Announcements

Worship Online: We are moving to online-only worship from now until further notice. Thank you for your cooperation and understanding!

Online Worship Resources:

Digital Connection Card: https://forms.gle/dkkcQZKDmwcKfUmYA

Digital Prayer Request Card: https://forms.gle/ZeC88cNcSs684RQ37

Church Office Hours: The church office will be temporarily closing to drop-in traffic. Staff will still have access, but we are encouraging work from home at this time.

Pastoral Care: We are here for you. If you should need prayer or someone to talk through during this time, please do not hesitate to reach out via email or to call the church office. We will have access to our phones and answering services. You are loved.

Digital Meetings: Regularly scheduled team meetings (Church Council, Trustees, SPR, Finance, etc.) will all have meetings via video chat. Watch your email for further instructions!

Wednesday Night Live: Our midweek services will not be meeting in person for the next few weeks, at which time, we will re-evaluate. We will offer digital small groups and family resources during this time.

Devotionals

The Kenosis Hymn

5 Minute Theology

Beloved, you are in Christ and Christ is in you. One of the most well-known and beautiful passages written by the Apostle Paul is found in Philippians 2:5-11 known as the Kenosis Hymn.

5 “Adopt the attitude that was in Christ 

Jesus:

6 Though he was in the form of God,

            he did not consider being 

equal with God something to 

exploit.

7 But he emptied himself 

by taking the form of a slave 

and by becoming like human 

beings.

When he found himself in the form 

of a human,

8          He humbled himself by 

becoming obedient to the point of 

death,

            Even death on a cross.

9 Therefore, God highly honored 

him

            And gave him a name above 

all names,

10        so that at the name of Jesus 

everyone

            in heaven, on earth, and under 

the earth might bow 

11        and every tongue confess 

that Jesus Christ is Lord, to 

the glory of God the Father.”

~Philippians 2:5-11

I have been thinking a lot about this hymn in Philippians as of late.  Kenosis comes from the Greek word: ἐκένωσεν (ekenosen), which means ‘he emptied’ as we find in verse 7, “But he emptied himself by taking the form of a slave and by becoming like human beings when he found himself in the form of a human”. That particular point is important, but first let us look at a little context.  This hymn is written near the beginning of Philippians, a letter penned by Paul to the church at Philippi.  Philippi was a major city of Macedonia in the northern Greece and a Roman colony on the this road called the Via Egnatia, a really important road that helped a lot of travel and trade happen to and from Italy.  I find so much joy in this letter from Paul because, unlike his other letters, you can clearly see the mutual affection between the people of this church and himself.  It really contrasts the problems Paul faced in other churches.  

Paul writes this letter from prison, and he writes from a really uncertain time in his life where he is completely unsure of the outcome for himself.  The themes of opposition, hostility, and the possibility of death are present in his letter.  Can we relate to this at all?  Are we walking through an uncertain time, kept in a form of what feels like captivity? Lonely.  Uncertain.  Fearful of what may or may not come next.  While our major concerns may be contextually different, the emotions like fear and hostility.  Distrust and uncertainty…well, these certainly feel the same, don’t they?  

That Paul’s Letter to the Philippians was written from prison increases the power of its message for Christians of every time and place.  In our modern time, we have come to respect and honor letters from prison.  I think of Martin Luther King Jr. and his letter written from Birmingham jail during the early days of the civil rights movement.  His letter is a beacon of justice and strength for us all, even today.  I think of Nelson Mandela and his letters from prison in South Africa during apartheid and how they must have breathed life into so many to take action in their country on behalf of the dignity and freedom of all people.  A message of action, hope, justice, and peace.  What’s more, is that these letters spoke to the people at the time to let them know that even through the toughest of times, they are not alone.  Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi is no exception.  The witness of Paul’s Letter to the Philippians is written from an uncertain prison, yes, but is immersed in faith, courage, and sparkling joy. His letter has compelling and enduring power.  

