The final word is never that of warning, of judgment, of punishment, of a barrier erected, of a grave opened. We cannot speak of it without mentioning all these things. The Yes cannot be heard unless the No is also heard. But the No is said for the sake of the Yes and not for its own sake. In substance, therefore, the first and last word is Yes and not No.Karl Barth
God’s YES repudiates our no; God’s YES overwhelms our no; God’s YES is the final answer to any and all no’s. When we begin to realize this truth of God’s unconditional love for us, we can begin to be transformed as a people following the risen, loving God.
A word about office hours, pastoral counseling, and visitation. I am available to meet and will happily do so if you contact me to set up a time. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the church office if you do not have access to email.
~ Rev. Nick
Lent is the liturgical season in which Christians prepare for Easter through prayerful and solemn penance, and contemplation of mortality. Lent is derived by shortening the Old English word lencten which means “spring season.” It begins with Ash Wednesday and ends some forty days later on Maundy Thursday. The forty days of Lent represent the forty days Jesus spent fasting in the desert before beginning his public ministry. Unfortunately, some Baptists have viewed the observance of Lent as being associated with “works righteousness.” It seems this view misses the depth and richness of Lent. Lent offers us a chance to reflect, respond, and strengthen our relationship with God. It also demonstrates a practice that is ecumenical, transcending denominations.
Traditionally, Lent has been observed by giving something up; it could be meat, alcohol, coffee, sweets, dairy, or any number of things. The sacrifice is in part meant to demonstrate our reliance upon God and emulate Jesus. An alternative to sacrifice could be taking something on as opposed to giving something up. This could be by way of community service or volunteering or kind acts or donating to a charity that you normally wouldn’t. A third option is a hybrid of both, such as giving up your afternoon coffee purchase and instead donating the money to a charity that provides clean drinking water for those in need. There are obviously any number of ways to observe Lent.
The essential factor is using your observance to deepen your relationship with God and prepare your heart for Easter. Regardless if you choose to participate in Lent or not, I hope and pray God’s blessing upon you during this season.
~ Rev. Nick
We can disagree and still love each other unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist.James Baldwin
While the Bible gives advice on how to be angry – slow anger (James 1:19), when you are angry do not sin (Ps 4:4), again “be angry but do not sin” (Eph 4:26) – the Bible does not say it is wrong or that we should never be angry. There are instances and circumstances in life that calls for anger, and our anger is very much appropriate. In Mark 3:5, “Jesus looked around at the people of the synagogue (who had stubborn hearts) with anger.”
In Matt. 21:12-17 Jesus is angry at defilement within the temple and overturns the money tables. Paul in Col. 3:8 condemns passion without qualification. Just like Jesus in the aforementioned verses, there are times when anger is qualified and justified.
We should not allow our anger to cause us to sin, but instead use it as a catalyst for positive change and action. It is those circumstances that we ought to take the example set forth by Jesus and use our anger for matters of justice, truth telling, working for the oppressed, and hopefully in the end we can reach reconciliation with those whom we are angry, by God’s grace.
~ Rev. Nick
Salt has many properties: it enhances flavor making them savory, it has the ability to preserve, and salt has qualities that enable it to heal. Jesus doesn’t call his followers to be salt, Jesus declares that they already are salt. We, the church, are salt. We are here to add flavor to this world, to help preserve one another, and heal those who are hurt or wounded. We should to strive remember that, “If the salt has become foolish, then it has no power.”
Theologian Stanley Hauerwas reminds us when Jesus called his community together Jesus gave its members a new way to live life. He gave them a new way to deal with offenders – by forgiving them. He gave them a new way to deal with violence – by suffering. He gave them a new way to deal with money – by sharing it. He gave them a new way to deal with problems of leadership – by drawing upon the gift of every new member, even the humble. And he gave them a new way to deal with death – by offering hope through the resurrection.
May we continue to be salt and live together in this community of believers.
~ Rev. Nick
So often as a kid and teen I would hear that the Beatitudes are just that, attitudes that you should be, as if they are something to seek out and try and become. However, what Jesus imparts to us in the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount here is not a prescription, but a description. The Beatitudes describe a community already following God.
The people Jesus speaks about in his Beatitudes are a hopeful people – people who live with the knowledge and trust that all of life is in God’s hands. These people are referred to in Greek as makarios. Makarios has been translated and understood in a variety of ways; the most common translations are blessed, happy, and fortunate.
A translation I’ve come to greatly appreciate comes via the Spanish bienaventuranza – which can simply mean “blessed,” but also translates to English as “a good adventure to you.” The late liberation theologian Jorge Lara-Braud, said in regard to this translation of bienaventuranza in the Beatitudes, “We all know that adventure means risk, the courage to defy the odds, the refusal to play it safe.” To follow Jesus is not safe; following Jesus is an adventure full of risk.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is foolishness to a world who mainly seeks to climb mountains and remain there. As a community of believers who believe Jesus came to turn the world upside down, to comfort those whose backs are against the wall, I say confidently we are both foolish and blessed, and I look forward to serving you as your pastor on this adventure.
– Rev. Nick