Restoration of the Soul

Dear North Avenue Family and Friends,

I have several important reflections to share with you this week.  The first is to remind you that we will have a Ribbon Cutting Celebration this coming Sunday, November 12, in the lower parking deck, just outside the brand new children’s entrance to The Sphere, the new children's space.  Please bring your families and plan to be there at 10:45 a.m.  We are asking Sunday School classes to let out a bit early to accommodate this important moment of consecrating our children and youth spaces to the glory of God!  After the brief ceremony, you will have an opportunity to walk through The Sphere, and the new youth space, called The Underground. Greeters will be on hand to help direct your steps. If you are attending the 11 a.m. worship service, you may go directly to the Broyles Ministry Center and tour the new spaces after worship.

Second, I want you to know how much positive energy and excitement the Stewardship Team is experiencing due to the strong response to Pledge Sunday last week. The overall response was the strongest in recent memory, in terms of the number of people pledging and also in terms of the total amount pledged. We are so very encouraged because it is vital that our congregation remain faithful in supporting the challenging vision that God has placed before us.

My personal hope and prayer is that every person who calls North Avenue your church home will engage the spiritual practice of giving “first fruits” to the work of God in and through our church. Your pledges enable our church officers and staff to make important decisions about the scope and depth of the ministry and mission the church will support in the year to come.  Many of our individuals and families are giving sacrificially to the work of Christ at North Avenue.  I know that I don’t want to let them down by not rising to their level of commitment. For some of us, this may mean making a pledge for the first time; for others, it may mean increasing our giving so that we are adding our fair share in supporting the ministry and mission that are transforming the lives of our members and allowing the love of Christ to flow from our congregation into the desperate needs of our community and the world.  Even if your life circumstances mean that you think your pledge would not make a difference, I want to assure you that God promises to bless every gift we give. As the Apostle Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9, your gift—offered in love and with joy—will result in even greater thanksgiving among our congregation and will spill over in inspiring others to give glory to God. I’m really counting on each of you! You can submit your pledge here, even today.

You will notice that this week we begin a new three-week sermon series, called “Restoration of the Soul.”  The text for all three Sundays is Luke 6:12-19.  We will reflect on the example of Jesus as he seeks the restoration of his own soul through “Solitude,” “Community,” and “Ministry.”  On the three Sunday evenings of the sermon series, North Avenue’s Young Adult Ministry Coordinator, Ben Allward-Theimer, will engage the congregation in a spiritual exercise on each approach to restoring our souls. Ben, the Worship Team, and I invite you to attend a morning service and the 5:45 p.m. service. You will be blessed if you do.

As always, I encourage you to invite a friend to join you in worship this Sunday.

With anticipation of God’s blessing,

Scott

Pray for Sutherland Springs, Texas

Sunday’s shooting inside the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, is utterly heart-breaking. Along with you and others across our country, Cynthia and I are praying without ceasing for those who grieve the losses of 26 women, men, and children. We pray for the well-being of those who are recovering from injuries. As that congregation was reportedly the heart of this small community, life there will never again be the same.

The fact that this act of evil happened in the midst of a worshipping congregation is reminiscent of the shootings at Burnett Chapel Church of Christ in Antioch, Tennessee, in September and Mother Emanuel in Charleston, South Carolina, in June 2015.  For people of faith, these atrocities are gut-wrenching violations of our most sacred spaces. 

Let us pray also that we as a society can find the will and the means to engage in the civil discourse and deep thinking required to address some of our most intractable challenges, including a broken mental health care system and inadequate controls around purchasing fire arms. These issues need not be politicized to the point that we make no forward progress. We deserve leaders who will help us find answers and solutions.

In the meantime, at North Avenue we will continue to make thoughtful decisions about insuring the safety of our members. Our newly renovated spaces will give us common entrances and more secured spaces throughout the entire church campus. We will continue the practice of having off-duty Atlanta police officers as part of our church family, whenever the church gathers. We encourage anyone who might see something suspicious or threatening to report it immediately to our security officers and staff members.

May God have mercy upon the people of Sutherland Springs, Texas, and upon us all.

With love and prayer,

Scott

 

Psalm 46:1-2, 10

1 God is our refuge and strength,
    a very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
    though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;


10 “Be still, and know that I am God!
    I am exalted among the nations,
    I am exalted in the earth.”

 

 

John 14:27-28

27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I.

Pledge Sunday

Dear North Avenue Family and Friends,

Last Sunday was the first day that we moved all worship services into the Broyles Ministry Center Auditorium for Phase 2 of the SHINE Building Project.  Many of you commented on how much you appreciated being in that more intimate space for worship.  The BMC is easily accessible for people of all ages, whether you park in the lower deck and come into the building via the elevator at the Atlanta Children’s Shelter entrance or by entering from the upper deck into the doors marked BMC Landing.  If you are checking in your children in the new children’s space called The Sphere, you can count on the presence of someone to provide directions to the BMC from there. 
 
Last Sunday was also a day that we especially emphasized the importance and joy of sharing in both the ministry and mission of our congregation through the annual stewardship season.  We noted that this coming Sunday, November 5 is Pledge Sunday, and we are encouraging all those who call North Avenue your church home to share in the prayerful and financial support of God’s transforming work in our midst.  Everything the church does—from the offering of worship services, to nurturing deep faith for people of all ages, to engaging the Holy Spirit’s transforming presence throughout Atlanta and the world—results from your prayers and financial support.  As the church officers (elders and deacons) make their pledges in advance of Sunday, they are leading by example by increasing their overall giving.  In this dynamic time in our church life, they know that this year’s Stewardship Season is especially important in sustaining and increasing the depth and width of North Avenue’s ministry and mission as we complete SHINE and establish a strong foundation for the future into which God is calling us.  You may make your pledge during the worship services on Sunday or you may go here to make your confidential pledge online.  Thank you in advance for your generous support of God’s work in and through NAPC!
 
Finally, I look forward to seeing you this Sunday as we conclude the sermon series, “True North,” based on the 5 foundational affirmations of the Protestant Reformation—Christ Alone, Faith Alone, Scriptures Alone, Grace Alone, and To the Glory of God Alone.  It will be a great day of worship and study at North Avenue!
 
With gratitude and appreciation,

Scott Weimer

Faith Alone

North Avenue Friends and Family,

Yesterday, I had the privilege of preaching the homily during a memorial service for a friend and former North Avenue member.  Although I hadn’t spent much time with my friend and his family in recent years, I was surprised by the vividness of my memories.  In my mind and heart, I could recall many of our shared experiences almost as if they had taken place last week or last month. 
 
Some of my most poignant memories are of serving together in a church ministry called The Cup.  The Cup was an additional NAPC Sunday morning worship service that had an attendance of 40 - 60 people, most of whom were experiencing situational or chronic homelessness.  It’s hard to explain, but that community of mostly men and a few women became a congregation that ministered to one another, prayed for each other, and helped lead the weekly services of worship.  Many North Avenue members and friends assisted in leading the services each week by offering special music, leading hymns, sharing testimonies, and even preaching.  Other volunteers prepared meals and volunteered professional services (e.g., medical, legal, counseling, etc.).  The Cup became a special place in our lives, where the circumstances of life that often keep us apart from those who are different from us did not seem to matter.  
 
In my homily at the memorial service, I recalled how much my friend lived out his faith by unconditionally loving his family, friends, and others in need, both near and far. He rarely drew attention to himself; instead, with humility and genuine care, he quietly and joyfully served. Now, years later, I read in his obituary about his extraordinary accomplishments in both his personal and professional lives, accomplishments he never mentioned to me. They didn’t seem to define his life.  Rather, his life was defined by a simple yet profound love of God, love of family and friends, love of life, and love of service. If I’m not mistaken, our Lord once said that there are only two great commandments - “Love the Lord your God....and love your neighbor as yourself.”  
 
Well done, my friend.  

-Dr. Scott Weimer

True North Sermon Series Begins

Many of us are still filled with a sense of gratitude and joy, as the power and impact of World Communion Sunday remain in our hearts. Amid all the horrific news about natural disasters and human-caused tragedies both near and far, we stand with followers of Christ all over the world in speaking and acting against evil, and in lifting high the cross of our Lord and Savior. When we focus on the cross, we see our crucified and resurrected God in the flesh. Only a God who loves us and loves the world would give the life of his Son for us. In and through that gift, we have the forgiveness of sins, the ultimate defeat of evil, and the power of the Holy Spirit within us. It is in the power of the Holy Spirit that we live fully into Christ’s call on our lives to work for the reconciliation of all things, even in the face of the dangers around us. In so doing, we bear witness to our faith in a God who loves us and calls us to Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer” (Romans 12:12).

As we think about living fully into the life of following Christ, we will be introducing a new sermon series this Sunday, October 8, that we are calling True North. This series will be focused on defining what NAPC’s true north is. We will do so in part through the lens of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. In particular, we will reflect on the Five Solas (Alones) of the Reformation—Christ Alone, Faith Alone, Scripture Alone, Grace Alone, and to the Glory of God Alone. In addition to the sermons, we welcome guest scholars who will speak to each of these Five Solas in the Foundations Sunday Morning Discipleship Hour in the Gym. The last day of the series will be November 5, our Stewardship Dedication Sunday.  More details will be forthcoming.

-Dr. Scott Weimer

World Communion Sunday

We are very much looking forward to our celebration this World Communion Sunday.  Please remember that we have one service only (10:15 a.m.) in the Sanctuary, followed by a potluck International Tasting on the Upper Parking Deck. One of the highlights of the day will certainly be the sermon, delivered by our friend and colleague from Cairo, Egypt, Dr. Tharwat Wahba. Dr. Wahba and his family are in Atlanta for the fall so that he can do research at Columbia Theological Seminary. In addition to his studies, Dr. Wahba will be visiting various congregations around the country to tell the remarkable story of the recent fruitfulness of the Gospel among a new generation of Egyptian pastors and missionaries across the Middle East. 
 
Please note the announcement below about our dress for the day and about how to deliver your potluck dish for the International Tasting. I’ll be wearing a shirt from my home-away-from-home in Kenya. I especially want to encourage those of you who normally attend at the 5:45 p.m. service to get up a little bit earlier (okay - a lot earlier) than usual to join us at 10:15 a.m. We would really love to see you.
 
I also want you to know that last Sunday afternoon, scores of North Avenue members extended radical hospitality by offering refreshments to the many Midtown neighbors who walked up and down Peachtree for the annual “Streets Alive” event (you can see photos on the NAPC Facebook page). A space was made for guests to share a written prayer request. The requests were heartfelt and sincere, and we have been praying over them throughout this week. Many thanks to our volunteers for being a shining light to our neighborhood, in the love of Christ.
 
Once again, I do hope to see you Sunday, dressed in some special way that reflects your home of origin or passion of yours!

-Dr. Scott Weimer

Connections of the Heart

This is a time of year when many of you are traveling on the weekends for a variety of reasons, and I want you to know that we very much miss seeing you in worship when you are away. Our worship services throughout September have been especially meaningful and uplifting for many of us. This Sunday we will conclude the sermon series “Me to We” (Building Authentic Relationships) on the letter to the Colossians. I’m looking forward to preaching on Colossians 4:12-13.

The sermon is called “Connections of the Heart” and will focus on the way God created us to be in authentic relationships with a circle of friends in Christ, together with whom we experience the fullness of life in him. We can certainly grow in our relationship with God through our own private spiritual disciplines, but the Scriptures teach that we were created to be in relationship with others to be our truest selves. I truly hope you will be with us for worship because we are always enriched by your presence.

Please note that on Sunday, October 1, we will celebrate World Communion Sunday with only one morning service (at 10:15 a.m.), followed by a time of food and joyful fellowship. Please feel free to wear clothing that is indigenous to your place of origin. Every year we have a rainbow of colors that reflect various countries from around the world and regions of the U.S. Someone always wears a Georgia Tech shirt, because such people are truly “A rambling Wreck from Georgia Tech, and a *#@% of an engineer!” (Please see more details about World Communion Sunday and the International Tasting below).

In keeping with this week’s message, feel free to invite friends to join you this Sunday! Please seek me out and introduce them to me. I would love to meet them.

-Dr. Scott Weimer

 

Building an Authentic Relationship with God

Last Sunday was an important day in the life of our congregation. During the three worship services, we named and denounced the evil of racism and hatred that was manifested recently in Charlottesville, VA, through the presence and actions of white supremacists, the Neo-Nazi’s, and the KKK. We acknowledged that racism is profoundly present within our culture, and that we—in the name of Jesus Christ—must reject and work against any ideology that affirms one race as superior to any other race. 
 
We took time in each worship service to speak to one another in groups of 2 or 3 (or more) about the above events.  We invited each person to answer two questions in a spirit of careful listening and without judging the answers we heard. The first question was, “How are you feeling about the events of the last week, beginning with Charlottesville?”  The second question was, “How can our congregation best address these issues going forward?”
 
I was personally deeply gratified by the conversations that I witnessed and by those that I later heard about. Some of you wrote down suggestions about how we can move forward and submitted them at the end of the service.  Many of you mentioned that it was very helpful to you to have an opportunity to express yourself within the safe space of our congregation.  Many of us left the service asking, “What happens now?” 
 
First of all, please know that the church officers (elders and deacons) and staff will prayerfully review every suggestion and comment that was submitted.  Second, please know that earlier in the year, the session approved a new Strategic Plan that will set a course for our church over the next 3-5 years. One of the approved strategic initiatives is “More fully engaging Christ’s ministry of reconciliation.” A strategic planning team is being formed around this initiative, and one of the charges to that team will be helping our leadership and the congregation navigate the challenges of racism. Seeking racial reconciliation has become a high priority for our church family. Thank you for your courageous engagement of these important conversations last Sunday. Thank you also for your commitment to continue to work for God’s reconciliation of all things in Jesus Christ in the days ahead. 
 
As we look toward this coming Sunday, I want to especially draw your attention to the Foundations Sunday School Class that meets between the morning worship services at 10 a.m. in the Gym. This Sunday, we will hear an inspiring report from the Youth Mission Team about their summer trip to Austria to work alongside a NAPC mission partner that helps refugees from the Middle East recover from the trauma of war and find healing and hope in a new country. 
 
Finally, please note that the session has called a congregational meeting immediately following the 11 a.m. worship service in the Sanctuary, for the purpose of electing a new class of deacons and elders, along with next year’s Nominating Team.  A secondary purpose of the meeting will be to hear a report about a new staffing model that is in alignment with the Strategic Plan. 
 
Cynthia and I look forward to seeing you in worship this Sunday!

-Dr. Scott Weimer