Jesse Tree Devotional: December 5

Genesis 22
After these things God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.”

He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac; he cut the wood for the burnt offering, and set out and went to the place in the distance that God had shown him.

On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place far away. Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the boy and I will go over there; we will worship, and then we will come back to you.” Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. Isaac said to his father Abraham, “Father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”

Abraham said, “God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together. When they came to the place that God had shown him, Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order. He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns. Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. 

So Abraham called that place “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.” The angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven, and said, “By myself I have sworn, says the Lord: Because you have done this, and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will indeed bless you, and I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of their enemies, and by your offspring shall all the nations of the earth gain blessing for themselves, because you have obeyed my voice.” 

So Abraham returned to his young men, and they arose and went together to Beer-sheba; and Abraham lived at Beer-sheba. Now after these things it was told Abraham, “Milcah also has borne children, to your brother Nahor: Uz the firstborn, Buz his brother, Kemuel the father of Aram, Chesed, Hazo, Pildash, Jidlaph, and Bethuel.” Bethuel became the father of Rebekah. These eight Milcah bore to Nahor, Abraham’s brother. Moreover, his concubine, whose name was Reumah, bore Tebah, Gaham, Tahash, and Maacah.

The story of Abraham’s intent to sacrifice Isaac stands as one of the most difficult texts for me. I was taught growing up that it was a test from God to make sure that Abraham really loved God. As a child, I just accepted this as a part of Scripture and eventually understood it as a foreshadowing of our Heavenly Father’s willingness to send his only son to be sacrificed for our sins. I didn’t take issue with the narrative or what was implied by God’s strange request. 

Then, during my high school years, I remember struggling a little with this passage. Why would God ask this of Abraham? Sure, we who know the end of the story accept the premise because it works out in the end–God stops the sacrifice, offers a ram in Isaac’s place, and all is well. But my teenage brain still wrestled with the why question. Why would God ask Abraham to sacrifice his son, when God promised that the covenant would be fulfilled through this miracle child? As we saw in the last passage, Abraham offered Ishmael to God as a vessel through whom the covenant could be fulfilled. God rejected that offer and pressed further that God would give a child to Sarah in her advanced years. I can only imagine Abraham’s confusion when God asks him to sacrifice Isaac. After all, child sacrifice was something that was common among the civilizations of the Ancient Near East. God had set Abraham apart and called upon him to live his life differently. A command that followed the foreign practices of other people groups, would have seemed completely out of left field. 

For many years I dwelled on this perplexing story with a certain level of cognitive dissonance. It never added up for me. Then, during my time in seminary, my dentist and I were discussing this passage while I was in his chair (he was probably doing more of the talking). I shared my issues with it and he shared an alternative interpretation that helped shed light on what might have happened in that disturbing narrative. Eventually, he gave me an article that laid out a different perspective that has provided some level of resolve. 

The Biblical scholar writing the article asserted that God might not have actually asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, but rather that the motivation for Abraham was culturally imposed. Other tribes and people groups in that region would have regularly participated in the practice of sacrifice which sometimes included children. In this schema, Abraham was not following an unimaginable request from God, but demonstrating his own lack of understanding of God’s larger divine plan for the salvation of humanity. Due to the cultural norms that surrounded him, Abraham presumed God wanted Isaac as a sacrifice. God could have certainly still fulfilled the covenant promises of a name, land, and descendants without Isaac. The sacrifice of his miracle child was a suitable way to prove his love and commitment to God’s plan. 

As we know, Abraham was far from perfect. For example, instead of remaining where God called him to stay, he went to Egypt. Then, he offered his wife to the Pharaoh in exchange for safety. Abraham made some poor choices based on his own understanding of what God would want him to do. An understanding of this passage through the lens of Abraham’s misappropriation has helped me to see the story in a new light. Instead of God asking something unthinkable from Abraham, God remained faithful to Abraham in spite of Abraham’s misunderstanding. In the end, God once again demonstrated his faithfulness to his people and covenants despite the failures of humanity.

Jesse Tree Devotional: December 4

Genesis 12:1-9
Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” So Abram went, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. Abram took his wife Sarai and his brother’s son Lot, and all the possessions that they had gathered, and the persons whom they had acquired in Haran; and they set forth to go to the land of Canaan. When they had come to the land of Canaan, Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. Then the LORD appeared to Abram, and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him. From there he moved on to the hill country on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; and there he built an altar to the LORD and invoked the name of the LORD. And Abram journeyed on by stages toward the Negeb.

