In the Sanctuary at 8:30AM and 11AM -
a blended service of traditional and contemporary elements with communion

In the hall at 9:45AM
scripture, prayer, and creative response with communion

Worship each Sunday @ 8:30AM, 9:45AM, and 11AM

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We have moved the service that was tentatively planned for this Friday July 13th to Friday, September 21st 7PM-8:30PM in commemoration of th...

Monday, May 30, 2016

Matthew 7:16b-17a

Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? 
In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit
Matthew 7:16b-17a

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Friday, May 27, 2016

Daniel 3 Intro to Sunday's Sermon

Here are the key verses for Sunday's sermon as we begin Daniel:
If our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire and out of your hand, O king, let him deliver us. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods and we will not worship the golden statue that you have set up.

King Nebuchadnezzar is a man who thinks that he understands power and wields it accordingly. He expects people to respond to the exercise of that power with fear and obedience. When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are brought before the king and the king threatens them with the furnace they do not submit.

If someone is willing to die rather than submit in fear to the worship of a false god; If someone is willing to die rather than submit in fear to systemic injustice, then what is left for one who rules by power and fear? Those who oppose must be destroyed.
And here his power to destroy is rendered null and void.
And in the end who had power all the time? God.

All the powerful in this world have at their disposal are the tools of fear and intimidation, threats and prejudices, false hope and false promises. By these they seek to coerce us to their will and use us for their selfish and divisive ends.

But our God is a God of true promise, of true hope, of righteousness and justice.

1 Corinthians 13:12

For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.
1 Corinthians 13:12

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Matthew 19:14

Jesus said, Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.
Matthew 19:14

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

1 John 4:12

No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.
1 John 4:12

All the Idols that We Worship

The reading for Sunday, May 29, 2016:

Daniel 3:  1-30

This story may be familiar to us from childhood--do you remember the song?  I remember a chorus that ended with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, but I don't remember verses.

I haven't read this passage since childhood, and even then, I probably read a child's book, so it was interesting to return to it as an adult. 

Reading the story, I am struck by how the similarities we find in these tests of faith that the Bible depicts.  God has given a command, there's an earthly ruler who compels behavior that is contrary to God's law, and the follower(s) of God must make a decision--and usually the stakes are high.  We see this trajectory in this story too.

I was struck by this passage:  "Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, 'King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us[c] from Your Majesty’s hand. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.'

It's the last sentence that leapt out at me.  Even if God doesn't deliver them, they will still follow God's command.  How often do we see that commitment?

We might then ask ourselves about our levels of commitment.  We are no different from these Old Testament men--do we follow God's law or the laws of the world?

We might protest:  "I have not fallen down to worship any idol!"  And sure, there's no king who comes along to build an image of gold, a literal object that we must fall down and worship.  But there are plenty of other types of gold that command our attention--and it's awfully easy to spend our lives trying to get more of those things (money, power, security), which leaves us very little time to spend on our relationship with God.

In past weeks, Pastor Keith has been encouraging us to examine the messages that our culture sends us.  He has reminded us that our God is a God of love, and that cultural messages that encourage hatred and exclusion are not messages coming from God.  The cultural messages beamed at us that encourage us to hate the Other (and there are so many others that we are encouraged to oppress)--perhaps those messages are modern idols.  We certainly see many people worshipping at the altars of hate and exclusion.

An outsider to our culture might see our phones as idols.  We might argue that they make us more connected.  But as we check our e-mails and post our updates, these phones often keep us detached from the humans who are right there with us.  And I'm guessing that there aren't many apps that transform our phones into ways to connect with God.
Most modern idols are much more subtle than the ancient idol that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were ordered to worship.  They are so subtle that we don't recognize them as idols.  Just as a national budget tells us about the priorities of the nation, our household budgets tell us what we worship.  The way we spend our time, what little of it may belong to us, tells us what we worship. 

How can we reconfigure our lives so that we're worshipping God and not idols?  How will we resist the cultural pressure to worship at the altars of all that is not God?

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

2 Corinthians 5:17

So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! 
2 Corinthians 5:17

Monday, May 23, 2016

Ephesians 4:31

Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another.
Ephesians 4:31

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Psalm 22:29

To him, indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth bow down;
 before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
 and I shall live for him.
Psalm 22:29

Friday, May 20, 2016

1 Corinthians 13:1

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 
1 Corinthians 13:1

Psalm 65

The pastures of the wilderness overflow,
 the hills gird themselves with joy...
 they shout and sing together for joy
Psalm 65: 12;13b

Thursday, May 19, 2016

A Prelude to Pastor Keith's Sunday Sermon

Sermon notes for Sunday are completed.
Here is a small taste.

In our year long survey through the key passages in the Old Testament form Joshua through Job we find ourselves in 2 Chronicles and the Exile in Babylon.

So why should any of us give more than a passing thought to ancient history (586 BC is more than a jog back in time) when so many other stories in scripture just jump out and dazzle us?
We love us some John 3:16 and the Psalm 23 and all that stuff about shepherds and lost sheep being found.

Here is a prelude:
• If we are going to confront some of the more difficult passages of scripture we better go in prepared or we are going to get lost. If we are going to dive into passages that extol violence as a central attribute of God, the murder of innocents as part of God’s plan, the treating of women as lesser objects, then we better be prepared or we are going to get lost.
• And we need to confront such passages or else we open ourselves to both a false understanding and false witness to the God we worship and love that comes to us (as we Christians believe and confess) in and through Christ Jesus. We need to confront the narrators and narrative arcs of the stories of scripture when such promote an ethic that is not centered in self-giving love as Christ Jesus embodied for us.
• Even today, the scriptures when left un-confronted by the way of Jesus, the way of love and compassion, even and perhaps especially for the love of the most unlikely of people, then the Scriptures become a license to objectify, to erase the image of God in the other, to ignore, to hate, even to kill.

Open your newspaper (or your newsfeed) and you will discover that we Christians have accepted by our own passivity a narrative of hate over and against a narrative of love.

Psalm 19:1

The heavens are telling the glory of God;
 and the firmament proclaims God's handiwork.
Psalm 19:1

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Second Great Exile--and Our Own

The reading for Sunday, May 22, 2016:

2 Chronicles 36:  5-21

You might read this text and say, "Haven't we already heard about exile?  What happened?"

You may or may not remember that the ancient land of the ancient Jews was divided into two, Israel and Judah.  These countries were in a very bad location, in terms of geography and warring nations around them, which meant that armies were always crossing the lands of Israel and Judah.  Historians would say that Israel and Judah were the weaker countries in a region of heavily armed, fierce fighting cultures.  Historians would tell us that these smaller, weaker countries were living on borrowed time and that it should have come as no surprise that they were conquered.

In this text, again, we see that the ancient people saw exile differently.  They saw it as punishment for sin, for going away from God's plan.  The exiled people of Judah, like the exiled people of Israel before them saw it as their task to figure out how to get back to God's favor.  They would have centuries to wrestle with this question, as generation after generation was subsumed by whatever empire ruled the world at the time.

We see the ancient people still wrestling with this question in the time of Jesus.  In fact, part of the background of Jesus' ministry and why some people were so resistant to it can be found in this question of how to get back to God's favor.  The oppressor might have been different, Rome instead of Babylon, but the people of Jesus's time were every bit as invested in this thinking as their ancestors of previous generation.

From our perspective thousands of years later, we can argue that exile can be a blessing.  Exile strips people to their core, forcing them to acknowledge what's important and what's not.  Exile can bind a group together even more tightly, as they come together to remember the past and dream about the future.  We see this trajectory in the Assyrian and Babylonian exiles of the ancient Israelites.

I realize this idea is small comfort when one has lost one's homeland and everything that matters.  One does not sit in the ashes and say, "From this event will come great art and then a stronger culture."  And yet, it is usually true.

The ancient people may seem very different from us, yet we, too, live in a time of seismic shift.  We see more people being displaced than at any time since World War II.  Our world will be transformed in ways that we can't foresee yet.

In a time of exile, it is good to remember the value of creating community in the place where one has washed up.  It is good to remember that although we may feel abandoned, God is there with us.

Matthew 18:3

Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 18:3

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Jeremiah 17:14a

Heal me, O LORD, and I shall be healed;
save me, and I shall be saved
Jeremiah 17:14a

Saturday, May 14, 2016

2 Timothy 4:8

From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
2 Timothy 4:8

Matthew 15:10b-11

Listen and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.
Matthew 15:10b-11

Thursday, May 12, 2016

2 Corinthians 5:17

So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!
2 Corinthians 5:17

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Ephesians 5:1-2a

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us 
Ephesians 5:1-2a

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Colossians 3:3b-4

Your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.
Colossians 3:3b-4

Ephesians 4:31

Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice
Ephesians 4:31

A Meditation on Pentecost

The reading for Sunday, May 15, 2016:

Acts 2

Ah, the liturgical year cycles back to the feast of Pentecost.  It really should be the second most important festival of the church year, second only to Easter, but I suspect that many churches pay more attention to Christmas than to either of the other two festivals.  I've talked to many a Christian who didn't know the first thing about Pentecost.

Maybe we're afraid of some of the more, well, pentecostal elements of the holiday:  the speaking in tongues (but in languages that could be understood by native speakers), the rushing wind, the fire.  Maybe we're feeling overwhelmed by the example set by that first generation of believers.

Maybe you're having more of a dry bones year than a Spirit seared year.  Maybe you've been having a dry bones decade.  It might be hard for you to believe that Holy Spirit or no Holy Spirit, any flesh can be hung back on a dried out frame.

Maybe you've been whipped by so many winds that you don't know which way to turn.  Maybe it's hard for you to hear the breath of God with the howling of so many other winds in your life.

Maybe you feel scorched by circumstances.  Maybe you're looking at your desert of a life and thinking that you could use some water.

Often in nature, we see that it takes an unusual event, like a fire or a storm, to invigorate a landscape.  We look at the immediate aftermath and see a moonscape that looks forever barren.  Yet if we came back in a few years, we'd be amazed by how much new growth we'd see.  And that new growth would have never gotten a chance without the calamitous, clearing event.

We often celebrate Pentecost as the birthday of the Church, but we often fail to mention that this birthing, with all its pain and messiness, is an ongoing process.  We tend to look back at the early days of the Church with idealistic vision, but if we carefully reread the letters of Paul, we see that those churches had just as many problems as our current churches.  We tend to see ourselves as deficient, but we don't have the longer view.

On this festival day, revel in the promise of renewal that God offers.  Be alert for new visions and different directions.  Trust that dessicated ruins--whether that be our lives, our Church, our neighborhoods, our planet--can be reinvigorated.

Saturday, May 07, 2016

1 Peter 1:23

You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God. 
1 Peter 1:23

Thursday, May 05, 2016

1 John 4:12

No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, 
and his love is perfected in us.
1 John 4:12

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Matthew 19:14

Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs."
Matthew 19:14

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Mark 8:34-35

He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.
Mark 8:34-35

Mark 8:18

Do you have eyes, and fail to see? Do you have ears, and fail to hear? And do you not remember?
Mark 8:18

Celebrating Ascension

The readings for Sunday, May 8:

            Acts 1:1-11           
            Luke 24:44-53
This Sunday at Trinity, we celebrate the ascension of Jesus into Heaven. 
Imagine it from the eyes of those who have followed Christ from traipsing around Galilee, Crucifixion, and then Resurrection.  You have just gotten your beloved Messiah returned to you, and then, poof, he's gone again.  What a whipsawed feeling they must have had.

How do we celebrate this day, so many thousands of years later?  Many churches have chosen to simply ignore it.  We march on to Pentecost.

But let us take a minute to acknowledge the wonder of the Ascension.  It's a fate reserved for very few in the Bible.  And let us take a minute to think about Jesus, who has already suffered death, the fate which an ascension spared for the few others who experienced it.

Just like the first followers, just like Jesus, we don't get to stand around waiting for our chance to go to Heaven.  There's work to be done on Earth.  The coming Sundays of the Pentecost season remind us that we’re not put on Earth to wait to die. We are here to help God in the ultimate redemption of creation. Jesus began that work of that redemption. We are here to further it along, at least as much as we can during our very short time here.

And how do we do that? The possible answers to that question are as varied as humanity. Some of us will pray without ceasing. Some of us will fight for social justice. Some of us will create artistic works that point others to God. Some of us will visit the lonely and the sick. Some of us will give away our money so that others have the resources to do the creation redeeming work that needs to be done.

Whatever we choose, it’s important that we get to work. We don’t want to get to the end of our time here, only to be asked, “Why did you stand there gaping, when there was so much work to do?”

Pentecost will be here soon, the holiday that commemorates the first appearance of the Holy Spirit, according to some theologians.  We see, in a stunning way, the presence of God who will continue to live with us and partner with us.
Believe in that force--and then get to work in the claiming of creation.

Monday, May 02, 2016

2 Timothy 2: 23-25a

Have nothing to do with stupid and senseless controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kindly to everyone, an apt teacher, patient, correcting opponents with gentleness.
2 Timothy 2:23-25a