Rest and Restoration

Brothers and sisters,

First, I wanted to thank all of you for the gifts and cards you all gave me for my birthday this past week! I felt very loved and I am grateful that I can serve with a group of caring people like you all. Thank you! Also, thank you all for letting me have the night of my birthday off. My friends and I thoroughly enjoyed the Bulls game, especially since the Bulls beat the Jumbo Shrimp (yes, that was the other team’s name), 8-2! Thank you!

This past weekend actually reminded me of a concept that comes up a lot in the Bible, but that we often don’t pay as much attention to as we should. After the Bulls game Wednesday night, I came to work the next day and, once the workday was over, I made my way down to the coast to spend some more time with my friends. We had a good time catching up with each other, reminiscing about old times together, playing games and swapping stories about our lives now. We also spent a day on the beach (I have the sunburn to prove it!), playing bocce, swimming, and walking along the sand. We ate good food together. We wandered around downtown Swansboro together. They showed me the shops and restaurants their family liked to visit. I drove them over to Emerald Isle and took them to some of my family’s favorite spots. And as I left on Saturday night, I remember having this wonderful feeling of being “rested.” The coast has always been a place of rest and relaxation for me, not just because of the laid-back vibe the area has, but also because I have almost always gone down to the coast with friends or family. It is always a time of retreat and restoration, a time to reconnect with folks away from any pressures of “normal” life, a time to take in the fun and excitement of being somewhere new, a time to take in the beauty of Creation and feel restored.

The concept of “rest” and the concept of taking time away to rest shows up a lot in the scriptures. Jesus, on multiple occasions, takes his disciples across the Sea of Galilee to a place where they can rest and pray (Matthew 14:22-23; Mark 6:30-32). God sends an angel to take care of the prophet Elijah after his confrontation with the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 19:1-8). The psalms are filled with moments where the poets thank God for giving them rest (Psalm 3, 4, 23, 62, 116, and more!). And of course, the most famous example, after spending six days creating the cosmos, God rests on the seventh (Genesis 2:1-3). All these examples tell us one very important thing—God wants us to take time to rest. God does not expect us to try and sprint through life, moving from one project to the next, one event to the next. God wants us to take time to relax and recharge. God wants us to take moments to slow down, breathe in, and breathe out, taking in all the wondrous things around us. God wants us to take time to enjoy the things that bring us happiness and fulfillment.

What are the things that bring you rest? Where are the places you feel you can relax and recharge? Who are the people that fill you up? What parts of your spiritual life restore your soul? I hope you’ll ponder these questions over the coming days. And I hope you’ll take some time to do something you really enjoy, some-thing that fulfills you, something that lets you feel relaxed and rested.

Grace and peace to you all,
Pastor Ben

Fidelity

“Fidelity” – Rev. Benjamin Wines

Fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.”
They are corrupt; there is no one who does good.
The Lord looks down from heaven on humankind
To see if there are any who are wise, who seek after God.
They have all gone astray, they are all alike perverse;
There is no one who does good, no, not one.
Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers who eat up my people as they eat bread,
And do not call upon the Lord?
There they shall be in great terror,
For God is with the company of the righteous.
You would confound the plans of the poor,
But the Lord is their refuge.
O that deliverance for Israel would come from Zion!
When the Lord restores the fortunes of His people, Jacob will rejoice; Israel will be glad.
– from Psalm 14

Join us as Rev. Benjamin Wines continues our series about King David – “The Man After God’s Own Heart” We will be reading from 2 Samuel 11:1-17, 26-27.

Today’s Quartet is Anne Pokorny, Leigh Bigger, Mike Bunch, and John Myers.
A big thank you to all of the above for sharing their gifts of music with us this morning.

A House that Saves

“A House That Saves” – Rev. Benjamin Wines

I have found My servant David;
With My holy oil I have anointed him;
He shall cry to Me, “You are my Father,
“My God, and the Rock of my salvation!”
I will make him the firstborn,
The highest of the kings of the earth.
Forever I will keep My steadfast love for him,
And My covenant with him will stand firm.
I will not violate My covenant,
Or alter the word that went forth from My lips.
Once and for all I have sworn by My holiness;
I will not lie to David.
His line shall continue forever,
And his throne endure before Me like the sun.
It shall be established forever like the moon,
An enduring witness to the skies. -from Psalm 89

Join us as Rev. Benjamin Wines continues our series about King David – “The Man After God’s Own Heart” We will be reading from 2 Samuel 7:1-14a.

Today’s Quartet is Anne Pokorny, Brenda Doyle, Mike Dossett and John Myers.
A big thank you to all of the above for sharing their gifts of music with us this morning.

Opportunity …

Brothers and Sisters,

Can you believe we are already over halfway through 2021? I know that, for me, a lot has happened since the year began! I started out the year working with the City of Raleigh’s Parks department, answering phones and assisting guests. Eventually, I began speaking with the Pastor Search Team here at Hope Valley about the possibility of serving this church as Senior Pastor. And now, after two months as your Senior Pastor, I ask myself, “What defined the first half of 2021 for me? How would I describe it?”

For me, the word that comes to mind is opportunity. During the first half of this year, I had the opportunity to read widely about all manner of subjects from American history to writing to technical religious scholarship. I had the opportunity to read and reread works of fiction that re-minded me of how wonderful and creative we can be as human beings. And as I did that, it gave me the chance to take a step back and ask myself about my own spiritual, theological, and vocational passions. I was reminded of the wonder of God’s creation as these different authors wrote so beautifully about the world around them or about the worlds they saw in their imaginations. I was reminded of the wonderful community of God as I worked at the community center, as families and groups of friends would come in after spending the day together, as strangers struck up conversations, and I got to know new people. And when the opportunity to serve God’s people at Hope Valley came, I heard my call to ministry spoken to me in new, refreshing ways. I heard that call spoken to me in ways that were good and life-giving. I felt good about the opportunity to dive back into church-work, to begin serving God through ministry with God’s people once again.

I tell you all that in part because I want you all to know me better and have a better understanding of where I continue to feel my call to ministry coming from. It continues to come from God and it continues to come through my own interactions with other people. And now, at the beginning of July, I ask my-self, “What will the second half of 2021 be for me? What will it be for us at Hope Valley Baptist Church? What word will I associate with it?” As I think about the ministries we are already engaged in—the Summer Snacks Program and Hope House—and I consider our most recent event, Lemonade on the Lawn, my hope is that word will be “hospitality.” As the world continues to struggle with the pandemic, I am encouraged by the way that people in different communities, including our own, are reaching out and helping one another. I hope that we, as a church family, will continue to reach out to folks. I hope that we will continue to look for the image of God in each other and in our neighbors. I hope we will seek creative ways to love God’s people during this second half of the year.

I hope you will take some time to reflect on this year—what it has been and what it can be. I hope you will join me in striving to be more hospitable to people. And I hope you will look for little ways to be good and kind to others. You may want to call a friend or neighbor to check on them. You may want to make a donation to a local non-profit. You may want to just spend some time in fellowship with your brothers and sisters in Christ over lemonade and cookies. Regardless, know that God goes with you through it all, faithfully calling you to do the work of God’s kingdom.

Grace and peace to you all,
Pastor Ben

Undignified

“Undignified” – Pastor Benjamin Wines

Let me hear what God the Lord will speak,
For He will speak peace to His people,
To His faithful,
To those who turn to Him in their hearts.
Surely His salvation is at hand for those who fear Him,
That His glory may dwell in our land.
Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet;
Righteousness and peace will kiss each other.
Faithfulness will spring up from the ground,
And righteousness will look down from the sky.
The Lord will give what is good,
And our land will yield its increase.
Righteousness will go before Him,
And will make a path for His steps. – from Psalm 85

Join us as Rev. Benjamin Wines continues our series about King David – “The Man After God’s Own Heart” We will be reading from 2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-22.

Today’s Quartet is Anne Pokorny, Leigh Bigger, Mike Bunch and John Myers. A big thank you to all of the above for sharing their gifts of music with us this morning.

Humility and Unity

“Humility and Unity” – Pastor Benjamin Wines

Join us as Rev. Benjamin Wines continues our series about King David – “The Man After God’s Own Heart” We will be reading from 2 Samuel 5:1-5, 10.

Today’s Quartet is Brenda Doyle, Michelle Hunt, Mike Dossett and John Myers. Brenda Doyle is leading us in music today and Jan Mangum is our pianist. A big thank you to all of the above for sharing their gifts of music with us this morning.

Grace Above All

“Grace Above All” – Pastor Benjamin Wines

Join us as Rev. Benjamin Wines continues our series about King David – “The Man After God’s Own Heart” We will be reading from 2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27.

Today’s Quartet is Brenda Doyle, Mary Summerlin, Mike Bunch, and Chris Summerlin. A big thank you to all of the above for sharing their gifts of music with us this morning.

Nominating Committee

As the church is regathering, the Nominating Team will be contacting members about resuming their previous roles or taking on new ministries. Please prayerfully consider where you can use your gifts and talents within the church. We know that one area of need will be for more ushers, but an updated nominating report will be issued with the next Illuminator showing other areas of service that need more hands.

Thank you for your continued support for our church and its ministries.

Lemonade on the Lawn – July 4th

Lemonade on the Lawn is a great way for all ages to serve and to get to know others.

Join the Family Ministries Team on July 4th for our first Lemonade on the Lawn of the year as we enjoy a time of refreshment and community in the Rose Garden.

If you would like to help with this time of fun fellowship by providing cookies or by spending a little bit of time after worship pouring and greeting, please contact Amy Herring or the church office.

Clothed in Grace

Brothers and sisters,

Over the last few days, I’ve been reflecting on some of the things we talked about this past Sunday. In particular, I’ve thought about the way Saul’s armor constrained David, the way it prevented him from moving. Ultimately, David cast the armor aside because he knew it would prevent him from being faithful. It would hinder his ability to serve God. And it reminded me of a story from my time as a waiter.

After undergrad, I took some time off from school before heading to seminary. During that time, I worked for a few months as a waiter at Logan’s Roadhouse in Goldsboro, my hometown. The job was good and the people I worked with were fun and interesting. And, honestly, most of the time the customers were fun and interesting as well — though a few tables I served still stick out in my mind. One of them in particular came in during a weekday lunch rush. The party consisted of four men and I quickly recognized what I was looking at. Three of the men had badges on their shirt pockets from the local mental hospital. One man didn’t and I could tell by the way the other three were interacting with him that he was either a patient or someone they knew who lived with mental illness (I’ll call him Harry).

That, in and of itself, was not all that unusual. What struck me about these four men was the way they so clearly cared about each other. When they sat at my table, one of the men, I’ll call him Joe, sat directly beside Harry, wrapped his arm around him, and said, “Alright man, isn’t this special? We’re here at Logan’s! What sounds good to you?” With that, Joe began to read the entire menu to his friend and describe everything to him. Harry was mostly non-verbal, but it didn’t matter. His friends understood him. As those two worked through the menu, one of the other guys (Frank) ordered for himself and Joe. The fourth man (Tommy) was busy getting silverware allocated and making sure everything on the table was just right.

Eventually, I got everyone’s order, put it in to the kitchen, and brought the food out to them. The whole time, all four were carrying on a conversation and having a great time. When the food hit the table, the three workers set into helping each other. Joe kept talking with Harry, hyping up his food, and cutting Harry’s chicken tenders and fries up so he could eat them easily. He asked for a side of barbecue sauce, Harry’s favorite, and I quickly got some for him. While that was happening, Tommy immediately started eating so he could be done in time to switch out with Joe, and Frank was cutting up Joe’s steak so he could eat it quickly after he switched out. All of this happened without a word of coordination between them. They had done this before. They knew how to care for each other. When Harry’s food came and he danced, they all danced. When Harry wanted to speak, they listened. When Joe, Frank, or Tommy spoke, Harry would listen too. And when they each needed help from each other, help came without hesitation.

Saul’s armor, that worldly armor, con-strained David and did not allow him to move. David understood that the only thing he needed to carry with him was the grace of God. In a similar way, those four men wore no worldly armor. No pride. No anger. No impatience. No vanity. Instead, they were clothed in love and mercy, respect and dignity, joy and humility. I think about those four guys a lot because I am convinced that on that day, in a Logan’s Roadhouse, I caught a glimpse of the kingdom of God. May we all seek to clothe ourselves in God’s grace.

Grace and peace to you all,
Pastor Ben