Last week at Wolf Creek Community Church we witnessed Jesus’s baptism through Mark 1. In the context of that story, Mark introduces us to the Triune God. The Triune God exists as a loving holy family (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). Happily, this loving family invites us into the “dance” that began long ago. We enter into this dance with the Triune God through repentance and baptism. So I want to talk about baptism for a moment. What exactly is it and why is it so important? Listen to what N. T. Wright says in his book, Simply Christian (HarperOne, 2006): “Christian baptism involves being plunged into water (or having it poured over you) in the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The point is that the story which baptism tells is God’s own story, from creation and covenant to new creation, with Jesus in the middle of it and the Spirit brooding over it. In baptism, you are brought into that story, to be an actor in the play which God is writing and producing. And once you’re onstage, you’re part of the action. You can get the lines wrong. You can do your best to spoil the play. But the story is moving forward, and it would be far better to understand where it’s going and how to learn your lines and join in the drama. Through the water to become part of God’s purpose for the world.” (213-214) So, have you been baptized? Have you become part of God’s big story? If not, then I invite you to seriously consider it.
The 2014 Lacombe Leadership Prayer Breakfast occurred this morning. And I’m pleased to report: it was blessed. The Lacombe and District Ministerial Association (LDMA) has been coordinating this event for a few years now, and I think it’s becoming a meaningful tradition. Breakfast was served at 7 A.M. sharp. Then after most people had been served, Pastor Rick Abma welcomed everyone, and then I, as the current LDMA president, opened in prayer. Then we enjoyed a fine breakfast. Then Mayor Christie was introduced, and he prayed for the leaders of this community. Then Pastor Rick Abma prayed for Mayor Christie. And then special guest Ian Hill spoke about the importance of the citizens of a community building a community. Not waiting for the leaders to build the community. But ordinary people taking leadership to build their community. Neighbors helping neighbors. Then the breakfast ended at 8:30. It was a very blessed event! I thank God for it, and I hope you will consider coming out next year.
I’m pleased to announce that this week we begin a new sermon series on Mark’s Gospel called, “King’s Cross: The Purpose and Identity of Jesus.” I got the idea for this series from Pastor Timothy Keller’s book, King’s Cross (Dutton, 2011), which is a study of the Gospel of Mark. As we come to the end of the season of Epiphany, and enter the Season of Lent, we continue to focus on the life and ministry of Jesus. And Mark is a great place to dwell, as it is a short, action-packed gospel that really focuses on the activities of Jesus. As we explore the life of Jesus through Mark’s Gospel, we are, with the original Jews, forced to respond. Will we receive the Good News? Will we follow Jesus the Messiah (the Christ), the Son of God? I pray that as we journey with Jesus through Mark, you would become a more devoted follower (student, apprentice) of Jesus, and really come to know the Good News.
For a third consecutive year we have the golden opportunity of being in the community and supporting our community leaders through the 2014 Lacombe Leadership Prayer Breakfast (Thursday, Feb. 20, 7 A.M. at the Lacombe Memorial Centre). I enjoy this event, which gathers people from Lacombe and area, and invites us to pray for our community leaders. I also enjoy being inspired by a gifted leader in the world. “This year’s speaker is Ian Hill. Humanitarian, Business Leader, and Award Winning Philanthropist, these are some of the words that often used when referring to Ian Hill. Whether running a multi-million dollar business operation with over 1000 employees, to spearheading first of their kind life-changing community projects, to a unique Canadian-wide initiative. Ian Hill has been recognized for being a catalyst for positive change throughout North America.” (www.lacombeprayerbreakfast.ca) I invite you to join me for this event. You may even want to consider inviting a friend, neighbor or co-worker. Tickets can be purchased from the Wolf Creek Community Church office.
I recently went on a worship retreat–the 2014 Calvin Symposium on Worship. I felt called to attend this worship conference, so I could reflect on the ministry of worship and take a much needed rest from pastoral ministry. Happily, both of these goals were realized–thanks be to God!
In terms of worship reflection, I attended many plenary sessions and workshops, including one by Jamie Smith. Smith helped me to realize that worship really does matter. Not only is it commanded by Scripture (think the Psalms), but we were created to worship. According to Smith, we are what we love. Again, we were made to worship. Moreover, worship forms us. The Lord uses it to make us into devoted Followers of Christ. So, he invited us as pastors and worship leaders to think carefully about our worship services. And I intend to do that. I have also started reading one of Smith’s books on worship, in order to continue this conversation.
So that’s the reflecting on worship piece. In terms of resting, iin addition to attending various workshops, I attended the symposium worship services, and rested in the presence of the Lord while I worshipped him with hundreds of other people. I can’t think of a better way to rest than that! But I also sought additional rest as I meditated on Psalm 27 in my times of solitude and silence. “One thing I ask of the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.” (Psalm 27:4 NIV)
All of this was worth the price of admission, as they say, but something else occurred that I didn’t expect: I sort of went on pilgrimage. Perhaps not in the true sense of the word, but since the Symposium occurred at Calvin College, I was able to visit Calvin Theological Seminary, my old school, which is on the same campus. It felt so good to return to the place where I was formed for ministry. I confess, I shed a few tears as I walked those halls and visited with a few of my professors.
So, all in all, it was a blessed worship retreat. I feel refreshed and ready to return to my local church, where I will continue to lead worship, as well as worship the Lord with His people–with my people–in my ongoing quest to make Disciples of Christ.