Church: The People, The Building

By James C. Sprouse, Senior Pastor

The Greek word used in the New Testament for church means called out. The church is a community of people who are called out of the world to be God’s people.

The church is a community of people, not a building. It is hard for us to grasp this, because we think of the church as centered in a building that stands in the neighborhood where its members live. But it has not always been so. For the first few centuries Christians met together in homes or in places where their secular occupations brought them together. Later, when buildings were built they were not built in local neighborhoods but at the crossroads of life – in the market towns or places near the central government. It wasn’t until the Middle Ages (400s to 1,400s) that the kind of parish church we know came into being.

It is important in our time to understand that the church doesn’t depend on a church building. In removing churches from homes and from centers of business and government where secular life brings Christians of all races and classes together, have we come to think that Christian faith and life have to do only with what goes on in a building on Sunday and a few times during the week when people of the same socio-economic groups come together?

As our society and world change, our lives are less and less centered in the neighborhood where we live. Many people find their friends, do their business, take their leisure and spend most of their lives outside the neighborhood where their homes are. If the church of God is wherever and whenever Christians come together for worship, study and service in the name of Christ, do we not just as surely go to church when we meet during lunch, when we join together during service projects away from our church building, when we meet for prayer or study in someone’s house?

My point is not to deny that the local church building is still very, very important. It is to emphasize that as our society and world continue to evolve and the neighborhood becomes less important in many person’s lives, the church doesn’t have to be less important. We are free and open to experiment with new forms of church, because the church is not a building. It is God’s people, whenever, wherever, and however we come together. When I think of Trinity Church, I don’t think only of 1205 Dolley Madison Blvd., McLean, VA … that is an address. The church I think of is called, Molly, Eileen, Keith, Janey, Harriet, Michelle, Jerry, Peggy, Ray, William, Wayne, Reba, Jim, Leslie, Jose, Karen, Diane, Sandy, Margie, Dan, Philip, Joey, and so on — everyone at Trinity. God has strategically positioned our building address of Trinity Church in beautiful McLean, VA. One thing this means is that God needs you and me to be about the ministry of Jesus Christ, right here, right now, in this time and in this place. This is our mission post – from which all our missions and ministries flow. The people of God called Trinity Church assemble together to praise and worship God at a specific address every week. Here, we are equipped for mission and ministry. We then leave our church home address and return to our homes, our places of work and the market place. It is there we live out our faith in relationships among all the other churches we discover we are also members of.

Shalom,  Jim Sprouse

 

(Almost) Everything You Wanted to Know About the Bible But Were Afraid to Ask

By Eileen Gilmer, Associate Pastor

Every week in church we hear scripture read. Sometimes it’s a Psalm, sometimes it’s from one of the gospels, or it might be a letter from Paul. There are Bibles in the pews in case anyone wants to read the Word, but most folks choose to listen to it read. (That’s actually very Biblical; for centuries most people relied on God’s Word to be read to them.)

How well do you really know the Bible? Do you view the God of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) differently than you do the God of the New Testament? What about things like context and translations?

I’ve wanted to do a Bible study for a while that is aimed at people who have questions and might not feel comfortable signing up for a traditional class. Here are some of the areas we’ll cover and the speakers:

Canon | Mining for the Word – Eric Elnes

History | Parchment to Pixel – Phyllis Tickle

Testaments | One Story, Two Parts – Rachel Held Evans

Gospels | Unexpected Good News – Nadia Bolz-Weber

Genre | Rhythm of the Text – Jose Morales

Interpretation | Scripture Reads Us – Will Willimon

Grace | Love is the Bottom Line – Jay Bakker

If you are all in, come join us for a no-judgment, all-questions-welcomed Bible study. We’ll watch a short DVD then talk through the topic of that week. Here are the details:

Jumpstarting the Bible: Big Conversations and Burning Questions

October 13 – November 17

9:30 a.m.

Room 302 (lower-level classroom in the Fellowship Building)

Let me know if you have any questions. I’m at 703-356-3312 or egilmer@umtrinity.com.

I’ll see you at church!

