Apr 29, 2016

Chancel Choir & Orchestra Presentation on May 1

Our Chancel Choir and Orchestra will present Haydn’s Mass in Time of War this Sunday, May 1. This presentation will be in the Sanctuary at 9:00 and 11:00 am. The Soloists will be Karen Kenaston-French, Sarah Collier, Ruben Romero, and Linsley Liburd.

The title of the work, Mass in Time of War, which was Haydn’s own designation, refers to the gathering war clouds in Europe as the young Napoleon fought his way ever deeper into Austrian territory in northern Italy. At the same time, other Austrian troops were defending the southern Rhine crossings against French invasion. These ominous developments find full expression in the significant use of trumpets and timpani in the mass. Throughout the mass you hear an unsettledness and drama that reflect the times. However, you also hear a plea for peace and mercy.

Ironically, the work also resonates with its associated reading from the Book of Revelation: “There was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon...” We as a church have used the book of Revelation as our texts for worship during the Season of Easter which will draw to a close on May 8, 2016.

Come hear our excellent choir and superb orchestra do a challenging piece of music that will surely move you.


Apr 22, 2016

The Sacrifice of Thanksgiving

Perhaps there is never a person who ever disappoints us as much as an ingrate. “What is an ingrate?” you ask. An ingrate is a person who presumes upon the goodness of another. In fact, from the spiritual point of view, ingratitude expresses immaturity. Small children do not always appreciate what parents do for them. Like the spiritually immature, a small child’s concern is not what a parent did for him or her yesterday, but what the parents doing for the child right now.

The spiritually mature appreciate those who labored for them in the past. A spiritually mature person understands that a relationship with another—whether the relationship is with another person or even with God—is a relationship that takes into account past, present, and future. 

The story of Andrew Carnegie, a multimillionaire in the early part of last century, depicts a tragic sense of ingratitude. When Carnegie’s will was probated, he left $1 million to one of his relatives, who in return cursed Carnegie because he had left $365 million to public charities and had cut him off with just one measly million. This reminds us of an old saying about those who complain too much: “You will find that, as a rule, those who complain about the way the ball bounces are usually the ones who dropped it.”

When Mahatma Gandhi was the spiritual leader of India, some missionaries asked him, “What is the greatest hindrance to Christianity in India?” He replied curtly, “Christians.”

Jesus himself told his disciples in the Sermon on the Mount, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt has lost its taste, with what shall it be salted? It is thereafter good for nothing but to be thrown out and walked on” (Matthew 5:13).

Truly thankful Christians are people who are spiritually mature. They, like Paul, thank God in all circumstances and remember the things that God has bestowed. Thankfulness does not have to wait for prosperity and peace. It’s always a good time to praise God for the “wondrous things” God has done. Those who understand faithfulness also understand the sacrifice of thanksgiving. Those who are truly and authentically thankful know the truth of the Apostle Paul’s words:

See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all.  Rejoice always,  pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:15-18).
Paul and Jesus each knew what the sacrifice of thanksgiving was all about!


Apr 15, 2016

Confirmation Retreat: April 15-16

Our confirmands go on their retreat this weekend and I hope they learn something about the power of the Holy Spirit.

I experienced something a few years ago with respect to our Confirmation class of recent memory. The Holy Spirit is that which offers divine power to mere mortals such as ourselves. It is poured out on many. Yet, the Holy Spirit also pours out the power on all those gathered as one. Consequently, the power is not simply for two or three random individuals. The power of the spirit empowers the whole collection of believers. We all know the truth of the old saying, “Many hands lighten the load.” This might mean that it is much easier for six pall bearers to carry a casket than it is for two funeral directors. Together—as a community of faith we are much stronger—and more effective—when we work in concert. And this being in concert is under the direction of the Holy Spirit.

Picture a scenario in our church’s Great Hall after a meal. In truth this scenario occurred several years ago on a Saturday night at our confirmation banquet. The room needed clearing for Celebration worship the next morning. If two or three people broke down 25 tables and folded 150 chairs, this effort would take a lot of time. Yet, many people pitched in and helped clear the room. It took only a matter of minutes. Congregational power occurs when believers work together for a common good.

As a matter of fact this “shared work” is a principle behind stewardship of a local church. When many people, prompted to generosity by the Holy Spirit, give with generosity, then the church can accomplish substantive ministry. If a congregation relies on only a few “big givers,” then that church effectively compromises its mission outreach. It is no accident that God chose to pour out the Holy Spirit on many. The tongues of fire representing the spirit “rested on each of them.” Many received the Holy Spirit experience and they, as a result, became stewards of that spirit. Together they became strong.


Apr 8, 2016

Native American Ministries Sunday

In honor of Native American Ministries Sunday and my friend, Raquel Mull, I offer
Words of Navajo Wisdom: 

About 1966 or so, a NASA team doing work for the Apollo moon mission took the astronauts near Tuba City, where the terrain of the Navajo Reservation looks very much like the Lunar surface.

Along with all the trucks and large vehicles, there were two large figures dressed in full Lunar spacesuits.

Nearby, a Navajo sheep herder and his son were watching the strange creatures walk about, occasionally being tended to by personnel. The two Navajo people were noticed and approached by the NASA personnel. Since the man did not know English, his son asked what the strange creatures were. The NASA people told them that they were just men getting ready to go to the moon. The man became very excited and asked if he could send a message to the moon with the astronauts.

The NASA personnel thought this was a great idea, so they rustled up a tape recorder. After the man gave them his message, they asked his son to translate. His son would not.

Later, they tried to get a few more people on the reservation to translate, but every person they asked would chuckle and refuse to translate. Finally, with cash in hand, someone translated the message: “Watch out for these guys, they come to take your land.”


Apr 1, 2016

A New Series for Easter Worship

This coming week we will begin a new worship series on the book of Revelation. The Series Title is: “Revealing Revelation: Easter Worship Series. In a shameless over-simplification, the Bible is a narrative drama with God as the author, producer, director, and main character:

1. Creation—Genesis
2. Covenant—Exodus to Malachi
3. Christ/Messiah—Matthew to John—the Gospels
4. Church—Acts to Jude
5. The Consummation—The Apocalypse of St. John the Divine

God will bring history to a worthy conclusion when the creation which de jure (by right) belongs to God’s realm will de facto (in fact) “become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign forever and ever” (Revelation 11:15).

The author is John who does not identify himself other than as a servant, a brother:

[1:1] The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place; he made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, Rev. 1:1

 [9] I, John, your brother who share with you in Jesus the persecution and the kingdom and the patient endurance, was on the island called Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. Rev. 1:9

[8] I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me (Rev. 22:8).

The book of Revelation is about both visions and auditions. Revelation was written around A.D. 90-96, while Christians suffered persecution under the Roman emperor Domitian. John addressed the one letter to seven churches: To the churches facing persecution, Revelation was a word of hope to inspire courage. To lukewarm churches, Revelation was a call to return to faithfulness. For all churches, the message was that only faith in Christ would sustain them in persecution.

Revelation contains three literary forms: apocalypse, prophecy, and letter. The message of Revelation is threefold:

1. Jesus Christ gained an ultimate victory over evil.
2. The powers of evil are still active in the world.
3. The faithful must struggle in the face of evil. God is in charge of human history.

In reporting his visionary experiences John frequently uses symbolic language. Sometimes John explains the meaning of the symbols. Other symbols really need no explanation: for example, the number seven (used 57 times in the text). Everyone knows that there are seven days in a week; then another week begins. Thus seven means completion or perfection.

Other symbols in Revelation can be understood in the light of the symbolism used in the Hebrew Scriptures, particularly the books of Ezekiel, Daniel, and Zechariah. It is clear that John had studied the Hebrew Scriptures [OT] thoroughly.

For this reason the book of Revelation is a very good summary of the whole of Scripture. Of the 404 verses that comprise the 22 chapters of the book of Revelation, 278 verses contain one or more allusions to an OT passage. John has so meticulously pondered the OT that when it came to recording the import of his visions of God and heaven, he expressed himself by using phrases borrowed from the prophets and writers of Israel. Therefore, in attempting to understand John’s symbolism, we must consider not only the book itself, but also John’s use of the Old Testament.

New Yorker Cartoon:

Man carrying a placard (sign board) that reads:

“Yesterday in this space I predicted that the world would come to an end.  It did not, however.  I regret any inconvenience this may have caused.”

I hope you can get into this most fascinating and for some fearsome book of the Bible as we explore it the next six weeks.


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