Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Whiteboard: The Fifth with First

This Sunday is the fifth Sunday in March, which could mean only one thing...THE FIFTH WITH FIRST!

For the uninitiated, The Fifth With First is our shorthand slang here at the church for "The fifth Sunday with First Christian Church."

On those months where there are five Sundays (and it happens four times a year) we do something a little different on the fifth Sunday -- we have a Workship Service in addition to our Worship Service.

Workship is when we live out our faith by going out into the community to make a difference in the lives of our neighbors. The Workship Service begins at 9AM at the Ramada at Chaparral Park where we have a brief prayer service before heading out to the worksite. We have partnered with Operation Fix-It here in Scottsdale and this Sunday we'll be working on a local home to bring it back up to code.

For folks who can't make the Workship Service, there will also be a Worship Service in the Sanctuary at 10:15. It will be streamlined a bit, but God's name will be praised and you'll be inspired by the service. Then right after the 10:15 Worship Service folks are invited to gather in the Fellowship Hall to help pack Healthy Packs for local school children on the free or reduced lunch program who do not have enough food to eat on weekends. Healthy Packs is an amazing ministry that started right here at FCC Scottsdale (care of our Outreach Minister, Rev.Judy) and we are hoping to pack 50 Healthy Packs as part of The Fifth With First!

If you are coming to the Workship Service please wear closed toed shoes and bring a hat and a refillable water bottle. If you are coming to the Worship Service then please come as you are to celebrate the Lord. If you are coming to either service please remember to wear your red "The Fifith With First" t-shirt!

At both the Workship and Worship Services we'll be sharing the word from John 9:1-12. It is traditionally known as the story of "A Man Born Blind Receiving his Sight" or "Jesus Heals the Blind Man," but I want you to read closely and I want you to pay careful attention to what the man's neighbors say, and I want you to ponder "Why don't we recognize the needs of our neighbors?" That's what we'll be focusing on this Sunday at both the Workship Service and the Worship Service.

To learn more about The Fifth With First visit our dedicated webpage

To read more Blog Posts about The Fifth With First then click right here.


John 9:1-12 A Man Born Blind Receives Sight

As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. 

His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ 

Jesus answered, ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.’ 

When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, saying to him, ‘Go, wash in the pool of Siloam’ (which means Sent). 

Then he went and washed and came back able to see. The neighbours and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, ‘Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?’ 

Some were saying, ‘It is he.’ 

Others were saying, ‘No, but it is someone like him.’ 

He kept saying, ‘I am the man.’ 

But they kept asking him, ‘Then how were your eyes opened?’ 

He answered, ‘The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, “Go to Siloam and wash.” Then I went and washed and received my sight.’ 

They said to him, ‘Where is he?’ 

He said, ‘I do not know.’

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Whiteboard: Living Waters

Our "Take a Closer Look" Lenten Sermon Series continues this Sunday with another familiar story from the Bible -- Moses getting water from the stone.

It just so happens that the Easter Offering for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is using the theme "Living Waters" this year. So I, uh, burrowed that language and the graphic for this Sunday's worship service and for the Whiteboard too! Thank you General Church!

This Sunday we'll be take a closer look at Moses, at the "stiff necked" people who were so frustrated with their desert wanderings, and at the God who continues to provide for us in ways that both startle and surprise.

If you want to "take a closer look" with me this Sunday, then get a jump start by reading our sermon scripture from Exodus 17:1-7. It is always helpful to "take a closer look" when it isn't just coming from your glimpse!

Exodus 17:1-7 Water from the Rock

From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink.
The people quarrelled with Moses, and said, ‘Give us water to drink.’
Moses said to them, ‘Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?’
But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said, ‘Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?’
So Moses cried out to the Lord, ‘What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.’
The Lord said to Moses, ‘Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.’
Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarrelled and tested the Lord, saying, ‘Is the Lord among us or not?’

Three Things from Administrative Council

Administrative Council had their regularly scheduled meeting this past Sunday March 16, 2014 immediately following worship.

As is our habit, here are "The Three Things" you need to know from that meeting.

  1. Future Facing At one of our Hope Partnership Leadership Retreats the question was asked by our facilitator "How much of the time at your Board Meetings is spent discussing things that already happened? And how much of your time is spent discussing who God is calling you to be?" The truth is, those percentages have probably been out of whack for us at our Administrative Council Meetings. So we are intentionally restructuring our meetings to cut down on unnecessarily long reports and focusing instead on the longview of our church's success in ministry. For a practical piece of that restructure see #3.
  2. Widening the Table We formally moved to include Disciples Women's Ministry and Disciples Men's Fellowship as active participants in the work of Administrative Council.
  3. New Agenda and an Invitation from our A.C. Secretary
    Instead of having each ministry team bring a full report to Administrative Council we have asked that each time bring "two highlights from their ministry team's work" to share with the council. From there, we have allotted time for any official business that needs to come from our committees, carved out time to get all everyone's events listed on the church calendar, and have created time to talk about specific issues regarding the church's vision for the future (in this particular meeting we talked about the Hope Process and our journey to becoming "The Church of Yes!"). 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Whiteboard: Blessed

Alright, be honest. You've always thought that expression -- "Blessed to be a blessing" -- was probably just made up by some imaginative preacher who liked the alliteration of it all, or even worse that it was thought up by an enterprising t-shirt designer to move products.

But no, "Blessed to be a blessing" is a deeply biblical motif that shows up throughout our Holy Scriptures and crops up in Genesis 12:1-7 (our text for this Sunday).

God is talking to Abram (he's not Abraham yet, that changes hasn't happened at this point in the story) and God says, "I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing."

And there it is: Blessed to be a blessing.

God blesses us not so that we can hold on to those blessing and keep it all for ourselves but rather so that we can take that blessing and bring it to the world in order to bless others with it. Imagine what would have happened had Abram just kept that blessing to himself? Why, the story would just stop right there in its tracks wouldn't it? But rather, Abraham took that blessing and carried it forward following God and living into the fullness of God's promise so that we can number ourselves as part of that "great nation" that started with Father Abraham himself.

So it is more than just a catchy alliterative phrase or a jazzy t-shirt design -- for us as Christians it is an entire way of life. Through Christ Jesus our Lord we have been blessed in order that we might be a blessing. In that way we become not only recipients of God's grace, but instruments of it as well!

Come join us this Sunday at First Christian Church Scottsdale as we continue our Lenten "Take a Closer Look" Series by focusing on attention on the familiar story of Father Abraham and the surprising, revelatory, grace-filled words that it contains for us.

Note: If you missed the first two sermons from the series you can find my Ash Wednesday Homily here and my Sermon from the First Sunday of Lent here.

Genesis 12:1-7 The Call of Abram
Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ 
So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. Abram took his wife Sarai and his brother’s son Lot, and all the possessions that they had gathered, and the persons whom they had acquired in Haran; and they set forth to go to the land of Canaan. When they had come to the land of Canaan, Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. Then the Lord appeared to Abram, and said, ‘To your offspring I will give this land.’ So he built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Keenagers Zoo Program

That's right, an alligator in the Fellowship Hall!

On Wednesday March 5 the Keenagers welcomed a whole batch of animals from the World Wildlife Zoo in Litchfield Park, and let me tell you, it was fabulous!

A terrific program was made all the more memorable by the fact that Joan's granddaughter Britney (who many Keenagers remembered from when she was a little girl at our church who loved animals!) was the featured presenter. You'll see Britney in a couple of the pictures below as well as an assortment of the animals that she brought with her to show us.

Thanks Joan for helping making the program possible....and for serving as Britney's assistant and walking the animals around for everyone to see up close!

Click on any of the images below to see a larger version of the photo.

Ash Wednesday

Thank you to everyone who made our Ash Wednesday Service so memorable and significant last night.

Thank you to the Worship Team for stripping our sanctuary bare and making all things ready for the service.

Thank you the Chancel Choir for their powerful anthem, and to Julie and Sandi for providing special music, and to Tavit for accompanying it all.

Thank you to all of our members who attended the service and helped us to enter into the fullness of the Season of Lent here at the church.

For folks who missed the service (or simply want to hear the sermon again), you can find the sermon audio on the church's website by clicking here.

 And since I preached from a manuscript last night, it also allows me to do some things I can't normally do after a sermon, like this Wordle image...

Wordle is a web app for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes. The images you create with Wordle are yours to use however you like. If you want to make a Worlde of your own, visit the website by clicking here.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Whiteboard: Lent

With Ash Wednesday we formally enter into a new season in the worship life of the church, the Season of Lent.

In a single sentence: Lent is a time when we journey away from the temptations that get the best of us and toward God's grace, love, and mercy.

Lent is a time of sacrifice and self-discovery. We purposefully use these forty days from Ash Wednesday until Easter Sunday to look deep in our own lives, find all those things that keep us from God and keep us from fully becoming exactly who God calls us to be, and recommit ourselves to the faith. And we do it every single year.

A colleague of mine likes to talk about Lent as spiritual spring cleaning. “Isn’t it ironic,” she used to joke, “that we start out our spring cleaning by making ourselves purposefully messy on the first day?”

Lent is an intentional time, woven into the fabric of our church year, that we might re-evaluate our lives, re-consider our commitments, and purposefully grow in the ways that God is calling us to. The journey of faith isn't a one-time decision, but rather a lifelong commitment and process. It is why you do your spring cleaning every year…because no matter how deliberate, how neat and tidy, how antiseptic and clean you are there is still new dust that collects and dark corners that need to see the light of day. That is what Lent is all about. Making room for God, clearing out all the clutter and cobwebs that have gotten in the way, and clearing out the sin that clings so closely.

This year during the Sundays in Lent we won't simply be looking closely at our own intentions, temptations, and growing edges, we'll be looking closely at some of the most familiar stories from our biblical tradition. We'll look closely and carefully at these holy accounts to see what fresh knowledge, insight, and call to action they might have for our lives. And what better place to start then right at the very beginning with a Genesis account of the Garden of Eden. 

Come join us this Sunday (and every Sunday during Lent!) as we dive deep in the stories of our faith. 

Yours in the Journey,
Rev. Brian

Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.’
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that theLord God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God say, “You shall not eat from any tree in the garden”?’ 
The woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; but God said, “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.” ’ 
But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ 
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.