Taking the Next Step
As we look to the end of the year in a little over a month and even begin new year in the church with the season of Advent this Sunday, I want to take a moment to share with you what I hope to make priorities for our church in the coming year:
1) More opportunities for church-wide fellowship: We are a busy church with a lot of ways to serve others. When we do happen to get together for a time of fellowship, we always have a good time and our faith is strengthened by one another. I hope to make these kind of opportunities for us to gather a regular part of our church life. For a start, come out for our Christmas Musical Program on December 18th at 7 pm, and stay for a cookie reception and time spent together!
2) Diving deeper into God's story: Our Scriptures hold such a wealth of wisdom and inspiration for the life of discipleship. In our worship in the year to come, I hope to focus more in depth on some parts of God's story that hold a challenge for us as we seek to live faithfully. We'll start it off this week with a new worship series "Unleashing Christmas!" Between now and Christmas, we are going to look at how Christmas is more than a just a heart-warming, joyful celebration but also an amazing act of God that utterly changes how we see and live in the world.
3) Filling our community with everyday blessings: Here at Port Church, we tend to do things according to the motto: Go big or go home! We make an amazing impact on our community because of the way we do things in a big way, but there are so many little ways that we can impact our community each and everyday. In the coming year, I plan to focus on growing how much of an impact we make in these little ways as well. More details to come on this in the new year!
4) Preparing for and discerning the future: Last month, I shared with you how I sense that God is calling us to some new work that we have not dreamed of yet. Since then, I have heard from some of you about the glimpses you have seen of that future. There remains a lot of work to do to prepare for and fully discern God's vision for this village church with a mission to the world. We need to complete the restoration of our large stained-glass window (we have currently raised about two-thirds of the money needed), we need to repair our office steps that have been growing steadily worse with each winter, and we need to fully support the global missionary work of our church. If we get our house in order, we will be ready to hit the ground running when we discern the Next Step for our church.
Please pray for our church and especially for the Next Step that God has put before us!
Blessings on the journey, Jim
Sunday's Sermon Snippet: Thanksgiving Everyday (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
Near the end of his first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul gives a series of short commands to them: "Rejoice always. Pray continually. Give thanks in all circumstances." While short and simple, these commands are certainly not easy to fulfill. The problem is not so much with the verbs - rejoice, pray, give thanks. These are all things we hope to do as a regular part of our lives. The problem comes with the timing - always, continually, in all circumstances. How can we rejoice always when sometimes life is just plain hard? It helps to remember that joy, unlike happiness, is not dictated by the outward world. We can choose joy even when it is hard to do so. How can we pray continually? We have to do other things, right? Perhaps we can grow to live our lives as a prayer. Instead of seeing prayer as a phone call to God that is over when we say "Amen" and hang up, we can see prayer as an ongoing conversation with someone in the same room with us. Even when neither of us is talking, we are still together and strike up the chat again at any moment. How can we give thanks in all circumstances? This may be the hardest of the three. There are certainly circumstances that give us little to be thankful about - when bills arrive in the mail, we see a child struggling, violence overtakes the peace of the world, or our car won't start in the morning. Paul is asking for a tall order by wanting us to give thanks in those circumstances. Yet he tells us that this is God's will for us in Christ Jesus. Earlier in the letter, Paul talks about God's will in connection with our growing in Christian maturity and being made holy by God. These three instructions are God's will for us because through them we can grow in our discipleship. It is not about how completely and perfectly we live out these commands but about how striving after them deepens our relationship with God. May we attempt to live in connection with God joyfully and thankfully everyday!
This Week's Prayer for Growing a Thankful Heart
The Celtic Christians had a tradition of "bless to me" prayers in which they asked God to make the mundane, everyday, even difficult things of life a blessing. These prayers help us to find the beauty of the everyday world that we may overlook, to claim the blessing in the mundane tasks of our day, and to seek God in the difficult circumstances of life. As an example, if we struggle with opening the mailbox for fear of bills, we can pray, "Bless to me this mail that brings news to my home. Bless to me these bills that have given heat and light to my home and healthcare for my body. Bless to me the writing of checks that gives those who have served me the money they need to live." The "bless to me" prayer is a way of focusing on the blessings of life that are hidden in things we tend to avoid. This week, try this type of prayer as a way of living out your thanksgiving everyday!
Living in Community
Please continue to pray for Tristan, Mark, Larry, and Sue and their healing.
Thank you, Davida, Keith, Dalton, Zach, Hunter, and Dinah for your help cleaning up the barn in preparation for our Nativity!
This Week at Port Church
Tuesday, November 22
9:00 - 10:45 - Office Hours
Thursday, November 24
Office Closed - Happy Thanksgiving!
Sunday, November 27
9:30 am - Worship: "Unleashing Christmas: Resurrecting Life"
11:00 am - Sunday School
Advent Bible Study Begins November 28
Drive-thru Nativity - December 9 & 10, 7-9 pm
Christmas Musical Program - December 18, 7 pm
Christmas Eve Service - December 24, 7 pm
News and Updates
Find out what is going on at Port Republic UMC this week and in weeks to come!