Giving Thanks and Thankful Giving

Life Notes—November 24, 2010

From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.  Luke 12: 48b 

Thanksgiving used to be my least favorite holiday.  There were no presents, no fireworks, no Easter bunny or valentines.  I thought the parades on television were dumb.  And the food?  I ate everyday, so where was the fun in that?  Eating turkey didn’t excite me, as it seemed little more than chicken on steroids.  Our family had to pile into the car and drive for an hour or two to be with relatives, some of whom I barely knew. Thanksgiving was my least favorite holiday because there was nothing in it for me. 

Today, Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays.  Why?  For starters, there are no presents, fireworks, Easter bunnies or valentines, so there is less pressure.  Thanksgiving is all about food, family, friends, fellowship and football.  And I am all about every one of those (still not a big fan of the parades, however).  And yet, there is a deeper significance to Thanksgiving that is easily lost in the bustle. 

Being thankful and giving.  It is a traditional day of thanks for the harvest.  A day to count our blessings and be grateful for the bounty God provides.  I am thankful for my wife and children and home and job and family and friends and church and that I live in a country where I can worship as I please and move freely from place to place (albeit with the occasional body scan). 

But there is another part to Thanksgiving that is too often overlooked—giving.  I was taught the first Thanksgiving celebration was a fellowship between the settlers and the Native Americans.  It was an event where the bounty of one group was shared with another.  Like most American holidays, we tend to celebrate to excess.  While I am thankful for the ability to do so, I also realize, guiltily, that I will eat to excess for days, get very tired of the leftovers, and throw much of it away.  My mother’s words from long ago come back to me: “There are starving children in India…”  Trite?  Maybe.  True? Absolutely.  And not just in India.  And not just for food.  As we give thanks this Thanksgiving, let us also remember that from those to whom much has been given, much is also required.  And the needs are great, locally and internationally.  When we find ways to share our excess, we give others reason to be thankful, too.  

This Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent and the theme is Hope.  Tom will be preaching downtown. Life worship is at 9:40 in Brady Hall, and traditional worship in the sanctuary is at 8:30 and 11:00.  Mitch will preach at the west campus, where worship is at 9:00 and 11:00. 

Come home to worship this Sunday.  And have a wonderful Thanks and Giving!

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator

One Church, Two Campuses

Life Notes—November 18, 2010

“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.  Worship the Lord with gladness; come into his presence with singing.  Know that the Lord is God.  It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.”  Psalm 100:1-3 

One Church, Two Campuses

On October 17, 1987, I became a husband.  It was a new and unique experience for me.  Suddenly, my life was not just about me anymore.  It had been joined to another soul, and we had become one life in two people.  In 1991 and again in 1994, I became a father.  I shared the responsibility of caring for, nurturing and protecting precious and vulnerable lives.  I learned new skills and paid attention to new things.  Becoming a husband and father were conscious decisions to expand my life horizons; and for me, they have brought a long string of wonderful adventures to my life. 

But my role in life is not limited to being a husband and a father.  I am also a son, brother, uncle, friend, employer, employee, writer and worship leader, to name a few.  Each role is unique and has its own special demands and expectations.  I may act somewhat differently in each role, but I am still the same person, complete with the same endearing (and annoying) qualities.  How many different roles do you have in life? 

In the early 90’s, after many decades of having two traditional worship services, our church began a third worship service—an informal, contemporary style of service.  It was an attempt by our church to expand its horizons and serve more people.  Several years ago our church added a second campus and a fourth worship service.  Today we have five Sunday morning worship services.  Both campuses and all services have unique features intended to extend the open arms of our church family, helping more souls build relationships with each other and with their Creator.  I find each of my roles in life a unique and special adventure.  And I find each of our campuses and worship services unique and special opportunities to deepen relationships.  But just as I am the same person, regardless of my role; so we are One Church, regardless of campus or worship time.  We have much to celebrate and be thankful for! 

This Sunday we will all worship together at one service, in one location—at the Douglas County Fairgrounds at 10:00 AM.  We will celebrate being One Church with Two Campuses.  Tom and Mitch will share a dialogue entitled, United in Christ.  After the service we will feast at the all-church Thanksgiving dinner.  Come, make a joyful noise, worship, celebrate and be in fellowship with your church family.  Oh, and eat! 

November 28 is the first Sunday of Advent.  Each worship area will have a “Memory Tree,” where worshippers are invited to bring and hang ornaments in honor of one or more loved ones.  Ornaments can be retrieved after Christmas. 

Come home to worship this Sunday.  Strugglers welcome!

