Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Sermon, January 22, 2017
Rev. Sally Ann Sisk

1 Corinthians 1:10-18
Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there are quarrels among you, my brothers and sisters. What I mean is that each of you says, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.” Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one can say that you were baptized in my name. (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power. For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 

Paul writes to the church in Corinth during a time of deep division. Tribes have formed around particular leaders. Believers are following the one who baptized them—Cephas, Apollos, and Paulinstead of Christ, in whom they were baptized. Members of the church in Corinth have turned to their corners and divided into camps.

In the US this weekend, indeed this whole year and this time in history, the state of the church in Corinth sounds too familiar. Many are calling it the divided states of America.We’ve seen a new president inaugurated one day, and millions of marginalized people protesting the next. We’ve heard from two camps that, in some ways, both feel they haven’t been heard in society. Even as diversity continues to increase in this nation made for immigrantshate crimes against people of color, immigrants, and muslims are also on the rise.  

And so this text may be a fitting one for us to read this weekend, but its message is also a difficult one to hear in a divided time. In a diverse world, I know that many families and communities find it difficult to talk about politics for fear of disturbing the peace. There are such intense feelings on both sides of a divided society that it is far easier not to discuss it. If we’re going to talk about our differences at all, there’s a tendency to use Christian unity as a band-aid, a convenient way to smooth things over and avoid the real issues of our diversity. 

But Paul doesn’t let us avoid the issues today. He addresses the issues head on—"what I mean is that each of you says, 'I belong to Paul,' or 'I belong to Apollos,' or 'I belong to Cephas,' or 'I belong to Christ.'  Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you?" The reason I’m going there today is that Paul went there so long ago, calling us to consider his example. To avoid the division in our society today would be to betray the power of Paul’s proclamation and, most importantly, as Paul says, the power of the cross. 

According to Paul, when society is as divided as it is now, when society is as divided as it was in Corinth, it DOES matter that we think differently. We can't ignore it.

I’ve spoken before about my trip to the Middle East in seminary. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately not because of the places I traveled but because of the people I traveled with. It was a bus full of tribes. There were five or so students from five or so seminaries, 35 students preparing to be ordained in the next year, along with a few community members to add to the diverse collection of ideas and understandings of the world that each of us brought. There were students representing the Southern Baptist Church, the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Methodist Church, the Unitarian Universalist Church, and the United Church of Christ. The group even included a few agnostics and a person of the Jewish faith, who was also a 70-year-old baton-twirler, I might add. Among these students and community leaders were people of various cultural traditions, parts of the country, sexual orientations, and genders. 

We were a bus full of passionate, opinionated, emotional people, traveling through checkpoints and across walls of hatred and conflict between religions, between peoples of God, in the land Jesus once called home. Needless to say, it was an intense 3 weeks. It was not all roses and unicorns. It did matter to all of us that we thought differently.There were many conversations in which we were deeply hurt by the perspectives of others, and frustrated, asking ourselves if unity in the world was possible at all.

I will always remember a conversation with one of my Southern Baptist brothers in which he tried to rescue me from entering ministry because he worried I just wouldn’t be able to handle it as a woman. He also worried aloud about the health of my marriage because of my career-minded attitude. My African American friends faced some tough conversations as well, as did almost everyone on the bus. There were countless discussions about race, politics, religion, and sexuality. There was really no way of getting around it on this bus for 3 weeks. 

But between the conversations, we shared every meal together. Between the conversations, we shared our stories. I shared my call story and with my Baptist friend. I listened as he shared his convictions about salvation. I listened to the stories of my African American classmates about their experiences of racism in their daily lives and in their preparation for ministry. Upon hearing the testimony of another, I've learned, it's hard to deny the truth and importance of another's story.

In times of division and misunderstanding, the only way around is through. I learned that unity in Christ does not give us permission us to stop listening to one another about what really matters in our lives. When we do take time to see things from an alternate perspective, I believe that in that mess, through the Holy Spirit, we recognize the fact of our unity—we are bound to one another. We cannot retreat into our corners, because the story of one of us matters to the stories of all of us. 

It is relationship, story, conversation,  and sharing that we can experience the true meaning of our unity in Christ. Otherwise, our unity is false unity and our peace false peace.

