Saturday, August 13, 2016

Final Worship at HVPC

Below is my final worship at Harbor View.  It is not normal for me to type out anything, much less the entire service, but since I did, I figured I'd post it here:

Prayer of the Day
This weekend here in Charleston we are reminded that God indeed welcomes all, so this morning we will begin a simple song, which can be found in our hymnal as Hymn 399 God welcomes all, but you may choose to join in the song with the repeating phrase as I lead or just listen for God, we will close the prayer with the words found in your bulletin. God of justice, your word is light and truth. Let your face shine on us to restore us,that we may walk in your way, seeking justice and doing good. Amen.

As many of you may know this is my last Sunday at HVPC, so our first hymn is one of my favourites, originally over 100 verses long, but we will just sing the 5 in our hymnal, Hymn 610 – O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing.

Our second hymn this morning is fitting in the midst of the Summer Olympics, a celebration of God's people and world: Hymn 340 – This is my song.

Call to Confession
Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely by confessing our sins before God and one another. Let us pray.

Prayer of Confession
For all the hard things we have said to one another
Forgive us, O God.
For all the things we should have said, but didn’t
Forgive us, O God.
For ignoring the lonely
Forgive us, O God.
For changing ourselves just to fit in
Forgive us, O God.
For going along with the crowd
Forgive us, O God.
For listening to those who didn’t have our best interest at heart
Forgive us, O God.
For asking you for worthless things
Forgive us, O God.
For wanting what we don’t need
Forgive us, O God.
For taking what we don’t want
Forgive us, O God.
For taking for granted all the good gifts you give us
Forgive us, O God.
For believing we are alone
Forgive us, O God.
Forgive us, God of Mercy, for not knowing what we do to you, to others, to ourselves. Speak to us through your words filled with tender mercy and gracious hope.

Silence is kept

Assurance of Pardon
This is the good news: God prepares a new way for us: a way to grace, to hope, to new life. Joyfully, we offer our thanks.  Amen

Our response is again a countered simple song, Hale Hale Hale, found as Hymn 591 in the hymnal. Again feel free to join in as you feel comfortable or just listen.

Passing of the Peace & Announcements
The peace of God’s grace is meant to be shared with all of God’s creation. Let us share this peace with our neighbors that we might rejoice in the new life in Christ our Shepard.

The Lord be with you
And also with you
Let us great one another with the peace of Christ

Prayer of Illumination
Judge eternal,
you love justice and hate oppression;
you give peace to those who seek it,
and you condemn the rage of violence.
Give us courage to take our stand
with all victims of bloodshed and greed,
and, following your servants and prophets,
look to Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. Amen.

Scripture - Jeremiah 23:23-28
Am I a God near by, says the Lord, and not a God far off? Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them? says the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? says the Lord. I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in my name, saying, “I have dreamed, I have dreamed!” How long? Will the hearts of the prophets ever turn back—those who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart? They plan to make my people forget my name by their dreams that they tell one another, just as their ancestors forgot my name for Baal. Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let the one who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? says the Lord.

The word of God
Thanks be to God

Blessing of Backpacks
Today, we have before us backpacks to be carried to and from school by those gathered here. These backpacks will contain work to be done, work that's been returned, books to be studied, tools to complete homework. Notebooks, pencils, pens, protractors, compasses, crayons, rules, scissors, glue sticks and other items used for school work will find their way in and out of these backpacks. Some days, so much stuff will fill these backpacks that the student may find it difficult to walk. Other days, they will be light and nearly empty. But on each and every day, these backpacks represent work required of the students gathered here. And, as in every aspect of our life, we bring these before God for blessing at this time.

Let us pray together:
God, bless these bags and each child who will use it. May they not be scared, be with them as they learn and grow this year. Show them how to serve you and others and help them as they teach us all about your love.

We also bless those of you who work in the schools, so if you work in any way with a school, please stand. Lord God, we ask your blessings on these who serve you in so many different ways. We pray that you would give them patience, wisdom, and a sense of humor. Use them to show your love and to grow with those around them in your grace.

Finally we bless all those who are part of the baptismal promises made in this community, so all stand: Each of us are called to support, encourage, and pray for those who are part of our community. We are all called to be teachers and learners alongside these children. We now bless you and remind you of your promises to support these children.

