Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Mission & the Message

"Good morning. We’re entering into an exciting time as a church," Pastor Brad said as he called us to worship. He didn't mention the snow at all, maybe because we're all too exhausted from shovelling it still after yet another dump on Friday. Nevertheless, Susie Newman wrote a blog entry about all that white which we posted here.

Announcements included the following:
1. Semi-annual meeting after the service in which we will be getting an update about the building and the capital campaign.
2. Next week would be a great week to join us in adult Sunday School at 9:00 a.m. as a man from the Barnabas Ministry will be with us to share things that are going on in the world through mission.
3. Chuck shared that they are wanting to put together a 21 day devotional with each of us sharing a favorite Bible verse and thoughts. They want to create something on the order of Our Daily Bread.

Chuck, Ken and Darlene were joined by Levi this morning in leading worship, first singing Worthy of Worship and finishing with He’s Everything To Me as the offering was taken.

Karen came forward to share with her Sunday school class, the littlest ones in the church…. a very special little group. They learn Bible stories and songs and make crafts, all directly proportional to the kids’ attention spans.

Various needs were lifted up to God in our time of prayer…and then Brad delivered the sermon.

The Mission and the Message

Pastor Shannon began by reading Philippians 1:1-10

Questions routinely come my way about every kind of thing from the coffee we serve to the subjects we teach. Behind all these questions is the question, "What will New Life Covenant look in 5, 10 or 20 years? Are we going to be flourishing?"

This always leads to more questions. What difference are we making in this community? What is God asking us to do that we’re not doing? How do we improve our shortcomings? How do we help people get plugged in to the life of the church?

What is the vision God has for your lives? How do we cultivate generous spirits while living immersed in a materialistic culture?

Brad briefly reviewed the manifold activities that have been happening in preparation for the building of a larger facility for ministry across the street and the issues surrounding our future.

The church at Philippi was the first beachhead for the Gospel away from Israel, a new church on a new continent. The story is detailed in Acts 16. A businesswoman named Lydia helped bankroll the church. A jailer was another early convert. Paul and Silas, two escaped convicts, were also there.

Years later, when Paul wrote his letter to the church that took root in this tough Roman colony, he didn't begin by laying out his credentials. Rather, in this letter he tossed all that aside and emphasized his servanthood. 

His prayer was that they would discern God’s plan for their community. God’s will was for this church to thrive.

Brad learned early in life the meaning of this word. His first funeral ever conducted was for an infact three days old. The cause of death was FTT, Failure To Thrive.

Our Mission
If the Covenant church is a franchise, what business are we in? Paul puts it like this in verses 3-5… We are partners in the Gospel.

3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

The word Gospel meant Good News. Today it conjures up performers in polyester suits and big hair… but in Paul’s day it was Good News. The business of the church is sharing the Good News of Jesus. Hope for the poor... liberty for the oppressed.

Our mission is to help people meet, love and follow Jesus.

There's a story of a volunteer group on Nantucket Island that formed a lifesaving society. It was an amazing group devoted to saving lives because travel on the Atlantic Coast was so treacherous. They watched the sea at all times and when someone saw a ship go down these people would drop everything they were doing to go out to save lives. They didn't do it for money or fame, but simply because they valued lives. Their motto was, "You have to go out but you don't have to come back." They put everything on the line.

Eventually they gave up their focus because “the professionals” now did it, the U.S. Coast Guard. The irony is that the lifesaving society continued long after the life saving ended. The group continued meeting but had lost their purpose.

This is something that cannot happen to a church. As long as there is someone in need of hope, in need of Jesus, in our community, we are responsible to reach them. We are partners with God in this. We’re in the Good News business.

Paul wrote, “He who began a good work in you is faithful and will complete it.” We all make commitments that we fail to complete, but God is not like

Fifty years ago a handful of people started a small church here in Twig. 25 years later there were ten, and yet they never closed the doors.

"He who began a good work…"

In business there are three kinds of people… customers, employees and partners. God calls us to be partners in this business.
When people band together, you have no idea where it will lead….

God, help my love to abound more and more with knowledge and depth of insight so that I can discern the best. God, help me not to settle for O.K. Help us discern the best.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Too Much White?

An Art Article by Susie

My fourteen year old friend Hannah contends that even though it is all white outside it must not be colorless, as white is all colors combined. Well, ask a scientist about that. But as far as I am concerned anything white makes a good background and a huge temptation for me to go get the paints. A plain white shirt? Let’s spatter paint! White dish towels? Find the tie dyes! Too much white snow? Get out the food coloring, make it into art! Too many white walls? We got the Adventure Club kids together with some oil crayons and bright water colors. Then Susie added some of her dyed goose feathers and voilá! The church sanctuary walls have some color and cheer!

Another project Adventure club kids did recently was clay/dough made from white flour and white salt. We rolled and cut out various shapes then baked them. The kids colored them with Sharpies. I LOVE Sharpies! We added a colorful ribbon and some dragon’s blood. (really!) Ask the kids about dragon’s blood.

But Adventure Club art projects just were not quite enough to satisfy my art hungry soul, thus Girls Art Club was created in February. This is a group of girls between the ages of 9 and 14, and any moms or other women who might like to join the fun. We are meeting once a month after church on Sunday. There may be a small fee charged per person doing the project to help cover costs of materials. If this group seems to fit your interests please join us! The next one will be meeting on May 5th. Please call or email me, Susie Newman, (see church directory) beforehand so I can be sure to have enough materials ready.

Fair warning: if you are seen in plain white around the church, watch out for Susie and those Sharpies!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Sacrament of Baptism

Though we received a boatload of snow going into the weekend, we had a full house today. Pastor Brad welcomed us enthusiastically. “I’m grateful you’re here this morning.”

Here are some of the announcements to be aware of.
~ Next Sunday is our Semi-Annual Congregational Meeting after the service.
~ The Church Council will meet this Wednesday after Kids Club
~ Confirmation Sunday is slated for May 12
~ Capital campaign launch date: May 19
~ Family Night is every Wednesday from 6 – 7:30, and includes meal.
~ If you would like to receive the monthly church newsletter, send an email to Carol Sertich at
~ There's a Church Rummage Sale this coming Friday and Saturday, April 19 & 20
~ The Building Committee will meet April 23
~ There is a Women’s Bible Study on Tuesday mornings from 10–11:30 a.m.
~ And there was a VBS announcement from Brooke. Anyone able to assist can contact Brooke as the time is at hand. Despite the foot of new snow out there, summer is just around the corner.

Walt Cresman provided an update on the building committee progress. More details will be forthcoming at our semi-annual meeting.

There was an especially soothing spirit-breeze flowing through the sanctuary during our worship time after which our senior high and college students class shared some of what they have been learning this past year in Sunday school. The theme for 2012-13 has been “sticky faith.” What kind of faith have they grabbed hold of and will it stick once they are launched into adulthood. They have also been talking about where their identity comes from.

Pastor Shannon took the pulpit and delivered the message.

The Sacrament of Baptism 

Pastor Brad began by saying, "Let's spend a few minutes this morning talking about baptism." Inasmuch as we were having witnessing a baptism this morning, this topic was not only relevant but also gave an opportunity to answer questions as regards why we do many of the things we do as a church.

First, baptism is a sacrament. A sacrament involves something ordinary being transformed into something sacred and extraordinary. In communion the bread and wine are ordinary but take on a greater meaning. Likewise baptism, which uses water – in this case tap water from downstairs – for a higher purpose.

These sacraments, communion and baptism, were uniquely initiated by Jesus.

It's noteworthy that these were public acts that could put peoples’ jobs at risk, or even their lives, in certain periods of history.

Brad aimed to address four questions.
Why not to be baptized.
What is baptism? What is God doing in this act?
What are the various forms of baptism?
Why do people baptize children?

Why not to be baptized 
Or rather, what are some poor reasons for getting baptized? Sometimes parents bring their children to be baptized so their children will go to heaven. Brad notes this act is not something that will bring salvation. Faith in Christ is what saves us.

“For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”(Galatians 2:19-21)

What is baptism? What is God doing in this act?
Brad used the illustration of the brand on a cow, how it indicates ownership. Baptism is a way of saying this person belongs to God. Just like the cowboy doll Woody, in Toy Story, had Andy’s name on his boot, baptism is a statement of ownership. The baptized one belongs to God.

In Acts 2:38 baptism is pressed upon us in this manner. "Peter replied, 'Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.'"

It is not only a mark, but it’s a statement as the Apostle Peter wrote in his first letter.
...and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ...I Peter 3:21

What are the various forms of baptism? Is dunking more important than sprinkling?
The method is not as significant as the act itself. Sprinkling or dunking are matters of style, though dunking does convey a sense of death and resurrection. It is not necessary to be re-baptized when you are an adult. Many want to confirm their belief as an adult and it’s a wonderful thing, but some want to be baptized several times as if the previous time it didn’t take. The baptism does not save us, it is only a symbol. God alone saves us. As Paul states in his letter to the Ephesians, there is "one Lord, one faith, one baptism." (Eph. 4:5)

Why do people baptize infants?
Baptism is an act of giving our children to God. These children can sense God’s presence and activity in their lives before they can articulate it. The act also becomes a commitment on the part of the parents to walk alongside and support this faith.

