Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Whiteboard: God's Covenant with Abraham

All throughout the Season of Lent our scripture readings are bringing us the stories of God's covenant promises with his people. As a community of faith we are inheritors of those promises.

This Sunday our worship service will center around God's covenant promise to Abram/Abraham.

You have to write his name in that funny way -- Abram/Abraham -- because God changed it. The name change itself has significance, but the promise is even more significant. In fact, it is stunning.

The promise is so stunning that God has to repeat it over and over again in the book of Genesis and throughout scripture. In Genesis 17 God promises Abram that he will be the "Father of a Multitude" and thereby changes his name to Abraham. When the promise is repeated in Genesis 22 (to Abraham) and Genesis 26 (to Isaac) and Exodus 32 (to the people of Israel) the extra detail is added that Abraham's descendants will be "as numerous as the stars in the sky."

This Sunday we'll talk about God's promises to the generations, and what it means to be a star in the constellation of God's covenant promise.


Genesis 17: 1-7, 15-16

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said to him, ‘I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless. And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous.’ Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him, ‘As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.
 God said to Abraham, ‘As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and moreover I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall give rise to nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.’

By the Numbers

February 26, 2012 was a really great Sunday.

Lets break it down by the numbers:
  • 1,933 -- That was our total contribution to Week of Compassion for 2012. It is a significant increase from last year. Thank you to everyone who contributed to this special mission offering, and thank you again to my friend the Rev. Brandon Gilvin (Associate Director of Week of Compassion) for bringing us such a powerful sermon the week before!
  • 4 -- That is how many different vegetarian chilis there were at the Chili Cook-Off -- an order of magnitude higher than I have ever seen at any other church that I have ever been a part of! Speaking as your vegetarian pastor, that was pretty amazing!
  • 132 -- The number of people we had in worship on Sunday morning. Coincidentally that is also the number of times I have joked, "That's it, we are having a Chili Cook-Off every single Sunday from here on out."
  • 797.50 -- DWM's proceeds (as of Sunday) from the Silent Auction. And that total keeps going up. More money has been dropped off in the church office. Thank you to everyone who donated items and to everyone who helped support Disciple Women's Ministry here at FCC Scottsdale.
  • 7 -- The number of Hot Wheels Cars that my son bought from the Chidren's Table at the Auction. Whoever's idea it was to have a Children's Table at the are a genius! It was so much fun to watch the kids circling the table, making their bids, and purchasing items to support ministries of our church!
  • 361 -- The total donations from the free will offering that will go to benefit "Mission Nutrition" -- our new caring ministry in the life of the church that will be delivering hot, fresh meals monthly to our church members who need it. 

Recreating the Church Event

We had quite a crowd representing us this past weekend!

First Christian Church Scottsdale sent a dozen members to our sister church in Sun City for the Rev. Dr. Dick Hamm's "Recreating the Church: Leadership for a Post-Modern World" Event.

Dick Hamm is the former General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in American and Canada -- a title that he joked would loop over onto the back of his business cards -- and he is currently the Executive Administrator at Christian Churches Together and a Founding Partner at The Columbia Partnership

It was a fabulous event. Using "Generational Identity" as the orienting framework we talked frankly about the challenges the church is facing and the opportunities we have going forward. 

The folks from FCC Scottsdale in attendance came back excited and conversations are already happening to figure out how to best share this presentation with a wider swath of our congregation and how we incorporate the lessons we learned into the broader life of our church. Good things will come from it, friends!

Ash Wednesday Sermon

My sermon from Ash Wednesday, based on Psalm 51 and Matthew 6.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Newsbrief: Thirteen

Who says 13 has to be an unlucky number?

The number 13 has shown up prominently in two exciting places this week at First Christian Church Scottsdale.

On Saturday we will have 13 members of our church heading over to Sun City Christian Church. Our brothers and sisters in faith in Sun City are hosting an event with the Rev. Dr. Dick Hamm, the former General Minister and President of our fair denomination. Dr. Hamm will be leading an event titled, Recreating the Church: Leadership for the Postmodern Age.

I’m excited to be there for the event (I’ve had the privilege of seeing Dr. Hamm lead similar programs on congregational vitality and he is terrific!), but I’m even more excited that we’ll have such broad representation from our congregation as well. I’m sure there will be good things to share from Saturday’s event and I look forward to bringing those good words back to you!

