Friday, January 23, 2015

"How ‘bout Them Cookies?"

The first word that comes to my mind when I hear “Girl Scouts” is cookies. The Girl Scouts and their cookies are already famous, but this year, they are changing things up so that all will be able to experience their cookies. They are adding three new flavors to their list of goodies.  Those flavors include the debut of Rah Raisin, which includes oatmeal, raisins and Greek yogurt-flavored chunks. The other two additions are Toffee-tastic, a buttery cookie with pieces of toffee, and Trios, which is peanut butter, chocolate chips, and oats.

What caught my attention is that two of the new cookies are gluten free. Gluten is a protein found mostly in wheat but also in other types of food. It doesn’t bother most of us, but it can play havoc on your immune system if you are gluten intolerant. It is for that reason that we offer gluten free communion wafers at Sardis.

It is a great thing when we can be flexible and accommodating. In this case, more people will be able to enjoy the sacrament of communion without fear of aggravating their illness. As for the Girl Scouts, a wider audience can enjoy their yearly treats! Not all cases are so “win-win”. Being flexible and accommodating may come with sacrifices. 

Think of how many nights you gave up sleep to accommodate your newborn’s needs. You will have trouble surviving parenthood if you don’t have a lot of flexibility during those turbulent teenage years. How many times have you had to be flexible to accommodate your spouse and not allow something like your pride spoil the relationship?  

I think all our lives would be a little happier if we were more flexible and accommodating to the needs of others. Come to think about it, that might be at the heart of what Jesus meant when he said, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”   

Flexibility and accommodation go a long way in this world, and not just with cookies and communion wafers. 

Friday, January 16, 2015

"Table Talk"

As you enter our sanctuary, I invite you to look at the last stained glass window along the aisle at the right of the church. Just before the transept on the right is the window depicting our Lord’s last meal in the upper room. Below the image is the caption, “This do in remembrance of me”. The Bible may indicate many things we are supposed to do, but only two activities reach the level of sacramental activity with God. One of those is the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion.

Have you ever noticed how much we seem to love to eat? Now, I know the Bible says that when two or three are gathered together, God is in the midst of  them, but my experience also says that when you get two or three Presbyterians together, a meal is about to break out. I love all the casseroles, dishes, and desserts that appear when we have a pot luck dinner. Why even the finest restaurants in town cannot hold a candle to a good old fashioned church pot luck lunch or dinner. There is something wonderful about gathering together for a meal. Why is that?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer might have the answer. In his book, Letters and Papers from Prison, he writes,   “Perhaps the reason why we attach so much importance to sitting down to table together is that table fellowship is one of the realities of the Kingdom of God.” Charles Ringma comments on Bonhoeffer’s words, “….eating together reminds us of our need to be sustained, of our dependence on God as the gracious Provider of the things we need, and of the joy of fellowship and companionship. In the context of such hospitality, not only can we be ourselves, but we can also be enriched for the journey ahead of us.”  

We will be gathering around the Lord’s table this Sunday. We will break bread and drink from the cup of salvation. It will be just as Bonhoeffer suggested and Jesus promised, a glimpse of what it will be like when we all gather together for God’s heavenly banquet. Hope to see you Sunday as together we experience a taste of heaven. 

Friday, January 9, 2015

"Hooray for Laity"

One of the distinguishing marks of what it means to be Presbyterian is the sense of shared ministry between minister and member. What we do at Sardis, we do together and with God.

Never was this partnership made clearer than yesterday in worship, as we ordained and installed ruling elders and deacons who answered the call to faithfully serve and lead this congregation over the next three years. And next week is Laity Sunday, which means the entire worship service will be conducted by Sardis members, no clergy allowed!  In my book, it’s one of the most meaningful services of the year.

Now don’t get me wrong, there is a place for men and women who trot off to seminary, receive three years of theological education, and become ordained ministers, whom we now call teaching elders. Yet, every preacher worth his or her salt will tell you that the church could fall flat on its face without the amazing gifts and dedication of her members.

Every day I see members doing the Lord’s work and extending His ministry out into the world.  It’s easy to spot them. Everything from Room in the Inn to stuffing inserts in the bulletin is handled by our members. Did you know we have over 250 individuals serving on various committees or ministries of the church? They are the backbone and strength behind what we accomplish, and their leadership provides the programs we all enjoy. We have members who knit prayer shawls, usher, prepare communion, deliver flowers to the homebound, and serve as advisors, coaches, teachers, and musicians.   The list of laity involvement is a mile long. Can we do more? Of course we can. Do we need more members to be involved? Yes, we always need more members to be involved, but let’s not forget those who are and who give of their time and talent to keep Sardis a light that shines for all to see.

I know what the Apostle Paul meant when he wrote…” I thank my God every
time I remember you, for your partnership in the gospel from the beginning until
now.” I don’t say it often enough, but HOORAY for YOU, the members of this
congregation. Hip Hip Hooray for the laity; Hip Hip Hooray for all you do in
building the Kingdom of God.  

Friday, January 2, 2015

"A New Year"

I don’t know how you rang in the New Year, but however you greeted 2015 I hope you welcomed it with a prayer. As we journey into this new year, I want to share with you one of my favorite prayers.  Perhaps you will find it speaks to you, as it does to me.

I wish I knew who wrote it, but the author is anonymous, and that leaves room for us to make it our own.

Dear Lord, Please give me
A few friends who understand me and remain my friends;
A work to do which has real value, without which the world would be the poorer;
A mind unafraid to travel, even though the trail be not blazed;
An understanding heart;
A sense of humor;
Time for quiet, silent meditation;
A feeling of the presence of God;
The patience to wait for the coming of these things,
With the wisdom to recognize them when they come. Amen.

God bless you in this new and wonderful New Year!