Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Whiteboard: Repentance

The Habits of Faith series continues this week with a new topic...


I got a lot of mileage out of quoting Frederick Buechner last week on prayer, and I find him pretty helpful when it comes to defining repentance too. Here is what he says, "Repentance is about coming to your sense. It is not so much something you do as something that happens. True repentance spends less time looking at the past and saying 'I'm sorry' than to the future and saying 'Wow!'"

Repentance is about turning back to God. It is about realizing that we fall short, we miss the mark, whatever terminology for "we all sin" that you prefer to use then turning back to God, realizing that we are forgiven and (this is the crucial part) making a change.

I think that is what Buechner means with that last sentence about not simply looking at the past but looking toward the future. True repentance is about more looking for forgiveness, you see. It is all about looking toward the future with forgiven eyes. It is about living a changed life; learning from your mistakes, your transgressions, your times of missing the mark (my preferred terminology for sin) and seeking to follow the better path.

As we continue to walk through the Lenten Season come and grow in the faith with us at FCC Scottsdale as we seek to develop New Habits of Faith...this week, the New Habit of Repentance.

Newsbrief: Habits of Faith

We are off and running.

Last Sunday we kicked off the “Habits of Faith” worship series. All through the Season of Lent we are seeking to grow in the faith by developing particular habits

You see, developing habits is how we can make new/important/different things become second nature (remember: it is second nature because it isn't something that comes naturally, but when we work at it and develop it then it becomes just as much a part of us as our heart beat or our lungs filling up with air).

The key to developing a new habit is to start small and do it every single day. You need both elements. You start small so that you can build your way up to your final goal. In my sermon last Sunday I mentioned that instead of starting off with the finished product (in my case, working out 30-minutes a day) I worked my way slowly up to it. I started small (working out for 5-minutes a day the first week) so that achieving my initial goal would be easy (and it was!) and then built up from there. I added 5-more minutes the second week, then 5-more minutes the week after that, then 5-more minutes the week after that until eventually I was working out for 30-minutes a day AND I had been practicing carving out the time I needed to work out every day. Now, over a year later it is completely second nature. I structure my evenings differently and I can’t imagine missing a workout.

We are trying to follow that same process with our habits of faith. We are starting small – give me 5-minutes every day this week. That’s it, just 5-minutes but make sure it is every day. Give me 5-minutes every day this week to do something that deepens your relationship with Christ, that brings you to a fuller understanding of God, that helps you to grow in the faith. It might be starting your morning with a silent meditation. It might be singing your favorite hymn. It might be spending 5-minutes each day in prayer or devotion.

For a number of people in our church they have decided to intentionally carve out time every day to read scripture. In fact, we have a new Bible Study class that will be meeting on Sunday morning at 9AM in the Arizona Room (please note the change, we’ll be in the Arizona Room) so that we can grow in the faith this Lenten Season by reading the four Gospels together. We are growing the habit of reading our Bibles and here is how: We are starting small and building our way up by reading 2 chapters every day. If you can follow that pattern, 2 chapters a day for the entire Season of Lent then by the time we get to the joyous celebration of Easter Sunday we will have finished all Four Gospels! How great is that! If you would like to join us this Sunday morning at 9AM in the Arizona Room please read through the first 14 chapters of Matthew…and trust me, if you take it a little bit at a time you’ll be amazed how far you come!

Yours in the Journey,

Rev. Brian

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Whiteboard: On Prayer

The Habits of Faith Series continues this week with a focus on prayer.

{Note: If you missed the first sermon in the Habits of Faith series you find it by clicking here.}

Frederick Buechner is the one who said:
"We all pray whether we think of it as praying or not. The odd silence we fall into when something very beautiful is happening, or something very good or very bad. The ah-h-h-h! that sometimes floats up out of us as out of a Fourth of July crowd when the skyrocket bursts over the water. The stammer of pain at somebody else's pain. The stammer of joy at somebody else's joy. Whatever words or sounds we use for sighing with over our own lives. These are all prayers in their way. These are all spoken not just to ourselves but to something even more familiar than ourselves and even more strange than the world."
Which is funny, because when it comes to prayer the most common thing I hear from people is "Oh, I don't know how to do that," as if you need to know some special collection of words or a secret set instructions to pray.

Buechner would go on to say that according to Jesus, "by far the most important thing about praying is to keep at it." And that is what we'll do this coming Sunday in worship. We'll work on developing that habit of prayer so that we might be able to faithfully "keep at it".

We'll be using Psalm 27 as our guiding text and, frankly, as an example of prayer.

See you Sunday,
Rev. Brian

Psalm 27 -- Triumphant Song of Confidence

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?

When evildoers assail me
to devour my flesh—
my adversaries and foes—
they shall stumble and fall.

Though an army encamp against me,
my heart shall not fear;
though war rise up against me,
yet I will be confident.

One thing I asked of the Lord,
that will I seek after:
to live in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to behold the beauty of the Lord,
and to inquire in his temple.

For he will hide me in his shelter
in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
he will set me high on a rock.

Now my head is lifted up
above my enemies all around me,
and I will offer in his tent
sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make melody to the Lord.

Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud,
be gracious to me and answer me!
‘Come,’ my heart says, ‘seek his face!’
Your face, Lord, do I seek.
Do not hide your face from me.

