05-09-2014 ” You Can’t Eat Just One”

June 16th, 2014 by

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

 

“YOU CAN’T EAT JUST ONE”

Doritos

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,

Carl+

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

 

THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!

Carl+

 

 

 

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,

Carl+

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.

 

 

01-17-2014 A FIRST AND FINEST

June 16th, 2014 by

Dear Members of New Covenant,

 

A FIRST AND FINEST

 

It was a first and finest for me – a combined retreat for the worship team, staff, a couple intercessors, a “tag-a-long” or two, and the vestry. Our leaders were fantastic as were the participants!

From a vestry person: “It was the best vestry retreat ever.” Question, “Why?” Answer, “Because we had good singers!”

Ron Rand spoke Sunday morning and as someone said,

“Dr. Ron Rand really hits the nail on the head.” (You had to be there and have a 4” twisted nail in your hand.)

And I had forgotten what an anointed worship leader Bill Blomquist is. From what I have heard, the Holy Spirit was mightily present among the worship team. Here’s one comment,

“The song we created was sung over me specifically. How powerful! I haven’t danced with Jesus in 15 years…”

Here are some more responses. There are quite a few and my hope in sharing so many is that in some way this allows you all to share in the experience and the blessing of the retreat.

“I was a “tag-a-long”…neither a sheep nor a goat!  Yet, the Lord knew I was to be there.  I was overwhelmed by the love of Jesus, and hearing once again, that I WAS qualified to spread his word.  I heard that I need to step out of my comfort zone and have more initiative.  A staff member said on Monday that I was “glowing.”  If he only knew ….

“Dr. Rand was an awesome speaker…his enthusiasm, knowledge, energy and joy for the Lord was great. Yet he brought it to our level…what a blessing!

“Words from the weekend for me: Encouraged; empowered; enlisted.”

“I went into the weekend with no real expectations. I really didn’t think God would work the way He did. But should I be surprised? All I know is that I REALLY needed this retreat.”

“I was so blessed by Ron and his teaching. I felt like God reached into my heart, took the broken, hurt and seemingly dead areas and restored it.”

“The inclusion of the worship team topped off the weekend, with God reassuring me that I have been restored.”

“I felt overwhelmed by His Spirit as we worshipped on Saturday’s end. What a joy!”

“This vestry retreat was so refreshing and seemingly uncontrolled, yet orderly, if that makes sense. It was fun, yet serious.”

“I felt the Spirit was free to move as He pleased without us getting in the way.  Ron has such a great way of teaching relationally. He was such a gift last weekend.”

“Bob Wilson was so tenderhearted and added to the reverence of the weekend as well.”

“It was pretty awesome!

“I was really inspired by the retreat through Ron’s heart for God’s word, his passion through the Holy Spirit for what God is doing at New Covenant, and his practical “get out there and do it” attitude. It gave me a greater passion for the lost and reinforced everything we have been learning about obedience through the 10 Second Rule.

“I was touched by the Trinity of salvation: From judgment by God’s law, to mercy, and then grace. He explained it in such a simple yet effective way. I am constantly judging myself by the law and lacking in faith that his actions on earth was the mercy I need. I cannot give myself mercy for I am the accused. Only through Jesus is there mercy.  And, the grace is the promise. It makes more sense now.”

“Being with our leadership as they took seriously the act of confession, searching and applying scripture, interceding for our church members and speaking into each other’s lives.”

“A sense of God’s holy presence was so strong throughout our time, but especially during confession and worship times.”

“What a blessing it was to see new gifts of the Spirit released in people’s lives as they worshiped and prayed for others, not even seeking these gifts for themselves. Isn’t that just like God?”

“It was an energetic time of calm reflection and encouragement.”

“I am always touched by the way New Covenant Citizens almost instantly come together in trust. It was especially close this time. I wish everyone at NCAC could experience these Advances at least yearly. I also was traveling and felt both blessings and assault this week. I am very thankful for the recharge of last weekend. Maybe we should call them recharges instead of retreat or advance.

“The speaker presented an arsenal of tools that we can use to intentionally allow the Holy Spirit to transform us into Christlikeness.  As we use these tools in daily living, it can also help others in our church and community desire and choose to be transformed.”

