Thursday, December 29, 2011

Annual Parish Meeting January 8

Beginning with a Covered-dish luncheon after the Eucharist
The annual parish meeting is a gathering of all of us to celebrate what the Lord has done among us and for us this past year and to share a vision for the year to come.  We will hear from the clergy and wardens, select new vestry members, and plan our outreach for the coming year, present a budget and talk about our stewardship and use of the time, talent, and resources God has given us.  Paula Wahl is pulling together a comprehensive report (2012 Annual Parish Report).  Ministry leaders need to be sure they have gotten their reports to Paula for inclusion.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Profile of the Virtues, Belief and Practices of Christian Community

At Holy Trinity, transformation of our lives into the likeness of Christ is a priority for the community. We could hardly call ourselves Christians (little Christ) without this being so.

The Christian pilgrimage (corporately and individually) is one of moving ever more deeply into
    Being like Christ…    Knowing the Mind of Christ...     Doing the work of the followers of Christ.

“Being” like Christ
(Christian virtues that define a mature Christian community)
·         Joy                                                                                         John 5:11
·         Peace                                                                                    Philippians 4:6-7
·         Faithfulness to God                                                            Proverbs 3:3-4
·         Self Control                                                                          1 Thess 5:6
·         Love                                                                                       1 John 4:10-12
·         Patience                                                                                Proverbs 14:29
·         Kindness/Goodness                                                            1 Thess 5:15
·         Gentleness                                                                           Philippians 4:5
·         Compassion                                                                          Psalm 82:3-4
·         Generosity                                                                            1 Tim 6:18
·         Humility                                                                                 Philippians 2:3-4
·         Hope                                                                                       Hebrews 6:17-20 

“Knowing” the Mind of Christ

(Christian beliefs that shape the community)
·         The Trinity                                                                         2 Cor 13:14
·         Salvation by Grace                                                           Eph 2:8-9
·         Authority of Scripture                                                     2 Tim 3:16-17
·         A Personal, relational God                                              Psalm 121
·         Our “Identity” in Christ                                                    John 1:12-13
·         The Church                                                                         Eph 4:15-16
·         Humanity and “The Fall”                                                  John3:16
·         Eternity                                                                                John 14:1-4
·         Stewardship of All God Has Given Us                           1 Tim 6:17-19 

“Doing” the Work of the Followers of Christ
(Christian practices that are the mission and calling of the community)
·         Worshipping                                                                      Psalm 95:1-7
·         Praying                                                                                Psalm 66: 16-20
·         Studying / Growing                                                           Heb 4:12
·         Focusing on God’s Priorities for your Life                     Matt 6:33
·         Fellowshipping                                                                  Acts 2:42-47
·         Using Spiritual Gifts                                                          1 Cor 12:1-31
·         Giving Your Time                                                              Col 3:17
·         Giving Your Resources                                                     2 Cor 8:7
·         Sharing Your Faith                                                            Eph 6:19-20
·         Giving Yourself to God’s Plan and Purposes                Rom 12:1-2 

                                     Primary source: The Connecting Church: Beyond Small Groups to Authentic Community, Randy Frazee

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Season of Advent

The Season of Pentecost is coming to an end the Season of Advent is about to begin. There are six liturgical seasons reflected on the Church calendar: Advent-Christmas; Epiphany,;Lent-Easter; and Pentecost.


The seasons of the church year have a long and rich history and have developed around themes emphasizing aspects of the Christian journey and experience.  The Advent-Christmas cycle focuses on the Incarnation, God coming and dwelling among us.  The Lent-Easter cycle is about The Lord’s Resurrection and God raising us to new life in the Risen Christ.  Incarnation and Resurrection are the two anchors of the Christian year.  These two great seasons of celebration are each preceded by a season of preparation (Lent, Advent). The Sunday readings assigned to these seasons reflect these themes.

There is also what is called Ordinary Time between these two great seasonal celebrations of Lent-Easter and Advent-Christmas.  Ordinary Time are the Season of Epiphany and the Season of Pentecost. 

With the arrival of Advent we begin a new church year.  The word Advent means coming or arrival.  Since it is the season before Christmas, it is logically about getting ready for Jesus’ First Coming, but if we listen to the readings that are assigned from the lectionary during Advent, we quickly realize that it is also about getting ready for Jesus’ Second Coming, which is the long-waited completion of Christ’s redemptive work in the world. 

