Monthly Archives: September 2020

A Pastor’s Note to Grace Covenant – September 25, 2020

While easily overlooked, this coming Sunday, September 27, is a significant day – at least on the Jewish calendar. Beginning at sunset on Sunday Yom Kippur begins. (Leviticus 23.16-22) It is a day, for me personally, that carries fond memories from my childhood. Growing up in a predominately Jewish community in suburban Philadelphia, we got the day off from school! (That’s all I knew; but that was enough reason for me to celebrate!)

Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement, considered the most holy day on the Jewish biblical calendar. Mindful of Paul’s warnings about thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought simply because we might observe certain special days (Galatians 4.10), I do think that Yom Kippur is worth noting for two primary reasons: 1) It is a day Jesus celebrated; 2) It is a day Jesus has fulfilled. Of these two reasons, the second is far more important. Rather than a once-per-year observance, where sacrifices are to be offered as substitutes for our sin, Jesus offered himself as a once-for-all-time sacrifice on the Cross. We now observe, and benefit from, our Day of Atonement by believing – trusting and resting in – what Jesus accomplished on the Cross. And we celebrate it not once per year, but now once per week – on Sundays, otherwise known as the Lord’s Day, a day that weekly commemorates the resurrection, which is the verification that Jesus’ sacrifice of himself was acceptable and accepted by God, on our behalf. In contemporary Jewish tradition, Yom Kippur is often celebrated by the people 1) Offering prayers to God; 2) Confessing their sins to God; 3) offering gifts to the poor. These practices provide a good framework for us, who live on this side of the Cross, and who are followers of Christ. On this day, and each week, may we 1) Commit to worshipping God together, offering prayers and praises to him; 2) Freely admit our failures, our weaknesses and our struggles 2b) BUT along with confession, let us remind ourselves of the Gospel – the “Good News” that Jesus has offered himself as our atoning sacrifice; that it was accepted, and that consequently we who believe are pardoned from our sin.

Listen to what Paul writes in Romans 3.23-26:

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

And finally, 3) Rather than offer sacrifices to God, let us offer ourselves, to live sacrificially for the benefit of others, and give generously to those who are in need – both tangible need, through ministries of mercy, and spiritual need, through evangelism and global missions.

On a practical side, along with our staff and church officers, I continue to give thanks to God for all of you for your faithfulness, your kindness, and your generosity. We have been blessed in many ways, even if many of us are still separated due to the lingering threat of the Covid-19 virus. But each week we are seeing more people gathering for worship, even as other join remotely via LiveStream. We have enjoyed the first few weeks of our Fall Discovery Class, which is introducing our church’s DNA to several who are new, or relatively new to Grace Covenant. And we continue to be able to serve our neighbors, both spiritually and practically, through the resources you have resourced us with.

A few ways to pray for Grace Covenant:

  1. Pray for those who are new to Grace Covenant to feel welcomed and part. Understandably, but unfortunately, with some of the protocols in place for protection against the virus, hospitality at this time is not as warm or encompassing as we wish it were. But as we have opportunity we want to make folks feel at home. Fortunately several families have felt at home. We want everyone to feel welcomed.
  2. Pray for those who have interest in joining our church. While not everyone who participates in Discovery Class chooses to become a member of the church, many do. So we ask that you be praying for those in the class. We also ask that you pray for those who have taken the class in the past and who desire to formally unite with the church. Most of those who completed Discovery Class in the Spring were not able to be interviewed because of the sudden suspension of worship services and the subsequent shut-down of everything around us. We are re-initiating those membership interviews, and will meet with folks over the next few weeks, largely via Zoom, but perhaps some in-person (socially distanced, of course). But we also ask that you pray for some who may have taken the class in the past, but for whatever reasons have yet to join. If this is you, I want to extend an invitation to you to join us. We’d love to have you officially become part of the Grace Covenant family! While I will be contacting a number of folks over the next few weeks, if you have completed the Discovery Class, and you would like to become member of the church, shoot an email to me or to Kathy to set up a time to talk.
  3. Pray for those who are working to improve the LiveStream experience, as well as the words projected in the sanctuary each week. We have invested in a number of new resources – cameras, software, programming, etc. – and are training new teams of volunteers. Sometimes, as we have experienced recently, there are tech glitches, sometimes there are glitches due to on-the-job training, and sometimes there are glitches in communication between our worship team and tech team. Since we had previously invested relatively little into our tech, we are a work in process. Please pray especially for Tim Nargi and Jeff Field, as they tend to feel the brunt of those glitches. Pray not only for patience, but with thanksgiving for them, and for what they do to serve us. And pray for the volunteers, with thankfulness for them, that they would learn and pick things up quickly. Our goal is to offer worship which honors God and renews us as his people, and to do so in services in which the technical things go largely un-noticed. But we are a work in process.

That’s enough for now. I look forward to writing again in the weeks to come. We have some exciting things going on, but that are just not yet ready to be announced. I look forward to celebrating these things – and all of God’s blessings – with all of you.

Grace & Peace,

W. Dennis Griffith, Lead Pastor

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Grace Covenant Pinewood Derby – October 18

Since the start of the pandemic it has been more difficult for our GCPC kids to see and interact with each other on a regular basis. To provide an opportunity for kids (and parents) to connect outside Sunday morning, we are pleased to announce the first ever GCPC Pinewood Derby!

The Grace Covenant Pinewood Derby is open to all kids ages 3 through 7th grade and will be held on Sunday October 18th @ 4:00pm in the Grace Covenant parking lot. The race will be outdoors where racers and spectators can view the track from appropriate distance. Depending on the number of participants, we plan to keep the event to between 1 and 1.5 hrs. 

In the next couple weeks, each participating child will be provided with a car building kit that includes:

  • 1 wooden block,
  • 4 wheels, and
  • 4 nail-type axles

It is then up to the kids (with parental assistance), to design, cut, sand, paint, and weight the car for race day. If you are not familiar with pinewood derby, here is a good video on building a car: 

On the day of the race, we will have a wooden track set up and will race cars head-to-head in two categories based on age. Designing and creating a car does not need to take a lot of time. We plan to have prizes for both the winners and participants. 

If your kids would like to participate, please email Nathan Mortier by September 27th so that we can set aside race car kits for each child, and so we can send you more information about race day.

We hope to see lots of you at the starting line!

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Adventures in Romans: Beginning September 13

In Fall 2019 we began a new sermon series, Adventures in Romans: Making Sense of What Matters Most.  This series in designed to be an exploration of the Christian Faith, as outlined and expressed in the Apostle Paul’s Letter to the Romans. From September into December of 2019 we studied Romans 1-4 together. After taking a break from Romans for our Advent series in December, we resumed our study of Romans in January, beginning in Romans 5. We had just begun with Romans 8 when we had to shut down due to COVID-19.

On Sunday September 13, we will resume our study of Romans, beginning with Romans 8. We will be working our way through this book each Sunday, until we again break for the Season of Advent, in December. We will plan to pick up the study of Romans again in January, working through it each week throughout most of the the Winter and Spring.

As previously stated when we began this series a year ago, it would be difficult to overestimate the power of the Book of Romans throughout history.

Theologian John Stott described Romans as:

“a timeless manifesto of freedom through Jesus Christ.”

Martin Luther said of this letter, penned by the Apostle Paul:

“Romans is the chief part of the New Testament; and truly the purist gospel.”

While Luther was sometimes prone to hyperbole and overstatement, (no one book is “more important” than the other books of the Bible,) Romans has had quite a unique impact in the history of the Church.  For example:

  • Aurelius Augustine, one of the most brilliant philosophical and theological minds of the early centuries, came to conviction of sin and salvation after reading some verses from Romans 13.
  • Martin Luther rediscovered and recovered the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith from his study of Romans 1.17 – which provided the spark for the Protestant Reformation.
  • John Wesley said he felt his heart feel “strangely warmed” while listening to a reading of Luther’s Preface to the Book of Romans. Wesley, who had already been involved in ministry, claimed that this turning point for him, the point of his conversion, which led to Wesley becoming one of the great catalysts of First Great Awakening during the 18th Century in Great Britain and Colonial America.
  • It was through his study of the great themes of the book of Romans, while in prison for practicing and proclaiming his faith, that inspired John Bunyan to write Pilgrim’s Progress – widely regarded to be one of the most significant works of literature in the English language.

These are but a few among the countless testimonies of the influence the Book of Romans has had on individuals, on the Church, and in the world.

Our goal is to help bring understanding of the Faith,  with the hope that we will fall in love with this book, as others have throughout history. Our prayer is that God will use our study of this book to root us deeply in the Grace of Jesus Christ; that it will shape our hearts and our souls.

John Wycliffe, the man who translated the Bible into English, said of Romans:

“the more it is chewed the pleasanter it is…”

In other words, the Book of Romans may seem a little “meaty” at first, but our hope is that the more you chew on it the more pleasant you will find it.

To better help you engage in this series, we want to provide some resources we hope will prove beneficial.

1) First is an excellent video from the Bible Project, that introduces the Letter to the Romans. This is the second of two videos, covering Romans 5 through Romans 16 (the end of the letter), and gives an overview of the chapters we will explore this Fall, and beyond. (For those who want to review the first part of Romans, click: Romans 1-4 Introduction.)

2) Second, for those who might have interest in reading it, here is a link to a .pdf of Martin Luther Romans Preface.  (This would be an excellent resource for small group discussions.)

3) Third, we will continue to make available to the congregation copies of the Romans ESV Scripture Journal for note-taking during the messages, or in your study, etc.  We will be asking for a voluntary $2 contribution to defray costs. (But this is voluntary. We don’t want anyone who would benefit from the journal to not have one because of the requested contribution.)

4) Finally, we also want to renew a challenge we issued when we began this series last Fall – a challenge we think will prove beneficial for those who will take it up.  We want to encourage everyone to read through the Book of Romans one-per-month during the months we are studying this book (i.e. September, October, November).  That’s just four chapters per week.  We challenge you to discover if Wycliffe was right, if it is true of the Book of Romans “the more it is chewed the pleasanter it is.”

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