Updated: Jan 27
1Pet. 4:10-11 (NRSV) Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.
You’ll be reading more about my thoughts about 2021 and 2022 in my annual report. Even though COVID has changed our ministries for the past two years, I believe we have a wonderful story to tell and that we will have weathered this storm and will come out of the refiner’s fire stronger than ever before. As the text says, we’ve all received various gifts and, by God’s grace, God gives us strength to perform them. We perform those ministries because it is one of the many ways we praise God through Jesus Christ.
I was studying and reading these past few weeks as I prepared for Christmas Eve and the services after. I began to think about the state of Christianity and the dysfunction that I have been witnessing. Some of the readings were saying that Christianity is dying or even dead. That the worldview of Christianity is that it does not live up to its tenants and essentials. In some of the cases I would have to agree but for the most part I do not. I do believe that we are embarking on a new Reformation, and we are going to be challenged to reevaluate our actions versus the teachings of Jesus. I also believe that our Reformed tenants, doctrines, and essentials are on point. Our sacraments are right on the mark; I believe they are still the most inclusive and open of any of the denominations and faith structures.
The trouble is that the outside world gets hung up on “who’s in” and “who’s out” and is focused on their “personal relationship” with God. I think that is where the problem in society is. Christianity was never meant to be focused on the personal, although we need that personal, individual faith pronouncement. However, it is in our Baptism that we are truly defined… we become part of the BODY of Christ. That is a double-edged identification…we are self-identified with Jesus by the descent of the Spirit of God and engrafted into the body at the same time. So, baptism is not just a command but an act. We die and rise with Christ, our sins are washed away, and we are reborn by the power of the Holy Spirit. However, it is this next idea that is driving my thoughts these days…we are incorporated and united with Jesus and the covenant community of believers. We are no longer solitary individuals, but instead members of a new family and citizens of a new society (Eph. 2:19). It is in the new society that there is neither Jew nor Greek, free or slave, male or female (Gal. 3:28). As the song goes, we are one in the Spirit, one in the Lord. I’ve said numerous times, “When one hurts, we all hurt; when one feels joy, we all feel joy.”
So, for me, the sacrament of Baptism unites us, in solidarity with God and each other and is not something, along with the Lord’s Supper, we practice but are means of grace by which God calls, strengthens, and commissions the church... Visible signs of God’s invisible grace.
If we think about it Jesus tells us to go out and make disciples, baptizing in the Triune nature of God, but also invites us, through his baptism, to share in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. It must remind us of the rich love and fellowship that God has with us and the rest of humanity. So we share in the divine life with all of humanity…we don’t have a unique hold on it. We must surely say that the waters of baptism symbolize OUR new life in solidarity with Jesus and others and it must be sacramental (clean and pure). However, I say way too much now and will be preaching about this in the coming weeks.
The last sermon series went so well we decided to do another just before Lent. The series will be titled and centered around “God’s Love …” Tim and I sat down (like we do for every worship service) and mapped out texts, hymns, and anthems that we believe fit together nicely.
I am excited, as well, that Johnny Brown and Rev. Dr. Don McGarity will preach in the series. Johnny will preach for Youth Sunday on January 30th and Dr. McGarity will preach while I am away.
I provide the texts and focus for each week. I urge you to read the texts ahead of time to see what the Holy Spirit has to say to you about God’s Love.
Peace, Pastor Ken
Pastor’s Pondering continues… God’s Love…
1. …is Forever (Baptism) January 9, 2022
a. Psalm 29:1-11
b. Luke 3:16-17,21-22
2. …is Personal January 16, 2022
a. Ephesians 1:3-10
b. 1 John 3:1-3
3. … Just as we are January 23, 2022
a. Ephesians 2:1-7
b. Romans 5:6-11
4. … Helps you grow January 30, 2022
a. Psalm 92:10-15 (Johnny Brown preaching)
b. 2 Corinthians 5:14-20
5. … is there in times of trouble February 6, 2022
a. Psalm 31:3-8 (Communion)
b. John 14:22-27
6. … is Faithful February 13, 2022
a. Psalm 118:1-9,14-24,28,29 (Don McGarity preaching)
b. 2 Timothy 2:8-13 Scout Sunday
7. … is Free February 20, 2022
a. Psalm 107:4-9
b. Romans 5:1-9
8. … is Humbling February 27 ,2021
a. Micah 6:6-8
b. John 13:3-15