Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Letters from the Soul: This Month's Newsletter Column

(...and, as an added bonus, a new sermon series to look forward to!  Outlined in italics after the column.)

"What Are You For?"

Dear Church,

I have read several news articles lately about the way Christians often present themselves in the media--specifically, that all too often, it feels like we are simply vocal about whatever it is we are against, or whatever we do not like.  The impression that non-Christians sometimes get of us is that we tend to frame ourselves as "We are not X," or "We don't do Y," rather than "We are for Z."

In other words, we are seen as a Church of Saying No, when in reality, the very essence of being Christian is about saying YES--yes to God, yes to Jesus Christ, and yes to the family of believers that we call our spiritual home!

Yet I think--at least, certainly for me at times--it is easier to simply say, "Oh, we don't do things like that church over there does them," or "we don't believe that this church thataway believes."  In doing this, we allow ourselves to be negatively defined by others rather than positively defining ourselves.

So what is First Christian Church for?  If you asked me that question, I would probably respond with something like this:

We are for people having a meaningful, transformative, caring, and loving relationship with God through Jesus Christ and with the church He has left us.

We are for being a church where all are welcomed regardless of their questions and their doubts.

We are for the intensive and inclusive study of sacred Scripture as an authority in guiding our lives.

We are for taking our beliefs and putting them into action in our many charity and mercy-oriented missions to the wider Cowlitz County community.

This is just a sampling of some of what I believe that we are for, but these bullet points rank, I think, among the very most important, and what we tend to--and should be--emphasizing the most.

So...what would you say that you as a Christian, and we as a church, are for?

Yours in Christ,
Pastor Eric

New Sermon Series: Lent 2014!

It has finally arrived--those forty days when we are traditionally asked to give up something dear to us: the church season of Lent! The season of Lent is meant to represent the forty days that Jesus spent fasting in the wilderness before He formally began His ministry, and during the year, those forty days take place between Ash Wednesday (falling on March 5 this year) and Easter Sunday (April 20 this year). 

Now, you may look at your calendar and notice that there are more than forty days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday, and your observation would be correct. Due to an arcane bit of church tradition, Sundays are not officially counted as part of the Lenten season, but that most certainly doesn't mean we will be taking Sundays off from the Lenten themes of wilderness and penitence!

We will kick off a Lenten sermon series which will go verse-by-verse throughout perhaps the most detailed story in all of Scripture of a prodigal in the wilderness: the Old Testament prophet Jonah. (Yes, the one who got swallowed up and belched out by a whale. Yes, I will be having lots of fun with that particular part of the story.) In five weeks, we will cover the entire book of Jonah (it's only four chapters long after all!), and by then, it will be mid-April and Palm Sunday will be upon us. But for now, I invite you to come hear Jonah's story throughout the month of March as we wander through the vast wilderness of God's presence together! 

I'll see you Sunday,
Pastor Eric

March 5 (Ash Wednesday (today!), 7:00 pm): “Until the Opportune Time,” Luke 4:1-13

New sermon series: “Friends Don’t Let Friends…: A Lent Alongside Jonah”

March 9: “Friends Don’t Let Friends Play the Lottery,” Jonah 1:1-10

March 16: “Friends Don’t Let Friends Blame the Fish,” Jonah 1:11-17

March 23: “Friends Don’t Let Friends Run from Their Fears,” Jonah 2:1-10

March 30: “Friends Don’t Let Friends Dress Up Their Pets,” Jonah 3:1-10

April 6: "Friends Don't Let Friends Be Heartless," Jonah 4:1-11

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