Sunday, January 26, 2014
Today we worshiped at Community Presbyterian Church of Ben Avon, 7501 Church Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15202, 412.761.1233, www.cpcba.org, Rev. Donna Giver-Johnston, Pastor.
Scripture – 1 Corinthians 1:10-18
I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.”
Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptized in my name. (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel – not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
Sometime the nudge to visit a church would not be discernable except for a few different things at the same time: an email, a new installed pastor, icy roads, and here we are.
It was nice to greet some people we know in a church we are familiar with, and when the roads were really bad on the way home, I was glad we were close by.
I surely must have commented on the ornate cross before, but suspended over the chancel, perhaps it was the color scheme that reminded me of cast iron. Today, seeing the small cables by which it is hung, removed the thought of any great weight. Nonetheless I had to wonder why I only just noticed that today.
There was a distinctive guitar prelude, and the music is always exceptional. It was also good to see more of a mix of ages in the choir.
The children’s sermon explained the Passing of Christ’s Peace and was a good length and depth for children.
The Assurance of Pardon was accompanied by the pouring of water into the baptismal font, making for a good mind picture.
The message, “At the Table Together,” started with anecdotal story of using captain’s chairs for everyone at the table to keep the children from wandering during the meal.
For a while I think we also had more captain’s chairs than normal, and for a while it was thought that it would keep one of our younger granddaughters from falling off her chair. Even though she can sit at any chair now, it remains and we see the older children step over the arms to get out.
I do think it’s common to feel “I belong to Christ so you all are wrong.”
Friends had invited us to return to hear their new pastor, and we heard a call to do so today.
The service was well attended by all age groups in spite of the weather, and though it was cold outside, it was as warm as ever inside this building and a joy, as always, to see these friends again.
We were treated to a “Mini Concert Prelude” given by a member with a beautiful voice and excellent ability on the guitar.
It was a privilege to be present for the reception of new members as well.
The sermon, “At the Table Together,” was the second part of a series on 1 Corinthians with today’s part focusing on division within the Church. I agreed with her assessment that it’s the same thing today, only the issues are different. The real issue is, will we remember Whose Church it is and Whom we are to follow?
Our prayer for this church:
Lord, we ask that You continue to heal and guide Your Church and encourage the whole body. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Sunday, January 19, 2014
Today we worshiped at Hillside Christian Community, PO Box 689, 1050 Campbells Run Road, Carnegie, PA 15106, 412.279.2996, www.hillsidechristiancommunity.org, Ben Kendrew, Senior Pastor.
Scripture – Jonah 3
Then the Lord spoke to Jonah a second time: “Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh, and deliver the message I have given you.”
This time Jonah obeyed the Lord’s command and went to Nineveh, a city so large that it took three days to see it all. On the day Jonah entered the city, he shouted to the crowds: “Forty days from now Nineveh will be destroyed!” The people of Nineveh believed God’s message, and from the greatest to the least, they declared a fast and put on burlap to show their sorrow.
When the king of Nineveh heard what Jonah was saying, he stepped down from his throne and took off his royal robes. He dressed himself in burlap and sat on a heap of ashes.
Then the King and his nobles sent this decree throughout the city:
“No one, not even the animals from your herds and flocks, may eat or drink anything at all. People and animals alike must wear garments of mourning, and everyone must pray earnestly to God. They must turn from their evil ways and stop all their violence. Who can tell? Perhaps even yet God will change his mind and hold back his fierce anger from destroying us.”
When God saw what they had done and how they had put a stop to their evil ways, he changed his mind and did not carry out the destruction he had threatened.
A highlight of today’s visit was a large back-lit cross, an impressive statement.
This is a pleasant, modern sanctuary; the aesthetic treatments softened the steel architectural beams and gave it a homey feel. The projection screens were large enough but from the back were a little hard to read and on one song the background picture was bold enough to wipe out the words. Maybe larger type would help. I enjoyed hearing praise songs I knew and haven’t heard for a while.
The one woman who spoke to me during the greeting expressed the standard church lament of whether we were visitors or members. I always wonder why this is a concern since the greetings are pretty generic at most churches.