It might seem strange to us that Advent, the first season of the Church year, is also about the very end of things.  It makes the strong theological point, however, that the flow of history, including Salvation History, has purpose direction and destination.  History is not a randomly stitched together series of events; rather, it is headed somewhere and God is in the driver’s seat.   There is a divine destination for all of us, and the Season of Advent is about discovering the Way to that destination.  The Way is, of course, Jesus.  Therefore, whether we are talking about Jesus’ first coming as a baby lying in a feeding trough in a stable at Bethlehem 2000 years ago, or about Jesus coming in power and glory at the End Times, Advent is about God coming to us; thus we have the great cry of Advent, “Come, O Come, Emmanuel!”
Father Rob

New Wednesday Evening Bible Study Series

The Story

Beginning the 1st Wednesday of Advent (Nov. 30)

The Story explores the “Grand Narrative” of Scripture

from Genesis to Revelation in five movements:

The Beginning of the Story

The Story of the Israel

The Story of Jesus

The Story of the Church

The End of the Story

We will work our way through Scripture looking at how God’s story intersects with our story.

Material will be ordered for each of us: please sign up on the board in the parish hall.

Beauty from Ashes: A Personal Reflection on Our Church’s Inner Healing Ministry, by Laura Coppernoll

What a pleasure it is to share with everyone some of the things God has done for me through the healing ministry.  My experience has been none other than wonderful.  So many times in our lives we have ups and downs.  We say things like, “Oh this is too small for God to bother with, I can handle it,” I don’t want to burden Him with this, there are others who need help more than I do.”  Or “ I could never tell anyone about that, it’s too bad and they wouldn’t understand.”   Although these are thoughts and feelings that are normal to each of us, they are simply not true.  They are lies the enemy tells us to keep us away from God’s great healing He has in store for us.  The truth is, God  DOES want us to come to Him about every little or big thing in our lives.  He already knows about it anyway.  He just wants us to talk to Him about it and open that door for Him to come in and do His wonderful work. 
 
The thorns we carry are often so painful that the thought of speaking about them or touching them are almost unbearable to think.  Some things may have been carried so long we think they are too old to even bother with.  Fortunately for us we have a Father that never gives up on us and loves us way too much to leave us where we are.  Matthew 11:28 says it very clearly, “Come to me ALL who labor and are heavy laden and I WILL give you rest.”  He didn’t say only the ones who feel like it should come, He said all should come. 

Isn’t that exciting to know we can come to Him with anything no matter how big or small.  In my personal experience with inner healing, I bought into all the lies the enemy told me at first until I realized God did care about the things that had been buried for 20 years, or the things I thought were too embarrassing or painful to share with Him or anyone else.   I had myself talked into failure before I ever gave God the chance to work.  My first few times meeting with people from the healing team were pretty painful.  It was hard with so much emotion and pain to see where God was working in the beginning, and pouring out my feelings to practical strangers was by far not fun.   A friend once told me, “The battle is the hardest at the gate.”  That statement is very true.  I wanted to give up and go back to the place I thought was safe, where I had blocked all the memories from the past.  That was another great lie from the enemy.  He doesn’t want us to be healed and exchange our sorrows, pain and misery for forgiveness, acceptance and healing from our Father.  Our secret safe places where we hide all these things are not safe at all.  In fact, it is the opposite.  The only safe place for all our burdens is with Jesus.

Meeting with the healing team to lay out all the mess I had buried away for so many years was a blessing that has changed my life forever.  The Holy Spirit led these meetings and was very gentle as we revisited old memories.  He transformed old, hidden, scary memories into beautiful treasures.  Things that were so unbearable to think about are now something that I can talk to anyone about with joy.  That is amazing!  Only our loving Father could take something in which we see no hope or restoration and turn it into something beautiful,

So my brothers and sisters in Christ, I encourage you to embrace the healing ministry at Holy Trinity and use it.  It is a gift God has given us to use.  And always remember nothing is impossible with God.

