Living God’s Creative Story

Today is the first day of spring. For someone who is not a fan of winter weather, snow, or cold temperatures the announcement of spring weather has come brings with it the sounds of rejoicing and celebration.

I’ve always have enjoyed spring. Perhaps it is because it reminds me of Spring Break trips with my grandparents to Florida or some other destination. Maybe it is because it means baseball season will soon begin. Or maybe, too, it is because I can get rid of the piles of jackets that you need in the winter.

Spring brings with it a sense of new life and hopefulness that we all need. Think about what takes place around this time each year. Flowers begin to bloom. Trees begin to bud. The grass begins to grow. Life seems to be restored.

I think about those images and I am reminded of the creative work of God. Throughout Scripture, we are reminded that God brings new life out of what seems to be destroyed, broken, or at the point of death. Where we see what cannot be possible, God looks at does something that impossible in bringing life to what seemed to be dead.

We see this in the very first sentences of Scripture. In Genesis 1:1, we are told of how God is the One who took what was nothing and made something. We don’t have to get into the why’s and how’s of that miraculous truth to simply stand in awe of the fact that where there seemed to be an impossibility – nothing – God made something happen.

Further along in the story of Scripture, in Ezekiel 37:1-14, we receive the story of God breathing life into dead bones. God’s creative life brings new hope to what seems to be beyond the capability of doing anything. Once again, God took an impossibility – dead bones – and made something happen.

We see it, again, with the promise of the resurrection. Jesus died on the cross. He was dead on Friday. He was dead on Saturday. On Sunday, the grave was empty. I’ve been to the grave … there was no body in there. Jesus’ resurrection is the victory over the world’s crippling powers of death and destruction. It is the assurance of hope that we claim at Easter that God can take what seems to be impossible – victory over death – and doing the impossible. God always makes something happen!

Our faith promises us that we worship the God who never gives up and is always striving to make something new out of the ashes of the world. This is the story that we claim and participate in through our faith. Yet, I wonder if it is a story that we truly believe.

I suggest that, because is tempting to always see things at face value. That is what the world teaches us to do by taking things as they seem. If something seems like an impossibility, we are taught to give up on it and to be realistic about the situation before us.

This is a mindset that can be found within the church. When we reflect on where we are as a church or community, it is easy to say things like “we might as well close” or “things are not like they used to be.” In doing so, we are focusing only upon what is in front of us and looking at things through worldly measures. Do we have enough people? Are we doing enough to justify the work? Is it worth it to keep going on?

Our discussions about the possibilities of the church’s mission are often guided by the same metrics we use to make decisions about future investment opportunities within a business. Yet, we are a community that is not a business. We are part of the narrative of God’s creative act in the world, which claims that God can do what seems to be impossible.

To believe that, however, we have to be willing to see the possible in the midst of the impossibility that is before us. That requires a change in our attitude of responding to things not out of negatives, but out of the positives. Being part of God’s creative effort invites us to ask ourselves what can God do, and what is God calling us to be a part of, in the midst of what seems bleak and hopeless.

We also have to change our approach from blaming others when things do not go well. In its place, we have to move into a direction of reflecting on what is God inviting us to learn and how might we do things differently from those lessons.

When we change our attitudes and our approach to difficult moments, it takes away the pressure and stresses that can fill our hearts about the church. It also invites us to be part of the grand narrative of God in a deeper way.

I truly believe that no matter the negative situation that faces us in the church, today, that God is capable and able to do more than we could ever imagine through them. We worship the God who takes nothing and makes something happen, and we are invited to be part of that great work.

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The 8th Day

The night before was long and dark. It was the Sabbath day, the seventh day, and those who had followed Jesus had gathered together. Just hours before they witnessed Jesus’ gruesome death on the cross and now they waited to finish a job that was rushed that evening. You see, some of Jesus’ followers hurriedly placed him in a garden tomb knowing that the Sabbath was coming and that work to prepare Jesus for burial would have to wait for the next day, which was a Sunday.

That was the mood as the women gathered on that Sabbath night. We can assume they told stories of Jesus’ life. Perhaps they talked about how he fed more than 5,000 people with barely little food or how he healed so many people. Through their tears, they prepared the spices that would be used to give Jesus, their teacher and friend, a proper burial. The only things that kept them from going to the tomb, then, were the dark skies and the Sabbath laws that prevented any work from taking place until the following day. Continue reading

Sunday Sermon: By Growing in Faith

Growing up many of my classmates and friends wanted to “be like Mike.” They tried to soar in the air like Jordan. They tried to play defense like him. They mimicked everything about him. 

Not me. I wanted to be like Mickey … Mickey Furfari. Now, that name will mean nothing to you, but back in West Virginia, he is a legend. Mickey is known as the dean of sports writers and has been covering West Virginia athletics for longer than any other journalist. I wanted to do what he did. I wanted to cover the same sports as him. I wanted to be in the same interview rooms like him. I wanted to be just like him. 

Now, I am sure many of you have people in our lives that you admired and who you wanted to emulate your lives after. We all have had people who we thought lived a life worthy of modeling our own life after. Maybe it is a family member. Maybe it is a friend. Maybe it is someone we worked with. Whoever this person may be, they have something about them that we want to be known by. Continue reading

Sunday Sermon: Living the Resurrection – By Our Love of God

Another Easter has come and past. Many of us have put away more than our fair share of candy and ham over the last few weeks. Likely the bunnies, baskets, and eggs have been stashed away ready to come out again in March.

Even some of the celebrations have ended, in reality, Easter has not. Easter is never finished. Easter is not a one-day celebration. It is not even a 50-day season focusing on the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Easter is more than that. It is a way of life.

Easter, and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, is the grand announcement of God doing something new. It is not something that can be contained in one day or season. The Resurrection is a truth that defines everything and calls us to live with the hope of the Living God every day. Every day is a celebration of the good news that Christ is alive and is with us all today. Continue reading

Sunday Sermon: Living Out the Resurrection

We all have stories we love to tell. Stories that have been passed down from generation to generation. Stories of memorable times with our family and friends. Stories where we were able to experience something that changed our life. Stories that must be told again and again. 

My guess is that few of us have a story anything like the stories Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome could tell their friends and family. They were among the followers of Jesus who went with him as he traveled throughout Galilee. They saw his miracles of healing and the moments of great teaching that he did. They were there. 

More than that, though, this group of women were the first to witness some of the events that have changed the world. They were present at Golgotha when Jesus was crucified. A moment that changed the world as Jesus gave of his life for humanity’s sin. They were present later that Friday afternoon as Joseph of Arimathea and Niccodemus buried Jesus in a tomb located in a garden near where Jesus died.  Continue reading

Easter Sunrise Message: It’s No Longer Dark

It was still dark that Sunday morning. An appropriate way for John to begin his account of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. One of the things to appreciate about the Gospel of John it is that word choice means everything. A word like “dark” or “darkness” carries with it a meaning that is deeper than what it may seem. 

On one hand, it was literally dark in Jerusalem and at the tomb where Joseph of Arimathea and Niccodemus laid Jesus following his death on the cross three days earlier. The morning sun had not broken through the darkness of the night as a new week began. Darkness filled the skies much like the darkness that greeted us, this morning, as we gathered for this sunrise worship. Continue reading

Living Our Calling

This week, we had the blessing of having my grandparents with us to help us begin to organize and get ready to move. It was great having them here and having their help with Noah and also with boxing up some of the things we do not regularly use.

Of course, having them here reminded me of many great memories I’ve shared with them through the years. The times my grandfather would drive me to all my wrestling tournaments and watch patiently as I would struggle to advance. The long drives in their huge van to Florida to see family. The many times my grandmother would try, almost unsuccessfully, to get me to do my part in picking up around the house. Continue reading