We have now arrived at the Kenosis Hymn itself, Paul’s great Christ hymn.  At the very beginning in verses 6 and 7, we see how Jesus has solidarity with God being in the form of God and also equal with God, but also Jesus’s solidarity with us as humans, “6 Though he was in the form of God, he did not consider being equal with God something to exploit. 7 But he emptied himself by taking the form of a slave and by becoming like human beings.” In verse 7 we see that Greek word I mentioned earlier ἐκένωσεν (ekenosen), meaning he emptied himself.  Now, the meaning of this phrase and overall hymn has been (and continues to be) debated amongst scholars and theologians, however what we can clearly see is that God did not wish to be an unreachable, untouchable, unrelatable deity.  You see, the ancient people of the time were accustomed to worshipping gods that were unreachable.  They heard stories of these gods who, at their best, wanted all the power and glory and worship, and if the people complied, they may be rewarded with favor by the gods.  These gods, at their worst, were fickle and unreliable and were believed to punish those who followed them according to the whim of the gods.  This is what the ancient believers knew ‘god’ to be, and this God that Paul spoke of, was completely radical.  An Almighty God who would lower himself to not only commune with humans, but to become human.  To experience humanity for himself.  To experience pain, love, fear, agony, joy, grief, friendship, captivity, and ultimately, death.  Who IS this God?  What was amazing to our ancient readers, continues to be amazing to us today.  Beloved, we also experience love, and fear, and joy, and grief.  We, in our humanity, feel anxious and question an uncertain future.  Ultimately, we experience death.  The amazing thing is, so did God.  The German theologian Jurgen Moltmann said, “Human beings are not merely created by God; they in their turn also make an impression on God.  It is not only we who experience God; God also ‘experiences’ us, and the ‘experience which God has with us remains existent in God’.  God humbled himself to experience us, to resonate, and create solidarity with us. Even in death.

What does this mean for us?  Especially for right now.  In this time of anxiety, and fear, and loneliness we often ask the question, “Where is God?”  The answer is found in scripture.  ”7 But he emptied himself by taking the form of a slave and by becoming like human beings. When he found himself in the form of a human, 8 He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, Even death on a cross.” He is with us.  Not only is God with us, he can empathize and sympathize with our feelings of fear and pain.  Agony and solitude.  He can empathize with us because he has experienced everything that we have.  

So, where is God when I am afraid of an uncertain future and feel anxious and weary?

Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane. He said to the disciples, “Stay here while I go and pray over there.” When he took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, he began to feel sad and anxious.” -Matthew 26:36-37

Where is God when I am lonely?

“Then he said to them, “I’m very sad. It’s as if I’m dying. Stay here and keep alert with me. -Matthew 26:38

Where is God when I’m exhausted and I just feel like I need to regroup?

“Jesus understood that they were about to come and force him to be their king, so he took refuge again, alone on a mountain.” -John 6:15

Where is God when someone I love dies and I am devastated?

“When Mary arrived where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died.” When Jesus saw her crying and the Jews who had come with her crying also, he was deeply disturbed and troubled. He asked, “Where have you laid him?” They replied, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus began to cry. The Jews said, “See how much he loved him!” -John 11:32-36

Where is God when I feel like I’ve been completely abandoned?

“At about three Jesus cried out with a loud shout, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani,” which means, “My God, my God, why have you left me? -Matthew 27:46

Where is God when I’m sick or dying?

“It was now about noon, and darkness covered the whole earth until about three o’clock, while the sun stopped shining. Then the curtain in the sanctuary tore down the middle. Crying out in a loud voice, Jesus said, “Father, into your hands I entrust my life.” After he said this, he breathed for the last time.” -Luke 23:44-46

God “emptied himself” into the human form of Jesus and experienced what humanity experiences.  Where is God through all of this?  He is right here.  He knows how we feel because he’s experienced it like we have.  Paul tell us in his letter to the Philippians that unlike any other god we think we know, because he “emptied himself” God never leaves our side through anything we experience. He walks with you through every trying time and invites you to find peaceful rest in him.

“Be strong! Be fearless! Don’t be afraid and don’t be scared by your enemies, because the Lord your God is the one who marches with you. He won’t let you down, and he won’t abandon you.” -Deuteronomy 31:6

God will never abandon you.

Check out our past devotionals!

Family Resources

Friends! Are you interested in an Easter Egg Hunt? Omaha has organized “The Great Omaha Easter Egg Hunt”! You can search for that title on Facebook to join the group, find resources, printable eggs, directions, and more! You can still register through Easter! #GreatOmahaEggHunt.

