Thy Kingdom Come

July 28th, 2017 by

 In the “Lord’s Prayer” we ask for the “Kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven.”  In my study this week I found an interesting reflection on the 5 sets of parables in Matthew 13 and the petition for the coming of the Kingdom.

 

  1. What are we asking for in seeking His Kingdom to come?

      “The 5 sets of Kingdom parables have taught us at least this:

 

Your WORD come (the Sower, with understanding faith)

 

Your WAY come (the Wheat in the Weeds, with nonviolent love)

 

Your WORK come (the Seeds, with confident hope that Jesus’ “little” work will one day prove immense.)

 

Your WONDER come (the Gems, with the joy of grace and the abandon of obedience.)

 

Your WARNING come (the Net, with the seriousness of repentance.)

 

  1. To pray “Thy Kingdom Come,” then, is to pray that the gospel may be under-stood, lived out, hoped for, “bought up,” and taken seriously.”*

*Matthew, A Commentary – Volume 2: The Churchbook p.56, by Frederick Dale Bruner

 

In Matthew 6.33, Jesus said that the Kingdom of God should be our number one priority.  We are to seek it first above all else and then everything else will be added.  Right after I came to the Lord I discovered this verse.  And since I had done work in ‘values clarification’ this jumped out at me as Jesus’ number one priority for him and for us, and I began exploring the whole theme of the Kingdom of God.  I am excited to share some of my explorations this Sunday.

 

Blessings to you all!

Carl

Friday Epistle for July 14, 2017 – Confirmation

July 14th, 2017 by

WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT CONFIRMATION?

 

Q WHEN DID IT FIRST BEGIN?

n  With the Apostles

n  With Constantine

n  With the Reformation

Q WHAT IS THE FOCUS OF THE RITE?

n  Adult dedication

n  Sealing of the Holy Spirit

n  A personal statement about baptism

Q WHY DO WE DO IT?

n  To get members

n  Jesus said to

n  To complete baptism

Q WHAT IS ANOTHER NAME FOR CONFIRMATION?

n  Adult baptism

n  Sealing

n  Anointing

Q WHAT DO WE PRAY FOR THOSE TO BE CONFIRMED?

n  To be strengthened

n  To be empowered

n  To be sustained

 

 

SOME NOTES ON CONFIRMATION

Confirmation fits in so closely with our Lord’s teaching and was so clearly the practice of the Apostolic Church that it has been widely understood to be one of “the things pertaining to the kingdom of God” which He discussed with the Apostles just before his ascension.

Acts 1:3 After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.

 

Soon after the church began its work, St. Philip the deacon went to preach the Gospel in Samaria. He made converts and baptized them.  But that was not enough, the Laying-on-of-Hands followed the baptism, but Philip, as a deacon, was not qualified to do this. So he sent to Jerusalem for St. Peter and St. John, who were Apostles, and they laid hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.

Acts 8:17 Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

 

Later St. Paul was preaching in Ephesus. He also made converts, who had previously known only the teaching of St. John the Baptist. St. Paul baptized them but that was not enough.

Acts 19:6 When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.

 

This became common practice in the Apostolic Church. The author of Hebrews includes it is one of the 6 fundamental practices:

Heb. 6:1   Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.

 

Shortly after the Apostolic age this rite is found to be a regular feature in the churches work. Tertullian, who was born about 150 A.D., writing of Baptism, adds: “Next to this the hand is laid upon us, calling upon and invoking the Holy Ghost through the blessing.”

 

St. Cyprian, who was born about 200 A.D.  says, “They who have been baptized

in the  church are brought to the Bishops of the church, and by prayer and the laying on of hands they obtain the Holy Ghost and are consummated with the seal of the Lord.”

 

             Until the fourth century Confirmation was called the seal or anointing.  St. Augustine of Hippo is the first one to use the title Confirmation, which came to be generally accepted in the west, but in the east it has continued to be known as the seal or the anointing to present day.

 

Notice the words from the service in our Prayer Book for Confirmation this Sunday.