Genesis 17 
When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless. And I will make my covenant between me and you and will make you exceedingly numerous.” Then Abram fell on his face, and God said to him, “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land where you are now an alien, all the land of Canaan, for a perpetual holding, and I will be their God.”

God said to Abraham, “As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations. This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. Throughout your generations every male among you shall be circumcised when he is eight days old, including the slave born in your house and the one bought with your money from any foreigner who is not of your offspring. Both the slave born in your house and the one bought with your money must be circumcised. So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant. Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”

God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her and also give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall give rise to nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.” Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, “Can a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Can Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” And Abraham said to God, “O that Ishmael might live in your sight!” God said, “No, but your wife Sarah shall bear you a son, and you shall name him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him. As for Ishmael, I have heard you; I will bless him and make him fruitful and exceedingly numerous; he shall be the father of twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation. But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this season next year.” And when he had finished talking with him, God went up from Abraham.

Then Abraham took his son Ishmael and all the slaves born in his house or bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham’s house, and he circumcised the flesh of their foreskins that very day, as God had said to him. Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. And his son Ishmael was thirteen years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. That very day Abraham and his son Ishmael were circumcised, and all the men of his house, slaves born in the house and those bought with money from a foreigner, were circumcised with him.

Wow… talk about a lot of fodder for reflection in these two passages. In the first narrative from Genesis 12, we have Abraham’s calling story. Yahweh saw that things weren’t going well on earth and decided to intervene. He interacts directly with some random guy named Abram and makes a promise to him on the condition that he leave everything behind. So Abram obeys. He travels to Canaan, the land that God would eventually establish as the nation of Israel. 

In chapter 17, we find two very important narratives. First, God’s covenant with a specific people. The two preceding covenants were with humanity as a whole. The first was with Adam and Eve (the Adamic Covenant) and the second was with Noah and his offspring (the Noahic Covenant). These first two covenants were about being fruitful (cultivating the earth), multiplying (producing offspring), and filling the earth (spreading and growing as a human civilization). In this passage, however, God is picking one line of people, that will all stem from one man–Abraham (who’s name was changed in this passage as well). The Abrahamic Covenant is really the beginning of God’s direct intervention to reconcile humanity unto himself. As this story unfolds, we’ll see God returning to this covenant made with Abraham. Even for us today, this covenant is significant, because it marks the place in history when God steps in. God promises Abraham three things: 1) to make his name great, 2) to give him countless descendants, and to give him a land (Canaan). In return, however, God asks for something. 

This brings us to the second narrative. To mark the occasion of this covenant, God asks Abraham to participate in a new practice that would act as a sign of the covenant–circumcision. That’s right, Survey Says… top answer for the category: Things Church People Avoid Talking About. Yet, there it is. It’s a strange request in my opinion, but nonetheless it’s the way God chose to mark his people. This ritual would accompany the Israelites throughout the history of their people. 

In the Christian tradition, we believe that when Christ died on the cross and rose again three days later, that the requirements of the Abrahamic Covenant were no longer needed. Furthermore, we believe that the “sign” of the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31) was baptism. No longer was the covenant between God and Israel marked by circumcision, because God’s Spirit would mark us in our hearts and signify this mark through the visible practice found in the sacrament of Baptism. In the end, we become Abraham’s “offspring” through our relationship with Christ Jesus and our confession that he is the Savior of the world.

Jesse Tree Devotional: December 3

Genesis 8
But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and all the domestic animals that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided; the fountains of the deep and the windows of the heavens were closed, the rain from the heavens was restrained, and the waters gradually receded from the earth. At the end of one hundred fifty days the waters had abated, and in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. The waters continued to abate until the tenth month; in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, the tops of the mountains appeared.

At the end of forty days Noah opened the window of the ark that he had made and sent out the raven, and it went to and fro until the waters were dried up from the earth. Then he sent out the dove from him to see if the waters had subsided from the face of the ground, but the dove found no place to set its foot, and it returned to him to the ark, for the waters were still on the face of the whole earth. So he put out his hand and took it and brought it into the ark with him. He waited another seven days, and again he sent out the dove from the ark, and the dove came back to him in the evening, and there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf; so Noah knew that the waters had subsided from the earth. Then he waited another seven days and sent out the dove, and it did not return to him any more.

