Ecclesiological Etchings: 09-30-16

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Scripture: Galatians 4:4-5
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children.

Thought for the Day: I’m not ready for October, so if it is ok with the rest of you, I would like for us to remain in September for another few days. There were about a dozen other projects that really needed to be completed before October 1, and another few days would be exceptionally helpful. Is it just my age, but time seems to be passing rather quickly. I remember sitting in my last period of the day in 7th grade and thinking that time was standing still. That last hour actually felt like three or four hours. I begin to wonder if I was trapped in some episode of the Twilight Zone, and Rob Serling was going to step out of a locker.

Despite those moments in which time appears to drag or rush, there is in fact a steadiness and unsurprising nature to time (except when you begin traveling at the speed of light, but that’s for another conversation). Yet for Paul, time may not change in length but in capacity. The Gospel writer Mark uses that same word Paul uses (fullness) to describe the baskets of leftovers when Jesus fed the 5,000. It was not only a literal ‘filled to the brim,’ but a description of the abundance of God’s gracious work. When God’s presence is recognized within the moment, suddenly that moment of time is seen for what it is – bursting at the seams…a little like that moment when God appeared on the scene in Jesus.

Prayer: Make me aware of your presence, Merciful God, that can change an empty and meaningless moment into a full and life-giving moment. Help me to piece together as many of these moments as possible. Amen.

TOMORROW IS THE DAY
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Ecclesiological Etchings: 09-29-16

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Scripture: Luke 14:16
Then Jesus said to him, “Someone gave a great dinner and invited many…”

Thought for the Day: I love the stories and parables of Jesus. Some of them are set in a context that is outside of my life experiences, but others touch daily happenings for all of us. A dinner party where guest are invited is something we all know, yet as Jesus tells the story, many are invited. Most of us know the experience of trying to limit the number of guests – maybe because there are not enough chairs in our home or maybe because there is a budgetary limitation. Whatever the case, we tend to invite a few or some. When Jesus tells a story that is to communicate the values of the Kingdom of God, he uses language like many… and then speaks about the host going out of his way to make sure everyone knows of the invitation.

This coming Sunday is World Communion Sunday, and for churches and denominations across the globe, we celebrate our unity around the table in spite of all the differences. It is here that we attempt to move beyond our own life experiences where we make decisions based upon limited seating or budget. Through the abundance of God’s grace, there will always be more than enough chairs and nourishment at the table of the Lord.

Prayer: Bring us together, O Spirit of Reconciliation. Bring us together through your invitation and love that makes room where there did not appear to be room. Amen.

THE BIG EVENT THIS SATURDAY
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Sunday’s Sermon
World Communion Sunday

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Ecclesiological Etchings: 09-28-16

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Scripture: Hosea 10:12
Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap faithful love; break up your unplanted ground, for it is time to seek the LORD, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.

Thought for the Day: Has your life ever felt like a dry and barren land? No matter how much you dig, there is only dust and unproductive soil. Hosea is calling out idolatry, the turning away from God. If we have walked away from the One who provides the righteous rain, it doesn’t matter what we do. All things will remain unproductive, but Hosea suggests that we begin breaking up the soil with acts of faithful love and rightful-living. It is this kind of living that turns us back to God and allows for God to more easily pour out the nourishing rain. It is this life-giving water that will change the parched and arid ground into a soil that is receptive to whatever God might plant. Does your life feel like a dry and barren land? There is something you can do…

Prayer: God of All Creation, when all I see within my life appears parched and hopeless, I turn to you for guidance on how to till the soil; I look to you for what I can do to put myself under the outpouring of your righteous rain. Amen.

WEDNESDAY STUDY
Noon & 6:30pm

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Ecclesiological Etchings: 09-27-16

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Scripture: Romans 13:10
Love doesn’t do anything wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is what fulfills the Law.

Thought for the Day: Desmond Tutu remains one of my mentors from a distance. He wrote, “If you want peace, you don’t talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies.” In our current divisive and bitter political environment, what would happen if people spoke with – not their enemies – but those with whom they disagreed. I try to remove that language of enemy as it only inflames the divisions, but I challenge us all to speak to those who just might have some very different ideas. And when you approach such folks, do not do so with the intention of changing their minds or demonstrating how idiotic their thinking might be. Instead, ask them about their family; what is their guiding conviction on ethical and moral issues; what do they like to do in their free time; what grieves their soul? Understanding – true understanding – is a lost value in our culture. The above passage from Romans comes amidst a conversation about how faithful people live within a culture and political system with which they disagree. Surprisingly, Paul encouraged submissiveness, paying taxes without complaint, and giving respect to leaders. Wow! Those are some challenging words amidst the current political battles. Paul challenged his readers in the First Century, but also challenges us, to put love above all things – including politics.

Prayer: At times, I am pretty certain my political values and beliefs are exactly what you would want, O Lord. Humble my spirit; drive me back to scripture; allow compassion to lead me; provide me opportunities to listen to those who are on the other side and just might be right. O Lord, it is not easy. Please be gracious. Amen.

AND SPREAD THE WORD

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Ecclesiological Etchings: 09-26-16

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Scripture: Ephesians 3:7
I became a servant of the gospel because of the grace that God showed me through the exercise of his power.

Thought for the Day: What might the world look like with a few more Chris Bakers? I don’t want to puff up Chris’ ego too much, but there are some wonderful servants in the world, and Chris is one of them. He is willing to venture into the brokenness and suffering that too many attempt to ignore, and through the grace of God shown him, he is able to bring beauty and healing. What might the world look like with a few more Chris Bakers? It is not because of a lack of good models.

Prayer: God, make me a willing servant of your Gospel of unconditional love. Make in me a willing and receptive spirit to your invitation to bring that Gospel to those whom the world has rejected. Amen.

New Study Begins Wednesday

Noon & 6:30pm
(Chapters 1-7)

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Ecclesiological Etchings: 09-25-16

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Scripture: Ephesians 4:28
Thieves should no longer steal. Instead, they should go to work, using their hands to do good so that they will have something to share with whoever is in need.

Thought for the Day: Some folks might hear this as a rather obvious statement – confirming that those who steal need to stop. But for Paul, he is not only telling thieves to change their ways, but he also is making a profound theological statement when he speaks about them using their hands for the purpose of creating something to share. Paul doesn’t say, “Lock them up and throw away the key!” He doesn’t suggest that they are lost and worthless. In fact, he makes it rather clear that they have something of value to bring to the community. Our faith tells us that all of humanity has value and purpose in the eyes of God, yet we often do not communicate that idea in relationship to those who have made mistakes or fallen short of their potential. How might we help bring about a new perspective for someone who otherwise might go on believing that s/he has no potential for goodness or right-living?

Prayer: Merciful and Gracious God, I give you thanks for the way you remind us of our value in your Kingdom. May I live into this glorious truth and help others realize their potential as well. Amen.

Let’s Come Together In Worship
Today
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8:15am, 9:30am & 11:00am

Ecclesiological Etchings: 09-24-16

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Scripture: Romans 16:3-4
Say hello to Prisca and Aquila, my coworkers in Christ Jesus, who risked their own necks for my life. I’m not the only one who thanks God for them, but all the churches of the Gentiles do the same.

Thought for the Day: We always need to remember how Paul’s letters were not written with the intention of them becoming scripture. They were letters of introduction, encouragement, love and occasionally a little discipline. Toward the end of Romans, Paul spoke fondly of Prisca and Aquila, two “coworkers in Christ Jesus.” They risked everything for him – or literally, they placed their lives below the life of Paul by exposing their necks. In John’s Gospel, we find Jesus explaining how there is no greater love than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. From Paul’s vantage point, this is what Pricsa and Aquila had done. When we place our lives below the life of another, it is not only a gift but a powerful symbol. It says in a way that words cannot, “You are a person a value.” Isn’t that what God did in Jesus?

Prayer: Lord God, for all those who have lowered themselves with grace and humanity, I am blessed. Thank your for being the model that first inspired it all. Amen.

JOIN US FOR WORSHIP
TOMORROW MORNING
8:15, 9:30 & 11:00