Lent 2022 Readings

The Christ, The Cross, The Atonement and You
Meditations for Lent 2022
Reverend Lynn Santulli
Week I – The Christ
Welcome to the first in our series of Lenten reflections for this year, The Christ, the Cross, The Atonement and You. This is the first time we are offering a mid-week, mid-day service, a sort of trial run to see if works better than an evening program. I hope you will find it helpful during your Lenten journey.
A bit about the program first. This series resulted from readings I was doing on the doctrine of atonement, a central doctrine to our Christian faith. What brought this doctrine to my attention once again was the emergence of various doctrines on this topic which directly counter some of our core beliefs. So with questions such as ‘What are these new theories?’ and ‘How do they impact what I and other reformed theologians believe--because all of us are theologians in some respect?’ The more I read, the more I became concerned. Hence, this series which for me will not end with our four sessions together but will continue.
So, a little groundwork first. What do I mean when I say doctrine of atonement? What is a doctrine? Who decides with it should be? Why is it important? And what then is atonement?
Doctrine is a set of beliefs taught by the Church. Other organizations can have doctrines as well, but we are just interested in church doctrine at this point. When we read the Bible there are all kinds of things in there, various teachings, quotes, principles, rules, etc. Doctrine is a way of extrapolating out of the text certain guiding principles or teachings that help us make sense out of these various verses.
Jack Rogers writes in his book on Presbyterian Creeds, ‘When we state the meaning of a biblical idea, we have created a doctrine. Doctrines comes from the Latin word doctina, which means the content of what is taught. For Christians, a doctrine is the teaching of Scripture on a particular theme. For example, the doctrine of God would be the teaching of all things that the Bible says about God. That would be a pretty tall order, of course. So we tend to break down a vast topic like the doctrine of God into subtopics.’
Carefully examining these topics emerge doctrines, general concepts, derived from a synthesis of many biblical passages on a particular topic. 
“Dogma and its adjective, dogmatic, tend to be unwelcome words in our contemporary vocabulary. We use them to refer to ideas and people who are, in our judgement, narrow, inflexible and probably biased. In its Greek origin the word expressed a pleasant idea, ‘that which seems good.’ In Greek philosophy, a dogma was an axiomatic principle which seemed settled forever. It referred to that which seemed so obviously good to everyone that no further discussion about it was needed.
Religiously, the word ‘dogma’ was used to apply to a doctrine which had been formulated by some authoritative ecclesiastical body, like a church council, and which had been declared, by that body, to rest upon divine authority. (Councils of Nicaea, e.g.) The Nicene Creed was derived from statements of these two councils.
This work of developing doctrine and dogmas evolves into systematic theology or the orderly study of doctrines and dogmas in an attempt to state all that we may learn from Scripture. (Rogers)
Of the many topics of interest to faithful Christians, topics such as grace, salvation, God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Trinity, the list goes on and on—and the one we will be focusing on in our sessions together is that of atonement, the reconciliation of humankind with God through the work of Jesus Christ. We ask questions such as what does that mean? How does it affect us as Christians? Why do we have to be reconciled? Why did Jesus have to die on the Cross? How do we know that Jesus is the one who is the true Messiah? And the list goes on.
So, with definitions out of the way and our overarching topic or field of questions for our series laid out for us, let us turn to our topic for today, The Christ.
Where to begin? How do we even begin to tackle the immense topic of Christ? And Jesus the Christ? What other figure in history has had a greater impact on the world? Even people that don’t believe in Him still are forced to acknowledge His presence, His person, His impact and His influence.
Adam Johnson writes in his book, The Reconciling Wisdom of God, “What was Christ’s purpose in his death and resurrection? Can we limit it to just one? He came to seek the lost, heal the wounded, feed the hungry, fulfill the Law and the Prophets, triumph over Satan, complete the role of the Temple, cleanse the defiled, satisfy the honor of God while bringing honor to the shamed adopt us, bring to completion the work of Adam, restore creation to its Edenic state, pay our ransom, descent into hell, be the propitiation and expiation for our sin, fulfill the sacrificial system once and for all, reconcile Jew and Gentle, share with us His Holy Spirit, bring to an end the groaning of creation, be our bride price, bear in himself the  covenantal curses and promises, suffer the exile of Israel—and is this list complete? Far from it! How then can we speak adequately of Christ’s purpose in his death and resurrection A moment’s thought leave us speechless.”
(Boettener in his “The Reformed Doctrine of the Atonement”)‘In numerous places in Scripture Christ’s work of redemption is declared to have been accomplished through the payment of a ransom. Nowhere is this set forth more clearly than in our Lord’s own teaching. “The Son of man cane not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many,” Matthew 20:28. ..Paul proclaims that Christ ‘gave Himself a ransom for all’ in 1 Timothy 2:6, to the Corinthians Paul wrote, ‘You are not your own; for you were bought with a price’ I Corinthians 6:19,20. Over and over again in Scripture we read of the sacrifice of Christ, necessary for our salvation. Too many scripture citations to list fully here.
Jesus came into the world to die…and to overcome death and sin. Jesus is the one that proclaims that the Kingdom of God is at hand, here, now, for those that see and believe. The promises of Scripture are fulfilled that God is fulfilling His promises and will redeem and re-create creation, a world order that is aligned with God’s will, while not eliminating our own.
Our story as Christian begins at the very beginning, in Genesis, but the promised hope of salvation finds its fulfillment in Christ. Perhaps the Magnificat really does capture it best: (Luke 1:46-55)
46And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 50His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. 51He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. 52He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; 53he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. 54He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, 55according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” 
Our season of Lent is our call to participate in the economy of God, not of the world. Recently Bill Entriken asked me about who the rich were that are referred in this passage. Who are the rich? And why are they being sent away empty?
With the arrival of Christ, Jesus Christ, the Anointed, the Messiah, we are called to listen to hear God’s Word for us this day. The playing field is leveled, all are welcomed to come and listen, to listen and to learn, to learn and to be transformed. Not everyone will, those who are aligned with the economy of the world walk away empty because they feel they already have it all. It is the ones that are humbled, or have been brought to their knees by life, who understand and see that there is an end to themselves and a limit to their power that have the vision to see what God is doing.
The Christ is the one to whom we are drawn and we draw closer to in order to breathe in the life that is eternal, to reorient our lives that we seek to be rich not in worldly possessions but in spiritual gifts The Christ is our living hope and salvation because He overcame all because we simply could not do so on our own.
In the next few weeks we will reflect on His sacrifice, His mission, His ministry and His victory and challenge ourselves to witness to how His truth transforms our lives and the way we understand life.
Thank you for joining with me on this journey. I pray it will be a blessing to all.

