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April Pastor’s Column

Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again. These words are called the “Memorial Acclamation” and we say (or sing) them as part of the Great Prayer of Thanksgiving when we celebrate the Lord’s Supper. When we use them, we affirm the core of Christian faith and we sum up our understanding of time. We remember the past. We live in the present. We look forward to the future. We believe that Jesus is Immanuel – God with us and God for us. His death is, as Paul says in Romans 5:8, the “proof” of God’s love for us and for the world. Christ has died: we remember Jesus’ death for us each time we come to the Lord’s Supper.

Christian faith is not just about something that happened long ago and far away. Christ is risen. Jesus is available to us now because, by the power of God, he is alive. We come to the Lord’s Table not to re-enact the Upper Room but to meet our Risen Lord as did his disciples on the Emmaus Road (see Luke 24:13f). When we break bread and share the cup, the Risen Christ is really present to us and among us, as we are invited into deeper relationship with one another and with him.

Christian faith is also about the future. This world and our own lives are not yet how we hope they will be. We live in a broken and fearful world. The signs of this are all around: poverty, hunger, disease, war, isolation, fear. But we know that this is not what God wants for us or for any of God’s beloved children. Thus, we confess that the day is coming when God will bind up the broken and the broken-hearted, when justice will roll down like mighty waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. Because we trust God’s vision for the future, we say that Christ will come again.

Holy Week (April 9-16) is the time when this affirmation comes alive. We are invited to walk through this story. We remember Jesus’ last night with his closest followers on Maundy Thursday, and we are reminded of his command that we should love one another as he has loved us. We experience the tragedy of his death and encounter again the depth of God’s love for us on Good Friday. At the Easter Vigil (on Saturday evening), we remember the whole story of God and how the promises made long ago are fulfilled in Jesus and bring us the gift of new life. On Easter Sunday, we gather to proclaim that Christ is risen indeed!

Once again, Highland will mark this journey of faith during Holy Week. This is your opportunity to deepen your relationship with God and experience Christ alive in our midst. Please join us.

Maundy Thursday 7pm: the service will include foot-washing (for those who wish) and the Lord’s Supper. Music by the Chancel Choir and Matt Nickel preaching.

Good Friday – 7pm: the reading of the Passion of our Lord according to John and prayers for the whole world. Music by the Alpha and Omega Choirs and Doodle Harris preaching.

The Easter Vigil – 6:30pm: a re-telling of the story of God and God’s people, renewal of our baptismal   covenant, celebration of the Lord’s Supper and a feast following. Special music led by a variety of musicians and David Gambrell preaching.

A blessed Holy Week to you all. Cynthia Campbell

 

March Pastor’s Column

Lent begins with Ash Wednesday on March 1. This season of 40 days (plus Sundays) leads up to the most important observance of the Christian year: the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Christmas is (without doubt) the most popular Christian celebration (and one which we have generously shared with the world at large!). But the Great Three Days – Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Vigil of Easter/Easter Day – is what gives Christianity its identity. We often summarize this through the text of John 3:16 – that God loved the world so much that God gave God’s Son to the world, so that through the Son the world might be saved or restored to right relationship with God and one another.

As we walk through this observance each year (this year on April 13-16), we renew our identity as followers of Jesus and members of Christ’s Body, the church. Over the years, a number of you have asked whether Highland would offer an “adult confirmation class” that would help (re)familiarize us with core Christian concepts and practices. The request comes because of the popularity of the Confirmation Class that Doodle offers each year for our middle school young people. This year, on four Sunday afternoons during Lent, we will offer a “mini-confirmation class” built around four core “practices” – things we do that mark us as Christian and shape our faith.

