Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Whiteboard: Advent 2

Alright, I admit it. The drawing on the Whiteboard this week looks pretty similar to the one from last week.

But if you look really closely you'll spot the differences -- the second candle has been lit, the scripture has been changed, and the word PEACE is bursting out to reach us.

Those changes mean this coming Sunday will be the Second Sunday in Advent -- the Sunday of Peace. As we continue our journey of anticipation and expectation this Sunday we hear the story of John the Baptist, the preparer of the way, the one who came to make "straight the paths of the Lord." As we dive deep into the story of John the Baptist we'll find that his is fundamentally a story of change -- the changes that define the world, the changes that we need to make in order to welcome Christ, the changes that are all around us.

Our scripture reading for this Sunday is Mark 1:1-8:
The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
 As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
   who will prepare your way;
the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
   “Prepare the way of the Lord,
   make his paths straight” ’,
John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, ‘The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.’

It is kinda strange to call it the Sunday of Peace, when John the Baptist has a rabble rousing way of reminding us about change. I suppose it must be because we have the peace of knowing that God is at work in the midst of change!

Come join us this Sunday, the Second Sunday of Advent, the Sunday of Peace at FCC Scottsdale. And if you are free, come and join us the day before, Saturday December 3 starting at 8AM for our Hanging of the Greens All Church Decorating Event! It is going to be fabulous, and you'll be able to be a part of the change that helps our church get ready for the celebration of Christ's birth this Christmas! See you there.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Newsbrief: Thanksgiving!

With Thanksgiving upon us, Church, I am thankful for you!

I am thankful for your love and commitment.

I am thankful for your prayers and faithfulness.

I am thankful for you generosity, your spirit, your enthusiasm, your passion for Outreach, your hospitality, your joy, your love of God, and your commitment to Christ.

I am thankful for the Administrative Council and the hard work they have done this year, that was capped off by a fantastic meeting this past Sunday! At that meeting we approved a proposed budget for 2012, approved a slate of officers to live into our new church structure, thanked the Church Growth Team for their accomplishments, and lifted up the Restructure Team for their tireless work in redrawing our By-Laws.

I am thankful for Rev. Judy and the Outreach Ministries that define our church! I’m thankful for another successful Pumpkin Patch, for an amazing turnout for the CROP Hunger Walk, for the continued success of our After School Enrichment Program, and for the growing impact of the Healthy Packs Weekend Meal Program.

I am thankful for the Elders and all that they do in reaching out to members and providing such remarkable leadership to our congregation.

I am thankful for the Music! Wasn’t last Sunday amazing! I am truly thankful for the Bell Choir, the Chancel Choir, the Celebration Praise Band, the congregational singing, the special musicians and guests, and of course Doug Durant who brings it all together.

I am thankful for Jane Rosenfeld and everything that she does in the church office to help make my job easier and allow me to focus on the ministry to which you all have called me.

More than anything else, friends, I am thankful for you. Thank you for all that you have done, are doing, and will do to help make First Christian Church Scottsdale such a vibrant, wonderful, Christ-centered community. Happy Thanksgiving, Church!

Yours in the journey, Rev. Brian

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Whiteboard: Advent 1


No, I haven't flipped my calendar ahead six weeks. This coming Sunday is the first Sunday of the New Year...that is, the First Sunday in the new Christian Liturgical Year!

The Christian Liturgical Year does not start with Christmas or Easter or Pentecost, but rather with a prolonged season of anticipation. The Christian Liturgical Year starts with the Season of Advent -- the four Sunday's that lead up to the celebration of the coming of Christ!

So for the next four weeks it is all about anticipation, expectation, and the promises of God.

This Sunday, the First Sunday of Advent is the Sunday of Hope. We will light the first purple candle in our Advent Wreath, hear the words of hope and expectation from our Holy Scriptures, and celebrate together as we eagerly anticipate once more and all over again the birth of Christ in our hearts and in our world.

Our Gospel Reading for the First Sunday of Advent:
Mark 13: 24-37
‘But in those days, after that suffering,
the sun will be darkened,
   and the moon will not give its light,
and the stars will be falling from heaven,
   and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.
Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in clouds” with great power and glory. Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

 ‘From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
 ‘But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.’

Three Things: Administrative Council 11/20/2011

Administrative Council had their final meeting of 2011 this past Sunday immediately following worship. Here are the "Three Things You Should Know" from that meeting:

  1. Administrative Council approved the 2012 Proposed Budget that will be presented for final approval at the Congregational Meeting on December 18. Treasurer David Groves led a detailed walk through of the individual line items for Administrative Council. A streamlined 1-page Budget will be distributed to all church members, with a full, line-itemed version available for any church member who wishes to review it in detail.
  2. Administrative Council also formally approved the 2012 Proposed Slate of Nominees. The Nominating Committee has been working hard behind the scenes to not only find a chair for each committee, but has been able to recruit co-chairs for each committee in 2012! This list will also be distributed to church members in advance of the Congregational Meeting on December 18 where the slate will be formally approved.
  3. Mission and Outreach continues to be a major area of achievement for our church! The Pumpkin Patch set a new record for sales. The CROP Walk saw 44 members of FCC Scottsdale in attendance. DWM collected 150 pairs of shoes for donation. And, Rev. Judy shared that the Healthy Packs program she pioneered here at FCC Scottsdale has been adopted by Leadership Scottsdale who will be bringing that same program to another area Elementary School!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Newsbrief: Stewardship Sunday

This Sunday is Stewardship Sunday!

For the last few weeks we’ve heard countless folks’ response to our Stewardship Prompt, “I love my church because…” and this Sunday we will all have the chance to respond by dedicating our pledge cards!

Your pledge is your sacred promise to support this congregation that we all love so deeply with a portion of your finances in the coming year. Those pledge dollars help us as a church family to accomplish our mission and ministry in the world. Thank you for your generosity, your support, and your creative answers to our stewardship prompt! Please remember to bring your pledge card this Sunday so that we can bless them and pray over them together!

Speaking of generosity, I cannot thank you all enough for your amazing response to the CROP Hunger Walk. I’ve always believed that generosity begets generosity, and by did we see that at the East Valley CROP Hunger Walk. Including our online donations along with the cash and checks from last Thursday our congregation was able to raise over $1000 for Church World Service! The Walk itself was also a huge success with twice as many participants as last year, including a huge contingent from FCC Scottsdale (by our unofficial records, we had more folks there than any other church!). I’m overjoyed to announce that the East Valley CROP Hunger Walk raised $11,022 by the end of the Walk…and that donations continue to keep coming in! You can still send your support by visiting our Walk Website at www.crophungerwalks.org/eastvalley/

Thanks for your generosity! Thanks for your support! I’ll see you this Sunday…and don’t forget your pledge card!

Yours in the journey, Rev. Brian

CROP Hunger Walk Update

The 2011 East Valley CROP Hunger Walk was a tremendous success...and FCC Scottsdale was a huge part of it!

By my unofficial tally I would say that this year's CROP Hunger Walk was at least twice as big as last years, and I'm hearing rumors that FCC Scottsdale had the largest continent of folks there!

We had at least 30 members from our congregation walking in the CROP Hunger Walk this year, and several members of our church had prominent roles in the days events.
  • Melissa W. provided the rice and beans that Julie E. and the DWM ladies served up for the Hunger Picnic. 
  • Al B. provided beautiful music before the walk, and greeted us when we got back with even more music! 
  • Daryl M. helped kick us off with a lovely discussion on "Why we walk."
 It was a great day, and I'm glad that our church was a part of it. Here are some photos from the day's events.
Al leading the music.

 Look at all these FCC-er's at the CROP Walk!

 Check out the line at the Registration Table!

Daryl M. on "Why We Walk"

The Days total raised for Church World Service!

If you would like to Help CROP Stop Hunger it is not too late! You can still donate online at www.crophungerwalks.org/eastvalley

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Whiteboard: Stewardship Sunday

It is Stewardship Sunday!

