If you were not able to make it to church this past Sunday, take a moment to listen to Colin’s sermon. We are still in the “I AM” sermon series and the topic was “…the Good Shepherd”.
One of my many job descriptions is shepherd. It is pretty scary job description for all of us. If you are reading this then there is a good chance that means you are a part of the flock. I’m not sure I like being called a shepherd anymore than you like being called a sheep.
However, part of a shepherd’s role is to lead, guide, protect, and care for the sheep. That’s a job I enter into every morning with great humility, awe, and seriousness. Yet, it is scary because I know I get it wrong, I know I too am broken, and I know I too am prone to wander.
So this weeks proclamation from Jesus, “I am the good shepherd” is pretty important for all of us. The Lord is our Shepherd; Jesus is our protector, our comforter, and our guide. Each and every week I try and guide folks towards the good shepherd the best way I know how, and that is usually in a gathered community around a table. I hope you will make it a priority to be at worship this week as we follow the good shepherd, gather around a table, and welcome a few more to our flock.
If you missed last Sunday’s sermon please take a moment to hear Colin preach.
His Way to Start Your Week will begin their Advent Study on Nov 17th and they have a few openings available! They will continue on after Advent with some other great studies! They meet on Monday mornings. Click Here for more information and to register!
Grace and Peace,
Yesterday we celebrated my son, Llewellyn’s, second birthday. It was a hectic yet fun day as we blew out candles, celebrated, and opened a few presents. Yesterday Llewellyn reminded me of the importance of joy and celebration and how a gift can produce elation. I was reminded of the beauty of wonder, as Llewellyn sat in magical wonder as he stared at a ceiling filled with the moon and stars being projected from a turtle.
In a continuation from yesterday’s lessons I came across this article:
The article articulates the importance of children in our midst as a Christian community. The Church has done a pretty good job of segregating ourselves by age not only for worship, but also in much of our life together. I would argue that intergenerational relationships are crucial to the Christian formation of children, youth, and adults.
Sure, age specific teaching and formation is important, but it can’t be the sole way we do ministry. That is why I have been somewhat insistent that the 1st on Chatham community groups mix up kids and adults. I believe adults have much to learn from kids. I also believe the faith is often passed down through observation, imitation, and modeling and not strictly through teaching in a classroom setting. Is it louder? Yep. Is it messy? You bet. Is it beautiful? I think so.
This Wednesday, what are some ways we can be more welcoming of all generations within our community? What might we need to change or sacrifice? What have you recently learned from someone who is in a different generation from your own? How are we expected to pass on the faith if we aren’t in intentional relationships with those a different age from ourselves?
As we move into worship on Sunday we will be talking about the importance of invitation. I pray that we are continually becoming a congregation that is invitational to all generations. See you on Sunday with someone you have invited along.
Colin Snider, Pastor of Outreach Ministries
CREATING, LIVING, TRUSTING… Groups are forming for this exciting and in-depth journey that will help connect us with God, People, and Service in many new life-giving ways! Want to know more? Here are some of the groups already forming:
• Tuesday AM, 9:30 to 11:00, Scott and Sandra Hansen, Co-Facilitators, Room 201 Click Here to sign up!
• Thursday AM, 10:30 to Noon, (aka) T4! Thursday—Talking, Tasting, and Teaching!
Lisa Banks and Doug Richmond, Co-Facilitators, Room 201 Click Here to sign up!
• Thursday PM, 7:00 to 8:30, Charlotte and Buddy West, Co-Facilitators, Room 201 Click Here to sign up!
• TBD, Let the church know of your interest and we will work together to add a group!
This engaging discipleship opportunity is taking place from September to April. Each group will have great scheduling flexibility designed to cover 3 eight-week sessions centered in Creating, Living, and Trusting the Covenant with God. Here is a sample:
Creating the Covenant
Who Are We?
Freedom and Instruction
Logic of the Cross
Living the Covenant
The Spirit-led Community
Act Like a Christian
Doing the Right Thing
Trusting the Covenant
Praise and Lament
Crisis and Starting Over
Exile and Renewal
A limited number of Covenant Participant Materials will be available at no charge through the Church Office for return in good condition to the Curriculum Library. If you wish to keep the complete set of materials the cost is $60. Let’s gather at the table and see what God will do for and with our church through this important time!
Sign-up online at www.firstcary.com or be in touch with one of these facilitators.