 

The Fault Is in Our Focus

By Keith Lee, Associate Pastor

In wanting to understand teenagers better, I started to read teen genre novels. One curious work was John Green’s The Fault In Our Stars, a novel about teen cancer patients. It also deals with another weighty matter: theism vs atheism. In the first chapter, I was taken aback by its seemingly harsh criticism against Christians. For example, a minor character named Patrick, who is the leader of a teen cancer survivors support group, is a typical evangelical Christian who quips religious platitudes. The support group meets in a church basement on a floor decorated with a picture of Jesus’ heart, and Patrick emphasizes that they are literally in the heart of Jesus; this set up highlights the book’s critical view of literal Christianity. Moreover, Patrick’s testicular cancer diagnosis resulted in extensive surgery. He was literally and figuratively impotent. He had no spiritual, emotional, or social impact on the group.

I almost stopped reading because in some way the criticisms stung: many aspects of religion can be seen as a “Patrick.” But I continued because the main characters (Hazel and August) were fascinating and their insights gave perspectives into teenage cancer. Hazel makes this observation: “Whenever you read a cancer booklet or website or whatever, they always list depression among the side effects of cancer. But, in fact, depression is not a side effect of cancer. Depression is a side effect of dying.” I loved these characters, so what could I do but read on?

And the criticisms kept coming. They were insightful, not bitter or cynical like the ones made by disillusioned atheists or agnostics. They made me cringe precisely because they were so right on. When I finished reading the book, I was conflicted. I liked the book, the characters, the plot, the theme, almost everything … except its searing criticisms against our faith. So, I googled the author wanting to better understand his gripe. To my utter surprise, he professes to be a Christian. He was once a student chaplain at a children’s hospital in Chicago (this experience inspired him to write the novel) and was enrolled but never attended Chicago University’s School of Divinity. He avoids being labeled as religious because fundamental adherents of religions appropriated the term and has given it a negative term.

In knowing this about the author, I understood the novel better. It was not a criticism on religion but on modern religious debate that tries to prove or disprove God. He expresses on his Youtube channel, “Debating the mere existence of God is a way of avoiding the deeper and more devastating question of how we are going to bring meaning to human life.” I agree in that the present religious debate does not bring enough attention to our responsibility to bring meaning to the human condition. That renewed focus can help bridge the divide between theists and atheists.

 

October 2019 at Trinity

Oct. 7 Crafts for a Cause

7 p.m.

 
Oct. 8 Book Chat

6:30 p.m.

Happiness is a Choice You Make, by John Leland.
Oct. 13 Martha’s Table Snack Making Sunday
Oct. 13 Pet Blessing

2 p.m.

See umtrinity.org
Oct. 14 Office Closed  
Oct. 15 Trustees Meeting

6:30 p.m.

 
Oct. 17 Preschool Parenting Hour

7:30 p.m.

See below
Oct. 19 Good Works Day

8 a.m. –12 p.m.

See more here
Oct. 19 Christ House  
Oct. 21 Crafts for a Cause

7 p.m.

 
Oct. 27 Executive Council

12 p.m.

Meets in the Library
Oct. 27 Celtic Service

5 p.m.

 

Preschool Parenting Hour

Our Preschool is hosting a monthly Parenting Hour to discuss the book, Easy to Love, Difficult the Discipline, by Becky Dailey. All sessions, led by Preschool director, Emily Yosmanovich, will be held in Room 205 unless large attendance requires use of Langley Hall. The next meetings are Thursday, Oct. 17 at 7:30 a.m. and Wednesday, Nov. 20 at 9:30 a.m.

For a full schedule of dates, times and topics, please contact Emily at 703-790-2767 or director.trinitypreschool@gmail.com.

Young babies/children are welcome to attend all sessions with parents, and for evening sessions childcare will be provided for ages 3 and up with an RSVP to director.trinitypreschool@gmail.com.

 

October 2019 Book Chat

We had a great turnout for Trinity’s book club meeting in September, and we look forward to a year of fellowship and good books. Join us at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, October 8, in the Trinity Library, to discuss Happiness is a Choice You Make, by John Leland. Weaving together the stories and wisdom of six New Yorkers who number among the “oldest old”–those 85 and older–Leland looks at what it means to grow old and provides a heartening guide to well-being. Enjoy dessert and lively conversation with us! Coming up on November 12: Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens. Contact Kathy Maher (Kathyngs@gmail.com) for more information.

A Hymn Reflection

By Jerry Rich, Director of Music

Now Thank We All Our God is a comforting hymn and classic anthem. Lutheran minister Martin Rinkart, who was inspired by verses from the Jewish book of wisdom Sirach, wrote its original 17th-century German text. Rinkart worked in the walled German city of Eilenburg during the Thirty Years’ War; the city, a sanctuary for war victims, was invaded three times and suffered overcrowding and famine. The Rinkart home cared for the needy despite his own family’s straitened circumstances. During the plague of 1637, Rinkart became the only surviving pastor in Eilenburg; that year he performed over 4000 funerals, including his wife’s.

Rinkart envisioned Now Thank We All Our God as a short prayer before meals. By the time the Thirty Years’ War ended with the signing of the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, it was being widely sung in Germany. The hymn’s stirring tune, attributed to Johann Crüger, was composed ca. 1647 and can be found in several of Johann Sebastian Bach’s church cantatas. Felix Mendelssohn created the now-standard harmonization in 1840 when he wrote his monumental Hymn of Praise; his version is now often sung in weddings and on occasions of national thanksgiving. Our musicians will offer music based on this chorale during Trinity’s October 27 morning services; we hope you will join us!

Pet Blessing 2019

Happy fall to all the children of Trinity United Methodist Church!

October is a great time. The leaves are changing, the air is cooler and we celebrate the blessing of the pets! Mark your calendar and grab your furry friends because the Pet Blessing at Trinity Church is on October 13.

Pet blessings are held around the world. They were started to honor St. Francis of Assisi. He was an Italian Catholic friar (that’s a pastor) who lived nearly 800 years ago. Francis did a lot to draw attention to the poor and needy.  He also loved all animals, recognizing animals as part of God’s great creation. (St. Francis was even known to carry on conversations with the birds in the trees!) In the year 1228, Pope Gregory named Francis the patron saint of both animals and the environment. That’s pretty cool.

Here are the details of how we’ll celebrate the pets of our community:

Trinity’s Pet Blessing

October 13

2 p.m.

We’ll meet in the courtyard outside the Fellowship Building.

(If it rains, you can find us in Langley Hall.)

Important information: All dogs need to be on leashes. Cats and all other critters need to be in cages or other appropriate carriers. We can’t wait to see you and your pets for the blessing!

Until then, remember my motto: Paws for Jesus.

Henny

* all pets invited, not just dogs!

 

Christian Spiritual Formation

By James C. Sprouse, Senior Pastor

September is Christian Education month. All of Trinity’s Sunday School classes begin afresh with the hopes of making disciples of Jesus Christ. It helps to set aside quiet time each day and on Sundays for nurturing your spirit’s needs.

The deep craving for spiritual nurture from classic Christian sources (church, Sunday School, etc.), and other religious traditions point to the inability of global capitalism to ultimately satisfy and save. People who are struggling to get their footing in a multicultural world desperately grab onto whatever looks like it will provide some stability, some guidance, some map for directing them to a moment of silence among the sound bites. Even within the Christian tradition, there is a bewildering abundance of spiritual offerings.

In the Christian East (Greek & Russian Orthodox), where the purpose of human life is intimacy with God, redemption and spirituality are closely linked. Deification, or theosis, is returning to a pure state of the soul in union with the Trinity, by a participation made possible through the incarnation. Salvation is a slow process of spiritual maturation in the purification of the soul – the overcoming of its corruption and a new life of power in goodness and virtue, because the process is slow, gradual images, symbols, and sacraments aid illumination and transformation.

In the Christian West (Roman Catholic), salvation became associated with avoiding the consequence of God’s wrath. The spiritual life developed from penitential disciplines. People needed to do something in order to quell their deep anxiety brought on by their anticipating the wrath of God. During the Middle Ages, the view was that through the sacrament of baptism, Christians regain their freedom to love and serve God, but much to their chagrin we still fail to do so.

Protestantism viewed certain devotional practices as suspect and turned instead to reclaiming the authority of Scripture for the Christian life, sort of interpreting and devouring the Word of God as eucharistic eating. The Reformers distinguished justification from sanctification more sharply, with salvation equated with justification and sanctification follows in time … classic John Wesley. Puritan spirituality was highly activist, focusing on individual integrity and sincerity of purpose and energetic execution of life’s little tasks.

All of us acknowledge the difficulty of cultivating a godly life in our current climate. A godly life requires tempering appetites titillated by advertising and consumer overload. Centering down at the foot of the cross and then standing at the empty tomb cannot happen when 200 images per minute of booming, gyrating music relentlessly numb the soul. It is difficult to discover one’s craving for release in God so long as an expanding economy requires that we crave money, sex and power. Not only do we then exploit the environment to support our habit, but also we exploit one another and ourselves spiritually as well. Saint Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, once warned that spiritual health requires radically redirecting our cravings. Perhaps in this light, we can admit that the orthodox East, the orthodox West and the full garden variety of Protestant expressions of faith, all offer us spiritual paths to a deeper relationship with God, but also have their own demons, and different points of vulnerability.

Assuming that most who read this article on Spiritual Formation are United Methodist or some other Protestant expression of Christianity, exercise your devotional life by exploring the writings of East (Origen, Cyril, Ignatius, John Chrysostom) and West (Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Thomas Merton) orthodox theologians and enjoy your spiritual travels.

Shalom,  Jim Sprouse

 

Struggling with Scripture

By Eileen Gilmer, Associate Pastor

I recently preached on a really tough scripture, Luke 12:49-56. In it, Jesus says the words, “Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!” Sometimes such scripture can leave us confused and unsure about the messages found in the Bible. This is why context is so important. It’s very difficult to fully understand what the Bible is saying without using basic reporter tactics, asking who, what, where, when, why and how.

To fully understand the Bible is to dig deeper. It may also be challenging to know that even if you read the Bible every day for the rest of your life, you will never have all the answers. But that doesn’t mean you stop seeking answers! It simply means the Bible is rich with depth and meaning, and is waiting to be explored.

I’ve recently been reading a book of daily devotions, Yes, and … by Richard Rohr, a Franciscan priest in New Mexico. Rohr is a wonderful and insightful writer. I encourage you to read any of his books. In one of his devotions, he writes about the tough scriptures. Rohr writes we would be unwise to avoid scriptures with “conflicts, dilemmas, paradoxes, inconsistencies or contradictions.” Rohr explains the reason why. They are intentionally left in the Bible for our serious consideration until we “get the point” of them.

We are meant to struggle with the scripture. This is how we grow. Rohr asserts that when we close the Good Book and walk away without a willingness to struggle, we remain at our “present level of awareness.” We become stagnant in our faith. It is only in our being pushed and prodded that we grow in our understanding and we grow as Christians.

There are plenty of places in the Bible that can stump even the most experienced Bible reader. But the good news is that through our wrestling with the text, we come out with greater understanding of the Bible, God and ourselves. You have a clergy team that is willing to help you uncover the context and meaning of any scripture that may leave you with questions. We’re always here to help.

I’ll see you in church!

 

What’s New for Children’s & Youth Ministries

By Keith Lee, Associate Pastor

I hope you had a wonderful and memorable summer!

The academic year has started, and we’re excited about lessons, events and programs planned for 2019-20!

As always, we’re looking for ways to improve and enhance our children’s and youth programs. This year is no different; we have some changes and tweaks in store.

Community Time

On the first Sundays of the month, we have Communion. Therefore, on those Sundays, students end their lesson short and return to the Sanctuary to participate in Communion. Some teachers suggested a while back that we should have an assembly time on those Sundays to build community and to allow teachers a break. I’ve been mulling this idea for a couple of years and am ready to implement it.

On first Sundays, we will have one class assembly session to build community and fellowship. We’re calling it Community Time. For presentations, we’ll have puppet dramas, a lesson on Communion, SHARE, our Honduras mission team’s work, games and other activities planned. It should be a memorable community building time!

Calling for Presentation Speakers

For Community Time, we would like special speakers to give presentations to our students. In the past, we had scientists who talked about density. Another time, Marci Thomas shared about her experience in training Service Dogs. So if you have a topic to share, please give me a write (klee@umtrinity.org).

Teaching Opportunity

We’re always looking for wonderful teachers who would love and care for our students. If you could teach once a month, please contact Melissa Harris (maharris024@gmail.com) or Andrea Hager (af_hager@yahoo.com) for more info!

1st & 2nd Graders in Room 403

We’ve moved the classroom for 1st & 2nd graders from room 303 to 403. The new class is right next to Pre-K & K room on the upper level.

Youth Group Sundays

  • First Sundays: All Youth Gathering-It’s time for fellowship and spiritual recharge.
  • Second Sundays: Confirmation Session-Confirmands will gather for Confirmation. Youth are always invited to join.
  • Third Sundays: Youth Choir and Game Sunday-Michelle Zenk will lead the practice for Youth Choir in the Chapel while others will be in room 301 for a game session.
  • Fourth Sundays: Surprise Sunday-We’ll plan special activities depending on the season and requests.