Here’s The Church

Here’s the church and here’s the steeple, open the doors and see all the people…

There was a day when we could recognize a building as a church by its distinctive features, but now the architecture of sacred spaces runs the gamut.   Churches are designed to identify with a thousand different subtly secularized ideas about their mission, vision and community.  Some look like schools, others like shopping malls, while some resemble professional office parks and are called campuses.  Church buildings come in every conceivable shape and size, each with a corresponding and yet, competing vision of why it exists.

But the church is not the building, and its mission, vision and community, while flavored by the soil in which it is planted, is not as variable as the edifices that house it.   The church pictured in the New Testament is not an innovation or departure from the Old Testament covenanted community.  In fact, it is explicitly described as “the Israel of God.”  On the day of Pentecost, the church is not born as some assert, but new branches are radically engrafted.  The essence of the ekklesia, the “called ones” is reasserted, not reinvented, but now with the “dividing wall of hostility removed.”

Acts 2:36-47 reveals a glimpse of this as the picture of the church, its identity, and its impact is reaffirmed in light of Pentecost.   In our day, when the mission, vision and community of the church is as diverse as the buildings in which it meets, it is important to return to the exemplar.

What is a Church?   What is the Pottsville Associate Reformed Church? Join us for worship at Pottsville Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church this Lord’s Day, November 12, as we examine Acts 2 and consider our identity and impact as a Church. For directions click here. We look forward to seeing you.

The Art of Neighboring

Elizabeth Bennett’s father in Pride and Prejudice was notoriously disengaged from the world in which he lived.  He loved the quiet of his study and accepted the society of his neighbors only as a sort of entertaining study in human folly.  He famously quipped, “For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn?”

For most of us, our neighbors are people we view from a distance and love only  metaphorically.  We see them come and go, we view them from the window or through the privacy fence.  We speculate about their lives, but often don’t know their names.  Yet, Jesus taught that our love for our neighbor is cut out of the same cloth as our love for God.

In their book, The Art of Neighboring, authors Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon make an eminently practical observation.

Jesus said to love our neighbors.  Sure, the teaching extends to our metaphoric neighbors – people everywhere in need.  This extends to the people we work with, the parent on our kid’s soccer team, and even the person on the other side of the world who is in need of a meal.  But it also means our actual neighbors – the people who live next door.

Jesus’ command takes us much deeper than most of us are willing to go.   This was the case with a lawyer who came forward to test Jesus in Luke 10, asking ‘and who is my neighbor?’   After declaring that the law calls us to love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves, the lawyer no doubt feels he in over his head and seeks to narrow the field to a manageable and comfortable size.  Jesus “takes up” the lawyer’s question with a story about a merciful Samaritan and turns the question on its head from “who is my neighbor” to “who became a neighbor?”

“To whom are you a neighbor” is a very different question than “and who is my neighbor?” To whom are you a neighbor?  God is already working in your neighborhood.  Are you willing to find out how, simply by being a neighbor?  Join us for worship at Pottsville Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church this Lord’s Day, November 5, as we consider our calling to be a neighbor from the story of the Good Samaritan. For directions click here. We look forward to seeing you.

Handel’s Messiah

The Arkansas Choral Society in conjunction with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra and the University of Arkansas-Monticello will present their 87th Annual performance of Handel’s Messiah Friday, December 1, 2017 at Calvary Baptist Church in Little Rock.

Silent auction begins at 6:30 pm and the concert begins at 7:30 pm. For more info, call 870-820-9645 or go to the Arkansas Choral Society’s website or facebook event page.

S.D.G.

‘The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul.” – Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

Bach is well remembered for penning Soli Deo Gloria,“To the Glory of God Alone,” at the conclusion of his compositions, especially those intended for the worship of the gathered church. Perhaps this was a poignant way of declaring that it wasn’t the applause of a congregation, the praise of his patrons, or even the respect of his contemporaries that drove him to compose, but he did so for the honor and glory of God alone both in his work for the worship of the church and the edification of his neighbor.

Historian Jaroslav Pelikan commented that this commitment on Bach’s part,

“…bespeaks the conviction of Luther and the Reformers that the performance of any God-pleasing vocation was the service of God, even if it did not lead to the performance of chorales. The Bach of the Peasant Cantata, the partitas, and the concertos was not ‘too secular.’ These were, rather, the expression of a unitary … world view, in which all beauty … was sacred because God was one, both Creator and Redeemer.”

Soli Deo Gloria, the last of the Reformation ‘Solas,’ was one of the key summaries of Reformation thought, declaring that God’s redemptive work was thoroughly gracious, depending upon nothing but the work of God and directed toward nothing but the glory of God.  But more than this, Soli Deo Gloria also became a summary of Reformation life as everyday life became the context in which man glorifies God.  In a world so enraptured by human achievement and advancement, what continuing relevance can Soli Deo Gloria have?  Ought our works also be concluded with the annotation S.D.G.?

Join us this Lord’s Day, October 29, for worship at Pottsville Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church as we consider the question, “Why Does Soli Deo Gloria Still Matter?”  For directions click here. We look forward to seeing you.

Bonfire and Fall Party

The Pottsville Associate Reformed Church is hosting a Bonfire and Fall Party, Friday, October 20, 2017.  We will get started at 6:00pm at The Manse.  The Church will provide caramel apples, popcorn, and cider and each family will bring a favorite Fall food or dessert. So break out your instruments!  Dust off your vocal cords!  Bring all your friends and family and join us for a night of fire, music, games, food and fun!  Click here for directions or email us at pottsvillearp@gmail.com for more info.

Tippecanoe and Tyler Too

While old campaign slogans may be catchy and the memorabilia that immortalized them collectable, the issues they expressed are hardly relevant or even discernible in our day.   As we approach the 500th anniversary of the Reformation on October 31, 2017, our social media feeds will be burgeoning with memes and sermon series announcements related to the Five Solas, or Reformation era slogans, expressing the central concerns of the Protestant Reformers.  These slogans are:

  • Sola Scriptura, By Scripture alone,
  • Sola Gratia, By Grace alone,
  • Sola Fide, By Faith alone,
  • Solus Christus, By Christ alone,
  • Soli Deo Gloria, For God’s Glory alone.

As a Reformed Church our identity and our name is connected explicitly to a Sixteenth Century historical movement in Western European History, while our faith and practice is staunchly defined and directed by a book that has not been updated in almost two thousand years.

Are we not a living, breathing anachronism?   Are we not irrelevant to culture and a world that has advanced and moved on from the historical context into which we were born?  Does the Reformation still matter?  Do the Five Solas have any more relevance for our lives today than “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too?”  Or are we just worshiping and practicing our own outdated style in a world that is moving on without us?  These are weighty questions which we need to ask and answer as we consider “who” and “what” we are as a Reformed Church in the Twenty-First Century.

Join us this Lord’s Day, October 8, for worship at Pottsville Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church as we consider the question, “Why Does Sola Scriptura Still Matter?”  For directions click here. We look forward to seeing you.

Apathy

Scientists announced today that they have discovered a cure for apathy. However, they claim no one has shown the slightest interest in it.      George Carlin

Apathy can be deadly.  Apathy takes us off our guard and makes us vulnerable to accident or attack.  As soon as we overestimate our ability or underestimate our opposition, trouble begins to brew.  The scripture is filled with admonitions against apathy both in regard to physical life and spiritual life.

The giant, Goliath, was apathetic.  He overestimated his ability and underestimated his opposition.  He thought he was facing a mere shepherd boy in David, but he was dead wrong. The Philistine said to David,

“Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the field.” Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down…” 1 Samuel 17:44-46

To be apathetic toward God’s word, power and judgment is a deadly business. In His Letters to the Seven Churches in Asia in Revelation 2 and 3, the risen Christ rebuked the Laodicean church, not for gross immorality or doctrinal compromise, but for it’s apathy.

“‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” Revelation 3:15-16

Are you apathetic toward God?  Is your spiritual life cold and dry?   Are you unconcerned about the condition of your soul?  This is the sorry picture that confronts us in Genesis 19.  As the men of Sodom stand upon the eve of judgment, their only thought is to gratify their selfish and evil desires.  Even when it is obvious that judgment is upon them, they still plod forward in sin.  Their apathy proved deadly.

Join us this Lord’s Day, October 1, for worship at Pottsville Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church as we examine Genesis 19 and consider our own responsiveness to the realities of God’s judgment and discipline in our lives.  For directions click here. We look forward to seeing you.