Monthly Archives: June 2011

Second Sunday After Pentecost

Collect for the Day
Remember, O Lord, what you have wrought in us and not what we deserve; and, as you have called us to your service, make us worthy of our calling; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Exodus 32:1-14
2 Corinthians 12:2-9
John 2:1-12

Message: “Allowed to Make a Difference” by Rev. Steve Breedlove
(Check back soon for sermon audio!)

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Backpacking and Discipleship

Trip Highlights

The first weekend in June, twelve men (an appropriately symbolic number!) participated in All Saints Church’s fourth annual Men’s Backpacking Trip. We navigated our way through just over 21 miles of Pisgah National Forest over three days, and David Hyman led us through a series of reflections on what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. In many ways, the dynamic nature of the trip with its grueling climbs, periods of disorientation (including times of separation within the group due to outdated maps), ten bone-chilling river crossings, times of singing and laughter, and even the occasional time of rest is paradigmatic of the dynamic nature of what it means to be a disciple of Christ. Many of us at All Saints Church are thinking and praying deeply about what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ and how our church community can be more faithful in fulfilling our call to be and to make disciples. In the following reflections, I hope to meditate on discipleship—a topic that was stressed during the reflections on this year’s Men’s Backpacking Trip.

Theological/Ministerial Reflections on Discipleship

On our first night in the woods, Father David challenged us men to live lives of meaning according to the vocations and purposes that God has ordained for us.  He challenged us to confront all that is in our lives that would inhibit us from directing our lives toward those ends. He read to us an article highlighting the challenge of living such lives in a world of increasingly individualized and disintegrated lives. In my personal reading this summer through The Brothers Karamazov, the minor character Mikhail describes a similar milieu to the young Zossima, and I find that it applies to the contemporary world just as well as it did to 19th century Russia. Zossima asks Mikhail what this isolation is that Mikhail keeps talking about.  Mikhail states:

…Everyone now strives most of all to separate his person, wishing to experience the fullness of life within himself, and yet what comes of all his efforts is not the fullness of life but full suicide, for instead of the fullness of self-definition, they fall into complete isolation. For all men in our age are separated into units, each seeks seclusion in his own hole, each withdraws from the others, hides himself, and hides what he has, and ends by pushing people away from himself…For he is accustomed to relying only on himself, he has separated his unit from the whole, he has accustomed his soul to not believing in people’s help, in people or in mankind, and now only trembles lest his money and his acquired privileges perish. Everywhere now the human mind has begun laughably not to understand that a man’s true security lies not in his own solitary effort, but in the general wholeness of humanity.

Mikhail knows well of this isolation, for he committed the act of murder in his youth and had isolated himself from others and even from his own conscience as a means to avoid being confronted for his sin. Such a life is antithetical to the life of discipleship. It is only once Mikhail confesses his sin to Zossima that he finds release and peace.

In his reflections on the life of discipleship in Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer states, “Sin wants to be alone with people. It takes them away from the community. The more lonely people become, the more destructive the power of sin over them. The more deeply they become entangled in it, the more unholy is their loneliness. Sin wants to remain unknown. It shuns the light…Sin must be brought into the light.” In a discipleship relationship in the midst of community, such openness and confession must take place. Bonhoeffer states that this transparency has only been made possible because of Christ. He states, “In the presence of Christ human beings were allowed to be sinners, and only in this way could they be helped. Every pretense came to an end in Christ’s presence…This is why Jesus gave his followers the authority to hear the confession and to forgive sin in Christ’s name.”

In fact, we are commanded as Christians to confess our sins to one another. The epistle of James commands, “Therefore confess your sins to one another, so that you may be healed.” (James 5:16) Though Christ entrusted the absolution of sin into the hands of his apostles and down through the ages into the hands of the Church’s priests (John 20:23), confession among all disciples leads to healing, for it reverses Cain’s sardonic refusal to be his brother’s keeper (Gen. 4:9). Hearing a brother or sister’s confession with care is to declare that one is their brother’s keeper. To confess one’s sin to another is to trust the other as their keeper. Such an act redeems the brokenness of the Fall and is an act of Re-creation. Commenting in his memoir on the life of a man who discipled his theological development, Stanley Hauerwas states, “If I learned anything from John Howard Yoder, it is not to trust yourself to know yourself. You learn who you are only by making yourself accountable to the judgment of others.” We need others to help us to know whether we are truly Christian, or at least what parts of our lives are resisting the reign of Christ.

One of the most frequent descriptors of the Church is that it is the Body of Christ. In Paul’s epistle to the Colossians, he commands the Colossian Christians to “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, by teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.” (Colossians 3:16) In Ephesians, Paul states something similar, saying, “Be filled with the Holy Spirit, by singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, by singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, by giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Eph. 5:18b-20) When Christians teach, admonish, rejoice, and worship together, the word of Christ dwells among us and the Church is filled with the Holy Spirit, just as it filled Mary’s womb—and Christ is given flesh through our common life.

