Pastor’s Pen
 

Common Ground

1/30/2018

Christians in North America often have very diverse ways of practicing their faith. There is diversity in worship … traditional and contemporary and blended. There is diversity in theology … conservative and progressive and centrist. And of course, there are shades of diversity in each practice and thought. But is there common ground in which Christians of diverse thought and practice come together? In Marcus Borg’s book, THE HEART OF CHRISTIANITY, he says that there are five central convictions all Christians should share in common ground with each other.

1. The Reality of God
2. The Centrality of the Bible
3. The Centrality of Jesus
4. The Importance of a Relationship with God as known in Jesus
5. Our need and The World’s Need for Transformation

What we think about God and the human condition matters, and how we practice our faith with each other matters, and there will always be differences between Christians in what we think and practice. But if we can keep the five areas of common ground as a place where we take our stand, then what we think and what we practice does not become a stumbling block to new believers; they can become an open door to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.

When our differences divide our faith and it’s sense of community, then it has become all about us. When our differences enhance our community in faith together, then it is more likely to be all about Jesus, not us. There is unity in diversity, if Jesus is leading the way.

Pastor Dennis



Lent:  February 14-April 7

Lent:  February 14-April 7

The pillar of Lenten disciple is simple.  We acknowledge that we have turned away from God, so we refocus (repent). Some people give things up, like 7 year old George Denny from my Bristol church, who gave up chocolate.  His parents told me he had withdrawal symptoms.  On “the big day” we found him bloated and sick as a result of inhaling an 8 inch chocolate bunny with a chaser of chocolate milk.   Yep, George celebrated Easter in the church restroom.

Sadly, George missed the point of Lent.  Lent is an opportunity to purposely put ourselves in God’s way.  By removing something, we make room to refocus on God.  People often point to solemn acts or rituals, like Bible reading or prayer.  But that doesn’t always work.  Some people have trouble with quiet, some people get lonely, some people experience God best when in the company of others. 

So I suggest that you add something.  Why not add something that is fun, active, communal and musical?  Our choir director, David Frost, is inviting everyone to sing in the choir for the season of Lent as a Lenten discipline.  The music will be rewarding, the practices are on Wednesday night, 7pm and you can robe up and sing Sunday mornings, if you prefer. 

What a wonderful way to “put yourself in God’s way” by singing His praises, communing with other Christians and participating in worship.  No sign up sheet, just show up!      …..Pastor Amy

 



Strength to Love

1/16/2018

Strength to Love

     One of the books I read during seminary that made an impact on my understanding of Christian ministry was Martin Luther King Jr’s book, Strength to Love.  The book is a collection of sermons written and delivered by Dr. King over his years of preaching during the civil rights movement in the 1960’s.  In one of his sermons I remember him making that statement Christians must learn to how to be both tough-minded and tender-hearted.  We can’t have one without the other.  If we learn to be tough-minded, but do not develop tender hearts, then justice turns into judgment where close-minded prejudice rules the day.  And yet, if we choose to be tender-hearted, but do not develop tough minds, then we have nothing more than an easy sentimentalism that feels deeply, but never acts rightly.

         Yesterday we celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. day here in the United States of America.  He died way too young, but let’s keep his hope alive by living the future he dreamed in his heart.  A wise man once said, “It only takes love put into action to turn dreams into reality.”  This year, let’s put God’s love into action, a love that is both tough minded and tender hearted.  Perhaps you and I, if we choose to walk this path every day, can help turn dreams into reality in the little worlds we live in each day.

Blessings,

Pastor Dennis



Bible Study- The Apocalyptic Writings within Daniel and Revelation

The Apocalyptic Writings within

Daniel and Revelation

Tuesday at 10 a.m.— Open Fellowship Classroom

Thursdays at 6 p.m.— Open Fellowship Classroom

A professor of mine from Asbury Seminary once said … “There is literal truth on every page of the Bible, but every page of the Bible should not be interpreted literally.” 


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Ministry is risk.

January 3rd, 2018

I’ve always wanted to do it. Vacation Bible School….during Christmas Break. I suppose the idea struck as I watched my own kid go through that depressed slump as she rebounded from the load of sugar that comes with an American Christmas, you know, the day after “The Big Day”. The dopamine drained out of her little brain as the newness of her toys wore off and the tree looked sad without the gifts. It was official…..December 26th was a bummer.

That was her world. My world, as a pastor, was to gear up. Epiphany was coming! AND we were still in Christmastide. But she didn’t care. As a matter of fact my own church people didn’t care. Inside my mind I yelled “There are 12 days to Christmas people! Stick with it!”.

And so the idea was born.

On December 28th of this year we launched a 3 night CVBS. The good news was kids showed up, dropped off by thankful parents who treated me like I was a war hero. We fed them. We ran them silly in our gym. Then, each night, they learned about Epiphany as expressed through the story of the Magi. They learned that God loves outsiders. They learned that God speaks through nature and dreams. They learned that God honors those who seek God. And, of course, they learned what the word Epiphany means.

Was it a success?

Well, kids did show up. Parents were pleased. But here is the thing I loved about it beyond teaching kids about the Bible. We had volunteers each night that gave a ratio of 2:1, adult: kid. That tells me my church wants to do children’s ministry. I noticed after each activity (food, play, story), adults were right behind me, ready to clean up and prepare for what was next. And finally, I had women, men, millennials and youth helping. That sent a clear message to our kids that our WHOLE church values them.

My point is I really don’t care how many kids came (isn’t that how we judge “success”?). All we needed was a kid to show. What really made this successful was the attitude, energy and interest of our church family. They took a risk on something new and different. And ministry is risk.

“Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:25). See? This ministry thing is a risky business.

Blessings Ya’ll…..pastor amy



Christmas Dreams

12/20/2018

Christmas Dreams 

 

What book is on your bucket list to read during Christmas?  This Christmas I want to reread The Brothers Karamazov, a Russian novel first published in 1880 by the 19th century Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky.  It is lengthy, but a very good read.
 
It’s the story of a man named Fyodor Karamazov who is a father to the three Karamazov brothers.  The oldest is Dimitri who is the sensualist, the middle child is Ivan who is the atheist, and the youngest is Alyosha, a member of the monastery and a spiritual disciple of the religious elder, Father Zossima.  The three brothers in Dostoyevsky’s novel symbolize the moral and spiritual struggles within Dostoyevsky’s beloved Russia.  And while Dostoyevsky can be critical of the church, Alyosha is the hero and “Christ figure” in the novel who sees in the heart of the church’s elder “the secret of renewal for all, the power that will at last establish truth and justice upon earth, when all men shall be holy and love one another, there shall be neither rich nor poor, neither self-exalters nor humiliated, but all shall be as the children of God and the true reign of Christ shall begin.  Such were the dreams of Alyosha’s heart.”   In these words, we see the dreams of Dostoyevsky’s heart for his beloved Russia.  

What are the dreams of your heart?  There are books out there – on Kindle and on paper – that can inspire us to dream.  Why not spend some time this Christmas rereading the dreams of those who experienced the very first Christmas.  You’ll find their stories in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.  Perhaps their dreams will inspire you to see into the heart of Jesus his dreams for a world where all will be holy and learn to love one another.

 
Merry Christmas,
Pastor Dennis