Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Whiteboard: Rhythm and Rest

I mentioned it in this past Sunday's sermon: Things move quickly in the Gospel of Mark.

The author of Mark is so excited to share the good news that he just keeps stacking story after story after story one after another. Jesus is teaching in one part of town and then immediately Jesus is across town healing someone then immediately Jesus and the disciples are going across the Sea to bring the good news somewhere else.

Such is the case with this week's sermon scripture, Mark 1:29-39. Jesus heals Simon's mother-in-law at her home, then suddenly people are bringing all sorts of folks who are sick or possessed, and before you know it Jesus is ready to move on to the next town.

But there is one line squeezed into all the action that got my attention this week and worked its way onto the Whiteboard.

In the midst of the rush and busyness, Jesus gets away and finds a silent moment to rest and pray. Once his spirit is replinished (and not a moment sooner) Jesus is ready to move on to that which is next.

This Sunday we'll talk about rhythm and rest -- the gifts of work and prayer and replenishment. Come and join us!

Mark 1:29-39

 As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.

That evening, at sunset, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city was gathered around the door. And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.

In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, 

‘Everyone is searching for you.’ He answered, ‘Let us go on to the neighbouring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.’ And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.

Newsbrief: Holy Week Cantata

We went over some of the music for the first time last night.

And it sounds amazing!

Our very own Doug Durant is writing a Holy Week Cantata entitled The Triumph of Sacrifice. We are planning on building the Maundy Thursday Worship Service (Thursday April 5th at 7PM), and you won’t want to miss it!

I’m mentioning it to you now (eleven weeks ahead of time) for two reasons:

  1. I want to put it on your radar. Go ahead and save that date – Maundy Thursday, April 5th at 7PM – on your calendar. This is going to be a special event, tied directly to one of the highest of holy days for us as Disciples. Maundy Thursday is already my favorite worship service of the year and now we get to attach the words “World Premiere” to it as well. You’ll want to be here and I hope you’ll invite a whole bunch of folks to come with you!

  2. You might want to be a part of it. The choir has grown significantly this year, and we still have room for more! If you are interested to singing with us for the Cantata then please come join us on Wednesday evenings at 7:30PM in the Sanctuary. Just to sweeten the deal, this coming Wednesday we’ll have deserts right after Choir Rehearsal. So come out and sing this Wednesday and stick around for fellowship and desert afterwards.

Yours in the journey, Rev. Brian

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Whiteboard: Mark 1:21-28

This entire month scripture has been re-introducing us to Jesus. We are starting off the New Year by learning more about the one that we proclaim as the King of Kings, the Prince of Peace, the Son of God, and our Lord and Savior.

This Sunday scripture wants us to know that Jesus is...a teacher and a healer.

What's more, those two things are more closely related than you might think. We tend to think that Jesus' teachings are wholly separate from his healing ministry, but read carefully in Mark 1:21-28. It his is teachings (teachings with "authority" nonetheless) that first get the attention of the "evil spirit." It is those teachings that challenge the "evil spirit" and lead to the confrontation that brings about the healing work of Christ.

What if Christ's teachings don't merely call for intellectual assent, but rather can heal our hearts?

What if his ministry doesn't call for a separation of heart and head, but rather brings about a new life, a whole life, rooted in compassion and mercy, justice and love?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Newsbrief: Camp Scholarship Fund

I can honestly say that I wouldn’t be who I am without Church Camp.

It was at Church Camp that I met some of my closest and dearest friends.

It was at Church Camp that I was filled with enthusiasm and joy for our faith.

It was at Church Camp where I served in leadership positions that awarded me the scholarships that allowed me to go to college at TCU.

It was at Church Camp where I learned to claim the faith for my very own and where I felt the call to ministry.

Church Camp changes lives. It fills our young people with a sense of wonder and amazement. It gives them a chance to learn together, pray together, sing together, play together, worship together, and celebrate the gifts and abilities that God has uniquely given to them.

I am proud to be a part of a church that supports our young people and sends so many of them to Camp. Last Sunday we formally kicked off the “Quarters for Camp” Campaign. Each Sunday morning every quarter that goes into the offering plate will go directly to support Camp Scholarships for our young people. So bring some quarters with you each and every Sunday to help support our youth!

This coming Sunday our Youth will be hosting a Stuffed Potato Luncheon. You can come and get a baked potato and load it up with your choice of toppings, stuffings, and fillings and enjoy a nice meal. Your donations for the Stuffed Potato Luncheon will all go to benefit the Camp Scholarship Fund.

