Sunday’s Palms are Wednesday’s Ashes (Originally Posted 2-2013)

Today, I wanted to repost this article on Ash Wednesday from 2013.  Join us tonight for our supper and service at 6:30 PM

   Ash-Wednesday-for-web-2014 I don’t know if many know that I am a cradle Presbyterian. That means I was born a Presbyterian and for the most part have always worshiped as a Presbyterian. Beyond that I was raised in a Presbyterian Church that was influenced by a Dutch Reformed mindset. As such we were less than liturgical. The only liturgical traditions I remember were Maundy Thursday and Advent. I don’t recall growing up with any traditions around Ash Wednesday and Lent in general. That’s not to say they weren’t present, I just don’t recall them being very important in the life of the congregation.
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The Not So Low Sunday

easter season banner    The Sunday following Easter is traditionally known as Low Sunday.  This name has theological origins and is used to illustrate the contrast with Easter Sunday.  While there may be these theological and liturgical reasons for the name, history also shows that it is a good summary of attendance.  Frequently, the Sunday that follows Easter is one of the lowest attended Sundays.  This low is highlighted by the stark juxtaposition to  the often swelled crowds of Easter Sunday. 

    For Christ Presbyterian Church I believe we bucked the Low Sunday trend.  This Low Sunday was anything but low for our congregation.  Our congregational meeting and Worship were not only well attended, but also rife with the reality of Jesus’ Resurrection. Continue reading

In times of uncertainty we must remember that in “God We Trust.”

     These are times of great uncertainty. Perhaps I should say that these are times when we are highly aware of the uncertainty around us. I say this not to downplay the seriousness of how many around us feel. In one way or another, we are all being affected by the most recent cause of dramatic uncertainty in our lives, sequestration. Our congregation has many individuals and families that are at risk of being directly affected by the budget cuts. Beyond that, we have the continued concern of the overall economic recovery from recession. We can even see this uncertainty affecting our congregational budget.
InGodWeTrust      I am not going to discuss the finer points of the political situations that have led us to this point. Actually, I am far from qualified to speak of such things. So the question comes, “What am I qualified to speak about in this situation?”
Regardless of the cause, uncertainty is all about the unknown. I have spoken with myriads of people who are awaiting medical test results. Time and time again the refrain I hear is that they just want to know what is happening. We are people who want answers. Knowing what is coming our way gives us a sense of control and power over a situation.
For many years I have wondered about how our national currency still has the phrase, “In God We Trust” on it. There is obvious reasons why some would seek to eliminate this phrase from our money and as our countries official motto. I actually understand others perspective on this, but am glad for Christian’s sake that it hasn’t happened. I’m thankful because for Christians, it makes every dollar and cent physically embody our theological understanding of our lives. We are reminded that it is truly, IN GOD WE TRUST. Continue reading

No More Dirty Laundry: Turning from Negativity to Life Affirming Messages

dirty-laundryI find it amazing how easy it is to get distracted by the negatives in life.  Truth be told, lately I have allowed some of the struggles of life hold more weight than the positives. Some of this is due to the fact that I have been struggling with a nagging sickness that seems to want to hold on to me more than I want it to.  The reality of the mind, spirit and body connection is one that we often only pay attention to when it’s too late.  Yet we know that when one part of our bio-psycho-spiritual being is off, the rest are surly effected.

I also know that we live in a world that celebrates the negative.  We live life surrounded by bad news.  In 1982 Don Henley released the song, “Dirty Laundry.” Continue reading

The Deacon (Part two of a three part series on the ordained offices of the Presbyterian Church)

STK-many-hands-prayer-sepiaThis past week in worship we reflected on the words of Paul as he speaks about Spiritual Gifts.  Paul writes to the church in Corinth with regards to how the gifts of the Spirit are given:

      “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”          1 Corinthians 12:4-7

Today as we shift our discussion of the ordained offices from Ruling Elders to Deacons, I believe this is a great place to start.  In this passage Paul is encouraging us to remember that the manifestation of the Holy Spirit in our lives is varied and as such enables us to perform various activities.   This is a critical lesson for us to learn when discerning who is called to the different ordained offices.  Each office calls for different gifts.  Yet they are all brought to life in the shared ministry for the common good. Continue reading

