I thought that, since we were not able to have worship service this morning, I thought I would send out an order of service for what was to have been our worship service this morning. Since we were starting the New Testament portion of The Story this morning and focusing on the accounts of the birth of Christ, we had planned a “Lessons and Carols” type service that was designed to help us tie together how the incarnation of Christ is part of the continuing story of God’s redemptive work in Creation. I hope that this order will provide a meaningful devotional tool for you and/or your family today. Please feel free to pass this along to whomever you like. And please excuse any ads in the links below – the downfall of YouTube!
– Thanks to everyone for making our Pancake Lunch and Cake Walk a huge success last Sunday! It looks like our youth and children raised over $800 for their Summer Passport trips.
– I am going to say with confidence that we WILL have our Wednesday Night programs this week. The dinner is fried pork chops, stewed potatoes, broccoli and cheese, rolls, cherry cobbler, and tea and lemonade. If you would like to make a reservation for Wednesday Night Supper, please call the church office or email Melonie at firstname.lastname@example.org by noon on Monday. You can also visit the following link to make your reservation for dinner from your home computer (you may need to copy and paste the link into your browser. It is a long one!):
– Church Council will meet Wednesday night at 7:30 PM in the Assembly Room
– The Adventurous Eaters will be going to Thai Cafe on Monday, March 9. They will meet at the church at 5:30 to carpool or you can meet them at the restaurant at 6 PM. You can reserve your spot using the following link:
The story of the birth of Jesus is often associated with a specific time of year. As a matter of fact, we often call these stories the “Christmas stories”. However, the incarnation is an event that has relevance and significance beyond the holiday we have associated with it. We hope this worship experience will help you reflect on what it means for us believe every day that “The Word became flesh and lived among us”.
Scripture Reading: Genesis 1:1-4 – http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=292222699
Musical Reflection: “Morning Has Broken” – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OYcVGrSdmao
Scripture Reading: Exodus 3:1-10 – http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=292223120
Prayers of the People – Take time to pray for those who you know are in need of God’s healing and salvation
God, we pray that you would use our gifts and talents for your glory. You have given all of yourself to us in Jesus Christ. May we give all of our bodies, souls and minds to you. In Christ’s name we pray, Amen.
Offertory: Thank You God for Saving Me – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pssz5HH7Cp8
Scripture Reading: John 1:1-18 – http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=292224097
“And the Word became flesh and lived among us …”.
Perhaps no words of Scripture have been more defining or disturbing than these 9 words from John’s gospel. The belief that Jesus is God in human flesh has served as one of the foundational markers of apostolic Christianity. That is why the early creeds of the Christian church go to such lengths to affirm and shape our understanding of what these 9 words are saying. The Nicene-Constantinople Creed, adopted in 381 A.D., expands these 9 words of John into one of the longest run-on sentences in history. “We believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten from the Father before all time, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten not created, of the same essence as the Father, through Whom all things came into being, Who for us men and because of our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became human.”
Such a statement makes us appreciate the simplicity of John: And the Word became flesh and lived among us. Yet, the complexity of the creedal statement reveals to us a history of conflict and debate, violent even at times. John’s 9 simple words would become not only the foundation of Christian faith but also the spark of several heretical movements within the early church. The doctrine of the Trinity, our understanding of salvation, our interpretation of the entirety of Scripture – all of these things rest on these 9 words, which is why the Council of Constantinople went to such lengths to try to give definition to what John meant.
We are not here today to define a new creed. We are not an ecumenical church council charged with determining the theological foundations of Christianity. However, as disciples of Christ, charged with the task of preparing and presenting a testimony to the world, our challenge here this morning is no less daunting or significant. Just as the bishops gathered at Constantinople in 381, we here at Temple Baptist Church on Sunday, March 1, 2015 are confronted with the question of incarnation: What does it mean, what does it matter, that we proclaim of Jesus that “the Word became flesh and lived among us”? I would like to propose several answers for your prayerful consideration this morning.
Incarnation inspires awe and worship. By definition, incarnation confounds logic and reason. How can one be both at the same time fully human and fully divine? The Scriptures are not concerned with providing us the technical nuts and bolts of how incarnation works. For centuries, there are those who argued that such an existence is irrational. However, as one theologian has pointed out, the incarnation is irrational only if we assume that we have a full understanding of what it means to be human and what it means to be divine. Perhaps the incarnation of Jesus the Christ is, in part, a direct challenge to such assumptions, a reminder that there is much about God’s work in creation that we still don’t understand. That God can still stump and confound us is an invitation to consider God’s wonder and mystery and an invitation to worship rather than just understand God.
