On This Eve of Lent

Posted February 9, 2016 by Rich Scheenstra
Categories: Adversity, Authenticity, Commitment, Forgiveness, Mission, Reconciliation

Lent2So will this Lent be a mere “season” of the church year or an actual journey? Will it only be a time for reflection or will there be actual movement in our spiritual lives?

Like I said on Sunday, no one has to do Lent. The word Lent isn’t in the Bible. And there aren’t a whole lot of “have to’s” in this New Covenant that Jesus initiated with his own blood.

But what if we get to? What if we get to actually move to a different and better place in which to live our life with God, with one another and with the world – the very real world that you and I spend our days in?

There are 40 days in Lent (apart from the five Sundays, our weekly celebration of Jesus’ resurrection). On Sunday we reflected upon the transfiguration of Jesus, when Moses and Elijah showed up to help prepare him for the journey ahead. Of course, all this was intended to help Peter, James and John prepare for the journey as well.

In case you find yourself also wanting to prepare for the forty day journey of Lent, here are the questions raised on Sunday, just in case they spark a desire in you for something deeper, different or more.

Forty day journeys have a rich and varied tradition in the Bible. Significant things happen during 40 day journeys. Read the rest of this post »

Clarifying the Mission

Posted January 7, 2016 by Rich Scheenstra
Categories: Church, Commitment, Jesus, Mission, New Creation

MagiYesterday was Epiphany. It’s easy to miss. I’m even a day late talking about it. Part of what’s challenging is that it always happens on January 6, so it rarely falls on a Sunday. (It doesn’t help that we’re all still recovering from Christmas.)

The historical backdrop for Epiphany is the story of the Magi. The official line about the meaning of Epiphany is that it marks the manifestation of Jesus to the Gentiles.

So, given how infrequently I’m writing blog posts these days, why am I writing a day late about a day in the church year that has already come and gone (especially since I have yet to start my sermon for Sunday)?

Epiphany reminds us of our mission. Mission isn’t just one of many other things we do as a community of disciples. It’s why we do all the other things, especially until Jesus comes back. Read the rest of this post »

Having the Right Tool

Posted November 11, 2015 by Rich Scheenstra
Categories: Prayer, Spiritual Disciplines, Stewardship

ToolsAny handyman or woman knows that having the right tool is the key to the efficient and successful completion of many if not most projects around the house. I can think of three minor repair jobs I was able to complete over the last couple of days with relative ease because of having the right tool.

One was a right angle screwdriver that helped me with an electrical repair. Another was a plastic tool I’d never seen before but ordered online to help with replacing the sprayer next to my kitchen faucet (which happened to be the source of only one of three leaks under my kitchen sink!). Finally, I was able to replace my sports watch band last night with a handy spring bar tool that was a definite improvement over the butter knife I’ve used in the past.

On Sunday many of you received a tool for helping you reflect on your life as a servant/steward of Jesus Christ. I’m certainly not suggesting that it’s the best tool for the job. It’s primary purpose is to help us reflect upon how we are investing three critical areas of our spiritual portfolio – who we are, what we do and what we have. It’s a tool, not a rule. In other words, it’s meant to be used only if it’s actually useful. I’m hoping that just reading through it will get you thinking and listening to God. What you do with it is up to you. Read the rest of this post »

Anxiety: the Root Issue?

Posted September 29, 2015 by Rich Scheenstra
Categories: Anxiety, Judging, Trust

AnxietyHere’s what I think. I think anxiety is at the root of every kind of evil. It’s the number one killer. It makes our bodies susceptible to a plethora of illnesses. It destroys people’s self-image. It’s at the root of all the isms – racism, sexism, consumerism. It starts wars, and turns some into full-blown genocide.

I know that Paul says the love of money is at the root of all evil. In the gospel reading a couple of days ago Jesus highlights the challenges money can create for a disciple: “No one can serve two masters…. You cannot serve both God and Money.

But in the next paragraph Jesus identifies how and why money can become an obsession: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?

We worry. We basically worry about two things – losing our lives or never finding them. When money becomes a god it lures us with the twin promises of security and fulfillment. ‘I can do all things through money which strengthens me.’ Read the rest of this post »

Summer Sequel on Silence

Posted August 28, 2015 by Rich Scheenstra
Categories: Silence

Abbey“In building the temple, only blocks dressed at the quary were used, and no hammer, chisel or any other iron tool was heard at the temple site while it was being built” (1 Kings 6:7 – from today’s lectionary reading).

So why did Solomon require construction at the new temple site be carried out so quietly? Wouldn’t that have unnecessarily encumbered the construction process, prolonging the time before people could actually worship there?

Or was it so that it so that the workers and others could begin to worship? Read the rest of this post »

Be Still … and Know

Posted May 6, 2015 by Rich Scheenstra
Categories: Prayer, Silence

SilenceBe still and know that I am God.” I’m writing this post for those who were on the retreat this weekend, but mainly for myself and others like me who haven’t quite made our peace with that peace called silence.

If truth be told, some of us are afraid of it, while others have pretty much given up on being able to make it happen. Instead of our thinking our thoughts, our thoughts think us. We are their servants rather than their masters.

For 10 years I tried meditating in silence for 20 minutes a day. Spiritual writers I respected suggested this as a minimum. But after 10 years I gave it up. I won’t go into the reasons why. I just want you to know that I’ve had an uneasy relationship with silence for a lot of my spiritual life.

I think part of my problem is that I’ve tended to think of silence as empty space rather than white space. Empty space tends to make me feel lonely and abandoned. I associate empty space with absence rather than presence, with distance rather than communion and communication. Read the rest of this post »

Easter Reflections on Communion

Posted April 9, 2015 by Rich Scheenstra
Categories: Communion

CommunionTanOver the last while I’ve been struck by the simplicity of communion or the Lord’s Supper. I know there are traditions that add a lot of bells and whistles, which I think can be a good thing. But even our more elaborate celebration on the third Sunday of the month doesn’t take very long, and what we’ve been doing over the last year on other Sundays takes very little time at all.

This seems to fit well with the celebrations described in the New Testament. Of course, there’s no way to know for certain what was actually included. But the focus seems to be on the very few words that Jesus spoke over the bread and wine (e.g. I Corinthians 11:23-26). Read the rest of this post »