Category: devotion Page 1 of 2

Upcoming Book Study

Mark your calendars! We want to let you know about an upcoming book study opportunity. Clay Girouard will be leading a 6-week book study of “None Like Him” by Jen Wilkin. The study will be in-person at the church on Thursday evenings from 6:30-8pm, with an option to stay for a brief prayer time after. The study will begin on Thursday, May 5th and conclude on Thursday June 9th. The book can be purchased through multiple online sellers, please purchase your book prior to the first class. Please register by filling in this form or by contacting Courtney in the office at office@victorpres.org. Have questions? Contact Clay Girouard at 585-727-6848

From Pastor Nick: Easter Triduum

Greetings to you members and friends of First Presbyterian in Victor:

I recognize that this year’s Holy Week probably looks and feels a bit different than some of us may be used to.  Our Maundy Thursday dinner hosted by the Deacons is serving a dual role and purpose: first is to celebrate and come together as a community of faith given that it has been awhile since we have had a formal meal together, second is to join the Church universal in singing, praying, and learning again Jesus’ final command on Maundy Thursday to ‘love one another.’  Below is an excerpt from the Presbyterian Mission Agency on these three days we commemorate Jesus’ passion.  Following it is a suggestion for scripture reading and prayer as we immerse ourselves in the Easter Story wherever we may be.

“One of the first annual events of the Christian year, after the celebration of the resurrection on every Lord’s Day, was a commemoration of Christ’s dying and rising at Easter. Over the years, one day was split into three different rituals to remember the Last Supper and New Commandment (Maundy Thursday), the Crucifixion (Good Friday) and the struggle to make meaning of the cross in light of the whole of salvation history (the Great Vigil) — all culminating in Easter at day break.

What was originally one annual service remembering the Lord’s death and resurrection became split into separate services in order to pay closer attention to the significant details of Christ’s death and resurrection. These were considered to be part of one salvific activity of God and thus celebrated as such without a benediction until the end of the service with the Easter announcement that “Christ is risen!”

The Three Days or Triduum (Maundy Thursday at sundown through sundown of Easter) are the most solemn of the church year. The whole church’s participation is encouraged in this time of great significance for all who would be formed in the Christian faith, especially catechumens. The Great Vigil of Easter was the time set aside for the annual baptism of new Christians, coinciding with the eucharistic dawning of God’s reign in the risen Lord Jesus Christ.”

https://www.presbyterianmission.org/ministries/worship/christianyear/three-days-or-triduum/

Consider reading any or all these stories: 

Matthew 26:26-27:61; Mark 14:32-15:47; Luke 22:47-23:56; John 18:1-19:30 

(*note: where John’s gospel says ‘Jews/Jewish Leaders’ the translation here is problematic and can be seen as antisemitic.  Please be sensitive with yourself and our Jewish brothers and sisters who do not—and whom we should not—identify with Jesus’ crucifixion.) 

As you read ask yourself these questions: 

  • Where is God?  
  • Where would I place myself in this story?  
  • What is being stirred within me (emotionally, spiritually, mentally)?  

Take time to pray, to ask God about the answers you had to these questions and share with others what you found most compelling.

As we prepare to celebrate together Easter morning, take comfort that even when we don’t get it, make mistakes (and we all do), and even when we “fall asleep;” God still loves us, forgives us, and promises us new life through Jesus Christ.

In love and service,

Pastor Nick

Ash Wednesday Reflection

Ash Wednesday Reflection:

“…you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”  -Genesis 3:19

“Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; rend your hearts and not your clothing.

Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love…”  -Joel 2:12-13

       In one of my favorite devotionals for Ash Wednesday, the author offers up that perhaps the reminder of Genesis 3 is less about feeling small, shameful, or insignificant, and instead as a reminder that we belong to the earth.  Likewise, I love how the passage from Joel speaks of what we are to rend (rip, tear) and names that it is “our hearts not our clothing.”  I recall a time where Ash Wednesday felt like a day that I was supposed to feel wretched, terrible, good for nothing, and reduced to dust.  It was a time to become low, to repent, to feel extremely sorry and remorseful about sin and the ways I had offended God. 

