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.
     Continue reading

Advent Already?? (Original Post 11/23/2010)

Advent side barIt is hard to believe that Advent is upon us. The name Advent is derived from the Latin term Adventus meaning “coming”. The season of Advent in the church is intended to help the believer become filled with expectancy as we wait for the coming of Christ. As a believer we are called to use this time to rekindle our faith in the promises that arrive at Christmas and to prepare for the coming of Christ.

I’m sure that you’re expecting the usual, “turn from the secular Christmas,” Advent reflection. I have challenged myself this year to try and have a more peaceable understanding of modern Christmas traditions and even try to have a better relationship with Santa. This isn’t because I am willing to surrender to the cultural pressures, but instead I thought this year I would see if I could bring more meaning to our traditions. Continue reading

Prayers for Jesus to Calm the Storms That Remain After Disaster

Jesus calms the storm      Jesus Calms the Storm was the title of today’s Preschool Chapel Time. I selected that story early yesterday prior to the destructive storms that struck Oklahoma. Today I had planned to write an article on membership. It was going to be a well-thought-out theological work that talked of commitment and testimony. Then I turned on the news and was inundated with the horror of lost life and property. I have to say that when talk of third graders losing their lives began, chills and tears were the only reaction my body I could muster. The thought of sending Colin to school, and something like this happening immediately bought up a visceral response. Continue reading

The Holy Spirit and The Shepherd of My Soul

shepherd  losttop       During worship this past Sunday I testified to the fact that I love and am amazed by the Holy Spirit on a regular basis.  As has been the case in far too many instances than I can count, when an issue or situation in the world needs to be responded to in worship, the Holy Spirit has made it happen.  “Our regularly scheduled programming”  as television networks say, have consistently provided the worshipful response to even the most challenging issues. 

       This time, in the shadow of terror, I believe that the Holy Spirit spoke deeply to our needs.  One of the great blessings we have developed in our staff is that we push each other to prepare as many of the aspects of worship in advance.  In order to give  ourselves the appropriate time to rehearse choral music, pick suitable hymns and make a bulletin that doesn’t distract, we like to have as much done well in advance.  Continue reading

What is Revealed During Holy Week

Holy week book mark    Holy Week is upon us. Following the excitement of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, we begin to see the love of God expressed in the deepest and yet also most challenging way. Throughout this week the reality that God loves us and is for us comes into sharper and sharper focus. For some, this week is one that they would like to fast forward through. It is like a horror movie that we have seen over and over. Even though we know that the music is foreboding and we have seen the villain pop out from around the corner, we still jump. We know that this week has a joyous ending, yet between Palm Sunday and Easter there is a real darkness.
     While events of this week may have similarities to a horror movie there is one critical difference. The pain, suffering and death of Jesus is not an actor on a screen but is real. Beyond that, the suffering he bears is ours. For many years I remember being disconnected with this reality. As Reformed Christians we rightly focus our faith on the Risen Christ. Pastors are keen to point out the empty cross that stands in the front of our sanctuaries. We are part of the Christian tradition that seeks to focus on the deep love of God expressed in the fact that death no longer holds dominion over us. I’m glad that is our central focus. I’m not sure I could handle leading people to continual reflection on suffering without an overwhelming dose of Resurrection.
     Still, it is incumbent upon us to reflect on the suffering of Christ. Without this important part of our faith, we miss the depth of God’s love expressed in this week. Holy Week causes us to see God and ourselves more clearly. Holy Week is a snapshot of God’s reality in the world.
     During this week we are reminded of the gracious characteristics of God. The Palm Sunday experience reminds us that God is worthy of praise. Maundy Thursday demonstrates the deep compassion Christ has for us. In the upper room he demonstrates his service and sacrifice. In the garden we see the nature of Holy love and

obedience. Drawn to God at Gethsemane, Christ is honest and open before the Father. Glimmers of doubt and weakness are overcome with trust and submission. Good Friday is a supreme display of God’s steadfast love and willingness to do anything to restore us to full relationship.
     These very same events in Jesus’ life also highlight who we are as well. Palm Sunday gave us a glance into what life is like when we are captivated with God and offer our earnest prayer. In those who did not join the procession but scoffed, we see our ability to turn from God. Maundy Thursday demonstrates our weakness and sinful nature. Jesus institutes the Lord’s Supper so as to give us a continual Spiritual connection with his love and sacrifice. Jesus knew full well that his first disciples, as well as modern day disciples, would need a powerful reminder of his spiritual presence in the world. In his service at the foot washing, he gave a definitive reminder of how his followers should live. In the Garden we are shown how our desire to serve and our ability to do so are often disconnected. How often do we find ourselves asleep while we are supposed to be keeping watch. Of course Good Friday cuts the deepest. On Friday our sin is brought to bear on Christ’s body and spirit. We also see our timid faith and ability to easily fall away. We can see ourselves in every part of this story. Whether it is the crowd spitting on him, the centurions beating him, Pilate disavowing responsibility, criminals jeering him, or the disciples who are off hiding somewhere, in them we are present.
     Many avoid this aspect of Christ’s life and our sinful nature because it almost makes us seem worthless. The fact of the matter is that Holy Week shows us just how valuable we are. God is willing to endure this suffering because in God’s eyes we are priceless. “God so love the world that he gave his only begotten Son so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” (John 3:16) These words summarize the reason and cost of this week. God’s love for us is so powerful and steadfast that He will withhold nothing to make us one with him. While we may see aspects of ourselves this week that we don’t like, what we also see is the very nature of God expressed. That nature is one that is Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer of all life.

How do you live out a life that reflects this ultimate love God has shown you in Christ?

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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 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

“For Crying Out Loud!”

Once again our liturgical year has come full circle as we enter another Advent.  It almost seems unreal that it was a year ago that we were preparing for the coming of the New Born King with our readings, studies and songs.  Yet here we are, ready to embark once again on a journey to the manger.  The prophet Isaiah has some very profound words to describe what we should be doing during Advent.

A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” Continue reading

Popeye was right when he said… “I am what I am.”

    Each week at Christ Presbyterian Church we come together and express the unique character of community that God has called us to be.  One of my favorite things about being Presbyterian is that while we have many things in common with other Presbyterians we are free to be who we are.  In worship we incorporate many aspects of what people would call “traditional” Presbyterian worship, and we ensure that we adhere to the prescriptions of the Directory for Worship.  Like most of our sister churches, we confess and receive pardon.  We also read Scripture and hear the Word proclaimed in the sermon each week.  Along with many other aspects of worship, we could be judged as being like any other Presbyterian Church.  Continue reading

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.