Thursday, September 29, 2016

Whiteboard: World Communion Sunday

I am fond of saying, "World Communion Sunday should be one of our highest of Holy Days for the Disciples of Christ."

Think about it. It is a Sunday that is:
  • Dedicated to the Unity We Have in Christ.
  • Celebrated around the Lord's Table.
  • Participated in by Churches All Over the World Regardless of Denominational Identity.
Those are three of our core values as a church right there! Unity, the centrality of the Lord's Table, and a ecumenical spirit that guides us!

So come join us this Sunday for one of our highest of Holy Days. Come to celebrate the oneness that we experience in Christ Jesus our Lord. Come to remember him in the broken bread and the shared cup of the new covenant. Come to celebrate in worship with our brothers and sisters all over the world who will be gathering this Sunday in their own communities of faith, singing praises in their own language, and breaking bread in their own special way in service to the Lord. See you Sunday!


Luke 22:14-27 The Lord’s Supper

When the hour came, he took his place at the table, and the apostles with him. He said to them, ‘I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.’ Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, ‘Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.’Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. But see, the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table. For the Son of Man is going as it has been determined, but woe to that one by whom he is betrayed!’ Then they began to ask one another which one of them it could be who would do this.

A dispute also arose among them as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest. But he said to them, ‘The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.

Pictures from the Sing-Along for Peace

On Sunday September 25 First Christian Church Scottsdale hosted a "Sing-Along for Peace" as part of Faiths United's "Concerts Across America to End Gun Violence." We were one of over 500 concerts that took place that day!

It was a wonderful event filled with song, prayer, and faithful reflection. Below you'll find some pictures from the day as well as the prayer that Sandi offered at the beginning of the concert. 

To learn more about Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence, click here.  


A Prayer to End Gun Violence

Merciful Lord, we come to you heavy hearted, for we have heard the cries of the slain calling to us from the ground. We come remembering all the lives lost to the weapons of war that have flooded our communities. We come reminded of the many bodies locked in jails and prisons all across this country. And we ask for your mercy.

Although we find ourselves in a broken world – a world in which hurting people hurt other people, it is no mystery that you are a God capable of healing our world through justice and fairness. Your own revelation has shown us that you stand firmly with those people whose backs are against the wall. Your own life demonstrates how you came from heaven to earth to redeem creation, our communities and our own lives. So we ask for this same redemptive power to be unleashed among us as it was on the day of Pentecost. May we be empowered by your Spirit to reverse the conditions that produce young men and women who are driven to resort to violence and destructive behavior in their fight to stay alive and struggle to remain free.

We know that you have no pleasure in the death of anyone, so we boldly come to the throne of grace today dear Lord, seeking your wisdom as we create strategies that provide pathways and lifelines to hope and healing. Help us to remember we are all your children, created in your image, and we are connected by a single garment of mutuality and destiny. Cause us to never forget how our needs are the same and our calling to address these needs are the same. Reveal to us Lord, that the pain felt in Newtown is the same pain felt in Chicago. The tears shed in Oak Creek are the same tears shed in Oakland. The lives lost in Tucson are the same lives lost in Camden. The children being buried in Aurora are the same children being buried in Detroit.

We cry out to you, heal our souls from this scourge of violence. Endow us with the courage to step down from the pulpits and out from behind our desks to seek the peace of the city. In the coming days and weeks as our leaders debate solutions, Lord we ask that you grant us the voice to speak truth power and demonstrate sacrificial compassion to the hurting.

Teach us your ways, O God. Bless us with the wisdom and strength to put down our swords and be peacemakers. Use us, work through us and, if necessary, work in spite of us to mend our nation’s brokenness.

We thank you for your protecting embrace and unfailing love.

All of these requests we bring to you, in the name of Jesus the Christ we pray.


Thursday, September 22, 2016

Whiteboard: Be Reconciled

This Sunday we'll be receiving the Reconciliation Special Mission Offering, and I'll be dedicating the entire worship service to the important, necessary work of reconciliation.

And, to be completely honest, I drew this picture on The Whiteboard just to get people to click through to the Reconciliation Ministry Webpage and compare my sketch to the official (and much nicer!) design for the campaign.

Oh, and while you're there make sure to read all about the Reconciliation Special Mission Offering, their work, the resources they develop, and the important place they hold in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

Three Things from Admin Council

The Administrative Council had their regularly scheduled meeting this past Sunday immediately following the worship service. Here are "The Three Things" you need to know from that meeting:

1) We have several special events coming up!
Please join us for the "Sing Along for Peace" on 9/25 at 2PM in the Sanctuary, the Fellowship Potluck on 10/9, the annual "Unloading of the Pumpkins into the Pumpkin Patch" on 10/15, the Children's Sabbath Worship Service on 10/16, the Stewardship Season Kick-Off on 10/23, and The Fifth with First on 10/30! What a full month!

2) Arizona Regional Assembly on November 4 and 5
Registration is now open for the Arizona Regional Assembly on 11/4-5 hosted by our brothers and sisters at East Mesa Christian Church. Check out the Regional Assembly Website for more information and swing by the Church to register for the event!

3) Financial Review Completed
The Finance Ministry Team reported back to the Administrative Council that the contracted financial review has been completed and a full report received. With the help of Curt and Mary we are "digesting the report" and will be making policy recommendations on any necessary changes.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Whiteboard: Have Mercy

It is the strangest story that Jesus ever shares.

And that is saying something, considering the peculiar nature of parables. Jesus often preaches and teaches with stories that challenge us and leaves us with as many questions as they do answers.

But this week, whew, this week's scripture takes the cake.

Luke 16:1-13 is better known as "The Parable of the Dishonest Manager," and it will challenge you seven ways from Sunday.

It goes like this: Once there was this guy who was really lousy at his job, but his boss never really noticed...until one day he did. The boss called in this really lousy employee and told him, "Hey, I've heard all this grumbling that you're coming up short in your work. Go get the books so that I can see just how terrible a job you've really been doing." So the lousy employee, recognizing that he's going to get fired and that there is no way he's going to get a good letter of recommendation decides to even further shortchange his boss so that he can possibly grease the wheels with anybody else in town who might hire him on one day as a way of saying thanks. It plays out like this -- the lousy employee goes through the books, sees everybody who owes his boss and cuts that debt in half. That way the debtors will feel like they got a bargain and lousy employees angry boss will at least have something in place of the gaping pile of nothing that he currently has.

You with me so far? Because things are about to get even crazier.

The angry boss says to the lousy employee, "Hey, good job man! That was some shrewd business you did there!" Then Jesus goes on to editorialize with a comment about making friends followed by a series of seeming double negatives ("if then you have not been dishonest...") before finally concluding the story with the exhortation "You cannot serve God and wealth."

It is confusing as all get out...but what if that is actually the point.

What if it is supposed to be confusing and nonsensical?

Jesus is talking about mercy here. What if the point of the story is, "Yeah, being merciful doesn't make a whole lot of sense...and God does it anyway!"

What if the point of the story is, "This lousy employee, this dishonest manager was able to illustrate mercy. So how much more so can the God who loves you, the God who sets you free be merciful."

Or for that matter, what if the equation flips just as easily in the opposite direction: "If this lousy employee, this dishonest manager can show mercy in what he does, then why in the world can't you show mercy in what you do?"

Ultimately that sounds like the kind of thing Jesus would challenge us to understand with one of his parables.


Luke 16:1-13 The Dishonest Manager

Then Jesus said to the disciples, ‘There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property. So he summoned him and said to him, “What is this that I hear about you? Give me an account of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.”

Then the manager said to himself, “What will I do, now that my master is taking the position away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg.I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.” 

So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he asked the first, “How much do you owe my master?” He answered, “A hundred jugs of olive oil.” He said to him, “Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.” Then he asked another, “And how much do you owe?” He replied, “A hundred containers of wheat.” He said to him, “Take your bill and make it eighty.” 

And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.

‘Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own? No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.’

Three Things from the Elders Meeting

The Elders had their regularly scheduled meeting on Sunday September 11 right after worship. Here are "The Three Things" that you need to know from that meeting!

1) AZ Regional Assembly
We discussed the upcoming Arizona Regional Assembly (November 4 and 5 hosted by East Mesa Christian Church). This will be a joint Assembly/Asamblea as the Regional Assembly and Hispanic Asamblea will be held jointly for the first time in several years. We discussed the opening festival on Friday night, the guest speakers, business resolutions, and the registration process. You can learn more about the Regional Assembly/Asamblea by visiting and you can register in the church office.

2) Open Letter on Racism
While I was attending the Regional Ministers and Moderators Forum in Indianapolis we set aside our business-as-usual agenda in order to have a Spirit-filled and Spirit-led conversation about race in the United States and Canada. As a result of that discussion the Open Letter to the Church in North America was written and then distributed (you will find my signature on the letter). I invite all church members to read that letter and engage in the type of faithful conversation that is described therein. We'll be talking more about this in our September 25 worship service that will focus on the Reconciliation Special Mission Offering.

