Thursday, April 26, 2012

The New and the Constant

We have a new hymnal coming out in our denomination this year.  It will have over 800 hymns of all types, contemporary and traditional.  It will be available electronically, so people can use their iPads, other tablets, or e-readers in worship.  It will be the size of our current hymnal but lighter in weight, even with more hymns.

One of the beautiful new hymns to any of our hymnals is “O Christ, Surround Me” by Richard Bruxvoort Colligan.  It is based on Patrick’s Breastplate, an ancient Celtic hymn.  In addition, some beloved “oldies” will be included like “Leaning On the Everlasting Arms.”

At a morning devotional recently, these two were sung by those gathered.  They are reassuring in times of tumult, change, and fear.  “Remember I am with you always to the end of the age,” says Jesus.  Perhaps the words will be a prayer for you this day.

Leaning On the Everlasting Arms
What a fellowship, what a joy divine, leaning on the everlasting arms;
What a blessedness, what a peace is mine, leaning on the everlasting arms.
Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms;
Leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms.

O how sweet to walk in this pilgrim way, leaning on the everlasting arms;
O how bright the path grows from day to day, leaning on the everlasting arms.
Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms;
Leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms.

What have I to dread, what have I to fear, leaning on the everlasting arms;
I have blessed peace with my Lord so near, leaning on the everlasting arms.
Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms;
Leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms.

O Christ, Surround Me
God, be the love to search and keep me; God, be the prayer to move my voice;
God, be the strength to now uphold me; O Christ, surround me, O Christ, surround me.

Bind to myself the Name of Holy, great cloud of witnesses enfold;
prophets, apostles, angels witness. O Christ, surround me, O Christ, surround me.

Brightness of sun and glow of moonlight; flashing of lightning, strength of wind,
depth of the sea to soil of planet: O Christ, surround me, O Christ, surround me.

Walking behind to hem my journey, going ahead to light my way,
and from beneath, above and all ways, O Christ, surround me, O Christ, surround me.

Christ in the eyes of all who see me, Christ in the ears that hear my voice,
Christ in the hearts of all who know me: O Christ, surround me, O Christ, surround me.

May we all lean on and be surrounded by our beloved Christ,


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Funding Building Needs Versus Ministry Needs

Please remember this:

A nice house does not mean a family is happy...
…a deplorable house does affect the happiness of a family.

In other words, maintaining a well cared for facility will not grow a church or make people happy! However, if the facilities are not maintained; yes indeed, that will detract us from growth. And yes, people will complain!

Therefore, there is always a balancing act between the needs of the facility and financial support to expand ministries to glorify God, make disciples, and serve others.

Nevertheless, make no mistake the latter is more important than the former!

You can have a beautifully appointed facility
with empty pews on Sunday morning
and an empty parking lot all week!


You can have vibrant ministries that:
Glorify God,
Meet people's needs,
Nourish them to grow as disciples,
Send them into ministry,
Challenge them to thank God with their financial support,
And then, have the money to maintain and expand facilities

It is easy to raise money for the building; it takes godly leadership to provide financial support for vibrant ministries. 


Linda Jaberg

Friday, April 13, 2012

Communion and Reconciliation

Last Sunday we had a worship service that was youth led.  Every part of the service was created and led by youth.  We even had an elder assisting at the table who is in high school.  In the Presbyterian Book of Order, we are told that on a communion Sunday, it is appropriate for us to prepare for communion.  That is, to prepare ourselves for partaking of the meal our Savior has invited us to eat.  Perhaps you do something in particular as you get yourself ready for communion – pray a prayer, read scripture, reflect on your week and patch up a relationship that needs mending, or share with a prayer partner something that is on your heart that might keep you from fully participating in the sacrament.  Of course, even with these things in place, you can still participate – God’s grace abounds.  However, we are asked to be thoughtful about it.

Whether or not you are a Presbyterian, these are helpful words from the Presbyterian Book of Order (W-2.4006):
Around the Table of the Lord, God’s people are in communion with Christ and with all who belong to Christ. Reconciliation with Christ compels reconciliation with one another. All the baptized faithful are to be welcomed to the Table, and none shall be excluded because of race, sex, age, economic status, social class, handicapping condition, difference of culture or language, or any barrier created by human injustice. Coming to the Lord’s Table the faithful are actively to seek reconciliation in every instance of conflict or division between them and their neighbors. Each time they gather at the Table the believing community:a)     are united with the Church in every place, and the whole Church is present;
b)     join with all the faithful in heaven and on earth in offering thanksgiving to the triune God;
c)     renew the vows taken at Baptism;
and they commit themselves afresh to love and serve God, one another, and their neighbors in the world.

In many instances in the world, in our neighborhoods, cities, towns, offices, and classrooms, we cannot imagine this kind of reconciliation.  Sometimes we cannot imagine it even in the church.  Yet, we are called to it by the very One who invites us to the table.  We are invited to ask: Where in my life is reconciliation needed?  Is there someone with whom I need to be in touch, write a letter or, best, to speak face to face?  (Texting, Facebook, and email are not recommended in these instances!)   Is there someone with whom I am estranged?

When I first arrived at the church where I serve, it was surprising to find that the hymn attributed to John Calvin, father of the Presbyterian Faith, was not well known.  The hymn is, “I Greet Thee Who My Sure Redeemer Art.”  It first showed up in the Genevan Psalter in 1545.  The fourth stanza is fitting for our prayers.  If you cannot bring yourself to offer reconciliation right now in the relationship or situation you find yourself, begin praying for it, and perhaps this stanza of the hymn will serve as guidance:

Thou hast the true and perfect gentleness, No harshness hast thou and no bitterness: O grant to us the grace we find in thee, That we may dwell in perfect unity.

In Christ,

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Love's Embrace

Building One Another - Vol. 11, No. 8 
Dear Friend,

The Apostle John describes a deeply emotional and endearing conversation just after the disciples Peter and John have discovered the empty tomb of Jesus while Mary Magdalene stood outside weeping.

Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She replied, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher).  See John 20:15-16*

John does not describe what happens next but we have a hint in the next words of Jesus, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father.” John 20:17

Certainly Mary flew to Jesus with a hug of wonderful joy and surely Jesus hugged her back.

When you find yourself face to face with Jesus what will be your immediate response? I rather think none of us knows exactly how we would react although we may imagine ourselves falling at his feet in worship or in an act of contrition. I would hope my first reaction and yours would be the same as Mary’s, the reaction of suddenly seeing one you have loved and deeply wish to see.

Know the embrace of the one who loves you more than life itself and by faith hug him back!

With joy- E. Stanley Ott
Copyright 2012 E. Stanley Ott
*Scripture from the NRSV
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