Monday, December 1, 2014

Blogging through December

The word Advent means "coming" or "arrival." During Advent we celebrate the birth of Jesus the Christ in his first Advent, and we anticipate his return as Christ the King. Without a doubt there is something magical about this time of the liturgical year that is filled with waiting and longing and hoping. This year, during our waiting time, we will examine THE STORY of our faith while engaging several children's story books written about some of our Christmas traditions. So make plans to be with us as we consider the legends of the Christmas tree, the Christmas stocking, and others. 

In addition, you may wish to prepare for worship by reflecting on the readings provided in our Advent devotional by Henry Nouwen, Wait for the LordMay the following prayer written by John Bell bless you along the way. 

You keep us waiting.
You, the God of all time,
want us to wait
for the right time in which to discover
who we are, where we are to go,
who will be with us, and what we must do.
So thank you…for the waiting time.

You keep us looking.
You, the God of all space,
want us to look in the right and wrong places
for signs of hope,
for people who are hopeless,
for visions of a better world which will appear
among the disappointments of the world we know.
So thank you…for the looking time.

You keep us loving.
You, the God whose name is love,
want us to be like you—
to love the loveless and the unlovely and the unloveable;
and, most difficult of all,
to love ourselves.
So thank you…for the loving time.

And in all this,
you keep us.
Through hard questions with no easy answers;
through failing where we hoped to succeed
and making an impact where we felt we were useless;
through the patience and the dreams and the love of others;
and through Jesus Christ and his Spirit,
you keep us.
So thank you…for the keeping time,
and for now,
and for ever,

I look forward to accompanying you on the journey through Advent. 


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Blogging through November

"Fagus sylvatica JPG2a" by Jean-Pol GRANDMONT ; via Wikimedia Commons

We start the month of November by celebrating All Saints' Day. As we gather, we will remember loved ones who have gone before us upon whose shoulders we stand. Later in the month, on November 23rd, we will review the entire church calendar year in a "lessons and hymns" style service. Finally, November 30th marks the beginning of Advent. 

In preparation for worship throughout the month, take time to prepare by referring to this post each week. Reflect on the readings and questions or comments. Then, let us gather on The Lord’s Day to sing, pray, listen, and commune with our Holy and Loving God.

November 2, 2014
Read 1 John 3:1-3 and consider the following:
  1. How is God's love made known to us in this text?
  2. Because of this, what do we know?
  3. In honor of All Saints' Day, recall those who have passed from this life to the next, who impacted your life in a meaningful way. Then spend some time in prayer, giving God thanks for their life and witness. 
November 9, 2014
Read Matthew 25:1-13.
1.    What strikes you as most important about this reading?
2.    In the parable, what is the Kingdom of God like?
3.    Why is it important to “keep awake”?

November 16, 2014
Read Matthew 25:14-30 using the spiritual practice of lectio divina. Read the text once and sit quietly, giving yourself time to absorb the parable. What is the context in which the story is told? Read the passage a second time and prayerfully consider what talents God has given you? Finally, read the text a third time. Then sit in prayerful silence, listening for what word the Holy Spirit might have for you today.

November 23, 2014
Christ the King Sunday marks the end of the church year. During the week reflect on how Christ is King of your life. In addition, spend some time in meditation. As you do, prayerfully consider how you might share the story of Jesus’ life and ministry with someone who has never heard about our Lord. Then join us for worship as we “tell the story” through Scripture and music.

November 30, 2014
Read Mark 13:24-37 and consider the following: 
  1. Herein is a prophecy about the Son of Man. What is the prophecy? 
  2. How does this story tie into the Season of Advent? 
  3. In our spiritual lives, how can we “keep awake”?
One of the most important things we do as Christians is to gather on The Lord’s Day to worship our Triune God. Come, let us worship the Lord!


Monday, September 29, 2014

Blogging through October

We start the month of October by celebrating World Communion Sunday. What a wonderful way to begin thinking about the coming fall harvest and God's great generosity. Throughout the month, take time to prepare for worship by referring to this post each week. Reflect on the readings and questions or comments. Then, let us gather on The Lord's Day to sing, pray, listen, and commune with our Holy and Loving God. 

