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February 25, 2016, 3:47 PM

RISEN

Risen

 

As we approach Easter I've been thinking about what it means. Here are a few scriptures to consider. What is very remarkable about the early church is that they all believed Jesus rose from the dead, and their own lives were dramatically changed. Before his death they were often afraid, occasionally bewildered, and though they followed Jesus they did not emulate his qualities of faith and courage. After his death they were truly transformed into people of courage and clarity of vision. They overcame great resistance and persecution. Their own explanation of this transformation is that Jesus had been raised. Their transformed lives had such an impact that we today are inspired by the Easter experience.

 

Mark 9:31-32

(Jesus) said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.” But (the disciples) did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it.”

 

Hebrews 2:14-15

Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.”

 

John 20:24-29

Now Thomas ..., one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

 

I Corinthians 15:3-8

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one untimely born.”

 

Colossians 3:1-4

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”

 




January 28, 2016, 3:52 PM

Some Lenten Thoughts

Lent comes early this year, right after Christmas holidays with family and friends and gifts and food. It hardly
seems fair! But maybe Lent will help to reinforce some of those New Years resolutions about watching our
weight and getting back to a more disciplined routine.
 
Lent has always been harder for me than any other season on the church calendar. And it's probably because
I used to equate it primarily with giving up something. My reasoning was, Jesus gave himself up for me, so now
I should give up something for him. Not myself, surely, but something less demanding and more symbolic. Like,
giving up ice cream. Now, that is a real sacrifice!
 
But what is the purpose of such a sacrifice? Again, my young mind reasoned, it's because self-discipline is good
for me.
 
The truth is, Lent is not about ME. Not about us. And the sacrifice that is emphasized is more often a waste
of time than anything, if it's only about ME.
 
As always, Jesus challenges us with the real meaning of sacrifice (and of Lent). He teaches us:

“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions

and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never

fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

Luke 12:32-34 (NIV)

 
See the point? It's not about our sacrifice. It's about our helping someone else. Not just sell something, but
share what we have with someone else, someone who needs it.
What do we call that?
Jesus calls it the kingdom of God.

 

 
Rev. Gregory Ross
Sr. Minister
First Christian Church (DOC)
3105 RR 12
San Marcos, Texas 78666
512-396-1926



January 5, 2016, 1:38 PM

Our Best Days - Rick Hardy's address to the congregation

The ultimate measure of humanity is not where we stand in moments of comfort and convenience, but where we stand at times of challenge and controversy!

It's safe to say...we are at a time of challenge and controversy, and that is why I am speaking to you today. With all of the crazy things going on in the world, you might be wondering what is happening.

I cannot attest to what is actually causing people to murder innocent individuals in senseless mass killings, but I do believe that we have the civic and spiritual responsibility to do our best to make a positive difference in our world.

As Children of God, we must treat everyone with dignity and respect, and we might consider going the extra mile and do what Jesus asks us to do...love our enemies! I don't want to get into a literal interpretation of this request, but I would like to address the underlying premise...if Jesus asks us to love our enemies, shouldn't we at least give individuals the benefit of the doubt before judging them?

I am requesting that we do our best not to lump everyone into one classification based upon the acts of a few misguided individuals.

We don't blame every Christian when a few troubled people perform heinous acts, just as we should not lump every Muslim into the category of Islamic Extremists.

We will never "win" a war against terrorism without discovering and doing away with the causes related to the mistrust and hate directed toward individuals of differing beliefs.

I feel that Jesus wants to bring sheep into the fold...not build fences to keep them out. I don't remember Jesus ever directing his followers to kill in the name of religion, and so it is up to us to follow Jesus' lead. We must be the illuminating light on the hill. We must be the example that people want to emulate.

I've said all of this to simply ask you to do as Jesus would do. If we are to ever make a difference in the world, now is the time to begin.

There is one and only one creator, and I believe that we all come from that same creator!

Now is the time for communication, compassion, and understanding between all faiths to the point where we agree that differences in our beliefs do not negate the more positive notion that we all come from the same Supreme Being.

Instead of lumping people into one oversimplified category, why don't we realize that if we follow Jesus' lead and reach out to those of different faiths with love and compassion, maybe we can make a positive difference in our troubled world.

We already know our positive outcome at the end of our earthly existence, so we have no worries. Why don't we begin today by doing what Jesus wants us to do...love our enemies, and we can start by at least loving our neighbors as we love ourselves, regardless of their religious affiliation.

Our best days are still ahead!




July 22, 2015, 2:40 PM

Sharing God's Love – in the Year of the Flood!

At First Christian Church, San Marcos, we have been emphasizing different ways of sharing the love of God in our lives. We have been practicing how to be more aware of the people we know and don't know. We have been sending cards of encouragement and friendship, honoring our people in uniform, greeting strangers at store counters with a warm word, and even learning to forgive those who hurt us. In the month of July our emphasis was feeding the hungry. As individuals and as a group we can feed the elderly and homebound via Meals on Wheels. We can provide food to the many hungry in Hays County by contributing both food and cash to the Hays County Food Bank. As the old jingle goes, “Nothin' says lovin' like somethin' from the oven!”

In our community, three factors combine to make our desire to feed the hungry especially critical.

1. We live in a very poor community. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Texas only has 4.3% unemployment, and San Marcos has only 3% unemployment. However, despite the low unemployment numbers, people are poor. The US Census Bureau reports that Texas has 16.2% of our population below the poverty line. But in San Marcos the number is 35.6% below the poverty line. That's more than 1 in 3 people in our city who live in poverty. Why? Not because of our student population. It is, according to the San Marcos Daily Record report on poverty, because the jobs in San Marcos do not pay well enough for a person or family to afford to live, to pay bills, buy food and clothes, rent or buy an apartment or home. That means many “working homeless” families, and many missed meals.

2. This is the year of the flood. Memorial Day weekend experienced the worst flood along the Blanco River in recorded history. At least 5 of our FCC families were directly hit by the flood, with two of the homes completely destroyed. Our families are at this time in safe, secure places, but the loss has been very great.

After the flood the response to help everyone was truly wonderful and amazing. In our own church so many of you contributed hours and days to the clean-up efforts. Others did laundry for our many volunteers who lived for almost three weeks in our church building. Some provided supplies, others food, others bedding and clothing, others furniture and beds, and still others contributed cash to help our families.

This has been a very humbling experience. In our denomination, Week of Compassion, our national and international service ministry, contributed money to FCC to help flood victim families, and they also came to review the disaster areas, and will continue to provide support and assistance for the rebuilding efforts in the fall. Other organizations also came to Hays County, including Samaritan's Purse, Hope Reigns, Americorps, Austin Disaster Relief Network, and many, many others. They came from all over the country. Most were Christians. Many had been victims of disasters themselves, and now are part of a huge team of first responders to natural disasters across the county.

There is still much to do, until our own church members and all displaced families finally have a home to live in again. We will have opportunities in the immediate future to volunteer, to host volunteers, and to provide help with the huge reconstruction projects being planned together in a four-county area including Hays, Guadalupe, Caldwell and Blanco.

3. It is summer. That means food for children through the school system is not available to those qualified for food subsidies. For our adopted school, Mendez Elementary, about 95% of the students qualify for food subsidies. In the summer they do not have access to school meals. Add to this that many of the Mendez students live in the area of town which has the cheapest housing—the flood plain. So now, many are without a place to live, and still without food to eat. This is a time for us to redouble our efforts to supply food to the Hays County Food Bank. In a normal summer they run short of needed food, but this summer the need is greater than ever.

Jesus said of his own acts of compassion, “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” Not greater in substance, but greater in numbers. We are the hands and feet of Christ. This is a time for us to remember who we are. It is a time to give, to share, to feed, to build, to love.




March 31, 2015, 2:00 PM

A Year of Sharing God's Love – Practicing Forgiveness

Forgiveness is the true test of your love.

It's easy to love a puppy or a kitty. It's easy to love a cute little baby. It's easy to feel strong emotions of romantic love toward someone who loves you back.

But real love isn't always easy. It requires forgiveness. Forgiveness is not an option. Forgiveness is the critical and essential quality of real love. So here are four observations about forgiveness:

1. Forgiveness defines love.

In our society and in the English language, “love” is a loosely defined word that can mean many things. We love sports. We love or don't love our jobs. We love warm, sunshiny weather. Personally, I love ice cream.

In our family we joke about loving things so much that we want to marry it. My wife, Linda, was talking with our four year old granddaughter, Alyx, recently.

“Alyx,” she said, “Do you love ice cream?”

“Yes, I do, Grandma.”

“Do you want to marry it?”
Alyx looked puzzled, and said, “Grandma, you can't marry ice cream!”

She is right, of course. “Love” has a bewildering number of meanings in our language. But the quality that allows us to have productive and mutually supportive human relationships, that is the love we are talking about, the one that is most important. And that love requires forgiveness.

2. Forgiveness is the practical application of love.

That is because we humans are flawed. None of us is perfect. If we never did anything wrong we wouldn't need to be forgiven. But all of us have made mistakes, forgotten a promise, misunderstood a feeling, disappointed someone we love, and yes, sometimes deliberately deceived someone or misled someone for our own advantage.

If that is true of you and me, it is also true of everyone else. I mean it's true of our children, our parents, our spouses, our neighbors, our friends, our fellow-Christians, to name the ones we are inclined to love.

But love that is real has to have a way to keep the love alive in spite of our human imperfections. That's why forgiveness is essential. Love that demands perfection and comes with qualified conditions is not love, it's manipulation. “I will love you IF......” is not love. And neither is “I forgive you BUT.....” That's just another formula for manipulation.

3. Forgiveness is the real power of love, the key to its endurance.

Love is hard enough when the person we love is “lovable”. But the challenge of love is to love even the “unlovable”. Now this isn't a concept I came up with myself. In fact, it's hard enough for me to practice forgiveness to those who clearly love me. Why would I ever want to love someone who DIDN'T love me back? Maybe that's not a good idea. Maybe that would leave us unnecessarily vulnerable.

I know you are way ahead of me here. We know we are supposed to love even our enemies, not because we are naturally inclined to do so, but because of what Jesus teaches:

"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

– Matthew 5:43-48 (NIV)

Is Jesus right? I believe he is, because only real love, forgiveness, makes any and all human relationships work. Without forgiveness marriages wouldn't work. Without forgiveness, people would be fighting against each other, seeking revenge, “returning evil for evil” until the last person standing. And that extends beyond family and friends, to encompass all of humanity. The greatest power on earth is not hatred, fear, violence or anger. It is forgiveness, the real power of love. It is the divine quality embedded in our humanity that sustains our race and gives us hope.

4. Forgiveness is the test of love, it's character.

Loving even our enemy turns out to be a good idea. It is not unrealistic. It doesn't make us gullible, nor does it mean we should continually put ourselves in harms way. No, it really is a positive goal that strenghthens us rather than weakens us. It isn't easy to love everyone. But it is possible. It is the character of God. It was practiced by Jesus. (Remember his words about his executioners? “Father, forgive them, for they don't know what they are doing.”) And others have provided us with good examples. It is how Mother Teresa was able to care for the outcasts and the dying on the streets of Calcutta for decades. If you stop to think about it, perhaps you personally know someone who exemplies this quality. And it can be you and me. But not alone. It takes faith. The faith to pray with Jesus: “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.” Amen.


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