Category: devotion

From Pastor Nick: Weekly thoughts on Worship, Faith, and Life

Reflecting on Hebrews 4:9-5:10:

All worship of God stems from the original sabbath day of rest. Hebrews names that there is no parting of ways with Judaism in naming that there is still a sabbath rest for the people of God. Our call to worship in Hebrews is that we would enter that rest, that we would hold onto the confession, and draw near to the throne with boldness/confidence.

Spirit inspired worship in a vital church must be centered on who Jesus is, and who we are called to be. There are times where we neglect the rest, there are times where our worship falls short. The most important aspect of worship that we can never lose sight of is our genuine belief in God’s grace given through Jesus Christ. Our worship of God is central to Jesus being the one who has mediated our relationship with God.

As long as we hold to the confession of Jesus Christ as ‘the one who reconciles and makes whole’ our worship will not turn into idolatry (that idea that we make an idol anytime we place something in front of our worship and devotion to God).  To be honest, all of our worship is imperfect, all of our words fall short of fully describing or fully advocating for all that we desire.  Our approach to the throne is still done with boldness because of our recognition of who Jesus is, what Jesus has done, and how the Spirit intercedes even in our worship making it holy and beautiful before God.

Pastor Nick

VCI Sermon Series “Talk-backs”

Are you curious about Vital Congregations and what these markers of vitality are?  Do you ever want to talk about the sermon?  Here is an opportunity to do both of these and to explore together in discussion who we are and who we want to be. 

Why call it a “talk back?” The answer to that is fun and simple! In many ways the sermon is a chance for God and the Preacher to talk and the people to listen; but as the congregation it might feel like you don’t have an opportunity to respond to everything.  This is your opportunity to “talk-back” to Pastor Nick, Clay, or other VCI team members about what VCI is all about, what is being stirred within you, and ask questions in a different way. 

We want everyone to engage in this material as much as possible, because we believe the more we engage the content of VCI the greater the vitality will be for everyone.

Dates:

In-person, Sundays after worship: Oct. 24, 31, Nov. 7, 14, 21

ZOOM, Mondays 7-8pm: Oct. 25, Nov. 1, 8, 15, 22

ZOOM link:
Topic: Talk Back Sermon/ 7 Marks Review, Time: 7-8pm

Join Zoom Meeting https://us02web.zoom.us/j/88108807850?pwd=cWlZWjNYT0NjQUVRdGZCV3RrNHBWdz09
Meeting ID: 881 0880 7850Passcode: 206152

From Pastor Nick: Weekly thoughts on Worship, Faith, and Life

“You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”     –Matthew 5:13-16

This past Sunday we were given an overview of what it means to be Vital through this scripture and how to be that salt and light.  Jesus—we said—has declared these statements as indicative, as a given, as part of who we are as followers of God by God’s doing.  We said that if we are followers of Jesus, we will be salt and light, and that means there is a noticeable difference about us just as salt and light are noticeable when present.  

I reintroduced the Vital Congregations Initiative (VCI) and how we as a church need guidance and direction for our future.  We looked back to the most recent sermon series “I’ve Been Meaning to Ask,” at the questions of “what do you need,” and “where do we go from here?” and said that we need to ask ourselves as the gathered people of First Presbyterian Church of Victor to answer these.  Recall how sometimes the answer to “what do you need?” is a more existential answer about life’s meaning, purpose, and direction.  I mentioned the life force, or what gives us vitality for our own lives, and how that is often multi-faceted. Further we compared that to why we exist as the Church universal, as well as why we exist as the gathered people of FPC Victor.  

VCI will be a journey into those questions.  It is about honest assessment of our strengths as a community and where we need to grow and transform into a more vital congregation.  It will mean asking others what is noticeable about us as a church and coming to terms with any ways we have lost our “saltiness.” Today I want to invite you to do two things: First, is an invitation from me to you to participate as fully as you can in the work we will be doing because in many ways this is the work I was asked to do as Interim Pastor and I need all of your help to do this. Second, please read through these lists to learn about what VCI is and what it is not according to the people who put it together.  

