Ecclesiological Etchings: 06-30-15

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Scripture: Deuteronomy 4:29-31
From there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find him if you search after him with all your heart and soul. In your distress, when all these things have happened to you in time to come, you will return to the Lord your God and heed him. Because the Lord your God is a merciful God, he will neither abandon you nor destroy you; he will not forget the covenant with your ancestors that he swore to them.

Thought for the Day: Yesterday I was at the doctor’s office waiting for physical therapy. As I sat outside the room, I pulled out my iPhone to do some emails. For some reason, I had no signal. As I looked up, I noticed 4 feet from me was a wifi router. I checked my wifi, and I had a strong signal, but it was password protected. Just a few feet away was my connecting point to the internet, yet I did not have the needed access.  So close, yet the entry point was restricted.

In the passage from Deuteronomy, we hear once again about God’s mercy and commitment to us. We shall never be abandoned or forgotten. God is so close, yet too often we do not find the access point. Though unlike my experience with the wifi, it isn’t because there is some unknown password. It lies with us and our willingness to search with all our heart and soul. God is there and fully accessible, for God is love…and love is never password protected.

Prayer: Let me continue to search for you, to grow in relationship with you, and to more fully experience your love, O Lord of Life. Amen.

BIG SUNDAY

THIS SUNDAY

One Service
10:30am

With lunch to follow…

Ecclesiological Etchings: 06-29-15

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Scripture:  Psalm 42:5-6
Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God. My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.

Thought for the Day: Solomon Bellow, the author, once wrote: “Everyone needs memories.  They keep the wolf of insignificance from the door.”  When the Israelites found themselves exiled and far from their beloved Jerusalem, they drew from their memories like a person draws nourishing water from a well.  Some say that in a time of crisis a person clings to his/her memories, but our memories are so woven into our being that there is no clinging to them.  We simply travel down the pathway of our past where we find those life-giving memories that sustain us in the present.

Prayer: Though I do not desire to live in the past, O Lord, may I venture there when necessary to find nourishment at the well of recollection.  Amen.

IMPORTANT

This Coming Sunday
July 5

ONE SERVICE SUNDAY
Worship at 10:30am

Don’t Miss It

And stay for lunch…

Ecclesiological Etchings: 06-28-15

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Scripture: Luke 10:33-37
“But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’”  Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?”  The lawyer said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

Thought for the Day: Samaritans were a category of despised people. Had the word been used in a melodrama, it would have been followed with boos and hisses.  Yet like he so often did, Jesus broke the scorned category by introducing us to an individual. Hate is often obscured when it is associated with “those people” who are demonized without specific evidence. In fact, the use of broad categories creates fear and suspicion that are not easily refuted. In today’s sermon, I will be emphasizing the importance of breaking the perceived categories used for perpetrating hate.  Breaking open these ill-construed categories happens as we get to know the individuals involved. Hate has no place among the followers of Jesus, and as those who love Jesus, we need to do as he did – breaking the categories that obscure people’s humanity. We can start by reaching out to the individuals within those categories.

Prayer: Hate has no place in your Kingdom, O Lord, and since it has no place in your kingdom, it must not be present within your church or the people who are the church. Amen.

JOIN US FOR WORSHIP

This Morning
at
8:15, 9:30 or 11:00

Jigsaw - Title

Ecclesiological Etchings: 06-27-15

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Scripture: Mark 12:28-31
One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’  The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.’”

Thought for the Day: I have never intentionally set out to write a long devotional, but this one will be much longer than usual – sorry!  As all of you most certainly know, the Supreme Court made a significant ruling yesterday. Like almost every major Supreme Court decision throughout American history, some people celebrated and others were left feeling highly disappointed. Quite often people have pointed to Christianity and the Bible as the foundation for opposing same-sex marriage. Technically, the Bible says nothing specific about same-sex marriage. The Biblical concept of marriage was an exchange of property (the bride) between two property owners (father and groom). For that reason, the notion of marriage between two property owners or two pieces of property would not have made sense 3000 or even 2000 years ago. Today, most of us would be opposed to a strict understanding of Biblical marriage for it dehumanizes women and disregards any sense of true mutuality. Of course, there are glimpses, especially in the life of Jesus, where a deeper understanding of love is revealed.

