As we continue through our Lenten season, I think that it is a really good time to look at our journey to the cross. How are we drawing closer to Jesus Christ as we observe our Lenten practices? Jesus wants us to grow closer to him and to one another. If our Lenten practices don’t have this as the ultimate end of them, then they are not accomplishing what they need too.
Jesus calls us to come after him, to come to him and deny ourselves. Furthermore he challenges us with the idea that if we “wish to save life, we will lose it” because in our journey—He is teaching us to trust what God has promised and trust that God will take care of our needs and wants. To see that God is active in our story (our daily lives).
During lent we focus on turning our hearts and minds back to Christ. How we do that is totally up to us but we need to pray about it and see what God is inviting us to do to focus our lives on him and his calling to each of us. There are three pillar practices of Lent—prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Prayer is not something that we are asking you to give up. It is the practice that we ask you to add just 5-10 minutes a day. Be intentional about it and you will find that God will show up more in your story. Fasting is giving something up. Traditionally it is some type of food but it does not have to be. It is giving up some type of luxury as a form of penitence. It is making ourselves a little uncomfortable to see how much God is doing in our lives. Changing our routines to see more of God. Almsgiving is the practice of giving more of what God has blessed us with to help those who are less fortunate that we are.
Let us pray that God will guide our journey to the cross by helping us fulfill his calling, and may these three pillar practices help to strengthen our Lenten Faith.
May The Lord Bless and Keep You,
Rev. Stephen W. Barch
This is a question that we need to be asking ourselves on a constant basis. How am I doing at living into the relationship that I have with Jesus Christ.? How are we doing as the body of Christ in Brimfield, to be an inviting and welcoming church, that people feel comfortable in worshipping at? How am I doing at living into my baptismal promises? How is it that we are ministering to the community around us.? How are we doing??
You see faith is an action verb to Jesus—He is all about us putting our faith into action. To taking it out into the streets, to our jobs, our families, our community. He wants us to always be sharing our faith with others. So how do we know what particular thing He wants us to do? We have to cultivate a relationship with him and ask him. Just like our relationships here on earth we only know what our partners want by asking them. Jesus will let you know what it is that he wants. Spending time with him and studying his word is the best thing that we can do to grow in our relationship with him.
The new year is a perfect time to ask Jesus -what it is that HE wants us to do as a Congregation? What is it that he is inviting us to participate in with him. See, he is already at work all around us and he is inviting us to participate in it with him. We will serve him best by asking him to show us what it is that he is doing and where he wants us to participate with him. If we seek his direction for us, then we will serve him and will experience his presence, in new ways and we will feel his blessings. 2018 has a lot of potential to be our best year yet. What are we going to do with it? May each one of us realize the gift that has been given to us in our being part of the Body of Christ for Brimfield and the surrounding area. It is when we gather together that we are the body of Christ. It is when we worship together that we feed one another and are fed by each other. It is this community that Christ is present and active. It is this community that we need to focus on building up.
I went to a church seminar recently and they said that if the church lights are not on every night then there is still opportunity to grow. They told us -You are paying for the building to just sit there. Is there is something that you could be doing to attract people to your church? If you have activity going on, then there is the opportunity for a passerby to see the church lit up and they may want to stop in to check it out. We need to be praying and asking God to show us what he wants us to do. It is our story, it is God’s story, it is the greatest story ever told. Are we willing to truly ask God what HE wants for us ?
We have been given a wonderful gift and responsibility to grow our own faith and to share it with others around us, growing the body of Christ here and now. My personal prayer this year is that God will lead us in the ways that he wants us to serve him and to share his love with those that come our way. We have a special gift to share with the community around us. May God bless us throughout this year. I look forward to all the new exciting ways we are going to minister together.
In Christ’s Love,
As I write this, we have just started a New Year, have celebrated a wonderful Christmas season and have made it through the “Holidays”. Now it is time to get back on schedule and get our lives back to normal. It is time to use what we have gained at Christmas in our daily lives. Yes, I mean all the presents that we have received. What are we going to do with them –return them because we are not going to use them, OR are we going to find a way to incorporate them into our lives?
Jesus offers us the same opportunity—what are we going to do with the spiritual gift that we have received? Jesus was born again into our lives offering us all new opportunities to change things.
We have the opportunity to allow Jesus to be more to us.
