The Gift Received

December 26th, 2014 by

10481881_10152718837219145_7575549073377255389_nWe all have a set of traditions at Christmas, and changing those traditions is never easy even when it’s for good reason. You see until this year, I have always attended Christmas Eve service; I’ve never attended a Christmas Day service, not as a child, not as a young adult, not even as a chaplain. Rarely had our Christmas morning as a family been interrupted by anything other than family desiring a visit.

When I was a chaplain, we would rotate the holidays so that no one person had to work each and every one. To be honest, I had offered to handle the Christmas Day service as a chance to give Father Carl and Father Christopher time with their families. As I was viewing it, it was an obligation that I could take off of their plate. As usual, they had much to teach me!

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The Indescribable Gift

December 19th, 2014 by

Christmas Balls 2Dear Friends of New Covenant,

Barb and I attended an ornament gift exchange party last week, and I had been thinking a lot about receiving. I thought of Martin Luther suggesting that we dishonor God when we try to earn His free gift of grace. It’s not a gift exchange. It’s a free gift. We are receivers. And here we were at a gift exchange. A fun affair!

I had to be near the last to go and get an ornament. I was number 54. You know how it works; everyone brings an ornament that goes into a pile. Then you can take one from the pile, or go take one from someone who already has one you like, and then they get to go again. Anyway, I went to the pile, now down to two gifts, and opened a lovely clear glass ball with some white design circumventing its middle.

As I walked to my seat, I remembered one of the guests saying she wanted white because her tree was all white lights and white ornaments. So before I sat down, I said, “Here, would you like this?”

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The Joy of Fezzywig

December 12th, 2014 by

12381362-steven-lane-as-bob-cratchit-by-landon-st-gordonCharles Dickens was paid by the word. This helps explain why his novels are so rich in their detailed description and why the dialogue between characters multiplies from scene to scene. A writer has to pay the bills. Adjectives are cash cows.

It is interesting then that when he describes Ebenezer Scrooge’s joy in Christmas past, he describes Fezziwig’s Christmas Ball with such economy of language. He conjures for us an image of a single evening made joyous by the generous hospitality of a happy couple.

From first impressions, we may think Scrooge has a low capacity for joy. Perhaps because of his life’s early grief, he has numbed himself to these happy moments. Or it may be that the purity of joy in that moment is so tangible, words are not the main things. Scrooge discerns in hindsight that the generous actions of Fezziwig more than surpass the expenditure of wealth or gold.

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Invitation: Gift or Burden?

December 5th, 2014 by

rp_Invite-to-Church-Invitee-Front-300x2311.pngFriday Epistle, 12.5.14

Dear Friends at New Covenant,
There are several things in this week’s letter to you.  One is a wonderful testimony about someone inviting a new friend to church this Sunday.  Then, I have included a summary of your answers to the two questions I asked in my sermon a week ago, and a link to the more complete list.  Finally, at this point I believe I will be sharing on verses 1 and 8 this coming Sunday from the Gospel reading and have shared a couple thoughts.  I hope to see you at Lessons and Carols, Sunday at 7:00. Those who attended last year were deeply touched by the word and worship.

Advent Blessings to You All,

Fr. Carl

Invite a Friend Sunday – Testimony

     A few months ago I met a new friend. I knew that she wasn’t going to church, and I have been waiting for the “right time” to ask her to come with me. But the truth is, I was nervous about it. I didn’t want to come across as pushy and potentially lose her as a friend. So I let the months slip by.
     This Sunday is “Invite a Friend to Church Sunday” and I knew this was the time, no excuses. I decided to ask her in person Monday morning, and Sunday night I was very nervous about it. I rehearsed what I was going to say over and over again. I prayed about it.
     That next day when I saw her, I took a deep breath and started in on the paragraph that I had rehearsed. I never even finished the first sentence. I got as far as, “This Sunday is Invite a Friend to Church Sunday, and you are my friend so…” She interrupted me right away, “Text me the address and time. I’d love to come to your church.”
     It was like she had been waiting for me to ask her.

Your Responses To:

Question 1– What do you do to allow the Holy Spirit to change your heart?

Question 2– What can we do at New Covenant to assist you in heart transformation?

Short Answers

Question 1 Response Summary: scripture, prayer, community, serving, small groups, quiet time, journaling…

Question 2 Response Summary: blog, women’s study, ministry ops, spiritual disciplines, accountability, healing ops, retreat…

 

You can read the more complete list on our website. CLICK HERE!

If you haven’t given us you input you can do that as well. Email it to me at carlbuffington@mac.com.

Many thanks for your responses!

 Sunday’s Sermon – A Couple Thoughts… Mark 1.1 & 8

The reading opens with:
“The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” NRSV

And closes with:
“I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” NRSV

Thought:
You could say it opens with who Jesus is i.e. fully human – Christ/Messiah, and also fully God – Son of God. And closes with what he does i.e. baptizes with the Holy Spirit.

Thought:
It is the time of the year when we ponder Jesus being formed in Mary.
And you might say this is HOW Christ is being formed in us, through the ministry of Jesus and the gift of the Holy Spirit.