Of course, in ways, all of this is in part experienced in our time of corporate worship at All Saints Church. If one is a part of a 242 group (small group), these dynamics of discipleship in corporate worship are deepened and expanded in more profound ways. Yet, if discipleship is to look the way it looks in honest confession of sin, in admonishing and encouragement, in being our brother or sister’s keeper, discipleship must be much more intimate. In our time together on our second night, a few of us men shared how significant discipleship relationships have strengthened our lives as disciples of Christ. As a church, we are thinking and praying through how to implement such relationships into the life of the church. Please pray with us. Ask yourself whether you have such relationships within your life. If such relationships are missing from our lives, a holistic life of a disciple of Christ is not being cultivated in our lives. May we as a church commit to cultivating fuller lives of discipleship in our common life together. As we do so, may God richly dwell amongst His Church and may the Spirit fill us to be the Body of Christ in God’s world.

As we prayed on Ascension Day:

Almighty God, whose blessed Son our Savior Jesus Christ
ascended far above all heavens that he might fill all things:
Mercifully give us faith to perceive that, according to his
promise, he abides with his Church on earth, even to the end
of the ages; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and
reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory
everlasting. Amen.

-Sean A. Ewing

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Trinity Sunday

Collect of the Day
Almighty and everlasting God, you have given to us your servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of your divine Majesty to worship the Unity: Keep us steadfast in this faith and worship, and bring us at last to see you in your one and eternal glory, O Father; who with the Son and the Holy Spirit live and reign, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Genesis 1:1-2:4a
2 Corinthians 13:11-13
Matthew 28:16-20

Message by David Hyman (sermon audio coming soon!)

Extra Note:
Today, David Hyman shared with us the story of Holy Trinity – Chatham and how a group from All Saints Church is responding to a call to plant a faithful Anglican church close by in Chatham County. We are excited about what God is doing through Holy Trinity to address the deep longings for Christ in that community but we are also aware of the many challenges that face this group as they seek to break new ground for the Gospel. Would you consider supporting them through earnest and consistent prayer – particularly during this crucial early season of planting? Become a Praying Friend of Holy Trinity by sending an email to prayer@holytrinitychatham.org. You can read more here (and feel free to check out the rest of the site).

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Pentecost Sunday

Collect of the Day
Almighty God, on this day you opened the way of eternal life to every race and nation by the promised gift of your Holy Spirit: Shed abroad this gift throughout the world by the preaching of the Gospel, that it may reach to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Ezekiel 36:22-27
Acts 1:1-11
John 16:4b-15

Message: “In the Spirit of Jesus” by Rev. Steve Breedlove
(Check back soon for sermon audio!)

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Good Questions

The two questions I hear most often around church these days are, “Are you back at work now?” and “Did you ever leave?” It’s funny that those questions can be asked simultaneously. Well, yes and yes. But I think maybe I need to explain.

I love that I work in a place where I can go on maternity leave and never really leave. What a gift that I never wanted to! In terms of attending church, Anastasia and I never really missed a beat—but neither have Sunday mornings been work much at all for me over the past few months. Faithful volunteers have picked up all kinds of slack so that I could attend church with my family and focus almost exclusively on worship and caring for Anastasia. I am exceedingly grateful to the people who have taken on those responsibilities for me—thank you! I am gradually figuring out what it looks like to reassume all of my Sunday morning responsibilities as I continue to have my hands full—literally—with my little girl.

In the meantime, even as I was recovering from a c-section and adjusting to life with a newborn again, I was chomping at the bit to get back to work and fellowship with coworkers that I love so dearly. Anastasia attended her first staff meeting at three weeks old; now, at twelve weeks, she’s a veteran staff member! As any new mom will tell you, having grown-up outlets for using your brain and engaging in conversation about anything other than feeding schedules and diaper changing is vital to her sanity and identity as a human being. It is yet another good gift, then, that I am part of a staff that not only has welcomed a frequently uncooperative newborn into the fold but has allowed me to continue to participate in prayer and work together even when, in my sleep-deprived state, I often have very little to contribute. This, too, is an adjustment process—even as I figure out how to coordinate nap schedules with staff meetings, I am learning what it looks like to maintain vital contact with coworkers even as I do much more work from home and often at odd hours.

If you know my family and our story at all, you know how much of our life has been interwoven with the life of All Saints Church. How appropriate, then, that it was only a few weeks into my tenure on staff that we learned of Anastasia’s impending birth; in fact, I spent nearly every spare moment of our staff retreat last summer sleeping off the miseries of the first trimester of her life. Now, a year later, I anticipate her tagging along with us on retreat, Lord willing, and I hope she’ll be the one doing a lot of sleeping! Even as this church family walked with us through every moment of Eliza’s life and death, born as she was just a few months after we first joined this little group called All Saints, what a joy it is to have you all walking with us as Anastasia joins the family—and even the staff!—too.

So I suppose, then, no, I never really did leave. And yes, I’m back. Thanks for having me.

-Daniele Jackson

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Seventh Sunday of Easter

Collect of the Day
O God, the King of glory, you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven: Do not leave us comfortless, but send us your Holy Spirit to strengthen us, and exalt us to that place where our Savior Christ has gone before; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, on God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

Exodus 19:1-6
Colossians 1:21-29
Matthew 28:16-20

Message: “For the Life of the World” by Rev. Steve Breedlove
(Check back soon for sermon audio!)

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