We made two pans of enchilada and, as it turned out, one of them was just for Sean.
That young man knew how to eat.
Sean was a high school student whose bus stop was at the church and that winter I made a habit of timing my snow shoveling to coincide with his wait.
I know it sounds creepy, but in time Sean became a regular guest at our table where he goofed off with our young children and astonished us with his prodigious appetite.
It Starts at The Dinner Table
In time there were conversations about Jesus and I will always remember his first visit to the church, but it started at the dinner table.
But, sadly, the dinner table is not only not where many of us start, the dinner table is something that many of us never get around to at all.
Feasting Not Fasting This Lent
Many of us associate Lent with the spiritual discipline of fasting, but this year at Furnace Brook we are going to feast.
We are encouraging you to take what we are calling the Lenten Meal Challenge where you will commit to having at least once a week a meal at which there would be a guest.
The guest could be someone you've known all your life or someone you've only just met. It could be someone from the church or someone who's never been to a church of any sort.
And if you sign up we will provide you with accountability for your intentions, as well as recipes and helpful tips. Sign up here.
This may not lead directly or indirectly to conversions, and it may cost you whole pans of enchiladas, but but what makes a meal successful is the fact that it happened, because you never have the same relationship with someone after eating at his table that you did before.
Are Any Sins Unforgivable?
A question came up this week in the church office about an obscure passage of scripture having to do with the “unforgivable sin.”
In Matthew 12:31 Jesus says “And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.”
The very idea of a sin that cannot be forgiven is disturbing and can lead to some insecurity among those who are uncertain as to whether or not they may have committed that sin, even unwittingly. It’s important to remember the context of the verse, though. Jesus had just driven a demon out of a man and the Pharisees, desperate to avoid having to acknowledge Jesus’ identity, attributed to Satan what God’s Holy Spirit had done through Jesus. This was the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit that Jesus was referring to. And it’s not unique to the Pharisees.
Jesus is Lord of All
All those who seek to avoid Jesus’ lordship by denying the Spirit’s identity commit the same grave error.
In C.S. Lewis’ Narnian adventure, The Last Battle, there is a scene toward the end of the book when heaven is erupting across the Narnian landscape and a group of stubbornly resistant dwarves hole themselves up in a stable to maintain a dismal objection to redemption.
The feast that is spread before them they regard as straw and dung. The stable fades away and everything is suffused with radiant light, but they feel themselves confined to a small and dingy stable and grope about in the dark that they insist surrounds them. The heroes of the story regard the dwarves with horror and pity when all efforts to make the dwarves aware of the grace available to them fail because of the dwarves’ insistence that Aslan, the Christ figure, is a monstrous enemy and not the redeeming king. Sadly, they must resign themselves to the fact that the dwarves cannot be blessed because they will not agree to the blessing.
That, I think, is the gist of the unforgivable sin. It is not that this sin, being uniquely wicked, has found out the limitation of grace.
The sin of blaspheming the Holy Spirit is that terrible malady that convinces the afflicted that the remedy is actually poison. The resulting death is not proof of the malady’s virulence or the remedy’s impotence, but the sad and unnecessary result of the victim’s insistence on a lie.
The sin is not unforgivable because the perversity of the sin exceeds the efficacy of grace, but because the very nature of the sin prevents the sinner from subjecting the perversity of the one to the efficacy of the other.
We say all of this because we do not want followers of Jesus to ever doubt the sufficiency of grace for their salvation. And because we do not want followers of Jesus to end up, like the dwarves, confined in a prison of their own creation because of a reluctance to correctly identify the Holy Spirit and give him credit for his activity.
What do you think? What is your take on this passage?
The Town of Pittsford, Vermont, is one of our two locations, and we love Pittsford.
Furnace Brook Loves Pittsford, Vermont
We love living here, eating here, shopping here, and, of course, worshiping here. It's a good town and it's been a blessing to us.
So it's no surprise that we are eager to be a blessing to our town. We can not achieve our mission of making more and better disciples without loving the town in which we are located.
"And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased".- Hebrews 13:16
A little over a year ago we were giving some serious consideration to purchasing the farm across the road from Kamuda's Market and building a church building there that would be our own. Admittedly, much of the appeal for Pastor Joel had to do with working in even greater proximity to Kamuda's amazing deli. But in the end God directed us to pursue a longer term lease for our current location and, as things turn out, we're awfully glad He did.
Since then the property, known locally as the Forrest Farm, was purchased by a local couple, the Bairds, who have a desire to see the property used for the benefit of the town. A couple of weeks ago the Village Farm Working Group had a public meeting at Lothrop Elementary to help community members brainstorm about the possible uses to which the property might be put.
Furnace Brook Wesleyan was there to provide childcare for the event, and subsequent meetings of the working group have taken place at the church.
Help Us Bless the Community
And on February 8th they will be having another public meeting at Lothrop to come to some decisions about the best ideas that have been put forward. And we have been asked to, again, provide childcare as well as some light refreshments for that meeting.
And you don't have to be a resident of Pittsford to contribute to our church's effort to bless the town in which we meet for worship. If you are open to baking some cookies or cutting some cheese or even helping to watch a few kids please let us know in the comments section or by calling the church at 483-2531.
This Tuesday, we had the opportunity to pray and worship corporately at our Forest Dale location. The worship team, and those who attended can attest that the Holy Spirit is active and moving! With the spirit of heartfelt prayer and praise- we are excited to hear from two preachers on Sunday at the Pittsford location.
Sunday: Hebrews 13 with sermons on Leaders and Those They Lead.
This week, we are going to continue our series in Hebrews 13 with sermons on Leaders and Those They Lead.
Hebrews 13:7 Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. 13:17 Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.
Preaching at 9:00 in Pittsford and at 11:00 in Forest Dale will be Rev. Barry Tate, Pastor Tate's father. Rev. Tate pastored churches in Massachusetts, New Mexico, and Maryland before moving to Vermont where he has provided occasional preaching at many local churches.
He brings a wealth of biblical insight, years of pastoral experience, and (regrettably) a deep repository of embarrassing stories about your pastor. And while he is unlikely to share those stories with you on Sunday morning, you are certainly going to hear the word of God spoken with clarity and conviction.
Scott Burchfield will be preaching at the 11:00 service in Pittsford where you will notice a couple of things about him right away: he's got a wonderful Southern accent (North Carolina), he's a big man, and he loves God's word with passionate intensity. Scott has, most recently served at Mission City Church where he was the pastor in charge of visitation, a role in which he excels. Expect to hear a sermon from the heart, in which a godly man will show you not only what to think about God's word, but how to feel about it and how to respond to it.
Where is Pastor Tate?
Pastor Tate will be out of town this weekend, attending District Ministerial along with colleagues from across the Northeast District of the Wesleyan Church, along with pastors from the Penn-Jersey District, the district we are looking to merge with this year. It will be a good opportunity for Joel to network with other pastors and to get spiritually refreshed for the work that God has called him to do here in Vermont. In his absence, we are blessed to worship alongside
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