CCC Blog

Did You Know... Week 1

Did You Know… that the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) almost didn’t exist? 

 

In 1801, Barton Stone and five other Presbyterian ministers split from the Kentucky Synod of the Presbyterian church to form their own independent Springfield Presbytery.  They had been inspired by an event that had occurred recently at Stone’s congregation in Cane Ridge, KY.  Thousands of people, representing different Christian denominations, met together for a weekend of fellowship, preaching, and the Lord’s Supper.  Prior to that time, Presbyterians only served communion to other Presbyterians.  But over that weekend, Stone watched as the Holy Spirit brought people together for worship and inspiration, regardless of their denominational affiliation.  When Sunday arrived and it came time to serve communion, Stone felt it was impossible to withhold the Bread and Cup from the Methodists, Lutherans, and Baptists who were also there, since they had been moved by the same Holy Spirit as the Presbyterians were.  He broke with the tradition of his Presbyterian Church and served communion to all who were gathered.  

 

Shortly thereafter, he and the other like-believing Presbyterian pastors formed their own Springfield Presbytery, which focused on the unity of all Christians based on a shared belief in Jesus as the Christ.  Unity, Stone would say, should be our “polar star” that must guide us in all things.  Over the next few years, 15 congregations in Kentucky joined the movement.  But then, not even three years later, the six pastors – led by Stone – published a document called “The Last Will and Testament of the Springfield Presbytery.”  They wrote: “We will, that this body die, be dissolved, and sink into union with the Body of Christ at large; for there is but one body, and one Spirit, even as we are called in one hope of our calling.”  They disbanded the very thing they had created, believing that creating a new church was not bringing people together in Christian unity, but rather adding another layer of division.  They envisioned that all congregations would be independent, only refer to one another as “Christians,” and focus on what they had in common with other congregations and not what was different among them.  

Barton Stone and others would continue this independent “Christian” movement for many years until one day joining with Alexander Campbell (who was leading a movement calling themselves “Disciples”) to form the Christian-Disciples Movement.  Though this would one day become the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), it never lost the desire to promote Christian unity and to emphasize what we have in common with other Christians and not on what distinguishes us from them.  

- Blessings, Michael

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Actions Speak Louder Than Words sermon series, Spring 2024

The word “apostle” means “sent” – as in, Jesus “sent” his 12 apostles out into the world to do the work of God on his behalf.  When he did this, he even gave them the authority he himself had been given.  Yet the last time we saw these apostles (before Easter), they were doing the opposite – running away,      abandoning Jesus, denying him, betraying him.  What happened to them after Easter?  That will be our focus for the next five weeks.  These early apostles got together, picked themselves up, and started building the church and spreading the Gospel.  They did it with their words, but even more so with their actions.  Their actions validated their beliefs and became the foundation on which the church was built.  We will look at 5 key actions exemplified by the apostles as described in the Book of Acts.  We will learn how they can help shape our faith – as individuals and as a church – today. 

 

Each Sunday we will also publish a one-page “Did You Know” about the      Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).  Our founders wanted to restore the church to it’s New Testament foundations (to model our church after the one the apostles were building).  Each of the actions the apostles took in building the church can be witnessed in our current practices at Central Christian Church.

 

April 14           Acts 1:15-16, 21-26                 Take the Next Best Step in Front of You

 

April 21           Acts 2:37-41                            Be Open!

 

April 28           Acts 2:42-47                            Get Back to Basics

 

May 5           Acts 4:32-37                                Be a Bridge 

 

May 12           Acts 8:26-39                              Build a Relationship

 

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Something to Think About - Reflection on Psalm 91

If you happen to be familiar with the hymn “On Eagle’s Wings”, then you already have a solid grasp of Psalm 91 (#77 in the Chalice Hymnal).  In fact, it might be hard to read Psalm 91 without starting to hum the melody to “On Eagle’s Wings.”  Certainly, this inspirational song can evoke a lot of emotion in us, which is why it is a common one to hear at funerals and memorial services.

But Psalm 91 also echoes two familiar themes in the Book of Psalms.  First is the theme of refuge.  Three times (in v. 2, 4, and 9), Psalm 91 reminds us of the importance of seeking refuge in God.  The second theme is abiding (or dwelling).  Psalm 91 encourages us to “abide” in the shelter of the Most High and in the shadow of the Almighty.  This reinforces one of the messages of Psalm 23 (“Surely I will dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long”) and of Psalm 27 (“One thing I asked of the Lord… to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life”).

