Simple Gifts

Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free, ‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,

And when we find ourselves in the place just right, ‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gained, To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed,

To turn, turn will be our delight, Till by turning, turning we come ’round right.

This song was written by Elder Joseph Brackett in 1848.  He was connected to the Shaker Church.  They were known as the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing.  They were originally known as “Shaking Quakers” because dance would not have been an uncommon part of their worship experience.  Ann Lee is their founder and they were predominantly in Maine.

The community was known for simplicity and gratitude.  These lyrics speak of the celebration of simple gifts.  In our communities of excess and endless want, it is hard to imagine being grateful for the simple gifts of life.  Consider what it is you are most grateful for.  Most of the earthly things we desire the most to posses end up not making us more gracious or grateful.

Gifts of simplicity, freedom, love, and delight.  Turning is both a dance instruction and metaphor for the turning from our life of sin and turning toward God.  While bowing and bending are dance instructions too, we should not be afraid to bow and to bend to our King Jesus.

When we find in ourselves turning, we can find delight and we will come around right.  The tune is a delightful and dance inspired.  While you may not be one much for dancing.  It can be an outward expression of the inner joy found in our hearts as we seek and find Jesus.  Have you experienced the Simple Gifts of Faith and Salvation in Jesus?  I pray so.

Sears, Amazon, and the Church

Sears was an American success story surviving for more than 130 years and growing to one of the largest and most profitable businesses.  Sears in the first 33 years of its existence didn’t have any brick and mortar stores.  They began selling pocket watches and then jewelry.  Mr. Sears with the help of Mr. Roebuck at watch repairman built a business with ingenuity and reaching people where they were.  In a few short years Sears had a 500 plus page catalog that became known as the “Consumer Bible.”  The company even sold home kits.  In those early days the company took advantage of the postal service offering free service to rural routes for delivering of the catalogs and products.

In the nineteen twenties as the move to urbanization drew people into cities, Sears took advantage of this new consumer opportunity.  In 1925 Sears opened their first retail store 33 years after its start as a company.  Within four years Sears had 300 retail stores.  They were an expanding company selling a diversity of products and had become an industry standard.

Amazon is now a global company that was a small internet upstart.  At first, they only sold books, and then soon began to branch into other areas of the consumer market.  They were able to do so using the innovation of the internet to reach more people easily offering a better price.  Bringing an unlimited shopping potential to people anywhere at any time.  They delivered products to homes and had no brick and mortar stores.  In certain areas people are even able to get fresh food and produce delivered to their doors the same day.

Sears and Amazon both began as small upstarts offering a single product in an innovative way.  Both within a few short years reached a wide variety of people with a vast array of products and services.  October 15, 2018 Sears filed for bankruptcy.  Wal-Mart took over the top spot from Sears as the industry leader in 1989, and Sears hasn’t had a profitable year in almost a decade.  The company that had become one of the largest and survived for so long through innovation reaching out to where the people were, had now failed to do so in the past decade losing site of what had gotten them there.   Not making a correction led them to their downfall.

Amazon so far has followed the same arc.  Growing ahead of market and consumer trends with almost the similar method of innovation.  Meeting people where they are in this new digital and virtual age.  Will Amazon survive as long as Sears?  Longer?  Shorter?  Only time will tell but for certain they must meet people where they are and be willing to explore new and different ways for reaching the masses.

It doesn’t matter what Sears or Amazon have to offer if they are not first reaching the people.  The church in many ways is quite similar.  There are people who will always pursue brand loyalty and that can cause complacency.  Others who are looking for the best deal will lead to competition.  They must remember people are their focus.

What can the church learn from Sears and Amazon?  For the last 70 years there has been both a boom and decline in church membership and attendance.  There are many reasons for the decline, however the mission and calling of the church remains the same.  The mission is to reach people with the Gospel, and to develop them into faithful disciples who live for the kingdom of Heaven.

For Sears, Amazon, and the church we must first reach people where they are at.  The mission (what we are called to do) and the message (what we are to share) have not changed but the methods must if we are to reach the ever-moving populace who still need Jesus.

Many are far too trusting and rely on brand loyalty becoming complacent, believing people will just seek the church out of a sense of obligation.  Others will offer a variety of programs, events, and gimmicks trying to compete with other churches.  Competing for a kingdom that is not ours but that we all share makes the Bride of Christ seem like a bargain.  Diminishing her value to compete with others who are doing the same.  We are here, neither to revel in nostalgia or compete for with others in value and services.  We are here to reach people with the good news of Jesus Christ.  To work with others to bring glimpses of his kingdom to earth.

