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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REPOST: God’s Love Poured Into Our Hearts, Overflowing Into the World

 This post is from 2013… May it help you as you consider; life, death, despair, mental illness, hopelessness and those you love.Suicide-Prevention-Hotline

   Yesterday was Memorial Day in our nation, a day to remember those who gave their lives for the cause of freedom and to ensure our safety.  Over the weekend a few of the news programs did stories about the struggles of veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and the high number of suicides.  The accounts of hopeless struggles that many silently go through were heart breaking.  Beyond those who have served our nation in the military, this week I had a pastoral colleague who was preparing for a memorial service for someone who committed suicide.  He sorrowfully expressed that this was the fifth such service he had led. Continue reading

Stewardship and the Abundant Life (with video blog extra)

We live in a culture that is full of messages of scarcity and excess.  These two ideals seem to be in conflict when looked at on the surface.    Yet, our sacristy mentality leads us to act out in excess.  The old adage, “the one with the most toys wins” is the embodiment of that reality.  The basic message is that the supply is limited and thus you need to hoard as much as you can.

This, of course, is in fact precisely the opposite of the Christian view of the world.  As a Christian, we are called to live a life that is situated in the power and providence of God.  The world’s view of life is that of a beginning, middle and end.  This is a limiting view of life.  As a Christian, we have gained a powerful insight into time and space. We know it is infinite.  There is no way to overstate what this knowledge does in our lives.  To know that God is infinite and our lives are eternal reorients our understanding of life, death and all that is involved. Continue reading

Further Conversations on the Rowboat and Sailboat Church

It is hard to write blog post that both fully expresses your thoughts while also being short enough that people read them.  Yesterday’s post Setting Sail “Is the Church a Rowboat or Sailboat?” has sparked some pretty good conversation.  As such I thought I would follow it up today with a bit more about what Joan S. Gray says in her book, “Spiritual Leadership for Church Officers: A Handbook,” says are the differences between Rowboat Churches and Sailboat Churches.  One part of this is expressed by the images below.  When I read her descriptions of the two I am more apt to think of the rowboat church as a galley ship rather than a dinghy.  That makes the oarsmen slaves not a crew.  More than once I have felt that the Church (Universal) has treated people in this way.

I think that at the heart of it all is where the starting point for our ministry and life is found.  She reminds us that we need to be dependent on the power and will of God.  Like it or not, many times the Church (Universal) has often thought of itself as the master of the mission of the church. Rather than seeking to discern, follow and work towards the “Missio Dei” or the Mission of God. Continue reading

Reflections on Balance and Rejuvenation

work-life-balance    It’s hard to believe that I have served as the Pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church since March of 2007. It seems like only yesterday that I was interviewing with the Pastoral Nominating Committee. I remember a conversation I had with the committee about my philosophy of ministry. In that conversation I told them that I believe that I am called to live a life that is a positive example. One area that even before I came to northern Virginia I knew I would need to model positive behavior was in the area of self care. I knew that our area was one of the most competitive and demanding climates in the country. The DC Metro area was and is an area that is engaged in the struggle to balance family, work and faith. Continue reading

Worship Announcements are Worship and Testimony

tired family'     Every week at the beginning of our worship services at Christ Presbyterian I am called upon to share announcements and highlight activities. While we have an extensive bulletin with a great deal of information and details, it still is expected that I will highlight them. When I first arrived at Christ Presbyterian, we actually passed the microphone to do this. It often took a great deal of time, so we decided that we would only announce a few items that either were impending or missed the bulletin.

Soon announcements were turned into prayers so they could be said during prayer time. I guess there are worse things to have happen than the ministries of the church being the subject of prayers. Yet, it also seems a bit strange. This wouldn’t be a problem if we were a sleepy church that didn’t do much. But we are a vital church with dynamic ministries. Perhaps you have noticed recently that I have made more announcements from the pulpit than I normally have chosen to. Part of this is because we have a lot going on. The other part of it is that it is difficult to choose what needs highlighting and what doesn’t. Inevitably someone is upset if you highlight one thing and not the other. 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

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