Holy Saturday

Posted April 19, 2014 by Rich Scheenstra
Categories: Doubt, Faith

Holy SaturdayDoes Holy Saturday have a role of any importance in Holy Week, or in our spiritual lives?

I think it does, especially if you’re a person like me who has tended to struggle with faith. Holy Saturday is for holy doubters.

Jesus’ disciples had every reason to doubt. Just when it looked like he was going to take control (e.g. on Palm Sunday), he gets himself killed. There went their dreams. There went the future. On this darkest of days (maybe even darker than Good Friday), they had lots of good reasons to doubt God’s wisdom, love and power.

Or maybe they were the problem. Maybe what they doubted was themselves. What if they had stayed with Jesus to the end? Were they the reason God had abandoned Jesus to his fate? If Jesus’ hand-picked, personally-tutored followers couldn’t remain faithful to the Messiah, how would anyone else? Had they just blown it (like Adam and Eve had) for the rest of the human race? Read the rest of this post »

Helping Others See Jesus

Posted April 15, 2014 by Rich Scheenstra
Categories: Cross, Death, Discipleship

WheatKernalSir, we would like to see Jesus” (John 12:21).

Since the beginning of the year our congregation has been exploring what it might mean to be an Acts 29 church – in other words, to be a church that picks up where the church of Acts leaves off. (There are only 28 chapters in Acts.) We’ve identified four core activities that flowed through the life of that early church – worship, discipleship, fellowship and witness. On Sunday I suggested that we devote each of the days leading up to Good Friday to one of these core activities. Yesterday we talked about worship. Today I’d like to share a few thoughts about discipleship.

In the gospel reading traditionally assigned to Holy Tuesday, some “Greeks” who were in town for the Passover tell Philip they would like to see Jesus. Jesus isn’t interested in becoming a spectacle or tourist attraction, but he does say that “the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” Instead of being an ego-trip, for Jesus being glorified means being lifted to his rightful place as King and Lord of all. Unless that happens, darkness and chaos will continue to have their way. It is for this world that Jesus must be glorified. Read the rest of this post »

For Love

Posted April 14, 2014 by Rich Scheenstra
Categories: Abiding, Humility, Love, Uncategorized, Worship

MaryAnointingJesusBut in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord” (1 Peter 3:15).

Yesterday I suggested that this verse be our theme for the week, for this holy week. (The Greek word for “set apart” is the same word we translate “holy.”) I also suggested that we devote the next four days to reflecting upon and practicing the four core activities we’ve been exploring as a congregation since the first of the year – worship, discipleship, fellowship and witness.

So today some of us are focusing on worship – worship not just as a religious activity, but as a regal activity. The person who rode into Jerusalem on a donkey and was eventually nailed to a cross was a king; in fact, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords! Yesterday I suggested that whenever we pray this week, we first of all acknowledge the lordship of Christ and our allegiance to him.

That’s what we do when we worship; then there is why we do it. In the gospel reading assigned to Holy Monday (John 12:1-11), Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, anoints Jesus’ feet with an abundance of expensive perfume. She does it because she loves him, because she is overwhelmed by his love for her. If worship is about allegiance, it is also about love. Read the rest of this post »

What Do We Value about Our Worship?

Posted February 5, 2014 by Rich Scheenstra
Categories: Worship

BRCStainOn Sunday mornings we’ve been talking about worship as one of four core activities that pulsed through the life of the early church. (The others are discipleship, fellowship and witness.) At our worship committee meeting last night we spent some time talking about some of the “values” that characterize and inform our worship at BRC. This wasn’t a “should” or “ought to” list. This list was simply intended to describe what we already appreciate about our worship. I thought it would be interesting to share this list with the rest of you, to see if you found yourself resonating with the same values: Read the rest of this post »

Humbly Bold?

Posted January 31, 2014 by Rich Scheenstra
Categories: Courage, Humility, Mission

Humility2It isn’t very often that I read a book that I have to put down. I’ve read a ton of books that I haven’t been able to put down. There are maybe two books that I’ve had to put down because I can only make it through a paragraph or just a couple of sentences before I have to stop and digest what I just read.

One of the books I’ve had to repeatedly put down is A Testament of Devotion by Thomas Kelly. It’s an old book, first published in 1941. In spite of its popularity (at least in some circles) and longevity, I still can’t get it on my Kindle. But it’s a gem. Even though I’ve read it at various times over the last maybe 35 years, this time around it’s taken me several months to get through 36 pages.

This morning I read part of a paragraph that talks about humility and its relationship to boldness. Since the word “bold” surfaced in our discussion Wednesday night and again in yesterday’s blog post, I thought I would share this quote with you:

But there is something about deepest humility which makes men bold. For utter obedience is self-forgetful obedience. No longer do we hesitate and shuffle and apologize because, say we, we are weak, lowly creatures and the world is a pack of snarling wolves among whom we are sent as sheep by the Shepherd (Matthew 10:16). I must confess that, on human judgment, the world tasks we face are appalling – well-nigh hopeless. Only the inner vision of God, only the God-blindness of unreservedly dedicated souls, only the utterly humble ones can bow and break the raging pride of a power-mad world. But self-renunciation means God-possession, the being possessed by God. Out of outer humility and self-forgetfulness comes the thunder of the prophets, “Thus saith the Lord.”

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”

Acts 29 Church – Beginning the Journey

Posted January 30, 2014 by Rich Scheenstra
Categories: Church, Community

ChurchCommunity

At last night’s Acts 29 Discussion Group we began to unearth how the earliest Christians understood church. In order to keep everyone abreast of what we’re learning, I’ll just briefly list the clues we discovered in just the first chapter of Acts:

1. The church is a community (not a religious organization or institution).

2. The church is a Jesus community.

3. The church is a Spirit community.

4. The church is a suffering community. As we discovered this aspect of the church’s identity and wondered how that might play out in our country and in our generation and in our church, we were given help that surprised us. Pat O. offered two words that had surfaced for her with some insistence. The words were bolder and stronger.

5. The church is a Kingdom community.

6. The church is a witnessing community.

7. The church is a praying community.

Even as individuals we are Jesus people, Spirit people.

What would you need to do at this very moment to shift your self-awareness to being a Jesus person, a Spirit person?

Elementals

Posted January 10, 2014 by Rich Scheenstra
Categories: Holy Spirit, Occult, Wisdom

Oxygen Volume 11Be careful not to allow anyone to captivate you through an empty, deceitful philosophy that is according to human traditions and the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ” (Colossians 2:8).

“Be careful.” The apostle Paul’s message in today’s lectionary reading is my word to you this morning, my sisters and brothers. Be careful. Be very, very careful of the “elemental spirits of the world.”

We live in the most post-Christian region of the country. Post-Christian doesn’t mean non-spiritual. I think many people would describe themselves as spiritual in some way. The danger of Christians living in a spiritual but post-Christian culture is that our Christianity can begin to look and sound like the spirituality of those around us.

This has always been the temptation for Christians. During his last meeting with the leaders of the Ephesian church Paul said: “So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears” (Acts 20:31).

What are the “elemental spirits” the apostle Paul refers to in today’s reading? Good question. Greek and biblical scholars can’t even agree on this one. I believe the reason they can’t agree is because they’re all right. Read the rest of this post »


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