Created for a Purpose

VBS 2017

Singing songs, tie dying t-shirts, playing kickball and learning about the Bible all happen during Vacation Bible School every year. The kids always want to dance on the stage to the music. (Who can blame them?) They always want to play kickball. (A solid choice.) Lil and Brooke always have a tie dye night (It wouldn’t be VBS without it.) And we have a great time.

This year our theme was Maker Fun Factory: Created for a Purpose. Every night we began with worship and then rotated through stations: crafts, games, Bible Study and a video station that had good discussion. We also shared dinner together before worship.

Every year during VBS Mooreland comes together. Some of it is behind the scenes. John Page mowed the lawn. Leighton, Lil and Brooke spruced up our playground. Georgia pulled weeds, especially the poison ivy. Margie, Jimmy, Lil, Dietra and Brooke all helped put the stage decorations up. Some of the work happens during the week. Megan and Tony took pictures for our daily slide show that retold our Bible Story. Georgia and Debbie led our Bible Study station complete with a tent, pretend torches, and an empty tomb. Dietra, Susi, Margie and Ann all helped with dinner. Kim Ferguson led games with kids who all wanted to play kickball every night. Melinda led our video discussion group where they looked up the Bible verse and discussed a video about kids their age learning new things about God. Lil, Brooke and Sheila led crafts with their many helpers. And I’m missing people-especially all the youth who helped with games and running the computer during worship. Everyone did such a great job.

VBS is a week when Mooreland really knows how to come together and be a church. Not that we don’t do this other times of the year, but there’s something special about VBS week. I think it’s the kind of event and also the scale. It’s a big production and we always rise to the occasion.

And as we walk through the rest of the summer, let us rest from our labors and also get ready for the busy church season-the fall. There will be plenty of other things to come together for.

 

Answering God’s Call: Sheila Ballou

Ladies Crochet Group 2
Sheila-crocheting away in the black shirt. She’s been leading our Ladies Craft Group.

Sheila is one of our newest members of our church. She started visiting with us about two years ago. She was looking for a place to call her church home and she felt comfortable among us. Since then she has made fast friends with us and become part of our church family. She has begun our Ladies Craft Group that meets once a month after worship. She has helped with crafts at Vacation Bible School. We baptized her last year. Sheila has become one of us.

As I have been getting to know Sheila, she has shared with me her sense of calling. She feels called to the ministry. She feels led to begin her seminary journey. So, this August she will begin studies at the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond. We rejoice with her and we are praying for her.

Sheila did her career as a software engineer for the navy. And she was good at her job. When she retired from Sperry Marine in Charlottesville, she began to help her daughter and son-in-law raise their two boys. She teaches them math and about her faith. Since retirement she has sensed a need to answer the call to ministry.

Sheila’s faith journey began years ago. She had attended different churches since about 1993, but it was in 2010 that she felt God’s call on her life. She was attending Covenant Church in Richmond and felt that God wanted her to do something for him. She has since joined us at Mooreland and has been growing in her faith in Henry C’s Sunday School Class and her personal devotions.

Sheila feels called to ordination and missions. We are excited to support her in this seminary journey and discovery of what God has in store.

 

 

Honoring and Celebrating God’s Creation

sunset-at-red-hill

Summer is upon us. We’ve just had Memorial Day weekend with its festivities and remembrances. And for the months of June and July, things on the church calendar clear up a bit. Easter is over and the school year is almost done. Summer brings a slower pace and more traveling.

At Mooreland we will put this slower pace of life to good use. We’re going to have fun with things. We’re going to honor and celebrate God’s creation. North Garden is a beautiful place at the foothills of the mountains. The night stars shine brilliantly on a clear night. Farmers make their living in our community. Gardeners are already reaping a harvest from their backyards. Creation is part of every community. God’s creation plays a big part in our community.

For the months of June and July I will preach a sermon series entitled: Honoring and Celebrating God’s Creation. We will focus on different things. We will remember that creation is good. We will talk about how God speaks to us through creation. We will talk about bearing fruit. We will end our study in the book of Revelation where all of creation is restored. We will also sing songs about God’s creation. We will pray special prayers over all the farms and gardens. The children will learn about God’s creation in the children’s sermons.

