This Sunday we begin a three week sermon series using three simple words to sum up what we do as a congregation. We Seek, Serve, and Celebrate. The adaptive change team and the session agreed that these three words describe well what we are about as a church. In a couple weeks you will receive a brochure for this year’s stewardship campaign which also uses these words to solicit your support. Included with the brochure will be an invitation to the special first annual stewardship luncheon we will be having on Sunday, Nov. 4, after worship. I hope to see you all there. This Sunday our first word is SEEK. In preparation I invite you to read Isaiah 55:6-9, Matthew 7:7-8, and Philippians 3:10-14, and think about what it means to seek, and what it is we are seeking.
The first Sunday in October is World Communion Sunday when we gather around the Lord’s Table mindful that St Andrew’s is just one small part of a world wide Body of Christ. To express our connection to our brothers and sisters around the world, the worship committee invites you to wear clothing from another part of the world and/or to bring a type of bread enjoyed by another culture for the communion table. In my message, I will lead us to reflect on our newly adopted mission statement, which states our reason for existing: “To receive and share God’s love for all.” So simple, and yet so profound, and challenging to live out. But it is our deepest calling. Think about that.
Carol and I are overjoyed to announce the birth of our grandson, Elijah Carl Alexander Hess, born on my birthday, September 17, at 7:02 a.m. in Fresno, CA. He was 7 lbs 10 oz, 20 inches long at birth. Baby and mother are doing fine. Having our second grandchild led me to ponder once again our Christian calling to welcome and nurture children, not just our own, but all children. In Mark 9:37 and 10:13-16 Jesus shocks his disciples by his welcoming attitude toward children. More than that, he uses children as examples to teach his grown disciples about the life of discipleship. You may not realize what a shocking and totally unexpected thing this was in the ancient world. What is it about children that makes them exemplars for how to enter the Kingdom of God? How can we welcome all children in Jesus’ name? Let’s think about this together this Sunday.
“I am the greatest!” This is the title of the message Bruce Smith will give this Sunday while I am away to help care for my new grandson. Bruce is one of St Andrew’s newest members, but you will recognize him from the choir and his announcements about the Hillcrest Food Pantry. His texts are James 3:13-18 and Mark 9:30-37.
My wife Carol and I are currently on standby alert, awaiting with eager expectation the birth of our first grandson. With the support of the worship and personnel committees I have arranged to take the next few Sundays off to enable us to be there to offer encouragement and support to my son Nate and his wife Elaine in Clovis after Eli is born. Various members of St Andrew’s have stepped up and volunteered to give the message on the Sundays I am away. This coming Sunday, elder Warren TenBrook will give a message titled “Following Paths, Breaking Barriers.” His scripture texts are 1 Corinthians 5:1-5, 11-13 and Romans 14:1-20.
Please pray for a successful labor and healthy birth.
“How can anyone be born after having grown old?” a puzzled Nicodemus asked Jesus in John 3:4, when Jesus told him that for someone to see the kingdom of God, he or she needed to be “born from above.” This is a good question for all of us to ponder. How is it possible for us, as individuals and as a congregation, to experience new life and a new birth when we have grown old? It is possible because of God’s patient labor through the Spirit. Now that is some good news!
PLAY THE ST ANDREW’S ANIMAL FARM GAME Please be ready to share your answers to these questions at the Deacon’s BBQ this Sunday, Sept 9, after worship. The adaptive change group and session thank you in advance for your participation.
What are you “PROUD AS A PEACOCK” of about our congregation?
What is one of our congregation’s “SACRED COWS”? (What do we treat as that which cannot be ‘messed with’ in our church?)
What is the “ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM”? (What do we not talk about that needs to be acknowledged and openly discussed?”)
What has become a “DINOSAUR”? (What is extinct or needs to die so we can move forward?)
What are some of our “SQUIRRELS”? (What distractions are keeping us from the task of making real adaptive changes?)
What are some of St. Andrew’s “ROADKILL”? (What are some of our mistakes and epic failures?)
Last Sunday we focused on the good news that God is persistently seeking each of us. Jesus taught that God never stops reaching out to us, patiently seeking through various means to restore us and bring us home – home to our true selves, home to loving communion with our God. This morning we are looking at the other side of the God-Human relationship, our persistent seeking for God in prayer. An inner hunger, a restless yearning for more – more satisfaction in life, more love, more justice, more freedom, more peace— leads us to petitionary prayer. The good news Jesus shares with us Luke 11:9-13 is that our ASKING, our SEEKING, our KNOCKING is not in vain, for God is ready to give. God wants to be found. The door that separates us from God, other beings, and our true self will be opened. All that is required is that persist, that we keep asking, keep seeking, keep knocking.
In this Sunday’s gospel reading from Luke 15 some religious leaders are grumbling and saying “This fellow (Jesus) welcomes sinners and eats with them.” (v.2) In response Jesus tells three stories, one about a lost sheep, another about a lost coin and finally another about a lost son, to show that God is always seeking that which is lost, and rejoices when the lost one has been found. So if you ever lose your way, is it not wonderful good news to know that Someone is looking for you!
The apostle Paul insists in Romans 13:8-10 that love is the fulfillment of God’s law. In this he is a faithful interpreter and follower of Jesus. To receive and share God’s love for all is the purpose of our lives. Love is who God is and is therefore who God wants us to be as well. But how do we learn to love? What can we do to cultivate a more compassionate and wise heart? In my message this Sunday, Make Love Your Intention, I will share a simple compassion meditation that I have been using often in my prayers for many years that has made a big difference in my life. I hope it will be of help to you as well.
Shel White’s memorial service will be this Saturday, August 11, at 11 a.m. with a reception following in the Celebration Center. One of the texts that Shel requested to be read for this service is Romans 8. This Sunday my message will explore the astounding claims of this passage that “all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to God’s purpose” (v.28) and that nothing “in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (v.39). Now that is some good news!