 

Almighty God, we thank you that by the death and resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ you have overcome sin and brought us to yourself, and that by the sealing of your Holy Spirit you have bound us to your service.  Renew in this your servant the covenant you have made with them at their Baptism.  Send them forth in the power of that Spirit to perform the service you set before them; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

 

            Confirmation is the completion of baptism. By baptism one is admitted into the Kingdom of God in confirmation; in confirmation one receives spiritual strengthening and spiritual gifts are conveyed, all to live a Christian life empowered by the Holy Spirit within God’s kingdom.

 

It is important to note that we do not confirm ourselves. We are confirmed.

 

            So in summary, Confirmation comes to us as an Apostolic rite administered by the Bishops of the church, grounded in the Holy Scriptures and the steady practice of the church, a sacramental means of receiving spiritual strengthening.

 

Again, from the Prayer Book liturgy where the bishop lays his hands on the person:

Strengthen, O Lord, your servant Christine Faith Subrahmanyam with your Holy Spirit; empower her for your service; and sustain her all the days of her life.  Amen.

Let’s pray for Christine and for our own strengthening, empowering, and being sustained by the Holy Spirit!

 

Blessings,

 

Carl

Friday Epistle for June 23, 2017

June 24th, 2017 by

“So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

Matthew 10:26-31 NIV

 

Jesus is giving this charge to 12 of his closest friends, who he calls apostles, as he is sending them out to proclaim His Kingdom. There is so much that can be said on the words surrounding this passage, but it seems like through it he is telling them that this journey will not be easy. This makes these words in the middle even more important ones.  We are all too often reminded of how scary this world is. Whatever media you choose – Facebook, Twitter, watching the morning news, reading the newspaper, or talking to friends and family – the reminder is typically front and center.

 

How would we choose to live differently if we saw this news as a reality check, instead of a reason to seclude ourselves from the world? I’m talking about being acutely aware of what’s going on all around us because we believe that we serve a living God. A God who is working all around us. A God who empowers us and sends us out to work alongside Him as light in the darkness. A God who says, “So do not be afraid…”.

 

I see and hear about so many of us doing just this and am continually encouraged – figuring out where God is already at work and finding a way to enter into this work with Him. Where have you seen Him piercing the darkness with light recently? Who are your neighbors, your co-workers, your families, your friends at the community pool, your coffee shop friends, the cashier at the grocery store? What gives their life meaning? How has Christ met this need for you?

 

Jesus empowers his disciples here as he shares with them what they will experience as they go on this journey. In His kindness, He makes sure that they hear the words, “So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” And then, He gives them His power and sends them out.

 

This is why we have set up book clubs and movie clubs this summer, and why one of the 9:00 am Sunday School topics is on mentoring. This is why we went to Costa Rica, and are supporting Mission Interact. This is why we are hosting a summer intensive study on Jesus’ parables and inviting kids and volunteer leaders to VBS. This is why we continue to hold Closer and the Men’s Breakfast. Some of these opportunities are more being sent than being empowered, and others are more being empowered than being sent. They are all connected to one another.

 

This Sunday I’ll be talking about what it looks like for us to be sent out in Christ’s power to make Him known, just as He did with these disciples. I hope to see you there.

 

 

Erica

A Most Unusual Father’s Day

June 17th, 2017 by

Dear Friends at New Covenant,

 

Sunday morning I plan to continue to look at the close of St. Matthew’s Gospel, the Great Commission, and we will also, most appropriately, hear from our missionary team, which has returned from Costa Rica.

 

I ended last Sunday with the story about a trip from Kigali, Rwanda, to Brussels, Belgium, about an 8 to 9 hour leg. In case you missed it, (and the sermon is on the web site) I decided to tell it again.

 

Whether this story has an inherent point or not, I do not know. However, as I have reflected on it over the past year, I have found a helpful point and perhaps you will as well.

The Late Night Flight from Kigali

As we got ready to board the late night flight in Kigali, I noticed that my seat assignment was not what my paperwork had indicated. I was supposed to be in row 16, and instead was in 19.  You wouldn’t think it would matter.  When I inquired about it, I was told both were aisle seats and so it didn’t matter.  Well, it did matter.

 

Once on the plane I found that I was in a row of four seats which were covered over with two sleeping young boys, about the ages of three and five, I guessed, draped over their well snuggled mother. I apologized for making one of her little boys move, as they must have been tired, it being so late, and then she informed me that in addition to the late hour they were not feeling well.  I assured her that I would move, most gladly, and give her the space as soon as the entry door was closed.

