Steve DeNeff - Acts 1:4-8; 11:19-26. Organizations are often attracted to the obsolete, to things that should have worked but did not, to things that were once productive but no longer are. Then something happens - something unpredictable and unwelcome - that forces us to re-examine our assumptions, methods and goals. It’s a moment that calls us forward, from Jerusalem to Antioch, and if we go God will meet us there with new power and new opportunities. I believe our church is in an Antioch moment that calls for us to establish new presence in the community, outside these walls.
Emily Vermilya - Deuteronomy 6:1-25. The mission of God is timeless and unchanging. His "faithfulness continues from generation to generation,” (Ps. 119:90). Throughout the bible, we read of the home serving as a primary place of disciple making—a place where faith is birthed, scripture is revered, and discipleship is prioritized. The gathered church, then, serves as a supplementary disciple-making entity—a place where what is taught and modeled in the home is edified and supported. But in our contemporary culture, it seems too often this equation has been flipped and the “heavy lifting” of discipleship has been placed upon the church with little regard for the impact of what is or is not modeled in the home. In our charge to make more and better disciples who transform the community and resource the church, and in an attempt to continue to pass along this mission to the next generation, we must return to the model of discipleship that is rooted in the home and edified and supported in the gathered community.
Steve DeNeff - Mark 3:7-16a, 19b. As we discussed last week, we live in a time of unprecedented change. Traditions, values and mores that have governed our lives for years are met with suspicion from a public determined to “do what is right in their own eyes.” Even the institutions that have stabilized us in the past are, themselves, weakened by internal conflict and impotence. One of those is the Church. Never has the public been less interested in the Church; never have they needed it more. We must now ask, “what will the Church do? How will we adapt to these times? What changes are called for in making more and better disciples?" In this passage, Jesus gives us a formula for relevance in any age.
Emily Vermilya - Isaiah 43:15-21. We are people of ritual and routine. We like what's known—the things we can predict and plan for. We like to presume that the good things we have known and been a part of in the past will continue in the days ahead. But the story of God is filled with examples of the Lord disrupting the norm for the sake of doing something greater…"a new thing." And while neither God nor his mission ever change, the manner in which he accomplishes his will and ways is ever-changing, keeping us alert, active, and aware of his presence in our midst, and calling us to join him in his transforming work.
Steve DeNeff - Genesis 25:5-11; Hebrews 11:8-16. Toward the end of life we wrestle with our horizons, with our limitations, and we are tempted to become cynical or even to despair. It feels as though we “did not receive what was promised; we only saw it and welcomed it from a distance,” (Heb. 11:13). Our hope is in knowing that we have always been only a part of a story that is much larger than us. Here we must act intentionally to empower the next generation to continue the same story. For them, as for us, the story is larger than a single generation and the point is never the player but the promise.
Steve DeNeff - Gen. 15:9-18; Heb. 6:13-19a. Our image of God is most evident when we pray. What do we sound like? Who do we think is on the other end? Somewhere along the way, we go from “Our Father” to “Dear Lord.” We go from saying what is on our hearts, to saying what we think he wants to hear. What if praying could be simpler, more natural and engaging? But how? In his conversations with God, Abraham modeled a kind of prayer that was unusual in his day, and in ours, and without trying he shows us another way of talking to another kind of God.
Dave Ward - Genesis 18:1-15. What is my disposition? What is the condition of my heart? “All the days of the oppressed are heavy,” says Proverbs, “but the cheerful heart has a continual feast,” (15:15). The heart of a slave can be timid or pessimistic because she worries that God and the world are laughing at her (Gen. 18:12-15). But a child of promise believes that God and the world are laughing with her (Gen. 21:6) and so she is free from the fear of failure and lives with a disposition of joy, wonder and confidence.
Rev. Steve DeNeff - Genesis 17:1-7, 10-11; Romans 4:7-13, 16-17. Why do I do what I do? What is my relationship with the law? To a slave, freedom always means the end of whatever is holding him back, whether it is bad (like the prodigal) or good (like the elder brother). But children obey the promise, not the law. They obey because of what they are (sons or daughters who share the Father’s image) and because of what they’re becoming. Their freedom consists in moving within a set of disciplines that they have assigned to them selves that multiply their options and stretch their horizons.
Steve DeNeff - Genesis 15:1-6; Romans 4:18-24. How do things get done? Who will be responsible for me? Even though we speak of providence and faith, we often worry and work as though we were on our own. We get trapped in a golden cage, enamored by our success and validated by others’ approval. But a child’s life is different. She lives into the promise, instead of apart from it, always supporting the work that Someone Else is doing. What would it be like if our lives were governed by a promise?