The message focused on Jonah and dealt with his actual witness to Nineveh and that “one man’s witness” brought this city, which would take three days to walk, to repentance. We should never doubt how God might use one person’s witness.
Made me think of something I saw on Facebook today: when Tim Tebow wore John 3:16 on his eye black during the 2009 Championship game and more than 92 million people looked up that verse on Google. Still think God can’t use your story?
I think the church and pastor are still getting used to each other; it will be interesting as the comfort level grows.
We visited this church once before, but it was a good while ago and we were not blogging at the time.
Although we entered through what looked from the outside like the main entrance, it turned out to be the downstairs entrance. Even so, a member opened the door for us as we approached and offered a friendly greeting, plus we got to see a little more of the building than we would have otherwise.
Several folks extended greetings as we made our way to the sanctuary, as did a few during the service.
The signage was helpful and the building was attractively decorated, aesthetically pleasing, and well kept. The sanctuary had no stained glass that I could see, but the window treatments were simple and elegant. The chancel featured a huge cross in front of a stone wall with wood placed in a diagonal pattern on either side. The TV screens on each side worked well, but I was unable to read the words from the very back where we sat.
During worship I found myself in the grip of a coughing spell and left to find water. The ushers were lined up immediately outside the sanctuary in preparation for entering and collecting the offering, and after pointing out the nearest water fountain, on my way back he confirmed that I was alright. A little later I needed water again and went out to the same fountain and a moment after I sat back down, a gentleman – one of the ushers, I think – popped in and handed Bob a bottle of water for me. This seemingly small gesture made me feel warmly welcome.
The message was part three on the book of Jonah. He reiterated the major points of part one – you can’t run from God – and part two – remember Who God is and repent. The three points of part three were: 1 – preach the message God gives us; 2 – don’t procrastinate, deliver the message with urgency; and 3 – the power of God’s message is God…we should deliver the message of the Gospel and leave the results to God.
Our prayer for this Church:
Lord, we pray You will awaken us all to boldly share our story, take our witness and use it for Your glory. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Sunday, January 12, 2014
Today we stayed home.
As concerned as I am about my wife’s health (more on that later), I enjoy writing when we stay home, without concern at sounding overly critical of a specific church.
After we visit a church there are things we try to draw attention to by way of the blog or a note to the pastor. Often there is a point I would like to discuss that has nothing to do with where we are worshiping or directed toward any church in particular, because it is often applicable to any number of churches.
I was thinking this morning how concerned I am for Jan’s health with these cold-type symptoms that don’t go away. We all actively seek relief for our loved ones’ physical ailments, but do we feel the same concern for their spiritual condition? We care about our family’s salvation…what about our church family?
I have spoken with many who have accepted Christ as Savior but who struggle to acknowledge Him as Lord of their lives. How do we talk about Christ when we work, play, or pray? There is nothing and no one greater in our lives than Jesus Christ; why is He hard to talk about?
Only two friends come to mind who didn’t really want me to talk about Jesus, and by the power of the Holy Spirit they now quote Scripture better than I. What’s to lose except their souls?
Your witness doesn’t have to be loud, you don’t need to be a Bible scholar. Just tell your story, and watch what Christ can do with your witness.
Our prayer for Your Church:
Lord, encourage us all to go boldly in Your name. Help us when we are less than what we can and should be for You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Sunday, January 5, 2014
Today we stayed home.
Whenever we have a Sunday when one or both of us are not well enough to leave the house, I am reminded of a young mother at a church where we used to belong. We were deeply involved and knew everyone. Occasionally this woman would not be in church and I always assumed with young children that she had a host of reasons.
I will always remember my surprise when I mentioned noticing she had not been there and that I hoped all was well with her children, and I was told she had been in Japan that week and a few weeks earlier she was in China. Her job as a representative for a medical equipment company took her all over the world.
This taught me a lesson about making assumptions about the people we only know in one context. It also made me realize that she needed ministered to as much a stay-at-home mom. It helped me to be a more attentive and caring church member and develop many warm relationships.
Our prayer for Your church:
Lord, we pray You open our eyes and hearts to those around us. Help us all to be better servants that You would be glorified. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.