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Advent Church Ministry Peace Presbyterian

singing

Today’s Word: Zephaniah 3:14-20

17 The Lord, your God, is in your midst,
   a warrior who gives victory;
he will rejoice over you with gladness,
   he will renew you in his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing. (Zeph 3:17)

The image of a loudly singing God has always been a favorite of mine. When I first started reading and studying the Bible, I imagined God standing over me like a parent stands over a child and sings at bedtime. For awhile that was a comforting, inspiring image to me.

But of course, the “you” is actually “y’all.” God is not rejoicing over me, but over “us,” and in this case, the first “us” were the wayward people of Judah before they were exiled. Zephaniah is ending his book with a reminder that God’s judgement against them will not result in a nullification of the covenant God made with their ancestors long ago, and that God would bring them back, rejoicing, renewing, and singing.

We can do a lot of theological damage when we insist on making scripture (and church and faith and etc.) about God and me, rather than about God and all of us (through the ages and in all the places). God didn’t start by calling me. God started long before that, calling people to him and back to him, and now I’m included in this calling, kneeling with saints and gleaning the knowledge of the wise who have studied God’s word longer than I’ve lived.

The hymnal in my hand is “the red one.” (That’s what we call it in the biz. “What hymnal does your church use?” “The blue one” or “the new one” or “we still have the red one.” For those wondering, Peace has both red and blue.)

My favorite hymn in the red hymnal is a Christmas hymn. Since I was a little girl at the First Presbyterian Church of Merrillville, Indiana, I have loved singing “And the star rains its fire while the beautiful sing; for the manger at Bethlehem cradles a king!” It was in that church I first learned to love to sing, and learned how to turn the pages of the hymnal (we had the red hymnal when I was little; the blue hymnal when I was older). It was there I first heard the stories of our faith, told to children with red punch mustaches by sage Sunday School teachers. I did not come to this faith or this place on my own and I do not stand here alone.

We are in this together. Us.

And as we find our way together, may we find renewing in God’s love and may we join God in the loud singing as we all make our way home.

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Advent Church Ministry Peace Presbyterian

compassion

Today’s word: Psalm 145:1-9

My compassion has limits.

There, I said it. As much as I try to have compassion and grace and mercy, I often do not have enough, running out as situations become more complicated, as relationships become much harder, as I become hungry or sleepy or weary of doing good.

I hope I am growing in this. Both in having compassion that endures, and in being wise about how to best approach a complicated situation or relationship.

What astounds and amazes me is the vastness of God’s compassion, mercy, love, patience, and goodness. When I want to set limits and ask God to be reasonable, I’m reminded that God is not limited or reasonable.

3Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; his greatness is unsearchable.

4One generation shall laud your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.

5On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.

6The might of your awesome deeds shall be proclaimed, and I will declare your greatness.

7They shall celebrate the fame of your abundant goodness, and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.

8The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

9The Lord is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made.

The photo above was taken in the sanctuary at Peace Presbyterian Church. Yesterday, we collected the hygiene kits (wrapped in bath towels) made by members of the church for folks in our community who may need them.

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Advent Church Ministry Peace Presbyterian

cornerstone

Today’s Word: Matthew 21:33-46

A condition of humanity is this: we rarely know what is best just by looking at what we can see with our eyes.

Ever pick a beautiful apple from the bowl only to find that it’s rotten inside?

Ever select the book with the most interesting cover only to find that it’s not anything that interests you?

Ever choose a friend/lab partner/hairstylist/spin instructor based on nice appearance, only to find out that…well, it just wasn’t a good choice?

Yep, me too! It’s what we do–and we try to learn, and we do learn, and we even say things like, “You can’t choose a book by its cover!” But we still sometimes choose our books by the cover

Jesus did not look like a savior. He did not look like a King. His “good news” did not sound all that great. As a teacher, the students he gathered were a bit too rugged and not very scholarly. Even his death was embarrassing and pedestrian.

Who would choose him?

Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is amazing in our eyes’? Matthew 21:42

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Church Ministry Peace Presbyterian Sermons

Faces of Our Faith: Philemon

Philemon 

1 Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, to Philemon our dear friend and co-worker, 2to Apphia our sister,  to Archippus our fellow-soldier, and to the church in your house: 

3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 

4 When I remember you  in my prayers, I always thank my God 5because I hear of your love for all the saints and your faith towards the Lord Jesus. 6I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective when you perceive all the good that we may do for Christ. 7I have indeed received much joy and encouragement from your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, my brother. 