Reflections on Lent and Easter

Lent and Easter have always been very significant seasons here at CAPC.
In fact, attendance during this season exceeds even that of Advent and Christmas.
The season of Lent is a time for us to press pause on our lives for a bit and invest in cultivating
faith practices that yield a richer spiritual life.
We remember the sacrifices our Lord made and the wondrous gift of salvation and forgiveness He offers.
We also ponder anew how our own offerings of time, talent and treasures mark our response to that gift.
Of course we know that this year, like last year, remains different than we had before.
So in the midst of change, it is good to find the touchpoints in our lives that do not change.
God is eternal and present with us in good times and in bad.
How we worship and with whom we are able to gather may shift, but the ultimate desire to draw
closer to God and feel His presence and praise Him for His blessings never changes.
We may not be able to do all the fun things we used to do prior to the pandemic, but worship,
prayer, acts of service, showing compassion, being a voice of encouragement, singing our praises
--well, those things never change.

At CAPC we are blessed with a sanctuary that can hold many people and still retain health and safety protocols. We are blessed with a campus that has always been designed to serve the people who enter here. We are blessed to be able to life up the resounding notes of our incredible organ to sing praise to our Lord. We offer a variety of ways for you to engage with this special season...online offerings, private devotions, special worship opportunities, the list goes on. We hope you will come and join us. Check out our website for some of our offerings and perhaps even stop in on Sunday morning to worship with us and discover items on campus that aren't available online.

May you be blessed this Lenten season and feel our Lord's amazing Spirit guide you home.

In Christ,
Pastor Lynn

For such a time as this...

For such a time as this...it seems we could say that for so many reasons these days. News reports of shootings, endless political wranglings, border disputes, financial concerns...and, well,now COVID-19. The list can go on....and on. It's difficult to avoid the stress and angst of these days, but certainly not impossible. What was it Fred Roger's mother used to say, in a criss to look for the people doing good things? I have personally experienced the kindness of strangers and people looking out for each other. Sharing of where to find things and reports of local stores shared with strangers in parking lots. Offers of help and true kindess extended. It is enough to melt any fears.

