Unity and Diversity

One of the many things that I enjoy about being home is that time, space and friends are directly tied to memories. And shared memories are the best. Living abroad, memories were more short-term. The longest period of time that we spent in a single location was 16 years, in Fredericton. With certain individuals, I could look back that far and ask the the question, “Do you remember the time … ?” And that was nice, but outside the period of time we lived in that location, there were no shared memories.

There is one guy though. He’ll read this very newsletter. His name is Layton Ford, a.k.a., “Tigger”, his running nickname. We can reminisce all the way back to circa 1987. We have so many great stories. It seems like I must have known him all my life but that is where our stories intersect. WE still have contact, … not as much as I would like but geography is a minor thing to come between friends. Absence make the stories even better. Love you, Tig.

A high school friend now deceased, used to make me laugh quite regularly. Now we are going back 53 years or more. Glenn G and Anzonette U, “Do you remember the times we used to walk into class and someone would ask this mutual friend, ‘What are you doing?'”

His straight-faced reply always made me laugh. I’m not sure why. It was a stock response. “Just growing a beard.” He’s the only person that I ever heard, who used a response like that.

To me it was funny because of the way that it was said. It was funny because I don’t know of anyone who ever sits down intentionally to try to grow a beard. It was funny because, try or not, some sparse or dense stubble would appear, unless you happened to be a lady. It was funny because beard-growing is a slow process for most.

What he really was saying was, “I’m doing absolutely nothing.”

We all get asked that question here and there. Occasionally, I have wanted to respond to the what-are-you-doing question with a similar response, “Trying to build a church.”

In these years of my life I am realizing that:

  • I cannot build a church. I might be able to build attendance but attendance is not Church.
  • God is building His Church globally even as he builds locally.
  • Building a church means building people … building them up, helping them to grow stronger in their relationship with Christ, walking with them through celebration and sorrow and the ordinariness of everyday life.
  • Building buildings is not building Church
  • Implementing programs is not building Church. 
  • I’ll just wear myself out trying and burn others out in the process.

It’s really just looking for ways to participate in God’s ongoing agenda. I remind myself of this quite often when I am tempted to fall back into old familiar ways. I surrender to God’s plan and purpose for our lives at CLC. ‘We have this ministry … ” (2 For. 4:1). And we do have this ministry. It’s ours, one that offers hope to those who have to look hard to find it. As we point people Jesus-ward, He builds His Church.

One day we’ll look back at this time in the life of our Church and ask each other, “Do you remember that time when … ?” These are good days my brothers and sisters, as strange as they may be and as uncertain as they may be … they are good.

It’s not that it’s wrong
It’s just that it’s sad
To not see the good 
For all that is bad. (KI)

What we cannot do, God can. What we cannot see, God sees. He is at work and our part in what He is doing is many times, like trying to grow a beard. (Excepting the ladies) Thanks for being a part of what He is building at 1235 RT. 776. And thanks for being with us today.

He Remains Faithful …

This is one of those scriptures that I cling to. “If we are faithless, He remains faithful.” Paul’s encouragement to Timothy. I am so conscious of my tendency to faithlessness. There is a bad edit in this sermon that may leave you shaking your head. Somehow I lost a short, connecting portion of the message as I edited it.

Advent 2023 Hope …

What does hope look like?

It’s the difference between going forward passionately and going backward or simply giving up. It is a conviction that things are never as bad as they seem and that there is always a “way”. Hope looks for the good and rejoices in it as opposed to the bad and wallowing in despair. Hope believes that we prepare the way for the King to return to something better than he left.

Isaiah writes the following and it is echoed several times in the gospels:

“A voice of one calling: “In the desert prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”” (Isaiah 40:3–5, NIV84)

We don’t abdicate our place in this world or abandon the efforts to make it a better place. We work for the coming of the King.

Have you experienced the preparations that we undertake in this nation when royalty visits? We want to be at our best and outlandish amounts of money are spent to present the best version of ourselves.

Capitalism justifies itself Christianly, by claiming that we extract everything that we can from this planet and use it for our benefit. The rich just keep getting richer at the expense of creation itself and the poor. In the end, sometimes spoken and sometimes presumed we live as though we need not care for what we have been given by God because it is all destined for destruction. And there is untempered truth in all of this but it does not justify callous disregard for the good of others or our temporary home.

Some believe that the Christ that we anticipate will come when things get bad enough. What if the opposite is true? What if He will return when they get good enough? (1 Thess. 5:1-3) Make sure you read the bracketed portion of scripture. Peace precedes His coming. What if we hasten His return by making this world a better place rather than leaving it to its own devices?

Personally I would rather engage in making things better, not worse by intent or neglect. We are purveyors of Hope. We are the “light of the world” not the blight of the world. God has called us to bring beauty. Did you read that in Isaiah’s words?

He speaks of the Glory of the Lord being revealed as we engage in making things better. Read it again.

“Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed …”

Could we lay aside the darkness of despair for the sake of that Hope? It’s not just the Christmas experience that suffers but everyday life itself when we allow ourselves to be the bad news bears. Whatever else the gospel is, it is not bad news. A bad news gospel is not gospel at all. It is just pessimistic propaganda that breeds discouragement and robs people of Hope.

I feel as though I am constantly reminding people to look up. Square your shoulders back, lift your heads and look up. Don’t allow yourself to be robbed of the moment in which God wants you to live for bad experiences of the past or a pessimistic paradigm that paints a discouraging picture of the future. We are expecting something good, not something bad.

“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you.” (Titus 2:11–15, NIV84)

Thanks for joining us at CLC on this first Sunday of another wonderful Advent season.

The Power of Personal Testimony

Earlier this fall, I received a call from Courtney, asking me to baptize her husband, Brad. I was at once, surprised and delighted. I had known Brad for sometime as a very pleasant young man but was unaware of his spiritual interest levels. I was surprised as it dawned on me that God is always at work. He speaks to people and draws them to Himself, all by Himself. This, of course, is a facetious statement. It should be more of a surprise that God uses us as He does, often when we are unaware that our lives mean anything to others at all at a spiritual level. This is a recording of our Sunday morning conversation, as we talk through Brad’s spiritual journey. There are interactions that have been removed because they were not audible without a microphone. I hope that you hear what you most need to hear as you listen. 

Karl

Settling Short of God’s Promise

Some people are never satisfied.  Achievements and acquisitions fail to meet aspirations and fuel that insatiable desire for more.  The problem is that more is never enough. Others are too easily satisfied and lack motivation. The middle ground may be the best. The sermon today references the story of Abraham’s calling and traces his faith to his own father, a man who dared to move forward without a clear picture of what lay before him. Abraham, in answering God’s call, finished a journey that his father had begun. For all of us, God’s story continues to be written.  It is bigger than any one of us, individually. Today, perhaps more than ever, it is important that we don’t stop short of what God has for us.

Knowing God

We get to know some people quickly and deeply.  Other relationship are paced more slowly. Generally if we are to truly understand another person it requires two essential ingredients.  Time and proximity. Jesus built a relationship with hsi disciples in this way.  For 3 1/2 years they were together, 24/7. At the end he told them he was leaving “for their good”. And then their relationship with Christ took on a new trajectory.  They knew the heart of God.  The Holy Spirit revealed Jesus to them as they never knew him in flesh and blood.  The sermon is a look at the difference between a casual relatioship with Christ and an intimate one.