Monday, January 27, 2014

God Calls All

This past Sunday my congregation celebrated Laity Sunday.  It was a celebration of a reality so profound, yet too often underwhelming relative to its meaning.

Search a definition for the term “laity” and you will discover something to the effect, “people of religion who are not clergy.”  Is the implication that clergy are professional religion people and laity are amateur religion people?  This would make Laity Sunday even more meaningful to me.

A product of the reformation, and I might even look old enough to have lead that movement, laity Sunday is special.  We affirm that God calls all, clergy and laity both, to meaningful ministry.  The priesthood of all believers encompasses only those in the title, “all”.  Believers are merely those who have opened their eyes and ears to the Good News that embraces them.

I am thankful that the church at large has set me aside, affirmed my unique call by God to ordained ministry and made possible that I might give my life to the service of God’s church.  Equally, I am thankful that I serve with children of God who are gifted with amazing callings to ministry that we share.  From Sunday school teachers, to Elders, those who set up for worship and those who make fellowship meals happen … all make stronger the relationship between God and God’s people.  The church fight in Acts 2 is an early reminder of the weakening of that relationship which results when God’s gifted folks are not in action.

This past Sunday my congregation celebrated Laity Sunday and it was profound.  A retired college professor who was raised and baptized in our church returned to share the message about her transformative experience in the Holy Land.  A mother preparing to be baptized in our church was inspired by the message.   What a profound experience of God’s Spirit!

Laity Sunday is another expression of an open table.  The communion we celebrate, as Jesus instituted, which is open to all.  So is the ministry of Jesus’ church.  

And they shall know us by our love.  And we shall know a tree by its fruit.  And thus we witness to the love of God by our expressions of this call to all to be loved and to love as God loves us.

A year until our next Laity Sunday … just a few days from our next Sunday to celebrate our common call our the common table of Christ.  See you Sunday!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A Chinese proverb says that a journey of a thousand miles must begin with the first step.  Equally true is that a journey of a life

time is best traveled in good company.   
I pray that your faith journey is a lifelong adventure and that you will share it with friends of faith, especially those you love the most.

The journey of the magi to see Jesus is a wonderful model for our own spiritual journey in the new year.  The magi left the comfort of home and traveled to new places in their quest to find Jesus.  The magi sought advice from others.  They listened to a dream that warned them to make a course correction.  They walked in the light of the star rather than lurking in the shadows.  A model for us, the magi invested their time, travel and treasure in the journey.  Best yet, the magi paid homage, humbled themselves, before Jesus.  The journey of the magi is a wonderful model for our own journey.

We do not know the number of magi who visited the newborn king, Jesus, we do know they came as a group.   I want to encourage you to travel with others this year.  Let me offer two suggestions.

One opportunity is to attend the Small Group event on Sunday, January 19th at Sugo's in Edwardsville (1/19/2014).  At this event, we will be introduced to small group leaders, hear the vision and dreams of small group life, and have a chance to name the group(s) leader(s) with whom we wish to journey.  Attending the event is not a commitment to join a group, but it is a great way to meet others from church in a casual, fun atmosphere.

A second opportunity is to share Bible study with those you love most - your spouse, significant other, neighbor.  A good article by Karen Holford that addresses issues and presents ideas related to practice of Bible study with another is posted on our website.  The article is called "Spiritual Intimacy".  The article first appeared in the January 2014 issue of Ministry,® International Journal for Pastors,  We are using it with permission.  

Holford writes, "One of the greatest hindrances to our spiritual intimacy is fear.  And one of the greatest keys to our spiritual intimacy is love, because 'perfect love casts out fear.'" (1 John 4:18 NIV)  Maybe this is the love you will celebrate on Valentine's Day in a few weeks.  Maybe this is the love of a parent and child, or neighbors.  It is a love that helps us discover more about ourselves and God.

A journey of a lifetime is best traveled in good company.  I count First Christian Church as great company for me and my son.  See you Sunday!

~ Dr. Brooks