Tag Archives: Community of Faith

Stepping Out in Faith

Living in the Spirit
July 4, 2017

Scripture Reading: Genesis 24:34-36, 42-49, 58-67

And they called Rebekah, and said to her, ‘Will you go with this man?’ She said, ‘I will.’ So they sent away their sister Rebekah and her nurse along with Abraham’s servant and his men. And they blessed Rebekah and said to her,

‘May you, our sister, become
   thousands of myriads;
may your offspring gain possession
   of the gates of their foes.’
Then Rebekah and her maids rose up, mounted the camels, and followed the man; thus the servant took Rebekah, and went his way. –Genesis 24:58-61

Arranged marriages seem a little strange to us but they still happen in the world. I do not know how much of a choice Rebekah really had, but it seemed to be her decision. My guess is she and her mother had some long talks weighing the pros and cons. Marriage and bearing children were her culturally designation destiny.

I had wondered how my family members felt when they got on that ship to come to America aware they most likely would never see their loved ones who remained in the homeland ever again. I thought the same thing about family who traveled west in the USA until I found records where some aunts living in Pennsylvania visited Illinois in the 1840’s. We don’t think much about such a trip now. It was a major event then.

What Rebekah did was step out in faith to leave her family and travel to a new life. We are called in both small and large ways to step out in faith, move out of our comfort zones in service to God. It may mean interacting with strangers who become new friends, it may mean traveling to places far away or simply driving to the elementary school a few blocks from the church. It may mean learning how to use a saw, hammer a nail, or sack food. It may mean advocating for people whose voices alone are not heard. Whatever we are called to do, we must remember that we never do it alone. God is always with us and there are communities of faith ready and eager to join with us in a common cause.

Prayer: Grant us the courage of Rebekah to step out in faith when you call. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the new Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Provoked to Love

LOve worksLiving in the Spirit
November 13, 2015

Scripture Reading: Hebrews 10:19-25

Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds. This sentence struck me as rather odd. It would have made more sense to me to simply say “let us provoke one another.” The act of considering makes me envision the vultures setting in the tree in the cartoon movie Jungle Book shrugging their wings and one saying “What do you want to do tonight?” with another replying “I don’t know what do you want to do?” over and over again until “tonight” is lost. Church meetings operate like that at times. Calling a meeting to consider how to provoke ourselves seems a bit overkill, but we do it very well. We probably would identify a laundry lists of ideas and then rank order them from the ones that seem most plausible to the least. Our work would be recorded in the minutes but we probably would never get around to actually provoking anybody although the planners might try to love and do a few good deeds themselves. How many meetings have you attended over the past couple of decades designed to find ways to increase attendance? Is your attendance up?

The truth is none of us like to be provoked. The Greek word translated provoked is paroxusmos* and means a provocation which literally jabs (cuts) someone so they “must” respond. I think the author of Hebrews is recognizing that human nature prefers not to have its equilibrium disturbed. As followers of Christ when we fall into a steady state that does not include love we must enable each other to love as Christ loved and trust in his promise that his love will conquer the world.

Prayer: O Love that Will not let me Go, prick my conscience when I stray from loving as you love, forgive me, and set me back on the path toward your kingdom. Amen.

*http://biblehub.com/greek/3948.htm

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

Sancuary

pews_stainedglassLiving in the Spirit
August 19, 2015

Scripture Reading: Psalm 84

1 How lovely is your dwelling place,
O Lord of hosts!
2 My soul longs, indeed it faints
for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh sing for joy
to the living God.
3 Even the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may lay her young,
at your altars, O Lord of hosts,
my King and my God.
4 Happy are those who live in your house,
ever singing your praise. –Psalm 84:1-4

In all honesty, I have never been far from a home church or a church I made my home. I cannot even imagine life without that space or even just a community of faith. I have chosen to be a part of a denomination that serves communion every Sunday and there have been times in my life when I attended churches that did not. It was interesting the first couple of Sundays I noticed the service was different, but beyond that I really missed the service of the Lord’s Supper and was pleased to return to its presence in my life.

