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

Draw Near to God Via Lust & Mammon

June 21st, 2017 by
Dear Friends at New Covenant,
We began our year drawing near to God through His Word, in Worship, and in Prayer.
During our  leadership retreat I asked our vestry, intercessors, and worship leaders to press into God in these three areas.  Fr. Christopher and I have invited our congregation to do the same, and have provided a way to do that which has been nicknamed, “The Prayer Book on Training Wheels.”  Barbara and I have found it a wonderful way to start the day and draw near.
As we cross the half way point of the year, and move into summer, I wanted to share two more ways for us to draw near to God, oddly enough, via lust and mammon.
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“Lust can be focused but not eliminated,” so says Andy Stanley, in his last chapter ofEnemies of the Heart.  He suggests it is different from the other enemies; guilt, anger, greed, and jealousy, in that it is God given.
Lusts’ definitions indicate that it is something very powerful that comes from somewhere deep inside us.  I was intrigued by the author’s suggestion that it could be refocused.  What if we were to focus, train, our deepest, almost subconscious, desires on to the things of the Kingdom of God?  Could we harness, or loose it, this force within us, for good, for God?  Perhaps with God’s help, since it is from him, with His might, we might.
I believe it’s possible.  Aren’t all things with God?
With this on my mind: A couple weeks ago I was blessed to listen to Bishop Fitzsimmons Allison, with several of our African partners, as he talked of creating the word ‘metakardia,’ instead of the word metanoia, for repentance.  Metanoia is the Greek word for repentance, which means a change of mind.  Bishop Fitz said, “I can change my mind five time in a minute.  What needs to be changed is my heart.  We need metakardia more than metanoia.”
Since then I have been testing it out, seeing if I can lust for the things of the Kingdom of God, i.e. loose the strength of something like lust to work for the good, for God.  Here’s one incident where I believe the fruit of my efforts was manifest, where the metakardia had done its work.
It was a routine hospital visit, but as I listened to the patient, I realized I was hearing more than the words of the person speaking.  It was as if our Lord began to paint a landscape of the inscape of this person’s life and it was absolutely captivating! It was gorgeous, and as I left I told her how wonderfully blessed I was listening to her story, more than she could guess.  This hasn’t proven to be an isolated incident.
Refocus your lust.  Turn it to the things of God, His kingdom.  Want to be part, share in, and partake of His realm and His riches?  Then really want it!  Be intentional, and seek metakardia.
Lust, as we know, is powerful.  Beware then, that if the things of his His heart become your deepest, almost unconscious, desire, you will get closer to Him and the metakardia He may perform on your heart may be overwhelming.  Lust is powerful.
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Mammon, it, too, is powerful.  Money even talks, as they say.  According to Jesus it contends with Him for our worship, and he adds,  ‘we can’t serve two Gods.‘  It’s Mammon or Him.  Choose this day whom to serve.
It’s unnerving, but Jesus cares enough to watch what we do with it, e.g. ‘the widow in the temple.’  He was so concerned about the power and influence it has that, according to the scriptures at least, he spoke more about money than he did about prayer.
Like lust however, we can use it to bring us closer to our Lord and in turn affect a transformation of our heart, metakardia.  At one point Jesus says, ‘where your treasure is there your heart will be as well.’
If you want your heart to be closer to God, it will, as they say, follow the money.  And this is true too; if you do begin to lust for the Kingdom, you will invest in the Kingdom of God!  It becomes a priority, the priority.
(I want to let you know that we are about 39K short of our budget to offerings so far this year.  So, if you have been on vacation or traveling, or if you are behind in your tithing, it would be a true blessing if you can catch up.  Thank you.)
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The most caring thing I know to do for anyone is to encourage them to draw near to their Lord; the one who knit them together in their mother’s womb, who knows their days before they are lived, and gave the life of his only Son that they may have life, abundant and eternal.
Dare to Draw Near,
Carl

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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