At the same time, a 2015 PRRI (Public Religion Research Institute) study showed that the majority of Catholics (60 percent), white mainline Protestants (62 percent), and Jewish Americans (77 percent) either “favor” or “strongly favor” legal recognition of marriages for LGBT couples. Even 64% of more conservative Evangelicals under the age of 30 support same-sex marriage. How can this be? It all seems very complicated – confusing…

In the same way that Christianity has evolved over time, we find ourselves at another evolutionary moment. At every evolutionary moment, it has been complicated and confusing, but shouldn’t Christianity evolve? Just think: Christianity not only executed people for claiming the earth was not the center of the universe, but it supported slavery, opposed women having the right to vote and fought against inner racial marriage. It also used the Bible to argue all of these, and in some cases (slavery as one example), the Bible appears to be on the side of those things we would find immoral today.

So what do we do? Public opinion should not be our guide. Even the Supreme Court does not necessarily speak for Christianity. At the same time, Christianity needs to be asking the same questions being asked by the Supreme Court and the culture itself. Personally, I have very passionate opinions on the subject of same-sex marriage. I am also the pastor of a congregation that is all over the spectrum on this subject. There are people who I love and respect who disagree with me, but even the recent court decision is not going to change my love or respect for them.

At the end of the day, we as Christians need to reflect on the life of Jesus. Not only what he taught with his lips but how he educated his disciples through his interaction with others. When he was asked for a summary of the ancient religion, he pointed to two interwoven concepts – to love the Lord our God and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Love is the unchanging core of Jesus’ ministry, while many other scriptural points were culturally and historically bound. I think we need to trust Jesus, and in doing so, trust love.

I hope we can continue this conversation in many different settings, yet I want to encourage those who are celebrating the Supreme Court ruling to be cautious not to rub it in the face of others. And for those who are disappointed in the ruling, don’t condemn the joy that others feel. Instead, let us all listen to one another, learn from one another, and love one another.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, continue to teach us your way of love. When there is disagreement and division within your church, keep us focused on the belief that your love always wins in the end. Amen.

TOMORROW’S SERMON

Jigsaw - Title

Ecclesiological Etchings: 06-26-15

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Scripture: Psalm 5:7-8
But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love, will enter your house, I will bow down toward your holy temple in awe of you. Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before me.

Thought for the Day: The Eastern Orthodox Bishop, Kallistos Ware, said that “God is not so much the object of our knowledge as the cause of our wonder.” Too often those of us in the church create unneeded lines of conflict as we attempt to demonstrate our superior knowledge of God, yet this exhibition of knowledge leaves very little room for our imaginations to be caught in the vortex of wow. I’m not suggesting that learning is bad. Absolutely not! But let us never place knowledge of God above the wonderment felt as we stand before the awesomeness of divine love and the mystery of that love being made real in Jesus.

Prayer: Let my mouth drop wide open as I come before you, my Creator and Redeemer. You are the source of my awe! Amen.

Join Us For Worship

This Sunday Morning
at
8:15, 9:30 or 11:00

Preaching on:
Philippians 1:27-30

Ecclesiological Etchings: 06-25-15

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Scripture: Leviticus 19:13
You shall not defraud your neighbor; you shall not steal; and you shall not keep for yourself the wages of a laborer until morning.

Thought for the Day: You’d think there are certain things that don’t need to be said.  For instance, you don’t steal from your neighbor or keep money that doesn’t belong to you.  When you read passages like this one, you have a feeling the author was very aware of some specific situation.  There are times in faith when I’d like to think we could assume the basics, but assumptions are dangerous.  We need to restate them now and then as the world around us is always trying to justify why it is okay to steal from our neighbors and withhold money from those who have earned it.

Prayer: Mighty God, assist me as I attempt to stand firm in your teachings that are just and kind.  Amen.

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Ecclesiological Etchings: 06-24-15

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Scripture: Psalm 77:10
And I say, “It is my grief that the right hand of the Most High has changed.”

Thought for the Day: Anne Morrow Lindbergh was a woman who experienced great grief in the kidnapping and death of her first child.  She wrote, “Grief can’t be shared. Everyone carries it alone. His own burden in his own way.”  In grief’s most difficult moments, it often feels like a solo experience. Yet looking back at my own experiences of grief, I see both the divine presence and the body of Christ walking alongside me. Both of these companions assumed much more of the weight than I realized at the time.  More than anything, God desires to see our grief transformed, yet this change does not come overnight.  It is a journey, but a journey we take alone only if we choose.

Prayer: Make your presence known to me, O Lord, in my darkest hours.  Even if it takes you knocking me upside the head with your spirit so that I know.  Amen.

DON’T FORGET ABOUT
July 12

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