In the six hundred first year, in the first month, on the first day of the month, the waters were dried up from the earth, and Noah removed the covering of the ark and looked and saw that the face of the ground was drying. In the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth was dry. Then God said to Noah, “Go out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons and your sons’ wives with you. Bring out with you every living thing that is with you of all flesh—birds and animals and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth—so that they may abound on the earth and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.” So Noah went out with his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives. And every animal, every creeping thing, and every bird, everything that moves on the earth, went out of the ark by families.

Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And when the Lord smelled the pleasing odor, the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of humans, for the inclination of the human heart is evil from youth; nor will I ever again destroy every living creature as I have done. As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night shall not cease.”

I know in the past (even a few weeks ago), I’ve attempted to humorously point out the irony of decorating nurseries, kids’ rooms, and the like in the theme of “Noah’s Ark.” Trust me, I get it, there were lots of animals and animals are nice. They are always smiling as they walk back down that big ramp off the Ark. There’s a rainbow in the sky, the sun is always shining, and everyone seems so happy. It’s a fresh clean start for humanity and it’s a near perfect image of God’s blessing. 

But, as we all know, that slant on the story of Noah’s Ark is far from the truth. If we’re to take a serious look at the larger text, we see an unhappy God who is ready to destroy all of humanity and start over. We see the mockery of Noah, as neighbors and folks passing by hurl insults at the crazy dude who is building a giant wooden coffin. We find the animals are sent by God, which must have been a startling thing for those scoffers… “Where the heck did these elephants come from? We don’t have elephants!” 

Then, the rain came and the waters rose. Sure it seemed harmless at first, but when it started creeping up their ankles, I bet there were many of those neighbors clambering at the base of that giant boat. As the waters rose, so did the death count. I imagine Noah and his family understood the horror that was happening outside the safety of those wooden walls. Eventually, however, the dying ended and the waters calmed. And that’s where our chapter picks up the story. 

Genesis 8 gives us an often overlooked part of this Biblical narrative. It describes, not the rise of the water and the death of humanity, but the receding of the waters and the waiting that Noah and his family had to endure. If you do the math, it was about one year they were floating in the Ark. Imagine that for a second. It wasn’t a cruise ship with an abundance of ways to pass your time. It was a floating zoo, with no plumbing, limited supplies, and no promise of land for many months. The claustrophobia, the smells, the chaos… it’s truly impossible to picture what life was like during that year. 

Yet, they waited (not that they had any other option). And they waited some more. Finally, almost a year later, God rewarded them with a new start. God reestablished the covenant of grace that he made with Adam and Eve in the garden–be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. For Noah and his family, it was a new beginning. We celebrate that new beginning, but sometimes without remembering the waiting that took place. 

Advent is designated as a time of waiting and preparation. Yes, we’re waiting for Christmas day and all of the delights that the holiday season provides. But, let’s not forget how Noah waited, how the Israelites waited (and still wait), and how we’re called to wait for Christ’s return.  Whatever God is doing with you this Advent season, perhaps we ought to savor the challenges of waiting a little more. After all, God’s blessings did shine down on Noah after their year long wait. And, wow, was it worth that wait.

Second Sunday of Advent

Hey Everyone,

I hope you are all well on this snowy Friday morning (it snowing here in Lake City). This Sunday, December 4th is the second Sunday of Advent. During our worship service we’ll be lighting the Candle of Peace, celebrating communion, and then after, having our first-of-the-month potluck. So please remember to bring your communion elements to the broadcast if you’re joining us via Zoom. And, if you’ll be attending worship in person, join us for our monthly potluck after. This months theme is “holiday dinner.” Ham and brisket will be provided folks in our congregation. 🙂 The rest is up to you.

This Sunday, I’ll continue preaching from the Gospel of Matthew, as we explore the story of John the Baptist. You can read that text and the other lectionary passages in the downloadable online Order of Worship below.

Finally, if you’re in town, don’t forget that tomorrow is “Christmas in Lake City.” If you’re planning on participating in any of the day’s activities, stop by the Armory at 3:30 for Christmas Bingo… There’s a rumor that Santa will be calling the games, but who knows. 🙂

I’ll also be in the parade with the LCOWS, offering a short Christmas reflection at the lighting of the town tree, and helping lead the singing for the carol sing-a-long in the Lake City Art Center theatre directly after the dedication ceremony (around 6:30pm). I hope to see you at some point during the day.

Here are your announcements for the week!

Intergenerational Study of the Bible for Youth
Join us this Sunday, December 4th from 4:00pm to 5:30pm in the Annex for our new youth-oriented study of the Bible. All are welcome.

Games Up Here
Join us for “Games up here” on Monday, December 5th at the Presbyterian Annex at 7:00pm. 

Wednesday Bible Study
Join us this Wednesday, December 7th at 5:00pm online and in Darley Hall as we explore the Apocryphal book of Esther

Men’s Prayer Breakfast
Join the men of Lake City this Thursday, December 8th at 7:00am for good food, prayer, and Bible study.  

And here are your links for the week!

Sunday Worship Service:

Wednesday Evening Bible Study:

Stuff to Download!

Jesse Tree Devotional: December 2

Genesis 3
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.’ ” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die, for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food and that it was a delight to the eyes and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked, and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.

They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” He said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.” Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent tricked me, and I ate.” 

The Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you among all animals and among all wild creatures; upon your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and hers; he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.”

To the woman he said, “I will make your pangs in childbirth exceedingly great; in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for the man, and he shall rule over you.” 

And to the man he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it, cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

The man named his wife Eve because she was the mother of all living. And the Lord God made garments of skins for the man and for his wife and clothed them.

Then the Lord God said, “See, the humans have become like one of us, knowing good and evil, and now they might reach out their hands and take also from the tree of life and eat and live forever”— therefore the Lord God sent them forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which they were taken. He drove out the humans, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a sword flaming and turning to guard the way to the tree of life.

Without reservation, I can say that this chapter of Genesis has been the topic of my attention for quite some time. While there is no way I can unearth all of the various points of interest in a short Advent devotional reflection, there are a few key theological insights that may be gleaned when considering the significance of this text. Although yesterday we were left basking in the beauty of God’s created order, today we’re faced with a much uglier part of the narrative.
Throughout the history of the church, this passage is known as the “Fall” chapter. In it we find the story of human disobedience and the punishments God doled out for that infraction. The challenge we have before us is understanding the larger implications of God’s curses on humanity (and the created order) in relation to the meta-narrative of God’s divine plan for the redemption and salvation of the world.

I’m willing to bet that in most Sunday school classes, when this story is shared, the focus is primarily on the serpent’s temptation and the collective act of disobedience of Adam and Eve’s choice to eat the forbidden fruit. For those raised in the Christian church, this passage stands out as the singular reason why sin exists in the world today. Just like Adam tried to blame Eve, and in turn, Eve the serpent, we too have been trained to located blame for our sinful condition on this moment in human history.

But if we take our eyes off the point of transgression for a moment, we can actually gain some real insight into why the world is the way it is today. God addresses three characters and pronounces three unfortunate results that would come about because of their disobedience.

First, the serpent’s punishment had four parts: 1) in our material world, he was the only cursed animal of all the created creatures, 2) he lost his limbs, 3) he would now eat from the material of this world (i.e., dust), and 4) he was promised enmity in his relationship with the woman and that in the end, her offspring would crush his offspring.

Second, the woman’s punishment was threefold: 1) increased pain in childbearing, 2) her desire would now be for the man, and 3) the man would rule over her. In this single verse we now have insight into the inequalities that we’ve experienced over the course of human history.

Third, the man’s punishment, interestingly enough was not only about eating of the forbidden fruit, it was also about acting on Eve’s invitation to eat the fruit as well. The result… he (and consequently the rest of us) had two curses come into being: 1) the ground was cursed and the 24/7 free fruit buffet was closed for business, and 2) individual humans would face death. From that point forward humanity, as represented in Adam, would have to labor for their food until they died. While the other curses given had profound effect, the curse God place on the creation and on humanity through Adam was profound. Life got a lot harder and death was on the agenda.

What did we get in the end? Humanity ended up with an entirely different world. But have you ever wondered about what the garden was like before God issued these punishments. Would our world have serpents with arms and legs? Would women’s desires be for something other than man and would his rule still affect human relations? What food would we eat and how would we have used all that extra time that didn’t go into laboring for our food? What if God never introduced death into our world? All questions that we can’t conclusively answer, but questions that are worth asking.

God designed a near perfect world for us to dwell in and for him to dwell with us, yet all of that changed in a single moment. Take a few minutes today and ponder how differently our world would have been had all of that not gone down in the garden. What would our relationships be like with others and with God? On this second day of our Jesse Tree devotion, let’s consider the consequences of sin’s entrance into the world and how it affected all of us.

The Jesse Tree Devotional: December 1

Genesis 1
In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

And God said, “Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome. And it was so. God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.

And God said, “Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. Then God said, “Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.” And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.

And God said, “Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, and let them be lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.

