For the past several years I have made a point of trying to celebrate Advent during Advent and Christmas during Christmas— Advent being the four- week period before December 25 and Christmas being the twelve-day season that begins on December 25 and ends on January 5. For many folks, Christmas begins before Thanksgiving and is over on December 26. But I love celebrating the season of Christmas during the traditional twelve days and capping off Christmas with an Epiphany celebration on January 6, recalling the visit of the wise men to the child Jesus.
Sometimes we forget that Easter is also a season on the church calendar; Easter is not over on the Monday following Easter Sunday. Once we have observed the forty days of Lent, the season of Easter begins with Resurrection Sunday and lasts for fifty days until the Day of Pentecost arrives in May or June. Indeed, the Christian tradition is that every Sunday is a “little Easter” as we recall the resurrection of Jesus.
Eastertide (“tide” is an old English word that means “time” or “season’) is an opportunity for us to explore what it means to be “Easter people.” The Easter season gives us an extended period to celebrate and ponder the great good news: Christ isrisen! Heisrisen indeed! Once the Easter egg hunt is over and the ham dinner has been devoured, there is still plenty of Easter to celebrate. There’s no rule in the Bible about celebrating Eastertide, but it seems to me that the good news of Christ’s victory over death and sin and the promise of eternal life merit at least seven Sundays of celebration! So Happy Easter to you all, and a blessed Eastertide as we rejoice in the resurrection of our Lord!
Sunday, March 25, 10:30AM
Worship service includes the children’s parade of palms.
Thursday, March 28, 7:30PM
Worship service with our friends from Crosswinds Presbyterian includes the traditional Tenebrae (service of shadows) and a combined choir.
Friday, March 29
11:00AM until 1:00PM
The sanctuary is open for those who wish to spend a few minutes or extended time in prayer.
Sunday, April 1, 9AM and 10:30AM (Easter egg hunt following the 10:30 service) Identical services include music from our bell and vocal choirs, celebration of the Lord’s Supper, and reception of new members. Fellowship time will follow both services.
by Dirk Van Dyke
This past President’s Day weekend, for the 16th year in a row, Emmanuel Presbyterian Church sent a contingent to Puerto Penasco (Rocky Point), Mexico, to build a house for a family with housing needs. This year, we worked with the Duarte family of Puerto Penasco to build an Amor house.
For Emmanuel, the Amor Mission Trip is truly a church-wide event. Our participation is much more than the few people who go to Mexico. It’s everybody who contributes to the fundraising to buy the building materials. It’s the Crafters who make quilts and curtains to help make the building a home. It’s everybody who makes cookies and foodstuffs for the trip.
This year’s construction contingent comprised 26 workers. EPC sent 18 people (including three children under the age of three), and for the first time, we had a canine participant. For the past few years, we’ve combined efforts with Palo Cristi church, but this year they were only able to send one member, although Palo Cristi did contribute significantly to the fundraising. In addition, seven friends of EPC joined the trip, and it was good to include this help from outside our congregation.
To determine who gets a house, the Amor organization works with local clergy in Mexico to identify people with real housing needs and then matches them with volunteer groups, like our group from Emmanuel, willing to build a house.
Amor has a few models for this mission effort. In our case, we raise the money for the construction material (e.g., lumber, stucco, cement, roofing, nails, etc.). We send the money to Amor, and they purchase the material in Puerto Penasco and deliver it to the build site. This helps the local economy and saves us from the border issues of importing building materials.
This year, we built a home for the the Duartes. The extended family (three generations, seven people) was living in a two-room Amor house. On a sad note, the patriarch, Julio Duarte, died just ten days before we arrived to build the house. Julio’s widow Thomasina, son Enoc, with wife Celia, and their three children Abdias (age ten), Genesis (age four), and Mimi (age two) would live in the Amor houses. We built the new house adjacent to the old one, so that they could connect the new house to the old. Enoc explained that they planned to use the two rooms in the old house as a kitchen and living room, with the new two-room house for bedrooms.
