Driving to church yesterday I noted with interest Altimira’s electronic sign—“Dude—Be Nice 11/13-17.” It struck me as fairly humorous to designate this as a theme for the week until I thought about it some more and realized that this was a theme which emerged from kids not being nice to each other. I then considered the larger context of the decline in common respect and decency among us as a people nationally, and reflected in our daily life and institutions locally. Even those who transcribe our Communication Cards at St. Andrew have expressed surprise by some of the comments that border on personal attacks against people serving our congregation.

On the one hand we can nod our heads in agreement that people are behaving in more and more selfish ways, but then I realize that according to the message of the Bible, that is and has always been the fundamental reality of human relationships. The more I make life about me, the less I’m making life about God—and the more it is about me, the more I’m betraying the purpose of all creation, and human relationships in particular, as an expression of God’s love and presence through Christ. This results in more and more conflict with the people around me. Yet I’m told in a myriad of ways every day that it is all about me, and the solution to what ails me is to make it more and more about me. The result is that I get farther and farther from God’s love and grace as the fundamental game-changer that opens the possibility of being healed from the inside out and living into God’s purpose of connecting with the Christ within me, then connecting with the Christ within you.

I do believe we, as a congregation, are drifting off course. This dangerous drift is being reflected in our lack of tolerance for diversity expressed through the music ministry, and even in our attendance patterns which are directly tied to who is preaching on a particular Sunday. We’ve lost the sense that God’s people are called to gather every seven days to get reoriented toward God through praise, express our unity as a community through our prayers, and hear God’s message expressed through that Sunday’s chosen messenger. We’ve made it about whether or not we like a particular piece of music and about the messenger rather than God and the message God’s Spirit is presenting through a variety of voices.

I get it. Me too. I have a selfish streak in me that is so, so destructive. It is my EGO easing God out. And I know the solution isn’t a good pastoral scolding to be nice. It is a fundamental repentance that results in a reorientation away from me toward God’s presence and purposes in Christ. I’ve been praying Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians (Ephesians 3:14-21) as my prayer for you and me:

For this reason I fall on my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth receives its true name.  I ask God from the wealth of his glory to give you power through his Spirit to be strong in your inner selves,  and I pray that Christ will make his home in your hearts through faith. I pray that you may have your roots and foundation in love,  so that you, together with all God’s people, may have the power to understand how broad and long, how high and deep, is Christ’s love.  Yes, may you come to know his love—although it can never be fully known—and so be completely filled with the very nature of God.  

To him who by means of his power working in us is able to do so much more than we can ever ask for, or even think of:  to God be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus for all time, forever and ever! Amen.

“Yes, Spirit of the Living God—bless the people around me today and change me as I learn to love as You love. I can’t make that possible, but You can. Amen”

I hope to see you Sunday to celebrate in worship together in Christ.

This is what I found on my desk…

OUR SONOMA VALLEY FAITH COMMUNITY will be gathering at Sonoma Seventh-Day Adventist Church, 20575 Broadway, Thanksgiving morning, November 23RD at 10:00 AM for our joint worship service. This is a great way to make sure the real reason for the day is honored before we gather around our tables of plenty.

2018 CALENDARS ARE AVAILABLE FOR PREORDER! Jaquie Tomke has created 3 different calendars for you to choose from— “Creatures Great and Small”, “Through These Doors” and “Into the Garden”. These calendars are being sold for $20 each. All proceeds will go toward the Romania Water Project—H2O 4 RO! Preorder your calendar this Sunday between services in the Fellowship Hall. Calendars will be available in December!

HELP US CONTINUE THE ST. ANDREW SHOEBOX MINISTRY! This year, our Shoeboxes are going to Sonoma County children who are in need through our local schools and local non-profits. Your Shoebox gift is sure to put a smile on their faces and hope in their hearts! Stop by the table this Sunday to pick up your plastic shoebox and receive further information and suggestions for items to include. Shoeboxes should be returned to St. Andrew no later than Sunday, DEC. 10TH.

DO YOU SHOP ON AMAZON.COM? St. Andrew has registered with AmazonSmile. Amazon donates 0.5% of the price of your eligible AmazonSmile purchases to the charitable organization of your choice. AmazonSmile is the same Amazon you know—same products, same prices, same service. You can support St. Andrew by using the following link when you begin your shopping: http://smile.amazon.com/ch/51-0158108 . Thank you for supporting St. Andrew!