From Flood Waters to Baptism Waters-Feb. 26, 2012-Series Lent 1

Covenant Connection Series Lent 1-From Flood Waters to Baptism Waters-February 26, 2012:

In Genesis 9:8-17 is the covenant that God makes with humanity not to cover the whole earth again with a flood.  The background for this text is that by chapter 6 of Genesis things had gotten really bad and so God instructs Noah to build a giant boat known as an Ark.  In the ark were Noah and his family and two by two the animals of the earth one of each gender.  God chose Noah and made a promise to him that the earth would not be completely flooded again and the sign of that covenant is the rainbow.

Water like many of the things in creation were meant for good in their proper order.  Water has the potential to quench our thirst and keep us hydrated and at the same time has the potential for destruction and death like the flood.  It is at this point that water is neither good or bad itself but has the power to do both harm or good.

Mark 1:9-15 is the story of Jesus baptism.  His baptism was accompanied by the descending of the Spirit and the acknowledgement of Jesus as God’s Son.  In this potentially hazardous water, we find an example of new life emerging from the waters of death.  As we consider the symbolism of the ordinance of baptism, it is one of being buried and dying in Christ to rise up out of these waters of new birth to begin our new life in Him.  Many times in a baptismal service we will say buried with Christ in His death and raised to walk with Him in the newness of life.

It is in this very water we do find death, but we also find that these same waters are the birth of a new life in Christ.  We are also pleased to have one of our older children present themselves as a candidate for baptism.  We thank God for this young life given over to Christ, may He bless her as she walks with Him.

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Covenant Connections: A Series for Lent

Through the next 5 weeks we will be looking at texts from the Old and New Testaments (also called covenants) and the connections that bring the reality of God’s promises to life.  The word covenant means to be bound to, connected, or shackled to, will each of us be shackled to the promises of God?  We can trust that the Word of God is true and we can hold on to the promises of God for everyday living.  The culmination of these promises which we will find in the New Covenant in the blood of Christ that saves and redeems us.  The Series will begin Sunday, February 26, 2012.

Ash Wednesday-Feb. 22, 2012

Ash Wednesday is the start to the season of Lent.  Ash Wednesday is celebrated by the imposition of Ashes on the forehead or back of the hand as a symbol of mourning and recognizing our own mortality.  They are often imposed with the phrase “Remember you are dust, and to dust you return”.  The Ashes help to be a physical reminder of the brevity of life.  This is even evident in the Ashes themselves, they are the Ashes from the previous years palms from Palm Sunday.  In this instance Jesus is being honored and celebrated and within a week he was dead.  Then a few days later he was resurrected.  This time, this season of Lent, helps to prepare us for Christ death, and to look past the cross to Resurrection morning (Easter).  In the days ahead it also helps up to recognize our own mortality and to be able to see each day as a gift from God.  Since the time of Jesus’ resurrection we have been looking toward his return as people of hope.

Here is the Ash Wednesday Order of Service for February 22, 2012:

Ash Wednesday Service

Welcome

Call to Worship

In God’s life-giving Spirit, welcome.

The peace of God be yours.

Hush, friends, before the great mystery–we are!

The breath of life flows through us; it is not ours to control.

There was a time when we are not, but God breathed us into life.

We praise God for the holy marvel of our beginning.

There will be a time when we are no longer, when God calls us to lie down.

We pray to God for the grace to let go faithfully.

But in between is the awesome gift.

We live, laugh, hope, cry, work, play, and love, by the grace of God.

May God tune our hearts to the gracious wonder.

May God shape our lives as songs of grateful praise: Alleluia! Alleluia!

 

Old Testament Lesson:  Psalm 51:1-17

Song of Reflection-Blessings by Laura Story

 

New Testament Lesson:  2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10

Song of Reflection-My Beloved by Kari Jobe

 Blessing of the Ashes:

Let us Pray:

Gracious God,

who formed us from the dust of the earth

and who breathed into us the breath of life,

it is by your gift alone

that we know life and life eternal.

Grant that these ashes,

the dust of once- joyful palms,

may remind us of our mortality

and call us again to you.

In Christ we pray. Amen

 

Invitation to the Ashes:

We invite you know to come and receive these ashes, placing either a dot on your fore-head or on the back of your hand, we are identifying ourselves as those in mourning, in prayer, seeking in hope, the resurrected Christ.  Will you come now, the invitation is open!

Songs Playing as Ashes were imposed

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross by Selah

Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone) by Chris Tomlin

Closing Prayer

Your breath fills us, O God, and then returns to you,

but in between is the gracious wonder that we are.