Speaking of sharing, we kicked off our new caring ministry “Mission Nutrition” this past Wednesday. Mission Nutrition is kind of like our church’s version of Meals-on-Wheels. Church members will be delivering a home cooked meal to our homebound members, folks recovering from recent hospital stays, and to members who could use a hand.

On the first day of the program I’m proud to share that Mission Nutrition delivered…can you guess the number…that’s right 13 hot meals! Special thanks to Melissa Wise for not only developing the program, but for preparing the meal as well. Special thanks also go out to the whole team of volunteers who helped cooked, organize, make phone calls, deliver the meals, and do all of those things behind the scenes to make for the successful launch of this new ministry!

Yours in the journey, Rev. Brian

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Sharing Hope

We were honored this past Sunday to the Rev. Brandon Gilvin (Associate Director of Week of Compassion) as our guest preacher at First Christian Church Scottsdale.

If you didn't hear his powerful sermon (or just want to hear it again!) then here it is...

You can help support the work of Week of Compassion by clicking here!

Whiteboard: Full Week

A full week at the church makes for a full Whiteboard as well!

You can see the three things we have going on in the life of our church this week illustrated on the Whiteboard.

Front and center on the Whiteboard is Week of Compassion. After the Rev. Brandon Gilvin (Associate Director of Week of Compassion) brought us such a powerful message this past Sunday we cannot forget that we will continue receiving the Week of Compassion Special Mission Offering this coming Sunday as well. And yes, it is the same picture I drew up on the board last week! That is the advantage of the Whiteboard...sometimes you don't have to erase it!

In the upper left hand corner you'll see an illustration for Ash Wednesday. We will have our Ash Wednesday Worship Service at 7PM in the Sanctuary. It will be a traditional Ash Wednesday service with hymns and prayers and the imposition of ashes. I hope you can join us.

On the right hand side of the Whiteboard you'll see an illustration for this coming Sunday's worship service. It will be the first Sunday in Lent where we have two stories about God's promises. In fact, the entire season of Lent we will have scripture readings that draw on the covenant promises that God has made with God's people. This Sunday we will hear of God's covenant with Noah (not pictured on the Whiteboard) and of the ways that Christ Jesus stood on the promises of God in the face of his temptation in the wilderness. I hope to see you in worship on Sunday...and don't forget to bring your Week of Compassion Special Mission Offering!


Genesis 9:8-17

 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, ‘As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.’ God said, ‘This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.’ God said to Noah, ‘This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.’


Mark 1:9-15

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’

And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.
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.’

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Newsbrief: Guest Preacher

I am thrilled that Brandon will be here on Sunday.

With Week of Compassion kicking off this Sunday it feels like a coup to have the Rev. Brandon Gilvin (Week of Compassion’s Associate Director) as our guest preacher.

You’ll get to hear a full formal introduction of Brandon this coming Sunday in worship (or you can get a preview of it right here), but I wanted to say a little something else about Brandon in the Newsbrief this week.

You see, Brandon is one of my best friends from seminary. We went to Vanderbilt Divinity School together, were housemates together at the Disciples Divinity House in Nashville, and Brandon was a groomsman at my wedding.

Brandon was a year ahead of me in seminary. So by the time I graduated he was already serving his first church. On the Sunday afternoon when I was ordained at Vine Street Christian Church in Nashville, Brandon had spent the morning serving at his church (Central Christian in Lexington) before speeding down the highway in order to make it to my ordination (a wonderful and unexpected surprise, by the way; I had no idea he was coming!). When he pulled into the church parking lot he was about 15 minutes early. He came into the church, walked down the center aisle, and gave me a huge hug. Then, without missing a beat he said, “Okay, I gotta go back to the front door. On my way in they asked me hand out bulletins.”

And that is exactly what he did!

To a certain extent, it is what he still does. As the Associate Director for Week of Compassion, Brandon often finds himself rushing into town on behalf of the church and immediately getting to work.

Week of Compassion is the relief, refugee and development mission fund of our denomination. When the tornado devastated Joplin, Missouri last year Week of Compassion was there to respond. Here recently, in the last month alone Week of Compassion has been a part of disaster relief efforts ranging from fires in West Virginia to floods in Thailand, from emergency assistance in Ohio to cyclones in Mozambique. Their work is amazing, and I am proud that they do it on behalf of our church and all the churches of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

I am grateful for Week of Compassion, thankful for Brandon’s role in the leading it, and overjoyed to have him coming to our church on Sunday!