The basis for our reflection will be the book Being Christian, by Rowan Williams. Williams was Archbishop of Canterbury (the leading bishop of the Anglican Church worldwide) from 2002-2012. He has now returned to teaching at Cambridge University and this little book is based on lectures given during Lent in 2013. Williams is a very accessible and engaging author. In the introduction, he reminds us that “Christians are received into full membership of the Church by having water poured or sprinkled over them; Christians read the Bible; Christians gather to share bread and wine in memory of the death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth; and Christians pray.” Despite the great range of Christian thought and practice, these four things are common to all who follow Jesus and serve as anchors of Christian identity. Reflecting on them together will help us renew our faith.

Please join us for these conversations: March 12 – Cynthia Campbell leads discussion on Baptism; March 19 – Matt Nickel leads discussion on reading (or hearing) the Bible; March 26 – Cynthia leads discussion on Eucharist; April 2 – Cynthia concludes the study with a discussion of prayer. Please join us on these Sundays at 3pm. The book is available through Amazon (Kindle or Prime membership at less than $6) or could be ordered through Carmichaels.

I have found I prefer to “take up” rather than “give up” something for Lent. Please consider joining us to “take up” a reflection together on what it means to be Christians in today’s world. And may you have a blessed and holy Lent.

 

Cynthia M. Campbell, Pastor

 

 

December Pastor’s Column

 Christmas at God’s House: Nativity Stories in the Four Gospels – Advent 2016
The church has four gospels – four narratives that tell the story of Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah, the Son of God. We might think of these as four different houses that the church goes to live in for a season. Each house (like our own homes) has a distinctive form and style; a particular design and style of decorating. We have a natural tendency to blend the four gospels into one (to “harmonize” them). The best example is the Christmas pageant, where Luke’s shepherds and Matthew’s wise ones all show up at the same time. But, in fact, the gospel houses are very different. Historically, we think that each was written for and preserved by the church in a particular region or situation. Today, we can benefit by trying to listen to each gospel individually, or (to go back to the metaphor), visit one house at a time and savor it on its own terms.
This year during Advent, we will visit all four gospel houses and see how Jesus’ “beginning” is told. As we do so, we will find that each story reflects a different aspect of the mystery that is beyond any one description or characterization. Each house reflects one aspect of the truth of the incarnation, the Word made flesh – God with us. And even taken together, they do not exhaust the meaning that is there for us to discover in our own lives and times.
This Advent, I invite you to come with me on a journey of imagination to God’s houses. You may find some more to your liking than others but each will have something to delight you and lead you more deeply into the Christ’s presence. Here are the texts. This is the itinerary for our journey, the moveable feast of Christmas.

Advent I – November 27 — Mark 1:1-11 and Isaiah 2:1-5 – Mark’s house is spare and utilitarian. John sets the stage for the coming of “good news.” He doesn’t “need” a birth story or a back-story, He begins with a forecast of what is to come.

Advent II – December 4 — Matthew 1:18-25 and 2:13-15, 19-23 and Isaiah 11:1-10 – Matthew’s house is dark and full of mystery. Tradition weighs heavily, and there are strange guests who are clearly “not from around here.” The child who is to be born will be “God with us,” but he is born into a dangerous time and a troubled world.

Advent III  — December 11 — Luke 1:26-38 and 2:1-20 and Isaiah 35:1-10 – At Luke’s house, there are lights everywhere and carols playing on loudspeakers. There is a living crèche on the front lawn, complete with a petting zoo. Inside, there is joy in abundance and welcome for all. This is a story about wonder and how God transforms the ordinary (a man, a woman, a child, a barn) into the most extraordinary gift of all.

Advent IV – December 18 — John 1:1-14 and Isaiah 7:10-16 – John’s house is hard to find; the road is long and really dark. You seem to drive forever until, there it is – bathed in light, light streaming out of every window. Once you get there, the host tells a story that begins long, long ago. It starts so far back that no one was there but the One who made us and everything. But now this One has moved into our neighborhood, and we discover our true selves as if for the first time.

Cynthia M. Campbell, Pastor

 

November Pastor’s Column

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