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Advent Devotional

admin blog, The Church Calendar

Our church is reading and praying together using our Advent Devotional, Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room.

Here are three ways you can read along with us.

  1. Pick up a copy at our 10 a.m. Sunday service – $4
  2. Purchase the book online at lulu.com – $6
  3. Download the Digital Version online – FREE! Please consider donating to help us continue providing resources at goldlinechurch.com/give/

If you have any questions, send an email to  info at goldlinechurch.com

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Advent Day 1

admin Advent, blog

November 27, 2016

THE READINGS

Psalm 146 · Isaiah 1:1-9

2 Peter 3:1-10

This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you; in them I am trying to arouse your sincere intention by reminding you that you should remember the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets, and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken through your apostles. First of all you must understand this, that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and indulging their own lusts and saying, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since our ancestors died, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation!” They deliberately ignore this fact, that by the word of God heavens existed long ago and an earth was formed out of water and by means of water, through which the world of that time was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the present heavens and earth have been reserved for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the godless.

But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed.

Matthew 25:1-13

“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise replied, ‘No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ 10 And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. 11 Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12 But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’ 13 Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

MEDITATION

Something big is coming. Something apocalyptic is about to happen. Some people will be ready for it. Others won’t. Some will be awaiting the day. Others will doubt that such a day will ever come.

Today is the first day of Advent. Advent is about waiting, expecting, and getting ready. Advent is the time when we reflect on the first coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is also a time when we reflect and prepare for the second coming of the Lord. The word “advent” means “coming” (from the Latin adventus). For two thousand years the church has told the same story: Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.

We need Advent because we need to be reminded. Just as Peter reminds the church to “remember the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets, and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken through your apostles.” Both the prophets and apostles told us that there would be a day when something big happens, a day when God will come near. He is the God who…executes justice for the oppressed, gives food to the hungry, sets the prisoners free, opens the eyes of the blind, lifts up those who are bowed down, loves the righteous, watches over the immigrants, upholds the fatherless and the widow, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.

If such a day is coming, it is easy to forget because it can often feel so far away. The wicked seem to be thriving all around us and marginalized voices continue to be marginalized. No matter how loud their voices get, it seems that their voices are doing very little to change the world around us. But God is not slow in dealing with the evil we experience daily. He is merely patient, and hoping that more will turn to him before that day when he finally brings the wicked to ruin.

“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief.” It will come and it will come (at least for many) unexpected. Like a thief, it will come unannounced.

So let us prepare ourselves. Let us prayerfully examine our ways and realign them with the coming king. And let us “Keep awake therefore, for we do not know neither the day nor the hour…” when the king shall return (Mt 25:13).  

- Jon Ziegler

PRAYER

Confess to God the ways in which your life has not been aligned with his justice, righteousness, and love. Use the Psalm and the Isaiah passage as a means of reflecting on and measuring your own life.

Pray the Collect for the First Sunday of Advent:

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Jesus is baptism by John Baptism. Holy Spirit descends.

What’s the Big Deal about Baptism?

admin blog, Sacraments

If you have spent even a little time around our church, you’ve probably noticed we make a really big deal about baptism.

Somehow it comes up in almost every sermon. On some Sundays we have special moments where we “renew our baptismal vows.” And we mention baptism every Sunday at communion.

Actually, our obsession with baptism isn’t unique. Most Christians throughout the centuries have shared the same preoccupation.

Sunday after church, we are going to have 20-minute class about baptism. This class will be helpful for those who have already been baptized—but want better understanding of what happened in their baptism. This class will also be great for those who are considering being baptized or having their children baptized or even understanding why someone would want to have their children baptized. (Many of us grew up in churches that did not baptize babies or small children so the idea seems foreign to us).

On Sunday we’ll take some time to go deeper into the Church’s teaching on baptism. Hopefully you can stay around for this brief teaching segment as we discuss a theology that is so central to the life the Church and every Christian believer.