For that gift so precious, we praise you,

even as we pray for the wisdom to acknowledge it,

the courage to learn from it,

the faith to live it as your own people

of bold and grateful love.

In Christ we pray. Amen

Closing Song-Turn Your Eyes upon Jesus by Selah

Song played as we were leaving -Yearn by Shane and Shane

 

The Service content was from:

Breathing New Life Into Lent, Volume , A Collection of Creative Worship Resources (Year B)

by: John R. Pritchard Jr., Anne McKinstry, and Janet E. Powers

1999 Judson Press, Valley Forge, PA

 

The Songs used seem to be reflective and go along with the service material, and the scripture texts were from the Revised Common Lectionary for the Lectionary year B.

 

From Here to Eternity-Feb. 19, 2012

“You Are For Me” by Kari Jobe was our message in music before the sermon.  It is a beautiful song and was beautifully done.  The basic message of the song comes from Romans 8:31, ” What, then, shall we say in response to this?  If God is for us, who can be against us?”  It is in this knowledge that we can find hope day-to-day as we seek him.

The disciples needed this same hope as they hear from Jesus that he is going to die.  Imagine if you can the difficulty of hearing from the person themselves that they are going to die and that to follow him they may also be facing death.  Mark 9:2-9 reports six days later, confused and bewildered, Jesus took Peter, James, and John with them up on a high mountain where they were alone.

In this alone time with Jesus he was transfigured before them, becoming dazzling white beyond anything on this earth.  These weary disciples after hearing the horrible news that Jesus, their master, would have to die they are allowed to see him in all his glory.  The glory that he left to enter this world and the glory to which he would return.  Also appearing with him were Moses and Elijah.  He was talking with them.  These exalted men of faith had been dead for many years are now talking with Jesus as if they know him.  They do because Jesus was before they were, he is God in the flesh.

The men were a little scared and Peter says, “it is good for us to be here.  Let us put up three shelters-one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”  Peter in the fear and wonder of the moment recognizes it is good to be where Jesus is, but we can not always remain on the mountain top and build houses to Jesus and the great men of faith.  It is in those moments that we are refreshed and reminded of the power of God in Christ.

The a cloud appeared and enveloped them and a voice saying, “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to Him!”  It is good and appropriate to worship Jesus, but in our worship often we forget that worship begins in recognizing Christ for who he is and then forming an obedient response.  The voice of God, like at Jesus’ baptism, confirms that Jesus is God’s Son, whom he loves, and that he should be listened to and obeyed.

In today’s society those who profess believe want to do so by building a place to come and “worship” Christ, and separate the rest of our lives from this place of worship.  As Peter acknowledges, rightly so, it is good for us to be here, it is not intended that we always remain here.  The command of God was to listen.

What is it then the Jesus is saying?  John 14:1-14 Jesus knows that what is about to happen is difficult for his disciples to take in.  So he offers them comfort, and tells them he will prayer a place for them, not vice versa as in passage in Mark.  “Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God, trust also in me.”  Don’t be trouble, trust God who on the mount of transfiguration confirmed who just was and instructed them to listen and trust Jesus.

Jesus then tells them that it is he who will be preparing a place, not for himself, but for those who know him, and love him.  That he will prepare this place and return and take them to be with him.  He tells them they know the way.  Thomas said they didn’t know where he was going so they couldn’t know the way.  Jesus tells them, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”  There is only one way to the Father and that is through Jesus.

Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”  We are often like Philip just wanting a little more proof and wanting to see the Father and missing the reality of Jesus and the Father as one.  Jesus then says, “Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.”  In this moment we are reminded of the words of God, this is my Son, listen to him.  Believe me, as almost the same as saying listen to me, trust what I am saying, and at the least trust what you have seen.  This seeing is proof but faith is about maturing to the point of trusting Jesus before the proof, based on his faithfulness and proof in the past.  Little faith is required if the burden of proof must be met before trust or belief can occur.

It is this crisis of belief that could cripple these effective witness of these disciples.  If they can’t trust Jesus is who he says and have faith that he is God, and that he and the Father are one.  How then will they be able to ask, in faith not proof, for God to work in a situation if they do not have faith that he can or will.  This is of the utmost importance because of what Jesus says next to them.

He tells them that anyone who has faith in him will be doing what he Jesus himself had been doing.  It is impossible without faith.  Jesus tells them he will do whatever they ask in his name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.  This is not a blank check to ask for anything and it be done.  It is understood that those who know him, will be seeking and asking for things that would bring glory to the Father, as he says, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.

In our time of need we can know that God is for us, we can trust his word, and we can trust his Son.  When life gets tough we look to the glorified risen Jesus for hope.  We can worship him in all things.  We do not need to build a place for him, because he already resides in our hearts, rather we need to listen to and obey him.  We can find comfort in Jesus and hope for tomorrow, for he is preparing a place for us rather than us for him.  In that place we will be with him.  What a glorious hope we have in him.  In the time that we have on this earth, until we find ourselves with Christ in that place, we need to be living as he did trusting the power of God at work in his life, and living to bring glory to God in all that we do.

The People of God, in the Unity of Christ-Feb. 15, 2012

Romans 15:14-16:27 completes our study in the book of Romans.  In verses 14-22 of chapter 15 Paul acknowledges that he spoke boldly to them on some points and reaffirms his calling in Christ to proclaim the gospel to the Gentiles that they might offer themselves as an offering to God (Romans 12:1-2) and sanctified by the Holy Spirit.  Paul doesn’t want to speak of what God has accomplished through him, because the glory is God’s alone.  Paul says that it has always been his desire to preach where Christ was not known.  This is truly the heart of missionary zeal that moves the gospel of Christ forward in every generation.

Romans 15:23-33 Paul speaks of his desire to see them and stay for a while and continue on to Spain (an unreached area).  Before making the trip to Spain Paul is returning to Jerusalem with the offerings collected from the Gentile churches that he has been a part of.  Paul asks for prayer for his safety and that the offering be acceptable to the saints there.  It would be too easy to read over this quickly.  Paul is bringing the offering to the temple in Jerusalem for acceptance.  The question may be why would they not accept it?  In accepting it they church leadership is acknowledging the Gentiles as equals in the life of the church.  Although as previously stated they offer up themselves to God, it doesn’t mean that the people of God will accept them.  This truly is the entirety of Paul’s life ministry and the fullness of this letter is the unity of God’s people not out of privilege, position, or heritage, but the people of God are joined under the blood of Christ and must move forward together in Christ as the people of God.

Romans 16 Paul makes a list of several people he knows and wishes to be received favorably.  Paul wraps up his letter by conferring blessings on those who have been faithful in service and recommends that as they return to Rome.  Paul begins with Phoebe, a deaconess, and asks that she be received as such.  Perhaps the thing to look at here is what each of these did as examples rather than studying every name directly.  He speaks of these as ones who have worked hard for the faith, people he refers to as family or like family, and he could mean Jewish converts here. This is really about those who are severing faithfully in the Lord and as they return Paul recommends that they be allowed to continue their service alongside those who are already at work for Christ in that place.

The idea is although we may not know every person God is using or has called, we can recognize the work of Christ in their lives and pray for and support them as the follow and serve Christ the church is to be building one another up.  That is how as Paul said earlier in Romans we attain full maturity in Christ.  It is not in our knowledge of him, but in our seeking unity among brethren.  It is most often the bickering of believers that robs their message of power.  When the actions of believers betray the message they portray, the world will grow deaf to the message or distracted by their actions.

Paul urges the brethren to watch out for those causing division or putting obstacles in the way, because they are serving themselves and not Christ.  Paul gives advice like a proverb, be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.  He acknowledges that the God of peace will crush Satan.  He also sends greeting from others who are currently serving and will remain in other places.  Paul ends his letter with a benediction prayer.  In that it is God who is able to establish them as a people and a church by the gospel revealed among them.  It was hidden in ages past but is revealed so that all nations might believe and obey, and that God would receive glory through Christ Jesus

Seek unity as it honors God, bonds us together as his people, moves forward his gospel, and brings glory to God through our faithfulness.  God Bless.

That We May Be Clean-Feb. 12, 2012

A quick trip to a grocery store a person would find many products for cleaning.  Products that would clean your dishes, laundry, hair, body, teeth, and hands.  There are so many products that they are often not found on just one place.  The question for the day is, “what can we do to clean out the sin in our lives?”  The answer may be found in many of our hymns such as Nothing but the Blood.  Some of the hymn lyrics read, “what can wash away my sin?  Nothing but the blood of Jesus.”  We must trust in Jesus for our cleansing and salvation.

The Scripture text is 2 Kings 5 and in that text we find the story of a foreign military leader who has come down with leprosy,  his name was Naaman.  In battle the Army Commander can look his enemy in the face and fight, but now he has an enemy he cannot fight, this disease.  There was a young girl from Israel who was a servant to Naaman’s wife told her that there is a prophet in Israel that can cure her husband of leprosy.  Naaman is pleased to hear this information and goes to his king and shares the news.  The King of Aram sends Naaman with a letter to the King of Israel along with gifts.  It is important to note here that the people in positions of “power” think that power must flow through those channels.  There is a role for them to play but the governments and kingdoms of this world can’t take care of every need or solve every problem.

When Naaman and his note reach the King of Israel he becomes distraught.  The problem is his logic is right but his faith is weak and short-sighted.  He acknowledges that he cannot do this only God can bring back to life.  The logic part is good, then there is a  pity party wondering if the other king is trying to pick a fight.  In the letter being addressed to the King of Israel, the king looses sight of God’s prophet and the power of God that works through him.

Word of the meeting reached the house of the prophet Elisha.  He sends word to the king not to despair but send the visitor to him that he will know that there is a prophet in Israel.  Elisha has full confidence in the power of God to restore and knows that God can use this opportunity to reveal his glory.  When Naaman and his group arrive Elisha sends out his servant Gehazi to give Naaman instructions to go wash in the Jordan seven times then his flesh will be restored and clean like that of a young boy.

Naaman at first is upset that the prophet didn’t come out and touch him or place his hand on him, or some other healing gesture, instead asks him to go into the Jordan, which was not considered by Naaman a clean river compared to the ones in his native land.  Then his servants reasoned with him, that if the prophet had asked him to do a great task or challenge he would have, so why not try this thing that has been asked.

Naaman enters the waters and finds after the seventh time the he is clean and his flesh has been restored like that of a young boy.  Excited Naaman goes back to the home of the prophet and this time meets with him and makes a bold statement about God, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel.”  Then he offers gifts to Elisha.  Elisha refuses them  Naaman asks to take some soil that he may set up for himself a private place of worship and asks for forgiveness for when his civic duty makes him bow.  Elisha sends him on in peace.

Now Elisha’s servant Gehazi wanted the gifts and tries to sneak of and tell Naaman a story to get some of the gifts.  Naaman gladly gives them, and Gehazi returns and hides them.  After doing so Elisha asks him where he has been.  Gehazi tries to dodge the question but Elisha knows and because of the disobedience Gehazi received the leprosy of Naaman.

This was a longer passage but several points to the sermon.  The bravery of the servant girl to seek what was best for Naaman.  Naaman going to his king to get a leave of absence to seek healing.  The king believes that the power is in the position and sends a note to the King of Israel.  The King of Israel recognizes he doesn’t have that power it belongs to God but looses sight of God’s presence and power working through the life of the prophet.  The power of God can work through whoever he chooses but the power of God is not limited to a place or government or ruler.  In that day, nothing short of a miracle could save someone from leprosy.  It is not referred to a healing but a restoration and cleansing.

Naaman’s arriving at the home of Elisha was a key point, because Naaman expected the man of God to doing some religious posturing and restore his skin and instead he sends his servant.  If Elisha goes out, it may be understood by some that it was Elisha that had the power apart from God.  Then Naaman goes to what he considers to be a “dirty” river to be cleansed.  Again, it is not about the river, if a man declared unclean by his disease gets into a dirty river seven times and comes out clean that is truly about the power of God, not the prophet through whom God spoke, or either of the kings, or even the servant girl but about the power of the real God to change and cleanse our lives.  If God can do that on the outside through his Son Jesus he certainly can cleanse us from the inside out.

Elisha will not take any of the gifts because God is not a commodity and God’s grace is just that grace.  It can’t be bought or sold or bargained for.  It is this same principle that Gehazi learns the hard way.

This was also a communion Sunday.  May the blood of Christ cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

The Strong for the Weak-Feb. 8, 2012

Romans 15:1-13 describes a mature Christian as one who bears up the weaker brother.  Those that are mature in Christ should work not to please ourselves but for the good of our neighbor and in doing so are imitating Christ.  Verse 4 speaks about the scriptures being written “to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”  “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father or our Lord Jesus Christ.”(v.5-6)

Bearing up one another produces unity in Christ and he gets the glory.  Christ in becoming a servant of the Jews confirms God’s Old Testament promises made to the Patriarchs and so that the Gentiles may glorify God for his mercy.  In Christ God has kept his promises to the Jews and shown mercy to the Gentiles bringing him glory.  This helps us to know that we can trust God and the testimony of scripture which gives us hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

**a shorter study because of business meeting