Thursday, January 27, 2011

Newsbrief: After the Elders Retreat

We really had a great time.

And we got a lot accomplished.

And they even had “veggie meatloaf”…whatever that is.

This past Saturday we had the annual Elders Retreat at the Franciscan Renewal Center. It was a wonderful event filled with lively conversations that will hopefully set the stage for another terrific year for our Elders.

We centered the retreat around three guiding conversations based on the practical duties of our Elders (Visitation, Communion, and Public Speaking) but still left plenty of room for fellowship building, singing, worshipping, walking around the beautiful grounds of the Fraciscan Renewal Center, laughing, and eating together.

Which brings me back to that “veggie meatloaf.” It was really good…though they did also offer a more traditional meatloaf for those who eat meat.

My thanks to everyone who lifted up the Elders (and me!) in prayer this past Saturday as we met. We felt your prayers just as surely as we felt the presence of the living God in our retreat time. Now we are ready, better organized, and more fully prepared to serve you all in the coming year.

Just as a reminder to everyone, your Elders for 2011 are: Al Beasley, Monica Case, Julie Erickson, Bob Huber, Judy Kares, Michelle Landreville, Marilyn Lagesse, Carrie Marinkovich, Patti Shaffer, Bob Stall, Sue Travis, and Mike Wise (chair).

Yours in the journey, Rev. Brian

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Final Day)

Day 8 - Called for the Service of Reconciliation

Genesis 33:1-4
Esau ran to meet Jacob, and embraced him...and they wept
Psalm: 96:1-13 Say among the nations, ‘The Lord is King!’
2 Corinthians 5:17-21 God...reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the
ministry of reconciliation
Matthew 5:21-26 Leave your gift before the altar, and go: first be reconciled to your
brother or sister...

Our prayers of this week have taken us on a journey together. Guided by the scriptures, we have been called to return to our Christian origins - that apostolic Church at Jerusalem. Here we have seen devotion - to the apostles’ teaching, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to the prayers. At the end of our reflections on the ideal of Christian community presented to us in Acts 2:42, we return to our own contexts - the realities of divisions, discontents, disappointments and injustices. At this point the Church of Jerusalem poses us the question: to what, then, as we conclude this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity are we called, here and now?

Christians in Jerusalem today suggest an answer to us: we are called, above all, to the service of reconciliation. Such a call concerns reconciliation on many levels, and across a complexity of divisions. We pray for Christian unity so that the Church might be a sign and instrument for the healing of political and structural divisions and injustices; for the just and peaceful living together of the Jewish, Christian and Muslim peoples; for the growing in understanding between people of all faiths and none. In our personal and family lives, too, the call to reconciliation must find a response.

Jacob and Esau, in the Genesis text, are brothers, yet estranged. Their reconciliation comes even when enduring conflict might have been expected. Violence and the habits of anger are put aside as the brothers meet and weep together.

The recognition of our unity as Christians - and indeed as human beings - before God leads us into the Psalm’s great song of praise for the Lord who rules the world with loving justice. In Christ, God seeks to reconcile to Himself all peoples. In describing this, St. Paul, in our second reading, celebrates a life of reconciliation as “ a new creation”. The call to reconcile is the call to allow God’s power in us to make all things new.

Once again, we know that this ‘good news’ calls us to change the way we live. As Jesus challenges us,in the account given by St. Matthew, we cannot go on making offerings at the altar, in the knowledge that we are responsible for divisions or injustices. The call to prayer for Christian unity is a call to reconciliation. The call to reconciliation is a call to actions - even actions which interrupt our church activities.

God of Peace, we thank you that you sent your Son Jesus, so that we might be reconciled to yourself in Him. Give us the grace to be effective servants of reconciliation within our churches. In this way help us to serve the reconciliation of all peoples, particularly in your Holy Land - the place where you demolish the wall of separation between peoples, and unite everyone in the Body of Jesus, sacrificed on Mount Calvary. Fill us with love for one another; may our unity serve the reconciliation that you desire for all creation. We pray in the power of the Spirit. Amen.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Day 7)

Day 7 - Living in Resurrection Faith
Isaiah 60: 1-3 . 18-22
You shall call your walls Salvation, and your gates, Praise
Psalm: 118:1. 5-17
I shall not die, but I shall live
Roman 6: 3-11 …we have been buried with Christ by baptism into we too
might walk in newness of life
Matthew 28:1-10
Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid...


