You’re Part of the Story

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I started a new devotional book today, it’s called “Climbing with Abraham” by David Ramos. (by the way, I got it on my kindle through Bookbub FREE).  The first devotional starts out by saying that most of the time, in the Bible, a person is first described by listing where they came from, who their parents were, etc.. The author says this is to  show that their story begins long before they do.

The same is true of our churches.  They have a story that began before we were members (at least most of the time).  So when we join a church, we become part of a bigger story.  As an adult I have been a member of two churches.  The first was a mission congregation and although I was not a charter member, it was a “young” church.  I got to be a church builder.  I was there through more than 25 years and three locations.  It was started by a small group of Midwesterners who wanted a Missouri Synod Lutheran Church, and there were none in the area.  My current congregation is “old”…. we just celebrated our 190th anniversary.  It was started by German farmers who just wanted a Lutheran church in their community.  In this congregation, I am maintaining a legacy.

My first congregation has grown and changed since my husband and I were called to St. Paul’s.  A time will come when we leave St. Paul’s as well.  We’re only a link in the chain that has kept these churches going. We will have spiritual descendants who will do the same.

So what’s your church’s story?  What ‘s your role?  Isn’t it exciting to be part of God’s plan?  Send us your thoughts and comments.

 

Do I help or hurt the Church?

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When you attend a Via De Cristo retreat weekend, you receive a little book called the Pilgrim’s Guide in Christianity which includes a variety and prayers and “helps” for your devotional life.  One of those “helps” is called Examination of Conscience.  In case you’re wondering what that is, here’s a definition:

Examination of conscience is a review of one’s past thoughts, words, actions, and omissions for the purpose of ascertaining their conformity with, or deviation from, the moral law.

Recently going over it, I realized that one of the categories listed has to do with the church, so I thought I would share it on the blog this month. The idea is to think about whether you have done, or neglected to do these things in regard to the church:

Have I, By Thought

  • Thought of the church as a sect or party rather than as the mystical body of Christ
  • Neglected to read or reflect on the Holy Scriptures
  • Not held myself responsible for my part in the in adequacy of Christians

Have I, By Words

  • Spoken of the clergy as “them” instead of “us”
  • Criticized irresponsibly the leadership of the church, both clerical and lay
  • Ignored the teaching authority of the church, replacing it with my own authority

Have I, By Acts

  • Used church organizations to justify my own personal hang-ups
  • Run away from trying to solve the church’s internal problems
  • Acted to support the church only when it met my approval

Have I, By Omission

  • Not tried to make the church more vital
  • Failed to contribute sacrificially for the material needs of the church
  • Neglected to pray for those in authority

This list isn’t even exhaustive, but it helps me realize that my support and appreciation of the church isn’t all it could be.  It’s a good reminder to help me strive to be a better member of Christ’s body.  Do you find this exercise helpful or not?  Please let us know.

Interactive Study Blog – Hebrews Chapter 6

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Most people like cake – There is a lady at my church who thinks the best part is the frosting. The sweeter the better. This chapter is again telling us about maturing in our faith, so I figure that I will compare it to eating cake. I like cake, I like frosting but to get the entire taste experience you need to eat both, I mean German Chocolate cake without the pecan & coconut frosting would not be that great.

What I am saying is that we cannot just live by the parts of the Bible we like, we have to live by all of it. We cannot pick and choose the rules, we have to adhere to them all.

We cannot grow in our faith (mature) unless we eat ALL the words, not just the parts we like. I hope this makes sense.

God Loves You And So Do I

Michele Edgel

Church Memories

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“Tell it to your children, and let your children tell it to their children, and their children to the next generation.” Joel 1:3

As part of the celebration of St. Paul’s 190th anniversary, we collected memories from current and previous members.  It was amazing to see how many people gave memories from their childhood or the childhood of their children.  People had good memories of Vacation Bible School, Luther League, Christmas pageants, Easter egg hunts, Youth Group trips, singing in the choir etc..  Parents remembered baptisms, confirmations and  seeing their children growing up and taking part in the life of the church.  Many people were remembered — pastors, Sunday School teachers and superintendents, friends.

Growing up in the church is a blessing.  It teaches not only the Scriptures, but leadership and self confidence.  It gives a support network of love and encouragement.  It is indeed an experience to be remembered and treasured.

Did you grow up in the church?  Did your children?  What did it mean to you/them?  We want to hear your stories.

“…Let the children come to me, do not hinder them;  for to such belongs the kingdom of God.”  Mark 10:14

The Changing Church

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This is a quote from one of my favorite authors, Susan Howatch.  She has written a series of novels with Anglican clergymen as the protagonists.  This is from Absolute Truths.

“I must accept that the Church lives and dies in every generation;  only to be born again in the next.  It is Jesus Christ who is the same yesterday, today and forever, not the Church which is always in the process of development.”

Image result for jesus christ is the same yesterday and today and forever

The Starbridge Series

This series of six books sets out to describe the history of the Church of England through the twentieth century. Each of the six books is self-contained, and each is narrated by a different character. However, the main protagonist of each book also appears in the other books, allowing the author to present the same incidents from different viewpoints.

The action of all six books centers around the fictional Anglican diocese of Starbridge, which is supposedly in the west of England, and also features the Fordite monks, a fictional Anglican monastic order. The cathedral and ecclesiastical hierarchy at Starbridge are based on the real-life Salisbury.

The first three books of the series (Glittering Images, Glamorous Powers, Ultimate Prizes) begin in the 1930s, and continue through World War II. The second three (Scandalous Risks, Mystical Paths, Absolute Truths) take place in the 1960s.

Glittering Images is narrated by the Reverend Dr. Charles Ashworth, a Cambridge academic who undergoes something of a spiritual and nervous breakdown after being sent by the Archbishop of Canterbury to secretly investigate possible sexual transgressions in the household of the Bishop of Starbridge. Ashworth is helped to recover, and to realize the source of his problems, by Father Jonathan Darrow, the widowed abbot of Grantchester Abbey of the Fordite Monks.

Glamorous Powers follows the story of Jonathan Darrow himself as he leaves the Fordite Order at age sixty following a powerful vision. He then must deal with the problems of his adult children, address the question of a new intimate relationship, and search for a new ministry. His particular crisis surrounds the use and misuse of his charismatic powers of healing, and his unsettling mystical visions, or “showings”.

Ultimate Prizes takes place during World War II. It is narrated by Neville Aysgarth, a young and ambitious Archdeacon of Starbridge from a lower-middle-class background in the north of England. After being widowed and remarried, he too undergoes something of a breakdown but is rescued by Jonathan Darrow.

Scandalous Risks follows Aysgarth to a Canonry of Westminster Abbey and back to Starbridge, where he becomes Dean of the Cathedral and Ashworth becomes Bishop. It is narrated by Venetia Flaxton, a young aristocrat who risks great scandal by beginning a relationship with the married Aysgarth, her father’s best friend. The relationships, and Aysgarth’s family, closely echo the relationship of H. H. Asquith and Venetia Stanley.

Mystical Paths follows Nicholas Darrow, son of Jonathan, as he narrowly avoids going off the rails prior to his ordination while investigating the mysterious disappearance of Christian Aysgarth, eldest son of Dean Aysgarth.

Absolute Truths comes full circle and is narrated by a much more elderly but still troubled Charles Ashworth, thirty one years after we originally encountered him in the first of the books.

 

 

The Church Family

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I read this definition of a family once and liked it so much I copied it down and saved it.  No family fulfills this description better than the church. 

A family is a deeply rooted tree with branches of differing strengths, each receiving nourishment from an Infinite Source.

A family is where character is formed, values learned, ethics created, and ultimately where society is preserved.

A family is where all members contribute and share, cooperate and work, accepting their individual responsibility for the good of the group.

A family is where holidays are celebrated with feasting, birthdays remembered with gifts, and thoughts of other days kept alive by reliving fond memories.

A family is a place where each member can go to find solace and comfort in grief, pleasure and laughter in joy, and kindness and encouragement in daily living.

A family is finally a haven of rest, a sanctuary of peace, and most of all a harbor of love.

Anonymous

The Ship of the Church

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Ship image found in Christian catacombs

The ship (bark or barque, barchetta) was an ancient Christian symbol. Its is the Church tossed on the sea of disbelief, worldliness, and persecution but finally reaching safe harbor with its cargo of human souls. Part of the imagery comes from the ark saving Noah’s family during the Flood (1 Peter 3:20-21). Jesus protecting the Peter’s boat and the apostles on the stormy Sea of Galilee (Mark 4:35-41). It was also a great during times when Christians needed to disguise the cross, since the ship’s mast forms a cross in many of its depictions..

Bronze lamp of ship of St. Peter and Paul
Ship-shaped lamp with Pietro e Paolo Apostles, Bronze, late 4th-early 5th century. Uffizi Gallery, Florence

“In the Apostolic Constitutions (II, xlvii) the bishop surrounded by the assembly of the faithful is compared to the helmsman of a ship; but the idea is as old as Tertullian (De bap., xii; P. L., l, 1214) and it was varied sometimes by comparing the Church to the Ark of Noah. In any case the ship was a recognized Christian symbol and Clement of Alexandria approved it for a signet ring. “Let the dove or the fish”, he says, “the vessel flying before the wind, — or the marine anchor be our signets” (Paed. III, ii; P. G., VIII, 633). Numerous representations of ships, sometimes serving as the design for a lamp, with the figure of Christ or St. Peter as helmsman are preserved to us. The name which we still retain for the “nave” (French, nef) of a church bears testimony to the persistence of the same idea.” (Herbert Thurston, “Symbolism,” Catholic Encyclopedia, 1909). The ship is also sometimes used as an emblem of St. Jude.

Gravestone of Firmia Victora, showing ship symbol
Gravestone of Firmia Victora, Museo Pio Cristiano, Vatican, Rome

In an illustration for Psalm 69 from the Belleville Breviary, chosen to accompany the sacrament of Confirmation, St. Peter lies in a boat on a storm-tossed sea while God blesses him from the heavens, symbolizing the soul’s refuge in time of trial in the ship of the Church which is blessed by God. The final traditional symbolic meaning of the ship is a means of conveyance between this world and the next. In Christian tradition, in which earthly life was seen as a pilgrimage, the ship of the church transports the faithful through the seas of the world to the heavenly home. (Ideas from Chaucer and the Image of Narrative, by V. A. Kol

 

 

 

 

A Poem About the Church

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Diary of a Church Mouse

Here among long-discarded cassocks,
Damp stools, and half-split open hassocks,
Here where the vicar never looks
I nibble through old service books.
Lean and alone I spend my days
Behind this Church of England baize.
I share my dark forgotten room
With two oil-lamps and half a broom.
The cleaner never bothers me,
So here I eat my frugal tea.
My bread is sawdust mixed with straw;
My jam is polish for the floor.
Christmas and Easter may be feasts
For congregations and for priests,
And so may Whitsun.
 All the same,
They do not fill my meagre frame.
For me the only feast at all
Is Autumn's Harvest Festival,
When I can satisfy my want
With ears of corn around the font.
I climb the eagle's brazen head
To burrow through a loaf of bread.
I scramble up the pulpit stair
And gnaw the marrows hanging there.
It is enjoyable to taste
These items ere they go to waste,
But how annoying when one finds
That other mice with pagan minds
Come into church my food to share
Who have no proper business there.
Two field mice who have no desire
To be baptized, invade the choir.
A large and most unfriendly rat
Comes in to see what we are at.
He says he thinks there is no God
And yet he comes .
.
.
 it's rather odd.
This year he stole a sheaf of wheat
(It screened our special preacher's seat),
And prosperous mice from fields away
Come in to hear our organ play,
And under cover of its notes
Ate through the altar's sheaf of oats.
A Low Church mouse, who thinks that I
Am too papistical, and High,
Yet somehow doesn't think it wrong
To munch through Harvest Evensong,
While I, who starve the whole year through,
Must share my food with rodents who
Except at this time of the year
Not once inside the church appear.
Within the human world I know
Such goings-on could not be so,
For human beings only do
What their religion tells them to.
They read the Bible every day
And always, night and morning, pray,
And just like me, the good church mouse,
Worship each week in God's own house,
But all the same it's strange to me
How very full the church can be
With people I don't see at all
Except at Harvest Festival.