 

I looked ahead at my traveling companions. Fr. Christopher was the only one in a row of four seats just three rows ahead of me. And Earl, who had been teaching in Tanzania, had an empty seat next to him in a row of two, and had two seats empty behind him. So there were plenty of empty seats just ahead.

 

As soon as the door closed I moved up and took an empty seat — but not for long.  About 60 seconds was my guess, not even time to fasten a seat belt.  I was immediately and most abruptly bounced.

I asked, “Why?”

“This is ‘coach comfort'” I was informed.

“I paid for coach comfort,” I said.

“Show me,” and the flight attendant asked to see my boarding pass, which as you recall, had the incorrect seat number on it. I went to find my original paperwork and realized I had left it when trying to explain the wrong seating assignment to the person in the airport.  I then presented the flight attendant the situation:  There’s a pooped mom with two exhausted and sick little boys. She needs the space.  And here are a whole bunch of empty seats. The flight attendant was not moved, nor was I.

 

I returned to my seat and assured this tired mother I’d find another seat as soon as we were airborne. I walked the entire plane only to find that there was no room in the inn.

 

When I returned I explained to my traveling companion, whose English was minimal, but far better then my Swahili, that I had seven grandchildren and really love kids, even sick ones, and that I would keep the arm rest up and they could take all the room they needed.

 

Of course, the thoughts in my head were certainly not so gracious or gentle. “This is unfair!” “It’s an injustice.” “And especially since I paid for coach comfort.”  (I hate to add here, and perhaps you have thought of this already, that had I had my wits about me, I had my original reservations on my phone. Alas…) I was fuming, as you have probably guessed, and I didn’t know how I would fare were I to ask our Lord why this was so unfair?  It did occur to me that it would be good to change my heart and my attitude as I still had better than eight hours to sit there.  This was a long leg, and not being in coach comfort, had no leg space to spare.

 

I did ask the Lord for help, and I’m pretty sure He gave it, as it was a relatively peaceful ride with an occasional five-year-old’s arm flaring up into my face and waking me from the movie I had dozed off on.  I really do love kids, even ones coughing and sneezing asleep on my lap.

 

Once in Brussels the three of us, feeling much like the Tin Man, Scarecrow, and Lion, I suspect, were moving along silently with blank stares, riding an interminably long moving sidewalk toward our connection, we hoped.

 

As we neared the end I heard footsteps running up behind me. It was a young boy, about seven years old I guessed, and as he passed me at the end of the moving sidewalk his shoelace got caught in the disappearing metal walkway. (My son Peter has since shared images of some gruesome injuries he has seen from similar accidents.  Like the skin being peeled off the bottom of a foot.)

 

Without thinking, because that wasn’t an option at this time, I scooped him up with my left hand, holding my bag in my right, and while straddling the walkway, I wanted to reach down and pull off his sneaker but instead seeing Earl and Christopher had turned around, I said, “Earl snap the lace!”  Like a practiced ninja warrior, with one swift swoop, Earl slashed the tie and set him free!

 

His mother, coming now full speed ahead up the walkway, was now this young man’s bigger problem.  He ran off with her on his heels.  The lady behind us, however, stood appropriately amazed, as did we.  What just happened here?

 

So here’s the lesson I have gotten from this one time, most heroic, act in my life.

 

One commentator I have been reading on Matthew’s gospel says that the way Matthew is using disciple and discipling here, is that of being with someone, caring and listening.  Waiting patiently for an opportunity to share the gospel — coming alongside, being present, living into the sacrament of the present moment.

 

I have wondered since this most wonderful Father’s Day a year ago, if it wasn’t just being there with those I traveled with – that did something deep inside of me that allowed me to respond in a moment that I was least expecting or prepared for, that seemed to have been helped from above?

 

For me it’s a feasible take-away from the story.  Be with those you find yourself with.  Get out of yourself and be there for them.  And perhaps God will change something and prepare you for what’s coming up from behind you.

 

I still wonder where his father was.  His heavenly Father was obviously watching out for him.  That is good. Amen.

 

Thanks for listening, and Blessings to you all this Father’s Day,

 

Friday Epistle – Trinity Sunday

June 9th, 2017 by
Dear Friends at New Covenant,
This Sunday is Trinity Sunday in our liturgical year and I have borrowed some bits and pieces on the Trinity from Matt Slick who is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry — carm.org.
Come Sunday, you won’t believe what St. Augustine said about the Trinity.
But first:
From the Sunday lessons:
What Jesus said:
Matthew 28:19, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”
What Paul Said:
2 Corinthians 13:14, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.”
What the Old Testament Says:
Genesis 1:26, “Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
“Never was there a more deceptive doctrine advanced than that of the trinity. It could have originated only in one mind, and that the mind of Satan the Devil.”Reconciliation, 1928, p. 101.
“The trinity is three separate Gods: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. “That these three are separate individuals, physically distinct from each other, is demonstrated by the accepted records of divine dealings with man,” (Articles of Faith, by James Talmage, p. 35).
What Christianity teaches about the Trinity
The word “trinity” is a term used to denote the Christian doctrine that God exists as a unity of three distinct persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Each of the persons is distinct from the other yet identical in essence.  In other words, each is fully divine innature, but each is not the totality of the other persons of the Trinity.  Each has a will, loves, and says “I” and “You” when speaking.  The Father is not the same person as the Son, who is not the same person as the Holy Spirit, and who is not the same person as the Father.  Each is divine, yet there are not three gods but one God. There are three individual subsistences or persons.  The word “subsistence” means something that has a real existence.  The word “person” denotes individuality and self-awareness.  The Trinity is three of these though the latter term has become the dominant one used to describe the individual aspects of God known as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Included in the doctrine of the Trinity is a strict monotheism which is the teaching that there exists in all the universe a single being known as God who is self-existent and unchangeable (Isaiah 43:10; 44:6, 8).  Therefore, it is important to note that the doctrine of the trinity is not polytheistic as some of its critics proclaim.  Trinitarianism is monotheistic by definition, and those who claim it is polytheistic demonstrate a lack of understanding of what it really is.
Is the Trinity confusing?
Another important point about the Trinity is that it can be a difficult concept to grasp, but this does not necessitate an argument against its validity. On the contrary, the fact that it is difficult is an argument for its truth.  The Bible is the self-revelation of an infinite God.  Therefore, we are bound to encounter concepts, which are difficult to understand–especially when dealing with an incomprehensible God who exists in all places at all times. So, when we view descriptions and attributes of God manifested in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, we discover that a completely comprehensible and understandable explanation of God’s essence and nature is not possible.  What we have done, however, is derive from the Scripture the truths that we can grasp and combine them into the doctrine we call The Trinity.  The Trinity is, to a large extent, a mystery. After all, we are dealing with God Himself.
Blessings to you all!

Pentecost – Friday Epistle June 2, 2017

June 3rd, 2017 by

“We have the right, the duty, and the joy to say that Pentecost goes on.” Pope John Paul II

This Sunday, we celebrate the Feast of Pentecost, and annual remembrance and invitation to experience the promised arrival of God’s Holy Spirit upon the Church.

 

Pentecost was the answer given to Jesus’ friends who asked about the final arrival of God’s kingdom after the Resurrection. They would be witnesses in expanding regions, realms, and races when they received the Holy Spirit and were empowered by Him.

 

There is wonderful mystery here as we witness the ministry of Jesus, the Father, and the Spirit cooperating, deferring, and sharing in ministry to the disciples of Jesus.  Between the upper room in Acts 2 and the earlier out-breathing of the Holy Spirit in John 20 to Jesus’ overlapping instruction with the Holy Spirit during the days until the Ascension. (Acts 1.2bff) “…Jesus began to do and to teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen.”

 

Pentecost is history that reverberates not only with memory but with life. We see that in two ways this weekend.

 

First, our Costa Rica Mission team left this morning to serve and share the good news in the jungle of Costa Rica.  As we pray for them each day and on Sunday, we remember that this is an instance of what Jesus had in mind when he described the coming of the Holy Spirit.

 

Second, we will celebrate the ministry of Deacon Barbara Kuhn this Sunday. The ascended Jesus gave many gifts to His church, and by the Holy Spirit raises up servants and ministers and teachers. Come hear Dcn. Barbara preach at 8 and join us at 9am in the Parish hall for a reception and opportunity to share your gratitude and thanks for her ministry here at New Covenant .

 

At 10 o’clock, we will look at three ways the Holy Spirit’s ministry reshapes our experience and understanding of life with Jesus day by day. Jesus’ ministry would have ended without Pentecost. Our ministry in His name would suffer the same fate.

 

But, that’s why there is Feast on Sunday. Because Jesus’ ministry did not end, and our is empowered to continue forward.

 

St Augustine preached that the work of Pentecost was one of growth, not displacement. Quoting from the Great Commission, he begins

“And that penance and remission of sins should be preached. in his name unto all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” It began at Jerusalem, and it has reached unto us. It is there, and it is here. For it did not cease there to come to us. It has grown forth not changed places.

 

I learned when I arrived at New Covenant that Pentecost Sunday was a day for wearing red. What a great custom that is. As you prepare for worship on Sunday, lets pray this prayer we first prayed last week.

O God, the King of glory, you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven: Do not leave us comfortless, but send us your Holy Spirit to strengthen us, and exalt us to that place where our Savior Christ has gone before; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

 

See you Sunday,

Christopher+

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Memorial Day and Current Warefare Let Us Pray! & Let Him Pray! Friday Epistle 05.28.17

May 28th, 2017 by

Years ago, in the early 70’s, Dean Builter, a good friend and neighbor from Junior high through college, held up his right hand right in front of my face.  One finger wouldn’t stand up like the others.  He said, “I stuck up my hand up to signal my platoon to advance, and a bullet went straight through it, right there,” as he pointed to the wound.

It was his ticket home from the Vietnam War.  A number of our friends didn’t come home.

 

It is good, and quite overwhelming; to remember and give thanks for those who gave their lives for our country.  (I have included a paragraph on Memorial Day, and a numeric list of those killed in combat in the top 10 wars we have been involved in.)

A couple times a year I get to travel to other countries and it’s on those visits that I often realize just how blessed we are.  For example, written on my visa to The Republic of India it says, “Not valid for missionary work.”

A greater loss than that of a life, is the loss of a soul. Jesus had some things to say about this:

n  Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Matt. 10:28

n  What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? Matt. 16:26

In Jesus’ prayer for us in Sunday’s gospel reading he prays that our souls will be protected:

n  I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name-the name you gave me-so that they may be one as we are one.John 17:11

n  My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.John 17:15

Like it or not, believe it or not, there is a fierce war going on both externally and internally for our souls:

n  Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. 1Pet. 2:11

One of the fastest growing religions today is that of Secularism.  Bishop C. Fitzsimons Allison has written about this in his book, TRUTH IN AN AGE OF ARROGANCE.  But basically the religion of Secularism says; believe what you like, whatever works for you, all roads lead to heaven.  It can be far more subtle than that at diminishing the truths of the Christian Faith.  But as the author of the BENEDICT OPTION, Rod Dreher, points out and calls it — “a mushy pseudoreligion the researchers have deemed, Moralistic Therapeutic Deism,” —  is hollowing out the faith of many of our churches.

So here’s my quandary.  How do I pray for my grandchildren and their children after them?  How do we pray in such a way that saving faith is passed on?  That they will be protected?

One piece of the answer I believe is to let Him pray.

n  Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died-more than that, who was raised to life-is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.Rom. 8:34

n  Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.Heb. 7:25

Someone shared of simply praying Jesus’ prayer in John 17 until it became their own and just how transforming that was.

We can let him pray in two ways:  One is to embrace the truth that he is praying for you, your children, and your children’s children; and two, is to let His prayer come alive inside you.  After all, that is where the battle is waged.

And what’s more! The Holy Spirit is at work in prayer as well.

 

n  In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. Rom. 8:26

 

Let Him pray, and let us pray!  Amen.

 

 

 

Memorial Day

Memorial Day is a federal holiday in the United States for remembering the people who died while serving in the country’s armed forces. The holiday, which is currently observed every year on the last Monday of May, originated as Decoration Day after the American Civil War in 1868, when the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Union veterans founded in Decatur, Illinois, established it as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the Union war dead with flowers. By the 20th century, competing Union and Confederate holiday traditions, celebrated on different days, had merged, and Memorial Day eventually extended to honor all Americans who died while in the military service. It marks the start of the unofficial summer vacation season, while Labor Day marks its end.