Yet this devotional invited me to see the return to dust as an invitation to belong.  Added to that, the words from Joel to return to God further shifted my understanding.  It continues to both comfort and encourage me to go deeper, to rend my heart to God, and to recognize God’s attributes as being loving, gracious and merciful.  God is not angry, shameful, and is not calling us to rend our clothes or see ourselves as reduced to the dust we are made from.  The call to put on Ashes for Ash Wednesday can and should be about repentance, and yet sometimes our view of repentance (which comes from putting on sackcloth and ashes which have a mournful spirit to them) keeps us in a spiral of shame and self-loathing rather than move us to a place where we can actually turn back to God and live. 

        So I want to invite you in this time and space, wherever you might be, however you may view Ash Wednesday, to do 3 things:

1.) Read the passages above through the lens of God’s grace and mercy; as God desiring to make things right between us as creation and God as creator.  Consider that “being dust,” might not be a bad descriptor, but a reminder of our limitations, of our connectedness with the earth, and of our reliance on God.

2.) Rend your heart to God.  “…return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning…” In other words, let your heart break for the things you wish to change, should change, or will change about you in the coming weeks.  Consider what might help you and your relationship with God and with others. 

Perhaps if you haven’t fasted for Lent now is a time to consider doing so?  What would be beneficial to fast from? (Consider what thoughts, feelings, habits, or tangible items you have relied on and what might be keeping you from deeper relationships with God or other people? Coffee, chocolate, thinking you need to do everything, feeling angry or sad, feeling animosity towards others etc.)

3.) Come to church to receive the imposition of ashes on March 2 from 9-11am or 1:30-3:30 pm. If that doesn’t work, or you don’t have much desire to participate in that tradition, my invitation is to go connect with nature somehow. 

Play in the dirt (if it’s not frozen), or plant a seed like we did last year, maybe you sit and watch the birds for a while, or you could go for a brisk walk outside and bathe yourself in the nature around you.  Take in the sun if it is shining; after all it has been a long winter and the vitamins and warmth may just rejuvenate your soul.  Remember that you are dust, and feel connected to the world/universe around you.

       As we journey towards Jesus’ passion, and contemplate the events that led to his death and resurrection, we do so mindful that we are loved, forgiven, and invited to join in life giving practices.  We all probably know and remember John 3:16, but my favorite thing to remind people of, especially this time of year, is the verse that follows.  May it bring you comfort and serve as an assurance of God’s forgiveness for you:

“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” -John 3:17

Believe this good news and cherish the peace that comes with knowing you are God’s beloved.

In love and fellowship,

Pastor Nick

Mom Core

Calling all Moms!  Moms play many roles. They have to be experts in just about everything. It’s a lot of pressure.  Are you looking to connect with other moms going through the same season as you?  We are hosting a free 6-week Mom’s group video adventure that will inspire and encourage you as a mom.   This is a relaxed, no preparation opportunity to connect- you just come, watch the video, and discuss with fellow moms.  

Who:  Anyone who could use encouragement in their journey of motherhood

Where: First Presbyterian Church (white church with steeple).  90 Main Street, Victor.  In Person in sanctuary.  Option to have virtual participation as well.

When: 6 weeks on Mondays 6:30-7:30pm starting March 7 in the Activity Room at FPCV.

What: We will be doing Mom Core with Karen Stubbs from Birds on a Wire.

