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.
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!
This Sunday following worship, Maggie Harman, from the Presbyterian Foundation, will give a short workshop on Charitable Estate Planning. I hope we will have a good turnout for this event. And next Saturday we will remember and celebrate the life of your long time former pastor Shel White. Both of these events invite us to consider our mortality, and what comes next. So my message this Sunday, reflecting on Revelation 21:1-6 and 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:7 will be The Good News of Life After Life.
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Adaptive Change Questions for this week: What legacy do you want to leave behind for future generations?
What are the most important things we can do now that will leave the kind of legacy we desire?
It is easy to lose a truthful perspective on our lives. So as we all wrestle with how to respond to changes and challenges in our personal and public life, it is vital to pause at times to try to see in the really big picture. Our scriptures can help us to see our lives from the big perspective of God, salvation history, and deep time, especially passages like our text for this Sunday, Ephesians 1:1-14. God has “a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up ALL things in Christ.” (v.10) ALL THINGS! think about that.
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Adaptive Change Question for this week: How can St Andrew’s participate in God’s plan for the fullness of time, to gather up ALL things in Christ.”?
If I were to ask you, “who were Shiphrah and Puah, and what did they do?” would you know the answer? If not here is a hint: these two women played an extremely important role in the liberation of God’s people from slavery in Egypt as told in the biblical book of Exodus. If you are still stumped don’t look for help in the very long, classic 1957 movie, The Ten Commandments, the one where Charlton Heston played Moses, because Shiphrah and Puah don’t appear there. Apparently the courageous resistance of these two women wasn’t considered an essential part of the plot, not that this is entirely surprising. In the normal human way of recording history, it is the deeds of the mighty and powerful that are usually remembered, while the common people, especially women, are forgotten. But in this Sunday’s scripture (Exodus 1: the opposite is the case. The names of two humble women, Shiphrah and Puah are remembered and their courage celebrated, while the tyrant they opposed, the mighty King of Egypt, the Pharaoh, remains nameless. Their faithful resistance to injustice is one of many examples from scripture we can and should draw upon for guidance and inspiration.