Friday Epistle for May 12, 2017

May 13th, 2017 by

Greetings to you all,

The picture is from this past Wednesday, May 10th, at The Abbey at Pawley’s Island, SC.

 

 

At the head of the table is Bishop Fitzsimmons Allison, formerly the Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina and prior to that professor at Sewanee, The University of the South, and then Virginia Seminary. To his right is Archbishop Kolini. To his left is Bishop Sospeter and Bishop Aaron from Tanzania. Not seen in the picture are Bishop Edmond from Ghana, Bishop William from the DRC, Bishop Gerry Schnackenberg from Colorado, and me. Bishop Fitz is lecturing to us on the religion of secularism and illustrating why it is such a weak but insidious religion.

 

During the discussion time I asked him about a new book entitled The Benedict Option. My question was, is MTD (see below) how the religion of secularism has been creeping into the Christian faith and hollowing out our churches?

 

We live in a world where those who consider themselves religious, and a lot of, those who call themselves Christians, and even their churches, are now following  “a mushy pseudoreligion the researchers have deemed, Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.  MTD has 5 basic tenets:

 

1   A God exists who created and orders the world and watches over human life on earth period.

2   God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.

3   The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.

4   God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when he is needed to resolve a problem.

5   Good people go to heaven when they die.”

 

Taken from: THE BENEDICT CODE by Rod Dreher.

 

You might ask yourself, “What’s wrong with this?”

 

 

AND HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!

 

Where Moms Fall Short: The Club of the Velveteen Moms

 

Please be praying as tomorrow is Kevin Donlon’s consecration as Bishop. I look forward to seeing you all on Sunday!

Friday Epistle for May 5, 2017

May 5th, 2017 by

Many congratulations to Bishop Carl this week as he celebrates the second anniversary (May 2) of

his consecration as Bishop Emissary of the Diocese of Boga in the DRC. This picture is from the service at St. Luke’s that Saturday morning.

 

Nothing would ever change the joy of Easter, even though everything would change. Jesus’ friends gathered around him in celebration and connection during the amazing days following Easter. And he intentionally prepared them for what would follow.

 

In his early ministry, Jesus had gathered a few disciples, some thankful crowds, and some interested onlookers as he taught and healed and cared. At the time of his death, his crowds had melted away or turned against him and there were precious few who remained loyal to him.

 

In grief and regret, some of these fickle disciples gathered together and were overjoyed by the Easter miracle of Jesus’ resurrection and appearance to them. In these appearances to individuals, groups and crowds, Jesus began reassembling his community, restoring and repairing to wholeness.

 

This week’s readings give us a glimpse into the teaching Jesus gave (before his death) that displays (though initially not comprehended) the painstaking work he would do to gather and care for his flock.

 

Why would this be an issue for Easter readers like us?

 

Because the flock of Jesus keeps growing. From the solitary eyewitness and joyful pairs of Easter morning to the dozen-ish on Easter evening, to the 120 in the Upper Room, the 500 in the crowd of witnesses to the 3000 who gathered after baptism to follow the Risen Christ,

 

Jesus anticipates that his flock will expand and grow. And it does. And it will.

 

So, Jesus gives his friends guidance ahead of time to confidently care for his unwieldy flock afterwards.

 

We see this theme develop across the readings.

 

Psalm 23 and John 10 give us the vision of the Good Shepherd, while Acts 2 and 1 Peter give us a glimpse of how the disciples of Jesus carry on his ministry with those who have come to trust in the Risen Christ.

 

In preparation for Sunday, I challenge you to do two things.

 

One– Think of people whose voice you recognize just by its sound. Not only James Earl Jones, but a person whose cadence and tone you immediately know. Here is a video of sheep and their shepherd showing the idea.

 

 

Two– Memorize Psalm 23. If you already have, pick your favorite line. If you never have, start at the beginning and work your way down. You can find it in your Prayer Book on page 612 (traditional language on page 476-477) We will say it together on Sunday, and yes, we will depend on one another to make it through.  Here are a couple arrangements of Psalm 23 I have enjoyed this week.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=283&v=Au3otElq6D4

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OoojA0cLPWY

 

I’d love to hear who you can hear so distinctly.  Share the names of voices you recognize and other songs that remind you of the Good Shepherd by emailing them to me at christopher@new-covenant-church.com

See you Sunday,

Christopher+

 

Psalm 23 

A psalm of David

1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2  He makes me lie down in green pastures,

he leads me beside quiet waters,

     he refreshes my soul.

