Ecclesiological Etchings: 06-30-16

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Scripture: Galatians 5:25
If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.

Thought for the Day: I was with some Disciples of Christ pastors yesterday for lunch. We were talking about one of our historic beliefs as a denomination in regard to polity – we are a congregationally governed church. That means, there is not a hierarchy that tells us what we can do or not do. It does put a great deal of authority and responsibility at the local church level. One of my colleagues reminded those of us gathered for lunch that we are congregationally governed, but not congregationally driven or led. We are led and guided by the Spirit at work within the congregation, but that is very different then suggesting we are led by the congregation. Too many churches – with the best intentions – decide to push ahead without any consultation of the divine breath that moves around us and within us. This Spirit (in both Greek and Hebrew, the word for breath is the same as the word for spirit or wind) uses our intellect, experiences, insights, creativity, relationships and education to speak to us, but it first requires us to listen below the surface of our own yearnings and desires. This is required of both the individual and the community. Are you listening? Are we listening? Are you willing to be guided? Are we willing to be guided?

Prayer: Breathe into us, O Lord. Allow for your Spirit to engage our thinking, inspire our creativity, encourage our relationships and focus what we have learned. Keep us asking the most important questions of who is our neighbor and how best can we show love to our neighbor. Amen.

Don’t Miss Sunday
It is Youth Sunday

Remember, ONE SERVICE
One Service Sunday

 

Ecclesiological Etchings: 06-29-16

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Scripture: Galatians 5:22-23
By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. 

Thought for the Day: I remember watching my grandparents spend hours everyday working in their large garden, yet most of the time I spent there was in the middle to late part of summer which meant we were harvesting and canning. I missed all the hours spent preparing the soil, planting the seeds, and tending to the young plants. That’s where the real work is done, and the same is true with the fruit of the spirit. Though many of us are blessed by these gifts being expressed through other people’s lives, we must understand the hours of work spent in preparing the soil of the soul, planting the seeds of grace through study and prayer, and tending to the youthful faith. Too many people want to enjoy the harvest without the hard work.

Prayer: Let us work together, O God, in creating a garden pleasing to you.  Amen.

IMPORTANT

One Service Sunday

Ecclesiological Etchings: 06-28-16

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Scripture: Galatians 5:12
I wish that the ones who are upsetting you would castrate themselves!

Thought for the Day: Let’s be honest, this is one of those passages that catches your attention. Paul’s words are not very Christian, but there might be more than first meets the eye. In some of the pagan cults of the time which the Galatians would have known, those who were truly devoted to the goddess castrated themselves as a sign of complete devotion.  It could be that Paul is expressing sarcasm. If you are going to circumcise yourself and move away from the grace of God, why not take the next step in both flesh removal and commitment. At the end of the day, this is not the best example of Christianity in action, but it is a window through which we see Paul’s frustration on this subject. It also might show that Paul had a sense of humor, though a bit crude.    

Prayer: Lord, even when I am completely frustrated, help me to find the best words possible so that understanding and healing can occur.  Amen.

One Service Sunday

Ecclesiological Etchings: 06-27-16

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Scripture: Galatians 5:6
Being circumcised or not being circumcised doesn’t matter in Christ Jesus, but faith working through love does matter.

Thought for the Day: I came across an article while I was working on a sermon.  I liked the title, so I started reading.  It wasn’t what I thought it was going to be.  In fact, the title was the antithesis of the article. I was expecting to read an article on the grace and unmerited love of God.  Instead, I was reading an article that used the words but continually placed constraints on God’s love and mercy. It’s like a spouse turning to his/her partner and saying, “I love you, but I need you to first do…” (with an extensive list).  Divine love doesn’t have a list of stipulations and prerequisites. It is one thing to say I love you unconditionally, and here are a few things on which I hope we can work to strengthen our relationship. It is something entirely different for God to be depicted as One whose love is dependent on things we do. 

Prayer: May I never undermine your love, O God, because of my insecurities.  Amen.

 



 

 

Ecclesiological Etchings: 06-26-16

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Scripture: Galatians 4:28
Now you, my friends, are children of the promise, like Isaac.

Thought for the Day: It is said that a person is known by the promises s/he keeps, not by the promises made.  We know God by the promises kept, and so it is easier to trust in new promises made. As those who continue to live in the tension between the old and new world, we find ourselves having to trust in promises not yet fully fulfilled.  Like any relationship, it is easier to trust one who has fulfilled promises in the past.

Prayer: Lord, may I remember promises fulfilled as I live in the tension of new promises not yet fully realized.  Amen.

Today
We Conclude
Our Sermon Series

On The Epistle to the Galatians

Join in Worship at

8:15am, 9:30am & 11:00am

Ecclesiological Etchings: 06-25-16

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Scripture: Galatians 5:2-6
Look, I, Paul, am telling you that if you have yourselves circumcised, having Christ won’t help you. Again I swear to every man who has himself circumcised that he is required to do the whole Law. You people who are trying to be made righteous by the Law have been estranged from Christ. You have fallen away from grace! We eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness through the Spirit by faith. Being circumcised or not being circumcised doesn’t matter in Christ Jesus, but faith working through love does matter. 

Thought for the Day: It can’t be said for sure, but it appears as if Paul is a bit ticked off at this point. Have you ever been mad and said things that were a bit over the top. Parents often make new rules and ramifications for the breaking of the rules when they are mad. You might have heard something like, “If you ever do that again, you will be grounded until Halley’s Comet comes back around” (that would be the year 2061). Now there might be a parent that actually would attempt to follow through on that threat, but most of us are trying to make a point. The threat is probably closer to hyperbole, and the dramatic  rhetoric hopes to make a clear point. In the moment of writing what he did, Paul may have denied any sort of over statement of the truth, but give him some time, he makes some pretty profound statements about the love of God and the far-reaching character of divine mercy. We may feel as if we’ve fallen away from grace, but the interesting thing of grace is that it falls with us into the pits of failure, mistake, sin and unrighteousness. It is serious to Paul, but in the end, he never seems willing to write off anyone when it comes to the redemptive power of God’s love.

Prayer: For your love and mercy, O Living Lord, I am forever bound. Even when I seem to do everything to push your gifts away, they cling to me and work to redeem my life. Amen.

Tomorrow’s Sermon

Is Based Upon

Galatians 5:1

(Last Sermon in the Series on Galatians)

Graphic-Galatians Sermon Series

Ecclesiological Etchings: 06-24-16

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Scripture: Galatians 5:1
Christ has set us free for freedom. Therefore, stand firm and don’t submit to the bondage of slavery again.

Thought for the Day: The movie, The Free State of Jones, is coming out today. I am intrigued by the movie, and though some say it takes a few liberties with it accuracy, it has spurred me to read about Newton Knight, the poor white Southern farmer who led a Unionist rebellion during the Civil War. If anything, this story points to the ongoing yearning within every human life to know freedom and receive respect. Above, the Common English Bible translates the opening of vs. 1: Christ has set us free for freedom. In the NRSV, it is translated as: For Freedom, Christ has set us free. The work of translation is never easy as sentence structure is very different between English and Ancient Greek. With that said, one of the words – free, is a noun. The other word – freedom, is a verb. It sounds as if Paul is announcing to his readers that they have been set free, not just to sit back and enjoy their new found freedom, but for the work of freedom. They have been set free to help others know the gift of freedom. I am reminded of Dr. Kings words, “If one is oppressed – all are oppressed.” I may have claimed freedom in Christ Jesus, but it is not a freedom I can fully enjoy while others are still bound in slavery, human trafficking, addiction, bigotry, grief and guilt. There is work to be done, but it is work to which we have been presented the needed tools and gifts.

Prayer: This is for me, Merciful God, a day for gratitude. I know so many freedoms, but the greatest is the freedom given through the loving kindness of Jesus. May I live a life that helps others enjoy this gift. Amen.

