Friday, March 31, 2017

Despair to Hope

It can be a long journey. From a place and circumstance of despair, we are hesitant or maybe even reluctant, to realize that hope is a possibility. Even if we reflect on the specifics of our own context, let alone the apparent unraveling that surrounds us, we can find our selves rather quickly encumbered and rendered still.

However, maybe it is precisely from a position or in an attitude of stillness that we need to be in order to hear. Listening to the creative and redemptive voice of God amid the noise of our world is no easy task. Discerning the bluster from the Truth takes care. Being intentional and proactive in our minding of our relationship with God is a discipline to which we are called -- summoned -- by the One whose desire is for our hearts as beloved children.

I wonder sometimes often why I hesitate to publicly speak to the confusion that I hear all around us in regard to what is clinically referred to as current events. Three days a week I spend time exercising at the gym on an elliptical machine and other instruments of torture. On the wall in front of the line of machines are multiple television monitors. Of the three television screens in my field of vision, one is tuned to ESPN, the other to HGTV, the third one -- the one in the middle -- to either FOX News or CNN. Needless to say, perhaps, it all depends on who gets there first as to what news channel prevails on that middle screen.

On a recent trip to the gym I noticed ESPN got the boot as both FOX and CNN were live, side by side, allegedly reporting on breaking news. I began my normal exercise regiment on the elliptical machine to warm up and spent the next half hour in a vortex of jabberwocky. It felt as if an alternative reality was at hand.

Polarization is convenient for those who operate with a worldview that is black and white, left and right, in or out. It's easy and, dare I say, the lazy person's fail-safe. But for the rest of God's creation functioning well within the creative tension of diversity and beauty, there is greater life to be found amidst the wideness of God's mercy.

My point here is that it would be too easy to slip into despair over the state of our world today. It simply seems too much and far gone at times. Yet, as citizens of God's Kingdom in Christ, we remind ourselves, that we do not loose hope

The reading from Ezekiel this coming Sunday, shares with us a vision of a valley of dry bones. God asks Can these bones live? Is there hope in the midst of despair? The answer is found in the realization that what the apostle Paul refers to as a slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory . . . because we look not at what can be seen, but at what cannot be seen (check out 2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

 The Vision of The Valley of The Dry Bones 
Gustave DorĂ© 1866

April 2, 2017

Prayer of the Day
Almighty God, your Son came into the world
to free us all from sin and death. 
Breathe upon us the power of your Spirit, 
that we may be raised to new life in Christ
and serve you in righteousness all our days, 
through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, 
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and forever. Amen.

Ezekiel 37:1-14
Psalm 130
Romans 8:6-11
John 11:1-45 

The Raising of Lazarus 
Duccio, 1310–11

Friday, March 17, 2017

Who is Worthy?

This Sunday's topic for our Faith Formation hour concerns the question: What is Worship?
The presentation and discussion will be the third in a series of four on the subject Mission and Worship. Whether you have been present for the first two or not, you are certainly welcome to attend this Sunday. I suspect the topic will be of some interest to everyone as we look to the future of our worship life as a congregation.

I didn’t get anything out of worship this week. Have you ever heard anyone say something like that? Have you ever felt that way too?  Let’s examine together what our primary purpose is when we assemble for the weekly gathering around Word and Sacrament. Is it appropriate to think of worship as a two-way street? Does God have an ulterior motive behind calling us together? Do we have any ulterior motives?

If each of us took a moment to write down an explanation or definition of worship, we would have a variety of answers and responses. While there is no doubt great diversity in perspective, I suspect there would also be common ground upon which we could all stand.

I find it interesting to note the differences in images found when I do an internet image search for worship and then liturgical worship. The first search returns results such as the following:

The latter search provides results similar to these:

What comparisons and observations do you make of this?

Keeping the broader picture in mind -- that of worship's relationship to mission -- I am anticipating a lively and thought provoking exchange as we gather together this Sunday at 8:45.

Looking ahead a bit, we can begin to anticipate the culmination of the season of Lent as Holy Week draws close and we look to the The Great Three Days.  Lent is often descried as a journey with Jesus into the wilderness, into ministry, into Jerusalem, and onto the cross. We have been on this path, leading us to Holy Week and the Great Three Days: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Vigil of Easter (These three days are also referred to as the Paschal Triduum).

Our Maundy Thursday service will be held on Thursday, April 13 at 7:00 PM.  A Good Friday afternoon meditation on the Way of the Cross will be held here at 12:00 Noon. In the evening, there will be a Good Friday Service at Scotland United Methodist Church at 7:00 PM.

New to our congregation this year will be the observance of the Vigil of Easter. This will be an ecumenical effort with our full-communion partners of the United Methodist Church and the Episcopal Church. In addition to Pastor Bruce Gowe from the Scotland-Fayetteville Charge of the UMC, we will also welcome the Deacon of Trinity Episcopal Church in Chambersburg and the District Superintendent of the UMC. The Vigil will be hosted here at St. Luke on Saturday, April 15 at 9:00 PM. We are anticipating several baptisms to be celebrated that evening as well.  This is the night!

Here are some other items of which you should be aware:

Groundbreaking Announcement:  The 2020 Vision building project will commence with a ceremonial groundbreaking immediately following worship on Palm/Passion Sunday, April 9. At the conclusion of the closing hymn we will be invited to gather outside near the bell and memorial garden for the brief rite of groundbreaking.  Please plan to be present for this important milestone in the life of the congregation.

Construction to Begin:  Barring any last minute snags, R. S. Mowery Construction will begin work on our project on Monday, April 17, the day after Easter Sunday. As work begins, please continue to check for updates on the website, Facebook, and bulletin announcements. Every effort will be made to communicate developments and progress.