Tuesday, September 29, 2015

At Table

by Dr. James R. Brooks

Last year, more people died taking selfies than died from shark attack.  

Let that sink in a moment.  More people died taking a picture of themselves than died from an attack by Jaws!

Why is that?  Well, Jaws is a movie so not real.  And shark attacks are more likely to make headlines than a cell phone user falling off a cliff.  

Honestly, we know much of the problem . . . people taking selfies are so self absorbed that they are no longer aware of their surroundings.  They lose connection with their context.

Here is how Jesus said it … those who try to save their live will lose it.  Those who give their life in Jesus’ name will save it.  (I paraphrased but you can look it up in Matthew 16:25)

“in Jesus’ name” is a key.  Key because it is about connection.  It is about remembering our context, our surroundings, our savior.

Recently, I had dinner with a high school classmate who was traveling through our town.  Actually, Clay and I have know each other before high school.  He reminded me of when we built a limestone alter at church camp.  We laughed that nobody gave us instructions, just assumed we knew what we were doing.  It was still standing when I was last there some dozen or more years later.  

I hope you have had meal experiences like the one Clay and I shared.  Maybe in your small group?  Maybe at one of our fellowship dinners?  Maybe at communion on Sunday morning?

A meal time experience that is overflowing with personal connections and divine inspiration.

Clay and I cheered each other on with regard to our faith and life journey and how God has taken care of us and those we love.  

Connections . . . those who prefer selfies miss out.  

In your next prayer, I hope you will name some of the connections that are the most important to your faith journey.  Then, I hope you will name the potential connections that you could make when you give up your life for Jesus’ sake.  

For most of us, to “give up our life of Jesus’ sake” is to think of others first, serve others, humble ourselves, etc.  

I am very excited about the faith filled connections you have.  Those connections will foreshadow the saving grace that Jesus offers you every day!

If you want a connection like this, or more connections like this, or a small group that offers connections, let me know.  It would be my honor to hook you up.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

“Listening to God”

What would be on the list of ways you listen to God?  Would you list “prayer” as first on the list?  Maybe “going to worship” is in your top 5? 

Here is my partial list (in not particular order) . . .

~ Prayer:  private and public conversation with God
~ Worship:  offering praise and thanksgiving as we gather around the Lord’s Table
~ Dreams:  in the Bible, God spoke to several of our ancestors through dreams
~ Spiritual Retreat:  intentional time apart from my regular life so as to be with God
~ Faithful Conversations:  talking with people about faith stuff
~ Preaching:  preparation and delivery provide me opportunities to experience God
~ Reading:  from the Bible to secular material provide me opportunities to listen for God
~ Nature: from exercise to relaxation outside to encounter God in God’s creation

I am so blessed to have a multitude of opportunities to listen to God.  I am thankful for the many ways our congregation encourages me to be about these activities.  Currently, the ACTS Class is giving me another opportunity to return to the Bible to hear the Spirit of God at work.

Seasons are changing.  Students and teachers are returning to school.  The weather is changing.  I am seeing leaves on my lawn.  

What a perfect time to try a new spiritual activity!  What if you added a new way of listening to God to your list?  What if you gave some daily attention to a particular way of talking with God?  At the end of 2015, imagine what you will have heard, dreamed, hoped!

So often, for us to hear is less about removing the obstacle and more about opening our ears.

See you Sunday!

Monday, August 03, 2015

Why I go to church

PurposePoints: Musings on Ministry and more
by Dr. James R. Brooks, Lead Minister

I go to church to be changed.  I go to church because I have discovered that the most important source of positive change in my life is Jesus.  I go to church to worship God, love Jesus and seek the Holy Spirit.

That I get to do / be church with folks like those at FCCE, is a bonus!
Why do you go to church?  What do you want from your church experience?  So many of you give so much time to church, why?  for what?
There are many seasons in our lives.  In some seasons, we need church to provide a safe place for us to find spiritual renewal.  Maybe we need a place to bring our doubts and questions.  Sometimes we need a sacred space to bring our righteous anger.   In some seasons, we need a place to express our spiritual questing.  Other times, we desire a place to serve so as to exercise our soul.

Why do you go to church?  How can FCCE walk with you?

For many, summer is a time of rest before we dive into the school year.  If this speaks to you, I pray that you are resting and recreating well.  I pray that God's Spirit will renew you and those you love.

I have been thinking about the pending school year.  What fun we are going to have!  The ministry we will engage, the people we will serve, the stuff we will do together.

Even more, you and I will chase Jesus or be chased by Jesus, depending the day.  Like a cosmic game of tag.  When God tags you, it changes you.  When you reach to tag God, you open yourself to be changed.  Like children at play, our souls will be renewed.  

See you on that faithful play ground we call church.  I can't wait to hear what you picked as your ministry(ies) for the school year!  Need an idea?  Check out the FCCE Serve brochure (published quarterly) or ask one of our ministers.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

For a Friend

A friend of mine left me

before the number of her years

before I could say good bye.

A choice she made

wise beyond her years

in response to pain beyond her tears.

Regret we are left

no remedies to assuage

no response to my call.

What if, why now, how about

too late the queries

too late the salve.

Grace abounds for her

suffering replaced by rambunctious joy

sorrow by the plentiful feast.

May her smile shine upon me,

and her love surround me,

and her forgiveness touch me.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

A Solution

by Dr. James R. Brooks

[before dismissing this missive as naiveté, please reflect upon the source of your success.]

My son is blessed that his bus stop has been very diverse.  My son knew Joey, Ethan, Taylor.  He seemed not to know asian, african-american, caucasian or the other ethnicities represented at our bus stop where he was one among many rather than one of the many.

Recently, friends and I had a spirited conversation regarding the welfare state.  We did not say “the welfare state” but we did spend much energy attempting to solve the issue of those who live on the “dole” from generation to generation.  The solutions were creative and humble and thoughtful.  The love for our neighbor was inspiring, and none of us agreed with every solution.  I am blessed to have friends willing to discuss in such depth with me.

As I listened, I felt compelled to offer a solution.  

The state / government can only, at best, prevent the riots.  Whether through force of arms or opiate of a check, prevent some from entering the homes of others to obtain what they need.  I reserve for another time the opportunity to explore the many facets of that statement.  Onward to a solution…

Given the limits of the state / government, a solution to the welfare state is “relationships.”  Stay with me during a couple of leaps …

When we discuss “a solution to the welfare state” we typically talk in macro terms which too often leads to a polemic.  The conversation includes frequent use of “they” or “we” or “them” or “us”.  It is painting a picture with a whisk broom.  

When we discuss the relationships of our life, we use proper names.  Each name has a story.  With the name comes a series of connections.  So and So is related to So and So or was a roommate with or a classmate to, etc etc.

If Jane Doe or Juan Valdez had a flat tire, would you stop and help the “macro person” or the “relationship person”?   Would you help the caucasian, hispanic or african-american?  Would you be more likely to help Jane or Juan because you know their name before you know their ethnicity?

You may not agree with the lifestyle of Jane or Juan.  You may think that Juan or Jane takes advantage of the system.  You may never want Juan or Jane to come to dinner or be your friend.  But if you have a relationship with Jane or Juan, you are more likely to help them. 

If you know the story behind Jane or Juan, you might help.  If you know the family of Juan or Jane, you might help.  If you see Jane or Juan in church, you are more likely to help.

As long as our national discussion lives at the macro level, you and I will never solve the welfare state.  We will merely pray that the country of our flag will prevent the riots.

Jesus said … to the least of these so you did to me.  We remember these words when we offer water to the thirsty.  What of these words when we ignore the thirsty, hungry, homeless, disadvantaged … generationally on welfare?

Abraham Maslow wrote of a hierarchy of needs.  Maslow postulated that it is impossible to fashion meaningful love relationships if the basics of life are in question.

“meaningful love relationships” are talked about often in the Bible.  From Abraham’s relationship with God to Jesus and the woman at the well to Paul and the love chapter in 1 Corinthians 13.  

You have the power to solve the welfare state in your neighborhood and community.  You need not wait for the “macro solution” to take effect.  You can change the world on your block today!  

As a bonus, you will have new friends, you will feel more safe about raising your children in your community, you will trust that your spouse will be welcome, you will discover a brave new world.

Jesus performed an experiment.  It is recalled in the book of Luke chapter 10.  Jesus sent out his followers in pairs, to share the Good News and to build relationships.  Those in the experiment returned with tales of amazing happenings. 

You can enjoy those happenings.  You can tell those tales.  Replace the stereotype with a name.  Ask the stereotype to know your name.  You need not be in full agreement to be friends / neighbors / acquaintances.  You need only to know a name and there begins a solution. 

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Faith on Holiday? on Vacation?

We are heading into a season of holidays and vacations.  From Mother’s Day to Memorial Day, from Father’s Day to Fourth of July, we are heading into a season of relationship.  I pray that you and your family / friends will celebrate these days in a way that brings you rest and renewal.

More that, I pray that these days will be an opportunity for you to grow your faith.

How do you honor your relationship with Jesus in this coming season?

On Mother’s Day, as you honor your Mom, what if we remember when Mary responded to the announcement that she would give birth to God’s child.  God called and she said, “Here I am”.  Where are you with God’s call?

On Memorial Day, as we honor those who gave the most to protect the freedom our country affords, what if we remember those who gave the most to pass along the faith we share?  The martyrs of the faith gave their life as a witness to their relationship with Jesus.  What if we teach this to those we love?

On Father’s Day, as we honor those who have been Dad to us, what if we honor our heavenly Father?  What if we recall the one who created us all and all we know?  What if we remember the One who sustains and redeems us, who is the author of all true justice and mercy?  What if you allowed yourself to be embraced by our heavenly Father’s love?

On the Fourth of July, as we honor the founders of our country and their claims of freedom and justice for all, what if we remembered the claims of our ancestors of faith?  What if we honored our relationship with Jesus by celebrating an open communion table?  What if we allowed God to set us free of the bondage we too often carry each day?

What if Jesus went on vacation with you?  You know the Jesus who made wine at the wedding in Cana.  You know the Jesus who called Zacchaeus from the tree to share a meal.  What if Jesus joined you on the beach or the mountain or the stay-cation?  

At a well, Jesus gave a woman life giving water.  In the wilderness, Jesus gave a crowd more than enough to eat.  On the water, Jesus stilled a storm that scared the disciples.  

When we invite Jesus to join us on vacation or holiday, we are renewed in ways beyond imagining!  If you want the address of our nearest sister church to your trip, contact the office.  If you want prayer and worship resource material to take with you on your vacation / holiday, contact the church office.  If you want prayer / worship content for your stay-cation and or every day, contact the church office.

Blessings on your in your travels may they be safe and may the journey provide more memories than the destination.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Shine the Light

by Dr. Brooks

Matthew 5:14-16 (NRSV)
14 “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. 15 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. 16 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.

I want to thank everyone who made our Easter celebration such a meaningful morning of worship and praise.  I am so thankful for the ways that God walked with us as we journeyed through Lent and Holy Week.  Even more am I thankful and humbled by God’s love for us as we know it through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Many thanks to you who provided worship leadership, flowers, music, and other service to our worshipping communities.  What a glorious morning of baptisms and communion shared well.  The sounds of our praise from our chancel choir and band and soloist and congregation were uplifting.  

Jesus calls us to let our light shine so that other may give glory to God.  Every word we share, every song we sing, each time we set the table of the Lord, each bulletin we hand out, and so much more is an opportunity for us to let our light shine.   Our brothers and sisters of faith, our guests are encouraged when you share the light of your love for Jesus.

Living in the light is healthy for us.  In the light we benefit from the vitamin D from the sun.  In the light we find reconciliation for the brokenness experienced in the dark.  In the light we see more clearly how God loves those with whom we share ministry.  

As we journey from Easter into the summer months, let us be resolved to shine our light.  The bushel basket of brokenness need not dim the brightness of our community.  Though our formal, corporate confession in worship ceased with Lent, let us each continue to be humble in our prayers in the hope that we will be pleasing to God and a hope for others.

Be alert and aware for among us are many lights to illumine the way forward.  Thanks be to God for gracing us with mercy and justice.  Thanks be to God for the love we know best through Jesus Christ.