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We pray that our Lord Jesus Christ will be glorified and...
you will be blessed by your time spent with us.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Women's Book Group 8/11

The Women's Book Group will meet this Tuesday, August 11, at 7 pm at the McDonald's McCafe next to Ridgemont Country Club in Greece. Books to be discussed include Mudhouse Sabbath by Lauren Winner and Mean Girls by Hayley DiMarco.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Our God doesn't "dream"

During the Sunday fellowship hour two weeks ago, the use of the phrase "God's dream" by the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church came up in conversation. It puzzled most of us and made at least one member's hair stand on end! The source quote is as follows:
We Christians often think the only important part of the Jerusalem story is Calvary, and, yes, suffering and killing in that place still seem to be the loudest news. But Calvary was a waypoint in the larger arc of God’s dream – it’s on the way to Jerusalem, it is not in Jerusalem. Jesus’ passion was and is for God’s dream of a reconciled creation. General Convention opening address, 7 July 2009, The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop and Primate
Indeed, according to the Episcopal Life Online news service, denominational President of the House of Deputies Bonnie Anderson, in addressing the ECW Triennial July 14, asked the rhetorical question, "Am I keeping my eye on the prize here? ...God's dream ... (in which) we are all in peaceful relationship with each other. We are whole and happy; the lions lie down with the lambs. There is enough to eat for everyone. (It's) the world as it should be -- a world reconciled, as God made it."

In all fairness to the leadership of TEC, the coinage preexisted their usage by some 35 years, making us surprised we hadn't heard it before. There's a lengthy analysis of "God's dream" in two posts on the blog Herescope that's well worth checking out. Here are just a couple of highlights.

The first use of "God's Dream" appears to be in the work of televangelist Rev. Robert Schuller: "He has a dream for your life and your church. He will reveal His dream by causing you to desire what He wants.…Listen to this dream, 'For it is God at work within you, giving you the will and the power to achieve His purpose'…," Schuller writes in his 1974 book, Your Church Has Real Possibilities.

Now, this use of the idea of God dreaming is... Californian, but not otherwise objectionable. Substitute a tougher noun like "plan" or "purpose" for "dream" and there's really nothing to bother a person. But while Schuller refers to God's "dream" for a person's life and ministry (over which the individual person still exerts free will), TEC leadership and others refer to God's "dream" for the world, and that takes on a whole different dimension.

This wider use of the phrase originates with Anglican Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town Desmond Tutu: "God says to you, 'I have a dream. Please help me to realize it.' It is a dream of a world whose ugliness and squalor and poverty, its war and hostility, its greed and harsh competitiveness, its alienation and disharmony are changed into their glorious counterparts," he writes in God Has a Dream: A Vision of Hope for Our Time, 2004. This book includes a chapter titled "God Only Has Us", and this is where we start to feel a bit twitchy.

Let's deconstruct this a little, starting with the meaning of "dream". Merriam-Webster includes the following applicable definitions:

1: a series of thoughts, images, or emotions occurring during sleep
2: an experience of waking life having the characteristics of a dream: as a visionary creation of the imagination
4: a strongly desired goal or purpose.

We can rule out the first definition on the grounds that the great I AM lives in the eternal present and neither slumbers nor sleeps (Psalm 121:4). We can rule out the second on the grounds that there's no need for God to "imagine" a perfect world when it was originally created perfect (Genesis 1), which leaves us with "a strongly desired goal or purpose", a definition which seems to fit the use of the word "dream" by the Presiding Bishop, Dr. Anderson and Archbishop Tutu.

The definition begs the question, "If God strongly desires a certain goal or purpose, what prevents God from achieving that goal or purpose?" Archbishop Tutu would appear to answer with the claim that "God only has us." And that's where the problem arises.

We run into dangerous territory when we start to assume that Almighty God needs anything from us. We are reminded of this when John the Baptist warns those proud of their lineage, "from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham." (Luke 3:8). God created the laws of physics and nature but is not bound by them. Anything God wants for the world can and will be done with or without any "help" from us.

So what does it mean that the world isn't in an ideal state? It means that God is merciful. Cleaning up the world would mean getting rid of all its troublemakers, which means 100% of humanity would have to go. Even us. The world is as it is to teach us and to test us, but not to give us some sort of opportunity to do something God needs but can't accomplish independently.

Secularists enjoy saying that man created God in his own image. While humanity is, indeed, in God's image, this is an image in miniature. God's power is vast, God's ways unknowable, and to diminish the Almighty by claiming we are needed rather than just loved is profoundly disrespectful.

In God's Sovereign power, holiness, love and grace, Jesus -the very Son of God- offered up His Life to save us. This is not a dream, it is sacred reality for all who repent and believe. Alleluia!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Church News, 7/26/09

Last Sunday, we joined the congregation of Reformation Lutheran Church for their Sunday morning service. Our own Father David was the guest speaker, with a message entitled "How Can What Little We Have... Ever Be Enough?"

In his sermon, Fr. David posed the question: "Will we ever have enough?" The answer, he said, was that "the jar is fuller than you think," in reference to the popular saying, "is the jar half full or half empty." The point of this saying, and of Fr. David's message, is that our attitude can greatly influence how happy or desperate we are. He quoted Pastor Chuck Swindoll about the importance and influential power of our attitude: "The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. ...I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it". David+ asked: "Do we approach the challenges in life with an attitude of crisis or opportunity?"

This is a daunting task, and we may be tempted to see our lives as a jar half empty rather than full enough. And there truly is no human solution. Rather, we rely on God's strength to carry us through the tough times. And we remember that "with God, small resources can be more than enough. We offer up what we do have, with thanks." As the story of the feeding of the multitude with a few loaves of bread and fish illustrates, God can make even a little become plenty and to spare. And so we must remember to have an "attitude of gratitude," trusting that God, in His wisdom, will take care of us. As Hudson Taylor, one of the first missionaries to mainland China, noted, "God's work done in God's way will never lack God's supplies." A day in the life of an ordinary person, spent well and with humble trust in God, is surely an expression of God's work. And so, as Fr. David reminded us, we should resolve that "with God's help, we will do our best." We will see over and over again that we will always have 'enough' as we learn to trust in God and His magnificent supply of resources.

A small group including members of All Saints and of Reformation then joined for a time of sharing which included refreshments. The discussion centered around reflecting upon the Lord's encouragement toward maintaining an attitude of trust in God as the present challenges of each congregation are being considered.

Church Activities Coming Soon:
The Women's Book Group will meet Tuesday, Aug. 4, 7 pm at the
McDonald's McCafe, 3781 Ridge Rd. W. in Greece.
It's on the left, just beyond the Ridgemont Country Club and before
the intersection with Rt. 386 (Elmgrove Road).
McDonald's? Well, you probably haven't seen one like this: gas fire-
place, flat-screen TVs, plus the usual great coffee drinks at all hours.
Even if you haven't read the books yet (see 7/14 post at end for titles),
come join us!

Next Week's Sermon title:
The Nathan Ministry [2 Samuel 11:26---12:13a]

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Thursday Thought For the Day: Stuff Christians Like #571

The blog "Stuff Christians Like" is a tongue-in-cheek examination of the quirks and just plain bizarre beliefs and practices that Christians may or may not engage in. Post number 571 discusses the practice of: "using "we live in a fallen world" as an excuse not to do anything about it. "

As Christians, we are called to love others as God loves us. But how do we respond when the world's corruption and needs are overwhelming? We may believe that in this fallen world, there is nothing we can do to help that will really make a difference. Or we may be looking for an excuse not to work toward positive change, but to continue to focus solely on our own lives.

"...when God gave us His two greatest commands, love Him and love others as much as we love ourselves, He didn't say, unless you live in a fallen world. There was no caveat that gave us the freedom to give less than love if the world we're living in is less than perfect. If anything, a fallen world is a world that needs love the most."

Check out the original post at: http://stufffchristianslike.blogspot.com/2009/07/571-using-we-live-in-fallen-world-as.html or JUST CLICK THE TITLE OF THIS POST TO GO TO THIS SITE >>> .....(and then leave a comment with us back here at our church's blog to let us know your thoughts)

Monday, July 20, 2009

Church News, 7/21

Sunday July 19 was made special by the presence of Leslie Ibezim's extended family as they observed a special blessing for Leslie, a custom of the Anglican Church in Nigeria. Leslie, a 2009 graduate of Gates-Chili High School, was named a member of the National Honor Society and a 2009 Black Scholar of the Urban League of Rochester. She will be attending the University of Rochester this fall as a pre-med student.

At the offertory, Leslie, her parents, Joseph and Gloria Ibezim, her brothers and sisters, uncle, aunt, cousins and other family members, came to the altar where they received a blessing in honor of Leslie's commencement and future. It was a special moment for all of us.

Fr. David's sermon, "The Foundation upon which the Church is being built", was based on Ephesians 2:11-22, in which Paul describes Christ as the cornerstone and the apostles and prophets the foundation of the "holy temple" into which we are all built, the Church.

