Ecclesiological Etchings: 07-31-13

Scripture: Galatians 5:22-23Galatians-Image
By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.

Thought for the Day: I remember watching my grandparents spend hours everyday working in their large garden, yet most of the time I spent there was in the latter part of summer which meant we were harvesting and canning.  I missed all the hours of work spent in preparing the soil, planting the seeds, and tending to the young plants.  That’s where the real work is done, and the same is true with the fruit of the spirit.  Though many of us are blessed by these gifts being expressed through other people’s lives, we must understand the hours of work spent in preparing the soil of the soul, planting the seeds of grace through study and prayer, and tending to the youthful faith.  Too many people want to enjoy the harvest without the hard work.

Prayer: Let us work together, O God, in creating a garden pleasing to you.  Amen.

 

And Don’t Forget

MOVIE NIGHT

Friday at 6:30pm
in the Gym

Everyone is Invited

 

Ecclesiological Etchings: 07-30-13

Scripture: Galatians 5:15-21Galatians-Image
If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.  Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh.   For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want.  But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law.  Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Thought for the Day: Now let’s be clear, Paul is not suggesting some radical dichotomy where everything in the physical world is bad and everything in the spiritual world is good.  That would undermine the beautiful creation narrative in which God created physical matter and declared it intrinsically good.  Again, Paul is using metaphor to point to the underlying power of a self-serving attitude that leads to sin and destructive behavior.  The way of the spirit (the way of God) is self-giving, where the choices one makes are choices that are constantly shaped by the question, “What does the other person need?”  The freedom Paul spoke about in the previous verses could lead an individual to make all kinds of self-serving choices.  God has given us that freedom, but in Christ (and through the spirit), we discover an entirely different way of thinking and living.  My short-term wants should never outweigh the ongoing and genuine needs of another.  The problem is that “flesh” (our own selfish thinking) can easily convince us that our short-term wants are really more important than anything else.

Prayer: Father God, continue to guide me in the ways of the spirit so my life-choices disclose the selflessness of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

DON’T FORGET

Friday Night

Movie Night

“Dreamer”
6:30pm in the Gym

Ecclesiological Etchings: 07-29-13

Scripture: Galatians 5:13-14Galatians-Image
For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another.  For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Thought for the Day: How many first year college students living away from home for the first time find themselves enjoying that freedom a bit too much?  If my memory serves me correctly, I probably did a few things I should not have done.  The first taste of freedom can be intoxicating (for some, it is a literal experience of intoxication), and they taste the full spectrum of possibilities.  Paul recognizes the potential problems associated with saying to people, “In Christ, you have been set free.”  The next thing that happens is that people are doing everything that is not of Christ.  Paul offers the freedom found in Christ to his readers, but also suggests that this freedom has an equally important responsibility.  He sums it up with the well known words, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  Thus, the freedom Christ offers is the freedom to live your life as Christ lived, in the fullness of God’s love.

Prayer: You have freed me, Loving Lord, and you continue to work with me so I can better know this gift and live a life worthy of the gift.  Please be patient as I live and learn.  Amen.

 

 

Ecclesiological Etchings: 07-28-13

Scripture: Galatians 5:7-12Galatians-Image
You were running well; who prevented you from obeying the truth?  Such persuasion does not come from the one who calls you.  A little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough.  I am confident about you in the Lord that you will not think otherwise. But whoever it is that is confusing you will pay the penalty.  But my friends, why am I still being persecuted if I am still preaching circumcision? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed.  I wish those who unsettle you would castrate themselves!

Thought for the Day: Let’s be honest, that last verse is probably stepping over the line.  Paul’s words are not very Christian, but there might be more in those words than first meets the eye.  In some of the pagan cults of the time which the Galatians would have known, those who were truly devoted to the goddess castrated themselves as a sign of complete devotion.  It could be that Paul is expressing sarcasm.  If you are going to circumcise yourself and move away from the grace of God, why not take the next step and be even more dramatic.  At the end of the day, this is not the best example of Christianity in action, but it is a window through which we see Paul’s frustration on this matter.  It also might show that Paul had a sense of humor, though a bit crude.

Prayer: Lord, even when I am completely frustrated, help me to find the best words possible so that understanding and healing can occur.  Amen.

JOIN US FOR WORSHIP
TODAY

A Covenant Connected Kind of Community
Ephesians 4:22-25

 

AND PARENTS
Don’t forget about tonight

Parenting Event-July

 

Ecclesiological Etchings: 07-27-13

Scripture: Galatians 5:6Galatians-Image
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working through love.

Thought for the Day: I came across an article as I was working on a sermon for next month.  I liked the title, so I started reading.  It wasn’t what I thought it was going to be.  In fact, the title was the antithesis of the article.  I was expecting to read an article on the grace and unmerited love of God.  Instead, I was reading an article that used the words but continually placed constraints on God’s love and mercy.  It’s like a spouse turning to his/her partner and saying, “I will love you, but I need you to first do…” (with an extensive list).  Divine love doesn’t have a list of stipulations and prerequisites.  It is one thing to say I love you unconditionally, and here are a few things on which I hope we can work.  It is something entirely different for God to be depicted as One whose love is dependent on things we do.

Prayer: May I never undermine your love, O God, because of my insecurities.  Amen.

Inviting Parents This Sunday… 

Parenting Event-July

Ecclesiological Etchings: 07-26-13

Sorry, but I accidentally did the same devotional two days in a row.  Here is the one intended for yesterday, plus today’s.

 

July 25, 2013
Scripture: Galatians 4:27-28Galatians-Image
For it is written, “Rejoice, you childless one, you who bear no children, burst into song and shout, you who endure no birth pangs; for the children of the desolate woman are more numerous than the children of the one who is married.” Now you, my friends, are children of the promise, like Isaac.

Thought for the Day: It is said that a person is known by the promises s/he keeps, not by the promises made.  We know God by the promises kept, and so it is easier to trust in new promises made.  As those who continue to live in the tension between the old and new world, we find ourselves having to trust in promises not yet fully fulfilled.  Like any relationship, it is easier to trust one who has fulfilled promises in the past.

Prayer: Lord, may I remember promises fulfilled as I live in the tension of new promises not yet fully realized.  Amen.

 

July 26, 2013
Scripture: Galatians 5:1-5
For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.  Listen! I, Paul, am telling you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you.  Once again I testify to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obliged to obey the entire law.  You who want to be justified by the law have cut yourselves off from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.  For through the Spirit, by faith, we eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.

Thought for the Day: The way Paul speaks of how “Christ will be of no benefit” to those who attempt to live by the law is harsh.  Maybe it was a tactic by which Paul was hoping his sharp tone was shock his readers into an understanding of grace.  Whatever Paul’s intention, I can’t believe he was suggesting utter hopelessness for those who try to work their way into heaven.  What I do believe is that our attitudes can act like an umbrella that shields us from the grace God is always pouring over us.  Grace remains grace – love that is freely given.  But until a person accepts grace, its gifts of joy, freedom and empowerment will remain elusive.

Prayer: I may speak of your amazing grace, Lord God, but I know it more fully this day.  Assist me as I shed all things that keep me from knowing this marvelous gift offered so freely.  Amen.

 

Ecclesiological Etchings: 07-25-13

Scripture: Galatians 4:25-26Galatians-Image
Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children.  But the other woman corresponds to the Jerusalem above; she is free, and she is our mother.

Thought for the Day: As we talked about in an earlier devotional, Paul speaks of how this is all an allegory, a story that points beyond itself.  For Paul, there are two Jerusalems.  The first is the earthly city where the Jerusalem Christians currently exist.  This is the community with whom Paul often finds himself in conflict.  There is another Jerusalem, often referred to as the City on the Hill.  This is the ideal community that Christians are to use as their model for living.  This is the place where people live in the grace and freedom of God, and demonstrate love and mercy toward others.  If we have any desire of changing the old Jerusalem, we must continually strive to embody the vision of new Jerusalem as we walk the streets of the old.

Prayer: Holy God, may I continue to be inspired by your visions of what could be.  Amen.

SUNDAY’S SERMON
Ephesians 4:22-25

A Covenant Connected
Kind of Community

 

Parenting Event-July

Ecclesiological Etchings: 07-24-13

Scripture: Galatians 4:25-26Galatians-Image
Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children.  But the other woman corresponds to the Jerusalem above; she is free, and she is our mother.

Thought for the Day: As we talked about in an earlier devotional, Paul speaks of how this is all an allegory, a story that points beyond itself.  For Paul, there are two Jerusalems.  The first is the earthly city where the Jerusalem Christians currently exist.  This is the community with whom Paul often finds himself in conflict.  There is another Jerusalem, often referred to as the City on the Hill.  This is the ideal community that Christians are to use as their model for living.  This is the place where people live in the grace and freedom of God, and demonstrate love and mercy toward others.  If we have any desire of changing the old Jerusalem, we must continually strive to embody the vision of new Jerusalem as we walk the streets of the old.

Prayer: Holy God, may I continue to be inspired by your visions of what could be.  Amen.

PARENTS
Don’t forget…

Parenting Event-July

Ecclesiological Etchings: 07-23-13

Scripture: Galatians 4:21-24Galatians-Image
Tell me, you who desire to be subject to the law, will you not listen to the law?  For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and the other by a free woman. One, the child of the slave, was born according to the flesh; the other, the child of the free woman, was born through the promise.  Now this is an allegory: these women are two covenants. One woman, in fact, is Hagar, from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery.

Thought for the Day: It is greatly appreciated that Paul clarified for us that he was creating an allegory in this section.  Allegories and metaphors and other figures of speech can be powerful tools of communication, but they also have their limits.  I’ve witnessed people ride an allegory into the ridiculous, and then attempt to create a central theological tenet based upon something that was clearly never intended.  Scriptures can be tricky at times, but it should never keep us from exploring.  We simply need to be cautious and take cues from the passages themselves.  In doing so, we have a better chance of understanding the original context and not venture down some erroneous road.

Prayer: In my study and discernment of scripture, Lord, let me listen closely to what was intended in its original context and how the spirit might be intending it for today’s context.  Amen.

 

Ecclesiological Etchings: 07-22-13

Scripture: Galatians 4:19-20Galatians-Image
My little children, for whom I am again in the pain of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, I wish I were present with you now and could change my tone, for I am perplexed about you.

Thought for the Day: How seriously do you take the faith needs of others?  Paul uses a motherly image to portray both the intimacy and pain he feels.  He desires to see the Galatians born anew into the faith, and he plans to journey with them through the process…not simply as an observer, but with all the sweat and discomfort the process will require.  We cannot live other people’s faith or force them to believe as we want them to believe.  Even if we could, this wouldn’t be helpful as the end product wouldn’t really be faith.  What we can do is journey alongside them and make ourselves emotionally available.  Such vulnerability will create the possibility for our own suffering, but will also make the love of God come alive for the one who is seeking faith.

Prayer: O Source of Life, give me the courage to journey alongside others as they struggle and seek.  Amen.

Join us next Sunday…
Parenting Event-July