Pastor Mark's Weekly Blog, Uncategorized

Lent 4: Entering into the Suffering of Others

Lent Message Series: Two Years Later: Faith, Fasting, Feasting in the Midst of Fear

Lent 4: Entering Into the Suffering of Others
Eph 3, Rom 8

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
As we have been reflecting on the past two years of COVID pandemic time, many emotions are being stirred in us.  Everything from ‘let’s move forward’ to ‘this is the 1st time I’ve talked about my losses.’  In revisiting three messages from the early stages of the pandemic, (100 messages ago), “Faith and Action in the Midst of COVID19”, “God’s Word Arrives Right on Time”, and “Entering into the Suffering of Others”, our hearts are stirred in significant ways.  We have affirmed that God is our ever present help in trouble… God is our strength and salvation, we need not fear.  

God is our strength and salvation, we need not fear.

Last week we scratched the surface of our losses and fears in giving some words to the sufferings we personally and collectively have experienced.  And affirmed, there’s a time for everything, God is in the everything and with us in the everything.  Suffering sets eternity on our hearts… turns our eyes heavenward… everything God does endures forever… the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom…  And after two weeks of reflecting, a looking back in order to look forward, some may be thinking and feeling, “When can we get back to Paul?”  Soon… soon… very soon… next week! 

The stages of grief are complex – disbelief and shock, denial, anger, guilt and pain, bargaining, depression, acceptance.  I’m observing that the stage each of us is in varies from individual to individual, people group to people group.  Where are you on the journey of grief in the losses of COVID19 (past or present) and your fears (past or present)?  Moving through it?  Skipped a step?  Currently in  multiple steps at the same time?  Working through grief is far from smooth… It’s a journey of twists and turns.  But God promises us, his grace is sufficient.    

As we take one more week to look back, in order to look forward, at these three themes from 100 messages ago, we focus on an essential call of God on our lives for self-human flourishing and the flourishing of those around us, entering into the suffering of others.  Sounds counter intuitive and definitely counter cultural.  Because it is.  Perhaps, our bandwidth doesn’t seem big enough, our emotional tank full enough, nor our spiritual strength deep enough, to enter into more suffering, that of others.  COVID time has caused, led to, much sadness, lethargy, apathy, and the like.  It’s another loss experienced in our COVID time together.  

As we take one more week in this 3 week series, hang in there – with me, with one another, as we explore the deep mystery of our salvation in Jesus Christ.  Who draws near to our deepest sufferings and our most desired needs, becoming God with us in our suffering. And then calls us to do the same for others.


Lent 3: God’s Word Arrives Right on Time

Lent Message Series: Two Years Later: Faith, Fasting, Feasting in the Midst of Fear

Lent 3: God’s Word Arrives Right on Time
Ecclesiastes 3

Fast on isolation.  Feast on community.  As I write this phrase, my spellcheck wants me to correct: Fast on isolation to Fast in isolation.  So I have to keep correcting my spellcheck.  Because that is the opposite of what is correct.  Now is the time to fast from isolation.  

What time is it right now?  In worldwide church calendar time, it’s Lent, a season of fasting and feasting.  

In worldwide church calendar time, it’s Lent, a season of fasting and feasting.

It is a time of information and misinformation, of fact checkers and the checking of fact checkers, of uncertainty, loss, and fear.  Who and what have we chosen to be our dance partnersthrough this pandemic?  The past two years have presented us with an opportunity to lean into God, to be found in Him, and to have our being and our doings in Him – an opportunity to take God’s hand as he offers it in the dance.    

100 messages ago, that’s two years in ‘pastor time’, and exactly when we began to attempt ‘mitigation’ of an unseen and yet unknown microscopic virus, our text of the quarter and message that day was from Ecclesiastes 3:1-14.  We return to the scene of the crime, two years ago, the message of that day, God’s Word Arrives Right on Time

The Read Through the Bible in Three years was packed with digestible relevance as we reflect on two years of ‘don’t draw near’ by the invitation of God to draw near to his table, in community with God’s people, and having it flow out to a fellowship meal – with one another and in God’s presence.  