It is interesting watching children grow into young men and woman in the church. It does not take them long to identify the church and its people as theirs. They grow comfortable when dealing with a pesky candle on the communion table that just won’t light and they soon know all the tricks to make it work or when to reverently walk away. They notice when an elderly friend is missing. They quickly understand the sanctuary is a special place, not for loud talking or running. They intuitively offer to help, learning the needs of others while being able to reach out for help themselves when needed.

My favorite hymn is probably, Near to the Heart of God. Whether in a house church, by a lake side, or in a large cathedral being in the presence of other followers of Christ draws each of us nearer to the heart of God.

Prayer: O Jesus, blest Redeemer,
Sent from the heart of God,
Hold us who wait before Thee
Near to the heart of God.* Amen.

*Chorus to Near to the Heart of God Cleland B. McAfee see at http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/n/e/neartoth.htm
All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Communing with God

reflecting_the_character_of_god_op_607x455Living in the Spirit
July 15, 2015

Scripture Reading: Psalm 89:20-37

I have found my servant David; with my holy oil I have anointed him;
my hand shall always remain with him; my arm also shall strengthen him.
The enemy shall not outwit him, the wicked shall not humble him.
I will crush his foes before him and strike down those who hate him.
My faithfulness and steadfast love shall be with him; and in my name his horn shall be exalted.
I will set his hand on the sea and his right hand on the rivers.
He shall cry to me, “You are my Father, my God, and the Rock of my salvation!” –Psalm 89:20-26

Our poet today, perhaps David himself, is describing his experience of the very character of God. God is steadfast, enabler, protector, always faithful, always loving, and always present.

It is almost impossible to describe God without our viewpoint being filtered through our own perceptions, but the traits listed here are common among the descriptions shared by all of God’s children. These collective histories provide credence for our understandings of God and lend validity to the importance of living as God’s children in community. We are called to hold each other accountable within the bounds of love.

One of the ways we attempt to bring objectivity to our discussions, important to us scientific era people, is to turn to the Bible in search of inspiration, which is a good thing for this practice includes that wonderful cloud of witnesses, spoken of in the book of Hebrews, to our deliberations. This practice, however, has its pratfalls. The Bible was written in a time when the search for truth were treated differently than the fact bases scientific methods used today.

Such dialogue is difficult. Even in community, we humans are capable of growing synergy for evil as well as for good and God. I love the quote from Abraham Lincoln when challenged to deal with the belief that God was taking sides in the War Between the States, his response was: Sir my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.

Our challenge today is seeking individual and collective communion with God letting our shared experience and knowledge base feed our love for God and for one another as we strive together to be on God’s side.

Prayer: God, and Rock of my salvation, lead me guide me individually enabling me to make whatever contribution I can to your community of faith. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

Jesus is the Builder

Jesus is the builderLiving in the Spirit
August 24, 2014

 Scripture Reading: Matthew 16:13-20

He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.  — Matthew 16:15-18

It makes sense that a carpenter’s apprentice would envision the future through the eyes of a builder. One of the first tasks of a builder is to select the raw materials, gather the rocks from which to form the foundation. Jesus is doing that task in our scripture today as he shapes and molds the first disciples making them the foundation for the community of faith not made with hands. He has even assigned Simon a nickname, Peter, the rock, to emphasize this role.

Simon Peter’s natural leadership ability was key to the success of the formation of this community particularly after Jesus’ death and resurrection. Simon Peter’s faith and thus his success was totally dependent on this confession of faith: You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God. The Jews had long been looking for this promised one who was to come and save them from destruction. But like us, those first century Jews had an image of what that anointed one would look like, be like. Perhaps they hoped for a mighty warrior, perhaps a wise and powerful monarch, probably not a carpenter’s apprentice whose primary function was loving everyone. The other disciples had most likely seen the same clues that Simon Peter had. He gave voice to what everyone else was afraid to say.

And so today we are still working on that community of faith using the foundation of these first disciples. Jesus, the Christ, is still the builder. It is being constructed based on His design and we are the ones now saying Christ Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the living God. We are called as one community with many facets all striving for justice and mercy.

Prayer: Keep us focused on your design as we strive to extend your community of faith to all the peoples of the world. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.