In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him (Mark 1:9-13).
There is a desire in all of us to experience something like Jesus experienced at his baptism. We want to hear God say “You are my son (or daughter), chosen and marked by my love, pride of my life” (Mark 1:11 The Message). We long to know that the Spirit is with us and within us, “the Spirit descending like a dove on him.” We want a spiritual experience that is uplifting and beautiful.
However, notice that Jesus’ experience of the Spirit also included a very disturbing event. “The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness” (Mark 1:12). The Greek literally says that the Spirit “threw” Jesus out into this desert wasteland. The wilderness is a wild place, a place of danger and evil. In this wilderness Jesus met Satan and was tempted – tempted to deny that he was God’s Son, tempted to deny that he was beloved, tempted to give up his life and ministry.
If we are open to the Spirit and long for spiritual experiences, we must accept the reality that the Spirit works in us and around us in both the positive and uplifting experiences, the ones that make us feel good, and in the struggles of our lives. The down times, the times we are filled with doubts and pain, are also the work of the Spirit within us. These are challenging and difficult times, yet in them, maybe especially during these times, God is at work in our lives, transforming us and drawing us closer to His heart.
Pentecost is May 15th. This is the day we remember the coming of the Holy Spirit on the early church, the Spirit working in a fresh and new way. We also celebrate the presence and work of the Spirit in our lives, and in our church, today. As we focus our attention on the Spirit let us remember that the Spirit is always with us, in both the good times and in the struggles. The work of the Spirit is constant part of our lives, disturbing us when God wants to get our attention and help us to grow, and filling us with peace and joy and hope when we are discouraged. And so we pray:
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me; Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me;
Melt me, mold me, Fill me, use me. Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.
(#322 in the Presbyterian Hymnal)
Suppose you were asked to describe the "music of the church."
Many of us who have been brought up in a traditional "mainline" experience might use the word "hymns" in our description. Those with a more contemporary background might describe the music as "worship songs" or "praise choruses" although the purpose of the music is the same regardless of worship style.
Hymns focus our attention on the goodness and glory of the Lord as we worship. The classic hymns of Martin Luther, Isaac Watts, Charles Wesley, and many others have blessed millions. And modern hymn writers such as Twila Paris, Keith and Kristyn Getty, and Stuart Townend continue to put biblical truth in poetic form and turn our attention to the Lord who is great and “most worthy of praise” (Psalm 96:4).
One simple definition of the term "hymn" is "a religious song or poem, typically of praise to God." Another definition is "a lyric poem, reverently and devotionally conceived, designed to be sung to express the worshipper's attitude toward God or God's purposes in human life."
The word "hymn" comes from the Greek word "hymnos" (a song of praise). The practice of singing hymns is called "hymnody," and the same word refers to a collective body of hymns (for example, those of a particular denomination or period).
Since starting as Music Directors at Sharon Church, we have discovered (to our surprise) that each of us has a unique set of "familiar" hymns and we often mistakenly assume that the familiarity is shared. We have come to view this as a true blessing -- as we not only introduce new hymns to Sharon Church, but also to each other. Drawing upon this body of hymnody, we're striving to enrich the musical palette of the choirs and congregation of the church.
So with that purpose in mind our special music in April included:
"Because He Lives" (a hymn in the "gospel" tradition by Gloria and Bill Gaither)
"I Know Not Why God's Wondrous Grace" (a modern hymn by Stuart Townend, original text by D. Whittle, inspired by 2 Timothy 1:12, and adapted by Stuart Townend)
"If My People Will Pray" (a modern hymn by Jimmy Owens, based on 2 Chronicles 7:14)
In May, we are singing:
"Til the Storm Passes By" (a hymn in the gospel tradition by Mosie Lister)
"I Know That My Redeemer Lives" (a more contemporary hymn by Scott Soper)
"O Breath of God" (a contemporary hymn by Keith Getty and Phil Madeira)
"May God Bestow on Us His Grace" (words by Martin Luther, music by Mark Gulden)
In Children's Music Time (Sundays, 11:15 am to noon) we are introducing "hymns" that are especially "kid-friendly" -- some old favorites, some much more current. Our plan is to continue this in an effort to familiarize and enrich the children with the music of the church.
