Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Birth of John the Baptist Foretold- Luke 1:5-20- By Ken Baierl

I loved the discussion about Moses and the burning bush but now it’s time to begin thinking about the second lesson in our summer Bible study – The Birth of John the Baptist Foretold (Luke 1:5-20). Instead of a burning bush we have an angel appearing in front of Zechariah to deliver God’s message to him. Once again, like Moses before him, there is fear, disbelief, doubt and even suffering (Zachariah is struck mute) before understanding and accepting what God was telling him to do.

It dawned on me that neither Moses or Zechariah were looking for God’s call at the time they received it. We at Sunnyside Church are actively asking God for it. Maybe that will make us better prepared to see, hear, understand and believe it when it comes. The Bible study this summer is the first stepping stone of our journey. I believe it is already helping. I’m looking forward to the sermon and discussion on Sunday.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Turning Aside by Pastor Jamie

Last evening I welcomed youth and adults from Pine Street Presbyterian Church in Harrisburg, PA. They are on their way to Chicago where they will devote a week to urban ministry. They spent the night in our building, sleeping on the floor and the couches in our youth rooms.

Meeting and greeting these youth was a nostalgic experience for me as I remembered the early days of my own ministry when I led similar youth mission trips. They appreciated our comfortable building and the warm welcome they received this morning from our community of faith.

I was struck by the connection which took place in worship. While these young people were embarking on an experience of Christian service to people in need, we began our Stepping Stones journey of faith to seek and discern God's call to missional transformation...a vision for the future mission of Sunnyside Church. It was a wonderful connection!

Today we heard the story of Moses and the burning bush and how the normal and ordinary experience of his routine was transformed into an extraordinary moment of God's call. The beautiful dirt of Mt. Horeb became holy ground as God called Moses to go to Pharoah and save the Hebrew people from slavery and oppression.

There are three concepts I'd like to point out from the story and invite your reflection and conversation.

1. God initiated everything that happened while Moses responded. So what is God initiating among us today? How do we experience and hear God's call? What will be our response? Remember: God has a mission and is looking for the church to participate in that mission.

2. It was when Moses turned aside and focused on the burning bush that God spoke his name and called him to service. We tend to sometimes cover our eyes and ears to the signs of call in our lives. This summer we have the wonderful opportunity to pause, reflect, study, listen and hear God's call to our church. How can we turn aside in these days and listen carefully and intently?

3. God's call to Moses was specific, direct and bold. Go to Pharoah and tell him: "Let my people go!" It will take time and patience to discern God's call for Sunnyside. But it will be specific, direct and bold. In what ways can we discern this call and hear God's direction?

This is not a nostalgic experience, but an opportunity to peer into the future and listen for God's words: "Sunnyside! Sunnyside! Go and....?" Together we will discover the call that God is initiating.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Moses and the Burning Bush- Exodus 3:1-12- by: Leslie McKillip

Reading this passage, I was struck by the fact that God chose a burning bush to get Moses’ attention and by the fact that Moses chose to take a closer look and see why the bush had not burned up. It made me wonder just how many people today would be curious enough to get closer and how many people would run the other way. I’m not sure what that answer would be for me. Sometimes I pray that the resources God uses in my life would be more obvious to me like a burning bush because I don’t always hear His whisper in my ear. I do believe that being asked to serve on the Stepping Stones committee and then being nominated to co-chair were both “burning bush” moments. I had served in several large volunteer chair positions and vowed that I was not going to chair anything else for a very long time. I’m so glad that I said “yes” to the Stepping Stones! Now as Bill and I prepare for a move that is both exciting and bittersweet, I will do what Moses did and trust God and know that He will be with us along the journey. After all, God didn’t ask Moses to do it alone and as Sunnyside travels along its journey to discern God’s will for our church, we can all be burning bushes through our many voices and experiences.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

We pray for life! by Pastor Rebecca

How do you know when a church is dead or alive? There is a church that I pass every Sunday on my way to Sunnyside that looks dead to me. Sometimes I even forget that it is a church. Low and behold, every December, Christmas decorations appear on its front door and banisters. Maybe there is still a church worshiping there, or maybe someone in the community just thinks that a church should be decorated for Christmas.

For so many years our motto at this congregation was "The Spirit is Alive at Sunnyside!" How do we know that our church is alive? How do we know that the Spirit of God is at work in the things that we are doing?

I don't exactly know the answer to those kinds of questions for certain, but I will tell you that I have felt the spirit of God, felt the liveliness of our congregation this week more than I ever have before.

Every morning this week I have left home an hour earlier than usual in order to pick up one of our youth and get to the church before 50 Sunnyside children (and even some friends from our community) and adult & youth volunteers have descended on the church for Vacation Bible School. Did you know that we have not had VBS at Sunnyside for over 10 years!

Many parents have been dropping their children off and driving directly to our Habitat for Humanity House up the street on Campeau, spending the morning working on the roof, siding and porches for Triumph House.

Right around 11:00 a.m. every day another group swings into action in the kitchen, packing lunches and feeding the crew at the work site.

I have left VBS twice this week to go up and work for the afternoon myself on window installation and more siding and have been so moved by working along side Jeremy and Miriam, as well as laughing and spending time with Sunnysiders in pursuit of such a inspiring goal.

On Monday evening, once I finally returned home from VBS, the house build, and a meeting with our Stepping Stones team, I sat down and reflected that while I didn't get to answer many emails that day or take care of so many of the things piling up on my desk or on my to do list, I was engaged in hands on ministry and mission with more Sunnysiders of all ages from 3 years old to 70 years old all in the scope of 12 hours than I ever have before.

The Spirit of God may be a hard thing to pin down some days, but I am sure that it was only by the power of the spirit, that is indeed alive at Sunnyside, that I was able to keep moving through all of that work.

Each morning the children open and close their time at VBS with prayer. While some of them ask me to whisper words for a prayer into their ears as they speak in the microphone, we have some that want to pray on their own.

On Tuesday afternoon, one of our Preschoolers asked if he could pray, and in his small but clear voice, he prayed "Thank you God for today, and thank you for life. Amen."

We thank God for life...for the life of this congregation...for the lives that we are impacting this week...for the life that God has called us to embrace into our future as a church family together. Amen!