October 5, 2014
World Communion Sunday (originally called World Wide Communion Sunday) is a gift of the Presbyterian Church to the larger ecumenical church. The first celebration occurred at Shadyside Presbyterian Church in Pittsburg, PA in 1933. Dr. Hugh Thompson Kerr, who presided over the first service, had this to say, several years later, "The concept spread very slowly at the start. People did not give it a whole lot of thought. It was during the Second World War that the spirit caught hold, because we were trying to hold the world together. World Wide Communion symbolized the effort to hold things together, in a spiritual sense. It emphasized that we are one in the Spirit and the Gospel of Jesus Christ." In preparation for this Sunday's worship, meditate on ways the very act of dining at The Lord's Table feeds you spiritually and brings you closer to people all over the globe. 

October 12, 2014
Read Matthew 22:1-14 and then consider the following:
  1. In this text, what does Jesus say the kingdom of heaven is like?
  2. Who are invited to the banquet?
  3. What strikes you as most important about this reading?
  4. About what would you like to know more?
October 19, 2014
Read Matthew 22:15-22.
  1. What agenda do the Pharisees have in this reading?
  2. Who joins them in their endeavor?
  3. At the end of the day, what are the "things that are God's"?

October 26, 2014   ("Glory to God" Hymnal Dedication)
Read Exodus 15:20-21 and Revelation 19:1-8 and then consider the following:
Herein, songs are sung to worship God. Take a moment to reflect on other songs that are recorded in Scripture. In this day and time, what song do you sing to God? With words? With music? With your very life?
As always, I look forward to worshiping with you each Sunday morning. Come along, and bring a friend.


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Blogging through September

After completing the Sermon Series: Questions Jesus Asked, we return to the Lectionary as our guide through the ordinary days of Jesus' ministry. In preparation for worship each Sunday, be sure to refer back to this post each week and reflect on the readings and questions / comments. Then, let us gather on The Lord's Day to sing, pray, listen, and commune with our Holy and Loving God.  

September 9
Read Romans 13:8-14 and Matthew 18:15-20
  1. From the Romans passage, what does Paul teach about fulfilling the law?
  2. From his perspective, what time is it?
  3. Turning to the gospel reading, reflect for a moment on verse 20. What happens in the midst of two or three gathered in Jesus' name?

September 14
Read Romans 14:1-12 and Matthew 18:21-35 
  1. From Romans, what stands out for you as important about this reading? Why?
  2. Turning to Matthew, who poses the question that Jesus answers with a parable?
  3. What is the question?
  4. How does Jesus' answer go against the grain of what we would expect?

September 21
Read Philippians 1:21-30 and Matthew 20:1-16
  1. In his letter to the church of Philippi, what does Paul see as "gain"?
  2. In the reading from Matthew, what does Jesus say the kingdom of heaven is like?
  3. What is counter-intuitive about this parable?
  4. How does the story end?

September 28
Read Philippians 2:1-13 and Matthew 21:23-32
  1. In his letter to the church of Philippi, what does Paul urge the people to do?
  2. How do you seek to "let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus"?
  3. From the gospel reading, who questions Jesus' authority?
  4. What meaning do you garner from the parable of the two sons?
As always, I look forward to our time of worship each Sunday. Come along and bring a friend!



Monday, July 28, 2014

Blogging through August

Sunflowers in Israel

The summer sermon series, Questions Jesus Asked, continues through the month of August. Be sure to refer back to this post each week to help you prepare for worship. Then, let us gather on The Lord's Day, to sing, pray, listen, and commune with our wondrous Creator.

August 3: Do you want to get well?
Read John 5:1-18. 
  1. On what day of the week does this miracle story occur? 
  2. Why is this important?
  3. What obstacles must the sick man overcome to be made well?
August 10: What are you looking for?
Read John 1:35-42.
  1. What has happened in the Gospel of John immediately before this?
  2. What role do the disciples play in spreading the word about Jesus?
  3. How is this applicable to us today?
  4. When you approach Jesus, what are you looking for?
August 17: So, can you not watch with me for one hour?
Using the spiritual practice of lectio divina, read Matthew 26:36-46 three times, allowing moments of silence between each reading. For the first reading, consider the historical context or setting. What is happening? To whom? For the second reading, reflect on what the text has to say to you. Finally, for the third reading, respond to this question: What difference does this text make today, for me in my own spiritual life?

