Week of October 29, 2017

Here is what is happening in and around Christ the Redeemer this week:
First, DISCIPLESHIP HOUR:  We begin a new session of our two classes on Stewardship on Sunday, October 29 starting at 9:00 am. You can participate either in Bishop John Guernsey’s teaching on Biblical Stewardship Principles or Joshua Matlack’s Discovery of our Own Gifts and Passions. The Children’s component continues as well. I strongly urge you to take advantage of these rich resources.
Second, Our ANNUAL CHILI BOWL event takes place on Saturday, November 4. It begins at Lafayette Park with an all-ages touch football game (4:00 pm) and then concludes with a ‘Chili’ dinner and cook-off at the church at 5:30. Break out your cleats and your favorite chili recipe and plan now to join in on the fun. (Note: the church will be open at 3:45 for those who wish to drop off their chili before heading to the park).
Third, the ANNUAL SYNOD for our Diocese takes place November 2-4, 2017 at McLean Presbyterian Church, McLean, VA. As in the past, the Synod focuses on one major aspect of our common life on Thursday night and Friday, and concludes with the business of the diocese on Saturday morning. The theme for this year is ‘Catechesis for a Time of Exile’.  The guest speaker is Dr. Gordon Smith from Calgary, Alberta. The teaching aspect of the Synod is open to all. Pleases check out the diocesan web site for further information. Please pray for our delegates: Father Brian, Janie Atwood, and Pete Fraser.
Fourth, some PASTORAL NEWS:
Charlie Watkins was released from the hospital on Wednesday this week. Praise God that this phase of his healing is over and the next phase of his recovery begun. Pray for the doctors as they discern the best way forward for his treatment, and for Charlie and his family as they seek God’s good and gracious will for his life.
Janis and I travel to North Carolina Friday in preparation for her dad’s funeral on Saturday. Please pray for all who gather that the time will be blessed with God’s presence and filled with gratitude for Dave Arnold’s life.
Looking forward to worshiping with you all on Sunday.

Week of October 15, 2017

Dear Friends,

The Weekly Update is being sent out early this week, because there are two important events to be aware of before Thursday:

TONIGHT, Tuesday, October 17th at 6pm, we have a wonderful opportunity to interact with two Egyptian missionaries coming to speak to us about their work mobilizing the Egyptian Church to reach out to the people around them and how we may partner with them in prayer and other ways. A pizza dinner begins at 6pm in the Fellowship Hall. If you have ever wondered how to reach Muslims (in the Middle East or here at home), this is a great opportunity to find out and have your questions answered. All are welcome and encouraged to come!

Tomorrow, Wednesday, October 18th is the deadline to sign up to provide a  Thanksgiving food basket for Ghent Area Ministry. If we are to meet our goal, we still need four more baskets. Please contact Anne Reed Harper at amrharper@gmail.com if you can contribute and for more details. The baskets will be collected November 8, 2017.

Week of October 15, 2017

Dear Friends, there are several upcoming opportunities for enrichment and service:

Discipleship Hour classes will return this Sunday at 9 am.

Wednesday, October 18th is the deadline to sign up to provide a  Thanksgiving food basket for Ghent Area Ministry. If we are to meet our goal, we still need five more baskets. They are asking for a specific list of foods, so if you are interested in contributing, see the flyer on the table in the Fellowship Hall, or contact Anne Reed Harper at amrharper@gmail.com for more details. The baskets will be collected November 8, 2017.

Tuesday, October 17th we have two Egyptian missionaries coming to speak to us about their work mobilizing the Egyptian Church to reach out to the people around them and how we may partner with them in prayer and other ways. A pizza dinner begins at 6 pm in the Fellowship Hall. If you have ever wondered how to reach Muslims (in the Middle East or here at home), this is a great opportunity to find out and have your questions answered.

Saturday, November 4th is our annual Chili Bowl. A touch football game for adults and children will begin at 4 pm at Lafayette Park and at 5 pm a chili cook-off and meal will follow in the Fellowship Hall.

Looking forward to worshiping with you on Sunday +

A Reflection from the Daily Office


For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you.”

1 Corinthians 11:23

We come to the heart of Paul’s revelation, and to the heart of the Christian life. We come to the apostle’s sacramental understanding of life within the New Age. It seems foolish to attempt to explicate that theology within a short reflection, but I found myself drawn to do that this morning.
Note, where he begins our text (he began this train of thought in Chapter 10, but we pick up the argument in the middle of chapter 11):
For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you.”
Paul claims that he received the instructions for the Lord’s Supper (11:20) directly from the Lord, and not (as he says in Galatians) from his fellow apostles. Think about that for a moment. It was vital to the Risen Lord not only to reveal the reality of his victory through death, but to connect this victory with the ceremonial rite he established himself.
As a Jew, Paul would already be prepared for such a connection through the God-given, God-directed nature of the Passover meal.  He emphasizes this in the previous chapter where he argues that to ‘eat’ and ‘drink’ this meal is to ‘participate in the altar’. But that is not the focus of this present paragraph. Here the objective nature of the sacrament takes primary place:
For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”
THIS meal is the means for the Church to PUBLICLY PROCLAIM ‘the Lord’s death’ to the world!
To publicly proclaim that in and through THIS death, Jesus has become the Lord of lords and King of kings. That in his person, the Creator of all has judged and broken the power of evil AND given birth to his new creation, his new world. And we are to go on making such a proclamation (through the participation in this meal) ‘until he comes.’ The apostle is fully aware that, though the ‘New Age’ has been given birth through this ‘death’, the ‘Old Age’ remains, and will remain until the Lord returns.  The Church (and the world) now lives in this ‘between-time’, with all the complications that reality brings.
But while the objective reality of the sacrament is at the forefront of his thought, our subjective experience of that reality is not far behind.  We ‘proclaim’ that ‘death’ as the transformative moment within the cosmos every time we gather to eat this meal; BUT, whether we ourselves ‘benefit’ from it is another question.
The apostle speaks with horror of ‘eating and drinking’ in an ‘unworthy manner’.  Those who do so ‘will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord’ AND will find themselves actually ‘eat(ing) and drink(ing) judgement on (themselves).”  He goes on to comment that THIS is the reason why ‘many of (the Corinthians were) sick and ill, and some (had) died!’  He says this matter-of-factly, but not without hope! Even this act of ‘judgement’ –illness and death—is but part of the gracious ‘discipline’ of the Lord, a discipline for our good ‘so that we may not be condemned along with the world.’
So, what is his admonition to the Corinthians who find themselves ‘profaning the body and blood of the Lord’, and thus, being so disciplined?
They are to ‘judge themselves’ (11.31) before they come to eat, and do so in light of ‘discerning the body’ (11:29).
What might ‘discerning the body’ mean in this statement?
Three things come to mind:
First, we discern the ‘historical body’ of Jesus, the Christ, and confess that in and through his life, death, and resurrection, the Creator of all has acted decisively in history in order to fulfill his purposes for his creation. This is to take the PROCLAMATION emphasis of the meal seriously.
Second, we discern ‘the body and the blood’ of our Lord in and through the ‘bread and the wine’ of the eucharistic elements. We need to receive these things from his hands in order to ‘participate’ in his victory and reality. This is to take the PARTICIPATION emphasis of chapter 10 with utmost seriousness.
And Third, we need to discern ‘the Church’ –our brothers and sisters in Christ—as the present day ‘body of Christ’ in the ‘between time’.  THIS is the primary concern of the apostle in this section of his letter. THIS lack of discernment of the ‘Body of Christ’ is what led to the ‘sickness and death’ within the Corinthian community. THIS forms the emphasis of his teaching for the rest of the epistle (chapters 12-15).  His concern is for the CHURCH –real-live-groups-of-not-yet-perfect-human-beings—to BECOME and BE the CHURCH!
This, it seems to me, is the flow of Paul’s argument. What might that say to us today?
Are we as a community of faith, by the way we are living our lives, PROCLAIMING, PARTICIPATING in, and BEING that BODY in and for the world during this ‘in-between-time’?

Week of October 8, 2017

Dear Friends,

Our annual time with our Bishop is fast approaching, and I am anticipating a wonderful weekend. Let me share with you the frame for the weekend:

On Friday night, Bishop Steve will have dinner at our home and spend the evening with Janis and myself (It is a great kindness to me at this stage of my ministry not only to have a godly bishop, but one whom I consider a great friend as well. I do not take that lightly).  It will be good to spend some time with my pastor and friend.

On Saturday morning Bishop Steve will spend time with our Leadership Council (9:00 am through lunch). Last year the bishop helped crystalize our reflection on our situation, and then guided us in setting the agenda for the work we have been doing this past year. We are eager to share with the bishop our new ‘3-5 Year Goal’, and seek his help in developing the strategy that will see it fulfilled. I ask your prayers for this time of reflection and deliberation.

Then, on Saturday afternoon and evening, Bishop Steve will spend some time with our 13 Confirmands (ending with dinner). Our bishop takes the ‘laying-on-of-hands’ seriously, and believes that these sacramental rites are truly milestones in people’s lives and catalysts for growth. Again, I ask for your prayers for those who seek God’s grace for this time in their lives.

Sunday morning Bishop Steve will address our community at our special ‘Discipleship Hour’. We will pause our two classes and invite all associated with Christ the Redeemer to come at 9:00 am to meet and greet the bishop, hear his heart for the churches of the diocese, and ask any questions you may have about our common life. I urge you to take advantage of this opportunity.

Then, following the Confirmation and Communion service, we will end the visit with a special Reception during Coffee Hour, and send off Bishop Breedlove with our prayers.

A full weekend, no doubt, but one of immense importance for our life and witness.

Here is how you can help make the weekend the best it can be:

First, commit to pray for the Bishop, the leadership of the church, the confirmands, and all involved in the service, that we would all be open to the Spirit’s speaking and guiding.

Second, plan on coming to the ‘Discipleship Hour’ to meet and greet the Bishop.

Third, consider helping out with the reception. We will purchase a cake for the ‘Confirmands’, and the Gyorfi Home Group is coordinating the food. If you would like to supplement their offering, please let Lauren know what you will bring– lauren_g_smith@yahoo.com).

Fourth, if you cannot be present at the Discipleship Hour please make sure that you are on time for the worship service. We will begin with a Procession at 10:15 sharp.

Looking forward to worshipping with you all on Sunday.


A Reflection from the Daily Office


O LORD, God of vengeance, O God of vengeance, shine forth!”

Psalm 94:1

How else can I explain my response to the latest atrocity, the latest destructive event, that has been unleashed in our land and within our consciousness. And this latest is the worst! Hurricanes are devastating, sure enough, but we do not blame them for being so! We simply prepare ourselves to endure them, and to pick up ourselves and our communities after them.
But acts of terror are different! Especially seemingly meaningless acts of terror! These are devastating. These are unfathomable. These are overwhelming. These are difficult to deal with; and so we do not!
We become ‘numb’! We retreat from its horror; we draw back from its irrationality; we cocoon ourselves emotionally waiting for the horror to pass—waiting to get back to the living of our lives.
But as Christians, this response simply will not do!
‘Numbness’ is the response of a morally relativistic culture, a culture that has lost its ability to deal with the categories of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, with ‘good’ and ‘evil’.  When we truly believe that nothing is intrinsically good or right, then we have lost our ability both to understand and to deal with acts of meaningless terror. Such a culture becomes ‘numb’ to such acts.
This latest ‘seemingly-meaningless-act-of-terror’ was NOT a morally neutral act! It was ‘evil’ through and through. And we, as Christians, cannot be morally neutral towards ‘evil’! If we dare name it as such, we must deal with it as such.
So how do we do so?
There are many answers to that question, but I found myself drawn to the Psalmist’s dealing with his own experience of evil in Psalm 94 (last night’s psalm set for Evening Prayer).
Note his complaint (v. 4-7):
(The wicked) pour out their arrogant words; all the evildoers boast.
They crush your people, O LORD, and afflict your heritage.
They kill the widow and the sojourner, and murder the fatherless;
And they say, “The LORD does not see; the God of Jacob does not perceive.”
 But note as well to whom the psalmist makes his complaint (v. 1-2):
‘O LORD, God of vengeance, O God of vengeance shine forth!
Rise up, O Judge of the earth; repay to the proud what they deserve!’
 In a morally relativistic age, those words are troubling and problematic.
But in a moral universe, created and governed by a holy, righteous, loving and powerful God, they are instructive and hope-filled.
The psalmist prays to the God who alone can exact vengeance in accord with his loving purposes for his creation.  He names the evil that he sees and then cries out to the One who alone can deal with it. Now, to be sure, the psalmist desires that this One ‘will bring back on them their iniquity and wipe them out for their wickedness; the LORD God will wipe them out’ (v.23).  However, his morally questionable end goal does not take away from his morally charged beginning point. He cries out to his Creator to set his creation right! And trusts that—one day—he will do so!
The psalmist consciously lives within a moral world, and consciously chooses to align himself to the morally right and true and good and beautiful. He champions ‘good’ and utterly opposes ‘evil’.
But note as well, the Psalmist knows that to take such a stance has personal consequences.
Blessed is the man whom you discipline, O LORD, and whom you teach out of your law.”
 If we dare cry out to the God of creation to deal with the evil within his creation, we need to be open to his dealing with the ‘evil’ residing within ourselves! And this, first and foremost of all.
So,by all means, let us cry out for justice, for the utter destruction of evil. Let us not become ‘numb’ to it.
 But let us first cry out for the means of grace to deal with that which continues to afflict us.