3 He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
forever.

 

Friday Epistle – April 28, 2017

April 28th, 2017 by

Dear Friends,

Towards the end of the gospel reading from Luke 24 for Sunday we hear our travelers reflect,

 “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” v.32

What will set our hearts on fire again for our Lord Jesus or as someone put it, how to share “a common enthusiasm for the raw relevance of Jesus…God’s priceless Son!”*

From the scripture above, we can at least discern 2 ways to ignite our hearts: 1. Being with Jesus, in his presence, in prayer, and; 2. Reading the words about the Word.

When I read this blog by one of our members, Leah Singleton, I thought of another way to be excited about Jesus all over again, i.e. the scripture that says,

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matt 6.21

Give, invest, make Jesus and his Kingdom your treasure and your heart will come alive.

In addition to blogging, Leah is traveling to Kaosa, Ghana.  From May 20-July 29th she will be working with a local NGO called Patriots Ghana as a Project Coordinator for their Child Labor and Trafficking prevention, awareness, and advocacy project. And she’ll also be doing research on a possible correlation between family planning and child labor.

She has already connected with our 2 partner bishops in Ghana, Bishop Edmond and Bishop Cyril.

It’s a true joy to share in this ministry with her, and let’s do remember to pray for her, and let’s listen as she reminds us – It’s a joy to give!

Blessings to You All!

*from THE HOLY SPIRIT – SHY MEMBER OF THE TRINITY by Frederick Dale Bruner

 

Choose Joy

2 Corinthians 9:7 “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

A few weeks ago, I came to a realization: I’ve spent way too much time recently feeling sorry for myself. While there are most definitely difficult seasons in life (Ecclesiastes 3:4), I realized that it was time for me choose to be content. In short, I realized the necessity of choosing joy.

 

I think it’s important to distinguish here between “happiness” and “joy.” I believe happiness is a fickle state of being contingent upon life circumstances. Christian joy, as defined by pastor and theologian John Piper, is “a good feeling in the soul, produced by the Holy Spirit, as he causes us to see the beauty of Christ in the word and in the world.” Christians aren’t called to be perpetually happy, but I believe finding joy to be a continual process in the Christian life.  I believe this joy is a choice. Choosing joy looks like finding things to be grateful for when my alarm goes off for my morning class. Choosing joy looks like acknowledging the supremacy of God in less-than-ideal circumstances. Choosing joy looks like cheerfully giving-my time, my heart, and my money.

 

If you’re like me, giving financially is the most difficult. “I’m a broke college student,” I tell myself. “When I have a job, when I have money of my own, then I’ll give God some of it.”

Yet, giving financially is a lifestyle, a measure of where the heart’s at.  And it starts now.  I’ve gotten to the place where I understand the importance of giving, and do it now. Still though, I struggle with a legalistic view of the action. This view of giving says that God loves me more because I give money to the church. It emphasizes giving as a chore I must complete, not as the act of worship that it is. It places my salvation on me, instead of on God where it belongs.

 

Simply stated: legalism is guilt from obligation when I don’t give, instead of joy from freedom when I do.

In an effort to avoid legalism, I sometimes find myself not wanting to financially give at all. In thinking this, I realize that I am completely missing the point:

We are called to give not because we have to earn God’s love, but because cheerfully giving is a result of understanding that we are loved by God (2 Corinthians 9:7).

 

If you, like me, have been giving out of obligation or guilt, I encourage you to talk to God about it. Tell Him that your heart isn’t in the right place, and ask Him to show you how to choose joy-in your life and in your giving. Cover your gifts in prayer. Most importantly, thank Him for the gift of giving.

In 2 Corinthians 9:6-15, Paul ends his description of the cheerful giver with this: “Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift!” (v. 15). This sentence serves as a perfect reminder that “every good and perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17).

In short, we give because God has gifted us so much more than we could ever hope to give to anyone else. Just look at Romans 5:8: “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

“And that’s something to be joyful about”. – Leah Singleton