Sunday, April 27, 2014

Now What?

The cold grey morning stands in contrast to the warmth within our sanctuary as Pastor Brad welcomes us with a comment that the snow is gone and now we only have ice.  It is the second Sunday of Easter.

Semi-annual meeting after church including election of new leaders.
Cheryl noted that Thursday is last day for cheap rates for Covenant Park Bible Camp.
There will be a 4th of July Family Camp
Finally, Covenant Park is having a fund raiser, 5K walk or 20K bike ride.
John Vanderscheuren is putting together a church softball team. See John.
Callie Johnson shared a series of pictures that tell the most important Bible story.

Chuck, Darlene and Ken sang the beautiful One Scarred Hand.

Chuck surprised Gwen by calling her up to sing the ever so beautiful In Christ Alone with them. "No guilt in life, no fear in death, this is the power of Christ in me... no scheme of man can ever pluck me from His hand, till He returns or calls me home, here in the power of Christ I stand."

Alf Haugsand shared about the work of the Gideons. Gideons are an international collective of laymen in distributing Bibles to over 199 countries worldwide at a rate of 2.7 Scriptures per second a year. He told a story about a teacher in New Zealand who was hostile when the Gideons were there one year but whose heart was softened by reading the Scriptures being handed out.

In many countries the Bibles can be freely distributed in places we cannot in this country. The people are hungry for the Word. 100% of all giving goes to Bibles and Bible distribution.

The trio sang The Jericho Road while our offering was taken.

Before identifying prayer needs Darlene shared that today she and Chuck are celebrating 40 wonderful years together. The list of needs is long and many people carrying burdens.

Now What?

The week after Easter there are fewer flowers, fewer dresses, fewer people... but the needs are as real after Easter as they were before Easter. Realities of unemployment, divorce, illness, broken hopes continue. In the first days after Jesus' resurrection, even the disciples struggled with what it was all about.

This morning Brad wanted to share thoughts based on John 20:19-22, specifically three portions.

1. "Peace be with you."
It was a standard phrase of greeting at the time, but Jesus appeared and said it a second time because this was the very thing the disciples needed to hear. The disciples abandoned Him but instead of rebuking them He demonstrated His patience, His commitment...

The risen Jesus, present with us here, says "Peace be with you." Who amongst us has lived a perfect life since last Sunday?

The cross shows that our sins are not insignificant. They are costly. But Jesus says, "My Peace be with you." You are accepted, not rejected. Don't be anxious. Don't be afraid.

2. "As the Father sent Me, I am sending you."
This must have been a bit baffling to hear. "Remember the job that was given to Me? I am passing it on to you." Jesus came back from death and hell itself, but now He passes the ball to the B-team.

Jesus had previously told them, "You will be My witnesses... to the ends of the earth." Now He's saying, "It's your turn."

God is in the same business today. Now it's our turn. He's not adding to our busy schedule. He is giving our current schedule a new purpose. Every relationship and situation you are in, you are given an opportunity to demonstrate that He is who He says He is, a God who is there. You are His evidence that our God is still in the resurrection business. God is saying, "I am 100% invested in you, and in showing the world that no life is too far out of reach." God is a good God, a forgiving God.

We are a "sent out" community. Our life is not about Sunday worship but about what we do between Sundays out in the world.

3. 'Receive the Holy Spirit."
This third phrase is the essential key to what followed. He breathes on them and says, "Receive the Holy Spirit." Receive the gift of God's presence, God Himself, to be our advocate in every situation.

You don't need to prove you can do it on your own. Jesus had already said, "You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes."

You will be the evidence, the living witness. Easter is not a holiday. It's what followed Easter that is the story.

How will we respond to the reality of Jesus' resurrection?

Sunday, April 20, 2014

First Importance

"He is risen indeed!"

In his introductory welcome Pastor Brad shared what a great day this is. Death doesn't win. Then we reeled right into some rousing hymns of the faith which are especially potent on this special day.

Today we received a number of new members to our church family. Matt and Amy Danaiski, Dave and Dana Evenson, Susan Jessico, Tracey Montgomery, Kristina Carrillo & Jon Vanderscheuren, Ben & Elaine Vanderscheuren, and Jake & LeeAnn Vanderscheuren. They were called to the front to make a public confession of their faith and to be welcomed.

The trio of Chuck, Darlene and Ken sang "I'll Rise Again" by Dallas Holm while the offering was taken. After the reading of Matthew 28:1-10 Ed sang "This is the Glory." We had a time of prayer and the Darlene and Brad.sang "Love Crucified a Rose."

First Importance

Brad began by reading I Corinthians 15:3-8, a letter from Paul. "For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance..."

In the days that this letter was written, most people were not literate and the letter would have been ready aloud to the church there. That is why before the end of the letter he underscores that his is of first importants. This is what is essential.

They had been listening for an hour so he sets it up once more. THIS is important, of primary importance.

First, Christ died for our sins. Why did Christ have to die? We see the answer every day. The news daily reminds us how broken the world is. Sin has entered the world. And our sin separates us from god.

A lot of religions give us the hope of spanning the gap between ourselves and God through good deeds or some other "way." How much is enough though? Sin brings death... real death. Both physical death and spiritual death.

The second foundational truth: Jesus didin't just die, He rose again.

On the third day Jesus rose and visited his friends, and expanded this to more than 500 people whom He visited who saw Him.

Everyone is in one of three categories.
1. Those who say they are not sure whether the resurrection happened.
Brad's advice on this matter is to investigate further. You may wish to start with a book by Lee Strobel, an atheist whose wife became a Christian. Over a period of two years of asking questions he came to a single problem matter... How did the disciples go from being frightened men who hid when Jesus was killed to boldly sharing this story and becoming martyrs for their story. Who would do this for a lie?

2. The second category is "Those who are sure but have never acted upon it."

3. Those who believe, but feel need for God's power, the power of the resurrection.

When Jesus allowed Himself to be hung on the cross for our sins, that was not weakness. It was power.
And when He rose on the third day, there's never been this kind of power released anywhere at any time.

We closed the service with Christ Is Alive.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Unexpected Power

Today is Palm Sunday. Though still chilly for a spring day, our hearts are warmed by our proximity to the greatest event in history, the victory over death by our Lord Jesus Christ. He is risen indeed.

"Good morning! I'm grateful you're here on this Palm Sunday." This a day in which we celebrate the Triumphal Entry so the children were

Announcements (Life of the Church)
Brook shared that Vacation Bible School is coming, June 16-19. We were encouraged to participate in one way or another. An insert showed the different ways we can help out. Please sign up.
Curt shared that this week in youth group they will be reading John 15 and 16. 
Tuesday 10:00-11:30 a.m. Women's Bible Study 
Wednesday 6:00 p.m. Family Night. Includes a meal and groups for all ages.
Good Friday Service at 7:00 p.m.
Easter Sunday will begin with an Easter Egg Hunt and breakfast from 9:00-10:00 a.m.
Saturday there will be a Rummage Sale at the Twig Town Hall. Set-up will be on Friday. See Suzi Lane for details on how to help or contribute.
April 27 we will have our semi-annual congregational meeting after the service. 

After the traditional greeting we sang Hosanna as the children brought their palms toward the altar.

We began our worship time with the beautful Above All, penned by Lenny LeBlanc. Followed by How Beautiful and Here I Am To Worship.

In our time of prayer we we asked to pray for Rob Strom who fell and fractured his skull. Many other needs were shared, as well as updates on other current struggles. It is always comforting to know we do not bear our burdens alone.

Ed Newman then sang The Holy City.

Unexpected Power

Pastor Brad began by reading from the Gospel the story of the Triumphal Entry. I always struggle on this day because of how the people misunderstood why Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. (See Matthew 21:1-11, Mark 11:1-11, Luke 19:28-44 and John 12:12-19. As Jesus descends from the Mount of Olives towards Jerusalem the crowds lay their clothes on the ground to welcome Jesus as he triumphantly enters the city.

In 2011 there was an F3 tornado in North Minneapolis. Brad shared about a church there called Sanctuary Covenant that became a center for helping meet needs in the wake of this tornado and the disaster it created.  It had always established itself as a helping, service oriented church, so it was natural that the church became a touchstone for the neighborhood. Since there was no electricity the church set up generators to create power for people to re-charge cell phones so they could contact friends and family to let them know they were safe.

As church people were helping the neighborhood a group of gang members approached in formation. Church members went out to meet them and the leader of the group said, "We hear you have power." Indeed. The response to these men led some of them to become part of this congregation.

In the days leading up to His crucifixion, Jesus was approached by James and John regarding a matter that was the last thing on His mind. They said, "Lord, we want you to do for us whatever you ask." Jesus had just finished telling them that He would be spit on, beaten and flogged, and crucified before rising on the third day.

Nevertheless, He did not berate them for the audacity of this request. Instead He replied, "Are you willing to drink my cup?" When you serve with a heart for others, rewards are not what you're doing it for.

The people shouted "Hosanna" which means "Save Now!" or "Save Us!"

What is shocking is how the crowds who praised Him as He rode into Jerusalem were the same who a few days later were shouting, "Crucify Him!"

Brad then told the story of the Maccabees, an uprising two hundred years earlier that used force to overthrow Antiochus IV and the oppressors who were violating the Temple in a manner blasphemous to God. The meaning of the palms was connected to this event, thus the palm branch came to symbolize victory and deliverance from oppression.

The crowd wanted Jesus to be like the Macabees, to deliver Israel from Roman oppression. But Jesus came wearing a different disposition, as referenced by Paul in Phil. 2:5-8. Jesus was willing to be insignificant in order to be effective. He demonstrated His power not in the absence of fear, but with a conviction that says, "Fear doesn't get to dictate what I do."

He trusted the Father regardless of the aftermath, praying, "Father, take this cup from Me, though not My will but Yours be done."

We ourselves have the power to transform this community. When the love of Jesus Christ flows through us in this place, with the same humility... we will have power.

In Mark 14 Jesus' disciples asked Him, "Where do you want us to prepare the Passover Supper." Jesus is thinking about the cross and yet despite the horrors awaiting him, including experiencing separation from the Father and death, He gives them instructions and doesn't say, "Hey, when are you guys going to start making decisions and taking responsibility?"

We're all very distracted, and the disciples were distracted, too, but Jesus wanted to meet with them.

In the week ahead we have opportunity to let the important moments speak to us, to make time to hear from God and the meaning of this time. My prayer is that you wouldn't let this week pass without making time to meet with God.