I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself,
if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received
from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.
Greetings Friends of the WAY:
I have three things to share with you. Will try to be clear (relatively) about two of them.
Before getting into that, I am sorry about our financial concerns of late, and I want to thank you for your response. We are now in good shape for this year, and it’s looking hopeful for next year. Practical realities are ever with us, and we have to deal with them one way or another. But they are never the only or even the most important of our concerns. I also want you to know how much I appreciate your presence and quality of life at our recent retreat. Without intending it, you were very impressive to the Countryside people – and in all the ways I care about most. You were relational; open and honest; obviously deep and serious about your Faith. Countrysiders were impressed and blessed. Of course, those who came from Countryside were no slouches either. We liked them too! Eric is no ordinary Minister, and the intentional members among his flock are growing and serious about their Walk too.
Anyway, thanks. That was fun!
FIRST THING: OUR NEXT RETREAT
I never know for sure when the Spirit will suggest things, but I feel like I have already been handed the topic for our next retreat. Lots to think and pray about, I suspect, or the assignment wouldn’t have come so early. Anyway, the topic is: PROMISES. We have all thought about promises at times before, but not like what is coming.
We have all made and received promises that got broken. If we trust promises and they get broken, it is devastating. Huge impact. Maybe it would be good to get some of that clear and out in the open (not to the world in general, of course, but between ourselves).
Does God make promises that we can count on? Are there any promises that you are betting your life on? What are they? Do we all agree on the most important ones?
There are lots of promises in the Bible that have never been fulfilled. Judaism usually blames its own failure to keep the Covenant for these unfulfilled promises. Maybe love really is conditional. Moses, the prophets, and Jesus certainly thought and taught so. I’m not trying to get into the retreat here; just musing about some things I will be thinking about for next fall.
SECOND THING: SERMONS FOR 2015
This past year I have been mostly in “review mode.” That is not an apology; review mode is a good and necessary thing too. Many of you have expressed appreciation, and I always benefit from rethinking (and rewriting) things I have already tried to deal with. Some of our best “new” insights come from reviewing what we thought we already knew. But now what?
From my perspective, you are far more astute and intentional and knowledgeable about the Christian Way than most members of most churches anywhere. But as we have all learned, the deeper we go, the clearer we get about what we still don’t know. It has crossed my mind that one of the reasons evangelism is difficult for thinking Christians is the fact that we wrestle with questions and doubts that do not even occur to more superficial types. Does that make us shy about our Faith? At least about trying to share it with others? Questions and doubts help us to grow. But do they sometimes overshadow our affirmations and our gratitude?
The New Church really does have some very different pillars and approaches to the Christian Faith and Walk. (Have you read our Bylaws lately?) But building on different foundations is not only exciting, in some ways it is strenuous and demanding. We all get caught trying to put pieces of our former ways of thinking into “a building” that no longer has any room for them. And while we are doing that, we often miss the new windows (or whatever) that do belong in the new building.
If God is not going to punish us for being bad, why should we be good? If the blood of Jesus is not a magic potion for “saving us,” what good is it? If there is no true “unity” here on earth, how can we live for it here, and how does that change our concepts of forgiveness? If God already cares, why do so many of our prayers beg God to care and do something caring? Behind every true theological question or affirmation, there is a serious dimension of practical life waiting with real questions that we must answer, whether we realize it or not. “How do I live and respond and decide things today?” That is real theology.
I am starting to outline sermons for 2015. And while we will take a break from time to time for special celebrations and remembrances, essentially I will be suggesting that we take a new look at the Basic Beliefs of Christianity. What do we really believe about God? About the church? About salvation? About the kind of Life we are trying to live in the here and now? About our future after death? (And lots more.) If you were writing a “New Testament” for today, how would you explain and declare the Christian Message to people who are really interested and want to know?
Anyway, that’s my “previews of coming attractions or detractions,” as the case may be. Winter has come to Omaha. Twelve degrees outside this morning. Hope you are all keeping warm – inside and out.
There is a lot of LOVE in Christ Jesus,