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LIFE IS A HOMEGOING

Here’s how it works.

God created.

Once, and only once …. as far as we know.

This act of creation is depicted in the Book of Genesis as the 6 days of creation.

Because God is good only, creation was good only.

This is depicted in the Book of Genesis as the Garden of Eden.

At the very end of God’s act of creation, God creates humans. Us.

And God proclaimed us to be very good.

The Book of Genesis named these humans Adam and Eve.

The Garden was God’s complete Goodness. Harmony. Everything, all one. Us. Creation. God.

For perhaps a blink of an eye. Probably much shorter.

However long it took for the Adams and Eves to exert free will.

That moment is depicted in the Book of Genesis by the serpent and the forbidden fruit.

Humans bite. Then self is might. God becomes a back-up plan.

Scratch the needle across the record! Disharmony. Sin. Separation, from God and each other.

Undoable. But … redeemable.

Paradise gone. Humans go East.

Their new world is depicted in the Book of Genesis as Cain & Abel.

Sin. Separation, from God and each other. And death.

Self-might is never right. Over and over and over and … insanity rules.

Only God is good. We’re only redeemable. God is the good redeemer.

Somebody say, Amen!

God’s love for humans is infinite. Beyond words. Really.

God becomes One with us, as one of us. Christmas.

This is depicted in the Gospel of Luke as a babe born in the manger.

God divine becomes God human. Both. Jesus of Nazareth. Christ the Lord.

Jesus is the sacrifice for our redemption. Remember … God is the good redeemer.

This sacrifice is depicted in the Gospel of Luke as the crucifixion of Jesus.

God divine defeats death. God human takes all the world’s sin away with Him.

What wondrous love is this? You know it in your soul.

This is God’s love offering … for you. Do you have one for God?

God human ascends. God spirit remains. Jesus lives. Death is defeated.

And … We Are Redeemed! God spirit lives in us. Kingdom Builders.

This is depicted to us in the Book of Genesis as the Garden of Eden.

Remember? That’s our home. The original. At the creation.

They say, all life is about going home. It’s true.

We’re all going home. Going every minute of every day.

Redeemed. Homegoing. Very Good!

God is good. All the time.

 

… and then God created again!

Huh?

 

Have a peaceful and harmonious week!

Pastor Bob <><


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Growing Plans

Some ideas and options to consider for your new “growth strategy” with Jesus

          Where is your next “on ramp” to grow deeper into love with Jesus? Here are some ideas for thought. Please take a look. Consider which one’s appeal to you. Come up with some of your own ideas.

  • Podcast Club – individuals watch the same podcast about a chosen topic and then gather periodically (biweekly; monthly; etc.) to discuss and share.
  • The Outsiders – a modified weekly “worship service” held at a setting outside of church and at a time convenient to attendees (e.g.: Sunday evening).
  • Parents Night Out – Volunteers will care for toddlers, children and youth one evening a month (Friday or Saturday) so that parents can enjoy a “night out” alone together.
  • 12-Step/Support Groups – a confidential and safe group to share experiences, strength and hope with others who have or are currently going through the same challenges of everyday life.
  • VSCC Podcasts – Podcasts (biweekly; monthly, etc.) from us that could cover a range of topics or formats. (alternative platforms could include YouTube or Zoom.
  • Youth Excursions – monthly or bimonthly trips to concerts; events; interesting sites, movies and a meal, sporting event, etc.
  • Daily Devotions – a daily offering of spiritual support that could pertain to the period of the Christian year (e.g.; Advent) or a book of the Bible or just a short spiritual listen for the day.
  • Prayer Hikes – weather permitting, a monthly walk in the woods (or somewhere else) together in the glory of God’s creation.
  • Movie Night – monthly movie and snacks (popcorn!) at church. Movies could be for popular entertainment; documentaries; or religious-themed.
  • Retreat – overnight excursion to interesting or desirable location for respite, fellowship and spiritual growth.
  • Sunday Morning “Village” – an organized gathering on Sundays before the worship service to teach, craft, share, eat, etc. (ideas welcome!)
  • Weekly Sit – a gathering of folks to come together and decompress. A shared time of quiet, solitude, silence, and “sitting” for the hyperactive, the strung out, the exhausted, and you!
  • Bible Study – a weekly; biweekly; or monthly group that studies a book of the Bible or contemporary biblical issues and meets wherever is most convenient to attendees (homes; coffee shop; church, etc.).
  • “Jocks for Jesus” – a regular gathering of youth and coaches from our area with a focus on faith and sports (speakers; food; competition; etc.).