Is Omaha a little too far? No problem! The Fremont Middle School choir students are organizing something similar right here in our community! Print out and color fun pictures of eggs, bunnies, or crosses and hang them in your windows, garage doors, anywhere visible! No printer? No problem! Draw them on your driveways with sidewalk chalk! Then drive around Fremont and see how many you can find!

For more family resources, click here.

Small Group Resources

It is in uncertain times like these that our presence with one another offers a renewed sense of peace and comfort. Our already existing small groups will continue to connect virtually. If you are not yet part of a small group, but would like to join one:

Contact Jill Harman: Jill.livingston.harman@gmail.com.

Our virtual doors are open and hearts have plenty of room.

Weekly Small Group Questions

Quarantine Theology

Small Group Discussion Guide

Week of March 29 – April 4, 2020

Preparing for Your Small Group

Central Question:  How can we truly bless others when we are 6 feet apart?


Message Big Idea: God can change lives from your living room.

Note to Group LeadersFeel free to skip around if the discussion is going in a different direction, and don’t feel like you need to get through everything!  We will offer extra copies of this sheet in case anyone wants to take it home and continue studying if you don’t get through everything.  You know your group best!

Opening Prayer and Icebreaker:

Open in prayer (either you or you can ask someone from the group)

Icebreaker: None this week!

Discussion

Blessed Definition:  Blessed is to be filled with holy goodness.  Blessed is to be consecrated, to become different, to be altered and changed because you were in the presence of God.

Question:  Last week in group, we were challenged by scripture that said it is “Our job to be a blessing” to someone else.  What is the difference between being a true “blessing” to someone else and just doing something nice? 

Question:  Obed-Edom had the Ark of the Covenant in his ‘living room’ for 90 days.  30 months.  And he was completely changed by being in the presence of God.

How can we as people of the church begin to shift our mindset from the church being a building to the church being the world?  Where else can you experience church?

Question:  Obed-Edom was entrusted with something really important, and he was a Gentile.  An enemy by nature.  Yet, he is where God is “housed” for 3 months.  He is changed, yet so are God’s people.  

Think of someone you struggle with, someone you may consider an enemy (don’t say it out loud!).  How can you start to think of them as someone who can “house” God?  

What can you do to start changing your perspective?

Scripture:  Ephesians 2:19-22

“So now you are no longer strangers and aliens.  Rather, you are fellow citizens with God’s people, and you belong to God’s household.  As God’s household, you are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.  The whole building is joined together in him, and it grows up into a temple that is dedicated to the Lord.  Christ is building you into a place where God lives through the Spirit.

Question:  That, in Christ, is what happens to us. Though by nature we are all Gentiles and we are outsiders, enemies of God, we are given the overwhelming privilege of hosting Israel’s God.  How can you start to think of yourself as “Obed-Edom’s living room” aka a place where God is housed?

Do you need to forgive yourself?

Do you need to forgive someone else?

Do you need to let the past go?

Do you need to offer grace in any or all of these areas?

Question:  What if we spent the next 3 months allowing Christ to build in us a place where God lives through the Spirit?  How could the church change when we all come back together?  How might the world change?

Question:  But there is more to the story. David hears how God has blessed Obed-Edom and is provoked to retrieve the ark. God’s favor toward a Gentile prompts Israel, the rightful home of the ark, to obey. The rejoicing that ensues is extravagant!  

How can we allow these next weeks at home become so life-giving and life-growing that other people get REALLY interested in this Jesus guy?  What does that look like?

Question:  The story of Obed-Edom has one final twist. Having hosted the ark, he does not wave goodbye to God’s presence and continue what he did before.  How can we build some good habits now to ensure that we won’t go back to the way it was before we were “blessed”?

The Closing Prayer

Pray for all those struggling right now. Help us to remember to let healthcare workers and those on the frontline of the Covid-19 virus they are appreciated for their many sacrifices. Help us to remember those who are struggling through isolation, or anxiety, or fear, etc. Ask God to prompt you to reach out to a another this week who might need special attention.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God.  It was never between you and them anyway.

For more small group resources, click here.