You are invited to a special edition of our F.I.R.E. meeting this coming Sunday, April 13 at 7 pm. at Avenue L Coffeehouse. We will be praying for HCC Vineyard. As we shared last Sunday morning, we are in the process of imagining the future of Huntsville Community Church, asking God to fill us with his vision for our community. With the lease expiring at the end of June, we’re coming up on some deadlines when decisions need to be made. We invite you to participate with us as we seek the LORD.
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HCC Vineyard is a church in transition, which is both exciting, and little bit scary. God has prompted us to make changes that will shape our future in ways that we can only imagine. The exciting part is knowing that we’re following the leading of the Holy Spirit. We all signed up for an adventure when we answered the call to follow after Jesus. This reality is becoming sharply clear. The scary part is the unknown. We can’t help it, being weak human flesh. But that’s okay. Jesus knows exactly what that’s like and he’s walking with us into the unknown. God always calls us into the difficult places, because it is there that we truly learn to trust and encounter his faithfulness.
So what changes are we talking about? We’re transitioning our leadership to be more inclusive of the younger generation, adding more voices and a fresh vision. We may or may not have a “Senior Pastor” or even be driven by one person who bears the title of “Pastor”. That’s not clear yet, but it’s definitely one of the possibilities. We’ve been moving in that direction slowly over the past two years. It just comes to the point when you step off from what’s familiar and launch out into the deep. That’s where we are now.
Also, there’s the question about the Avenue L Coffeehouse ministry and the building we currently occupy. Everything is on the table. So, please, pray for us, that we hear clearly and walk in unity, with the LORD and with one another. And come and join us on this exciting adventure into the unknown.
In his Lenten message for 2014, Pope Francis takes inspiration from the words of St. Paul (For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich), and asks us to contemplate Paul’s invitation to live “a life of evangelical poverty.” We can begin to embrace this call by fasting from or ”giving up” material things, including foods, that are superfluous to our basic needs; ”taking up” charitable habits that are directed to helping and caring for others; and ”lifting up” our brothers and sisters who are in need through giving alms, praying and participating in devotional practices.
We think that is a great focus for this Lenten season and encourage everyone to join our Catholic brothers and sisters in giving up, taking up and lifting up. What a difference it would make if all the church labored as one in love, sacrifice and service. May we be one, even as Jesus and the Father are one!
The first offerings for the Spring Quarter begin this week, with two small groups starting up this week. Two more begin the week after. Check out the Small Group Schedule.
Also, Avenue L Coffeehouse is open again, with confirmed activities three nights a week. Tuesday evening from 6-9 will be the return of CrafTuesdays with Mary and Sarah and Open Mic Night is back, as well, rocking out Thurday nights from 9 – midnight, with Spencer and the gang. New this quarter is Campus Outreach flipping pancakes from 8:30 pm to 10:30. If you feel like a late night breakfast, check them out! Mondays and Fridays are up for grabs. Webster’s looking for a second on Monday nights to Explore Worship and Meagan is looking for board gamers (or bored gamers?) on Friday night. She also needs a second. Are you interested in making either of these nights work out? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org and let her know.
Hope to see you hanging out at Avenue L Coffeehouse this quarter. Building community through conversation, art, music, good coffee and great fun. Join us!
As we turn to face the new year, we embrace hope: the hope that we will grow in God’s grace and love and draw nearer to his purpose in us. May his kingdom come and his will be done in our lives and our community.
Lot’s of people give food away during Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. It’s a really good thing to do. But people without the resourced to provide for themselves during the holidays, also have a difficult time putting food on the table the rest of the year. So why don’t we do the opposite? Instead of giving food away during the holidays, when frankly, there’s a glut of food, let’s give food away when people aren’t expecting it, but still need it desperately?
Now you can bring non-perishable food to church on Sunday, or to Avenue L Coffeehouse during the week and place it in the Food Box in the foyer. We will monitor the collection box, and as it is full, we will distribute this food to local food banks, such as the Good Shepherd, the SAAFE House and the Hospitality House.
You can also bring household items and personal items, such as cleaning supplies and toiletries, which we will also distribute.
Thank you for sharing God’s blessings with others.
If there is one overarching result of sin, it is alienation. Our relationship is broken with the community of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Our relationships with one another are poisoned with self- (awareness, centeredness, absorption, loathing, etc.). The primary work of Christ on the cross is to pave the way back, to remove the offense of sin and make a way for us to be restored in relationship with God and with one another. So building community, a community that starts with and centers upon God, is the primary work of the kingdom. Some look at the church today and wonder is this is what Jesus had in mind, and I have to agree, we do drift. But Jesus did gather a motley crew of broken and imperfect people around him, which he called ekklesia—the community of the called out, that is, the church.
Jesus came to establish a community centered on worship, a community that begins with God calling us out. The psalmist tells us that the sacrifices of our God are a broken and a contrite heart. Brokenness is the native condition of mankind, a result of the Fall. It is as Jesus said, as he laid out the road map of the spiritual journey, Step One, blessed are the poor. First we must know that we are broken and require fixing. Those who see no need for a savior, are not looking for God’s help. It is to the poor and broken that Jesus comes. Though we are all poor and broken, not all of us are able or willing to see that in ourselves.
Next he calls the contrite. Contrition is repentance. It isn’t merely feeling bad about something, it is a willingness, a determination, to offer amends, to make a change, to do differently. John the Baptist describes repentance as stealing no more, cheating no more, cutting a new path that is different from the one you previously wandered. It is as Jesus would say, “Go and sin no more.” So God calls broken people who are determined to take advantage of his grace to make a change for the better.
This gathered community of broken and contrite people is the church. These are the ones that God is calling to follow Jesus, to imitate him, and to obey him. If we want to be like Jesus, we need to do the things he did. Jesus came, not to be served, but to serve, not himself, but the needy, broken, sick and poor of every sort. He came to lay down his life. He told us that the world will know that we’re his disciples by the love we have for one another. Then he went on to say that this is love, that one would lay down his/her life for another.
Jesus laid his life down on a cross of wood. We, too, are called to lay our lives down upon a cross, but ours is not made of wood, it is made of the broken people around us, the needy, the poor, the alienated and disenfranchised. If we hold back, if we attempt to preserve our life, we will ultimately lose it. But if we willingly embrace this cross, we will find true life, the sort of life Jesus offers.
This laying down of our lives upon the altar of broken lives, this is our spiritual act of worship, this is pleasing and acceptable to God. This is how we know that this is the kingdom of God and not some self-help program. A self-help program would concentrate on your own well-being, but the kingdom calls you to love sacrificially, to love deeply by sacrificing all, to offer your own life up, as Paul did, a drink offering, poured out before the Lord.
If we are willing to break free from the definitions of success and happiness given to us by Madison Avenue, and instead look at what it really takes to sustain a human being, we would find that all of us have plenty to go around. We live in ridiculous abundance. We don’t want to be found hoarding wealth in the last days. We need instead do as the scriptures instruct, to him who has two coats, give to him who has none, and in this manner, meet the needs of all.
This is the community that God is building. On the one hand, it is hard and looks a lot like a first century wooden cross. But on the other hand, it is beautiful, embracing, liberating, loving, caring and inclusive. It is like Jesus.
Are you in?
Check out our Resource page for links to amazing places on the web that will offer you challenge, support and opportunities to serve. Check them out!
Check out the latest edition of the Vineyard USA Monthly Update and keep up with what’s happening in the Vineyard Movement.
Phil Strout points us to church planting here and abroad and introduces us to Michael Gatlin, senior pastor of the Vineyard Church in Duluth, Minnesota, and newly appointed leader of the Vineyard National Church Planting team. They help cast the vision for the Vineyard as a church planting movement, without which HCC Vineyard would not be here. We’ve committed to participate in the vision of 750 new churches by 2023.