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator

Inefficient Farming

Life Notes—November 11, 2010

“The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly; and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.  Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”  II Corinthians 6:6-7 

In the Old Testament, farmers were told not to harvest all the grain in their fields.  They were to leave the grain at the edges of their fields, as well as that which fell to the ground during the process of reaping.  This was so there would be grain available to those less fortunate, particularly the widows and orphans.  The farmer harvested most of the crop, but always left a significant portion for others.  It was the law, but it was also the right and compassionate thing to do. 

Today, this practice would be considered inefficient farming.  For one thing, few of us would glean a field for grain left behind.  And fewer of us would know what to do with the grain we so gleaned.  But the principle is sound: we have what we have because God has provided.  Most of us know people who have more than we do, and we also know people with less—much less.  Honestly, most of us have much more than we need.  There is always something to share.  Most of us don’t even have to make much of a sacrifice to meaningfully share our abundance.  Sharing our gifts is an investment in something greater than us.  It is sowing for a different kind of harvest. 

How much of our “harvest” do we sow only for ourselves?  Most of us don’t measure our wealth by the amount of grain in the barn.  It is in our checking account.  I confess, too much of what goes into my checking account goes out for me and my purposes.  Too often, I glean to the edges of my field, without weighing the measure of my need against the needs of others; and without weighing the benefits to me of sharing. 

Our abundance is not just in material wealth—what about the hours in our day?  How many of us leave time in a day for something other than pressing demands?  Could we leave a little time at the edges for the enrichment of others?  Or for investing in our well-being in ways our normal workload does not allow?  Exercise, study, meditation, prayer, service to others—the possibilities are endless.  It is a matter of reaping what we sow, and thoughtfully portioning the harvest we receive.  Some must go for the needs of the day; but there is always something left for others.  God provides more than enough. 

Tom’s sermon downtown this week is, “More Than Enough,” based on II Corinthians 9:6-15.  Life worship begins at 9:40 in Brady Hall.  Traditional worship is at 8:30 and 11:00.  Mitch is preaching at the west campus, where contemporary worship is at 9:00 and 11:00.  His sermon is “Spiritual Bankruptcy,” based on Acts 5:1-11. 

Come home to worship this Sunday.  Strugglers welcome!

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator

Woe to Me

Life Notes—November 4, 2010

“But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.  Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry.  Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep.”  Luke 6:24-25. 

Based upon the quote above I have much woe coming my way.  Compared to most people on this planet I am rich, I am well-fed and I laugh a lot.  Whoa!  Woe to me?  These lines come from a section in the Gospel of Luke which is similar to the Beatitudes, found in the Gospel of Matthew.  It makes it sound as if God wants us to be poor, hungry and sad.  That doesn’t sound like the loving creator I believe God to be. 

This Sunday we celebrate All Saints Day, where we remember the church members who have passed in the last year.  There is an incredible amount of experience and wisdom in these souls who have passed from our presence.  And yet, thanks to their active influence upon us and our church, their presence remains.  Most of those members had been alive for quite some time, at least in people-years.  I believe many, if not all of the Saints we recognize this Sunday understood what Jesus was saying in the passage above.  Sometimes a person must simply live long enough to endure the waxing and waning of life-cycles a number of times to understand the grace in these lines. 

It’s not that God wants us to be poor, hungry and sad.  But God knows the source of our life does not spring from bank accounts, pantries or happiness.  The balance of those items was zero at our birth, and they will be zero when we die.  In between, they increase and they decrease.  An undeniable reality of life on earth is there is never enough money to be assured of always having enough for any circumstance.  Ditto for food and happiness.  Like the seasons, they come and go and come and go.  If that is where we look for security, we will feel secure one day and insecure the next. 

Like the Saints of our church family, those of us who have been around the block a time or two understand there are times of plenty and want, of fullness and hunger, of happiness and sadness.  Still, God remains, steadfast and present.  If we are to live joyful and fulfilling lives, they must be built on that which does not wax and wane.  They must be built on something eternal, something unchanging, something unearthly.  Something like the grace of God.  When our lives grow from a solid foundation we truly understand what goes around, comes around. 

Mitch’s sermon downtown this week is, “Do Saints March?” based on Luke 6:20-31.  Life worship begins at 9:40 in Brady Hall.  Traditional worship is at 8:30 and 11:00 in the sanctuary.  Tom is preaching at the west campus, where contemporary worship is at 9:00 and 11:00.  His sermon is “Follow Your Saints,” based on Matthew 5:1-16. 

Come home to worship this Sunday.  Strugglers welcome!

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator