Posted by: pastordarren | December 25, 2017

A Journey to Christmas

Luke 2:1-14

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.”

The birth of a baby changes things.  Whether it is your first or you have had several children, when that baby is born, your life is never the same.  There are diapers to buy, feedings, sleep disruption, visitors, challenges, joys, good times and bad.  As your children grow, we realize that their presence also changes the world and others lives in ways we could never imagine or predict.

I imagine it was similar with the birth of Jesus, yet the difference He made was so much larger in scope.  The difference that one life made would impact the world in ways we, even today, cannot fully understand.  Born that day, laid in a manger in the town of David was a baby who is the Messiah, Christ the Lord!

I pray that this Christmas morning will be one that is full of celebration, fun and joy.  Remember why we are celebrating and remember that the birth of Jesus in not just meant for one day, but is to make a difference each and every day of our lives.

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.”

Peace!

Prayer:

Lord, may the birth of Jesus continue to transform and change my heart and through me the world around me.  Help me not to live in fear but joyful expectation and anticipation of Your coming into the world.  Amen.

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Posted by: pastordarren | December 24, 2017

A Journey to Peace

Luke 1:26-38 – In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.  The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.   .  .  .

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

I’m pretty sure that if I were to receive a visitation and message similar to Mary, I would not have the peace that Mary shows at the end or her encounter.  But I’m also not sure she had this peace all throughout her encounter.  Luke says that she was ‘greatly troubled’.  As the angel continued the message and answered her questions, Mary’s heart changed to one of peace and acceptance of God’s plan.

Mary, in this short time, trusted in God’s plan, in God’s presence and received the gift of Peace (beyond understanding) that I believe carried her through her pregnancy.  

We too, can know this peace because we can know the presence of God as we trust in God’s plan and presence in our own life.  We also have an advantage over Mary in that we know the end of the story and can ‘read ahead’ to know how it progresses and how God fulfills the promise of Jesus.

Today, on this Christmas Eve, I pray that we all trust deeper in God’s plan for us, for the church, for the world, and know God’s peace in a deeper way that carries us through life.

Prayer:

Gracious God, may Your peace flow over us as we trust in Your plan and presence in our lives.  Amen.

Posted by: pastordarren | December 17, 2017

A Journey to Joy

Isaiah 61:1-3 – The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.  They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.

This third Sunday of Advent is focused on the Journey to Joy.  Too often we connect joy and happiness when in reality they are not the same thing.  Happiness is usually based on feelings, on circumstances being pleasant, on things being the way we want them to be.  Joy, on the other hand, can be experienced and received even when things are not as we feel they should be.

The text from Isaiah above, which Jesus reads and says it is fulfilled in Him (Luke 4:18-21), tells us about Joy.  No one wants to be brokenhearted, captive, mourning, etc.  Yet, as this text is fulfilled in Jesus’ life and ministry, we are lead through the darkness, through the illness, through the mourning knowing that Jesus walks with us.

We are waiting to for the better things to happen; freedom, healing, light; yet because Jesus is there and we have faith in Him, we have joy in the midst of the journey, we have joy not because of our circumstances, but because of WHO is with us and WHO walks with us through life.  As we walk in joy, trusting in Jesus, we then show God’s glory and splendor to all who see.

Prayer:

Gracious God, You know that going through life is not easy and You never said it would be.  You did send Jesus to walk with us and show us a better way to live our lives.  A way that brings Joy and shows others Your glory.  Help us today to live lives of Joy as we trust and walk with you.  Amen.

Posted by: pastordarren | December 10, 2017

A Journey to Love

Mark 1:1-4 – The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, as it is written in Isaiah the prophet: “I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way” — “a voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’”  And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins

The Advent Scriptures seem to be working backward in time.  Last week we saw the return of Jesus, here we see John the Baptist announcing the coming of Jesus in the words of Isaiah the Prophet (40).  His message was one of repentance and God’s forgiveness of our sin.  

Wow, what a gift of Love that the God of the universe loves us so much that Jesus was sent that through Him we can have a life that is reconciled back to God! (John 3:16)

This is what and more importantly WHO, that John is announcing and who is coming one the scene to speak of God’s Love and God’s Kingdom and to also live out that Love for all the people.

In Advent, we see the gift of Love that is given to the world through the gift of Jesus.  Let us receive Jesus and share that love with all around us, announcing to all who would hear that Jesus is coming!

Prayer:

Gracious God, we thank you for loving us even when we don’t love you and those around us.  Thank you for Your grace and forgiveness that we know through the gift of Jesus.  Amen.

Posted by: pastordarren | December 3, 2017

A Journey to Hope

Mark 13:24-37

I have always thought that including scriptures that talk about the end of times and being ready for the coming of Jesus seem odd and out of place during Advent.  Aren’t we supposed to be focusing on the birth, the angels, the shepherds, Mary and Joseph?  These images of the end of times just don’t fit.

But there is a theme that seems to weave it’s way through, a theme of expectation, a waiting for something that is different, better, a theme of Hope for the coming of God’s rule and reign in the world today and forever.

The people before Jesus were waiting for the coming Messiah, we wait for the return of the Messiah.  We are all waiting in expectant Hope.  

The signs of Christmas are around us (and have been for a while) and the signs of Jesus’ return are around us too.  We know when Christmas is coming and hopefully we can be ready for the day.  We don’t know when the return of Jesus will be or even what it will look like, but we are called to be ready and be waiting with Hope.

As we begin this Advent season, a season of waiting, let us have the hope of Jesus for a better today and a better tomorrow.

Prayer:

Gracious God, we look forward to celebrating the gift of Jesus, given to us as a baby as well as celebrating the gift of Jesus in His return.  Each offer us a new Hope, a new vision of what it can be here on earth as it is in Heaven.  Amen.

Posted by: pastordarren | November 10, 2016

Moving Forward Together

Eight years ago, as the country was preparing to elect Barock Obama, I had a lady in the church I served, who was adamantly against his election. In the days following his election, she came to the church and shared with me the following words, “I didn’t vote for him, but he is now my president. I will do what I can to support and respect him.”

I have never forgotten those words and they came back to me during this election.  Donald Trump has won the election and there are those who are angry, there are those who are glad.  I don’t agree  with much of President Elect Trump’s views, actions and plans.  The question is, “How do we go forward in this new reality?”.  A reality that shows a significant and sharp division.

There are going to be many different answers to this and we have seen some of them playing out already.  There are those who are name calling (continuing to do call names), protests (violent and peaceful and not my president), celebrations, fear, mockery and even the talk if moving to a different country.  I don’t believe that this type of response will make any difference.

For me, the answer begins with the following words, “He has shown ypu, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”. “Love God and love your neighbor.”. These important words from Scripture are words that focus and guide our actions and words.

For me, no matter who is in the White House, the real work of caring for our neighbors, uplifting those who are down, loving as God has called us to love and providing where there is a need is done in the communities through out this nation and begins in the hearts, homes and lives of each person.

I don’t know what the future holds but through my faith, I want to work toward a better future for all.  Let’s role up our sleeves and continue the work of serving and caring for all.

Peace!

Posted by: pastordarren | September 11, 2015

Remembering and Healing

This will probably be like many posts today, but still wanted to share.

As I begin the day today, I am remembering the events of that fateful morning 14 years ago.  I was late to the breakfast worship committee meeting (as usual) and had a tape on in my truck which means I did not hear about the attacks until later that morning.  Stunned, angry, hurt and shocked, I with most in the country watched as the events unfolded through out the day.  Praying for those in the towers, Pentagon, the planes and the first responders, we watched as first responders continued to go into those areas to rescue and help all they could.  Many at the cost of their own lives.

Later that afternoon, I attended a prayer service at another church.  One of the hymns we sang was “It is Well With My Soul”.  I sat there thinking it is NOT well with my soul and to this day, even knowing the story behind the hymn, I struggle with singing it.

Over the years, there has been many things that have come out of the events of that day, war, increased security, uncertainty, but there has been healing and rebuilding and remembering as well.

It is still not well with my soul.  I have come to know that none of the hate, violence, attacks, etc., whether in our country, our cities, and our houses and around the world should be well with our soul.  We must continually work toward healing, forgiveness, and loving our neighbor.  This is the call of God shown through Jesus and the scriptures.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Darkness can not drive out darkness; only light can do that.  Hate can not drive out hate; only love can do that.”  Let us bring healing as we remember as we love our neighbor, as unlovable as they may seem, and in doing so, push back the darkness in our world.

