Archive for May, 2010

Life Notes—May 27, 2010 

“…suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”  Romans 5:3b-5 

This passage comes from the letter of the Apostle Paul to the Romans, encouraging them in their young Christian faith.  I suspect, in Paul’s day, hope was much more critical than it is today.  Today, particularly in America, it is easy to find any number of Christian churches and fellowships where a person can learn and grow and be nurtured in the faith.  Then, those opportunities were few and far between, usually occurring in secret to avoid persecution. 

I remember some years back hearing the saying, “Suffering builds character.”  Some years after that I heard a different twist on that statement, “Suffering doesn’t build character, it reveals character.”  I would not want to count the number of times the uglier parts of my character have surfaced when things were not going the way I had hoped.  Anger, impatience, frustration, even the occasional word-I-would-not-want-my-grandmother-to-hear—all are parts of my character I normally try to keep under wraps.  While I am not certain whether those times build my character, they certainly reveal parts I prefer not to show. 

Paul tries to encourage the Roman Christians through their suffering by helping them understand that suffering builds endurance.  Endurance is valuable because it builds character.  As character grows, we find hope in God.  And our hope will not be in vain because God’s love has been poured into us through the Holy Spirit.  So our suffering begins a chain of events that will ultimately end positively.  Suffering leads to peace, when our hope is in God. 

Even though Christian worship is not the rare or dangerous experience it was 2000 years ago, the lesson is just as timely today.  We all suffer.  It is part of our human condition.  Try as we might to avoid it, no one is completely successful, although some always seem to suffer less than others.  Paul assures us there is a greater purpose for our suffering than just misery.  Whether we are aware of it or not, through our suffering we are building character and hope.  And through our character and hope we are manifesting the love of God, through the Holy Spirit dwelling within. 

Tom’s sermon title this week is “Hope,” based on the scripture Romans 5:1-5.  Life worship begins at 10:45 in Brady hall.  Traditional worship is at 8:30 and 11:00 in the sanctuary.  Contemporary worship at the west campus begins at 9:30. 

Come home to worship this Sunday.  Indulge in a little character-building with us!

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator

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Divided Tongues

Life Notes—May 20, 2010 

“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.  And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.  Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.  All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.”  Acts 2:1-4 

This Sunday we celebrate Pentecost, a somewhat un-Methodist-like event.  Speaking in tongues is not a practice any good Methodist I know dabbles in.  Many of us picture speaking in tongues based on what we’ve seen on TV.  A televangelist lays hands on someone and they fall to the floor and begin mumbling syllables unrecognizable to most of us.  It’s not what most Methodists are comfortable seeing in their aisles. 

I did have an opportunity to witness a speaking-in-tongues event once; one of a religious nature.  It wasn’t particularly weird at all, except for not understanding what was being said.  As a devotion before the meal one person spoke in another tongue, then an interpretation was given.  It was not too different from saying a prayer before a meal, except it wasn’t exactly a prayer and it wasn’t in English.  Other than that, it was similar. 

Actually, my family has been experiencing a lot of speaking-in-tongues in our own home since last August when Julia, our exchange student from Ukraine, moved in.  Her native language is Russian, although she also speaks Ukrainian, a little German and is learning Spanish.  Oh, and she speaks English, too.  When Julia finds another person who speaks Russian it is cause to celebrate!  She takes such joy in being able to communicate easily in her native tongue, without having to interpret from English to Russian in her head, and then back from Russian to English just to visit with someone. 

I think our experience of tongues with Julia may be similar to what the disciples and others experienced on the day of Pentecost than what we see on TV.  People were amazed to hear others speaking in their native tongues, and they could understand in ways they had never been able to understand before.  Lines of communication were opened that had been limited or closed prior to Pentecost.  It was like the Holy Spirit’s version of instantaneous communications software—the original Rosetta Stone, if you will.  Our experience with Julia’s native “tongue” hasn’t been weird at all, it’s just different.  And maybe not so un-Methodist-like after all. 

Kara’s sermon title this week is “Come, Holy Spirit,” based on the scripture Acts 2:1-21.  Life worship begins at 10:45 in Brady hall.  Traditional worship is at 8:30 and 11:00 in the sanctuary.  Contemporary worship at the west campus begins at 9:30. 

Come home to worship this Sunday.  Celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit!

