06-07-2014 Friday Epistle

June 25th, 2014 by

Saying “Hello” and “Good Bye”

A psychologist once said those are the two hardest words to say in any language.

Last Sunday we prayed for and said good-bye to Becky Valentine. After the service she told me how much she loved coming to church. Thinking this might be a ploy to make me feel good about a good-bye, she is counselor you know, I asked what she liked most about being here. Suspecting she would say something like, being with friends, the worship… she caught me flat footed when she said, “my favorite part of the service is the thing you did twice today. Remember, you said you did the wrong one, and so you went on and did another one.”

That was a first for me. She liked, actually listened to, perhaps was touched by, the Proper Preface. It’s the bit that is stuck between, “It is right, and good and joyful thing always and everywhere to give thanks…” and concludes with, “Therefore we praise you, joining our voices with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven…” and then on to the Sanctus, “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of power and might…”

With Pentecost on the horizon, I thought of places in our liturgy where we might meet and say hello to the Holy Spirit. The Preface was not a place I would immediately look. Just then, Jimmie Winderweedle came up to me and said, “Carl, I had the most wonderful experience in worship today.”  I was pretty sure the odds were not in favor of another Proper Preface person. She said, “You know I am music disabled, so this is not my usual experience, but as we continued to sing ‘He’s alive’ in one of the songs, it was just simply unbelievable! Like the whole congregation was elevated, swept up, and joined with all the saints in heaven, worshipping and praising. It wasn’t a happy feeling sort of moment but one of intense joy and peace. I really can’t describe it but we were all there together.”

I thought, “Therefore we praise you, joining our voices with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven…” perhaps we really do!

What hit me as I headed home and said good-bye to a wonderful morning was that our liturgy offers us a lot of ways to say hello to the Holy Spirit.

One other way is in the Word section; scriptures and sermon. As I write this, I have just finished listening to Fr. Christopher’s sermon again. It’s marvelous! If you missed it, don’t – listen to it on the web site. The other day he commented to me that he had shared with a friend whose suggestion had been that we don’t put that much emphasis on the sermon in our liturgy, he said, “We actually have four sermons, one by someone looking forward to Messiah, one written by someone who walked with our Lord, one written by someone living in a very young community of faith, and then one by one who wants to share all of the above.”

I think of all the many places open for us to commune with the Holy Spirit in our Sunday morning service. For example, in the Eucharist we ask the Holy Spirit to bless and sanctify not just the bread and wine, but those of us about to receive it. And indeed, in truth, the Holy Spirit can touch us; transform us in Jesus’ body and blood. So many openings for him to say hello and for us to respond. Perhaps, at times, it is simply indescribable.

You know some really good news of the Good News is that the message of Pentecost is that we don’t have to say good-bye to Jesus, now or ever. It is critical to life however, that we say hello to the Holy Spirit and our Anglican liturgy opens wide that door.

In His Name,


PS I’m pretty sure I didn’t get Jimmie’s words as well as she shared them, so feel free to ask her.

05-31-2014 The Ascension of Jesus Christ

June 23rd, 2014 by


It seems to be a recurring experience. Astronauts from many countries describe looking at the earth from space, and share how that vision reshaped their point of view. Here is the testimony of two US astronauts.

“If somebody’d said before the flight, “Are you going to get carried away looking at the earth from the moon?” I would have said, “No, no way.” But yet when I first looked back at the earth, standing on the moon, I cried. — Alan Shepard

The world itself looks cleaner and so much more beautiful. Maybe we can make it that way—the way God intended it to be—by giving everybody that new perspective from out in space. — Roger B Chaffee

But as they say, what goes up must come down. And while it is glorious to hear the testimony of explorers and adventurers, even the greatest return home to earth to live and share and thrill our minds and hearts with their words and images.

And now, after 40 days, the church celebrates the Ascension of Jesus Christ back to heaven. This is the highest a human being has ever gone. This is the most remarkable flight ever taken by the human race. This part of Jesus’ story profoundly affects our lives and our futures, but it is a well-kept secret even among disciples of Jesus. But Jesus’ ascension can reshape our perspective not only of him, but of us and our world.

A recent survey found that while over half of respondents believed in Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, only a third believed in his bodily Ascension back into heaven. I suppose even smaller numbers would affirm that the Ascension makes much difference. And, being celebrated on a Thursday each year does little for attendance or our attention.

The Ascension of Jesus into heaven brings with it many, many blessings. Jesus said as much when he said that “in fact, it is best for you that I go away” (John 16.7) The Apostle Paul affirmed the benefits of Jesus’ ascension in Ephesians 4.4-8 and points to the key sequence of events that Jesus’ departure began.

This Sunday, we will see how Jesus ascension, his being “high and lifted up” is a guarantee of our present, our purpose and future. It also guides our preparation for the coming of the promised Holy Spirit.

So, come on Sunday ready to lift up your hearts to where Christ is.

See you Sunday,



It’s not too late to join us for ALPHA, beginning this Sunday morning with breakfast at 8:30, a short video lesson and discussion. You will be ready for church at 10:00. There is nursery and a children’s class available, so the family can attend.

Here is a short promo clip you might forward to a friend. They are welcome to come along. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n_gVjWP94Eo&list=PLD0517D782591464D&index=20



05-30-2014 The Shortest Friday Epistle Ever

June 23rd, 2014 by

Friday Message from Father Carl Buffington 5-30-2014
Friday Epistle

Dear Friends,

This may be the shortest Friday Epistle ever.  It’s 60 seconds. Click on the link below and find #15 The Factory.


And here’s a clip from the movie, God’s Not Dead.

Mark:  You prayed and believed your whole life. Never done anything wrong, and here you are. You’re the kindest person I know. I am the meanest. You have dementia. My life is perfect. Explain that to me!

Mark’s mother: Sometimes the devil allows people to live a life free of trouble because he doesn’t want people turning to God. Their sin is like a jail cell, except it is all nice and comfy and there doesn’t seem to be any reason to leave. The door’s wide open. Till one day time runs out and the door slams shut and suddenly it’s too late to get out.  And who did you say you were?

It’s not too late, the door is still open even for Alpha,


How Many Types of Salad Dressing Do You Have?

June 23rd, 2014 by

Salad DressingThe average grocery store offers over 300 different kinds of salad dressing. I am assuming the Publix at Tuskawilla Road is average, because that is the number I came up with when I counted them this week. I was slightly distracted by a person who was lost in their choices, but I didn’t lose count.

This does not include the additional vinegars, oils, marinades, spiced ketchups and bacon bits. When those are thrown in, even the 20 feet of aisle devoted to salad dressing begins to seem small.

Growing up, there were 2 (and only 2) bottles of salad dressing. Sacrosanct and side-by-side in the door of the refrigerator.

Thousand Island and Ranch. Exotic or Domestic. Mayonnaise for special occasions.

Things have changed. The aisle of the Publix can be a little overwhelming. Just ask the man who staggered to the checkout with a bowed head, feeling defeated by his selection.

On Sunday we will hear what happened while our apostle Paul was waiting for his companions to arrive in the city of Athens. He arrived a few days earlier than they, and noticed something about the city. What he noticed moved him to action. He changed his plans, he increased his workload, and he started conversations with strangers. He encountered, in the words of one commentator, a “veritable forest of idols.”

Paul faced in that ancient city a question that disciples of Jesus face more and more frequently today.

Is the good news of Jesus good news for people who do not already know the Bible? Is the good news of Jesus understandable for people who haven’t grown up with the same music, books, television shows, Sunday school, salad dressing that we have. Can singular faith in the Risen Jesus find a spot in our world, our community, our lives when life offers us over 300 options for our lettuce?

Paul was even more convinced of the answer than he was troubled by the problem.

We can be as well. Come this Sunday and we will return to Square One.

Also, take this opportunity to watch this video about Alpha, a simple introduction to the Christian faith. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ThVwkvbSmc0#t=43

It is not too late to sign up. We begin June 1st with breakfast, a short video presentation and small group discussion. Come to be refreshed on the basics of our faith, hear ways to share those truths with others, and invite a friend to join you. You will still be able to makeit to 10:00am service.

How many types of salad dressing do you have in your refrigerator door? You can email me your number (and their names) at Christopher@new-covenant-church.com

See you Sunday,


Friday Epistle for May 23, 2014

05-16-2014 “What sort of follower of Jesus does God want to send into the world?”

June 16th, 2014 by

Friday Epistle

Dear Friends,

“What sort of follower of Jesus does God want to send into the world?”

This, ever so basic, question has been a constant companion of late.

So who comes to your mind?  What distinguishes a follower of favor?  How would you describe the perfect follower?

Probably not the way Teresa of Avila (1515-1582) did.

Teresa of Avila

“The world is not yet in a fit state to bear such perfection,” she wrote of him.  His name is Pedro de Alcantara.  He had a remarkable reputation as a spiritual director, and Teresa’s love and admiration for him was boundless.


He was a man of strict asceticism, who lived in a cell less than 5 feet long, eating only once in three days; for 40 years he slept for only an hour and a half a night, his head propped up against a piece of wood fixed to the wall. Whatever the weather, he wore nothing on his head or his feet and on his body only a habit of sackcloth, worn next to the skin as tightly as he could bear. For 20 years he wore a shirt of tinplate. Teresa says he was so weak that he seemed to be made of nothing but the roots of trees.

Or what about St. Augustine?

Today, May 14, the 25th day of the 50 of Easter, midway to Pentecost, as I write this, at the noon Eucharist we read a clip from a sermon by St. Augustine (354-430).  He was speaking of Jesus being the Good Shepherd and then went on to ask, “What was Peter? What was Paul? Were they not also good shepherds?  Did they not also lay down their lives for the sheep?  And were not the Apostles, the blessed Bishops, Martyrs also not hirelings but good shepherds?”  He concludes the section by saying, “All these then were good shepherds, not simply for that they shed their blood, but they shed it for the sheep. For not in pride, but in charity they shed it.”

In charity!  Loving self-sacrifice, a life of giving is usually a big part of our description of the sort of follower God wants to send. (There’s a book lying on the kitchen counter, must be Barbara’s, but catch the title, WHY GOOD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE, how to live a longer, healthier, happier life by the simple act of giving.  It’s now on my desk.

So what of my own description of the sort of follower I think God wants to send, what a follower is and does?  I think of many in ages past, saints of old.  And I think of several who have lately joined the communion of saints, whose presence I miss greatly, whose loss has changed the landscape of my faithful witnesses.

Today, however, midway to Pentecost, the 14th of May is the day when our son AJ was born.  And Barbara and I have been receiving very thoughtful and touching testimonials about how he entered people’s lives as a follower of Jesus.  What a blessing balm to the pain.  What an incredible birthday gift!

So, today, I really do think of him and some of his attributes — his smile, his readiness to help, his spunk, humor, and adventuresome spirit, his love of worship, his heart for the Lord — as the sort of follower God sent, and wants to send, into the world.  And so I pray too, that as I remember him, some of his charisms may be evident in me.

They certainly could be mine, but today I think of Gary Haugen’s (founder and president of International Justice Mission where AJ had worked) words to Barbara and me after AJ’s death, “He was such a good man.”

Sunday, as we begin the 5th week of Easter, come and experience how God sees you as a follower, and hear what he does to allow the community of faith to produce the sort of follower he wants to send into the world.


In Charity to You All,


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05-09-2014 ” You Can’t Eat Just One”

June 16th, 2014 by

A Friday Message from Sara Buffington, Worship Leader 5-9-2014




Everyone in my family knows my weakness for Nacho   Cheese Doritos.  If Mommy eats just one, she’ll end up  eating the whole bag.  If I get a taste, I just can’t stop myself.

I think the Presence of God is something like that.  If you get a taste, you want more and more and more.  He awakens a desire in you that makes you, as the psalmist says, “long, even faint for Your courts.  My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.” (Ps. 84)

But my love for Doritos is not uncontrollable. The reason you don’t always see me with cheesy, orange fingers is that I have a method: I don’t buy them. I don’t even bring them into the house. And the longer I go without them, the more I can handle my craving until, eventually, it just quietly dies away.

But unlike Nacho Cheese Doritos, which (let’s face it) are bad for us, being in the Presence of God is so good for us.  But we avoid Him, keep Him at arm’s length from our hearts, our homes, our schools, and our workplaces, and eventually we forget how good He is.

But we can come back to Him and “taste and see the goodness of the Lord.” (Ps. 34)  Come on Sunday, let’s worship Him together, ask His Presence to move around us, among us, and within us, and let’s reawaken the desire to be with Him, constantly

Sara Buffington


05-08-2014 “I saw the crosses!”

June 16th, 2014 by

Thursday Epistle


Dear Member of New Covenant,

“I saw the crosses!”

The speaker finished his talk and invited us to come to the altar rail for prayer.  I was first out of the blocks.  Sincerely convicted of my being judgmental of my parishioners, I desperately needed relief. ” If the speaker will just pray for me,” I thought, but someone else came.

Alas, I told him my issue and strangely he said, “I know.”  Not at all sure how efficacious this would be, the last thing I recall was his hands on my eyes.

When I opened them again I was stretched out on the cathedral chapel’s stone floor, somehow separated from sandals.  Not something I am prone to do.  The only person in the room was the one who prayed for me and the parishioner I had dragged along to this renewal conference.

Later that week a parishioner stopped in my office and shared about how judgmental she had been lately.  I said, stealing from my prayer minister, “I know. listen to this teaching,” handing her the cassette tape from the conference,”and get back to me.”  The next morning she was waiting for me, and she said there was nothing about being judgmental in the talk.

“Hmmm, you’ve got to be kidding, I was convicted from head to toe by that talk,” I responded.  Later, I listened and sure enough she was right, no mention of being judgmental. I learned then that when God has something to say, he doesn’t need a speaker’s words.

Sunday morning came on schedule, and what happened was a bit unnerving.  When I began to share the thoughts of my sermon and looked out on the congregation, I could see a slight, light, iridescent glow on the parishioners foreheads.  After rubbing my eyes, trying not to be too distracted, and keeping hold on my sanity, I noticed they were in the shape of crosses.  What I believe I saw was their chrismed baptismal crosses!  “You are now sealed with the Holy Spirit in baptism and marked as Christ’s own forever,” and the priest anoints with oil the sign of the cross.

I saw the crosses!

Do you think that helped me with being judgmental?  God showed me that they were his. He knew them by name and they were His — listen to Sunday’s gospel from John 10.  We are resurrection people believe it or not!

Sadly for me, the crosses faded all too fast, lasting only a few weeks, and just on Sundays.  But I learned a lot, not just about my being judgmental but about the Holy Spirit and how he speaks and works through prayer ministry.  The presence of God in worship is indeed transforming. Listen to the sermon Sunday about his presence in our worship.

Blessings to you all,


05-02-2014 Building the Plane as We Fly It…

June 16th, 2014 by

From Kevin Higgins, International Director of Global Teams

Most of our friends and partners through the years know Susan and I as people who worked among Muslims and lived in South Asia.  And we faced all the challenges that any one in another culture and language and religious context faces: sickness, confusion, discouragement, stress, and burn out. We also experienced moments of great satisfaction and joy.

I have now been the International Director of Global Teams for 14 years. We have been living in the USA that entire time and traveled to more and more countries as Global Teams has grown.

To be honest my role as director. ..training, casting vision, seeking to discern His leading, learning to more humbly hear His voice in my teammates, and being part of a Global Teams movement that is comprised of a dramatically diverse multicultural membership and leadership, has been perhaps the most challenging thing I have ever done…more challenging than fish farms in Asia or sharing His words in a rural mosque.

This last week our international leadership team saw a short clip of a commercial which depicted a group building an airplane. ..as it flew with passengers aboard at 35,000 feet. Yes it was a created scene and full of humor.  But it portrays exactly how the last 14 years have felt: trying to build a movement while it is moving…construction in midair.

How do we know who the right people are to send out?  Where? How do we train them well. ..not just one time but as a lifelong process of growth and transformative discipleship?  How do we honor and work with each other in a multicultural and multilingual organization? How do we develop financially as a global movement and not just with funding from the West?

These things keep me on my knees.

I know that many people pray for me and for Global Teams.  We count on it and can’t imagine doing anything without it. ..

I’m grateful to be back with New Covenant again this week. ..home to Susan and I and to Global Teams North America and Sheryl and in many ways to Global Teams Latin America as well.

You are such a blessing. ..

Building the plane as we fly it…

Kevin Higgins

04-25-2014 Holy Week and Easter

June 16th, 2014 by

Dear Friends,

It takes a community of faith to make a community of celebration!

What a wonderful Holy Week and Easter!  Thank you, thank you, thank you!  Three times is the superlative in Hebrew from what I recall — (As I write this, our GT missionary and Latin American coordinator, Orlando Otorola, is studying Hebrew at our kitchen table so I am trying to, at least, lean that way).

This week at staff meeting we went through a long list of those to whom we wanted to say thank you, and as I try to repeat it I am bound to forget some.  So please know that if that’s you, you will get the most special thanks from our Lord.  (If that’s not scriptural, we can blame my mother).

Especially for Holy Week and Easter – Thanks to:

  • the Easter sunrise team — those who got up before dawn cracked to set and direct traffic
  • those who were baptized – 6 infants were baptized and one adult accepted the Lord in her heart and will soon be baptized
  • those who received their first communion on Palm Sunday and those who taught them
  • the people who continually put new flowers around the front of the church
  • the special choir — those who gather for special events
  • the Easter egg hunt teams — those who put together the story and those who shared it
  • the thespians — those who played parts on Good Friday, those who have read the gospel lessons
  • those who put the service together and coordinated it with the town and other churches

A lot happens behind the scenes on any given Sunday: Thanks to:

  • the Altar guild — set the Lord’s table, do the dishes and wash the linens etc.
  • the media techs and sound people — Easter seemed to be glitch free
  • the kitchen cleaners — someone was caught cleaning the kitchen without being asked
  • the work day crew — beautified the buildings and grounds for Holy Week and Easter
  • the coffee hour hostesses — provide refreshments every week
  • the Sunday School Teachers and C.E. committee — share God’s word with young hearts and minds
  • the office staff — countless bulletins and notices produced
  • the environmental worship people — those who create a worshipful ambiance

A lot happens that we might see or might be seen but may not notice: Thanks to:

  • the acolytes — are an invaluable help in the liturgy
  • the ushers and greeters — there’s the set up and clean up as well as greeting and assisting people
  • the (LEMs) lay eucharistic ministers — people who take communion to those in the hospitals
  • the worship team — those who lead us in worshipping from week to week
  • the readers — those who are bold enough to read God’s word
  • the prayer ministers — those ready to pray with us during the communion time
  • the deacons — those ordained who serve the altar and lock up the church every week
  • the priests — those who celebrate the Lord’s supper for us and with us
  • the congregation — this is most of us, if not all, including any left out







Good Friday Epistle: A Sermon from St. Augustine

June 16th, 2014 by

AugustineGood Friday Epistle for April 18, 2014

Dear Members of New Covenant,

Good Friday provokes all sorts of questions and emotions for me as I suspect it does for you all. Reading and walking through the Stations this Wednesday one of the pilgrims simply began to cry, perhaps the most appropriate response that can be made.

Common questions are: Why did Jesus have to die? And, how does his death effect my salvation? Over the centuries theologians have grappled with these questions, developing at least a half dozen theories of the atonement, and it’s worth the time to hear even a brief word from one the fathers of our faith. Here’s a brief clip from one of Augustine’s sermons on this topic:

If Christ had not been put to death, death would not have died. The devil was conquered by his own trophy of victory. The devil jumped for joy, when he seduced the first man, and cast him down to death. By seducing the first man, he killed him; by killing the last man, he lost the first from his snare. The victory of our Lord Jesus Christ came when he rose again from the dead, and ascended into heaven. It was at this point that the text from the Book of Revelation, which you heard read today was fulfilled: “The lion of the tribe of Judah has won the day.” (Revelation 5.5). The one who was slain as a lamb is now called a lion, a lion on account of his courage, a lamb on account of his innocence; a lion because he was unconquered: a lamb because of his gentleness. By his death, the slain lamb has conquered the lion who “goes around seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5.8). The devil, on the other hand, is here called a lion for his savagery, rather than his bravery… The devil jumped for joy when Christ died; and by the very death of Christ the devil was overcome: he took, as it were, the bait in the mousetrap. He rejoiced at Christ’s death, believing himself to be the commander of death. But that which caused his joy dangled the bait before him. The Lord’s cross was the devil’s mousetrap: the bait which caught him was the death of the Lord.

Atonement or At-one-ment

An English term originally coined in 1526 by William Tyndale to translate the Latin term reconciliatio, which has since come to have a developed meaning of “the work of Christ” or “the benefits of Christ gained for believers by his death and resurrection.”

Augustine of Hippo (354 – 430)

Widely regarded as the most influential Latin patristic writer, Augustine was converted to Christianity at the Northern Italian city of Milan in the summer of 386. He returned to North Africa, and was made Bishop of Hippo in 395. He was involved in two major controversies: the Donatist controversy over the church and sacraments, and the Pelagian controversy over grace and sin. He also made substantial contributions to the development of the doctrine of the Trinity, and the Christian understanding of history.

Notes: THEOLOGY, Alister E. McGrath

Blessings to you all this day,


PS One theologian said Jesus’ theory of the atonement was to invite us to dinner and offer us himself in his body and his blood, at-one-ment with him.

PPS You are invited to join our Lord, at-one-ment, in communion, each of the Great 50 days of Easter.

                        Monday, Wednesday, Friday — at 12 noon

                        Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday — at 7 a.m.