Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Three Things from the Elders Meeting

The Elders had their regularly scheduled meeting on Sunday September 27. Here are "The Three Things" you should know from that meeting:

  1. Sharing BlessingsWe opened out meeting in a new way. I've been reading the Rev. Dr. John Dorhauer's terrific new book Beyond Resistance and in a section on leadership and vision he mentions that he likes to begin meetings with one simple question: "Since our last meeting, how have you been blessed by our church?"

    Isn't that a great question!

    So we opened the Elders Meeting that way and we shared some terrific stories -- from the Women's Retreat to the East Valley Lock-In, the Thank You! Event to the Work Day Crew. In fact, it was such a successful way to start our time together, that we are going to regularly use that question ("Since our last meeting, how have you been blessed by our church?") to open all of our Elders Meetings going forward!
  2. Reflecting on the AZ Region's Elder Training Event
    On August 29 the Arizona Region hosted an Elder's Training Event in Casa Grande featuring the Rev. Dr. Dick Hamm (former General Minister and President of our Denomination) as our Keynote Speaker. It was a wonderful event with over 100 Elders from all over Arizona gathered together (note: we had six folks from our church in attendance). Learn more about the event by clicking here.

    Sandi put together an excellent recap of the event and we took the time at our Elders Meeting to not only catch everyone else up on the presentation, but to also reflect on some of the ideas and issues that were raised at the Training. So at the Elders Meeting this past Sunday we talked about the role of the Elders, best practices with our Shepherding Groups, Considering young people as Elders, how to appropriately address gossip, and what it means to have six generations alive and active in the church.
  3. Recruiting New Elders
    The Nominating Process is starting back up at First Christian Church Scottsdale, and so we spent some intentional time lifting up those names that we would like to consider for the position of Elder in the future. We have so many wonderful members here at that church and so we brainstormed a list that will be shared with the Nominating Committee going forward. 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Creation Care

One of my favorite pictures in a while.

This Sunday we'll be talking about Creation Care, and there are some great resources available out there. I recommend:

  • Green Chalice -- The Creation Care ministries of the Christian Church Disciples of Christ. You can sign up to receive their terrific monthly e-newsletter by clicking here.
  • Blessed Tomorrow -- A coalition of diverse faith leaders (including the Disciples) committed to creating a path to a positive future for our families, communities and the world.
  • Northwest Earth Institute -- An excellent collection of Christian Education Resources around Creation Care.
  • Green Faith -- Resources for worship, education, spirituality, stewardship, justice and health
  • Interfaith Power and Light -- A religious response to global warming
  • Laudato si' -- Pope Francis' encyclical on care for our common home

Psalm 104 God the Creator and Provider

Bless the Lord, O my soul.
O Lord my God, you are very great.
You are clothed with honour and majesty,
  wrapped in light as with a garment.
You stretch out the heavens like a tent,
You cause the grass to grow for the cattle,
  and plants for people to use,
  to bring forth food from the earth,
  and wine to gladden the human heart,
  oil to make the face shine,
  and bread to strengthen the human heart.
The trees of the Lord are watered abundantly,
  the cedars of Lebanon that he planted.
In them the birds build their nests;
  the stork has its home in the fir trees.
The high mountains are for the wild goats;
  the rocks are a refuge for the coneys.
You have made the moon to mark the seasons;
  the sun knows its time for setting.
You make darkness, and it is night,
  when all the animals of the forest come creeping out.
The young lions roar for their prey,
  seeking their food from God.
When the sun rises, they withdraw
  and lie down in their dens.
People go out to their work
  and to their labou until the evening.

O Lord, how manifold are your works!
In wisdom you have made them all;
  the earth is full of your creatures.


Genesis 2:4b-15 Another Account of the Creation

These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created.

In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no one to till the ground; but a stream would rise from the earth, and water the whole face of the ground— then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being. And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed. Out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

A river flows out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it divides and becomes four branches. The name of the first is Pishon; it is the one that flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; and the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there. The name of the second river is Gihon; it is the one that flows around the whole land of Cush. The name of the third river is Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it.