Bring your quarters. Stick around for the Stuffed Potato Luncheon. Support our kids and help them get to camp!

Yours in the journey, Rev. Brian

Whiteboard: Wouldn't it be nice?

I've always been struck by the ending of the story of Jonah.

We know the beginning and the middle really well. God wants Jonah to go somewhere that Jonah doesn't want to go. Jonah tries to run away from God's call only to be swallowed up in the belly of the whale (strictly speaking, scripture says, "big fish") and eventually he's belched up coast side.

We know that part of the story, but we're less familiar with the ending. The ending is the part where Jonah goes part of a days journey into a huge metroplex that is a three days journey across and he kind of half-heartedly mumbles this decree, "Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!"  and then...surprisingly enough...THE ENTIRE CITY IS CONVERTED?!?

It is an amazing story. A crazy story that doesn't quite make sense, and everytime I read it I can't help but say, "Wouldn't it be nice?" Wouldn't it be nice if you could just speak that one single line and everything changed? 

Which is why the Whiteboard is filled with a picture of "The Easy Button." Wouldn't it be nice to have an Easy Button? 

This entire month scripture has been re-introducing us to Jesus, and this Sunday we'll find out what Jesus has to say about things always being easy (or, for that matter, not saying that!). 

I'll see you this Sunday as we celebrate the challenges of faith and the very purposes that Christ calls us to! 

Jonah 3:1-5, 10 -- Conversion of Nineveh

The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, saying, ‘Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.’ So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days’ walk across. Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk. And he cried out, ‘Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!’ And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth.
 When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.

Mark 1:14-20 -- The Beginning of the Galilean Ministry

 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’

 As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake—for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fish for people.’ And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.

Three Things from Administrative Council

Administrative Council had their first meeting of 2012 this past Sunday right after worship. Here are the "Three Things" we want you to know from that meeting:

  1. We have an amazing group serving on Administrative Council this year, and nearly everyone was there for the first meeting. That list includes: Michelle Landreville, Jessie Jones, Don Jones, Mark Powell, Cathy Lloyd, Beth Porter, Carol Tidrow, Nancy Fasolino, Shirley Bruns, Judy Stall, Bob Stall, Seth Duhnke, Carrie Marinkovich, Dorothy Rightnowar, Mike Wise, Nancy Sauder, Dave Groves, Sandi DeFeo, and Bob Bruns.
  2. We have scheduled an Administrative Council Retreat for Saturday February 11 at the Franciscan Renewal Center.
  3. Our Youth Group and Elders will be partnering up in February for "Love on Wheels" a program where our youth and the Elders will go visiting homebound members of the congregation.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Newsbrief: Vitality

What a great event.

I spent Tuesday and part of Wednesday in Tucson for a two-day “Congregational Vitality and Transformation Training.” And it was fabulous.

You’ll remember that for the last 12-months or so I’ve been working as a part of the Arizona Region’s Congregational Vitality and Transformation Team (the team is made up 6 local church pastors plus our Regional Minister).

For this Training Event we had Rick Morse from the National Office in Indianapolis leading us through a diverse series of experiences. We prayed together, laughed together, talked church together, and learned about some of the new discoveries and developments that are happening in helping established local churches to fully embrace God’s call for them in a changing world.

A day later it is still hard for me to describe exactly what happened at the Congregational Vitality and Transformation Training. I suppose that is the nature of Transformation…the metrics of success aren’t as simple as tallying up the number of new people in worship on Sunday; rather it is more like learning to share all of the stories of how God is at work in our lives. Nonetheless certain words and phrases have really stuck with me from the Training. Words like: Excitement, New Life, Deep Community Engagement, Possibility, Resurrection, Bridge Builders, Calling, God’s Purpose, Renewal, Growth.

One of the next steps will be engaging the congregations of the Arizona Region in the process. This will happen in conjunction with a new effort from the denomination called the Hope Partnership. We are starting the preliminary work on an event in the spring, and you can look forward to hearing more about it in the coming months!

Yours in the journey, Rev. Brian

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Newsbrief: New Year

To usher in this new year, our General Minister and President, the Rev. Sharon Watkins shared this prayer…and I’d like to share it with you!

O God of infinite creativity, at the beginning of this New Year – winter for so many – the rich brown earth is even now preparing to burst forth with a spring of possibilities and new life.

Though the human eye cannot see it, you continue to bless the earth with new beginnings. We praise you! Bless us with new beginnings, we pray.

Where we have lost sight of your Reign breaking in – even now at hand – Renew our vision.

Where we have faltered in reaching out to our neighbor in love, missing the moment to extend a hand of wholeness, Renew our courage.

Where we have allowed cynicism to dry our bones and sinews, Renew our hope.

At this beginning of a New Year, dear God, our arms are still warm from cradling the Babe of Bethlehem.

Help us to keep that memory strong.

Strengthen our arms to welcome your many children into communities of love.

Prepare our hearts to burst forth with a spring of possibilities and new life.

Stir us to be and share your love with the same vulnerability, the same humble expectation that brought you into the world in person.

Help us, your church, your disciples, to be harbingers of your reign of justice and of peace fully emerged.

O God of infinite creativity, at the beginning of this New Year, we know that you are about to do a new thing. Help us to perceive it. And to join in.

In the name of Jesus, your greatest new beginning, we pray. AMEN

May 2012 be a blessed year for you, for our church, and for our world.

Yours in the journey, Rev. Brian

Whiteboard: Wise Men from the East

This week we welcome the Wise Men from the East.

You know the ones. We sing that familiar carol about them, "We Three Kings of Orient are, bearing gifts we traverse afar..."

But what does scripture really tell us about them? And more importantly, what does their story tell us about Jesus?

This entire month scripture is re-introducing us to Jesus. In worship we'll be using simple exclamations to affirm what scripture is teaching us about our Lord and Savior.

So what does Matthew 2:1-23's story of the Wise Men from the East tell us about Jesus? That Jesus is worthy.

Worthy of our praise. Worthy of our very best. What's more, to say Jesus is worthy is also to say that Jesus is worth it. Worth the long journey of faith. Worth searching for. Worth celebrating. Worth giving our lives over to.

Come to worship this Sunday that we might be able to follow that new star in the sky, journey along with those Wise Men from the East, and discover again this worthy one, this child of adoration, our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ.


Matthew 2:1-23 -- The Visit of the Wise Men

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.’ When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:
“And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
   are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
   who is to shepherd my people Israel.”

Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, ‘Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.’ When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure-chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road. 

 Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’ Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I have called my son.’
 When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:
‘A voice was heard in Ramah,
   wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
   she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.’

 When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.’ Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, ‘He will be called a Nazorean.’

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Newsbrief: Thank You's

There are so many people to thank.

The Christmas Eve and Christmas Day Worship Services were truly magnificent, and so many people helped to make that possible. I’ll do my best to list them all here, and if I have left someone off then please accept my apologies in advance!

The music was amazing on Christmas Eve and again on Christmas Day! Thank you to the members of the Chancel Choir and the Praise Band. Thank you to Tavit for the rocking Introit Music on Christmas Day. Thank you to everyone who sung out from the congregation during the hymns! And of course, thank you to Doug Durant for putting it all together and leading us so beautifully through all of the music.

The Worship Committee was working hard behind the scenes getting everything together and making all things beautiful and right for the worship services. Thank you to Carrie, Dorothy, and Sandi. Thank you as well to our Greeters, our Deacons, our Elders, our Soundboard Operators, Jeanne leading Worship and Wonder, Rev. Judy as the liturgist on Christmas Eve and Rev. Don as the liturgist on Christmas Day. Thank you to the Thompson Family for lighting our Advent Wreath and bringing the light of the Christ Candle into our Christmas Eve Worship Service.

Thank you to the 138 folks who were in attendance on Christmas Eve and to the 85 folks who came to worship on Christmas Day! It was great to have such big crowds for both services.

Thank you to little baby Ronan who was so sweet and beautiful during his Baby Dedication. We’ll keep you in our prayers and look forward to watching you grow up during each of your visits back to the Valley of the Sun.

Thank you to everyone who volunteered on the spot to play a part in our “No Rehearsal Christmas Pageant”…and especially to Cody Shonk who was brave enough to break the ice and volunteer for the very first role!

Finally, a special word of thanks to church secretary Jane. Pulling off double duty like that for two separate worship services on back-to-back days isn’t easy. It takes a lot of work from the Church Office and we are truly blessed to have Janie making it all happen.

Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who helped us to celebrate the birth of Christ – the Prince of Peace, the King of Kings, our Lord and Savior – once more this year at Christmas. It is a special time to be church, made all the more special by all of your participation in the worship services.

Yours in the journey, Rev. Brian