Do not turn your servant away in anger,
you who have been my help.
Do not cast me off, do not forsake me,
O God of my salvation!
If my father and mother forsake me,
the Lord will take me up.

Teach me your way, O Lord,
and lead me on a level path
because of my enemies.
Do not give me up to the will of my adversaries,
for false witnesses have risen against me,
and they are breathing out violence.

I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Habits of Faith: The Underpinnings

This past Sunday we kicked off our Habits of Faith Worship Series.

During the entire season of Lent we'll be working to deliberately, intentionally, purposefully grow in the faith.

I mentioned in my sermon that I have become completely convinced that if you want to change your life then you have to change your habits. Developing habits is how we can make new/important/different things become second nature (remember: it is second nature because it isn't something that comes naturally, but when we work at it and develop it it becomes just as much a part of us as our heart beat or our lungs filling up with air).

If you missed the sermon you can click here and find the audio on the church's website.

In the sermon I mention the blog that I started reading that inspired me down this path. It is Leo Babauta's ZenHabits blog and it is consistently a great read.

If you are looking for a place to start then I suggest his post

It is a fabulous introduction to developing habits, starting small to work your way up, and intentionally carving out a chunk of time every single day. In many ways it provides the underpinings for what we are up to this Lenten Season with our Habits of Faith Worship Series and with the good work that so many folks here at the church are putting into growing in the faith.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Whiteboard: Double Duty

It is double duty at the church this week.

So the Whiteboard is divided in half...which means two pictures for the low, low price of one blog post!

We will formally enter into the reflective, prepartory season of Lent today with an Ash Wednesday worship service at 7PM in the Sanctuary. We will read the holy words of scripture from Isaiah 58:1-12 ("Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?") and Matthew 6:1-21 (Christ's teaching on sharing, praying, fasting, and giving). We will pray. We will receive the holy mark of ashes in the form of a cross on our foreheads marking us for the Lenten journey and remind us of our reliance on the grace, mercy, power, and peace that comes from God alone.

Then on Sunday we will being our Lenten Sermon Series on "The Habits of Faith". This sermon series will be a practical guide on the tangible things that you can do to grow in the faith through prayer, repentance, reconciliation, and joy. We'll kick the sermon series off this Sunday and I hope you can be with us!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Whiteboard: In the Clouds

This Sunday is the Transfiguration -- one of those mysterious, amazing, misunderstood passages from scripture.

After Jesus has been preaching and teaching, healing and performing miracles he takes three of his Disciples -- Peter, James, and John -- up to a high mountain to pray. And there, he is transformed right in front of them. His clothes become as bright as a flash of lightning, his faces changes, and suddenly the Disciples realize they are not there alone with Jesus but that they are joined by Moses and Elijah!

It is an amazing scene. Arguably, a scene that is too amazing for Peter. He desperately wants to stay there. He wants to stay there on top of the mountain, with his head in the clouds. He wants to stay there...forever. He asks Jesus if they can build three houses there, saying that he wants to build one for Jesus, one for Moses, and one for Elijah, but we can't help but notice that those houses would also correspond to Peter, James, and John.

But Jesus won't let them. This isn't the point of faith -- to be secluded forever, to hide away from the rest of the world, holding on to our mountaintop experience, keeping it to ourselves. As they are walking down the mountain they are greeted with the most amazing part of the entire story. A cloud envelops them and then, well, then they hear the very voice of God proclaiming "This is my Son, whom I have chosen. Listen to him."

This Sunday in worship we'll retell the Transfiguration story. We'll sing, we'll pray, we'll be in community with each other -- not so that we can have our own mountaintop moment that we keep hidden away from the world, but that we might hear once more the testimony of faith (God's command "This is my Son, whom I have chosen. Listen to him") and bring it with us out to the waiting world.

I'll see you this Sunday!

Three Things: Worship Team

Check out #3 to learn more
about this image of Jesus.
The Worship Team met on Sunday February 3 right after, well, right after worship! We met to discuss worship plans for the Season of Lent through Easter Sunday. Here are the "three things you should know" from that meeting:

  1. Everything starts early this year!
    Easter comes early this year (March 31) which means everything that comes before Easter gets bumped up in the calendar too. So this year Ash Wednesday will be February 13 (yes, the day before Valentine's Day!), the first Sunday in Lent is February 17, Palm Sunday is March 24, and Maundy Thursday is March 28.

  2. Mark your calendars!
    We have special worship services planned for Ash Wednesday (February 13 at 7PM) and Maundy Thursday (March 28 at 7PM) and we are planning on having the Sanctuary open for prayers and meditation on the morning of Good Friday (March 29, times TBD). We will have a special palm processional on Palm Sunday (complete with new music!) and we'll have brass on Easter Sunday morning!

  3. Henry was on the same page.
    As many of you know my wife was out of town last week attending her denomination's national clergy gathering. So Henry was hanging out in my office while I was meeting with the Worship Team. I left him with my iPad so that he could play games and watch movies and generally stay out of trouble. Much to my surprise Henry used the Soundrop App (which isn't even a drawing app, per se) to create the lovely, minimalist picture of Jesus that you see at the top of this post. Thanks Henry!