 

To take refuge in.  To abide in.  To trust in.  To dwell with.  These are all about time and energy.  Where do you spend your time?  With whom do you spend your time?  What do you spend your time doing?  Toward what end do you commit your energy?  Into what things do your pour and invest your resources?  Do those things bring you closer to God?  Do they strengthen your faith?  Do they bring out the better version of yourself that God knows is there?  At the end of the day, these are the questions that really matter.  We have, more or less, absolute freedom to do with our time and energy what we please.  And if our freedom is constrained in any way, it is probably due in large part to the choices we made with our freedom in the past.  Regardless of where we are now on our life journey, God’s Word seeks to draw us closer to our Creator and our Savior in whatever future time we are given.

 

It won’t always be easy.  There will be challenges along the way.  But I particularly appreciate how Psalm 91 doesn’t deny that nights can be terrifying; or that there will be arrows that fly by day; or pestilence and destruction in our paths.  Psalm 91 just says that when we dwell with God and seek refuge in God we will not have to fear them.  Face these things?  Yes.  Fear them?  Never!  Simply making the decision to spend more of our time, energy, and attention with God can bring untold benefit and blessing.  We just have to choose to trust in the one who provides them.

 

God of constant presence, may I be open to perceive the ways you are ever near me.  And may I seek to find my true security and refuge in you.  By your Holy Spirit, empower me with a faith that can overcome all fear.  Amen.  

 

- Blessings, Michael

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Reflection on Psalm 84

If you could have one wish granted by God, what would it be?  A gift for someone you love?  Something for yourself?  Psalm 27 gave us an answer – “One thing I ask of the Lord (is)… to dwell in the house of the Lord… (and) behold the beauty of the Lord…”  Simply dwelling in the close presence of God… that is what faith is all about.  Heaven and earth may pass away, but the presence of God remains.  Material possessions wear out over time and become obsolete.  People come and go.  Even the ones we love the most are taken from us eventually.  But dwelling in the presence of God?  That is the one thing that will always be available to us.

 

A friend of mine likes to describe this as the difference between the “stuff of God’s hands” and the “stuff of God’s heart.”  The “stuff of God’s hands” are things all connected with earthly life – outcomes, results and tangible objects.  Seeking the “stuff of God’s hands” is to be pray that the CT scan is favorable or that the upcoming interview results in a job offer.  The “stuff of God’s heart” is about everything other-worldly.  It is about what God thinks, knows, loves and understands.  To seek the stuff of God’s heart is to desire to know what God knows, love what God loves and view things from God’s perspective instead of our own.  

 

To pray for the stuff of God’s hands may lead to personal disappointment.  It may not.  But it may, because we may not be seeking something that is in alignment with God’s heart.  But praying for the stuff of God’s heart will never disappoint us.  We will always experience a greater connection with God that is not based on results or outcomes.  To seek the stuff of God’s heart is to pray, “Lord, help me love and value what you already see is your plan for me, regardless of how this particular situation in front of me turns out.”

 

Psalm 84 is about seeking the stuff of God’s heart; about seeking closeness with God above all.  This is what is meant by phrases like “One day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere” and “I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of the Lord” than to live anywhere else.  And there are great blessings given to us when simply dwelling in God’s presence becomes our great desire.

 

First, we will see that there is room for all of us in the presence of God.  Even the sparrows and the swallows find a space at the altar of the Lord (v. 3).  And, as Jesus reminded us, we are valued by God at least as much as the sparrows (Luke 12:7).  If God already provides for them, how much more will God provide for us?  If God makes room for them in God’s presence, we can trust that there will always be room there for us too.  Everywhere we look in our earthly lives, there is some kind of test to pass before we are accepted; some kind of ID or credential needed in order to be included.  But not with God.  Simply desiring to be included, makes one included.

Secondly, Psalm 84 reminds us that God will not withhold “one good thing” (v. 11) from those who walk uprightly.  It is in God’s very nature to want to share the “stuff of God’s heart” with us.  If we are not learning more of God’s will or experiencing more of God’s purposes for our world, it is not because God is withholding something from us. It is more likely that we have not truly desired it.  Simply desiring God; closeness with God; connection with God; togetherness with God.  That is the key to an abundant life of faith in God.  Jesus the Christ was sent to us simply to emphasize it and make it more accessible.  But long before he appeared, Psalm 84 was given as a reminder of what really matters to us as people of faith.

God of eternal connection, may I seek to dwell and walk more closely with you every day.  May my connection with you grow stronger with each passing day.  And may I ultimately trust that this is enough; that even if I have nothing else in this world, this is enough.  Amen.

 

                                                                      -  Blessings, Michael

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