Weekly Topics include:

  • Purpose: Every mom needs purpose in their life.  Karen will answer the question of how we measure success as a mom.
  • Boundaries: Boundaries are needed in every aspect of our lives, with family, friends, in-laws, and even children.  Discover what boundaries are and why they are so important in the life of a mom.
  • Time Management: Every mom struggles to fit everything into their crazy, hectic schedule.  Practical tips will be shared and a new way to view your impossible task of time management.
  • Being a Student of Your Child:  In order to parent effectively you must KNOW your child and what makes them tick.  We will be diving down into personalities and the benefits of truly knowing and understanding your child.
  • Discipline:  Taking a step back and looking at the mind set of discipline and why it is so important in the life of a child.
  • Contentment:  We all struggle with being content and not playing the comparison game.  Learn how to find contentment in whatever season you are in as a mom.

How do I learn more and participate?  Contact/IM Cathy Martz (cemartz33@gmail.com) by March 1.  Let me know which day you would like to attend and if you may need childcare.  

About Birds on a Wire

Birds on a Wire is a ministry that provides Godly, practical advice so you’ll feel celebrated, encouraged and equipped to parent with confidence.

Karen Stubbs, a mother of four grown children, is an advocate for moms because she knows first-hand how difficult it is to raise children. What started as a group of eight moms meeting in Karen’s basement has grown into an international ministry with hundreds of moms all over the world. Birds on a Wire supports moms with events, Bible studies, books, a weekly email newsletter, and podcast.

Birds on a Wire is for all moms. Moms who work out of the house or in the house. Moms who have a newborn to moms who are empty nesters. No matter where you are in the journey of motherhood, Birds on a Wire is here to encourage and equip you.

Lent Book Study Options

As we prepare for the Lenten season: would you like to find a fresh perspective this Lent?  One that allows you to reflect and connect in a new way? Pastor Nick has provided three options for a book study, that would run 6-8 weeks beginning the first week in Lent, the week of 3/6/2022. Below you will find a synopsis of each book for you to consider. Please fill out this form with your preferences of book and days and times that would work best for you: https://forms.gle/d1zsH7KfCY8VaA6w7

Pastor Nick is always willing to lead a weekly Bible Study on a book of the bible.  For Lent if this is something you prefer, please indicate on the form above which Gospel you are most intrigued with to study beginning in Lent (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John).

From Amazon.com: “Jesus’ final days were full of risk. Every move he made was filled with anticipation, danger, and the potential for great loss or great reward.

Jesus risked his reputation when he entered Jerusalem in a victory parade. He risked his life when he dared to teach in the Temple. His followers risked everything when they left behind their homes, or anointed him with costly perfume. We take risks as we read and re-read these stories, finding new meanings and new challenges.

In Entering the Passion of Jesus: A Beginner’s Guide to Holy Week, author, professor, and biblical scholar Amy-Jill Levine explores the biblical texts surrounding the Passion story. She shows us how the text raises ethical and spiritual questions for the reader, and how we all face risk in our Christian experience.”

From Amazon.com:
“In this devotion for the season of Lent, Jill J. Duffield draws readers’ attention to ten ordinary objects that Jesus would have encountered on his way to Jerusalem: dust, bread, the cross, coins, shoes, oil, coats, towels, thorns, and stones. In each object, readers will find meaning in the biblical account of Jesus’ final days. Each week, readers encounter a new object to consider through Scripture, prayer, and reflection. From Ash Wednesday to Easter, Lent in Plain Sight reminds Christians to open ourselves to the kingdom of God”

From Amazon.com:

Pete and Geri Scazzero developed the Emotionally Healthy (EH) Relationships Course over a 21-year period to directly address core biblical principles to guide you and others into an experience of discipleship that will deeply change your life. In the EH Relationships Course, everyone will learn 8 practical relationship skills to develop mature, loving relationships with others such as: 

  • Stop Mind Reading and Clarify Expectations 
  • Incarnational Listening 
  • Climb the Ladder of Integrity 
  • Clean Fighting 

And since loving others and loving God cannot be separated, each person will also grow in their personal, first-hand relationship with Jesus by incorporating stillness, silence, and Scripture as daily life rhythms.”

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

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