Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Celebrating the Church

”Celebrating the Church”
Acts 2:42-47

            “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”  The disciples of the Early Church were devoted to what would become The Way, the church of Jesus. Believers would gather together and everything would be held in common. They met in temple courts and ate together in their homes as they learned and listened from the disciples of Jesus about what Jesus taught and did during the time he lived on earth.
            Glenwood United Church celebrates its anniversary at different times in the spring depending upon scheduling of a Guest Speaker and other activities of the church.
This year we are recognizing the church’s 58th anniversary as a community of faith in South Windsor. Last week we shared with our friends from the Windsor Korean First Presbyterian Church in their church’s celebration of their 5th anniversary which was an enjoyable day of food, friendship and laughter. But it is when we focus on why the church exists that we truly find meaning in these celebrations. If it were not for Jesus teachings and death and resurrection there would not be a church- a place of gathering to learn and share and become knowledgeable about and in Jesus.
            Yet we know that many churches today are closing, the faithful of many years are growing older and dying and younger families just don’t seem to be wanting or seeing the need for the church community. But when people do come to a church and become a part of the church family they realize how important this community of believers is to them and how important it is to learn about Jesus.
            We are a consumer society which focuses on individual needs and wants and how to obtain these. But the church is different because individual needs are not what we try to fulfill. What we are trying to fulfill is the need to be a person- that is making human connections. Why is it important to see certain individuals each week? Because through their relationship with Jesus you may learn and understand who Jesus is for you as a person. And this understanding leads to a deeper relationship with God as the Spirits dwells within. It is also important because there are people who are alone- some do not come in contact with others unless they come to church. Some people do not receive a hug from week to week or any other type of affirmation and acknowledgement because they are alone. And some people just need to know that others care.
            The church is a gift from and to God. When people share together in faith it is an opportunity to grow in faith and in devotion to Christ. The question is are we really wanting this or just seeking what “I” can get from the church. This question alone leads us to what it means to be a part of the church family. Are you celebrating the church in your life? How do you know?
Wonderful God we pray for your church around the world where brothers and sisters in Jesus are working to bring about peace and hope and where love is being shared in devotion to Christ. We ask O God that you would help us discern the role the church family plays in our lives and help us to know that we are important members of a family of faithful people. Enable us to share and show this love. We ask in Jesus name. Amen.

            BLOG QUESTION:
The church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord. Another important part of the church’s foundation are faithful people who will help us as we live our daily lives filled with celebrations and changing moments of grace. What role does the church play for you, if any? Are you seeking your own agendas/ wants/ relevance or are you there to grow with God’s Spirit as a person looking for meaning and relationships with others.
Is it a ‘me’ focused placed or a ‘we’ centred place to be. This is the primary concern for man of our churches; but somehow we tend to forget it. We are called to love others in Jesus name. What do you think about this individualist vs person focus?

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Trinity: Three in One

”Trinity: Three in One”
John 1:1-2

“Holy, Holy, Holy….” A well known and loved hymn includes the phrase, “God in three persons, blessed Trinity.” How do we explain this cornerstone of Christian faith- the Trinity that God is three in one—Father, Son and Spirit?  And do we really believe this in this time when Christianity itself is being questioned as a valid faith in such a modern changing time?
The Sunday after Pentecost is recognized as a day to focus on God- the 3 in 1- Father, Son and Spirit; or described in another way – Creator, Redeemer and Spirit. But what does this mean for us who believe in God and are uncertain as to our relationship with the Father and the Spirit. 
Many Christians believe in Jesus as the man who was born of Mary and lived a human life for about 30 years prior to his ministry with others in and around Jerusalem. Jesus is known as the Son of God who lived, died and because He is God- was able to rise to new life. And it is because of His resurrection we celebrate the gift of eternal life and the wonder of his teaching, preaching and healing.
Yet other believers have an idea of God as beyond human understanding for He is the one who is Creator and even caused the Big Bang, and aligned everything from chaos to order. God the Father/ Creator made the world and is continuing to do so with each new life that begins.  This God is also the One which controls all thigns loves all things and made all things new. And this is the God who sent His Son, Jesus to live on earth for us to be reconciled with Him.
But who is the Spirit? We welcomed the Spirit at Pentecost and we continue to welcome the Spirit in our midst not only in holy sacred moments but as the person of God who leads us, and enables us to discern our way of living and loving others.
So on Trinity we visualize a trillium flower and we show how these three petals interact and yet are distinct. We call this the Trinity –God and we rejoice that in time and in our understanding as we each need we can relate to  God in these three persons.
For example, when stargazing at night we are amazed at God’s creation and vastness of the universe. But when we want to hear a child’s first prayer we hear the words of the little one speak and say “Dear Jesus” or sing the beloved hymn ‘Jesus loves me’.  And when we are uncertain about how we feel or when we even doubt our faith we may ask the Spirit to surround us, protect us and show us what to do as we seek to be renewed in faith. This is GOd- all three in one and this is how we relate to our God if we believe.
Holy God of grace we rejoice in your presence with us- as creator, as Saviour and as Spirit- Trinity , three- in one. Help us to understand you and know you and to love you. Hear us O God as we turn to you and seek answers to our many questions. Help us to know you as we continue to grow in faith. Come to us O God as we seek to grow closer to you. In the name of God- Father, Son and Spirit we pray. Amen.

