July 31, 2023
Guest Writer: Rev. Paula Gembala
Have you ever asked God for patience? I know I have, and if I am being honest, I would say I ask many times each month. I was on the phone with a friend one day who was having an extremely stressful time. She got upset with her husband who was doing something he shouldn’t have been, considering his age. She started fussing at him, not loud mind you but fussing all the same. Along comes their 5 year old grandson and says to her, “Grandma, just take a deep breath, it will all be okay!”
Sometimes I believe children “get it” more than we realize! We think they aren’t paying attention to what is going on, however they really are. Their little minds are taking it all in, and before we know it, they are repeating a very valuable lesson with us!
Do we show patience with God? Perhaps we want an answer to our prayers right now, not wanting to be patient and wait for an answer from God. Instead of just lifting up our prayers, we need to be still for a while and listen to see what He wants to tell us. Otherwise, we might be missing some very insightful lessons.
God of all patience, remind us to take time to sit with you so that we might hear what you have to say to us. Help us to be patient not only with you, but with others around us as well. We live in a world that runs on a fast pace. Help us to slow down so we can grasp the patience you offer us. Let us be in the moment with one another. This we pray in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Amen.
July 30, 2023
Guest Writer: Rev. Mariah Newell
Numbers 20: 10-12 are verses of Scripture which I find oddly comforting. I feel always like I shouldn’t find them comforting. They are the verses where God tells Moses he’s not going to go with the group to the Promise Land.
10 He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” 11 Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.12 But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.”
The catch here is that God asked Moses to speak to the rock not hit the rock with his staff. So, is God a big stickler about ‘my way or the highway?’ I would say, no. When God first called Moses at the burning bush, God asked Moses to be the voice of God to the people of God. Moses said no. He goes back and forth with God and finally says, “I’m slow of speech and tongue.” Moses had some sort of speech impediment or insecurity that made him doubt his voice right from the start.
God never doubted Moses. Moses doubted himself.
And even after all of what he went through in Egypt, seeing God on Mount Sinai, witnessing firsthand all of God’s power and love…God asked Moses to speak and he leaned on the ‘magic staff’ instead of trusting that God could us his voice.
I’ve been there. I think we’ve all been there at some point. Where we’ve doubted who God has called us to be or the gifts we’ve been given. It’s comforting to me that when I feel separated from God or not good enough, that isn’t the voice of God. That’s my lack of trust or my insecurity. I don’t hear God ‘exiling’ Moses, but instead sighing and saying, “You’re still not ready. I need someone to lead who is willing to trust.” God’s always ready to use us, just as we are even if we feel we are not good enough. God’s never shutting us out. We’re doing that to ourselves and we’re not alone in that struggle.
Meet me where I feel I am lacking, where I feel insecure, where I feel I am unworthy of your call. Fill me with your love and grace so I can trust deeply. Drown out the voice that says “I can’t.” Remind me I am and always will be Yours. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
July 29, 2023
Guest Writers: Dr. Joel Plaag
A musing on Psalm 8:3. When I consider the heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and stars which you have set in place...
I really didn't like physics class. I think part of the reason was, even though the teacher was the mother of one of my classmates, I never quite understood all of the directions. The math wasn't fun. The subject seemed uninteresting. That feeling colored my perception of physics of music in college, where I groaned through long lectures about wavelengths with the interest of a five-year-old at a United Nations Treaty readthrough.
But then an ironic thing happened - I took a course on the history of music theory - one of my favorite topics. I had been introduced to amazing concepts like the mathematical properties of Equal Temperament - the bending of notes from pure tuning to approximate, equidistant tuning. (¹²√2)⁸⁴=2⁷=128
I had learned about the story of Pythagoras hearing the clanging of a blacksmith's hammer on an anvil and coming up with the overtone series. I had learned the ratios of string lengths to pitches; 2 to 1 was an octave, 4 to 3 was a perfect fifth and 9 to 8 was a whole step. I learned of the Pythagorean comma, which is the difference between "pure" whole steps and "pure" octaves, and the discrepancy between them, represented mathematically, which is: 531441⁄524288 ≈ 1.01364
And I think to myself - why are there all of these rules in music? Who came up with the ideas that could be expressed mathematically like this?