Come join us at First Christian Church this Sunday as we celebrate the gifts of time, talent, and treasure that our members share with us in our community of faith!

Together we are able to do extraordinary things at FCC Scottsdale and on Stewardship Sunday we'll recommit ourselves to the mission and ministry of this congregation.

Our theme this year is "I Love My Church Because..." and for the last several weeks we've been filling in the blanks in that stewardship prompt. Join us this Sunday to share those things that you love about FCC Scottsdale and to support them once more in the coming year!

Don't forget to bring your pledge card with you. We will receive those pledge cards, bless those commitments, and dedicate them to the mission and ministry of Christ!

The Whiteboard this week is pointing to our scripture reading for Sunday. Our Gospel text comes from Matthew 25:14-30 and is better known as The Parable of the Talents:
‘For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, “Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.” His master said to him, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, “Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.” His master said to him, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, “Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.” But his master replied, “You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Newsbrief: CROP Hunger Walk

CROP Hunger Walk 2010
Wear a pair of comfortable walking shoes to church this Sunday.

That’s right, it is time for the East Valley CROP Hunger Walk!

You can help Church World Service work to end hunger in the world one step at a time by being a part of the East Valley CROP Hunger Walk.

Here are all the different ways you can be a part of the CROP Hunger Walk.

  • You can walk! There will be a big group of CROP Hunger Walkers going from FCC Scottsdale. We’ll pray over them in worship before they head out and we’d love to have you with us!

  • You can sponsor a walker! Or multiple walkers for that matter! Our Youth Group is participating in the CROP Hunger Challenge. At their weekend Church Camp Retreat they were challenged to come up with as many sponsors as they can. The Youth Group that collects the most sponsors will receive a special prize from Church World Services (note: that is total number of people sponsoring them, not the total dollar amount raised). Won’t you help push our Youth Group over the top while helping to support the important work of Church World Services!

  • You can come out to El Dorado Park! Even if you don’t want to walk you can come and be a part of the festivities. There will be Hunger Picnic before the walk (a simple bowl of rice and beans, lovingly prepared by our very own Melissa Wise, to remind us to stand in solidarity with the hungry of the world). And, Al Beasley will be providing music!

  • You can wear your tennis shoes to church on Sunday! Put on your Sunday best and then finish off the look with a pair of sneakers! Come to worship and pray, sing, and support your church as we work together with Church World Services to help CROP stop hunger! And if can’t be there on Sunday…

Yours in the journey, Rev. Brian

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Whiteboard: CROP Hunger Walk

This coming Sunday it is finally here...The East Valley CROP Hunger Walk!

We'll dedicate our Sunday worship service to the CROP Hunger Walk, so please wear your walking shoes to church, and plan on helping our Youth Group win the Hunger Challenge (whichever Youth Group in the Arizona Region gets the most sponsors -- note: total sponsors, not dollars raised -- wins a special prize from Church World Service).

We'll hear stories about the amazing work that Church World Service does and hear the challenge from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to work to support "the least of these."

Our guiding scripture for the day is Matthew 25:31-45:
‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” Then he will say to those at his left hand, “You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” Then they also will answer, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?” Then he will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.”
 I'll see you this Sunday! 

All Saints!

Here is Rev. Brian's All Saints Sermon from this past Sunday.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Newsbrief: CROP Hunger Walk

The 2011 CROP Hunger Walk is coming!

This year’s East Valley CROP Hunger Walk will be on Sunday November 13 at El Dorado Park (2311 North Miller Road, Scottsdale).

This year the CROP Hunger Walk organizers have invited us to participate in a “Hunger Picnic” as part of the CROP Walk activities. The “Hunger Picnic” has been a successful part of other CROP Walks all throughout the country, but this is the first time we've done it in the East Valley.