Sunday’s Sermon

Is Based Upon

This Same Text
From Galatians

(Last Sermon in the Series on Galatians)
Graphic-Galatians Sermon Series

Ecclesiological Etchings: 06-23-16

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Scripture: John 8:31-32
Jesus said to the Jews who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teaching. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Thought for the Day: The Apostle Paul spoke often about freedom or being set free. He not only spoke about it, but it spoke from the perspective of one who knew that experience. He truly had been liberated from a past that was narrow and spiritually debilitating. This was not a liberation from Judaism, but from a sect within Judaism that was very narrow in its thinking. All religions fall into this trap, not just once, but on a reoccurring basis. Christianity has often seen the rise of what might be portrayed as a new spiritual revival, but is later discovered to be nothing more than religion seeking to control and enslave people. If you are to look closely and objectively, you can almost always find that this narrow vision of a religion has nothing to do with religion. The leaders of these new movements were those who were seeking to hold power over others because of their fears or narcissism. According to John’s Gospel, the teachings of Jesus are the pathway to freedom. When Jesus summarized all the teaching by encouraging his disciples to love the Lord their God and to love their neighbor, he recognized the power of love to cast out all fear (1st John 4) and to put something other than self at the center of the universe. In today’s world, too many decisions are made out of fear or self-centeredness. The hard work of centering life around God and lifting up others in love is where we must start. Around Cypress Creek Christian Church, we call that putting love first in all things.

Prayer: Be with me, O Lord. Be my guide and gracious mentor as I strive to put you and your love first in my life. Amen.

Don’t Miss
The Mark Burns’ Lecture

Tonight at 6:30pm
In the Centrum

Ecclesiological Etchings: 06-22-16

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Scripture: Galatians 4:21
Tell me—those of you who want to be under the Law—don’t you listen to the Law? 

Thought for the Day: Paul begins this section with a question about listening. For his audience, the idea of listening and faithful obedience were inseparable. Those from a Jewish background would have known the Shema (Deut. 6:4ff), which begins 

Hear, O Israel: the Lord The Lord is our God, the Lord alone.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
and with all your soul, and with all your might.
Keep these words that I am commanding you
today in your heart…

Listening closely for the message of God was required if someone wished to keep the words that God was commanding. That seems to make complete sense. Paul moves on in the chapter to retell a well-known story, the story of Abraham, Sarah, Hagar and the birth of two children. Yet Paul wishes for them to listen for a new or what might be described as an alternative understanding of the passage. He even suggests in vs. 24 that the story is an allegory of covenantal relationship. It is as if Paul is suggesting that God is speaking in a fresh way through an old story – offering something that had never been seen before. Do you believe this still is happening? Do new life experiences and insights allow us to hear something never before seen in scripture? Are the scriptures alive like a piece of art – challenging and inspiring well beyond the original motivation for the creation?

Prayer: Simple and outdated words are often overlooked. Assumptions about meaning that never seem to look beyond the surface. Where are we missing your whisper, O Lord? Where have you continued to speak to those who are not listening, but should? Be patient with us. Amen.

Come and Hear
from the Photographer, Mark Burns
Thursday – 6:30pm

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Ecclesiological Etchings: 06-21-16

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Scripture: Galatians 4:16
So then, have I become your enemy by telling you the truth? 

Thought for the Day: Telling the truth can be so formidable and difficult when you know the truth-telling will not be heard well. I’m pretty certain we have all been there at one time or another, and we have all chosen to approach those moments with the best intentions. At times, we have chosen to be brutally honest, and in other moments, the decision was to add a little sugar coating…and of course, there were those times were we avoided the truth at all cost because it did not appear to matter in the bigger scheme of things. Yet for Paul, he had to speak the truth even in the knowledge that there might be those who would view him as the enemy. He goes on to explain to the Galatians how he truly has their best interest in mind, yet when the truth hurts, we usually don’t believe that to be the case. Defensiveness can be helpful and keep us from being hurt by someone who just wants to cause us pain, but it can also be the obstacle that keeps us from the insight that would provide us health, joy or forgiveness. It is understandable why some people are skeptical as they have been hurt, yet this is the reason we should put ourselves in community where trusted friends can assist us in discerning what will be helpful and healthy. 

Prayer: Surround me with kind and generous voices, O Lord, who desire to move us toward the kingdom life. Amen.

TONIGHT

Men’s Group
Meeting at Cramer Retreat Center
Dinner – 6:30pm
Study – 7:00pm