CURC Membership Class begins Wednesday, October 28 at 7.00pm

The CURC Membership Class begins Wednesday, October 28, at 7.00pm. This class is a seven-week course designed as introductory instruction on the Reformed confessions and the beliefs of CURC. It runs as follows:

CLASS #1: Introduction to Christ URC

CLASS #2: Hour 1: Law & Gospel
                     Hour 2: Reformed Worship

CLASS #3: The Apostles' Creed

CLASS #4: Hour 1: Justification by Faith Alone
                      Hour 2: The Church

CLASS #5: Sacraments

CLASS #6: Hour 1: Good Works
                     Hour 2: Prayer

CLASS #7: The Doctrines of Grace

If you are interested in taking this class, please email Pastor Brown so he may ensure materials are prepared for you. His email address is: michaelbrown@christurc.org

Grace to You and Peace: Receiving the Message of Redemption this Christmas

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It’s that time of year again. With the Thanksgiving holiday behind us, we once more make the month long journey toward Christmas. For about thirty days, we see decorations on homes and businesses; we hear Christmas music in the grocery store; we get Starbucks coffee served in red cups; and we watch the mall reach its zenith as the epicenter for human activity in our communities. In the midst of the commercialism, craziness, and comedown, however, most of us still manage to find time to enjoy some form of family tradition. Cards are sent, parties are attended, and pleasure is taken in watching the anticipation build in the hearts of our little ones. Yet, for the Christian, there is much more to Christmas than both the materialism we chide and the memories we cherish. Christmas, of course, marks an annual remembrance of the greatest drama ever staged: the coming of the Son of God into the world in order to accomplish redemption on our behalf. It is a festive holiday that celebrates God’s promise of peace on earth. While ‘peace on earth’ is a slogan in our culture that gets a lot of mileage during the Christmas season, true peace on earth comes at a very high price. True peace must be made between God and man. This requires God’s justice to be satisfied. Without sin being dealt with, there can be no peace. Without the righteousness that God requires from the sinner, there can be no reconciliation.

The joy of Christmas comes from knowing that God himself has made that peace for everyone who believes. Jesus Christ paid the price for peace by coming in the form of a servant, living a life of perfect obedience to God’s law, and going to a Roman cross of shame to face the unmitigated wrath of God for every person he represented. This is the peace that was promised to our first parents, Adam and Eve, after the fall, that One would come to crush the Serpent’s head. This is the peace proclaimed by the prophets, that Israel’s true deliverance would come through Immanuel. This is the peace that was announced to the shepherds by the heavenly host of angels. This is the peace that, as Paul says, is ours “since we have been justified by faith” (Rom 5.1). Peace that comes to us by grace alone, through faith alone, because of the work of Christ alone.

While believers now enjoy this peace because of Christ’s first advent, they will experience this peace in its fullest measure at Christ’s second advent. When the King returns, he will bring everlasting peace on earth as he ushers in the glory of the age to come. This present evil age, with all of its sorrow and suffering, will finally and forever come to an end for God’s people. In that day, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Rev 21.4)

In the meantime, as those living between the two advents of Christ, we have the blessed privilege of hearing God’s salutation of peace whenever we gather together for worship. As God’s covenant people, we call upon his name in the invocation at the beginning of every worship service. In response, the Lord greets his people. As God’s ambassador, the minister raises his hands and – not with magical powers, but as a divinely appointed emissary – blesses the people with God’s blessing. God’s own words, such as those found in every one of Paul’s salutations, are used: “Grace to you and peace…” Hearing these words at the beginning of every worship service, we are reminded that we are assembled together in the presence of God; we are reminded that God responds to the cry of his people; we are reminded that we are forever at peace with God. By these words “grace to you and peace” we are also able to look back to what Christ has done in his first advent and look forward to what he has promised to do in his second advent.

Of all the salutations in the New Testament, probably the most clear in this regard is Paul’s greeting to the Galatians: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” (Gal 1.3-5) These words of peace are ours because Christ “gave himself for our sins.” We look back, not merely to a nativity scene of baby Jesus meek and mild, but to the whole mission he accomplished. Without the horror and offense of the cross, the manger is meaningless – something our sentimental culture fails to understand.

But we also look forward to the completion of our redemption, that is, to be delivered from “the present evil age” in the resurrection. Only then will true peace on earth be realized, when all things are made new. Not a superficial peace that comes from mere warm and fuzzy thoughts about the world coming together with chestnuts roasting over an open fire. Rather, a true peace that comes when the King returns with a sword to forever stamp out evil and suffering.

So, as we make our way into this festive season, let us rejoice that the Son of God invaded human history and came into this world to save us from sin, death, and hell. And let us remember that we have something for which all of the world longs and gropes. We have peace – peace with God presently and peace on earth in the future. And this same peace is announced to us, morning and evening, every Lord’s Day. May God give us a passion to bring that message of peace to the culture in which we live, so that we might see others be the recipients of those blessed words: “Grace to you and peace.”

Merry Christmas, Pastor Brown

First published in The Outlook, December 2005, vol.55, issue 11 Copyright 2005 Michael G. Brown

Thanksgiving Day Service Liturgy at CURC

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THANKSGIVING DAYNovember 22, 2010 ~ 10.00am Rev. Michael Brown, leading worship and preaching

Before the service begins, you are encouraged to pray silently or turn to the text or the first song of praise and meditate upon its words as we prepare to worship the living God. After the service, which closes with the benediction and a brief moment of silence, you are encouraged to “greet every saint in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4.21).

