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.
This past summer brought with it some challenges we hadn’t expected. The routine surgery Jimmy Tunnell underwent on May 1 resulted in a month in ICU and weeks in rehab. (We’re so grateful he’s now returned home and recovering well!) The monsoon storm in early August necessitated the cancellation of Sunday worship for the first time in EPC’s 55-year history. Then came the events of August 13 when white supremacists marched in Charlottesville, three died, and many others were injured in the ensuing violence. Five days later a terrorist attack took place in Barcelona just minutes after our missionaries in Spain, Josh and Alisha Garber and their son Asher, had been walking down the very same street where the terrorists struck. From Yemen and South Sudan and other corners of the globe comes news of widespread famine and disease. Many in our own country are reeling from the effects of Hurricane Harvey with thousands of people having been displaced by unprecedented flooding.
Times like these “drive us to our knees” as my mother used to say. But there are times I hardly know how to pray. In recent days I have found some prayers in “The Book of Common Order of the Church of Scotland” to be helpful and I offer excerpts from them here to guide our prayers as we strive to live and act as faithful followers of Jesus.
God and Father of us all, in your love you made all the nations of the world to be a family, and your Son taught us to love one another. Yet our world is riven apart with prejudice, arrogance, and pride. Help us to love and understand one another better. Increase among us sympathy, tolerance, and goodwill, that we may see in all people our brothers and sisters for whom Christ died. Save us from jealousy, hatred, and fear, and help us to live together as members of one family at home in the world, sons and daughters of one Father who live in the liberty of the children of God.
Gracious God, through your Son you have taught us that nothing in life or death is able to separate us from your love. Look in mercy on all to whom great sorrow has come, through sickness, through oppression, through terror, through famine, through death, through ravages of nature and evils of human design. Help those who are injured.
Strengthen all who bring relief and comfort. Console and protect those who have lost loves ones. Give your light in darkness to all who are near despair, and assure us that you hold all souls in life and in death; through Jesus Christ our risen Lord.
God of righteousness, hear our prayers for the life of our country and the world. We pray for those whose position and authority affect the lives of others. Rule in their hearts and encourage their endeavors for good. Help us all to seek service before privilege and the honor of your name before the popularity of our own. Give us liberty, peace, and joy, and bind us in service to the world and in loyalty to you, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
For many of us the summer months provide time for a break. School is out. Our choir goes on hiatus. Sunday school has a different format and the youth group goes into summer mode. The session and board of deacons have a lighter schedule. And for many of us, summer means vacation time. As we head into the summer, I want to offer you a reminder and a request.
First, the reminder. EPC does not go on vacation during the summer! The doors will be open every Sunday morning, the AC will be turned on, and there will be preaching and music and fellowship. The summer has a more casual feel, so we may expect to see more shorts and t-shirts at worship. Beginning June 4 there will be adult Sunday school classes on offer with childcare available for those who have little ones.
Second, I have a request. As your travels take you away from the Valley this summer, I hope you will make it a priority to find a place to worship. We can
learn so much from worshiping with other congregations of Christians. As you do, please keep a copy of the worship bulletin and bring it home with you. Drop it
by the church office, and at the end of the summer we’ll have a display of all the places we’ve been and the people with whom we’ve worshiped.
Have a great summer!
See you in church!
The Presbyterian Historical Society’s website includes some interesting information about US Presidents and their connection to Presbyterianism. In 1913, Presbyterian elder Woodrow Wilson became President of the United States. The former president of Princeton University came from a long line of Presbyterian ministers and elders. Andrew Jackson, born of Scotch-Irish roots in South Carolina, worshiped at First Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tennessee, in his later years. James Buchanan was raised Presbyterian and joined a Presbyterian church after his presidency. His successor, Abraham Lincoln, often worshiped at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington D.C. Grover Cleveland, son of a Presbyterian pastor, served as President for two terms (1884-1888; 1892-1896) and was defeated in 1888 after his first term by Benjamin
Harrison. Several years after he left the White House, Harrison published a book entitled This Country ofOurs. Theformer President’s book reads like an expanded Sunday school lesson, which comes as no surprise considering Harrison was a Presbyterian elder and former Sunday school teacher.
Twelve days after taking the oath of office, Dwight Eisenhower was baptized and became a member of National Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C., and later joined the Presbyterian Church in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Ronald Reagan began worshiping in a Presbyterian church in 1963 and joined Bel Air Presbyterian church after his presidency.
No matter who occupies the White House, the Bible urges us to offer “supplication, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings…for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity.” (I Timothy 1:1-2) That is why our congregational prayers often include prayers for our political leaders. Monday, May 4, has been designated at a National Day of Prayer for our country and its leaders. The church will be open from 11AM until 1PM for those who wish to come to our sanctuary to offer prayer. Each of us has a Christian duty to pray for our country, our leaders, and the world Christ came to save, and I encourage you to participate in the National Day of Prayer.
With a group of 25 missionaries, including folks from Emmanuel, Palo Cristi Presbyterian Church, and assorted friends, our Amor mission team pulled out of the EPC parking lot on Friday morning, February 17, headed for Puerto Penasco, Mexico. On the first day of building the weather was not entirely cooperative, but an undaunted team of wet and chilly workers finished up the day having successfully poured the concrete slab and built the walls and roof for installation the next morning. On Sunday and Monday the weather was better, the walls went up, the roof went on, windows and doors were installed, stucco was applied, and another snug Amor home was completed. After presenting a beautiful quilt from the Crafters, a gift Bible from the team, and the keys to their new home to Humberto and Berenice and their two sons, a tired but happy team headed back to Phoenix around midday on Monday. The team will be sharing stories and images of this year’s mission trip in worship on Sunday, March 19, so be sure to be present to hear about the team’s ministry in Mexico and see pictures of their work there.
Who is Amor?
We choose to show God’s love through simple, tangible acts of service. Amor demonstrates to the poor the same grace we have all received through Jesus. Our mission statement is:
Amor brings people together to provide transformational experiences that manifest the justice, kindness, and humility of Jesus Christ.
Founded in 1980, the first ministry group participated in a building project at a Tecate orphanage. Today, more than 300 missions groups take part each year in short-term Mission Trips with Amor Ministries! Amor’s mission remains the same. We believe that God has called us to keep families together. As we carry out this mission, we realize that building a house doesn’t just provide shelter. It builds a foundation for the future. 352,000 short-term missionaries, 18,500 homes built, 354 churches planted and built.
An average Amor Impact Trip provides work for 14 local people and utilizes locally sourced materials and food. Currently building in Puerto Penasco and Baja California, Mexico and Delmas, South Africa.
On Tuesday nights during Lent (March 1st – April 13th) you are invited to join your friends from EPC in the Fellowship Hall for a delicious soup supper at 6:30 PM and a Lenten Bible study following from 7 to 8PM. Our pastor will be leading us in a series of sessions which follow the ministry of Jesus from Nazareth to Capernaum to Samaria to Jericho to Jerusalem. Please plan to join us for this Lenten journey through the landscapes of the Holy Land and the life of our Lord.
It’s Lent again—the 40- day period (not counting Sundays) leading up to Easter, those six weeks (approximately) on the church calendar observed by Christians as a period of preparation and repentance before the celebration of our Lord’s resurrection. Many Christians observe Lent by adopting the traditional practices of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving in some new, intentional, and focused way.
I recently read an article by Methodist pastor and theologian Clifton Stringer in which he makes the following point: Lent is not New Year’s Resolutions Round Two! Stringer points out that we live in a culture so fixated on self- improvement that Lent can sometimes become nothing more than an opportunity to work on ourselves, even to the point where our Lenten fasting becomes a Lenten “diet.” But Lent is not about us; Lent is about Jesus.
Stringer writes, “In Lent we might give up something, do a specific prayer discipline, or change something to push ourselves spiritually. But the point is not self-improvement. The point is not even just self-denial. The point is to feel a little discomfort, a little pain, and by that to be constantly reminded of the love of our Savior Jesus Christ, who denied himself for our salvation.
If you observe Lent with prayer and fasting, use that prayer and fasting first of all to remember Jesus. If Lent is not about getting to know Jesus Christ better, it really is a waste of time.” (Ministry Matters, February 2012).
I love the notion of observing Lent as a time for getting to know Jesus Christ better. Of course, that’s something we strive for all year long. But Lent affords us the opportunity to focus our thinking, our speaking, our praying, our giving, our reading, and our service in ways that intentionally draw us closer to our Lord. Lent is not about us; Lent is about Jesus. May our prayer this Lent echo the words of Richard, Bishop of Chichester: “Thanks be to Thee, my Lord Jesus Christ, for all the benefits Thou hast given me, for all the pains and insults Thou hast borne for me. O most merciful Redeemer, friend and brother, may I know Thee more clearly, love Thee more dearly, follow Thee more nearly. Amen.”
Most of us enjoy the various traditions surrounding Valentine’s Day. My husband George and I had our first date on Valentine’s Day, so it’s always a special day for us. But the origins of the holiday aren’t really very romantic at all. The history of St. Valentine is a little sketchy, but the story goes like this:
Valentinus was a Roman priest during the third century, a time when Christians were suffering persecution under Emperor Claudius II. The emperor had issued an edict that members of the Roman military could not marry, thinking unmarried men would make better soldiers. But Valentinus continued to secretly perform Christian weddings and was sent to prison for his efforts.
Many legends surround his imprisonment. One of them says Valentinus prayed for a young girl named Julia who could not see and she was healed of her blindness. The story goes that when the order came for Valentinus to be put to death, his last words were written in a note to Julia signed, “from your Valentinus.” Valentinus was executed the next day, February 14.
While we may think of Valentine’s Day as a time for hearts and flowers and candy, the legend of St. Valentine focuses our thoughts elsewhere. Valentine was a martyr for his faith who was unafraid to stand up for what he believed, even when it meant challenging the powers of government and resisting the edict of the emperor. While St. Valentine has come to be known as the patron saint of love and marriage, he is also remembered for his faith and courage.
As we enjoy our Valentine’s Day celebrations, may we also remember St. Valentine. And may we devote ourselves not only to our loved ones, but to the kind of obedience to God that St. Valentine’s life exemplifies. Happy Valentine’s Day!