Most importantly, what are your ideas, thoughts, or suggestions?

Which days and times would be most convenient for you?

What is your greatest spiritual need right now?

What is one thing VSCC could offer that would help you most?

Please share your thoughts with me and with others. Let’s see where God opens up the next doors for us …

           In His service, Pastor Bob <><

   


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BAPTISM ROAD

The Four Questions that can Change Your Life

                Last Sunday was a glorious day of celebration at VSCC, as Will Hilligoss was baptized in front of many friends and family members. In the service on Sunday, I mentioned the “path” that Will and I took to prepare us for this special day. We met several times on Monday and Wednesday afternoons to discuss Will’s heart for God, and God’s plans for him.

Of course, this teaching was based on the role that Jesus has in Will’s life. And, based on that, what Will’s response is to the sacrifice that Jesus made for him. We began by examining 4 questions that Jesus asks His disciples in the Gospels. These questions are the foundation of any life with Jesus. How you answer these 4 questions indicates your readiness to turn your life over to Jesus. Here are the 4 questions of Jesus:

  • John 1:38: This is the first question Jesus asks the disciples. In this case, 2 of John the Baptist’s disciples have started to follow Jesus (literally). One of these disciples is Andrew. The other is unnamed. Perhaps that is you! As you and Andrew approach Jesus from behind, He stops. He turns around and asks these 2 seekers this universal and eternal question: WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FOR? If you’re not looking for a power greater than yourself; the one true God who made heaven and earth; your Creator, who today you want to turn your life over to — if you’re not looking for this in your life, then there’s no sense following Jesus.
  • Matthew 16:15: In this story, Jesus and His disciples have been together for a while now. It appears to Jesus that these young Jewish men who are following Him are sincere and committed to Him. So, Jesus asks them the next critical question in their journey with Him: WHO DO YOU SAY THAT I AM? People have many names for Jesus, and they’re all good and comforting. Many people call Jesus by many names. It’s at this point that Jesus needs to know if those disciples, like you, really know who He actually is. He asks them who others say He is. Several options are offered by the disciples. But then He turns directly to them and asks this important question. Why? Because sometimes when we think we’re following Jesus, we’re really just following a name, or a hope, or a figment of our imagination. Jesus needs to know, and needs you to know, that He is the true Son of God, the savior that we have been waiting for, the Messiah, or, as Peter responds, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Where else would we go?” If you don’t know who Jesus is, then you’re not following Him.
  • Mark 10:51: Here, Jesus and His disciples are nearing the end of their time together as they “turn and head to Jerusalem.” On their way, they pass through the town of Jericho, and there, on the edge of town, sits the town beggar Bartimaeus, who is not just poor, but blind as well. When Bartimaeus embarrasses the crowd waiting for Jesus by shouting out to Him, Jesus hears Bartimaeus and calls him to Him. Excited for Bartimaeus now, the crowd helps him find his way to Jesus. When he approaches Jesus, Jesus has but one question for this poor old blind beggar from Jericho: WHAT DO YOU WANT ME TO DO FOR YOU? Jesus needs to know if we understand that He’s not here to tweak our lives or solve some of our little discomforts. Jesus is here to change our life from inside out. Are you in for that? Are you all in? Jesus wants to know what you are expecting of Him. Bartimaeus knows the right answer: “Let me see again.” That’s the transformation we all need; to see Jesus, and His Father’s world, through new eyes … through the eyes of God. And so, Jesus gives this gift to Bartimaeus, telling him, “Your faith has saved ” You see, it always comes down to our faith. How’s your faith today. For Bartimaeus, as the gospel says, his faith was such that he followed Jesus along the road.
  • John 6:67: Finally, we come to the last of the 4 questions that Jesus has for us. In this story, Jesus has just finished a long teaching on the challenges to be faced for anyone who wants to follow Him. When He finishes, most of the “disciples” that were following Him, decide to go back to their usual way of life. His teachings are too hard for many people. Are they too hard for you? When the would-be disciples are gone, then Jesus turns to the few who have remained with Him, and He asks them the critical question that He asks each of us every day in our lives: “Are you going to leave me too?” Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” Are you there yet? Are you willing to sacrifice your way of life for His? Do you have other places to go that you would prefer to be? If so, there’s work to be done within. If not, then you’re ready to join the twelve and follow Him along the road of life.

With these four questions pondered, discussed, discerned, and answered, Will Hilligoss found himself the only place that was left for him to go … into the water to be baptized … but not just with water. Jesus baptizes us into the Holy Spirit. If you have doubts, which is normal, just observe Will Hilligoss for a while … how he lives his life …. on the road with Jesus. And then, when you know God is leading you to this life, ask yourself these 4 questions, and see where God may take you.

There’s peace and joy and love on the road with Jesus. Let’s all join Him there …

Pastor Bob <><


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A Day In the Life: Arthur-Town

          Sung to the tune of “Penny Lane” by Lennon & McCartney

(Here is the music if you want to sing along: https://youtu.be/MpUbXg7UQpk )

 

Down on the Vine there is a barber with the gentle touch

Who knows the hairs of every farmer all around

In and out, all day long, they go, just to get a mow,

And hope it grows …

 

Further down on the block is a flower shop

With every fudge you’d have desire to consume

And the flower girl never lacks, for a happy smile

All the while

 

Chorus:

Arthur town is in my eyes and in my heart

Fragrant in a way that smells so tart

I sit, and meanwhile back…

 

  On Vine, further down, there is an artist’s shop

With every art you’d have the need to ever want

The maestro keeps his classic keyboard there

It’s a show a day … everyday…

 

Chorus:

Arthur town is in my mind and in my heart

Streams of buggies roll around the park

Why can’t it be that way … everyday …

 

Across the way there is a man who knows his numbers well

He counts the beans and keeps us safe from federal law

He’s a jolly ole Illini fan, and he’s never sad …

or even mad …

 

On the alley Ryder cruises down the blessing path

From the tracks to the bank, he gives adults the slip

He likes to hand the people so much food

He’s becoming good … so cool … no really – cool!

 

Arthur town is in my blood and in my heart

Walk to here and there, and back to start

And that’s the way … it is everyday …

 

Peace to all … and blessings upon blessings,

Pastor Bob <><

 

        

  


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Worth Your Time: Our DOC Regional Minister Reflects on the Situation We’re In

Many of you know, or know of, our Christian Church (DOC) Regional Minister Rev. Teresa Dulyea-Parker. She assists and cares for all Disciples congregations and pastors in Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan.

 

 One thing this means is that Teresa has her finger on the pulse of what our fellow Disciples are going through as we emerge from the Covid pandemic shutdowns. Truth be told, it hasn’t been easy or comfortable for any congregations or churches. And, she has had a unique insider’s perspective on what this period of time has been like for our fellow Disciples across these 3 states.

 

About 2 weeks ago, Teresa emailed another one of her frequent “clergy alerts,” which helps to keep pastors in touch with her and each other. In this particular email, she included her own reflections about where we’ve been and where we’re going together as Disciples. I found the truth of our situation jarring (yet again!). But I found her reflections inspiring and hopeful. This week I share these reflections with you, hoping that you find inspiration and hope in them as I did.

 

Peace in Abundance, Pastor Bob <>< 

 

Reflections of Rev Teresa Dulyea-Parker: 

 

Dear Colleagues and Friends,

Traveled 5 hours … on Monday to meet with a lovely Disciple congregation needing some support. These are “salt of the earth” and “light of the world” folk. Like you have in your congregations.

 

They told me about the hurt and pain that has been happening in their congregation over Covid-19 protocols/which is about so much more than Covid-19. (It would have been enough . . . if it were only about a pandemic.)

 

We talked about how this is affecting every congregation. We talked about the blessing that we are still here. We talked about the great need for mental health resources in our communities—there is pain, grief, anxiety everywhere. 

 

We talked about the reality that if 1/3 of your congregation is back that’s a point of celebration. If 1/2 are back that’s a huge grace. And, if you have more than that percentage, it’s time to do a dance of joy! We are still here!

 

We talked about the need to cut each other a little slack—read grace. And, that we are all doing the best that we can in this moment and the next. None of us can do this alone. We need each other. We need grace. 

 

And, we talked about the need for simple rituals, like lighting a Christ candle at the beginning of every board meeting and praying together for “Jesus to heal us and our church.”

 

And, I thanked them for doing the work of caring for the well-being of their people, even when it wasn’t appreciated. Even, when it was hard and hurtful.

 

Thank you. . . 

 

A reminder, we didn’t get into this quickly, and it will take time to crawl out of it, or recover or be made new. It starts with the first step—“Jesus heal us and our church.”

 

Ultimately, we will be made new. . .

 


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From my heart … Some personal reflections about our congregation, our church, and your offering.

In the past few months, we have talked about the offering and the financial status of the church more than usual. That’s not because we want to. Personally, any talk of money in a secular sense in and around the church usually turns out badly, and it makes me very anxious and uncomfortable. Maybe I should talk about it more. I’ll ask Jesus tonight.

But as for your offering, I believe that your offering is yours, not ours. Vine Street Christian Church doesn’t have a right to any of your money, or your time for that matter. Those should be things you decide with God, not from me or anybody else. Your offering, in general terms, reflects who you are, who God is to you, and what your church means to you. It’s very personal, because each one of us is in a different situation. Don’t ever feel like it’s a competition or a standard to be met. Seriously! Your offering is really your love letter to God. You and God will decide what it consists of each day.

So, you see, the offering is not just about money. In fact, for some folks, their offering comes in many different ways. Some give more time to their church and its ministries. Some help take care of their church. Some, especially our remote members, pray constantly and intentionally for their church. And some, but not all, give money. And that’s the way it should be.

The true nature of the “offering” that Jesus asks from us is not just monetary. Jesus wants our lives, and everything that comes with it. Nothing held back. And so, the offering is a visible and tangible way to give back a portion of what we have (time, money, resources, participation, prayer, etc.) to Jesus and His church. He gave us His life. We give Him a portion of ours back.

The one aspect that is clear from scripture, and from Jesus himself, is that our giving be sacrificial, not convenient and easy. As Jesus points out in Mark 12: 41-44, it’s easy for folks to give a little bit from their own abundance; and Jesus says they have their reward here and now. But the true disciple is the one who gave all she had. She will receive eternal rewards.  

This is why the offering is part of our Communion Ceremony each Sunday. It’s at the Lord’s Table where Jesus shows us what His sacrifice for us was, and still is. We receive His broken body and His shed blood in the Communion elements. And then, to complete that exchange of sacrifice, we give back to Jesus some of what He has blessed us with. That’s what Communion really is … a mutual giving and receiving with our Lord.         

Have you ever thought you could give all you have to Jesus? All your time? All your money? All your resources? All your volunteer time? Your whole heart? Now that’s an offering! But, that’s precisely what He wants from us. And because the offering is not just about money, anyone (and potentially everyone) can give sacrificially all they have to Him and His church.

What would that look like for you? I suggest that you consider what “giving all” would look like for you, or your family. Not because it will help the church. That’s the bonus prize. But the practice of sacrificially offering to God on a regular basis, will alter your heart and mind in amazing ways. In ways that only Jesus could change you. You may not win any offering awards or ribbons. There’s no free offering mug for those who give. And you will never be congratulated in church for exactly how much you gave. But you will be given a blessing from God. Not because you gave to the offering. But because you gave according to your heart, as led by God.  

Friends, your offering is between you and God. Period. God will lead you to the place of sacrificial giving in a specific way that works just for you. Never let anyone tell you how much you should give. Only God knows that, and if you ask, God will let you know. And the way you’ll know it’s of God is that your offering BLESSES your life, and doesn’t BURDEN it. That’s a cheerful giver!

When you find this space with God, you will notice that you feel a peace and even a joy from giving. Whatever you’re giving becomes blessed because it’s of God’s will. Blessed money. Blessed time. Blessed life.

So, to put it simply, Vine Street Christian Church, like Jesus, wants to BLESS your life, not BURDEN it. And if we all would follow God’s lead for each one of us, then all that we give is blessed, because all that we gave was of God’s leading us.

Our church has undergone an amazing transformation during and since Covid. As most churches have, we have lost a large percentage of members. But, unlike many churches, we have welcomed many newcomers – individuals, couples, and families. Clearly, God is at work with us. We are in a Godly transition. We are being led by God. And we can be assured that, through our holy giving, God will provide exactly what we need, to do exactly what God calls us to do.

My advice: Don’t ever consider your offering in financial terms. Always open yourself up to God’s voice. God has an offering plan that’s just for you … that will BLESS your life. Ask God to help you decide what your own sacrificial giving should consist of. And when that happens throughout our congregation, then all will be well, in all matter of things. We put our trust in God.

Thanks for reading this. As you see, the offering isn’t really about money … it’s about love. It’s about your life and your relationship with God. It’s about your church and how it best can be the Body of Christ in the world today. And that takes ALL of us. Giving as we are led. Sharing with each other all that we have. And loving everyone as Jesus loves us. I don’t’ know what that will mean for our church, but I know that a community of faith built on those principles will be one BLESSED & BELOVED FAMILY OF FAITH.

And that’s precisely what Jesus wants us to be.

Peace to all. And if you are concerned or upset by anything I have written here, PLEASE don’t keep it from me. Let me know. I am just a work-in-progress like you. I can only be a better pastor when your thoughts and feelings are shared with me. And I want to be better.

In His Name, By His Word, I am,

Pastor Bob <><

  


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