Let us pray. "Lord God, bless all the people you have gathered here today. Especially bless them as they support, protect, and encourage the children among us. May they, with the children, be both teachers and learners. In Christ's name we pray. Amen.


Sermon - Dreams and Reality

This is my last sermon here at Harbor View. Since I will not be preaching at my new call, it'll be my last sermon for a long time, and like the timing of my move, the text today is not one I would have chosen as it is far too often misinterpreted and misunderstood. This text speaks of God being against dreamers, and dreamers being against God.

Too often this text is used to argue that those who challenge us to do more, to think about creating God's world of Love and Justice, to open our doors and hearts wider, are working against God. But that interpretation misses the very thing that the text is trying to tell us. The dreamers in this text are not picturing what should be, or even what could be, but instead speak of going back to what was (that which is comfortable, and insular to their community) while using the fear of the unknown to control God's people (“don't look forward, remember how great it used to be!”). This echoes the song that was sung a few youth Sunday's ago “Painting Pictures of Egypt” which spoke of the idea of the hebrew people making the very idea of being slaves something rosey and better than following God in a hard time. These dreamers found others at fault and those listening were to get all they wanted. Like those dreamers, these were dreamers stuck in the past, trying to provide happy memories in place of real hope. These were dreamers telling you who to hate and how they would be cut down to size in the future.

We too often want these dreamers in our world today. Tell us who goes to heaven and who goes to hell. Tell us that the past when we felt powerful and comfortable on top of the world is how it should be. Tell us that if the world doesn't return to how it was, then others will get it, so they better get with us. Tell us . . . anything but what God's word says about prophets and what God plans.

Prophets – Tell us where WE'VE gone wrong, or tell us what WE need to change, or tell us about how WE will move forward, not in spite of, but because of the way the world is changing US.

God's Plans – Challenge US to act, Call US to broad new risks, Change US from our limited thinking of God's work and will.

So what about us today? Who are the dreamers, and who are the prophets? The dreamer will tell you that we've lost our way, but that we have the answers. The prophet will tell you that we have lost our way and WE need to change our actions. The dreamer will tell us that we go back to things and things will get better. The prophet will tell you that we are moving forward and that God is already ahead of us and here with us asking us to change and be changed. The dreamer will tell you who is in and who is out, who to fear and who is for you. The prophet will tell you who is out and tell you that you have to welcome them in.

That is the challenge this text leaves us with. To not listen to those wishing for what was, or providing false hope for how things could be again, or match what we know as comfortable. But to hear God's voice in those who are moving us into places uncomfortable, places where we have to face our anxiety. For that is what Jesus does to his followers time and again, make them face the things they don't think are possible and see God doing what God does regardless. So we have to listen to the prophet telling us who we aren't welcoming, listen to the prophet telling us to keep moving further from the center because God is already there, God is not sitting waiting, God is moving out, God is reaching out, God is pushing us out, to be open to whatever it is that will come. To be willing to be bent, to be flexed, to be stretched, and to KNOW we are still in God's hands regardless.

So as I leave HVPC, this is MY challenge to you. Welcome ALL. Risk ALL. Move into the uncomfortable. Seek the God who is Love and LOVE ALL. Love everyone with all you have. Think big and speak with God about what may yet to be. Keep moving towards that unknown, trust ALL you have to a God who love you, and you, and you and you and you and every single one of us created in God's image, even those who we have a hard time seeing God in, God loves him, God loves her. And we must do likewise, not in an effort to save them from something, but simply because we are called to love like God, and God is in each and every one of us. Love! Welcome! Go! Risk! LOVE! LOVE! LOVE! Create space for God, and God will create space for Us, but we must listen, and respond.

Musical Response
Our Response comes in the form or one more simple song, We will walk with God, Hymn 742, join the song or listen for God.


Prayers of the People and Lord’s Prayer
Creator God, you call us to love and serve you with body, mind, and spirit through loving your creation and our sisters and brothers. Open our hearts in compassion and receive our gifts, as well as these petitions spoken by our congregation on behalf of the needs of the church and the world.

