Thursday, January 28, 2016

Letters from the Soul: This Month's Newsletter Column + Upcoming Sermon Series!

February 2016:   "Re-Tooling and Re-Fueling"

Dear Church,

When asked (and I get asked this question quite frequently) why bother with going to church instead of living a "spiritual-but-not-religious" life built around finding God only in one's own life, I try to analogize one's spiritual life with a brand-spanking-new car that you've just bought off the showroom floor. It's fantastic, you've just bought your dream car, but then you roll it out onto the road, and then the highway...and you end up never driving it faster than 50 miles per hour.

For me, that is what trying to be spiritual--or religious--without a church community is like: I have decided to get behind the wheel of a car but then not actually use it for what it was made to do, or to even try to get the most out of it. There is this entire other dimension to my dream car's utility and purpose, and I simply do not bother tapping into it.

And really, it's any car, not just your dream car, or my dream car. Whatever you use to get from point A to point B, it probably has more capacity than you are used to using, especially if you're like me and just use your car to commute and run errands. I can enjoy those drives perfectly fine, but it doesn't mean I am getting the most out of the blessing of a vehicle that I have.

Striving to encounter God only on one's own is very much the same way--you can enjoy it, it can be fulfilling, and I would never want to take that away from anyone, ever. But you're also not getting the most out of what God has put before you if you are not sharing it within a community of faith that can support you, uplift you, and hold you accountable to the ways of being and doing good in the world.

The church serves a dual purpose in this metaphor--not only is it like the shop that re-tools your spiritual life to offer it peak performance, it is also the filling station where you bring your faith when it is running on empty. Here is where I find the whole car metaphor, if the most trite, also the most applicable: *every* car, no matter how shiny, no matter how high-performing, no matter how old or young or how much of a beaten-up wreck it may be, needs refueling in order to function. No matter how good or how bad you feel you may be at being Christian, you still need that re-tooling and re-fueling that we *all* need.

For nearly 90 years, First Christian Church has been a place for literally thousands of seekers to be able to do that. And we want to be able to continue that long and venerable tradition. As we discuss the church and its mission going into the future at our Annual General Meeting on Sunday, January 31, I would also ask your attendance for three important "Congregational Conversations" on alternating Sundays: February 21, March 6, and March 20 as we continue to those discussions that will arise out of the annual general meeting.

We hope to see you there as we continue this amazing, soul-sized task of being church together where both we and complete strangers alike come to be replenished in soul and in mind together. As always, it remains a blessing and a privilege to serve this faith community as your pastor!

Yours in Christ,
Pastor Eric

This Liturgical Season in Worship: Lent 2016

Still keeping up that New Year's resolution? No? I imagine a lot of us probably aren't! They're tough to do--they require lots of discipline, dedication, and attention.

But you get a second chance at exercising those same spiritual muscles in February, when the season of Lent starts. Lent represents the 40 days that Jesus spent being tempted in the wilderness by Satan prior to beginning His public ministry, and in that spirit of sacrifice and fasting, it is traditional to give something up for Lent--which I would encourage you to try doing if you haven't already!

Don't go about giving up worship, though--we've got lots on tap for Lent, starting with the special annual Ash Wednesday worship service at 6:00 pm on Wednesday, February 10 to mark the start of Lent. This service includes a special litany of confession and forgiveness as well as the imposition of ashes for those who would like to receive it. From there, we'll begin a new sermon series for the new church season by going verse-by-verse through the book of the Old Testament prophet Habakkuk, similar to how we went verse-by-verse through the book of the prophet Jonah in Lent for the year 2014.

The genesis for this sermon series came from giving a couple of impromptu lessons on Habakkuk in each of our Tuesday Bible studies; the reception to Habakkuk's words in both classes was profound and meaningful to me, and it encouraged me to craft this new sermon series that to me encapsulates many of the struggles of Jesus being tempted in the wilderness--wondering exactly where God is in the pain and mess, and worrying even further when God gives you an answer you may not want to hear! So come 'round on Sunday mornings to hear Habakkuk's dialogue with God unpacked, and to receive some spiritual nourishment to get you through your own wildernesses!

I'll see you Sunday,
Pastor Eric

February 10 (Ash Wednesday, 6:00 pm): “Wilderness,” Luke 4:1-13

Lent 2016: “Treading on the Heights: A Lent Alongside Habakkuk”

February 14: “Rousing the Chaldeans,” Habakkuk 1:1-11
February 21: “My God, My Holy One,” Habakkuk 1:12-2:1
February 28: “Just Enough Fire,” Habakkuk 2:2-14
March 6: “What Value of Idols,” Habakkuk 2:15-20 
March 13: “God Comes From Teman,” Habakkuk 3:1-4 
March 20 (Palm Sunday): “The Cloud Piercer,” Habakkuk 3:13-19

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