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Questions for a Lifetime of Faith

  Worship Worship Blog
Monday, August 11, 2014

Questions for a Lifetime of Faith

Confirmation and Fall Preaching Series 2014


I’m sure you have heard this old quip: This is a test. This is only a test. Had this been an actual life, you would have been given more complete instructions.

When it comes to Confirmation, that quip suggests two implications. One: This is not a test. This is so not a test. Confirmation is not first of all a test that involves getting the answers right, but about how to live with incredible questions that will never have final answers. Confirmation is about growing in faith, not stopping with answers. Two: Confirmation is about your actual life; it exploring some of those “more complete instructions”—but they’re not so much instructions as they are questions.

The questions we explore in Confirmation are questions that can help build meaningful relationships, questions that can turn our lives inside out, questions that invite us to a greater sense of intimacy with God, and questions that can lead us into adventures we have not yet imagined.

The fall preaching series is closely linked to our Confirmation curriculum. In years past the series associated with Confirmation has been called Confirmation for the Whole Church or Confirmation for Everyone. This year I am calling it: Questions for a Lifetime of Faith.

Irvin Yalom, the psychotherapist and author, once wrote: The rational questions one can pose about meaning will always outlast the answers. Confirmation is not about answers to questions; it is about questions that form our faith. Yes, there are responses to these questions, both traditional responses and newer ones, and they are really good answers—time-tested and wise. But the answers change with our experience; they change over time. The questions persist, and they frame our lives. We do not stop asking questions, and they are an indispensible part of our faith.

Nearly everyone I know has experienced some time in their lives when questions about their faith overwhelmed them and seemed to shake their very foundations. That seems to be the nature of our journey in God. As Barbara Brown Taylor recently said: “For many years I thought my questions and my doubt and my sense of God’s absence were all signs of my lack of faith, but now I know this is the way the life of the spirit goes.”

Our hope in the Confirmation process is to culminate it by asking the confirmands: “What questions do you have now?” And in this process we hope to prepare them for the reality that their faith will be shaken; it happens in the normal course of growing in faith. We don’t fail when we question—we can and will come back to faith—we grow. Confirmation is in part about coming to that understanding.

And part of the confirmation process is to allow our questions to change, perhaps from Who am I? to Whose am I? From Why me? to What next? From What am I supposed to get out of this? to What do I get to offer? We will also ask these kinds questions: Why are we here—here at 47 Jefferson, here as part of a church? What or who is God, and how can I learn anything about God? How does this Bible really work? I just don’t get Communion: What is that all about? What is Love trying to do here? Why is there so much pain in the world?

As the confirmands will each be writing a statement of faith, we would like to invite all those in the congregation to join in that project. Over the nine weeks of this series, I invite you also to try your hand and stating what you believe at this point in your life. I hope that you will join us and our young people, as we explore these questions for a lifetime of faith. The series begins on September 21.

What’s Next for the Church: Embodied Faith

Rev. Katherine Baker

Sermon     Sermons
Sunday, August 10, 2014

Reverend Katherine Baker will deliver this week’s sermon and will be exploring our call to embodied faith--What does it mean? How is it demonstrated? Why does it matter? At the forefront of our congregation, what's next for the church? We’ll look to the greatest commandment to aid us in answering these questions.

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Worship Schedule for August

  Updates Worship Worship Blog
Friday, August 8, 2014

August 10: The 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

One Service at 10:00a

Music: Janlee Richter & Family

Sermon: “What’s Next for the Church: Embodied Faith” - Reverend Katherine Baker will deliver this week’s sermon and will be exploring our call to embodied faith--What does it mean? How is it demonstrated? Why does it matter? At the forefront of our congregation, what's next for the church? We’ll look to the greatest commandment to aid us in answering these questions.

August 17: The 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time

One Service at 10:00a

Music: Frank Van Haven and New Revival Jazz Band

Sermon: “Rocks and Words” a sermon by Rev. David Baak on Exodus 2 and Matthew 16 — two conversations that we overhear; words about important events, but also stories that are critical points in our faith history:  Moses is rescued by his sister’s quick words for the Princess who takes him from the river and it is he who later delivers his people; Peter the disciple says out loud who he believes Jesus to be—the one who will deliver his people.  These are stories that help us “check our words” and help us explore the will of God, challenging each other to understand what following Christ means.   

August 24: The 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

One Service at 10:00a

Celebration of the Ministry of Jackie Schoon

Music: Viviana Kloostra, Soprano

Sermon: “Trace Evidence” Rev. Chandler Stokes will be preaching on Matthew 11:2-6. This is one of those sermons back by request. By reflecting on a story by Jorge Luis Borges and the work of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, we will look for the trace evidence of the world changed by Christ’s presence “…not through proofs or arguments, not by ceasing to question or doubt,” but by listening for and following that voice that seems out of place in this world, listening for and heeding that discrepant note: the tenderness and exaltation, the silence and the mitigation of this often harsh world.

August 31: The 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

One Service at 10:00a

Labor Day Weekend

Music: Al Exoo, guitar and voice

Sermon: “No God in There?” Rev. Chandler Stokes will be preaching on John 1:1-14. This is the last of the sermons back by request. In the midst of tragedy and suffering, we often struggle to find where God is. We will explore the hopeful meaning of the Incarnation in the midst of a world of hurt.

Worship and Communion at Camp Henry

Music: Sanctuary Choir

Sacrament: Communion

Sermon: “Lost and Found” a sermon by Rev. David Baak on Exodus 3 and Matthew 16.21-26.  Losing and Finding each produce strong emotions and interesting behaviors.  The mundane looking through the camp dining hall for that elusive shoe can be a metaphor for the sublime theological attempt to understand how losing can be finding a whole new life—and both are strengthened by community.

August Chimes: Westminster Buildings Through the Years

  Chimes Updates food pantry roof
Thursday, August 7, 2014

The August issue of Chimes is now available. In this month's issue:

  • The building through the years
  • Welcoming our new friends
  • Downtown Food Pantry notes
  • Roofing project moves forward
  • Music - summer projects in motion
  • WCDC receives surprise gift
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The Dangerous Waters of Baptism

Rev. Chandler Stokes

Sermon     Sermons
Sunday, August 3, 2014

This Sunday we celebrate the Sacrament of Baptism as well as Communion. When we baptize an infant in worship, we are very careful: careful not to traumatize the child, careful not to make it painful or frightening. And that is as it should be. And yet there are dangers in baptism, no matter how careful we are with the child and with the water. And we will explore some of those dangers this Sunday.

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The Vector of Worship

Rev. Chandler Stokes

Sermon     Sermons
Sunday, July 27, 2014

Rev. Stokes: "I was asked to revisit some earlier sermons, and this is the first that I'll be exploring this summer. It is about worship--what exactly is it to worship God? The text is Job--and so the nature of God comes into view as well: who is this God Whom we worship? How do we keep God God and not just a human projection? It's not a simple topic; I'm glad someone asked us to go here again."

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I Am Who I Am: The Kingdom of God Wrestles with Identity

Rev. Katherine Baker

Sermon     Sermons
Sunday, July 20, 2014

Rev Katie Baker will be exploring the theme of adoption, identity and the nature of our reformed faith. When we say "reformed and ever reforming" and might that be a nod to the paradox and mystery of God's name: Yahweh: I AM WHO I AM?

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It’s Not Over Until It’s Over

Rev. David Baak

Sermon     Sermon
Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Genesis story of Jacob tricking his twin brother Esau out of the birthright is a classic ancient Hebrew story. The question for us, as always, is what is the teaching here for us, for today? It probably says something about immediate gratification and certainly it teaches us about God’s providence—though we never really know quite what that is until after it’s over. So, surely, that should remind us that for us, and certainly for God, It’s Not Over Until It’s Over.

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Wise Infants

Rev. David Baak

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Questions for this Sunday's meditation, as we celebrate the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, include: Is Jesus' statement about children playing in Matthew 11, ("We played for you and you did not dance; we wailed and you did not mourn") a metaphor for 21st century American society? And, how does the invitation of Jesus to "Come to me all that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest" help us respond? And, how are "wise infants" the key to understanding this mystery?

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Recognizing Truth

Rev. David Baak

Sermon     Sermons
Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Hannaniah and Jeremiah square off in Jeremiah chapters 27 and 28 over whose prophecy is true. Jeremiah claims that we’ll know the real word of the Lord when it comes to pass. Is that the only way we know truth?…after the fact? “Recognizing Truth” this Sunday, we explore one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit in this season after Pentecost as we think about the Spirit’s work in our liv

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Hard Choices

Rev. David Baak

Sermon     Sermons
Sunday, June 22, 2014

The passage is an interesting one—“Hard Choices” — including the costly discipleship involved in following a Jesus who brings a sword, not peace(?) and sets parents against children, etc. within the overriding asssurance of “Do Not Fear” — losing your life for my sake… really? In a culture of fear and scarcity, God’s abundance is more than enough to give us the courage to work through the consequences of discipleship.

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June Chimes: Summertime in the City

  Updates Camp Henry Chimes
Thursday, June 19, 2014

The June issue of Chimes is now available. In this month's issue:

  • Information on our Feasibility Study
  • Staff picks for summer reads
  • Sanctuary roof updates…it's time for slate tiles!
  • Welcome to our new members
  • Camp Henry happenings
  • Youth and Music Ministries summer activities and trips
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Montreat Comes Home

Rev. Chandler Stokes

Sermon     Sermons
Sunday, June 15, 2014

Rev. Stokes returns from the Montreat Youth conference this Sunday, where he has been preaching all week. He'll be preaching about that experience.

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Trying to Keep the Prophets Quiet

Rev. David Baak

Sermon     Sermons
Wednesday, June 11, 2014

"Trying to Keep the Prophets Quiet" — a sermon on Numbers 11.24-30: It is Pentecost...the "birth of the Church" when the Holy Spirit "falls on the disciples in wind and like tongues of fire." Except the Holy Spirit was active long before, even in the ancient stories of God's people—at the Tabernacle, in the wilderness, in pillars of fire and cloud, and by inspiring prophets. From the God at the tabernacle being "out of the camp" to becoming "living in us." Today, we believe that the Holy Spirit lives in each of us, together, as Church—how does our "prophecy" take shape in our lives, in this culture of ours?

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Grand Rapids Pride Festival

  Updates Pride Festival
Tuesday, June 3, 2014

One of the things that makes Westminster such a special community for all of us is that it values inclusion of every person - including those folks in the LGBT community.  Every year Grand Rapids has a Pride festival to celebrate the LGBT community.  Many churches, including Westminster, host booths to let the LGBT community know that God loves them and that there is a faith community for them right here in Grand Rapids.  For several years now, Westminster has hosted a booth at the festival.  Emerging Westminster will be coordinating our church's booth for the second year in a row.
The 2014 Pride Festival will be held on Saturday, June 14 at Calder Plaza.  We are looking for volunteers to staff the booth for one hour between 1:00 and 6:00p.  The volunteers will be asked to represent Westminster, talk a little about our church to festival attendees who stop by the booth, and answer any questions they may have about the life of our community. They are looking for three volunteers each hour during the afternoon.
If you are interested in supporting this special event and are willing to donate one hour of your time on June 14, please e-mail A.J. at and let him know which time slot between 1:00 and 6:00p you are interested in volunteering.  If you have any questions, please contact A.J. at  616-531-4653.
Thank you for considering supporting Westminster in this event!

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