            BLOG QUESTION:
How do you relate to God? Does it depend upon what you are doing; where you are and what it means to grow in grace and love? Does the work of the Spirit cause you to open your mind and heart in new ways because you have heard the stories of Jesus? Does knowing that you are but a speck in the full scheme of the Milky Way that God made make you feel significant or not? Does knowing that God loves you make a difference?
The Trinity- Creator/ Redeemer/ Spirit; Father/ Son and Spirit is God and for each of us we can call upon this God in any and all ways. We just need to ask and God will respond.
How do you know God in your life? And how does God know you?

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Filled with the Spirit

”Filled with the Spirit”
Acts 2:4

Pentecost is a wonder filled celebration of the Christian Church. On Pentecost, the disciples had gathered together and the Holy Spirit came amongst them not quietly but with the rush of violent wind and it filled the entire house. Divided tongues as of fire appeared among them and a tongue rested on each of them. This caused the disciples to speak in other languages. Many people in the streets heard conversations in different languages and these people questioned what had happened. They were confused and even thought the disciples were drunk because of how and what they spoke. It was the Spirit of God which touched these followers of Jesus. The Spirit which Jesus promised would come and live in them. This Spirit is a comforter also because even though Jesus is with God the Father in glory, he still stands with the disciples and all who believe.
The Spirit comes amongst the disciples and brings comfort. The followers of Jesus did not know what they would do next. But it is the Spirit which supports and encourages them to tell Jesus’ story. IT is the Spirit who is with them as they experience this new ministry and it is the Spirit which leads all in the mission of the church.
The Spirit calls us to follow God’s path for us. Our spirit joins with God’s Spirit and we are lead in His way.  The Spirit blows throughout our lives. We need to be understanding where this Spirit may lead us and follow.
Wonderful God, we praise you and thank your for your Spirit which comes to be our comforter as followers of Jesus Christ. Help us to understand the Spirit’s movement and path so that we might live out lives of justice and peace. May your Spirit come to us O God. Amen.
            BLOG QUESTION:
Pentecost is the celebration of the coming of the Holy Spirit to the church. It occurs 50 days after the resurrection of Jesus at Easter. But in the time of Jesus, this Pentecost celebration occurred 50 days after Passover and was known as the Jewish harvest festival.. The streets of the cities would have been filled with visitors from various countries for this celebration within the Jewish tradition. When the Holy Spirit came, the disciples were together and given the gift of speaking in different languages and those on the street heard words in their own language. A gift to a traveler in a foreign city ,but also a gift to the disciples who were filled with the Spirit and being lead into what God had in store for them.
Pentecost is also known as the birth of the Christian church because of the presence of the Spirit. Does knowing what occurred on that first Pentecost- Jewish harvest festival day make a difference to your understanding of the Holy Spirit coming to be with and in people of faith? What does this mean for you?

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

He Was Carried Up Into Heaven

”He Was Carried Up Into Heaven”
Luke 24: 44-53

            We are approaching the end of the Season of Easter celebrating Jesus’ resurrection and we will soon welcome the Spirit of God on Pentecost. But in this time of transition a significant event occurs which we often understand only as an aside even though it was and is important to the story of Jesus. After Jesus rose from death he appeared to his disciples and spoke with them about the Holy Spirit. He breathed on them and told him and shared with them his peace. It is only a short while later when we read in Luke 24 that Jesus led his disciples outside of the city of Jerusalem to the community of Bethany.  While there, Jesus raised his hands and he blessed these disciples who had been most faithful to him and who truly knew him and loved him as their Saviour and Teacher. While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. They worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. Jesus had ascended into heaven in bodily form and the disciples returned to the city of Jerusalem with joy.
            Most often when we take leave of a friend at  the airport, bus or train station there is mixed emotions based upon the experience that has been shared. The one leaving is either returning to their own lives or beginning again. Those remaining also have mixed emotions because of time shared and what will happen next.
            When Jesus ascended into heaven the disciples worshiped him. They returned to Jerusalem with great joy- They knew Jesus as God’s Son and believed that He would never leave them. But their future was uncertain—or was it?
            The disciples had been told that Jesus would no longer be with Him in a physical way. Jesus had promised the Spirit to be with them and so they waited. How could they explain Jesus’ going away- ascending into heaven? This is the same man who died and rose to new life and now he had just gone up into heaven?
            These disciples waited for the Spirit to direct their lives into a new mission. We who know Jesus and experience the Spirit amongst us also need to have our lives directed- or redirected by the Spirit. And this is the role of the Spirit—we just need to call the Sprit to us and to ask God to show us what our mission is.
            The disciples began to teach and preach and heal in the name of Jesus. We too are still called to do the same as this is our mission in Christ’s name. Let us reflect on this as we remember Jesus’ ascension into heaven and how He is with God the Father. Let us think about what God calls us to do so that we can rejoice in the Risen Christ who is with God in heaven.


Holy God,  hear us as we seek your plan for us this day. Help us to respond with love and devotion as we seek to fulfill your mission for our lives. Enable us to know the joy the disciples experienced as they saw Jesus ascend into heaven and as they worshiped Him. We ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

            BLOG QUESTION:

Why is it important to hear the story of the Ascension of Jesus? The disciples worshiped Jesus as he left them to be with the Father and they were filled with joy. What were they to do next? Does hearing this story of Jesus’ ascension and the disciples joy make a difference to your understanding of being a disciple in Jesus? How and why?

Friday, 3 May 2013

Opening Your Heart

”Opening Your Heart”
Acts 16:9-15

            Lydia was from the city of Thyatira and was a merchant to people with money. She sold purple cloth, a colour most often worn by royalty and yet she was different than many of the people who had listened to Paul’s story of Jesus. She worshiped God and she listened attentively to the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection. And she believed. It was God who opened her heart to listen eagerly to the words of Paul. She believed and she and her household were baptized by Paul and his followers. Lydia also welcomed them into her home because she challenged them about her faithfulness. God had opened her heart to be faithful and she opened her home to the faithful leadership of Paul.
            But what does opening one’s heart really mean in light of understanding of faith, commitment, and trust today. Often we hear of people who are in relationship with each other and how they open their heart to each other with the hope of long lasting love. Not always does this work out positively as hearts are broken. But what is really important in this is that there is a willingness to be vulnerable, to trust, to explore a relationship and to grow in this relationship with another.
God enabled Lydia’s heart to be open to the message of the Spirit as Paul told Jesus’ story of his passion, death and resurrection. Her heart was open as she was seeking to listen and desired more knowledge as she experienced Christ’s love. And she was new to faith and her excitement was shared with her household and all were baptized as believers! All because God opened Lydia’s heart to listen and to receive the Spirit she and her household were forever changed.
Has God opened your heart to receive Christ’s Spirit? Has God enabled you to listen to Christ’s story of unconditional love? Have you received God’s blessing and love?  Are you willing to share of yourself and your love of Christ? This is a test of faith and a means of how we may grow in God’s grace and love.  Why not ask God right now to open your heart so that you will listen and know (again) Jesus?

Holy God, open my heart to listen to your Word for me today. Enable me to breathe and be calm knowing that your Spirit guides me each day. And help me to learn more about you in your Word just as Lydia did. Open my heart and enable me to receive you. SILENCE> Amen.

            BLOG QUESTION:
Lydia was a worshiper of God and had been listening to Paul as he taught. God opened her heart to listen with an even more eager heart. She became very faithful to God and to the message of Jesus Christ. How eager are you to listen to Christ’s message to love and to receive His peace as you share with others with hope and joy? How willing are you to seek to grow in your relationship with Jesus? These are the questions which call us to be vulnerable, to be humble and yet they also call us to rejoice in faith and with hope. How do you respond to these ideas?