It was amazing hearing the stories of blessing-- we had so many people wanting to chime in with praising God that we had to cut them off at the end! And being able to pray with our congregation about their families and struggles this week was an honor as well. Praise God!
We started with the beginning of Jesus' story with the church, His body on Earth. Reading Acts 2, we learned that God's Spirit is being poured out on ALL people even though those same people "partnered with wicked men to kill Jesus." It's almost like God's response to disobedience is even more love and generosity with His gifts. In fact, Peter strongly states that all one has to do is repent, or change one's mind, and be baptized with forgiveness and then one can receive the Holy Spirit as a gift. That is not an invitation to some, but to all. This Sunday, we received that gift by stretching our hands and asking God to pour out His Spirit on us in order to bring love and light into our lives. With that joy, we can change our mind and ask God to renew and restore us with the gift of His Spirit. That same Spirit, which raised Christ from the dead, gives power, comfort, peace, and joy freely to ALL who ask. Pray with us to receive that Spirit and pray for us to always partner with God in giving His Spirit away at Agape.
Next week (7/24) we will resume our normal schedule, studying Isaiah at 9 a.m. on the green.
“I will praise you, LORD.
Although you were angry with me,
your anger has turned away
and you have comforted me.
2 Surely God is my salvation;
I will trust and not be afraid.
The LORD, the LORD himself, is my strength and my defense;
he has become my salvation.”
3 With joy you will draw water
from the wells of salvation.
Today at Agape, we spent an extended time praying to God, the one who himself is the very salvation for which we search. He saves us from the things from which we need saving. His anger has turned away as we draw water from the deep wells of his salvation.
In the second week of the series, Isaiah tells of a time to come when the people will return to God, when there will be peace. In order to make sense of Isaiah's optimistic prediction in a time of chaos, we asked ourselves, "What is a prophet, and why would they matter to us?" Agape found that prophets are people anointed by God to deliver a message to his people. That message can regard the past, present, or future. So what? Well, Isaiah's era mirrors ours in certain ways; there is lawlessness, religiosity, corruption, rebellion, and war (Isa 1). Yet he brings a message about a time yet to come when "the cow will feed with the bear" and "the wolf will live with the lamb" (Isa 11:6-7). A certain man will usher in this time of eagerly awaited peace. Who is he? Has he come yet? Next week, the series continues.
Next week we will begin a series on the book of Isaiah, one of the great prophets of the Old Testament. We'll look at a time in Israel's history when there was a lot of injustice, and when times were particularly hard for poor people... and we'll see what God might have said about it, and what hope he might have to offer us!
Please join us any Sunday at 9 a.m. on the Green.
All are welcome!
Galatians 5:22-24 reads, "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires."
Notice that fruit is singular, suggesting that one Spirit brings one collection of good fruit. When we accept one Spirit, one Son, and one Father, we gain one collection of fruit against which there is no law. For us, there is freedom in this exchange. We are freed from our sinful nature and our lusts. The Lord crucifies these, and we are left holding and cultivating the Spirit's fruit.
As we talk through this fruit, enjoy the sweetness. Hope to see you there at 8am on Sunday.
Trinity Lutheran Church (292 Orange St.)
Corner of Orange and Wall
This Sunday, Agape Church for the Homeless is celebrating its 9th anniversary! In our time with Agape, we have seen God do lots of cool stuff in our lives and in theirs. We have seen people receive jobs, enter recovery programs, get housing, experience physical healing, and form friendships across lines of race, class, and language. God is at work in this place, and it's been fun to join him in this adventure.
The 9th anniversary celebration starts at 5pm at Trinity Lutheran Church on the corner of Orange and Wall (292 Orange St; same place Agape meets). There will be presentations by different volunteers, partners, and a performance by PIVOT Ministries. It will conclude with an informal time of fellowship accompanied by a HUGE AMOUNT of delicious food. Last year, people feasted on a variety of Korean dishes and desserts. Anyway, the anniversary is a great way to hear about what Agape is doing, see its supporters and attenders, and grab some great dinner. Hope to see you there.
As always, you are also invited to Agape @ 8am on Sunday. There will be a joint teaching by my friend Will and me on Love that marks the official start of our series on the fruit of the Spirit.
"Crucify him!" Today in Agape, we repeated these words aloud: Our voices reminded us of the ancient crowd, one voice rising to the Roman authorities: "Crucify him!" As we joined that voice, we found ourselves implicated in the plot. We participated in the sentencing of an innocent man. Where was the justice? Where was his power? The soldiers mocked him, and they flogged him. They put his cross on another, Simon from Cyrene, and they nailed Jesus to that tree. The centurion watched him hang there. And after Jesus breathed his last, only then, did the centurion realize a great mystery: even though the centurion has committed such a heinous act, even though he and we were sinners, Jesus had already offered forgiveness. He had already forgiven during the flogging, the mocking, the dying. The solider finally spoke the truth; Jesus patiently waits for us to do the same.
Thanks to the whole cast of the dramatic reading! Everyone was great.
Some of the interesting thoughts brought up in discussion were how worship comes before service, but that LOVE needs to be the basis for both, most of all. We also see how Jesus' love is still strong, compassionate, and welcoming, even when he knows that he is betrayed. By asking us to love like he does, we are called to love and forgive, even when we feel hurt or betrayed. But we know, in return, that for those times we have betrayed or denied God, there is forgiveness to be had, and he waits for us, with belovedness and open arms.
Please be praying for our city and for the entire Agape congregation, particularly those who might need healing of body or heart, and for those who need shelter, community, freedom from addiction, and/or employment. Also, please be praying for our continued fundraising for a building.
Also, Elm City Echo is currently one of Blue State Coffee's projects available for donations so be sure to check out Blue State and vote for ELM CITY ECHO!
“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come.”
Keep watch! But for what? This might have been the question of Jesus’ disciples after Jesus warned them to keep watch for his return. Often, we forget that the disciples did not know the future events of Jesus’ life that might be common knowledge for us. Jesus returning…before he even died or left…that makes no sense! Jesus often speaks past our reality and only speaks to our faith. The faith we need to keep following him.
At Agape, we talked about how to look past our reality of violence and brokenness in New Haven plus our 2000+ years of waiting for Jesus in order to actively wait for Jesus to come through promoting the peace of our city. After all, it’s not that we completely forget to keep watch. It’s that we slowly get distracted…by wealth, by romance, by addictions, and more. These things (just like the astounding buildings on Jerusalem…the distraction that begins Jesus’ exhortation) distract us from keeping watch for someone who constantly empowers us to love, serve, and promote the peace of our city.
Please pray for our Agape community as we seek to wait for a God who loves us and who desire us to love others instead of giving into other distractions that will keep us from that path of help and health.
"The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.'"
A teacher of the law had just asked Jesus which of the commandments was the most important. The verse above was Jesus' answer. Definitely a clear and direct one. Around the circle in Agape today we tried to answer two additional questions: what does it mean to love the Lord with everything that we are, and why would we even want to do that? One of the answers that surfaced brought us back to the parable of the tenants at the beginning of Mark 12.
The parable describes God as a vineyard owner who is gracious and merciful beyond reason. Some might even describe his character as naive, foolish, or ignorant. Certainly, God's response to the evil tenants in the parable was probably very different from what ours might have been, as we often look for opportunities to institute justice or to "make things right." in our lives and in this world. Instead, the vineyard owner sends his only son, revealing his desire to pursue us to the point of death, to the point of divine sacrifice.
This God is the one that desires our hearts. And once we offer that heart to him, he starts the work of healing it. He takes our heart, our soul, our mind, and our strength and refines them all. Do you want to be in relationship with a God who sees the heart, offers his son, and only desires intimacy with us? Come as you are. At Agape, that's what we're trying to do.
"Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain."
-1 Corinthians 15:57-58