"Without Christ as the cornerstone, there is no Church," Fr. David said, referring to I Corinthians 3:11, ""For no other foundation can any one lay than that which is laid down, which is Jesus Christ." He continued by cautioning that in many places the Church "is becoming progressively a work of man" rather than a true work of God as it is meant to be. He also raised the concern that today's consuming quest for "relevance" by some in the Church can only assure eternal irrelevance. We need to be praying for and caring for the souls who are being led astray from the true foundation of those Jesus authorizes according to His authority and His Word (Apostles and Prophets). He closed by urging us to let Christ be our LORD, and let us stand up for Him. For our Recessional Hymn we all sang 'Stand up, Stand up, for Jesus'.

NOTES: All Saints has been formally transferred from the Mukono Diocese of the Province of Uganda to the Diocese of the Holy Spirit under Bishop John Guernsey of the Anglican Church in North America. Praise the Lord! Parish administrative and financial responsibilities will be undertaken by the "new" church Vestry beginning August 2. The Vestry has elected Beth Sanders as the new Junior Warden and Tom Stone as the new Senior Warden.

Next Sunday, July 26, we will join our brothers and sisters of Reformation Lutheran in the upstairs sanctuary for worship at 10 a.m. Fr. David will be the guest preacher in a Service of the Word ( Holy Communion will not be offered ).

Thursday, July 16, 2009

iMonk Post: God Isn't Gamey [thought for the day]

A recent article by the blogger iMonk addresses an often discussed issue in Christian circles. He addresses the belief that “you need to pray until you find God’s will.” Granted, God must have a will. But what does it really mean to "find" God's will? Do we need to search and search to know exactly what God wants us to do with our lives? Or should we accept that God has put us where we are and with the abilities and resources that we have in order to serve Him in that place? I believe that iMonk's perspective relieves some of the pressure that Christians may feel regarding whether they have precisely determined God's will for their lives.

As iMonk says, "this is not a game I am going to play with God. I’m not cooperating with what amounts to saying “God is toying with us to see what we’ll do.” If God wants to say something to me, no game is necessary. And I am not required to demonstrate my desperation to know God’s will to know it. There may be places in my journey I need to be before God’s will unfolds, but God isn’t being gamey. He’s not playing hide and seek. He isn’t constantly dangling guidance in front of me like bait."

Take a look at the full article and let us know what you think-


Monday, July 13, 2009

Church news, 7/14/09

As Voice-in-Wilderness becomes a more active blog, we're working out a schedule for regular weekly posts. For starters, every Tuesday we'll post a short summary of parish news, and on Fridays we'll offer some food for thought that could be an essay, a book review, or a link to another blog we like. Here's this week's church news:

On Sunday, 7/12, we welcomed newcomers and old friends along with our "regulars". Fr. David's sermon title was "Spiritual Truth v. Superstition and Fear". It was based on the account of the death of John the Baptist in the Gospel of Mark 6:14-29. Mark explains that as Jesus manifested miraculous powerrs to people, they had a superstitious reaction, "twittering" that this must be due to Elijah, or maybe John the Baptist back from the dead.

Herod Antipas, the ruler of Galilee and son of Herod the Great, went along with the superstitious crowd and was afraid as he concluded that this was the "reappearance" of John whom he was responsible for beheading. John had boldly told Herod the Truth that he was violating Jewish law to marry Herodias, the former wife of his brother Philip. Herod resented this criticism of his chosen lifestyle even though he knew John was a righteous and holy man and was telling the truth.

Herodias, an ambitious and ruthless person, eventually forced her husband to order John's execution in order to fulfil a frivolous promise made to her daughter in front of dinner guests. Rather than repenting and changing his lifestyle, Herod chose to follow through on his ill-founded oath. Paradoxically, by trying to appear as a man of honor to his guests, Herod behaved with complete dishonor. Yet for a time he felt he had "gotten away with it" -- his wife was pleased, he had managed to add luster to his reputation, and politically it was astute.

However, both Herod and Herodias forgot the universal truth that we are all in the presence of God at all times, and therefore there's no "getting away with". In less than 20 years, Herodias would goad Herod to travel to Rome and demand a kingship from Emperor Caligula. Caligula didn't care for the idea, exiling Herod and Herodias to France where they died a few years later. His superstition and fear about the power exhibited by Jesus had led Herod to deny spiritual truth and suffer dearly for it. Spiritual Truth and Peace are to be found in the presence of God which we enter through repentance of needing to 'have it our own way' and faith in God and having it His Way.... "The power of living," Fr. David concluded, "is in the presence of God."

NOTES: We'll worship with Reformation Lutheran in the upstairs sanctuary on Sunday, July 26th. Fr. David will be the guest preacher. On Tuesday, August 11th, the Women's Book Group will meet (details to follow). Books to be discussed include Mudhouse Sabbath by Lauren Winner and Mean Girls by Hayley DiMarco.