Fasting: The Cloud of Comfort & Convenience

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This Summer, our church is exploring spiritual disciplines in order that we might be nudged into a deeper faith and healthier lifestyle. This week we are focusing on the discipline of fasting (you can listen to the sermon or get the “Digging Deeper” questions here).

We live in a comfort driven society. In the last 7-8 years we’ve seen the service industry drastically change and bend toward increased convenience. You no longer have to sit through commercials (thanks Netflix and Hulu), have to drive yourself or call a taxi (thanks Uber), or even talk to another person while ordering food for delivery (thanks UberEATS and Doordash). You don’t have to write a letter or even pick up the phone to connect with friends on the other side of the world (thanks FaceBook, Twitter, and Instagram). We’re finally living into the Burger King slogan from the late 80’s where you can get “your way, right away” with almost anything (thanks Amazon).

In a world like the one we’re experiencing today, we actually have to work to be inconvenienced. We have to choose to not take what Andy Crouch calls, “the easy everywhere solution.” 

Fasting calls us to be uncomfortable. It is the conscious choice to abstain from the comforts and conveniences around us, with the expressed purpose of leaning into God. It awakens us to the realities of our communities that we might not see when living with all of the options around us. Richard Foster writes, “More than any other Discipline, fasting reveals the things that control us. This is a wonderful benefit to the true disciple who longs to be transformed into the image of Jesus Christ. We cover up what is inside us with food and other good things, but in fasting these things surface.” What controls you? What might you need to fast from this week? 

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Find Your “Thin Place”

 

 

This Summer our focus is on creating habits that help us to draw near to God. The hope is – through being nudged into new spiritual disciplines – we would be challenged and stretched into a deeper faith and healthier lifestyle.

This week, we are exploring the discipline of Solitude (if you didn’t listen to the sermon or need the week’s “Digging Deeper” questions, you can get them here.)

 

There’s a concept that is often attributed to Celtic Christianity that hinges on the idea that there are physical spaces where God’s presence is felt more than others. These places are called Thin Places and the belief was/is that they exist in the space where “heaven and earth touch.”

There’s definitely a theological debate to be had around the concept, but it can’t be denied that there are moments throughout history where the Holy collides with the mundane. Scripture is full of them — Moses on Mt. Sinai or the burning bush, Saul on the rode to Damascus, the incarnation of Jesus… The challenge is to find those times and spaces in our lives today. 

I was first introduced to the Thin Place phrase while at a retreat center in the mountains. A lot of people visit this place with the intention of getting away from the daily grind or to spend time relaxing and in reflection. It’s important that we visit these places on a consistent basis, but if we want to live spiritually healthy lives we also have to learn to find Thin Places in our daily lives and weekly routines.

What does that look like for you? How can you find ten minutes, a half hour a day or a few hours a week? Can you walk on the beach, designate a chair in a room for silence, or sit under a tree in a park? Thin Places are all around us. Psalm 46 says that they exist in the midst of the chaos that so often surrounds us, that God is standing in the middle of it all and saying, “Be still, and know that I am God.”

How do you implement the discipline of solitude in your life? Where is your Thin Place?

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Dave

 

New Sermon Series: When You Pray

 

Years ago I was approached after a worship service by someone who was visibly frustrated with something from the service. The person said, “what is with your new age theology?!?” I paused, trying to quickly think through what I had said to see if there was anything that could remotely be considered “new age theology.” I think the person saw the puzzled look on my face and piped up, “YOU DIDN’T PRAY IN JESUS’ NAME!” I thought through the prayer I led that morning and said, “who do you think I was referring to when I said, ‘we pray all these things in the way that your Son taught us to pray…’”

“BUT YOU DIDN’T SAY JESUS!”

Prayer. It’s one of the most important things we do as Christians. It says a lot about who we are as individuals and what we value as a community. The words we choose are important, as is the time we spend listening.

Who better to model our prayer life after than the one we claim to follow? Jesus spent a lot of time connecting with and listening to his Father. In the Gospel of Luke, the disciples asked Jesus how to pray. He responds with the Lord’s Prayer. In Matthew, Jesus includes the same prayer as a part of his Sermon on the Mount. These words are important. They’re personal, they’re intentional and they tell us a lot about who God is and how our relationship with Him should look.

