Ecclesiological Etchings: 07-31-15

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Scripture: Psalm 23:1
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

Thought for the Day: I’m guessing most every person, religious and non-religious, has heard those words of scripture.  The first verse is a statement of faith or profession of faith. In the ancient world, kings were often referred to as the shepherd of their people. They had great authority, and many were viewed as divine agents or even earthly expressions of the divine. For Israel, the monarchy (Saul, David, Solomon, etc.) were viewed as agents of God, and at times, their authority was god-like. So for the author of the Psalm to declare, “The Lord is my shepherd” would have carried with it political undertones. The author and those who echoed these words in worship would have been announcing their loyalty to God above their loyalty to the king. The author of the Psalm continues in the following verses to layout what a good shepherd does for the people, pointing out the gap between the true Shepherd of the people and the king. Where in our lives do we need to declare our loyalty to the Lord our shepherd above political leaders, celebrities, sports figures or others?

Prayer: You, Lord, are the good shepherd; lead us to the life-giving streams of grace; provide us places of rest; walk with us even with the path is dark and dangerous. Amen.

SUNDAY’S SERMON
2nd Samuel 5:1-5

Shepherd - Attitude

Ecclesiological Etchings: 07-30-15

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Scripture: Ephesians 4:1-6
I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.

Thought for the Day: I’m pretty proud of my peeps. Let me put it another way – I am very honored to serve where I do, and I am overjoyed by the heart of Cypress Creek Christian Church. Many churches in the United States found themselves completely caught off guard by the recent Supreme Court ruling. I’m a little baffled how churches could have been so naive and unaware of what was most certainly going to happen, but many were shocked. In these churches, it was reminiscent of the scene from Ghostbusters where they said there will be “fire and brimstone coming down from the skies. River and seas boiling. Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes, the dead rising from the grave! Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together…mass hysteria.”  At Cypress Creek Christian Church, there was absolutely no gnashing of teeth. In fact, there have been calm and faithful conversations, even among people who have different opinions. Last night’s first of five studies led by Rev. Dr. Mark Whitten – Critical Christian Thinking about Homosexuality and Gay Rights – was a great example that we are a relatively healthy congregation. Thank you! Thank God!

Prayer: With hearts of compassion and love, O Lord, let us listen to one another as Jesus taught us to do. Amen.

THIS SUNDAY’S SERMON
2nd Samuel 5:1-5

Shepherd - Attitude

Ecclesiological Etchings: 07-29-15

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Scripture: Romans 14:19
Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.

Thought for the Day: On this day in 1148AD, the Siege on Damascus came to an end during what would be known as the Second Crusade. The Crusaders went to the Holy Land under the direction of Pope Eugene III, believing that God would provide them a victory. The attack on Damascus was far from a victory, and would be one of the factors that made the Second Crusade a failure. The Pope offered Indulgences like his predecessor, Pope Urban II, did in the First Crusade. These Indulgences offered forgiveness of sin and entry into heaven for those who would go to battle or for their loved ones.

It is difficult to understand how we went from the Jesus of the First Century – the Prince of Peace – to a Holy Warrior within a short period of time. Christianity wasn’t simply a silent partner in the Crusades, but the authority and provider of justification. Our Sunday morning focus is currently on 2nd Samuel, and like many books in the Bible that deal with the monarchy, there appears to be a belief that the Lord God was the means of victory in battle. But if Jesus is the Incarnation of God, the visible sign of the invisible God, who was and is and shall be the same, then how exactly do we make sense of this tension?

Could it be that some of the Biblical claims of a God who provides victory in battle are simply the victor seeking blessing on what was really not God’s doing in the first place? How often in history has the victor claimed God as the source, even when the victory included horrific suffering of innocent lives. My theological starting place is Jesus, and though I take seriously the stories of violence in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament), I must make theological sense of them in light of the Jesus I know. And simply saying that God changed -or- that God is just as violent now, but Jesus has placated the Lord’s anger, only raises more and more unsettling questions.

I don’t want to arrogantly pretend that my thoughts are correct or even a good answer for others, but in a world in which people are yearning for a faith that makes sense, simplistic answers that crumble under even the slightest scrutiny will leave these yearnings unfulfilled.

Prayer: You are good, Gracious Lord, and I make that claim through the Jesus I meet in scripture and the Christ I meet through your Spirit. Continue to encourage my questioning so that the faith I claim and the faith I share are worthy of the conversations I have. Amen.


STARTING THIS WEDNESDAY
Study at 6:30pm

Rev. Dr. Mark Whitten
teaching

Critical Christian Thinking 
About Homosexuality and Gay Rights

For Five Wednesday Evenings


SUNDAY’S SERMON

2nd Samuel 5:1-5
Shepherd - Attitude

Ecclesiological Etchings: 07-28-15

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Scripture: 2nd Samuel 3:1
There was a long war between the house of Saul and the house of David; David grew stronger and stronger, while the house of Saul became weaker and weaker.

Thought for the Day: Last Sunday, I talked about how the relationship between Saul and David was complicated, but even after Saul’s death, the relationship remained complicated. The house of Saul struggled to hold power, while David grew in power. It’s interesting how the legacy or even the memories of someone can continue to hold power or at least attempt to do so. There are times to move into a new future, though the past continues to cling. In your own life, where is God’s future presenting itself while the past continues to linger? Where is the household of Saul clinging even though Saul is dead?

Prayer: Free me, Lord, to embrace the future you are setting before me. Free me for tomorrow’s ministry. Amen.

STARTING THIS WEDNESDAY
Study at 6:30pm

Rev. Dr. Mark Whitten
teaching

Critical Christian Thinking
About Homosexuality and Gay Rights

For Five Wednesday Evenings

Ecclesiological Etchings: 07-27-15

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Scripture: Philippians 1:9-11
And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.

Thought for the Day: Yesterday during the 8:15 and 11:00 services, I did not wear a tie in worship. For the Contemporary Service, that is not unusual. But for the more traditional services, it is a bit atypical. It is summer, and that alone could be a good reason, but I made the decision to go without a tie because of my health. The heat can cause or intensify a Multiple Sclerosis exacerbation. For a few days, I have noticed some hints of it, and so I chose to leave the tie at home because of the forecast — HOT.  But here is what I really want to say: I appreciate that I didn’t lose any sleep over people’s opinion of my tie-less worship experience. Cypress Creek Christian Church has its priorities in the right place, and it isn’t about whether or not the pastor is wearing a tie. It is about bringing alive the news of a God who first loved us and desires for us to share that transformative love with a world yearning for real change. Thank you for allowing me to be the pastor of a church with the right priorities…for I am sad to say that many churches have focused entirely on the wrong things.

Prayer: Allow your amazing love, O Merciful God, to help me determine what is best for making a harvest of righteousness. Amen.

STARTING THIS WEDNESDAY
Study at 6:30pm

Rev. Dr. Mark Whitten
teaching

Critical Christian Thinking
About Homosexuality and Gay Rights

For Five Wednesday Evenings

Ecclesiological Etchings: 07-26-15

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Scripture: Matthew 9:27
As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, crying loudly, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!”

Thought for the Day: There were many who referred to Jesus using the title Son of David. There was no way Jesus was the Son of David as there was a gap of a thousand years between the two men. Yet in the ancient world, this type of description had very little to do with genetics. It was more about occupation and character, and so when we look at David – king, unifier, courageous, devoted to God, etc. – we see the vocational lineage from which Jesus came. Though with David, there were certain characteristics that were less than admirable. So like any comparison or metaphor, there is always weakness. Yet at the time in which Jesus came on the scene, people remembered David’s positive attributes, and so they were looking for a new David. We see that with deceased politicians who were less than perfect while alive, but after death, they have taken on a hero like persona. Over the next few weeks, we will be looking at David’s life experiences and what they have to teach us…for we too, as people of faith, find ourselves in David’s vocational lineage and there is much to learn.

Prayer: Inspire us, O Lord, in the stories of those who went before us. Even when their lives were not perfect, there are lessons to learn and wisdom to obtain. Give us spiritual ears to hear. Amen.

TODAY’S SERMON

Mourning Mucks

AND DON’T FORGET

C4 WOMEN

Women’s Gathering
TODAY – July 26
at 3 pm.

Theme:
Getting Ready
for a Road Trip

Ecclesiological Etchings: 07-25-15

Scripture: Exodus 40:36-38
Whenever the cloud was taken up from the tabernacle, the Israelites would set out on each stage of their journey; but if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out until the day that it was taken up.  For the cloud of the Lord was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night, before the eyes of all the house of Israel at each stage of their journey.

Thought for the Day: Most folks have heard of ‘the grief process’ – the Five Stages of Grief originally proposed by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross.  Kubler-Ross suggested the five stages as:

1. Denial/Isolation
2. Anger
3. Bargaining
4. Depression
5. Acceptance

Though Kubler-Ross never intended for this to be a linear experience where we spend 2 weeks in each stage, completing them and our grief in 2 1/2 months.

Meghan O’Rourke, a young author and poet, wrote about her own experience:

I wasn’t prepared for the fact that grief is so unpredictable. It wasn’t just sadness, and it wasn’t linear. Somehow I’d thought that the first days would be the worst and then it would get steadily better – like getting over the flu. That’s not how it was.

People skip stages; others begin on stage 3 and jump to 1 and then hang out in 2 for a long time; some zip through the stages, claiming acceptance when they are in fact stuck on stage 1.

The Lord God desires to journey with us. In fact, God is journeying with us… but are we willing to listen to the Holy Guides whisper?  Are we willing to be with God in the stage that God believes we need in this moment?

Prayer: Journey with me, O Holy Guide, for I desire to know your promise of wholeness. Allow me to see the importance of every step – knowing when to rest and when to move forward. Amen.

SUNDAY’S SERMON

Mourning Mucks


AND DON’T FORGET

C4 WOMEN
Women’s Gathering
This Sunday – July 26
at 3 pm.

Theme:
Getting Ready
for a Road Trip