Ecclesiological Etchings: 12-31-12

Scripture: Luke 2:41-42
Now every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover.  And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival.

Thought for the Day: “I can’t believe another year has come and gone!”  How many times have you said that?  As I get older, I say it more and more.  I wonder if the parent’s of Jesus said it as they were preparing to participate in the Passover festival.  I wonder if Mary and Joseph ever said, “Let’s just skip this year.”  Maybe…but I doubt it.  Though these events come around each year, they are important.  The ritual experience teaches us and shapes us in those things we value.  Today is New Years Eve, and though it comes around every year, that’s no reason to ignore it.  In fact, naming it and celebrating it teaches us to let go of the past and prepare for the future.  It quietly forms us in those things that are of value.

Prayer: Holy and Magnificent God, I give you thanks for your amazing gifts of love and mercy.  As special holidays and anniversaries occur this year coming year, may they give reason to celebrate and reconnect with your wonderful works of grace.  Amen.

Ecclesiological Etchings: 12-30-12

Scripture: Romans 15:13
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Thought for the Day: On this date in history, many famous people died, including: Pope Innocent IX (1519); the chemist and theologian, Robert Boyle (1691); politician and signer of the Constitution, Francis Lewis (1803); mathematician and philosopher, Alfred North Whitehead; the beloved panda, Ling-Ling (1992).   Like any other date on the calendar, there are numerous events that are the source of sadness.  But on that very same date, there are always signs of life, rebirth and hope.  Today is also my 17th wedding anniversary, and this date will forever carry with it happiness and joy.  Life is not an either – or experience, but a both – and.  The question amidst that complexity is always: What will we allow to define us?  Today could be defined by the death of some great thinker (or a beloved panda), or it could be defined by experiences of joy and happiness.  We never want to ignore or dismiss loss and death, but our faith helps us to see light in the darkness, joy amidst the sorrow, and celebration alongside grief.  It is our ability to see an alternative that allows us to be defined, not by loss, but by hope.

Prayer: Grant me your presence, O Lord, so I may continually glimpse your hints of hope even in the darkest days.  Amen.

Join us at Cypress Creek Christian Church
For the First Sunday of Christmastide
Worship at 8:15am, 9:30am & 11:00am

Ecclesiological Etchings: 12-29-12

Scripture: Psalm 94:22 (the Message)
But God became my hideout, God was my high mountain retreat…

Thought for the Day: Yesterday was spent replacing items around the house that were fried by a lightning strike on Christmas morning.  It makes me realize how dependent my family (with an emphasis on myself) is on electronics.  Without internet or phones, there was a strange feeling of being cut off from the world.  This was a rather unhealthy mindset for someone who still had access to a car, a radio, limited cable on one of the TV’s, and internet just down the road at Panera (where I’ve gone the last few days to post my devotionals).  Addiction is a strong word, but there is an unhealthy dependence that I see within myself (and the culture).  What would it mean for us to set aside our cell phones, cable TV or computers for 48 hours and seek refuge in something that doesn’t require a power source, but is a power source?  Maybe we can’t give it 48 hours, but a few hours might be a good start.

Prayer: Merciful God, invite me to pause, step away, pray and find you.  This pause isn’t the destination of my faith, but it is an essential component if I’m going to journey toward that destination of service unto you.  Amen.

Ecclesiological Etchings: 12-28-12

Scripture: Luke 2:22-24
When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”

Thought for the Day: I was reading some prayers by Phyllis Cole and Everett Tilson when I came across these words: “O Christ, pass through the doors of heaven and into our presence.  You were not created by the Most High to recline upon the clouds in the company of angels.  You were fashioned to make your home among the creatures of God.”  The birth story in Luke 2 is full of miraculous happenings, angelic choirs and celebrative responders.  Your imagination can be so enthralled that you might forget the story is about a family with a new baby.  There is this sudden shift in the story as this family makes its way to Jerusalem to share in the traditional ritual that every Jewish family would have done.  It yanks our heads out of the clouds and back to earth.  It is a good reminder of how God’s love acts in the mundane happenings of life.  I find this good news since most of my life has a sort of mundane feel to it…that is, until God’s love meets my mundane and makes it miraculous.

