Christianity Explored

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COMING SOON! We will be hosting a 7-week group called Christianity Explored, starting the week after Easter. Would you, or someone you know, like to be introduced (or re-introduced) to the true heart of the Christian faith? Stop in sometime or contact Pastor Bob at 802-442-2105 or sign up here:

 

 

The Evolution of “Mercy Street”

Mercy Street Slides - Oct 2018The monthly gathering we call Mercy Street began here in Bennington in July 2017. The idea was to have a safe and welcoming gathering for all affected by addiction, to remember we are loved–loved by God, loved by our church community, loved by each other. We sing songs of hope and redemption. We share our stories. We pray. We connect. For about a year we also enjoyed a meal together (thanks to the Turning Point!).

Now we are evolving again, this time to re-emphasize the music and de-emphasize the food (although we will have coffee and snacks afterward). We will still emphasize sharing the love of God with anyone who has been touched by the opiate crisis and other addictions. We will fight the lies that say you are unlovable and unworthy; we will fight to remember that You Are Loved.

We will also open our arms wider, to include all who may find themselves in need of hope but not necessarily affected by addiction. In these dark times we all could use a blast of light. So whoever you are, wherever you are, whatever you’ve done or not done, please know that you are welcome to Mercy Street.

Our next gathering is this Thursday February 28 at 7pm at 601 Main Street. We’ve assembled a lively folk/gospel/rock/blues band for your listening and sing-along pleasure (if you’ve been to one of our recent Good Friday services, you’ll remember the infectious, toe-tapping joy of singing along to songs of hope and healing).

Come as you are, my friends, and remember: “earth has no sorrow heaven can’t heal.”

For more info please contact Pastor Bob: PastorBobWiegers@gmail.com

The Spittin’ Image of God

The other day I met someone who knows my son, but hadn’t met me yet. It went something like this: “Oh, I know whose dad you must be!” and “Wow, your son looks exactly like you!” My usual response: “Yeah, I know. Poor kid.”

Why does my kid look like me? Of course genetics has a lot to do with it. We’ve also spent 14 years together, so for better or worse, he’s picked up quite a few of my mannerisms, habits, phrases, and quirks, not to mention an outstanding sense of style. He is, as they say, my spittin’ image.

Did you know that YOU are made in God’s “spittin’ image”? In the first chapter of the first book of the Bible, you’ll find an astounding affirmation of the dignity and worth of every human being: “God created humankind in his own image…” (Genesis 1:27). Take a moment and think of the best of humanity and the ultimate in human achievement, and perhaps you’ll be approaching what it means to be made in the image of God. Who do you think of? Perhaps a humanitarian, an athlete, an artist, or perhaps someone unknown but beloved. That person was made in the image of God.

And yet take a moment to think of the worst of humanity, the depths of depravity and human evil. Who do you think of? Perhaps an infamous criminal, dictator, or terrorist, or perhaps someone obscure that has done unspeakable harm to you. That person too was made in the image of God. How can this be?

Genesis was originally written in the Ancient Near East. The ancient kings there laid claim to their far-flung territories by setting up large statues of themselves. These statues were made in the image of the king, there to remind everyone who was in charge. This is the same idea that Moses, the author of Genesis, apparently had in mind when he first wrote those inspired words: “God created humankind in his own image…” Human beings are here on earth as God’s royal representatives. We’re not just here by accident. We’re not created out of conflict and chaos, as all the other ancient creation stories claimed. We’re here on purpose: created to create, blessed to be a blessing, made good to do good.

Every person you’ve ever met, and every person in human history, is one of God’s royal representatives here on earth. This is why we affirm the unparalleled dignity and value of every single human life, whether she or he be the tiniest of babies in a mother’s womb, or the eldest of the elderly among us, or anyone in between. There will always be some who deny the inherent dignity of others, but the downtrodden and the marginalized are made in the image of God too.

It is often hard to fathom why, or how, someone made in the image of God can do the terrible things that we are all capable of. But then we turn the page to Genesis 3. Evil entered the world when human beings rebelled against God’s good grace, and we’ve been stained and twisted ever since. So we are all a bit of a paradox: made in the image of God, but broken and twisted. We’re still made “very good,” but things quickly go very bad.

But right on the heels of our rebellion, God promised to fix it (see Genesis 3:15). He didn’t want to leave his royal representatives stained and twisted. Fast-forward thousands of years as God’s rescue plan unfolds, and the true Image of God arrives on earth: baby Jesus. We wouldn’t have guessed it, but this Jesus “is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” (Colossians 1:15). Jesus was and is the unstained and untwisted true Image of God: his true royal representative here on earth. He came to show us how to live as people made in the image of God. He came to undo the brokenness of humanity. And he came to sacrifice his perfect life to pay the penalty of our rebellion. Jesus ultimately came to restore you to the true image of God.

So I don’t know if you’re the spittin’ image of one of your parents, but I do know that you’re gloriously made in the image of God. That alone is worth celebrating. Yet it is even more glorious to be re-made into the image of God by Jesus himself, otherwise you’re stuck in your rebellion and eternally separated from God. You too can be made new by turning from your rebellion and trusting and following Jesus, the true Image of God.

Genesis Resources

We’re starting our journey through Genesis! Check out the resources below to help you read and understand.

Recommended Bibles
ESV Bible (many design options)
ESV Study Bible
ESV Student Study Bible

Genesis text online
ESV translation
NIV translation

Genesis Audio on YouTube
Genesis Audio – ESV simple reading
Genesis Audio – ESV dramatic reading
Genesis Audio – “Message” Paraphrase (part 1) (part 2)

Genesis Overview Videos HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
“Bible Project” overview (part 1) (part 2)
“Read Scripture” overview (part 1) (part 2)

Mobile Apps
YouVersion
Bible Gateway

New Sermon Series: Genesis

Coming soon: a sermon series on the book of Genesis. Who am I? What am I? How am I? Why am I? We’ll look into all this and more as we dig into the most ancient and vibrant stories of our faith. Come discover the good news of Jesus, which begins in the stories of Genesis.

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A Movement of Hope

An open letter to the leaders and members of the Christian churches in and around Bennington

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Ask anyone on the street, in the stores, or around the water cooler what they think our community’s biggest problem might be, and you’ll surely hear a lot about addiction. This is not a new problem, but it is clear that we have a crisis on our hands. Lives are being lost and destroyed, sometimes bit by bit, and sometimes suddenly. The demon of addiction is threatening and destroying our community like never before, and it is time for the followers of Jesus to respond all the more. The situation may seem hopeless at times, but as children of God, we are called to bring the light of Jesus into the darkness.

What does God think about our community’s addiction problem? And what should we, as God’s people, do about it? Some prefer to ignore the problem. Some feel powerless, so find it best to do nothing. Some are happy to pray for “those people” but don’t do anything beyond that. Some are active in loving folks in the midst of addiction. Some want to help but don’t know how. What should you do about it? What would God have you do?

If you look around an average church on an average Sunday morning you might see our nice clothes, our impressive buildings, and our fancy pipe organs (or guitars, if you like), and conclude that “church” and “religion” is only for those who’ve got their acts together.  But, as it turns out, that is the exact opposite of what God says: “God demonstrates his love for us in this: that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8). Jesus also said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” (Matthew 5:3). God’s heart is also revealed in the Psalms: “The Lord works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed.” (Psalm 103:6).

Many of us believe something like this: “Those folks got themselves into their mess, so they can get themselves out.” But this perspective is missing out on God’s heart we find all through the scriptures and in our own experience. Yes, addiction often starts with a choice, but the life-destroying consequences of that choice often far exceed what is imaginable. Especially with opiates, the capacity to choose is quickly stolen away, and is only restored by a miracle of God’s grace. If we wait for folks to “get their act together” before we show them any love, we clearly forget that God didn’t wait for us to get our act together before he loved us.

Our secular friends are doing most of the work in the recovery community: 12-step programs, recovery centers, counselors, doctors, and the like. But if I may be so bold, God’s people have something they do not. We, as followers of Jesus, have the power of the Holy Spirit at work within us. We serve a God who can do far more than we can ask or imagine. We have a Savior whose love cannot be stopped by angels or demons or powers or anything else. The question before us now is: will we, as the Christian community, step up to make a difference? Or will we continue to largely ignore the biggest problem in our community?

I believe “the answer” to addiction ultimately comes down to one thing: relationships. We find hope, healing and wholeness in our relationship with God through saving faith in Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amazingly, God most often chooses us, his people, to express his love to others through our personal relationships. Our relationships are needed for folks to find hope, healing, and wholeness that can only come from God.

So a little while ago, here at First Baptist Church, we started a gathering we call Mercy Street. It is a simple monthly gathering of those affected by addiction: whether in recovery, in active use, family, friends, survivors, supporters, or whoever. Those of all faiths or no faith are welcome to come together for music, story, and prayer. We sing songs of hope and deliverance. We share stories of recovery. We pray hard for each other and our community. And we find relationships, which is where the real power is. Perhaps more will come from this simple beginning, but then again, perhaps it is enough to look someone in the eye and say: “You are loved.”

It is a humble beginning, a seed of a movement of love. Will you join us as we gather to share God’s love with anyone affected by addiction? Will you join us at 601 Main Street in Bennington on February 28 at 7pm?

Individually we can make a difference. Together we can make a movement.

Will you join us?