Ecclesiological Etchings: 07-31-15

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Scripture: Psalm 23:1
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

Thought for the Day: I’m guessing most every person, religious and non-religious, has heard those words of scripture.  The first verse is a statement of faith or profession of faith. In the ancient world, kings were often referred to as the shepherd of their people. They had great authority, and many were viewed as divine agents or even earthly expressions of the divine. For Israel, the monarchy (Saul, David, Solomon, etc.) were viewed as agents of God, and at times, their authority was god-like. So for the author of the Psalm to declare, “The Lord is my shepherd” would have carried with it political undertones. The author and those who echoed these words in worship would have been announcing their loyalty to God above their loyalty to the king. The author of the Psalm continues in the following verses to layout what a good shepherd does for the people, pointing out the gap between the true Shepherd of the people and the king. Where in our lives do we need to declare our loyalty to the Lord our shepherd above political leaders, celebrities, sports figures or others?

Prayer: You, Lord, are the good shepherd; lead us to the life-giving streams of grace; provide us places of rest; walk with us even with the path is dark and dangerous. Amen.

SUNDAY’S SERMON
2nd Samuel 5:1-5

Shepherd - Attitude

Ecclesiological Etchings: 07-30-15

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Scripture: Ephesians 4:1-6
I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.

Thought for the Day: I’m pretty proud of my peeps. Let me put it another way – I am very honored to serve where I do, and I am overjoyed by the heart of Cypress Creek Christian Church. Many churches in the United States found themselves completely caught off guard by the recent Supreme Court ruling. I’m a little baffled how churches could have been so naive and unaware of what was most certainly going to happen, but many were shocked. In these churches, it was reminiscent of the scene from Ghostbusters where they said there will be “fire and brimstone coming down from the skies. River and seas boiling. Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes, the dead rising from the grave! Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together…mass hysteria.”  At Cypress Creek Christian Church, there was absolutely no gnashing of teeth. In fact, there have been calm and faithful conversations, even among people who have different opinions. Last night’s first of five studies led by Rev. Dr. Mark Whitten – Critical Christian Thinking about Homosexuality and Gay Rights – was a great example that we are a relatively healthy congregation. Thank you! Thank God!

Prayer: With hearts of compassion and love, O Lord, let us listen to one another as Jesus taught us to do. Amen.

THIS SUNDAY’S SERMON
2nd Samuel 5:1-5

Shepherd - Attitude

Ecclesiological Etchings: 07-29-15

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Scripture: Romans 14:19
Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.

Thought for the Day: On this day in 1148AD, the Siege on Damascus came to an end during what would be known as the Second Crusade. The Crusaders went to the Holy Land under the direction of Pope Eugene III, believing that God would provide them a victory. The attack on Damascus was far from a victory, and would be one of the factors that made the Second Crusade a failure. The Pope offered Indulgences like his predecessor, Pope Urban II, did in the First Crusade. These Indulgences offered forgiveness of sin and entry into heaven for those who would go to battle or for their loved ones.

It is difficult to understand how we went from the Jesus of the First Century – the Prince of Peace – to a Holy Warrior within a short period of time. Christianity wasn’t simply a silent partner in the Crusades, but the authority and provider of justification. Our Sunday morning focus is currently on 2nd Samuel, and like many books in the Bible that deal with the monarchy, there appears to be a belief that the Lord God was the means of victory in battle. But if Jesus is the Incarnation of God, the visible sign of the invisible God, who was and is and shall be the same, then how exactly do we make sense of this tension?

Could it be that some of the Biblical claims of a God who provides victory in battle are simply the victor seeking blessing on what was really not God’s doing in the first place? How often in history has the victor claimed God as the source, even when the victory included horrific suffering of innocent lives. My theological starting place is Jesus, and though I take seriously the stories of violence in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament), I must make theological sense of them in light of the Jesus I know. And simply saying that God changed -or- that God is just as violent now, but Jesus has placated the Lord’s anger, only raises more and more unsettling questions.

I don’t want to arrogantly pretend that my thoughts are correct or even a good answer for others, but in a world in which people are yearning for a faith that makes sense, simplistic answers that crumble under even the slightest scrutiny will leave these yearnings unfulfilled.

Prayer: You are good, Gracious Lord, and I make that claim through the Jesus I meet in scripture and the Christ I meet through your Spirit. Continue to encourage my questioning so that the faith I claim and the faith I share are worthy of the conversations I have. Amen.