We will also celebrate and honor God’s creation through a mission project this summer. As a community of farmers, we will help out farmers in other countries. We will buy livestock for needy farmers. We will do this with the help of Heifer International. Heifer International focuses on systemic change in impoverished areas. Instead of giving someone a cup of milk, we will give them livestock. We can buy a sheep for 120 dollars. We can also buy a pig for 120 dollars. Rabbits are 60 dollars and honeybees are 30 dollars. A cow is 500 dollars. How many animals can we buy? Let’s find out!

There’s also a plan in the works to do an outdoor worship service on a Sunday afternoon. We don’t always get to worship together in God’s creation. We will also bless and pray over all the farms in our community. We will pray over their fields. We will pray over their livestock. We will pray for their pets, because they have jobs to do too. We are planning to do this in the fall.

I am excited for all that this summer will bring. How will you celebrate and honor God’s creation?

 

Discipleship in Community

Last week was Supper Church and we had a ball. We had an egg roll. We had an egg fight. (With hard boiled eggs.) We painted wooden eggs to take home with us. We were celebrating the resurrection during the official 50 days of Easter. We also ate tacos and do what we do best-visit.

One of the things I love about Mooreland is the relationships among the people. After church it takes a while to leave because everyone has to catch up with each other. Whenever we have a business meeting, we stay around afterwards to chat. The same is true for Supper Church. After we’ve eaten, we all like to sit around and catch up. It’s like a family reunion.

Jesus was this way with his disciples. He liked to visit. In fact the reason why he would go to Mary, Martha and Lazarus’ house was to hang out and visit. Jesus loved the twelve disciples like his own family. For three years they were his family as he traveled all over the countryside. It was in the context of this close relationship that he taught them all kinds of things.

When the disciples heard Jesus tell a parable-it was like a good friend telling them the story. When Jesus performed a miracle or healing, it was like their own brother was performing the act. When Jesus was arrested, killed and dead-it was like losing a family member. When they saw the risen Jesus, it was another family reunion. These men were close. They were family.

That’s how it is here at Mooreland. We are family. Some of us are related to each other, and some of us aren’t. But it doesn’t matter. We all claim each other. We also do a good job of inviting others to join in. We aren’t that exclusive. We’re welcoming.

As a church family, how can we challenge each other in the faith? After all, we are close. We talk about families, our relationships, our jobs and our failures. How can we encourage each other in the faith? How can we challenge each other to pray, to grow our relationship with Christ? How can we challenge each other to serve the community? How can we use our relationships as a community to help push each other in the faith?

We are close. Let’s use that to deepen our love for the Lord and love for our community.

Egg Fight

The 50 Days of Easter

Happy Easter! It seems a bit late to say that, because all the stores have put Easter candy on clearance and we are done with the Easter Egg Hunts. But the official church calendar celebrates Easter for 50 days. After all, Easter is a big deal. Let’s celebrate for 50 days.

As a review, let’s go over where we’ve been. Lent is the forty days of preparation for Easter. Easter is 50 days of celebration until Pentecost. Pentecost is the day when we celebrate the birth of the church. It’s the day that the Holy Spirit came to all the believers in Jerusalem with tongues of fire. The church calendar was put into place so that Christians could make the faith part of their everyday lives. There’s a season for things. Each year we go into a cycle. We begin at Advent and end during the season after Pentecost.

All of this is pretty foreign to us Baptists, but I think the calendar still has its place. And for right now we are still celebrating Easter for fifty days. We’ve been doing this in our worship services as we’ve looked at Jesus appearing to the disciples, to Thomas, and to the two men on the road to Emmaus.

We’ll also celebrate Easter during May’s Supper Church. Our theme will be the resurrection and we’ll do all kinds of things with eggs. Eggs are a symbol of life and Christians have associated Eggs with the resurrection for years. We’ll have an egg roll. We’ll have an art project with egg shells. We might even have an egg fight. (With hard-boiled eggs, I promise.)

How will you reflect on the resurrection during this season? Where is God creating new life in you?