Prayers of the People, concluding with:

Holy One, hear our prayers and make us faithful stewards of the fragile bounty of this earth
as we pray the prayer you taught your disciples to pray saying:
Our Father who art in heaven . . . Amen

Hymn 726
Our next hymn is one of my favourite new hymns, it is often known as the Summons as it is mostly written as a call from God, Hymn 726, Will You Come and Follow Me.

Following the Benediction, I ask that you join in singing stanzas 1&4? of Hymn 375, Shall We Gather at the River. This was the first song I ever sung in a church, and it is a reminder that while time and space may be put between us, nothing can separate us from the love of God and the community of Faith. Let us share in our Benediction together.
The cross, we will take it.
The bread, we will break it.
The pain, we will bear it.
The joy, we will share it.
The Gospel, we will live it.
The love, we will give it.
The light, we will cherish it.
The darkness, God shall perish it!
Go in Peace!

Response Hymn 375

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Sermon I Won't Get To Preach This Christmas Eve.

So it's almost 2am, and I've been sick, and my wife has a routine medical proceedure at 6am tomorrow that has required a day of misery for her, so of course I can't sleep and all I can think about is Christmas Eve and church, so over the past 10 min in an attempt to clear my head, I've typed up the "Sermon I Won't Get To Preach This Christmas Eve" (not that I want to preach, just a fact that there is no reason for me to write this sermon). And since it won't get preached, I thought I'd just share my thoughts this Christmas:

There has been a comic working it's way around this Advent, and between that, what my confirmands have written for a Christ Candle Litany and our Children's musical, there is a sermon that is preached time and again. The comic shows a modern day Mary and Joseph who have just arrived to find no room in the inn. That's simple enough for us to picture, but what's important about the comic is that this isn't the Ramada Inn where people have called ahead to reserve their rooms and where there will be a continental breakfast in the morning, no it is the highway hotel with the $250 a week sign, the worn down single story hotel with bars and bullet proof glass separating the night shift manager from the customers, the place not found on your phone app, where you wouldn't want to have to stop for a night even when it's the only choice available, except in this comic even it shows NO VACANCY on it's broken neon sign.

So here are Mary and Joseph looking much like those who you might think to find looking into such an establishment across the street at the former gas station that now is just a “convenience store,” a last oasis of questionable humanity. And outside here sits Joseph thumbing through a phone book, not a smart phone, or even trying to call for help, looking at a phone book, desperately seeking something, anything that will allow some sort of peace on this night. And there sits Mary, impregnate as can be in clothes not made for someone who is with child, but just what she had available. If we saw them today most of us would be more concerned for ourselves than for their safety. This is important to remember, that God did not just come to the common folk, but to those at great risk, those who are desperately outside the social norms. Those who are so far on the edges that we prefer not to think about them. But God doesn't care who we want to think about or about who we're comfortable being around, God is always around the outcast, the hurting, the homeless, the shunned, the degraded, the ones we call sinners, and all those who we view as lesser than ourselves.

That didn't start with Jesus, it just was made crystal clear when Emmanuel, God with Us, arrives in such a way that we can't deny it. It was true when God called the old man with no child in Abram, when God's people had no land and were slaves in Egypt, when they rebelled time and again and God did not disown them, but kept claiming them as God's own. And then there is Jesus. The one whose birth we celebrate tonight. Jesus who personifies those things we've talked about throughout Advent: Hope, Love, Joy, Peace.

Jesus, the bastard child born outside the dirtiest place in the city of David, is God with Us. The provider of Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace is nothing like who we expect. We take that so for granted now. We think of 33 year old Jesus who has performed miracles and shaken the world he was part of and we think we're the decedents of this God who came to earth and WON! The problem is, God with Us is only the example of what can be, and we are called to live into that holy night when Hope became flesh, Love took on our form, Joy was fully possible, and Peace began to be understandable. We are called to shake up a world full of comfort and full of stuff. Full of packages and things we think WE need. Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us doesn't come to give us some sort of prosperity gospel, no that good news isn't good at all. It's not enough to come out a winner, God with us means we have to work for so much more.

Our confirmands reminded us that we have to be the examples today of those attributes we assign to Jesus in this season. We must provide Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace for all, and that means living with Grace and Mercy. Grace for those who we may not agree with. Mercy for those struggling with things we may not understand. It doesn't matter what labels we want to give someone, all that matters is that we see them as created in the image of God, that we see others as God with Us. Our children's musical likewise reminds us that in a world where we often see things through a lens of what we want, that Christmas brings about a change in what is real. Never do we truly have no room, truly there is always “Room for everyone in Bethlehem this night.” That is the story of Christmas. There is room for all, hallelujah, amen.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Sermon Outline

I don't usually write down anything when I preach, but due to feeling sick today, I decided to have an outline if I needed it.  Since many have asked me for a copy of today's message here is that outline:

  • Mark 1:29-38
    • Typical Jesus Text
      • Heal
      • Care
      • Provide Hope
    • Unexpected
      • Doesn't stay still
      • Cares for insiders
      • Cares for who comes to him
      • Goes to Care for those who don't come
    • Church
      • Should be likewise, equal care for all, don't just stay inside.
      • Nice encouraging sermon done.
  • 2 Timothy 13-18
    • What is scriptrure good for?
      • Initial learning
      • Testing the logic
      • Improvement
      • Living
    • NOT “Bible Said It, I Believe It, That Settles It”,
      • Rather “learn from these examples, and find new ways to do new things in a similar way”
      • Scripture like Jesus shows us “ways” to be, not “how things are to be”
  • Example: Korah
    • Under taught story
    • The story ends with vindication for Moses
    • The point of the story isn't don't question, but HOW Moses responds
      • Risk, what if he is wrong
      • Hope, God will still be focused on the “creative benefit” of all things regardless
      • Moses doesn't KNOW he's in the right
        • Regardless of how much he believes it, he is willing to be shown wrong
        • Thus will accept the consequences if he is
        • He doesn't fear, because of HOPE, and thus can RISK
  • Back to Mark
    • What are we willing to risk to follow the way of Jesus?
    • Where are we being called to go, even though we may be doing well where we are?
    • Are we willing to step away from good work, hear the spirit call, and go into the unknown?
    • Do we see ourselves as a place, a people, and/or a movement? Are we being what we're being called to be?
    • What happens to Jesus if he doesn't do all the things he does here? What might happen to us?
  • The Big Question
    • The last question is based on a problem in this world: Fear and Blame have great power in the world.
      • Can, and more importantly WILL the church be a place where living out the ideas of living by HOPE through RISKing ourselves creates a different narative for the world where we truly GO an d CARE for ALL, just as we would those closest to us?
      • Let us let go of FEAR, in our spirits, language, and living so we can grasp HOPE.
    • For scripture tells us that HOPE in the God who is LOVE changes everything if we will RISK. AMEN.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

A Word on Roanoke and the Church

My newsletter article changed after talking with a couple of people affected by the events in Roanoke VA today. A word about being church. This is not the only words that need to be said right now about how to be counter-cultural (speaking about violence and how we carry it out should also be forefront, as well as how to help heal a world isolated and divided) but it is A word that God has given me to speak.

There have been other words in this space, but the events of this morning, August 26, have caused me to change the words to fit something that has hit home once again today.

 The world we live in often feels on the edge of chaos. Some events seem to make no sense, and we as a culture are often afraid that this chaos will one day affect us even more directly. Some people even feel so overwhelmed by this that they do things that seem to make no sense to us in attempts to feel in control themselves. This is core it seems to our culture, "I must gain control over the things that are important to me and protect them."

There is value in being smart and measured with the things that matter to you, but when it comes to being a community of faith, the people of God, a church there is a different call.  As I've talked with a few friends this morning who are ministers in the Roanoke, VA area, our conversations about the shock in their community and resources that may help to talking about the events here in Charleston back in June. All of these conversations have included some form of "I get the impression that they've truly forgiven and are moving forward and aren't changing the open door policy that allowed this to happen. I'm not sure we'd trust outsiders so much if it was us."

Interestingly though, a couple of the conversations moved to talking about a crossover point of these two horrible events and church life. What do we do inside the church that helps people see that trying to maintain power and control isn't getting us anywhere near God's intent for us? How do we present the alternative to "protect this house," "seize what's mine," "I/we have to win," etc?

