Posted by: pastordarren | May 29, 2020

Rituals

The rituals of our lives are very important. Maybe we don’t realize how important until we loose them for a time. I know that we are all aware of recent events that have taken many of the rituals that are so meaningful to the church, schools, communities and our very lives. What rituals am I thinking about while writing this? Things like graduations, weddings, funerals, community worship, communion, baptism, community specific and national specific events like Memorial Day remembrances, summer festivals, gathering for bbqs and birthday parties, etc.

These examples just scratch the surface of the myriad of rituals and other meaningful events that we have practiced and participated in over the years and have contributed in shaping who we are. When I talk of rituals, I am simply talking about the different events and practices in our lives that have significant meaning and often will point us to something that is bigger than us. It can be the simple family celebration or remembrance, a faith based practice, or some event in our community or across the nation.

What happens though, when these are taken away from us? Because of the COVID-19 virus, we are not able to participate in many of the things that have meaning to us. At other times in our life too, we may have to miss these rituals because of life’s circumstances. I don’t want to argue about whether or not they should have been taken away or if they could have happened in the midst of the chaos. Regardless, in all cases, something in our life is missing.

When I think about the rituals that have been taken away or even postponed, I know that it feels wrong not to be able to participate in the act as it has been, yet the important event, the milestone, the larger than ourselves reality that the ritual points to, is still very much there.

So how do we respond? One way is to gripe, moan and even attack people because what you want is not available to to you at this time. We’ve seen it happening this way in a variety of circumstances and places. By lashing out at people in ways that are not helpful, there is a greater chance of causing more riffs and issues in relationships and communities.

The other response is that we can remember the larger reality and then find new ways to celebrate and remember. This way can bring life in the midst of the loss; and renewal in the midst of frustration.

Let me give you two examples. In the church I serve, just like many other churches, we have not been able to physically worship together since mid March. One of the central aspects of our worship time is the celebration of Communion each week. Even before we went in the quarantine, we were exploring different ways to participate in Communion together, yet as we have been doing online, streaming worship, we have had to take Communion in our own homes. Does this diminish the importance of Communion and what the bread and drink point to? NO in doesn’t. We still remember the Body of Christ given for us and Jesus’ blood shed for sin. The larger reality is still there and still as powerful, yet we have found new ways to remember and expanded our understanding of how Communion draws us together as the Church.

The other example is that of Graduation. So many people look forward to graduation from high school and college specifically. Graduation ceremonies and all the events surrounding and as a part of graduation are the culmination of many, many years of work and struggle; of friendship and joys. Yet when you are unable to walk across the stage, unable to do the all night parties or the awards ceremonies, many feel let down and there is definitely a loss. Just because graduates and families can’t do the normal celebratory events and rituals it doesn’t in any way minimize the accomplishments of the students. Many schools have found new ways to for the students and families to celebrate even with social distancing. And again these new ways uncover new ways and new meanings in the journey.

In all of this, we can not let go of the meanings that we celebrate and remember although the practices may need to change. It is the meanings and larger realities that are important to remember and pass on. Whether it is personal and family, faith communities, local communities and nations, let us not forget the larger realities and find new and exciting ways to celebrate. Those may even begin to deepen the meaning and lead us to a deeper understand of who we are and why things are important.

Peace.

Posted by: pastordarren | April 30, 2020

God Brings New Life and Growth

During the summer of 2018, I had to completely dig up the Iris bed out front of our house.  I had let the weeds and grass completely overtake the area and you could’t see any of the flowers.  At one time, I tried to go through and dig the weeds out from among the flowers.  I found it easier to dig everything up, separate the weeds from the Iris rhizomes and eventually replant the rhizomes in late 2018.  It took me so long to replant, that I wasn’t sure the Iris’ would grow again.

During the spring and summer of 2019, the Iris’ did grow and I did keep up with the weeks and grasses, but we did not have the beautiful flowers that are what we want to see.  As we went into the fall and winter of 2019, I was thinking that we would not see the flowers bloom again and we may have to start with new rhizomes in the spring.  I did do the trimming and weeding and waited to see what the spring brought.

Well as 20200429_094513-1spring began to come alive, the leaves and plants began to grow again and soon I began to see the beginnings of the flower stems in many of the plants.  Then, just the other day, our first of what looks like many of the flowers opened up!

This reminded me of the scripture that talks about as we do our part in life and the church, it is God who is ultimately in control and it is God who brings the growth. 1 Corinthians 3:6-7 says, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.  So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.”  We have our parts to play, we have our gifts to share, we have our love to give, and it is God’s power that bring growth, healing, and beauty in the midst of our lives and community.

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Will you play your part in what I believe God is doing in our midst?  Make it about what God is doing and not about ourselves and the beauty of God’s grace and love will shine through each of us into our world and community!

Peace to all!

 

 

Posted by: pastordarren | March 22, 2020

Video link for unplugged worship on 3/22/2020

This is our first unplugged worship service done on Facebook live.  There are some adjustments and changes for next week but wanted to share this with you.  Check our Dallas First Christian at dallas1stchristianchurch.wordpress.com

Posted by: pastordarren | October 17, 2018

Made in God’s Image

Lately, I have been reading and listening to much that has been happening around our country.  I don’t know about you, but the way in which people are speaking about others is has gone completely off the deep end.  Whether it is someone on the other side of the political isle, someone of a different background, color, orientation, sex, ability, etc., the trend is moving to talking about and treating someone different or you don’t agree with as non-human or dehumanizing them.  A great example of the school yard bully where they make the other person feel less, so they can feel bigger and better.  This is especially prevalent in the political realm as we are approaching the elections.  The way in which our political leaders speak about and treat others set a tone within our country, and as the world sees our country.

We have got to change these actions and it begins by believing and accepting that in our diversity, we are very much the same.  Even the wisdom of the Jedi Master Yoda reminds us that at our core we are “luminous beings’.

yoda-quotes-empire-strikes-back-luminous-beings-are-we

In the Christian faith, we believe that we are all created in God’s Image.  This means that we all don’t look like God in a physical sense, but we hold within ourselves a part of our Creator.  It is seeing that Image of God in other that should help us to treat each other, speak to each other, listen to each other in ways that are very different than what is happening in our world today.  Even in our disagreement, we can still treat others with respect, dignity, and love that builds up instead of tearing down.

Will you join with me to recognize the Image of God within others, to build up those around us, and change the way in which we talk to each other in our daily lives?

Peace.

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.

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!

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