Posts Tagged With 'Worship-blog'

A note about “Ordinary Time”

  Worship Blog Worship
Monday, August 25, 2014

The Sundays of August and September are all under the rubric of “Ordinary Time.” What does that mean? More than “ordinary” as opposed to “extraordinary," “ordinary” in the liturgical calendar really refers to “ordered” time, as opposed to “disordered” time. This old terminology is meant to remind us that God has ordered the world, that we are in good hands, as opposed to suggesting that there is nothing special about this time of year!

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.

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.

Worship schedule for May

  Updates Worship Worship Blog
Wednesday, April 30, 2014

May 4: The second Sunday of Easter

Music: Hannah Nelson, clarinet at 8:30a, and the Sanctuary Choir at 11:00a.
Sacrament: Communion and reception of new members.
Sermon: ‘Fleeing in Terror,’ Ryan Donahoe preaching on Mark 16:1–8.
What do we do when we wake up after Easter and it appears as though the resurrection never happened—that the world is exactly the same as it was on Palm Sunday? The good news is that we know what to do—even when our faith is lacking, our doubt is overwhelming, and we don't comprehend what took place on Easter morning

May 11: The third Sunday of Easter

Music: Rev. Chandler Stokes at 8:30a, Haydn’s Harmoniemesse at 11:00a
Sacrament: Baptism at 8:30a
Sermon: ‘Namesake,’ Rev. Chandler Stokes preaching on Matthew 1:18–25.
“So, Gogol changes his name to Nikil. While not a name common in Kansas, it is a name that sets him free. But in time he discovers much to his amazement that there is too much Begali in him to be completely at home in America. He is … caught between two worlds….”

May 18: The fourth Sunday of Easter

Music: Min Jin, tenor and Hyun Ji, cello at 8:30a, and the Sanctuary Choir at 11:00a
Sermon: ‘Dirt in Our Shoes,’ Rev. Chandler Stokes preaching on 2 Kings 5:1–14.
Like Naaman, we all live in the shadow of the house of Rimmon. Call it Syria, Washington, DC, Jerusalem or Bethlehem, with an incarnational God, we are called not to rise above these houses, but to find the holy ground within them.

Summer worship schedule begins May 25: One service at 10:00a

May 25: The fifth Sunday of Easter

Music: The Sanctuary Choir
Sermon: Rev. Dave Baak preaching at Westminster, and Rev. Chandler Stokes preaching at Camp Henry.

June 1: The sixth Sunday of Easter

Sacrament: The Lord’s Supper
Sermon: ‘Closing the Distance,’ Rev. Chandler Stokes preaching on Matthew 26:47–58.
Blessed are the pure in heart? Peter walking on the water: he sinks but he’s out of the boat… It’s trust and a lack of trust at the same time. Faith is not black & white. We are a mixture. I follow, but only at a distance.

The cutting room floor: Easter Monday

  Worship Worship Blog Chandler Stokes
Monday, April 21, 2014

by Rev. Chandler Stokes, senior pastor

On Easter, we read the story of Mary Magdalene meeting Jesus outside the tomb (in John 20:11–18).

In the sermon, I talked about the old King James translation. In that 17th century translation, after Mary recognizes Jesus, he says to her, “Don’t touch me.” It is a mistranslation, which was corrected in the RSV to read, “Don’t hold on to me.” The newer translation is very helpful.

On Sunday, I said that it is clear that Mary embraces Jesus; it is a sign of her relief and joy at seeing him after she lost him to death—and that her embrace is a sign of her love. All that is true, but there is more. 

The old KJV translation suggests that there is something too holy about Jesus, something so otherworldly that Mary should not touch him. Nothing could be further from the truth. Especially in the narrative world of John’s gospel, Jesus, as the Word made flesh, is utterly touchable, embraceable. Consonant with that view, in the next story in John, Jesus explicitly invites Thomas to touch him, to touch his wounds. The divine invites our touching; the divine has become human flesh in Jesus. The old translation suggests some gulf between us and God; contrariwise, the Incarnation is the bridging of those gulfs. 

As I said on Sunday, Jesus asks Mary to let go so that he can be in more than just one place, so that he can not only be present in a garden in Jerusalem but on the road to Emmaus and here in GR. That is the only reason he asks her to let go, so that he can be more available to more of his beloved children. He invites her holding him—love wants to hold on.

It is too bad that there has persisted a kind of reticence to touch the holy. In particular, we try to communicate this intimacy that the holy invites at the Lord’s Supper, but the promise of God's intimacy is always there. God has become flesh in Jesus; it is a promise of holiness in all of our lives. The preaching series that begins on May 4 will explore holiness in our lives and how we may seek holiness in an unredeemed world.

But, before that, we have one more exploration of the resurrection texts: this time Mark’s story in Mark 16:1-8, which will be lead by our talented intern Ryan Donahoe from Western Theological Seminary.

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