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 »

Some Thoughts on Communion

Posted March 12, 2015 by Rich Scheenstra
Categories: Communion, Worship

CommunionSunIt’s been about a year since we began celebrating communion weekly at BRC. (For those of you who are newer to BRC, our prior practice was to celebrate communion once a month.) We’ll at least begin a discussion at our next consistory meeting about whether we think this has been a good practice for our congregation. Over the next couple of months we’ll be asking you for your input as well.

At one point, I promised you that I would offer some further teaching about communion, though it’s been hard to know the best way to do that. Many of you (including consistory members) have told me that you’re confused about communion, or that for a variety of reasons it lacks meaning for you. So I’ve decided to do a series of blog posts about communion. I’ll spread them out over the next few weeks. Hopefully, much of this material will be helpful for people no matter how frequently we decide to celebrate communion in the future. Read the rest of this post »

Delighting in the Fear of the Lord

Posted March 6, 2015 by Rich Scheenstra
Categories: Fear, God's Will, Jesus

Fear“There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Romans 3:18).

On 365 occasions the Bible says, “Do not be afraid.” At the same time, it tells us to fear God. In fact, on more than a couple of occasions the Bible says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

Today Sharon and I will be driving to a ski resort about an hour south of Buffalo to be with a couple of our sons and their families. I hope to bring a healthy fear to the weekend. For example, I’m hoping that a healthy fear of the law (and those who enforce it) will help me get us to our destination safely. And after hearing what happened to Tom De Vries, the general secretary of our denomination, while skiing a few days ago (torn rotator cuff in two places), I hope that I will bring a healthy fear and respect to the mountain I’ll be traversing. (My wife enthusiastically supports my fear, by the way.) Read the rest of this post »


Posted March 4, 2015 by Rich Scheenstra
Categories: Discipleship, Repentance

MatIn today’s gospel reading Jesus tells a man who had been lame for 38 years to pick up his mat and walk.

The mat marked his place by the pool. If he picked up his mat and walked away, he might lose his place. This was his place, this is where he hung out, where he lived.

Where do I hang out mentally? Where is my head most of the time? What kinds of thoughts or concerns occupy my mind, or captivate my heart?

Read the rest of this post »

Kingdom Fruit

Posted March 2, 2015 by Rich Scheenstra
Categories: Love, Mission, Rest

WellWomanAs we continue to reflect upon how to read the Scriptures, one obvious observation is that the Bible consists of words. Part of the interpretive task is to decide what specific words mean. That’s complicated by the fact that the same word can have different meanings, depending on the context.

Examples in the English language would include words like “ball” and “band.” A ball can be a sphere or it can be a dance. Likewise, a band can be a group of musicians or a strap of some kind, like a watchband.

Some examples from Scripture include the words flesh, world, hate and kingdom of God. The word “flesh” can simply refer to one’s physical body. It can also refer to the whole person, the “natural self” – body, mind and soul. But there are many occasions when it refers to the “sinful self,” or “sinful nature,” like what we mean by “fleshly.”

Similarly, the word “world” can have a neutral meaning; for example, when the Bible tells us that “God so loved the world that he gave his Son….” But sometimes it refers to the sinful world, or what we mean by the word “worldly.” Read the rest of this post »


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