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encouragement from steve wise

Wednesday, March 31 2021

Dear Friends,

“For I handed down to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scripture, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep.”

Paul, 1 Corinthians 15:1-6

With these words, Paul records the earliest creed of the Jesus movement, the bedrock of early Christianity, and the essence of the Christian faith. New Testament scholar James Dunn asserts total confidence this creed was formulated within months of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Almost 2100 years later, the resurrection remains the foundation of our faith in Jesus as the Son of God. This mysterious and beautiful historical event both proves and proclaims that life is greater than death, love is stronger than hate, and good will ultimately defeat evil.

Writer A.N. Wilson who left the Christian faith as a strident critic only to return to belief in the risen Christ writes recounts his re-conversion experience. His return to faith “surprised no one more than myself.” He asserts that the lives and examples of friends and relatives who lived and faced death in light of the Resurrection story led him back. He argues that the historical event of the Resurrection we celebrate at Easter answers our “questions about the spiritual aspects of humanity. It changes people’s lives because it helps us understand that we, like Jesus, are born spiritual beings. Every inner prompting of conscience, every glimmering sense of beauty, every response we make to music, every experience we have of love – whether physical love, sexual love, family love or the love of friends – every experience of bereavement reminds us of this fact about ourselves….Materialist atheism says we are just a collection of chemicals. It has no answer whatsoever to the question of how we should be capable of love or heroism or poetry if we are simply animated pieces of meat. The Resurrection, which proclaims that matter and spirit are mysteriously conjoined, is the ultimate key to who we are. It confronts us with an extraordinarily haunting story.”1

More than that, the Resurrection proves Jesus is the demonstration of the Father’s love for us in defeating sin and death by sacrificing Himself in our place and giving us His Spirit to raise us to new life. We will celebrate the Truest Story – the life, death and resurrection of Jesus - over the next four days at Westminster. I invite you to come and be a part of our remembrance and celebration.

Services & Activities

  • Maundy Thursday – 6:00-6:45pm in the Sanctuary – a solemn observance of the Lord’s Supper.
  • Good Friday – 6:00-7:15 – Emory Road House backyard – worship and the Lord’s Supper.  Bring something to sit on.
  • Easter Egg Hunt – 10:30am – A day of joy and celebration for our little ones.
  • Easter Sunday Morning
    - 8:00am - Outdoor Sunrise Service in the backyard of the Emory Road House.   Bring something to sit on
    - 9:30 – Sanctuary with livestream and overflow options
    - 11:00 – Sanctuary with livestream and overflow options.

Your friend,

Steve Wise

1 (https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1169145/Religion-hatred-Why-longer-cowed-secular-zealots.html

Posted by: Steve AT 09:07 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, March 17 2021

Dear Friends,

“Jesus answered, ‘The foremost is, ‘Hear, Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”

- Mark 12:28-30

In 2016, Harvard epidemiologist Tyler VanderWeele and USA Today editor John Siniff, asked in an op-ed in USA Today, “If one could conceive of a single elixir to improve the physical and mental health of millions of Americans – at no personal cost – what value would society place on it?” The title of the essay was “Religion May Be A Miracle Drug.” Based on new research and 20 years of experience, they conclude that there is a significant connection between attendance at religious services and better health – both physically and mentally. They write, “Something about the communal religious experience and participation matters. Something powerful appears to take place there, and enhances health. It is something quite different from solitary spirituality. Where else today do we find a community with a shared moral and spiritual vision, a sense of accountability, wherein the central task of members is to love and care for one another? The combination of the teachings, the relationships and the spiritual practices — over time, week after week, taken together — gradually alters behavior, creates meaning, alleviates loneliness, and shapes a person in ways too numerous to document.” (Source)

I see a strong connection between these words and Jesus’ above. In what we call the Great Commandment, Jesus connects every aspect of our lives to our relationship with God. Our emotions, our desires, our thoughts, our energies, our bodies, and our relationships. Spiritual health, emotional health, and physical health travel together. Certainly, there are exceptions, but at least in my case the more I love God, the better I love others, and the better I take care of myself. And this starts with the recognition that God has loved us in Jesus with all of His heart, soul, mind, and strength.

I also notice the importance of relationships – how we live with other people. Community plays a very significant role in our spiritual growth. During the pandemic, community has suffered. It has been a year of being apart. This coming Sunday marks the anniversary of when we began dealing with shut-downs, quarantines, and restrictions. But the Coronavirus is not the only pandemic we have experienced. Many refer to rising rates of anxiety and depression as the “pandemic within the pandemic.” Isolation and alienation from others have contributed to this. It is not good to be alone.

With that in mind, let me encourage you to consider a return to 309 Fernwood Dr. to gather with other covenant partners for worship – at either 8, 9:30 or 11. Worship and fellowship with others are both biblically encouraged and experientially proven to be indispensable in our spiritual growth and emotional health. Besides, I just miss seeing you! We do continue to invite our more vulnerable and unvaccinated covenant partners to worship via livestream.

Re-Opening News

On March 21, we enter the newest phase of our re-opening. Tape blocking alternating pews will be removed allowing us to spread out throughout the sanctuary. Please try to maintain appropriate distance where possible. We do ask that you continue to wear masks when you enter, exit, stand or sing. Masks may be removed when seated. Please be mindful and considerate of those around you. If you are concerned about larger crowds, our 8 and 11 services have ample space. I look forward to seeing you in worship.

Your friend

Steve Wise

Posted by: Steve AT 12:25 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
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