With the birth of Jesus Christ, we celebrate the fullest picture of God the world ever received. He came to earth as a baby and grew to be a man who ate, walked and slept, just as you and I do. By the life he lived, he revealed the heart of our gracious and loving God.
We ought to respond to the revelation of the Lord with a revelation of our own: the uncovering of our heart to him. Too often we hide from God behind our fear, pride, and shame. But Jesus came to earth to find each person where they are, not where they ought to be. God reaches into the darkest, dirtiest , most fearful places to correct and restore us into who He meant for us to be. This is the real gift that we received this Christmas season.
May each one of us open our hearts to the Lord this January and everyday of our lives, and show Him what’s really in it. Open up and tell the God who loved us so much- that He was willing to put on human flesh(phil2:6) and dwell among us-God simply wants us to be honest with him about our life and what is going on with us.
As we start a new and exciting year 2018 may we allow our lives to truly reflect the gift that has been given to us.
May The Lord Bless and Keep You,
Rev. Stephen W. Barch
‘Twas the month before Christmas when all through our land, Not a Christian was praying nor taking a stand.
Why the Politically Correct 'Police' had taken away, All of the reasons for Christmas - no one could say.
The children were told by their schools not to sing, About Shepherds and Wise Men and Angels and things.
It might hurt people's feelings, the teachers would say December 25th is just a "Holiday".
Yet the shoppers were ready with cash, checks and credit Pushing and shoving and raving to get it!
CDs from musicians, an X BOX, an I-pod Something was changing, something quite odd!
Retailers promoted Ramadan and Kwanzaa In hopes to sell books by Franken & Fonda.
As Targets are hanging their trees upside down
At Lowe's the word Christmas - was no where to be found.
At K-Mart and Staples and Penny's and Sears
You won't hear the word Christmas; it won't touch your ears.
Inclusive, sensitive, Di-ver-is-ty
Are words that were used to intimidate me.
Now Daschle, Now Darden, Now Sharpton, Wolf Blitzen On Boxer, on Rather, on Kerry, on Clinton!
At the top of the Senate, there arose such a clatter To eliminate Jesus, in all public matter.
And we spoke not a word, as they took away our faith Forbidden to speak of salvation and grace
The true Gift of Christmas was exchanged and discarded The reason for the season, stopped before it started.
So as you celebrate "Winter Break" under your "Dream Tree" Sipping your Starbucks, listen to me.
Choose your words carefully, choose what you say Shout MERRY CHRISTMAS, not Happy Holiday!
As I sit down to write this letter, I am shocked to realize that it is November already. The month that we as a nation have determined to be the month of Thanksgiving; the time that we appreciate what our forefathers have done and given us. We are a nation that would not be able to enjoy our freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom from oppression, without their forbearance, dedication and hard work.
We are thankful. Are we thankful enough for all that God has given us? God loves us so much–He gave us His only son, had Him die in our place, and He has taken away all of the wrong that we have done to Him. Our God loves us even though we repeatedly deny Him and continue sinning and turning our backs on Him. Our God has called each of us into a relationship with Him, a relationship that is based on His Love and Grace—free gifts that are given to us each and every day.
How are we really doing, living up to our relationship with God? Are we aware of His presence and the gifts that He gives us everyday? You see, no matter what else we do as a church family, if we are not growing in our relationship with Jesus Christ, then we have missed the point. If we are not looking for new ways to live out our relationship-new ways to experience God and His love– then we have become just a country club in which we get together to have a good time. We have an awesome responsibility to live into our Love relationship and share it with others. Jesus wants to share something special with you today, and I don’t want you to miss it! Watch for His presence and for the special gifts that He has for you every day. How awesome our God is!
As we become thankful for all that has been given to us, we need to take time to personally thank God for all that He has done and is doing by loving us. We can thank God quietly to ourselves, or as a family. We can thank God when our Thanksgiving group is together, and we are going crazy getting ready for the big celebration. Being thankful is a way of living, it is a change of heart, and just like any spiritual gift, the more we practice it, the more we will live it.
My prayer is that each and everyone of you will experience Jesus’ love in a new way this Thanksgiving season, and every day after that.
May The Lord Bless and Keep You,
Rev. Stephen W. Barch
As we come to Fall and begin our program year for 2018, I am really excited. We have a wonderful opportunity. It is a great time to reflect on our purpose and what it is that God wants to do in and through us. You see faith is really all about a personal relationship with Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Are we as a congregation feeding our members’ relationships, as well as fulfilling our communal calling? What is it that God wants us to be, and how are we doing at being Christ for those around us?
To the first question we are all called by God into a personal, loving relationship in which we are to grow more in love with God. It is through living out our faith each and every day and in each and every circumstance that we see the power of God at work; we come to experience His infinite Love and Grace. It is through this experience that we truly know and can share with others all the wonderful things that God is doing in our lives. It is this personal loving relationship that calls us into action. We then want to share this with others and we take what we know to be true and we pass it along through our words and actions. It is also this relationship that calls us to continually look for new ways to share what God is doing in our lives. He has truly blessed us and has called us to bless others. We, through our baptismal calling, are called to grow in our image and likeness of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. To the second question, it is an on going relationship that is ever changing and always has new opportunities to grow, with the particular situations that we find ourselves in and the people that God has put into our lives, both as a community of faith—Union Church and as each of us individually, in our daily lives.
I am serving another church that is paying an outside consultant big money to tell them who they are and what they need to do and it has gotten me thinking and the above reflections are who we are and what we are all about. We are called to be the best we can be at reflecting Jesus Christ to those around us. And this starts at home first with our family and then our church and then our community, our workplace and the world in general.
A professor I had in seminary use to put it best:
“Good, Better, Best, never let it rest until the good become better and the better become Best”
How are we doing both communally and individually at the calling that we have received at our Baptism??
As we begin a new program year, within the Church calendar, it is a good time to pause and really look at where are we as disciples of Christ. How are we doing at living out our baptismal calling to love one another and forgive the way that Christ has loved and forgiven us?
Look long enough in the eyes of our Savior and there you will see a bride… He sees her, he awaits her, he longs for her. And who is that bride?? YOU ARE. You have captured the heart of God. “As a man rejoices over his new wife, so your God will rejoice over you” (Isaiah 62:5).
Our challenge is to remember these objectives: Meditate on it. Focus on it. Allow his love to change the way that you look at the world around you. You have been chosen by Christ,.
You have been released from your old life and invited into a new life. A life filled with His presence and His love. Engaged people are obsessed with preparation. The right dress. The right weight, the right hair and the right tux. They want everything to be right for the big day. They want to look their best because the love of their life is marrying them. Their best friend is dedicating the rest of their lives to them.
The same is true for us. We want to look our best for Christ. We want our hearts to be pure and our thoughts to be clean. We want our faces to shine with grace and our eyes to sparkle with love. We want to be prepared. Do we want this so that he will love us? No just the opposite, we want this because he already loves us and is dedicating all of salvation to us.
You and your heart are already spoken for, You are engaged, set apart, called out, a holy bride. Forbidden waters hold nothing for you. You have been chosen for Jesus Christ your Lord and Savior. He is waiting for you to say yes to the invitation that he has offered you and he wants you to prepare yourself. Through your worship, living in community with other Christians and sharing your gifts and talents with others. Studying His word and letting that word shape your life. Memorize it, talk about it at home, at work, and at play. Let others see it in and through you each and everyday.
May this year be filled with an outpouring of His Holy Spirit and love. May we grow in our discipleship both to Christ and to one another.
In Christ’s love,
Rev. Stephen W. Barch
As I write this article, I am listening to the demolition of our old kitchen and the rebuilding of our new kitchen. It is coming along nicely . It is an exciting time, we are seeing changes taking place and we can make it a wonderful experience. Change is not easy and it is scary for some and disappointing for others to see the old go away, but with that we have wonderful opportunities to use the new kitchen for wonderful things in the future. It is also a metaphor for the changes that we have in our congregation and our lives, we can look at them and decide that we are not going to do anything in the future because things are not the same or we can see the opportunities that we have been given and grow with them. God knows exactly what we are feeling and going through. He has promised to be with us every step of the way. Matthew 6:25-34 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life,.. What you will eat or wear…. I will be with you always.”
Change is a very hard thing to deal with in life. The older we get the harder it is to adapt to change. But know that God invites us and strengthens us through change. Look back over the last year and see how many changes you have gone through in your own life. Aren’t you amazed that God was present and involved? As we go through the daily challenges that show up at every turn, we need to always be measuring our success against this back drop-- Where am I in my journey to move into His spiritual world? It is only through baby steps, that we make any progress, but God wants us to always be growing closer to him. How this is accomplished is different each time ~ it is through our worship together, our individual prayer lives, and the way that we treat one another.
May we collectively, as well as individually, look at ways that God is inviting us into this relationship. It is a life-giving relationship. One that transforms us and our lives into a living and growing relationship in which we are all working together to be the body of Christ to one another. So how are we going to reach out to those around us and show them the love of Christ? How is God active in the events of my daily life? “Christians should note in the Scriptures and throughout history that God rarely worked the same way twice. God’s activity was always unique to the people with whom he was dealing and the time in which he was working. God’s activity cannot be re- duced to a specific task or program.” (Blackaby pg.89) Our relationship with God is a living organ- ism that needs to be fed and nurtured just like all living organisms.
May each one of us seize the opportunities that God has prepared for us and may we capitalize on them and grow closer to him each and everyday. I want to personally thank each of you for your influence on my spiritual journey.
In Christ Love,
Rev. Stephen W. Barch
Change is part of life, and as we continue to live into the future and minister to the community that we have been given — learning how to deal with change and grow through it is part of our calling. Jesus was a master at it. In fact Jesus never stayed too long in one place– He was continuously looking for new opportunities to serve, to find that person in need, to bring the love of God to someone in need. His calling to us is the same thing. “How are you taking my message out into the world and allowing it to make a difference in the world around you?”
Think about your relationship with Jesus- it starts off slow and we have a wonderful feeling of how good things are in the beginning. We like going to church and praying, and we are active in our faith life. Then we go through a few seasons and it becomes a routine and we just go through the motions. We go to church and we pray, but we tend not to look for the wonderful opportunities that God is placing in our path everyday. We tend to talk to those at church that we have grown close to and we focus on the ministry that we have at church . When we do this, we miss all the opportunities that God is giving us daily.
How is God inviting you deeper into a relationship with him and with those around you? It is summer and a great time to look at the way that we are serving our fantastic God and how are we living out this relationship that we have been given. Are we looking for ways of sharing it with others and inviting them to join us on our journey? How would we answer the question “What have you done with the talents that I have given you?” ““But Lord ,I didn't know you gave me talents. He will answer, “the talents that you have been given, were given for a reason, ‘For the greater good of all’ – you were only put in charge of them to decide how they would be shared.” It is the way that we share them that will make disciples of all nations. We will live out God’s calling that we are to share the gifts that He has given us to build up the body of Christ here on earth.
God wants us to continuously seek out the lost and forsaken. If you know someone in need of a visit or a card or anything please let me know.
Want to see a miracle?? Take a seed and put it under several inches of dirt. Give it water, light and fertilizer and get ready. A mountain will be moved and the seed will push back. Every year this miracle takes place a thousand times over. Plants grow and move mountains to do it. As far as I know it James was not a farmer but he knew the power of a seed in fertile soil.
“People who work for peace in a peaceful way, plant a good crop of right-living for God.” Peace is like that tiny seed—it is really small when it is planted, but it will work against all odds to move mountains. It will spread to places that we could not imagine.
Plant a word of love heart-deep in a person’s life. Nurture it with a smile and a prayer, and watch what happens… Never underestimate the power of a seed.
In Christ’s Love,
Rev. Stephen W. Barch
Wow! We are already half way through the year. Can you believe it? Time is such a fleeting thing. It goes by so fast and yet it is time that each of us can’t get enough of. Some days we spend the time that we have running around and not accomplishing much of anything. Other days we seem to transcend time and we get more than we planned done. Time is one of those gifts that God has given us to check ourselves and make sure that we are staying on track. Does God really care about time? Does he worry about how much time we waste? Of course, He does - but He really worries about what we do with the time that He has given us.
How fleeting time is. God wants us to be conscience of the time we have and to use it wisely, to be conscious of others and use the time we have -to build up the body of Christ here on earth. God knows time does affect everything that we do~ He understands that we are temporal beings and he wants us to appreciate this gift that He has given us. We may need reminded to take this opportunity that He has offered us, and use it to the best of our ability. None of us knows how much time that we have in the future, but we do have the present time, so use it wisely.
That being said, we are moving into the summer months when we take time to slow down and focus on resting and some of us take time off from coming to church. Faith is not something that God wants us to take a break from. You see, faith is another gift that God has given us. Faith will teach us to appreciate the time He has given us and the opportunities that we have each and every day to share in His work of redemption. We have an awesome God that has everything held together in time.