Ecclesiological Etchings: 09-30-13

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Scripture: Psalm 144:15
Happy are the people to whom such blessings fall; happy are the people whose God is the Lord.

Thought for the Day: Over the years, I have found some of the most intriguing handwritten messages in the sanctuary.  I found a note written between a mother and daughter arguing about the length of the daughter’s skirt; on the back of an offering envelope I found an argument over who was going to win an upcoming basketball game; on a bulletin stuffed in the back of a hymnal were what appeared to be the wandering thoughts of someone who was in love; on the back of an attendance card were the words, “The preacher is boring” and the response, “Yep!”  I am fascinated by the conversations that occur on Sunday morning, and last week I found a new one to add to my collection.  It read, “Are you happy?  I am!”  And in capital letters with at least a half dozen exclamation marks was an affirmative reply.  There was no context for the note, but as  I stood in the sanctuary and read it for a second time, my mind went a hundred different directions attempting to create the scenario that gave rise to the conversation into which I was unexpectedly drawn.  Though some of my ideas were pretty creative, I finally paused and smiled as I thought to myself, “I’m glad two people are happy.”

Prayer: At the end of the day, I am happy that you are my God and that you had made me a a member of your family.  Amen.

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Ecclesiological Etchings: 09-29-13

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Scripture: Genesis 28:15-16
“…Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!”

Thought for the Day: Jacob had a dream in which he encountered the presence of God.  Among the Good News God shared with Jacob was for him to learn of God’s constant presence, no matter his circumstance.  This is the same promise we have heard in Christ, yet I believe our awareness of that amazing and life-giving presence is often limited by countless obstacles.  We echo the words of Jacob, “Surely the Lord is in this place–and I did not know it!”  In your time of prayer today, seek the assistance of God in removing an obstacle that currently exists between you and God.  Don’t try to take them all on at once.  God is patient and will work with you step by step.  At the same time, don’t take the gracious gift of patience as an invitation to do nothing.

Prayer: Give me a hand, O Lord, so that at least one of the many things that interferes with my spiritual vision might be removed.  I seek your assistance as one who desires to see you more clearly.  Amen.

Don’t forget your
53rd Envelope

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Ecclesiological Etchings: 09-28-13

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Scripture: Genesis 15:5-6
The Lord brought Abram outside and said, “Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your descendants be.”  And he believed the Lord; and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness.

Thought for the Day: Faith is this marvelous thing until you actually find yourself needing to lean on it.  Because there is no physical manifestation to this thing we call faith, we have a tendency to seek and trust those things that appear to be more substantive.  We look to that which is guaranteed – to that which is a sure deal.  We’ve all done it because trusting in God is to go against our common sense.  It is to trust in what cannot be seen.  God promises Abram (he will later be known as Abraham) descendants that will be too numerous to count, yet Abram will never see that come to fruition in his life time.  Faith is to let go of what appears to be the sure thing in the near future so that we might participate in what God is doing across the generations.

Prayer: Lord, give me the strength needed to truly trust in your ways.  Amen.

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Don’t forget your 53rd envelope…

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Ecclesiological Etchings: 09-27-13

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Scripture: Acts 10:44
While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word.

Thought for the Day: In his book, Power Surge: Six Marks of Discipleship for a Changing Church, Michael Foss writes, “The power of God is not released downward through the church hierarchy.  Rather, the power of God is released upward through the people of God when pastors mentor them in disciplines and practice of spiritual life.”  Last night at the Leadership Class, the participants reflected on whether or not this was happening at Cypress Creek Christian Church.  Though we are far from perfect, it was felt that the church does a pretty decent job of allowing God’s spirit to work through people without the authoritative powers of the institution telling them how the spirit will or will not manifest itself.  The church is a community with a structure, but the structure is only there to help facilitate the work of the people as the spirit encourages and guides.  Let us never assume that God’s spirit is limited to a top-down approach.

Prayer: As your spirit comes upon us, O Mighty God, may it empower each of us to be the people through which you will work.  Amen.

Have you been pondering?

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Ecclesiological Etchings: 09-26-13

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Scripture: 1st Corinthians 4:1-2
Think of us in this way, as servants of Christ and stewards of God’s mysteries. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy.

Thought for the Day: What exactly does it mean to be a steward of a mystery?  Is this like being Jessica Fletcher’s caregiver (there might be some who don’t get that joke and others who simply find it incredibly stupid)?  For Paul, the mysteries of God were those things that had been unseen until Christ’s coming, yet even then, the meaning of Christ remained something attainable only through symbol, metaphor and ritual.  It is the Eastern Orthodox Churches that seem to have a better understanding of mystery as compared to those of us in Western Protestantism.  I gained some insight when a pastor from the Russian Orthodox church explained how he perceived Jesus present at the communion table.  He said that it was a mystery, and though it wasn’t something any of us could ever articulate intellectually, we could come to a full spiritual knowledge of it as the bread and cup are shared (that’s my paraphrase).  It is a mystery that needs less explaining and more experiencing.  To be a steward of such a mystery is to be the means by which others are invited into the experience.

Prayer: I may not always find the exact words to explain my experiences of you, Lord, but I will seek to live a life that invites others into that experience.  Amen.

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Ecclesiological Etchings: 09-25-13

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Scripture: Matthew 5:8
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

Thought for the Day: A little girl and her father were in New York, and they decided to visit the Empire State Building.  After waiting in line for quite some time, it came their turn to enter the elevator and begin the journey up.  As they did so, the little girl’s ears began to pop and her stomach started to feel a little uneasy.  She pulled on her father’s hand, and when he looked down at her, she said, “Does God know we’re coming?”  Ancient people’s world view had them looking to the heavens for God, and traditionally we have followed their lead.  There is nothing wrong with being inspired by the majesty of the heavens, but let us not forget to seek God as we glance around the world at eye level.  Those with an open and blameless heart will see God just about everywhere.

Prayer: O God, if you have taught me anything through the life of Jesus, it is that you are very present in earthly happenings.  Amen.

Have you been thinking about
where God is inviting you to stretch?

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Ecclesiological Etchings: 09-24-13

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Scripture: Genesis 10:32
These are the families of Noah’s sons, according to their genealogies, in their nations; and from these the nations spread abroad on the earth after the flood.

Thought for the Day: I remember the first time my uncle brought over the family genealogy.  He started explaining the family tree, and all I could think about was taking a nap in the shade of the family tree.  It was boring, similar to what I feel when I read the first 31 verses of Genesis 10.  All of a sudden things changed when my uncle  moved from simple names and dates to a story – a story that had a little edge to it – a story that made the family tree come to life.  For the Israelites, these names and places probably made the youngest kids yawn.  Then grandpa would say, “But you know, great-great uncle…” and a story would bring life to their glazed-over eyes.  May our telling of the faith story do the same for the next generation.

Prayer: Grant me, O God, the joy and excitement of a faith story the stretches back to people whose names I can’t even pronounce.  Amen.

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