Thursday, August 18, 2016

Whiteboard: Rest Area

We call it a day of rest.

The Sabbath. The one-in-seven days that is set aside, made holy, and reserved.

That pattern is built right into the Bible. We read it in the very first of the Genesis creation stories ("On the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day"), it is right there in the middle of the Ten Commandments ("Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy"), and Jesus himself spends a fair amount of time talking about the Sabbath.

This Sunday I'll be talking about rest. How it is important; holy even. We'll talk about how Jesus viewed the Sabbath, and how in this work-a-day world the idea of "sacred rest" really has become radical.

Oh, and I'll be talking about the Olympics too! Because it turns out, one of the things world class athletes know that the rest of ordinary shlubbs don't really appreciate is the importance and necessity of rest. Don't believe me? Well come and hear about on Sunday!


Luke 13:10-17 Jesus Heals a Crippled Woman

Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. 

When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, ‘Woman, you are set free from your ailment.’ When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. 

But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, ‘There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.’

But the Lord answered him and said, ‘You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?’ 

When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.

Louisiana Flooding

As church members know, my father’s entire side of the family is from Louisiana.

The historic and devastating floods that have hit that part of the country have been close to my heart. Fortunately, at present my family is safe and the flood damage has been comparatively light. However, in other parts of the state the damage has been catastrophic.

Fortunately, Week of Compassion (the disaster and emergency response ministry of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)) is already there. The faithful servants at Week of Compassion sent the following update early this week:

Heavy rains that began on August 11 and continued through the weekend have caused historic flooding in south Louisiana, especially around the Baton Rouge area.

By Monday morning, more than 20,000 residents had evacuated their homes. Among those who have evacuated are 27 families from First Christian Church, Baton Rouge.
According to Rev. David Chisham, pastor of First Christian Church Baton Rouge, no in-kind donations are needed at this moment. Instead, we encourage financial gifts, which can be used to meet immediate needs as they arise. As the church prepares to be a host site in partnership with the Red Cross, they are organizing volunteers for food prep, janitorial support, and laundry service.
Week of Compassion has been in regular contact with Rev. Chisham and Regional Minister, Rev. Nadine Burton. We have provided a grant to help meet the immediate needs of evacuees and will offer additional support as the extent of the damage becomes clear. Rev. Chisham told Week of Compassion Associate Director, Rev. Caroline Hamilton-Arnold: "The numbers of those affected continues to rise as the mass of water moves south. Houses that were dry one day are full of water the next. We look forward to supporting our greater community, and God has been faithful in providing resources for us to respond to the need."
Additionally, with support from Week of Compassion, Children’s Disaster Services is deploying two teams of specialists to Baton Rouge. CDS associate director Kathy Fry-Miller reports: "They will be able to care for evacuated children in two shelters.”
To support flood relief in Louisiana, donate online by clicking and designate your gift for US Storms and Fires.
Please continue to keep Louisiana, everyone impacted by these terrible floods, and Week of Compassion in your prayers.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Whiteboard: Forgiveness

This Sunday we'll be talking about forgiveness.

I know. I know. In some way or another we talk about forgiveness just about every Sunday...and yet, we still aren't really sure what it means and what it looks like.

So, in times like this we turn to our good friend Frederick Buechner. Buechner is an author, essayist, humorist, and pastor (in alphabetical order) who wrote "Wishful Thinking: A Seeker's ABC" as a kind of shorthand dictionary for just those sorts of theological terms that get us all mixed up.

Here is an excerpt from what he has to say about forgiveness:
"When somebody you've wronged forgives you, you're spared the dull and self-diminishing throb of a guilty conscience. 
 When you forgive somebody who has wronged you, you're spared the dismal corrosion of bitterness and wounded pride. 
 For both parties, forgiveness means the freedom again to be at peace inside their own skins and to be glad in each other's presence."
 Isn't that a great description! And here is what I like so much about those words: It works the same way with God.

Yes, forgiveness from God gives us the freedom to be at peace in our own skin all the while being glad in God's presence. I love it! And we'll be talking more about it this Sunday at worship. See you there!


Hebrews 11:29-12:2 -- The Faith of our Heroes

By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as if it were dry land, but when the Egyptians attempted to do so they were drowned. By faith the walls of Jericho fell after they had been encircled for seven days. By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient,because she had received the spies in peace.

And what more should I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received their dead by resurrection. Others were tortured, refusing to accept release, in order to obtain a better resurrection. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned to death, they were sawn in two, they were killed by the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, persecuted, tormented— of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.

Yet all these, though they were commended for their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better so that they would not, without us, be made perfect.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Whiteboard: Fear Not

What if faith isn't the opposite of unbelief?

What if faith is actually the opposite of fear?

That would help explain why the first thing the angels say in the Bible at the beginning of any miraculous, heavenly encounter is always, "Fear not!" They aren't simply saying, "Calm down, something amazing is happening here!" rather they are saying, "Have faith, because something amazing is happening here!"

Which is exactly what Jesus is doing with our sermon scripture for Sunday morning. He says, "Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom."

It is an amazing thing that Jesus says there, isn't it. "Don't be afraid" which is to say "Have faith!" because "it is your father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom," which is to say "The thing God wants for you more than anything else is for you to be a part of God's kingdom."

So this Sunday our worship service is built around the fact that we are called to move from Fear to Faith and then all the way to Freedom. I'll see you on Sunday as we unpack all of those things!

Luke 12: 32-40

‘Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

‘Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.

‘But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.’

Pictures: The Fifth With First

This past Sunday we celebrated "The Fifth With First!" with two wonderful projects.

Our Workship Team was out in the community, partnered with the Ronald McDonald House's Phoenix Children's Hospital Campus. We cleaned, we packed up sack lunches, and we washed a lot of windows...all in the name of supporting the families that are staying there while their loved ones receive long-term care and treatments at the hospital.

Meanwhile, back on the church campus the Outreach Team set up a work project on behalf of our mission partners at Operation Gratitude. Remember how we brought stacks and stacks of Christmas Cards to church camp this summer, so that the children and young people of Arizona would write their prayers and best wishes for our military servicemen and women who are deployed all over the world? And remember how our own kids took up the project as part of the SAIL Program this summer? Well, on "The Fifth With First!" our volunteers put the finishing touches on those hundreds of cards so that they can be sent off to the very ends of the earth bringing prayers, thoughts, and hope to those who are far away from home this Christmas.

Oh, and if you missed the excellent sermon from our guest preacher, Global Ministries Intern Henry Brewer-Calvert about the two years he spent in service of behalf of our church in the Dominican Republic, well, you can find it on the Church's Website by clicking here.

Enjoy the pictures from "The Fifth With First!"