 

 

On a Mission

Ladies Crochet Group 2

This past weekend Sheila Ballou did a brave thing. She taught her pastor how to crochet. Actually, she taught all the ladies in the group how to crochet. The fact that the pastor learned to crochet is just icing on the cake. She is a very calm and reassuring teacher. This pastor is an impatient student.

A few months ago Sheila approached me about making prayer shawls here in the church. She is a avid crocheter/knitter and wanted to put her talents to use. So we met and talked. We talked about what kind of things would be useful. We set a date to meet and we were off to the races.

Sheila came up with the pattern and figured out the kind of yarn to use. She gathered her materials and prepared things for us. And this past Sunday we ate our lunches, fumbled through our crochet stitches and had a great time. The goal is to make prayer blankets for folks in the church. The plan is to meet on the third Sunday of each month to work on our projects. We began with excitement.

Sheila wanted to use her talents for God. She asked others to join in. Isn’t this what the church is about? Isn’t this what the faith is all about? We all have our talents and skills. We all have ideas of how we can serve God and our neighbors. Why not give them a try? Why not be bold and serve in a new way?

What is God calling you to do? What new things could we do here at Mooreland?

Easter Morning Tidings

This Easter has been glorious and also a bit melancholy. Easter fell on April 16th-the day when tragedy struck the campus of Virginia Tech. I am a Hokie and proudly so. My parents met at Virginia Tech and got married when Dad had one more year to finish. It’s been ten years since the shooting and it’s always a hard day.

This Easter, this April 16th, I was leading worship at Trinity United Methodist church for our annual community sunrise service. Here is my reflection for the service. I thought I would share it. It has more of my thoughts than anything else I could write at this point.

Sunrise Service Reflection

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. In six days all of creation came into being and on the seventh day God rested. In the beginning the Word was with God and the Word was God. Jesus was in the beginning with God. And now, we are at the beginning yet another time. The life and ministry of Jesus are done. God has raised Jesus from the dead. We are back at the beginning.

Mary didn’t know any of this when she walked to the tomb that Sunday morning. It was dark, the stone was moved, and she runs for the disciples. The disciples go running to the tomb full of questions. Was it thieves? They look inside and all they find are the empty linen wrappings left behind. He isn’t here. John tells us the beloved disciple believes-what he believes we aren’t entirely sure. But something is up.

The disciples leave poor Mary behind and she takes a look inside the tomb. She sees two angels. Why are you weeping, they ask. They have taken away my Lord and I do not know where they have laid him. She turns around and sees a man-she thinks it’s the gardener. She tells him the same thing she told the angels. Mary! It’s him. Tell the disciples that I am going back to the Father. She is then charged with the task of telling them the news. I have seen the Lord!

Jesus isn’t just a teacher, a healer, or a political figure at this point. He’s not just someone who died for his beliefs. He’s been resurrected from the dead. He’s alive even though the authorities made sure he was good and dead. He’s still speaking to his followers even though the authorities wanted to stop people from following him. The resurrection changes everything. We’re back at the beginning.

Our faith begins at the tomb. Without the tomb we wouldn’t be here. If Jesus simply died like a criminal on the cross, we wouldn’t have the faith we have today. We would simply celebrate a man who died for what he believed and that would be it. Instead, the empty tomb brings new life. The resurrection brings us hope that God is always creating new things, even things from violence and cruelty. The tomb tells us that God gives life and life abundant. It tells us that God hasn’t given up on us or on our broken world.

When Mary says,  I have seen the Lord!-it changes everything. Jesus is alive and the work isn’t done yet. His mission is handed to us. We are given responsibility to participate in God’s redemption of creation. We are the ones charged with the task of carrying God’s light into the world-a light that the darkness will never overcome-a light that shines in the darkness.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth-God hasn’t stopped creating. Evil has entered our world, but even on Good Friday-when the Son of God is hanging from the cross-evil didn’t have the last say. On Easter morning evil is defeated once and for all. God’s light-which has been shining from the beginning-shines on yet again. Jesus is alive and we get to tell everyone-I have seen the Lord.