This coming Sunday we welcome the Rev. Mark Burnham to our pulpit. He will preach on the wedding in Cana (John 2:1-11) and the title of his message is Abundant Wine, Abundant Faith. In the weeks that follow my messages will explore further The Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations: Radical Hospitality, Passionate Worship, Intentional Faith Development, Risk-taking Mission & Service, and Extravagant Generosity. Concerning the last, we thank you for your generous financial support of St Andrew’s. Unfortunately we are experiencing a shortfall in our pledges and running a deficit. If you haven’t yet turned in a pledge for 2020, please do so. And consider if you are able to give more. Every contribution helps sustain our ministry and mission.
This coming Sunday is Baptism of the Lord Sunday. In the church’s liturgical calendar, we just had Christmas, where we celebrated the birth of Jesus. This was followed by Epiphany, where we remembered the mysterious Magi who visited the infant Jesus and gave him gifts. This Sunday we immediately jump from the infant to the adult Jesus, a grown 30 year old man, being baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River. We will ponder what that experience was like for him (see Mark 1:4-15), and what it means for our lives.
Matthew chapter 2 tells the story of the mysterious Magi from the East who brought gifts to the baby Jesus. On this Epiphany Sunday, January 5th, we will ponder who the Magi may have been and what their journey to see the Christ child means.
The waiting is almost over. Christmas will soon be here. Once again we will celebrate the wonderful good news that God’s light has shown into our world through Jesus, God’s Word become flesh, the Light and Life of the world. As the gospel of John proclaims, “The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (John 1:5) That is a great reason to rejoice!
Christmas Eve Candlelight Service, Tuesday, 12/24: Our candlelight service will begin at 7 p.m. Join us for candles, bells, carols, beautiful music, scripture and a message by Pastor Ernie, The Light Shines in the Darkness. Following the service join us in the Celebration Center for coffee and cookies.
Christmas Morning Worship Service, Wednesday, 12/25 we will have a 10am service in the Sanctuary with fellowship, cookies and coffee following in the Celebration Center. Please join us. Everyone is welcome!
On this final Sunday of Advent, on the darkest day of the year, we will light the candle of HOPE in expectation of the coming light of Christ. Christ is coming. Christ is always coming, always entering a troubled world, a wounded heart. And so having lit candles of love, joy, and peace, we light the candle of steadfast HOPE. When things look dark, we will CHOOSE HOPE.
To listen to a drama of the shepherds’ story and my message, click on “Choose Hope”
p.s. I hope to see you on Tuesday night at our 7 p.m. Christmas Eve Candlelight Service, one of my very favorite moments of the year.
This Sunday we light a candle for PEACE. We light it knowing full well that peace is elusive, and in many parts of the world, it is almost completely absent. Yet, like God’s people have throughout the ages, our hearts yearn for peace. In this season of Advent, we look once again to the light of Christ, trusting he will guide us into the way of peace. This advent season, let us CHOOSE PEACE.
To listen to the dramatic monologue and message, click on “Choose Peace”
Our dramatic monologue this Sunday features Elizabeth, whose weeping was turned to joy. Read about it in Luke 1:5-58. And we will light the second advent candle of JOY. This should be the easy one, because joy is all around us—in the lights, the music, the gathering together. But how often do we let our preparations—or our memories—push joy to the side? Joy is like an underground spring that wells up within us, but joy is also a choice, an attitude. Like a muscle, it needs to be exercised. So today let us open ourselves to joy, trusting that God has already planted it in us.
I hope you all have a wonderful celebration of Thanksgiving this week for there is much to be grateful for. On Sunday we begin the season of Advent. This year during our worship in Advent we will imagine our way into the Christmas story through drama, scripture, song, and word. We begin on December 1 with A Strong Love- the Story of Joseph. Jason Nakashima will present a dramatic monologue by Joseph, and I will follow with insights I see in the biblical story found in Matthew 1:18-25. I see in Joseph a tremendous and much needed role model of faithfulness and love. This Advent, may we CHOOSE LOVE.
This Sunday during worship we will explore together the relationship between Fruitfulness, Faithfulness, and Excellence. Could it be that we are the leaves of the tree of life that are for the healing of the nations? (see Rev. 22:2). Then we will gather in the Celebration Center afterwards for an open discussion of how we all can contribute to St. Andrew’s Becoming a More Fruitful Congregation through practicing Radical Hospitality, Passionate Worship, Intentional Faith Development, Risk-Taking Mission and Service, and Extravagant Generosity, and we will unveil our plan to care for our members through a Helping Hands Ministries. We will then enjoy a delicious stewardship luncheon prepared by Bruce Smith. I hope to see all of you there.
This Sunday we will explore the fifth practice of fruitful congregations, the one that supports and makes possible the other four – Extravagant Generosity. Robert Schnase says that “FRUITFUL CONGREGATIONS PRACTICE EXTRAVAGANT GENEROSITY. They teach, preach, and practice proportional giving with a goal toward tithing. They encourage people to grow in giving as an essential practice of Christian discipleship, and as a faith community they practice generosity by their extraordinary support for missions, outreach ministries, and organizations that change people’s lives. They thrive with the joy of abundance rather than starve with the fear of scarcity.” (p.133) May we all experience the joy of giving generously as we have been blessed.
Soon you will receive a letter from your stewardship committee that includes an invitation to our stewardship luncheon on Sunday, November 17, a brochure describing the Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations that we are working on together, and a pledge card for 2020. Then “Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:7-8)