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Welcome to the JCPC Daily Reflections Blog. Reflections are daily devotionals authored by JCPC pastors, staff and members and provide insight, guidance and comfort to help you make it through each day. If you’d like to receive Reflections each day via email,  provide your email address.

Friday, August 29 2014

Then Sings My Soul
Great Songs of Faith - Part XIII

Hallelujah Chorus (from Handel's Messiah)

Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let them say among the nations," The Lord reigns!"  I Chronicles 16:31 (NIV)

His father tried to discourage his musical interests, preferring that he enter the legal profession.  But it was the organ, harpsichord, and violin that captured the heart of young George Frideric Handel.  Once, accompanying his father to the court of Duke Johann Adolf, George wandered into the chapel, found the organ, and started improvising.  The startled duke exclaimed, "Who is this remarkable child?"

This "remarkable child" soon began composing operas, first in Italy and then in London.  By his 20s, he was the talk of England and the best paid composer on earth.  He opened the Royal Academy of Music.  Londoners fought for seats at his every performance, and his fame soared around the world.

But the glory passed.  Audiences dwindled.  His music became outdated, and he was thought of as an old fogey.  Newer artists eclipsed the aging composer.  One project after another failed, and Handel, now bankrupt, grew depressed.  The stress brought on a case of palsy that crippled some of his fingers.  "Handel's great days are over," wrote Frederick the Great, "his inspiration is exhausted."

Yet his troubles also matured him, softening his sharp tongue.  His temper mellowed, and his music became more heartfelt.  One morning Handel received by post a manuscript from Charles Jennens.  It was a word-for-word collection of various biblical texts about Christ.  The opening words from Isaiah 40 moved Handel:  Comfort ye, comfort ye my people ...

On August 22, 1741, Handel shut the door of his London home and started composing music for the words.  Twenty-three days later, the world had Messiah.  "Whether I was in the body or out of the body when I wrote it, I know not," Handel later said, trying to describe the experience.

Messiah opened in London to enormous crowds on March 23, 1743, with Handel leading from his harpsichord.  King George II, who was present that night, surprised everyone by leaping to his feet during the Hallelujah Chorus, though no one knows why.  Some believe the king, being hard of hearing, thought it the national anthem.

No matter - from that day, audiences everywhere have stood in reverence during the stirring words:  Hallelujah!  For He shall reign forever and ever.  Handel's fame was rekindled, and even after he lost his eyesight, he continued playing the organ for performances of his oratorios until his death in London, April 14, 1759.

Posted by: Alicia Taylor AT 12:00 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, August 28 2014

This month I cross the threshold of 20 years in ordained ministry and ministry with youth!

As I begin my third decade, I can honestly say that (apart from lock-ins and roller coasters) I still absolutely love being with teens and pre-teens in the work of ministry, as well as with some of the best youth advisors throughout the years.  Johns Creek Presbyterian Church (and Westminster previously) has been such a blessing from God.  My faith has been deepened, and my friendships have been some of the most cherished.  I've learned how essential it is to be childlike (as opposed to childish!).

I've had the joy of seeing children grow into young adults before my very eyes, having married many of them off, baptized some of their children, and buried some of their loved ones.  I've taken great delight especially in seeing some of them even go into the ministry themselves.  I have also been humbled by the privilege of standing in the pulpit to share God's word with the world.    I am profoundly grateful that I have a job that is a calling, and one that brings me pure joy.  To God be the glory!

"Don't let anyone look down upon you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity."  1 Timothy 4:12

Posted by: Scott Huie AT 12:00 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, August 27 2014

A few years ago when I served another church, one of our younger members asked if he could come interview me as part of his requirement for his Boy Scout "God and Country" award. He said he needed to come by and ask me some questions about "the church." I looked forward to sitting down and fielding his questions about how we organize the church, our church history, and our mission. His first question was this: "How high is the steeple?" I have to confess, I did not know the answer to that question. As he ticked down his list of questions, I quickly realized that for him, "church" meant "building." Maybe we all think of the church in that way from time to time.