STARTING THIS WEDNESDAY
Study at 6:30pm

Rev. Dr. Mark Whitten
teaching

Critical Christian Thinking 
About Homosexuality and Gay Rights

For Five Wednesday Evenings


SUNDAY’S SERMON

2nd Samuel 5:1-5
Shepherd - Attitude

Ecclesiological Etchings: 07-28-15

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Scripture: 2nd Samuel 3:1
There was a long war between the house of Saul and the house of David; David grew stronger and stronger, while the house of Saul became weaker and weaker.

Thought for the Day: Last Sunday, I talked about how the relationship between Saul and David was complicated, but even after Saul’s death, the relationship remained complicated. The house of Saul struggled to hold power, while David grew in power. It’s interesting how the legacy or even the memories of someone can continue to hold power or at least attempt to do so. There are times to move into a new future, though the past continues to cling. In your own life, where is God’s future presenting itself while the past continues to linger? Where is the household of Saul clinging even though Saul is dead?

Prayer: Free me, Lord, to embrace the future you are setting before me. Free me for tomorrow’s ministry. Amen.

STARTING THIS WEDNESDAY
Study at 6:30pm

Rev. Dr. Mark Whitten
teaching

Critical Christian Thinking
About Homosexuality and Gay Rights

For Five Wednesday Evenings

Ecclesiological Etchings: 07-27-15

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Scripture: Philippians 1:9-11
And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.

Thought for the Day: Yesterday during the 8:15 and 11:00 services, I did not wear a tie in worship. For the Contemporary Service, that is not unusual. But for the more traditional services, it is a bit atypical. It is summer, and that alone could be a good reason, but I made the decision to go without a tie because of my health. The heat can cause or intensify a Multiple Sclerosis exacerbation. For a few days, I have noticed some hints of it, and so I chose to leave the tie at home because of the forecast — HOT.  But here is what I really want to say: I appreciate that I didn’t lose any sleep over people’s opinion of my tie-less worship experience. Cypress Creek Christian Church has its priorities in the right place, and it isn’t about whether or not the pastor is wearing a tie. It is about bringing alive the news of a God who first loved us and desires for us to share that transformative love with a world yearning for real change. Thank you for allowing me to be the pastor of a church with the right priorities…for I am sad to say that many churches have focused entirely on the wrong things.

Prayer: Allow your amazing love, O Merciful God, to help me determine what is best for making a harvest of righteousness. Amen.

STARTING THIS WEDNESDAY
Study at 6:30pm

Rev. Dr. Mark Whitten
teaching

Critical Christian Thinking
About Homosexuality and Gay Rights

For Five Wednesday Evenings

Ecclesiological Etchings: 07-26-15

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Scripture: Matthew 9:27
As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, crying loudly, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!”

Thought for the Day: There were many who referred to Jesus using the title Son of David. There was no way Jesus was the Son of David as there was a gap of a thousand years between the two men. Yet in the ancient world, this type of description had very little to do with genetics. It was more about occupation and character, and so when we look at David – king, unifier, courageous, devoted to God, etc. – we see the vocational lineage from which Jesus came. Though with David, there were certain characteristics that were less than admirable. So like any comparison or metaphor, there is always weakness. Yet at the time in which Jesus came on the scene, people remembered David’s positive attributes, and so they were looking for a new David. We see that with deceased politicians who were less than perfect while alive, but after death, they have taken on a hero like persona. Over the next few weeks, we will be looking at David’s life experiences and what they have to teach us…for we too, as people of faith, find ourselves in David’s vocational lineage and there is much to learn.

Prayer: Inspire us, O Lord, in the stories of those who went before us. Even when their lives were not perfect, there are lessons to learn and wisdom to obtain. Give us spiritual ears to hear. Amen.

TODAY’S SERMON

Mourning Mucks

AND DON’T FORGET

C4 WOMEN

Women’s Gathering
TODAY – July 26
at 3 pm.

Theme:
Getting Ready
for a Road Trip

Ecclesiological Etchings: 07-25-15

Scripture: Exodus 40:36-38
Whenever the cloud was taken up from the tabernacle, the Israelites would set out on each stage of their journey; but if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out until the day that it was taken up.  For the cloud of the Lord was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night, before the eyes of all the house of Israel at each stage of their journey.

Thought for the Day: Most folks have heard of ‘the grief process’ – the Five Stages of Grief originally proposed by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross.  Kubler-Ross suggested the five stages as:

1. Denial/Isolation
2. Anger
3. Bargaining
4. Depression
5. Acceptance

Though Kubler-Ross never intended for this to be a linear experience where we spend 2 weeks in each stage, completing them and our grief in 2 1/2 months.

Meghan O’Rourke, a young author and poet, wrote about her own experience:

I wasn’t prepared for the fact that grief is so unpredictable. It wasn’t just sadness, and it wasn’t linear. Somehow I’d thought that the first days would be the worst and then it would get steadily better – like getting over the flu. That’s not how it was.

People skip stages; others begin on stage 3 and jump to 1 and then hang out in 2 for a long time; some zip through the stages, claiming acceptance when they are in fact stuck on stage 1.

The Lord God desires to journey with us. In fact, God is journeying with us… but are we willing to listen to the Holy Guides whisper?  Are we willing to be with God in the stage that God believes we need in this moment?

Prayer: Journey with me, O Holy Guide, for I desire to know your promise of wholeness. Allow me to see the importance of every step – knowing when to rest and when to move forward. Amen.

SUNDAY’S SERMON

Mourning Mucks


AND DON’T FORGET

C4 WOMEN
Women’s Gathering
This Sunday – July 26
at 3 pm.

Theme:
Getting Ready
for a Road Trip

Ecclesiological Etchings: 07-24-15

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Scripture: Psalm 31:9
Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eye wastes away from grief, my soul and body also.

Thought for the Day: One of my favorite authors – one I’ve referenced in previous devotionals – is Henri Nouwen.  He wrote,

The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing… not healing, not curing… that is a friend who cares.

There are many who often feel as if God has abandon them in a time of sorrow, for they do not hear God speaking to them. For those who have a growing relationship with God, it is less about hearing God speak and more of being in God’s presence. There will be questions left unanswered and pain that does not fully dissipate, but living in spiritual proximity to God, our friend, allows us to touch a peace that surpasses all understanding and a comfort that reminds us that we are never alone.

Prayer: Continue to be my friend, Merciful and Gracious Lord, for though it feels as if I am wasting away, I trust that your spiritual proximity will remain with me always. Amen.

SUNDAY’S SERMON

Mourning the Mucks
A Journey into the Labyrinth
labyrinth-two

Ecclesiological Etchings: 07-23-15

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Scripture: Isaiah 51:14
The oppressed shall speedily be released; they shall not die and go down to the Pit, nor shall they lack bread.

Thought for the Day: During our time at General Assembly, I have participated in workshops and study groups around human trafficking. This has been a passion now for almost 10 years, and though I have done quite a bit of background work, I remain naively shocked by much of what I learn. Every 30 seconds, a child is trafficked somewhere in the world. That is 120 children every hour, 2880 every day, and 1,051,200 every year. The average age of a child trafficked around the globe is 11. Those kinds of numbers should cause outrage, and I believe they do, but so often people think of it as terms as a problem somewhere else, overseas. It is…but it is also a problem in our own backyard. The most active weekend for prostitution in the world, specifically child prostitution, is Super Bowl Weekend…in the host city. We are just 18 months from hosting in Houston (February 5, 2017).   This will be a moment when our city is on the world stage, and though I hope we make a good impression on all those who come to enjoy a game, I also pray that we make a horrible impression on anyone who seeks to prostitute another human being. The Prophet Isaiah spoke of a release that is speedy. For anyone caught in the oppression and suffering of trafficking, may they come to know true liberation in the name of God

Prayer: Make me aware, O God who created and loves every human being. Make me aware of what is happening, even when I’d rather pretended that children are not sold as prostitutes in my own community. Make me aware and call me to be your agent of liberation. Amen.

PLAN TO BE IN WORSHIP
THIS SUNDAY

at
8:15, 9:30 or 11:00am

Ecclesiological Etchings: 07-22-15

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Scripture: Matthew 11:25-26
At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.

Thought for the Day: When I posted my devotional to Facebook yesterday, I wrote:

Wednesday, July 21, 2015

If you were paying attention, you noticed that the day of the week did not match the date on the calendar. This might be nothing more than an excuse, but fully immersed in General Assembly has me focusing on the room number for the next workshop or after session. I’m sure you have been in wonderful events – whether a few hours or a few days – in which time seems to slip away. This has been my experience these last few days.

The New Testament refers to this as kairos time – as compared to chronological times – which might be described as moments draped and infused with the Holy. As Jesus entered into prayer (in the above passage), we read “At that time…” This is not a date or even a specific time on the clock, but kairos time. Our interaction with God should be less about time that can be measured chronologically, but about entering into the fullness of time, God-time, that might also be called living in the reign of God.

Pray: Let me lose myself in you, O Living and Holy God, without being too concerned about the hands on the clock. Amen.

Picture From One
of the General Assembly
Worship Services

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