Just do me a favor. Don’t ask him to pass out bulletins. I’ve already given him a job for this Sunday!

Yours in the journey, Rev. Brian

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Whiteboard: Week of Compassion

Week of Compassion kicks off this coming Sunday, and we are fortunate to have the Rev. Brandon Gilvin (Associate Director of Week of Compassion) coming as our guest preacher!

Week of Compassion is the relief, refugee and development mission fund of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada. Week of Compassion seeks to equip and empower disciples to alleviate the suffering of others through disaster response, humanitarian aid, sustainable development and the promotion of mission opportunities.

Week of Compassion overlaps two Sundays, so for the next two weeks this is what you'll see on my Whiteboard:

Not a bad rendering, eh? If you want to compare it to the real thing, just click here!

Anyway, enough about the Whiteboard. Lets get on to our guest preacher!

Brandon Gilvin is a graduate of Hiram College and Vanderbilt Divinity School. While a student at Vanderbilt, Brandon interned at the Quaker Peace Centre in Cape Town, South Africa as a Peace Educator, an experience that helped him develop his sense of vocation. Following graduation, Brandon served as a Pastoral Resident at Central Christian Church in Lexington, Kentucky.  In 2004, he returned to Africa through Global Ministries, serving the All Africa Conference of Churches in Nairobi, Kenya, as the Program Executive for Communication. He then served a year as the North American Regional Secretary of the World Student Christian Foundation in Toronto, Ontario, where he worked with students interested in faith-based social activism. Just before coming to Week of Compassion Brandon served for two years as the Associate Pastor at Saint Andrew Christian Church in Olathe, KS, where he focused on adult education, social justice programming, and mission. Brandon is also the author of Solving the Da Vinci Code Mystery, co-author of Wisdom from The Five People You Meet in Heaven, and is co-editor, with Christian Piatt, of the WTF? (Where’s the Faith?) series, which is available from Chalice Press.

Oh yeah....and he was a groomsman at my wedding!

Brandon and I go way back, and it is a true pleasure to welcome him to First Christian Church Scottsdale and a real honor to have him on the first Sunday of Week of Compassion.

I'll see you this Sunday!
Rev. Brian


Brandon will be preaching from Lamentations 3:21-26.

But this I call to mind,
   and therefore I have hope:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
   his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
   great is your faithfulness.
‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul,
   ‘therefore I will hope in him.’

The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
   to the soul that seeks him.
It is good that one should wait quietly
   for the salvation of the Lord.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

From the Administrative Council Retreat

Administrative Council had their Annual Retreat this past weekend at the Franciscan Renewal Center.

We spent time praying for each other and for our church, sharing the goals for our various Ministry Teams,  and discerning where God is calling us at FCC Scottsdale.

Here are some photos from day:

Here we are, hard at work! We are so blessed to have such a
wonderful group of committed leaders serving
our congregation! Administrative Council is made up of
our Executive Committee and the co-chairs of our various
Ministry Teams (Worship, Fellowship, Education, Outreach,
Membership, Finance, and Facilities).

With a new Administrative Council and several new Ministry Teams
we spent the morning going over our goals for the year. As we are
living into our new church structure these goals are important
and will help us to keep on the right track.

We could not have asked for a more beautiful day! During our lunch break
we invited folks to find a quiet place for prayer and reflection. Many thanks to Sandi
for putting together devotional books for everyone.

 After lunch and some time for personal prayer and
quiet reflection we spent our afternoon brainstorming and discerning.
Using a SWOC Analysis and an Asset Mapping Conversation
we identified the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Challenges
facing our congregation and then began to dream
together about what God's vision for our future might look like. 
 Look at that great group!

It was a day filled with big ideas, big conversations, and even bigger hopes. In the coming days I will meet together with our Moderator, Vice Moderator, and Treasurer that we might begin to unpack some of the big themes from the day and start to delegate the good work that will spring from forth the Retreat. Good things are coming, friends. Good things are coming!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Newsbrief: Administrative Council Retreat

I am not a superstitious person.

But when you’ve got a good thing going, then why not try to replicate your success by tracing the same line that worked so well before!

Last week in this space I shared the poem from Mary Oliver that we used at the opening worship service for the Elders Retreat. The Elders Retreat was a fantastic event! We are truly blessed to have such wonderful, caring, committed servant leaders in this church. We came away from the Elders Retreat excited, unified, and organized for a terrific year.