* Indicates standing if you are able

CALL TO WORSHIP

*INVOCATION Almighty God, Father of all mercies, we your unworthy servants give you humble and hearty thanks for your goodness and loving kindness to us and all people. We bless you for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all, for your inestimable love in the redemption of sinners by our Lord Jesus Christ, for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory.

We beg you to give us that due sense of all your mercies, that our hearts may be truly thankful, and that we may show forth your praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives; by giving up ourselves to your service, and by walking before you in holiness and righteousness all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom with you and the Holy Spirit be all honor and glory, world without end. Amen.

* GOD’S GREETING

* SONG OF PRAISE (#204) Psalm 103: “O Come My Soul, Bless Thou the Lord”

THANKSGIVING PRAYER

* SONG OF THANKSGIVING (#222.1-3, 6) Psalm 111: “O Give the Lord Whole-hearted Praise”

OFFERING (for the URC Spanish ministry in Los Angeles)

* SONG OF PREPARATION (#217) Psalm 107: “O Praise the Lord, for He Is Good”

* PRAYER FOR ILLUMINATION

SCRIPTURE READING Psalm 118

SERMON “God is Good and His Steadfast Love Endures Forever”

PRAYER OF APPLICATION

* SONG OF THANKSGIVING (#284) Psalm 136: “Give Thanks to God, for Good Is He” [tune: “The Church’s One Foundation”]

* GOD’S BENEDICTION

The Subversiveness of Worshiping on Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving, the Consistory of Christ URC will once again call a special worship service at 10.00am. We do this every year in order to gather together as citizens of God's kingdom and give the Lord thanks for his innumerable blessings to us throughout the year.  Truly, there is no better way to begin the holiday than by assembling with the saints, coming "into his presence with singing," entering "his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise" (Ps 100). Why Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving is a civic holiday in America. Nowadays it is mainly about getting together with your family and eating too much food. Historically, though, Americans observe the Thanksgiving holiday because of the experience of those original pilgrims who came to the New World and offered thanks to God for his mercies amid the most trying of circumstances. 

In 1620, the Mayflower made its long and dangerous journey from Southampton, England to Plymouth, Massachusetts, carrying 102 Protestant passengers of Nonconformist and Separatist convictions. Arriving in November, they spent their first winter in what one Puritan was later to describe as “a howling wilderness.” William Bradford, the pilgrims’ leader, kept a journal in which he recorded this about that first winter: 

“But that which was most sad and lamentable was that, in two or three months time, half of their company died, especially in January and February, being the depth of winter and wanting houses and other comforts, being infected with the scurvy and other diseases which this long voyage and their inaccommodate condition had brought upon them. So, as there died sometimes two or three a day in the aforesaid time that, of 100 and odd persons, scarce fifty remained. And of these, in time of most distress, there was but six or seven sound persons, who, to their great commendations be it spoken, spared no pains, night nor day, but with abundance of toil and hazard of their own health, fetched them wood, made them fires, dressed them meat, made their beds, washed their loathesome clothes, clothed and unclothed them; in a word, did all the homely and necessary offices for them which dainty and queasy stomachs cannot endure to hear named, and all this willingly and cheerfully, without any grudging in the least, showing herein their true love unto their friends and brethren; a rare example and worthy to be remembered. Two of these seven were Mr. William Brewster, their revered Elder, and Myles Standish, their Captain and military commander, unto whom myself and many others were much beholden in our low and sickly condition. And yet the Lord so upheld these persons as in this general calamity they were not at all infected either with sickness or lameness. And what I have said of these I may say of many others who died in this general visitation, and others yet living; that whilst they had health, yea, or any strength continuing, they were not wanting to any that had need of them. And I doubt not their recompense is with the Lord.”

The following year (1621), Bradford recorded how the Lord had blessed them with an abundance of common-grace gifts: 

“They began now to gather in the small harvest they had, and to fit up their houses and dwellings against winter, being all well recovered in health and strength and had all things in good plenty. For as some were thus employed in affairs abroad, others were exercising in fishing, about cod and bass and other fish, of which they took good store, of which every family had their portion. All the summer there was no want; and now began to come in store of fowl, as winter approached, of which this place did abound when they came first (but afterward decreased by degrees). And besides waterfowl there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc. Besides they had about a peck of meal a week to a person, or now since harvest, Indian corn to that proportion.”

Bradford called the people to a time of Thanksgiving in that fall of 1621. Even though only fifty people remained alive, they gathered together, along with some 90 native-Americans, for a three-day feast to thank the Lord for his mercies and provision. 

From Thanksgiving Service to National Holiday

That first Thanksgiving was gradually kept in more and more places throughout the colonies. It wasn’t until 1863, however, by the proclamation of President Abraham Lincoln, that it became an official holiday observed on the last Thursday of every November:

“The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.”

An illegitimate wedding of the two kingdoms? Perhaps. But whatever reasons President Lincoln had for designating Thanksgiving a national holiday, the church is not confusing the kingdom of God with the common kingdom of the world by assembling as the church on Thanksgiving Day.

A Subversive Act

As members of God’s holy nation (read: NOT America, but the Church universal), what better way is there for us to begin a civic holiday designated for thanksgiving but by assembling as the church and giving him thanks? Nowadays it seems that holding such a worship service is a  subversive act in our culture, and in harmony with the same spirit of those Protestants who gave God thanks in 1621. 

This Thanksgiving, let us gather together to worship the Lord and give him thanks on Thursday, November 22 at 10.00am. And then let us feast!

Pastor Brown