We're doing something as bold as the coffee we'll be drinking as we do it! On September 9th, and the second Sunday of every month thereafter, we will be taking our Forest Dale worship experience to the Center Street Bar in downtown Brandon. We say "the Center Street Bar," for convenience, but what we're actually referring to is the classroom space next door to the bar.
We're excited about this move and what it might mean for the people of our community but we understand why it might be a hard thing for people to share our excitement. We love the places we worship, the sacred spaces where we have encountered God and grown with His people. And we should love those spaces so much that it's hard for us to leave them for even one Sunday a month.
But sometimes it's necessary for us to step out, nonetheless.
Following are three reasons for why we are taking this particular step and why you might consider joining us.
1. For Downtown Brandon
It's no secret that there has been some construction going on in Brandon of late. The result is going to be wonderful, but the process has been painful. And we, as a church, have decided that we love Brandon more than we hate construction. By taking our worship downtown we are expressing solidarity with the people and businesses located there and doing our part to combat the effects of the prolonged roadwork.
2. It's in our DNA.
Sometime in the early 1950's North Chittenden Wesleyan Church (one of our two parent churches) had a special service to celebrate it's hundredth anniversary. There were folks from Forest Dale Wesleyan, local dignitaries, the town brass band, and even the governor. In fact, there were so many people and so much musical energy that at some point the floor gave way. Dust from the crawl space filled the air and everyone scrambled out onto the lawn. After a few minutes to collect themselves a crew was recruited to go back inside and carry out the organ, with the help of which the service continued exuberantly on the grass. Thats who we are. Our worship is less bound to a building than to the One we're worshiping.
3. We're Fishers of Men.
When Jesus told his disciples that he would make them "fishers of men," the kind of fishing he had in mind was boat fishing. Peter and the others must have loved their boats the way fishermen do. But they loved their boats because of the fish the boats helped them to catch. And if a particular boat became ill-suited to the pursuit of the biggest schools of fish they would have happily climbed into a better boat. We love our buildings in Forest Dale and we believe that God still has big plans for them. But we are hopeful that the Center Street location might be a boat that would let us "sneak up" on some fish who'd never get reeled into the Forest Dale location, those fish having made up their mind about that place a long time ago.
If you wear glasses, you can relate to the blurry world experienced for the first seconds of each day. For a brief time, the world is fuzzy and incomprehensible. Confusion is quickly snuffed out as you put your glasses on- but the ability to clearly see generally trump's any other sensory loss.
With so much of our world determined by what we see- what we allow ourselves to see, and more importantly what we actively avoid seeing is important. “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light.” -Matthew 6:22
Is Willpower Finite?
The man who looks at everything coming within the field of his vision is no healthier than the man who chews and swallows everything that comes into the vicinity of his mouth.
And most of us put very little effort into resisting our gluttonous eyes.
But Jesus made it very clear how he feels on the subject. He would rather see us pluck out an eye than gratify its sinful impulses. And we get it. After all, we have regrets about things we’ve seen and wish we could unsee. All of us have those regrets.
But resisting the tyranny of our eyes can feel like trying to defy gravity. Whatever victories we enjoy are fleeting. The gravity of sin is always felt, even when we are ascendant.
So what’s to be done?
In his book, “Willpower,” author Roy Baumeister addresses the prevalent notion that we all have a finite amount of willpower which, once exhausted, leaves us utterly at the mercy of whatever temptations assault us. He does this by covering all of the social science research that points to the fact that willpower is something that can be increased over time by those who are interested in doing so by building on incremental victories.
Now those of us who belong to Christ know that there is a supernatural dimension to the matter. We believe that God considers every temptation resistible and that he has given us his Holy Spirit to aid in the resistance. But we also believe that it would be presumptuous to leave the Holy Spirit to do all the resisting while we coasted.
“But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” -James 1:14-15
So for those who would like to grow in sanctification, this matter of the eyes could be a helpful place to start.
4 Ways To Guard Your Eyes in Our Society Today
Its not reasonable to expect to run a marathon if you’ve never run a mile. If you want to have more control over your eyes- you need to be training them.
The following are some helpful suggestions about how to get better at averting your eyes.
“Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness.” - Luke 11:34
With television, advertising, the internet, and other outlets at the tip of your finger- it can sometimes be hard to tell where to draw the line on what is acceptable to view. Here are some suggestions of things you should consider not viewing. This is by no means a comprehensive list- but consider some of the items below, and allow yourself to be convicted where needed.
What to Avert From
Here is a partial list of things to avert your eyes from:
“Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress.” -1 Timothy 4:15
Our Father is the God of abundant grace regardless of what you struggle with, or any bad habit you’re moored in. If you are struggling, lean on his strength. At the same time, work towards strengthening your habits daily.
"Colossians 1:15-17 “Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see–such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together.”
God relates to nations in much the same way that he relates to individuals, and Furnace Brook is located in a place with a strong sense of identity. Vermont is as distinct a place as any of the 50 states, with geographic, historic, and social boundaries that anyone might cross, but no one can ignore.
And it’s a wonderful place. It’s incomparably beautiful with a good quality of life. In fact, it’s so good a place that most of the people who enjoy it would scoff at the idea that it might possibly be improved by something as backwards as religion.
5 Reasons Why Vermont Needs Jesus
But here are five reasons why we think that Vermont needs Jesus.
5. Vermont is already a religious place, but without religion.
There is a strong religious impulse in Vermont that has somehow survived the collapse and absence of traditional religion. Vermonters are very concerned with being good people, but their piety gets expressed in a hodgepodge of quasi-religions. For some Vermonters the farmers market has taken the place of church, for instance. And we yield to no one in our love of fresh, local produce, but what makes for a good diet still does little to save a soul. The religiosity of Vermonters would be better spent on a religion that has saving power for both this life and the life to come.
4. The heroin epidemic.
We fully support the efforts of law enforcement to prevent the trafficking of narcotics along with all the crime that attends it. And we fully support the efforts of recovery centers, and the Department of Children and Families, and dedicated healthcare providers and a host of others to stitch back together the pieces of lives fractured by heroin.
But this is as much (or more) a spiritual problem and our best efforts will not solve anything apart from a dramatic change in our state’s spiritual landscape.
3. An entire class of Vermonters is languishing and being priced out.
This is related to the preceding point, but a lot of working class Vermonters are feeling left behind by an economy they feel is arranged mostly for the benefit of affluent people with different values. Recreational drugs and departure are both common responses to that perceived reality. But Jesus is, historically, very good for people at the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum. He gives them worth, purpose, and skills for successful living.
2. The burden of beauty.
Bear with me here; this is going to get a little deep. We can respond to beauty in one of two ways. We can experience beauty with decadence or sublimation. Decadence is when we give ourselves over to the selfish enjoyment of that beauty, as though the beauty of our environment was for the benefit of our pleasure. And sublimation is when we are so moved by the beauty that we offer ourselves in service to the beauty and to the One who can take the credit for it.
Vermont is so beautiful that if its beauty doesn’t result in worship it will result in something subtly poisonous and dangerous to our souls.
As wonderful as Vermont is, it is not perfect. It has skeletons in its closet. There is plenty of corporate sin to repent of. And the idea that we might go on perpetually enjoying God’s blessing while stubbornly rejecting his lordship is a flawed notion.
Furnace Brook Wesleyan Church Blog