June 23, 2014
This is the first installment of our summer youth mission trip series. The middle and high school youth will spend time this year in with our mission partners at VIM in Mexico and with DOOR in Atlanta. Please keep an eye on the blog for updates on their travels, their work, and the ways they see God’s hand and love in our world.
On our first day in Atlanta, I was already very moved. As soon as we turned the corner toward the church we saw lines of struggling homeless people laying outside. I was confused at first but soon learned the church lets them sleep there every night. They kept each of their spaces so clean and it was almost as if they had their own room. We began distributing sandwiches and came across a kind homeless couple. They sang us three songs, all about having trust in God. I believe God was truly shining through them that they had close to nothing and they knew God would provide. – Kate
June 20, 2014
Is Jesus Christ the only way?
It is hard to be a Christian in today’s world and not ask this question.
Or is it?
June 11, 2014
In this week’s Gospel lesson, Jesus tells his followers that they must “become like children” in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. In a world that values advancement, education and progress, these words are hard for us to hear. We love children, but we don’t necessarily want to be children again.
As we begin our summer sermon series, “Questions of Faith,” we will look at some questions asked by children of our congregation and consider what it might mean if we were to look at our own faith through the eyes of a child.
August 15, 2013
Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.
As Christians – and those who stand in the Reformed tradition – we have always had a bit of a struggle between the law and the gospel.
If you need evidence of this tension, read one of Paul’s letters to any number of his churches – in Rome, Galatia, or Corinth. For disciples of Jesus, salvation does not come from an adherence to the law but by the grace and glory of the cross.
However, Jesus still has a high regard for the place of the law in the lives of those who are his disciples. What are we to do with this apparent conundrum?
John Calvin is of help here. Calvin – one of the forefathers in our Reformed tradition – described three uses for the law for those whose identity and salvation are secured by the grace of Jesus Christ.
The first use of the law is to convict us of our sin. Knowing the law – even if we cannot perfectly keep the law – reminds us of the fact that, as humans, we fall short. It also reminds us of the utter dependence we have on God’s grace.
The second use of the law is to restrain our passion. God’s law, again, even if we cannot fully abide by it, curtails our tendency toward behavior that is driven purely by our desire for pleasure. In this way, the law functions the way that civil law does in our society – it sets boundaries for our behavior that create order.
Calvin’s third use of the law is to show us how to live. Here is the connection to grace. It is when we understand ourselves as redeemed by God’s grace that we are motivated – not out of fear, but out of gratitude – to walk in paths of righteousness.
August 1, 2013
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. Exodus 20:16
Speech is a sacred act. It has the power to create community, ignite imagination, break even the hardest of hearts. Speech can call people toward a common cause, change the will of a nation and leave us breathless. As a people of speech, the spoken word clarifies our proclamation and directs our hope. But speech is a two-edged sword. Just as it can protect and secure, it can cut deep into the heart and tear bonds beyond mending. It can steal reputations, leave scars, inspire goodness and hope, convince hate and declare war.
A lie is most dangerous form of speech in that it can create a world that is simply not true. It can stain the innocent with guilt, frame the generous with suspicion, turn the curious into ‘The ignorant,’ and the faithful into ‘A heretic.’ A lie cuts bonds of community because it is no more than a bi-product of one’s individual, self-serving agenda.
Have you ever been hurt by a false witness? Is silence the same as not telling the truth?
July 25, 2013
You shall not steal.
Consistent with scripture that warns against false balances, charging interest and unfair taxes, this commandment was to help maintain justice by maintaining equity over the common property of the clan – the water well, the grazing land and the herds of cattle and sheep. They believed that the land belonged to God and, at most, they were merely stewards or managers of that land, which was theirs in trust for the welfare of the whole clan. To deprive anyone of what they were due from God was, therefore, a direct sin against God.
Today, it is hard to imagine common anything. The fences that once “made good neighbors” have grown into walls that designate what is “mine” from what is “yours.” We work hard, earn money and (with that) the right to purchase and protect our private property.
So what can this commandment say to us beyond what our civil law has since made perfectly clear?
July 17, 2013
You shall not commit adultery. Exodus 20:14
We’ve gotten ridiculously good as humans at making excuses for certain kinds of harmful behaviors, and often tend to believe that if it makes us happy, then it can’t really be all that bad. But the Ten Commandments remind us that our lives are meant to be about something greater than our own happiness. And when the pursuit of our own happiness infects and impacts relationships, then we are going against God’s will for creation.
The prohibition against adultery calls us to a level of commitment that is not always easy, but that has at its heart an understanding of the depth of God’s love for creation. It is a reminder that sometimes in a relationship things get difficult, and that there are powerful temptations in this world. But it tells us that there is something greater than our own wants, desires and feelings. True commitment calls us to transcend our base desires and live in faithful covenant with another, no matter what. For many people, this is an extraordinarily difficult thing.
But this is not simply a prohibition. This commandment, while clear in what we are not to do, also has a positive side, which points to God’s very real, very loving concern for healthy relationships in all our lives. How we interact with others in relationship is not, ultimately, a private matter. It is a community matter.