Have you heard people talking about a message during Fall Focus this season and wish you could have heard it? Now you can. Click on any of the “Fall Focus” links (like this one “Fall Focus” ) and you will have a summary with video links to each of the four Fall Focus messages from this season. Here is a summary of what we have covered”
Theme: Finding Our Neighbors
- Week 1 “Radical Hospitality”
- Week 2 “Building a Conversation”
- Week 3 “What Will You Live For: Give It Voice”
- Week 4 “What Will Finding Our Neighbors Mean for Good Sam and for You?”
We hope you have enjoyed the playful and creative look at what it means to connect with our neighbors. As always, we wish you faithful journeying with God. (Micah 6:8)
“Walking the Journey, Meeting at the Cross”
Scripture Readings: 2 Corinthians 3:1b, 12-18, 2 Corinthians 4:1, 5-9, 15-18, John 2:43-51
We need each other and God has a plan to meet us right there.
We need each other in our overwhelmed moments and in our tired tirades. We need each other in our parenting challenges and especially in our suffering. Right in these places, God’s mercy meets us! How? God touches our lives when other people bring good things into our lives, like welcome, acceptance, healing and forgiveness. In these moments the Welcome of God is at work. This is part of the truth and liberation that the activity of finding our neighbors will bring.
Listen to Micheala Shelly as she tells it her way, through her life and struggles. Notice when and how she finds neighbors who make a difference in her life and in theirs. Then, notice what she does with this discovery. I believe her experience is relevant to us as well.
Even when we’re dying, we need each other, we need God’s love and mercy, and we are still God’s gifted people. What Michaela has discovered is that even in our own struggles we also carry the love and mercy of God with us. It comes through our lives from others and it comes from us to others through the plan and purposes of God. Even when we are weak and dying we have the ability to be God’s people, making a difference in the world. Paul says it this way, ”
5 For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your Servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 7 But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 15 Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. (2 Cor. 4:5-9, 15)
That we can have this impact in each others lives is a sign that the living God is working in our lives. These are signs of God’s Grace. God’s Grace is about how God will lead us into the persons we will become, and help to shape and care for the lives we touch. And we take this journey with God and through God’s grace with those who come into our lives and into whose lives we come. When we act on this hope we become the Grace of God to others as well. And we learn to let the Grace of God be enough for our lives as well.
How can you be a lighthouse for another? And also receive the gift of how God is working in your life? This is living with Christ and finding our neighbors along the journey of faith. This is God’s Grace, alive among us. This is a part of the risen life of Christ among us. You too can carry this light of the glory of God in the face of Christ, in your life.
“What Will You Live For – Give It Voice”
Scripture Readings: Isaiah 55:6-13 and Mark 5:1-20
Parenting will strip you down, revealing your weaknesses. It will ask for more than you have at any given moment and ask you to give your life when you feel you have nothing left to give. If you thought about the literal costs and the personal investment it takes to parent, you might tremble or turn and run from the endeavor.
Parenting is also a crucible in which God remakes you into a vessel capable to pouring out love and mercy while giving gifts that others will need to survive and thrive. And it leaves room for the loves songs we will live and write with our lives.
Isaiah 55 says God’s Word goes out and doesn’t return until it accomplished its purpose just like the rain falls and does not return to heaven until it has watered the earth, filling the lakes and rivers and giving life to the earth.
Perhaps also, God is busy parenting us, pouring out love and mercy, while giving us gifts that we will need to survive and thrive.
Listen to the struggles of one young woman, looking for life… and wrestling with herself and her father to search out what it means to live and thrive in the world.
There are many ways that the love and gifts of God invite us into the world to discover and to acquire the gifts that are needed in the world…. But living this adventure is a beautiful love song…. A Golden melody to the Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier whose purposes are accomplished and who’s love song continues to resound in the lives and hearts of those who love God.
Building a Conversation
Scripture Readings: James 1:19, Philippians 2:3-4, Matthew 6:19-21
- When people talk, listen completely, most people never listen. – Ernest Hemingway
- “Just as love to God begins with listening to God’s word, so the beginning of love for the person is learning to listen to them.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer
- One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say. – Bryant H. McGill
- “Often a person can be helped merely by having someone who will listen to them seriously.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer
- I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen. – Ernest Hemingway
- When we listen with curiosity we don’t listen with the intent to reply. We listen for what’s behind the words. – Roy T. Bennett
Sometimes we miss seeing the blessing and benefit we receive in finding our neighbors. In our first session on Radical Hospitality we explored how being really present and creating space for another is a gift to them and part of the way God creates a graceful space for us to be present with God. But when we welcome another, often elements of our own faith journey will come into play and we discover that God is giving us what we need as well. This is the liberation that often comes with our learning to be about Radical Hospitality.
The next step is learning to play with that graceful space we make between us and another. Here we have the opportunity to learn and practice the art and activity of building a conversation. We are often very centered on what we want to say instead of learning to listen in order to connect. Here are 10 things to consider…
Filling graceful space between us and another with the activity of listening to understand and to connect is a great way to create meaning and better begin to see our neighbor, beyond what we thought we knew about them. There is always more to learn and everyone is an expert in something. Listen in order to discover what the another is gifted in.
You also might read Chapter 16 of “The Whole Brained Child” by Daniel J. Siegel M.D. He talks about how our brains are hardwired for this kind of connection and our brains are built for this kind of connecting and learning to understand each other.
Radical Hospitality for the Rest of Us
Scripture Readings: Hebrews 13, Romans 12, Luke 14
The Good News is that the Gospel of Jesus is alive and coming to us from others – and coming from us to others! The life of Jesus is bridging us to paths of hope and life giving acceptance that happen when God’s hospitality opens our hearts and engages our lives.
Today we welcome just a few of the people who are finding life and hope among us. They bring with them an invitation to see what God is doing in the world and to welcome it into our hearts and into our lives as well. This is the heart of Radical Hospitality. It is a primary by-product of being made new in Christ.
Finding our Neighbors is about opening our hearts and our lives to God’s Hospitality, where we learn to open our lives newly and creatively to people God’s bring to us along our Journey of Faith. This is what we mean by “Finding our Neighbors.” It is a work of God, opening our lives and the lives of others as the life of Christ is poured out into our lives and into our community life, through God’s love and mercy.
Today, I want to share with you a vision for and seven signs of Radical Hospitality as God opens us to God’s work right here were we live. They are called: Radical Hospitality for the Rest of Us.
When we practice Radical Hospitality, two things happen. First, those we welcome begin to experience the radical “Welcome” of God among us. And second, we each on our own experience a participation in what God is doing and a liberation from our self-preoccupation. The liberation that learning to practice Radical Hospitality wherever we go, is a liberation for us and our lives. Liberation is what happens for all of us as God’s Radical Hospitality is accepted and shared. This is “Finding Our Neighbors.”
It is a powerful way to live. It is God’s way with us. It is life giving for those who practice it and for those who receive it.
Every year at Good Sam we bring a theme into our lives and explore it together for a few weeks. This year, from Sept. 30 to Oct. 21 we will be exploring the theme: Finding Our Neighbors.
In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus was exploring the question about right and just behavior with a lawyer who was asking aloud what the most important Commandment is. Jesus said, “Love God and love your neighbor.” The Lawyer asked, “Well, then, who is my neighbor?”
It was an important question in the interaction between Jesus and the lawyer, “Who is my neighbor?” And the real answer is that question, “To whom can you prove to be a neighbor?” We might ask ourselves as a church or ourselves personally, “Where can we prove to be a neighbor?”
This year, during Fall Focus we are engaging the theme: Finding Our Neighbors. The discovery may be, that this is a personal journey, as much as it is a corporate or communal journey that we take together. Each Sunday, in these four weeks, we’ll explore a different expression or example of someone who searched out their own story and in the journey, found their neighbors and a new sense of community that was previously unexplored.
This season, we’ll explore these themes in “Finding Our Neighbors:”
Sept. 30 Radical Hospitality and the Liberation That Comes With It
Oct. 7 Building the Conversation; Listening to Connect
Oct. 14 “What Are You Ready to Live For?” Give it Voice!
Oct. 21 What Does “Finding Our Neighbors” Mean for Good Sam and for You?
Join us for these four weeks. Here are some ways to to engage and explore these discoveries:
- Join us each week in Worship, beginning Sept. 30.
- After Worship, join in discussion during “Coffee and Conversation” where we’ll further discuss the message and the theme for that Sunday.
- Join us on Wednesday evenings at 7:00 P.M. beginning Oct. 3 through Oct. 24 to review the video message from the previous Sunday and further talk on the theme.
- Listen to the recording of each Sunday’s message and reflect on how your involvement at Good Sam might reflect this message and how your own everyday life might benefit from this theme. Each Monday there is a new post on the Good Sam website that includes a link to the previous Sunday’s audio recording.
Perhaps you have already heard of our plan to introduce “The Story” as this Falls thematic focus. This note is to introduce the vision for the idea, and solicit your support and engagement as we plan to include the whole church in this Fall Focus.
“The Story” is the story of God’s people and God’s relationship with God’s people. It is an abridged version of the Bible, written with chronological fluidity – so that you can read and understand the story as a whole, from Abraham to Jesus. It is my vision that we introduce and deliver “The Story” at all levels and all groups within Good Sam, so that we can all interact and engage with this rich story, at church, at home and in all of our small groups for the entire church year. “The Story” has both reading materials and companion resources for adults, teens, 9-12 year-olds, 4-8 year-olds and pre-schoolers. I want to introduce The Story so that entire families of all ages can embrace the topic together. It will be embedded in the sermons and in our worship service and it is my hope that all of you will include it in some way, to some depth, with your classes or groups. There are many different ways to do so.
