Monday, September 17, 2012

scripture, serendipity, and faithful community

Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 5:18-20)
This morning I’d like to share a great idea. It’s not necessarily anything new, but Sunday evening reminded me that – quite often – it’s often the uncomplicated and the foundational experiences that can fill us to overflowing.
I’m also continuing to use some of the photographs from our Great Smoky Mountain National Park adventure.
Early morning from Clingman’s Dome
POGs: I’ve written about my Sunday evening “small” group before. The name is POGs (Parents of Grads), and we evolved out of the POTs group (Parents of Teens) Rebekah and I led until we all realized our kids were mostly in their twenties and a couple of us even had grand-kids! So some other folk took over POTs and now there are two groups. Yesterday 34 adults met to enjoy dinner together before breaking off for discussion and prayer.
We have used a variety of materials over the years, but this week I kept things very simple. We opened with prayer, and then I asked the following question:
  • “Think about a passage of scripture that has spoken to your spiritual life in the past week. I’d like each of you to read a couple of key verses and then share how God used the scripture in your life.”
I gave everyone three or four minutes to locate their verse; then we went around the circle and shared.
Stunning vistas
SERENDIPITY: What followed was an hour that turned out to be a clear window into the spiritual core of each person in the circle.
First off, it wasn’t a difficult exercise because each member of the group is already spending regular time in God’s Word. In other words, no-one had to scramble for something or search blindly because they have no idea where anything is in the Bible. That fact alone is reason to celebrate.
To the viewing platform at the summit
Then, without fanfare or much other than mater-of-fact reporting, my friends read their verse and told the story of how God had used scripture to encourage, strengthen, heal, confirm, question, reaffirm, redirect, reassure, teach, bless, or – in one case – specifically admonish.
The evening was a beautiful testimony to the transformational power that is resident in experiencing scripture.
Note that I said “experiencing” scripture. The context of a small group, where friends who love one-another share life together, is an important element when it comes to growing in faith.
Viewing platform at the summit of Clingman’s Dome
BEAUTY: Yes, some of you may be thinking about my last post and the challenges that come with being a serious student of the Bible. But understand this: the Holy Bible is a living document, one that we interact with. The scriptures do not stand or fall in relation to our ability to figure them out, or our success in explaining away passages that trouble us, in “scientific’ verification of Bible “facts,” or ironing out the myriad of inconsistencies…
No, the Bible challenges me to live a faithful life, to learn from the struggles and triumphs of history, and to follow Jesus with passion and integrity.
The scripture I shared – after I heard all my friends speak – was the Ephesians passage above. “Speak to one-another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” This is one of the elements that defines the community of faith as unique and wonderful. It’s what we do Sunday evenings in my small group and it always brings me peace.
What a wonderful world!
I saw so much passion, commitment, love and faithfulness in my friends (again) Sunday evening. And (again) I am grateful for my community of faith here at First Presbyterian Church of Brandon.

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