Using Our “Talents”

After a long absence, the master of those three servants came back and settled up with them. The one given five thousand dollars showed him how he had doubled his investment. His master commended him: “Good work! You did your job well. From now on be my partner.”
Matthew 25:19-21 (The Message)

This passage from Matthew’s gospel is part of a larger story often known as “The Parable of the Talents.” Talents were a denomination of money during the time of Jesus. The parable tells how three servants were trusted with differing amounts of money to manage while the master was away. Two of the servants invest the money and provide their master with a good return. The third is afraid of his master and buries the money. The master is angered by the lack of initiative and gives the servant’s money to the first servant (whose interaction with the master we read above.)

We have an exciting opportunity to be good stewards of our finances and help fulfill our mission of “feeding our neighbors as ourselves!” But, we will need your help to make it a success!

We have the opportunity to partner with the Community Foundation of the Ozarks (CFO) and to participate in the first annual Give Ozarks Day on May 5th. Give Ozarks Day is a one-day on-line giving event that is being sponsored by CFO. Leading up to May 5th and during the day we will be using social media, e-mail, word-of-mouth, and just about any other method we can think of, to publicize this event. The main goal is to raise money for the Bread of Life ministry, but also to make an even-wider group of people aware of this important ministry within our community.

CFO’s goals for the day are to raise awareness of giving opportunities to support nonprofit organizations, create new donors, provide an extra source of support for nonprofits, and to enable nonprofit organizations to build endowments. Our goals are to raise awareness of the Bread of Life ministry, and to raise funds to support that ministry. This is an opportunity for us to raise awareness and support from outside the congregation for this important ministry.

Over the next couple of months we will be giving you much more information, about how you can participate, both before May 5th, and on Give Ozarks Day itself. Please be watching and listening for that information. BUT, we have an important way that you can get involved right now!

Right now we are trying to raise $500 to begin the process. This $500 will enable us to open an account with CFO and participate in Give Ozarks Day. We have been averaging about 75 in worship every week, so we could make this goal if everyone gave an extra $7 in worship this week. That’s less than two drinks at Starbucks! (Of course, if you’d like to give more… We aren’t going to turn that away!) I will have a special box at church for this special offering, or you can simply make a note on the memo line of your weekly offering of the amount you would like to designate for Give Ozarks Day.

Let’s all commit to helping make this exciting opportunity a resounding success for the Bread of Life!

Week of Compassion Special Offering

It’s that time of year again when we are given the marvelous opportunity to share in the abundance of needs of our sisters and brothers by contributing to Week of Compassion. Our annual special offering will be collected on February 15th and 22nd. By the grace of God, all of us have the power to give, and the gifts we give make the world more the way God intended it to be—a place where everyone has what they need. Together, we can achieve a fair balance on this planet we all share, giving right back to God what God has so richly bestowed upon us.

The Apostle Paul modeled this ecumenical offering in his Second Letter to the Corinthians, making an appeal to the early Christian communities to respond to those in Jerusalem who had just experienced a devastating famine. Thus, Paul’s ecumenical, church-wide offering was not only practical in leveraging funds so they could make the most impact, together, but it was also one of the first visible expressions of the early Church’s unity in Christ. This offering, or ministry, was a way for Paul to model the unity of all believers and to provide a pragmatic mechanism for demonstrating their care and concern for one another—even if they did not know each other personally. Just as we do through Week of Compassion.

The Week of Compassion offering reaches those near and far, sometimes changing the life of someone in distress in your own congregation or community, and at other times impacting the lives of those we may never meet but who are in desperate need of our compassion and generosity. God provides the gifts and resources so that we can give back. It’s not the size of the gift that matters; it’s that we give of what we have. We’re simply giving back to God what is already God’s—and everyone has a gift to bring!

“For if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has—not according to what one does not have. I do not mean that there should be relief for others and pressure on you, but it is a question of a fair balance between your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance” (2 Cor. 8:12-13). The Message translates it this way, “Nothing left over to the one with the most; nothing lacking to the one with the least.” So our abundance becomes their need and their need becomes our abundance. Have you ever thought of it this way? What would happen if all of us made choices based on this concept? These are the questions we hope you’ll ask your congregation to reflect upon during this offering season.

As the Church in the world, through Week of Compassion, we have the opportunity to act in one accord as the body of Christ, to ensure that all of God’s children have what they need. This is the offering that Paul was promoting, and this is still our ecumenical ministry, all these centuries later. Together, we can achieve a fair balance, bringing about a world the way God intended it to be.

Thank you for your leadership in promoting this “ministry to the saints!”

Valentines Date Night

Remember those quiet Valentine’s Day dinners before you had kids?  It doesn’t have to be a thing of the past.  The youth of Marshfield Christian Church will be hosting a Valentine’s Day fun night for kids of all ages.

Saturday, February 14, 5:00-9:00 p.m.
Marshfield Christian Church
$5 per child

We will have games, activities, movies and food.  Please RSVP by February 7 to Loralee by text, voice or email.

**We will be using the money raised to fund future youth activities.**

Relay for Life Participation

It’s Relay for Life time again.  We have not had a team in a couple of years and last year it was suggested that we have a Battle of the Churches (like the Battle of the Banks).  I will be the team captain and hope you will join me in the fight against cancer.  Email, call or text me to let me know you are interested!

Tammy Winters

 

Bread of Life Sweetheart Dinner

Bread of Life will be hosting a ‘Sweetheart Progressive Dinner’ on Saturday, Feb. 7th. Tickets are on sale now for $20 in advance and $25 at the door (tips welcome). Seating will start promptly at 5:00 pm and go through 7:00 pm. All proceeds raised will go to help support the Bread of Life. Childcare will be provided by Miss Kelli.

If you have further questions or to purchase tickets, please contact Lacey Stokes.

Disciples Women Fellowship

After several years of service in the Disciples Women ministry of planning, preparing and serving meals to the families of those in bereavement, Audrey Neas, has stepped down. We thank Audrey for her many hours spent in this ministry comforting families in grief by serving a meal. At the next Disciples Women meeting on Sunday, February 1, at 8:45 a.m. in Fellowship Hall, plans will be made to determine how the ministry of serving a meal before or after funerals/memorials will be handled. To make this ministry work the best for everyone, lots of ideas and volunteers are needed. At some point in time every family experiences the loss of loved ones. Please come on February 1 to Disciples Women. With the help of many, the best plan for this ministry will evolve.

Every woman who attends Marshfield Christian Church is welcome. Disciples Women has a new meeting time. It is the first Sunday of each month in Fellowship Hall. Gathering time is 8:45 a.m. Light breakfast items will be available. After visiting with each other over the light breakfast, the above will be determined and a video discussion lesson will follow.

 Disciples Women – Fellowship Hall
at 8:45 a.m.
on Sunday, February 1.

It’s A New Year Already?

Have you put the wrong date on anything yet? I haven’t, but I am sure the time is coming soon! Writing a check, or signing paperwork and putting last year in the date is how I know I’ve entered a new year… There’s just something about making that mistake, and putting up a new calendar on the wall, that makes the new year something special.

The transition between years is also a significant time in the life of a community of faith. We have new faces in leadership, we come up with a new budget, and often find a renewed sense of hope. The new year brings with it a sense of possibility, the hope that this is the year we realize our hopes and dreams. We have lots of things we wish will come true in the coming year, or at least will begin to be realized. At least I have hopes and dreams for our church, I expect you do as well.

Eleanor Roosevelt once said “It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan.” She was right. I can wish all day long, but without a plan, without something concrete to do, I’m not likely to make any progress toward those goals. There are many things I wish we could do in the coming year(s). But, what plans have I made?

I suspect many of us would like to see some changes, whether that is a renewed focus on education (VBS, Sunday School, etc.), or an intentional look at our worship, or even something as mundane as thinking about what it means to be a member of a church. There are changes that we would like to see, adaptations that would make our community more healthy, more vibrant, more the community God is calling us to be.

But, without a plan, those wishes, those hopes, those dreams, will remain just that, wishes, hopes, and dreams. Mahatma Gandhi encouraged people to “be the change that you wish to see in the world.” And that, I believe, is excellent advice. So, are you willing to “be the change” you would like to see this year?

There are a few areas where we need some help and leadership in the coming months. If you read this list and find that God nudges you to help, please don’t ignore that push. Instead of putting your energy into ignoring what God is saying, put that energy into responding. Give me a call, or text me, e-mail me, message me on Facebook, or talk with me at church… Just let me know how I can help you be that change you want to see.

  • — Vacation Bible School – we need volunteers to organize and teach on a weekend this summer. The materials are ordered and will be here in the early spring, but we need to get a date set and start making plans.
  • — Sunday School – beginning this summer we need to add in at least two classes, one for elementary age kids and one for youth. We need people to help teach these classes.
  • — Worship – we always need help planning and leading worship and preparing and running the PowerPoint presentations. It’s easy to do and we will help train you!
  • — Service projects – we could always use a hand with Bread of Life, but we also need to be actively looking for other ways to serve those in our community. What are your passions and talents? I’d love to talk with you about how we might partner with you to make a difference in our community.

What else do you think God may be calling you to? Prayer Group, Small Group, Mentoring, Marriage Enrichment, Parenting Support, …, the list of possibilities is limitless!

May 2015 be a year of planning and action as we become the changes we long to see!

Happy New Year!

Word Made Flesh – John 1:1-18

 

I have misplaced my MP3 recorder, so no audio this week. (hopefully I’ll find the “safe place” I stored it before next Sunday!) But, here’s the text of the sermon… God bless!

—–

Our Bible brings us four stories of the life of Jesus, the Christ. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John (the four gospels) each tell a slightly different story because they have different audiences, and different purposes for telling their stories. Scholars believe, with very little dissension, that the order of these stories in our Bible does not reflect the order in which these stories of the life of Jesus were written.

Most scholars believe that Mark was written first, then Matthew and Luke, and John’s gospel came pretty late in the game. One of the primary reasons for this conclusion is the way in which the fourth gospel is written. By the time that John is penned, we are starting to see theology enter into the mix. John doesn’t simply retell the story of Jesus’ life, rather we are led on a theological journey. John wants to answer the question “What happened?” But, he also wants to answer two other questions, “Why did it happen?” and “What does it mean to us?”

Today’s text is a great example of this theological focus in John’s gospel. To give you some reference, let’s take a moment and look at how the other 3 gospels begin telling the story of Jesus:

Mark begins with a declaration about who Jesus is: The good news of Jesus Christ—the Message!—begins here, following to the letter the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Then the story continues to tell of John the Baptist and how Jesus comes to be baptized and then goes into the wilderness.

Matthew’s gospel is written for a primarily Jewish audience, and so his writing begins by detailing the lineage of Jesus, showing that he is a descendant of Abraham from the House of David, which are two vitally important aspects of the Messiah.

Luke begins by stating outright that his writing is the result of much research, then goes on to tell the story of Elizabeth and Zachariah, the old couple who miraculously conceive a child. Then Elizabeth’s young cousin, Mary, also conceives in a miraculous way.

Do you notice the similarities? Each of these gospels situates Jesus in a tradition of miracles and prophecy. John really isn’t all that different, but John begins with a twist. He doesn’t start with Abraham, or the Prophet Isaiah… John situates the birth of Jesus in a much more foundational place. Did you hear it?

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Maybe this will help:

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.

Abraham and Isaiah won’t do for John. He starts the story of Jesus at creation. As God spoke creation into being, Jesus, The Word, was with God, was God. John makes the bold claim of Jesus’ divinity in the first 14 verses of his gospel. For John, the good news was the word God’s creative redemptive spirit became flesh and lived among us.

Or, as The Message puts it: The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.

The rest of John’s gospel is really about showing this point, Jesus the Christ was God with flesh on.

In a culture where the Roman gods were often taking on human form and behaving in all sorts of mischievous ways… John argues that the TRUE God, Yahweh, the God of Abraham and Isaac, the creator of heaven and earth, also took on the form of a human. But this God did something different. No dalliances with women, or golden fleece in this story. The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood, so that all of humankind could be restored to a right relationship to God.

That, my friends, is powerful stuff. As Paul writes in Philippians:

Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.

And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross.

It is powerful and poignant. But I still ask the same questions John tried to answer, “Why, and What does it matter to me.” It’s great that Jesus was God and came to save you and I from our broken, sinful lives. But what does it mean today. After all, Paul was right when he wrote to the Romans:

I am of the flesh, sold into slavery under sin. I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.

Jesus lived and died, was buried and rose from the grave, so that we might be free from the grasp of sin. Yet, we are not free. We struggle each and every day. Several times each day we have to hear the voice of Jesus reminding us “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”

I am thankful for my salvation. I am thankful beyond words for God’s gracious forgiveness of my sins. But what I really need most days is God with flesh on. Most days I am like Thomas, needing to see the wounded flesh of Jesus. Most days I find myself longing for the opening to John’s theological treatise about Jesus to be true, here and now. Most days I need God to take on flesh and blood and move into the neighborhood.

I don’t think I’m alone in that. Am I?

—–

I remember a story, I think it was told by Anne Lamont, of a little boy who is afraid of the dark.

One night after his mother has put him to bed, as a particularly scary storm rolled in, she heard her young son crying for her from his room. As mothers do, she rushed to see what was wrong. As she sat on the side of the terrified young boy’s bed he begged for her to come and sleep with him. He sobbed, “I don’t want to be alone in the dark.”

Knowing she had an important meeting at work tomorrow and knowing that she wouldn’t get any sleep if she slept in her son’s room, she sought to reassure him. “You are not alone,” she said. “God is always with you.”

The little boy’s sobs turned into outright crying. Between the tears he wailed, “I need somebody with skin on!”

—–

We are all like that little boy sometimes. We all need God with skin on. But Jesus lived millennium ago and the disciples saw him ascend to heaven. So what are we to do?

The answer is both astoundingly simple and painfully difficult at the same time. We are to live into our name, Christian. Christian quite literally means “little Christ.” By nature of our faith and of our baptism, we are called to be “God with skin on” for those around us. And they are called to be “God with skin on” for us.

That’s why we are part of the family of God. It’s why we are a part of the community of faith. It’s one of the ways in which we live into the promises we make as we are baptized.

So, if you are wondering what you would like to resolve to do in the coming year, I have a suggestion….

I’m going to make 2015 the year of being God with skin on. And, while I’m at it, I’m going to be intentional about giving a word of thanks when someone is God with skin on for me. I can’t wait to see how God transforms my life.

Will you join me?