“The time of confession, and the time of affirming one another provided assurances that the Holy Spirit was with us, and was binding us tightly together in Truth and Love.”

“The retreat was a clear reminder that our faith and our leadership is rooted in the quality of our relationships, with God, one another, and with those we are called to reach.”

“I just looked around, knowing so many people’s stories. It’s like a stunning mosaic to look around and see this.”

“… a strong faith here kept me holding on.”

“Feeling of acceptance, family.”

“This weekend there was a lot of stuff, and folks were impacted by different parts of it. So while we may not have come away with a shared sense of one message, we did come away with the shared experience of having been blessed, albeit in different ways, maybe, and I think that’s unifying in itself. A bit like Closer.”

“What continually comes to mind are the characteristics of a positive leader.  I appreciated the characteristics along with the scriptures in general.  And, then, on reflection, my strength (service) and area for opportunity (immersion in the word).”

“The time together with the group was valuable so we could actually talk and spend time together.”

“Singing with the worship team was an amazing experience.  Although we can/may do the same in the future, I really feel as if that particular moment, those particular emotions, etc., will not be replicated.  It was very special.”

“For me, I especially appreciated the times of affirmation, and thought the “commissioning” was a neat time…”

“The fact that my New Covenant family has always been for me any time I needed them. Always loving me no matter what.”

“Worship and budgets and meals and plans all tie back to the privilege and duty to steward our relationships well.”

“A great way to begin a new calendar year together.”

 

These quotes come from members of the vestry, staff, tag-a-longs, and the worship team. Feel free to ask them about this retreat, or as Ron called it, “An Advance.”

 

Blessings to You All!

Carl+

01-10-2014 HEAVENLY IMPACT

June 16th, 2014 by

 

 

Our family’s first week in the CO Rockies foothills, 8 thousand feet, the thermometer dipped below 30 below. It was the new home of Episcopal Renewal Ministries. A far cry from Washington DC’s climate, our former home where I was on the staff of ERM.

It wasn’t that I wanted to remember just how cold cold can be, actually record breaking, in traveling to Akron, Ohio, earlier this week, it was to visit a couple friends, Dave and Judy Smith, and spend some time with one of my heroes of the faith, Chuck Irish, who impacted our lives deeply.

Chuck was one of the leaders in the renewal that swept our country from the 70s to the 90s. He was a full time parish priest in Bath, Ohio, and was also a full time director of ERM. Now he is chair bound with Parkinson’s. I am still soaking in the precious several hours of chewing the fat with him and then the hours of breaking bread with Dave and Judy. My day, my life, was most wonderfully impacted.

En route and between planes I read through your impact cards – what a blessing! Thank You!

 

We had asked at the Sunday service and then at the Parish Meeting for you all to share something that impacted you at, or about, New Covenant this past year. We got close to 100 responses. Again, thank you.

 

(AND we would love to hear from the rest of you. Please take a communication card from the ushers this Sunday and put it in the rectangular basket!)

 

Here’s a summary of what you shared.

 

Far and away the leader of the impact pack of responses was the worship and the team. There were also quite a few who were touched by the support, love, grace, and forgiveness of you all, the members, the body of Christ. You all also impacted quite a few with your kindness, gentleness, welcomingness, the extended familiness, oneness, witness to faith and love of our Lord, and support for those hurting and in need.

See what I mean about a blessing?One thing I found interesting was how many said “Closer” and “small groups” impacted them. It was clear that those who participate in them are sincerely impacted.

Here are some of the other ways you said you were impacted:

Teachings, sermons, VBS, children’s programs, the youth groups, the tapestry, prayer ministry, Captivate – women’s conference, “In His Presence,” “With,” the healing service, children dancing in the aisles, mission and outreach opportunities like the caroling, the 10 Second Rule, communication like the Friday Epistles, pastoral care and hospital visits.

Reading not just between the lines, it seems clear that most of us are most impacted by loving, caring, supportive relationships.

It was one of those “like yesterday” moments as I was saying good-bye to my friend. Holding hands with him in prayer, I realized that friendships forged in Jesus’ love are not limited by time and space, and impact not only our lives but somehow in their transcendent way impact those around us, on earth and maybe even in heaven.