It should be mentioned that Enoc is a pastor, and the small church building is right next door to the Amor houses.
In spite of the mourning, the family was very gracious, and they were eager to help with the build, as well as providing excellent fish tacos and burritos for lunches. Some members of the congregation also stopped by to help with the construction and lunch preparation. It’s a great way to get to know people working and eating together – and we felt like brothers and sisters in Christ, even with the communication barriers.
A few observations from the trip. It seems that there is an overall slight improvement in the general standard of living in Puerto Penasco. It’s a big city, but it’s nice to think that the 16 houses we’ve built and the much larger Amor effort have made a difference – beyond the obvious difference for the 16 families living in solid, secure housing.
The trip is more than the construction work. After a hard day’s work, we’d enjoy watching the sun set over the Sea of Cortez. The breeze off the water smells so nice, coming as it does over the sea, the narrow strip of Baja, and beyond that, the wide Pacific. Puerto Penasco is a beautiful location.
There is much less light-pollution in Puerto Penasco, and we enjoyed vivid stargazing. Low tide came at night while we were there, and we learned that Puerto Penasco has one of the biggest deltas between high and low tide. It was fun to walk over the reefs, which were underwater at high tide, to get to the water’s edge.
Thanks to everybody who helped the Duartes get their new house, and God willing, we hope to build a 17th home next year.
Lent and Easter arrive on the early side this year. Ash Wednesday fell on the same day as Valentine’s Day, and Easter will fall on April 1. A pastor friend of mine says he is going to preach on being “fools for Christ” (I Corinthians 4:10) this Easter Sunday since it coincides with April Fool’s Day. As you read this, we are already well on our way into our Lenten journey, and Holy Week will be here before we know it.
Between the “Hosannas” of Palm Sunday and the “Alleluias” of Easter, there are the voices of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday: “Lord, is it I?” “Crucify him, crucify him! “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Holy Week does not move directly from Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem to his triumphant resurrection from the dead. In between are the pivotal events of Jesus’ passion, his betrayal and suffering. In Holy Week we walk with Jesus from the gates of Jerusalem, through the doors of the upper room, into the Garden of Gethsemane, to the foot of the cross, and finally to the empty tomb. For without the mystery of the cross, there is no miracle of resurrection.
With this in mind, I invite you to make time during Holy Week to participate in some special worship opportunities that focus our thoughts on Jesus’ passion. Besides our worship services on Palm Sunday and Easter, I invite you to include the Maundy Thursday service in your Holy Week schedule. We will be observing a traditional Tenebrae, a “service of shadows,” in which we observe the Last Supper and remember in music and scripture the betrayal of Jesus. Again on Good Friday the sanctuary will be open from 11AM until 1PM for those who wish to spend time in prayer and contemplation of our Lord’s crucifixion.
I encourage you to invite your family and friends to come to worship with you, especially those who do not have a church home. May these days of Lent be times of meaningful prayer and preparation as we move toward Easter. And may the blessing of our crucified and risen Lord be yours as we complete our Lenten journey.
On December 2, 1962, a group of 45 worshipers and their pastor, the Rev. Bill Barrett, met in a borrowed church sanctuary on Greenway Road and were chartered as Emmanuel Presbyterian Church. Things were different 55 years ago. Some of us remember those days.
In 1962 the cold war was freezing over and the space race was heating up. John Kennedy was in the third year of his presidency. The Soviet Union sent arms to Cuba precipitating the Cuban Missile Crisis and bringing the world to the brink of nuclear war. The war in Viet Nam escalated and a chemical called Agent Orange was used for the first time.
In 1962 John Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth—three times in four hours. The term “personal computer” made its first appearance in the media.
In 1962 “West Side Story” won the Academy Award, and an unknown English rock and roll band called The Beatles released a single entitled “Love Me Do.” A new character called Spider Man made his first appearance in the comic books.
In 1962 the average home cost $12,000, the average car cost $3,100, the average income was just under $6,000, and a year’s tuition at Harvard would run you $1,520. Eggs were 32 cents a dozen and gas was 28 cents a gallon. The first Walmart opened in Arkansas.
In 1962 riots broke out at the University of Mississippi following the attempt of James Meredith to enroll as a student there. Pope John XXIII excommunicated Fidel Castro and presided over Vatican II. The US Supreme Court ruled prayer in public schools unconstitutional.
Some things have changed since 1962.
John Kennedy’s life was cut short by an assassin’s bullet. Fidel Castro died just one year ago. Personal computers are ubiquitous and most of us can’t remember life without them. In 2012 a black woman was elected student body president at Ole Miss. The Beatles are still famous, but the day is coming when people will ask, “Ringo who?” Walmart is still a giant of the retail world, but one day even Walmart will be consigned to the history books.
Our 55th birthday is a time for looking back to our beginnings as a congregation and thanking God for his faithfulness to us over this past half century plus. Our spiritual forebears chose the name Emmanuel, meaning God with us, and surely God has been with us, through the valleys and on the mountaintops. But perhaps even more significantly this is a time for looking forward. Who knows what changes the coming years will bring? It staggers the imagination.
But whatever the future holds, there is one thing we can count on. God’s faithfulness never ends. Governments and regimes may pass away. Wars will begin and cease. The economy will fluctuate. We will encounter change at every corner. But we can look up and lift up our heads. We serve Jesus Christ. This is his church. He is the Lord of heaven and earth, Lord of the church and our Lord. As surely as he came to us as a lowly child, he will come to us as our victorious Lord. So stand up and raise your heads. Our redemption is drawing near. Emmanuel is with us always, unto the end of the age.
Missions Fundraiser Bake Sale – December 10th
Following the worship service, come by and help support our missions and get some tasty holiday treats.
Children’s Christmas Program – December 17th
Our Sunday School children will present a Christmas Skit in the fellowship hall following worship.
Two Christmas Eve Services – December 24th
7:30pm and at 11:00pm a candlelight communion service will be celebrated. Please invite your friends and neighbors to join us as we celebrate the birth of Jesus.
Christmas Day Service – December 25th
At our regular time of 10:30am on Sunday.
Once again this year we will be gathering on Thanksgiving Eve at 7:30 for a brief service of praise and thanksgiving, followed by time for fellowship and refreshments. Our friends from Crosswinds Presbyterian Church will be joining us and there will be a combined choir. Please plan to join us in offering our thanks to God for his goodness.
Each year November brings us to our stewardship emphasis time when each of us has an opportunity to express our gratitude for God’s blessings in our lives and the life of our church. With EPC’s 55th anniversary just around the corner, we certainly have many blessings for which to be thankful. Gratitude is more than just a response to our many blessings; it is a mindset, a lifestyle, an attitude.
Jonathan Edwards, the Puritan preacher, philosopher, and theologian who was at one time president of Princeton University, said there are two kinds of gratitude. One is “natural gratitude,” the gratitude we feel for the beauty of the earth, for the freedoms we enjoy, for the blessings of friends and family, for all good gifts we have received. But there is also a second kind of gratitude. Edwards calls this “gracious gratitude.” Gracious gratitude is thankfulness for God’s grace and love and mercy, regardless of what our circumstances may be.
As we consider stewardship together this fall, I encourage you to think about your giving not only in terms of the material and physical blessings we have received, but also in terms of how blessed we are to know God’s grace and mercy and unfailing love. John Calvin wrote that “thankfulness is the chief exercise of godliness.” My prayer is that we may all become more and more filled with “gracious gratitude” that rejoices in abundant blessings and overflows in godly generosity.
EPC will provide a collection box in the narthex through October 1, 2017. Please remember that only NEW, packaged items will be accepted. In addition to underwear, Shoebox Ministries is also attempting to collect 40,000 pairs of new socks to wrap for local shelters to distribute as Christmas gifts for the homeless.