Spiritual but Not Religious

How often we hear the self-identification, “I am spiritual but not religious”. This acknowledgment of our spirituality addresses the reality of St. Augustine’s affirmation, “that our hearts are restless until we find our rest in Thee (referring to God)”. Why? Because we are spiritual beings created by God to be in relationship with God and one another. A relationship that finds its fullest expression in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ the Lord. Christ came to reconcile us with God and each other in the fullness of God’s love.

We are encouraged by Scripture to “consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another”. Hebrews 10: 24, 25 It is in the interdependence of a communal relationship of faith, grounded in Scripture and empowered by the Spirit of God, that humanity reaches its fullest potential finding both identity and meaning. It is when we understand that “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world” James 1: 27. The Christian worldview is filtered through the will of God expressed in scripture and revealed in Christ. It is one of mutual forbearance and compassion. It is one in which peace and joy is the consequence of unconditional love. No we are not perfect but by grace we continue to encourage and support one another as we seek to live out the reality of our spirituality within the expression and the faith of the Christian religion. Therefore, by grace we are both spiritual and religious and encourage others to “taste and see that the LORD is good; happy are those who take refuge in him. Psalm 34: 8.

Ministry of Compassion

The ministry of Compassion, Peace and Justice encompasses many different aspects of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Whether addressing issues around the rights of farmworkers, responding to a natural disaster or helping communities help themselves, our ultimate goal is to bring people together to reach those in need and share God’s wonderful love.

Our church participates in both the One Great Hour of Sharing and in the Peacemaking offering of the Presbyterian Church (USA) in support of the ministries of the larger church which individual churches cannot offer on their own. Additionally we have a food pantry and provided the entrée meals bimonthly for the ecumenical feeding ministry at St. Anne’s in Brentwood. Additionally, our Matthew 25 Deacons ministry reaches out with compassion to the needs within and outside of our faith community. Love is an action verb that requires good stewardship of our time, talents, and treasures.

When asked what was the greatest commandment Jesus responded – “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Matthew 22: 37-39

The Journey

A small group of faithful believers gathered by the labyrinth preparing to enter the winding path leading to its center. This symbolic pilgrimage in prayer is an ancient tool to facilitate the quieting of one’s heart that one may swell at its center in stillness before the presence of God.

The journey toward the center is a pathway of confession, a time of surrendering the stress of the day, of letting go by grace of all the things that burden and limit us. With thanksgiving and holy anticipation we stand humbly at the center in God’s abiding love. We lift our hearts, by the ministry of the Holy Spirit, in supplication and expectation. Here we receive by faith the guidance.

Here is the center we turn our heart toward others as we lift up prayers of intercession for our world, the church, and those whom God places in our hearts. Returning to silence we prepare to return to the ordinary experiences of life. With the words of the Lord’s Prayer meditatively spoken in silence we begin the journey outward. Slowly we follow the winding turns preparing to return to the living of each ordinary day in the presence of God as we follow our Lord Jesus Christ that by grace we may remember always “to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with (our) God.” Micah 6: 8

Our next Labyrinth Prayer Service is on August 12, 2015. All are welcome.

Spiritual Listening

It was the end of another Sunday School year, children came forward during the service to receive their certificates. We expressed our appreciation to a dedicated staff that nourished our children in the Biblical teachings and traditions of faith in Jesus Christ. The congregation was invited to join the children in signing their favorite chorus based on Joshua 1:9.

Be strong and courageous, do not be terrified,
for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

Over the years we have heard stories of the children (and some adults as well) singing this chorus at time in which they were afraid. Just one of these stories tells of having climbed to the top of a large water slide when courage failed one in the group. The cousins joined together to sing the familiar words of scripture affirmed in this chorus. With valor restored, they stepped onto the “boat” of the ride and were soon laughing and screaming with delight.

This may have been just an amusement ride but it was also an opportunity to put faith into practice knowing that God cares intimately about our daily lives. Jesus said that, “not one (sparrow) will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care …So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” Matthew 10:29b, 31 NIV

Sunday School begins again in September, but, there are still many opportunities for children and youth during this summer vacation. They are an active presence during regular worship throughout the year. They assist with the PowerPoint presentations, collect offerings and join in signing and prayer. They participate in recreational activities including trips to a Duck’s game and our annual church wide fishing trip out of Captree.

Children are important to God and they are important to us.
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them,
for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14

Prayer Labyrinth

Nestled among the pine trees on the south side of the church our labyrinth and Prayer Garden welcomes the faithful for times of prayer and meditation.

A labyrinth is both an ancient and a modern classic symbol of journey and spiritual renewal. It is a defined pathway of prayer that twists and turns as it leads the participant to the center and out again. In our hurried pace of 21st century lifestyles, the labyrinth invites and encourages us to slow down and enter a centered place for prayer and meditation that refreshes and renews ones spirit.

Whether the path is entered on a solitary journey or within community worship it is a form of embodied prayer. It is both a physical and a spiritual path. For many the centering practice of labyrinth walking facilitates spiritual enrichment and strength for the journey of life. Here in God’s presence we can surrender our guilt, acknowledge our need and find grace and strength.

Our outdoor labyrinth and Prayer Garden is open to all who wish to engage in prayer and meditation in this sacred space. In addition to its availability for individual prayer and meditation everyone is invited to join with us during community prayer services on July 15th, August 12th and September 9th. All are welcome!

An Unexpected Call

A call comes unexpectedly. There has been an accident, a possibility that one who is young and full of life may not be able to walk as a result. In a moment of time life that we so often take for granted hangs in the balance. We pray for mercy and peace as the unknown is faced. We dare to pray for a miracle as a community of faith United as one in love. With hope we wait upon the grace of God.

This time the news is good. Praise God! Sometimes changes or ends in an unexpected instance. “For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die…a time to weep, and a time to laugh…” Ecclesiastes 3: 1, 2a, 4a.

How do we face the truth that no matter how hard we may try we are not in control? How do we face our fears when they confront us in the reality of our mortality and the brokenness of a fallen world?

We must turn to the One who is in control, the One who has promised never to abandon us, the one who walks with us “through the valley of the shadow of death” into the light of God’s perfect love in Jesus Christ our Lord. Christ has promised the gift of peace- he said, “my peace I give to you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid” John 14: 27. We can face the uncertainty of life as we trust in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever.