A New Beginning

Day 1 Readings: Genesis 1:1-2:25, Matthew 1: 1-2:12, Psalm 1:1-6, Proverbs 1:1-6

Beginnings.  Happy New Year and the beginning of 2015.   What a good opportunity to join us for The Year of the Bible as we read through all 66 books throughout 2015.  And what better place to begin than the beginning.

Our story begins, “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.”

And our story has a new beginning as Matthew opens, An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah…  Genealogy is also the Greek word for ‘genesis’.  Better understood, in Christ we have a new beginning.  This new beginning is connected with God’s creation from the start, of bringing order out of chaos.

May we be challenged to enter into our full story over the next year and experience that God from the beginning has been working out God’s purpose.  A purpose of establishing and then re-establishing us in relationship.  As we begin this new year, I cannot think of any resolution more important of working on this relationship.  I look forward to walking through this journey with you over the next twelve months.

 

Happy New Year,

Pastor Rob

Year of the Bible

Resolutions:

Be it resolved, this is the year for perfection.  As I strive this year to be the perfect husband and father, the model of fitness and health, all while perfectly managing my finances.  The images of what perfection looks like surround us with a world selling the message, “If only you have this—then you will find perfection,” only leading to greater disappointment and a diminished self esteem.  If only leads to feeling inadequate and not good enough.

For this year’s resolution, I would like to challenge us to consider trying a different messenger.  Not the messenger that is flooding our airwaves trying to sell us something, but a messenger that we just experienced new again this Christmas season.  One who enters our lives to say that you are already good enough as you are, made in the image of God.  As we will explore again soon this upcoming Lenten season, good enough even to die (and rise) for.  This messenger comes to us through the Word.  Rather than self-help, may we turn to God and one another through community seeking an improved life through transformation in Christ.

I declare 2015 as our Year of the Bible.  For those that wish to join, we will be reading through all 66 books over the next year.  This will be a chronological reading that includes each day a reading from the Old Testament, New Testament, Psalm, and Proverb.  The goal is to read this and share together.  Just as we make new resolutions for working out, or weight loss, I encourage grace if you  happen to miss a day of reading. This is okay.  Do not try to make up missed readings or the challenge can be overwhelming.  Just as you wouldn’t run double if you missed a day working out, pick it back up with a new day based on that day’s readings.

If you want to join in, but the four readings seem too much in our busy lives, consider following along with the Old Testament, or New Testament, and make this a two year plan.  We will begin a new blog on our website for the year 2015 that shares a reflection based upon each day.  I look forward to joining you on this journey for a new year.  Happy New Year and happy reading.

Shalom,

Pastor Rob

January 2015 newsletter

January 2015 reading thru the Bible schedule

God Save Us From God

God Save Us From God[1]
       When the skies are dark and all around us seems chaos with the news in Ferguson, Gaza, Liberia, and the terror of ISIS, I am quickly reminded of our recent small group study, Surprised By Hope, a book and study by Bishop N.T. Wright.  Out of many things that I gained from this study, one that stands out is to consider how we live into the words of the prayer we recite every week “thy kingdom come, they will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”  This idea of ‘Kingdom of God’ that may seem so foreign is talking about God’s kingdom here on earth.  This shatters any of our categories that I like to think of as the ‘evacuation model’, a model that is so focused on saving oneself that it leads to a removal of our responsibilities to our neighbor and all of creation.
       Jesus spoke much about living into God’s presence in the here and now, or as we say in our more churchy words, “The Kingdom of God.”  Rather than the evacuation mode, this is one we live with our feet, where our street credit comes from how we walk the walk.  When asked the most important of commandments, Jesus gave the most beautiful summary of God’s law, “To love God with everything we got, and the same goes for people.” (translation mine).   So as people of hope in a world that is motivated by fear, how are we going to walk?
       God’s purpose throughout history has been restoration of all things.  In the resurrection, God did something new.  Brian McLaren, pastor and theologian, helped open new worlds for me in understanding a loving God in my journey through seminary education.  One simple translation that helped me see God in a new way was to translate the word ‘righteousness’ as ‘restorative justice.’  This last week as I was at retreat and Brian was the keynote speaker, he continued to help open my eyes to our amazing creator by looking at some of our most difficult and violent passages in Scripture, but not in isolation, but rather in the context of the many books.  From the most violent texts of Judges, we looked at this next to the opening of Ruth followed by Matthew.  You come to see an evolving and new understanding of God that culminates in one whose judgment is one of justice, who feeds the masses, and whose abundance is more than we could ever imagine.
       To look at the larger story, may we be transformed to see God not as a God of violence, or as a God of patriarchy, or as a God of sacrifice, or as a God of choosing favorites, but may we see God as one whose purpose is loving and restoring relationships.  Or as N.T. Wright shared in our study, “people who believe in the resurrection, in God making a whole new world in which everything will be set right at last, are unstoppably motivated to work for that new world in the present.”  While the news may make everything seem dark, may we live in the hope of sharing light in the darkness.  This is reflected in how we love and care for one another and how we live out the belief of a God of non-violence, a God of inclusion, and a God of justice.  From the words of the prophet Micah who shared a new vision of a non-violent and transforming understanding of God:
       With what shall I come before the Lord,and bow myself before God on high?  Shall I come before him with burnt offerings with calves a year old?  Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?  He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? -Micah 6: 6-8

 


[1] *Meister Eckhart Quote and theme for this years Companions of the Inner Way spiritual retreat.