Martin Luther King, Jr, whose birthday we celebrated this week, said in 1968, 
“We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. And whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the way God’s universe is made; this is the way it is structured.”

Paul refers to his hearers as brothers and sisters, over and over and over again. Brother can sound like an innocent enough word and idea—we’re family in Christ, and this is a lovely image. But no matter what family we’re in, we can likely all recognize that family relationships are not always lovely and easy. Our family relationships can be the most contentious in our lives. Family members can abuse one another in word or deed, betray one another, and abandon one another. Civil wars are often spoken of as battles, brother against brother. 

We have a blood bond with our families. We love them with everything we are. But when we disagree, we have to reconcile the deep love we have for one another and the pain we can cause one another. It’s easy for brothers to assume they know one another while failing to truly listen. 

And so Paul’s claim that in Christ we are brothers and sisters is not as easy to live out as it sounds. The fact that we are brothers and sisters does not mean we can ignore our differences as we seek God’s justice in the world. It does not mean that we are all the same, but that we are by nature connected…connected in the life of the one who died for us. The cross of Christ is serious business, Paul says, because of the radical unity to which it calls us. 

Christ is undivided, and so, since Christ died for all of us, we are inextricably bound together. The sister behind a wall in Palestine, the brother trying desperately to feed their family in Mexico, 
the brother who just lost their job in Michigan, the sister who waits on death row, the sister trying to find a safe place to escape the violence in their land—we are brothers and sisters. 
We are bound together, like it or not. What impacts the life of one impacts the lives of all of us.
This good news should change our living. With this good news in mind, we have the responsibility as disciples to listen to our brothers and sisters, to listen when one is hurting or hungry, marginalized or oppressed, imprisoned or ignored. We have a responsibility to get into one another’s shoes and to get into the shoes of Jesus, to love who he loves, and proclaim this to the world. We, like Paul, are not called to live in a false peace, but to proclaim the power of the cross in the midst of division. We are called not to speak pretty words that will make everyone happy but profound ones that reflect the depth of our faith.

Unity in Christ means that we have to get out of our corners, listen, and share. This is no small task—this is hard work in such a divided society. But Jesus' ministry and his death were no small matters either. 

On the last week of our trip around the Middle East, our group arrived at Jerusalem’s city gates
and stopped at the Church of St. Anne. The church is an ancient landmark, built in the 1100s over the supposed birthplace of Mary. The church is known for its acoustics, but as we entered we were not in the mood for talking, too tired of debate. After several minutes of silence, though, three of our group members got up calmly and stood at the front of the church, facing the chancel with their backs to us. 
They were the three singers in the group, but also three who had hurt one another time and again on the trip, so many times, I guess, that they seemed to know what the others where thinking as they got up and started singing together. They sang in perfect harmony. Their voices were different, but they sang in perfect unity, looking up to the high ceilings of the old stone church. For over 30 minutes we listened. Travelers from all over the world who stopped into the church while we were there sat in silence too and listened to this unlikely singing group from three different corners of our bus.  

The fact that Christ is undivided means that we are brothers and sisters. It means that we are responsible for being in relationship with one other, especially with those who are different from us, even at the expense of our own comfort. We follow a God who did this in life and in death, Showing us the radical nature of our unity.  


Sunday, January 8, 2017

A Snow Day Devotional

Today is Baptism of the Lord Sunday, a day when we celebrate both the person and the purpose of Jesus Christ at the beginning of his ministry. But today we are not in the Colonial Heights Presbyterian Church sanctuary—hopefully, we are safe and warm for a Sabbath day at home as we wait for snow to melt outside our windows!

This a prayer service for us to read from home today. Separated from one another in body, we remember the one Lord, the one Holy Spirit, and the one baptism that unites us in spirit today. Though this doesn’t replace the experience of worshiping together, it invites us to reflect individually on the scriptures for the day and the meaning of baptism, for Jesus’ ministry and for us today.

Opening Sentences 
This is the day the Lord has made.
Let us rejoice and be glad in it!

