Friday, January 25, 2013


Saturday, January 19, 2013


Amazing! Yesterday I watched an expert plumber install a new kitchen sink in our home. The project was riddled with challenges and unexpected obstacles, but he carefully figured out how to remove the old and install a new sink. Being klutzy with my hands, I am always awed by craftspeople who make things with their hands!
         What I enjoy even more is being surprised. I can form an opinion about a person by watching their behavior on Sunday mornings. They are a good dad, a nurturing mom, or a quiet student. But when I am invited into their weekly world and I get to see them where they live and thrive, I am always delighted to see where their real skills and gifts shine.
         In our text for Sunday, John 2:1-11, the four disciples (Andrew, Peter, Philip and Nathanael) had been following Jesus for just a few days (two or three) when they went with him to a family wedding. I invite you to read and re-read this story from the perspective of a brand-new disciple. Where and why would you be amazed?

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Jesus' Baptism

         I live for a good word or phrase. I love it when I’m reading a book, journal or newspaper and a word or phrase jumps out at me and completely captures or distills a situation or truth. In an article today about some Cistercian monks in Vina, California who are restoring a 12th century Spanish monastery purchased by William Randolph Hearst in 1930, disassembled and shipped to San Francisco and then abandoned till recently, there is a powerful phrase about prayer that jumped out at me. “Our architecture was considered a part of our prayer…and still is.”
         That’s a powerful statement, linking architecture to prayer. It made me reflect on my prayer life and how much my surroundings help or hinder my time with God. It made me grateful for the beautiful sanctuary we are privileged to worship in Sunday after Sunday. It made me mindful of the double challenge of neither neglecting nor worshiping a space itself. All this because of a phrase in a morning newspaper.
         We remember words! We remember the good words that encourage us, bless us, and take us into new areas. And we remember the words that wound us, diminish us and dismiss us. In the clutter of our emails and social media, how many times have we gotten ourselves into trouble with one word misread, misprinted or improperly used?
         As you prepare for worship on Sunday, go read Luke 3:21-22 and check out the words Jesus heard and remembered his entire life on earth. What did those words do to him? How did those words affect his relationship with his disciples? What do those words mean to us today?

Renewal of Baptismal Vows

Sunday we are going to offer worshipers the opportunity to renew their baptismal vows. Why? One simple reason is that it's a great way to begin a new year; at the waters of baptism. Another is to bridge the divide between paedo-baptists and believers' baptists, both of whom are embraced in the Evangelical Covenant.
A common statement I hear is something like this: "I was baptized by my parents as an infant but don't remember a thing. When I accepted Christ as an adult, then I got it done for me, so I could experience it." There is nothing wrong with anything in that statement. An infant does not normally remember something like a baptism. It is perfectly appropriate to accept Christ as an adult. It is understandable for a believer to want to experience baptism.
But when does a believer really get the meaning of his/her baptism? When they are fresh from a conversion experience and are clearly choosing to follow Jesus? When they have sunk their roots into the Word and are discovering what it means to submit to Christ's Lordship, be filled with the Holy Spirit, discover spiritual gifts, and see the fruits of the Holy Spirit? When he/she has experienced the pain of loss, failure or suffering and in the "dark night of the soul" experiences the powerful presence of God in the waters of chaos?
I would argue that all the places are good for the waters of baptism, as a place and time for renewal, remembering, recalling God's faithfulness and mercy. In fact, I don't think I'm ever done with the waters. I'm never fully mature. There is always something new, deeper, richer. Come to the waters!

Saturday, January 05, 2013

The Plan!

         Happy New Year to you all! We had a wonderful Christmas in two parts. Our daughter and son-in-law from Minnesota spent time with us over Christmas. Then we drove to San Diego to spend a couple days with our granddaughter and son and daughter-in-law. One of the questions frequently asked when we were hosting family was “So, what’s the plan for today?” or “What are the plans for lunch or dinner?”
         Knowing the plans is helpful information in many ways. It helps me prepare for the day, for what I will wear or need to carry (as a dad that is often cash!). Knowing the plans lets me know who is in charge, calling the shots, setting direction or agenda. Knowing the plan helps me understand if we are on target or late, or missing it altogether! And different families operate with different plans. Some are pretty fixed and rigid, driven by long standing traditions or powerful personalities. Other families are much looser and open to innovations and changes. And still other families cannot make a decision and seem incapable of making plans.
         The question I’d like you to consider in preparation for worship Sunday is this: What’s the plan for the church…specifically Montecito Covenant Church? What’s on the schedule? Where are we going? What’s important? What’s not that important? Who’s taking the lead? Are we getting there?
         The text for Sunday’s sermon is Ephesians 3:1-21 where Paul lays out God’s plan for the church. Read it a couple of times and put Montecito Covenant and yourself into the text. Where do you have a part? What’s your role? How’s it going?

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