How would you define "church?" And what do you think is the purpose of the church? Today, some of us are struggling with basic questions such as these -- perhaps wondering what the church should and should not be doing. So, in order help us think about what it means to be the church, I am starting a new series of messages asking the question, What does it means to be the church? For six weeks we will talk about the purpose of the church using some insights that have been around for a while. If you are wrestling with what the church should and should not be about, then I urge you to come this Sunday -- and invite a friend to join you.

I like the children's song that offers one set of answers to the question, What is the church? Some of the lyrics go this way:

I am the church! You are the church!
We are the church together!
All who follow Jesus,
all around the world!
Yes, we're the church together!

The church is not a building;
the church is not a steeple;
the church is not a resting place;
the church is a people.

Today, I invite you to give thanks for all the people who are called by God to be the church.

Posted by: Gray Norsworthy AT 12:00 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, August 26 2014

-Heidelberg Catechism

Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury, recently wrote on prayer in the Christian Century. He wrote that "[prayer] is about growing into what Paul calls "the measure of the full stature of Christ" (Eph. 4:13). It is growing into the kind of humanity that Christ shows us. Growing in prayer, in other words, is growing in Christian humanity." Due to the example of Jesus life on earth and learning from how he prayed and in knowing that we too, like Jesus, are God's beloved children. From this we can deduct that we are also to direct our prayer to God and address God as the loving parent that we know.

I once was told to speak to God as if God was sitting in a chair next to me. In order to put myself in the presence of God. However, Williams states how we should not put our selves in the presence of God but rather "put yourself in the place of Jesus. Jesus speaks to God for us, but we speak to God in him. You may say what you want-but he is speaking to the Father, gazing into the depths of the Father's love." When we do this we may let "Jesus pray in you and beginning that lengthy and often very tough process by which our selfish thoughts and ideals and hopes are gradually aligned with his eternal action."

There is a new small group that will beginning this fall. The group will be meeting in the parlor near the sanctuary on Tuesday from 10-11. The name of the small group is the name of this group is Holy Hands in Prayer The name came from 1 Timothy 2:8-"I desire, then, that in every place the men and women should pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or argument."

My prayer is that you find prayer as a part of your daily, spiritual life and are able to do so while putting yourself in the place of Jesus. If you are able I also invite you to join Holy Hands in Prayer every Tuesday.

Posted by: Mia Levetan AT 12:00 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, August 25 2014

I've been reading and re-reading...

Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer by Richard Rohr. I am reflecting upon a quote he uses from Dostoyevsky that I'd like to share with you. However, before I do, I will share two simple, yet profound statements Rohr makes that are illuminated by the Dostoyevsky quote.

To become aware of God's presence in our lives, we have to accept what is often difficult...radical grace is like living in another world. -Rohr

Having been riveted by the media coverage of the upheaval in Ferguson, the barbarism in Iraq by ISIS and the conflict in Gaza, I have desperately been looking for evidence of God's presence in the world. Radical grace does seem like living in another world when I view these images of sin and chaos.

Dostoyevsky's quote focuses our view on accepting what is often difficult in this hateful world of ours, but is essential to experience the kingdom of God in our midst.

Love people even in their sin, for that is the semblance of Divine Love and is the highest love on earth. Love all of God's creation, the whole and every grain of sand of it. Love every leaf, every ray of God's light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the diving mystery in things. Once you perceive it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an all-embracing love. -Fyodor Dostoyevsky

This type of love is difficult and sounds like living in another world. As I reflect upon this quote, the story of Dr. Kent Brantly, the missionary doctor who was infected with the ebola virus, came to mind. I listened to his inspiring news conference speech and heard Dostoyevsky's quote come alive.  He said, God often leads us to unexpected places and God called us to serve the people of Liberia.

Followers of Jesus are called to love God, neighbor and enemy. This radical grace is like living in another world!  To God be the glory.

Posted by: Neal Kuhlhorst AT 12:00 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
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