Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Baggage Sermon Series Summary

  (Luke 10:1-24)
by Dr. James R. Brooks, Lead Minister
[reflection on our 3 week sermon series that concluded last Sunday]
We all have too much baggage!  We want a fix more fine than simply set it aside and leave it all behind.  Jesus’ hopes and dreams for you are that you travel light and live free!
Jesus sends out the 70 followers with instructions to leave behind the baggage we might want.  Rather, they are to take the very best of their relationship with Jesus … sharing the peace and experiencing “the kingdom of God coming near to you” with those they share life.
They return with stories of joy!  Jesus then reminds them to rejoice more that they are remembered in heaven than that they have accomplished much on earth.
The more we pack our bag with the best of our relationship with Jesus, the more joy we find on our journey in this world.
The more wisely we chose with whom to unpack our baggage, especially our painful broken luggage, the easier to experience the Kingdom of God come near us.
The more we trust in Jesus’ teaching and care, the less “other” baggage we will need on our journey.

Our birth and death are frames for our life on earth.  What beautiful pictures of journey will be held by these frames?  Even more, cherish the pictures that image the Kingdom of God come near to you today.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Why Your Presidential Election Does Not Matter


Rev. Dr. James R. Brooks

When I accepted my call to ministry, I did not at that time believe it  was a call to serve the St Louis Metro area.  A child of Indiana and a student of Australia and Kentucky, I am surprised that I have been called to 20 years of my ministry in the St Louis area.

In that time, I have become a defender of St Louis.  Early in my ministry, I officiated a wedding in the club where Lindberg negotiated the financing of his flight over the Atlantic.  Now I mourn St Louis place it the world.  

I note the change in governance from elected officials to corporate boards.


“Like the losses of McDonnell Douglas, Trans World Airlines, Anheuser-Busch and Ralston Purina, the Monsanto deal eliminates yet another headquarters for a market leader that gave the St. Louis region recognition across the world.”
By Jacob Barker St. Louis Post-Dispatch

St Louis was the gateway to the west, symbolized by the Arch.  Now it is a bellwether to the world of a change.


Once upon a time, the church was the queen of the sciences and the leader of peoples.  The church has undergone the change wrought by the Enlightenment and now by the Post-Modern movement.

The church gave way to the “Nation State” as the leader of peoples.  From empires like Great Britain to democracies like the USA, nation states ruled the land after 1500 AD.

Five hundred years later, we witness the ascendancy of global corporations as the leaders of people.  I thank the late Phylis Tickle for the timeline.

- To be among the wealthiest of people implies global economic prowess.
- Local unions buckle beneath the weight of global corporations with a constantly shifting and cheap workforce.
- Global corporations that are “too big to fail” within a singular nation state.
  • Global corporations that pit the tax laws of one nation state against those of another.

It is too late to fear the change already among us.  For the faithful Christian, the question becomes how we can be “the Kingdom of God has come near you today” as stated in Luke 10.  Or how can we fulfill the Great Commission and Great Commandment from the Gospels in the contemporary context.

It is too late to hit the brakes or to shift the car in reverse.


It is time, as it was in the book of Jeremiah, to ask how to be faithful in the current context.  The more quickly we engage that question, the more quickly we can share the Good New of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Reflections on 49

5 weeks old, 1967
It was a Friday, the day of my birth.  What a way to start a weekend for my parents.  

I have some reflections as I prepare to celebrate my 49th birthday.  

In general, I have not treated people as special as I have felt treated throughout my life.  If I were to ponder why I would name a degree of being shy, stretched, and selfish.  I am thankful and blessed to be treated as I have been by my family and friends and the faith communities I have served.  Even more, I am blessed by how much I am loved by God. 

I laugh more than I cry, and I love to see other people laugh.  Maybe because I know when what I did is now a joke, I’ve been forgiven.  Maybe because you all look so much better when you laugh.  Regardless, I count this as a blessing and I contribute it to my family, my church and God.  
first birthday, 1968

It turns out the “ugly duckling” story is true.  Pretty much felt like one of those not so handsome ducks in language arts throughout public school.  Though not a grammar guru, I have found a love for language.  Can you guess I thank my family, church and God for this?  Now for the image in the mirror. . . .

Hope is real.  I’ve always been encouraged to reach out and to grow.  Sometimes I fell.  In both my success and my failure, I experienced the reality of hope.  It is so much more than optimism.  Guess who gave me that gift.

me and Dutchess, Aug 1969
As I near the mid-point of my life, I am thankful for so very much.  Even more, I am inspired by what lies ahead.  It is going to be amazing!  That you and I are invited to participate in the future is one of our most cherished opportunities given by God.  I am especially excited about sharing the future with my son as I watch him become a man.


I’ll turn 50 on a Friday.  I’m guessing that will be a fun weekend.  

Thursday, June 30, 2016

SummerTime Sabbath

by Dr. James R. Brooks, Lead Minister

Summertime!  Summertime!  What renews your soul?  Is it a hobby, a sporting event, a sandy beach?
I want to thank the congregation for the vacation time that my son and I have enjoyed.  I write this as he and I prepare to head east to visit Norfolk Naval Station, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Mt. Vernon, Fredericksburg battlefield, and more.  Most of all is this time of recreation with my son when more commonly he and I are sharing the daily routines of school, church, etc.
God has given us many ways to celebrate the sabbath.  Sabbath is a time set aside for renewal.  Farmers will leave a field fallow for a season to renew it.  We organized our church to give church leaders periodic seasons of rest.  The most important key to sabbath is renewing the most important relationships we share … our relationship with God and those we love. 
Sundays are our most corporate celebration of sabbath, as we celebrate the reconciling love of Jesus in communion.  Daily, we have an opportunity to pause for renewing time with God.  Vacations are one more opportunity “be” outside our work-a-day world and “be” with God in new ways.
If you wish to attend church while traveling for work or business, contact the church office.  We can help you find the closest Disciple congregation to your destination.

I look forward to tracking some sand back with with me.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Reflecting on 15 Years of Shared Ministry

by Dr. Brooks

On June 12th, 2016, I celebrated 15 years of ministry with you.  I am reminded of this by my son who was born 3 days after my first sermon at FCCE.  I am inspired by the ministry we share together.

In 2001, our budget was $110,000.00 & now it is $330,000.00.  In 2001, we had a staff of 3 & today we have a staff of 10.  In 2001, insurance cost us $4,500.00 & now it costs over $12,000.00.  We have invested over $500,000.00 in our facility and land to provide for present and future generations.  We have given our staff at least a cost of living increase every year, including those years of the latest recession.  We have tithed to needs beyond our threshold.  

We birthed the contemporary worship service.  As a congregation we took the risk to raise money over and above the budget to fund the new worship service, to remodel our fellowship hall, and to change our Sunday morning schedule.  This leap of faith lead to passing the faith to another generation, just as we prayed.

Our traditional worshipping community has continued to be a rich liturgical experience.  This worship opportunity continues to serve a valued portion of the congregation from before my arrival to today and into the future.  We are blessed by this worship style!

Together, we have hosted 5 student ministers, sponsored 3 people for ordination, sponsored 2 people for commissioned ministry and have created our first full-time Associate Minister position on staff.  We did this regardless of orientation, race or gender for the table of the Lord is that radically open.  These are important ministries of developing leaders for the church universal. 

In 2001, our ministry to minors could be counted on one hand.  This year we chartered a bus to take 31 youth & sponsors  to camp.  We are about to birth a JYF for youth 5th grade and younger to compliment our existing dynamic weekly youth ministry.

We created the E-Event!  For 3 years, we hosted a 1 day gathering focused on evangelism.  We gathered over 100 people from 25 congregations, from multiple denominations, to strengthen efforts to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ.

We have shared our blessing of facility.  Over 15 outside groups use our facility each year.  We have hosted gatherings focused on closing the gaps in our community’s social safety network.  This in the midst of our own ministries who make increasingly higher demands upon our facility.

We have consistently celebrated 10% of our worshipping community joining our church each year.  This made us vibrant as we mourn the loss of cherished members.  The new members have diversified who we are making us more like the local community we serve.

In the midst of our shared ministry, I am raising my son, Joseph.  I obtained my doctoral degree.  I have served on a multitude of regional & general church ministries representing our congregation.  I have served as the chaplain for the Edwardsville Police Department since 2005.


More than all this, we have worshipped Jesus Christ and we have shared the faith with our brothers & sisters near and far.  We have seen lives & relationships transformed.  For this, I am most thankful to serve with you.  May God bless us in the years to come!

Saturday, June 04, 2016

Lightning Bug Blessings

by Dr. James R. Brooks

As I took the dog for his last walk before bedtime, we approached the lower field on my parent’s property.   A piece of land in the country neighborhood where I roamed with friends as a children.  The field was a fire with lightning bugs.  Acres of blinking lights from the fluorescent insects.
As the dog and I stood in the dark, I was in awe of God’s creation both in the memory of my youth and in the blinking lights of the present.  A moonless night caused by cloud cover.  The damp of spring rains reign in the air.
Lightning bugs are a symbol of God’s blessings.
Yes, you can catch a blessing if you try.  Yes, you can ruin a blessing by squashing it barehanded or plowing through it with a windshield.  Yes, you can allow it to light the night of your life.
Seemingly a million blinking insects fill the field beyond the scope of my peripheral vision.  
It is awesome to see these little lights that both fill the night and yet barely glow.
Individually they are so easily a smear on the glass.  Collectively they are undeniable.
I allow myself to wallow in the light of this mystery of evolution.  That such chemical braggadocio should evolve in such a slight creation.  Definitely a bug of the moment, celebrating God with no fear of the future or the winged predator aiming upon the light.
Were that field my life, would not I count as many blessings as I did lightning bugs tonight?
Beyond my scope, within my grasp, motivating my morning with the awe of this evening?
May the lightning bug be a symbol of the cross?  So fragile incarnate yet so fluorescent divine?

Be kind to the lightning bug you collect.  It is your blessing.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Graduations


Cue “Pomp & Circumstance”, usher in the graduates!  It is time to celebrate those among us who are graduating.  As we dream of their bright futures, I have one question:
When did it begin, the journey toward graduation?
Freshman year?  1st grade?  Pre-school?  When you read your child that first book?
Most of us would agree that the most successful students benefited from parents who launch their child on this journey at an early age and walked with them each step of the way.  
At FCCE, we are called to pass on the faith from generation to generation and to grow deep the faith of each person.  We are called to nurture the relationship with Jesus Christ to as many as possible and as meaningfully as possible.
Most of us would agree that this very calling leads us to think similarly about the faith journey as we do about the educational journey.  The most successful Christians benefit from parents (a faith community) who launch their child on this journey at an early age and walk with them each step of the way.
Special in our relationship with Jesus, starting today is just right regardless your age.  The book we hope is read to you and or by you is the Bible first of all.  FCCE wants to be the faith community that walks with you each step of the way.
Parents, I hope that as you cherish each memory … first step, first day of school, first solo drive in the car, etc … that your memories are joyous and include the love of Jesus Christ.  Children (all of us in some way), I hope that you are thankful for those who have been “parent” or “community” and especially for Jesus who loves you deeply.  

Move the tassel over and toss those hats in the air!
by Dr. James R. Brooks