Come Sunday ready to feast (Communion!), fellowship over food (Bring food to share with others!), in community, in the presence of God.  See you Sunday,

Pastor Mark

Pastor Mark's Weekly Blog, Uncategorized

Lent 2: Fast on Isolation, Feast on Community


Lent 2: Fast on Isolation, Feast on Community
Ps 27, 91

The past 4 weeks, my messages have been long and packed to the gills with cultural and historical information and various scripture passages from the writings of Paul.  I promised over the next 3 weeks, as we reflect together three message themes, given at the beginning of COVID shutdowns in 2020.  It’s been fascinating to me to look back and see what early themes developed out of the shutdown.  And surprise, surprise… God’s Word is timeless!   

We will take a brief reprieve from our Paul and the Roman World series, for three weeks of looking back in order to look forward.  Then we will return to Paul and the Roman World – Engaging the Gospel and Culture for a 4 week wrapup through Easter Sunday.  

Over the next three weeks, we will look at three message themes spoken in our first three weeks of online worship in 2020: Fear and Faith, God’s Word Arrives Right on Time, and Entering into the Suffering of Others.  So where is your heart two years later?  Deeper fear or faith?  

So where is your heart two years later? Deeper fear or faith?

More engaged in God’s word or less? Have you engaged people in a relationship of significance, entered into the suffering of others?  Or have you become more isolated and cut off from the community?       

As we focus this week on faith and fear and its relationship to the Lent season, how is your faith?  Is it strong or is it shaky?  How about your fear?  Is it crippling, gnawing at the edge of your mind, or is it far from you?   And how could the themes of feasting and fasting (Lent season language) help move you from fear to faith?  I’m gonna propose Sunday that we fast from isolation, and feast on community engagement in this next season that God has given us.  

We have a Churchwide fellowship meal party planned for after the worship service on March 20th. 

See you soon – for Sunday, take another look at Psalm 27.  It rocks in terms of faith.  

Pastor Mark

Pastor Mark's Weekly Blog, Uncategorized

From Colosseum to the Amphitheater – In but not Of …

New Message Series: Paul and the Roman World – Engagement of Gospel and Culture

Lent 1: Form Colosseum to the Amphitheater – In But Not Of …
Jn 17, 1 Jn 2 and 5, Rom 12

As we continue to take a sweeping look at Paul and the Roman World, an Engagement of the Gospel and Culture, my awareness has been heightened as to the depth and breadth of the Gospel’s influence on every area of our lives.  The Gospel of Jesus Christ informs every area of our life and being.  As Acts makes clear to us, “In Him live and move and have our being.”  

As Paul fulfills his calling by ‘bringing the Gospel to the Gentiles, the rulers and kings, and to Israel”, his teachings on the implications of the Gospel on every area of life are amazingly comprehensive.  The Spirit of God works in every area of one’s life to bring about obedience and ‘worship’ of God for the glory of God.  It’s a wonderful way to live life to the fullest.  

It is a wonderful way to live life to the fullest.

So far, we’ve seen the power of the Gospel as a message, ministry, and mission of reconciliation, making ‘two one’ – one with God and one with each other.  We have seen the power of the Gospel at work in breaking down the status – status quo of the myriad of ‘isms’ that divide us.  And this week, we take a sweeping look at the Gospel’s influence on our everyday life in terms of entertainment, sport, leisure, and pleasure.  

As we look into the context of the Roman world, we see the Gospel bringing about transformation in the lives of those whom God is calling out of darkness into his glorious light – people from very different walks of life.  The implications for us in our Gospel transformation are many.  

This week, we kicked off the Lent season 2022, a 40 day journey of fasting and feasting, on our path to Easter.  As Deone and I talked about this Lent season particularly, we think a good theme for this year is ‘fast on isolation’ and ‘feast on community.’  We invite you to join us.  Something practical: a fellowship meal after our worship service on March 20th.  Plan on bringing some food to share as we ‘fast on isolation and feast on community.’  

See you Sunday,
   Pastor Mark