Ecclesiological Etchings: 02-28-13

Scripture: Philippians 4:12-16
I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.  In any case, it was kind of you to share my distress.  You Philippians indeed know that in the early days of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you alone.  For even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me help for my needs more than once.

Thought for the Day: Church and money are two topics never intended for casual conversation at a dinner party, but even worse is when someone decides to have a conversation about the impact of money in the life of the church…a double whammy!   If anything, you’re probably going to energize the conversation and then guarantee an end to all future party invitations.  Yet too often people’s understanding of the relationship between money and the church is not entirely accurate.  I appreciate the words of Bruce Barkhauser, our denominational guru on stewardship.  Bruce wrote, “The offering plate is not a ballot box. It is not about the pastor, policies or denomination – it is about God’s abundance and your response.”  When you talk about it in those terms, the dinner party conversation could be cordial, even celebrative.

Prayer: God of abundance, allow me to gain focus and give thanks for your love and mercy that know no boundaries.  My gratitude may not equal your ability to give, but I seek to grow in every expression of thankfulness.  Amen.

 

Ecclesiological Etchings: 02-27-13

Guest Devotional: Pat Kelly, Elder

Scripture: Micah 6:8
He has told you, O mortal, what is good: and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Thought for the day: The Holy Spirit I sense within me resonates wonderfully with this single verse. In life I have encountered many pundits with firmly expressed formulas and convictions on matters often dealing with rewards for righteous behavior or the right path to salvation or avoiding eternal damnation. Many of these do not seem to emphasize enough of Christ’s message of  unconditional love and unbounded grace or what I might call the never ending second chance. There is no room for cynicism in relations with the Almighty but we constantly make mistakes and need to give and receive forgiveness, to regroup and go on, always trying to follow and be part of the fundamental goodness flowing from the Holy Spirit. I believe Micah was on to something.

Prayer: God, help me to follow and live in truth, love, forgiveness and humility, being open and responsive to your Spirit in all walks, fostering peace and defeating fear and weakness.  Amen.

TONIGHT
Wednesday Night Program

Dinner at 5:30pm
Lenten Prayer Service at 6:20pm
Book Study and Discussion at 6:40pm

Ecclesiological Etchings: 02-26-13

Scripture: Isaiah 45:22
Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.

Thought for the Day: The scriptures quite often streamline a potentially long and convoluted answer.  God is the liberating force (saved=liberation/delivered, see Exodus 14:30) who is always calling forth people like Moses who lead others away from slavery and into wholeness.  Those who say YES to God’s invitation are amazing, but it is God who initiates the process.  Let’s keep it simple – God needs people to share a message of deliverance.  There are people who need God’s message of deliverance.  Some days you’ll be the person in need of the message.  Other days, you’ll be the person called upon to share the message.  Where are you today?

Prayer: Lead me to a place of wholeness, God, and then make me a guide for others.  Amen.

WEDNESDAY NIGHT

Dinner at 5:30pm
Prayer Service at 6:20pm
Book Study at 6:40pm

Ecclesiological Etchings: 02-25-13

Scripture: Romans 8:28
We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.

Thought for the Day: In yesterday’s sermon, I referenced James 1:13 where it says very clearly that God does not tempt us.  This makes sense to me.  The God I meet in Jesus does not put evil in front of us to see how we’ll hold up.  As I said in the sermon, God doesn’t lead us into temptation, but delivers us into a deeper understanding of ourselves so we are better equipped to deal with those worldly temptations when they come our way.  With that said, God does challenge us.  God calls us with a purpose, and the tasks associated with that purpose might (and probably will) call us well beyond our comfort zone.  Some might describe it as testing or tempting, but it is nothing more than an invitation to participate in God’s glorious work.  God’s love for us will never be dependent upon whether we say YES, but our YES will help others come to experience and understand that love.

Prayer: God of challenging invitations, give me what is needed to accept and live into that purpose you put before me.  Amen

 

Ecclesiological Etchings: 02-24-13

Scripture: Job 29:14-16
I put on righteousness, and it clothed me; my justice was like a robe and a turban. I was eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame.  I was a father to the needy, and I championed the cause of the stranger.

Thought for the Day: As Job was having a debate with his alleged friends, he offered a very important understanding of righteousness.  Righteousness was to be understood, not as some pious religiosity, but as nothing more than simply acting rightly…that is, right-living in the way God rightly lives.  Too often we have associated righteousness with long-winded prayers and elaborate theological discourse, but Job helps us remember that righteousness has clear and tangible results among the lost, forsaken, hurting and lonely.   Don’t allow the self-righteous to distort the wonderful meaning of the word righteous.

Prayer: Keep me on the path, Righteous Lord, that will lead to right-living.  Amen.

 

Ecclesiological Etchings: 02-23-13

Scripture: Luke 9:18
Once when Jesus was praying alone, with only the disciples near him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?”

Thought for the Day: The Confessing Church was a group of Christians who stood against the Nazi’s during WWII.  In his 1936 lecture, “The Presentation of New Testament Texts,” Dietrich Bonhoeffer (a leader in the Confessing Church movement) proposed an alternative strategy of reading Scripture.  Instead of only questioning the Bible, as the German Christians were doing, Bonhoeffer challenged members of the Confessing Church to let the Bible question them.  When people come to discover who this Jesus really is, they discover that he is not only a historical figure to study, but also a living presence that continues to engage and challenge us.

Prayer: As I discover who you are, O Loving Lord, I more fully discover who I am.  For that, I am thankful!  Amen.

I hope to see you in church tomorrow…

 

Ecclesiological Etchings: 02-22-13

Scripture: Luke 9:12-17
The day was drawing to a close, and the twelve came to Jesus and said, “Send the crowd away, so that they may go into the surrounding villages and countryside, to lodge and get provisions; for we are here in a deserted place.”  But he said to them, “You give them something to eat.” They said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish—unless we are to go and buy food for all these people.”  For there were about five thousand men. And he said to his disciples, “Make them sit down in groups of about fifty each.”  They did so and made them all sit down.  And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd.  And all ate and were filled. What was left over was gathered up, twelve baskets of broken pieces.

Thought for the Day: As I walked down the street a few years back, there was a group of people taking up a collection for “Jerry’s Kids” (to support those with Muscular Dystrophy).  One of the people had a sign which read, “Miracles only happen when willing people take a chance.”  I was planning on giving a little money, but the sign was good food for thought.  In fact, I liked it so much that I gave a little more than I had originally planned.  Theologians and Bible scholars can argue over whether or not Jesus could have fed the 5000 without the initial help of the disciples, but that’s all a guessing game since we only have the story before us.  What we do know is that some reluctant disciples eventually allowed themselves to risk their own food.  In the end, their risk not only provided enough for everyone there, but even leftovers beyond that moment.  We are facing some significant issues as a nation and world, and we wonder how they will be solved.  Yesterday morning on the news someone said, “It will take a miracle!”  That’s probably true, but miracles start when people risk sharing in a spirit of compassion and love.

Prayer: May I find in you, O Lord, reason to let go and risk what it takes to participate in a miracle of grace.  Amen.

 Join us this Sunday…
Worship at 8:15am, 9:30am & 11:00am
Sermon: Temptation Island
Matthew 4:1-4

Ecclesiological Etchings: 02-21-13

Scripture: Psalm 85:10
Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other.

Thought for the Day: Love and faithfulness, righteousness and peace, are concepts discussed in religious and academic settings.  Most often these ideas are tossed around as theories, yet in this Psalm the author wants to make sure his audience recognizes that they were never intended to be abstract.  The words take on human characteristics as they greet one another (in the same way Aaron and Moses met and kissed in Exodus 4).  It is as if the author is saying to the community, If these words can take on the characteristics of humans, then shouldn’t humans be able to take on the characteristics of these words.  It’s okay to spend a little time theorizing on these important concepts, but they were always intended to come alive in the daily lives of human beings.

Prayer: Grant me your gifts, O Lord, and I promise to bring these gifts to life for all the world to see.  Amen.

 

Ecclesiological Etchings: 02-20-13

Scripture: Luke 8:48
Jesus said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”

Thought for the Day: As I sat by her hospital bed just days before her death, I found myself jealous of her faith that seemed unconcerned with the words of the doctors.  She clearly understood that her body was going to die very soon, but her trust in God left me awestruck and hoping I would one day know the same level of God-inspired confidence.  Her faith did not heal her in the traditional medical sense, but her faith brought her into a wholeness with her God.  In a very similar way, the woman Jesus encountered in our scripture would eventually die, but from the day she met Jesus, she was made whole.  From the day she met Jesus, she lived her life with a peace that surpassed all understanding.

Prayer: As I encounter you, O Gracious God, may I come to know your restorative power that brings with it true peace.  Amen.

See you tonight…
Dinner begins at 5:30pm
Lenten Prayer Service at 6:20pm
Book Study and Discussion at 6:40pm

Ecclesiological Etchings: 02-19-13

Scripture: Colossians 4:2 (the Message)
Pray diligently. Stay alert, with your eyes wide open in gratitude.

Thought for the Day: I have come across a number of what I call “genuine prayers for those of us far from perfection”.   They are the kind of prayers that express gratitude for the dishes piled high in the sink, for there was a good meal served with those dishes.  Or a prayer of thankfulness for all the dirty clothes, for at least there are clothes to wear.  It doesn’t mean we are thrilled with dishes still to clean or the load of laundry that won’t be tackled until well after the kids go to bed.  What needs to be taken into account are the many things that keep us from embracing appreciation.  Don’t let this day go by without recognizing at least one really good thing, though you may need to dig through the pile of bills on your desk to find it.  Or maybe, in some strange way, the pile of bills can represent something that stirs a little gratefulness within your heart.

Prayer: I want to see as you see things, Lord, for I know there is much that I am currently missing that is worth at least a simple, “Thank you!”  Amen.

 

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