Gardendale Nazarene

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Archives for June 2019 | Pastor's Blog | Gardendale Nazarene

The Conversation of Faith

Last week, we began a four-week series on the Psalms of Orientation. Sometimes, the Psalms are seen as quaint poems that we use during difficult days or at funerals. I hope during this series, you will see the deep truths they teach us.

Walter Brueggemann reminds us of the beauty of the psalter, “The Book of Psalms provides the most reliable theological, pastoral, and liturgical resource given us in the biblical tradition. In season and out of season, generation after generation, faithful women and men turn to the Psalms as a most helpful resource for conversation with God about things that matter most.

The Psalms are helpful because they are a genuinely dialogical literature that expresses both sides of the conversation of faith. On the one hand, Israel’s faithful speech addressed to God is the substance of the Psalms.

The Psalms do this so fully and so well because they articulate the entire gamut of Israel’s speech to God, from profound praise to the utterance of unspeakable anger and doubt. On the other hand, as Martin Luther understood so passionately, the Psalms are not only addressed to God. They are a voice of the gospel, God’s good word addressed to God’s faithful people.

In this literature the community of faith has heard and continues to hear the sovereign speech of God, who meets the community in its depths of need and in its heights of celebration. The Psalms draw our entire life under the rule of God, where everything may be submitted to the God of the gospel."

This week, as we look at Psalm 113, I pray that you will open your heart to God's good word addressed to you.

Breathe New Life

We usually look at the church calendar as having two significant Sundays throughout the year- Christmas and Easter. These are two very important Sundays, but there is another that usually is left off the list. Not only is this an important event in the church year, it is also in two days! This Sunday is Pentecost.

Pentecost is the celebration of the birth of the church. It is a fulfillment of a promise made by Jesus just one chapter prior to the event’s recording in Acts, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

The word “Pentecost” means “fiftieth” and refers to the fiftieth day. Pentecost Sunday occurs 50 days following Easter Sunday (counting Easter Sunday since it is the first day of the week). Those 50 days span seven Sundays after Easter, so Pentecost is the seventh Sunday after Easter (7 weeks times 7 days = 49 days, plus Pentecost Sunday).

There’s a lot to celebrate at Pentecost and I’d like to give you something to think about as you prepare your heart for worship this Sunday.

As most of you know, we just returned from a trip to the Pacific Northwest. It was a celebration of our 20th Anniversary coming in a couple weeks. We drove over 2200 miles in a rental van from Seattle up to Vancouver, BC and then down through Washington, Oregon, and finally California.

One of the National Parks I was looking forward to was Redwoods National Park. It’s indescribable. Let me make two statements- I love trees and I love woodworking. With these two loves, it was hard for me to walk pass huge fallen redwoods and not think of what could be made from the dead wood lying on the ground. It seemed like a waste–rotting wood just lying there.

As we hiked along a trail, I noticed the ferns growing on the older fallen redwoods. These where not little ferns, some of these ferns were four feet tall (I attached a picture below). As I studied these fallen giants, I realized the ecosystem living on the forest floor nurtured by the rotting trees. There were mosses, lichens, ferns, worms, other trees, bugs, chipmunks, and squirrels (and this is just what we could see).

One afternoon, Jake and I hiked a few miles by ourselves and one question kept going through my mind, “Isn’t this just like our creative Creator?” What I saw as a waste, God’s creation was using to bring about new life. In the mighty Redwood’s death, new life was being formed, nurtured, and thriving.

In just two days, we come together to celebrate what God did in a group of people hiding in a room. They had seen their Lord crucified, buried, and resurrected. But it all seemed like a waste, didn’t it? Then our creative Creator said, “I’m not through bringing life to your pain, loss, and suffering. In you, I’m bringing about something new- a people shaped by their Lord and the good news of resurrection.”

We all experience pain and loss. We all have those moments where life feels like a waste. The question for us this Pentecost is, “Are you going to allow your Creator to bring about something new in you?” What about our church? Will we allow God to breathe new life into us?

Our Creator is a creative God. Pentecost is the day we celebrate a community called together to worship the one true God; to confess His Son Jesus as the one true Lord; to live as disciples conformed to His love as displayed on the cross by the power of the Holy Spirit, and to live as people participating in His new creation even now. That's the church!

May God breathe His forming, nurturing, and life-giving breath into your lungs this Pentecost!