Last week at our weekly First on Chatham small group, in the midst of the usual amazing food and conversation, we chatted about the current condition of the church. My father (visiting from Texas) is a previous Catholic, non-denominational Christian and church-goer, and spurred the conversation of going to church, the difficulties, the pleasures, and so forth. We landed on the fact that many people are leaving the church, and how many younger Christians are either running from denominations or the church in general. This conversation stuck with me for a while, and made me think.
I knew a lot of these kinds of people while I was in college in Houston. Heck, I even used to be one! I like to call them ‘Renegade Christians’ – those who claim Christ and refuse to claim the church. I recall talking with an individual years ago who would get up on Sunday mornings for ‘church,’ only he wouldn’t leave his dorm room! I asked him once what ‘church’ was like alone in his dorm room. He told me he would listen to one of his favorite worship albums, pray, and watch a youtube sermon from one of his favorite speakers. He liked it because it was church on his terms, on his own time and comfort level, and most importantly – it was church without the hypocrisy of those churches he used to be apart of that “burned him.” I was on staff at a Baptist church at the time, and was always amazed at how many kids my age had taken to this philosophy, this Neo-church, by the individual, for the individual. At the time, I was intrigued, as his description of ‘church’ was much like my ‘quiet times’ but the older I became, the less I favored the idea.
My buddy was right – the church has burned people, many people, myself included. The church is also full of hypocrites! But I find myself perplexed at how someone can claim Christ, and not claim the church. Such an idea is a theological oxymoron. For one, Genesis 1:26 (NRSV) says “let US make humankind in our image.” Many theologians believe this to be an inner conversation of the trinity – Father, Son, and Spirit having a little chat. Since we are MADE in the image of God, and the image of God is communal, should we not also be communal in our Christianity? Maybe that’s not enough of a reason for some, so what about Christ specifically – what did he say on the matter? Ephesians5:25 says “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and GAVE HIMSELF up for her.” Ultimately, according to Genesis, and the apostle Paul, to love Christ IS to love the church. You don’t get one without the other. Trust me, I get it – the universal church has problems – but the good churches don’t hide this fact or claim perfection, rather – they offer an imperfect community access to a perfect God, and in so doing offer this perfect God to an imperfect world. Maybe you have been one of these Renegade Christians in the past, or maybe you are one now, and if so – please know, it is a good thing to be apart of a church, based solely on the fact that it is a Christ-like thing to be apart of a church, to give yourself to one’s church, to love the church.
peace and love,
Last week I was tossed in a 12ft wave off the coast of Nantucket, MA, and was left with a lisfranc fracture (5 fractures total – I essentially broke the arch in my right foot). I had a surgery adding some plates and screws, and will be off my foot and on crutches for about 8-12 weeks. Total bummer right? The day I got home from surgery, the anesthesia and the nerve block from my right leg started to wear off, resulting in the most painful 24 hours of my life. The Doc even okayed me to up the normal 1 Oxycodone every 4 hours to 3 pills every 3 hours. Still hurt…badly. Every hour I was cringing my teeth as I felt the newly acquired metal settling into my bones. I’m not much of a cryer – but I will admit, there were tears. As most humans probably do in moments such as these, I pondered why. What is God trying to teach me?
My first lecture at Duke Divinity came from Will Willimon in which he lectured/preached on Acts 9 – the conversion of Saul. Saul, an intense and unfortunately successful persecutor of Christianity is confronted on the road to Damascus (by JC himself) and blinded, left completely helpless and sketched out – without sight for 3 days. Cue Ananias, a local disciple, who is summoned by the Lord to go and cure Saul – to go and cure this man who has persecuted the church for so long, a man which Ananias is familiar with! The Lord comforts Ananias in saying that Saul will be an instrument, and continues saying “I myself will show him (Saul) how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” At this point in the lecture Willimon interjects, saying “I’m not sure who the conversion of Saul was harder for – Saul……or Ananias.”
During the heart pounding, teeth grinding pain from my complexly fractured foot, I was reminded that there is a cost to following Jesus……and I am not sure how or if this specific event is related, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was. Christ was tortured and nailed to a cross, so maybe me holding my broken foot and crying is the most Christ like thing I will ever do. There is a cost to following Jesus. This cost is great. Jesus tells us to “pick up our cross and follow him” (Matt. 16:24). Saul was blinded and terrified, Ananias was forced to heal this punk who was dissing the church. Anyone who claims Christianity boasts an absence in suffering or sacrifice, is lying. It is not easy, the road is narrow – but I can promise you this: there is no greater joy. Paradoxical? You bet. Welcome to Christianity.