Jesus and Gentrification - Highland Park

Jesus & Gentrification: Securing your Future in the Neighborhood

admin blog, Justice

Hear this, you that trample on the needy,
and bring to ruin the poor of the land,
saying, “When will the new moon be over
so that we may sell grain;
and the sabbath,
so that we may offer wheat for sale?
We will make the bushel small and the shekel great,
and practice deceit with false balances,
buying the poor for silver
and the needy for a pair of sandals,
and selling the sweepings of the wheat.”
The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob:
Surely I will never forget any of their deeds.
Amos 8:4-7

Because our church is in Highland Park, a neighborhood that is experiencing gentrification, people often ask me if our church has a stance on gentrification.
The “g-word” can be pretty controversial subject. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, the following paragraph from PBS.org is helpful description.
“Gentrification is a general term for the arrival of wealthier people in an existing urban district, a related increase in rents and property values, and changes in the district’s character and culture. The term is often used negatively, suggesting the displacement of poor communities by rich outsiders. But the effects of gentrification are complex and contradictory, and its real impact varies.[1]
That last sentence helps to articulate why gentrification is a controversial topic. It’s really complex. And we humans tend to reduce and over-simplify. We like to make clear distinctions, identify with our subgroups, and demonstrate why we are the ones who are on the right side of history.
Words like “gentrification” are invented by people with PhDs in Sociology. I am a priest. My postgraduate work was focused on how to read the Bible well. The word “gentrification” appears in the Bible (a rather large book) a total of zero times. So I actually don’t claim to know a lot about gentrification.
But I do know what the Bible has to say about peace and justice. Shalom (the Hebrew concept of peace) is not just the absence of war but also the presence of wholeness. Other things equal, if violence decreases in the neighborhood, there should be a net-increase of shalom. But if people in the neighborhood are experiencing lack, if they don’t have access to the resources they need to thrive such as employment, fair wages, housing, education, etc., then there is a lack of shalom.

God’s intended wholeness (shalom) includes provision for the people He created. In the Book of Deuteronomy, God tells His people that He is going to provide for everyone and that he is going to make some people wealthy so that they can provide for those who are need.
Quite interesting, right? God’s plan was that no one would be in need. And His plan entailed that we would redistribute our God-given resources in ways that reflect his good and just ways.

So why a Sermon titled “Jesus & Gentrification: Securing your Future in the Neighborhood”?
Well, because people often ask what we think about the topic. And because the lectionary [2] readings for this week all relate to God’s care for the poor, his judgment against those who abuse the poor, and his instruction to wealthier people to make friends with the poor (Amos 8:4-7; Psalm 113; Luke 16:1-13). Actually the Bible has a lot to say (in almost every book) about God’s love for the poor, for immigrants, for widows and orphans, and for all those who might be vulnerable to marginalization by the rich and powerful.
“Gentrification” isn’t a bible word, but “poor, rich, land-owner, immigrant, peace, and justice” are bible words. So we thought this Sunday might be a good time to talk about these issues which are so important for the life of our community.
Actually, almost every Sunday we talk about these issues. It’s just for this Sunday we are putting a label on it and posting a picture on Instagram.
I invite you to join us this Sunday at 10 am as we continue to discuss how to live life together in Highland Park in the most loving ways possible. Let’s learn together how to respond to Jesus’ invitation to love not only our neighbors but also our enemies.

I hope to see you at the service.

– Jon Ziegler

————————————————————-

[1] http://www.pbs.org/pov/flagwars/what-is-gentrification/

[2] Lectionary Readings are the assigned scripture readings that the church reads together every Sunday. We used the Revised Common Lectionary (used by many global churches including Methodists, Presbyterians, Anglicans, Lutherans, etc.). The readings from the Revised Common Lectionary are usually very similar to readings in the Roman Catholic Church. So must Sundays we read what the overwhelming majority of Christians are reading.

2 i-am-a-man-5

The God who enters our injustice on Friday.

admin blog, Justice

“I am a Man.”

What does it say about a society,
when certain men have to wear signs that say,
“I am a Man” in order to remind other men,
that they are really people, too?

2 i-am-a-man-5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What does it mean, that the same society,
after decades of scientific and technological “progress,”
seems to have made little or no progress in the arenas
of compassion, justice, and understanding?
So that we still need a slogan “Black Lives Matter,”
in order to remind people that black lives truly do matter,
even though our economic, political, and judicial systems
continue to insist these lives matter less?

4 i-am-a-man 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the incarnation,
The God who was not a man becomes a man.
He becomes like us.

Through is his entire life
and through his death on the cross,
The God of creation identifies with
the marginalized and the oppressed,
the voiceless and the undocumented.

God becomes the human victim of
a religious system trying to protect itself
and a prosperous, military nation state.
He is crucified under a government that never offered him citizenship.

He wears the sign,
saying to everyone,
“I am a Man.”

It is a protest sign,
demanding dignity,
worn only by those
who have been dehumanized by the powers.

5 distance

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Passover is the holiday
which commemorates the Exodus,
when God hears the cries of His people,
and rescues them from slavery and oppression,
in the land of Egypt.

Christ is crucified at Passover.
On the cross,
Jesus becomes Passover lamb,
signaling the Exodus for all oppressed peoples.
God hears the cries of His people.
He joins them in their suffering,
He becomes the oppressed to end oppression.
He dies to destroy death.

Taking on our nature
so that we might share in His,
He says to us
“I am a Man.”

8 crowd with signs 2
 

 

This blog was adapted from a meditation by Jon Ziegler, a pastor of Gold Line Church. 

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A reflection on Donald Trump, Blame, Lent, and Repentance

Reflecting on Repentance with Donald Trump

admin blog, The Church Calendar

By Jon Ziegler

Note: this article was originally written for the C4SO Blog. You can read the article in it’s entirety here.

Don’t Blame Yourself

About fifteen years back, I was home from college for the weekend and I decided to get a haircut. And while I was waiting—I did what most people did back then (before we had smart phones): I picked up a magazine.  It was In Touch Weekly, your source for “Celebrity Gossip and Entertainment News.” As a young college student, who probably took himself too serious, I can remember thinking how ridiculous and trivial the magazine was.

But then, I came across a quote—a quote so profound—that I asked the hairdresser if I could cut the page out of the magazine.

The quote was from none other than Donald Trump. This wasn’t the presidential candidate Donald Trump we know today. It was the billionaire real estate mogul turned television star of The Apprentice Donald Trump. And this what he said:

“You never blame yourself; you have to blame something else. If you do something bad, never, ever blame yourself.”

When many of us read that quote today, we are likely to quickly file it under just another extreme, audacious (and no longer surprising) remark from Trump. But if we reflect on it for a moment, we might note that this quote says something profound about our culture. Here trump is actually speaking on behalf of the majority culture.

When Trump says to his apprentices, “Never blame yourself,” he is speaking the prevailing wisdom of Americans on both the political right as well the political left. Think about it. When was the last time you heard a politician (or a CEO or a neighbor or anyone really) just flat out admit they were wrong?

In his 1936 classic book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie describes how notorious criminals like Al Capone often fail to recognize any fault in themselves for their socially deviant behavior. “If…[the] men and women behind prison walls don’t blame themselves for anything—what about the people with whom you and I come in contact?”[1] Thus Carnegie argues that criticism is futile because people invariably never blame themselves and will always seek to defend their actions.

Carnegie’s book demonstrates how Trump’s logic of “blame shifting” was already embedded in American culture going back at least 80 years. So, it turns out that Trump’s quote really is not audacious at all, but rather the long prevailing logic of our culture.

Beginning Lent

On the First Sunday in Lent 2016, I had the ‘logic of our culture’ in mind as I got up to lead our congregation through a penitential rite. We were preparing to pray through the Decalogue, the “Ten Commandments.” We were about to recall the instructions the God of Israel gave to his people and to consider the ways in which our lives fall short of his good plan. This would be followed by a confession of sin, when we would admit in front of God and in front of all those gathered that we have “done something bad” (to use the words of Trump) and we are to blame….

Read the rest of this article on the C4SO Blog at http://www.c4so.org/reflecting-on-repentance-with-donald-trump/ ).

[1] Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People, rev. ed. (New York: Simon and Schuster, ©1981), 33.

Mary's Yes - Advent

Mary’s Yes: an Artistic Advent Reflection

admin Art, blog

For Advent 2015, we chose a painting by Angelica Sotiriou called “Mary’s Yes” a piece that would serve for meditation and a backdrop to our Advent reflections.

Advent is the time of year when we remember the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. During this time, we begin to reflect on the story of Christmas and the mystery of the incarnation.
In that story, the angel Gabriel says to Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.”

And Mary responds with a “yes.”

She doesn’t have to. She could say, “No. Mary's YesNot me. Not now” or even “Why me? What about my future? My dreams?

But instead she says, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”

Then the angel leaves her.

And in this moment, our salvation is made certain. Once the immortal and immaterial God unites Himself to human flesh in the womb of Mary, our salvation is made certain.

And words fail to convey the story, the beauty, the mystery.

“Mary’s Yes” helps to capture the explosive nature of the moment. The infinite colliding with the finite, the holy with the unholy, matter infused with spirit.
We invite you to reflect and meditate on the story through this wonder-inducing painting. May it inspire you as it has us.

Angelica Sotiriou is an Orthodox sculptor and painter that currently is creating large “contemplative narrative” acrylic paintings. She lives and works in the Los Angeles area. To learn more about her work, please visit her website: angelicasotiriou.com
Gold Line Church would like to express its gratitude to Angelica for allowing us to use her artwork free of charge.

Picture of Highland Theater Sign

The Highland Theater: Another Reason We Love Our Neighborhood

admin blog, Culture Leave a Comment

by Matthew Aughtry

As soon as you get off the Highland Park Metro stop you can see a large sign cresting above the buildings on Figueroa. Just two simple words: Highland Theater. At night the neon sign lights up. It’s the kind of sign you’d expect to see in New York or Chicago in a movie set in the 1940s and it’s beautiful.

The theater opened in 1925, so it’s certainly a cornerstone of the neighborhood. Not only does it have the HIghland Theater Marqueeiconic sign on top of the theater, it also boasts a marquee that juts out from the theater, another classic feature.

Los Angeles certainly has its fair share of amazing movie theater options—everything from the vintage movie palaces of yesteryear, to the event-driven cinemas of the 1970s, to the latest high-tech options of the modern era. Highland Theater isn’t really any of these things (though they do have bits of all—including the latest in digital projection technology). Yet, it has something that these other options lack—a strong connection to the neighborhood.

Highland Theater is not shoved into some far-off suburban corner with a giant parking lot, nor is it only surrounded by other businesses. The theater is walking distance from many homes and apartments in the area. Not only is it accessible to the people in the neighborhood, it’s also frequented by many of them. Many nights I’ve driven by the theater and seen a line stretching back about ten yards or so. Most of the new releases come through here so people don’t have to drive anywhere else.

With reasonable prices (including $5 all day Tuesday and Wednesday) and a friendly atmosphere, the theater remains a staple of the neighborhood. Oh, and for those of you who like to play arcade games while you wait for your movie toArcades_in_Highland_Theater start, they have those as well. Recently I indulged in a few rounds of an old favorite, Marvel vs. Capcom 2, an appropriate choice given the fact that I was about to go see Ant-Man.

These are just a few reasons we love the Highland Theater and Highland Park, there many others. Our hope for Gold Line Church is to be a “neighborhood church” like Highland Theater is a “neighborhood theater.” We hope to be ‘in the middle of it all,’ easily accessible to our neighbors and welcome to anyone. Of course, being around as long as the theater has wouldn’t be so bad either!

So hop on the Metro, get off at the Highland Park stop, and follow the sign to a little slice of movie heaven. Maybe we’ll meet you there and share some popcorn.

Gold Line Church is a new church in Highland Park, a neighborhood in Northeast Los Angeles. As Christians we believe that there is goodness to all of creation because the creator of all things is good. We also believe that one of the great things about being human is that we are given the gift of creativity. On our own we can create some pretty good stuff, but when we combine our efforts with others we can do even more—we can create culture. So occasionally on our blog we’ll highlight the culture of our neighborhood and affirm its beauty (and thus the occasion for today’s post about The Highland Theater). For more about Gold Line Church, visit goldlinechurch.com or email us at info(at)goldinechurch(dot)com

 

 

Thomas Carmody, Bishop Todd Hunter (the Diocese of Churches for the Sake of Others), Janna Mahoney Ziegler, Jon Ziegler

What is a deacon? And what to they do?

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by Jon Ziegler

 

Janna and I were just ordained as deacons in the Anglican Church. We’ve been congratulated by some of our friends and family members—but many are still asking questions like, “What is deacon? And what do they do?”

So here’s an explanation.

One of the Three: the Threefold Ministry

Deacons are ministers (i.e. servants) of Christ who have been set apart for service in his Church and his world. While “every Christian is called to follow Jesus Christ, serving God the Father, through the power of the Holy Spirit. God calls deacons to a special ministry of servanthood directly under their bishop. In the name of Jesus Christ, deacons are to serve all people, particularly the poor, the weak, the sick, and the lonely.”[1]

Since her earliest days, the Church has set apart certain members to lead in special capacities. We first learn of the “threefold ministry” of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons in the Bible:

Bishops (episcopoi) are mentioned in Phil 1:1; 1 Tim 3:2; Titus 1:7; 1 Pet 2:25,

Priests[2] (presbuteroi) in 1 Tim. 5:17; Titus 1:5; Jas. 5:14, and

Deacons (diakonoi) in Rom 16:1-2; Phil 1:1; 1 Tim 3:8.

