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.
Our current era is not the first time that the people of God have faced challenging, disruptive change. In the time of the prophet Ezekiel, in response to some truly devastating losses, God’s people were falling into despair. They said “Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.” (Ezekiel 37:11) But God wasn’t finished with them yet. God’s Word and Spirit revived their hopes and dreams and enabled them to begin again. I believe God wants to do the same with us today. God says to us as God said to Ezekiel “Mortal ones, can these bones live?” to which we can only reply in faith as he did, “O Lord God, you know!” (37:3) So let us open ourselves up to the new life that God wants to work within and through us.
On this Sunday following the celebration of July 4th, Independence Day, I will be sharing with you what our denomination, the Presbyterian Church USA, reaffirmed at the recent General Assembly in St Louis about HONEST PATRIOTISM. How does our faith call us to civic responsibility and engagement? What is the church’s prophetic role in society? How are the values of honesty and patriotism joined together in Reformed theology and practice? The Presbyterian Church has a long history of thinking deeply and critically about these crucial questions. I invite you to come and join the conversation.
I will be away this coming Sunday, July 1, in Clovis, CA at a baby shower celebrating the coming birth of my first grandson, due in mid-September. But you will be in good hands. Dr. John Shumway will preach on the important questions: What Is the Bible and Why Is It So Hard to Understand? We will celebrate the The Lord’s Supper a week later than usual, on Sunday, July 8.
Since last fall, a group of volunteers* from St Andrew’s has been working with Jim Kitchens, a consultant/coach from PneuMatrix, in a yearlong process which has the eventual goal of discerning new ways that St Andrew’s can fulfill its mission to be a vital, loving and faithful congregation in today’s changed world. In my message this coming Sunday, I will share with you where we are in this challenging process, and address the basic questions, “What Is Adaptive Change and Why Do We Need It? (click to listen)
I and the adaptive change group hope that this Sunday will kick off a more public phase of this discernment process. In the weeks and months ahead your adaptive change group will be soliciting your input with a weekly question in the bulletin, and a “hot spot” table during coffee time after worship. Please take the time to participate. Together we will discern what God desires to do through St. Andrew’s, and by God’s grace, we will do it!
*The members of the St. Andrew’s Adaptive Change group are: Alison Armand, Debbie Beveridge, Greg Gould, Harold Helm, Ernie Hess, Judy McNabo, Marge Munger, Trisha Oldenkamp, and Joan Toole. Please ask any of them about the adaptive change process and give them your input.