Ecclesiological Etchings: 11-30-13

Advent 2013

Scripture: Ecclesiastes 2:12-17
So I turned to consider wisdom and madness and folly; for what can the one do who comes after the king? Only what has already been done.  Then I saw that wisdom excels folly as light excels darkness.  The wise have eyes in their head, but fools walk in darkness. Yet I perceived that the same fate befalls all of them.  Then I said to myself, “What happens to the fool will happen to me also; why then have I been so very wise?” And I said to myself that this also is vanity.  For there is no enduring remembrance of the wise or of fools, seeing that in the days to come all will have been long forgotten. How can the wise die just like fools?  So I hated life, because what is done under the sun was grievous to me; for all is vanity and a chasing after wind.

Thought for the Day: To be honest, I read some of the words from Ecclesiastes, and they deflate my spirit.  For a lot of folks, the book of Ecclesiastes is a book of despair and distress.  In times of grief and anguish, many people have turned to these words – not for comfort – but as an understanding voice in the darkness of despondency.  Even for people of strong faith, life and all its difficulties can leave them with feelings of emptiness and loneliness.

As we approach the Advent and the Christmas Season, there are countless people who are resinating with the words of Ecclesiastes.  Joy and glad tidings are nowhere to be found, and the conflict between cultural expectations and personal emotions often drive people deeper into their feelings of loneliness and anguish.

If this is you or someone you know, I want to encourage you (or invite the person you know) to be at Cypress Creek Christian Church this Sunday (3pm) for the Service of Hope and Remembrance.  I’m not suggesting it will be a cure-all, but this service is a specific time in which people can come together as they are.  No feelings are unacceptable or beyond God’s loving care.  After the service, individual times of prayer will be offered.  I am reminded that it was Jesus who said, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Prayer: Merciful and Kind God, I know you love me for who I am today.  I might be in the best of moods or utterly miserable, but whatever the case, you invite me to come into your presence where I shall find the warmth of your tenderness.  Thank you!  Amen.

Hope and Remembrance

Ecclesiological Etchings: 11-29-13


Scripture: Exodus 20:21
Then the people stood at a distance, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.

Thought for the Day: Today is often described as Black Friday, the day in which many people are out searching for the best deals on Christmas gifts.  It is thought that the name, Black Friday, described the day large retailers hoped to move into ‘the black’ – that is, into a profit for the year.  It’s funny how this day can carry both good and bad connotations, depending on the person and his or her experiences.  In the case of this passage from Exodus, the darkness was where God was found.  The dark clouds shielded human beings from God’s glory, but the dark cloud depicted God’s presence.  I’m not suggesting that Black Friday represents God.  In fact, there is probably a fair amount of ungodly behavior occurring right now in the store aisles around this country.  What I am suggesting is that God is associated with light and also with darkness.  Maybe this should have us looking for God in the unexpected places of life…including the person who just pushed us out of the way to get the last half-price single serve coffeemaker.

Prayer: Whether light or darkness, customary or unusual, expected or atypical – let my faith be able to perceive you, God, wherever you might choose to be made known.  Amen.

Advent Begins This Sunday

Advent 2013

Join us Sunday Afternoon…

Hope and Remembrance

Ecclesiological Etchings: 11-28-13


Scripture: Deuteronomy 6:10-12
When the Lord your God has brought you into the land that he swore to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you—a land with fine, large cities that you did not build, houses filled with all sorts of goods that you did not fill, hewn cisterns that you did not hew, vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant—and when you have eaten your fill, take care that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 

Thought for the Day: A boy asked his sister, “Why did the turkey cross the road?”  The girl shrugged her shoulders and said, “I don’t know.”  The boy started to grin and said, “It was Thanksgiving, and he wanted people to think he was a chicken!”  I heard that joke a dozen times when I was a little kid, but as Thanksgiving was approaching this year, it somehow was pulled from the recesses of my memory.  It’s funny how the holidays can be a trigger of memories — some good, some not so good.  What I’d like to suggest is for each of us to focus on one good memory, and take time throughout the day to give thanks to God and all those who were involved in making it a good memory.  Bringing past moments of joy into the present through purposeful recollection can be a means by which we become more aware of those amazing things that God is doing right now, amazing things that will be wonderful memories some future day. 

Prayer: O Lord God, you saved an ancient people, and for that I am thankful.  May this moment of remembering entice me to see what you are doing in this very moment that will bring forth even greater thankfulness.  Amen.

