A Party in a Dangerous Place

cross-picture

I love the Olympics. I like watching the Olympics more than watching other sports. I especially like the Winter Olympics because we get to see sports we don’t normally get to see. I love watching the bobsleds fly down the track. I love watching the ski jumpers fly through the air. I love watching speed skating to see who will win. I always wonder how the cross country skiers have the energy to keep going. The Olympics are so much fun.

At this point in our history it is such a relief to see people from around the world competing, celebrating and having a good time. We are in desperate need of good news. We need something to remind us that the world isn’t always so terrible. Instead of focusing on politics, poverty and instability, it’s fun to focus on who’s going to get the Gold Medal.

This year the Olympics are held in South Korea, which has political implications. Even at the Olympics we can’t completely get away from politics. But there’s something more to it than just politics. There’s a certain defiance about throwing the world’s biggest competition and party just 90 miles south of the Demilitarized Zone. It’s as if we are all thumbing our noses at the violence of the world and throwing a party instead.

I can’t help but relate that to our faith. The world has always had its downsides, to put it mildly. Humanity has a way of finding ourselves in holes that we have pull ourselves out of-wars, famine, poverty, prejudice, racism, and greed. But as Christians, we are supposed to serve our communities and make them better places. But we are also supposed to live abundant lives, even in the face of terrible things.

Jesus came to the world to save us, yes. Jesus also came to the world to bring us life-life abundant. So that means that we get to have fun even when things are tough. We get to laugh even when darkness surrounds us. We get to love our families and community, even when love is hard to find.

As Christians we have always been throwing a party in dangerous places. I think having the Olympics 90 miles from the Demilitarized Zone simply highlights this. Where will you find joy today? May we live our lives abundantly, even today when things seem uncertain.

 

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Feeding the Hungry

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On January 28th, Mooreland joined with Cove Presbyterian to pack 10,152 meals for Rise Against Hunger. Our meals are now on their way to the Dominican Republic. These meals feed hungry people who don’t always have enough to eat. And as the Church, we fed them. We do this because we are called to serve others. We do this because Jesus feeds us.

I can’t help but think about Jesus feeding the five thousand in Mark 6. Jesus has been teaching all day and the crowd is beginning to get hungry. They are too far away from their homes to get some food. They need to eat something. The disciples realize this and inform Jesus. Instead of sending the people away, Jesus tells the disciples to feed them.

They think it’s impossible. How on earth would they have enough money for that? It would take two hundred denarii. Jesus has a suggestion. Go see how many loaves you have. They go and check. We have five loaves and even two fish. It’s not much. But it turns out that it’s enough.

The crowd sits down and Jesus makes those five loaves and two fish go a long way. Jesus takes what’s available and multiplies it. And when we packed those meals a few weeks ago, Jesus did the same. Jesus took what each one of us could give and multiplied it. 10,152 times.

Sometimes it can feel as if the small church cannot do its part to serve the world. Well, that’s simply not true. When we gather together, combine our resources, and work together, we can do our part to serve the world. We did just that a few weeks ago, and Jesus multiplied our efforts.

May we remember this packing event when we feel like our little church isn’t doing enough. Especially when the problems of the world seem so big and daunting. Remember that we fed 10,152 people. Remember that we too have a role to play in bringing God’s love to this world.

Dietra Ann Pat

 

Thinking Warm Thoughts

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It’s been a typical January around here. It’s been cold and we’ve been huddled up in our houses trying to stay warm. In an effort to beat the cold and have some fun, we had a fellowship night during Supper Church. Georgia fed us with a roast and noodles. She even made a cake in the shape of a Ukulele. This was all part of our theme for the night.

We all brought our vacation pictures and souvenirs. I brought my pictures from when I went to Disney World with my family in high school. We also brought my daughter’s sea shell collection from the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Jim brought pictures from Disney when the Starrs and the Tylers went together years ago. Georgia brought pictures from Hawaii when she and family member went years ago. Dietra brought pictures from Pennsylvania’s Amish country. It was a fun night.

Fellowship and visiting with folks is part of being a church. We can’t discount this. Fellowship and visiting with folks is what makes a church go ’round. Without it, we’re just a bunch a people who get together to sing songs and pray, and that’s it. With fellowship, we become a family. And that’s what it’s all about-being family to each other.

In a country that seems more divided than ever our church families are needed more than ever. Churches can be places where people can come together instead of arguing with each other all the time. At Mooreland we love each other. We care about each other. We share our vacation pictures with each other. We disagree, but we don’t let it divide us. We value each other too much to let things divide us.

May our church always be a family. May our family show the community how to come together and love each other.

Vacation Fellowship 2

 

 

A Church’s Footprint

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(Picture above:  Our Midweek Meal group playing spoons. This is a group for seniors that meets twice a month. We eat together, have parties, and have become like family. We are made up of people from all over North Garden.)

One of the things we’ve heard about in recent years is our carbon footprint. How much energy and natural resources does our everyday life use? How can we reduce our consumption to protect the environment? These have been the questions we’ve been asking ourselves in recent years.

Lately I’ve been thinking about our congregation’s footprint. And not in environmental terms, that’s not what I mean. I’ve been thinking about what kind of impact our congregation has on our immediate community. What effect has Mooreland had on the North Garden community, Charlottesville and even the world? Have we had any effect at all?

Sometimes as a congregation we look at the usual measurement of success-numbers. We look at attendance and our budget. Both things are good to know. We need to know how many are attending on Sunday and if we need to check on those we haven’t seen in a while. We know that there’s always room for more people in our congregation. We also need to know how our budget and finances are doing. We can’t do things without our budget and savings account. But we shouldn’t stop here. We should keep looking at things beyond the budget and attendance.

I believe Mooreland has been a longstanding, stable church in a community that has watched the world around it change significantly. North Garden is still a small rural community that has deep family ties. Time seems to go by a bit slower in North Garden than in other places. North Garden has changed, but not as much as other areas around us. And throughout the years, Mooreland has been doing ministry in our community and in the world at large. We’ve always been here. We’ve always been welcoming people into the neighborhood and into our church. We’ve been serving, worshiping, praying and fellowshiping together over a hundred years.

And it goes beyond that. It hit me recently that we have church members in all kinds of professions and doing all kinds of things. We have our group of medical people who serve at the hospital. They are on the front lines of taking care of people in emergencies and also in routine visits. We have a few who work in doctor’s offices and pharmacies too. They are also on the front lines helping folks. We have a couple of school teachers who teach elementary school children day in and day out. They make a big impact on their students. We have our farmers who raise cattle to feed all the rest of us. We may not eat their beef, but we wouldn’t be able to eat without farmers. We have our retired folks who are probably as busy as they were when they worked. They are serving the community, they are visiting the sick, and doing projects here and there. We are a diverse group of people and our influence is big when you think about it.

Mooreland Baptist Church is a place that matters not just to us, but to the community. If we disappeared we would be missed. Our absence would be noticed. How we live our lives in the community matters. Taking our faith with us to work and loving people there really matters.

We are called to be the Church everywhere we go. It could be the hospital, the doctor’s office, the pharmacy, the school, the fields, or the nursing home. We are to be a Church beyond the walls of the sanctuary. And as a congregation, we do that well.

Happy New Year

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It’s cold outside and our Christmas decorations are slowly coming down. In my house we haven’t quite pulled down the Christmas tree. It might stay up until the weekend at least. Jesus has been born again this year in our hearts and it’s time to begin 2018. This is the time of year when we take the glow of Christmas and carry it into the world.

All the love, the joy and gifts of the Christmas season fill us our hearts. It can be infectious. It gives us optimism for the New Year. Jesus, our Emmanuel-God with Us-has come. Now we can face all that 2018 will bring-challenges, joys, vacations, and unexpected things. Jesus has been born-now let us walk into the New Year with him in our hearts.

How will you hold your faith close to you this year? How will you love your neighbors this year? How has your faith changed this Christmas?

And as a Church-how will we be the Church? It’s easy to have a church-a building, people, and committees and things. It’s not as easy to be the church. Whether we are the church in our workplaces, our North Garden neighborhood, or in our own families-we are called to be the church. We are called to join God in bringing light and hope into a world that needs it. We are called to carry Jesus into our part of the world.

Jesus has been born. Take him with you in 2018.

