Announcements included the following:
1. Last year we had a rummage sale to raise money for various good causes including Break the Chains. Paula asked for someone (or a team) to take the helm this year if able because she cannot at this time.
2. Duane shared that next weekend the men will make and serve a Mother's Day breakfast. Those men wishing to help can arrive Saturday evening at 7 p.m. for prep and/or 7:30 a.m. Sunday for setup.
3. Pam mentioned that the donations from Adventure Club and Sunday School have enabled us to purchase a second bike for the Congo mission work.
It should be noted that though the introit is usually mentioned in passing here on the blog, it is no minor portion of the service. We often arrive heavy laden with cares and concerns, and these things often don't readily slip from our hearts and minds upon entering the sanctuary. Somehow, once the church business (announcements) is completed, this wonderful little space is inserted as a mechanism to help us truly letting go of the daily grind so that we're more receptive to God, His Spirit, His message and His messenger. Thank you, Darlene, for your faithfulness in taking us away from earthly cares through your musical selections and the sensitivity with which you play each week. These moments serve a wonderful function that contributes to the meaningfulness of the whole.
Today Darlene played How Great Is Our God as an introit, and it was wonderful.
Brooke took the pulpit to share a Moment for Mission, focusing on three areas this morning.
1. Thanks to everyone who helped make Adventure Club the success it was again this year.
2. VBS will be held at Twig Hall this summer instead of at the church. There's more space to run, and for other activities. Two things of note. The hours have changed, will be in the mornings this year. Second, we need more volunteers. VBS will be the week of June 14. A planning meeting will be held Wednesday evening at 6:00 here at the church.
3. Brooke was able to the Covenant Northwest Conference this week and again found it very special. Our denomination has 11 regions and this has been the 18th consecutive year of growth for the NW Conference. There were 8 new churches birthed this year and 17 ordinations. Brooke closed by saying that it is "exciting to be a part of something bigger than ourselves."
After an offering was taken and the reading of Revelation 21:1-6, Brad shared a message from the Scriptures.
Brad began by having us look at Mark 1:9-11
9At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11And a voice came from heaven: "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased."
In numerous places New Testament writers refer to our being "sealed" by the Holy Spirit, having our faith affirmed. This passage serves to show how Jesus was Himself "sealed" and affirmed by God's Spirit. Brad noted that the crowds did not hear or see this. This event took place for Jesus' benefit.
Jesus, Brad reminded us, was a man. When He was a baby, He was a baby, and did not have a baby's body with God's full knowledge. Brad comically shared how it might have been had that been the case when the Lord was born in a manger. "Phew, it smells in here."
No, Jesus was human in His knowledge and understanding which He gained through avid study of the Scriptures and prayer. At the beginning of His ministry God affirmed His sonship and "sealed" Him with the Spirit. This even took place for Jesus' benefit. And Jesus had to draw upon it many times in the years to come because there are many voices striving for our attention with the intention of causing us to veer from God's purpose. In the wilderness Satan challenged, cajoled, tempted. And in His ministry other voices mocked, scolded, questioned His identity. Even while nailed to the cross, Jesus was challenged, tempted. Yet He never wavered, because He knew the one voice that mattered.
How is it that Jesus maintained such a steadfast commitment to His call? The Gospels show that no matter how busy He was he found time to withdraw to a quiet place to listen to God's voice.
Brad talked a little about the acronym DTR. It means, Define The Relationship. He shared how when a guy asks a girl to marry him, he gives a ring. It is an expression of a pledge, something of value and also a reminder of the promise. It is like a seal that the relationship is more than just friends, that there is a future here.
In the same way God seals us with His Spirit. God doesn't want us to simply belong to Him, He wants us to know that we belong to Him. If you made a decision to follow Christ, you have been sealed and you are marked. God wants you live with a settled confidence of His favor every day of your life.
All this was the lead in to Brad's three main points. He stated that there are three occasions or experiences which are recurring in life in which we need to do what Jesus did... that is, to withdraw and listen to God in a quiet place.
1) When we feel disappointment
Disappointments are a part of life, but we can't let them throw us off track. The verse he directed us to was II Cor. 5:1-5
1Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. 2Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, 3because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. 4For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
One thing that can cause disappointment is that our earthly bodies are subject to deterioration. We take care of it best we can, but still, it can be a burden. For those in Christ it is good to know that we are more than the tent that houses us. One day our tent will come down, but this is not the end for us.
2) When we feel convicted over sin
In John 16:8 Jesus says the the Spirit will convict the world of guilt in regards to sin and righteousness.
What's interesting is that before we were Christians some things were not painful to us, but as we grow they become painful through awareness, or conviction of our sin. This pain is a good sign that we have not been abandoned by God. If you have pain over sin, it is not because of God's absence from you life. It is because of His presence.
3) When we feel alone
Brad asserted that God speaks in a still, small voice, and we have to get very still to hear it. He then told a moving story about a girl with a deformity who grew up fully aware that she was different and she hated it. The girl was convinced no one outside her family could love her. She had a very special teacher, Mrs. Lenard, who did something that cut through to her in an powerful way. It was the day of the hearing test. Mrs. Lenard conducted the test by sitting away from the pupil and whispering. Everyone in th class had taken their turn, and this little girl now sat in the place designated where her hearing was to be tested. She expected questions about the sky being blue or what color her shoes were, and she waited. Instead, she heard seven words that changed here life. "I wish you were my little girl."
"You're here today," Brad said, "because somewhere along the way one day the Holy Spirit came to your heart and whispered, 'I wish you were my son' or 'I wish you were my daughter.'" You're here today because of the amazing ministry of the Holy Spirit.
At this, we celebrated the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper.
NOTE: Photos on the blog entry today are from the art projects of our young people during Adventure Club. Click images to enlarge.