Sunday, May 22, 2016

God's Desire for Community

With blue skies and a summerlike Sunday morning the sanctuary was filled with light as Brad welcomed us.

1) Gail shared that $1175 was raised in yesterday's rummage sale and $221 through the bake sale

2) Brad shared that Dorothy Thiery passed away. Her service will be this Friday. Visitation at 10 a.m. and funeral at 11 a.m. We had a minute of silence to remember her and show respect for this longtime member of our church family.

3) Pam came forward to share information with the congregation from the Pastoral Relations Committee regarding the transition that is taking place as Pastor Brad heads off to serve at the Adventurous Christians ministry near Grand Marais.

Selecting a new pastor is not a quick process. It usually takes a minimum of six months. It is a tie of careful consideration and prayer as a church takes steps to move forward. The Conference will work to find an interim pastor, though this will also take a little time, most likely till August. The council will seek fill in people to preach until that time. A search committee will be formed to find a new pastor, working with the Conference.

4) Because the Shannons are leaving, an appeal went out to find a person who will step up to lead VBS.

FINAL ANNOUNCEMENT: Summer hours will begin next Sunday, Memorial Day weekend. Worship will begin at 9:30 a.m. next week and through the summer.

Darlene & Chuck ushered us into worship with a duet about God's peace and then we all sang four songs from the blue songbook. An offering was taken, and then we had a tie of prayer.

God's Desire for Community

Do you ever think about the fact that Jesus genuinely had friends?

Brad shared a story about a man who was trying to share Jesus with someone and the person replied, "You don't want to know me, you just want to get me saved."

Brad made the point that Jesus didn't treat everyone like a "project" he was working on.

Jesus invited the disciples to join Him, to form a community. His followers got called, shaped, formed and sent out. But it happened in an ordinary way with ordinary men who did an extraordinary thing. The had arguments, they had jealousies, but they also learned to love each other.

After He left this world, He said, "Wherever two or three of you are gathered in my name, I am there in the midst of them." It is a unique kind of community.

Brad shared the manner in which charcoal briquettes create heat together, but a briquette isolated from the fire will quickly lose its heat.

The question he asked that stumped him has to do with why community is so hard for us, even though we all enjoy community activities. So, what is it that

What we long for is authentic community, real community, life-giving true community.

Fake community, pseudo-community is one that focuses on being superficial in order to avoid conflict. Conflict avoidance is death.

So, how do we go from Fake Community to Real Community?

There is risk involved. Someone has to be courageous enough to ask hard questions. It's like going into a tunnel where you enter but don't know where it's going to come out on the other side.

Jesus modeled real relationship first by initiating it.  In Matthew 4 He invited the first disciples, starting a community. We have to do the same. We have to take the first step ourselves.

In real community you get challenged. This building was built through people who were in genuine relationship. They addressed issues, experienced both joy and exasperation.

The disciples had conflicts, including one time arguing about who was the greatest (of themselves.) Jesus caught them and turned it into a teachable moment. "Hey, guys. What are you talking about?"

Brad noted that another feature of community includes admonishing one another. But you can't do this when you don't know one another. "They won't care what you know till they know you care."

His last point had to do with being vulnerable. Brad said that what he found most amazing about Jesus was that although he was full God and fully man, He was so very vulnerable.

We live in a culture where image management is so important. But all it does is isolate us from other people.

When the Holy Spirit fell and the community of faith grew, it was not because of connections and money and PR. It grew because people saw this community where rich and poor, slave and free, male and female all participated in life together.

These kinds of communities are still changing the world today.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

One Foundation

A surprisingly chilly weekend here after setting new high temperature records just nine days ago. Nevertheless, with a blue sky and sunshine, all is right with the world.

Today's Bible Gateway verse is from Ecclesiastes: "As you do not know how the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything." Eccles. 11:5

Pastor Brad in white shirt and tie welcomed us and then shared that today's focus is on who God is God. But he got a bit choked up when he shared his feelings about his upcoming move to the next phase of Shannon's ministry. Brad will be leaving to become director of Adventurous Christians in the wilderness near Grand Marais. He wanted us to know "you are loved." He also briefly shared the process that will be coming as the church family seeks and prays for a new pastor.

Darlene transitioned us into worship with the classic hymn The Church's One Foundation. Then we sang it together, "The church's one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord." While the offering was being taken we were led in singing "Ten Thousand Reasons."

Today was Confirmation Sunday. One of the important things our church does is work with our youth. Noah Brewer, Caleb Carlson and Madie Heine were today confirmed, having begun the faith journey many of us have been on for a lifetime. They shared the Old Testament story by means of various gestures, sounds and actions, which was obviously a means of becoming familiar with a range key Biblical concepts in a light-hearted but serious way. They then made a public confession of their faith. After Brad shared Matthew 5:13-15 the church family affirmed its support.

One Foundation

In 1995 Brad ran a mission site in Mexico where kids would come in for ten day projects building shelters for homeless. For that summer Brad's theme was taken from I Corinthians 3: 10, "According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and another man is building upon it. Let each man take care how he builds upon it." Part of his work included laying a literal foundation for a church. Years later Brad had a chance to go back and see that this church which he had helped lay the foundation for was now completed by the many others who came after. It was a powerful illustration of the way God works, that we do our part and others complete the work.

In Acts 18 Paul went to Corinth and after he stayed quite some time he left for where God had next called him. After he left he learned that there were divisions in the church with some claiming to be followers of Paul and others of Apollos. Paul sent a letter scolding the Corinthians for having become divided in this manner. I Corinthians 3:6 states that Paul planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.

We each have different tasks assigned by God. God can pick us up and put us down wherever He wants. We become co-workers with each other and with God.

Keep in mind, we must each assume responsibility to be faithful servants wherever He calls us, and He will make our work flourish. In the end, all belongs to Him. The only sure foundation is Jesus Christ. When we do our part, we're partnering with those who came before us.

Brad shared how various times in his life were spent in various places, and those experiences each contributed to his spiritual development. The foundation for his life was laid when he prayed, "I believe, Lord help my unbelief," a verse he didn't even know was in the Bible. Many builders continued to build on that foundation in his life to help him grow.

During this next six weeks of transition, Brad urged us to keep our eyes on God. This is His church. If you are faithful to do your part, God will be faithful to do His part.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

A New Creation

"Good morning! It's great to be here." Pastor Brad welcomed us warmly, and shared his excitement for the various matters slated to take place today. Brad also reminded us that we who have chosen to follow Christ are ambassadors who represent Christ to the world.

Next week is Mother's Day. Men who can come next Saturday at 7:00 a.m. to prepare food for Sunday's Mother's Day breakfast, which will begin at 9:00 a.m.

Darlene ushered us into worship with a gentle and melodious medley. After a pair of songs from the blue songbook we took a moment for mission that involves a water project that the Covenant church is involved with. Ruth Anne's daughter Shannon shared about a project she is involved in.

Shannon shared that she has been working with a microbiology firm for many years. Here in America we take our water for granted. In many parts of the world there is limited water, and many places people have to walk to carry water back to their home many miles away. Even when water is accessible it is often unsafe. A Barefoot Mile Foundation has become involved in supplying water purifiers to help bring clean water to villages there. Shannon shared what an eye-opening experience this was to see the challenges other people have to deal with. The work she was involved with was in Malawi, a country in South Africa the size of Pennsylvania.

A New Creation

Today's message revolved around II Corinthians 5:17-20.

If you are a Christian, there is nothing regular about you. You are filled with the same spirit that raised Jesus from the dead. You have access to the throne of God. This is not regular.

If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. And all new creations have new purposes.

Some of us are new creations but don't know who we are. It would be like a butterfly that crawls on the ground because he doesn't know he was designed to fly.

Paul writes in this passage that you have been entrusted with the message of reconciliations. And in verse 20, he adds that we are Christ's ambassadors, as if God were making His appeal through you and me.

As Christians we need to know who we are. We're ambassadors. An ambassador is the highest ranking diplomat sent from one country to another. The same is true about us if we're followers of Christ. Heaven is our home, but we are in earth as His representatives.

Brad had two thoughts he wanted to share before today's communion.

1. Ambassadors are not elected. They are chosen.
Jesus said, "You didn't choose Me. I chose you." Jesus chose us and believes in us. Jesus said, "I appointed you to go and bear fruit."

The man who wrote the letter to the Corinthians was once a murderer of Christians. But God chose him and made him a new creation, a chosen instrument to bring the Good News to the Gentiles.

You are God's chosen instrument in your situation and circumstances, in this community. When you believe this it will change your life.

2. Ambassadors do not represent themselves. They represent the government who appointed them.

You are called to represent Christ and His agenda, not your own agenda. You represent Christ in everything you say and do. You carry Christ with you everywhere you go, and His authority.

You are appointed by God to carry His message of reconciliation. You can say with Paul, "I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I but Christ lives in me."

You are not just a stay-at-home mom or student. You are a new creation, and an ambassador of Christ.

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We then celebrated the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper.