Ecclesiological Etchings: 01-31-14


Scripture: Matthew 14:14
When Jesus went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick.

Thought for the Day: David Brooks wrote an OpEd in the New York Times entitled The Art of Presence.  In the piece, Brooks offers some important advice for anyone who wishes to respond to another person’s grief. One piece of advice follows:

Don’t compare, ever. Don’t say, “I understand what it’s like to lose a child. My dog died, and that was hard, too.” Even if the comparison seems more germane, don’t make it. Each trauma should be respected in its uniqueness. Each story should be heard attentively as its own thing. “From the inside,” Catherine writes, comparisons “sting as clueless, careless, or just plain false.”

If someone knows your story, s/he may seek advice at some point down the road.  This is a good door to keep open, but to automatically assume your feelings and experiences will match those of another is a terrible mistake. Simply being with another is much more important than seeking a comparison that often takes the focus off the one who is currently grieving.

Today is my mother’s birthday, and I don’t know anyone who offers compassionate care like she does.  She has been an unpaid staff member at First Christian Church in Lincoln, NE, for close to 20 years.  She gives leadership to care ministries, and I am amazed by the 1000’s of hospital and shut-in visits she has made during those years.  And though my mother has known many tragedies in her life, she has a heart for doing nothing more than being with people during their time of need.  The greatest gift a person may offer is the gift of his/her presence.

Prayer: Merciful God, I give you thanks for those who bring to life your compassion and love. May the power of their presence be a source of healing to all those who hurt and grieve this day.  Amen.

Ecclesiological Etchings: 01-30-14


Scripture: Nehemiah 2:
Then I (Nehemiah) said to them, “You see the trouble we are in, how Jerusalem lies in ruins with its gates burned. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, so that we may no longer suffer disgrace.” I told them that the hand of my God had been gracious upon me, and also the words that the king had spoken to me. Then they said, “Let us start building!” So they committed themselves to the common good. But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official, and Geshem the Arab heard of it, they mocked and ridiculed us, saying, “What is this that you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king?” Then I replied to them, “The God of heaven is the one who will give us success, and we his servants are going to start building; but you have no share or claim or historic right in Jerusalem.”

Thought for the Day: I used a slightly longer passage of scripture today, but it seemed appropriate in light of a Ministry Team Meeting we had this past Sunday. We had spent some time reflecting on the earlier part of the 2nd chapter – specifically the process by which Nehemiah discerned God’s call to rebuild Jerusalem and then moved through particular steps to help realize the vision God had placed in his heart. But here, later in the second chapter, Nehemiah reflects on how God’s vision and the best made plans to bring that vision to fruition can still hit roadblocks. It is one thing to ask legitimate questions. In fact, the discernment process and the actualizing of what has been discerned can often find greater focus through a process of sharing, reflecting and questioning. But in this passage, Nehemiah’s vision is immediately mocked. How often are visionary ideas squelched by short-sided comments that seek to undermine change and forward progress? Often an idea will shock us or make us feel uncomfortable, but in those moments, it is important to not react from a place of discomfort. Instead, we need to open ourselves to the possibility that maybe God is behind this new challenge.

Prayer: Help me to listen, Loving Lord, to new ideas that might have their origin with you. Just because I do not like it does not necessarily mean it is a bad idea. You are the One whose ideas have often been mocked, yet by your grace, you have always found a way of seeing them into reality. Thank you for being patient with us. Amen.

Ecclesiological Etchings: 01-29-14


Scripture: Revelation 1:10
I was in the spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet…

Thought for the Day: In an online article entitled: 6 Things We (Wrongly) Attribute to the Holy Spirit, Shane Raynor offers some wonderful insight. Number six on his list is the following:

Inspiring only the people who agree with us. It’s interesting how quickly some are willing to call “prophetic” those who agree with their political causes or beat a similar theological drum. I’m much more impressed when a person recognizes the Spirit working through someone who challenges their perspective on something. Surely there are times when the Spirit affirms things we believe, but if he’s only a “yes man” and never turns one of our opinions on its head, maybe it’s time to question how much we’re hearing the Spirit in the first place.

Continue reading “Ecclesiological Etchings: 01-29-14”

Ecclesiological Etchings: 01-28-14



Rev. John Frey was approved
for ordination!

Put March 2 on your calendar.
We’ll do a combined service at 10:30am.

Scripture: Acts 11:25-26
Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for an entire year they met with the church and taught a great many people, and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called “Christians.”

Thought for the Day: This past Sunday was Laity Sunday, a time in which our denomination, The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), reconnects with its roots by celebrating the giftedness of all people.  In some churches, Laity Sunday is a time in which the pastor takes a vacation and many in the congregation hit their snoozes one too many times.  This past Sunday, Cypress Creek Christian Church had 577 in worship…one of our best non-holiday attendances in the past year.  Each service had its own unique feel, but most importantly, there were many visitors and guests who were thoroughly blessed by the experience.

Barnabas and Paul were relatively new followers of Jesus, yet through the gifts of the spirit, they were thrust into a position of teaching in the city of Antioch.  It was in this setting that many began calling themselves Christians, a word that meant followers of the Christ (or followers of the anointed one).

Let no one ever say, “Oh, I’m just a lay person.”  Such language undermines the capacity of the spirit to use the gifts of the people in the same way Paul and Barnabas were used to bless the lives of many in Antioch.

Prayer: Great and Merciful God, we seek your spirit as the means by which latent gifts are inspired and energized for the blessing of the world.  Let no one underestimate your ability to call forth and utilize them for ministry.  Amen.


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Ecclesiological Etchings: 01-27-14


Scripture: Luke 12:50 (from the Message)
Jesus said, “I’ve come to change everything, turn everything rightside up – how I long for it to be finished!”

Thought for the Day: One of the great voices of 20th century Christianity was Harry Emerson Fosdick.  From the pulpit at Riverside Church in New York City, he challenged his local congregation.  From his regular preaching on the radio show, the Protestant Hour, he engaged the entire country.  One of the best known lines from one of his sermons was simply: “Christians are not merely to endure change, nor even to profit by it, but to cause it.”  Let us never forget that we are to be agents of change in this world – but change that has a purpose, a holy and healing purpose.

Prayer: As you have brought change for the better into my life, merciful God, encourage me to be an source of change wherever I might go.  Amen.

Don’t miss out…


Dinner at 5:30pm

Study at 6:30pm
“Telling Our Faith Stories”

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Ecclesiological Etchings: 01-26-14


Scripture: Matthew 4:17-20
From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”  As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.”  Immediately they left their nets and followed him.

Thought for the Day: I was reading some worship material by James G. Kirk, and in referring to this scripture, he said, “The Kingdom involves action.”  I have often said that the Kingdom of God is not so much a destination, but a divine encounter.   I continue to believe that to be true, but I think Kirk’s comment takes my thinking another step.  The Kingdom is not a place, but a purpose.  It will never be defined by traditional borders, but by what it does…and by what those who claim to be its citizens are doing.

Prayer: Lead me, O Savior, not to some distant heaven but to places where I can help to share your Kingdom here on earth.  Amen.


Ecclesiological Etchings: 01-25-14


Scripture: 1st Thessalonians 1:9-10
For the people of those regions report about us what kind of welcome we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath that is coming.

Thought for the Day: We are coming upon an important Sunday…and I’m not talking about a week from tomorrow when the NFL’s Championship Game is played. The really important news is that tomorrow is Laity Sunday, a special time in the life of our tradition when we reconnect with our unique heritage. The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) has always been a tradition that celebrates the work and ministry of the people. Ministers (clergy) are seen as partners with the people, not as those who do the work on behalf of the people. It is a shared and active responsibility to do the work of the Gospel. In the passage from 1st Thessalonians (the earliest of Paul’s writings that we have), we hear about those who turned to God and now wait for his Son. It sounds as if the task of the people is to ‘wait’ as in hunker down and do nothing. The Greek word scholars have translated as “wait for” in this passage is Anemeno. It is two words — ana: in the midst of -and- mano: to remain or abide. The simple translation of “waiting for” makes it sound like someone sitting at a bus stop who does nothing more than stare down the block in hopes of seeing the bus come around the corner. As Paul writes this letter, I doubt he is celebrating the transformed life of these individuals by then telling them to grab a snack, pull up a chair, and just wait. Instead, I think the word here is an invitation to – continue to be present among -or- to remain in the midst of – God’s loving gift. It is an invitation for all to abide with Christ, and those who remain in the midst of this holy presence do not twiddle their thumbs in some sort of ritual born out of sheer boredom. Instead, they serve the living Christ, not simply a task for those who are paid, but all the people who are the Body of Christ in the world.