Today I'd have to go back and review how to perform a square root function without a calculator. I'd need a lot more fingers and toes to create exponential functions. But today I also know that a graph for x² looks like this, and can be seen in ranks of pipes, who also follow this formula.
Check out the row of pipes near the back and compare it to the x² line.
These kinds of orderly progressions are fascinating to me. Did they happen by random chance? Hardly. Some people, when they look at a set of organ pipes, see the handiwork of the organ builder, the beautiful woodworking, or the exacting way that an organ has been placed in a space that is seemingly too small to fit. But I see God's handiwork. I see that x² line, and I think of evidence of God who created structures for us, and I'm continually amazed.
July 28, 2023
I started to write that I was feeling "a little giddy" as we approach the beginning of the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), but using the word "little" to describe my giddiness is an understatement. I know I’m nerdy about church stuff, but our theme this year, The Kindom of God, is really resonating with me, especially as I will see a few thousand of my denominational siblings over the next few days. One of the things I really enjoy, especially because Cypress Creek Christian Church is sending such a great delegation, is introducing old friends to new folks. I have been known to say to two people who are just meeting for the first time, "The world is a little better and brighter because two amazing people know each other today." I believe the world will be a little better because, in just a few days, we will be able to say, "The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) gathered in Louisville, Kentucky."
Whether it is powerful worship, inspiring keynotes, informative workshops, or a good conversation over a meal, I ask for an awareness of as many blessings as I am able to discern and appreciate. I believe you to be the Source and Joy of this gathering, O Lord of Light. Amen
July 27, 2023
In the 14th chapter of John’s Gospel, we read:
“Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father” (v.12).
I referenced this passage a few weeks ago in my sermon. These words make me think of one of my favorite movies, The Princess Bride. It is a wonderful movie with a character named Miracle Max (played by Billy Crystal) who is invited to help create a miracle. One of the other characters asks if he can move a little more quickly, to which Miracle Max responds, "You rush a miracle. You get rotten miracles." Though Jesus performed some amazing things in his life, he indicated that his followers would do even greater things. Cypress Creek Christian Church, whether it realizes it or not, is currently participating in some amazing and miraculous happenings, even though the process of some of this work is slow and tedious. The words of Miracle Max are important for us to hear: "You rush a miracle. You get rotten miracles." Often, it is just God getting all the participants together and on the same page.
Give me the virtue of patience, Lord, so I may faithfully participate in your miraculous work. Amen.
July 26, 2023
My job, like many other jobs, can have stress and pressure, but at no point has my job description linked good preaching to my limbs remaining intact. You may be wondering why I write that, but in Daniel 2, there is a threat of being torn limb from limb for not sharing a dream and its interpretation. I must admit that such a threat would motivate my homiletical work (preaching preparation). In the story from Daniel 2, the King had a dream he wished to have interpreted, but instead of sharing the dream with those who might have insight, he demanded that they know the dream and interpret it. My first reaction is to say, "Hey, bud, don’t expect too much!" But maybe because I expect too little, I mostly get what I expect. I’m not suggesting we play a round of Twenty Questions every time we wish for some help in figuring out what to do, but I think we should set the bar high when it comes to our expectation of what God might do through us and with us.
Make me an instrument of your visionary grace, O Lord, and make the vision greater than my imagination. Amen.
July 25, 2023
The task of a Christian is to fill oneself with God and the divine message of mercy, grace, and forgiveness. Music is a powerful tool. Rarely does anyone sit around on Monday repeating portions of the sermon, but there is a good chance that someone may hum a portion of a song sung in worship. Music has the ability to get under our skin and stay there, and the message within the music is never too far behind. This past Sunday, I got to hear music in both services, and though the styles were different, I was still inspired by the offerings of those who allow their God-given gifts to bless others. In Ephesians 5:18-20, we read:
"Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."
May I find myself humming your good news, O God, as I go through this day. Amen.
July 24, 2023
God, I’m pretty sure you don’t even need to think about forgiveness. It’s just who you are and what you do. And let me say that I am so thankful for the generosity of your gift poured forth upon me. But it doesn’t come all that easily to me. Oh sure, there are certain things I can forgive without a second thought, but there are other moments when something has happened and I hold tightly to it, or maybe it clings to me. Those are the moments when I look to Jesus and find myself both in awe and a bit intimidated by the absolute ease with which mercy pours forth from him. If I’m honest with myself, I’m probably never going to get even close to what I see in Jesus, but I also believe emotional, spiritual, and even physical health are found on the other side of forgiveness. May I find the strength to do so, remembering that I am the one who may receive the greatest benefit. Amen.
July 23, 2023
Do you believe in miracles? There are plenty of people who would be quick to say that miracles are a bunch of nonsense, yet I have not only seen them but also had the joy of participating in them. In Acts 19:11, we read: "God did extraordinary miracles through Paul." That is the narrator describing what s/he believes, and it might be exactly what I would have said. Yet I have always made it a point to suggest that I do not believe God thinks in terms of miracles. It is a human description of the amazing work of God, often used when we cannot find the words necessary to describe what we have witnessed. From God’s viewpoint, I sort of think of it as God doing what God does best—heal, encourage, inspire, transform, and make whole. And usually doing it through the faithful words and actions of human beings. We say, "A miracle," and God says, "Just doing what I do, with you and through you."
Keep my heart attuned to your work in the world, O God, so I may witness the ongoing miracles that occur every day. And then, if, by chance, I can be a part of the miracles of grace in this world, I am ready to step up and do so. Amen.
July 22, 2023
Tomorrow is Sunday, and I still don’t know what I am preaching on. Actually, I do… I simply have a major editing project ahead of me. I’m thinking most folks do not wish to sit through a 90-minute sermon, and right now, that’s where it is. Actually, this is not a very uncommon occurrence for me. Sometimes a sermon, in the editing process, gets broken down into a sermon series, but there are other times when I make the cuts and simply put the non-used stories, quotes, Biblical interpretation, etc. in a file for later use.
Assuming everything comes together as planned, the sermon for tomorrow will focus on a word that I believe is too often misunderstood or outright avoided. The word is ‘godliness,’ and I think too many of us associate the word with a sort of snooty, puritan, highly moralistic attitude. I can see that, yet the Greek word we translate as godliness is eusebeian (εὐσέβειαν), which probably doesn’t quite mean what we think it means. It has more to do with knowing the WHAT and the WHY we believe what we believe and do what we do. I appreciate two translations of this section of scripture that better communicate what I believe was intended. They are:
J.D. Philips - “He has by his own action given us everything that is necessary for living the truly good life, in allowing us to know the one who has called us to him, through his own glorious goodness.”
The Message - "Everything that goes into a life of pleasing God has been miraculously given to us by getting to know, personally and intimately, the One who invited us to God.”
J.D. Philips translated the word as the truly good life, which ultimately is a reflection of God’s glorious goodness made real in Jesus. And The Message (a translation done by Eugene Peterson) describes it as a life pleasing to God that comes from knowing Jesus personally and intimately.
In the long run, people are probably going to be more responsive if the church does not tell them to show more godliness, but instead invites them to know God through Jesus, and then encourages them to explore what it means to prioritize the ways of Jesus. In the end, it should help people know WHAT and WHY they believe what they believe and do what they do.
Guide me, Great God of Heaven, into a deeper appreciation of Jesus—his life and teachings, his death and resurrection. I desire to live a good life, reflective of your goodness, and I believe this will come through a personal and intimate connection to the Living Word, Jesus. Amen.
Rev. Bruce Frogge