Sears failed to continue to find ways of reaching people and meeting their needs.  Right now, Amazon is innovating and adapting to reach people where they are with what they need.  Will they continue?  Time will tell.

The mission is still the same, so the church must seek new ways to reach people with the timeless hope of the Gospel.  God is calling us to be faithful and fruitful in fulfilling the Great Commission.  The church must continue to do this work in new and exciting ways to reach people.  The church needs to change, adapt, and innovate to reach people with what they really need, Jesus.

Sears, the juggernaut of yesteryear filed for bankruptcy today.  Amazon appears to have a limitless future, but will it continue?  The church has stood for millennia.

Spiritually, there is nothing that can destroy the true church.  Practically, we rob it of its power by living in the past, we diminish much of its hope and value by competing for lesser things rather than pursing loftier intentions.  True grace is amazing not cheap.

Will the church survive? Yes!  Will it thrive?  It can, if it will reach people where they are in new and exciting ways with what they need most, Jesus.  The mission remains, the gospel is timeless, the methods will need to change.  Are you ready?

Celebrate, Serve, and Give Thanks

October each year is a time of celebration, service, and gratitude.  We have the end of the calendar year in sight and the celebration of a new church year starting the first Sunday in Advent.

A time of celebration.  We are celebrating new church members with the baptisms of Justin and Christine “Kitty” Moretz.  New deacons coming on board are Bud Sanders, Ronnie Cook, and Jim Love.  Ronnie and Jim will be Ordained during the morning worship service on October 7, 2018.  We will dedicate a columbarium in our cemetery to provide a place for cremated remains.  We will celebrate our 242nd Homecoming on October 21, 2018.  On that Sunday we will have a combined adult Sunday school in the sanctuary.  Our guest speaker will be Rev. Rose Mary Stewart.  Rose Mary is Intentional Interim Executive Director of Missions at Dover Baptist Association.  Following the service will be a covered dish lunch in the fellowship hall.  Entertainment during the meal will be provided my “Oxygen Band.”  Hope you can join us.

A time of service.  We have opportunities to serve throughout the year.  During October, we can use help always in and around Homecoming.  Reach out to a friend or family member and have them join us for that special day.  Be willing to help and volunteer with our Fall Festival on October 27th.  You can serve as a messenger for the Dover Annual Meeting on Sunday, October 28th.  Looking ahead there is an opportunity to be a messenger or guest to the Baptist General Association of Virginia (B.G.A.V. or Virginia Baptists).  We are apart of the B.G.A.V. and once every four years the meeting is held in the greater Richmond area.  This year it will be hosted at Mount Vernon Baptist in Glen Allen.  Please let me know if you would like to attend.  The dates are Nov. 12-14.  There are always opportunities to serve, and you don’t have to wait to ask, but might I offer some areas.  Visit our sick and shut, help on Wednesday night with our children, or perhaps occasionally or on 5th Sundays giving our workers an opportunity to worship in the sanctuary.  Volunteer as extra help in the kitchen for special events or funerals.  You need only look around to find a place to serve, and if you still having trouble I’m sure we can help you find a ministry to serve in.

A time of gratitude.  I am personally grateful to Pastor the good folk of Antioch Baptist Church.  I have said before October is Clergy Appreciation Month, but I am reminded of how appreciative I am to have God’s calling upon my life.  I am equally grateful that God placed our family at Antioch to serve alongside the wonderful people here at Antioch.  Throughout the year my family is blessed to share life with you as we grow together in celebration, service, appreciation, and love.  I appreciate your care for my family.  I love that my children love our people and you treat them as your own.    A grateful heart will bless your life and someone else’s as well.

In the month(s) let us celebrate, serve, and give thanks for our Lord and our Family of Faith.

Baptism

On September 23, 2018 we will baptize two new members.  A mother and son.  It is always a great honor and true joy to share with a person the life-giving power of the gospel.  Seeing how that gospel can change lives, setting people free, mending relationships and shaping their identity in Christ.  Securing their future in Heaven and guiding their work on earth.

Baptism is not salvation, but it is important.  Following Jesus into the waters of baptism is an act of obedience, and a public symbol of faith.  Baptism was part of the instructions that Jesus gave right before he ascended.  You may have heard of the Great Commission before, “As you go, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  Matthew 28:19-20

Baptism is a powerful symbol of what we have in Christ.  It is not a washing away of sins, but a symbol of identity with Christ and his community.  In baptism by emersion the water we are placed under serves as a symbol of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.  It is a symbol of dying with Christ as well as our sin dying with Christ on the cross.  The person rising from the waters of baptism is like the water of birth.  Being born again a new creation in Christ.

