Sunday, November 24, 2013

Expressions of Thanks

It was exceedingly chilly this morning. Brad in his opening remarks shared that we will be talking about gratitude today.

1. Anyone interested in being part of a choir for the Christmas program see Darlene.
2. Drake mentioned a men's outing on Saturday December 14 to go to Fleet Farm in Blaine. Let Drake know if you are interested so they
3. Next three Sundays the youth of church, all ages thru high school, will be practicing for Christmas program. 9:00 a.m.
4. Next week we will be collecting the Covenant World Relief soup cans.

Drake read from Ezekiel about a vision of the glory of the Lord, then led us in worship, accompanied by Darlene on keyboards.

After the offering the children carried to the front the Offering Christmas Child shoeboxes they assembled for needy children overseas.

Many prayer requests and updates regarding various concerns we have been praying for.

Expressions of Thanks

Brad said he would be making a few remarks about gratitude and then give us the opportunity to share our

He then prepared us for a verse from Paul by saying, "There are two kinds of oughts, the ought of obligation and the ought of opportunity."

For example: You ought to see Jackson Hole in the spring. This is an ought of opportunity.

We often teach gratitude out of obligation, as a duty. But obligations become a burden when it is a duty. True gratitude is of a different nature.

"Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." ~ I Thes. 5:18

Brad shared that as he thought on this theme a number of statements people came to mind. One was, "Though I lost my job this year, I am grateful that God has been with me." Many other statements were shared with similar sentiments, from a girl going through chemo, from a man with no legs.

Whatever you're going through, God knows. And being "in Christ" is the foundation of our gratitude. It is not circumstances that give us gratitude. It is being in Him that makes it possible for us to be continually grateful... in all circumstances.

Pastor Brad then read Psalm 23, focusing especially on the phrase "my cup overflows."

Rejoice in all circumstances. This is God's will for you, in all circumstances.

Brad had us talk to one another in family units (or small groups) to discuss what we're grateful for. After taking time to listen to one another, several people shared their blessings and what they were grateful for, with specific details, some of them very personal and precious.

We were then encouraged to extend this beyond these walls and share faith matters with our families at home, closing the service with Hymn 59, Let All Things Now Living.

Afterwards Chuck shared how grateful he is for partners in ministry, sharing examples of ways in which needs have been met through this past year. Chuck said that our church will rent the Washbucket laundromat in Lincoln Park to help the many young people wash their clothes for a day. Looking for volunteers to help out December 6 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. plus anyone who can help provide soap and other necessities. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Seven Promises to Renew Your Joy

Despite the gloomy grey weather, things inside the sanctuary were lively and invigorating thanks to Chuck and Darlene who assembled a band of musicians to lead us in a service of music and singing. The theme for the service was Seven Promises To Renew Your Joy.

Announcements included the following:
1) Chef Leonard will again offer up a Thanksgiving Dinner, for all who have a desire to be with friends from our church family and those who have no where else to go. RSVP by signing up in the back of the sanctuary.
2) Tuesday women's Bible study is at 10:00 a.m.
3) Operation Christmas Child boxes will be packed Wednesday evening at 6:00 p.m.
4) Saturday Nov. 30 there will be a brunch at the church for those who want to help decorate for the Christmas season.
5) Paula shared that 9 blankets were made Saturday for the Women's Shelter, picture above.

The service unfolded like this. A promise from Scripture was declared, followed by a Scripture reading from various members of the congregation followed by a suitable song or hymn. The readings and hymns went as follows.

Though this list of readings and the songs we sake may seem dry as you read it here, the energy of the service was quite uplifting. Be sure to take time to review the passages shared and imagine the sound of a full congregation accompanied by guitars, mandolin, drums, keyboards and harmonica.

#1 Be lead by the Spirit. II Corinthians 3:17-18
Spirit Song

#2 Be free in Christ. Psalm 119:41-48
Power in the Blood

#3 Be uncomplicated. John 10:7-10
Just As I Am

#4 Be confident in God.
In Christ Alone

#5 Be quick to forgive.
How Great Is Our God

#6 Be outrageously blessed.
Blessed Assurance

#7 Be content.
What A Friend (We Have In Jesus)

Be blessed and and a blessing.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

What A Surprise!

Our Mission: To Connect, Grow and Become!

"Good morning! I'm grateful you're here today," Brad declared as we began our service.

