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Pastor’s Message: April 9, 2021

A MESSAGE FROM REV. J.C. AUSTIN: Engaging the Biblical Witness

While the day of Easter is now behind us, we are in the season of Easter in the Christian calendar, which runs between Easter and Pentecost (May 23). The season of Easter, not surprisingly, focuses on celebrating the resurrection, and so the suggested Scripture lessons tend to be ones dealing with that subject, particularly when Jesus appears at different times to different groups of disciples.

Pentecost, which takes place 50 days after Easter (the word “Pentecost” essentially means “fiftieth”), ends the Easter season and the Christian calendar returns to what is known as “Ordinary Time,” meaning a season without any particular theme or special significance; it will run until the beginning of Advent next fall.

As you may know, we typically follow the lectionary cycle of readings for Sunday worship here at First Pres. The lectionary is a schedule of readings that covers most of the Bible on Sundays over a three-year cycle. Obviously, when we are in special seasons such as Advent or Lent, the readings focus on the stories or themes that relate to that season.

In Ordinary Time, though, the readings tend to go more or less consecutively through different books of the Bible. So while that can be a helpful and meaningful discipline for digging deeply into particular sections of the Biblical witness, it doesn’t feel quite right in this “season” of the world that continues to be characterized by great uncertainty, transition, and fluctuation.

So: we’ve decided to do something both more creative and interactive after Pentecost, which is why I’m writing about this now, because I want to give you time to think about it and respond to it. We are going to do a sermon series after Pentecost entitled, “A Good Word,” in which the sermon each week will focus on Scripture that illuminates the meaning of a word that is particularly important for understanding and living out our faith.

Some may be very Biblical/theological themselves, such as “reconciliation,” “justice,” or “atonement.” Some may be words that describe important ideas that Scripture can help us unpack, such as “purpose,” “imagination,” or “vulnerability.”

So what we are asking you to do is think about a word or words that you would appreciate hearing a sermon about, and submit them to info@fpc-bethlehem.org anytime before Pentecost (again,
May 23).

We probably can’t use every word, but we will focus on which words have the most independent submissions and go from there. We think this will be both a fun and an interesting way of engaging the Biblical witness after Pentecost, and we hope that you will want to be a part of it! In the meantime, I look forward to continuing to celebrate Easter with you in worship.

Grace and Peace,
J.C.

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