8 For this reason, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do your duty, 9yet I would rather appeal to you on the basis of love—and I, Paul, do this as an old man, and now also as a prisoner of Christ Jesus.10I am appealing to you for my child, Onesimus (Ὀνήσιμος), whose father I have become during my imprisonment. 11Formerly he was useless (ἄχρηστον) to you, but now he is indeed useful (εὔχρηστονboth to you and to me. 12I am sending him, that is, my own heart, back to you. 13I wanted to keep him with me, so that he might be of service to me in your place during my imprisonment for the gospel; 14but I preferred to do nothing without your consent, in order that your good deed might be voluntary and not something forced.15Perhaps this is the reason he was separated from you for a while, so that you might have him back for ever, 16no longer as a slave but as more than a slave, a beloved brother—especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord. 

17 So if you consider me your partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. 18If he has wronged you in any way, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. 19I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand: I will repay it. I say nothing about your owing me even your own self.20Yes, brother, let me have this benefit (ὀναίμην—same root word as Onesimus) from you in the Lord! Refresh my heart in Christ. 21Confident of your obedience, I am writing to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say. 

22 One thing more—prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping through your prayers to be restored to you. 

23 Epaphras, my fellow-prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you,24and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow-workers. 

25 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. 

The Questions In the Bulletin for the listener:

Why is it important to understand the cultural context of Paul’s letters?

In what ways does Paul encourage Philemon to put love above law? What does it look like to do this today?

Imagine Paul’s letter is addressed to the modern-day church. Who are the Onesimuses in our midst? Who are the ones deemed useless or delinquent who need to be welcomed into the beloved community?

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Advent Church Ministry Peace Presbyterian Sermons

Sermon: Jeremiah 33:14-16

Jeremiah 33:14-16

 The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfil the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’

Click here for the Bulletin Outline

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Advent Church Ministry Music

Advent Music

I love Advent. I love music. I love Spotify.

It’s a few days early, but I may have already started listening to my Advent playlist.

Here it is.

Got suggestions for songs I could add? Comment or message me!

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Advent Church Ministry Peace Presbyterian Pictures

Advent Starts December 2

Join my church in a word-a-day challenge for the season of Advent!

The words for this challenge are from passages in the daily lectionary. Here are the scripture passage each word is drawn from. You might make it a practice to read the scripture each day as you reflect on the word.

What do you do with these words? Well, you can reflect on the word each day and then take a photo that is inspired by that word. You can also reflect on the word and write about it. Or be creative in any number of ways, inspire by that word. If you share your reflection on social media, please use the hashtag #peaceFAYNC. You can also email me your photos or reflections at pastor@peacepcnc.org.

For the past several years, I’ve participated in word a day challenges during Advent and Lent. For an example of how this works, check out this post, or this one, or this one, or one of my very favorite reflections.

May God bless you as you wait in hope!

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Church Family My Life Peace Presbyterian

Jason Durham is a Steely-Eyed Trailblazer


Peace Presbyterian Church is a beautiful, spacious building that sits on about 11 acres of land. About half of the land is wooded. In recent years, the woods have become a bit overgrown and stopped being of use to the church.

Enter Jason Durham, trailblazer extraordinaire. In four days, he’s cut 2 loops (an inner loop and an outer loop) in a small section of the wooded area. The goal is to create some trails for walking and meditation.

We know there are deer in the woods, but since he began work, he’s seen an unusually large rabbit and talked to a neighbor who told him about the day a bear was found in the woods (a little local lore that seems doubtful, but well-known, so maybe?).

Here’s a video recorded on his third day of work.

J

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Church Ministry Peace Presbyterian Sermons

Sermon: Hebrews 4:12-16

My brain wasn’t in straight this morning and I forgot to turn the camera on before the scripture reading and off before the Affirmation of faith. So, the scripture is below and the Affirmation of faith is Heidelberg Catechism 4.001.

Hebrews 4:12-16

12 Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account.

14 Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. 15For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested* as we are, yet without sin. 16Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

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Church Ministry Peace Presbyterian Sermons

Sermon James 2:1-17

James 2:1-17

My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favouritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, ‘Have a seat here, please’, while to the one who is poor you say, ‘Stand there’, or, ‘Sit at my feet’, have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonoured the poor. Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into court? Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you?

 You do well if you really fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ But if you show partiality, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. For the one who said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’, also said, ‘You shall not murder.’ Now if you do not commit adultery but if you murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. For judgement will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgement.

 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill’, and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.

 But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith without works, and I by my works will show you my faith. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder.