Third Sunday of Advent

JOIN US ON THE THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT

December 16th at 10:30am – Isaiah 42:1-4 and Luke 10:26-28

Everyone has their own philosophy as to how they should live their lives. For some, it is simply a matter of surviving the day. Jesus’ birth heralds for us a way to live that not only satisfies ourselves, but helps others as well. Jesus lives the life of a servant as a model for each of us. He lived to serve each of us by His life, death and resurrection. In doing so, He modeled a love for God and others that He calls us to duplicate, and in doing so, bring hope to others.

We light the third candle of Advent this Sunday to remember that Jesus came to be a servant so we could be servants to God and others, and in doing so, find fulfillment in our lives.
 
 


Second Sunday of Advent

JOIN US ON THE SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT

December 9th  at 10:30am – Hear “42” (Isaiah 40:3-5, Luke 1:46-53).

“This is the Second Sunday of Advent. We are reminded today again of God’s interest, care and concern for us this season by this simple symbol of the Advent wreath. Last week the first candle was lit to remind us of the value of our lives to God who created each of us in His image. Every life has value and meaning. This week we light the second candle to show us that our lives not only have value, but have a purpose.

So many struggle with the question, “Why Am I Here?” We spend our brief time on earth trying to find significance for our lives by what we do. Scripture reminds each of us that our greatest purpose in life is to bring honor to God and worship Him. In Luke reading, when the angel appears to her to tell her she will be the mother of Jesus, her immediate response is, “My soul magnifies (worships) the Lord.” Our worship, honoring of God can influence all that we do- how we work, love and serve one another and bring deep meaning to our time on earth. This Sunday, as we light this candle, may we each be reminded that God has created us to honor Him, and in doing so find true joy in our everyday lives.



“A Prayer of Revival” (Retaking the Village Green 9/7/18)

In looking through some old notes, I came across this prayer we used in Maine almost 20 years ago. I think this still may ring true today. As we come into the fall season of life, may we each find the revival we need.

Pastor Kevin

A Prayer of Revival

In Solemn Assembly, we stand before God to own our sin and our sinfulness.

We confess that our very view of God has been shallow and simplistic.  We have slighted Him by barely knowing Him.  We have been content with learning the most obvious of His ways.  We have had too little thirst for a fuller understanding of His mind, His heart, His will, and His ways.

We confess that we have been guilty of theological pride when we ought to be ashamed of our ignorance. We have assumed we know more then we do.  We have been arrogant toward others.  We have been slothful in study, too quick to assume superficial answers to profound questions.  We have opted for activity to the neglect of prayerful study and humble investigation.

We confess that we have substituted an easy certainty for humble inquiry.  We have been satisfied to sip at truth when we might have drunk deeply at the wells of God’s revelation.

From lack of faith, we have failed to study and investigate.  We have allowed dogmatic certainty to interfere with the search for truth.  We have assumed that old answers are adequate for new equations.  We have allowed ourselves to be engulfed by busyness, leaving too little for being still in order to listen, to inquire, and to search.

We have not prayed as we ought.  We have allowed prayer to become an opening salute and a closing formality to both our worship and our deliberations.  We have forgotten that through prayer miracles can take place.  We have made prayer an effort to gain divine approval for what we have done, rather than the avenue through which we experience what God Himself would do.

We have become ensnared in worldly measures of success.  We have been too quick to give adulation to those who achieve numerical affirmation but too little appreciation of the virtues of faithfulness, humility and simplicity.

We have fallen prey to the attraction of the world.  We have allowed ourselves to be ensnared by sexuality for self-satisfaction and eroticism as a substitute for love.  The materialism of our society with its worship of things has stained us.  We have yielded to the fascination of the power of the computer, becoming more and more adept at compiling data, but less and less practitioners of the care of the soul.

Too often we have substituted money for distant missions and missionary enterprises for time to build redemptive bridges to the neighbor next door and the associate at the adjoining desk.

We have neglected the Holy Spirit and His gifts.  Our fear of extremes has resulted in churches where the Holy Spirit is known on paper but unknown in intimate communion.

We have been quicker to find reasons to separate from other believers than to discover and capitalize upon our common ground.  Lord, you know that we often tend to stay to ourselves.  As local churches we have little if any contact with sister churches in our area or other like-minded churches.  We are not showing forth the love and unity that is ours in Christ and we confess the sin of our independent spirit.