The last matter Brad wanted to address was this: Can I make it into heaven if I have not been baptized? "I have something to say to that… Jesus is the one who presents baptism to us. It is a public statement that is a great moment, a public declaration of your faith." 

Whatever your stance on baptism and its forms, the bottom line for us is well-expressed in this wise maxim: “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity."

The baptism of Eliana Lynn Vanderscheuren followed the sermon as Jake and Leanne brought their new daughter forward to celebrate this moment with the congregation.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Easter Revisited

"Good morning," Pastor Shannon exclaimed as he welcomed us. "We are a resurrection community. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is the same power that gives us hope!"

Today's very special service was a nice blend of a variety of components, beginning as usual with...

~ The Church Rummage Sale is coming up April 19 and 20. Proceeds will go to the Church Building Fund. Helpers (volunteers) are welcome (needed) for both days. The list of things to donate included gardening items, kitchen and household items, clean toys, games, small appliances, tools, nice clothing, jackets, shoes (with mates preferred) books, sporting goods and antiques…No junk, please.

~ The capital campaign committee is moving forward and will keep us posted of their progress. 

~ Norm shared about the an uplifting Gaither concert he recently attended afer which he contacted the organizers, a group called Music for the Master. He learned that Guy Penrod will be in the Cities for a concert September 29 and Norm will try to assemble a bus or van to go. As other concerts come Norm will keep us posted and share opportunities to participate.

~ Brooke noted that the first planning meeting for VBS will be held after the service next Sunday.

Drake led worship this morning, beginning with "Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing."

Pearl and Ruth Anne had their Sunday School class share some of what they have been learning this year. Then Norm and Mae sang for us while the offering was taken.

Each month we’ve been having various people share what God has been doing in their lives and Ken Smith spoke with us today. “My name is Ken, and I’ve been saved by God’s grace.” Ken’s very heartfelt story began with telling how he grew up in a church in Nebraska that was always active, the lights were always on. His challenging first marriage ended with his wife’s passing after two strokes which left him feeling lost for a period of time. Through Chuck’s agency he was introduced to Vicki. “I thank God for second chances,” he said, closing with lyrics from the classic song, “Through It All.”

I thank God for the mountains, 
and I thank Him for the valleys, 
I thank Him for the storms He brought me through. 
For if I'd never had a problem, 
I wouldn't know God could solve them, 
I'd never know what faith in God could do.

A representative from the Gideon’s, also named Ken, was with us this morning to share about this vital ministry of Bible distribution, more than 1.5 billion in the past 105 years in more than 90 languages.

Easter Revisited

Several friends are sitting at a restaurant. The topic of funeral comes up and one asks, "What would you like said at your funeral?" One says he would like to be recognized for his work and career achievements. A second said he would like someone to say what a great husband and father he was. The third said he would like to hear someone say, “Look, his body just moved!”

This morning’s message about Easter will be about a body that did move, that left an empty tomb.

Pastor Brad read the account from the Gospel of Luke. In the story, when Peter heard the news he ran to that empty tomb to see for himself. “What if it’s true?”

This is followed by the story of the two men on the road to Emmaus later that day. They had been believers in this Jesus, but their hopes were shattered on Calvary. The risen Lord revealed Himself to these two who initially didn’t know who it was… but as soon as their eyes were opened ….

If it's true that Jesus rose from the dead on Easter, then everything Jesus taught must also be true. And if everything Jesus taught is true, then we can't be neutral. We must be total believers or believers not at all. As C.S. Lewis said, "Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if ture, is of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important."

If the resurrection is true then it changes everything for us.
Blaise Pascal was a brilliant 17th century French scientist and philosopher famous for his research and theories pertaining to mathematics, physics, economics and social science. Pascal's Wager is one of the most famous arguments for believing in the existence of God.

1) God exists or does not exist. Everyone must decide.
2) If you believe in God and God does exist, you will be rewarded with eternal life in heaven. Infinite gain.
3) If you do not believe in God and God does exist, you don’t go to heaven. Infinite loss.
4) If you believe in God and God does not exist, you gain nothing and lose nothing.

In other words, those who believe in God have everything to gain and nothing to lose. Those who don’t believe in God have everything to lose and nothing to gain. Pascal said that the smart and wise person will choose to believe in God.

The same goes for the Easter resurrection of Jesus. We all must decide if we believe it’s true or not. If we choose not to believe, and Jesus really did rise from the dead, we have everything to lose. If we choose to believe in the truth of the resurrection, we have everything to gain: God, Jesus, eternal life and more.

After these thoughts, we were invited to celebrate the sacrament of the Lord's Supper.