Only God can turn… a mess into a message... a test into a testimony...a trial into a triumph... a victim into a victor

Friday, November 4, 2011

Parsih Teaching Weekend

All in the broader community are invited to...
A weekend of
drawing closer to God
through
drawing closer to one another
November 11 and 12
(Fri. Night, Sat. Morning and Sat. Evening)
 
“Being Kingdom People”
"Being Kingdom People, An Outpost of the Kingdom of God."
Friday night, Saturday morning, Saturday evening, November 11-12 we will explore what it means to be the Church. Perhaps you haven't noticed, but we don't always get "Being Church" right...
for details: 803-341-0075 or robhartley@comcast.net

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Waiting on the Lord

The Rev. Rick Barbare

Isaiah 40:29-31- [God] gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, but those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. [NKJV]

Why the wait? We often think a thing is denied if we ask God to intervene in our lives and nothing happens right away.  We think, “I prayed, but God has denied my request!”  The wife of a famous pastor in the early Twentieth Century was fond of saying to those who were impatient, “God’s delays are not necessarily God’s denials.”

We often expect God to act immediately when we pray.  We say the right things, don’t we?  We love everyone as we ought? Why then do we not have ___________. (Fill in the blank of that sentence with what you are asking of God and yet have not seen happen.)  He has not said “no,” nor has he rejected the one praying.

We are not waiting because God wants us to merit his blessing through harder labors or more ardent sacrifices.  I hope we are certain Christ has paid the full price for our forgiveness and blessing!  The wait cannot be because we are not good enough yet, because we are already “accepted in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:6).

Still there is waiting. Why?  Bill Hybels in his book on prayer gives a memorable aphorism for us to use to examine ourselves to see why God may be delaying his answer to our prayers.  Hybels suggests there are four possible answers to prayer when we are waiting for long periods for God to act.

·         When the request is not right, God says, “No!”  We are grateful later when we see his wisdom in not giving us what we ask for.

·         The request may be right, but we may not be right with God concerning some other matter. At that point God says, “Grow!”
·         At other times, the request may be right and we may be right with God on all other matters.  However, the timing may not be right. Then, God says, “Slow!”

·         But, when the request is right, we are right with God, and the timing is right; God says, “Go!”

Waiting, while praying for God to act, is not a futile action.  It is meaningful if we are seeking God while we are seeking his blessing.  William Jay, early nineteenth century preacher used to tell this story.

A sailing vessel sank in the Atlantic Ocean, but the crew was able to safely enter the lifeboat and escape. As the small lifeboat drew near a large ship, a crew member threw them a rope. Looking at the rescue no one would think the small boat is drawing the large ship closer to it. No. It is the other way around. The ship’s crew is pulling the small lifeboat to the large ship—to safety.

Jay would then make the application to prayer—

In prayer, Christians are not pulling God down to them to compel him to act on their behalf. In prayer, believers are drawing themselves and their needs closer to God so he can act in his way, for their best interest, and in his own time.

Prayer—waiting on God—is a relational matter.  God draws us closer to himself as he prepares to act on our behalf.  We see him at work in us and for us.  We then go to others and speak first-handedly of the great things God has done for us.  We were close to him when he acted, so we can speak with personal experience about it.  Through our testimony, they are encouraged to trust him too!  We ought not to despair of God’s ability and willingness to act for us if we are waiting long in prayer. Our wait is never wasted. God is at work through it all.

If we are at present going through a painful wait, C. H. Spurgeon’s words will be of great comfort—

Father, prepare us for the height of blessing to which you have called us. Help us to receive gratefully the painful preliminaries necessary to fully receive your highest good to us.

To his prayer, let us always add in faith, “Amen!”

The Spiritual Lives of America’s Young People

By Fr. Rob

Two very interesting books have been the focus of my reading recently: Soul Searching by Christian Smith and Melinda Denton (about the spiritual lives of teenagers 13-17); and Souls in Transition (about the spiritual lives of young adults, 18-27) also by Christian Smith.  These books are based on surveys done concerning the spiritual lives of young people.  I found a few surprises and a number of affirmations.  I will attempt to summarize them for you:


1.      Young people with spiritual roots and church connections statistically do better in life.  This includes such areas as social interaction, relationships, school, and general happiness.  They tend to exhibit less guilt over behavior and past wrongs, are more future oriented, and are more effectively seek meaning, purpose and productive direction for their lives.  It is clear from these studies that these life outcomes trend in the positive direction with deepening levels of faith commitment.


2.      A common perception is that there are fewer teenagers and young adults than in previous generations seeking connection with God and His Church.   These studies do not support this assumption.  While religion is definitely not a priority for most teenagers, many today are remaining in the church, usually in the faith community of their parents, and the number doing so is not significantly different from teens 40 years ago. 


