Flawed and Faithful: Walking With Jesus During the Storm

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During the second week of Lent, we continue to dig into the story of Simon Peter, a character that is both flawed and faithful (just like us). Simon Peter is probably most famous for the time he tried to join Jesus for a stroll across the Sea of Galilee. Oftentimes, the failure of taking his eyes off of Jesus and starting to sink is preached as a reminder that we should have great faith and always trust. Yet, perhaps there is more to this story than just the moment Peter's faith seems flawed. What isn’t often talked about is that out of all the disciples, he is the only one that has the audacity to think he could walk out on the water. Sometimes, the bravest thing we can do in the midst of a storm is step out of the boat that we thought was keeping us safe.

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Flawed and Faithful: The Call

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The season of Lent has begun - 40 days centering on self-reflection leading up to the celebration of the resurrection. As we prepare our hearts for Easter, we're going to journey through the life of Simon Peter, one of Jesus' closest companions. Out of all the disciples, he is mentioned the most, even more than the one often referred to as the "beloved" (John).

Unlike most historical figures, the record of Peter's life includes both his triumphs and his failures for all to see - most likely because he shared them with whoever he met as a reminder that God can do big things even when you are flawed.

In his recent book entitled Simon Peter, Rev. Adam Hamilton refers to this disciple as "flawed BUT faithful." For this series, we're going to look at how the season of Lent helps us recognize that we can be flawed AND faithful as we seek to follow the radical way of Jesus. This week, Pastor Sarah begins by looking at the calling of Simon Peter. This is going to be a great season of Lent together, and we hope you don't miss a week as the story builds towards celebrating Holy Week together! 

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A Life of Intention: Service

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As we wrap up our series on the practices that draw us closer to Christ, we're going to focus on serving our neighbors. James reminds us, "What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith, but do not have works?" There is something sacred in the act of using our bodies and lives to serve the other. In this message, Pastor Sarah Heath talks about why our faith is grounded in acting to care for the other. Beyond just talking about it, we are going to hear about the ways that First United will be offering us an opportunity to enact our faith. We are also going to come together at the table for communion together - another thing that grounds us in the midst of chaos.

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A Life of Intention: Fasting

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Last Sunday, Kyle Richardson challenged us to take time for a sabbath. This week during the service, we hear from some of us who shared what that experience was like.

If you were to poll people about spiritual practices, fasting probably wouldn't be the first thing they would list. Ironically, the Bible talks a great deal about fasting, and Jesus began his own ministry with this spiritual practice. Fasting was part of Jewish tradition as a way to cultivate spiritual commitment and focus one's attention on God. To this day, there are many Christian communities that still fast in some form - everything from restricting certain foods or activities to only eating certain times of day.

As we read the Scriptures, Jesus warns us against fasting with the wrong intention, and we know fasting can be harmful when people have experienced disordered thinking about food. The point of fasting is not the what, but the why. The practice can help us discover a lot about ourselves and how we interact with the world around us. Listen in as Pastor Sarah Heath shares how fasting can be a helpful addition to our spiritual diet.

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A Life of Intention: Sabbath

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Last Sunday, Pastor Sarah challenged us to take time to meditate and pray. This week during the service, we hear from some of us who shared what that experience was like.

In the midst of a culture that often values busyness and productivity, this week Kyle Richardson talks about the practice of rest. When the world yells at us to go faster and work harder, scripture reminds us that sometimes we need to stop.

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A Life of Intention: Prayer

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Last Sunday, we intentionally re-oriented the pews to focus our attention on the altar in the center of the sanctuary as we learned about Communion. What a powerful experience it was to see one another's faces as we worshipped and prayed together! Pastor Sarah challenged us to take time to have an intentional meal (or coffee) with someone by setting aside our phone and looking them in the eyes. This week during the service, we'll hear from some of us who would like to share what that experience was like.

As we continue our series on "A Life of Intention" this Sunday, we'll be learning about the role of private prayer as described in Matthew 6:1-16, and we have an inspirational prayer experience prepared that will allow each of us a time to meditation and solitude with God. Don't miss this opportunity to intentionally connect with God alongside your First United community.

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A Life of Intention: Communion

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Practice makes perfect. Whether you played sports, an instrument, or you were trying to learn how to write in cursive, you probably heard that to improve at anything...you have to practice. Living a life of faith is no different. We have to engage our faith continually to continue growing. Our goal may not be perfection, but as with any relationship, we want to grow closer to God...and that requires intention. 

There are many different ways to practice our faith, sometimes called spiritual practices or spiritual disciplines. Many of these practices have been used by Jesus followers for thousands of years to question, form, and grow closer to the divine. In this message, Rev. Sarah Heath starts our series on “A Life of Intention” by looking at the ancient practice of communion (sometimes called the Lord's Supper or Eucharist) and how it can help us grow in our faith. 