Prayer: As you have come among us, O Lord, we strive to abide with you. May our growing connection empower us to be your representatives to the world–to do so in such a way that others will talk about what they have seen. Amen.

Ecclesiological Etchings: 01-24-14


Scripture: Isaiah 40:11
The Lord God will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep.

Thought for the Day: In last week’s sermon, we looked at the book of Isaiah–specifically the section in which the prophet was speaking to a people who found themselves in Exile. In the first 39 chapters, it was a time of warning in which the prophetic call for repentance was ignored. As we transition into chapter 40, the people’s worst fears have been realized and the people have been taken into Exile. Suddenly, the prophet’s voice changes to one of hope and compassion. He offers images of a God who is tender and compassionate to those who find themselves far from home. This is a major turning point in the theology of Israel. Prior to the Exile, they pictured a God who was tied to the land and specifically resided in Jerusalem. Here in the 40th chapter, the understanding of God expands as the people claim that the One who is the source of all life could not be contained by geographic or national boundaries. This, of course, was marvelous news for a people who felt lost and abandoned. How often do we find ourselves feeling utterly separated from God? In such moments, we need to read again the words found in Isaiah 40, and in doing so, reclaim our connection to the God whose presence and love are restricted by absolutely nothing.

Prayer: Wherever I might go, wherever I might find myself, let me trust in your grace, O Lord, to come alongside me and embrace me. I might feel lost, but I am never lost to you. Amen.

Ecclesiological Etchings: 01-23-14


Scripture: Proverbs 11:2-3
When pride comes, then comes disgrace; but wisdom is with the humble. The integrity of the upright guides them, but he crookedness of the treacherous destroys them.

Thought for the Day: Yesterday I caught a flight to a denominational meeting. I had to laugh as I waited to board the plane. First, they called those flying first class — followed by the Premier Platinum fliers — followed by those with Special Gold Status –followed by the Bronze Frequent Flier Program — followed by those traveling with young children. By the time all the select groups had been named and their constituents had boarded, I am not joking when I say that there were only six of us left… that was six out of the full flight of approximately 220 people. What impressed me was that despite being a member of the elite No-Status No-Special Card No-Cool Title Group, the woman checking tickets greeted me an amazing smile, thanked me for flying the airline, and then wished me a great flight. I suddenly felt important again.

On the plane, I was seated across the aisle from a pilot who was in his airline uniform. He was reading a book on his iPad, and even as were approaching our destination and the flight crew had announced twice for people to power down, he did not. One of the Stewardesses had to tell two other people near the pilot to power down their computers, but she and others said nothing to the pilot. One came by later, hesitated as if she was going to say something, but then went on. I know there are lots of questions on whether electronics can really effect the navigation system of a plane, but I was a bit taken back by the arrogance of this pilot who I thought should be the first to set the example. Instead, he didn’t turn it off until we were pulling to the gate.

Status is a funny thing, especially for Christians. Most every human being has an ego that desires to be recognized and given special attention, but abusing one’s status does not help further the cause of the humble Jesus. I had felt a little like a nobody when I didn’t have some special status for boarding, yet the woman treated me with such dignity and care. Then to see the pilot with a great level of authority take advantage of his status was troubling. The world desperately needs some humble leaders.

Prayer: You are good and kind, O Father God, yet you willingly humbled yourself in the form of a child — a demonstration of the life the you are calling each of us to live. Thank you for your gift and your example. Amen.

Ecclesiological Etchings: 01-22-14

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Scripture: Leviticus 13:45-46
The person who has the leprous disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head be disheveled; and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, “Unclean, unclean.”  He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease; he is unclean. He shall live alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp.

Thought for the Day: In the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament), we find a great deal of discussion on skin diseases, specifically leprosy or leprosy-like ailments.  Many people wonder why those who were sick were treated so poorly, but it is important to remember that such laws were originally intended to protect the larger community.  When you traveled together and lived in such close proximity to others, the danger of seeing a single illness turn into a pandemic was very real.  The problem was when the theology started to change and people with an illness were suddenly viewed as outside of God’s love—that somehow their disease was a sign of God’s disfavor.  In those situations, the need for a quarantine shifted from a smart and protective move to a punishment for some perceived wrong.  Do we ever mistreat or judge someone who is simply a victim?  What would Jesus have to say?

Prayer: When I am at my weakest point, O Lord, renew me in the glorious news that I remain one of your beloved children.  Amen.

Join us tonight…

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