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For Your Reflection....

A BRIDGE FOR COMMUNITY

Let’s be honest...explaining to others who we are as a church is not always an easy task.  With a name like “Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)”, you’ve said a mouthful, but you might find people looking at you like you haven’t clarified anything; or worse they may get the wrong impression.  I remember speaking with a woman about my church – upon hearing that we were part of the Christian Church (D.O.C.) she exclaimed, “that sounds like one of those ‘bible-thumping’ churches!  Are you one of those ‘bible-thumping’ churches?”  I explained that yes, we do believe in the Bible, but no, we probably are not the stereotypical ‘bible-thumping’ church that she is thinking of...read more

 

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Tuesday
Jul222014

WE NEED YOU! - Rev. Dr. David Chisham

I want to remind you that this coming Sunday, July 27, we have a couple of “things” going on that need your participation.  First, we are having a blood drive, and we have a number of open times for you to give your donation.  As a member of First Christian Church, you are covered by Our Lady of the Lake’s “blood assurance” program — which means that if you ever need a transfusion of blood, the blood will be provided at no cost.  As a congregation we are required to have to blood drives twice a year to participate in this program.  Please make it a priority to donate blood this Sunday if you are able — contact the church office and we will help you find a convenient time.  (By the way, our next blood drive is scheduled for October 5.) 

Second, on the fun side, this Sunday we will have a talent show to complement our BBQ lunch.  Please remember to bring a side and/or a dessert to share, and please sign-up to share your talent with us as well.  Remember this is a NO TALENT (is too small) SHOW!  Email me at david@fccbrla.org to let me know what talent you’ll be bringing, or call me in the office if you don’t have email.

We are also starting a Moment for Missions during Sunday morning worship.  This is a short, three-minute presentation about what we are doing as individuals and/or as a congregation to  make a difference in the lives of others.  You may work with Volunteers in Public Schools or a food pantry or Scouts or….whatever.  We want you to share how you are helping be a bridge to community for Christ.  We will develop a schedule of presenters, so we can coordinate with your schedule.  Sign up sheets are in the Sunday bulletin, or you can email the office and let us know what you would like to share with the congregation.

Finally, a word of thanks.  This past Sunday marked one year since I moved to Baton Rouge and began ministering — and you don’t know how happy I am that someone besides me remembered!  In that year I’ve learned many things, and unlearned many more things.  I recognize that we still have a long way to go, but we are also always a people “on the way”.  In that first year we have chosen to envision ourselves as “a bridge for community in Christ”, and my hope is that we develop and strengthen that vision in this next year.  I look forward to getting “out of the church” and into the community more as we discern and find new ways of sharing the good news with the Greater Baton Rouge area.  Thank you for your welcome and hospitality and support through this first year, and I and my family look forward to many more years living and serving in Christian community together.

Blessings and peace,

David

Wednesday
Jul162014

Rev. Dr. David Chisham - July 15, 2014

CHAIN REACTION

I’d like to take a break from my regular installments on stories from the bible to send up a trial balloon.  While I was in Oklahoma City I saw a posting for an outreach project that I had previously heard about called Chain Reaction Ministries (CRM).  CRM started out in Memorial Drive Christian Church in Houston, TX with a small project to rehab a few bicycles for a family in need.  Once the project was done, David Finklea, who helped head up the project, thought that would be the end of it.  But from that seed which landed in very fertile ground, a whole crop of fruits quickly grew and blossomed into a full ministry around bicycles.

Bicycles may seem like a silly thing to base a ministry upon — we might be used to hearing about bicycle give-aways to kids in the community around Christmas, so it sounds like a “childish” or “superficial” idea.  But in Houston, where public transportation isn’t very efficient (not unlike Baton Rouge) CRM has partnered with job placement programs, giving individuals who are searching for jobs a bicycle so they have reliable means of transportation to get to work.  For those living on the economic edge, or coming off the streets, the expense of buying and maintaining a car is simply out of the question — for them a bicycle isn’t a handout, but a hand-up.  It is a means that literally helps move people toward justice and dignity.  Next time you’re driving through the inner areas of Baton Rouge, take a look around and you’ll likely see a number of folks getting around on bicycles — chances are they aren’t out for a leisurely spin around the neighborhood, but are on their way to or from work or the store or some other necessity.

Here in Baton Rouge, there are a couple of groups doing bicycle ministry — I’m not alone in seeing a need.  Last Friday I spent a couple hours at St. Vincent de Paul helping Trippe Hawthorne, a local attorney, repairing bicycles for mostly homeless men.  He and a group of volunteers take their Friday lunch hour to meet a community in need, face to face.  I’ll be out there again this Friday from 11:30am to 1pm — believe me, this is the most fun I’ve had while making a genuine difference in a number of people’s lives, face to face.  There is another young man, Dustin LaFont, who works with inner city youth through a ministry called Front Yard Bike Shop, just north of LSU.  This started as a favor to a friend’s son to help repair his less-than-road-worthy bicycle, and turned into a front yard full of children, learning basic mechanics, a sense of accomplishment as they work on their own bikes, and of course the freedom that riding a bicycle can give.

This is where I’d like to invite you to come in.  As CRM developed from a one time project to an ongoing ministry, it’s become much more than a few folks fixing up bikes and handing them out.  There are a number of players — people who donate time, talent, but also people who donate the bikes and resources.  CRM needs people to help with community promotion and events.  The ways of supporting this ministry are numerous and pliable to fit your schedule and interest and ability.  This is something that people young and young-at-heart can come together around.  And the great thing is, it really is a blast!  Sure there will be challenges, but the work can make an immediate difference in someone’s life.

Next month, I would like to invite David Finklea to come speak with us about opening a new “spoke” of Chain Reaction Ministries here at First Christian Church.  But before we schedule that, I’d like to hear from you.  This is something that God has put on my heart, but I can’t do it alone.  Do you hear God’s voice inviting you to join in.  If you’d like to read more about CRM, go to www.chainreactionbikes.org .

We of First Christian Church have taken on the call and challenge to be "a bridge for community in Christ."  I feel strongly that this is one of those ways we can travel that bridge together!

Peace in Christ, 

David

Tuesday
Jul012014

Rev. Dr. David Chisham - July 1, 2014

MOSES THE LAWGIVER

One of my bible college professors once said, “for those who set out to read through all sixty-six books of the Bible in a year, beginning with the book of Genesis, the book of Leviticus (the third book of the Bible)  is generally the reason and point at which they stop.”  It seems that we hate, or at least dislike with extreme prejudice, the book of Leviticus.  It’s the book of do’s and don’ts.  Long lists of things that you can’t eat — and especially in Louisiana where we love our pork and shellfish, we find it almost mean-spirited.  More often than not, I hear people simply write off all those do’s and don’ts with the reasoning “that’s Old Testament stuff.”  Enough said.

In my last newsletter article I reflected on Moses, the man on a mission.  Moses is remembered as a multifaceted character, so I don’t want to pass by those other facets too quickly.  And amongst those many facets is Moses, the one who gives the law to the people of Israel.  This law begins with the Ten Commandments in Exodus chapter 20 — for the most part we’re OK with the Ten Commandments – but those laws continue coming like water blasting through a fire hose through the rest of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, and then they are all recapitulated in the book of Deuteronomy; three and a half books of tedious details that weigh down people and bind them into a situation in which it is impossible to keep up with all of God’s expectations.

Certainly, in the time of Jesus, this is what was happening — people were being burdened by the Mosaic law, rather than freed by it — but I want us to take a step back and see the bigger picture of what Moses is doing.  Rather than seeing all these do’s and don’ts in their individual details, as a whole we see Moses (and God) shaping the character of the Israelite community.  We see in the food laws that many of them are related to health and cleanliness.  In the laws concerning relationships, they establish ethical guidelines for the treatment of others.  In the laws concerning worship, they magnify that the Lord God is the center of their worship, and no other.  Certainly there are a number of laws that seem to be there for no practical reason, but we have plenty of cultural customs such as saying “please and thank you” which have become laws unto themselves.

The character of a community shaped by a common law would become all the more important to those Jews who were exiled from the Holy Land, and spread out throughout the ancient world.  It’s one thing to abide by a code when everyone else around you is keeping the same code — it takes on a whole new significance when very few around you are keeping those same customs.  But for those who kept them faithfully, it was not a burden, but a way of declaring to the world whose they were — they belonged to the Lord God alone.

As Jesus went about his ministry, it is this significance of that law that he emphasizes — shaping the character of the community that would follow him; that community, which we call church, is shaped by equitable relationship, health and wholeness for all, and worshiping our God alone. 

It is my goal to help us rethink the place of the Old Testament in our spiritual lives — more than being a resource to convict us of sin, it can shape our community in healthy ways as we listen and interpret them in the same way the first Christians read and interpreted them — by the inspiration of the Spirit.

Blessings and peace,

David

Tuesday
Jun242014

Rev. Dr. David Chisham - A Man on a Mission

A MAN ON A MISSION

As I write this I'm buzzing down I-20 towards Dallas – don't worry, I'm not driving.  Sometime late tonight we will arrive in Oklahoma City, and tomorrow morning receive work assignments and hopefully make a difference in someone's life who was affected by last year's tornado.

The trip is going along as well as it can – maybe we are taking a little more time than we thought, but getting there is half the fun. The powder-blue-holy-wagon church van is holding up as are we.  But more importantly, we are following God's call into mission.

The Blues Brothers were neither the first nor the last to think that they were on a mission from God.  And if anyone ever truly could have said this, certainly it was Moses.  He called the most powerful man on earth to account.  He saw and did mighty deeds of power.  God's presence was with Moses like no other person before or since.  So it may come as some surprise – Moses didn't really want the job.

When Moses first received God's call at the burning bush, Moses stammered that he really didn't want the job.  He didn't speak well in public.  Consider as well that he was a Bedouin sheep herder and that his own people had spurned him when he initially tried to defend them.  But as God could not turn a deaf ear to the cries of his people, Moses finally answers the call and became the quintessential man on a mission.

God's call is indefatigable that way.  Many a minister will tell you that they ran away from the call to ministry until they discovered they could do nothing else but minister.   Many a Christian will admit he or she ran from God until he or she simply couldn't resist God any longer.  And many of the faithful have turned a blind eye to God's need, until they could turn away no more.

Mission doesn't just happen in a far away place with people you scarcely know – it happens in our own state, city and community.  Who in our community even now cry out to God?  How can we partner with God in mission?

In Christ's service,

David

Thursday
Jun192014

Rev. Dr. David Chisham - The Younger-Son

As the youngest of five children, there is a tradition in the scriptures that THRILLED me when I discovered it as a young boy – for some reason, the youngest son always seems to end up with a big family blessing.  This happened to Isaac, who was the younger son of Abraham.  This happened with Jacob/Israel, whose older brother, by tradition, should have received the family blessing.  This happens with Jacob/Israel’s children as well.

Jacob/Israel, whom you should remember was a schemer most of his life, had thirteen sons, and the second-youngest of them was Joseph.  While Joseph’s older brothers were fine men in their own right, Joseph received an extra portion of doting from their father.  All that doting pushed Joseph’s siblings to extreme jealousy, even to the point of plotting his murder.  However, before they could lay their hands on Joseph to kill him, Judah, an older brother, intervened and they agreed to sell Joseph to some passing traders who would then sell Joseph into slavery in Egypt.

Hopefully this story is familiar to you as it’s been told time-and-again in musicals and movies such as Joseph and the Technicolor Dream Coat, and Disney’s Prince of Egypt.  Joseph experiences many ups and downs – privilege and imprisonment – and almost disappears from memory entirely until a former cell mate introduces Joseph to the king of Egypt.  Joseph ends up in charge of all of Egypt, and when his brothers come to him for help, Joseph does not exact his vengeance on them for selling him into slavery, but shelters his family in Egypt under his protection where they grow and prosper.  You can read the complete story of Joseph in Genesis chapters 37-50.

But what are we to say about this tradition of a younger sibling receiving the greatest blessings?  No, I wouldn’t be so arrogant as to say that the youngest child should always receive the lion’s share of the family inheritance.  (Certainly there are any number of older siblings today who feel that that’s what still happens.)  Rather, I think these are stories that illustrate a couple of recurring scriptural themes:  1) God is going to use whomever God wants to – God is sovereign and while we may regard certain people as powerful according to our own standards, God tends to empower those whom we may consider weaker and lesser.  2) God isn’t looking for our abilities as much as our availability. 

King David was the youngest of his brothers – but David’s heart pursued God, and God crafted David into the greatest King of Israel.  King Solomon had many older brothers who, according to tradition, should have been king before him, but Solomon is remembered as the wisest of all Israel’s kings.  This is a theme that emerges in the life of Jesus as well – though he was the oldest son, according to the power structures of the time he was a nobody.  His family was not powerful, his education would have been minimal, and his potential was limited on every side.  But because of his availability, God gave Jesus a name that is above every name.

You may be thinking to yourself that you just don’t have the education or experience or resources to do great things for God.  But that’s not what God is saying to you – stop listening to the world, and start listening to God!

Blessings and peace,

David