We confess that we have allowed the inevitable depression of our spiritual malaise to dull us to the glorious hope, joy, and freedom of our life in Christ.  We have neither appropriated nor expressed the joy of the Lord.  Our life in Christ has been all too joyless and too often void of the exuberance of life in Christ.

Lord, when we walk through your letters to your churches we are forced to agree that we have forsaken our first love.  We have compromised our lifestyles with materialism, license and the self-centeredness of this world’s gods.  We have become complacent, accepting mediocrity and rationalizing failure.  We have ascribed the sterility of our body life to the hostility of the world rather than to the barrenness of our own souls.  We have chosen the lukewarm safety of mediocrity and unchallenged tradition over the higher but dangerous road of innovative, sacrificial, and experimental love.  We have not reached for the unknown and undiscovered heights of spiritual intimacy and fruitful life which You long for us to know.  In our practices and programs, we have allowed old patterns to continue beyond their usefulness out of fear of change and the cost of the new.

Lord, we have sinned in our relationships within our churches.  We have gossiped, criticized and complained.  We have injured each other by refusing to accept hardship as true soldiers of Christ.  We have limited our commitment by dividing our love between the church and the world.  All too often we have given to the temporal the priority that belongs to the eternal.  We have valued the success of programs more highly than the relationships of family and friends, relationships which have been sacrificed to make those programs successful.

Lord, in spite of your faithfulness we have refused to trust You with our substance and for Your provision.  We have written our budgets in the light of the seen and not the unseen.  We have viewed faith as presumption and faithfulness as unacceptable sacrifice.

Lord, in all these things we have failed to recognize Your grace and Your love.  We have not seen Your tears; we have not recognized Your generous love.  We have accepted Your patience as though it were Your approval.  We have not understood nor recognized the grief of Your heart when we live on the peripheral of Your blessing and might have enjoyed Your lavish hand.

Lord, we have accepted Your grace without appreciating its cost.  We have taken comfort in that grace for ourselves while reluctantly extending it to those who have injured us.  We have squandered the spiritual wealth given to us while extending only the most limited gospel handouts to the broken people who surround us and the world, which is our parish.  For lack of faith we have lived as paupers when we might have lived as princes.  We are a people who could have turned our world upside down but instead have allowed that world to quarantine, confine and sterilize what should have been contagious communities of faith.

We are weak where we could have been strong.

We are divided where we could have been one.

We are despised where we could have been respected.

We are depressed where we could have been triumphant.

We are the people of a risen Lord who have existed like the remnant of a crucified martyr.

We are not the worst that we might have been, not the least that we could have become, not the lowest to that we could fall; but we confess, with shame, that we are not what we might be.  We have not become what we ought to become, and in no way are we the people that a risen Lord, an omnipotent Father and an all-powerful Spirit would have made us had we been willing to yield to Your desires.

All of this and much, much more we stand to confess before our Master in solemn assembly and in deep shame.  We have sinned; we have failed.  We plead Your grace, Your mercy, and Your blood.  We ask for pardon which we in no way deserve and for forgiveness that only our Savior’s death can offer.  Nonetheless, we pray with confidence, believing with certainty that the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses us from all sin, and in this we find hope and peace and comfort.

In the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord, and Savior, and Master.  Amen
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“Press and Reset” (Retaking the Village Green 8/7/18)

We all have them; at some point we need them, and they are hard to find.

I am not talking about friends when you need to move or relatives when you need money, but reset buttons.

Every electronic device we own that talks, pings or interacts with us has a reset button. They are the “use as a last resort option” when you have tried countless times to restart, reprogram a device and the black box smiles back at you, taunting you seemingly saying, “Now who is in charge.”

You frantically search the internet for directions because you discarded them long ago thinking you will never need them. Once located, you find the clues to uncover the reset button. The small aperture is usually as hard to spot as a needed friend who has a truck, or relative with spare cash, and is as small as Tinkerbell’s pinky. When you finally locate a #2 pencil with a point sharp enough to split an atom, you insert, press, and you and your electronic friend arrive at a restored relationship again. All is well in the universe again- until next time.

There are times in each of our lives when we wish we had a reset button. A relationship sours, jobs overwhelm, life threatens to overcome us. We look for that hidden button which will quickly and painlessly reset our lives to normal- until the next crisis.

God’s grace has provided a “life reset button’ for us. It is not hidden or hard to find. In the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the sign of His life- the cross, God did not hide it. It is easy to access. God has presented to each of us a sign that has emblazoned itself across the course of human history and the lives of those who have already taken advantage of it.

The problem for many is that they have lost the directions. I think of the story of the person walking by a church and asking a friend, “Why is there a plus sign on top of that building?”

Many walk by the symbol of the cross every day. They may even wear it, or have it inked into their skin. When asked some may respond, “I have never seen it.” Alternatively, “I have seen it, but I do not know what it means.” Others, “I once knew but I have forgotten.”

It is up to those who have discovered the power and the meaning of the cross in our lives to provide many opportunities to God’s reset button and make the directions of its use freely available to others.

I am grateful that I have discovered this in my life. I know that as I walk through my days there are many around me who have the need to reset their lives as well. They are more important than any device I may own. I pray I will never become inoculated to that need.

So, who will I help find their reset button next?



“We are under attack! Quick call the Worship Team!” (Retaking the Village Green 5/17/18)

It is hard to imagine this sentence uttered in any modern-day field commander’s tent, or in a meeting in the Pentagon. But have you noticed God has a way of doing things against normal expectations?

Recently, I came across this great story in the Old Testament. Israel is under attack (again). The odds seem overwhelming. The leaders doubt their chances. God shows up in the person of a prophet named Jahaziel (not a top ten name today). His message can be read in 2 Chronicles 20:15, “This is what the Lord says to you; ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours but God’s… Stand firm, take your positions and see the deliverance the Lord will give you.’”  The story goes on that the king listens. The people hear and Levites from the Kohathites stand up and begin to sing songs of praise to God.

Here is where it gets interesting. The king then talks to the people, and in Verse 21, he sets his battle plan into motion. “After consulting the people, Jehoshapat appointed men to sing to the Lord and praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army saying, ‘Give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever.’” The king’s battle plan is to send out a worship team to lead the army into battle- and Israel wins the day. Who plans that kind of battle strategy and keeps their job? God has His own plan.

If you have been in ministry for more than few years, you may have run into the so called “worship wars” where people sometimes elevate individual preference over congregation benefit. Churches have split, members have left, and pastors are left exhausted. Less frequently do we see and or hear people thanking, praising those who lead their churches faithfully each week.

In this story in my mind’s eye, I pictured choirs in robes, guitar players, percussionists, organist, singers of all shapes, sizes, colors and languages marching in front of the army encouraging them with their songs of praise; reminding God’s people of who He is, and what He has done. That is what our worship leaders are challenged to do each week in the place where they serve. It is a great place, and a tough place to be as they have their own personal, family and sometimes congregational conflicts as well.

So today, I want to give a word of thanks to all the worship leaders, teams and participants out there. If you lead in robes, jeans or shorts… whether your hair is white, pink or non-existent… whether your favorite instrument has keys, strings, pipes, sticks, cymbals or just your hands… no matter if you sing in Old English, Urban slang, Spanish, Telegu or Swahili… if your age is young, old or “none of your business”… if you are musical, or technologically adept… Thank you that each week you remind God’s people of His power, presence and promises. As you do so, you lead all of us into whatever may come before us each week and remind us, “Thanks be to God who gives us the victory in our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Now let me go find my ukulele. I have a battle to fight.
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“The Saddest Day of the Year?” (Retaking the Village Green 4/5/18)

If I ever change gears in life through either retirement or a new calling, (I still think I want to give the astronaut thing a go), I will say I will miss preaching through the Easter season.

Each message and theme of Holy Week- from the celebration of Palm Sunday to the reflection of Maundy Thursday, the sadness of Good Friday, and finally the triumph of Easter, hold a special place in my life. Each of these events center me again in the truth and reality of what I believe, and the hope that other’s lives and our world can be different if we were to grasp hold and own the truth of the life, death and resurrection in each person. Easter makes ministry and life worthwhile.

After Easter, however, comes the saddest day of the year for me. (Please understand “tongue in cheek” firmly planted.)

During the Easter season, even more than Christmas, people come to worship- to remember and celebrate. Some come because they feel they should. Others because family wants them with them. A few are not sure why, but they still come. Activity is high, smiles are plenty and a joyful ambiance fills the air. Jesus is risen. Let us celebrate!

