Thursday, May 25, 2017

Whiteboard: Trying to be One

It is one of the most important scripture readings for us as Disciples...and no, it doesn't involve Communion!

As Disciples of Christ we proudly declare that "Unity is our Polar Star" and so one of our guiding scriptures has always been John 17:11 where Christ himself declares, "Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one."

"That they may be one."

It is Christ's prayer for us, and it is our prayer as well.

This Sunday we'll be talking about Christian Unity, in a Sunday that is specially billed as Education Recognition Sunday. We'll be honoring our recent graduates at the beginning of the service, thanking our Sunday School Teachers and Worship and Wonder Leaders at the end of the service, and celebrating the God that makes us one all throughout the service!


John 17:1-11 Jesus Prays for His Disciples

After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, ‘Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.

‘I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.

Three Things from Admin Council

The Administrative Council had their regularly scheduled meeting on Sunday May 21st immediately following the Worship Service. Here are "The Three Things" that you need to know from that meeting.

  1. Hospitality as a Focus
    We centered our "New Business" time around a larger conversation of Hospitality. Oftentimes we think of hospitality in very narrow terms -- it is that thing that we outsource to the Fellowship Team and the Greeters in the Narthex, right? But actually, hospitality is something that needs to be baked in to everything that we are and everything that we do as Christians. That means that hospitality needs to be a part of each of our ministry teams. Over the course of the conversation we reframed hospitality as invitations and follow-up. So what are we doing that invites folks to be a part of our community? What makes FCC Scottsdale a warm and inviting place? And how can we follow-up with folks who have participated in some aspect of our ministry?
  2. Property Updates
    We received several updates on church property related projects. New doors will be installed in the sanctuary this summer and the parking lot has been resealed. Administrative Council authorized Curt McCormick to seek an appraisal of our buildings as a supplement to our insurance. And we received the good news that through the first five months of the year our income is exceeding our expenses!
  3. Post-Election Plans
    During my Pastor's Report I shared my plans for communicating with the church following the UUA General Assembly's Presidential Election. 

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Whiteboard: At the Areopagus

You are looking at the blog title and you are thinking to yourself, "I don't even know how to pronounce that word, much less what it even means..."

Well, good news! That is exactly what I'll be explaining on Sunday (not just how to pronounce the word 'Aeropagus' but also exactly why that obscure geographic reference in the Acts of the Apostles is so very important).

In meantime, I hope you will read through Acts 17:22-31 (conveniently reprinted at the bottom of this post) and feel the power and the promise of some of the most familiar words in the New Testament: "For in him we live and move and have our being."


Acts 17:22-31

Then Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, ‘Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, “To an unknown god.” What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us. For “In him we live and move and have our being”; as even some of your own poets have said,
“For we too are his offspring.”
Since we are God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals. While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.’


The Executive Team and I have just completed a book study.

For folks who don’t know, the Executive Team at FCC Scottsdale is comprised of our Moderator Judy Kares, our Vice Moderator Scott Eubanks, our Treasurer Curt McCormick, and myself.
We meet regularly to discuss important items for the church, set the agenda for the Administrative Council Meetings, and discern the ways that God is calling our congregation forward. In order to set a theological grounding on those wider conversations, we have just finished reading Henri Nouwen’s spiritual classic “Reaching Out: The Three Movements of the Spiritual Life.”

Henri Nouwen was a prolific writer, a deep Christian thinker, and bringer of profound insights into life and faith. Nouwen was a Catholic priest, author, professor and activist. He taught at the University of Notre Dame as well as the Divinity Schools of Yale and Harvard. He spent the final years of his life teaching and ministering to the mentally and physically disabled at the L’Arche Daybreak community in Toronto, Canada.

“Reaching Out” details the three movements of a spiritual life. They include:
  1. The movement from loneliness to solitude;
  2. The movement from hostility to hospitality;
  3. The movement from illusion to prayer.
Ultimately the book is about the fullness of right relationships. The first movement in a spiritual life is about coming to right relationship with our truest, inner self. From there we are prepared to move to right relationships with others. Finally we move all the way to the transforming power of a true relationship with God.

It is a beautiful, vivid way of envisioning the Christian faith, and in our discussion together the Executive Team came to see that the second movement (from hostility to hospitality) is actually the key component. Here is how Henri Nouwen puts it:

“Once God has touched us in the midst of our struggles and has created in us the burning desire to be forever united with him, we will find the courage and the confidence to prepare his way and to invite all who share our life to wait with us during this short time for the day of complete joy.”

This coming Sunday during our Administrative Council meeting we’ll be spending a lot of time talking about hospitality – about how our individual ministry teams can bring it to life; about the ways we create “safe spaces” for others in our church; about how we can grow in relationships with ourselves, with others, and with God.

I’m looking forward to continuing this conversation about hospitality, and seeing all the wonderful ways that God uses us to reach out to the world!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Whiteboard: Home

Our lectionary scriptures give us an interesting contrast this week; one that is built around the word house.

In our Gospel Reading from John 14 Jesus tells us "In my Father's house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?" Here our faith leads us to a house that is waiting for us in the far distance of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Then our reading from 1 Peter tells us " Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." Here our faith calls us to come together in this world in order to build a spiritual house in service to the Lord.

See how that word "house" lives squarely in the middle of each scripture passage? As we wrestle with what it means to have a "dwelling place" prepared for us in the "Father's house" or what it would look like for us to ourselves be "built into a spiritual house" I keep coming back to the same question: What does it take to transform a house into a home? 

Mother's Day seems like a fitting time to answer that question. Because, for me, the answer is simple: It is love.

Love is what transforms a house into a home. Love is what sends Jesus to prepare a place for us in Our Father's house. Love is what turns these living stones into a spiritual home.


John 14:1-14 Jesus the Way to the Father

‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.’ Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.’

Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.’Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father”? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works.Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.

1 Peter 2:2-10 Living Stones

Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.

Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in scripture:
‘See, I am laying in Zion a stone,
a cornerstone chosen and precious;
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.’
To you then who believe, he is precious; but for those who do not believe,
‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the very head of the corner’,
‘A stone that makes them stumble,
and a rock that makes them fall.’
They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.
Once you were not a people,
but now you are God’s people;
once you had not received mercy,
but now you have received mercy.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Whiteboard: Denny Williams

This Sunday we will celebrate with a special guest.

Our Regional Minister the Rev. Dr. Denny Williams will be joining us for worship and for a special Outreach-sponsored Potluck dinner.

After serving as Arizona’s Regional Minister for more than 18 years, Denny will be retiring from that position at the end of June.

It is truly a blessing to be able to welcome Denny to our pulpit one last time as our Regional Minister, and to have the opportunity to thank him and celebrate the good work that we have done together during the Potluck Luncheon during Fellowship Hour.

Denny will be preaching on Acts 2:42-47 and sharing a message about "giving it all to God." 

I hope you can join us!


Acts 2:42-47 Life Among the Believers

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

Workship in Pictures

On April 30, 2017 we celebrated "The Fifth With First!"

Our Workship Team went out to Ronald McDonald House, where we were invited to wash windows, sweep the property an ice-cream social!

It might be the single greatest project any mission partner has ever invited us to be a part of (or maybe that is just my sweet tooth talking!).

It was a true blessing to bring smiles to the faces of the children and families that are residing at the Ronald McDonald House. Folks are there because their children or family members are undergoing prolonged medical treatments at the nearby hospitals. While the families are facing that kind of stress and strain, to be able to share a little joy with them and bring some light into their lives, well, that sounds like the power of the Gospel at work to me.

Here are some photos of our work from the day. I am particularly proud of our children and young people who not only worked hard, but also embodied the fullness of hospitality throughout our project. Once we finally had the Ice-Cream Sundae Bar all set up, not only did our kids staff the dessert station they also went around the facility and personally invited every kid to come out and join them. It was a beautiful thing to behold, and a worthy project for the morning!