The Ruling Elder (Part one of a three part series on the ordained offices of the Presbyterian Church)

ordination_50521_web   Each year our congregation goes through the discernment process of selecting leaders for our congregation. The nominating taskforce is working to recommend a slate of officers to the Session for the next class of Elders and Deacons. This is perhaps one of the most anxiety ridden times of the year. The nominating taskforce is concerned with not only getting the people to fill spots, but perhaps more importantly, the right people to answer God’s calling. Today, I will discuss the specific calling to be a Ruling Elder.
    A few years ago, Christ Presbyterian Church made a conscious effort to be more fully open to the leading and discernment of the Spirit in this process. In the past, like most congregations, our congregation would approach the selection of Elders by trying to find people who were going to be Elders for specific areas of our ministry. Examples of this would have been an Elder for Finance or Christian Education. In this model, the ability to fulfill a specific role would often trump the spiritual calling to such a leadership role. I’m sure that you have experienced in you life those who are at the top of their field for their ability, but once given leadership, fall apart. Continue reading

Practicing What I Preach or Do As I Say Not As I Do?

     Practice what you preach is one of those sayings that is easy to throw around, unless you’re a preacher.  As one who consistently is called to stand before the assembled congregation and proclaim God’s Word, it can be a daunting task.  Not only does it mean that I have to make sure that I am being true to the sacred Biblical text, but I also must ensure that I am a creditable witness to the text.  This isn’t always easy.  The news has many accounts of preachers who subscribe to “the do as I say not as I do” school of thought. 

      I remember when I was a Chaplain Candidate with the Navy and I was taught this very important lesson.  Each summer I would spend time with sailors onboard a ship or other installation.  The first summer I was stationed aboard the USS Anzio.  The Anzio is a guided missile cruiser. For those of you not versed in Naval architecture, a cruiser is not a large ship.  At only 567 feet long and 55 feet wide, this means that the crew live in close quarters.  A crew of 367 people share every space and find themselves in almost constant contact with others.  This context helped to heighten my awareness of just how important it is to be of a consistent character and to ensure that I am practicing as well as preaching.  You can’t be a fake with people when you share a bathroom.  Continue reading

Changing Seasons and Seasons of the Spirit

    Each year as summer begins to give way to fall and the days get shorter, I can’t help but have a mix of emotions.  Just over the horizon of the year stands the busy fall.  The beginning of school, the kick off of fall ministries, fall sports and many more things are looming.  Today I sit and wonder why it is that this is the image of the future I hold.  Should the future be a burden?  Perhaps personal and corporate history says yes, but it doesn’t have to be so.

    Looking to the future with dread is not a healthy or faithful response to the world.  Our God has promised good to us and we should hold that hope out in front of us not as a reward for suffering but a current reality.  Far too often we use the “pie in the sky” as a motivation rather than reveling in the goodness God has provided around us. 

   As you begin to look forward to what the fall holds, I pray that you will be blessed with a deep and abiding knowledge that God is present in your life.   I offer these questions as way to help you discern God’s presence in your life.

  • In what events or experiences have you felt God’s presence in your life this summer?
  • What are you most looking forward to this fall?
  • How can you open your heart to God’s presence?
  • Are there things in your life that are not spiritual blessings but instead spiritual drains?  Can these things be eliminated?
  • How can the spiritual community of the Church help you find ways to celebrate the blessings in your life today?

I pray that God will help you to find blessings in your life.  I also invite you into conversation about how the church and I can help you grow in discipleship. 

Holy God, as we transition from summer to fall, we seek your guiding spirit in our midst.  Help us to recognize your blessings in the midst of the chaos of our lives.  In our recognition of blessings, may we find strength and hope.  Finally Lord, guide us to make our lives conform to your will and help us to make decisions about our time with your loving Spirit. AMEN

 

Chasing the American Dream vs. Taking Time to be Holy… A video follow-up

This is a video post of “The American Dream” by Casting Crowns.  I have posted this to Facebook a few times but think that it’s a great follow up to last week’s blog post about “Taking Time to Be Holy.”  Being a father, mother, child, neighbor and friend provide many opportunities to share Holiness with the world.  Are we spending our time chasing the American Dream or are we finding ways to have balance and sharing ourselves with those around us.

A responce to the viral video of Middle School boys bullying a 68 year old woman. Over coming evil with good.

   I’m sure that many of you have seen the viral video of middle school student’s bullying a 68 year old bus monitor.  The video, which I didn’t watch all of because I don’t want to allow such poison in my heart, has been viewed by over one million people (you can find it on YouTube.  This has sparked a conversation about kids and how they are raised to treat others.  For some this video has a voyeuristic appeal as they enjoy the meanness they watch.  Others are being moved by this video to have conversations about civility and the practice of parenting. Continue reading