Our Life Together

Roses (360x640)Summer is here, and life feels a little more spacious, somehow. While our freedom isn’t limitless, of course, I still insist it feels glorious to be able to go outside without worrying about where we left the parka, much less the hat, mittens, and boots!

In the rhythm of our lives, summer is a season when we get to sit back (a little) and reflect (at least a little) on where we’ve been and what we’ve done. And, boy! have we done a lot this school year! The confirmation class met weekly most of the year, studying the Bible and asking questions, growing in our faith and learning to be servant leaders, all while having fun! The Wednesday evening WoRM program was a great success, with our school-aged children learning the stories of the Bible with all their senses. Adult education wasn’t neglected either – we learned about growing the church Deep and Wide, we read about some of the things Presbyterians believe, and we studied the Bible – Luke, and James, and now Joshua. All the church officers, elders and deacons, came together this year in a joint retreat to explore what it means to be a servant leader of God’s people. You have amazing leaders among you, gifted and enthusiastic and effective, and I for one praise God for raising them up!

We also did a lot of ministry this year. We did service projects to help people recover from disasters, supported the community pantry with donations of health and hygiene items, participated in both ecumenical and civic events in our community and partnered with Common Ground to raise money for youth programs. Deacons delivered food, ran errands, sent cards and letters, prepared funeral meals and holiday get-togethers, reached out to the homebound and to the grieving. The scholarship programs of this congregation continued to support students in all kinds of circumstances, both here and at Louisville Seminary.

It hasn’t been all work, though. We’ve celebrated birthday parties and baptisms, ordinations and graduations, wedding showers and baby showers. We’ve shared food and fellowship, music and conversation, a lot of laughter and a few tears. This is what our life together is supposed to be about – work and worship in a community of faith. There are many things that will try to distracts us from this calling – worry, fear, pride, memory, expectation. Don’t let them. The life we were given in Christ is for freedom, and friends, it is true! Life is more spacious here in the body of Christ, with plenty of room for the love the Spirit wants to breathe into us!

Praising God always, in all ways!     ~ Rev. Randi

 

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The Great Ends of the Chruch

Through the month of May, we’ll be talking about (wait for the drum roll):

Ends

There are six of them, and together, they constitute a kind of roadmap that lays out our purpose, or reason, for being. We will be examining each of these “great ends”, one per Sunday, and I hope that you will make a special effort to attend during this sermon series. The series will be pod-cast on our church web site (www.churchbytheriver.net), so if you miss one, you can listen at your convenience.

  • the proclamation of the gospel for the salvation of humankind                    (April 27)
  • the shelter, nurture, and spiritual fellowship of the children of God           (May 4)
  • the maintenance of divine worship                                                                   (May 11)
  • the preservation of the truth                                                                             (May 18)
  • the promotion of social righteousness                                                              (May 25)
  • the exhibition of the Kingdom of Heaven to the world                                  (June 1)

None of the six are especially surprising, yet I suspect we could come up with half a dozen different interpretations of what, exactly, is meant by each and every one of them. There’s nothing sinister in that, but unless we all agree which direction we want to row our boat, we probably won’t get very far.

Throughout the summer and fall, we will be holding a series of listening events, where you can be part of the conversation. The first event, for our young adults, will be held May 10th. Others will follow, bringing together different “slices” of our congregation, to consider what we should do and be as the church of Christ in our town and our time. Please listen to the sermons, study the weekly Bible passages, pray about the life of our church, and participate in a listening event when you are invited.

We don’t have to find The. Perfect. Answer. – because the real perfect answer, Jesus, has already found us. Every road belongs to God, and God can bless our work no matter what we decide to do. But we do have to make a decision, and then get to work.

Comments not only wanted, but vital.

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Where Shall Wisdom Be Found?

So, let’s stick with the stewardship theme for a while. Joe and I lived for many years among the coal patch towns of Appalachia, in southwestern Pennsylvania. Most of the coal mines there were played out by the mid-20th century, but the people still living there have been dealing with the consequences ever since. The abandoned mines leach acid runoff into the rivers. Sink holes appear without warning to swallow houses and automobiles. Families have been split apart as people migrated south to escape the poverty of single-industry towns. Until we moved there, I had no idea that people had created such a mess probing in the earth.

While most of us are unaware of the connection, here in the mid-west (and elsewhere, too) we get a fair amount of the energy we use everyday from Appalachian coal, even though we live hundreds of miles away and never see the consequences. I know there are economic questions involved, some of them quite complex – those coal patch towns are struggling with the problems that generations of poverty leave in their wake. But I also think there are spiritual questions involved as well, requiring wisdom from us.

For people of faith, perhaps it is to be found in our God-given role as stewards of the earth. We can be thrifty in our personal use of energy, advocate for less damaging extraction operations, diversify our energy sources, and I’m sure there are others. What do you think? Where shall wisdom be found?

coalpatch

“Miners put their hand to the flinty rock, and overturn mountains by the roots. They cut out channels in the rocks, and their eyes see every precious thing. The sources of the rivers they probe; hidden things they bring to light. But where shall wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding?” Job 28:9-12

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Planted a Garden

Genesis tells us, in the second story of the creation, that God planted a garden in the east, a place called Eden, and then put the man, Adam, in the garden – to take care of it. It’s the start of a recurring theme in the Bible, that of our calling to be stewards of God’s good creation.

Many of us can see stewardship as a practical, economic issue, because we’ve somehow convinced ourselves that the physical world belongs to us. It’s harder to see it as a spiritual matter, though it clearly is. The definition of a steward is someone who tends and cares for that which belongs to someone else, and as the Psalmist has declared, “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world and those who live in it.”

That’s a pretty big calling. What part of that job are you most strongly attracted to and why?

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