Church Blog

A Prayer for the People

Sunday’s prayer for the people, based upon the call to worship from Psalm 144:1. Our call to worship, as well as our benediction, ends with an Amen and Amen. The congregation joins in on the second with all their hearts.

Blessed be the Lord, my rock,

who trains my hands for war,

and my fingers for battle.

Eternal Lord of Hosts. You who regard man. You who touch the mountains and they smoke, yet you take regard for man. You are our stronghold. You train our hands for war. You rescue our children from palace of the devil. To you we sing a new song today. Give us eyes to see the battle raging against the knowledge of God in the world where we live and give us courage to stand and fight against it. We are in need of workers for the harvest, athletes for the race, soldiers for the battle. God, please raise them up among us. Take us – we sideline sitting, Monday morning quarterbacks – and send us out into the game, send us into the battle…and may the gates of hell not prevail against us. God, there are people we love, a community we love, a nation we love, that are all in great danger because they are captive to the devil to do his will. Free them by the Word of your Gospel. We ask this so that you would be seen as a great savior. In the name of Jesus, who already stands in victory, ruling heaven and earth, Amen and Amen.


SMCC Order of Worship

Every church and every tradition has an order of worship, a liturgy, to use the old formal word. The word liturgy simply means the “service of worship.” It is a good word because it uniquely belongs in the sacred setting.

The service of worship that we follow is doing something to us, whether we know it or not. It is forming our hearts, shaping what we love. It is leading us from being a loosely connected people who, by heroic efforts have made it to church this Sunday, to being the people of God, together, with hearts, minds and hands dedicated to His glory between Sundays.

Preparation

The worship service begins with preparation of our hearts for the act of worship.

Song of praise. The worship service opens with a corporate song of praise that engages us in the theme of the service, which is set by the passage to be preached.

Call to worship. The call to worship is the divine invitation to leave the cares of the world and join the angels of heaven in the worship of the one true God. It involves five parts for us.

  • The invitation. “This hour is not like every other hour. In this hour, we gather as the people of God, according to the command of God in order to worship God.”
  • The exhortation or charge. The exhortation of the passage at hand is directly introduced so as to engage the hearts of the congregation.
  • (The confession). On those days that the exhortation finds us in present sin, we take time for personal and corporate confession. A biblical assurance of pardon may be offered.
  • The Scriptural call. A passage of Scripture with a corresponding theme, often a psalm, issues the formal call to engage our hearts in worship. We often use the lectionary Psalm of the day.
  • The pastoral prayer. The pastoral prayer addresses the God spoken to in a Psalm, confesses sin, asks for God to work the aim of the Word in our hearts this day. This is asked in the name of Jesus.

Adoration

Prepared hearts turn to direct acts of worship of the Triune God. We take advantage of wisely designed forms, both ancient and modern, which will support God’s aims in our hearts as a congregation.

Songs of adoration. Songs of corporate worship, both old and new, which are biblically accurate, historically valuable and corporately singable, allow us to worship God in congregational unity.

(Testimony). Testimonies are sometimes engaged to give praise to God for the good that He is doing in our congregation and to celebrate what we want to see more of in maturing believers.

(Reading). Corporate readings from the Heidelberg Catechism, Apostle’s Creed, book of Common Prayer or Book of Common Worship, serve to focus our minds and hearts and to unite them with the church across history.

Prayer. A prayer is offered in praise of this God, on behalf of the needs of our congregation and in preparation for the offering that follows.

Offering. We receive an offering from the congregation as an act of gratitude for what God has provided to our families and so that more good can be accomplished with our pooled monies that otherwise might. Offerings are free will for attenders and expected for church members.

Exhortation

Having prepared our hearts and offered praise to our God, we are ready to hear the Word of God preached to us and to receive it as the Word of God.

Scripture Reading. The day’s Scripture passage is read by a congregant with the following introduction. “Today’s Scripture reading comes from the book of ___, chapter ___, beginning in verse ___.”

Sermon. A expositional sermon, prepared to bring the Word of God to bear on the lives of this local congregation is preached.

(Communion). Communion, or The Lord’s Supper, follows the hearing of the Word on two Sunday’s per month. Our traditional, Free Church, form is to pass plates to one another signifying our belief in the priesthood of all believers. We use words of institution taken from the book of Common Prayer, “The gifts of God for the people of God.” We, then, connect the passage preached with the celebration of the finished work of Christ, believing that every passage leads to the cross of Christ.

Dedication

The service closes and sends us into our daily lives with a dedication to believe what we have heard from the Word of God and obey it at home, at work and in our neighborhoods.

Songs of dedication. These songs pick up the tone of the sermon. If the sermon passage leaves us contemplative or enthusiastic or hopeful, these songs correspond. This leads us to sing our commitment back to God.

Charge. The closing charge serves as a summary reminder of the truth about God we have heard, what that makes us as the people of God in this place and obligation we are now under in having worshipped.
Benediction. The pastor then offers a benediction or traditional blessing from the Word of God. His hands are raised and the congregation reaches theirs out in a receptive posture. The benediction ends with “amen and amen,” the second is joined by the congregation in full voice.


A prayer for love on the 4th Sunday of Advent

O Lord God of Hosts, you sent your only Son, the man of your right hand, to us as an act of love at Christmas time. On this fourth Sunday of Advent, we pray that you would cause your face to shine upon us. Cause your face to shine upon our church. Cause your face to shine upon our children. Cause your face to shine upon our neighbors. Cause your face to shine upon our nation. Cause your face to shine upon our enemies. We confess that we have failed to act on the Advent love that you placed in our hearts. We have held your salvation close and testified instead to our opinions, ideologies, and private agendas. Forgive us of this sin and restore us again. Restore our minds with the primary knowledge that you have saved us and that we are your witnesses. Restore our hearts with a love for you and a love for our neighbors that cannot help but share. We ask this so that those we love and those you love would be restored to you as well, would be saved as well. We ask this so that you would be glorified in this church, our homes and our community as the only savior of sinners. And we pray this in the name of Jesus Christ, whom you gave for the world that you so loved. Amen


All God Children

img_1517A new sermon series beginning in January!

All God’s Children will explore key passages of the Scripture that speak of God as Father and ourselves as His children. The conversation will lead us to a deeper understanding of God, our relation to Him and our relations to each other. It will shape our thinking of what it means to be men in the church, women in the church and children in the church. It will enhance our responsibility to all God’s children everywhere. It will raise up this church and a raised up church will raise up the village with it.


A Prayer of Political Hope for Advent, week 1.

O Lord God of our salvation. We have cried out to you by day and by night, with the Psalmist. Let our prayer come before you again this morning. You are the creator of heaven and earth. You created man and woman in your image, valuable and equal. You created us to be in society and your ordained government to praise those who do good and punish those who do evil, even though it doesn’t always seem to keep to its calling. Justice does not prevail everyday and our hearts ache on the days when it does not. Today is one of those days. So, we cry out with the Prophet Isaiah, “Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down!” Convince our hearts of your sovereignty in light of your coming to be King at your first Advent. Convince us that you have things well in hand, just as you did at your trial in Jerusalem. Convince us to trust you with all of our hearts because of the glory you displayed during your coronation on the cross. Convince us to hope that you will make all things right at your second Advent. We ask this so that your heavenly justice would be seen to prevail over every earthly injustice, today and in the one day. In the name of Jesus Christ, our King and our substitute, in whom we have perpetual hope. Amen.


Being a Multi-Generational Church

Last May, before Robert went on vacation, we had a pre-sabbatical meeting and talked about some goals for the summer and the upcoming ministry year. One key focus was our historic value of being a multi-generational church. For those of you who are new to SMCC, I’m going to describe what we mean by multi-generational. I am also going to give all of you an update on the progress of several strategic objectives regarding this focus. So, what does multi-generational look like here?

What it isn’t
When we at SMCC say multi-generational we do not mean having a variety of ministries to appeal to all age groups. Rather, we mean that we value worshiping, serving and fellowshipping together. This is not to say that we don’t have children’s Sunday School, youth group activities or adult gatherings. We do. However, we value and intentionally seek opportunities for our children to interact with adults of all ages. What does that look like here?

First, it is relational.
For our family, it looked like our daughter, Ann sharing knitting projects with Catherina Bybee and calling Grace Wagner when she had to write a speech and wanted to talk it over with someone. Ann was very comfortable interacting with adults of all ages, even in Junior High because it was normal for her.

Our son, Luke, was about as “late a bloomer” as anyone can get. Soon after he got his driver’s license, he rushed in our house, locked the door and said that someone had followed him home (from Santa Margarita to rural Templeton!) Soon, a police officer appeared, said that someone had reported an under-aged driver and asked to see Luke’s driver’s license. Luke was pulled over more than once because officers suspected he was an under-aged driver. The first Easter after he got his license, we were helping with set up for the Easter Service at the Asistencia. Su handed Luke her car keys and told him to go to her barn for some bales of hay. He came up to me with his eyes as big as saucers and asked me what to do. He was used to people assuming he shouldn’t be driving, not handing him keys.
I said, “Drive carefully.” Su’s request and trust was very affirming to Luke.

Your children, too, will develop relationships with adults in our congregation. It is a great gift for parents to know that people who share a love for the Lord will speak into their children’s lives. It is a great gift for children to have adults to turn to when they have questions or need advice. It is also very affirming for our children to be recognized as old enough to take on responsibility. Helping in Sunday school, serving at the Thanksgiving dinner, working at the Santa Margarita Clean Up Day, running a booth at the Country Carnival, helping at Creation Care Camp and serving at Camp Good News are all opportunities for our children and youth to serve as they become mature enough to do so.

Second, it helps all of us mature as believers.
When our children sit with us in church, they learn the forms of worship. They learn when to stand and when to sit. They learn to hold their hands out for the benediction. They learn how we take communion.

When our children sit with us in church, they learn how to worship. It is amazing how quickly children learn hymns, praise songs, the doxology, the Lord’s Prayer and even the Scriptures we hear for communion and the benediction. They learn that worship is different than other kinds of singing. When we worship together, there is a special reverence and joy.

When our children sit with us in church, we learn to extend grace. Children are children. They will have wriggles. They will forget they are inside and make comments with outside voices. They will have days when they are out of sorts. It’s okay. We will support their parents and praise God that we are His people. Through these precious children, Santa Margarita and many other places all over the world – wherever He sends our kids – will hear the gospel preached and see the gospel lived out.

Updates on specific strategic objectives.
SABBATICAL: Robert was going to talk to other churches about how they “do” multi-generational. He has begun sharing some of what he learned with us and will continue to do so.

SUMMER: ENJOYING EVERY-ONE OF US: We did multiple activities this summer focusing on getting to know each other better and simply enjoying being together. Many of these were multi-generational.

CATECHISM: We are periodically integrating into the church service some of the catechism questions the children are learning in Sunday School. We are also including in the weekly email or bulletin the catechism question and Bible lesson the children are learning each week.

LITURGY: You may have noticed more liturgy (responsive readings) in the services. We are hoping that these kinds of additions to the service will be more engaging for children.

ADULT SUNDAY SCHOOL: In September we began an 8 week adult Sunday school talking about how we can intentionally disciple our children. We’ve talked about intentional parenting, family worship at home, keeping the Sabbath, teaching catechism at home, families worshiping together in church, and the transition from living at home to going to college. I put some copies of the articles we read on the back table, if you are interested.

Nov 20th we will start a new 8 week session. It will be a book group reading Shepherding a Child’s Heart. This is an excellent book that helps parents learn how to address not just their children’s behavior, but the heart behind the behavior. You are all invited to join the book group, even if you don’t have children or no longer have children at home. If you are interested, but can’t meet Sunday morning, let me know. If there are 2 or more people, I’ll let you know and you can work out another time to meet and go through the book at the same time.

SERMON SERIES: In January, we’ll start the new sermon series, ALL GOD’S CHILDREN.

LONG TERM: Our long term goal is to go back to having children 3rd grade and up in the service. With other transitions happening and the Sunday school classes already underway for the year, we will wait to integrate the 3rd to 5th graders in the service, but you are welcome to invite your children to join you in the service periodically.

We will continue working on these strategic objectives and will keep you updated on their progress.

​​​​​​​​​​Karin Taylor


The doctrine along the road

I have this ongoing dream for the ideal Sunday night after a good morning service of worship. It looks like this: you and me, brothers and sisters, gathering in the old chapel together over something hot to drink (I want something hot to drink, even if it’s 100 degrees out). We would sing around the piano from the old church hymnals that have seen so many good years and show many signs of love and affection, not to mention signs of wear and abuse. Then we would open up the same passage from the morning one more time. Here is what I would say to you, “Can you see the good old doctrines that this passage touches? Can you see what it says about God and man, sin and salvation?* Take a look back with me.”

For Mark 10:32-42 where the blind man demonstrates faith and the Apostles, again, play the part of the foil, it would look like this.

The doctrine of God: We learn here that God is powerful, able to give sight to a blind man. This is a unique kind of miracle in the New Testament. Apostles do miraculous signs, but only Jesus give sight to the blind. God also has the power to raise the dead, as Jesus predicts that He will do. We say God is all powerful or omnipotent.
The doctrine of Christ: Jesus, the second person of the eternal Trinity, the promised Son of David from the Old Testament, who added humanity to His true deity, came with a purpose of giving His life as a ransom for many. We say only man should pay for sin and only God could pay for sin, Jesus Christ has both natures.
The doctrine of man: Mankind, as demonstrated by the Apostles, is selfishly hungry for personal power; as demonstrated by the Chief Priests is murderously evil; and, as demonstrated by the blind man, sometimes recognizes their need for the mercy the Jesus brings. All of these are valuable enough that Jesus goes after them. We say that people are both valuable and fallen, glorious and guilty.
The doctrine of sin: The image of blindness is picked up elsewhere to show the effects of sin on our ability to see the light of God without the work of God. We are blinded by sin and need God to open our eyes. We say that sin has made us utterly depraved, every part of who we are is blinded by sins’ effects.
The doctrine of salvation: Jesus has ransomed us from the hold of sin on our lives AND He continues to lead us into personal holiness. The work of salvation that began at our conversion continues to work out as Jesus addresses our sinful desire for power (or pride or permission to sin or love of possessions) and restores us to the narrow road as we follow Him. This is called our sanctification. We say that Jesus saved us by becoming a substitute for our sin.

These become a part of the total biblical picture that shapes everyday of our believing lives. These truths become an essential part of our bringing mercy to those who need it. Mercy is not just helping where there is need, but pointing to the merciful God, who became a man in Jesus Christ to save fallen mankind from sin by offering Himself as our ransom. This is why we do not lead with power or position, but we serve with mercy. Can you see?


A follow up on being servants of public justice

If I had more time on Sunday…I would have kept on going about what our actions towards public justice could look like in the place where God has sent us. That is where it matters for us and that is where God will hold us accountable. Justice for our neighbors most likely won’t take the form of a Facebook campaign, but it just might take the form of a casserole.

We have been served fully by Jesus

First, remember that we have been served by Jesus. He has fully given us salvation by taking away our sin and sorrow and he has fully given us redemption by caring away the debt of our sins on the cross. We respond to the service of Jesus in the service of worship, in service to the church and in service in all of life; that is, in our personal righteousness and our public justice. Justice is personal righteousness applied publicly. It is reestablishing the order that God would in our community have so that the people and the place would benefit from a relationship to him. Therefore, it is first evangelistic, only those who are converted and come to relationship with Christ through the justice of the cross can know true justice in themselves. We know that it will only be complete finally one day, when King Jesus Himself reigns over all, but it is true in the way we live faithfully here and now and can be more and more true as we live more and more faithfully. (All of this I said in the sermon).

So, finally, while the church as an organizational maintains the task of preaching the Word and making disciples, we all go out in volunteering and our vocations.

In our volunteering
When we volunteer, we join in the good works that are going on our community. By so doing, we encourage those things that are worth encouraging, we encourage public justice. When we lead  in our volunteer organizations, our values lead too. It is important to note that these things are not necessarily evangelistic, but are the kind of works, as Peter said, that will cause those who see to give glory to God, if not now, then none day. I personally volunteer in the community with many great organizations. I have three or four places where I could plug you in right now and get myself out of the way, so that I could dedicate more time to my vocation of Word and discipleship. I have a vision that one day, Christians will be in key roles and every volunteer organization that touches the life of our community. Right now, God has brought the possibilities of several part-time roles that could be key leadership areas for the volunteer good in our community. If you were interested, please let me know. You may the one God is raising up to be a bringing of good and public justice to your neighbors.

In our vocations
Every one of us was trained by a guild for our vocations. If you are a teacher you went through a process, if you were a doctor you went through a process, if you are engineer you with her process. Your guild had a certain set of beliefs, and they were likely not your beliefs. It is time for you to ask the question, “What would be different in my day to day work if I believed that Jesus has served me fully and wants me to serve towards the goal of him being glorified by the people I serve?”

I have a vision of christian business leaders and business owners gathering together all around our community. These men and women could share a common vision of what it looks like for our community to experience the justice of God and to give glory to God for the way their business is run. If there are enough of us, working together, on the same plan, then real, practical and particular change could take place for the good of our neighbors and the glory of God. I mean, there could be real public justice right here in our place; our widows will be better served by local business than government agencies, our orphans will be better cared for in generous and gracious church families, our poor raised up, taught and mentored by local tradesmen and women. So, gather with other people in your field, gather with other business owners or start a business of your own. Do it now and make a 20 year plan to raise up the whole village as you raise up believers in the church. God is right now, calling one of you to lead this. You will be a force of good and glory for our people and place.

Most importantly, learn to be personally righteous in the way you do your work and take very deliberate daily steps so that the people you serve walk away thinking that you are the best service that they have ever had in your field. Do this, with the God given goal that they know that God is the one who has served you with salvation and, perhaps, come to know Him too.


We become what we worship

The worth and excellency of a soul is to be measured by the object of its love.

Henry Scougal, The Life of God in the Soul of Man

I found myself fumbling for this quote on Sunday during the first service, never found it in the mental database and didn’t even try in the 2nd service.

But it is one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite books. Henry Scougal was a Scottish minister and the dean of Aberdeen University when he died at the age of 27. He became the Dean at age of 24 and he entered the same university to study at the age of 15 already fluent in Latin and Greek. It wasn’t because he was a prodigy per se, he was the product of amazing training by very dedicated parents…and he was somewhat of a prodigy.

The fruitful writings of his young life focus on the personal holiness that flows out of a life of worship. The full passage goes like this:

The worth and excellency of a soul is to be measured by the object of its love: he who loveth mean and sorted things doth thereby become base and vile; but a noble and well-placed affection doth advanced and improve the spirit into a conformity with perfection which it loves.

He goes on:

The true way to improve and ennnoble our souls is, by fixing our love on the divine perfection is, that we may have them always before us, and derive an impression of them on ourselves, and ‘beholding with an open face, as in a glass, the glory of the Lord, we may be changed into the same image, from glory to glory.’

He who, with a generous and holy ambition, hath raised his eyes towards that uncreated beauty and goodness, and fixed his affection there, is quite of another spirit, have a more excellent and her relic temper than the rest of the world.

May we be ones who become like the one we worship; the one who was rich and for our sake became poor; the one who washed his disciples feet; the one who laid down his life to ransom us from slavery to sin and death.


Very Good Friday

Every year there are 2 questions about Good Friday. I can’t remember year where there wasn’t any. Here they are:

1. Why does the church call it “Good Friday,” when what happened was so clearly bad?

The simple answer is actually simple but it till doesn’t get to the heart of the question. We call it “good,” because of what results – our salvation. We call it “good,” because God uses what is clearly bad to bring about something great – the redemption of the world.

But the actual killing of Jesus is still bad! Of course it is and we probably should find stronger words than that. It is bad, it is evil, it is Satanic.

We have a tendency to do one of two things with evil. We either need to downplay the bad of some things in the world in order to keep our simplistic idea that “people are generally pretty good,” or we exaggerate the effect that a good result has on the bad action – as if somehow crucifying an innocent man became morally acceptable because God brought good from it. No.

Friday is good because God used the greatest human evil for the greatest human good. Both are true, side by side. There is no evil act that has the last word in the face of the God who redeems.

2. Why do we somberly remember our sin when Jesus has already paid for it?

This is a good question, when asked honestly. Sometimes we take things apart that cannot be taken apart, just to be able to look at them more clearly…and then put them back together again. So, no, we do not pretend to go back to a time before our sins were forgiven and feel bad for them as if somehow our guilty feelings play a role in our penance. If Friday were about acts of penance, it would not be good at all. We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone by Christ alone, even on Good Friday.

We remember our sin somberly for two reasons. First, we remember because it is no longer true, but it once was very true. That honesty aids in our present humility – that is who we were, that is what we used to do – and in our present gratitude – that is what Jesus saved us from. Thank you Jesus! Truly, that would enough of a reason to turn out the lights, light candles and wear black on Good Friday. Yet, there is a second reason we remember our sin with grief and that is so that we might come to hate our sin more severely, even now. The sinfulness of sin quickly escapes us in our day to day. Our culture tries to teach us that sin really isn’t that bad, we commit small crimes against God’s holiness on a daily basis and act as if they are no big deal. On Good Friday, we force ourselves to stop and consider the cost of our sin, at least the cost to Jesus. There is also the cost to our loves ones, our neighbors, our environment and on generations to come. There is no such thing as sin without victims.

Good Friday is when we gather to worship God who paid for our sin, who presently brings good out of bad, makes us humbly grateful and teaches us to absolutely hate our sin – and that is a good thing.

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