August 24: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Read Matthew 27:45-56.
  1. What specific details are offered in this reading and why do you think they are included?
  2. What happened at the temple when Jesus breathed his last?
  3. How did nature respond to the death of Jesus?
  4. When, in your own life, have you felt forsaken by God?
August 31: Do you love me?
Read John 21:15-23.
  1. What has happened in the recent past to damage Peter's relationship with Jesus?
  2. How does Jesus model love for Peter in this story?
  3. Take some time to meditate on this question throughout the week: How could Jesus commission us to do his work when it's quite obvious that we love so inadequately?
Finally, plan to join us and invite a friend for our annual "Blessing of the Hands" service, August 31st. We will conclude our summer sermon series being blessed and being sent to do the work God has given each one of us to do.

I hope to see you each Sunday! 


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Blogging through July

Sea of Galilee

Our summer sermon series, "Questions Jesus Asked” is underway. In the coming weeks in preparation for worship, take some time to read the text/s and reflect on the statements or questions that are posed. Then, let us gather to sing, to pray, and to listen for the still, small voice of our Gracious and Holy God. 

July 6: Which is easier?
Read Mark 2:1-12.
1.       Now read the text again but this time try to “see” the setting in which this occurs. How do you imagine the scene?
2.       What did Jesus perceive in his spirit?
3.       How does Jesus refer to himself?

July 13: Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?
Read Mark 4:35-41.
1.       How do the disciples respond to the raging storm?
2.       How does Jesus respond?
3.       What message does this text hold for you personally at this time in your life?

July 20: Can you see anything?
Read Mark 8:22-26.
1.       What makes this healing story different from others?
2.       Has the man always been blind? How do you know?
3.       What is Jesus’ final instruction to the man?

July 27: Are you not of more value?
Read Matthew 6:25-34 three times using the spiritual practice of lectio divina.  Pause for a moment or two after each reading to prayerfully listen. Then consider the following:
1.       What is the message Jesus is trying to share with the people?
2.       What word does Jesus have for you today?  
3.       How might his words strengthen you on your spiritual journey?

As always I look forward to our time of worship each Sunday.  Come along---and bring a friend!


Sunday, June 8, 2014

Blogging through June

Miniature depiction of Andrei Rublev's "Trinity"

Looking out over the remaining Sundays in June, this Sunday we will celebrate Trinity Sunday. Thereafter, we begin the summer sermon series, "Questions Jesus Asked." Each week in preparation for worship, take some time to read the text/s and reflect on the statements or questions that are posed. Then, let us gather in spirit and in truth to worship God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit. 

June 15: Trinity Sunday
Read 2 Corinthians 13:11-13 and Matthew 28:16-20 and consider the following:
  1. What makes these texts appropriate for Trinity Sunday?
  2. How do you imagine the Trinity?
  3. Does thinking of God in three persons (Father, Son, and Spirit) make a difference to your faith walk? If so, how?

June 22: Is it lawful to do good or harm on the Sabbath?
Read Mark 2:23-3:6.

At the start of the summer sermon series "Questions Jesus Asked," glance over the Gospel of Mark and note every question Jesus asks. The truth is Jesus asks many more questions than he answers throughout his ministry. What does this teach us about Jesus? About our role as his disciples?

June 29: Were Not All Ten Made Clean?
Read Luke 17:11-19.

  1. How many lepers approach Jesus? 
  2. How many return to give thanks?
  3. What does it really mean to be healed?

As your pastor, I look forward to our time of worship. See you Sunday!


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Blogging toward Sunday

Sunday we gather to celebrate Pentecost. Kathleen Long Bostrom offers the following: 
Before there was Christmas and Easter, there was Pentecost--at least as far as the liturgical calendar is concerned. While Easter celebrations may have happened in the years immediately following the first Easter, Christmas and Easter were not designated as official Christian holidays until the fourth century. Evidence suggests that churches observed Pentecost as early as the first century. 
Pentecost is the day we celebrate the birth of the church. In preparation for worship, read Acts 2:1-21 and consider the following:
  1. In regard to the senses (sight, sound, etc.) what do you imagine this experience was like?
  2. How do people respond to the coming of the Spirit?
  3. What image of the Holy Spirit do you relate to? Counselor? Dove? Friend? Advocate?
  4. What Spirit-given gifts do you bring to the body of Christ?
May the following prayer written by Bostrom aid us on our journey toward Sunday's celebration.

Creator of branches, rivers, 
and stones,
of fiery flames and startling stars;
kindle the spark of your spirit
within us;
set our hearts on fire.
Knit us together--
the hands, feet, ears, and eyes
and voices and yes, even the elbows
and knees,
until we become one body in Christ.
Your will be done,
in earth and in heaven;
world without end.


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Blogging toward Sunday

Image via Wikimedia Commons
Our Lenten journey comes to an end as we travel through the last week of Jesus' earthly life. Maundy Thursday we will sit around tables to enjoy fellowship and good food. Then we will sing hymns, read Scripture, and partake of Communion. 

Good Friday we will gather at the church once more to ponder the last hours of Jesus' life. It will be a somber and holy occasion. Yet, how can we truly celebration our Lord's resurrection if we do not first sit and gaze at our Jesus, hanging from a cross?

As Christians on this side of Easter, we know there is hope for Sunday is coming! Praise God! With hope flooding our hearts we will worship together Easter morning. In preparation, spend some time this week prayerfully reading John 20:1-18. I encourage you to read it through several times, reflecting on the following:
  1. At what time of day does Mary come to the tomb?
  2. How is this significant?
  3. Who else is mentioned in this narrative?
  4. Are you surprised that Jesus first appeared to a woman? 
  5. What does Jesus tell Mary to do?
  6. In your spiritual life, how do you show the world that you "have seen the Lord"?
Image via Wikimedia Commons
As your pastor, it is my hope that you will participate in our Holy Week services. It is my prayer that each service will bless you, encourage you, and through the Holy Spirit, empower you to go forth as bold disciples of our Risen Savior. 

May you never forget that you have been blessed to be a blessing. 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Blogging toward Sunday

Bowed and plucked lutes from the Cantigas de Santa Maria manuscript

This Sunday, April 13, 2014, the CHPC Choir will present our annual Easter Cantata. In preparation, reflect on the importance of music to your own life and faith. Consider the words of the psalmist found in Psalm 98.  

River Image via Creative Commons

Sing to the Lord a new song,
                for he has done marvelous things.
With his right hand and his holy arm
                has he won for himself the victory.

The LORD has made known his victory;
                his righteousness has he openly shown in
                                                the sight of the nations.

He remembers his mercy and faithfulness to
                                                the house of Israel,
                and all the ends of the earth have seen the
                                                victory of our God.

Shout with joy to the LORD, all you lands;
                lift up your voice, rejoice, and sing.

Sing to the LORD with the harp,
                with the harp and the voice of song.

With trumpets and the sound of the horn
                shout with joy before the King, the LORD.

Let the sea make a noise and all that is in it,
                the lands and those who dwell therein.

Let the rivers clap their hands,
                and let the hills ring out with joy before the LORD,
                when he comes to judge the earth.

In righteousness shall he judge the world
                and the peoples with equity.

How do these words speak to you about the intertwining of worship and music? Might the following prayer written by Walter C. Sutton be your prayer for today?

Today, I delight in your works, great Maker of Music. Music is one of your greatest gifts. Thank you, God, for melody, harmony, conterpoint, and syncopation. Music makes me laugh, or cry. It gets me up to dance, or compels me to sit quietly before its majestic passage. Music touches me in ways that words cannot. Thank you, God, for music. Amen.
Blessings on your week. As always, I look forward to worshiping with you this Sunday.