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator

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Different, yet One

Life Notes—May 13, 2010 

“The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one.  I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”  John 17:22-23 

This is an excerpt from the prayer Jesus prays in the Garden of Gethsemane, shortly before Judas betrays him to the temple guards.  He discusses how the love that has flowed to him from the Father, he has sought faithfully to pass along to us.  As Jesus and the Father are one, so we are to become one.  One with each other, one with Jesus, one with God.  Although there is much in the Bible I have difficulty accepting literally, this is one part I believe, literally.  Bear with me… 

As a wide-eyed kid I enjoyed studying the natural sciences—biology, physics, chemistry.  Those sciences taught that, without a doubt, we are one.  At least in substance.  The same minerals, chemicals and other substances that make up my body, make up your body as well.  Not only that, through the natural recycling process of decomposition the substances making up our bodies today are the very same substances that made up the bodies of those who lived and died in every generation before us.  Not only that, the substances that make up our bodies are the same as the substances making up all forms of existence on the earth.  Not only that, when you contemplate life at the molecular level, the ‘substances’ giving form to my body are not “mine” at all, but are constantly interchanging with like atoms and molecules giving form to other life around me.  That I have a body that appears separate from the rest of my surroundings is, at least at its foundational level, an illusion.  We recognize the forms that house our souls as distinct; yet, the natural sciences teach there is nothing distinct about them.  They are most certainly one with their surroundings. 

If we are literally one in substance, why would we believe we are any different in spirit?  Our earthly being is created in God’s image.  Jesus makes no secret of his oneness with God.  That is what got him killed, for the church leaders knew that claiming to be one with God was the same as claiming to BE God.  That was blasphemy.  Yet, that blasphemy is exactly what Jesus invites us to commit—become one with him, who is one with God.  While God and Jesus are separate, distinct entities, they have an eternal and unbreakable connection.  It is into that holy fellowship of ‘One-ness” we are invited. 

Tom’s sermon title this week is “United in Diversity,” based on the scripture John 17:20-26.  Life worship begins at 10:45 in Brady hall.  Traditional worship is at 8:30 and 11:00 in the sanctuary.  Contemporary worship at the west campus begins at 9:30. 

Come home to worship this Sunday.  Join us in our journey to Oneness with Christ.

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator

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Shared History

Life Notes—May 6, 2010 

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”  John 14:27 

There is something special about relationships with those to whom we are intimately intertwined.  Usually there is something especially good, although in some sad circumstances, especially bad.  Whether it is a parent, spouse, sibling, child or a BFF (that is ‘Best Friend Forever,’ for those of you not hip to texting lingo), interactions with those we are tied to have a quality not found in more casual relationships.  I remember well the love-hate relationship with my siblings.  I was the oldest and had to put up with many years of immaturity and interference from my sister and two brothers.  Sometimes, I longed to trade places with friends who seemed to have a calmer home life.  But then there were the many good times and the shared history that bound my family together.  Today, I wouldn’t trade those relationships and memories for anything or anyone. 

In the passage above, Jesus knows his days on earth are nearing the end.  He has built close relationships with his followers that will make his parting even tougher, both for them and for him.  The final days of his ministry were filled with preparations for the lives continuing on earth beyond his, including preparations and instructions for us today.  Some of his words are not unlike those we might hear from a loved one near death, “Do not let your hearts be troubled…”  Sometimes, one near death understands their passing represents a new beginning for them, but are also keenly aware of the pain and grief they will leave behind.  When we have a shared history, parting is never easy.  And the longer and more intimate the history, the harder the parting. 

This Sunday is Mother’s Day, when we celebrate not just our biological moms, but also those who have provided vital maternal nurturing in other ways.  Grandma Hildenbrand comes to mind.  I was honored to share her final hours.  Although I do not remember her exact words, they were along the lines of those of Jesus, quoted above, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.”  Shared history.  Intimate weavings creating the beautiful tapestry of shared life.  It gives in a way the rest of the world simply cannot give.  That’s the relationship Jesus invites us to—with him, and with each other. 

Tom continues his “Simply Christian” series with, “Peace of Heart,” based on the scripture John 14:15-27.  Life (Living in Faith Everyday) worship begins at 10:45 in Brady hall.  Traditional worship is at 8:30 and 11:00 in the sanctuary.  Contemporary worship at the west campus begins at 9:30. 

Come home to worship this Sunday.  Become a part of the tapestry that is First Church.

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator

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