Why We Need Forgiveness

By James C. Sprouse, Senior Pastor

I read a lot, especially non-fiction works about the Bible, the church, and the church’s struggles in the 21st century. Talking with a number of my colleagues at Annual Conference in June, we discovered that the usual suspects of church attendance, giving, and the need for more outreach, were the main things on our minds. We spoke a lot about the drop off in church attendance over the last 3 or 4 years. I listened mostly, thinking how much our conversations mirrored the concerns in a book I recently read. Here is a bit of what I observed.

For centuries pastors and lay leaders have watched the ebb and flow of church attendance, members coming and going, and some dropping out of attendance. Studies of those who drop out of or avoid Christian churches, show that a major driving force behind such behavior is the painful experiences endured within the local church. One study by the George Barna Group among non-church-going adults shows that nearly four out of every ten non-churchgoing Americans said they avoid churches because of negative past experiences in churches or with church people. This is no big surprise to pastors and lay leaders.

Stephen Mansfield’s new book, ReChurch, sheds light on some of those experiences. As one who was wounded by past church experiences, Mansfield encourages others who have been wounded by their local church to overcome their pain and suffering. He says they need to overcome their sense of woundedness for two reasons: 1, in response to a biblical command or for the benefit of the church, and 2, for their own healing and maturation.

Mansfield cites numerous examples as he reminds us that God uses our anguish, pain, and our own immaturity, to reshape and mature us and the church. We are fully aware that many churchgoers are wounded as a result of the insensitive or thoughtless actions of others in the church. Mansfield suggests that these instances are opportunities for us to practice the commandment to love one another. All of us are flawed sinners. Avoiding or fleeing from the source of pain and suffering, rather than addressing it, overcoming it, and working through it leaves us wounded and bitter. Even worse, it does nothing to enhance the spiritual health of the congregation or that of the person or persons responsible for the suffering.

It is no big surprise that the way through it all is forgiveness – the same forgiveness that Jesus offers to each of us who have wounded Him. Christianity, after all, is about receiving love and grace through God’s forgiveness and unmerited favor extended to us. Offering that same forgiveness to others is the only means to us for becoming healthy and whole again.

 

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Words Matter

By Eileen Gilmer, Associate Pastor

As I write this column, our country is still coming to grips over the mass shooting at an Alexandria baseball field. They were all part of a team practicing for a congressional charity baseball game. A lawmaker and four others were shot; the gunman died in the melee. Sadly, it’s important to designate that it was a mass shooting, defined as a single outburst of violence in which four or more people are shot. This was our country’s 196th mass shooting in 2017. Just our country. Just this year. It took place on June 14, which was the 164th day of the year. That’s right; we are averaging more than one mass shooting a day. An additional note: this wasn’t even the only mass shooting on that day. In San Francisco, a workplace shooting left four dead and two injured.

If you’re thinking I’m writing this to focus on gun violence, keep reading. While that is a topic that certainly must be discussed, it’s not the focus of this column. What I want to call our attention to is the level of anger and hate that our country is experiencing. While we can’t blame this pointblank for the Alexandria ambush, we most certainly cannot deny the atmosphere in which we live. We in Northern Virginia may get a double dose of exposure to the negativity, given where we are geographically. However, the entire country is saturated by this toxic stew. I think that we, as Christians, must be the ones to make change. We are called as followers of our Christ and it’s time. It’s past time.

If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. James 1:26

Those are harsh words from James but they ring as true today as when they were written. If we consider ourselves to be religious people we have no choice but to follow the teachings of Jesus, our God come to earth to teach, preach, heal and save. Jesus would often tell his disciples parables that centered on love, kindness, forgiveness and having a servant’s heart. To read his words is to be invited to change our way of thinking, living and treating others. Jesus used two types of trees in a parable that focused on the hearts of people: the good tree only produces good fruit, and the bad tree only produces bad fruit.

The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. Luke 6:45

In other words, if we only take in the negativity, paranoia and hate that is so prevalent in print, broadcast and social media, we will carry that same thing in our hearts and it will come forth from our mouths. We can’t help but be part of the problem and not the solution. But there is hope! If we fill our hearts and minds with the “good fruit,” then good will fill our hearts, and kindness will define our words and actions. Reading scripture, setting aside time for daily devotions and prayer, and going to church are all ways to help us achieve that vitally important “abundance of the heart,” as Jesus called it. It is indeed time. This is on us.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.  Psalm 19:14

Amen. I’ll see you in church!

 

Summer of Silence

By Keith Lee, Associate Pastor

My favorite moment in the church these days is that brief time of silence we find ourselves before we pray or take communion during service. However, one of the key words I hear often when I attend seminars for pastors is ‘energy’. “People are looking for a place of worship with energy,” church growth pundits say. I agree that I do not want to be part of a faith community that is passive, lethargic and gloomy. But, I am uncomfortable with a place that tries to ‘pump you up.’ These days, there are too many sources of stimulation that try to grab our attention or give us a jolt. Energy is needed, but I believe not in the way that tries to stir us up for the sake of stirring us up. That might not be healthy in the long run. We need to develop practices that gives us energy or inspiration from within, or spiritually enriching so that we have vitality in relationships and work.

I was trained with the mindset that a pastor should energize his/her congregants. I still feel like shouting and dancing when we gather to worship God. There’s a lot of excitement when people of God come together to praise and lift up the name of Jesus. That’s fundamental. Still, I’m seeing another way to energize from within, a sort of quiet excitement and energy captured in the biblical concept of Shalom.

I work with the children of PDO (Parents Day Out-Trinity’s Preschool program) and when I began to work with them two years ago, I tried to stir them up with fast paced songs. Within five minutes the kids are shouting, singing and dancing. There’s excitement in the air and I love it! The negative aspect is that when they’re in that state, they’re not receptive to the message that I am about to share. In fact, they’re still ‘jazzed up’ from all the singing and dancing. After some reflections, I made some adjustments: I start with fast songs but end with slower pieces. Then I could sense the kids being energized and also receptive and attentive.

Trinity offers a positive and affirming place as a faith community. It is not trying to be another McChurch where newcomers are overwhelmed with programs and events. Its focus is to bring people to a living relationship with God as followers of Jesus. It does this by quietly and humbly teaching and modeling the Way of the Lord. It does this through deepening relationship with God and others. As a pastor to children and youth, I feel the greatest accomplishment is when we are together and sit in silence (most of the times unintentionally) to experience God. We often think summer is when churches slow down and there’s not much going on …. let’s use this tremendous opportunity to slow down and experience God in stillness.

Blessings!

 

July 2017

July 2 No Education classes
July 3-4 Office Closed
July 6 Mission team returns from Honduras
July 9 Children’s Education: Jesus overcomes temptations (Luke 4:1-13)
July 9 Martha’s Table Sandwich Making We’ll make 900 sandwiches and 400 trail mix immediately after worship. Sign-up to shop or deliver: in the Fellowship Lobby or at bit.ly/MTVol. For more info, contact Barb Long,
bkalong@yahoo.com.
July 15 Christ House To volunteer to help shop, cook and serve for Christ House, please contact Connie Jeremiah, connie.jeremiah@gmail.com
July 16 Children’s Education: Jesus heals to demonstrate the Kingdom of God is present (Luke 5:38-44)
July 16 Executive Council Meets after 10:30 worship in the Library
July 17 Crafts for a Cause Meet 7 – 8:30 p.m. All adults are welcome, no craft skills required. For more info, contact
mollysprouse@gmail.com.
July 18 Trustees
July 23 Children’s Education: Jesus calls us to follow him (Luke 5:1-11)
July 25 Celebration of Life of Lee Holmberg, 10 a.m.
July 30 Children’s Education: Jesus teaches us to accepts others even those different from us (Luke 6:27-36)
July 31 Crafts for a Cause Meet 7 – 8:30 p.m. All adults are welcome, no craft skills required. For more info, contact
mollysprouse@gmail.com.

Church & Society, July 2017

July Collection Drive
During the month of July, we are sponsoring a “Crayola” Drive for Share’s Back to School Program! Share is a food pantry and family assistance program located in the heart of McLean that serves approximately 300 needy families from McLean, Great Falls, and the Pimmit Hills area of Falls Church each month. Please place 24-count Crayola crayons and 10-count fat or thin markers in the bins outside the sanctuary and in the Fellowship Building.

Please contact Alexandra Kiefer with questions about the drive or any other Church and Society committee programs.

Music, Summer 2017

SUMMER CHOIR, STARTING NOW!

Trinity’s Chancel Choir provides service music throughout the year, but in the summer, we choose lighter pieces to make it easier for guest/new singers to join us. If you’d like to sing with us, just show up in the Music Room (Rm. 115) at 10 a.m. on any given Sunday in July or August to learn an easy-to-sing piece for that day’s 10:30 service.

This summer’s anthems are:

July 2          Thy Word Is a Lamp

July 9          We Will Rise Again

July 16        Cause Us, O Lord

July 23        Be Not Afraid

July 30        Something Which Is Known

August 6     Steal Away to Jesus

August 13   Spirit of the Living God

August 20   Take My Life and Let It Be

August 27   How Can I Keep from Singing?

We don’t wear choir robes in the summer; whatever you normally wear to church will be fine. If you like to sing, why not give us a try!