The big question that hit time and again was "What does a community of people who feel they have nothing to protect, but just everything to give, really look like, and how do we help churches become that?" I've never been in a church where everyone was like that, and we pondered if it was possible or if human nature meant that the systemic issues would always just keep coming around and "people being people" would always keep us from ever realizing what it's like to truly be church doing what Jesus asks of us and what Acts says the first church did.

Since then I've been thinking and praying around Jesus' teachings in Luke 6:27-36 and Matthew 5:38-47. In this time, I came to ponder if really requires everyone to create what church is meant to be, or if part of the issue is that thought itself. What if we each tried to be a person who feels (s)he has nothing to protect, just everything to give? What if each of us lived out these teachings and let the chips fall where they may? What if like Abraham, we risked sacrificing everything we love to God, knowing God and trusting God to be Love and to provide perfectly? We may never do it always or perfectly, but what if we tried?

We claim to worship a God who's actions throughout our scripture are based in Manna and Mercy. Can we as the church be the place where those things live? Can we risk our own desires and our own place, so that the Spirit can move freely? Can we be what our culture is not, a place and a people who do not seek vengeance, who do not seek recognition, who do not seek power or control, but exemplify what it means to freely give as God asks?
We're all in this together

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Choice of Purpose

Okay, I admit it, I thought I was done with this subject a couple weeks ago, like most blog posts that make the rounds with my friends the various "Let/Don't Let Your Kids Choose To Not Go To Church" posts came in a bunch and then we'd move on to whatever else someone thought was killing the church.  But NO, another round of "Get your kids into Sunday worship" posts are showing up. 

So, I've made my points on choice previously, but my issue with these are that they tie into everything I'm struggling with regarding this whole "church survival" culture. There are lots of points where this culture goes astray, but this recent series of articles hits two main ones.  1) Church = Sunday Morning Worship (or at least that large corporate worship is central to the idea of Church).  2) The objective of Church is to survive, and that means indoctrinating kids into the culture so that (maybe, hopefully) they'll find it essential to their adult lives. 

So let's talk about this: The church built around a large corporate worship as the only, best, or even "right" way to do church is dying.  Not for every congregation or context, but as a whole it is.  This is NOT what church is or what church needs to be in the new paradigm.  Worship will happen, but it's quite probable that it will happen in smaller groups, or at special times of the year, or both, or connected to mission and other parts of "Church," or who knows exactly, it should based on the new paradigm be contextual, organic, and relational.  And to be quite honest, for most churches, large corporate worship is not, and quite probably can not be that sustainably. 

So why then is this the drum that so many beat when it comes to the ideal of "helping our children be Godly?"  Probably in large part because it's what they know.  For many, Sundays at church was the norm, but it also was rarely (and most of the posts I've seen state this) the only way faith, religion, and/or spirituality interacted with their life.  The problem is that having spent most of our life in the Postmodern Transition, we create a false duality and over emphasize the roles of institutions which support our "truth."  This is not where we are today, and certainly for kids who have spent most of their life in the new paradigm is actually completely illogical.  Not saying that all kids who go to a Sunday large service of worship will turn against it, but coming to that will NOT keep anyone involved in the church or with their faith by itself.

If anything, for those who have spent most their lives in this relational paradigm of convergence, the separation of the world at the "worship hour" is going to present large issues with finding purpose unless it is supported by a connection to the rest of the world around us.  At some time in the near future there will be a tipping point where this struggle to maintain and survive will be the very thing that brings about an inevitable ending.

It is though the fear of this ending that I think causes us to write so many of the posts, to spend so much time reflecting on how to survive. Yet, it seems too often rather than being willing to risk letting things that we've always known and make us feel safe and connected to our ideas of "God," we think that we just need to focus on making others think the same way we do.  This is especially risky (in my opinion, as if everything we right isn't based on our opinions) when it comes to our children.  I struggle a lot with parenting, the ideas we ask our children to accept just because we hold them close to ourselves aren't always ones we should impose on our kids.  I started struggling with this with sports.  So often I see babies dressed in school or team colours, told to cheer on "our team" just because it's "mom's team" or "dad's team."