And God said, “Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky.” So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, of every kind, with which the waters swarm, and every winged bird of every kind. And God saw that it was good. God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.

And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind.” And it was so. God made the wild animals of the earth of every kind, and the cattle of every kind, and everything that creeps upon the ground of every kind. And God saw that it was good.

Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”

So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

On the first day of our Jesse Tree reflections, as I sit down to ponder the theological significance of this chapter, I can’t help but marvel at the vastness of God’s creation. Surrounded by such beauty here in Lake City, I find myself pausing with a sense of awe at God’s handiwork and how it, throughout the ages, has captured our attention. 

But what does this passage tell us about God? In chapter one, we’re offered a mysterious portrayal of God’s creative power–one that leaves room for wonder and contemplation. For some, the days of creation represent literal 24 hour periods; for others, they are more epochs of time in which life on our planet evolved through God’s governance and design. Regardless of your theological perspective on the creation narrative, there are several truths that surface for me when reading it. 

First, God was not created. This ultimate Being we call “our heavenly Father” is beyond our understanding of this world and has always been in existence. Augustine called Him the “unmoved mover,” meaning Yahweh put all things in our world into its material form, and that God is beyond our time and space. 

Second, this passage suggests that God created from nothing. There was no material world before God’s creative act of bringing something out of nothing. It’s a doctrine we call “creatio ex nihilo”–meaning God created the universe and all that is in it without any previously existing matter. God didn’t start with a tube of play dough and fashion the world from it. God spoke all things into being and gave life to all things.  

Third, and perhaps most important for our communal journey through Advent, this creation narrative reminds us that God not only created humanity, but imbued us with God’s image. When I think about all the different things that God has created, with all of its natural beauty, I’m amazed that he chose us to be a reflection of the Divine in this world. What a gift we were given and what love was shown in this incredible act of creation. 

As we start this 25 day trek to Christmas through the season of Advent, let’s take a moment to consider the majesty of the world that we live in and how marvelous it is that we were given a special place in it. As you color in today’s ornament of the sun and the moon or simply tape it to your refrigerator to view over the next few weeks, let’s all be reminded of how special we were to God in His created order and what a special place we’ll have with Him in the future. 

First Sunday of Advent (and the new Lectionary cycle)!

Hey Everyone,

I hope everyone is safe, well, and with loved ones in this late hour of the eve of our new liturgical year. This post is coming late this evening because I’ve been spending time with family and friends celebrating the many blessings we find ourselves grateful for this year. On the top of that list is that Judah was able to be home with us for Thanksgiving and he even brought a classmate with him. For those in town, you can see Judah (and his friend Manav) in worship tomorrow before they head back to Santa Fe.

I’m also tremendously thankful that we’re starting a new liturgical year tomorrow and the Gospel passage I’m preaching on is fantastic. You can read the preaching text and the other lectionary texts in the online Order of Worship (link at the bottom of the post.

Here are your announcements for the week ahead:

Games Up Here
Join us for “Games up here” on Monday, November 28th at the Presbyterian Annex at 7:00pm. 

Wednesday Bible Study
Join us this Wednesday, November 30th at 5:00pm online and in Darley Hall as we explore the Apocryphal book of Judith

Men’s Prayer Breakfast
Join the men of Lake City this Thursday, December 1st at 7:00am for good food, prayer, and Bible study.  

Intergenerational Study of the Bible for Youth
Our new youth-oriented study of the Bible begins next week, Sunday, December 4th from 4:00pm to 5:30pm. All are welcome (especially those between the ages of 10 to 18 years old).

Jesse Tree Advent Devotional
Starting December 1st, our congregation will be journeying through the Advent season with a daily Jesse Tree Devotional. Each day, Jason will email you the scripture and a short reflection to accompany the provided Jesse Tree ornament. You can pick up your printed ornament pack after the worship service, download them in this week’s email, or access them through this link at the bottom of this post.

Here are your links for this week:

Sunday Worship Service:

Wednesday Evening Bible Study:

We Have Reached The End!

Hey Everyone,

That’s right, this Sunday, November 20th, we’ll have reached the end of the three-year cycle of the Revised Common Lectionary. This means on the first Sunday of Advent (and the new liturgical year), we’ll begin the first week of Cycle A. Can’t you just feel the excitement?