Over the next four weeks, we’ll be exploring the words that Jesus’ taught his disciples to pray. And as we do I’m going to invite us to think about how we choose our words, both in prayer and with one another. My hope for us as a community during this season is that we would learn to use Jesus’ model for prayer every day, that the words he used would define our relationship with God and would remind us that we serve a relational God.

Journeying with you,

Pastor Dave

Transition Update

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When I was a kid and the calendar changed from July to August, there was a significant shift in my thinking. It meant that Summer break was coming to a close and the new school year was just around the corner. I still continued with Summer activities and a relaxed routine, but I did so with the thought of a classroom and homework creeping toward the forefront of my mind. Transitioning back to school-mode took some mental and emotional preparation. It also took awhile for me to fully get there.

As a church, we’ve been in a season of transition for about a year. We’ve spent significant time processing who we are and discerning where God is leading. Some of us have struggled with the inevitable change that comes in transition and others are asking what is holding us back and are frustrated that we’re not moving faster. In some ways, like a student preparing to go back to school, we’re caught between what’s happening today and  the anticipation of what is coming.

As we head toward Fall and continue in our transition, it’s important we’re all on the same page. We have mapped out a three-phase transition process. That process includes (1) Finding or Identity, (2) Defining Direction and (3) Naming a Pastor. We have a Transition Team made up of elders that is working with the rest of Session to move through the process and we’re currently working to define our direction for our immediate path and to name some goals for the future.

Our aim is to conclude the second phase within the next month or so. Session has asked the Nominating Committee (affectionally, “NomCom”) to start searching for candidates for the Pastor Nominating Committee (PNC) and the NomCom is working hard to fill the nine spots of the PNC (seven members and two alternates). If you are interested in either recommending someone to serve or interested in serving yourself, you can download an application here.

Journeying With You – Dave Rohde, Interim Pastor

What We’re Singing, Summer 2016

Over the last few months our second service worship team has introduced quite a bit of new music. As we explore the Apostles Creed together this Summer, there are a few songs we’ll be singing during our services and we’d LOVE to give you something to listen to throughout the week. Enjoy!  (Note – Spotify is free: If you are using a Windows based machine download it here. If you are using a mac, download it here).

Good Friday. Again.

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The boy entered the small candy shop with his mom, bright eyed and full of anticipation for a chocolate treat as most seven-year-olds would. He searched the store for just the right sweet morsel that would satisfy his desire. His eyes sparkled as they studied the bright, Spring colored wrappings of each box, bag, and foil wrapped chocolate. The eggs…the bunnies…the baby chicks…the pastel colored baskets. And then he stopped for a few moments. A box of chocolates with a cross pictured on the front caught his attention. A sad shadow dimmed the brightness in his eyes as he pondered the box with a cross.

The boy looked up and loudly asked, “Hey Mom! It’s almost Easter already, huh?”

His mom answered, “Yes, son.”

To which the seven-year-old complained, “Aww, Mom! Does Jesus have to die again?!?!?”

There were sounds of a few giggles from the other shop customers, as well as smiles of amusement, and a few looks of disapproval. As the shoppers returned to their activity and the sounds of bustle resumed, I noticed the young boy was still pondering the box with the cross pictured on front. He didn’t mean to be funny or disrespectful with his comment. It seemed that in the midst of all the bright Spring colors…the chocolate bunnies…the foil wrapped eggs…and the marshmallow chicks – the representations of new life…resurrected life…there was an understanding by the boy that death had to come first.

And not just any death.

The death of Jesus.

On a cross.

We call it, “Good Friday.” Like the young boy in the candy shop, it’s difficult to see the death of someone…especially Jesus…as good. But so it is. The ultimate goodness of a God who loves us so much that He would pay the ultimate and complete price for us to have a restored relationship with Him. In the midst of reflecting on the pain…the torture…the cruelty…the betrayal…the brutality of being crucified…we also reflect on how He took upon Himself everything we deserved because of our disobedience…our selfishness…our stubbornness…our blatant rejection of God…

Our sin…

And paid the price. For good.

In one sense I would have liked to tell the young boy in the candy store, “No, Jesus doesn’t have to die again. He paid the price once and for all.”

And in my rather small, simple (Dare I say, childlike?) understanding of what Jesus did on the cross I would be correct.

