authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isa. 9:6)
“But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. …... Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.” (Matt. 24:36, 42)
"In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” (Luke 1:26-28)
“When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John.” (Luke 1:12-13)
"More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” (Phil. 3:8a)
“He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)
... one of the essential paradoxes of Advent: that while we wait for God, we are with God all along, that while we need to be reassured of God's arrival, or the arrival of our homecoming, we are already at home. While we wait, we have to trust, to have faith, but it is God's grace that gives us that faith. As with all spiritual knowledge, two things are true, and equally true, at once. The mind can't grasp paradox; it is the knowledge of the soul. - Michelle Blake, "The Tentmaker," 1999, p. 153“I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope;” (Ps. 130:2)
“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Matt. 5:14-16)
“Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame; let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.... Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long.” (Ps. 25:3, 5)
"And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.” (Phil. 1:9-11)
"And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.” (Phil. 1:9-1)
"Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, And every mountain and hill shall be make low, And the crooked shall be made straight, And the rough ways smooth; And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”
"People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken..... Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (Luke 21:26, 28, NRSV)
“Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope. Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we must be saved by love.”
“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise.... Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” (Matt. 25:1-2, 13)
"The challenge of the saints of the twenty-first century is to begin again to comprehend the sacred in the ten thousand things of our world; to reverence what we have come to view as ordinary and devoid of spirit." – Edward Hays in "Secular Sanctity"
November 1st is All Saint's Day. All Saint's Day is not exactly a Presbyterian religious observance day in the church calendar, it is primarily observed within the Roman Catholic church and ended up serving as the backdrop for Halloween. All Saint's Day within the Roman Catholic church is a day to commemorate the lives of all the saints of the church who have no special calendar day of their own. While other traditions, celebrate the lives of all the communion of saints in the church who during the past year have passed on to claim their place in the Kingdom of Heaven.
As Presbyterians we don't designate individuals specifically as saints in the church, like the Roman Catholic tradition, but it does not mean it can not be important to our practices. In the Roman Catholic tradition, they tend to focus on saints in heaven? In Paul's letter to the Ephesians, he writes, “I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints” (Ephesians 1:15). Whenever Paul speaks of saints, he is talking about members of the church, those chosen by God and set apart to do his work in the world. Saints are holy people, according to Paul, but their holiness doesn’t come from achieving some kind of moral perfection. Instead, they have a holiness that comes from being marked as God’s people.
When a person is proposed for Roman Catholic sainthood, evidence of that person’s virtue must be presented along with at least two postmortem miracles — miracles performed by the intercession of the person after his or her death. When you have a living saint during some stage of your life, you might come to believe you were the recipient of a miracle, even though no one will ask you to give evidence, you know this person has made a difference in your life. Who are the saints in your life, those simple people of faith who shared God's grace with devotion, sacredness, and compassion, who served as role models of the divine and the holy.
We all have individuals in our lives we might call saints. People who were important to helping us shape us into the people we have become. A teacher who gave us a love for learning and encouraged us to pursue science, math, history or the arts. A church elder or member who mentored our faith formation in the church and helped us to follow Jesus Christ as a disciple. A Sunday School teacher who guided us to understand the wonderful stories contained in scriptures about God's great love for us. A person who supported and encouraged us to go on a mission trip, serve in the church, or volunteer for a project that changed and/or strengthened our faith and commitment to the church.
“When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God. (Lev. 19:33-34)
To offer hospitality to a stranger is to welcome something new, unfamiliar, and unknown into our life-world… Strangers have stories to tell which we have never heard before, stories which can redirect our seeing and stimulate our imaginations. The stories invite us to view the world from a novel perspective. - Thomas Ogletree, Hospitality to the Stranger
I am always attempting to learn new things which would benefit the church and help us to reach out to our community and share the abundant grace of God with our neighbors. When I am on vacation, Karen and I will attend worship at churches where we have never been before, small churches, larger churches, non-denominational churches, etc. I have said before, I have stolen some of my best ideas during these visits by seeing what others are doing.
What I found amazing were the variety of welcomes we received at each church. Some are friendly, in some no one greeted us, some simply ignored us, some are curious as if no new people had attended worship in years, and others guessed I was a pastor on vacation. When I am out and about I like to take photos and a few months ago I took the photo I have included in today's post. It is about a Social Club and their motto is “Everyone is Invited.... Few are asked to stay.” Sadly, I have discovered this could also be the motto of many of the churches Karen and I have visited over the years.
I stated in my sermon series on evangelism, we are called to extend an invitation to others to “come and see” what is happening here. Of course, an invitation would seem hollow and empty if the people are not welcomed and shown hospitality once they arrive at our door. We are called upon to extend hospitality along with invitations. Each new visitor who walks through our doors is a gift from God and we are called to welcome them with graciousness for this gift. In the Bible, offering hospitality is not just a nice idea, it is a moral imperative. God's people remember that they were once strangers and refugees who were taken in by God, “You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 10:19)
Many congregations would declare themselves to be friendly, open, warm, and interested in growth. They would say with conviction, “We are a friendly, caring group of people who would welcome anyone into our fellowship and extend the best of hospitality.” As church members we often find ourselves haunted by our own words, because we discover that the strangers in our midst who come through our doors do not always have a warm experience of hospitality during their visit.
Christians and non-Christians have something in common: We’re both uptight about evangelism. - Rebecca Manley PippertI want to continue my thoughts about evangelism today and share another video (actually two) which can help us to think about our role in evangelism. If we have been apart of the church for many years, we might have heard of a variety of evangelism strategies the church has used over the years, i.e., James Kennedy's Evangelism Explosion, the Four Spiritual Laws, the Bridge diagram, etc. In their day, many of these approaches produced effective evangelism results for the church and many churches experienced considerable growth in their membership. The problem is the world around us and our neighborhoods changed and these strategies lost there ability to reach our communities. As our neighborhoods change so does the need for our church to change its methods and strategies for outreach.
“But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, 'How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!'” (Rom. 10:14-15)Nothing is more destined to create deep-seated anxieties in people than the false assumption that life should be free from anxieties. - Fulton J. Sheen
"But just as we have the same spirit of faith that is in accordance with scripture — “I believed, and so I spoke” — we also believe, and so we speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, and will bring us with you into his presence. Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.” (2 Cor. 4:13-15, NRSV)