Archive for November, 2011

A Season of Receiving

Life Notes—November 24, 2011

“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.  And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work.”  2 Corinthians 9:6-8

For most of us, there is a direct relationship between what we give and what we receive.  Farmers and gardeners know this well.  If they do not plant in the spring, they do not harvest in the fall.  The lessons of sowing and reaping are less obvious to us today, since few of us grow our own food.  But not too many generations ago, inadequate attention to spring planting could mean starvation the following winter.  Demonstrations of sowing and reaping are all around us, as the decisions of the past manifest their consequences today.  We have sayings that speak these truths: The chickens come home to roost.  We get what we deserve.  There’s no such thing as a free lunch.  But the time that passes between cause and effect makes the relationship cloudy and easily overlooked. 

Paul addresses the concept of sowing and reaping in the scripture above, noting you must sow in abundance to reap in abundance.  And those who receive in abundance are expected to share abundantly.  If we believe this only applies to crops, we miss the point in a serious way.  We sow many seeds throughout our lives—seeds of kindness, of hard work, of love and of generosity.  So, if on this day of Thanksgiving, we are not receiving that which we most desire—be it kindness or love or material needs—maybe we should take a hard look at the seeds we’ve sown.  The writer of the book of Acts attributes Jesus as saying, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35b).  Perhaps we could also say, “It is required first to give in order to receive.”  Obviously, there are those in life circumstances who need assistance in sowing, and that is where and why the rest of us must share our abundance.  Ultimately, our bounty is not ours anyway, but God’s. 

Finally, in the words of two great prophets of the last century, “…and in the end, the love you take, is equal to the love you make.”  May you share the abundance of a bountiful harvest this Thanksgiving.  And if your bounty is not what you desire, begin sowing for next year’s harvest.  May you have much to be thankful for. 

This Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent.  Tom and Mitch will begin an Advent sermon series entitled, “Open Up.”  This Sunday’s sermon title is “Open Up Expectations,“ based on Mark 13:32-37.  Tom will preach downtown, where Life worship is at 10:00 in Brady Hall and traditional worship is at 8:30 and 11:00 in the sanctuary.  Mitch will preach at the west campus, where contemporary worship is at 9:00 and 11:00. 

Come home to church this Sunday.  Wishing you all blessing in abundance!

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator

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Humble Greatness

Life Notes—November 17, 2011

“Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, ‘The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; therefore do whatever they teach you and follow it, but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach.  They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them.  The greatest among you will be your servant.  All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.”  Matthew 23:1-4, 11-12

“Do as I say, not as I do!”  Have you ever heard that line?  Chances are, even if you haven’t heard it directly, you’ve witnessed someone insisting you behave in a certain way, while they continue to behave in a contrary manner.  I’ve probably used the line on my children more than a few times.  It’s only natural for a parent to want their children to have a better life, to succeed where they failed, to make better life-decisions and to live well.  I have caught myself more than once reliving parts of my childhood through my children, or perhaps experiencing, vicariously, what I missed.  I want them to benefit from my experience and perspective before they grow up.  I never traveled toEurope.  I never played high school sports.  I never sang in choirs or marched in bands or played in orchestras.  But my children have and, through them, I have shared in those experiences.

But parents wanting their children to live to a higher standard is not what Jesus is talking about in the scripture above.  He is often merciless in his criticism of the scribes and Pharisees of his time, and this instance is no exception.  He tells his followers they must follow the teachings of these temple leaders, but warns not to follow their actions.  The teachings had been handed down for generations and were worthy of respect and honor.  And though the teachers may have faithfully passed along the truths contained therein, they had somehow come to believe they were above the message.  They were like many modern-day politicians who write laws to govern us, while writing exceptions for themselves.  And then expect us to do as we are told, not as they do.

Jesus’ message is clear.  The greatest among us will be servants of others.  He gives this instruction many times and in many ways throughout the gospels.  But primarily he transmits the instruction by example.  He washes the feet of his disciples.  He calms the sea on a stormy night that threatens to drown everyone on the boat.  He helps Peter walk on water.  He heals and he feeds and he gives attention to those shunned by others.  Service.  Servanthood.  Greatness.  In the character of our Lord is an example of true greatness; not through words or fame but by humble, selfless acts of service to others.

This Sunday is our annualOneChurchservice, followed by an all-church Thanksgiving dinner.  The service will be held at the Douglas County Fairgrounds, beginning at 10:00.  A full Thanksgiving dinner will follow.  All are invited!

Come home to church this Sunday.  Claim your place with your fellow servants!