Peace and Love,
In preparation for a sermon I will be delivering in a couple weeks, I have been meditating on the marriage of Isaac and Rebekah in Genesis 24. For those of you who are like me, and need the spark notes on this rather long bible story, here they are:
Abraham is on his deathbed, and makes an oath with his servant to make sure his son, Isaac, marries a woman not from Canaan (Abraham’s current home), but from Abraham’s hometown – the city of Nahor. So the servant travels to Nahor. Upon arriving at the city well, where the daughters of the townspeople are drawing water – the servant says: “O Lord, God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today and show steadfast love to my master Abraham,” and continues to ask God to reveal Isaac’s future wife as the one who agrees to give both he and his camels a drink. The servant approaches Rebekah who does just this – and Rebekah even welcomes the servant to her house – to which the servant in Gen 24:27 says “Blessed be the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken his steadfast love and his faithfulness toward my master. As for me, the Lord has led me on the way to the house of my master’s kin.”
Fast forwarding through some of the details, arrangements are made, Rebekah AGREES to go and marry Isaac, and the two become one. The reason I find myself writing about this passage today is not because of the clear story of God’s provision of a husband for Rebekah, or a wife for Isaac, or even Abraham’s oath. Rather, I find myself writing about this story because I was amazed at Abraham’s servant’s obedience and respect for God. This servant, who finds himself communicating with Yahweh only because his master has given him orders to, is a pretty amazing follower of God! He communicates with God, asks things of God, obeys God, and worships God multiple times through out the course of the story. Oh how much I have to learn from this servant – oh how much WE as the church have to learn from this servant.
Back to Basics: Dismantling the Mecca of Modern Worship
There has been a lot of talk on the problems of worship in Contemporary Christian communities recently, primarily in discussing the lack of congregational participation. There have been many theories of blame circulating. As a contemporary worship leader, and lover of the contemporary Christian genre, I feel compelled to jump in on the conversation. Rather than contributing to the blame game, I want bring us back to basics in asking: what is the foundation of worship? I ask because I think we have forgotten. Spiritual amnesia has forced us to stray from the reason for why we worship. So, if worship isn’t about fog machines, drum loops, catchy choruses, MacBooks, or in ear monitors, what is worship about?
I had a church music professor in college, (Dr. Jonathan Blackmon, currently teaching MBU in St. Louis), who used to define worship as communion with God. By this definition, the function of worship leading is to lead others into communion with God. So I ask, are worship leaders (who are first and foremost ministers) doing all things possible to lead people into communion with God? Additionally, are we as followers of God first seeking communion with God, in order that we might bring others into this divine communion for which we are familiar?
According to Blackmon’s definition of worship, some of the best worshipers in the bible are hidden! I’m not talking about the mainstream, radio-friendly worship leaders like Moses, King David, or the Apostle Paul, I’m talking about the lo-fi, undiscovered, b-side nameless bible characters who do whatever they can to commune with God, to worship. I was having lunch with Jason, one of the youth ministers at my church, when he recounted the story of Jesus healing the paralytic who was lowered through the roof of the house Jesus was teaching in (Mark 2:4 and Luke 5:19). Jason talked about how the men got to Jesus in the quickest possible way. They were so eager to be in communion with God that they went through the roof (which Jason cleverly suggests was pretty sketchy, given that property damage was probably a crime), but they didn’t care! They were not concerned with the cost of communion with Christ, and they were definitely not concerned with themselves (as they stayed on the roof). We as worshipers and worship leaders have much to benefit from this story. Are we so concerned with protocol, our personal preferences of worship, or the spotlight, that we have forgotten that its about communion with Christ? Sometimes I feel like I could buy contemporary worship service tickets onticketmaster.com, as the environment screams “praise the good-looking, talented musician,” rather than the bloody Jew on the Cross.
We should be doing everything in our power to commune with God, and lead others into this communion. The reality is, everybody worships something. Whether its a significant other, a possession, or even yourself, we all worship, because we were created to. But we weren’t just created to worship anything….we were created to worship God, to be in communion with God. For this reason we are all worship leaders, and while the Chris Tomlin Passion songs, the 15 electric guitars on stage, and the light show equivalent to a KISS concert are fun and helpful resources, the best worshipers, and thus worship leaders, focus less on themselves and more on communion with Christ. Do everything in your power today to commune with God. Leave everything else behind.