What this is:

The hope is this is the beginning of intentional, authentic relationships between the

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Mission Agency and mid council leaders and pastors to:

• Come together as the people of God

• Pray: re-turn to faithfulness in God

• Inspire openness to the Holy Spirit’s transformation/change

• Honestly assess, discern and act

• Resource, equip and support leaders and pastors

• Practice missional evangelism and faithful discipleship

• Equip vital congregations and develop a praxis of sustainability and ongoing assessment

• Capture congregational stories and develop new measurements of vitality

What this is NOT: 

• A universal program instructing churches and assuring vitality and sustainable life

• Another plan that promises an immediate fix

• A guarantee of revitalization for every congregation

• An attempt for the PC(USA) to tell churches what to do

• An institutional survival guide for membership, numbers and buildings

• An encouragement to tweak, yet remain the same

• A return to glory days gone by, nor a guidebook on calling the young pastor

I love the honesty named in this second list in that it names there are no promises that this will mean vitality, nor is it an attempt to be told what to do, and it especially is not about tweaking some things and remaining the same.  No matter what it is or is not, I believe we will grow.  I believe we will learn, and further I believe we will gain perspective on where we are going and who we are called to be.

Pastor Nick      

“I’ve Been Meaning to Ask…” Study

If you are wondering how you can gain more confidence, be more respectful, and grow in listening to and loving others then this study is for you.  Our sermon and worship series “I’ve Been Meaning to Ask…” has a study element that goes along with it.  Topics include the concept of place and culture, what pain we carry, what most we need, and how we continue to venture through life’s ups and downs.

Here is what to expect: video vignettes from the contributors of the study which go in depth to the questions asked each week, commentary and engagement with scripture, full print artwork to interact with, intimate conversation with others, and personal growth in practicing attentive listening as we answer some of the deep questions offered with the study.  I am eager to dive in with you all to this work, and if you are at all apprehensive take comfort in knowing that anything you want to share you can, and anything you don’t want to share will be respected.  This is truly a study where we all will get out of it what we put in, and I believe it will foster greater trust for all of us.
This is a 4-week study and will follow the sermon series. Pastor Nick will lead the discussions in-person on Thursday nights at 7pm and Sundays after church service and coffee hour. Please feel free to join on either day that is convenient to your schedule.

Dates:

Week 1: September 16, 19 (Where are you from?)

Week 2: September 23, 26 (Where does it hurt?)

Week 3: September 30, October 3 (What do you need?)

Week 4: October 7, 10 (Where do we go from here?)

Peace to you all,

Pastor Nick

Weekly thoughts on Worship, Faith, and Life, Vol. 1: week 4, Guest Alfred Appiah

Greeting’s members of the FPCV!

God is good. I am glad to report that I arrived safely at the Columbia Theological Seminary last two weeks. The delta variant of the virus (Covid 19) is spreading very fast across Georgia and its environment. So, I have been spending my days indoors, reading, and preparing for class. I want to thank you all for your prayers and support for my family. 

Today, I would like to share my perspective on the good Samaritan parable. I am currently studying Luke 10:25-37. I call this text the mission of the Church. The parable is very popular that we usually miss some of the critical details that drive it. We have always told the parable from the Samaritan’s perspective and condemn the acts of those who paid no attention to the wounded and beaten man left in his own pool of blood. Indeed, whenever pastors preach this story, they encourage us to take the position of the good Samaritan, to be the hero of our family, Church, and society. But the Samaritan in this parable was the hero because he first felt the pains of this unknown and wounded man lying on the roadside. The Samaritan offered help to the injured man because he asked the question “what if I was the one lying in this pool of blood,” “what if I was the one beaten and robbed,” “it was no fault of this person to have suffered this on the hands of the robbers, he does not deserve this, I must help him.” He offered him help because he felt his pain and put himself in his shoes. That was not the case for the Priest and the Levite. These two people walked away selfishly without thinking about the pains of the wounded man. Probably, they might have said in their mind, “this man was beaten because of his bad deeds.” They did not offer any help because they judged him instead of feeling compassion for him.