Happy Thanksgiving!!! 

Ecclesiological Etchings: 11-27-13


Scripture: Psalm 108:1-6
My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and make melody. Awake, my soul!  Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn.  I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples, and I will sing praises to you among the nations.  For your steadfast love is higher than the heavens, and your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.  Be exalted, O God, above the heavens, and let your glory be over all the earth.  Give victory with your right hand, and answer me, so that those whom you love may be rescued.

Thought for the Day: I simply love Anne Lamott!  She is one of the most honest earthy people I have found, and when she speaks about life and faith, there is absolutely no fluff.  It is what it is, and she is who she is.  Just recently she posted the following on her blog (I’ve slightly condensed it):

The year I got sober, 1986, I started worrying about Thanksgiving in August, because in my family, at least, everyone always went crazy, and I had always gotten the craziness all over me, like Oobleck, the sticky green slime in Dr. Seuss.

But then the night before Thanksgiving, a sober gay man with AIDS took me aside and said, “Annie, another word for Thanksgiving is Thursday. Just don’t drink tomorrow. Just for one day.” Then he sprinkled purple glitter over me, and said, “I’ve anointed you with Fairy dust!”

It changed my life. Just Thursday? What a concept. He said all I had to do was show up, and no matter what, no drink. Left foot, right foot, left foot, breathe.

He was God with skin on for me that day, which is all we ever need. So I did what he said, because the only hope we ever have to give up is in our own agenda…

That was 27 sober years ago. So thank you to everyone who knows about fairy dust and who has been God with skin on for me.  I wish you all a day of purple glitter.

That day with the purple fairy dust was still difficult for Anne Lamott, but she found the means to make it happen, or should I say that God found an effective strategy using the an unlikely person and method.  But isn’t that what God does all the time?

I hope your Thanksgiving Day has a little purple fairy dust, but more importantly, I hope you encounter someone who is God with skin on.

Prayer: You’re great in both your love and your creativity, O Lord, and I am both thankful and blessed because of you.  Amen.

Advent 2013

Advent Begins This Sunday

Theme: Quiet on the Set
Scripture: Matthew 1:1-2, 15-16
SermonA Scandalous Entrance

Ecclesiological Etchings: 11-26-13


Scripture: Joel 2:13 (the Message)
Change your life, not just your clothes. Come back to God, your God. And here’s why: God is kind and merciful. He takes a deep breath, puts up with a lot, This most patient God, extravagant in love, always ready to cancel catastrophe.

Thought for the Day: People are often hesitant to change their ways, but it was the baseball player, Willie Stargell, who said, “Life is one big transition.”  We might be fighting it, but life around us is always changing, and we are modifying our behavior and thinking all the time just to keep pace.  It might be with reluctance or lots of complaining, but we are changing all the time because life is one big transition.  And since we are doing it all the time, let’s make sure some of those changes are intentional and will help us walk more faithfully with God.  Remember, God is patient and loving, and the discomfort felt during change will always be mitigated by the presence of those gifts.

Prayer: Change will always come my way, but with your help, God, maybe I can make some purposeful changes that will strengthen my commitment to the ways of Jesus.  Amen.

Ecclesiological Etchings: 11-25-13


Scripture: Colossians 4:2-4
Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with thanksgiving.  At the same time pray for us as well that God will open to us a door for the word, that we may declare the mystery of Christ, for which I am in prison, so that I may reveal it clearly, as I should.

Thought for the Day: After this morning’s Thanksgiving Worship Services, I came across some wonderful words from Maya Angelou.  She wrote, “Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayers.”  Not that God will tune me out, but I think the pillow on which I kneel is often the one of regret, frustration or anxiousness.   Those are all good things to take before God in prayer, but doesn’t it make sense to center our prayer lives in gratitude?  The thankfulness is not intended to butter up God in advance of our real requests.  Instead, thankfulness puts us in a better mindset for prayer.  The letter references the imprisonment of Paul, yet even from that difficult setting, the letter speaks of the importance of thanksgiving.  It is that attitude that allowed Paul to believe in God’s ability to use him even from behind bars.  Gratitude is always a great place to start.

Prayer: I offer you these words of gratitude, Living God, for you have always loved me.  May that be the conviction of my heart each day as I come to you in prayer.  Amen.