Incarnation brings unity to the story of God and man. It is tempting to sometimes think of the gospel message of Jesus as more than just a new chapter in the working out of God’s will. We are sometimes tempted to see, in Jesus, a whole new book with a completely different story from that of the “God of the Old Testament”. However, incarnation teaches us that, in Jesus, we meet the God of Creation, of Abraham and Moses and Elijah, the God of the Exodus and the exile. For centuries, Jesus’ entry into the world was understood as a sign of the new covenant that the prophet Jeremiah had talked about. Yet, even Jeremiah understood that this new covenant was a continuing revelation of God’s ongoing redeeming work in creation that had begun at the fall of mankind. Jesus himself says in Matthew that he is the fulfillment of all the law and the prophets, not the replacement. Incarnation teaches us that we are dealing with the one God of history.
Incarnation forces us to consider God in the now. It is easy sometimes to relegate God to his heavenly courts, looking down over the grand span of time and space from some space over and above everything that takes place. Yet, the incarnation of the Son of God teaches us that God is concerned about the immediate details of human life. Jesus not only taught about the kingdom of heaven and fought the powers of demons. He fed hungry people who hadn’t brought lunch to hear him speak. He showed fishermen where to cast their nets so they could catch fish. He changed water to wine so that the wedding reception didn’t end too early. We should remember such stories the next time we tell ourselves that God has more important problems to deal with than ours. The incarnation of Jesus is the reminder that God loves us enough to deal with the everyday stresses and struggles and joys of life. In the incarnation, we understand that God cares us as much about our immediate life as He does our eternal life.
Incarnation gives shape and depth to a righteous life. Yesterday I was back in my hometown of Roanoke, Virginia to attend a funeral officiated by Rev. Larry Sprouse, the senior pastor I served under right out of seminary. Being back in that church, listening to Larry celebrate the life of a friend and peer of ours, I realized what a gift I had been given in the four years I served alongside Larry. Seminary was where I attended the lectures and read the books about how to be a pastor. However, I don’t think I really understood what I heard until I had the chance to watch Larry be a pastor. In the same way, we have read so far numerous instructions and commandments and promises that God spoke to Israel and to Creation. However, in Jesus, the Word made flesh, we not only come to understand those words deeper but we are given the chance to see those words lived out.
Incarnation commissions us. John says of the incarnate Son of God, “From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” When we talk about Jesus, we are not talking about someone who is only a piece of God. We are not talking about someone who only possessed some of God’s attributes or character. In Jesus, God has held nothing of Himself back from us. The immediate follow up question is: what have we done with the abundance of grace we have received?
Earlier this week, I was talking with a man of Lebanese descent who my family and I have begun to build a relationship with. We were discussing a series of robberies that had taken place in our area in recent months. He asked me what my feelings are on carrying firearms. He showed me the pistol and magazine that he now kept with him. He said between the crime in his neighborhood and the number of recent attacks on Muslims and Arabs right in our own country, he felt he needed security. His words struck me hard. I had never considered that he might walk around every day looking over his shoulder, wondering if someone was hunting him. But then I remembered all the kindness he had extended to me and to my family, the graciousness with which he always welcomed us. I found myself telling him thank you for such kindness, that I hoped he knew that we appreciated him and I was sorry he had to live with such worry. He offered me his hand and said, “there are some people that you look at and you get around and you just know they have a good spirit.” I took his words as a compliment, but also a challenge. In the incarnation of Christ, God has given the fullness of His grace to me, therefore I must live out the fullness of his grace for others. That is the first step to breaking down the walls of fear and hatred that separates man from man and keeps us from working together for the kingdom will of God to be done on earth as it is in heaven.
This morning, we have heard the Word of God proclaimed. In Jesus, the Word became flesh and lived among us. As we prepare to go forth, what we will we do with this Word, this Jesus, we have received?
Scripture Reading: Luke 2:41-51 – http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=292224324
Hymn of Response: “O Word of God Incarnate” – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fX7m8LiyI7w
Blessing on Grant Mangum
One of our own, Grant Mangum, will be leaving within the next week to travel to Turkey as a part of a mission team from NC State. As Grant prepares to leave, we want to place our blessing upon him and ask that God would use Grant as the rest of his team to share the love and grace of Jesus Christ with all they come in contact with. We also want to pray for Grant’s family as they support Grant in this mission. Perhaps this week you will want to reach out to Grant or his family and share your prayers of support.
May God bless you and make His face to shine upon you. Go in peace!