The first Christians’ devotion to the apostles’ teaching, fellowship, breaking of the bread and the prayers was made possible, above all, by the living power of the Risen Jesus. This power is living still, and today’s Jerusalem Christians witness to this. Whatever the difficulties of the present situation in which they find themselves - however much it feels like Gethsemane and Golgotha - they know in faith that all is made new by the truth of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.

The light and hope of the Resurrection changes everything. As Isaiah prophesies, it is the transformation of darkness into light; it is an enlightening for all peoples. The power of the Resurrection shines out from Jerusalem, the place of the Lord’s Passion, and draws all nations to its brightness. This is a new life, in which violence is put aside, and security found in salvation and praise.

In the Psalm we are given words to celebrate the central Christian experience of passing from death to life. This is the abiding sign of God’s steadfast love. This passing from the terrors of death into new life is the defining reality of all Christians. For, as St. Paul teaches, we have, in baptism, entered into the tomb with Christ, and been raised with Him. We have died with Christ, and live to share his risen life. And so we can see the world differently - with compassion, patience, love and hope; for, in Christ the present struggles can never be the whole story. Even as divided Christians, we know that the baptism that unites us is a bearing of the Cross in the light of the Resurrection.

For the Christian Gospel this resurrection life is not some mere concept or helpful idea; it is rooted in a vivid event in time and space. It is this event we hear recounted in the Gospel reading with great humanity and drama. From Jerusalem the Risen Lord sends greetings to His disciples across the ages, calling us to follow Him without fear. He goes ahead of us.

God, Protector of the widow, the orphan and the stranger - in a world where many know despair, you raised your Son Jesus to give hope for humanity and renewal to the earth. Continue to strengthen and unify your Church in its struggles against the forces of death in the world, where violence against creation and humanity obscures the hope of the new life you offer. This we pray in the name of the Risen Lord, in the power of His Spirit. Amen.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Day 6)

Day 6 - Empowered to Action in Prayer

Jonah 2:1-9 Deliverance belongs to the Lord!
Psalm 67:1-7
Let the peoples praise you, O God!
1Timothy 2:1-8 ...prayers should be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high
Matthew 6:5-15
Your kingdom come, your will be done...


Following devotion to the Apostles’ teaching and fellowship and the breaking of the bread, the fourth mark of the earliest Church of Jerusalem is the life of prayer. It is experienced today as the necessary source of the power and strength needed by Christians in Jerusalem - as everywhere. The witness of Christians in Jerusalem today calls us to a deeper recognition of the ways we face situations of injustice and inequality in our own contexts. In all this, it is prayer that empowers Christians for mission together.

For Jonah the intensity of his prayer is met with dramatic deliverance from the belly of the fish. His prayer is heartfelt, as it arises from his own sense of repentance at having tried to avoid God’s will: he has abandoned the Lord’s call to prophesy, and ended up in a hopeless place. And here God meets his prayer with deliverance for his mission.

The Psalm calls us to pray that God’s face will shine upon us - not only for our own benefit, but for the spread of His rule ‘among all the nations’.

The apostolic Church reminds us that prayer is a part of the strength and power of mission and prophecy for the world. Paul’s letter to Timothy here instructs us to pray especially for those with power in the world so that we may live together in peace and dignity. We pray for the unity of our societies, and lands, and for the unity of all humanity in God. Our prayer for our unity in Christ reaches out to the whole world.

This dynamic life of prayer is rooted in the Lord’s teaching to his disciples. In our reading from Matthew’s Gospel we hear of prayer as a ‘secret’ power, born not from display or performance, but from humble coming before the Lord. Jesus’ teaching is summed up in the Lord’s Prayer. Praying this together forms us as a united people who seek the Father’s will, and the building up of His Kingdom here on earth, and calls us to a life of forgiveness and reconciliation.

Lord God our Father, we rejoice that in all times, places and cultures, there are people who reach out to you in prayer. Above all we thank you for the example and teaching of your Son, Jesus Christ, who has taught us to long in prayer for the coming of your Kingdom. Teach us to pray better as Christians together, so that we may always be aware of your guidance and encouragement through all our joys and distress, through the power your Holy Spirit. Amen.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Day 5)

Day 5 - Breaking the Bread in Hope
Exodus 16: 13b-21a
It is the bread the Lord has given you to eat

Psalm:116: 12-14.16-18 I will offer to you a thanksgiving sacrifice
1 Corinthians 11:17-18.23-26 Do this in remembrance of me
John 6:53-58 This is the bread that came down from heaven...

From the first Church at Jerusalem until now, the ‘breaking of bread’ has been a central act for Christians. For the Christians of Jerusalem today, the sharing of bread traditionally speaks of
friendship, forgiveness and commitment to the other. We are challenged in this breaking of bread to seek a unity that can speak prophetically to a world of divisions. This is the world by which we
have all, in different ways, been shaped. In the breaking of bread Christians are formed anew for the prophetic message of hope for all humankind.

Today we, too, break bread ‘with glad and generous hearts’; but we also experience, at each celebration of the Eucharist, a painful reminder of our disunity. On this fifth day of the Week of
Prayer, the Christians of Jerusalem gather in the Upper Room, the place of the Last Supper. Here, whilst they do not celebrate the Eucharist, they break bread in hope.

We learn this hope in the ways God reaches out to us in the wilderness of our own discontent. Exodus relates how God responds to the grumbling of the people he has liberated, by providing
them with what they need - no more, and no less. The manna in the desert is a gift of God, not to be hoarded, nor even fully understood. It is, as our Psalm celebrates, a moment which calls simply for thanksgiving - for God ‘has loosened our bonds’.

What St. Paul recognises is that to break the bread means not only to celebrate the Eucharist, but to be a Eucharistic people - to become Christ’s Body in the world. This short reading stands, in its
context (1 Cor 10 - 11) as a reminder of how the Christian community is to live: in communion in Christ, determining right behaviour in a difficult worldly context, guided by the reality of our life in Him. We live “in remembrance of him.”

As a people of the breaking of bread, we are a people of eternal life - life in its fullness - as the reading from St. John teaches us. Our celebration of Eucharist challenges us to reflect on how such an abundant gift of life is expressed day to day as we live in hope as well as in difficulties. In spite of the daily challenges for the Christians in Jerusalem, they witness to how it is possible
to rejoice in hope.

God of Hope, we praise you for your gift to us of the Lord’s Supper, where, in the Spirit, we continue to meet your Son Jesus Christ, the living bread from heaven. Forgive our unworthiness of this great gift - our living in factions, our collusion with inequalities, our complacency in separation. Lord, we pray that you will hasten the day when your whole church together shares the breaking of the bread, and that, as we wait for that day, we may learn more deeply to be a people formed by the Eucharist for service to the world. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Day 4)

Day 4 - Sharing, an Expression of Our Unity

Isaiah 58:6-10 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
Psalm 37:1-11 Trust in the Lord and do good
Acts 4:32-37 Everything they owned was held in common
Matthew 6:25-34 Strive first for the kingdom of God

The sign of continuity with the apostolic Church of Jerusalem is “devotion to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of the bread and the prayers.” The Church of Jerusalem today, however, recalls to us the practical consequences of such devotion - sharing. The Acts of the Apostles states simply that “All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute to all, as any had need” (Acts 2.44-45).

Today’s reading from the Book of Acts links such radical sharing with the powerful apostolic “testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.” The later Imperial Roman persecutors of the Church would note with certain accuracy: “see how they love one another.”

Such a sharing of resources characterizes the life of Christian people in Jerusalem today. It is a sign of their continuity with the first Christians; it is a sign and a challenge to all the churches. It links proclamation of the Gospel, the celebration of the Eucharist and the fellowship (or communion) of the Christian community with radical equality and justice for all. In so far as such sharing is a testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and a sign of continuity with the apostolic Church of Jerusalem, it is equally a sign of our unity with one another.

There are many ways of sharing. There is the radical sharing of the apostolic church where nobody was left in need. There is the sharing of one another’s burdens, struggles, pain and suffering. There is the sharing in one another’s joys and achievements, blessings and healing.

There is also the sharing of gifts and insights from one church tradition to another even in our separation from another, an “ecumenical exchange of gifts.” Such generous sharing is a practical consequence of our devotion to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship; it is a  consequence of our prayer for Christian unity.

God of Justice, your giving is without bounds. We thank you that you have given what we need, so that all may be fed, clothed and housed. Guard us from the selfish sin of hoarding, and inspire us to be instruments of love, sharing all that you give us, as a witness to your generosity and justice. As followers of Christ, lead us to act together in places of want: where families are driven from their homes, where the vulnerable suffer at the hands of the powerful, where poverty and unemployment destroy lives. We pray in the name of Jesus, in the unity of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Day 3)

Day 3 - Devotion to the Apostles’ Teaching Unites Us

Isaiah 51:4-8
Listen to me, my people
Psalm 119:105-112 Your word is a lamp to my feet
Romans 1:15-17 Eagerness to proclaim the gospel
John 17:6-19 I have made your name known
The Church of Jerusalem in the Acts of the Apostles was united in its devotion to the apostles’ teaching, despite the great diversity of language and culture amongst its members. The apostles’ teaching is their witness to the life, teaching, ministry, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus.

Their teaching is what St Paul simply calls “the gospel.” The apostles’ teaching, as exemplified by St Peter’s preaching in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost. In his use of the prophet Joel, he connects the Church with the biblical story of the people of God, drawing us into the narrative that begins in creation itself.

Despite divisions the Word of God gathers and unites us. The apostles’ teaching, the good news in all its fullness, was at the centre of unity in diversity of the first Church of Jerusalem.

Christians in Jerusalem remind us today that it is not simply the “apostles’ teaching” that the united earliest church, but devotion to that teaching. Such devotion is reflected in St Paul identifying the gospel as “the power of God for salvation.”

The prophet Isaiah reminds us that God’s teaching is inseparable from God’s “justice for a light to the peoples.” Or, as the psalmist prays, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Your decrees are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart.”

God of Light, we give you thanks for the revelation of your truth in Jesus Christ, your Living Word, which we have received through the apostles’ teaching, first heard at Jerusalem. May your Holy Spirit continue to sanctify us in the truth of your Son, so that united in Him we may grow in devotion to the Word, and together serve your Kingdom in humility and love. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Day 2)

Day 2 - Many Members in One Body

Isaiah 55:1-4 Come to the waters
Psalm 85:8-13 Surely salvation is at hand
1 Corinthians 12:12-27 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body
John 15:1-13 I am the true vine
The Church of Jerusalem in the Acts of the Apostles is the model of the unity we seek today. As such, it reminds us that prayer for Christian unity cannot be for uniformity, because unity from the beginning has been characterized by rich diversity. The Church of Jerusalem is the model or icon of unity in diversity.

The narrative of Pentecost in the Book of Acts’ tells us that there were represented in Jerusalem on that day all the languages and cultures of the ancient Mediterranean world and beyond, people who heard the gospel in their diverse languages, and who through the preaching of Peter were united to each other in repentance, in the waters of baptism, and through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Or, as St Paul would later write, “For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.” It is not a uniform community of the likeminded, culturally and linguistically united people who were one in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, but a richly diverse community, whose differences could easily erupt into controversy. Such was the case between the Hellenists and the Hebrew Christians over the neglect of the Greek widows, as St Luke relates in Acts 6.1. And yet the Jerusalem church was at unity within itself, and one with the Risen Lord who says “I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit.”

Rich diversity characterizes the churches in Jerusalem to this day, as it does around the world. It can easily erupt into controversy in Jerusalem, accentuated by the current hostile political climate.

But like the earliest Jerusalem church, Christians in Jerusalem today remind us that we are many members of one body, a unity in diversity. Ancient traditions teach us that diversity and unity exist in the heavenly Jerusalem. They remind us that difference and diversity are not the same as division and disunity, and that the Christian unity for which we pray always preserves authentic diversity.
God, from whom all life flows in its rich diversity, you call your Church as the Body of Christ to be united in love. May we learn more deeply our unity in diversity, and strive to work together to preach, and build up the Kingdom of your abundant love to all, while accompanying each other in each place, and in all places. May we always be mindful of Christ as the source of our life together. We pray in the unity of the Spirit. Amen.

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Day 1)

January 18-25, 2011 marks The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. It is an international, ecumenical movement for wholeness and unity in the church.

Each year a prayer guide is jointly prepared and published by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Commission on Faith and Order of the World Council of Churches. For the next 8 days I'll be reprinting the daily resources from that guide right here on the blog. (For more information on The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, please click here).

Each day you will find suggested scripture readings, a reflection (with a focus this year on the church in Jerusalem -- each year the prayers have a specific geographic focus, and this year it is Jerusalem), and a prayer for the day. So without further adieu...

Day 1 – The Church in Jerusalem

Joel 2:21-22, 28-29 I will pour out my spirit on all flesh
Psalm 46 God is in the midst of the city
Acts 2:1-12 When the day of Pentecost had come
John 14:15-21 This is the spirit of truth

The journey of this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity begins in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, at the beginning of the Church’s own journey.

The theme of this week is “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of the bread and the prayers.” The “they” is the earliest Church of Jerusalem born on the day of the Pentecost when the Advocate, the Spirit of truth descended upon the first believers, as promised by God through the prophet the Joel, and by the Lord Jesus on the night before his suffering and death. All who live in continuity with the day of Pentecost live in continuity with the earliest Church of Jerusalem with it leader St James. This church is the mother church of us all. It provides the image or icon of the Christian unity for which we pray this week.

According to an ancient eastern tradition, the succession of the church comes through continuity with the first Christian community of Jerusalem. The Church of Jerusalem in apostolic times is linked with the heavenly Church of Jerusalem, which in turn becomes the icon of all Christian churches. The sign of continuity with the Church of Jerusalem for all the churches is maintaining the “marks” of the first Christian community through our devotion to the “apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of the bread and the prayers.”

The present Church of Jerusalem lives in continuity with the apostolic Church of Jerusalem particularly in its costly witness to the truth. Its witness to the gospel and its struggles against inequality and injustice reminds us that prayer for Christian unity is inseparable from prayer for peace and justice.

Almighty and Merciful God, with great power you gathered together the first Christians in the city of Jerusalem, through the gift of the Holy Spirit, defying the earthly power of the Roman empire. Grant that, like this first church in Jerusalem, we may come together to be bold in preaching and living the good news of reconciliation and peace, wherever there is inequality and injustice. We pray in the name of Jesus Christ, who liberates us from the bondage of sin and death. Amen.

Three Things from Administrative Council

FCC Scottsdale's Administrative Council had their first meeting of 2011 immediately after worship this past Sunday. Here are the three things you should know from that meeting:

  1. We ended 2010 with a budget surplus of around $5,800! This is due in so small part to the faithful giving of our church members, a 98% follow through on our pledges, and a keen eye watching line items in our budget. So keep up the good work everybody! The surplus will be transferred over to our reserve funds and will be used to support the mission and ministry of our church!

  2. The Pastor Relations Committee is coming! Rev. Brian is organizing a four person Pastor Relations Committee that will meet regularly in the life of the church. The purpose of a Pastor Relations Committee is to focus on the relationship between the pastor and the church in order to keep it vital, vibrant, and strong. Look for more details (including the names of the four members of the Committee) coming soon.

  3. The "Healthy Packs" Back Pack Program needs your help! After over a year of seeing the idea through to fruition (not to mention countless roadblocks, obstacles, and conversations with lawyers!) Rev. Judy Stall is just about ready to kick it off. The Back Pack Program grew out of the realization that school age kids are going hungry right here in our community (for children on free and reduced meals programs through the school, they are able to get breakfast and lunch that way, but only on school days, not on the weekends). The Back Pack Program will allow kids to go home on the weekends with a Healthy Pack filled up with food. We'll need all sorts of volunteer support to get this program off the ground (folks to talk to grocery stores, folks to pack the back packs, folks to make the drop offs, etc) and you'll find a volunteer sheet in this Sunday's Worship Bulletin. For more information, please contact Rev. Judy Stall.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Three Things from the Elders

The Elders had their first meeting of the New Year, and here are the three things you should know from that meeting:

  1. We welcomed four new Elders into the fold -- Marilyn Lagesse, Carrie Marinkovich, Patti Shaffer, and Sue Travis. They join Al Beasley, Julie Erickson, Judy Kares, Michael Wise (chair), Monica Case, Bob Huber, Michelle Landreville, and Bob Stall as the Twelve Elders of FCC Scottsdale.
  2. We will have an Elders Retreat on January 22, 2011 at the Franciscan Renewal Center. Please keep us in your prayers as we retreat together to prepare for all that God is calling our Elders to do and be in the coming year!
  3. The Elders are looking at a new way of sharing their visitation logs with one another so that we might do a better job of keeping in touch with each other and stay better abreast of the needs of our church. 
As a side note, this was Mike Wise first meeting as Chair of the Elders and he did a terrific job. The energy level and enthusiasm is very high with our Elders and we are fortunate to have them as leaders of our church!