Life Notes—February 25, 2010 

“And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words.  And once more he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy; and they did not know what to say to him.”   Mark 14: 39-40 

Jesus is in the Garden of Gethsemane with Peter, James and John, his three closest and most beloved disciples.  It was shortly before he would be betrayed, put on trial, and crucified for sins he never committed.  It was late at night on what I picture to be a dark, starless night and his heart was heavy.  He knew life was about to change dramatically—not just his life, but the lives of his followers and even our lives today.  However, for the redeeming result of that change to materialize, much pain and suffering would be first endured, primarily by him.  He needed to pray, but he also did not want to spend his last few hours on earth alone.  He needed communion with God, but also companionship. 

I was fourteen when my father died suddenly and unexpectedly and the world, as I knew it, collapsed.  We were inundated by friends and family in the days to follow.  Being the oldest of the four children I was the particular recipient of many well-meaning, but ultimately confounding words of “encouragement.”  Men would put an arm on my shoulder and say, “Well, I guess you’re the man of the house, now.”  Women would hug me tight and say, “God must really have needed your father to take him so soon.”  I have long forgotten who said or did what.  What I do remember, decades later, was my best friend.  Dave, who lived across the street, came over later that morning and just sat with me in my room.  He didn’t offer words of wisdom or perspective, he just made sure I didn’t spend those first hours as my life was unraveling alone. 

Jesus needed human companionship.  He was expressing his human nature, even as his divinity was about to be proclaimed for eternity.  Sometimes, when our world is changing in unknown and frightening ways, what we really need is company.  Seldom can we put out the fire that consumes a home.  We are not gifted to bring a loved one back from death.  We may not be able to fix what is wrong, but we can make certain those around us do not have to transition alone.  Sometimes in our rush to “being helpful,” we forget the importance of simply “being with.” 

We continue our Lenten journey this second Sunday of Lent.  Kara’s sermon title is “Deserting in the Garden,” drawn from the scripture found in Mark 14: 32-44.    Our church-wide Lenten study, “24 Hours That Changed the World,” continues with several Sunday morning classes and others throughout the week.   Life service is at 10:45 in Brady Hall.  Traditional worship in the sanctuary is at 8:30 and 11:00.  Contemporary worship at the west campus is at 9:30.  

Come home to worship this Sunday!  Our solitary Lenten journey need not be done alone.

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator


An Amazing Sacrifice

Life Notes—February 18, 2010 

“Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it.  He said to them, ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.  Truly I tell you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.’”   Mark 14: 23-25  

Webster defines covenant as “a written agreement or promise…between two or more parties…for the performance of some action.”  On his Last Supper with his disciples Jesus takes a cup of wine, gives thanks, has them drink and describes it as (his) blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.   The Gospel of Luke (22:20b) records Jesus’ words as, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”  For me, this is where Christianity gets a little weird.  Most of us do not understand the blood sacrifices of the Old Testament.  But to grasp the significance of the blood of Jesus and this new covenant we desperately need that background and context.  Otherwise, the blood of Christ shed for us becomes little more than a gory piece of history. 

Now for a disclaimer: I am no expert on atoning sacrifices, so consider this the lay person’s version.  The law of the Old Testament stated the price of sin was death.  It didn’t specify the sinner had to die, but some living being’s blood had to be shed to cleanse the sinner and atone for the sin.  People made periodic journeys to the temple with a sacrificial animal to be killed and its blood poured on the altar.  So, when Jesus referred to the wine in the cup as his blood of the covenant, poured out for many, he pronounced himself our sacrificial lamb.  His blood was to be shed for us, for all of us, thus establishing a new covenant and freeing us forever from the need for animal sacrifice.  (And all the animals said, “Halleluia!)  Christ’s death on the cross is the death required to pay for our sin.  When we say he carried the weight of the sin of the world onto that cross, part of that weight was ours.  Jesus dies for us so we will be seen as clean and righteous in the eyes of God, worthy to enter the kingdom of heaven on our earthly death.  Jesus gives, we receive.  Love.  It is a gift we can neither earn nor deserve.  Just pure love, and complete forgiveness. 

And so, we begin our Lenten journey; a time of reflection and repentance.  We are led to the cross to die for our sins, only to find our debt paid by a loving Savior in an act of love and mercy beyond our most extravagant imagining.  This Sunday is the first Sunday of Lent.  Tom’s sermon title is “A New Covenant” and is based on the scripture found in Mark 14:12-25.  Our church-wide Lenten study, “24 Hours That Changed the World,” begins with several Sunday morning classes and others throughout the week.   Life service is at 10:45 in Brady Hall.  Traditional worship in the sanctuary is at 8:30 and 11:00.  Contemporary worship at the west campus is at 9:30. 

Come home to worship this Sunday!  Journey with us to the cross.

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator

A Vast and Steamy Love Story

Life Notes—February 11, 2010 

“Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude.  It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.  It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends.”   1 Corinthians 13:4-8a 

With Valentine’s Day approaching it seems appropriate to confess I consider myself quite a lover.  I love my wife and children.  I love our friends and extended family.  I love my church, my co-workers and colleagues.  I love my Savior.  Don’t get me wrong.  I am not always patient or kind.  I am often envious and boastful and arrogant and rude.  Insist on my own way?  Guilty.  I am a lover, but I’m also human.  The good news is the two are not mutually exclusive. 

The passage above is so familiar it almost seems a cliché, and that is unfortunate.  The words are beautiful and the message deceptively deep.  According to these words love is multi-worldly.  There is simply no other way to understand it.  Unlike most treasures of the earth, love never ends.  Paul points beyond our earthly experience and limited understanding of love to something eternal, something pure, something holy.  Like most things on earth, love may become soiled; but there is an eternal essence to love that cannot be perverted by our earthly failings. 

So, what of love gone bad?  What of a beloved companion who dies too soon?  What of love that is never reciprocated?  I suspect the loves we know on earth are partial chapters in a vast and steamy love story that is far from complete.  If love never ends, as Paul writes, love outlives our earthly experience and continues beyond.  Who knows what love looks like on the other side of the grave?  Without frail bodies, without the temptations of the flesh, without finances or distance or busy schedules…imagine the possibilities! 

Do the selfish desires which often override my loving intentions for others make me less of a lover?  I hope not.  My loving intentions for those I love are good and pure, even if my follow through is sometimes lacking.  As the Wizard of Oz told the Tin Man, “…a heart is not judged by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others.”  By that standard I am quite a blessed lover, indeed!  I pray this Valentine’s Day finds you loved, too, and somewhere in the middle of a vast and steamy love story! 

This Sunday is Transfiguration Sunday.  Tom’s sermon title is “Mystery, Silence and Glory” and is based on the scripture found in Luke 9:28-36.  New members will be joining at all services.  Life service is at 10:45 in Brady Hall.  Traditional worship in the sanctuary is at 8:30 and 11:00.  Contemporary worship at the west campus is at 9:30. 

Come home to worship this Sunday!  Oh, and bring your love…

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator

Net-Breaking Success

Life Notes—February 3, 2010 

“…When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.’  Simon answered, ‘Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing.’”   Luke 5:3b-5a 

Jesus was using Simon’s boat as a platform from which to preach to the crowd on shore.  When he finished speaking he told Simon to go back out on the water, put down the nets and fish again.  Simon complained they had already been fishing all night, with no success.  Clearly, back onto the water was the last place he wanted to go.  I suspect he just wanted to go home to bed. 

Have you ever worked hard on a project, gotten nowhere and wanted to quit, only to be told to keep working by someone who seemingly knows nothing of the weary, unproductive work you’ve already done?  The other night my heart was heavy for some dear friends, when I felt a subtle encouragement towards the piano to write a song.  Now, playing the piano is not something I am particularly good at, nor was it anything I was remotely interested in on this particular night.  Songwriting, while rewarding when complete, is usually short bouts of repetitive drudgery for me, occurring over a period of days or weeks or months.  That night I was not in a mental state for such drudgery, particularly not at the piano.  However, that is where I ended up and over the course of about ten minutes a nearly complete song was born, almost effortlessly on my part. 

In the remainder of the passage above Simon and his crew reluctantly sailed back out onto the water, put down their nets and caught so many fish it threatened to not only break the nets, but also to sink their boats.  They had to cry for assistance from shore to pull in their catch.  Jesus closes the passage by saying they will be fishing for people from now on.  When seen in the context of the massive catch, the earlier unsuccessful fishing expedition was simply the first act in a larger stage production.  However, that larger purpose was not evident until the entire event unfolded.  Hindsight can be a wonderful teacher.  Sometimes we must trust beyond our sight and feelings. 

This Sunday’s theme is “Cast Your Nets.”  Kara’s sermon will be drawn from Luke 5:1-11.  It is United Methodist Women’s (UMW) Sunday and significant parts of all worship services will be led by the women of our church.  Life service is at 10:45 in Brady Hall.  Traditional worship in the sanctuary is at 8:30 and 11:00.  Contemporary worship at the west campus is at 9:30.  Have you given up on a seemingly fruitless undertaking you’re feeling nudged to restart?  Perhaps you are closer to net-breaking success than you imagine.  Of course, the decision to restart would be made easier if we could more easily discern when it is Jesus doing the nudging… 

Come home to worship this Sunday!  Persistent attendance has its rewards.

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator