CCC Blog

Off the Rails

So… sometimes you just have to admit that you blew it.  Or, at least, that your “best laid plans” went off the rails before you even fully realized it was happening.  Such was the case this past Sunday.  I was scheduled to give the children’s message for our 10:30 service.  As per usual, I was hoping to design a children’s message that built on the sermon theme for the day (the sermon that I, as the preacher, knew well) which focused on how Jesus healed a man who then wanted to leave his home and go with Jesus as he traveled back across the sea.  Jesus, however, said “no” and rather instructed him to stay where he was and spread the good news there. 



So… my plan for the children’s message was to play on the idea of wanting to have some kind of different life than we do now, but realizing that God gave us this life that we have for a reason; and that there is much “good” that we can do on God’s behalf in the midst of this very life we have been given.


That is what I WANTED the children’s message to convey.


I began by asking the children to imagine what they would include if they could construct their “perfect” home.  Now, this was not my first rodeo.  I know that you don’t ask questions of an audience to which you do not know the answers that will come.  Moreover, in the very rare case where this might happen, I was counting on my ability to steer the responses toward things like “I would like a swimming pool in my house,” or “I would like a movie theater.”  Doing so would allow me to still “bend” the overall message in the direction I intended.   


But wouldn’t you know it?  As I asked my question: “If you were to construct your dream house, what would you put in it?” the first child said, “Um… 4 walls and a roof.”  The second said, “I would put my family in it.”  And the third one said simply, “God.” 


After the 1st and 2nd responses, I realized I was way over my skies on this one; that I was counting on one type of response and not only got a different one, I got a much better one!  The third response was nothing more than an unintentional mic drop right in my lap!  I managed to stumble through the rest of the message.  But even as I was doing so, it dawned on me that though the children were thinking of what really matters when we think of “home” differently than I was – the basics of a building to provide shelter; the proximity of family; and the presence of God – theirs, which WAS the message, was much better than what I was hoping to simply a lead-up to a deeper message which didn’t feel so “deep” as I sat down in my chair in the chancel afterward.  As my idea was going off the rails, theirs was proving to be as sturdily on them as ever.  


At this point in my career, I have no problem admitting that I miscalculated something but this moment with the children this past Sunday was apropos for another reason.  We are also currently in the midst of a Financial Peace University class at the church, as well as in the midst of an annual financial campaign.  And at the end of the day what matters most, as the children from last Sunday, is having the basics - four walls and a roof, the proximity of family and friends, and the presence of God in our lives.  In some way, isn’t everything else that we worry about, pretty trivial?   

Posted by Michael Karunas with

Mountaintop Experiences: Friend or Foe?

Mountaintops are clearly romanticized in our culture.  The adulation and reverence paid to mountaintops is certainly pervasive.  Nearly all references to mountaintops are positive.  We speak of “mountaintop experiences” after all – which represent moments of great inspiration on our journey through life and easily contrasted with the fear of having to traverse a “dark valley.”  Higher, in this case, is definitely better.

Songs of all varieties can’t seem to praise the mountaintop enough.  In our national hymn, America the Beautiful, we revere the “purple mountain majesties” that soar “above the fruited plain.”  The Sound of Music ends with the uber-dramatic and climactic Climb Every Mountain, as the von Trapp family joyfully marches to freedom from the Nazis.  The Motown classic Ain’t No Mountain High Enough equates the size of the mountain to the intensity of love we feel when we have finally found “the one.”  Even the tear-jerking Go Rest High on that Mountain by Vince Gill compares the mountaintop to the the kingdom of heaven and the location of eternal life.  Mountaintops represent our greatest inspirations, the best of our emotions and intentions and the truest desires of our heart.       

In scripture, perhaps not unsurprisingly, big moments often occur on mountaintops.  God gave Noah the rainbow sign on Mt. Ararat.  Abraham was spared his son’s life on Mt. Moriah.  Moses received the 10 commandments on Mt. Sinai.  The temple in Jerusalem was built on Mt. Zion.  Jesus withstood Satan’s temptations on a mountatintop.  He was transfigured on a mountaintop.  And he ascended into heaven from a mountaintop. 

The reality, however, is that mountaintops are dangerous.  They are difficult to traverse.  They can be scary, as the higher we climb the more dangerous the fall.  Mountaintops can reveal our weaknesses, insecurities and vulnerabilities.  For all of the uplifting moments that occur on mountaintops in scripture, we also remember that Jesus was crucified on Mt. Calvary. 

In Exodus 19, the basis of our sermon this past Sunday, Moses converses with God on a mountaintop.  Among other things, God tells Moses that if any of the people touch the mountain, they will die (19:12).  Clearly these words represent the mountains-as-dangerous motif more than that of mountains-as-places-of-joy-and-euphoria.  With a slightly larger context, it begins to make sense.  The people had just come into freedom after generations of being slaves in Egypt.  God had just set them free and delivered them from danger to safety by means of a miraculous crossing of the Red Sea!  Yay God!!!  But God wants them to know that with freedom comes not just privilege and luxry, but rather responsibility as well.  That is why the words God speaks to Moses from the mountaintop are these: “If you (the people) obey my voice and keep my commandments, you will be my treasured possession…”  With freedom comes the responsibility of being faithful to God’s Word and that word and seeking to build new communities based on the commands God will give.  These commands will essentially fall into two main categories: 1) honor God – the God who saves, delivers and gives life; and 2) treat others with dignity, grace and respect.  Or, as Jesus would later put it, love the Lord your God and love your neighbor as yourself. 