1. Sign up for a Friendship Dinner at the back table. The dinners will begin in January for three months.
2. Operation Christmas Child... Wednesday Nov. 20 we will be packing Samaritan's Purse Christmas boxes during family night.
3. Saturday Nov. 30 there will be a brunch at the church for those who want to help decorate for the Christmas season.
4. Ed and Susie would welcome assistance from anyone with strong arms and backs who can help move some furniture from their father-in-law's apartment.
5. The three Sunday mornings in December will be practice for the children's Christmas program during adult Sunday School.
6. Paula wanted us to know that everyone is invited next Saturday to make make blankets for the women's shelter.

Darlene, Ken and Chuck transitioned us into worship, accompanied by Drake on percussion. After Brad's opening prayer. Chuck spoke briefly about God's grace and then sang "Grace, Marvelous Grace" with the trio. The congregation joined in singing a number of worship choruses, followed by the trio giving us a cheerful rendition of the Gaither's "God Is Good. (He's Good All the Time)".

There were a number of prayer requests including prayer for our veterans as tomorrow is Veterans Day.

Drake read the first verses of Matthew, the genealogy of Jesus.

What A Surprise

What was Matthew thinking to start with this genealogy? You would think he'd start with something that would grab people's attention.

But back in those days people liked genealogies. They told stories, didn't play video games. A genealogy gave people a sense of identity.  "I'm not just a nobody. I am a somebody, connected to these people. I have a history." In Jesus' day it was an oral tradition to recount the stories of your forefather. And to be a priest you would have had to trace your genealogy to the line of Aaron.

What's surprising is how Matthew slips in some unexpected names in this opening story about the Messiah. For example, in verse 3, he mentions Tamar. This is not a story you want associated with a genealogy.

Tamar's story is found in Genesis 38. Judah found a Canaanite woman named Tamar to marry his son Er. Er was wicked and was ultimately killed. It was a tradition that when the son dies the father Judah is supposed to take care of her, but he doesn't. Tamar decides to deceive Judah, dresses as a prostitute and seduces him. He can't pay at the moment but lets her have his staff, seal and cord as security. A few months later the pregnant Tamar is accused of prostitution on account of her being pregnant, and the proper sentence is stoning. Except that when she produces the staff, seal and cord it is apparent that Judah has wronged her (now twice) and he intervenes.

So this is all part of the story of the genealogy of Jesus of Nazareth.

Interestingly enough, Tamar gives birth to to twin sons, and the hand of one comes out first so the nurses tie a red cord on his wrist. This red thread will carry through much of the story and is next found in the story of another woman in the genealogical account, Rahab, who was not only a prostitute but a gentile. She didn't just dress like a prostitute; she was a prostitute.

There were three options for single women in ancient times: starve, beg or be a prostitute. According to Old Testment Scripture, Rahab hid the spies who came to Jericho when Israel came to take back the land. When Jericho was destroyed, Rahab was saved by identifying her location with a red cord.

Ruth was yet another listed in this genealogy. Ruth a Moabite. Moabites were offspring of the incestuous relationship between Abraham's brother Lot and his eldest daughter.

Then there is another woman mentioned in this genealogical account, Uriah's wife, with whom we are all familiar as the story of David and Bathsheba has been often recounted, yet another scandal in the genealogical line.

What brad noted here is that it's a genealogy that is inclusive. This is not a pristine history of perfect people without spot or blemish. Rather, it is a collection of sinners, from whom a spotless lamb emerged.

Christ is not ashamed of sinners. He even puts them in His family tree. In fact, His nickname was "friend of sinners." On the day he was crucified Jesus was dressed in a scarlet robe. Throughout this inglorious past these is the thread of grace, the red strand, the red cord.

Brad then read a Tony Campolo story about waking early one morning in Hawaii and going to a restaurant. It was a place where Honolulu prostitutes gathered at the end of a night's work or in the midst of. Campolo overheard one of them say her birthday was the following day, but then noted she has never had a birthday party in her life. Campolo took this opportunity to conspire with the restaurant owner to throw Agnes a birthday. The effect is stunning, core-shaking.

When the restaurant owner learns that Campolo is in the ministry, he asks, "What kind of church do you belong to?'

 "I belong to the kind of church that throws birthday parties for prostitutes at 3:30 in the morning."

We're not here to win Christians to our churches from other churches. We're here to bring Christ to the truly needy. Prostitutes, kings and everyone in between on that genealogical list.

"My challenge to us," Brad said, "is that during this season you will pray like crazy for people who you want to see touched and changed. The Messiah is still looking for people who feel like they are a million miles away."