One week later, on the Sunday after Easter, life for many returns to the new normal. We fill Sundays with opportunities. Some opportunities are mandated, like work schedules which do not distinguish one day from another. Opportunities for kids for sports, community life, friends and other good things. Opportunities for families to spend time on things that are important for them. Opportunities to throw off winter, and begin to prepare for New England outdoor life in the sunshine. Opportunities to go back to a normal routine. The previous Sunday of Easter celebration becomes a memory of something to do next year.

The power and truth of the resurrection is something that lives with us each day, and as such, can be celebrated each day. Easter Sunday is the flag raised we can rally around. It is the symbol to which we can hold in our everyday lives when the image of Jesus grows dim, we are drawn in again to reality of Jesus in the midst of our everyday world.

I for one will always look forward to Easter and its visible reminders of our faith. It is where I plant myself. It is my hope and prayer that for all who took time out of their lives, for whatever reason they came, to join in the celebration; that each one would find a way of discovering and rehearsing the reality of the resurrection in their lives.

I look forward to Sunday, and each day. Jesus is still risen. I can still celebrate. I hope we each can find time to celebrate as well.



Easter Update – from Pastor Kevin

Easter is a great season of the year for us as followers of Jesus. We have so much for which we can be grateful. The “Great Resurrection Sunday” is the cymbal clash of our worship year.

There is so much that leads up to the resurrection that desires our consideration as well.

I would encourage everyone to make sure that they do not skip by the days leading up to Easter. Take time each day to read through the last chapters of any of the gospels. Each gospel writer dedicates about half of their writings to this week of Jesus’ life. Start your day, take time at a meal, listen to an audible account of these days and pray and thank God for what he was willing to do for each of us.

Also, I would encourage you to take part in one of the extra service times this week. On Thursday night we will pause and remember, the Last Supper Jesus spent with his friends leading up to his betrayal and arrest. On Friday, it will be time to pause and quietly reflect on the death of Jesus and its impact on each of us. Each service will be at 7pm. Then start your Easter bright and early with a great time at the Sunrise Service at Hampton Beach. Each year we gather about 100 people as we begin the day celebrating the truth and reality of the resurrection. The service is simple, but wonderful. Then come back with the full church for one of the morning services at 8:30 or 10:30. Club 252 will only be offered at 10:30am.

This is a great time. This week is foundational to our faith, and life changing for each of us. I hope to see everyone as a part of the celebration.

Pastor Kevin

 

 



“And The Answer Is…” (Retaking the Village Green 2/23/18)

“I am the generation that has always known violence in schools.” That sobering statement was made by one thirteen-year-old survivor of the Florida shooting.

We have all watched in sorrow and felt the outrage at the most recent school shooting. Everyone has an opinion, a solution to offer. This past week, I have heard some civil and not so civil conversations as people wrestle with trying to understand, and solve an abhorrent trend in our culture.

Plans offering arming teachers in schools, staffing more law enforcement on campuses, changing gun laws, providing training to recognized signs, better mental health treatment options will be debated for months to come. The range of discussions highlight the need for a very complex and holistic solution.

In the midst of this maelstrom of pain and suffering another event occurred, the passing of Billy Graham. Mr. Graham from the time he was sixteen to ninety-five dedicated his life to telling people that there was more to life than what we can see. That every life has infinite value and worth because each life was created by a loving God who desired each of us to know his son Jesus, and in the knowing be changed- both now and for eternity.

I stopped to ponder the juxtaposition of these two messages. One a message of confusion, uncertainty and hopelessness; the other a message of love, hope and the power of re-creation.

There are many reasons that come into play that can cause someone to perform such heinous acts as we have seen in Florida, and repeated in far too many schools- and communities. It struck me that one reason I have not heard proposed in any of the moderated discussions is that of a broken moral compass we each carry that would allow someone to contemplate and perform such an act.

There are many contributing factors to violence and the solution needs to be multifaceted. All the laws put into place, all the resources made available, all the preventative solutions provided will still fall short unless the moral compass within us is redirected. It is that compass which regulates the choices we make in our lives, and choices have consequences. God created us to be physical, emotional and spiritual beings and all those pieces need to be addressed in order to be whole. Mr. Graham and others like him understood that truth, and that is why he spent his life addressing the spiritual side of life which is so often neglected.