Baptism is an outward symbol of a personal profession of faith.  In the early Christian community there was great persecution and even death for those who profess Christ because baptism was a public act.  Many who died to their old way of life in the waters of baptism were signing their own death notices.  Often the baptisms would take place on Easter and would be facing East to the rising sun, symbolizing resurrection morning.

In Baptist life, it is one of only two ordinances along with the Lord’s Supper.  It is usually part of a public worship service.  It serves as a reminder to those gathered of their own baptisms and commitment to Christ.  It is in this remembering that a collective identity is formed.  Observing and remembering strengthens and energizes the family of faith and expands the Kingdom of God.  In our communal identity in Christ we are bound to him and one another as we work, worship, and witness.  We hope you will join us for service on September 23, 2018.

They’ll Know We Are Christians

“By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”  John 13:35

We are one in the Spirit; we are one in the Lord.

We are on in the Spirit: we are one in the Lord.

And we pray that all unity may one day be restored.

And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love.

Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.

 

We will walk with each other; we will walk hand in hand.

We will walk with each other; we will walk hand in hand.

And together we’ll spread the news that God is in our land.

And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love.

Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.

 

We will work with each other; we will work side by side.

We will work with each other; we will work side by side.

And we’ll guard each one’s dignity and save each one’s pride.

And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love.

Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.

 

All praise to the Father; from whom all things come.

And all praise to Christ Jesus, His only Son.

And all praise to the Spirit, who makes us one.

And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love.

Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.

 

Words and Music by Peter Scholtes

This wonderful hymn and haunting melody also reminds me of the book of Ephesians.  Chapter 1 tells us of the blessing we have in Christ.  Chapter 2 the Oneness in Christ.  Chapter 3 the Love in Christ.  Chapters 4 and 5 parallel 2 and 3 in our relationships with one another.  Chapter 4 Unity and chapter 5 Love.  Ending in chapter 6 with the Full Armor of God, with which we are equipped and serve together.  Starting July 15th, I will be doing a sermon series on Ephesians.  It is an encouragement to the community and a reminder of our identity in Christ.

This hymn is a song of celebration, an acknowledgement of community, and a prayer of the people as we seek to grow into the fullness of Christ.  One in Spirit, walk, work, and worship.  May we hear these words, embody their meaning, serve our Lord and one another.  I pray that we will strive to be One in Spirit, walk, work, and worship.

Same Difference

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.  Hebrews 13:8

What a strange combination of words.  It is most often used when people are describing the same thing but in a different way.  An example, she is my mother’s sister, or she is my aunt, this is the same difference.  The same reality described in different ways.

There are also times when people misuse the phrase.  Often this happens when people are in a discussion and don’t wish to continue in an argumentative way. They may then say “same difference” hoping the other will see this as some form of agreement or like-mind.  When that seems unlikely and the people are entrenched you may here, “well we just have to agree to disagree,” to acknowledge an impasse without further ill.

Yet taken just as two words together on the page or rolling off the tongue cause me a different mental, moral, physical, and spiritual quandary.  How can some thing or someone remain the same and yet be different?  While that phrase may work well in matters of thought or debate, the same phrase doesn’t make much sense in a practice life way.

Nothing in this world can remain the same and be different.  If a person tries to do the same thing day after day and expect a different result would make one foolish or naïve.  Another popular way of saying this is “the definition of insanity is to continue doing the same thing but expecting a different result.”  The issue is either the practice is flawed doing the same things wishing for a different result, or the logic of doing the same things and expecting a different result.

The inverse is also a reality.  Can one think of anything that remains the same?  We are all changing and becoming different.  Our bodies certainly do.  I read once that in a nine-year period every cell in our body will have died and been replaced by a new one.  Our universe is also a physical entity and no part of that remains the same.  The universe’s rate of change happens over longer span of time than we can look at in the span of a lifetime.

Many hope, without reason, that they can remain the same (not possible) and even in that perceived sameness can be different.  Let go of these ideas.  The only thing that is ultimately the “same” is that which is eternal.  Jesus is the same, yesterday, today, and forever.  Only following this same will make a real and lasting difference in the world.  Let go of those same differences and follow the difference maker.