05-17-22

ECCLESIOLOGICAL ETCHINGS
May 17, 2022

From his well known book, “The Prophet,” Khalil Gibran wrote: “You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.” Those words have been playing in my mind for a month or so. Somewhere in my reflecting and grappling, I was reminded of Jesus saying to his disciples, “…none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions” (Matthew 14:33). Most folks point to the story of Jesus and the rich ruler, where Jesus said something similar. Again and again, people say, “Thank goodness Jesus only asked the rich young ruler to give away all his possessions.” But that’s not the case. As I continued to grapple with these ideas, I brought together Jesus’s suggestion that we must give away everything we own and the words from Gibran. Knowing Jesus would soon be inviting his disciples to give away a whole lot more than their possessions, was the invitation centered around material objects a sort of no-brainer as compared to the giving away of oneself? As I’ve said often, I’m far from ready to loosen my grip on much of my stuff, but it makes me wonder if I’m really ready to give away my life for the Gospel of God’s radically redemptive love.

Gracious God, prepare me in whatever way you see fit for the work of self-giving and self-sacrificing love. At this moment, I’m only sort of there, but I pray for the encouragement of your Spirit and the example of more faithful servants of Christ’s way. Amen.



05-16-22

ECCLESIOLOGICAL ETCHINGS
May 16, 2022

Prayer for the Week
: How often have we entered into prayer with a broken heart and a spirit feeling incapacitated? Too often, Merciful God; too often… Yet here we are, reading the names of those gunned down in another mass shooting, and though ten deaths seem especially sorrowful, there is never a day without gun violence; without racial and ethnic hatred; without the weak and marginalized living in fear. We have claimed so often how one specific act is a bridge too far, yet we have said it so often it no longer feels as if there will ever be a bridge too far. In our hopelessness and intense grief, point us to your Eternal Spirit as a confirmation that no one is left alone in this moment. This is our prayer for this day of lament. Amen.



05-15-22

ECCLESIOLOGICAL ETCHINGS
May 15, 2022

What does it mean to evangelize? It comes from the Greek word we translate as Gospel: euaggelion. It means a good message or good news. I took 20 minutes or so and watched a couple of YouTube preachers offer a message on the Good News of Jesus Christ, and within a short time, I felt worthless, emotionally trashed and beyond rescue… with only a glimmer of guilt induced hope (which I don’t believe is really hope). I kept on thinking to myself, “When are we going to get to the good part of the news?” What they called good news was news, but not good news or even relatively satisfactory news. It’s concerning to me how the Gospel of Jesus is packaged in such a way as to carry the title of good news and slathered profusely with the name of Jesus, but the intent is really to beat people down to a point of insecurity and emptiness. It feels like a poorly designed fraternity pledge season, with each Sunday being a reoccurring hell week. There are too many moments in the history of Christianity when evangelizing was a mixture of threats and manipulative power, laced with guilt. And if none of that worked, Christians slaughtered the unrepentant sinners. Where did we lose sight of the word ‘good’? Where did we decide to set aside the good and kind Jesus we encounter in scripture (in the Gospels, the Good Messages) for something entirely different? The Good News should be something like: You are an amazing and unique gift, and in knowing your beloved status, let us join together to make sure all the world knows this news… this good news.

God of Extravagant Love, wherever we might be a little off the purpose or a whole lot, guide us back and into the good work that will bring good news to the lives of others. Amen.



05-14-22

ECCLESIOLOGICAL ETCHINGS
May 14, 2022

In his book, “If God Is Love , Don’t Be A Jerk,” John Pavloviitz has a chapter entitled: “The Church of Not Being Horrible.” When I first read the chapter title, I laughed out loud. It sounds as if he is setting the bar pretty low, but maybe it’s a good first step. John writes:

I’ve always joked that I am going to start a new church: The Church of Not Being Horrible. Our mission statement would simply be Don’t be horrible to people. Our what we believe doctrinal statements would be replaced by how we treat people promise: Don’t treat them as less worthy of love, respect, dignity, joy, and opportunity than you are. Don’t create caricatures of them based on their skin color, their religion, their sexual orientation, the amount of money they have, or the circumstances they find themselves in. Don’t seek to take away things from them that you already enjoy in abundance: civil rights, clean water, education, marriage, access to health care. Don’t tell someone’s story for them about why they are poor, depressed, addicted, victimized, or alone. Let them tell their story and believe they know it better than you do. Don’t imagine that your experience of the world is everyone’s experience of the world; that the ease, comfort, support, affection you have received are universal. Don’t be preoccupied with how someone experiences God, how they define family, whom they love. Cultivate your own faith, family, and marriage. The central question at any given moment in the church of Not Being Horrible is, Am I being horrible right now?

I am not suggesting we change our Vision and Mission Statements here at Cypress Creek Christian Church, and it does feel as if John is setting the bar a bit low. But as you are striving to Put Love First In All Things, a good question to ask about your interactions with folks: Am I being a horrible person? If the answer comes anywhere near a YES, then it might be an opportunity to revisit what Putting Love First really means.

Merciful and Gracious God, as I strive to hit a mark above not being horrible to people, I pray for assistance in my discernment. It is way too easy to fall into the trap of imposing my assumptions on other people. I too often postulate incorrectly about other people’s lives, viewing them strictly through the lens of my own experience. Teach me to ask good questions and listen intently as others tell their stories. This is my request in the name of the one who asked often, “What do you want me to do?” Amen.



05-13-22

ECCLESIOLOGICAL ETCHINGS
May 13, 2022

This Sunday I plan to continue my look at Luke and Acts, companion volumes telling the story of Jesus and the story of the early church. Here at Cypress Creek Christian Church, we speak so often of God’s unconditional love, a love that is self-giving by nature and relentless in its character. In John’s Gospel, Jesus speaks of this love when he says, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus appears to spend less time explaining what love is and more time telling parables and stories of how this love is lived. In the parable of the lost sheep, the shepherd is willing to leave behind the safety of the group and seek out the one that is lost at any cost. In John’s Gospel, I know exactly what I am commanded to do, but with Luke’s stories and parables, I have memorable examples of how this expectation of love is lived. Sometimes we need the what, and other times we need the how. To be honest, I find there are plenty of folks who claim to know exactly what Jesus wants them to do, but so far they have demonstrated a complete lack of the how.

Continue to inspire me with your love, O Lord, as there are many opportunities around me where this love is needed. Let me have a clear understanding of what this love is all about, but then provide me with the capacity to know how the concept can be shared in my daily life. Amen.



05-12-22

ECCLESIOLOGICAL ETCHINGS
May 12, 2022

Paul started his correspondence with the church in Rome with the words: “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God…” To be set apart for something can have folks going in one of two directions. It can create arrogance or humility. I don’t think we’d be going out on a limb to suggest that Jesus would be looking for those who are humbled by this calling of set apartness. Throughout Christianity, there have been those who have understood being set apart as separating themselves completely from the world, to go into the desert and reject worldly things. This was not what Paul was seeking from his readers. He was set apart, yet this set apartness drove him deeper into the heart of the world, without taking on the attributes that would undermine the ideals of Jesus. Humility always helps keep one connected to the source and purpose of the calling, and thus the one called is able to truly be an agent of God’s limitless love for the world.

Set me apart, O God, through your gift of love for the sake of all those who yearn to know they are loved. Amen.



05-11-22

ECCLESIOLOGICAL ETCHINGS
May 11, 2022

Today is the birthday of Glacier National Park in Montana, but let’s be clear, when I say, “birthday,” I’m really referencing the anniversary of the United States government establishing it as a National Park. I feel pretty confident that it was spectacular long before we acknowledged its beauty and splendor with a title. Places like Glacier National Park allow us to touch the grandeur and beauty of creation, and in doing so, we are drawn closer to the Source of all that is breath-taking and inspiring.

On this anniversary, I am reminded of the Message’s version of Psalm 65, beginning with verse 6…

Mountain-Maker, Hill-Dresser, Muzzler of sea storm and wave crash, of mobs in noisy riot – Far and wide they’ll come to a stop, they’ll stare in awe, in wonder. Dawn and dusk take turns calling, “Come and worship.” Oh, visit the earth, ask her to join the dance! Deck her out in spring showers, fill the God-River with living water. Paint the wheat fields golden. Creation was made for this! Drench the plowed fields, soak the dirt clods With rainfall as harrow and rake bring her to blossom and fruit. Snow-crown the peaks with splendor, scatter rose petals down your paths, all through the wild meadows, rose petals. Set the hills to dancing, dress the canyon walls with live sheep, a drape of flax across the valleys. Let them shout, and shout, and shout! Oh, oh, let them sing!


O Divine Creator, help me to have a spirit of wonderment and awe throughout the day, whether I’m in a National Forest or simply walking past some colorful flowers in my neighbor’s yard. Amen.



05-10-22

ECCLESIOLOGICAL ETCHINGS
May 10, 2022

There is a real simplicity to the ways of the early church. They took care of physical needs, fellowshipped together, shared a common meal, worshiped and had genuine concern for everyone. In Acts 2:44-47 we find:

All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved
.

It’s interesting how there was no elaborate evangelism program. They did not spend tons of money on marketing. This small and strange religious sect that followed the ways of a crucified criminal simply did as their teacher had done, and against all odds, other people wanted to join their community. I wonder if we complicate things, and in the process, dilute the beautiful and impactful nature of love.

By your grace, O God, may our love be genuine, our generosity extravagant, and our meals inclusive. Amen.



05-09-22

ECCLESIOLOGICAL ETCHINGS
May 9, 2022

Yesterday, Donna and I watched Youth Sunday from my iPad as we were (and still are) traveling to pick up the kid at college. The emotions we felt were diverse and intense – from laughter to tears and everything else in between. The youth spoke honestly (and clearly, which is always a bonus) about their journeys, and though experiences are unique to the individual, the overall message pointed back to the power of a community where love is immeasurable. Mariah, Jennifer and others have worked with these youth on a regular basis, and the sacred influence experienced by our young people is breath-taking. Throughout our denomination and most others, youth ministry is getting cut as church budgets are getting tighter. Cypress Creek Christian Church is one of the very few churches that has an exceptionally skilled ordained minister leading Youth and Children. In yesterday’s service, we were reminded why it must remain a priority. I give thanks for all of our youth and children, and the way the Jesus message is shaping them in love and for the sake of love. Let us all recommit ourselves to making sure Youth and Children’s Ministry here at CCCC have the necessary resources.

Wherever young people speak of your love at work in their lives, O Lord, we are immensely grateful. Some might speak of them as the church of tomorrow, but what they are offering us is very much what the church needs today. Amen.



05-08-22

ECCLESIOLOGICAL ETCHINGS
May 8, 2022

I was reading an article about a glacier in Antarctica that is the size of Florida, and how this glacier is melting at an alarming rate. This is not new information, but one of the ongoing concerns is how the melting of glaciers (mostly fresh water) dilutes the ocean’s salt water, changing the density of the water. This change in salinity (saltiness and density) impacts the currents throughout the ocean. The currents regulate temperature globally, and there is a tipping point at which a big enough change in salinity could shift the ocean currents. I share this, not just because I’m nerdy and deeply concerned about climate change, but I see it as a teaching tool for other areas of life. In many circles of the Christian faith, we are seeing the diluting of its central tenet. In the opinion of far too many people, love has become something that is shaped by what one likes; formed by what one fears; sculpted in the likeness of a figure other than Jesus. Not only has love been diluted, but in losing its density and impactful nature, the current of God’s kin(g)dom work is shifting. And the warmth this love once brought is no longer life-giving. Eventually, the current will turn so dramatically that what we call “love” will look nothing like the love of God revealed in Jesus.

Holy One of Creation, help me to keep focused on the life of Jesus – his acts of compassion, his parables of grace, his expansion of mercy and his concern for the vulnerable. It is within those stories where we find your Spirit at work, and it is there where we can find ourselves being caught in the Kin(g)dom flow. Amen.