Prayer of the Day
God of new life, your voice thunders above the sound of loud waters. You sit enthroned above the floods of life. As Jesus heard you speak to him in his baptism, may we also hear you calling us your beloved, through Jesus Christ, your son, our brother, Amen.

Psalm 29  
A Psalm of David.
Ascribe to the LORD, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.
 Ascribe to the LORD the glory of his name; worship the LORD in holy splendor.
 The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders,                            
the LORD, over mighty waters.  
The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is full of majesty.
The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars; the LORD breaks the cedars of Lebanon.  
God makes Lebanon skip like a calf, and Sirion like a young wild ox.
The voice of the LORD flashes forth flames of fire.
The voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness;
the LORD shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
The voice of the LORD causes the oaks to whirl, and strips the forest bare;
and in his temple all say, “Glory!”
The LORD sits enthroned over the flood; the LORD sits enthroned as king forever.
May the LORD give strength to his people! May the LORD bless his people with peace!

Gospel Reading Matthew 3:13-17
Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”

The story of Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River marks the beginning of his ministry. In Jesus’ baptism, God names him as God’s Son, the Beloved. This is a name that gives him an identity and a purpose.  He belongs to God. He is beloved by God. He is also commissioned to be God’s Son in his life and ministry. He is ordained for service, and his life’s work is begun in water and the Spirit.

Today baptism can easily become nothing more than a rite of passage, an event that happens and is over. But baptism is a powerful recognition that our whole lives will be shaped by water and the Spirit. Each morning we are named again as God’s very own beloved ones. Each day we are called again to live into our baptismal ordination as disciples of Jesus Christ.

Baptism is just the beginning. May we remember this beginning again and again as it continues to shape our lives of faith here and now!

Questions for Contemplation
1. Do you remember your baptism? If so, what was most memorable about it? If not, what does it mean for you to remember your baptism?

2.  Reflect on your journey of faith.
If baptism was the beginning, where are you now on the journey?
Has it been a straight, winding, or circular path?
Where are the places you’ve been lost and found along the way?
Where has your journey led you, and where do you think it will lead next?
What is your prayer to God as you continue this journey of faith?

3. The Apostles’ Creed is the baptismal creed of the Church. It unites us in faith across many Christian traditions and backgrounds. When we recite this creed, we not only profess our individual faith, but we also join with all the saints in recognizing our unity as one body in Christ.
Do you remember how you learned the Apostles Creed?
Who in the great cloud of witnesses has helped you to grow in faith?

The Apostles Creed
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
      creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
      who was conceived by the Holy Spirit
      and born of the virgin Mary.
      He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
      was crucified, died, and was buried;
      he descended to hell.
      The third day he rose again from the dead.
      He ascended to heaven
      and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.
      From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
      the holy catholic* church,
      the communion of saints,
      the forgiveness of sins,
      the resurrection of the body,
      and the life everlasting. Amen.

Prayer of Thanksgiving for Baptism
God our Mercy and Might,
We fear death and doubt your promises.
  Though we are made of earth, we plunder it.
Though we are made in your image, we abuse it in one another.
Yet in our baptism you have borne us in love,
bound us to mercy,
and turned us from the power of sin
to your reign of life.
Buried with Christ,
Risen with Christ,
We give you thanks.

In Jesus Christ you pursue us, forgive us, and unite us.
You are abiding mystery,
abundant paradox,
unending freedom,
infinite grace.
You are the rainbow in the rain,
the hope of the ages, most faithful God.
We are children of your covenant.
We trust your promises.
Buried with Christ,
Risen with Christ,
We give you thanks.

By your Spirit you ordain us to breathe in as we remember
and to breathe out as we live your dream:
a well for the thirsty,
a banquet for the hungry,
a name for the forgotten,
a home for the exiled,
a voice for the silenced,
a vision for the hopeless,
a new heaven and new earth.
Buried with Christ,
Risen with Christ,
We give you thanks.

Hear the good news!
In baptism we were buried with Christ.
In baptism also we were raised to life with him,
through faith in the power of God
who raised Christ from the dead.
Anyone who is in Christ
is a new creation.
The old life has gone;
a new life has begun.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding,
keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

— Rev. Sally Ann Sisk

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Blogging toward Sunday

Jesus Christ, Icon

In preparation for worship this Sunday, June 5, 2016, read the following from Paul's letter to the churches in Galatia: 
Am I now seeking human approval, or God’s approval? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still pleasing people, I would not be a servant of Christ. For I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not of human origin; for I did not receive it from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. You have heard, no doubt, of my earlier life in Judaism. I was violently persecuting the church of God and was trying to destroy it. I advanced in Judaism beyond many among my people of the same age, for I was far more zealous for the traditions of my ancestors. But when God, who had set me apart before I was born and called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, so that I might proclaim him among the Gentiles, I did not confer with any human being, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were already apostles before me, but I went away at once into Arabia, and afterwards I returned to Damascus.Then after three years I did go up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days; but I did not see any other apostle except James the Lord’s brother. In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie! Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia, and I was still unknown by sight to the churches of Judea that are in Christ; they only heard it said, “The one who formerly was persecuting us is now proclaiming the faith he once tried to destroy.” And they glorified God because of me (Galatians 1:10-24, NRSV). 
After spending time prayerfully meditating on the text, consider the following:

  1. Do you seek God's approval more often than you seek the approval of others? 
  2. From Paul's perspective, what is the origin of the gospel he proclaims?
  3. Why is Paul sharing his faith journey in the letter? (If you were not in worship last Sunday, look for clues in previous verses.)
  4. How long has it been since you shared your faith story with someone else?

Until we gather for worship, please join me in praying that God will bless our time together this Sunday so that we might, in turn, be a blessing to others.  

Grace & Peace,

Monday, May 30, 2016

Christ Has Set Us Free

Sermon for May 29, 2016
Psalm 96 and Galatians 1:1-12

"The Apostle Paul" via Wikimedia Commons
By now you may have heard that our sermon and teaching focus this summer is on that ugly e-word: Evangelism. Yes, it’s true. Presbyterians will actually gather in worship to ponder Christ’s Great Commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”[i] Undoubtedly, if spreading the gospel is something that interests us, there is no better place to begin than with the writings of the Apostle Paul.  So over the next two months, we will explore Paul’s life and his passion for telling all the world about his love for Christ.

First, a little background. Before he became the Apostle Paul, Paul was known as Saul and he was a faithful Jew who was fixated on persecuting the first Christians. He was present at the stoning of Stephen and he continued to ravage the church by entering house after house, dragging both men and women off to prison. Finally, he asked the high priest for letters to the synagogues at Damascus—letters that gave him permission to bind and bring back to Jerusalem any followers of Christ. But Paul’s journey took a surprising turn when, on the road to Damascus, a light from heaven flashed around him and a voice said, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” Saul was dumbfounded. “Who are you, Lord?” Imagine Saul’s surprise when he heard, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what to do.”

Saul is led by the hand into the city because he is unable to see. Three days later Ananias shows up with words from the Lord. “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And immediately, Saul’s sight is restored and he is baptized. God pierces the frozen shell of Saul’s heart and he is transformed. Christ gets into his heart. Love gets into his heart. The Gospel gets into his heart. It’s what Saul needs most. It is what we all need most. 

Thus Saul is transformed into Paul—an apostle, a missionary, a follower of Christ.  While he had been passionate about persecuting Christians, he becomes even more so about spreading the good news of Christ’s gospel. His letters fill the bulk of our New Testament canon. He is a great thinker, a great theologian, and he helps us understand things like grace and freedom—which brings us to Paul’s Letter to the Galatians. This letter is different from Paul’s other letters. It’s different because it is the only Pauline letter in which the traditional prayer of thanksgiving is missing. There is no word of thanks—no words of praise. Instead, there is a brief greeting and then, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel…” Paul is aggravated. Paul is annoyed.

As one commentator notes, were this not an assigned reading in the lectionary, we might be tempted to avoid this text altogether. It would be easy enough to justify: We have simply intercepted mail that is not addressed to us. This is a matter between Paul and the Galatians—it’s personal. Except, the truth of the matter is: This is God’s word to us so it might behoove us to pay attention.[ii]

What has happened to lead the churches in Galatia astray? Although more details are provided later in the letter, for our purposes this morning it is important to know that some other Christian teachers have visited the Gentile Galatian congregations and have left their calling card behind. More than that, they have planted the seed in the people’s hearts and minds that Paul only preached part of the gospel. From their perspective, to fully participate in God’s salvation story, Gentiles must be circumcised and they must keep the Law of Moses.

When Paul hears that something has been added to the gospel, he has no recourse but to teach it again in his letter. Irritated and angry, in essence, his message is this: “The Law may make you aware of your sin but only Christ liberates you from it! Christ makes you a Christian. Christ justifies you. Christ makes you right with God. And Christ’s love is available for all people through faith. Nothing needs to be added. You don’t earn God’s love. You don’t earn anything. Through Christ, you have been set free. Live as free people!”

Born in Charlottesville, Virginia, Charles Cousar served as a New Testament Professor at Columbia Theological Seminary for many years. In his commentary on Galatians, he sheds light on the predicament the churches in Galatia find themselves. Cousar writes,

They are working at the wrong end of the relationship with God—what they can do to assure inclusion in God’s family; what they can do to cope with the power of the flesh; what they can do to fulfill the law. The answer lies at the other end—what God has done in Christ and how he has done it. “Grace,” a word occurring at six key points in the letter, is not a “thing,” even a “thing” God gives. Rather it describes the manner in which God gives himself, the personal relationship he establishes with his people. The word depicts the unmerited and unconditional way in which God has made and continues to make his move toward sinful humanity…. What is the appropriate human response to grace? It is, of course, faith—the sometimes quiet, sometimes reckless confidence in the goodness and faithfulness of God…this means that faith is not a way for humans to “get God on their side.” God is already for them.[iii]

God is already for us! God is already on our side! Through Jesus, the love of God embraces all the world.  Each one of us bears Christ’s image.  We all belong to one human family. We all breathe the same air and drink the same water.  Every person is God's "offspring." Thanks be to God! What wonderful news we have to share! We are the church, after all, and we are called to share the gospel. But what is the gospel? The word “gospel” summarizes the Christian faith story. What is the gospel? God raised his own Son from the dead, thereby proclaiming for all the world to hear, “Death has lost its sting—death, itself, has been destroyed.” What is the gospel? Through Jesus’ sacrifice, our sins have been fully forgiven. What is the gospel? Christ loved the world so much he came to set us free—free to love the Lord our God with all our heart and soul and mind and free to love our neighbor as ourselves.

Indeed, we are free people but it turns out that living as free people can be hard work. We are anxious about our freedom. Surely we have to do something. Surely God’s grace is not sufficient. So we add stuff to the gospel. For the churches in Galatia—it was Christ AND circumcision. Over time, it became Christ AND believing right doctrines. Sometimes it is Christ AND my particular denomination. Often it is Christ AND my political party.

One day in a doctoral class at Columbia Theological Seminary, a young woman said with a certain degree of frustration, “You can’t be a Presbyterian Church without being a “social-justice” church.” To me her remark felt a little like Christ AND social justice. Of course, I believe the church needs to be about justice in the world but I also believe that God is not into cookie-cutter churches. God gives some churches the spiritual gifts and resources to work specifically in the area of social justice. God gives other churches the spiritual gifts and resources to focus on mission work—both near and far. Other churches, God equips to attend to ministries like feeding the hungry and meeting the needs of the poor, the downtrodden, and the forgotten. Still other churches, God has blessed to provide care for the world in numerous creative ways.  

Photo in Public Domain via Pixabay
No, God is not into cookie-cutter churches but each church has work to do. Ultimately though, aren't there some things we are ALL called to do? For instance, aren’t we ALL called to further the gospel to the ends of the lands…starting in our own neighborhood?  If so, as a denomination, Presbyterians are falling behind because we have a reputation for shying away from evangelism. That’s something those churches down the street do. Not us. Furthermore, for decades we have relied on those people “out there” to come “in here” to worship with us. Sure, occasionally we have invited friends and neighbors to join us and that’s wonderful. But maybe it’s time for us to do more. Maybe it’s time for us to go beyond these four walls with the gospel in hand. Otherwise, how will the unchurched in our neighborhood hear the good news that has transformed our lives?

Let’s face it! On any given Sunday morning, the unchurched are more prone to worship at St. Panera, St. Starbucks, St. Mattress, or the St. James River than to enter the doors of a church. The question is: Is there anything we can do about it? That is what we will explore together this summer as we consider ways to share the love of Christ with our neighbors. To help us get started, we will engage in our second Christ Walk experience beginning today through July 31st. Our goal is to cover 6900 miles—approximately the number of miles Paul covered by land and sea during his first three missionary trips. We will accrue miles through exercise, prayer and meditation, and service. This time, though, we will also accumulate miles by sharing our love of Christ with others and inviting people to church.

We will explore evangelism in other ways, too. For example, Session has asked the Professor of Evangelism at Union Seminary, John Vest, to preach July 10th. After worship we will have a covered dish luncheon with a Q&A so you can ask Dr. Vest questions about evangelism. Also, two of our new classes will actually meet in the community—the Book Club at the library and the Faith Formation Class at Panera Bread. And finally, the Online Bible Study, set to begin later this summer, will initially study the Acts of the Apostles, which tells the story of the birth of the church and the early spread of the gospel.

Evangelism. Yes, it’s that ugly e-word. But maybe it is time for us to embrace it rather than run from it.  Maybe it’s time for us to open the doors of the church and truly enter the mission field with the message of Christ’s love on our lips. Maybe it’s time for us to tell the world that Christ has set us free. Christ AND Christ alone!

[i] Matthew 28:19-20a.
[ii] Heidi Husted Armstrong, Feasting on the Word, Year C Volume 3, 86.
[iii] Charles B. Cousar: Interpretation Commentary: Galatians, 9-10. 

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Blogging toward Sunday

"The Apostle Paul" via Wikimedia Commons
This Sunday, May 29, 2016, we begin our summer focus on evangelism and the Apostle Paul. In preparation for worship, read Galatians 1:1-12. Then consider the following:
  1. What is the "feel" of this portion of Paul's letter to the churches of Galatia?
  2. Who has "sent" Paul?
  3. What has upset Paul?
  4. Paul's mission was to spread the gospel. How might you explain "the gospel" to someone who does not have a relationship with Jesus?
  5. Is sharing your faith story something you feel comfortable doing? Why? or Why not?
May the Lord bless your comings and your goings until we meet to worship together this Sunday morning. 

Grace & Peace,

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Blogging toward Sunday

"Dove: Holy Spirit" by Wolfgang Sauber via Wikimedia Commons

In the life of the church, this Sunday carries great importance. It is the Day of Pentecost, which marks the coming of the Holy Spirit and the birthday of the church. As you prepare for worship, meditate on Acts 2:1-21 and then consider the following:

  1. What were the signs of the Spirit's arrival?
  2. Did the festival of Pentecost originate in the Jewish tradition or the Christian tradition?
  3. What might be the significance of the list of countries included in this reading?
  4. When some of the observers see such amazing things happening, what accusation do they make?
  5. In general, churches do a good job celebrating Christmas and Easter. What about Pentecost?

The following is a poem penned by Malcolm Guite entitled, simply, "Pentecost." May it bless you on your journey toward Sunday. 

Today we feel the wind beneath our wings
Today the hidden fountain flows and plays
Today the church draws breath at last and sings
As every flame becomes a Tongue of praise.
This is the feast of fire, air, and water
Poured out and breathed and kindled into earth.
The earth herself awakens to her maker
And is translated out of death to birth.
The right words come today in their right order
And every word spells freedom and release
Today the gospel crosses every border
All tongues are loosened by the Prince of Peace
Today the lost are found in His translation.
Whose mother-tongue is Love, in every nation.

Grace & Peace,

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Blogging toward Sunday

"St. Paul the Apostle" via Wikimedia Commons
This Sunday, May 8, 2016, we will gather to pray and to sing hymns to God. In addition, we will listen for a word from God. To prepare for worship, spend some time meditating on Acts 16:6-34. Familiarize yourself with the text very well because the sermon will be interactive in nature. That means, you will have an opportunity to participate in the sermon!

So come, let us gather, and let us worship for we are believers in the Most High God.

Grace & Peace,