Putting God First

“Putting God First”
Rev. Benjamin Wines
(Third Sunday in Lent)
Exodus 20:1-17

We look forward to joining you in Worship this Sunday, starting at 11:00AM in the Sanctuary. You can also find our services online at the HVBC YouTube Channel. Today’s sermon is titled, “Putting God First“. We will be reading from Exodus 20:1-17, and our Call to Worship comes from Psalm 19.

Call to Worship Psalm 19:7-10, 14
The law of the Lord is perfect,
Reviving the soul;
The decrees of the Lord are sure,
Making wise the simple;
The precepts of the Lord are right,
Rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the Lord is clear,
Enlightening the eyes;
The fear of the Lord is pure,
Enduring forever;
The ordinances of the Lord are true
And righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold,
Even much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey,
And drippings of the honeycomb.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Questions for Further Reflection:

So often we think of the Ten Commandments as “God’s Top Ten Rules”.

  • What if they are more than that?
  • How can they foster community among God’s people?

Making Connections

Brothers and sisters,

I have a random story to tell you all this week, but I hope that it can serve as a reminder of the opportunities we all have to make faithful connections. My story starts with me and my friend, Adam, deciding that we wanted to go to the ACC Tournament this year up in Washington, DC. We made the plans and bought the tickets all in one night. So, when you see that I’m on vacation in a couple weeks, you’ll know where I am!

That raised an issue for me though: I bought all my Carolina clothes when I was in undergrad, which was longer ago than I think! So, this past Sunday afternoon, I had to go to Franklin Street to restock my closet ahead of the tournament—emphasis on the “had to” part! I went through several stores, including walking all the way down to Student Stores on cam-pus, and came away with a good assortment of t-shirts and a nice new Carolina sweatshirt.

Now, when I bought that sweatshirt, the cashier assured me that it was a unisex XXL. When I got home and tried it on, I found that it was not! If I stood perfectly still with my arms down by my side, it barely covered my torso and only about 80% of my arms. I don’t know if you all know this, but at athletic events, you rarely stand perfectly still with your arms down by your side! As popular as crop tops have become, I decided that maybe they were not the look for, you know, the Reverend Benjamin Wines.

So now, I legitimately had to go back to Franklin Street to return this sweatshirt and buy a new one! So, Tuesday night, I went to Franklin Street, strolled up to the store, and found that they had closed early that day—so now I have to go back to Franklin Street a third time for one sweatshirt! Not to be defeated, I went to a couple of other stores and found a sweatshirt that I liked at The Shrunken Head Boutique—an institution! As I was checking out, the cashier and I started chatting.

She is currently a sophomore at UNC and is a double major in, of all things, neuroscience and religious studies. I told her that I had majored in religious studies at UNC and so we chatted about some of the professors there—turns out we had some of the same ones. I told her that I was a minister and asked if she was considering ministry and she said, “Not primarily, but I’m keeping my options open.” So I asked her, “What led you to both neuroscience and religious studies?” And she responded by telling me that she loved science and medicine and wanted to help people, but that sometimes science can get so focused on helping the person’s body, they for-get about the person themselves. She wanted to bridge that gap.

As it happens, Duke Divinity School partners with Duke’s School of Medicine to teach classes on exactly that—bridging the gap be-tween “patient” and “person.” So I told her about the program and encouraged her to look into it. She told me she would and then finished ringing me up. As I left we laughed and said, “What are the odds we’d run into each other and have this conversation?” And if you just consider random, generic “odds”—it’s pretty low. But I happen to believe in a God who can use a decision to go to the ACC Tournament, a closet full of raggedy old clothes, and an ill-fitting sweatshirt to bring people together.

Grace and peace,
Pastor Ben

The Big One

“The Big One”
Rev. Benjamin Wines
(Second Sunday in Lent)
Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16

We look forward to joining you in Worship this Sunday, starting at 11:00AM in the Sanctuary. You can also find our services online at the HVBC YouTube Channel. Today’s sermon is titled, “The Big One”. We will be reading from Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16, and our Call to Worship comes from Psalm 22.

Questions for Further Reflection:
Our passage for today contains one of the most fundamental promises God makes to anyone.
What are the foundations of your own faith?
How has God kept promises to you?

With All Creation

“With All Creation”
Rev. Benjamin Wines
(First Sunday in Lent)
Genesis 9:8-17

We look forward to joining you in Worship this Sunday, starting at 11:00AM in the Sanctuary. You can also find our services online at the HVBC YouTube Channel.

Today’s sermon is titled, “With All Creation“. We will be reading from Genesis 9:8-17, and our Call to Worship comes from Psalm 25.

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
O my God, in you I trust;
Do not let me be put to shame;
Do not let my enemies exult over me.
Make me to know your ways, O Lord;
Teach me your paths.
Lead me in your truth, and teach me,
For you are the God of my salvation;
For you I wait all day long.
Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord,
And of your steadfast love,
For they have been from of old.
Good and upright is the Lord;
Therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
He leads the humble in what is right,
And teaches the humble his way.
All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness,
For those who keep his covenant and his decrees. – from Psalm 25

Valentine’s Day

Brothers and sisters,

By the time you’re reading this, Valentine’s Day will have come and gone. Flowers will have been bought, expensive dinners paid for, and chocolates exchanged (though remember that these days are known as “70% Off Chocolate Days”). Every year, there’s always a big to-do about what a person is going to get for their significant other, but there’s also a big to-do about folks rejecting Valentine’s Day.

This year, apparently, has been big on that, with Etsy reporting that searches for “anti-Valentine’s Day” products are up 14% compared to last year. But there’s an even bigger jump for “anti-Valentine’s Day” T-shirts—up 34% from 2023. Now, I’d be lying if I said that some of the stuff isn’t funny. Some shirts declare, “Not today, Cupid.” Others with a masked man advising folks, “Love is in the air; try not to breathe.” Perhaps my favorite, “Who needs valentines when you could have tacos?” And I get it. Valentine’s Day can feel sugary-sweet, syrupy, saccharine. It has been heavily commercialized (again, you can find chocolate for 70% off today—never pay full price!). But let me tell you one of the legends about St. Valentine, the man this holiday is named after.

According to legend, there was a Roman priest named Valentinus who lived during the 3rd century AD, well before Christianity would be tolerated within the Roman Empire. He was arrested during the reign of the Roman emperor Gothicus and was held in custody by an aristocrat named Asterius. Asterius was curious about some of the things Valentinus believed and so he would go and talk with the Christian. Valentinus told him about some of the missions other Christians had been on, spreading the good news, and converting people all over the ancient world. In particular, Valentinus talked about Christ as the “light of truth and salvation.” So, Asterius made a bargain with Valentinus—he would convert to Christianity if Valentinus could heal his daughter’s blindness. Reportedly, Valentinus put his hands over her eyes and chanted, “Lord Jesus Christ, enlighten your handmaid, because you are God, the True Light.” With that, Asterius’ daughter could see and Asterius and his entire family converted to Christianity.

It is true that the modern story of Valentine’s Day is one of flowers and chocolates and fancy dinners. It is also true that it is the story of anti-Valentine’s Day merch—with yet another shirt I saw declaring, “Ew, Valentine’s Day.” But it is also true that Valentine’s Day is a day to celebrate the love that God gifts to all of us. The love that we have toward our significant others has its roots in God. The love we have for friends and neighbors has its roots in God. The love Valentinus had for God and for everyone he met was so deeply rooted in God, that even his own jailer’s daughter would be healed by it. I think that’s something to celebrate.

Grace and peace,

Pastor Ben

Call Confirmed

“Call Confirmed”
Rev. Benjamin Wines
Mark 9:2-9

The mighty one, God the Lord, speaks and summons the earth
From the rising of the sun to its setting.
Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty,
God shines forth.
Our God comes and does not keep silence, before him is a devouring fire,
And a mighty tempest all around him.
He calls to the heavens above and to the earth,
That he may judge his people:
“Gather to me my faithful ones,
Who made a covenant with me by sacrifice!”
The heavens declare his righteousness,
For God himself is judge. – Psalm 50:1-6

We look forward to joining you in Worship this Sunday, starting at 11:00AM in the Sanctuary. You can also find our services online at the HVBC YouTube Channel. Today’s sermon is titled, “Call Confirmed“. We will be reading from Mark 9:2-9, and our Call to Worship comes from Psalm 50:1-6.

Questions for Further Reflection:
As Jesus makes his turn toward the cross, God confirms his call.
When God’s call becomes hard, how will we respond?
What are the things that could make answering God’s call difficult?

Micro & Macro

“Micro & Macro”
Fifth Sunday after Epiphany
Rev. Benjamin Wines
Mark 1:29-39

Praise the Lord! How good it is to sing praises to our God;
For he is gracious, and a song of praise is fitting.
The Lord builds up Jerusalem;
He gathers the outcasts of Israel.
He heals the brokenhearted,
And binds up their wounds.
He determines the number of the stars;
He gives to all of them their names.
Great is our Lord, and abundant in power;
His understanding is beyond measure.
The Lord lifts up the downtrodden;
He casts the wicked to the ground.
Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving;
Make melody to our God on the lyre. from Psalm 147:1-7

We look forward to joining you in Worship this Sunday, starting at 11:00AM in the Sanctuary. You can also find our services online at the HVBC YouTube Channel. Today’s sermon is titled, “Micro & Macro”. We will be reading from Mark 1:29-39, and our Call to Worship comes from Psalm 147.

Questions for Further Reflection:
In this passage, we see Jesus’ circle of care expand several times.
How has God cared for you, specifically?
Where have you seen God at work in your community?
How can you partner with God to care for folks?

Power and Humility

“Power and Humility”
Rev. Benjamin Wines
Mark 1:21-28

Praise the Lord! I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart,
In the company of the upright, in the congregation.
Great are the works of the Lord,
Studied by all who delight in them.
Full of honor and majesty is his work,
And his righteousness endures forever.
He has gained renown by his wonderful deeds;
The Lord is gracious and merciful.
The works of his hands are faithful and just;
All his precepts are trustworthy.
They are established forever and ever,
To be performed with faithfulness and uprightness.
He sent redemption to his people; he has commanded his covenant forever.
Holy and awesome is his name.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
All those who practice it have a good understanding.
His praise endures forever. – from Psalm 111

We look forward to joining you in Worship this Sunday, starting at 11:00AM in the Sanctuary. You can also find our services online at the HVBC YouTube Channel. Today’s sermon is titled, “Power and Humility”. We will be reading from Mark 1:21-28, and our Call to Worship comes from Psalm 111.

Questions for Further Reflection:

Words are powerful things.

  • How does Jesus use his words in this passage?
  • What words has God spoken to you?
  • How can you use your words for the good of God’s kingdom?

“Immediately”

“Immediately”
Rev. Benjamin Wines
Mark 1:14-20

We look forward to joining you in Worship this Sunday, starting at 11:00AM in the Sanctuary. You can also find our services online at the HVBC YouTube Channel. Today’s sermon is titled, “Immediately”. We will be reading from Mark 1:14-20, and our Call to Worship comes from Psalm 62:5-12.

For God alone my soul waits in silence,
For my hope is from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress;
I shall not be shaken.
On God rests my deliverance and my honor;
My mighty rock, my refuge is in God.
Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him;
God is a refuge for us.
Those of low estate are but a breath, those of high estate are a delusion;
In the balances they go up; they are together lighter than a breath.
Put no confidence in extortion, and set no vain hopes on robbery;
If riches increase, do not set your heart on them.
Once God has spoken; twice have I heard this;
That power belongs to God,
And steadfast love belongs to you, O Lord.
For you repay to all according to their work. – from Psalm 62

Questions for Further Reflection:
The disciples in today’s passage make a decision to follow Jesus “immediately,” but remember that their story doesn’t end there.

  • What is something you can do “immediately” to step out in faith?
  • How will you sustain your faith past that immediate moment?

Breathe In, Breathe Out

January is an interesting month. On the one hand, the month is best known for its first few minutes, as folks celebrate the beginning of a new year with friends and loved ones. Those first few minutes are followed up by the New Years resolutions I mentioned in my article two weeks ago. From that point on, though, there’s not a whole lot else that happens in January. The College Football Playoff happens. Everyone takes a Monday to commemorate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. But beyond that, January can feel empty in comparison to the hubbub of December.

But as the staff and I have talked about January, we’ve talked about it in a different way. We’ve referred to this month as being one in which the church gets to “take a breath.” December is a wonderful month full of music and joy and celebration, but it is also a month that is full of practices, appointments, deadlines, shopping, and events. And so January comes in to provide respite and a sense of peace. It is a moment when people can breathe deeply, get back to a sense of routine, and start looking forward to what the rest of the year has in store.

I like that idea of January as a month to take a breath because there are several moments throughout the scriptures where breathing is emphasized. The first instance, perhaps the most famous one, is in Genesis 2:7. God gently holds the sculpted figure of Adam’s body close to God’s own face and breathes the breath of life into him. It is God’s breath that gives Adam life. It is not a chaotic moment—God is not beating back forces of chaos or darkness or anything like that in order to give Adam life. No—it is an intimate moment be-tween Creator and Creation.

The other moment that comes to mind happens in Exodus 3:13-14, when Moses asks for God’s name. Moses is already on Mount Horeb and has already witnessed the burning bush. He’s received his call to go and free the people from Pharaoh. He asks God, “If the people ask me for your name, what should I tell them?” God replies with, “I AM WHO I AM.” That phrase is translated from the Hebrew word, “YHWH,” or what we say as “Yahweh.” Why bring that up? Because scholars have pointed out that saying the name, “Yahweh,” mimics the pattern of breathing in and out. Try breathing in and saying, “Yah,” followed by breathing out and saying, “weh.” The breath of God, that same breath that gives life to us all, is what defines God. It is God’s very name!

So, this January, take a breath. After all the wonderful chaos of December, take this month to breathe in deeply. Take this month to slow down and appreciate all that you’ve been given. Take this month to look forward to your future, as you consider all the possibilities 2024 holds. And remember that with every breath, God is with you. That is the depth of God’s faithfulness. With every breath, God fills your lungs with life and love and peace.

Grace and peace,
Pastor Ben