All jokes aside, it’s hard to believe that we’re already starting a new liturgical season and that Christmas will be here in just over a month. Until then, however, we’ve got plenty to celebrate. This coming Sunday is Christ the King Sunday (also known as the Reign of Christ Sunday). To that end, I’ll be preaching on those famous words uttered by the criminal that was crucified alongside Christ–”Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” You can find this passage from the Gospel of Luke and the other lectionary texts at the bottom of the online Order of Worship below.

Given that it’s Thanksgiving week, most of our communal gatherings are cancelled, save one–Games Up Here. Join us this coming Monday night at 7:00pm in the Presbyterian Annex for thanksgiving-themed games.

Here are your ANNOUNCEMENTS for the week!

Time to Decorate!
Come out and help us decorate the church for the holiday/Advent season. We’ll meet in Darley Hall on Monday, November 21st at 9:00am. 

Games Up Here
Join us for “Games up here” on Monday, November 21st at the Presbyterian Annex at 7:00pm

Wednesday Bible Study
No Bible study this week. We’ll return the week after Thanksgiving, on Wednesday, November 30th at 5:00pm. 

Men’s Prayer Breakfast
No men’s prayer breakfast this Thursday. 

And here is your link for this week’s Sunday worship service:

Sunday Worship Service:

Twenty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time

Hey Everyone,

Can you believe that the first Sunday of Advent is only two weeks away? Time seems to go so much faster here in Lake City. Nonetheless, we carry on.

Tomorrow’s service will be the last of our crazy texts before we turn to the Reign of Christ Sunday (next week). During worship, I’ll be preaching on the gospel passage from Luke 21, where Jesus foreshadows the fall of Jerusalem in 70AD. If you’d like to read that text and the other lectionary passages you can find them in the online Order of Worship below.

This week’s gathering points include Games Up Here and our weekly Wednesday night Bible Study. This week were are starting our exploration of the Apocrypha with the book of Tobit. Even if you’ve never read the books of the Apocrypha, join us to learn about this part of the Bible that helped shape western, Latin theology for over a millennium.

Here are your Announcements for the week:

Games Up Here
Join us for “Games up here” on Monday, November 13th at the Presbyterian Annex at 7:00pm. 

Wednesday Bible Study
Join us this Wednesday, November 16th at 5:00pm in Darley Hall as we explore the Apocryphal book of Tobit. This is the first of our series on the Apocrypha. If you’ve ever wondered what’s in these intertestamental books, here’s your chance to take a look. 

Men’s Prayer Breakfast
Join the men of Lake City this Thursday, November 17th at 7:00am for good food, prayer, and Bible study.  

Here are your links for this week:

Sunday Worship Service:

Wednesday Evening Bible Study:

Twenty-Second Sunday of Ordinary Time

Hey Everyone,

I hope you’re all well and staying warm. We’re finally getting a good snow here in Lake City, which makes the town feel very peaceful and still. This Sunday during worship, we’ll celebrate communion, so if you’re joining us via Zoom, please bring your bread and juice to the broadcast.

If you’re joining us in person, don’t forget that we’re also having our first-Sunday-of-the-month potluck. This month’s theme is Thanksgiving and turkey will be provided. So all we need is for everyone to bring your favorite turkey day sides. If you’re unsure of what is still needed, please contact Lynn Hudgeons.

This week, the lectionary delivers and other doozy of a passage, which I (no doubt) won’t shy away from preaching. I’ll continue in our series on the most bizarre passages in Scripture by preaching from Luke 20:27-38, the text about Levirate marriage laws and the resurrection of the body. If you’d like to read it prior to Sunday, you can find it and the other lectionary passages at the bottom of the online Order of Worship below.

Here are the announcements for this week:

Games Up Here
No games this week. We’ll resume next week at our regularly scheduled time. 🙂 

October Session Meeting
The CPC Elders will meet this week, on Wednesday, November 9th from 10:00am to 12:00pm

Wednesday Bible Study
Join us this Wednesday, November 9th at 5:00pm in Darley Hall as we begin our new series on the Apocrypha–the intertestamental books of the Bible that were recognized as canon by the western church until the 1500s. 

Men’s Prayer Breakfast
Join the men of Lake City this Thursday, November  10th at 7:00am for good food, prayer, and Bible study. 

Youth Study of the Bible Parent Meeting
We’re starting a Intergenerational Study of the Bible for young people ages 10-18! Join us Sunday, October 6th at 7:00pm in Darley Hall for an informational meeting for parents, youth, and anyone who’d like to be involved and learn alongside our young people.

Here are your links for this week:

Sunday Worship Service:

Wednesday Evening Bible Study: