What a joy and privilege it was to conduct the wedding of a young couple from our church last weekend. The wedding and reception occurred at Camp Hope, which is near Hope, BC, which made for a very beautiful and ideal setting for a wedding. I would like to thank the leaders of Wolf Creek Community Church for supporting me in this ministry. You may or may not know that this is one of three weddings that I’ve been asked to officiate this summer. Accordingly, marriage ministry is a key pastoral priority for me at this time. For your information, I (often in partnership with my wife, Joy) generally have four to six premarital conversations with a couple, which allows us to develop a meaningful relationship and explore various themes/issues related to marriage. Then of course I also officiate the actual weddings. Please join me in thanking the Lord for blessing the first chapter of this marriage ministry and please ask him to bless the remainder of the premarital conversations and weddings that will occur, which begin this weekend.
On Easter Monday I wrote about how to more fully experience Easter. I’ve always enjoyed the Easter season, but this year, more than ever, I feel called to help others more fully experience the joy of the resurrection. Accordingly, I refer again to N. T. Wright, who writes that “we should be taking steps to celebrate Easter in creative ways: in art, literature, children’s games, poetry, music, dance, festivals, bells, specialty concerts, anything that comes to mind” (Surprised by Hope, 256). So how are you being intentional to celebrate Easter this year as the great festival that it’s supposed to be? Wright goes on to say, “If Lent is a time to give things up, Easter ought to be a time to take things up. . . . The forty days of the Easter season, until the ascension, ought to be a time to balance out Lent by taking something up, some new task or venture, something wholesome and fruitful and outgoing and self-giving” (257). So what new thing do you feel called to take up at this time, to help make Easter the season of new life that it’s supposed to be? As for me, although I officially began it during the season of Lent, this blog is a new ministry that I feel called to do at this time, and it is giving me life in this season of new life. I invite you to begin some new life-giving activity this Easter, and let the Lord use it to breathe new life into you. He has risen!
As some of you know, I often write a “Pastor’s Note” in the weekly bulletin that is distributed at the Sunday worship service. This is one avenue for communication that I try to utilize. But since the office computer and copier are down right now, which prevents a bulletin from being produced, I thought I’d write a Pastor’s Note on my blog instead. This Sunday (April 22) I have the privilege of conducting the wedding of Susan Schafer and Anthony Eisses, a young couple who have been attending Wolf Creek Community Church (WCCC) in recent months. It’s always a joy to walk with a couple on their journey of courtship and marriage. Accordingly, we met five times for premarital conversations, and now the big day has finally come! I want you to know what a privilege it is to represent WCCC in this way. As I conduct their wedding, I do so as pastor of this church, so I’m grateful that the leaders of WCCC have allowed me to do this. Please pray for us as we travel, for me as I conduct the wedding, and for Anthony and Susan as they begin their married life together. Finally, please note that because of the long distance that we’ll be required to travel this weekend, I won’t be in the church office on Tuesday, April 25, but I do plan on being present there on April 25 and 26. You are invited to contact the elders and/or any member of the Pastoral Team of WCCC if you have any pastoral care needs in my absence. The Lord bless you and keep you!
I had a good conversation with someone after the April 15 worship service that led me to wonder if it would be beneficial to follow-up on the sermon. Upon reflection, I felt that I didn’t adequately address the concept of dying and rising with Christ as the way to stop worrying and to more fully trust in the Lord. Marcus Borg, whom I referred to in the sermon, says that another way to describe the process of dying and rising with Christ is to be born again (The Heart of Christianity, 117). I’d like to suggest that perhaps another way to describe dying and rising with Christ is to surrender. So what does it mean to surrender to the Lord? This is roughly how I answered that question after the worship service: “It’s about getting up in the morning and committing yourself to the Lord and at the end of the day thanking him for all his help and blessings. It’s about being honest with your sin, failures and limitations, but not letting them stop you; rather, you press on, trusting that the Lord will provide grace, strength and wisdom for today. It’s about recognizing that you are helpless, yet understanding that you can’t just sit there. It is acknowledging your great need for God and his great love for you.” So, how do you understand surrender? More importantly, how can you live a surrendered life? As usual, much more could be said here, but in a word, in order to live a surrendered life (to die and rise with Christ) you must deepen your relationship with God, which is most effectively accomplished through the practice of the basic spiritual disciplines of the Christian life. So what are you doing to grow spiritually? Based on my experience and understanding of the Christian life, I can say with confidence that as you pay attention to your relationship with the Lord, you will gradually trust him more, which leads to less worry. This is a lifelong quest, but one, I’m sure you’ll agree, that is worth striving for.