This weekend, we have the Administrative Council Retreat, and I am hoping for similarly powerful results. And so, for the second week in a row I’m using this space to include a piece of the opening worship from a forthcoming leadership retreat. Instead of sharing a poem with you, I thought I would include a piece of the prayer that we will using during our opening devotional time with the Administrative Council.

Oh God of the Universe, unite our hearts to You alone, 

and do it strongly, so that with the gift of Your grace we

may be one in You and may in nothing depart from the

truth. Thus, united in Your name, may we in our every

action follow the dictates of Your mercy and justice, so

that today and always our judgments may not be alien to

You and in eternity we may obtain the unending reward of our actions. Amen.

Just like last week, I am asking you to carve out a little time in your own morning devotions on Saturday so that you can pray for our Administrative Council. You can use the words that I have shared with you here or you can use your own words, but please pray for our leaders, pray for our church, and pray that we might together discern the powerful places where God is calling us to live in mission and ministry.

Yours in the journey, Rev. Brian

Keenagers at the MIM

This month the Keenagers (our "Anyone Over 55 Fellowship Group") took a field trip to the Musical Instrument Museum in North Phoenix.

If you haven't been to the MIM yet, then you simply have to go! The Keenagers had a wonderful time -- from a delicious lunch in The Cafe, to playing exotic instruments in the experiential room, to touring the different musical traditions of the world it was a great event.

Here are a handful of photos from the day!

Shirley and Bob set up the trip for us.
Here is Shirley welcoming everyone...

...and here is Bob walking through the first exhibit!

We had almost two dozen Keenagers with us for the trip.
Here is a sampling of folks!

Clara and Daryl making a racket...I mean, "a joyful noise" the experiential room.

Remember the Philippine Gongs we had in worship a few months back?
They have a complete set of them (that you can play) at the MIM.
That set includes these great big ones! Which are still not nearly as big as...

This one that Harriett played!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Whiteboard: The Light of Christ

With the Rev. Brandon Gilvin (Associate Director of Week of Compassion) scheduled to fill the pulpit on Sunday February 19, we'll be tweaking the liturgical calendar and celebrating Transfiguration Sunday a week early here at FCC Scottsdale.

So this Sunday scripture will give us the story of Elijah's ascension into heaven from 2 Kings and the story of Christ's Transfiguration from Mark 9:2-9.

Building on those two remarkable stories from scripture (as well as the story of a Museum Exhibit that has something to do with fireflies!) we'll talk about how the "Light of Christ Shines" in our world. I hope to see you this Sunday!

Mark 9:2-9 The Transfiguration

 Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus.
Then Peter said to Jesus, ‘Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’ He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!’ Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.
As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Newsbrief: Elders Retreat

This Saturday the Elders will have their annual, daylong retreat. We will be at the Franciscan Renewal Center up on Lincoln Drive for a time of reflection and preparation, working together, dreaming together, seeking God’s presence together.

During the retreat I’ll be sharing some of the poems of one of my favorite poets – Mary Oliver. We’ll start the morning with her poem “Making the House Ready for the Lord” from her recent collection of poetry titled Thirst. I would like to share it with you all now too.

Dear Lord, I have swept and I have washed but
still nothing is as shining as it should be
for you. Under the sink, for example is an
uproar of mice – it is the season of their
many children. What shall I do? And under the eaves
and through the walls the squirrels
have gnawed their ragged entrances – but it is the season
when they need shelter, so what shall I do? And
the raccoon limps into the kitchen and opens the cupboard
while the dog snores, the cat hugs the pillow;
what shall I do? Beautiful is the new snow falling
in the yard and the fox who is staring boldly
up the path, to the door. And still I believe you will
come, Lord: you will, when I speak to the fox,
the sparrow, the lost dog, the shivering sea-goose, know
that really I am speaking to you whenever I say,
as I do all morning and afternoon: Come in, Come in.

As our Elders meet for their time of retreat we hope the Spirit of the Living God will indeed come in…and even do so in unexpected and surprising ways.

Here is where I need your help. If you could, please say a word of prayer for our Elders this Saturday. They will meet on Saturday from 9:30 AM until 3:00 PM, and I know that your prayers make a difference. You can pray for God’s blessings or pray for God’s peace or pray for God to use them as the servant leaders of our congregation. I look forward to reporting back to you on the wonderful things that emerge from our Elder’s Retreat…and please know that your prayerful support is an important part of that process!

Yours in the journey, Rev. Brian