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator

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Life Notes—November 10, 2011

“…therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken.  He drove out the man; and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim, and a sword flaming and turning to guard the way to the tree of life.”  Genesis 3:23-24

This will be the final installment of a five-week look at the implications of an alternate version of the creation story, where the original human was created both male and female. God separated that human into two beings, the male and female versions we know today.  Previous Life Notes can be found at https://lifeworshipnotes.wordpress.com

In the garden of Eden, Adam and Eve ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  This act of defiance is referred to as the “original sin.” Adam and Eve are then expelled from the garden.  I believe the story provides important clues to our earthly existence.  First, we are not whole.  We were created in the image of God, and then separated into male and female halves. We see similar splits manifested throughout creation. Electricity flows only where both positive and negative charges meet. Procreation occurs only by uniting the unique male and female contributions.  So-called “opposites” are defined in relation to each other.  Dark is the absence of light.  Cold, the absence of warmth.  Ignorance, the absence of knowledge.  Evil, the absence of good.  Perhaps the knowledge imparted by the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is, in fact, the knowledge or experience of these opposites. However, these “opposites” are not opposite at all, but the relative absence or abundance of a single trait.  And life on earth is the experience of this manifestation of parts.  We, as part of the ‘whole’ inEden, desire to know more fully the various gradations of the whole.  We eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil by leaving the garden to experience creation as individual parts. 

Although most everything in our human experience tells us we are separate, independent beings, in reality we are still an integral part of the ‘whole’ from which we were created.  And this is the origin of all sin—that we do not recognize ourselves as intimately tied to everyone else.  We cannot know peace when wars rage elsewhere on the planet.  We cannot be well while others starve.  We cannot experience wholeness while others lack because our fates are inseparably tied.  The original sin is about the illusion of separation, and it is central to our earthly experience.  But Jesus reunites us with each other and with God.  In the words of Paul, “…there is no longer male and female; for you are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28b).  And when we leave this earth, we are reunited with the whole from which we came, with the knowledge of good and evil in tow… 

This creation-story exploration began with a look at how male and female humans are related.  That led to a look at the “opposites” of creation.  In preceding weeks I’ve noted that we are attracted to others who are complementary to us, those who help make us whole.  Male and female are not opposites, but they manifest various gradations of a single trait.  What is that trait?  I suggest it is Godliness.  We were created male and female in the image of God and that image cannot be complete without the reuniting of the parts. 

Life worship is downtown at 10:00 in Brady Hall and traditional worship is at 8:30 and 11:00 in the Sanctuary.  Contemporary worship at the west campus is at 9:00 and 11:00. 

Come home to church this Sunday.  Reclaim your unity with the family of God!

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator

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Life Notes—November 3, 2011

“And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You may freely eat of every tree in the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.’”  Genesis 2:16-17

The past few weeks we’ve been exploring a version of the creation story, where the original human was created both male and female. God separated that human into two beings, male and female.  Last week I suggested we are drawn to relationship because we desire the wholeness of our original state.  Being in relationship allows us to more closely approximate the image of God from which we were created.  Previous editions of Life Notes can be found at https://lifeworshipnotes.wordpress.com

Prior to God splitting the human into male and female halves, there are two trees named in the story: the tree of life, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  God tells the human not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil because he/she will die.  Isn’t that curious, when so much of our earthly quest is a search for knowledge?  But this tree is at the heart of what is referred to as “original sin.” Adam and Eve did eat of this tree, in direct contradiction to God’s instruction.  In Genesis 3:4-5, the serpent tells Eve, “You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  Indeed, they did not die, at least not in earthly terms, but they were expelled from the paradise of the garden of Eden. 

The knowledge they gain is of their own nakedness. God says, “See, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil…”  So how are the awareness of nakedness and the knowledge of good and evil related?  I believe the answer is in the separation storyline of the garden of Eden.  Separation not only of male and female, but also of humanity from God.  When their eyes were ‘opened’ they focused on differences—differences from each other and differences from God—and they were ashamed.  They were ‘naked’ in their exposed uniqueness.  While we often value individuality, it is not our natural state.  The knowledge gained from this tree is not knowledge as we define it today.  Rather, it is awareness of a condition not compatible with the garden of Eden.  That condition is separation.  Separation sees ‘you and me’ to the exclusion of ‘us.’ It categorizes everything: us and them, black and white, good and evil.  It leaves us feeling naked and exposed, a condition we may seek to neutralize by clinging to one side or the other.  And while it may be a necessary element of our earthly experience, separation breeds fear and doubt…and sin.  Next week I will finish this exploration of the creation story. 

This is All Saints Sunday and Tom’s downtown sermon is “Becoming a Saint,” based on Matthew 5:1-16.  Life worship is at 10:00 in Brady Hall and traditional worship is at 8:30 and 11:00 in the Sanctuary.  Mitch completes his “Mary and Martha” series at the west campus, where contemporary worship is at 9:00 and 11:00. 

Come home to church this Sunday. Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator

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