Please explore the materials in my office for all age groups (you might have to take turns) and explore the resources on line – www.TheStory.com/resourcelibrary. There are books and videos and study guides. The curriculum is broken up into 31 weeks – which we’ll do throughout the year, taking breaks appropriately for Christmas and Easter. You can engage at many levels, with many different resources. I have a group of leaders engaged already to help with this Fall Focus – Ginger L., Sue V., Jason V. and Drew H. We will invite you to meet with us after worship on June 7th to identify which resources you would like to use next September and how many of each we should order. Thank you for what you do at Good Sam. We welcome your input and feedback on how we can effectively introduce this Fall Focus and immerse ourselves in The Story.
Pastor Mitch and The Story Leadership Team
So, how’s it going? Has your Fall Focus journey been helpful to re-energize your faith life? I’d like to highlight one of the devotionals that spoke to me this past week. It’s about giving from your heart and not out of impulse. As we pray about our financial contributions, take a look at this short devotional, if you haven’t already, and see if it helps.
“Each man should give what he has in his heart to give, not reluctantly decided or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” –2 Corinthians 9:7
Giving to the causes of God’s Kingdom is always a matter of the heart and is between the believer and God. God desires a right attitude, not for us to feel coerced into giving. Paul demonstrates two principles of giving in this verse.
First, what a person gives should be deliberate, a matter of thought and planning. A gift given on impulse may be regretted at a later time. One might regret that he has committed too much and cannot keep his pledge. On the other hand, had the giver planned properly, he might find he could have given more. Deliberate planning will be helpful in deciding how liberal we should be in our gifts.
Secondly, the gift should be given freely, not grudgingly or out of necessity. Any manner of unwillingness spoils the act of giving. We should give cheerfully, being glad we have the ability and an opportunity to give. We are objects of God’s divine love and his unmerited favor. We will never lose by doing that which pleases God. The love and favor of God is better than anything—even life itself.
“Faith and Reconciliation in the Life of Jacob”
Fall Focus Coming Sept. 21 – Oct. 12
Overview and Where We Are Going
Jacob doesn’t begin life with any particular sense of faith. He experiences all of the family dynamics that challenge many of our personal families, not to mention our church families. But somehow amid the human drama the presence and promises of God come shining through. As faith develops in Jacob we will see how resolution begins to happen in Jacob’s life. Resolution begins where he is (in a faraway country) and will eventually invite Jacob to consider God’s call to face his own past and his own demons and to head “home” for reconciliation with his brother. All along the way the eyes of faith begin to see the hand of God guiding and sustaining Jacob. In this process of wrestling with people and wrestling with God, Jacob comes to a new name and a new identity of faith; he becomes Israel – a community of peoples.
Curiously, there is a wealth that comes along with this faith and reconciliation, but one is left to wonder if the real wealth of Jacob is in the sheep and goats and servants he owns or if the real wealth of Jacob is his developing confidence in God’s love and blessings and the faithfulness of God’s guidance in Jacob’s life. What would it be like to live our lives in faith with such confidence that we see every blessing flowing from the love and goodness of God? It might just flow from us in gratitude, blessing, and praise for what God continues to do in our lives.
We will notice how this journey of faith for Jacob continues in the lives of Jacob’s sons. We will wonder together how this journey of faith might be playing out in our own lives right now – in our hearts and before our very eyes.
Each of the four Sundays in this adventure we will read a new chapter in Jacob’s journey of faith. Join us in worship for these readings and a sermon to explore the implications for our faith journeys. You might also enjoy joining a small group during this Fall Focus to dig deeper into the rest of the story and talk about these themes in our lives. See the signboard in the Fellowship Hall.
We hope you will join us in this journey of faith – discovering deep connections between our humanity, God’s activity, and the gifts that come with faith in God’s faithfulness. We pray every blessing upon you as you journey these questions of faith in your life too.
Fall Focus at Good Sam
Faith, Reconciliation, and the Life of Jacob
September 21 through October 12, 2014
Come to worship … Stay for fellowship … Join a small group
We invite you to come and stretch your mind, grow in your biblical literacy, and think about how your faith may also be growing as Jacob’s did. Use this time to grow your faith.
Goals for this Fall Focus at Good Sam:
- Learn the story of Jacob coming to faith (Genesis 25-33)
- Discover the connection between faith and reconciliation for Jacob
- Learn about the ministry of reconciliation that Paul says is ours in Christ (2 Corinthians 5)
- Join a small group and meet a few new people
- Develop our eyes for seeing God’s work in our lives
Factoid: Did you know that “Bethel” means house of God (literally–the place where God resides)?