Friday, July 27, 2012

Looking Toward Sunday

July 29, 2012 - "Cleaning House" Sermon Series
Week 2 - Cleaning Out Our Spiritual House

"Making Room"

This Sunday we continue a sermon series called "Cleaning House" that asks us to consider a bit of spiritual, emotional, and material “housecleaning”.  What unwanted, broken, outdated, or harmful stuff have we been accumulating that would best be given a good clean sweep?  

This week we'll focus on cleaning out our spiritual house.  Our scripture reading for the day is Mark 2:18-28.  (You can read it here.)  It's Jesus' response to the religious leaders' criticism that he and his disciples aren't observing religious conventions. Jesus compares the Pharisees' insistence about following prescribed religious practices to putting new wine in old wineskins. Old wineskins lack the elasticity to accommodate the fermentation and expansion of new wine. Likewise, the Pharisees' can't or won't stretch old ways of practicing their faith to accommodate Jesus' new way.

Are there places in our spiritual lives where holding onto old ways, old ideas, or old practices keep us from new awareness, deeper spiritual formation, and a more profound experience of the Divine? Perhaps routine spiritual practices have become stale and ineffective for growth. Perhaps the comfort of familiar hymns, prayers, and ways of worshiping has caused resistance to encountering God in a new way. Perhaps our understanding of God has become too static or rigid to allow for fresh insight and understanding. Join us as we explore what "old wineskins" may need to be discarded in order to make room for the "new wine" of a more dynamic, intimate, and transformative relationship with God. 

See you on Sunday!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Looking Toward Sunday

July 22, 2012 - "Cleaning House" Sermon Series
Week 1 - Cleaning Out Our Emotional House

"Getting Rid of the Junk"

Get out the boxes and the broom!  This Sunday we begin a 4-week sermon series called "Cleaning House" that asks us to consider whether our lives could benefit from a little spiritual, emotional, and material “housecleaning”.  

This week we'll focus on what needs to be cleaned out of our emotional house.  Our scripture reading for the day is Ephesians 4:17-32 - Paul's exhortation to get rid of toxic emotions like bitterness, anger, malice, and unforgiveness.  (You can read it here.)  We'll talk about the damage such feelings can cause, as well as the good that can come from taking a push broom to those negative emotions.

What feelings are you carrying around that you no longer want or need?  What emotions are causing harm to yourself or to those around you?  What’s the junk that’s shoved into the back of your emotional closet that really needs to get packed up and put out to the curb?  Join us as we start making out our "must go" list.

See you on Sunday!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Looking Toward Sunday

July 15, 2012 - Seventh Sunday in Pentecost 

"True Identity"

Our scripture reading for Sunday comes from Paul's letter to the Ephesians (verses 1:3-14). This week we'll be using Eugene Peterson's paraphrased Bible entitled The Message. (You can read the lesson here.)  In the letter's opening lines, Paul reminds the Christians at Ephesus what a blessing it is to be "in Christ" - to have been loved and claimed and adopted by God - to be "made whole and holy by his love".  Paul reminds the Ephesians who and whose they are - the beloved children of God.

We, too are God's beloved – a truth that is affirmed in the waters of baptism.  It is in our baptism that we are reminded of who we are – that we are God’s daughters and sons – that we are God’s beloved – that in us, God is well pleased.  That is our real identity.  

The story is told that in moments of despair, the great 16th century Protestant reformer, Martin Luther, would touch his forehead and say the only words that would help him to grasp hope: "Remember, you are baptized".  What if, like Luther, we could continually claim our baptismal identity instead of developing amnesia about who and whose we really are?  How might our lives be different if we were to define ourselves not by the names and labels that others place on us, but by our truest identity as the beloved of God?   

It's in Christ that you, once you heard the truth and believed it, found yourselves home free – signed, sealed, and delivered by the Holy Spirit.  (Eph. 1:13)
See you on Sunday!