Solutions will be debated. Meanwhile families and a community will still grieve. The nation will move on, but this tear in the fabric of our individual and collective morality will continue to grow and we will continue to unravel. The good news is that through God’s remaking of our spirits through His son Jesus, help is available.

May that help be invoked for those who are grieving. May that help be invited in by those looking for answers to stop these events in the future.



New Year’s Mayhem in My Life?

He did it.

“Mayhem” is a character created by an insurance company. In their commercials, “Mayhem” created havoc for people, highlighting their need for insurance. On January 1st, “Mayhem” made a resolution to no longer instigate havoc, but to be helpful to people, protecting them, keeping them from harm. Two weeks into the New Year, “Mayhem” decided he just could not do it, and is back enjoying the crisis that he brings to life.

This is the story for many with New Year’s resolutions.

We make resolutions with the best intentions and desires. People want to improve their lives, their well-being and give themselves a chance at a fresh start- only to find that the power, desire, and ability to sustain those resolutions fade quickly and we convert back to old patterns and behaviors.

God is not interested in bringing about a new resolution in our life, but a revolution. His revolutions are life altering, life changing and sustaining. Nowhere in Scripture do I see God desiring to “fine tune” us, but always wants to remold, remake us into something brand new.

Nicodemus was a teacher. He knew his theology. He had studied scripture and taught it well. One day he meets Jesus and tells him that he knows God is with Jesus because of the miracles he sees Jesus doing. He affirms that he sees the supernatural at work. Jesus turns the tables on him and says (my paraphrase), “Great that you see it, but it means nothing unless you have allowed God to bring about a spiritual revolution in your life, unless He has totally changed you from the ground up.”

For most of us, we ask God for “fine tuning.” That is what most of our resolutions are- “tweaks” to our lives. We find after a short time, we have reverted to old patterns, behaviors and nothing has changed.

This year, I do not want another resolution I make to come and go. I want God to bring about a revolution in me- one that is fueled and filled by a fresh encounter with Him. A revolution that will be sustained and bring about lasting change in me, and in others around me.
 

“Mayhem’s” character may continue to sell insurance for those whose lives need repair. I want my life this year to create wholeness in myself, and others around me. I need God’s revolution.

What about you?



“Repeat the Sounding Joy?” (Retaking the Village Green 12/6/17)

During this season, the emphasis is on joy, happiness and celebration. As followers of Christ, we have reasons for great joy as we remember the birth of Jesus the Savior.

For many, the season is less about celebrating than surviving. Alongside the smiles and greetings of “good cheer” are those who simply wishing to “get through” these days. Next to the wrapped presents, hiding delights are the unwrapped boxes of lives filled with hurts.

This morning, I opened an email to discover that a pastor friend of mine elsewhere in the country weighed the hidden hurts in his life against the joy of the season- and he allowed the hurts to win over the joy. He leaves behind a grieving and bewildered church and family.

At Christmastime, God gives the entire world a reminder of his overwhelming love, patience and presence. The birth of Jesus causes us to annually stop and remember God who has not left the “phone off the hook” in the midst of our trials, and the struggles of the world. That in the birth of Christ, we have the opportunity to reflect that there is hope despite what we are seeing or experiencing.

It takes special courage in a person to come alongside someone who is struggling. Most people want to avoid those who seem down, lonely or depressed. We tend to shy away from those who we feel will “steal our joy.” This season is filled with people, who because of events in their own lives, or the actions of others feel lost, alone and abandoned. This Christmas, can we especially be on watch for those who are sidelined from the joy of the season. May we, by God’s leading, step out of our carefully orchestrated holiday plans, and with courage take a step into another’s world.

In the wonderful prophesy of Isaiah 11, Isaiah describes the realm and impact of the coming Messiah. That His rule and reign will be one filled with peace, “The wolf will live with the lamb…”

Christmas reminds us that the Messiah, Jesus has come. His reign of peace has begun, and one day it will find its culmination. In the meantime, may each of us be prepared to be His ambassadors of peace to all we meet- especially those we tend to pass by.

The sound, the message, of the joy of Christ’s birth needs to be repeated as often as we can, because we never know whom we pass that may need to know that the joy of Jesus can overcome their hurts.