This is a Human Issue

If you have not yet watched, please watch and listen.  This is the story I referenced in church on Sunday morning. It is easy to bring our own bias and filter, but the events at Ferguson this week are spectacles and hearing aids for us to better see and hear of a history of discrimination, oppression, and racism in our country.  While I agree in the full context of listening to the story about this being a human issue, the human issue is deeply rooted in racism.

“And what does the Lord require of you?  To seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.” Micah 6: 8

This Is My (Our) Son

From a mom at SOLPC:

This is my son. He loves to play with Transformers, trains and Hot Wheels. He loves the color orange. He loves to eat anything sweet. There is nothing he likes more than swimming or going to the park. He likes church and Sunday school. He is so excited to start kindergarten. We think he is the smartest kid we know.
He’s funny and tries to make friends with every kid he meets. He loves his family and his cousin Jacob. In 8 years he will be a teenager and, here in America, that means he will start to be seen as a threat and dangerous just because of his skin color. Don’t let that happen to my son. He deserves so much more. This has to stop.

Surprised By Hope-Small Group Study (A Second Group is Being Formed)

Is our hope one in the future?  Or should hope be in the present?  How does this make us think about how we are to live in the world?  Would you like to join a small group that enters into many of the questions of the mysteries of faith.  This will be a six week study where we will read N.T. Wright’s, Surprised By Hope. (Click link to order book, or let me know with a few days notice and I will place an order). *please note–only need to purchase the book-I have purchased the DVD/Study Guide.

*Our first study will begin on Thursday, June 12th, from 7:00 AM until 8:30 AM at Dunn Bros in Apple Valley.  If you would like to join the study, but this time does not work for you–I will work with you to make this work.

***Please note, a second study is being planned.  Reverend Tony Winter, our Parish Associate and chaplain at Woodwinds Hospital wants to hear from you.  Would you prefer Thursday nights?  Or Sunday following worship?  Based on your response, we will begin a second group soon.  Stay tuned.

Here is the introduction provided by the publisher:

“Many Christians believe our future in heaven is all that really matters. But that’s not what the Bible teaches. Through this small group bible study, Surprised by Hope, premier Bible scholar N. T. Wright brings you inside the Scriptures to grasp the full, breathtaking hope Jesus offers the world, and its implications for your life today. Gain an exciting new vision for your life on earth in light of your future in heaven. Wonderful as is the promise of heaven, a glorious hereafter is just part of what salvation is about. What about today? Jesus called his followers the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Your life here and now is of tremendous consequence, and what you believe about the future has a direct impact on how you live in the present. In six transforming, faith-inspiring DVD sessions, premier biblical scholar N. T. Wright opens your eyes to the amazing full scope of what God’s Word has to say about the world to come and the world that is. This DVD will help you get the most out of each session as you explore such questions as What is heaven really like? Is our main duty as Christians simply to help non-Christians get there? What hope does the gospel hold for this present life? In what ways does God intend for us to experience that hope personally and spread its healing power to the world around us? This DVD is designed for use with the companion Surprised by Hope Participant Guide (both are included in this pack). Surprised by Hope provides a clearer vision both of the future and of God’s kingdom at hand today. Sessions include: 1. Hope for the World2. The Hope of the Resurrection 3. The Hope of Heaven 4. The Hope of Jesus’ Second Coming5. The Hope of Salvation 6. The Hope of the Church”

You Gave Me Something To Eat

What is it to inherit the kingdom?  “For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat…Whatever you do to the least of these you do to me.”

We talk a lot on Sunday’s about feeding others.  I often ask about how we are making room for others at the table.  To live into Christ’s missional call means many things, but one of these that is foundational is making sure that we are sharing out of our abundance for those that live in scarcity.

This man is living out the mission of literally feeding others.  For only $465 he made a difference for many that are hungry. In the same week we witnessed a school in Utah take away the lunches that were already distributed to hungry children, we have this man in Texas who made a difference by making sure some of our hungriest are being fed.  Read more on Texas man here: You Gave me something to eat for each of the sixty children.

What are we doing to make sure that others in our communities are being fed?  Our best witness is by living this out in our world.  From one whose actions spoke credibility to her words, “If you cannot feed one hundred, feed one.” -Mother Theresa

What are we doing to make a difference?

 

Being the church

May we always be asking ourselves if we are making room for everyone to join in the song?  Is there room at the table for everyone?  Are we willing to risk that space at the table is not only about hospitality, or changing lives of the other, but that we too are changed–transformed.  I love this video.  It is a great metaphor of being the church.  Being the church tears down hierarchies and removes barriers as we become one with the God of second chances.  Kleenex please:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tjjNu1nj0lc

Opposite of Bully

How many of you have been as bothered as me this week to observe a professional athlete–a grown adult who is living a childhood dream, to abuse and marginalize another person the way Incognito treated his fellow teammate.  He could learn a lot from the Olivet Eagles, a Middle School football team in Olivet, Michigan.  Imagine a world where we treated one another like this.  As teammate Justice Miller states, “I went from being someone who cared about myself and my friends to caring about everyone.”  Wise words to live by.  This is what it is all about: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Ejh_hb15Fc

Meet in the Middle

We celebrated our second week of Meet in the Middle yesterday.  There is something special happening with the blessing of children and the amazing gifts shared with our volunteers.  This is what meeting in the middle is all about–and church happened.  It happens with the joy around the table carving pumpkins together.  Then we all meet around the table with over fifty, young and old, breaking bread together.

This is just the middle of the evening.  We then share together with our youth and the best group of leaders.  So proud of our young people that are digging deeper, asking good questions, and hungry to know God better.

Come and meet in the middle with us on Wednesday nights.