Series for the Season

Brought Near

Six Services Shaped by Ephesians

Note: Scripture quotations in this article are from the NRSV.

Planning the Series

Ephesians illustrates both the density and exuberance of Paul’s theological vision. For these and other reasons, creating a six-week series on the letter can feel a bit daunting. Therefore, a month and a half before the series began we brainstormed one evening with anyone in the congregation interested in joining us. They arrived having read through the letter or at least the one-page summary we made available that outlined its movements and major themes.

As a culture we enjoy a rich verbal component to our worship. We read Scripture, offer praise and petition, listen to sermons, and share our celebrations and concerns. Some of us are more comfortable using words to express our response in worship, while others are more at ease with images (see the article “A Creative Communion” by Eric Nykamp, p. 18.)

Our congregation lives in a secular California suburban culture that’s enamored by and often addicted to the latest trends in fashion, décor, and home design. A thousand voices urge us to work and purchase our way to happiness. Two years ago anyone driving through our growing city might have been impressed by its carefully manicured lawns, late-model SUVs, and growing number of hybrids. Everything looked new. Everyone looked happy. On the outside everything was fine. It was as if everyone was busy refining what sociologists call “image management.”

Hungering for Righteousness

A Six-Week Series on Food and Hunger

Download bulletin cover here.

Food is one of the cornerstones of God’s good creation. It nourishes and sustains God’s creatures. Its richness and diversity brings joy to many who delight in the bounty of gardens and grocery stores. But whenever food is hoarded, over-consumed, scarce, or withheld, it can also be emblematic of the brokenness of humanity. When access to nourishing food is lacking, justice is also lacking.

The story of Job is the story of a man who lived long ago and far away in the country of Uz. But it is also the story of every person who has ever tried to make sense of undeserved suffering and the seeming absence of God. It’s a powerful story of deep faith in tragic times.

The book of Job challenges our ideas about how life should be lived and who God is. The story seizes us, demands our imagination, and refuses to let go until we have wrestled with the same life-shaping questions that haunt the main character.

How far and deep does the meaning of Advent go? Christmas can easily become sentimentalized with nativity scenes or mistakenly celebrated as the beginning of an escape to heaven. Our worship planning group tried to bring out a sense of the deep adventure that Advent really is by drawing in the cosmic scope of Christ’s incarnation in the world.

Who Is Jesus? Who Is Christ?

Worship Ideas for Lent from the Gospel of Mark

Every few years it happens, often around Easter. Questions about the life and ministry of Jesus are still so interesting to so many people that one, two, or even three of the major weekly newsmagazines in America will run cover stories about him. Few celebrities get their faces on the covers of such magazines all in the same week. Yet centuries after his death and resurrection, Jesus still generates a lot of press—not only for what he did or said but for the core question of who he is.