Sunday’s Thanksgiving Sermon
Sermon: 11-24-13

Next Sunday–First Sunday of Advent

Hope and Remembrance

Ecclesiological Etchings: 11-24-13


Scripture: Matthew 6:12
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

Thought for the Day: My friend Bob posted the following quote from CS Lewis: “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” I don’t know if there is much to add to that idea, except to reemphasize the word inexcusable.   It can be assumed that Mr. Lewis chose his words deliberately so as to communicate a specific idea.   I find it interesting that when looking up the word inexcusable in a Thesaurus, one of the synonyms given is: unforgivable.  Humans tend to describe a sin as unforgivable when it was committed by someone else, yet even then, God demonstrates how the divine forgiveness is not limited.  And if God’s forgiveness is capable of showing mercy even when the inexcusable is committed, then don’t you think those of us who have chosen to follow in the ways of God should be able to find a way of showing mercy. 

Prayer: If I am honest with you, Gracious God, I can name many times when your forgiveness has been given without condition… even when my actions were probably inexcusable.  I say, “Thank you,” and pray that I can show the same kindness and mercy.  Amen.

Join us for worship…
A Thanksgiving Service

Colossians 3:12-15

And Then Later This Evening


Ecclesiological Etchings: 11-23-13


Scripture: Leviticus 19:18
You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.

Thought for the Day: Thursday evening I attended the Spring Interfaith Thanksgiving Service held at The Champions Mosque on Old Louetta.  Those of us who attended were treated so graciously by our hosts, and the speakers (Christian, Muslim, Hindu and Jewish) were all wonderful.  There were numerous reoccurring themes, but the most powerful was summarized by the Rabbi who said, “We all believe two basic ideas: Love God, and love your neighbor.  All else is commentary.”  That might be slightly overstated, but there are many places where people of different faiths can actually converse…and maybe, just maybe, find a reason to stop hating and killing.  We can hope…

Prayer: Could it be, Gracious God, that you created some common ground that if, by chance, we are paying attention, we can actually treat one another as you treat us?  Amen.

Join us tomorrow afternoon…


Ecclesiological Etchings: 11-22-13


Scripture: 2nd John 1:1-3
The elder to the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth, and not only I but also all who know the truth, because of the truth that abides in us and will be with us forever: Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, in truth and love.

Thought for the Day: Bureaucracy has a bad name, and clearly there are examples in government, business and church where the bureaucracy is a significant hinderance to the  fulfillment of the designed purpose.  Yet 2nd John begins with the Title: The Elder.  To our eyes, the English does not reveal much, but in the original Greek, there is something very important.  The word we translate as Elder, is presbyter.  It probably looks familiar, like the name associated with the church not too far from here, Northwoods Presbyterian Church.  In regard to the denomination, the word Presbyterian is describing: A congregational structure by representative assembly of elders.  In the opening of 2nd John, this title associated with the author suggests that a structure is beginning to develop among the fledgling groups of Jesus-followers.  In part, this is why 2nd John is dated to the latter part of the first century.  This early bureaucracy probably developed from the idea that though local congregations have an important ministry in their local setting, there is a greater ministry that can be done when different communities within the larger Body of Christ are willing to come together.  As good stewards of all the resources we (I’m referring to the Church Universal) have, it is important to share and partner.  In doing so, a greater good will reach a greater number.

Prayer: Lead me, O Lord, into relationships that will strengthen the witness we all wish to offer the world—a witness of your amazing love.  Amen.

Join us as we prepare our space…


Advent Begins December 1

Hope and Remembrance

Advent 2013

Ecclesiological Etchings: 11-21-13


Scripture: Ezra 3:10-11
When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests in their vestments were stationed to praise the Lord with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, according to the directions of King David of Israel; and they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the Lord, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel.”  And all the people responded with a great shout when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid

Thought for the Day: Holocaust survivor, Elie Wiesel, said that “when a person doesn’t have gratitude, something is missing in his or her humanity.”  Here was a man who had experienced something most people could never imagine, and if he had lost his ability to appreciate life and to know gratitude, we’d understand.  What makes Elie Wiesel so amazing is his ability to reclaim his humanity from the evils of the Nazi death camps, and to live his life in a way that continues to help others find their humanity.  The feeling of gratitude reminds us that we are alive, for it is the response we have when another person recognizes our humanity and treat us respectfully.

Prayer: God, whenever grace comes my way, may I be the first to name it and show appreciation for it.  Amen.



Hope and Remembrance

Advent 2013