11-22-20

ECCLESIOLOGICAL ETCHINGS
November 22, 2020

Scripture
: Genesis 40:12-14
Then Joseph said to the chief cupbearer, “This is its interpretation: the three branches are three days; within three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your office; and you shall place Pharaoh’s cup in his hand, just as you used to do when you were his cupbearer. But remember me when it is well with you; please do me the kindness to make mention of me to Pharaoh, and so get me out of this place.

Thought for the Day: Joseph interpreted a couple of dreams while in prison. One brought good news and the other brought the news of death. For the cupbearer, the news was good, and Joseph made a request. The hope was for the cupbearer, once he was out of prison and before the Pharaoh, would mention Joseph’s name (and maybe his dream interpreting skills). Can you imagine finding yourself in the cupbearer’s shoes (sandals)? You’re lucky to be out of prison and back in the good graces of the court. Should you really push your luck, or just keep quiet? I think a lot of folks would choose silence, choosing to look out for self alone. Could you blame them? Yet the cupbearer showed kindness and spoke a good word about Joseph, and it was his willingness to speak to Pharaoh that moved forward God’s redemptive work of Joseph’s life? It was just a small act of kindness, but without it I wonder if we’d even know the story of Joseph. Maybe we would only know that some wild animals had killed him. Remember, that was the story his brothers made up before selling him into slavery.

Prayer: My little act of kindness, even when it may cause some potential concern for my life, could be exactly what you, O Lord, are requesting. Encourage me; give me a spirit of boldness; allow me to speak with confidence. Amen.


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11-21-20

ECCLESIOLOGICAL ETCHINGS
November 21, 2020

Scripture
: Proverbs 12:25
Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.

Thought for the Day: I don’t often quote Lady Gaga, yet as I have continued to reflect on kindness, I found her words to be exactly what I needed to hear. She wrote:

I’ve been searching for ways to heal myself, and I’ve found that kindness is the best way.

Lady Gaga’s words have me rethinking the Proverb. I always assumed the one cheered up was the one on the receiving end of the kind word, but could it be that a kind word offered can lift the person who offered it? Not that we offer words of kindness with selfish intent, but an auxiliary benefit for the one who shared the kindness is not necessarily a bad thing. Go share some kindness and make the world a better place, and in doing so discover that you have made your little part of the world better.

Prayer: Just the thought that I have lifted someone else’s spirit can bring me joy. Holy God, let’s get to work spreading kindness that lifts everyone including me. Amen.



11-20-20

ECCLESIOLOGICAL ETCHINGS
November 20, 2020

Scripture
: James 4:17
Anyone, then, who knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, commits sin.

Thought for the Day: I have always been troubled by the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson who wrote:

You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.

There is something about now and not later, something about acting and not procrastinating. While the scriptures often speak about waiting, it is not to be used as a go-to excuse for why we do not do what we knew we should do. As I have reflected on this the last few days, I have concluded that kindness is very much tied to timing. I don’t know what late kindness becomes, but I don’t know if it is still kindness.

Prayer: Kindness should be so simple, Compassionate God, so let me get to it before it is too late. Amen.



11-19-20

ECCLESIOLOGICAL ETCHINGS
November 19, 2020

Scripture
: Colossians 3:14
Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

Thought for the Day: Recently I listened to David Brooks on a podcast where he spoke of tribalism vs. community. Tribalism is when people gather around a common hatred of something, while community is when people gather around a common love for something. Brooks suggested that tribalism can feel like community, but in fact it is more like an addiction. Wow! That is a very helpful distinction in our current environment, especially as the church tries to reclaim its purpose and mission. As followers of Jesus, we need to define ourselves based upon what we love. When you think about it, that should be a no brainer, yet strangely it is more challenging than it should be. There is plenty of tribalism in our current world that is attractive to the dishearten, lonely and marginalized. In the end, tribalism solves absolutely nothing while creating deeper and wider divides. The best way of breaking the grip of tribalism is to create places where people of different backgrounds and experiences can come together and truly listen to one another. Like a lot of things, this is more difficult right now, yet isn’t that exactly what the church is…or should be. Cypress Creek Christian Church is a non-creedal church. This means we do not require allegiance to some statement of belief in advance of participation. Instead, we come around a meal, the sharing of bread and cup representing Christ’s love for us and given to us. In recent months, we have been talking about revival in the post-pandemic world, and I believe revival will include a resurgence of community where people leave behind everything that isolates to join others in conversation around a meal. Might that be salvation to our communities, nation and world.

Prayer: O God whose image is woven into every human being, give me the courage to reach out, sit down, and join in conversations that just might be healing and life-giving to all. Amen.



11-18-20

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ECCLESIOLOGICAL ETCHINGS
November 18, 2020

Scripture
: Acts 9:36-37a
Now in Joppa there was a disciple whose name was Tabitha, which in Greek is Dorcas. She was devoted to good works and acts of charity. At that time she became ill and died.