Thank You Event Recap

On Saturday September 19 we hosted a special Thank You! Luncheon at FCC Scottsdale.

This was a Dream Fund event that grew out of the excitement we are feeling at the church for all of the wonderful things that are happening right now. The Dream Team put together a special luncheon where the only agenda item was to say "Thank You!" Because, you see, it is only through the generous and full support of our church family that we are able to do the things that we are doing.

In the end, the event grew into more than just a luncheon. We also built Outreach Opportunities into the day so that we could celebrate by reaching out to our local community and to the wider world.

Here are a series of pictures (and some stats and stories) from a great day at FCC Scottsdale!

Feed My Starving Children

We had 17 folks from FCC Scottsdale who spent their morning at Feed My Starving Children's new facility in Mesa. Volunteers at FMSC hand-pack meals specifically formulated for malnourished children, and these meals are then shipped to distribution partners all over the world. It is an amazing operation! Here are the stats for the day:

     Total Number of Boxes Packed: 143

     Total Number of Meals Prepared: 31,000

     Total Number of Children who will be fed for an entire year: 84

     Destination of the Food: Cambodia

Plarn Event

Meanwhile, back at the church we 18 folks hard at work making Plarn. 

For those who don't know, Plarn is short for "plastic yarn" and it is a material that is made from old plastic grocery bags. You cut off the handles, cut off the bottom seam, and then cut the remaining plastic into four equal strips (loops actually). Once the bags are prepared you simply knot the loops together one after another with a simple slip knot. Once assembled we deliver the plarn to a friend of the congregation who crochets it into lightweight, durable, weatherproof sleeping mats for local homeless men and women. 

We owe a HUGE "Thank You!" to Jean Decker for preparing thousands of loops for us ahead of the event. Jean took home every single plastic bag that was donated to the church and put them together. She emailed me the following observations: 

"I have the following interesting facts about plastic sacks and the shopping habits of this church after cutting all the bags down!
Plastic sacks come in several sizes.
Walmart has had white and gray bags.
Fry's has had tan and white.
Fry's is the grocery store of choice for the church followed by Albertsons.
We shop at both Petsmart and Petco, CVS and Walgreens; the Dollar Store, the 99 cent store and Goodwill.
I found grocery lists, lettuce and other food and remains of bugs in the sacks!
And my rarest find was a sack from Smittys!!!"

Thank You! Luncheon

 Our Thank You! Luncheon was catered by the good folks at Paradise Bakery. We had 80+ folks in attendance and in addition to enjoying a delicious lunch we had time for fellowship, updates on Dream Fund Projects, Singing, Praying, and a special word from our Regional Minister the Rev. Dr. Denny Williams. Oh, and we said "Thank You!" a lot! 

Denny helped us to not only celebrate, but challenged us to see the event not as a capstone moment of a finished project, but rather as the beginning steps of a larger journey. Taking our "dream" theme further than we ever have Denny invited us to continue, "Living the Dream" and as a community of faith to "Keep on dreaming!'

In that spirited we collected more dreams from the congregation and will be adding them to the full list of our Dream Fund Ideas as seek to discern the ways that God is calling us forward!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Three Things from Administrative Council

Administrative Council had their regular meeting on Sunday September 20, 2015 immediately following the worship service. Here are The Three Things you should know from that meeting:

  1. We celebrated the success of the Thanks You! Event on September 19!
    The Dream Team sponsored a church-wide Thank You! Event that included a wonderful luncheon (with special guest speaker, our Regional Minister, the Rev. Denny Williams), and a morning filled with Outreach Opportunities. We had 80+ folks in attendance for the luncheon! We had 17 folks from the church who spent the morning at Feed My Starving Children in Mesa preparing 31,000 meals for starving children around the group and another 18 folks who met up at the church to make Plarn ("plastic yarn") that will be crocheted into sleeping mats for local homeless men and women.
  2. Council Approved a full Energy Audit of our Church Campus!
    On the recommendation of our Green Team, Administrative Council approved a full Energy Audit of our church buildings. Rev. Brian has been in contact with a local engineering firm that has agreed to do the audit at no charge and will provide us with a full breakdown of cost saving measures, possibilities, and opportunities for us at the church.
  3. Hope Partnership Education Survey Needs Your Responses!
    The Hope Partnership Team has begun working to revitalize our Education Ministries here at the church. As a part of that process they have put together a "Christian Education Survey" in order to learn about the wants and needs of our congregation, as well as to discern the best times and places to offer new classes. 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Whiteboard: A Distinctly Disciples Identity

I realize that there are plenty of folks who think that title is laughable.

There are all sorts of people out there who say that when it comes to the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) there is nothing "distinct" about our identity. Those same folks would argue that our free church tradition and our realiance on the conscience of the individual believer mean that "you can believe anything and be a Disciple" which means there is no core identity there at all.

With all due respect to the army of strawmen I just drew up, I humbly disagree.

I think there is something distinct about our Disciples identity. Something that truly makes us who we are and distinctly sets us apart from other Christian groups and denominations.

I also realize that there are plenty of folks who look at that title and think they already know the answer I'm going to give. They think I'm going to spend an entire sermon talking about Christian Unity as our Distinctly Disciples Identity. They are banking on me talking about the early days of our Christian movement when frontier preachers like Barton Stone and Alexander Campbell would declare that "Unity is our Polar Star!"

But, with all due respect, I humbly disagree there too. In fact, I'm becoming more and more convinced that such a traditional notion of what it means to be a part of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) has managed to confuse the means with the ends.

After a faithful, faith-filled conversation with one of my mentors (the Rev. Mark Miller-McLemore) at this summer's General Assembly I stand firmly convinced that our Distinctly Disciples Identity is tied to a single word; a single, misunderstood, often overlooked word. The Rev. Mark Miller-McLemore convinced me that our Distinctly Disciples Identity is rooted in humility.

That's right, humility.

The ability to say, "I don't have all the right answers, and even though I disagree with some of what you said, I want to sit down with you and keep talking. Because I'm pretty sure that if we do that, then we're going to get closer to the truth of what God is working toward."

Okay, nobody actually talks like that, but you get what I mean.

Come join us this Sunday as we flesh out this idea even further; as we humbly come before our Lord, break bread with one another, and seek and celebrate God's love.

I'll see you Sunday!

Kick-Off Sunday Prayer

As part of our Kick-Off Sunday last week, my son Henry and I wrote a special prayer of blessing for our Sunday School classes and then we went from class room to class room praying it out loud.

Here is the prayer that we offered (by the way, kinda cool that it came out looking like a heart, right!):

Dear Lord, Our     Great Teacher,
We come to you today to prayer for our
Sunday School Classes and everything we
learn here about you. We thank you for our
wonderful teachers and the beautiful space
you have provided us. We ask that everyone
who gathers here learns a lot about you and
deepens their faith in your. We thank you
for Jesus, our Savior, because he has
helped us know you and your
love. May everything that we 
do here glorify you and 
your holy name. 
We love you!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Whiteboard: Kick Off Sunday

Our Fall Program Year kicks off this Sunday!

After a nice summer hiatus it is so great to see all of our church programs gearing back up again. The DWM Circle Groups are meeting, the Choir is rehearsing, our Sunday School Classes are coming back (and we're even starting up a new one; Rev. Kevin Adams will begin leading a Revelation Bible Study on August 20!), and our Fellowship Groups are getting geared up.

And what better way to celebrate Kick Off Sunday than to turn to Mark 8:27-38 where Jesus asks his disciples, "Who do you say that I am?"

As we celebrate the start of another program year, as we bless and dedicate our programs to the work of God, we'll turn our attention to that question this Sunday as we seek to answer it as faithfully as the Apostle Peter did when he said, "You are the Messiah."


Mark 8:27-38 Peter’s Declaration about Jesus

Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that I am?’ And they answered him, ‘John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.’ He asked them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Peter answered him, ‘You are the Messiah.’ And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.

Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.’

He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.’

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Whiteboard: More Than Crumbs

This is a strange story.

