thought for the Day: I don’t believe this passage needs much commentary. At the same time, it needs a lot of commentary as it is so contrary to what we are taught in our world today. We all, at one time or another, can become a little self-centered. This is a part of being human, and though we need to continue to work at moving ourselves off the podium of our own minds, we need to be very mindful of how the world is becoming comfortable with extreme egoism and narcissism. There are people who are so wrapped up in themselves and their own self-created world that they are unable to see themselves objectively or take responsibility for their actions. So many relationships are unhealthy because an individual has such a grandiose sense of self that the humanity of others is lost. This is not normal, and we need to call it out. Humility is one of the most important characteristics someone can bring to a relationship. It allows for marriages, congregations, communities, businesses and even countries to find health and wellbeing.

Prayer: Where my ego seeks to boast about myself, give me Jesus. I ask this, O Lord, for the world does not need self-centeredness but the self-sacrificing love revealed in Jesus. Amen.

HAVE YOU RESITERED YET?

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Ecclesiological Etchings: 01-12-17

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Scripture: 1 Corinthians 1:12-13
What I mean is that each of you says, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.” Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?

Thought for the Day: I used to describe myself a neo-Barthian. Karl Barth (1886 – 1968) was a 20th century theologian who I studied and appreciated, though to be honest, I had just as many disagreements with him as I did agreements. Though deceased by the time I was in graduate school, I still considered him a good conversation partner. His writings pushed me to develop a more complete understanding of Jesus and his saving work on behalf of creation. I owe a lot to Karl Barth, along with one of my mentors, Dr. Joe Jones, who introduced me to Barth. These people are important to me, but I feel strongly that they would be troubled if somehow my allegiance to them seemed to take anything away from Jesus. They did what they did out of a deep love for Jesus, and their greatest joy would be to know that someone met Jesus on a deeper level because of something they did. In regard to our faith, we all need teachers, pastors, encouragers and mentors. It is ok to like and appreciate such people, but if we spend more time talking about the people instead of the person they want us to meet, then we need to rethink the focus of our faith.

Prayer: Provide me agents of your saving work, O Gracious God, yet their insights and ideas should always be guiding me into your presence. I will always give thanks for their help, but their help was initiated by you. So my thanks is ultimately directed to you. Amen.

LET’S MAKE A DIFFERENCE

Fighting Human Trafficking
In Our Community
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Ecclesiological Etchings: 01-11-17

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Scripture: 1st Corinthians 1:11
For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there are quarrels among you, my brothers and sisters.

Thought for the Day: In any good story, there is a moment early on when a conflict arises and a response seeking resolution follows. A story without some tension, friction, troubling question, emotional rift or unexpected bad news, is not going to be a very good story. We want to be taken on a journey, a journey from discord to harmony, from brokenness to healing. The report Paul received from Chloe is that moment in this letter, and though it is not a story, we suddenly feel a tension that was not previously felt. There is a sudden uneasiness that seeks resolution, and for the remainder of the letter, Paul will be about the work of resolution. He wants nothing more than to help bring a peaceful conclusion to the quarreling among his friends in Corinth.

Prayer: Among any community on earth, there will be conflict and disagreement. Let us be aware of those you send, O Lord, who will help to bring healing and understanding. Amen.

JOIN ME TODAY
(noon or 6:30pm)
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Ecclesiological Etchings: 01-10-17

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Scripture: 1st Corinthians 1:5-7
…for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind—just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you—so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Thought for the Day: One of the great concerns I have for the church in 2017 is what I call: The Deficiency Dilemma. Individual churches are in a constant state of concern over what they do not have and miss what they do have. Paul speaks about the church in Corinth as not lacking when it comes to spiritual gifts. Does this mean they have every spiritual gift imaginable? Does this mean they have everything they think they need? Probably not, yet maybe they have everything God believes they need. Of course, some of those gifts may still necessitate encouragement; some of those gifts may still need refining; some of those gifts may still require discernment. This is where the community needs to work together, but instead of falling into the Deficiency Dilemma, let us be a people of Soulful Sufficiency.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for all you have given. Thank you, Lord, for all the amazing gifts within our church – gifts claimed and those still being explored. Amen.

Wednesday Evening

Children, Youth, Adults
Study and Dance

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