Thursday, April 19, 2007

Virginia Tech Reflection

Amen. I have very little to add to McKnight's words. Some of the comments he's gotten already are a bit emotionally/politically charged. I am focusing on the original post. It sums up my feelings better than I could. May God's peace fall abundantly on all of you.

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Monday, April 16, 2007

We're Moving...

...from the birthplace of the late Kurt Vonnegut to the birthplace of the late President Gerald Ford. You can read my wife's terrific description here. What follows is a modified version of the letter we sent out to our friends here at Hope Covenant Church. We appreciate the prayers of many of you who knew of our quandry before today. This was a tough decision, but we definitely sense God's peace about it now. Some adjustments to this letter were made for the protection of the innocent.

Beloved friends,

When we moved here to Indianapolis on July 28, 2005, we thought we would be here for a one year internship, an integral piece of my studies at North Park Theological Seminary. Thankfully, we had the joyous opportunity to extend our time here another year, affording us the privilege of building stronger friendships with many of you and getting involved in more areas of ministry than we would have dreamed.
After weeks of wrestling through our options for August 2007 and beyond, we have determined that in order to continue my seminary education we will no longer be able to serve at Hope Covenant Church.
I must for a variety of reasons go back to seminary full-time this fall. North Park has graciously allowed us to stay here for two years, but at this point, a move is inevitable for us.
In considering our options, we tried to figure out a way to stay here and go back to seminary full-time, but nothing we came up with seemed like a healthy option for us or for the church. As a full-time student, commuting to Chicago three days a week, half-time pastor here and full-time husband and father, I would not be able to give my best to all three. In fact, in trying to give myself to all three, I would have to fail in one area, and that is not something I am willing to do. Being a full-time student and investing in my family are non-negotiables, and in order to do those things well, we were forced to move in another direction.
After our final Sunday at Hope on August 5, we will be moving to the Grand Rapids, Michigan area. As some of you know, this is where Marcie is from, and basically her entire immediate and extended family lives in the area. This will allow Marcie to go back to work full-time, while having the support system to place Addison into trusted and reliable care during the days that I am in Chicago at school. Though the commute to Chicago is almost as far as from Indy, this option will free me from having to work, giving me the ability to focus entirely on schoolwork and family.
We cannot overstate how difficult this decision has been to make. Every time we look at your faces we see dear friends who have journeyed with us through these past two vital years. We have felt loved and supported amid joyful and difficult times. We have received encouraging words and have felt free to be ourselves in ministering to you and your children. The ministry experience I have received here is truly rare, and I thank you for your patience in letting me try new things and figure out how to do ministry. Looking back, Addison may not remember a lot about the first year of her life, but we will with joy be able to tell her stories of the great people who wrapped their arms around her and us…you.
God has been continually faithful to Hope Covenant Church for over 25 years, and will continue to be faithful after our departure. Though it is hard for us to leave, we know that He is in control and will provide for all your needs. We are humbled to have made any impact on your lives, and we pray for God to continue to guide you into his love, truth, justice and grace.


Andrew, Marcie and Addison Gates

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Kurt Vonnegut

One of the great social critics of our age, Kurt Vonnegut, has passed away. The public libraries of Indianapolis have been focusing on Vonnegut this year, so his name has been at the front of my mind a lot lately. I read Cat's Cradle in high school, and excessive repetition of a recurring line from Slaughterhouse-Five was an inside joke between myself, my roommate and Matthew iPod Morrison during college, and would be appropriate for such a time as it goes. He was a jester in the best sense of the word. Thanks for some wonderfully entertaining and thought provoking literature.

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Friday, April 06, 2007

Good Friday

We have our sanctuary open all day today for prayer and reflection. There are four stations set up, thematically revolving around the words of the Lord's prayer, and I had the opportunity to write reflections for two of those stations. Though I cannot provide the physical elements of reflection, perhaps you can glean some truth from these words this Good Friday. The Lord be with you all.

Reflection and Inventory

“…your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven…”

~ Matthew 6:10

Whether we have been observing Lent and reflecting on Christ’s sacrifice as an annual pattern throughout life, or if this is our first experience with these reflections, we have much to glean from a few moments to take inventory of our lives and Christ’s work in us.
A timeline can be a great tool in evaluating our lives and setting goals for the future. There is a stack of timelines and pens at this station. Grab one of each, and ask yourself these questions and take notes on the timeline.
Before doing so, read the verse at the top of the sheet a few times and ponder its meaning. And don’t use this as a time to beat yourself up. Christ’s sacrifice is sufficient to save us from our past. Guilt is never a motivator for change. But forgiveness is. And Christ offers it to you in abundance. Use this time to decide what changes you can make today so that you don’t repeat your folly tomorrow.

What have been some truly memorable moments in my life? Mark them on the timeline.
What made these moments memorable?
What moments have been memorable in the last year?
Who have I served? How have I demonstrated God’s love?
When have I needed forgiveness? Have I asked for it?
Who do I need to forgive today? Apologize to?

What do I want to change this year?
What steps do I need to take? Where do I need to reprioritize?
What do I want to be different about me when I come to the cross at this time next year?

We all know that the way things are is not the way they should be. We know that Christ’s sacrifice brings forgiveness for the sin of the world and that we have newfound freedom and access to God in Christ, but life is still a struggle.
So we continue to live and pray:
“your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven. ”
Confession and Repentance

“And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.”

~ Matthew 6:12

Confession and repentance go hand in hand. As we see in this verse from the Lord’s Prayer, they are mutually dependant on one another. Even as we ask for forgiveness, we acknowledge that we have already forgiven others. We receive forgiveness as a free gift, but understand that our own hearts must be forgiving in order to receive it.
Jesus puts it very well himself in the parable of the unmerciful servant found in Matthew 18:21-35. Take a few moments to read this parable out of one of the Bibles provided at this station.
Ask yourself how you have been an unforgiving servant. Ask yourself how you have lived in a manner contrary to the heart of Christ. Jot down these thoughts on one of the provided notecards as a prayer of confession to God. After you have written your confession, take a pushpin and pin it to the cross.
Be assured by these words from 1 John 1:9. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

The second portion of this station is a reflection on baptism. Ponder these words from Peter’s sermon at Pentecost as recorded in Acts 2:38. “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
If you have been baptized, take this as an opportunity to renew and remember your baptism. Dip you hands in the baptismal waters, being reminded of the cleansing waters of forgiveness you have received in the name of God: Father, Son and Spirit. Give the water a moment to air dry on your hands.
If you have never been baptized, reflect on Acts 2:38 again, and consider talking to one of the pastors about receiving baptism. The act of baptism is the outward demonstration of an inward acceptance of Christ’s forgiveness and the confession that Christ is the sole Lord and Savior of humanity.

Through the life, death and resurrection of Christ, you are forgiven. You are cleansed. You are empowered by the Holy Spirit to live a new life, a resurrection life, not according to the rules of humanity, but according to the Kingdom of God. The rules of God’s kingdom are not those of power, corruption and manipulation, but of forgiveness, grace, righteousness, justice, truth, peace and love.
On this day, receive these freely from Christ the Lord.

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Aaron Weiss, Bad Hygiene and Vegetable Oil

mewithoutYou is an amazing band, and this makes me love them even more.

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