Friday, February 27, 2015

Guest Post: "Life is a Gift. Be Grateful."

Two years ago, I attended a Montreat Worship and Music Conference in Asheville where the theme was A New Creation and a New Earth. Throughout the week spent outside of my comfort zone, I experienced a deeper understanding of both my faith and my calling in life. While taking a seminar with a dear friend, Tom Trenney, I learned three significant facts that I carry with me each and every day. These facts helped me re-evaluate the way I saw the world around me.

Life is a gift! Be grateful! God has given us 168 hours a week that we don’t deserve; but it is a gift. Whatever we have is enough; that is also a gift. The most wonderful part is that we have been given the grace to give back in return. 

Uniqueness is what unites us. Each and every day we should celebrate the uniqueness in God’s creation, for that is the only thing we have in common with each other. We are all unique.

God is everywhere and always. God is not just here in the present; he is also in our past. He has sent the old away and brought us into a new day. For each morning we rise we are waking into a new creation, a new opportunity to let our own light shine, and to grow with God.

Lent offers us an opportunity to grow in our relationship with God and to deepen our commitment to a way of life, which is rooted in our baptism. In our busy world, Lent provides us with an opportunity to reflect upon our patterns, pray more deeply, experience sorrow for what we’ve done and failed to do, and to be generous to those in need. It is a time where we can focus on what is lacking in our life or more importantly what God wants to intricately refine in us as we prepare for the Easter Celebration.

Two of my postludes during Lent have been the Prelude and Fugue in E minor, BWV 548 by J.S. Bach. Bach is known as the “master of the fugue” due to his complex and beautiful fugal works seen in the virtuoso element of the Fugue in E minor. He cultivated many musical forms during his lifetime, though none has had more lasting influence than the prelude and fugue. He expanded and refined the old forms of the prelude and turned the fugue into an unabashed, virtuoso fugue based on a theme whose notes leap to ever-widening intervals in the manner of a wedge. At the end of the majority of his music, Bach signed it S.D.G. meaning Soli Deo Gloria: to God alone be the glory. Bach did not just change the way of composing music in a day; it took him time to cultivate these masterworks. In the same way God has given us this period of Lent, so that we can prepare the way for Him to cultivate a new life in us.

We get so involved with our daily lives (which are gifts), the running about to all activities that we forget about the one thing in our lives that is endless; God. If you followed the customary Lenten act to give something up this year, I urge you to fill that void with something that will bring you closer to Christ so that He can refine and prepare you for the Easter Celebration. My hope is that through this act of selflessness you may fully realize that the life given to you is a gift and that to God alone be the glory.

Kaitlyn Davis is the Associate Director of Music and Organist. Here at Sardis, Kaitlyn’s expertise is engaged as she plays the organ, piano, and keyboards for our traditional and contemporary worship services, accompanies the sanctuary choir, occasionally rings in the bell choirs, and assists in growing our music ministry, especially the children and youth music programs.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Guest Post: “To The Director…”

On February 13, I once again, had the pleasure of playing music at an event called Joyful Hearts Club. This event is an evening dedicated to bringing fun and joy to people with special needs. When I am contacted by the director, he asks that I bring a band with me. As soon as the invite is received, I begin the daunting task of getting the musicians together. Due to the nature of the event, not just any musicians will do.

Normally, I call on a fantastic group that has performed with me in the past. They are always more than happy to participate. This year however, was particularly difficult. Here it is, the week before Valentine’s weekend and all but two of the past musicians had moved north, or were already booked. After a bit of searching and some convincing, I had finally established a band. During a conversation with the lead guitar player, I mentioned the thought of bringing in a horn section. As we furthered our discussion, the guitarist asked, “So, who will write and rehearse the parts?”. Since we were short on time and there would be no opportunity to rehearse, we quickly realized that it would harm the quality of the music. Ultimately the decision was not to have a horn section, this time.

We had that discussion two weeks ago and I still look back on it. Even after the event has passed, and the songs have been performed, that conversation lingers in my mind. So, let me better explain why I took this to heart.

Some of you know, that a group of instrumentalists are just like a group of voices within a choir. Without specific direction from a leader, there can be no unity. Without proper training, and due to our own human nature, we will naturally perform our own wants and wills. Rather than taking the entire group into consideration, we tend to put what sounds good to our own ear first. 

The word choir is defined as “a group of organized singers.” Organized is defined as “having a formal organization or structure, especially to coordinate or carry out for widespread activities.”

Today, I want to challenge you to be a part of the group. — Okay, I know what you are probably thinking… “We are supposed to be leaders. Leaders are successful and show the way!” You are correct, but always remember this: It is impossible for everyone, to lead everything, in every part they play. I would like you to be encouraged that, it is okay to stop and listen. You should not feel a necessity to push yourself into a place that was never meant for you. As a group of people who are supposed to be organized around Christ, we often fail to listen to his direction. It becomes a discipline to take a step back and seek the Lord for guidance. Now, be encouraged! Christ has a plan specifically for you, in your life. If you are unsure, ask! He will always answer you, even in ways you might not expect.

During this season of Lent, don’t just give something up. Instead, give yourself to something. Make it a point to get involved and grow.

Jacob Hare is the Contemporary Worship Leader at Sardis. On Sunday's you'll find him at our 9:00 worship service in the Fellowship Hall. Jacob also leads our Second Saturday worship services in the Sardis House.

Friday, February 13, 2015

"What’s up with Lent?"

Wednesday of this week marks the beginning of a spiritual journey for Christians all over the world.  It is Ash Wednesday, and it signifies the start of Lent which continues for the next forty days and six Sundays prior to Easter Day. Yet, too often, Lent is associated with giving something up, like Hershey bars or Cherry Garcia ice cream, but that misses the point. As one wise person put it, “Lent consists in doing something, not merely doing without something.”  

The truth is, the last thing we need is one more thing to do. We are already stretched and stressed and over scheduled. So we skip the journey. And when that happens, we are the poorer for it. That is why I believe Lent is not for the faint of heart. Lent challenges us to pause, to reflect, and to prepare ourselves spiritually for the celebration of Easter.  

It seems to me that there are a myriad of ways you can “do something” during Lent to get you started on your spiritual journey. The list is virtually endless, and might include attending worship every Sunday, experiencing our Lenten Breakfasts, coming to our Wednesday night Bible study, and making time to attend our special Enrichment Series. Your journey might include spending a few more moments every morning in prayer, listening to what the Holy Spirit might be trying to whisper in your ear. The journey might have you asking God to help you find your place where you can serve others at Sardis and stop worrying about how others can serve you. The point is simply this, over the next forty days, with the help of God, I need to ask myself, how can I grow spiritually? It’s a question you might want to ask yourself, as well.


Friday, February 6, 2015

"February is the Longest Month"

I love catchy sermon titles. One of my favorites is “February Is the Longest Month” by Steven Kraftchick. We know he is wrong, right? February is the shortest month, only 28 days. The twist is that it is the shortest month in terms of days, but not so short in how we seem to experience it.

January rolls in on the heels of Christmas with its promises of a new start and New Year and new hopes and dreams. March entices us with its promise of daffodils and the sweet smell of spring right around the corner. But in between, February has lost the freshness of a new year and it seems like March can take forever to arrive. Oh, we have Ground Hog’s Day, and President’s Day, and Valentine’s Day to try and pass the time, but basically February is boring. 

Do you know why it is called February? The name comes from a Roman purification ritual performed at that time of year in the old lunar Roman calendar. This year think about purification, and it might be best February of all for you. It all starts on Wednesday, February 18th, when we welcome the liturgical season of Lent. We begin with our weekly Wednesday early Lenten Breakfasts, complete with great food, stirring music, wonderful speakers, fellowship, and prayer.  That evening we have our Ash Wednesday Communion and Imposition of Ashes worship service with our friends from Sardis Baptist. The next week we will begin a special Wednesday evening Bible study, tailored just for Lent.

On February 21, we welcome back by popular demand Dr. Richard Boyce, as we kick off our 2015 Enrichment Series with a dinner and program. Dr. Boyce is an amazing teacher, whose mixture of Biblical scholarship, faith, humor, and practical applications to life are enjoyed by all.

And did you know, on Sunday, February 22, we recognize the founding of our church, started in 1790, which was 225 years ago! Wow, come to think about it, February might be the best month of all.