Eric Crisp - Luke 2:41-52; Colossians 3:1-3, 12-17. Many live life without noticing the absence of Jesus. Others notice Jesus’ absence and, as they begin to look for him, wonder why he isn’t there. We rediscover Jesus, however, when we are in the Father and about the Father’s business, dwelling in the word of Christ and putting on love, peace, and thankfulness.
Steve DeNeff - Isaiah 9:2-7; Luke 2:1-14. For many, the shift from Slave to Child is only self-actualization. They celebrate the privileges of a firstborn, yet forget their commensurate responsibility. Like Jesus, we are the Presence of God in this world. We live in the Father for the world. That is why Jesus’ birth and ours is “good news of great joy to all people.”
Emily Vermilya - John 1:1-2, 10-14; Colossians 2:9-10. When asked what God is like, most will say that He is “love” but do we know what this means? Jesus said, “The Father loves the Son” (John 5:20) and he prays “that the love you (the Father) have for me may be in them,” (John 17:26). In fact, the love of the Father for the Son and for us is the same love to the same degree. Just as the Father loved us through the Son, the Son will love others through us. God is not just the standard, but the Source of our love for others. This changes everything about the way we love one another.
Steve DeNeff - John 1:1-2, 10-14; Colossians 2:9-10. For many, their humanity is a weakness: “I’m only human,” they say to excuse their last failure, yet the more of these failures they have the less human they become. What if Jesus, and not somebody else, is the measure of our humanity? What if God took on our flesh so that we, in our flesh, can be like God? But how? In his humanity, God makes demands upon our humanity, yet He offers freely to give us all that He demands.
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.