Saturday, June 14, 2014

living in community

Hello sisters and brothers,
Tonight the Presbyterian Church USA begins our general assembly, a meeting held each two years to make decisions and chart a course for the next two years. Tonight we begin the assembly by electing a moderator to lead the assembly and help lead the church. Our neighbor John Wilkinson from Third Presbyterian is one of three candidates for that office. I invite you to pray for the candidates, the commissioners and our church as we seek the Spirit's leading.

Appropriately, our passage for today is about how we live in community, something we always need to remember. God calls us to be a loving community of discipleship, and we always have more to learn about that.

God bless,

Colossians 3:5-17

5Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). 6On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient. 7These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life.

8But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. 9Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices10and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. 11In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!

12As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. 13Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.14Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. 16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. 17And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

repentance, community and new life

Good afternoon friends,
Please remember our congregational meeting tomorrow morning at 9am before worship. We're meeting to elect officers for the year to come at Laurelton. We are blessed with great leaders, both new and continuing, so come and give your support at 9.

In our passage Peter has explained the story of Jesus and the Holy Spirit; now the people respond. They hear about Jesus' crucifixion and feel repentance; then Peter invites them to change their lives and commit to a new way of being. That way of life centers on worship and community. The thing Acts doesn't tell us, but which we can imagine, is that while committing at a deeper level than ever to community, people also continued their jobs and family life, just now as part of a community. I feel like that's our calling for a new way of doing church. Church isn't about buildings or budgets; it's about life lived in faithfulness to God and community with others. Acts gives us a vision for what could be; the question for each of us is how we will respond.

God bless,

Acts 2:37-47
37Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” 38Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.” 40And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added.

42They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. 44All who believed were together and had all things in common; 45they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46Day 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, 47praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

Friday, June 6, 2014

figuring out the promise

Good evening friends,
I hope you're enjoying the beautiful evening one way or another. Today's reading continues Peter's explanation to the crowd what is happening. The Holy Spirit has filled the disciples and given them new languages to share the grace of God. Peter explains to them how Jesus fits into the promises God made to David. Jesus wasn't the Messiah people expected: he didn't act like a king, or militarily bring Israel out of Roman captivity. So Peter explains what God told David and how that fits with what he and others experienced in Jesus. The model we see in Peter and the early church of looking at the Bible to make sense of the world is still a good way of thinking today.

God bless,

Acts 2:25-36

25For David says concerning him, ‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand so that I will not be shaken; 26therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; moreover my flesh will live in hope. 27For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One experience corruption. 28You have made known to me the ways of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’

29“Fellow Israelites, I may say to you confidently of our ancestor David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30Since he was a prophet, he knew that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would put one of his descendants on his throne. 31Foreseeing this, David spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, saying, ‘He was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh experience corruption.’

32This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses. 33Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you both see and hear. 34For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, 35until I make your enemies your footstool.”’ 36Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

Thursday, June 5, 2014

speaking in the Spirit

Good afternoon sisters and brothers,
Please pray for our search committee and candidates as they gather this evening. Pray for calm nerves, good communication and for God's calling to be clear between our churches and one of the candidates. Our scripture today continues the story of Pentecost. As the disciples proclaim God's power in languages given to them by the Holy Spirit, many are amazed and others assume they are drunk. Peter explains from the Bible that God is sharing the Holy Spirit with all who believe as a sign that, in Christ, the final redemption of the world is getting closer. From our perspective it's hard to imagine Peter's feeling that the end was coming so soon, but our ministry is still part of bringing God's redemption to completion. How are we going to build the peaceful kingdom today?

God bless,

Acts 2:14-24
14But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: 17‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. 18Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. 19And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. 20The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. 21Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

22“You that are Israelites, listen to what I have to say: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know— 23this man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law. 24But God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

power from heaven

Good morning friends,
Today's reading starts the story of Pentecost, and is many ways the birth of the church. Jesus told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they receive power from heaven. In today's passage that power comes, and the disciples (including women) begin their ministry.

God bless,

Acts 2: 1-13
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.3Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

5Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.7Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” 12All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”

Monday, June 2, 2014

Luke's Gospel, part 2

Good evening friends,
Acts begins where Luke's Gospel left off, since it is a sequel, with the disciples watching Jesus ascend into heaven. Jesus tells them to wait in Jerusalem until they receive "power from on high." In the power of that Holy Spirit, they will be witnesses to God's love in Jesus to the whole world starting from Jerusalem. We continue the calling to use the gifts God gives us for ministry to witness to God's love with our words and actions.

God bless,

Acts 1:1-11

In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning 2until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. 4While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me; 5for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

6So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 8But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 9When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.

10While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. 11They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

Sunday, June 1, 2014

sharing the news

Good afternoon friends,
I hope you're enjoying this wonderful weather. Our passage today wraps up the story of the church leader's first conference to decide how to welcome gentiles into the church. Having listened to each other and decided that gentiles could become Christians without following the whole law of Moses, they send a letter to share that news with the communities of new believers. Maybe this is the first church newsletter.

God bless,

Acts 15:22-31

22Then the apostles and the elders, with the consent of the whole church, decided to choose men from among their members and to send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They sent Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leaders among the brothers, 23with the following letter: “The brothers, both the apostles and the elders, to the believers of Gentile origin in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia, greetings.

24Since we have heard that certain persons who have gone out from us, though with no instructions from us, have said things to disturb you and have unsettled your minds, 25we have decided unanimously to choose representatives and send them to you, along with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 26who have risked their lives for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will tell you the same things by word of mouth.

28For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to impose on you no further burden than these essentials: 29that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from fornication. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.” 30So they were sent off and went down to Antioch. When they gathered the congregation together, they delivered the letter. 31When its members read it, they rejoiced at the exhortation.