The thing is we don't stop with sports (and even if we did, I'd have lots to say, but that's a different post), we basically tell our children for years who God is, what God thinks, and sometimes go as far as to turn God into the global boogie man without meaning to.  We want our kids to think like we do, and we do it to the point of indoctrination.  That's a problem, I see it time and again at confirmation age.  There are kids who have never asked questions, they come to church because they're told to, they answer questions with certainty because they've been told what the right answer is, but when faced with realities that conflict with these answers, they don't know how to doubt, they don't know HOW to make a CHOICE! 

We've created a world filled with anxiety because these children have never existed within a world where there was a "right" path to a "single" truth.  Their world is relational and every thing that happens adds to the book they are doodling in (see previous blog posts for more on this) creating new understandings.  But we want faith not to be in THAT book, we want faith to be already written.  We want them to memorize the text book and never deviate from or question it. 

Have you looked at a GOOD children's educational book recently?  Many have more questions than answers.  Most new one's I've seen aim to put kids into the world their studying and then leave them room to go find more about the questions that matter to them.  We just finished our first youth literary circle here, they read the BFG by Dahl and they had so many different thoughts on the BIG stuff (Fear, Hope, Pain, Life, Ethics) that came from the reading it was hard to keep track of who asked what and who answered what and what all that lead to. 

We cannot indoctrinate our kids and expect them to survive in a world where the constant stream of information means that their reality is ALWAYS changing.  They need room to figure it out.  The things church provides are useful and important in that formation, but the idea that the other things of life are somehow less important, or even unequivocally less Godly than that Sunday morning thing is very misplaced.

So let's sum this up before the few people who have made it this far move on:
Going to church as a kid WILL NOT mean that they'll come to church as an adult.  This NEVER should have been our intent. I've seen in a number of posts the idea that when we have kids, people come back to church.  There were once statistics to support this, but that was mostly part of a modern way of thinking that became paramount in the postmodern transition to the idea that our truth was a truth based on a singular path.  The fact though is: if we're not going to be the kind of place that an individual thinks is important to THEIR OWN LIFE at any certain time, there was never anywhere to go but down, because as we are more able to see the complexities of the world, we look for places to engage our passions, and those places and people become most important.  The church CAN be that place, but we have to make it that place.  We have to let go of the idea that getting people in the door is our purpose, we have to let go of the things that make us comfortable, we have to stop trying to survive and become whatever it is our context needs most.  If we allow ourselves to be moved by the Spirit that envelops all things, WE will find our passions, our children can find their passions, and God's reign will move ever closer. 

<End Rant>

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Trinity Sunday Sermon

Nicodemus has a question for Jesus, one he never gets to ask, but the setup suggests a common theme:
The question is likely something like “Who are you really, Jesus?” or “What's going on here, Jesus?”
Regardless of the question that never get's asked, Jesus obviously wants Nicky to think, not to just give him an answer that he can agree or disagree with. I think that's true most of the time we come to God with “big” questions, we don't get an answer, but rather new challenges and questions that make us think, work, create, and move from where we're comfortable.

Today is trinity Sunday, and while we see the words, Jesus, Spirit, and God in today's text, the idea of trinity isn't as simple as seeing the words and believing these three beings, who are also a single being are sitting around a table talking about life like on our bulletin cover.

A discussion of the trinity is best done in a similar way to our text this morning. A look at what we know, what connections are to be made, and most importantly how that affects us going forward.

The base question behind the trinity is “Who is God, really?” or “What is going on here, God?” We ask these questions hoping to understand the world and our place in it, hoping to be let in the mystery that seems beyond our understanding. At the end of the day the trinity is a mystery, but searching for information and understanding is obviously part of this walk of faith, even if certainty never can be.

So where to start: The best place to start is the Abrahamic understanding of God as ONE, we cannot be faithful to the God we claim to follow if we do not understand God as a singular entity. With that in mind, we have to seek what is most universal about God. The one expression we have that seems most universal is:

God is Love.
God is Love, we see lots of meanings behind this, God provides, God saves, God seeks Justice, God is I AM, God is filled with Mercy, God provides Manna, God is Love. Love, another of those words that we think we understand, but time and again we can't seem to fully express love. We build beautiful monuments, both physical and in our lives, we sing and study with all we have, we through all our emotions into what we believe, but just like in scripture, the monuments fall, the songs and learning are for naught as God calls us to actions, and the emotions change as God calls us to Grace, Justice, Manna, Mercy time and again, challenging us to move further towards our intended image of Love. We always seek to live in the Image of Love, yet we fall short time and again of our created intent.

Jesus Is The Word.
The Word is Love fully expressed.
God on earth can only be one thing, Love expressed in human form. The Word of God brings all things into being, and this same word walked a human life in the form of Jesus. The Word is the stuff that we're all made up of. When we are made in the image of God, we're also told we can move mountains, we can create, we can walk the life of The Word. We often get caught up in what we think scripture says, and pick and choose what we want to use within this book, but when we speak of The Word of God, we need to remember that it is not words on paper, but the life of Jesus, and the eternalness of that life continuing to interpret scripture, life, and all of creation just as The Word did when it created every part of existence, and created us in that very same image. The Word is always creating, recreating, and living within each and every one of us, seeking universal reconciliation that will resurrect God's reign, as it conquers even death.

The Spirit Is The Wind of Wisdom.
The Spirit is Love moving throughout all things. The spirit may have landed on the church at Pentecost, but The Spirit has always been here. The spirit blows through the world enveloping all things, changing them like the wind. Jesus has some great wordplay in our text today, as the word for spirit and wind are one and the same. Yet, it is fitting to compare the two, because the wind cools us on a hot summer day, but it can also move trees, bridges, and even mountains. When we talk about faith, we really are speaking about listening to and discerning what the spirit is doing and joining in that. That's why we are able to move mountains, because they are going to be moved, we just get to join in. This means though that we don't get to choose which mountains move, or where they move to, the Spirit is doing that, because the spirit isn't a single flame on my head giving me wisdom, but it is spread out among all of creation, enveloping ALL parts, and filling the world with Love irresistible.

We often speak of the relational nature of God, how these three parts relate with each other and how that means we're also relational by nature. Humans, always seeking to escape aloneness because we were created to be relational in the image of a relational God. Yet, when we see God as ONE, it goes deeper than that. We are created in the image of LOVE, Love that creates ALL, provides for ALL, connects ALL, gives ALL, reconciles ALL, and moves ALL.

We must always remember, that no one sees God except in expressions of love, that to be born of the spirit is to be born of this love, and love, and thus life, is made up of Grace and Justice, Manna and Mercy, the universals of God's reign. We must though also always remember that no matter how much we know, how much we remember, how much we learn, that God is always there challenging us to move beyond our selves, beyond our understanding, and into the newness of Love, continually being born again via the spirit that is always changing the creation of LOVE.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Simple Comissioning Liturgy

The call of Christ is to a willing, dedicated apostleship. Our apostleship is a manifestation of the new life we enter through baptism as we travel through the world. It is both a gift and commitment, as well as an offering and a responsibility. Today Alex Gilbert comes before us, as she begins her role as intern at the CROSS ministry of Myers Park Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, NC. At this time I invite Gail Gilbert and Brooke Bazemore forward to join me in commissioning Alex.

Alex, we commission you, representing your family, your friends, and your church:

We send you with the knowledge, the grace bestowed on you in Baptism is sufficient for your calling because it is God’s grace. By God’s grace we are saved and enabled to grow in the faith and to commit our lives in ways that serve Christ. God has called you to particular service. Show your purpose by answering these questions.

Will you be Christ’s faithful disciple, showing his love in word and action?
I will
Do you welcome the responsibility of this service, To love neighbors, And to work for the reconciling of the world?
I do
Will you serve the people with energy, intelligence, imagination, and love,
Relying on God’s mercy and rejoicing in the power Of the Holy Spirit?
I will
Do we, the congregation of Harbor View Presbyterian, confirm the call of God to our sister to this service?
We do
Will we support and encourage her in this ministry?
We will
We send you not away from us, but as part of us, loved by family, friends, and faith. We send you with prayers, with promises to be here as you need us, with our blessing. Go forth and do that which God has called you to do. Amen.