A “Hunger Picnic” is not a big elaborate meal. Rather, it is a simple bowl of rice and beans for each of the CROP Walk participants to eat just before the Walk. For many, many people in the world a simple bowl of rice and beans is all they have to eat for the day. In fact, they might not even have that much. So before we walk to help raise funds to eliminate hunger in our community and in our world we partake in a meal of solidarity with those who are hungry. This "Hunger Picnic" will be followed by a conversation about "why we walk" and then some special music by our very own Al Beasley.

The "Hunger Picnic" will start at 12:30 at the Pavilion at El Dorado Park with the conversation starting around 1:00 and the Walk beginning at 1:30.

What’s more, our Youth have recently returned from church camp where they received the Hunger Challenge. The Hunger Challenge is this: All the Youth Groups in our Region were challenged to collect donations from as many donors as possible. The Youth Group with the largest number of donors wins a special prize from Church World Service. Please note the contest isn’t for the largest amount of money donated, but rather for the largest number of people donating. So you can help our youth win the Hunger Challenge by helping to sponsor them on the CROP Walk – every little bit helps fight hunger and every person who donates helps support our Youth Group’s efforts to win the Hunger Challenge! We’ll have CROP Hunger Walk Packets available at the church this Sunday.

Finally, you can learn more about the CROP Hunger Walk, Church World Service, and our very own East Valley CROP Hunger Walk by visiting the website http://www.crophungerwalks.org/eastvalley/. While you are there you can sign-up for our FCC Scottsdale CROP Hunger Walk, make a secure online donation, and help CROP Stop Hunger!

Yours in the journey, Rev. Brian

2011 Stewardship Campaign

There are so many things to love about First Christian Church Scottsdale!

During our Stewardship season I want to know how you would complete the sentence “I Love My Church Because…”

How would you fill in the blanks?
“I love my church because of our lively, Spirit-led worship service.” 
“I love my church because of our abiding commitment to outreach.” 
“I love my church because we welcome everyone to celebrate communion with us every Sunday at the Lord’s Table.”
“I love my church because of the potluck lunches and Bible Study classes, the Prayer Shawl Ministry and Ms. Jesse in the nursery, our music ministries and the friendly people.” 

For the next several Sundays I have invited everyone who has a speaking role in our worship services (from the Elders and liturgists to anyone giving an announcement, and yes even me) to preface their remarks by introducing themselves and then completing our stewardship sentence. Some of the answers will be funny. Others will be poignant. Some will be short and simple while others will be paragraphs long. Imagine all the different answers we can share!

As you hear the multitude of ways people respond to our stewardship prompt I hope that two things will happen. First, I hope that you’ll think of all the things you love about our church. Second, I hope that it will encourage you to support our church with your time, talent, and treasure.

Stewardship Letters went out to all the members of FCC Scottsdale this week. Accompanying those letters was a pledge card for 2012. Your pledge is important. Our ministries happen because of the generous financial support of the folks who love our church so deeply. So please fill out the front side of the enclosed card with your pledge for the coming year, but before you do so flip the card over. You’ll find our colorful “I Love My Church Because…” logo on the back of the pledge card. On the lines underneath that logo I hope you will write in your own answer to our stewardship prompt. Share with us what you love about FCC Scottsdale and help us continue to make those things possible!

We’ll collect and bless all of the pledge cards in worship on Sunday November 20. I’ll see you then! In the meantime, I can’t wait to hear how you complete the sentence “I love my church because…”

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Whiteboard: All Saints Sunday

So technically today is All Saints Day. It falls on November 1 every single year, the day immediately following Halloween. In fact that date (November 1) not only has to do with the date of Halloween, but it even has something to do with the name itself (the Feast Day of All Hallows on November 1 was proceeded by Hallows Eve which became Halloween).

Which means that technically we can't call this coming Sunday All Saints Day...thus, All Saints Sunday!

Come worship with us at First Christian Church Scottsdale this Sunday as we celebrate the Saints we have known in our lives and in our church and as we strive to live out our faith as saints ourselves. We will light candles of remembrance, offer special prayers for the saints who handed the faith on to us, and sing praise to God.

We'll be reading from Isaiah 25:6-9 and John 6:35-40.

I'll see you on Sunday!