Ephesians 5:18b-19 indicates a direct connection between being filled with the Spirit and singing. “Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord.”
So we encourage you to sing the music of our church from your heart with gusto!
Blessings, Mark and Treva
1 Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise him. Psalms 33:1 (NIV)
3 Let them praise his name with dancing and make music to him with timbrel and harp. Psalms 149:3 (NIV)
13 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” Revelation 5:13
Happy Spring! I just love spring – I love everything about it. I love the flowers that poke up through the ground after a long winter. I especially love sleeping with the window cracked open during the cool nights and having the birds wake me up in the morning singing songs outside. It seems like all the earth is giving praise to God in the spring J
It is a busy world we live in, especially as parents of young children. My dream is to wake up before dawn to the songs of birds and the smell of the lilacs outside my window, and open up my bible and sink into a hot cup of coffee and God’s sweet Word before anyone else gets out of bed. Truth is, I was still up at midnight making lunches and when I hear the birds I pull the covers over my head to muffle the sound as I sneak in 5 more minutes of sleep. Most mornings I carry my cup of coffee around with me sipping it up as I go from bathroom to bathroom and all the bedrooms in between, warning that we are late (as usual) and everybody needs to hurry up! But even though most mornings are a blur, my little girl will notice the beauty of the sunrise or a really weird bug on the car, the pattern of the frost on her window or the bird poop that looks like an alien, and she gives God credit. I realize that in my rush, I must be giving God praise enough that my child picks up on it. Because I believe it. I do! I believe that God created beautiful and weird and wonderful things for us to enjoy, and I verbally thank Him for it often enough that my child has picked up on it. I give myself a C- for time management, but when it comes to praising God, I think I might score a B. And you know what? My B is producing an A in my child, so I am blessed. Because God has taken my imperfect effort and multiplied it through my child. What an awesome God!
This spring, as everything is made new again, resist the urge to say you will change everything and be the perfect parent. New Flash: It’s probably not going to happen. But you can make a simple promise to give praise to God when you see Him – out loud, verbally. And you do see Him – I know you notice the huge patch of daffodils as you drive down the road, or the bunny in the yard or the deer running across the street. Just say “Wow - thanks God – that’s beautiful!” That’s it. It doesn’t have to be fancy. It’s how you teach kids to expect to see God, to watch for Him, and to praise Him when you see Him.
Are you aware that Sharon Church has a Palliative Care Ministry? This unique ministry began in September, 2014 and is offered as a support and advocacy ministry for individuals experiencing serious illnesses as well as their loved ones. Facing serious illnesses and the complex medical system can be frightening. Our team decreases your fears, clarifies the medical treatment plan and provides information needed to navigate through these scary times. The team consists of Judy Lentz, RN, MSN, Coordinator, Karen Killmeyer,RN, Myra Tokar, RN and Rev. Ron Schermerhorn. Over the past 18 months, we have provided support and advocacy as well as bereavement support for more than 20 church members and their loved ones. Our ministry is provided by in-person visits, phone calls, emails or text messages based on need. We answer medical questions, provide support via doctor visits, family conferences, critical care events, assist with understanding medical terminology, suggest questions to be asked of medical personnel, clarify options that have been recommended, and help to assure quality of life is the focus of care. We have also offered classes for interested caregivers.
As one family member stated: “ The Palliative Care Ministry that you provided to us was invaluable! We appreciate your willingness to be available to us any time of the day or night. It was so helpful to have someone to talk to that was knowledgeable and impartial when hard decisions had to be made regarding our Aunt’s care. When dealing with a loved one’s end of life care, it was comforting to know that we had you and [the] Palliative Care Ministry to ask the hospital staff the tough questions that my sister and I weren’t ready to face “. If you know of someone in our church family who has recently been diagnosed with a serious illness and might be interested in being supported in this way, contact firstname.lastname@example.org call the church office and request our services.
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