The Harshness of Advent

“The stories of Advent are drug from the harsh soil of human struggle and the littered landscape of dashed dreams.  They are told from the vista of where sin still reigns supreme and hope has gone on vacation.  Many prefer the major notes of Joy and Gladness in the Christmas stories to the minor keys of Advent.” (Gary W. Charles)

Usually on the second week of Advent, the Lectionary has lessons on John the Baptizer.  His message was one of repentance and preparation for the rule of God.  Like I said last Sunday, Advent is a counter-cultural time in the church.  Justice and righteousness are counter-cultural objectives.  Justice and righteousness confront the powerful, the self-satisfied, and those that benefit from the order outside of the rule of God.  This is not the same as many of the anarchists that fill our streets, the rule of God has qualities, objectives, and marks of it functioning. 

John confronts those that come to him to receive the baptism of repentance by insisting that they show fruit that is consistent with repentance.  Others, he confronts their hypocrisy that they are only interested in the show of their religion and not the abject repentance that marks true religion.

This leaves us with the bottom line of our hearts becoming hearts shaped by Advent.  Hearts that humbly prepare the way of the Lord in each pathway of our lives.  The bottom line of removing all show and pretense where we can only cry with the publican, “God be merciful to me a sinner.”

The bottom line, the harsh reality or advent is one of being consistent with the rule of God over you.  Where the foundational law or order of the rule of God is to love God with all your soul, mind, and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself.  That is why I call our entire time
on this earth Advent Time.  We are preparing, repenting, and loving least we miss the call of God’s rule.

Pastor Greg

The “Now What?” of Ministry

It is so easy to slip into a project-oriented mindset when it comes to ministry.  We have seen recently how the diligent work and planning of our members resulted in security improvement on the downstairs entries, the renovated sign in front of the church, and attractive banners welcoming our neighbors.  Yet, there is the challenge of “Now What?”  Of course, there are other projects needed.  But the projects are to prepare for ministry.

We cannot allow the physical plant of our church to become the ministry of our church.  The “now what” seems to be pointing to our ministry of hospitality.  Hospitality is not just a warm cup of coffee and fresh baked sweet roll; it is the preparation of our ministry to show that we are ready for you to be with us. 

Think about this quote:  “In a world that seems increasingly inhospitable, the church has an opportunity to re-imagine hospitality and foster a welcoming and grace-filled witness to our communities, the nation, and the world, as we offer hope, love, and life to those around us.  This may be the most vital and life-giving offering the church can give today— hospitality to those whom the world denies hospitality.”

Hospitality doesn’t just happen.  It must be intentional.  So, the “now what?” could be:  “Are we intentional in the welcome we show others?”

Pastor Greg

How Has The Truth of God Changed you?

2 Kings 22:1-20; 23:1-3

Josiah was the “boy-king,” becoming king of Judah when he was 8 years-old.  When he was 18, he undertook a restoration project in the Temple.  As they were cleaning out the rooms for restoration, they found a book.  It was the book of the Law of the Lord (many commentators think it was the book of Deuteronomy.)  When this young man read the book given to him, he tore his clothes realizing that there was so much that was happening against the law of the Lord in Judah.
Josiah made a vow to follow the Word of the Lord, and he undertook a series of reforms to bring justice to his kingdom.  That made me think, how often do we simply ignore the Bible, that we call the Word of God.  We know that the Bible is not just a rule book that we can implement point by point.  It requires what the Psalmist described as “meditating in your law, day and night.” 
If we are a people seek justice and righteousness, then we have a standard, the Word of God.  The wisdom we need is not just for a casual reading of the Bible.  The way we gain wisdom is described by Proverbs as mining for silver or gold (Prov 2:3-5). 
A public reading of the Law of the Lord, changed the nation of Judah under Josiah, when was the last time it changed your life?

Pastor Greg

Putting God to the Test

1 Kings 18:17-39

When you see the title, you might think of the words of Jesus in Matthew 4:7—“Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ”  What Jesus said was in the temptations by Satan and Jesus being dared to presume upon God.  Putting God to the test would be quoting the verse, “But my God shall supply all your needs,” the quitting you job, staying at  home and expect the provisions to roll on in.  That is presumptive arrogance, not faithful dependence. 

In the text this week we encounter a familiar story of Elijah confronting the prophets of Baal.  He proposes a test, the god that will answer by fire will be our God.  This test was to show the lack of power in the god Baal, and the powerful work of the Living God.

We do need to put God to the test.  We do that by living according to God’s word and following God’s ways.  We do live in a society that is floundering between many decisions.  Too often the decisions are framed as being either hard right or hard left.  But there is a better way, the way of Christ, the way of love, the way of obedience to the One Living God.  This is how we let our light shine.  When we show the blessings, the peace, the joy of following Christ, and the overall benefit of living a moral and righteous life, then we confront this confused world with the reality of God.

Malachi 3:10 says, “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house, and thus put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts; see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing.”  This is not given to us for Stewardship Sunday, but it is God inviting us to test him in our finances.  Putting God first in our finances, is a way to show that the Living God works in us to bless us for our obedience.  I often wonder who is the Master of most Christians, the Card or God?

Pastor Greg

No meal in December.

Next meal 1/22/2024

Happy Holidays!!

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