Our Journey in Faith
Our Lenten sermon series and our Lenten focus has been Our Journey in Faith. It is that season when we come away with Jesus and look at our relationship with Christ and we focus on inner life, spiritual life, personal investigation and contrition. We look at doing the intentional work of seeking a change of heart or actions. Reflection and change take work, hard work. Lent can be like a long journey, taking determination and commitment to really coming away with Jesus and spending some quiet time with him. We walk this season together, demanding the best of ourselves, ready to support one another, and prepared to see truths that shatter our self-understanding.
The readings in this season are full of lived human experiences from creation to death and new life. It is this journey that Christ has invited us into and we walk this season with him by our side understanding everything that we are going through. This journey gives us a chance to come away with Christ and then we can look at the journey that He has invited us on.
As our journey continues towards the cross, we then walk with Christ through Psalm Sunday and into Holy Week. This is the greatest week of our faith Journey as we walk to the Cross of our Salvation.
This Journey is one that will allow us to grow in our love for Christ and the life that he has called us into. We can walk confidently knowing that Jesus walks with us everyday and through every situation. We also grow in our ability to live a wholehearted faith.
May God bless us through our observance of our Lenten practices and on our Journey that we have walked and will continue to walk.
In Christ’s Love,
Lent is the season that we take a step back and look at our relationship with God and how we are doing at growing in that relationship. All our Lenten observances are intended to bring us closer to God and one another. Do I need to forgive someone, or talk to them, maybe send a card to someone? These practices are meant to help us grow in our faith. It is a time to remember that God gave us faith to reach out to others, to build the body of Christ here on earth. If all I do is share the gifts with those around me then am I really building up the body of Christ? We are called to reach out to the least, the lost and the forsaken. Lent is a wonderful time to challenge ourselves to find a new way to live our faith and to reach out to someone who we do not know or someone who is hurting and offer what God has given to us.
Lent may bring up memories of giving something up, or something that makes us uncomfortable and we don’t seem to follow through with our good intentions at the beginning of lent. But what if we look at the Lenten Season as a second chance? Each year the church gives us six weeks to take a long , loving look at our lives to see if our values and priorities are in line with God’s desires for us. Some of us find that we’ve wandered from God’s plan for our lives.
Lent is that time that we have a second chance. Forty days to Make God the priority that he should have been all year long. The season is marked by practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. How am I doing in these areas – Do I honor God in these areas ? Is there something else that I could or should be doing?
Lent is the way that we honor God by making our faith come alive in a new way. If Jesus was able to be led by the devil to be tempted, so that he could then live the life that God had called him to, then we too need to take time to spend with God and asking what he needs us to do and what he needs us to set aside.
May this Lenten season bring you closer to God and to one another.
In Christ’s love - Rev. Steve
What is Lent all about?
Have you ever wondered what people are talking about when they say they’re giving something up for Lent? Do you want to understand what Lent is and how it relates to Easter? Lent is the 40 days (not including Sundays) from Ash Wednesday to the Saturday before Easter. Lent is often described as a time of preparation and an opportunity to go deeper with God. This means that it’s a time for personal reflection that prepares people’s hearts and minds for Good Friday and Easter.
What Are the Key Days During Lent?
Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent. You will notice people with a smudged, black cross on their foreheads. Those are ashes from the Ash Wednesday service. The ashes symbolize our grief for the things we’ve done wrong and the resulting division of imperfect people from a perfect God.
Maundy Thursday is the day before Good Friday. It commemorates the night before Jesus died, when He shared the Passover meal with His closest friends and followers.
Good Friday is the day Christians remember Jesus’ death. The “Good” reflects how Jesus’ death was a sacrifice on our behalf so we can receive God’s forgiveness for our wrongs, or sins.
Easter Sunday is the joyful celebration of Jesus rising from the dead to give us the opportunity of eternal
life. While people still die, Jesus made the way for people to have a relationship with God in this life and to
spend eternity with Him in heaven.
What Happens During Lent and Why?
The three main things people focus on during Lent are prayer, fasting (abstaining from something to reduce distractions and focus more on God) and giving, or charity.
It’s important to note that doing these things can never make us earn or deserve Jesus’ sacrifice or a relationship with God. People are flawed and will never be good enough for a perfect God. Only Jesus has the power to rescue us from ourselves. Jesus sacrificed Himself on Good Friday to bear the punishment for all our sins or wrong doings, and offer us forgiveness. He was raised from the dead -on Easter Sunday to overcome death and to give us an opportunity to have a relationship with God for eternity. Spending time during Lent praying, fasting, and giving can make Jesus’ sacrifice on Good Friday and His resurrection on Easter even more meaningful.
May God bless you.
Rev. Stephen W. Barch
New Year’s Resolutions
Happy New Year!! What an exciting time of year. Everyone is in the Christmas spirit and they are
more generous and friendlier than other times of the year. It is also that time of year that everyone seems to make New Years resolutions. (Well maybe you have made one and broke it by now) . So many of us are going to lose weight, exercise more, get out of debt, stick to a budget, stop smoking, save for the future, or spend more time with the family. No matter what the resolution is we set our heart on it and start off really good and then we lose heart. It made me think –Is there a Christian new year resolution list and what would it look like:
1. Pray More: He said to me, “This is the word of the Lord.. Mot by might nor by Power, but by my spirit says the Lord (Zechariah 4:6)
2. Invest in my spiritual gifts Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you.
3. Care for myself spiritually Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for with Christ Jesus took hold of me (Philippians 3:12)
4. Make the tough decisions I know are best. And now, compelled by the Spirit, I a going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the lord Jesus has given me.—The task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace and Love.
5. Confront the patterns of sin in our lives Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with erseverance that race marked out for us. ( Hebrews 12:1).
6. Do the hard work to build community: If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you, if he listens to you, you have won your brother over (Matthew 18:15)
7. Quit comparing myself to other Christians, other leaders and other churches Turning his head, Peter noticed the disciple Jesus loved following right behind. When Peter noticed him he asked Jesus , “Master, what’s going to happen to him?” Jesus answered “If I want him to live until I come again, what’s that to you? You follow me.” (John 21: 20-21)
8. Prioritize my family A Christian must be well—thought of—committed to his life. Attentive to his own children and having their respect. For if someone is unable to handle his own affairs, how can he take care of God’s Church? (1 Timothy 3: 2-5)
9. Be more open to change See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up: do you not perceive it? (Isaiah 43:19)
10. Stayed focused on the vision They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe of the many wonders and miraculous signs that were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common, selling their possessions and goods, they gave to everyone as he had need. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2: 42-47 niv)
May we honor God by committing to one or more of these resolutions for the year 2023 and beyond.
May God bless us all.
Rev. Steve Barch
As we move into December it is a very busy month, let us remember :
Twas the night before Christmas & all through the house
Not a creature was praying—not one in the house
Their Bibles were lain on the shelf without care
Because Mom and Dad were to busy to share.
The children were dressing to crawl into bed
Not one ever kneeling or bowing their heads
Mom’s wrapping gifts to put under the tree
While Dad’s making sure there’s nothing wrong with the Wii.
When all of a sudden there arose such a clatter Dad sprang to his feet to
See what was the matter
Away down the hallway he flew like a flash looking for the culprit
That caused such a crash.
He stopped in his tracks to take in the sight
Of Angels declaring the real reason for this night.
It was Jesus they said not Santa or Elves:
Now Peace! Now Joy! Now Goodness and Love
On Mercy & Grace! Now look above
For God so loved the world that he sent his only Son
The gift of Salvation– A gift you can not buy.
They told him to enjoy the real reason for Christmas and
spend some time with this God that loves you so much.
Enjoy Christmas with your family and remember to thank God for the greatest gift you ever received.
In Christ’ Love
We are blessed
As we enter into this very busy and crazy month, I want to look at our church family and see if we really realize the gift that we have been given in being part of this congregation. UnionChurch has such a long and blessed history of serving the Brimfield community and a strong connection with its members. There have been countless families that have dedicated their lives, their time and talents to make Union Church what it is today. We have a rich history of people bringing their little ones to learn about faith and what an impact it has on their lives. Faith is something that is both personal and communal. We each have a personal faith in which we believe in God and we worship him in our daily lives. He blesses us with countless gifts daily. We also belong to the Body of Christ on earth--the Church. And through that church God has called us together and has gifted us to work together and to serve the needs of the community around us. It is through this church that we work together like the parts of the body. When those parts are all working together the body is healthy and happy. When a part of that body is sick or missing the body does not function the way that it was meant to be. We need your presence to be whole and happy. Union Church is an amazing body and it has so much to offer to the community and the world. Please come and invite a friend.
Things are really getting busy and, as we have in the past, we need all of you to do your part. Whatever that is really helps us out. God wants to thank you and so do I. Our Church year begins with Advent on November 27th and so as we move into a new year in the church, I ask you to recommit to being part of our faith family and to share all the wonderful gifts that God has given to you, and us. May God bless us and strengthen us for another year of faithful service and growth.
May The Lord Bless and Keep You,
Rev. Stephen W. Barch
Falling into our faith
As we change seasons and move into fall, it is a good time to settle back into a schedule and to come back to church. We have missed you and hope you know that we care. We would love to see you again. Now that we have hopefully gotten away from the extreme heat and long dry weather we can now get together. Fall is also a great time to reflect on our stewardship. Are we using the gifts that God has given us in our lives? Whether it be financially, our talents or our time, everything that we have we have been given by God is for building up His kingdom here on earth. That means that we do not own anything, as we can not take it with us. So, how are we using it for the good of others.
Do our lives attract others to Christ— or distract them from Christ? It is October the month when the temperatures begin to change, and we begin thinking about the holidays that start with Halloween and run through the beginning of the new year. It is a time that we get busy with planning and preparing for everything that is coming up so fast. We all get nervous, and our schedules get hectic with everything that we must get done. It is easy to put our faith on hold and focus on the tasks at hand. Our lives become running from one thing to another. Know that God understands that, and he wants you to know that he is a place you can come when you feel overwhelmed and frustrated. Spend some quiet time in prayer and watch what God can and will do in your life. It is when we take time for God that we will accomplish more and be more rested.
For some reason we think that if we work harder, pray harder or go to the faith gym then we are going to work on our faith muscles and then we will have faith enough to move mountains. But if you look at Jesus, he lived his relationship with God his father and it was not that he had to work harder, He just loved him and lived out that relationship in everything that he did and said. We need to learn that we need to experience Jesus, so we know what we are sharing with others. It is not getting better faith, or stronger faith muscles, it is just living out our relationship the way that God has called us to live. God has gifted us faith, so that we can share this gift with those around us. Make sure that you are focusing on the important things this fall and that Jesus and Your faith take a priority in the business of life. If we are too busy for God how do we expect God not to be to busy for us. May this fall season bring you a renewed faith and better understanding of the call that God has for you and your family. Thank you for your dedication and faithfulness.
Yours in Christ,
Rev. Stephen Barch
Living into our Baptism
As we get into the fall and back into a routine, it is a good time to look at our calling as Christians and how we are doing. Our baptism was a promise that was made usually by our parents or an older adult , who spoke for us and said that we wanted to be Christian. That we wanted to become Christ -like. This promise or vow is something that takes a lifetime. We work at it and we continue to grow in it throughout our life. Sometimes we do better at it than other times, but we keep working at it. This is how we walk our faith journey to continuously be walking in the footsteps of Jesus. You see our Baptism changes us immediately and continuously throughout our life. We are washed clean immediately and we are given a longing to become like Christ. As his adopted sons and daughters we are heirs of his promises and are called to be his children. This is an honor and a privilege. One that we should not take too lightly. Our Baptism is an awesome gift; that someone thought so highly of us that they made some promises for us and we reconfirmed for ourselves in our confirmation.
Our faith journey is then the way that we live into these baptismal promises everyday of our lives. Through baptism we enter the covenant God has established, within this covenant God gives us new life, guards us from evil, and nurtures us in love. In embracing that covenant, we choose whom we will serve by turning from evil and turning to Jesus Christ. As God embraces you within the covenant, He asks you to reject sin, to live your Faith in Christ Jesus, and to confess the faith of the church, the faith in which you are baptized. We then promise: Trusting in the gracious mercy of God, we will turn from the ways of sin and renounce evil and its power in the world. We will turn to Jesus Christ and accept him as our Lord and Savior, trust in His grace and love. We will be Christ’s faithful disciple obeying his Word and showing his love.
We then end our Baptismal promises by promising that we will be a faithful member of this congregation, share in its worship and ministry through our prayers and gifts, our study and service and so fulfill our calling to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. Our response is always ~ “WITH THE HELP OF GOD. AMEN.”
Thanks be to God,
Rev. Stephen Barch
Why do You Go to Church?
Why do You Go to Church? Have you ever asked yourself this question? Is there something else that you could be doing on Sunday Morning? What is it that gets you out of bed in the morning? Going to church should not be another thing on my to -do-list.
Going to church is not a chore to be accomplished; something that we just do because we have to. We are made up of body and soul and we need to connect to others both in our body and soul. We need to be with others and we nee to connect to God and fill our souls.
Jesus came and taught us that His one goal was to worship and honor his father in everything he did and said. He has given us the best example of what our life is supposed to be like. He told us that our life in heaven is going to be worshipping and honoring his father for all Eternity. So, if that is the goal of the Christian life then we should be practicing here on earth. We should always be looking for ways to honor God our Father in our daily lives. We have been made to be in relation with one another and called and set apart -to be the Body of Christ here on earth. It only makes sense that we need to be with other Christians in our practice of worship. We need one another to experience God and to experience all that God has called us to do in our lives. Religion helps us to move outside of ourselves and to realize that life is about sharing the gifts that God has given to us. God has given us the gifts that we need and he also has given us the opportunities to use those gifts. We are stronger together than separately. Being together on Sunday helps us to focus on our faith and faithfulness.
Do we ever think how privileged we are to be part of His Body? To be set apart, to live the life that he has called us to? To be part of a long history of Christ-like people. From the earliest documentation of the Christian tradition, we know that their gatherings and life together centered around the distribution of food. Celebrating the Lord’s Supper, the baptizing of Christians to set them apart and call them into God’s family. Praying together, and the hearing of God’s Word. To make them into the disciples that God wants them to be.
This is why we go to church, to grow in our experience of God in our lives and to be with other believers so that we can experience God through them. Together we can proclaim the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord, and we can be fed by his Body and Blood in Holy Communion. Together we can show the world the power of Christ’s love and what HE can do and truly does in our lives and in the lives that he has given us to serve.
Why our church pews are not full-on Sundays is still a mystery to me. See you on Sunday.
May The Lord Bless and Keep You,
Rev. Stephen W. Barch
Food for thought
It is the Dog Days of Summer, and we all need to take a break and stay cool and take care of ourselves. God wants you to know that he understands but he wants you to know that he still wants to stay in touch with you and he loves to hear from you. Church is air conditioned, so you do not have to stay away. He would love to see you in worship. As we see all the stuff going on in society, we need to know that the best thing that we can do is to pray. The best thing that we can pray for is that Gods will be done. We don’t know what that is but if God’s will is done then it is the best thing that can happen. Our calling is to worship and praise him in all circumstances. We are also called to be the body of Christ here on earth and that calls us to get together with other believers and build one another up.
I know that we are all busy, but we have tried different events at church and the attendance has been so low that we have either postponed them or had to cancel them. We need you and miss you – please come back. You are part of our family and when you are missing, we are not whole. You really do make such a big difference and we would love to see you again.
Religion historically has always helped in creating and defining the ethical framework of every society. It has also been a regulator for values in day-to-day life. Religion helps build character and connects us one to another. It allows us to focus not on ourselves as the center of our world - but rather to look out for the good of others. Religion helps us to connect to others who believe, and it helps us to connect to people that we serve. Religion helps build values life love, empathy, respect, and harmony. Religion also helps us to look beyond the world that we live in and to realize that we are connected to the divine. That no matter what we are going through in life, God is bigger, and HE is more powerful. Religion calls us to rise above our situation and see things as God sees them.
As we pass religion on to our kids, we are giving them the best gift we can. We are preparing them to handle things in a different way. We are connecting them to a God who loves them and will only do what is best for them. We are letting them know that God wants to have a personal relationship with them. As parents we can only do so much, but God can do so much more. We need to be teaching our kids about the love of God and connecting them to this religion that has gotten us through life for centuries. As we look around at the society we live in -Religion is the best gift we can give our kids. Religion is really the thing that is going to change the society we live in and the time to start is now. How are we really living our faith?
We can do all things through the love of Christ that passes all understanding.
With Christ’s blessings,