As a church, we can only offer help and support to the wounded world only when we feel the pains of the marginalized. When we put ourselves in the shoes of others, we will be moved with compassion and love. We cannot be the good Samaritan when the pain of others is not our pain. We cannot love our neighbors when we judge them. The Church’s mission is to love and care for all, but that can be done when we pay attention to other’s needs, know their struggle, and understand that their pain is ours. So, I took the vaccine not because I want to protect myself but also to protect my neighbors and loved ones. This is what we have been called to do, love and care for others as Christ did for us on the Cross.

Alfred Appiah

From Pastor Nick: Weekly thoughts on Worship, Faith, and Life, Vol. 1: week 3

“Let us Lament”

This past week I spoke about how Psalm 69 leads us from the orientation Psalms we had in 1 and 113 to psalms that speak of disorientation like 69 does as the writer cries out to God in distress and despair.  Sometimes these psalms are called Psalms of lament because they use the language of lament to name that what is happening seems unbearable, unfair, and without hope; while also naming that God is able to intervene.  They are cries not only about the calamity people find themselves in or faced with, but also are petitions for God who has intervened in the past to intervene once again.  The gravity of a problem will always be relative to the ones experiencing it given their values, context, and privileges in life.

What in our lives collectively and personally do we take notice of right now that hurts, that we have despair or despondency towards?  I know of a few that we share in common, but I wonder how our current attitudes and approaches have come far short of lament?   We have differing viewpoints about masking, protocols, vaccinations and politics, but we can still come together as a community and lament.  We are upset to have transition and for this church there has been a great deal of it: online worship, staff changes, Pastor Colin leaving in December, disconnection and distant relationships due to isolation, a sense of loss from how life used to be, loss of loved ones and friends, new ways of being and doing church etc.  I don’t believe everything can be solved by ‘just trusting God’ more; that goes for mental health, broken bones, mask wearing and the weather.  Instead, I believe that the language of the Psalms gives us a way to name our emotions, name the issues we are facing, and name God’s faithfulness and character as a God who can and does intervene.  

Will you join me in not blaming, judging, or belittling differences in our church and community?  Will you commit to pray a lament instead?  Here is an example: 

“Dear God, “X” is a problem right now. It should not be this way, and yet we have different beliefs and emotions that have hurt us and made it hard to be your people. We don’t have all the answers and we feel frustrated with ourselves, with how others have been, and that this situation is happening in the first place.  We know you are faithful; we recall how you brought healing to some of the worst diseases and ailments through Jesus Christ; we know you are a God who provides for your people. In Scripture we are reminded of the Exodus from Egypt, the food provided by manna in the desert, care and provision while your people were in exile, and the fullness of restoration brought by Jesus Christ).   We know that Jesus has freed us from all sin and brokenness and yet we remain broken, calloused, and confused about what the future holds.  We ask Holy Spirit that you will soften our hearts and minds, we ask that you bring about peace and restoration, we ask that you will put an end to divisions, an end to illness, and will instead bring about unity, peace, and genuine love for all our brothers and sisters.  We want this all now, and we trust that you are good and faithful to your promises to love us and never forsake us, and we also know that even if this doesn’t happen immediately that in the end your peace and your recovery, your restoration and renewal will happen for all things.  Come Lord Jesus, Amen.”

Pastor Nick

From Pastor Nick: Weekly thoughts on Worship, Faith, and Life, Vol. 1: week 2

“God shares the throne”

The second week of the Psalmist orienting us was all about equity and praise of the Lord for raising the lowly up.  Alfred so wonderfully explained how the poor man in the ash heap that God looks down on and has compassion on is translated more literally to be the man living in the garbage heap.  God has compassion on both male and female, and not just a compassion that recognizes their plight and speaks kind words.  God lifts the man from the garbage heap and seats him with princes; God notices the barren woman and gives her a dwelling.  Alfred recalled so many wonderful images and scripture passages; my favorite from this part of the Psalm was the connection to Genesis 2 where God is intimately involved with creation ‘playing in the dirt’ to make humanity.  

Psalm 1 was all about what road we are on, and where we find ourselves rooted; we were encouraged to find ourselves rooted in God’s care and instruction because it will mean sustenance, peace, nurture and fruitfulness.  Psalm 113 was all about God taking notice of creation especially humanity and sharing the throne; making seats for the poor, outcast, and forgotten members of society.  

Taken together it would seem the psalmist wants us to trust in God, to see our relationship with God and God’s word to be that which gives us instruction and nurture, and that Gods nature in relationship with us is to take notice of us, and to be about making things fair, equitable, and in right relationship.  What do we do with that and how do we respond to that?  

I believe it all comes back to the two great commandments Jesus gives his disciples.  Jesus says the love of God and the love of neighbors summarizes all of the law and the prophets.  I wonder about the phrase “to take notice,” and how that might be a clue towards loving God and loving neighbors.  If.  If Psalm 113 is all about how God “takes notice” of all of humanity and loves them properly and without discrimination; perhaps its also a call to us to “take notice” of our neighbors and love them without discrimination?  If we did nothing else as a church but this, imagine how much of an impact that would have on our communities of Victor, Farmington and surrounding areas?  

I can imagine people saying this: “that is the church that noticed when: I was on my last dollars of my paycheck, we were struggling to feed our family, we felt like no one cared about us because we were not white like our neighbors, we were being hurt, etc.”  Let’s be those that notice, and lets be those that show love without discrimination!

Pastor Nick

From Pastor Nick: Weekly thoughts on Worship, Faith, and Life, Vol. 1: week 1

“Orientation, Disorientation, Reorientation”

This past Sunday we started on a 6-week journey through the Psalms beginning with none other than Psalm 1. I want to come back to what I said on Sunday about “bathing ourselves in nature/bathing ourselves in scripture.”  This practice for me is usually easy, but last week I lacked focus.  I walked from church to the Victor Community Park and back on my lunch break.  I stopped at the pond adjacent to the outdoor amphitheater and sat down.  I smelled the fresh cut grass, heard the birds twitter and chirp along with the wind rustling the leaves in the trees; beneath my shoes the water sloshed back and forth as the clouds cast shadows on the dock below me.  The sun was almost too hot on my skin, but the wind provided enough buffeting to stir the water and make it pleasant for both me and the fish catching a slide ride from the sloshing motion.  You may be thinking, “Pastor Nick, that sounds great!” but I wasn’t really soaking it in.  I was distracted and disoriented by my emotions and the days worry.  I felt I was wasting time and not being productive.  

It struck me yesterday that there’s two things this teaches me, and I hope you learn from this as well: First, I am learning that at times settling my thoughts enough to listen, pray, or take in all that is around me is extremely difficult. Second, I am learning—re-learning actually—that to be a human creation among the rest of God’s creation has meaning in and of itself rather than how “productive” I am.

The invitation Sunday from Psalm 1 was to let ourselves be oriented towards God’s instruction, delighting in what God and Scripture teach us about ourselves and the world.  It is an invitation to let ourselves simply be or to simply exist, knowing our worth apart from what is done or what is left undone.  Beloved people of God, we are more than what we do! We are loved by God simply because God graciously welcomes us in!  It may be hard to practice soaking in life around us, and that’s okay, because being oriented in a different way sometimes means learning how to soak in all that life already gives to us.  Sometimes it’s as simple or difficult as taking notice of the trees and birds around us; other times its delighting in the familiar aspects of our faith that keep us trusting in God and seeking to love God with all that we are.

Pastor Nick  

Fire, Water, and the Table

Message from Pastor Colin Pritchard, Moderator of the Presbytery of Genesee Valley.

Living Water Reflection

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