Tuesday, December 26, 2006

God's Glory and the Church's Calling

God's Glory and the Church's Calling

Our new sermon series seeks, in the weeks ahead, to contemporize Ephesians for First Baptist. Each week brings a different preaching pastor and style to our pulpit offering a chance to hear from our "hidden pastoral treasures."

I anticipate a time of healing for the brokenness in our lives and in our relationships within the church. The joy of the expectation of sending out a new congregation became tempered by the suddenness of our senior pastor being called to another congregation. Where questions were rampant, but were understated during the sending out period, they overflowed with bitterness, hurt and uncertainty after the pastor's announcement. A sense of discouragement and fear replaced the purpose and excitement of sensing God's will for FBC. What did that cause? Backbiting, misunderstandings and hurt people.

So, though, we go on. And God's plans go on unabated. In Ephesians 1 we read that God had us in mind before he laid the foundations of the earth. He decided that we were to be his family. And it says "What pleasure he took in planning this! (Ephesians 1:5 MSG)" Yet a sacrifice was made, so that everything would be brought together, summed up, and be complete in his will. We cannot be complete in his will if we are hurting ourselves or others.

The introduction to Ephesians in The Message (Peterson, E.H., 2003, The Message: The Bible in contemporary language, NavPress) talks about our fractured world, churches and self. Ephesians provides the prescription and therapy plan for healing the body of the church, his people involved in ministry (professional and lay), and for seeking to spread this peace throughout our community.

Begin reading Ephesians this week. Read a chapter a week (they're short, so maybe several times) and come prepared to hear God's message from it through his servants. Check out our website for the preaching pastor and week's chapter.

I'll be in church, how about you?

Friday, December 15, 2006

Merry (shall I say it?) Christmas

Merry Christmas!

There I said it! I didn't need to evaluate the economic impact of "Merry Christmas" over any other greeting. I meant it and it felt good!

Am I willing to "go to the mattresses" and say it no matter the audience? No, most likely not. I have friends of other religious persuasions and feel it is more prudent to be respectful of that. If they wish me "Happy Hanukkah" or Kwanzaa greeting, I respond in kind and then offer "Merry Christmas." That's received well and usually reciprocated.

However, I do feel it is appropriate to use Merry Christmas as a greeting or goodbye to my non-Christian friends.

1. It is appropriate for the season. They are most likely using it also.
2. I have been asked, "What's so merry about it?" A great opening to find out care needs, faith issues, etc.
3. It's God's message of peace and goodwill to all.
4. It's a short, safe statement of how I feel about the Jesus, the reason for this season.

Will I shop at stores that don't say it? Probably. You never know when an opening might arise. Will I say it to the clerks? Y'betcha.

In other words, "Merry Christmas" is a statement of faith. A faith I cannot deny.

May you find the peace that God proclaimed on that hillside so long ago. A message of peace and reconciliation for all time and peoples.

Merry Christmas! There I said it again.