3.      It is true, however, that many struggle with articulating their faith, and many simply lapse into a form of “moralistic therapeutic deism” (a faith based on God expecting them to live right but who is otherwise detached and uninvolved… In other words, they are on their own).  This displaces for many an authentic Christian experience based on a loving, growing relationship with God and neighbor, one that empowers, transforms, stabilizes life and provides purpose.


4.      We all know that the teen years involve a growing independence and an absorption into peer groups.  The message parents often get is “butt out,” and American parents are frequently willing to comply.  This is particularly true on issues of spiritual growth.  As a pastor, I have often heard as a pastor something like this:     “My teenager doesn’t want to come to church or be part of the youth group, and I think he should make up his own mind.”  The result is that many younger teenagers find themselves uncomfortably on their own with some of life’s toughest and most basic questions, such as their true identity and what is real, true, valuable and morally right.  Studies show that most teenagers very badly want loving input (after all, it’s a scary world out there), but they want input and engagement on re-negotiated grounds that take into account their growing maturity and desired independence.  This is when the art of parenting can be its most challenging, but also its most rewarding.


For us as a church family this means that we need to engage teens and young adults wherever and whenever we can.  We need to help them bring faith issues out of the background of their lives and find a Faith that can positively shape their lives.  We need to encourage young people to respect the faith of others but move beyond the modern cultural distortion that it is necessary to water down their own faith convictions in the process.  Finally, knowing that parents are and have always been the key to the spiritual development of young people, we need to bring parents into our church fellowship and talk about the criticality of faith development along side physical and mental development in the life of their teens.

Holy Trinity: A Community of Grace

Grace refers to the unearned favor of God showered upon our lives.  It is God dealing with us not on our worthiness or merit, but on our needs, simply because we are the object of His unconditional love.  This is the foundation upon which the “Kingdom of God” is being built.  Holy Trinity, as an outpost of the Kingdom of God, is therefore called to become a “Community of Grace.”

We who are tainted with the ways of this world find that being a grace-filled community doesn’t come naturally; however (thanks be to God!), it does come supernaturally through the inner working of the Spirit of God in us and in our community.  It is God who makes us a “Community of Grace.”  We are the recipient of God’s grace and therefore called to be an instrument through which that grace is extended to others.  We are therefore a community who is becoming…
Ø  A place of unconditional love that is a sanctuary for the sinner, the broken- hearted and the wounded.
Ø  The workplace of the Holy Spirit and a crucible for transformation and healing.
Ø  A community from which God’s Truth is shared with the world. 
Ø  A place where people can be invited in just as they are, but knowing that God loves them too much to leave them where they are.
Ø  A people learning to be loving and gracious because we ourselves have been treated with love and grace.
We are also a fellowship that is moving day-by-day toward holiness of life, not by our own works or merits, but by the grace of God’s activity within the community.  Holiness is within our grasp because God has “graced” us with His Holy Spirit. The Church calls this “Sanctifying Grace.”  Through God’s Sanctifying Grace, God has given us access to the marks of holiness, which are the “Fruit of the Spirit,”- love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
 
Jesus showed what grace-filled life living looks like: 
Ø  He treated all people as having great value            ,                                     (Luke 7:36-50)
Ø  Regarded each person as a beloved child of the Father,                          (Matthew 18:10-14)
Ø  Hung out with the least desirable and the marginalized,                         (Matthew 9:9-13)
Ø  Conveyed to God’s people unambiguous and un-compromised Truth,  (Matthew 5:17-20)
Ø  Taught that only God is to judge,                                                            (Matthew 13:24-30)
Ø  Demonstrated that we are not to judge, but to forgive                            (John 8:1-11)
Ø  Cared enough to listen and be the instrument of change for the stranger (John 4:4-30)
Ø  Provided redemption and salvation to those who were lost to God.,      (Luke 19:1-10)
Ø  Conveyed a hope and a purpose for this life.                                          (Matthew 6:25-32)
 So, how are we to be a Community of Grace?  By…
Ø  By not condemning, but helping others become aligned to God’s call on their lives
Ø  understanding that others are a work in progress, just as you are (Matthew 7:3-5)
Ø   unconditionally loving the unlovely, even when they are unable to love us back.
Ø  caring for the stranger. (The Good Samaritan- Luke 10:25-37)

In other words, extending grace to others the way Jesus extends grace to you.                       

A Day with Moses

Exodus 3:1-5
1 Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian…
Maybe it’s not working for your father-in-law, but perhaps for you it is just another day like any other day.

 and (Moses) led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.
Many of us can describe the landscape of our lives as “desert.”  Your desert, your wilderness wonderings through this life, may be arid, lacking vision and hope, bearing no fruit.  For you, it may be living day after day with the affects of past trauma.  It may be pain, disappoint… anxiety about the future… guilt about the past… broken relationships.  There are a lot of things that can take a life and turn it into desert.   Is there a far side to your wilderness?  You hope there is!  Perhaps you feel beyond hope… There seems to be no far side to your wilderness. 

For Moses, his wilderness is framed by an abandonment of identity… Is he a prince of Egypt and master all things worldly, or is he just a shepherd who knows how to get by?  Moses’ real identity, it turns out and He is soon to re-discover, is as a Hebrew, counted among the people of God, with a home in the very presence of God? 

Moses’ wilderness is also framed by a loss of purpose and destiny.  Does not God have something more for Moses? …for you?  Jesus says that He came not just to bring life, but to bring it in abundance?  Where is the abundance in the middle of your wilderness?  What does God have for you on the far side of your wilderness wonderings?

 2 There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. 3 So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”
God was on the far side of Moses’ wilderness just waiting for him to draw near.  When he does, he gets a glimpse of the divine.  How about you?  Are you there yet?

4 When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.”
In a tone of submission, obedience and awe, Moses says, “Here I am, Lord.”  Like Moses, is this your day to submit to the Almighty?  There is an alternative: You can turn around and head back out into the desert.

5 “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.”
God is inviting you into His holy presence, onto “Holy Ground.  Does God intend to sanctify your life and make it holy?  That is obviously His plan for Moses.  That is, for sure, God’s plan for you.  Will you allow it?  Will you today, perhaps a bit more than yesterday, open yourself  to the sanctifying work of God’s Holy Spirit in you?  This is the only way is you will be able to eternally remain in His presence and on this “Holy Ground.”  The Church has long understood Christianity to be God’s invitation into the very presence of God, but first He asks us to take off your sandals” that are so covered with the filth of our not-so-holy wilderness wonderings. 

The story is far from over for Moses.  God sets him on a grand adventure punctuated with power and purpose.  What does God have in store for you as you move forward from this day?                                                         

Father Rob


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Take Courage; Give Encouragement.

by Father Rob

When I graduated from college in 1970, I had a brand new engineering degree and a matching job in Charlotte.  The job came complete with what seemed to a 22 year-old young man to be a huge array of responsibilities and job expectations.  Like many young people who find themselves freshly out of the somewhat sheltered environment of the college setting, I did not have a great deal of confidence in my ability to meet the challenge. 

 My first night in town was spent at my uncle’s home, and I’ll never forget what he told me over breakfast the next morning. “Soon enough you will be running that company,” he said.  These brief words of encouragement became indelibly burned into my memory.  Just when my confidence seemed to be lacking, he came alongside me and was confident for me.  His efforts to supplement my waning belief in my abilities became pivotal in bolstering my courage for the challenging and rewarding profession that awaited me.

I retired from that company 31 years later.  I was not exactly running the company as he had prophesied, but I had become a successful part of its management team.  Would it have been different without my uncle’s gift of encouragement that morning many years ago?  It is hard to know for sure, but I believe it would have.

Today in my totally new job as a priest, I often find myself a steady dispenser of encouragement.  I come alongside folks in life’s hard and arid places, and I encourage them to press on to the far side of their dilemmas. The encouragement needed comes in many forms, and it may involve nothing more than instilling confidence that there is indeed a far side.  It is important in any array of difficult circumstances for the person in need to know that neither God nor I have left them.  Sometimes, my supportive presence is enough aid for them to begin the problem solving process independently.  Confidence is also found by many in the “Comfortable Words,” as our liturgy phrases it; or the situation may require that I roll up my sleeves and help share the burden in whatever way I can.  Courage is not only found in what I do, but in what I do not do, which includes withholding or delaying criticism even when warranted.  

Our words have great power, particularly for those for whom we are a significant other. What is said when one is in need of the courage to begin new career, overcome obstacles great or small, or embark on any of life’s journeys has the power to determine the direction they may take.  We can pronounce blessings or curses, encouragement or condemnation.  Our words give the permission and the courage for that person to live into and actualize our words of encouragement.   We can all be ministers of encouragement…. Are you?

Father Rob Hartley is the rector (pastor) of Holy Trinity Anglican Church in North Augusta.  You can reach his blog, “North Augusta Anglican,” at http://holytrinityna.blogspot.com/