Do you suppose we could be impacted by heaven? Impact heaven? Do you suppose when we love one another, “We are seated in heavenly places?” The apostle Paul did.

 

Thanks for the Blessings,

Carl+

01-03-2014 Things Change

June 16th, 2014 by

Dear Members of New Covenant,

 

While the transition from 2013 to 2014 may seem seamless, there’s still the question, what lies ahead? Things change.

Just look at the transition our story makes as it transitions from Christmas to Epiphany.

  • Exit shepherds – Enter Magi
  • Exit stables – Enter palace
  • Exit poverty – Enter wealth
  • Exit angels – Enter dreams
  • Exit Mary’s lullaby – Enter Rachel’s wail

Something less than seamless, wouldn’t you say?

 

The scriptural narrative has its twists and turns, not unlike our own stories. While the magi’s gifts are gold frankincense and myrrh, Pilate’s gifts will be a crown indeed, but one of thorns. And his throne for this king will be a cross. The next gentile after the magi to proclaim him Lord will be a soldier at his cross, “surely he was the Son of God.” And the brightness of the star will become a shroud of darkness over the land.

 

While things here change, something that will not change is the good news that Jesus is now enthroned at the right hand of God. He is Lord of Lords and King of Kings, fact, end of story, and truth forevermore. That will not change! That is what is ahead!

 

Epiphany says to me, then, that our response in this world is to get to him by any route we can, bring our most precious of gifts, and worship him!

 

Blessed New Year to you all.

Carl+

 

PS — ANNUAL PARISH MEETING

This Sunday immediately following the later service we will have our Annual Parish Meeting. This year instead of ministry reports we will be sharing a gift of ministry and asking you all to share what has impacted you at New Covenant in 2013. Our plan is to be serving pizza and salad by noon.

 

PPS — TWO RETREATS

The Great 50 Days of Easter Day- 32

June 4th, 2014 by

Scriptures for today.
Psalm 72 · Leviticus 19.1-18 · 1 Thessalonians 5.12-28 · Psalm 119.73-96 · Matthew 6.19-24

Prayer for today.

Almighty God, who through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ have overcome death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life: grant that, as by your grace going before us you put into our minds good desires, so by your continual help we may bring them to good effect; through Jesus Christ our risen Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Question for today.

Archbishop Cranmer wrote this sermon as an answer to how Christians should live in response to the free gift of the gospel. What form does new life take? How would you answer that question for yourself? How has the life of another Christian been a good answer to that question for you? You can read his entire sermon here http://www.footstoolpublications.com/Homilies/Bk1_Faith4.pdf

Archbishop Cranmer

“Such is the true faith, that the Scripture doeth so much commend, the which when it sees and considers what GOD hath done for us, is also moved through continual assistance of the Spirit of GOD, to serve and please him, to keep his favor, to fear his displeasure, to continue his obedient children, showing thankfulness again by observing or keeping his commandments, and that freely, for true love chiefly, and not for dread of punishment, or love of temporal reward, considering how clearly, without deservings we have received his mercy and pardon freely.”

The Great 50 Days of Easter Day- 31

June 4th, 2014 by

Scriptures for today.
Psalm 61, 62 · Leviticus 16.20-34 · 1 Thessalonians 5.1-11 · Psalm 68.1-20 · Matthew 6.7-15

Prayer for today.

Almighty God, who through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ have overcome death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life: grant that, as by your grace going before us you put into our minds good desires, so by your continual help we may bring them to good effect; through Jesus Christ our risen Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Question for today.

Those who witnessed the resurrection of Jesus Christ not only told one another, they told everyone else as well.  This turning outward was inspired by their conviction that Christ was risen and that His rising changed everything. What aspect of Jesus’ life might nudge you to “go public” with your faith?

Below are two “doors” you might open to see how others have responded. If someone finds a charismatic door, send it along. If you watch the door most unfamiliar to you,  and I hope you will, imagine what it felt like for the first hearers of the apostles as they heard this world-changing  news, and felt the love of God break through.

Batoni

Sacramental door

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cZ5aYoSr3Hg

Evangelical door

http://www.youtube.com/embed/GBaHPND2QJg