Thursday, January 28, 2016

Hindsight, Discernment, and Unity

Within the context of a conversation yesterday in a meeting armed with the the blessing of hindsight, I realized that for the past year or so we have been engaged in discernment. Several times we have actually used the word "discernment" to describe what we were doing. Though I suspect that we thought if it more in terms of planning and preparing. Discovering and doing the will of God is different from measuring and implementing our own. 

Figuring out what God wants you to do (and become) can be frustrating. Rarely is the process quickly accomplished. Sometimes I think of it as a period of gestation that seems to never come to fruition. Despite many idiosyncrasies, we are faithful when we strive forward. 

Since the recent snow accumulation derailed our plans for last Sunday morning, this Sunday morning in Faith Formation Forum we will discuss last week's topic, Growing Together Spiritually. As time permits, we will incorporate the topic for this second week in our six-week challenge, Using Gifts to Work Together.
For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.                    - Romans 12:4-8

Marva J. Dawn, in her book Truly the Community observes the following:
How rarely it is truly understood in the Church that we are really all together in one Body in Christ, and each member has a different function! To our great loss, the idea of unity in diversity in the Christian community is often talked about as a nice theory, but rarely put into practice. We all can see how wonderful the pictures of the Scriptures are, but the friction comes when we try to put them in tangible relationships and structures. Seldom do we actually manifest true unity/diversity in the Body, and, therefore, rarely do we set one another free for functioning in our own unique ways.*
As you reflect on your experience as a member of a congregation, a parish, or a gathering of Christians, consider how you have lived into unity. Have you? Is there room in the midst of it all for diversity?  Are we better at "taking hostages" emotionally or setting one another free for functioning?

* Dawn, Marva J., Truly the Community: Romans 12 and How to Be the Church. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997), p. 77.

Thursday, January 21, 2016


Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.   Colossians 3:16-17
When I started this blog a couple of years ago, it needed a title.  I chose Willing Habitation.  This phrase is adapted from a sentence in a book on preaching by Wallace E. Fisher.  Dr. Fisher was my ordination sponsor. More importantly, Dr. Fisher was a pastor, author, mentor, leader, and faithful servant of the church during the second half of the 20th century.

Although a bit "in your face" this assertion by Fisher below has clung to me for years -- a steady reminder of what's at stake in my vocation.
Christ confronts persons through preachers who, making themselves willing habitations for him, proclaim God's demands and promises no matter what the cost may be to their persons.  Wallace E. Fisher
There seems to be a connection between this notion of being a willing habitation and the call to "let the word of Christ dwell in you.." from the Colossians text. One is an expectation the other is an invitation. Yet they get at the same thing.  Becoming a dwelling place and a willing habitation is not something to which we are naturally inclined. At least I'm not. It is a discipline to make the room and clear out the clutter.

It terms of growing together spiritually, this task of house cleaning seems to be the first, yet often overlooked, step. If not the word of Christ, what is it that dwells in you? What is it for which we would rather provide sanctuary -- serve as a willing habitation?

So, depending on the amount of snow we get over the next couple of days, we will have an opportunity to discuss this at our gathering on Sunday morning at 8:45. As always, your comments and thoughts are welcome. God bless you.

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As you are watching the snow fall, here is Simone Dinnerstein playing Suite Bergamasque - 3. Clair de Lune by Claude Debussy.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

6-Week Challenge

In the midst of the bleak mid-winter may actually be the prime time to focus some of our attention on renewal. All around us things seem to be in a state of hibernation. And, if truth be told, sometimes we feel like joining that trend. Imagine, however, using this time to devote our collective attention and energy toward a series of six sessions that will challenge us to deepen our faith and enhance our capacity for mission in the name of Jesus.

Below here you'll see an outline of topics for the next six weeks. Even if you have never attended Sunday morning Faith Formation (Sunday School) you are more than welcome.  I would also like to encourage you to invite others (friends, neighbors, family members, etc.) to come and see. I'm looking forward to our time together.

As we anticipate this Sunday's first session, let's consider a few questions: In your lifetime, what changes have you witnessed in the church? What changes have you experienced in the position of the church in relationship to our surrounding culture? How has your spiritual well-being been nurtured by the church over the years? Has it been? How would you describe your relationship with Jesus?What are some of the activities, priorities, and responsibilities that compete most for your allegiance and devotion?

Faith Formation Forum

St. Luke Evangelical Lutheran Church
2695 Luther Drive, Chambersburg, PA
Sunday Mornings @ 8:45

Growing Together: Spiritual Exercises for Renewal

January 17, 2016 - Second Sunday after the Epiphany
Change: Plate Tectonics and the Church

January 24, 2016 - Third Sunday after the Epiphany
Growing Together Spiritually
Colossians 3:16-17

January 31, 2016 - Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany
Using Gifts to Work Together
Romans 12:4-8

February 7, 2016 - Transfiguration of our Lord
Considering the Mission
Matthew 28:18-20

February 14, 2016 - First Sunday in Lent
Sharing the Faith With Others
1 Peter 2:9

February 21, 2016 - Second Sunday in Lent
Receiving Unconditional Love
Ephesians 2:4-9

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Like a Dog


Not long after we moved to Chambersburg, we decided to adopt a dog to round out the household. (Apparently three children and two cats weren't enough under one roof.) Oliver came from a local rescue shelter. He fits right in now and is a force to be reckoned with in our family. One thing for sure, Oliver is unwavering in his faithfulness, love, and devotion.  I know this is not a unique quality in our dog Oliver. Yet it remains a constant reminder of what pure unconditional love looks like. No matter what, every time I return home and enter the house through the back door into our kitchen, Oliver is right there to greet me with kisses and a wet nose. 

In the gospel reading for this day of the Epiphany of our Lord, we hear that the wise men from the east have come to greet Jesus:
In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.”  (Matthew 1:1-2, NRSV)
The Greek word that is translated homage is προσκυνέω (proskynéō, pros-koo-neh'-o).  It means to kiss, (like a dog licking his master's hand); to fawn or crouch to, i.e. (literally or figuratively) prostrate oneself in homage (do reverence to, adore):—worship.

The Three Magi: Balthasar, Melchior, and Gaspar 
from a late 6th century mosaic 
at the Basilica of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo in RavennaItaly

What would it look like for us to pay homage to our Lord and King, Jesus the Christ? What gifts can we offer in this Light that no darkness can overcome?

This coming Sunday, the church observes The Baptism of Our Lord.  As we remember Christ's baptism, we also remember our own and give thanks for the gifts that each of us has been given. Chiefly, we remember that we have been adopted and rescued. We have been given the gift of grace that has called us through the waters of baptism to walk as children of the Light. How might this gracious gift of new life shape and inspire our worship and the ways we offer our homage?

Georgian Orthodox Church celebrates Epiphany with multiple baptisms.