Sometimes life interferes with our plans. When that happens we need to set priorities and put even important things on hold until the appointed season. So I have been away from this page as other significant events have woven through my life and even the life of our congregation. These events have helped to continue to work out God’s plan and purpose which is always intended for our wellbeing. God is so faithful and worthy of our praise.
Nevertheless, it is good to return to blog with you as a way of sharing God’s love and God’s amazing grace. Perhaps in your life you have faced some difficult event or feel an emptiness in the midst of many blessings. A famous passage from St. Augustine’s Confessions (Lib 1,1-2,2.5,5: CSEL 33, 1-5 states “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” Many have been searching for life’s purpose and meaning through various practices of spirituality. Some long for the certainly of faith they saw in their parents or grandparents but not the rigid rules and condemnation of their faith.
As we enter Holy Week with its expectations, its solemn journey to the cross, and its victorious celebration of Easter joy, I invite you to revisit the momentous reality of God’s love revealed in Christ and its meaning for your life. The world around us may be in chaos but God is sovereign and God’s plan and purpose is good and certain. If you choose we invite you to join us in this journey. Worship times and address are posted on our home page. I invite you to return to this blog as we explore issues that are current and I trust will be a blessing to us all.
On Ash Wednesday churches throughout the world gather for the beginning of the season of Lent. It is a solemn time of discipleship that reminds us of our total dependency on the love and provision of God. The sign of the cross imposed on our forehead reminds us that we are dust and to dust we shall return. It recalls the reality of our mortality that we hide behind sterile doors, avoid in the franticness of busy lives and the cult of the self-made man or woman.
The forty days of Lent invites us to pause and take time to be still in the presence of God, to reflect, to repent and to be renewed but the grace of God’s love and mercy. It is a time to recall the faith proclaimed at our baptism and how it should be lived out in our lives. What does it mean to live as children of God? We look to Christ for our guidance as we journey by faith toward the cross and resurrection. The council of scripture encourages us to
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross. Philippians 2: 5-8
Sacrificial love and obedience to the will of God becomes our standard. This brings us to our need for grace and mercy, to a place of repentance for our sins of commission and omission. Yet thanks be to God it is also a place of forgiveness and renewal. We have in Christ a savior that brings us into life, renews and enables us by his Spirit to grow in maturity, love and grace. Come taste and see that God is good.
White flowers adored our sanctuary on Sunday, Nov.1th, All Saints Day, in celebration of those saints that have died in the faith this past year. During prayer we gave thanks for the lives of the saints who have preceded us to glory. Some were apostles, some were martyrs, some great theologian, evangelist, missionaries and teachers. Some of their names and stories are preserved within the inspirational words of Scripture. Others are a part of the history and traditions of the church universal. Still others have walked among us as in quiet humility known only to those whose lives they touch directly and to the all-seeing eye of God.
Saints are saints because of God’s action, call and consecration of their lives. You and I, if we have by grace professed faith in Jesus Christ and followed him through the waters of baptism to new birth as children of God, and members of his body, the church; are saints of God. No, we are not perfect, no one is perfect except for Christ Jesus our Lord. Scripture tells us that so that no one might boast in the presence of God. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, in order that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”1 Corinthians 1: 29-31 It is because of the ministry of the Holy Spirit in us, that we grow in grace and maturity. God produces the fruit of the Spirit in us as we serve in faithfulness, within God’s church militant, the church on earth, united in love and service to the glory of God. And yet we are also one with the church triumphant who now rest from their labors. Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us” Hebrews 12: 1.
On October 23, 2015 both church members and community friends gathered in our Fellowship Hall for fun, food, and fellowship. There were about one hundred and twenty prices to select from in our silent auction. A special table of select gifts was also auctions for an additional cost for tickets. The participant scouted the treasures spread among the tables and dropped their tickets in the containers for their chosen items. Everyone was a winner and some left multiple treasures. Laughter and a delicious feast of desserts, coffee, tea and cold drinks added to the gaiety of the evening. Be sure to watch for the announcements of next year’s silent auction and all the other activities of our church.
On October 3, 2015, the Brentwood Presbyterian Church hosted the Presbytery of Long Island for a day in which to study, pray and act of issues of social justice advocacy. Our day began with our plenary speaker Dr. Jim Atwood, author of “America and Its Guns”. Throughout the day a diversity of options on sensitive and important issues of these times were discussed. With open minds and prayerful hearts we approached issues such as gun control, community organizing, racism on Long Island, immigration, rural migrant ministries and criminal justice.
Christ calls us as his church to be a voice for those who have no voice, a caring and compassionate outreach to the brokenness of our day and to our neighbors in need. The issues that surround these topics are life affecting matters of justice, peace and mercy. It is our prayer that the wind of God’s Holy Spirit may blow through God’s church and through the peoples of the world that we may practice love, peace and mercy in ways that are tangible and life giving.
Saying good-bye is never easy especially when it it is to someone whom we have loved from many years. On Sunday, September 20, 2015 we gathered around the baptismal font for a service of recognition and thanksgiving for Ruling Elder Norma Campbell who is leaving our congregation and moving to Florida. She has been a member of this congregation for twenty-four years. She has served as an ordained Ruling Elder for 15 years. She has served as secretary of the Women’s Guild, sung in the choir, helped in the yard sales and fellowship meals of the church, she has been active in the prayers and compassionate ministries of the church. Additionally, she has always baked the most incredible and delicious cakes for us to enjoy.
Elder Campbell shared the significance that the church has had on her life. As the living body of Christ, the church, composed of its people have been for her a source of strength in very difficult times. Just a few months after arriving here her husband died, joining the church triumphant and she had to adjust to the challenges of widowhood and single parenthood. More recently there was the brutal death of her son, the torturous days during the court room trial seeking justice for him, and other major and minor challenges that life has presented. Through it all the faithfulness of Christ and the love of her church family at Brentwood Presbyterian Church have been her strength.
Saying good-bye is never easy even though it will be for a season. Some day in eternity we will all be together again. But for now we know that God has a new home church waiting for Norma. There she will continue to bloom and bless others; even as others will be a blessing to her. Go with God our friend. Go with God.