A Grand Adventure Story

By James C. Sprouse, Senior Pastor

A well constructed story appeals to us all because everything that happens contributes to the whole, and we, most of us, often wish that all the events of our own lives contributed to some overall meaning in the same way. In Orthodoxy G.K. Chesterton described how he eventually came to the conviction that all life was like a story – a grand adventure story. Adventure stories usually have some important goal that requires great dedication if it is to be achieved; they tell of the valor of loyal companions who face danger and endure losses in achieving that goal. Chesterton showed that this “life as adventure” theme is also present in the Christian understanding of life.

You and I express who we are in the form of the stories we tell about ourselves. We introduce ourselves to other people by telling them where we are from, where we were educated, who we know, whether we are married and have family, and sometimes, what our goals are, etc. We do this because our identity is achieved slowly, through time, and it cannot be expressed apart from an account of our specific passage through time. Let us remember those who in 2018 passed from time-bound life to life eternal: Ruth Mutchler, Woody Rogers, John Sadler and Doug Swanson.

You, I and all who worship with God at Trinity Church are on a grand adventure together. Only God knows what wonderful adventures lay ahead for us in year 2019; what new faces will join our happy throng; what familiar faces will disappear from our earthly fellowship. We are all just passing through time. So, with full confidence that God knows where our journey leads, let’s embrace one another with an esprit de corp. and enthusiasm for ministry together with Christ that we write our names on the pages of volume 2019 of the greatest story still being told.

Shalom,

Jim

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How Conversation Works: Becoming a Better Communicator

By Eileen Gilmer, Associate Pastor

Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.                  Colossians 4:6

How good of a communicator are you? Would you like to learn ways to be more effective when talking with family, friends, colleagues or even those you meet for the first time?

In January, we’ll begin a six week class, How Conversation Works: Six Lessons for Better Communication. Here are the topics:

  • How to become conversationally aware
  • How the conversational floor works
  • How and when to be direct and indirect
  • How to navigate face-threatening acts
  • How to negotiate professional relationships
  • How to maintain relationships with talk

We’ll base the classes on sessions led by Anne Curzan, a Yale grad, and linguistics and language professor at the University of Michigan. Just in the first few classes, we’ll look at how the word um can speak volumes and can even change the direction of the conversation.

We’ll also dive into conversational work, finding out what to do if you’re the only one doing the heavy lifting in the conversation.

Our first class will be January 6 at 9:30 a.m. in room 302 in the Fellowship Building. I hope you can join us.

I’ll see you in church!

 

Prayer 2019

By Keith Lee, Associate Pastor

“I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had no where else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day.” – Abraham Lincoln

Life exposes our limitations and capabilities. It demands far more from us than what we know is possible. Therefore Lincoln, one of the finest and capable presidents, is known to have been a person of prayer. However, most are unaware that he was viewed as the most irreligious president, despite his emphasis on prayer.

I asked all the parents to pray for their children this year. I also asked that they include in their prayers all those who influence their children – their children’s friends, schoolmates, classmates in school and church, pastors, teachers, neighbors, teammates, coaches, church and community leaders, and for the welfare of our country and the world. I renew my request because when I look at my own children, on one hand I thank God for the protection and grace that was provided. But on the other hand, I realize how inadequate I was as a father. I was not fully aware of all the changes that were happening to them and even if I did, I was not equipped to adequately address them. Thank God for God!

The picture is a prayer wall in Room 301. For confirmation and preteen classes, I have been asking students to write down their prayers and place them in the canvas. This exercise not only helps them to pray but also visualize in a concrete way that Trinity is a praying community. Let’s pray together to help our children grow in the Lord!

 

The Mystery of Christmas

By James C. Sprouse, Senior Pastor

What do you and I believe about Advent & Christmas, really? When the church confesses its faith, it doesn’t say: “I believe in the virgin birth, the magi, the empty tomb, and the second coming.” We believe in a person, Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah. Church doctrines deal with Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection and are necessary if we are to articulate our faith. But they are not the object of our faith. Our trust, hope, and confidence are in Jesus and him alone.

We take church doctrines about him very seriously, but we should never confuse even the most orthodox doctrines with genuine Christian faith. We may be comforted by the fact that faith in him can be revealed even though our ability to express that faith in words is always inadequate. We must be constantly vigilant during this season of preparation, Advent, and through the season of arrival, Christmas, that our main concern is about Jesus himself, not with our own or even the church’s sometimes confusing presentation of him – not the glitter and lights of the shopping malls – not even the ideas you and I think are right.

During Advent and especially during Christmas we ask, “Who is this person who stands at the center of the Christian faith?” It is significant that the Apostles’ Creed speaks of Jesus with verbs: born, crucified, raised, ascended, and so on. It doesn’t give us an explanation or analysis of his deity and humanity and how they are related.

The New Testament tells us through different versions about Jesus. It gives no theological discussion about doctrines surrounding his life and its events. It simply tells us stories of who Jesus is and what he said and did. He is the one who speaks with authority, heals, serves, loves, obeys, commands, forgives, judges, prays, suffers, gives up his life, triumphs, and rules.

During Advent and Christmas you and I need to reflect on the meaning of his life among us, which means we must consider how Jesus chose to live his life and what that means for how we live our lives. Only through our meditation on the meaning of his life and actions will you and I learn the secret of who he really is. The person of Jesus is inseparable from his work. You and I must never forget that Christmas is not an intellectual or even metaphysical puzzle we are solving, but the arrival of a life through which all history is interpreted … our lives included.