But then I look at my life since the first time I came to truly understand and believe that Jesus’ death on the cross brought (and bought) my salvation, and I have to accept the fact that I have continued to live a life of disobedience, selfishness, stubbornness, and blatant rejection of God. I’ve continued to sin…and so I need to revisit Jesus’ death on the cross. I feel as if I need for Him to die again…in my place…so that I can walk in a continued restored relationship with God. I feel as if I need His death again…and again…and again.

I often find myself wanting to skip the reality of the death on Good Friday and just celebrate the new, resurrected life of Easter Sunday. Like the young boy, I don’t really want to ponder the cross. I want to celebrate and receive the victory of the empty tomb!! The bright colors! The new life!! The joy that He is risen…indeed!!!

But Jesus had to die first before He could rise. He had to pay the price in order to set us free. He willingly submitted Himself to the torture and death for my (our) sake before He could celebrate the victory and defeat of death. Giving me (us) the free gift of a resurrected, restored, and victorious life.

So I say to that young boy in the candy shop, “Yes” and “No.” Good Friday helps us to see that it’s both/and. “No” – the price Jesus paid by dying on the cross was a once-and-for-all sales transaction. Jesus never has to physically ever be crucified again. Like the hymn says, “Jesus paid it all!” But it’s also, “Yes” – because of our continual weakness, rebellion, and tendency towards sin, we have to revisit Jesus’ death again…and seemingly ask Him to pay the price, again…and die…again. Perhaps not physically, and definitely not for the sake of salvation, but on a spiritual level…a sanctification level.

Good Friday is a time of reflection. We pause to, once again, journey with Jesus through the torture of being crucified. We come to the foot of the cross and revisit the fact that Jesus’ death on the cross was our fault…is our fault. And it’s the one thing…the only thing…that restores our broken relationship with God. We come to the foot of the cross…weeping…wincing…in anguish…realizing the price He paid for our sin…and say…

Thank you.

I (we) receive Your forgiveness…Your grace…Your unmerited gift of salvation. I’m sorry that it’s because of me You had to die; then…and now. But I thank You from the bottom of my heart…my mind…and my spirit…for taking my place. I thank You for restoring my relationship with God; then…and now. I take this time…this moment…this Good Friday…to let Jesus die for me…

Again.

– Richard Bannister

Maundy Thursday

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Have you ever wondered how Jesus made all this happen? Could the owner of the house have been a follower? Some think the house owned by Mary, the mother of Mark. And, what do you think about the man carrying a jar of water? In that day, that type of work would have been reserved for a woman.

All of this allowed Jesus and his disciples to meet privately, away from the crowd. And it also prevented Judas from “leaking “the location to the Sanhedrin.

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After sundown on Thursday, Jesus and his disciples meet privately, perhaps even secretly, in the upper room of some unnamed house in Jerusalem. They take their place around a “U” shaped table which sets six to eight inches off the ground. They lay on their left on a cushion around the table.

This was much more than a festive meal, even more than a Passover meal. Jesus is the Passover Lamb, slain for the deliverance of his people. Three important things happen during the meal:

  1. Jesus washes the feet of his disciples
  2. The Betrayer is identified
  3. Jesus celebrates the Lord’s Supper with his disciples

Jesus is fully in control.  He executes the will of God, to whom he will soon return.

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The lesson should be simple: Jesus is the teacher. His students are not greater than he is, so if he serves in such a lowly fashion his disciples must be prepared to do the same. Today, we must be prepared to serve others as well. What do you do to engage and serve others?

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Even though Jesus and Judas know the score, the others are left in the dark. Judas was stripped of his office of Apostle and died a gruesome death.

Jesus went to the Cross.

The disciples went throughout the known world and spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And today, we’re commanded to go throughout the world and spread the same Gospel.

For two thousand years now, the church of Jesus has reenacted and remembered his death. Strangely, divinely, this celebration connects Christians today with the past. It allows us to relive all the events that follow: Peter’s denial and Jesus’ death; the joy of the resurrection and the hope of Peter’s restitution.

After taking the cup, Jesus gave thanks and said, “Take and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until kingdom of God comes.” Then, while they were eating, he took the bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body given for you, do this in remembrance of me.

In the Last Supper Jesus is memorializing his death. Not his life, nor his miracles or his teaching. His primary purpose for coming to this world was to die for the sins of it. The word “Maundy” is derived from the Latin word for “command.” This refers to the command Jesus gave to this disciples at the Last Supper, that they should love and serve one another. And he commands us to do the likewise!

– Elder, Leroy Bell