With blessings come responsibilities.  God blesses us and we, in turn, respond with our faithfulness; being living expressions of those blessings in how we live as we journey forward.  That is serious business and should not be taken lightly, but it is our responsibility to the one who blesses us.  God blesses us freely and we are held accountable to those blessings.  Just as mountaintops are both idyllic, majestic and inspirational and dangerous and thus should be treated carefully and respectfully.          

Posted by Michael Karunas with

Why the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)?

If I were asked the question, “What makes the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) an attractive church home?” I would respond with why I chose this denomination as my church home. Simply put: relationships and purpose!

This denomination nurtures both relationships and purpose in the following tenets of faith:

Jesus is in fact the Christ, the Son of the Living God – part of the Triune Godhead.

Jesus came to earth fully God and fully man to make a way for us to have forgiveness of sins and eternal life with God in heaven.

Jesus helps us in our relationship with God the Father and sent the God the Holy Spirit to help and empower us to continue in the work of Christ in His physical absence.

Together, we encourage each other to explore, learn, and grow in a personal relationship with God and others. There is no dogma or specific theology enforced. Disciples form a community which fosters and demonstrates servitude, honor, inquiry, and curiosity. Ideas and beliefs are respectfully challenged through critical analysis. Disciples share unconditional love and acceptance with everyone to the end of participating in the mission of Christ: spreading the Good News of salvation, redemption, and transformation to all people groups.

I appreciate the ecumenical spirit of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Disciples have a rich history of leading efforts to bring Christians together in worship, beliefs, and action. We do this by finding ways to work alongside different communities through interdenominational relationships and endeavors.

The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) shares my understanding of the purpose of the Corporate Church. I believe the Church is to proclaim the Gospel Message in Word and deed by sharing redemption, transformation, and reconciliation made available through Christ, so that those who do not know Him may come to know Him. The Church perpetuates wholeness and wellness in a broken world. We work and serve humankind together in fighting disease, ignorance, poverty, racism, war, and oppression.

The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) allows non-judgmental space for me to accomplish my purpose: to lead others to freedom through Christ so they might go and make disciples. Simply put: The Disciples love me as I am.

You all have honored and respected my point of view and my personhood. You have nurtured, challenged, and assisted my journey in Truth, which enables me to do the Kingdom work to which I am called.

The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and Central Christian Church are a  community within which I can serve alongside others to do Christ’s Mission.

Your confidence in me helped pave the way for ordination in this denomination. I am ever grateful for that, and I look forward to our continued ministry service! I chose this denomination. Perhaps this denomination also chose me?

May the Peace of our Lord, Jesus Christ be with you today and always!

~Tina Miller

Posted by Tina Miller with

Good Wins Out in the End

I would consider myself an avid reader, but not a fanatic reader, as are some who seem to devour books.  My two sisters, both of whom are teachers, keep their local libraries in business over summer vacations, reading nearly a book a day for weeks on end.  I’m not that kind of reader, but I do like to read and have a propensity for “true” stories.  Against the back wall in my 5th grade elementary classroom, for example, was a bookshelf containing nothing but magazines.  In particular, there was a stack of Reader’s Digests (many of you remember that diminutive-sized periodical).  In every issue, there was a feature called “Drama in Real Life.”  These were tales of harrowing escapes or near-disasters, individuals braving the elements or overcoming great odds to live to tell their stories.  During free time, I remember bringing a stack of Reader’s  Digests to my desk and reading only the “Drama in Real Life” feature in each one, carelessly disregarding whatever else might have been in this issue.

Today my reading tastes have matured, but I still enjoy true stories.  Moreover, I like ones that present real obstacles and conflicts that aren’t easily resolved.  I don’t mind the main character suffering great pain, for that is the stuff of life for all of us, but I do appreciate an ending that is hopeful and shows how characters are stronger, wiser, and “better” people for having endured whatever it is that lay behind them. 

I doubt that I am alone.  We, as a society, have always enjoyed happy endings to our stories – be they in print or film, big screen or television.  We want the “good guy” to win in the end and for good to triumph over evil, and I do not believe this is by accident.  We want to know there is justice in the universe.  We would be without hope, were the things we suffer not part of a higher plan or purpose.  Our faith depends on a God who is ever-powerful and all-mighty, choosing, in the end, that the good and the just will prevail over all else.


That is the theme of the final sermon in our Miracles Happen sermon series this Sunday.  Acts 16:16-23 gives us a parable that translates well to our 21st century ears.  A young woman is held against her will in a situation we would rightly call human trafficking.  She is used by her captives because of an ability she has which they manipulate to make themselves money.  It is a sophisticated form of prostitution, but it is prostitution nonetheless.  The Apostle Paul, acting on behalf of Jesus Christ, performs a miracle and sets her free.  As a result, the girl’s captives bring suit against Paul for costing them money, but cloaking their public complaint in ways that make themselves sound noble, while at the same time stirring up prejudice among the masses.  In the end, God wins.  Good wins.  Justice wins.  Because the miracles of God not only bring immediate benefit to their primary recipients, they restore our faith in a God who forever stands on the side of justice and never on the side of those who would misuse and mistreat others for whatever reason, let alone their own personal gain.  It is a story in scripture that is easily overlooked because it stands directly between two more popular ones, but it is an important one that should not be forgotten, as it is a story of our time – for all time, and I look forward to looking at it more closely with you this Sunday.         

Blessings… Michael

Posted by Michael Karunas with

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