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.

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

Seven Woes! Jesus’ Call To Be The Real Deal!

Blog banner with the image of a highway and the word: "Journey" for the study of the Book of Matthew.
We are on a journey with Jesus and his disciples through the Passover week teachings of Jesus.  Jesus teachings during this time become increasingly passionate.  After overturning the outer courts of the temple and sparing with the religious leaders, he now launches into a sevenfold warning against hypocrisy.

Some would call this a ‘tirade’ after reading it (Matthew 23:1-39).  Jesus goes after the appearances.  He goes after masks and facades.  He goes after preaching one thing but then practicing another.

If I had to boil it down, Jesus is calling his disciples to be real – to live authentic lives in following Him.  He does this by calling his disciples once again to humility, service, and the worship of God alone, following Jesus alone. 

When reading the text for preparation of Sunday’s message, what do you think Jesus is going after?  And what is Jesus calling us to do and be?  Jesus calls the religious leaders many different names, “Blind!  Whitewashed tombs!  Snakes!  Brood of Vipers!  Hypocrites (5x’s)!”

This teaching of Jesus can’t be denied, pushed aside, or explained away.  Matthew puts it right in front of us where we can’t miss it.  Title of Sunday’s message: Seven Woes!  Jesus Call To Be The Real Deal!   Matthew 23:1-39 

See you Sunday,

Pastor Mark