As we move to the First Sunday of Christmas in the church calendar, the story of Jesus’ birth moves quickly in the book of Matthew. The birth story found in chapter 1 moves to the visit of the Magi, and in the beginning of chapter 2, we also find the threat of danger to Jesus’ young life by King Herod. This threat required action and a path to safety for Joseph, Mary, and Jesus.
What is it we are doing when we gather for worship -- who should gather and how should we be together? The ancient word Ekklesia is defined as “a called-out assembly or congregation.” This Summer we will explore the scripture to learn more about that word and what God desires for us when we come together in the church.
We all adopt a rhythm leading up to Christmas whether we realize it or not. It will either be the rhythm of the world that is based on our consumer culture, or we might adopt a different rhythm.
Advent in the life of the Church is a call to adopt a different pattern from the world. This intentional rhythm is, at least a first, a choice of the mind. We mentally choose to adopt patterns and practices that will lead us to our goal. Some of these practices will include waiting, rest, and silence even as the world around us becomes more impatient, weary, and loud! It is this calming rhythm that will enable us to recognize Jesus anew as we worship on Christmas Eve.
Once upon a time, people knew their neighbors. They talked to them, had cook-outs with them, and went to church with them. In our time of unprecedented mobility and increasing isolationism, it's hard to make lasting connections with those who live right around us. We have hundreds of "friends" through online social networking, but we often don't even know the full name of the person who lives right next door.
This sermon series, based on the book The Art of Neighboring asks the question: What is the most loving thing I can do for the people who live on my street or in my apartment building? Through compelling true stories of lives impacted, the authors show readers how to create genuine friendships with the people who live in closest proximity to them. Our church will continue the discussion from the Sunday message into small groups meeting at various times during the week.
Artwork has the ability to powerfully tell a story. A picture can communicate a message in ways that words alone cannot. For this reason, we are grateful for the opportunity our congregation has to celebrate our 200-year story through a community art project.
Not only does this glass mosaic art project enable us to commemorate our anniversary, it also provides the opportunity to celebrate something even greater. A mosaic is made by redeeming broken pieces of glass or stone and putting them together to make something beautiful. Could there me a more perfect symbol for the Church? The Church is a gathering of broken people, who have been redeemed by Jesus and brought together by the power of the Holy Spirit, to reflect the glory of God the Father. In this way, the art project not only gives us an opportunity to remember our 200 years together, but it also provides a moment to reconsider God's work in and through our lives. As we are working on the project over the next few weeks, we will also be reflecting on the story of the gospel working in and through First Pres Maumee in a new sermon series entitled, "Beautifully Broken."
Every day is filled with a series of choices. Do we choose the path of wisdom or the path of folly? In these often perplexing moments, we welcome the voice of trusted counselors; we heed the advise of a close friend; we seek out a favorite newspaper column or opinion blog.
In a similar spirit some have turned to the biblical book of Proverbs. Truly, this portion of God's Word does offer godly wisdom in a succinct, engaging manner. However, the book of Proverbs is much more than an ancient advise column! This book of the Bible helps us recognize that wisdom is both a path to be chosen and a person to be embraced .
Can the same be said of your life?
How has the Resurrection changed you? How have you responded to the Easter message?
Though we live in a society that routinely recognizes the Easter holiday, many of us have hesitated to consider the true impact this event must have on our life.
Over the next four weeks, we will be considering our response to the risen Christ by looking at the accounts offered in the four gospels. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John -- each shades the question a little differently and calls us to honestly consider and respond to this event that has already changed the world.
Jesus changed history, but will He change you?
Through the season of Lent we will begin a new sermon series inspired by the book, "The Liturgy of the Ordinary" which is based on the assumption that we are a ritualistic people. Intentionally or accidentally we develop rituals and habits that form who we are becoming as people. Worship, of course, is an intentionally ritualistic practice meant to "form us as an alternative people marked by the love and new life of Jesus Christ." Each Sunday during Lent we will look into God's Word to better understand practices that should not only inform our time in worship each Sunday, but also the everyday moments of our life.
As most of you know, during the Advent season, we experimented by moving the modern service into the sanctuary. Though we will continue to offer the modern worship service in the fellowship hall, this experiment provided a great opportunity to think about the concept of worship while intentionally engaging the congregation. Lessons learned through this experiment will likely lead to small, but significant changes to both worship services as we attempt to position ourselves "To Be Encountered" by a living and holy God in worship. This will be the focus of my sermons for the next three weeks as we consider the idea of worship from the scripture, allowing some of the thoughts you provided in the feedback form to inform our conversation.
I hope you will agree that "Love First" is a helpful way to express who we are called to be, but have you given much thought to what it means to "Love First" lately? Surely it means something significantly different than being an affectionate church!
Over the next two weeks we are going to return to the fundamentals as we return to God's Word. We will reconsider what it means to love and what it looks like to make love our priority in this world.