CCC Blog

Food Challenge #3

For as long as I can remember, my mother has baked sourdough bread.  When I was growing up, it was a near-weekly occurrence.  Sourdough bread involves using a “starter” or culture of fermented yeast that is mixed in with the rest of the ingredients.  The portion of the starter that is used for a “batch” of bread is then replaced and kept in the refrigerator until the next time bread is baked.  For the entirety of my upbringing, the back right corner of the top shelf of the refrigerator was occupied by mom’s sourdough starter.  As long as the portion of the sourdough starter is replaced when it is used for baking, the culture is quite literally living.  My mom began making sourdough bread because someone gave her some of their starter and that sourdough starter had it’s origins with a woman from Kansas who had begun it at the turn of the 20th century.  For years my mom would gift other people portions of her sourdough starter so they could make sourdough bread of their own.  And every time she did, she included some written notes about the woman from Kansas who started it all decades earlier.  

 

 

When new families moved into our neighborhood (and there were a lot of families that lived on our block), mom would deliver a loaf of her bread as a welcoming gift.  If she knew there was a boy – in my age range – or a girl in one of my sisters’ age ranges – she would take us with her and introduce us to that child.  And when it was mom’s turn to provide the communion bread for Sunday worship (we grew up in a small-ish church where families signed up to provide bread for communion on a rotating basis), it was one of her sourdough loaves she brought – baked in a special round pan reserved for the communion bread.

 

All this serves as the context for our third food challenge this month.  For every week of our three-week sermons series this month on “The Meals Jesus Ate,” I offered a food-related challenge at the end of each sermon. 

Week 1 sermon theme – The meals Jesus ate connected people to each other, and to God.

Week 1 food challenge – Share FoodSometime this month, share a meal (snack, coffee, etc..,.) with someone with whom you don’t normally eat.

 

Week 2 sermon theme – The meals Jesus ate were extravagant because God’s grace is extravagant. 

Week 2 food challenge – Save FoodRefrain from going to the grocery store for 1 week.  Instead, eat the food already in your house and avoid contributing to the food-wasting in our country.  Whatever you would have spent at the grocery store that week, consider giving as a donation to a food-serving organization like the Good Samaritan Inn.

 

Week 3 sermon theme – The meals Jesus ate confirmed the promises of God

Week 3 food challenge – Give FoodProvide food (gift card, loaf of bread, etc...) to someone going through a hard time.  With your gift, consider including these words (or ones like them):

May this food confirm the promise that you are not alone and that the Lord is with you through whatever you struggle or challenge may be.”

 

Blessings – Michael

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The Meals Jesus Ate

With Memorial Day and the celebration of Pentecost in the rear-view mirror, we begin the summer season with a sermon series to accompany our month-long focus on the capital campaign.  As you know, the theme of the campaign is “Setting the Table.”  The idea of setting the table naturally causes us to think of looking forward.  We set the table precisely to get ready for something.  Additionally, setting the table requires some basic work and effort to make sure the table is ready for the meal that is to come. 

 

We like the theme “Setting the Table” for our capital campaign because it  encourages us to look forward to, and anticipate, the wonderful things God has in store for our faith community.  And it reminds us that there is preparatory work on our part to get ready for the good things that are to come.

 

It also seemed only fitting that we spend these next few weeks in worship thinking about tables and meals in the ministry of Jesus.  Jesus spent at lot of time sitting at one table or another.  The meals Jesus ate were about much more than the food consumed.  They were opportunities he took to teach us the meaning of the Gospel and how we can embody it in our lives today.  Here is what we can look forward to over the next three weekends.    

 

June 12

When Jesus Ate... People Came Together

Mark 2:13-17

At Jesus’ table, there is always room for one more

 

June 19

When Jesus Ate... The Cost Wasn’t Counted

Luke 19:1-10

The grace of Jesus is both amazing and abundant

 

June 26

When Jesus Ate... God Was Revealed

Luke 24:36-42

Meals confirm miracles  

 

Blessings – Michael

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Following the Lead of the Early Christians

This past Sunday, our worship focus was the early church. In the days following Jesus’ ascension into heaven, having left the disciples to continue their mission without him, the church began to grow. However, this was not because the  disciples’ primary goal was to “grow the church.” Their primary goal was living a Christian lifestyle. If they were to fulfill the mission Christ gave them (to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth), what kinds of things would they need to be doing in order for that happen? That was the question before them. Those   early Christians settled on five – 5 spiritual practices – as the answer to that question:

The Apostles’ Teaching (the Word of God)

Fellowship (coming together and gathering together)

Breaking Bread (sharing meals)

Prayer

Generosity

 

Our most recent sermon series, which concluded this past Sunday, was based on the Strategic Plan the council is considering adopting to guide our ministry over the next 3-5 years. The plan happens to have four (4) focus areas –   Neighborhood; Faithful families; Organization; and Generosity. As I was preparing the sermon for October 3, and as I read over those 5 spiritual practices from Acts 2, I was struck by how closely they align with our 4 focus areas.

 

The Apostles’ Teaching refers to how the early Christians devoted themselves to the Word of God as communicated by Jesus. Our focus on Faithful Families is designed (among other things) to encourage greater participation in activities and programs that help us grow in our biblical knowledge and understanding.

 

Fellowship refers to how the early Christians overcame regional and individual differences to come together in faith. Our focus on the Neighborhood hopes to reveal how, through faith, earthly differences and distinctions can be           transcended.

 

Overall, these 5 practices of the early church were an intentional way of giving organization to a movement that was becoming “the church.” They helped turn an otherwise disparate 3,000-plus group of people into the organization we know today as the church. Our focus on Organization similarly asks us to think intentionally about the best way to organize the church in our day and age, just as our ancestors did in theirs.

 

Finally, the early Christians made in incredibly lasting impact on the world because of their way of generous living. Similarly, our focus on Generosity asks us to consider what kind of impact we might make on the world today.      Granted, our impact will invariably pale in comparison to that of the earliest disciples. But like theirs, we hope ours is lasting.

 

Whether or not the Council approves this Strategic Plan, I hope you have enjoyed this recent series – not only each of the individual Sunday messages and biblical passages on which they were based, but also thinking about how these scriptures speak to our life as a church today. Moreover, these kinds of things – striving to be good neighbors; supporting families and growing in our biblical knowledge; being intentional about how we are organized; and how we are generous will always remain as important things for us to consider.

Blessings, Michael

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Offering Prayers and Being Prayerful

Last week at our staff meeting, we discussed a distinction between “prayer” and “prayerful.” Prayer is is something we do, but prayerful is someone we are.  Prayer is external, while prayerful is internal. Prayer has a beginning and an end, while prayerful is ongoing. This is why we think of prayer as something we offer (an action that is outside us) and why we think of prayer as being prayerful (in internal way of orienting the person we are in the world). Being prayerful is a way of living out the words of I Thessalonians 5:17: “Pray without ceasing.” As one of our staff people suggested (my paraphrase), “None of us can sit with hands folded and heads bowed all the time (i.e. without ceasing).”  But we can live in an ongoing way such that our orientation in the world is prayerful.

Being prayerful is, more specifically, seeking the presence of God in all things.  If it is true – as scripture instructs – that God created all things, then everything in creation bears the imprint of God’s presence. That means God is present in every person, place and thing; every situation, circumstance and relationship. 

In order to seek the presence of God in all things, several things are necessary:

  • First, being open. We must be able to willing to entertain the idea that God could be present in everything we encounter and experience.
  • Being open requires attentiveness. Being prayerful is about listening more than speaking. And it is about “listening” (observing, receiving) with all our senses and not just our ears.
  • Listening is also about removing distractions. While prayer is an action that we “do,” being prayerful is taking things away and moving more slowly through life so that we don’t miss God’s presence when it is revealed to us.
  • Finally, being prayerful is about humility. Everything we hear, observe and receive from the outside world comes to us through the filter of our own desires, hopes and anticipations. The humility of being prayerful is acknowledging these filters and asking God to be revealed through them.  Otherwise we might confuse God’s revelation with our own comfortable interpretation. 

While all of us may not feel confident or gifted in the external action of offering prayers, we all can live lives of prayerfulness.

Blessings, Michael

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