A Syrophoenician woman (read: Gentile) has a sick daughter, or as they said that back in the ancient world: her daughter is "tormented by a demon."

The Syrophoenician woman approaches Jesus and asks for his help. But Jesus ignores her.

Did I mention this was a strange story?

Yes, Jesus ignores her cries at first. And so she keeps crying out to him. She begs him to cast the demon out of her daughter. Jesus says to her, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel."

Strange story, right? Not what you were expecting Jesus to say. Well, it is about to get stranger.

The Syrophoenician woman and Jesus start to argue. Jesus talks about why you wouldn't take the children's bread and throw it out to the dogs (which is basically calling this woman and he sick child dogs, right?) and then she counters "Yes, Lord, but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the master's table."

Then something amazing happens. Jesus concedes the point. He recognizes the strength of this woman's faith and commitment and he grants her request.

I've always joked that the easy comeback is sitting right there for Jesus. The Woman says, "Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the master's table," and Jesus could have quickly retorted, "Well then the dogs need to stay outside where they belong."

But the point of the story isn't that Jesus is quick with a one-liner, or even that he respects a good comeback when he hears it (plenty of folks make a big deal out of the fact that this is really the only time in the Gospels when someone is able to change Jesus' mind). No, the point of the story is that the kingdom of God is expanding. That this religious movement Jesus is spearheading is getting bigger. That it isn't simply about one religious community hearing the power of the good news of the Gospel, but that it is about sharing it with the world, and particularly sharing it with the outsiders, the foreigners, the people that society tells us aren't worth wasting our time on.

It is not just crumbs that Jesus offers, it is the fullness of the good news of the gospel, and he offers it to everyone.

So we do too.


Mark 7:24-37
The Syrophoenician Woman’s Faith

From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet.Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, ‘Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.’ But she answered him, ‘Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.’ Then he said to her, ‘For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.’ So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

Jesus Cures a Deaf Man

Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, ‘Ephphatha’, that is, ‘Be opened.’ And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. Then Jesusordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. They were astounded beyond measure, saying, ‘He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.’

The Fifth With First at Vista del Camino

This past Sunday was The Fifth With First!

Folks who attended the Worship Service in the Sanctuary had the opportunity to hear our Pastor Emeritus the Rev. Don Jones preach the word (you can listen to the sermon audio by clicking here) and then make Plarn (if you don't know what that is, then click here to learn more).

I lead our Workship Team in a Prayer Service at Chaparral Park and then a work project at Vista Del Camino where we packed 560 Healthy Packs for local school children who otherwise wouldn't have enough food to eat on the weekends.

Here are some pictures (and you can find more on the Church's Facebook Page) from the Workship Service:

2015 Elders Training Event

Last Saturday a half-a-dozen of our Elders and I attended a Region-wide Elder Training Event in Casa Grande. 

And when I say Region-wide, I mean it. We had over a 100 Elders present at the event!

It was a wonderful opportunity for us to talk best practices, learn about the role of Elders in Disciples congregations, and hear from our special guest presenter the Rev. Dr. Dick Hamm.

For folks who do not know, Dick Hamm is the former General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). He is a tremendous thinker, speaker, and faith leader for our denomination and I can think of no one better equipped lead our Elders Training. It was a great day!

Here are a few photos (with short captions) from the day:

Don't worry, my journal didn't stay empty for long.
By the end of the day I had 13 pages worth of notes from
 the event, and plenty of good ideas to bring back!

Our Regional Minister Denny Williams calling us to
order to start the day.
All told we had 105 Elders from 16 Disciples congregations
from  all over the great state of Arizona
present for the Elders Training.
The Rev. Dr. Dick Hamm (former General Minister
and President of our denomination) led the event.

After some A/C problems forced us to relocate to the Sanctuary,
the Rev. Isaac Varner (pastor at Capilla del Sol in Tucson)
led us in a conversation about "Best Practices for Elders"
at our congregations. 

The Rev. Dr. Dick Hamm leading a very important afternoon
session on everyone's least favorite topic: Conflict!