3) Dialogue Team at FCC Scottsdale
Speaking of Spirit-filled and Spirit-led conversations, the Elders were brought up to speed on work of the Dialogue Team here at FCC Scottsdale. You'll remember that in the wake of the horrific gun violence of this past summer I invited members of congregation to join me in engaging in serious, faithful conversations on what can be a controversial subject. I am pleased to say that the Dialogue Team has been meeting regularly and made significant headway in this project. They have constructed a "Civil Discourse Agreement" that helps guide their conversations, modeled faithful discussion and dialogue, researched the topic of gun violence, and taken steps leading to real action on the issue. One such action is the upcoming "Sing Along for Peace" that we will host at FCC Scottsdale on Sunday September 25 at 2PM as part of Faiths United Concerts Across America series.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Even in the Darkest Times

It was at church camp two summers ago that our Middle Schoolers taught me a new song.

Now, I grew up at church camp and I was pretty sure that I knew all of the camp songs forwards and backwards, which is what makes the memory all the more special.

The song is based on words attributed to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and as we prepare for a worship service that will fall on Sunday September 11th, a full 15 years after the 9/11 terrorists attack against our country, the words of that song continue to call out to me.

Here is how it goes:

Darkness cannot drive out darkness,
tell everybody, woman and man,
that only Light can drive out darkness.
Only Light can. Only Light can.

And hate cannot drive out hate,
tell everybody, woman and man,
that only Love can drive out hate.
Only Love can. Only Love can.

You can be the change, 
you want to see.
You can be the cha-nge.
You can be the change,
you want to see.
You can be the cha-nge.

This Sunday I will tell the story of my own experiences of the September 11, 2001 attacks. I was in seminary at the time, living in Nashville which garnered its own share of national attention in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks for a hatecrime that was perpetrated in the downtown business district. And yet, even in those darkest times I can testify (and I will on Sunday) that love still shines. 

I'll see you this Sunday as we worship together and seek to shine a little more light (and love) into the world. 


1 Ti
mothy 1:12-17 Gratitude for Mercy

I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because he judged me faithful and appointed me to his service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief,and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 

The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the foremost. But for that very reason I received mercy, so that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display the utmost patience, making me an example to those who would come to believe in him for eternal life. 

To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honour and glory for ever and ever.


Thursday, September 1, 2016

Whiteboard: Philemon

It is a short book of the Bible that is long on meaning and power. 

This Sunday we’ll be talking about Paul’s epistle to Philemon and what it means to break the bonds of oppression one relationship at a time.


Philemon 1-21

Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother,

To Philemon our dear friend and co-worker, to Apphia our sister, to Archippus our fellow-soldier, and to the church in your house:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

When I remember you in my prayers, I always thank my God because I hear of your love for all the saints and your faith towards the Lord Jesus.I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective when you perceive all the good that we may do for Christ. I have indeed received much joy and encouragement from your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, my brother.

For this reason, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do your duty, yet I would rather appeal to you on the basis of love—and I, Paul, do this as an old man, and now also as a prisoner of Christ Jesus.I am appealing to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I have become during my imprisonment. Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful both to you and to me. I am sending him, that is, my own heart, back to you. I wanted to keep him with me, so that he might be of service to me in your place during my imprisonment for the gospel; but I preferred to do nothing without your consent, in order that your good deed might be voluntary and not something forced. Perhaps this is the reason he was separated from you for a while, so that you might have him back for ever, no longer as a slave but as more than a slave, a beloved brother—especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.

So if you consider me your partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. If he has wronged you in any way, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand: I will repay it. I say nothing about your owing me even your own self. Yes, brother, let me have this benefit from you in the Lord! Refresh my heart in Christ.Confident of your obedience, I am writing to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say.

Pictures: Kickoff Sunday

Many thanks to the Education Team at First Christian Church Scottsdale for putting together such a wonderful Kickoff Celebration this past Sunday!

We Kicked Off our Fall Program Year in style with an energetic event in the sanctuary that featured donuts and coffee (and juice boxes for the youngsters!), singing and fellowship, recognition of our teachers and blessings for our Sunday School  classes! It was such a joy to be a part of that morning and too see so many people participating in our Christian Education offerings.

Here are a few pics from the day!