Friday, January 30, 2009

Christians Stand For Life

God put before His people life and death. He says "Choose life!" It is the choice we must make and not get distracted by political maneuvering. God's Word, no matter how difficult, needs to frame our stance as Christians.

For Christians to say that last week's decision for the USA to fund international groups performing abortions is a disappointment doesn't begin to address our culpability in this massive genocide. In a society that is fanatic about the quality of life of our livestock, we are failing miserably to address the loss of human life occurring at a pandemic rate. A civilized society is measured by its ability to protect those who can not protect themselves, and it is most clearly seen in how it cares for its children and its elderly. Clearly the problem isn't the human life of the unborn child! The problem may be about effective contraception, sex education, teen pregnancy, and a whole host of real problems, but the life of the unborn. While clearly Holy Scripture sees life beginning at conception, we argue about definitions of embryo, fetus, viable, and other dividing lines terms which can't diminish the reality that we are talking about human life).

Honestly, I don't know of anyone who says abortion is good. If that is the case, we are saying it is the lesser of two evils, the killing of the unborn or what? It is the "what?" we have failed to wrestle with, to treat as problems and therefore having solutions. For Christians, life does not belong to us, our own or another's. Life and all of creation belongs to God. It isn't ours. We don't create the stars, sky, and oceans. We don't create children. Instead Christians understand that we live, move, and have our being, as a gift from God. We don't have a divine right, only an invitation to enter into God's creation process or to reject it. As Christians "choice" is set before us, life or death, to be with God or apart from Him. We need to choose life, not because we "must obey." No, we choose life so we might share in God redemptive, recreative love, and be the means by which God's love is brought into our "real problems."

This is a time for us to cry out to God as we are culpable for our actions as a society. We have failed to address the real problems and have chosen a great evil. We need to cry out to God because we've failed as Christians, as a moral country, as a civilized society. With our wealth, we are multiplying our failure and inflicting it upon the poor of this world. As Christians we've failed even to look at the problems, not to mention our call to serve, to be the means by which God ministers to those in distress, those suffering from "unspeakable" problems. My life, and I'm sure your life, is directly touched by these real problems. An unborn life is treated as the identified problem. But Life isn't a problem. We need to look to the real problems. Jesus came that we might have life and have it more abundantly. For the real problems we need to bring God's love to the hurting, the pained lives of those suffering because of these problems. We don't care enough!

As we've failed to address the real problems, we have much for which we need to repent. We've failed to bring the power of God to bear upon, not the abortion clinic or agencies, but upon the suffering and tragedy of lives that need God's love. There is no room for religious "holier than thou" attitudes. As Christians we personally know our own sinfulness and how much we need God's help and forgiveness in our lives. And we've failed to share that power of God's love, even though we know how much we need it daily in our own lives. We have loved too little. Lord, have mercy upon us. Save us, help us with thine almighty hand!

And on the lighter side...Let's have a look a the weather forecast:

Thursday, January 22, 2009

State of our Mission

We are truly blessed at Church of the Blessed Trinity! As our name embodies the love of God seen between the persons of the Godhead, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, we too have spent the last three years to embody in our congregation the true love of God. Our time, energy, and resources have been caring for a nice building, although we have a more than adequate place to worship together on Sundays and during the week. We've not been looking to meeting our budget, God has provided for us at every turn. We've not even been looking to fill the pews, or chairs, because instead of these things we've been learning and putting into practice making the love of God in Jesus Christ known to people beyond our fellowship.

We are at a place where our Mission is helping people meet Jesus Christ. Working around the "holy hardware" and passing out bulletins isn't fulfilling the Great Commission ("go out into all the world...Matt. 28). Having others know that "no one comes to the Father, but by Him" is at the center of what we do. The love of God was so great that the Son of God would come to earth to be seen, heard and known. Our Mission is to love those we go out to meet that Jesus might be seen, heard, and known.

This past week I was at the Napa Clergy Retreat hosted by the Diocese of the West. Bishop Fredrick Fick was the presenter and led our discussion on how our congregations develop to be churches whose life is fulfilling the Great Commission. Bishop Fick started four church plants himself and now has oversight in other church plantings. What became clear was the extensive preparation required for the church plant team, the training, shifting from the old establishment mode of a member bringing someone to know Jesus Christ once every 38 years. With the mode you'll be burying more than the number you bring to know Jesus.

If you look back, we have a new sense of our Mission for Jesus Christ. We've had to relearn, rethink, even think outside the box, including giving new meaning to church in a box. The reality for us today is we're about the people and not the steeple. Today things of the steeple can easily be changed out, new locations found, and our efforts are on God changing our lives, new people discovering there is hope, there is new life in Jesus.

We have our work before us, the fields are ripe for harvest living in California where over 50% of our neighbors are unchurched; where our State government is issuing IOU's; where people have lost jobs, secure retirements, and their homes; where the Generation Y folks don't see much promise and much hope. We have much to do. They need hope in their broken, hurting lives. And we know the hope that changed our own lives--the Love of God made known to us, in our lives, Jesus. Jesus is the song of hope we sing; the sound of abundant life filling the emptiness; the voice saying "Knock, and it shall be opened unto you; Seek and ye shall find."

God has been preparing us during these past 3 years to be in this place, at this time, and with every member prepared, trained, confirmed for this Mission field. In looking back three years it is amazing how much growth I've seen in all of our members. We've studied Holy Scripture more; we've prayed more; we've reached out more than I had thought was possible. And the good news, yes, the Good News, our vision, our hope, our mission has grown much larger. We want to see and make seen the love of the Blessed Trinity, not only in our lives, but in the lives the store clerk, the student at the next desk, and the parent next to us at the ball game or concert. We are truly blessed!

Annual Meeting January 25, 2009 at 10:00am

While we meet monthly as a whole congregation to plan our mission work, we meet once a year to formalize our elected board members (Vestry) and to approve our budget for Mission. This year we enter the new year with the Anglican Church in North America actually springing into existence--yes, faithful Anglicans who are not dividing, and separating, but building and uniting.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Manifest Christ

Generations waited for God to fulfill His promise of sending one who would bring the messianic kingdom. We celebrated the "God made manifest" in the incarnation. We now shift to joining the magi who having seen His light and returned bringing the light of Christ into the darkness of this world.

Fortunately we don't have to pursuade or argue, most of who want to be pursuaded or argue are interested more in the arguement than being touched by God. It is God who prepares and makes ready the hearts who are ready to recieve Him. We are called to do two things: to let the light of Christ be seen in our lives, in our loving those around us with divine love given to us in Christ Jesus; and second, to be ready to give a witness for our hope in Christ. Making love incarnate and then telling how we recieved that love into our lives.

Big Intro for the FTGC

The new Free Teen Guitar Class has a full roster this January. We've got 10 beginning guitarists who will be having their first performance on February 1st. Adding our new guitarists to the intermediate and advanced students should make for a great summer concert.

Diocesan Clergy Conference

Our Diocese of the West (REC) clergy will be gathering in Napa next week. While we are hoping to do some wine tasting along the way, the bishops, priests, and deacons will be enjoying a time of prayer, fellowship, and theological discussion (perhaps over a wee bit of port and cigars in the crisp night air of the Napa Valley). I may or may not be able to post the Alpine Anglican Thursday Evening News--because the Carmelite monestary doesn't have WiFi access. But I'm sure to have some news to share with you upon my return.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Beginning as 'God is with us'

This New Year's Day is the 8th Day of Christmas. While it may be not be politically correct, and certainly unpopular in post-Christian circles to overlook the commemoration of the Circumcision of the Child Christ. However, to Christians this is tied up in our understanding 'God with us.' Born of Mary, a Jewish girl, Jesus was a Jew by birth. It was by circumcision that families were brought into the covenant relationship with the Lord God. In Jesus we are born into the family of God and circumcised into the covenant relationship with God; both in the reality of the flesh of Jesus. Yes, it is a messy business God being born of woman and the flesh of his foreskin. God came among us not in outward appearance, but in what we are, fully human and into our human existence. He came to fulfill The Law given by God as we humans had been unable fulfill because of our sin, our turning away from God.
It is fitting that the Circumcision of the Child Christ is also New Year's Day on our modern calendar. Jesus is bringing about a new beginning for those are adopted into his death and resurrection. Our resolutions are begun upon what God has done for us; it is not in expectation that we are working to be better men and women. Our resolve centers upon responding to God's love, that our lives might reflect what God has given unto us. It is not our taking on or giving up, but letting our lives show what has been given. The gift of God is already there for those who have received Christ.
If you haven't received Jesus into your heart, now is the time to ask him into your life. Now is the time to ask for the power of God to make you new in the sacrament of Baptism. This is the start of what begins every Christians' day, to ask Jesus to be Lord, Savior, and King in this new day, in this new year, and asking that power of God might fill our lives this coming day, and this coming year. And we know that no matter how messy our lives may get, real problems, real people, real tragedy, 'God is with us.' It is Jesus' name, Emmanuel, 'God with us.' Not in appearance, not in fancy words, but incarnate, in the flesh, the blessings of the Child Christ.
Alpine Christmas Day Dinner
It was a joyous gift. What a wonderful day that as the Church of the Blessed Trinity we could share the birth of Jesus with those who didn't "have a place for Christmas." What started the night before with sharing in the Sacrament of the Altar we could bring into Christmas Day. You can read more in this week's Alpine Sun newspaper or at our Alpine Christmas Day Dinner site. It has a link to all the pictures. We'll use the site to post our plans for sharing the gift of Christmas in 2009.
12th Night Celebration
On the Eve of the Epiphany, Monday, January 5th, your invited to the Burning of the Christmas Greenery, a fire made from pieces from our Christmas decorations, symbolizing the Light of Christ shining out to the world. The Epiphany Fire will start our festivity at 6:30pm at Victoria House, 2828 N Victoria, and is then celebrated with a Christmas Trifle (and a sugar-free trifle), Christmas cheer, and Hot Chocolate! This is a good time to bring neighbors to join the celebration. We'll have some extra Christmas greenery on hand so everyone can add to the Light of Christ shining into the darkness.