During the time of the Apostles, these terms were used with fluidity.[3] For example, Paul refers to himself as a diakonos  (deacon) and Peter calls himself a presbyteros (priest) although both were Apostles—an office of much higher rank.[4] However, when the Apostles died, they left a system in place with their disciples in which the functions of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons were more specified.[5]

The First Deacons

In Acts 6, the Apostles realized they couldn’t do it all. The Church was growing. More people were being changed by the gospel and the power of the Holy Spirit—which meant more people where sharing their possessions and food. The Church was caring for so many people that were poor and living at the margins that it needed to appoint special leaders to make sure food distribution was efficient and fair. The Church community chose seven people who were “full of the Spirit & wisdom” and “presented them to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them” (Acts 6:6). With the addition of deacons, the Church could now serve more people and tell more people about the good news of Jesus; no wonder it “grew rapidly” (6:7)!

One of the first deacons was a guy named Stephen,The Stoning of Stephen - the First Deacon who was “full of grace and power, [and] did great wonders and signs among the people” (6:8). Stephen boldly preached the gospel in the face of persecution and as a result, the first deacon also became the first martyr of the church (7:60).

So, what do we Deacons do?

We do the same things the first deacons did. We care for those who find themselves living on the margins. We pray for the sick. We assist in the administering of the sacraments and in spreading the good news about Jesus in the power of the Spirit. Like Stephen, our job is to die to ourselves daily so that we might be the kinds of people who could testify to the beauty and goodness of Christ even in the face of persecution.

The liturgy from our ordination service puts it this way:

As a deacon in the Church, you are to study the Holy Scriptures, to seek nourishment from them, and to model your life upon them. You are to make Christ and his redemptive love known, by your word and example, to those among whom you live, and work, and worship. You are to interpret to the Church the needs, concerns, and hopes of the world. You are to assist the bishop and priests in public worship and in the ministration of God’s Word and Sacraments, and you are to carry out other duties assigned to you from time to time. At all times, your life and teaching are to show Christ’s people that in serving the helpless they are serving Christ himself. [6]

We are Deacons in Transition

Some deacons are ordained as “permanent deacons,” which means they are called to serve the church in the capacity of a deacon for life. But others are ordained as “transitional deacons.” Transitional deacons are called to the priesthood, but must first serve as deacons (usually for 1 year) before they are ready to be ordained as priests.

So, God willing, we will be ordained as priests about a year from now. But we will always remain deacons because we never cease to be servants who were set apart to assist the church and serve the marginalized.

Pray for your New Deacons!

We are eager to serve. And there is no shortage of people in need our Northeast Los Angeles neighborhood. Pray that God would surround us with a community of people that are willing to join and support us in the self-giving task of serving those who live at the margins. Pray that God would grant us the wisdom and the resources needed for those whom He would have us serve. Pray that God would “be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us,” so that His “way may be known upon the earth” and that “the peoples could be glad” (Ps 67:1-4). Amen.

Group phote taken at Jon and Janna's ordination as Deacons with the Anglican Church (C4SO).

 

Footnotes

[1] The “Ordination of a Deacon” found in the Book of Common Prayer, 543. (Modified for context and ease of reading).

[2] The English word “priest” comes the Greek word “presbuteros,” which means elder.

[3] This post borrows from a concise and well-written online article written by our friends in the Roman Church, called “Bishop, Priest, and Deacon.” It is easy to read and quotes from the Church Fathers. And it is always a good idea to quote the Church Fathers. Here is the article: http://www.catholic.com/tracts/bishop-priest-and-deacon

[4] Paul: 2 Cor. 3:6, 6:4, 11:23; Eph. 3:7. Peter: 1 Pet 5:1.

[5] St. Ignatius, the Bishop of Antioch, was martyred in Rome sometime between 98 and 117 A.D.. Ignatius was probably consecrated as a Bishop by one of the Apostles and would certainly have been serving as a Bishop in Antioch while the Apostles were still living. On his way to his martyrdom, Ignatius wrote several epistles to churches in various cities encouraging them to obey their bishops.

St. Clement, the Bishop of Rome, was a disciple of the Apostles and he wrote in his Epistle to the Corinthians, “So preaching everywhere in country and town, [the Apostles] appointed their firstfruits, when they had proved them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons unto them that should believe.” (1 Clem 42:5). In his letter, he urges the Corinthians to submit to their bishop.

[6] “The Ordination of a Deacon,” in The Book of Common Prayer, accessed on line http://www.bcponline.org/EpiscopalServices/ordination_of_a_deacon.htm