Friday, March 7, 2014

This Lent at Pleasant Street

"A Place at the Table"

In a culture built on consumption, it’s easy to forget the poor about whom Jesus cared so much.  This Lent we will use the resource, A Place at the Table, to guide us on a life-changing journey of self-examination, discipline, and renewed focus on Jesus.  Through worship, sermons, study, and daily devotions we will be challenged to eat like the poor for forty days in solidarity with them and to donate the money we save on groceries to a charity or project that serves the poor in concrete ways.

Whether you choose to fast by altering your customary diet, or by not eating out, or by avoiding purchases of all non-essentials, or by practicing some other way of putting the brakes on your cravings, we hope that you’ll participate in this endeavor to increase our awareness of others, identify with people living in poverty, and tune our hearts to the heart of Jesus.

Each Sunday our worship will focus on the ways that Lent challenges us to care about those in need. The adult Sunday School class will view and discuss the A Place at the Table DVD series.  Video devotions are available online for each of the forty days of Lent. (You can access them on the church's Facbook page by clicking here.)  And everyone is encouraged to use Chris Seay’s book, which includes daily Scripture readings, reflections, prayers, and encouragement.  

Join us as we go on a journey of radical faith, personal action, and extravagant grace that can change our lives and the lives of our brothers and sisters in need all over the world.   

Lent 1 – March 9
Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7
Matthew 4:1-11
“Saying No”
Lenten disciplines help us to say “No” to ourselves and enable us to tame our natural tendency for instant gratification.

Lent 2 – March 16
Isaiah 58:1-12
“The Fast I Choose”
What God wants from us is not just religious obedience and ritual observances, but compassion and care for those in need.

Lent 3 – March 23
Luke 3:1-20
“A Call to Repentance and Generosity”
John the Baptizer calls us to a counter-cultural life that turns away from greed and toward generosity.

Lent 4 – March 30
Matthew 14:13–21
“Performing Miracles”
Jesus calls his followers not to dismiss the needs of others, but to share in his work of providing for them.

Lent 5 – April 6
John 9:1-41
“An Undeserved Birthplace”
Who deserves their lot in life? Are those born into lives of comfort more worthy than those born into poverty?

Palm Sunday – April 13
Matthew 21:1-17
“Wave Your Flag, but Don’t Touch the Treasury”
One biblical commentator suggests that it wasn’t Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem that ticked off the religious authorities, but the fact that he meddled with the finances of the Temple (i.e., overturning the moneychangers’ tables).  Maybe we don’t want Jesus meddling in our finances either.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Looking Toward Sunday

"God's Secret Agents"

February 2, 2014

There's a meme going around on Facebook that reads, "God sent angels down to earth in the form of dogs with notes saying, 'Don't judge - just love'. They ate the notes, but keep trying to deliver the message." 

Anyone who has ever been loved by a dog has experienced the delivery of that message firsthand. The love of a dog is undoubtedly unconditional - but is it in any way comparable to the love of God? Can it serve as a metaphor for God's love, showing us something about how freely, generously, and unabashedly God loves us?

This Sunday, as Pastor Arlene prepares to travel to NY to train for a new Ministry Dog, we'll be pondering the answer to those questions. Our scripture for the day is 1 John 4:7-12. (You can read it here.) Join us as we playfully consider whether dogs really are "secret agents" of God's lavish, unconditional love. 

See you on Sunday!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Looking Toward Sunday

"Called to Relationship"

Third Sunday after Epiphany
January 26, 2014

This week we'll look at the story of the call of the first disciples as told in the Gospel of Matthew. (You can read it here) Jesus says two key things in his invitation to Peter, Andrew, James, and John that represent the core of Christian discipleship: "Follow me" and "I will make you fishers of people". While these four men will eventually become "laborers in the vineyard", "witnesses to the Christ", "apostles of the Messiah", "leaders of the church", etc., Jesus is first calling the men not into work, but into relationship. They'll be mentored by Jesus ("following") and they'll welcome others into community ("fishing").

As with those first disciples, the invitation to discipleship represents a call to relationship - relationship with Jesus and relationship with others. That's the essence of our vocation as Christians. Anything else we may do or become as Jesus-followers is rooted in those relationships.

Join us as we reflect on the proposition that nurturing relationships is our primary call as Christian disciples.

See you on Sunday!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Looking Toward Sunday

"Pointing the Finger"

Second Sunday after Epiphany
January 19, 2014

This week we're taking a look at John the Baptizer's revelation of Jesus as the Son of God, as told in the Gospel of John. (You can read the passage by clicking here.)

Religious art often portrays John the Baptizer with a pointed finger - not an accusing finger, but gesturing toward something out of the frame, beyond the viewer's sight. That had me a bit perplexed, until I came across a painting that depicted Jesus as the object of John's pointing finger. Then I understood that John's outstretched digit in all those other statues and paintings conveyed the purpose of John's life - which was pointing others toward Jesus.

How well do our lives point to Jesus? Can people see Jesus in our words, our behavior, our lifestyle? Do our lives reflect the love and compassion of Jesus? Is Jesus the object of our attention as he was for John, or are we focused primarily on something or someone else?

Join us as we reflect on those questions and take a look at the role of John the Baptizer - and our own - in pointing others to Jesus.

See you on Sunday!