This Sunday we will continue our journey with Jesus via the Gospel of John. As you know, we just celebrated the resurrection of our Lord. Now we will go back in time, as it were, and study John 14:1-14 NLT. As far as the Jesus-story goes, this is before his death and resurrection. So it may seem odd that we study it at this time. But as we are in the season of Easter, I want to continue to focus on Jesus, and especially on the new life that we have through his death and resurrection. This text has provided comfort to countless people over the centuries. In fact, I’ve found it to be especially helpful at the time of death. This text makes a wonderful graveside or funeral service reading, as it provides much comfort. I don’t know what you are going through today, but whatever your trouble or challenge, Jesus says, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God. Trust also in me” (John 14:1). The teaching, life, death and resurrection of our Lord is supposed to bring us comfort in a life of challenge and trouble. The good news in this text is that Jesus has gone before you to be with the Father. And some day he will come back for you, so that you may be with him for all eternity–if you trust in him. So I leave you with a question for reflection: Do you trust in the Lord, and what does that look like in your life?
Well, today marks the completion of my first year of teaching the Christian Living/Education course in one of the Lacombe public schools. I had the privilege of teaching the New Testament to a group of engaging grade six students. I accepted this teaching assignment with the hope and intention of being able to introduce these students to Jesus via the New Testament gospels, and to build meaningful relationships with them. And I’m pleased to report that with God’s help and blessing, this happened. I can honestly say that I enjoyed this ministry. In fact, it has been one of the highlights of my year. I always looked forward to seeing the teacher and students, and I always left feeling like the Lord had worked among us. It was as if we were walking the Emmaus Road (Luke 24) together, and we discovered Jesus on the way! As I begin to debrief this ministry, it’s obvious to me that this is a golden opportunity to reach out and enfold people for Jesus, and to make disciples for him. Thanks be to God!
Today is Easter Monday. Having just “experienced” Jesus’ death and resurrection–thanks be to God!–I’m asking myself the following question, prompted by N. T. Wright: “So how can we learn to live as wide-awake people, as Easter people?” He asks this question in Surprised by Hope, which is a book on heaven, resurrection and the mission of the church. The following is a few brief quotations from this very significant book, which will answer the above question, and give us some guidance as to how we can more fully experience Easter.
First, Wright’s concern: “I have come to believe that many churches simply throw Easter away year by year; and I want to plead that we rethink how we do it so as to help each other, as a church and as individuals, to live what we profess” (255).
“For a start, consider Easter Day itself. . . . Easter is about the wild delight of God’s power. . . we ought to shout Alleluias instead of murmuring them. . . we should splash water about as we renew our baptismal views” (255).
“But my biggest problem starts on Easter Monday. I regard it as absurd and unjustifiable that we should spend forty days keeping Lent. . . and then, after a rather odd Holy Saturday, we have a single day of celebration” (256). (Emphasis his.)
“We should be taking steps to celebrate Easter in creative new ways: in art, literature, children’s games, poetry, music, dance, festivals, bells, special concerts, anything that comes to mind. This is our greatest festival. . . .Take Easter away, and you don’t have a New Testament; you don’t have a Christianity; as Paul says, you are still in your sins. . . .This is our greatest day. We should put the flags out.” (256-257)
I am very grateful for Wright’s perspective. How can we make Easter the truly great celebration of new life in Christ that it is supposed to be?