Memory verse for this week: Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. — Psalm 100:3

  • 9/17 – John 10:27-28
  • 9/18 – Romans 14:8
  • 9/19 – 1 Corinthians 6:19
  • 9/20 – Galatians 3:28
  • 9/21 – 2 Corinthians 1:21-22
  • 9/22 – 1 John 3:1
  • 9/23 – 1 John 4:4

Pray the week: Lord, help me to recognize that I belong to You, and because I belong to You, I belong to the great family of faith.

You
BELONG!

Bless the LORD, O my soul; and all my being, bless his holy name. Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.

Everyone needs a place to belong. A place that fits you like a favorite pair of jeans or that comfortable sweater. A place where you feel welcome. A place that makes you strong, that supports you, that stirs you up. That’s the way we’re made – to be together — experiencing life with others. And yet, Vance Packard calls America “a nation of strangers” and studies show that 4 out of 10 people experience feeling of intense loneliness. Peek behind the curtain and you’ll find people hungering for fellowship, community, and family.

The Bible uses a lot of metaphors to describe the Church, but the most persistent is that of belonging to a family. In the New Testament, believers call each other brothers and sisters and, in his letter to the Church at Ephesus, Paul writes: “Now you…are not foreigners or strangers any longer, but are citizens together with God’s holy people. You belong to God’s family.

Maybe there’s a pew here that fits you just right. Maybe you’re as comfortable here as you are in your favorite pajamas. On the other hand, maybe you’re here for the first time or for the first time in a long time. Maybe you never felt like you really belong somewhere. Maybe you’ve never known the blessing of being a part of something as big as the family of God! Either way, I’d like to share with you something that Solomon wrote about the benefits of belonging:

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lay down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. In his unparalleled wisdom, King Solomon says, “Two people are better than one…” He then goes on to describe three benefits of belonging: strength, support, and warmth.

Strength – Solomon saw a principle that holds — none of us can do alone what all of us can do together. There is strength in numbers. You know how it is when church has events. There never seems to be volunteers to go around, but when a few people join together, miracles start happening. None of us can do everything, but all of us can do something. We are strong together.

The Jerusalem church was a hodgepodge of believers from a lot of backgrounds, with different personalities, and sometimes conflicting opinions, yet they found a way to work together. They understood there is strength in numbers. And because they did, lives were changed — history was changed. Our belonging here, our joining ourselves to Christ, makes the same miracles happen today.

Support – belonging to a church family provides support. Solomon anticipated the “I’ve fallen and I cannot get up” commercial. “Two are better off than one, because… If one of them falls down, the other can help him up. But if someone is alone and falls, it’s just too bad, because there is no one to help him.

Jesus is all about helping people up, isn’t He? He helped the dead to rise, He helped Peter when he was sinking. He helped the woman caught in adultery and publically humiliated to stand again. Jesus set the example and asked us to live it. That’s what we’re supposed to do for one another. Belonging to God’s family provides us with the strength to get more done and the support we need to get through troubled times.

Warmth – Belonging to a church family provides spiritual warmth. “Two people are better off than one, for… two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone?” While this is practical advice for a nomadic people living in the desert, it also serves as spiritual metaphor. You don’t have to live in a tent in the tundra to feel cold and alone. When someone is separated, alone, apart from family, our fire starts to go out and our spirits grow cold.

A pastor went to visit a man who had been absent from church for some time. When the pastor arrived at the house, his parishioner was sitting by a fire of glowing coals. The man fully expected his pastor lecture him about church. But instead the pastor drew up a chair alongside the fireplace where the man was sitting just peering into the fire. With the tongs the pastor reached into the fire and took one of the red hot glowing coals and placed it by itself out on the hearth. In no time at all the coal began to lose its glow and in a few minutes it was cold and black. The man looked up into the face of his pastor who hadn’t said a word and he said “I’ll be there next Sunday.”

That warmth you feel as we worship together here today — that’s your coals being stirred. That’s your passion for Jesus, your love for God and for people being rekindled. Belonging to a church family that you worship with and fellowship with fans the flames and keeps you spiritually warm and truly alive.

Everyone needs a place where they belong, where people smile when you arrive and say, “See you soon!” when you leave. Maybe your family is far away, maybe you’re feeling alone, or maybe you could just use a new friend or two. God doesn’t just call us to believe; he calls us to belong.

The entire Bible is the story of God building a family that will support, strengthen, and stir one another up to love — and he created you to belong to it. Belonging, we can say together Bless the LORD, O my soul!

This week’s memory verse: As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace — 1 Peter 4:10

  • 9/10 – Malachi 3:10
  • 9/11 – Matthew 6:19-21
  • 9/12 – Proverbs 3:9
  • 9/13 – Isaiah 55:2
  • 9/14 – Proverbs 3:9-10
  • 9/15 – Proverbs 19:17
  • 9/16 – Luke 12:15

Pray the week: Lord, grant that all the gifts I have received may be used to fulfill Your mission, entrusted to me: To love my neighbor.

Love is
hard – and worth it.

when he saw him, he had compassion, and went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; then he set him on his own beast and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper

In the course of less than half-a-day, the Samaritan had the courage to walk up to a total stranger who was in trouble, used his personal store of oil and wine to clean this stranger’s wounds, bound the stranger’s wounds with his cloths, gave up his ride to let this stranger ride, took the stranger to an inn where he took care of him – meaning he fed him, kept him company, and assisted the stranger in every way he needed (consider he was likely taking care of the stranger’s bathroom needs too), and then having to leave, took from his own money and offered that too. He also pledged to come back again and make up any difference. These things cost, and pretty dearly. Beyond the outright cost of oil, wine, bandages, rides, a place to stay, and two days wages ($405 average in New York as of today), the Samaritan lost at least a day’s business. This little escapade – helping the stranger – likely cost the Samaritan at least $1,000 in today’s money.

Interestingly, economists have spent a lot of time and effort in studying Jesus’ parable. Jesus isn’t just for philosophers, theologians, and clergy anymore. “The Good Samaritan and Traffic on the Road to Jericho” by Ted Bergstrom studies situations where people encounter an unsatisfactory state of affairs and must decide whether or not to act or leave it for someone else.

Bottom line, the question of “Who is my neighbor?” involves estimating the cost and deciding on whether it is worthwhile or not. It is sad that we still ask this question, still count the cost. Look at the News or social media and we see debate – who is my neighbor? Many want what the lawyer wanted – that some people are not. The immigrant is not, the person with the different skin tone is not. The person whose religious beliefs are different or who has no religious beliefs is not. No, according to God we must be neighbor to all. We must act.

The stranger was hurt by violence and neglect. He was saved by one who saw him as neighbor. Jesus, the Samaritan, touched the unclean, went to the lost, outcast, and those in need. Jesus spent it all – far more than $1,000 – His very life – to save His neighbors.

What does it look like to love someone, to act? Is anyone off limits? Is any cost too high? Is any mile too far? Are there boundaries? Jesus’ answer to the lawyer in us is that we must have no boundaries or limits. We have been touched by complete love. Our response is to act, to pay it all, and to find complete joy and satisfaction in loving like Jesus.

We are that place where you can belong. Come join us. Invite someone. Sing it out on your way here. You are invited.

Join in on Back To Church Sunday, September 17th. Services at 9:30am and 11:30am with a community breakfast at 10:30am. We look forward to seeing you!

This week’s memory verse: Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted — 2 Timothy 3:12

  • 9/3 – John 15:18
  • 9/4 – Matthew 5:44
  • 9/5 – 1 Peter 4:12-14
  • 9/6 – 1 Peter 3:17
  • 9/7 – Matthew 5:10
  • 9/8 – Luke 6:22
  • 9/9 – 1 John 3:13

Pray the week: Lord, grant that I may resist the allure of acceptance and success and remain faithful to You.

Why take
it?

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

A question some of us face as we serve the Lord is, ‘Why should I take it?’

I started taking it in my youth. I was in church every day, so I heard today’s gospel and God’s word along this theme over and over. It may not have made much of an impression on me except for the fact that I was that odd kid. You know, the kind other kids either do not like or cannot relate to. Today, we call those kids victims of bullying. In my day, there was no label. You just suffered. By my teenage years the world finally found a label for me – nerd. Nerd – a foolish or contemptible person who lacks social skills.

Why was I odd – I had no dad. My father died when I was four. Forget father-son events. I had no one to teach me boy things – sports and such, and I was uncoordinated anyway – I’m sure you’ve noticed. I lived in a house full of women, so I got them. I learned to cook and clean – what a nerd.

Beyond that, I liked being with adults. Most of my relatives were significantly older – so I learned how to talk to them and relate with them. On the other hand, I never really learned how to relate with my peers.

Oh, and I loved church. While many saw it as an obligation, I just loved being there. I found Jesus’ parables to be the best stories ever – I got them. And best of all, Jesus said that if I lose my life, if I am persecuted for His sake, I will have everlasting life, eternal joy. So, I learned to take it. I didn’t fight back or resist. I had reason to take it. Ironically, for all my love of the church, I still had to take attempts at abuse from my pastor. Even in God’s house I couldn’t be safe.

Somewhere in my school career, that all came together. I learned the term: unconditional love. God loves each of us totally. We cannot earn it, pay for it, give anything for it. He just loves us. Cooking, cleaning, uncoordinated, nerd – He loves me. That’s why. I must serve the Lord and take it for His love.

As I became successful I lost my innocence. I learned to fight back, to stand my ground. As that happened I grew further and further from the Church and serving God. That’s the consequence, isn’t it? If we stop living sacrificial lives, if we want to gain and win, we lose.

Thankfully, God’s love will not let us be. Like Jeremiah, we cannot resist serving Him. Our thirst for God’s unconditional love is greater than any person, persecution, or challenge. Why should I take it? Why should I serve? For greater love, for life!

Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.

Did you ever wonder why we do what we do at church? Not the Holy Mass as an act of God directed worship or educating our youth as God has commanded so that they may have knowledge of the fullness of God’s love – those things are pretty straightforward. No, I mean the investments we make in church infrastructure for the future. Since the beginning of 2012, we have taken on twenty-two major infrastructure projects. This month we are replacing the entire sidewalk along the side of the church and have made major repairs to the church hall floor with the entire floor soon to be updated. Do you wonder why? If it were about dedication to just a building, or to memories, it would not be a wise investment. After all, what is a church without people, or memories without people to share them with. Grabbing onto Paul’s Letter to Timothy, we find the real reason for investing. It is about you! Paul exhorts us to guard the good treasure entrusted to us. We have Jesus in our midst and we have you in our family. The Holy Spirit guides us in what we do so that you may have a place, a home, and a family. A place to belong. We invest – we invest so the church is there for you – we invest so you may belong to and rejoice in being God’s precious treasure.

Join us this September as we celebrate brotherly love, take up a collection for the victims of Hurricane Harvey, and welcome you to a ‘Place to Belong’ on Back-to-Church Sunday, September 17th. There are lots of activities, a new kids corner, and best of all, a true sense of belonging.

You may view and download a copy of our September 2017 Newsletter right here.