Thought for the Day: We are introduced to Tabitha (Dorcas), told how wonderful she was, and then she died. This all takes place in exactly 1 1/2 verses of scripture. There is definitely not enough material for a full length feature film. Of course, if you continue to read, Peter shows up and raises her from the dead. It is that information that everyone wishes to emphasize, but I am drawn to this basic description of her life. At the end of the day, wouldn’t it be nice if we summarized most people’s lives with the words: they existed, they were kind (devoted to good works and acts of charity) and they died. Not very poetic, but how much different would our world look like if kindness was the word most often used to describe us by family, friends and those who simply observed us from a distance?

Prayer: If I could be remembered with one word, Gracious God, might it be kindness. Well if that is truly my desire, then maybe I should be about the work of being kind. Amen.



11-17-20

ECCLESIOLOGICAL ETCHINGS
November 17, 2020

Scripture
: Ephesians 4:31-32
Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.

Thought for the Day: Can we improve on kindness? It is an important question, because if we answer, “No,” then we are most certainly not going to improve. Paul seems to suggest it is a choice we have, a conscious and deliberate choice to put away one thing in order to choose another. Paul wrote, “Put away from you…” This language describes raising up or elevating something. Could it be that Paul was encouraging his readers to put things like bitterness, anger and slander on the top shelf where they would be out of reach? If kindness is a choice, then limiting our alternatives will always increase the probability of choosing kindness. Meditation can be a helpful tool, using our imagination to prayerfully picture certain emotions and attitudes being pulled from us and placed out of reach. I have a friend who tried every evening to reflect on the day, and any reaction or interaction he had that did not represent his values, he would imagine locking them inside a box that he would bury. Some might think it sounds silly, yet nothing comes into reality that wasn’t first imagined. Our imagination is a gift and is often the first step toward becoming more fully the person God believes we can be. We can improve when it comes to kindness, and the world needs us to improve.

Prayer: I ask for your help, Loving God, when it comes to being kind. I ask for your help, but I know a lot of the responsibility lies with me. Teach me the importance of intentional preparation, doing the hard work in advance so that I have a better chance of choosing kindness when the stakes are high. Amen.



11-16-20

ECCLESIOLOGICAL ETCHINGS
November 16, 2020

Prayer for the Week
: Is there joy to be found in this moment? Our faith tells us there is. Provide us, O God, the capacity to know the joy that has its origin within you. Provide us the capacity to receive your gift of joy that is never to be confused with happiness or exuberance. Let us recognize its ability to speak the truth of your love into every imaginable situation. Joy does not erase our pain or sadness or heartache, yet it supplies the conviction that we are never alone. It confers upon us the Good News that nothing can ever separate us from your love. Those simple convictions of the heart bring joy. Amen.



11-15-20

ECCLESIOLOGICAL ETCHINGS
November 15, 2020

Scripture
: Psalm 100:1
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.

Thought for the Day: This is the opening verse of our Call To Worship this morning, and it will be read by Jonah Hickman. Those words have been spoken more times than one can imagine, yet what exactly is a joyful noise. The word noise is not usually used in a positive way. For most of us, we are thinking honking cars, a neighbor’s dog barking at 2am or a strange sound coming from the dishwasher. None of those would fall into the category of joyful. Of course, when I think of my own singing, outside of when I’m alone in the car and I sound awesome, it would be defined as noise by most. Maybe it is joyful in the ears of one audience member in particular. God! God doesn’t notice how it is off key or just obnoxious. God knows the intent of one’s heart, and when there is joy in the heart of the one making noise, it is beautiful to God.

Prayer: May every noise that comes from my mouth give you honor and glory, Lord God. May my noise join all those across the earth who are making their own joyful noise. Amen.


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11-14-20

ECCLESIOLOGICAL ETCHINGS
November 14, 2020

Scripture
: John 15:5
I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.

Thought for the Day: I was watching a PBS Special on the musical, Fiddler on the Roof, and it reminded me of the Match Maker and the arranged marriages. Tevye and Golde talk about how they met on their wedding day, which seems so strange to my thinking. I’m sure many arranged marriages have found love, but isn’t there something essential in the act of choosing? A healthy relationship begins with both parties freely making that decision. Though in the image of the vine and the branches, it doesn’t make it sound as if there is much freedom. A branch doesn’t say, “I think I’ll attach myself to that vine.” Yet maybe there is something revealing in the metaphor. We are connected to God always, but if there is to be fruit it requires us to acknowledge where we truly abide. God already made the decision at the moment of creation when humanity was declared to be very good. In Jesus, God restates the divine commitment to humanity, but faith is our free choice to live into that deep and abiding connection.

Prayer: Allow for the relationship between us, O Life-Giving Vine, to produce fruit for all who hunger for the gifts that come from you. Amen.