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Now What: The Church - One Body, Many Parts

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When you look back on the past two years, what things happened to you that were unexpected? A challenge? A joy? How many people sitting in the pews next to you know some of those details about your life? Listen in as Jenna Tourjé helps us understand our need for diverse stories to be told within the body of Christ.

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Now What: What Are You Called Into?

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Over the past few weeks, we've been talking about the post-holiday letdown and how many of us are left wondering, "What now? What comes after a big event? How do we respond to the disruptions in our life - whether good or bad?" This week, we'll look at how the disciples were left with the same questions after their encounter with Jesus. Encountering Jesus - then and now - is never a neutral experience, and it always leaves us with an invitation into something different.

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Now What: Jesus' Baptism

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We often talk about “mountain top” experiences as we refer to times when we've had a deep sense of faith and are overcome with emotion. In these moments, we're overcome with a sense of peace, comfort, certainty, or even love. For some of us, these moments happened at a summer camp, during a particularly moving worship service, or an epic sunset.

As we read the Bible, we learn how people created altars as a reminder of the place where they experienced God in mountain top moments. Sometimes, those altars were rocks (like the Ebenezer rock of remembrance in 1 Samuel) that commemorated when God helped the Israelites overcome the Philistines. As Israel went through all of its trials, the nation made altars and Ebenezers to remind them that God had not left them alone. (This is where we get the term "Ebenezer" that we often sing about in the hymn known as Come Thou Font.)

In our own life, maintaining those mountain top feelings can be difficult. As these powerful moments turn into memories, they can become an Ebenezer to remind us that God’s presence is still just close - even when God might feel distant. We’ve been talking about the post-Christmas season as a chance for us to ask, “What’s next?” After scripture's telling of Jesus' birth, we don’t have a lot of information about what’s next until Jesus' baptism. His baptism was one of those mountain top moments that will help us as we ask our own “what’s next” questions. 

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Now What: What Are You Looking For?

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For many folks, the couple of days (and even weeks) after Christmas can feel like a let down. After all the busyness and chaos that the holiday season can bring, the sudden return to “normal” schedules can feel disorienting. You may be asking, "Now what?" Advent had us waiting and anticipating, but what happens when the wait is over?

For those anticipating the Messiah long ago, there was a deep communal sense of waiting and hoping. For a people experiencing oppression, a messiah couldn’t come soon enough. Yet, for those in power, the idea that someone was coming to disrupt the status quo was always something to be guarded against. In the back of everyone's mind was the question, "What happens once the Messiah appears?" With Jesus' arrival, many were asking the question, "Is this what we were waiting for?" and "What now?"

On Sunday mornings at First United, we're going to take a couple of weeks to talk about the 'now what' of Christ’s entrance in the world - not just long ago, but in our own lives today. What does it mean for us (in varying stages of faith) to believe that Christ entered into this world? We'll begin this week as we talk about those referred to as the “wise men” or “the three kings” and how their encounter with the Christ child had them asking, "Now what?"

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Life of Jesus: A Worried Mother

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This Sunday, Kyle Richardson takes a look at Mary’s life after Jesus was born, and how it may not have turned out the way she expected. As we reflect on the past year, did you have expectations that weren’t met? As we look forward to next year, may we find comfort in Mary’s story, and remember that Jesus isn’t always who we expect.

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Christmas Eve 2018

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On Christmas Eve, we will celebrate the final gift of an advent-urous life - one that gives us a vision of a Kingdom that looks radically different as we celebrate the birth of Christ. This is going to be an incredible couple of days! In the midst of what can be chaos and stress, we can hear the voice of God offering peace and presence - truly God amongst us - Emmanuel.

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An Advent-urous Life: Peace

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What an incredible week as we conclude Advent and look forward to the celebration of Christmas! This Sunday, we'll learn how an advent-urous life leads to peace. Mahatma Gandhi is often credited as saying, “Peace is not the absence of conflict, but the ability to cope with it." This quote can't be linked to him directly, but different versions have been shared by many famous leaders including Ronald Reagan who had his own spin saying, “Peace is not the absence of conflict but the ability to cope with it using peaceful means.”

Whoever is defining peace, one thing is clear...peace isn’t a denial of difference or a spiritual denial of the world in which we live. Peace is more than a denial of conflict. The Advent story of Christ coming into our world reminds us that peace is possible even in the midst of what feels like incredible strife and conflict. This week, Pastor Sarah will examine how Mary’s very identity and the manner in which Jesus was born help point to the possibility of peace. This type of peace stands in contrast to the peace that was offered by Rome and continues to be offered by simply stomping out conflict. Advent-urous peace is an invitation to look beyond conflict with a different kind of vision. On Christmas Eve, we will celebrate the final gift of an advent-urous life - one that gives us a vision of a Kingdom that looks radically different as we celebrate the birth of Christ. This is going to be an incredible couple of days! In the midst of what can be chaos and stress, we can hear the voice of God offering peace and presence - truly God amongst us - Emmanuel.

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An Advent-urous Life: Joy

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Advent-urous living requires us to look at the world with a different view. It requires us to be open to how God is working even when things don’t look as we had hoped...and even when it's sometimes difficult to see how God is working at all. On the first Sunday of Advent, we talked about how advent-urous living requires us to have hope even when it appears the darkness is winning. Last week, Scott Erickson helped us see how advent-urous living requires us to see the Love available to us even in the times when we don’t feel lovable or feel like loving others. In this message, we'll take our advent cue from the angels as they speak to the shepherds in Luke’s Christ birth narrative. Though the shepherds have a sense of fear (as one would seeing the heavens open and celestial beings appear), we are told that they are assured that this message is one to bring great joy. It is easy to get joy and happiness confused, isn't it? Happiness is situational, but joy is something that exists at a deeper level and requires us to tap into the hope and love from the last two weeks. This week, Pastor Sarah is going to spend time looking at how advent-urous living can help us experience joy and share that joy with others even in the midst of a difficult season.

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An Advent-urous Life: Love

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This week, we're honored to have artist Scott Erickson at First United to talk about the Advent-urous life of Love. In a time when everything is available at our fingertips, it can seem that if things take time to flourish and grow...maybe it’s not true at all. This season of anticipating Love can teach us that Love is always at work, never withheld, and ultimately the joy that is present to us in this season.

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An Advent-urous Life: Hope

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In this message, we begin the Advent season and a new series called The Advent-urous Life. If you're new to this whole “liturgical year” concept, the church calendar was developed to help us set a new rhythm of life. No matter what stage of life we are in, the liturgical calendar can help us get out of our ruts and set a new rhythm.

Advent is the season of waiting in anticipation of Christmas and the beginning of the new church year. Waiting isn't always easy - especially if you've been in a season of waiting for a long time! Advent seeks to help us have a three-fold way of looking at the world (past, present, and future) as we wait for what is to come. Truthfully, if we're listening to the news and hearing of another scandal, it can be hard to see how the Kingdom of God is breaking through into this world. Yet, we are a people of hope. This week, we talk about how Jesus can help us hold onto and experience Hope even in the midst of painful waiting - and sometimes disappointment. Join Pastor Sarah as she shares how an Advent-urous life is a life of Hope!

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23 and He: Rahab

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What does Jesus' ancestry tell us about how the early Christians understood his identity? If Jesus is God in human flesh, then what can we learn about how God comes to us from Jesus' genealogy in the Gospel of Matthew? Rahab, one of the most unlikely members of Jesus' genealogy, helps us get a long way in answering these questions and more. Message by Tim Storey.

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23 and He: Josiah

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As we continue our series on the genealogy of Jesus, Pastor Sarah Heath looked at the interesting story of Josiah, an 8 year old boy who became king. Can you imagine knowing your career from the time you are 8? Before Josiah, there are a long list of kings who have made big mistakes and let power get the best of them. For Josiah to be a faithful leader, he will have to redefine what a king looks like and make massive reforms to how religion is engaged. We may not hear a lot about Josiah, but we have him to thank for scriptures being gathered into part of the Torah. He himself will not live to see how his faithfulness will impact an entire people group, but his legacy becomes part of Jesus’ genealogy and is a backdrop for how Jesus is able to bring a new way of engaging faith. This week, we look at how Josiah’s life can be a lesson in faithfulness beyond what we see finished. All of these stories are preparing us for the celebration of Jesus' birth!

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23 and He: Ruth

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Have you ever come across a long list of names in the Bible and you just stop reading? All those hard-to-pronounce names can be overwhelming, right? We may be tempted to skip over the genealogies, but they're in there for a reason. If we dig a little deeper, we notice certain names are included while others seem to be left out. Oftentimes, the people mentioned have surprising stories! Before we move into the Advent season, we're going to take some time to look at Jesus' genealogy and why Matthew, in particular, includes certain names. These stories are scandalous and maybe not the relatives you think would be mentioned. We all have relatives we may not admit to knowing or sharing genetics with! This week, we start with Ruth. Why does Ruth’s story effect who Jesus is? And, how is Matthew helping us better understand Jesus by knowing where he came from?

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