Posts Tagged ‘religion’

This is the fourth post of week 2 in a series where I will be journaling through the Consultations on the Common Texts while preaching a sermon series on the “Great Ends of the Church”. Here’s the plan.

Today’s scriptures are Psalm 8, Proverbs 3:13-18, and Ephesians 1:17-19. Today we are looking towards the scripture for Sunday (Romans 5:1-11)

Psalm 8

Another one of the aren’t we awesome scriptures…and…by we, I mean the God that we believe in. If God gave us dominion over the works of God’s hands and all things have been put under our feet, what does that say about climate change, celebrating profit over relationship, and the unwillingness to follow God? One of my parishioners asked this question and I had never thought about this in this way, “If we are supposed to have dominion, is God mad that we haven’t learned to control tornadoes yet?” What do we mean when we say dominion, does that mean we’re in control, but God is in control, but when is God calling us to control? Questions, Questions, Questions.

Proverbs 3:13-18

My daughter’s name is the Greek word for wisdom, so I like the scripture. It makes me think about preservation of the truth and the difference between knowledge and wisdom. You can know a lot of stuff but if it doesn’t affect your life it certainly isn’t wisdom. That idea draws me to people like Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, and others giving away a lot of their money to help others. That seems wise to me, even biblical, if only everyone lived by the knowledge they had.

Ephesians 1:17-19

Another prayer for wisdom and revelation. I can only imagine that you don’t have wisdom without revelation. If there is no “AHA!” moment, then I’m not sure there can be understanding of or acknowledgement of the greatness of God and others.


Pastor Greg


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[DISCLAIMER: Young energetic pastor is still completely nerding out and inviting you along.]
Last week we began looking at, dissecting, and celebrating the Great Ends of the Church that are lined out in the constitution of the Presbyterian Church (USA). They can be found in the Book of Order, here they are:

F-1.0304 The Great Ends of the Church

The great ends of the Church are:

the proclamation of the gospel for the salvation of humankind;

the shelter, nurture, and spiritual fellowship of the children of God;

the maintenance of divine worship;

the preservation of the truth;

the promotion of social righteousness; and

the exhibition of the Kingdom of Heaven to the world.

We will be taking one end each Sunday, this Sunday, May 26 we will be looking at “the shelter, nurture, and spiritual fellowship of the children of God.” We will also have a time for the Tabitha Hospice to share how they respond to this “great end”.
Over this period of time, the Men’s Bible Study (Thursday, 6:30 AM at Janie’s Confections) will be diving head long into this subject. We will be following a book called Consultations on Common Texts engaging daily with the Bible. We also will (or those that would like) be journaling through these texts as we read them with the Great Ends of the Church in mind.
I invite you to join with us on this quest to look at the history of the PC(USA) and the calling to be the hands and feet of Christ in the world. I will be posting the readings for the week each Monday morning so you follow along. I will also attempt to journal here through the texts. I will also be cross posting this on my blog (NebraskaBolt.wordpress.com) and would welcome any comments or thoughts as we travel this journey together.
The way the scriptures are set up, the selections for Monday-Wednesday reflect on the previous week and the selections from Thursday-Saturday are preparing for the upcoming Sunday. (I know it’s a little confusing, but you’ll get the hang of it.)
The scriptures for this week are:

Monday, May 20

Psalm 48

Joel 2:18-29

1 Corinthians 2:1-11

Tuesday, May 21

Psalm 48

Ezekiel 11:14-25

1 Corinthians 2:12-16

Wednesday, May 22

Psalm 48

Numbers 24:1-14

Luke 1:26-38

Thursday, May 23

Psalm 8

Proverbs 3:13-18

Ephesians 1:17-19

Friday, May 24

Psalm 8

Proverbs 3:19-26

Ephesians 4:1-6

Saturday, May 25

Psalm 8

Proverbs 4:1-9

Luke 2:41-52

Sunday, May 24 Trinity Sunday

Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31

Psalm 8

Romans 5:1-5

John 16:12-15

My plan for Sunday, May 26 is to preach on Romans 5:1-5.

I think this could be a great opportunity for us, as a church body, to learn and study together.


Pastor Greg

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This is the third post in a series where I will be journaling through the Consultations on the Common Texts while preaching a sermon series on the “Great Ends of the Church”. Here’s the plan.

Today’s scriptures are Psalm 29, Ezekiel 3:12-21, and Luke 9:18-27. Today we are reflecting on the scripture from Sunday (Acts 16:16-34)

Psalm 29

Verse 7 says, “the voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire.” In terms of the upcoming Pentecost Sunday I’m intrigued by Psalm 29’s varied expressions of the voice of the Lord and how that relates to proclamation of the gospel. St. Francis of Assisi has a famous quote, “preach the gospel always, use words if necessary.” As we are called to proclaim I wonder if we limit how we do that or what proclamation even means. Is a casserole delivery or a hug just as much proclamation as any sermon? I think it is, but in a different way. In our world that is ever changing and the lecture style of communication is waning, how do preachers and the church own and intentionally proclaim the gospel to the world?

Ezekiel 3:12-21

Wow! No pressure! God lifts Ezekiel and takes him to live with exiles to tell him that if he doesn’t proclaim God’s word to people they will die and so will he. Yikes! It makes me think of that Martin Luther King, Jr. quote, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” It seems that God is telling Ezekiel if you here something from me, you MUST share it, even if it’s not going to be easy. That’s a challenge. How to tell people things without them thinking you’re a self-righteous jerk or crazy. I know that’s a little extreme, but as someone who stands in a pulpit and proclaims the gospel weekly it’s hard.

Luke 9:18-27

“Who do you say that I am?” That’s a tough question. If you look in the media it might appear that Jesus is judgmental, hateful, violent, and aggressive. There’s a saying, “You might be the only Jesus someone ever meets.” As we proclaim the gospel our actions do the talking, if we say one thing on Sunday morning and do something else on Monday that says something about we say Jesus is. Those that are able to be consistent every day of the week are the one’s Christ is talking about in verse 27, “But truly I tell you, there are standing here who will not tast death before they see the Kingdom of God.” The Kingdom of God is around us always and we can have glimpse of it, if we look and we can share that message with all we meet.

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This is the first post of many where I will be journaling through the Consultations on the Common Texts while preaching a sermon series on the “Great Ends of the Church”. Here’s the plan.

Today’s scriptures are Psalm 29, Exodus 40:16-38, and Acts 16:35-40. Today we are reflecting on the scripture from Sunday (Acts 16:16-34)

Psalm 29

This scripture speaks mainly of the power of God. Paul and Silas were in jail when an earthquake shook their chains loose, presumably by God. However, in the translation I am using, The Life With God Bible (NRSV), the title to this Psalm is “The Voice of God in a Great Storm”. This makes me think that when we are locked in our innermost cells in the stocks of our own shame and life situations God’s voice is powerful and can help to lead us to freedom when we listen.

This also makes me think of a story a friend of mine told me. Her father is a Free Will Baptist, in their prayer meetings they have a time of prayer where everyone prays out loud at the same time, it’s more than a litte chaotic. My friend would talk about in those prayer times, she could always here her father’s voice and that reassured her. I always liked that story. Hopefully, even in our darkest times we can still hear God’s voice.

Exodus 40:16-38

Paul and Silas were freed from their chains but stayed in the prison and saved others. Sometimes we feel like we are free but something is holding us back. Moses made all the preparations, by all intents and purposes he was ready, the Israelites were ready to pass into the Promised Land. It seems that sometimes we are physically ready, but may not be spiritually or mentally ready for the next leg of the journey. Just because we’ve done all the work and crossed all the t’s and dotted the i’s doesn’t mean we’re ready. I wonder if Paul and Silas stayed because they weren’t ready, I wonder if I leave before I am ready.  I pray that I am able to lead (and follow) folks at the right time, not just when we are ready for a change.

Acts 16:35-40

Often we allow people off the hook. Paul, a Roman citizen, demands justice for his beating and arrest. It’s not enough to let him go, the authorities must make amends for their crimes. Sometimes when the injustice no longer affects us we no longer care, but Paul named the injustice and appears to be taking a stand against the systematic injustice around him, hopefully ensuring that it will not affect anyone else.


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Here is the text of the sermon I preached at First Presbyterian Church, Bend, OR on July 22, 2012. The scriptures for the sermon, Mark 2:1-12 and Ephesians 2:11-22.

I sat down to write this sermon about who we pray for, who we open our hearts too when we say, Please, God. Who is it that we ask God’s mercy upon? Who’s burdens do we carry? Who do we think about when we pray?

I was ready to talk about my time at the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, our biennial meeting that took place in Pittsburgh earlier this month. I was ready to talk about the people that come in on all sides of issues, and they come in with a spirit of confrontation. I experienced them as combative, ready to fight, ready to build a wall around their group preparing ammunition to attack that “other side”.

I was ready to talk about my frustration with the utter meanness of the rhetoric that I hear from parents, from politicians, from church leaders, from the media, and then I woke up on Friday morning to the news that 12 people were killed and 58 injured in Aurora, CO. All in a theater excited to see the new Batman movie.

I want to try to make sense of it, I want to be able to explain it, I want to be able to fix it. But I can’t…I can’t…I can’t help Jessica Ghawi, who narrowly escaped a shooting in a Toronto mall in early June, only to die in a theater in Aurora. I am powerless, I am helpless, I am left to only pray, only to say Please…God, have mercy. Have mercy on the families of the 12 who died by the hands of one man. Have mercy on the individuals and the families of the increasing number of wounded now the count is 70+. Have mercy on James Holmes, the 24 year old, suspected perpetrator of this tragedy. Have mercy on those around the world for whom this kind of violence is a daily occurrence.

I sat at my computer and I just got angrier and angrier! I keep thinking, PLEASE GOD THIS CAN’T BE HAPPENING AGAIN!!!!!

I think, if only there were stricter gun laws this type of thing wouldn’t happen! If only, the shooter would have talked to someone, if only…,if only…, they all come up short and shortsighted. They are simply band-aids on a wound so great that only God can heal, a wound that God has healed yet we continue to scratch, to pick, to reopen that wound.

Writer and theologian, Paul Raushenbush, tells us a the faithful response to this kind of tragedy is…

“if we are gentle, and if we are kind, and if we are wise — we pause there and do not answer too quickly. We stay with the pain and the tears and the terror and in response offer compassion, prayers, thoughts, and demonstrate a willingness to be supportive and loving in any way we can.

The faithful response is to hold a vigil.

The reason why it is so important stay silent and be still in the immediate aftermath of tragedy is that if we respond or answer too soon we do not honor those victims who have died, and those who continue to suffer. Instead, our reactions serve the idols of our own agendas and ideas. Our reactions become about us and our egos, and only serve to distract away from the real work of compassion.”

With that in mind, I cautiously, continue to try and make sense of the scriptures and the world today.

In the Ephesians passage today it says, “With his body, he broke down the barrier of hatred that divided us.” Yet, every single day, I read, I hear, I see finger pointing I see division, I see barriers of hatred being built and rebuilt.

I’m scared…I’m scared for the youth that I work with every day, I’m scared for my children, I’m scared for this community, for this world. While we were in DC we asked the students what their dream was, invited to dream as big as they wanted. Some said, I want to be an actor, I want to be an athlete, but many said, “I want the world to be nicer.”

I think this is indicative, of what is wrong now, what leads to suicide bombs, what leads to people walking into public places and opening fire.

I’m not naïve enough to think that the world is going to be nice. It’s a mean world; people get chewed up and spit out every day. But what I’ve noticed in my life is that the rhetoric, the vitriol, the way we act towards one another is different that it was even when I was a kid.

I want to be able to protect my kids, to protect my family…and because definitions are important…you are my family. But I can’t, I can’t be there all the time. And in this case as the blogger Rebecca Cussey said,

“Real evil interjected itself in the theater. Batman would know how to respond. I’m not talking about cool weapons or fighting skills. I’m talking about recognizing evil, acknowledging that it needs to be stopped, and being willing to put yourself on the line to stop it.”

I know I can’t always stop it, I am only left to pray, pray for my kids, pray for your kids, pray for those with whom I agree with, and pray for those I don’t.

We have forgotten how to hold each other’s burdens; we have forgotten to pick up those around us who are paralyzed from fear, from grief, from whatever it is. We have forgotten how to lift them when they can’t lift themselves. Sure we are great about helping those who we know, who we like, who we agree with, but I’m not sure we are willing to help those on the other side of the aisle. Sure we pray for them, but we…well I pray, that they will come to their senses and be more like me. We’ve forgotten that we can disagree with civility. We have put up so many barriers of hatred, of apathy, of contempt, of ignorance that we have a hard time even liking ourselves.

We live in different places, we wear different clothes, we have different beliefs but there is not them only us! A few years ago, a young man named Matt was asked to dance in front of the camera as his friend filmed him. Four years later, he released his next video in within the first month it has 3.3 million views. I think that is encapsulates, what the scripture are saying to us, there is no barrier Christ has torn it down.

Friends we must remember, that we are ALL children of God. We are ALL more alike than we are different and we ALL deserve to give and receive respect. We have a call from God to lift up each other’s burdens, even when we don’t want to, or it’s inconvenient, we must remember that with out someone who is willing to carry us we will always be paralyzed. Be that someone for those who are paralyzed around you, allow that someone to lower you though the roof so that you may pick up your mat and walk out the door.



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