Vacation Bible School 2018 Recap

Stage Decorations

It’s hard to believe that Vacation Bible School has come and gone. It’s always a fun week and one of my favorite weeks of the entire year. The people of Mooreland Baptist Church really come together as a team to make it all happen.

Two families volunteered to cook the meals. Lil Tyler, Brooke Tyler and Morgan Keyton led our crafts station. On Wednesday we tie dyed t-shirts like we do every year. It wouldn’t be VBS without tie dying t-shirts. Pam and Margie led our worship where we learned all about being shipwrecked and how Jesus rescues us. John Page, Luke Page and Gabe Page played countless games of kickball with the kids. Dietra and I taught Bible Study. Susi Page led our missions time. And there are other people who helped that I didn’t name. The list of volunteers is long.

Vacation Bible School has always been an outreach kind of program. It’s a good time to invite neighbors and friends to church. I also think that VBS is more than this. It’s a good time to really invest in our children who already attend church. They get an entire week of Bible Stories just for them. They have an entire week of worship services just for them. They have an entire week of adults who love on them, teach them, and spend time with them. VBS is important for all of these reasons. That’s why we keep doing it.

Thank you Mooreland for another wonderful VBS. Thank you for investing in our children and in the children of our neighborhood.

 

 

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Queen Vashti-Not here for your entertainment

When we think of the book of Esther, we think of Esther, Mordecai, King Ahasuerus, and the wicked Haman. If you grew up in church, Esther is one of the heroines you have heard about. Everyone loves Esther. I do too. But Queen Vashti, her predecessor deserves a mention. She is a strong woman and doesn’t put up with the king’s nonsense.

The book of Esther is written during the exile. The Jewish people are living under foreign rule. King Ahasuerus rules over 127 provinces from India to Ethiopia, the Bible says. He’s important. He’s powerful. He also loves to party, eat food, and get very drunk.

The king decides to throw a feast for one hundred and eighty days. There’s food and drinks for all the men. All of them can drink and eat as much as they want. Queen Vashti, for her part threw a party for the women in the palace also. Things are merry until the seventh day when he decides to ask Queen Vashti to come to the men’s party wearing her royal crown. He wants to show her off. He wants everyone to see how beautiful she is.

Queen Vashti isn’t having it. And when I was growing up, I couldn’t understand why she didn’t want to do this. She should do what she is ordered to do. The king is the king, after all. Doesn’t she want to please him? Doesn’t she know that she could die if she doesn’t obey?

Things change when you read these stories later in life. And when we begin to examine things, we realize why Queen Vashti doesn’t want to go to the party. It’s a party only for the men. There are no women present. They have been drinking alcohol for seven days straight. The king is merry with wine and probably drunk himself. The rest of the men are probably drunk too. The more I think about it, the more it sounds like a seven day long frat party. And Queen Vashti is asked to come and look pretty before all the drunken men. Who would want to do that? Who would want hundreds of drunken men gaping at you and making obscene comments?

No one. Not you. Not me. Not Queen Vashti. She has every reason to refuse. She shows great strength in her refusal. Go Queen Vashti.

As you might imagine, the king doesn’t take her refusal well. Not at all. He becomes paranoid that all women might stand up to their husbands and say no when they want to. And the king can’t risk that. So, Queen Vashti is deposed. She loses the royal title and the search for a new queen begins. Eventually, Esther becomes queen.

We don’t know what happens to Vashti after she loses her title. The Bible doesn’t say. But we do know that she shows strength, courage and self respect. She knows she doesn’t exist just to be pretty and entertain a bunch of drunken men. And for that, she deserves a mention.

When have you had to say no? Is there something you need to refuse to do, whether it’s because you don’t have time or it’s something you don’t feel comfortable doing? Queen Vashti said no to a powerful king. May we say no when we need to.

 

Jael-not someone to mess with

We have begun our summer sermon series: Matriarchs, Heroines and Outcasts. We are looking at the women of the Bible. I thought I would write a blog post or two about minor female characters that deserve a mention, but maybe not a sermon.

Usually when we think of women in the Bible we think of them as background characters or as innocent as Mary. But that is not always the case. Jael is a big exception to this stereotype. She is fierce and pretty scary. She’s not messing around.

Jael’s story is recorded in Judges 4. Barak and Deborah the judge lead the Israelites in battle against King Jabin’s army. Sisera is King Jabin’s commander. King Jabin has been oppressing the Israelites for twenty years. The people cry out to God and Barak and Deborah lead the Israelites into battle.

Sisera’s army loses the battle and he is the only one who escapes. He escapes only with his life. He flees on foot to Jael’s tent. She is the wife of Heber, a powerful man in the region. He sees Jael with a bowl and milk. She gives him some milk and allows him to rest in the tent. Sisera tells her that if anyone asks if someone’s in the tent, Jael is supposed to say no. Jael verbally agrees and Sisera thinks he’s safe for now.

Jael isn’t having any of this. When Sisera falls asleep she gently goes to him and drives a tent peg through his skull. Jael kills the great commander with her own bare hands. She wins the day. King Jabin is eventually destroyed by the Israelites over time. The Israelites are saved.

Jael is brave. Jael is fierce. She isn’t someone I would want to be friends with, because she sounds a bit scary. But she is definitely one of the women of the Bible who bucks the background character status. She shows strength and wins the battle. She is significant because of that. So, she’s worth a mention.

So there you have it, Jael-warrior, battle winner and maybe one of the scariest women in the Bible.

 

Matriarchs, Heroines and Outcasts: A Summer Sermon Series

Spring Richmond Hill

Every summer I look to do something fun with my sermons. I usually follow the Revised Common Lectionary for most of the year. The lectionary provides me a schedule of preaching. It helps with Lent, Pentecost and Advent. The passages chosen help us get ready for the big holidays. But in the summer it’s fun to get away from it. The summer is a laid back time of year and the schedule opens up. Why not do something different?

I thought I would look at our soul sisters in the Bible. They are definitely a motley crew. Their world is a male dominated one. The odds are stacked against them, culturally speaking. But it doesn’t stop them from doing some amazing things. Their lower status in society doesn’t prevent God from seeing them and using them. Their stories are interesting and inspiring for men, women, youth and children alike.

We’ll hear from the usual suspects: Sarah, Mary and Ruth. We’ll also hear from Hagar, a slave girl that Sarah and Abraham push away from their household. God remembers Hagar and assists her. We’ll hear from Lydia, a woman coming into the faith who opens her house to the apostle Paul. We’ll hear from Bathsheba, one of King David’s wives, who tries to get her son Solomon on the throne. We’ll hear from Deborah, one of the judges who saves Israel from the enemy.

We’ll focus on the women of the Bible throughout the months of June and July. We’ll have eight stories to hear. But they aren’t the only women in the Bible. There are plenty of others that we won’t mention. Who’s your favorite heroine of the Bible? How have the women of the Bible inspired your faith? How have the women of this congregation inspired your faith?

Summer is here. May our faith grow during this season.

 

 

Sowing Seeds

It’s that time of year to plan our gardens. We decide how much we’re going to plant, whether it is flowers or produce, and we decide where it’s all going to go. We get the beds ready to plant. We fertilize, compost and water our beds for preparation. Then we go ahead and plant the seeds. And with great hope and excitement, we wait for something to sprout.

Around here at the church we’ve been doing the same thing. We’ve been planting seeds lately. In January, we packed up over 10,000 meals for Rise Against Hunger. That food has been sent to the Dominican Republic. And since this has been a mission project of ours for quite some time, the deacon board decided to make it official. Rise Against Hunger is a part of the mission of the church. So, we will fundraise off and on throughout the year to pay for the meals.

And so we have. A few weeks ago we held a spaghetti dinner at the church and raised over nine hundred dollars for Rise Against Hunger. That’s enough money to pay for January’s meals and also put some money aside for next year. We are sowing seeds for future missions and also feeding hungry people.

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In April we supported Ryan Antonio and the Juvenile Diabetes Walk at Albemarle High School. Ryan and his family raised over nine thousand dollars for Juvenile Diabetes Research. The walk itself raised over fifty four thousand dollars. And there will be enough interest for a Juvenile Diabetes walk next year to raise more money.

This small congregation has done great things this year already. And it’s only May. What other seeds can we plant? What kinds of things are growing in our garden?

Sabbath Keeping

B9870A05-F0A2-4070-AE4F-49BF44CE62C6Lately I’ve taken to walking the Monticello Trail. I can’t resist it. There are beautiful trees, the sweet smell of flowers, and the sound of water running in the creeks. The beautiful weather is good for the soul. It reminds us that winter doesn’t last forever. Spring finally arrives. It’s also a good reminder about Sabbath keeping.

Remembering the Sabbath goes all the way back to the wilderness days. The people have been saved from slavery in Egypt. No more working all day, every day, without end. No more working for someone else. No more working without pay. And no more beatings and abuse from the Egyptians. And when they finally walk through the Red Sea and into the wilderness, God wants to set up some ground rules.

The Ten Commandments come pretty early in their wilderness days. And one of those commandments is Sabbath Keeping. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God: you shall not work. God took a day off after creating everything in six days. The Israelites are supposed to do the same when they leave Egypt.

God gives this command to protect the people. Working everyday is what they did as slaves. They aren’t slaves anymore. They are God’s people and they will work six days and enjoy the seventh day. The sabbath is for rest, for enjoyment, and for recreation. Life isn’t all about work. God wanted to teach his people this as they begun their new lives after being in Egypt.

God gives us this command too. We are all supposed to take a Sabbath. We are supposed to take one day a week off every week. It’s so we don’t become slaves to our work. It’s so we can enjoy our lives. It’s a day to remember that we are God’s people.

So, that feeling of Spring fever? Maybe it’s our innate sense of Sabbath keeping. We should go out, take a walk, enjoy the weather, and remember we are God’s people. We should embrace it.

A Celtic Prayer for the Journey

St. Patrick is known for many things. He is known for driving all the snakes out of Ireland. He is known for teaching people about the Trinity using a Shamrock. And if you are really up on your St. Patrick lore you might know that he was originally sold into slavery in Ireland, escaped and came back to share the gospel with his former captors. That particular story is moving and full of meaning. A former slave preaching the good news of Jesus to his former captors? Priceless.

As Christianity spreads throughout Ireland, Wales, Scotland and the surrounding islands the faith begins to take a different flavor than it does in other parts of Europe. Celtic Christianity is born. In the Celtic Tradition the church is ruled by monastic leaders, not bishops. Monasteries are started and become prominent in everyday life. The people brush up against the monks all the time.

And the people begin to pray all the time like the monks did. Celtic Christians are known for their prayers-prayers for everything-healing, their homes, birth, death, and journeys. A man named Alexander Carmichael begin traveled all over Ireland, Scotland, and Wales and recorded their prayers. He gathered them and published them in a book: The Carmina Gadelica.

Here’s one of their prayers for a journey. May it be a prayer for our journeys whether it is our Lenten spiritual journey or some other journey.

Prayer: The Pilgrims’ Abiding

God be with thee in every pass, Jesus be with thee on every hill. Spirit be with thee on every stream, headland and ridge and lawn.

Each sea and land, each moor and meadow, each lying down, each rising up, in the trough of the waves, on the crest of the billows, each step of the journey thou goest. Amen.