So, “The Word became flesh,” John once wrote, and of all flesh this particular flesh: son of a what was a teenage pregnancy, near victim of a ruler’s genocide, 1st century stone-mason and rabbi, sinner’s hero, poor person’s Messiah, Savior-Healer of the world. Christmas means Jesus is the Word of God made flesh – and we can take it or leave it. And yet, it’s this birth, this life, this death, and this life again, through which God manages to reveal who God truly is.

 

Seeking Comfort During the Holidays

By Eileen Gilmer, Associate Pastor

We see the ads, hear the songs and watch the television shows. The Christmas season is special. It is. But the message we’re given tells us we’re to be overjoyed, spending our December with family and friends. Everyone has a fireplace, a gigantic tree, lots of presents and a spotless home. Looking at the television ads, you’d also think everyone gets a new car with a giant bow on Christmas morning.

The fact of the matter is that this season can be stressful. (Tysons, anyone?) Our lives don’t match up to the hype. The children aren’t perfect; that big-bowed car doesn’t magically appear; and sometimes the season can feel isolating. If the month of December leaves you feeling this way, I have some good news. You are not alone and your church family loves you.

For anyone who is missing a loved one, I hope you’ll join us for a special service that recognizes this season can sometimes be difficult. This service will recognize loss of any kind: divorce, job loss, pet loss, loss of a relationship.

in the Chapel

We’ll join together with our friends from Charles Wesley United Methodist Church in Trinity’s Chapel for this service. It’s very much a community-invited service. We hope you will invite family, neighbors and friends who would benefit. We’ll have beautiful Celtic music and offer a chance to come together, recognizing our loss and seeking the hope and peace we are promised through the birth of the Christ child.

As always, Jim, Keith and I are here for you if you ever need to talk, visit or just go get coffee. Please join us for worship this Christmas season.

I look forward to seeing you at church!

 

Seeing Christmas in a Different Light

By Keith Lee, Associate Pastor

One of the struggles of educators in children’s Sunday School is that sometimes what has been taught in childhood limits their theological growth and development as adults. These limitations include maintaining a strict literal understanding of the Bible, a simplification of stories, and a truncated theological perspective. This effect is most prominent during Christmas. For example, major themes of Christmas are the little baby Jesus in a manger, the shepherds watching sheep near Bethlehem, receiving presents and being saved while ignoring pressing social justice themes.

If you step away from these simple ideas and reexamine the two birth narratives in the gospels, you will see multiple strands of social and political conflicts woven in. The Gospel of Matthew records Herod’s insecure and violent tendencies, the apathy of Jerusalem’s religious establishment versus the Gentile celebration of God’s action, some marital tension due to a suspicion of infidelity, the needless violence on children and helpless mothers, the plight of political refugees and more. (There are more observations in Luke’s.) Reexamining the gospels’ birth narratives points to a conflicted and tension-filled social political environment of first century Israel. Therefore we see that Christmas is more than our truncated holiday traditions, and more importantly, it is much more relevant to our own socio-political reality.

I mention the need to see Christmas in a new light for two reasons. One, as adults we develop a new appreciation of Christmas rather than going through the motion of all its trappings and fall into a fantasy world. With a new vision we confront our world rather than escape from it by highlighting Jesus’ ministry of Immanuel (God with us) in the most difficult and trying circumstances. Two, we allow our children to enjoy the traditions of Christmas while leaving room for growth into understanding God’s action in dark and unjust aspects of our fallen yet beautiful world. They will be better served if we present a Christmas that’s truer to Jesus’ birth.

 

Our Church: A Banquet Table

By James C. Sprouse, Senior Pastor

The leaders of Trinity Church assemble monthly to discuss the present and future direction, ministries and outreach of our church. Leaders from Education, Finance, Outreach, Trustees, Worship and Youth try to answer questions like:

  1. What is God calling Trinity to do as a Body of Christ?
  2. How can we extend the fellowship and friendship of Jesus to the greater community?
  3. How does worship equip us for Christian mission and ministry?
  4. What are Trinity’s strengths?
  5. What are our children and adults learning in Sunday School & worship?
  6. What do the neighborhoods in McLean need us to be for them?

We often sit around tables in conference rooms or in living rooms and discuss these questions for hours. God’s spirit continues to fill and bathe us all in energy and excitement. Through it all one particular observation emerged: that Trinity Church is like a wonderful banquet table prepared and hosted by Jesus Christ. All members and guests are welcome and invited. Yet, each one of us has specific tastes, and at Trinity we try our best to serve all those tastes. Our desire is to make our banquet table a place of love, fellowship and joy. Our church buildings are like that banquet table, too. We want all who attend and seek a relationship with Jesus Christ to be included, appreciated, served and loved.

For half a century Trinity has tended God’s banquet table with a spirit of love and thanksgiving. Our Fellowship Building is used by our church, community and local first responders 24 hours a day. Let’s be thankful for God’s generosity and enjoy the opportunity that is ours to invite and welcome so many persons in our community who have not yet found a place at the table.

During this Thanksgiving season I ask that you pray for the fellowship of God’s Spirit through our friendship with each other and our surrounding neighborhoods. To be God’s friend in McLean is a wonderful gift. A friend accepts you as you are; a friend loves; a friend forgives; a friend cares; a friend prays.

Pray for all the persons and families in the neighborhoods surrounding Trinity. Respond with your heart!