 

 

Hospitality at the Holidays

 

Supper Church Shoeboxes

One thing I really like about this time of year is all the parties and open house events. It’s the time of year when we feel compelled to get together with our neighbors and friends to eat food. It’s cold outside, the holidays are here and it’s time to visit with everyone. It’s time to remove the dust bunnies, cook up some food, and invite people over before everyone disappears for Christmas.

For some this might seem like a lot of work or a pain. After all, there can be too many parties to attend and too much work involved in a party. But to me the bottom line is that this is a time of year for hospitality. We welcome people into our homes to have a good time. There’s something special about that.

One of the things Jesus does in the Bible is eat. A man’s gotta eat right? He eats in all sorts of locations. He eats on the hillside after he feeds five thousand people. He eats at Pharisees’ houses. He eats at his friends-Martha, Mary and Lazarus’ house. He eats at the house of a tax collector named Zacchaeus. He also famously ate his last meal with his disciples in the upper room the night he was arrested.

Jesus is more than happy to be the invited guest. People opened their houses to him and his disciples over and over again. We too should do the same. We should open our houses to each other over and over again. Hospitality is part of the faith. It’s part of being a community of faith.

As we move through the end of the holidays, lets try to enjoy the parties and the fun. And maybe for 2018 we can think of ways to extend the invitation. When can we have people over for dinner again? When can we invite folks over for a party? And how can we deepen our relationships with each other over a tasty meal?

2018 can be a lot of things, but I’ll go with good food, fellowship and friends.

St. Nicholas: Bishop of Myra

As Baptists we really don’t do much with Saints. The only two we really talk about are St. Patrick and St. Nicholas (Santa Claus). And the reason these two make the cut is because of the secular nature of both St. Patrick’s Day and Christmas. But I thought we would look at St. Nicholas, a real life Bishop of Myra this week. It’s worth reclaiming the real St. Nicholas during the Advent Season.

St. Nicholas lived long ago during the 300s or fourth century. He was Bishop of Myra, which is in modern day Turkey. Very little is actually known about his life. He is remembered as a man of great faith and compassion. He didn’t leave any writings behind either. We are only left with the legends surrounding his life. But I think the legends are worth looking at because they inform us about his character.

There are two famous stories about St. Nicholas. The first one may be surprising to you. At this point in Church history, there is a grand debate about Jesus. They are discussing whether Jesus is equal to God the Father in status and in power. It’s known as the Arian controversy. So, a gathering is announced. It’s called the Council of Nicaea. There is a story about St. Nicholas who attends the Council. Nicholas is confronted by a person who won’t be convinced that Jesus is equal to God the Father. And what does St. Nicholas do? He slaps that man in the face. Or so we are told. He is later reprimanded for this and is thrown into prison by Emperor Constantine. He has a vision while in prison, is redeemed by it, and is reinstated as bishop.

St. Nicholas is also known for his gift giving. His parents died when he was young and he inherited lots of money. The most famous story about him is about his gift to a poor father and his three daughters. The father has lost all of his money and is unable to get husbands for his three daughters. The daughters are in danger of becoming prostitutes. So one night, St. Nicholas tosses three bags of money into the open window. Or in some versions the bags of money go down the chimney. St. Nicholas saves the daughters from a terrible fate.

For years the church celebrated the feast of St. Nicholas on December 6th. Because St. Nicholas is known for his gift giving, children would receive presents from St. Nicholas on his feast day. This custom immigrated to North America with the Dutch as their children told their neighbors about “Sinter Klaas”-the bishop in red vestments who brought them surprises on his feast day.

The American Santa Claus came from the St. Nicholas feast day tradition and the mispronouncing of “Sinter Klaas”. Santa Claus still wears red but has taken on a life of his own complete with a North Pole address and reindeer. Both Santa Claus and St. Nicholas give gifts but the gifts are different. Santa has his bundle of toys. St. Nicholas gives nothing short of freedom from poverty and desperation. He is one who practiced true charity. (Richard John Neuhaus, 40)

Our St. Nicholas is a man who brought people out of poverty and slapped heretics in the face. He’s a bit different than our Santa Claus, but I like him. He’s sassy and he’s giving the best gifts out there-dignity and hope.

 

Info taken from two sources-including some direct quotes.

God With Us-Rediscovering the Meaning of Christmas, Paraclete Press, 2007

The Saint Nicholas Center- http://www.stnicholascenter.org/pages/home/