Peace.

Posted by: pastordarren | January 1, 2015

Into 2015

I found the follow poem in a recent cartoon, Non Sequitur, and wanted to share it with you. You can view it online at WWW.arcamax.com/the funnies/nonsequitur/s-1596101?ezine=323

image

Your Story

What’s going on here? Where is this place?
Who are all these people? What do they want?
And, why? Who are the “good guys”?
And who are the “bad guys”?
Is this the story’s beginning? Middle? Climax?

These are your questions.
There are no wrong answers.
This is your story.

Now go ahead and jump in.
Let your imagination run free.
Your story can be as long or short as you like.
You can write it alone or make it a team project with family or friends.
It’s entirely up to you!

I think the imagery in these simple words caught my imagination as we go into 2015. We don’t know what the year will hold for us, our families, our church. There are a lot of different ways in which we can approach our new story in the new year, with fear, anxiety, and uncertainty. Or we can have hope, joy love, peace and faith in our God who loves us and gives us grace and in community with our church family who is growing together in relationship with our God.

I am looking forward with faith to see what stories will be written this year and how God will be present throughout all of them. Someone once said, “I don’t know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future”.

What and who will your story include this year? It is my prayer that whatever is included in each of our stories and our collective story of the church, they will be written together with God in faith and grace!

Peace.

Posted by: pastordarren | December 8, 2014

Prepare

Prepare – Mark 1:1-8

The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, as it is written in Isaiah the prophet:

“I will send my messenger ahead of you,     who will prepare your way”— “a voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord,     make straight paths for him.’”

And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

As we begin the second week in Advent, I hope we have been focusing on watching the signs around us for the coming of Jesus. As we have watched, we now move into preparing for the coming of Jesus, with the story of John the Baptist.

Sometimes in life we don’t have the opportunity to prepare for an event. The surprise of something comes upon us and overwhelms us and we then have to play catch up.

John the Baptist, takes the role that Isaiah writes about, in preaching and preparing the people for the coming of Jesus’ in His ministry. John begins by calling the people to repentance and baptism in the Jordan River. As they did so, he also reminded them that there was another coming who would baptize with the Holy Spirit.

I’m guessing that many of us have begun to prepare for the Christmas season with decorations, gifts, music and other festive things. Have we though, as we have watched the signs, began to prepare our hearts and lives for the coming of Jesus?

Another way to ask is that are we helping to prepare our families, friends, neighbors, community for the coming of Jesus in ways that will “. . . make straight paths for Him” in the hearts and lives of those around us?

As we prepare ourselves, let us too, help prepare the path for those who don’t know and may not have been watching for the coming of Jesus.

Prayer: Father God, help us to prepare our hearts and lives for the coming of Jesus and use us to help prepare others to receive the coming of Jesus too. May our hearts and lives be open to receive Him as He comes to us today. Amen

Posted by: pastordarren | November 30, 2014

Watching and Waiting in Anticipation

Watch – Mark 13:28-37

 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.

“Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn.  If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’”

As the horizon begins to brighten, even just a little, begin to watch for the coming of the sun.

As the buds appear on the trees, we know that spring is coming soon.

The Jewish people had been waiting for the coming of the Messiah for hundreds of years. Looking for the signs, watching for His appearance, waiting for the hope and Kingdom that was to come.

Jesus, in the passage from Mark, reminds us, that even though He had come, there was still another coming and that we were called to wait expectantly and watch the signs and for the returning at the end of time.

As we begin the season of Advent, we begin a season of waiting in two different times. The signs of the season are all around us, yet do we see the truth they are pointing to. We are waiting and watching for the birth of Jesus that we celebrate at Christmas. We are waiting for this event that has already happened and yet will happen again. We are also waiting and watching the signs that will point to the coming of Jesus again, even though we are told we don’t know the time or day.

Prayer:

Most holy God, thank you for providing signs of Your presence and signs of Jesus’ comings. Help us to keep our eyes open to watch and be aware of what those signs point to so that we will not miss the coming of Jesus into our world and the coming of Jesus to lead us into the next. Amen.

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