Prayer: O Lord of the heavens, thank you for finding your way into the common occurrences of life where the rest of us live.  Amen.

Join us Sunday…
First Sunday of Christmastide
Worship at 8:15am, 9:30am & 11:00am

“Postcards From The Journey”
Matthew 2:13-15

Ecclesiological Etchings: 12-27-12

Scripture: Romans 3:21-23
But now, apart from the law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.  For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…

Thought for the Day: During the afternoon of December 24, I took around 40 phone calls  at the church from people asking the times of our Christmas Eve services.  Most of the conversations were very cordial, and people were almost all generous with their Christmas well wishes.  I enjoyed talking with everyone, but one conversation got weird.  That is not a polite thing to say, though in this case, the phone call felt more like an interrogation than a general conversation of curiosity.  The woman wanted to know if we were going to “proclaim the Lordship of Jesus,” and when my answer was not sufficient, I was asked if I would be “announcing Jesus as God’s only son and the sacrificial lamb for human sin.”  Besides that she was mixing diverse theology and different portions of the liturgical calendar, I would suggest that she was attempting to make belief into a formula that she could tightly control.  Though our conversation did not give us time, I would have enjoyed discussing how our modern understanding of ‘belief’ is not what Paul or the Gospel writers would have meant.  Belief had less to do with intellectual understanding or credal formulas.  Instead, it was about relationships of love.  Had she asked me, “Will you be guiding us into a deeper relationship of love with God and with the ways of Jesus?” I would have answered, “To the best of my ability.”  But if all you are looking for is a recipe or technical blueprint, my preaching and teaching will always leave you disappointed.  For those less interested in restricting Jesus to some prescription, and instead, would like to more fully love him and follow the ways he demonstrated, then I think we have a place to meet and share.

Prayer: God, give me a passion for exploration, so I can build my relationship with you instead of looking for ways of controlling you.  Amen.

Ecclesiological Etchings: 12-26-12

Scripture: Galatians 2:10
They asked only one thing, that we remember the poor, which was actually what I was eager to do.

Thought for the Day: It is the Feast Day of St. Stephen who is considered the first deacon of the church and the first martyr.  As a deacon, he served those who were poor, including the widow and the orphan.  In many cultures, today is Boxing Day–the day people remember Stephen’s great acts of compassion.  The tradition of Boxing Day is that each family boxes up some of their Christmas presents, food and other items to give to the poor.  Within the United States, it is the biggest day to exchange the gifts we didn’t like or those that didn’t fit.  As we go through this day, let us be mindful of those who didn’t have a gift to exchange.  For those most vulnerable, let us allow the overflow of Christmas to spill into their lives.

Prayer: O God of abundant love, create within this day the opportunity to serve as Stephen did.  Amen.

 

Ecclesiological Etchings: 12-25-12

Scripture: Luke 2:14
“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”

Thought for the Day: I wish to remind you of what happened in the middle of war, 1914.  It was trench warfare during WWI, and on Christmas Eve of that year an unexpected happening occurred. As the German troops faced the French and British troops, they heard the voice of a young German soldier singing “Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht” (what we know as Silent Night).  Other Germans joined him.  Once the Germans were done with their song, the British and French responded with their own Christmas Carols.

Eventually, the men from both sides left their trenches and met in the middle. They shook hands, exchanged gifts, and shared pictures of their families. In the dark of night, a soccer game began in what had been “no-man’s-land.” A joint service was held to bury the dead in which both sides prayed for all who had fallen.  The generals, of course, were not pleased with these events. Men who have come to know each other’s names and seen each other’s families are much less likely to want to kill each other. War seems to require a nameless, faceless enemy.  In the days that followed, the soldiers from both sides fired aimlessly toward the sky so as not to hit their new made friends.  Though it didn’t last for long, it is a great reminder how knowing our enemy changes the circumstance, and if our enemy knows us–really knows us–it will make it difficult for him/her to hurt us.

Prayer: As you know us, O Lord of the Nativity, teach us to know others, so that in time, we may call them sisters and brothers.  Amen.

MERRY CHRISTMAS