Who we are in the midst of difficult times says a lot about our character and what we truly believe. It is hard to believe that someone can hold to an understanding of a God who provides when they hoard cases of toilet paper. We all have our fears and I am not advocating not taking appropriate precautions and acting responsibly...but I would also encourage us to act kindly as well.Remember our neighbors, remember those in need, remember not everyone has the resources we might have to weather this storm, so taking opportunities to reach out during these days is of increased importance.

We all need to make our own decisions based on the best information we have. Listenng to those in office and those working to protect our safety is very important. But taking time to turn off the news and tune into God's Spirit is of great importance as well. In Christ we find our peace and can give voice to our concerns. In Christ we can hear His word to us, words of comfort and hope, words of challenge and calls to courage. In Christ we can find our center and will journey through these days together as disciples in Christ.

At CAPC we are working to offer a variety of ways to worship and serve, mindful of the ways outlined to protect our health. We hope that if you have questions, you will reach out to us. Please know I hold you all in prayer as together (in Christ) we face the challenges before us. 

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” ~ Isaiah 41:10

 “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you."  ~ Psalm 56:3

 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” ~ Philippians 4:6-7

“Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid.” ~ John 14:27

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” ~ 2 Timothy 1:7


Exercising Your Faith

Okay, I admit it. I don't like to exercise. Well, let me put it this way, I would prefer to exercise my right to choose than my right to lose. I am more apt to wander the aisles of my local supermarket looking for something new to try, something to nibble on while I am watching a favored show, something that promises an immediate, empty pleasure than I am to wander over to my treadmmill and journey to a healthier me. So there it is, I admit it and own the problem. So what is a body to do?

I am reminded that our faith life is no different in some ways than our body life. If we don't exerccise our body, things start to roll over in places you didn't even know could roll. The burden of weight isn't flattering, but neither is flabby faith. I mean, think about it, that body you are investing in will eventually go the way of all the earth (no, I am no advocating adopting my kind of lifestyle), but it is't eternal. Our bodies all have an expiration date. Faith, however, is an element of the eternal. Why then would we wish to invest all of our time and energy into looking good in lieu of investing time in toning what ultimately will bring us good?  TAlk about return on investment!

There is a balance to be struck here, of course, but I hope during this Thanksgiving and Advent season we don't just say thanks (although that is a good start), but we stretch and live our thanks, making it a practice of our daily lives. How do we do that? One way is making it part of our daily routine.  Here are some suggestions, and you may have others to add as well:

1.  Take a few minutes each morning and take some deep breaths, stretch and allow yourself to be in the moment and reflect on the blessings in your life. What are you ultimately getting up for? That can be a very good question. Is it for love of family? A belief that your life can make a beautiful and lasting difference in the world around you? Connect your life with a higher purpose than just 'getting through another day.' It helps bring perspective and reminds you that our lives are mysterious, wondrous gifts to be embraced. Yes, no matter the challenges and aches and pains we face. 

2.  Be thankful to the people you meet. If someone holds a door open for you, say thank you (I am often amazed at how many people don't do this!). If someone gets your coffee for you, thank them and wish them well on their day. This doesn't have to be a long or ponderous exchange (better if it is not, frankly, but keep it moving and keep it honest). Recognize if someone has gone th extra mile for you or is working to help you solve a problem. Be mindful of treating everyone with respect and dignity. We never know the challenges another is facing. Living thankfully brings benefits to you and to others as well.

3.  Do something for people in need. Donate. Serve. Give. Do. Help. It will bring joy to your soul as well as make the world a better place. Those who volunteer and work for the good of others are reported as being happier and at a better peace with themselves. Who doesn't want more of that? 

4.  Try to reframe negative thoughts. Ask yourself the question as to why you are feeling angry or a little low? Are you tired and need to give yourself a rest? Exercising is also remembering to relax those muscles in between. We need to relax a bit between our faith exercises as well. Schedule some time for you so you can be in a good place. You cannot draw from an empty well. God calls us to times as rest and we can be thankful in finding rest in those times. 

5.  If you suspect that there is something more going on in your life, seek help. Don't try to go it alone. Reach out to your pastor or doctor, to a friend or someone you can trust. Definitely be praying about it and be open to how God answers. There is a phone number for people who are willing to listen and will not, nor cannot, share your story with others. Give them a call...and remember to say 'thank you' for their ministry as well.

6.  Nurture your mind as well as your soul. Don't starve your soul because life is demanding too much. Take a few minutes to read an article, listen to a moving piece of music, read your Bible (which if you read daily will truly bring strength and set the tone for your day). Fill your soul with good things (like empty calories that bring no lasting value, reach for the richer, deeper experiences that will nurture your spirit in healthy ways that will bring lasting benefit).

7.  Worship. Readjust your mindset so that worship is not something you have to do but something you want to do, are priviledged to do and see it as the blessing it is designed to be. Sit back and enter worship with a time of silence, breathing deeply, and practice presence. This is your time to be with God in a place that is surrounded by others who are also seeking God's peace. Listen to the music and allow it to flow into your soul. Follow the flow of the service. It is like a good coach who can lead you from flab to fav! Enter with an open heart, asking God to speak to your heart even as you give thanks for God's presence in your life. Nope, being at home and turning on the TV or popping in a CD will never replace the beauty and mysterious presence of Christ in the midst of His church as they gather. Be a regular part of that gift.

8.  Sing. Go ahead and sing your thanks. Make up your own song (being in your car by yourself may be a good place to practice this exercise!). If you cannot make up your own song or write your own lyrics to a tune you know, sing along to your favorite hymn or song (remember to keep it positive). However you do it, make a joyful noise to the Lord It is a sign of thanksgiving and praise and lifts your soul.

There are many other things you can do, but the number eight is a holy number. It is the sign of God's new creation and the world in all its freshness.  It is what I hope we can all experience this season. So be thankful. Be inspiried. Be reminded. Be worshipful. Live the joy that Christ has promised. Exercise the right way to grow in faith and understanding and you will be blessed.

In Christ,
Pastor Lynn

A Turning Point

When I was a little girl I took dance lessons. My mother wanted to ensure my sister and I did not 'walk like horses' so we dutifully donned our tutus and ballet shoes (and later tap shoes) to begin refining our sense of balance and poise. I was doomed from the start, my hopes of ever being a ballerina were slim and secretly I longed to walk like the majestic animals I loved so much. But still, the idea of balancing my whole (at that time) little body on my toes while I learned the various positions reminds me of how even today I (like so many others) struggle to balance so many things on the toes of limited time frames, accelerated deadlines, unexpected projects that pile up, and well, that thing called life. All of this balancing, of course, while struggling to make it look easy (sure I can do everything) and performing with fluid grace (ladies don't lose their cool).  Frankly some of that training and life experience HAS taught e to balance a lot of things effficiently and with grace that's sincere. Taking on more just means shifting some thing around, and that's okay. So when am I coming to a spiriitual point?  It is this. Here at CAPC we have a LOT of things we are juggling and handling and are excited about what is happening in our midst. Our dance is one with the Spirit who, when allowed to lead, lifts us to our toes with expectation and admiration for all the Spirit can achieve.  We head into summer and changes in staff and 175th plans and reopening of food missions and so much more, but we seem to be doing it all with grace and aplumb.  Well, perhaps those dance lessns really helped after all!

Holy Week at CAPC

Holy Week Offerings at CAPC
Holy Week is taken very seriously at CAPC and we invite you to journey with us.  Following are the highlights of the week:
Palm Sunday - joyous chaos yields to palm waving, soaring hymns as we celebrate Jesus' entry into Jerusalem (and our hearts).  Sunday, April 14 at 10:30 am.
Maundy Thursday - Thursday, April 18 at 7:30 pm - Christ instituted the sacrament of Communion as a commandment at the Last Supper, we honor that sacrament and offer the ritual of washing of the feet (voluntary) and at the end of service we strip the chancel.  
Good Friday/Tenebrae Service - the Service of Shadows or Tenebrae is the retelling of the last hours of Jesus' life on earth through readings and music. In the soaring sanctuary of CAPC, this retelling is especially powerful. Friday, April 19 at 7:30 pm. 

And of course we joyously celebrate Christ's Resurrection on Easter Sunday, April 21 at 10:30 am! Congregation is invited to sing portions of Handel's Messiah at the end of service (always a favorite) and children and families are invited to a special coffee fellowship which includes games for the children and special treats for all.  

Come, let us worship our God!