• Ray Hileman

WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FOR? Part 1

Are you looking for an alternative to this angry, hostile, violent world in which we live today? We may just have that to offer.

Perhaps, like many of us, you are sick and tired of the violence and rage that seems to characterize this current age - from wars and rumors of wars on the international scene to riots, mass shootings, and racism on the national scene, to domestic and gang violence, armed robberies and road rage on our local streets. Add to that the toxic conversations and rude insults rampant on social media and in our nation's capital. Civil discourse seems to be a thing of the past. And the 24-hour cable news cycles are no help at all.

Celebration of Christ is our name now for one year. Prior to that, we were the First Church of the Brethren of St. Petersburg. We are still Church of the Brethren, part of a 300+ year-old denomination with its roots in Germany before our spiritual ancestors migrated here to the colonies in 1723. Today we have congregations and fellowships in most of our states and in at least eight other countries.

As Brethren, we share the historic, orthodox beliefs of the faith with all other Christian communities, including (but not exhaustively) the authority of Scripture, the belief in a Triune God, one God in three persons, the full deity and humanity of Jesus Christ, his miraculous conception, birth, ministry, death, resurrection, ascension, and imminent return, the presence of God the Holy Spirit for life and ministry, the great need of all human beings to be forgiven of sin and transformed by the power of Christ, the mission and purpose of the church, and more.

But as Brethren, we also have some unique values that we hold to. And for the next three blog posts, I want to focus on those and let you know that we offer "another way of living" for those who are weary of the violence, consumerism, and isolation of people today. In fact our denominational tag line says that we are:

'CONTINUING THE WORK OF JESUS, PEACEFULLY, SIMPLY, TOGETHER."

Are you in that place? Then please read on.

The Brethren are one of three "Historic Peace Churches" (along with Quakers or Friends and Mennonites). From the beginning, we have chosen to take seriously the words of our Lord and His apostles in the Sermon on the Mount and other passages. For example:

"Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God." (Matthew 5:9)

"Do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also." (Matthew 5:39)

"But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." (Matthew 5:44)

"Do not repay anyone evil for evil. ... If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." (Romans 12:17-18)

"Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification." (Romans 14:19)

"All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation." (2 Corinthians 5:18)

"Turn from evil and do good. Seek peace and pursue it." (1 Peter 3:11, quote from Psalm 34)

We believe this is part of what it means to be followers of Christ. We seek to not get entangled in the same rancor and rhetoric that the world wallows in. We seek to live in creative, reconciling ways. We seek to bring reconciliation between races and classes. We seek a church that will be made up of rich and poor, educated and uneducated, from "all nations, tribes, peoples, and language." (Revelation 7:9) Are you looking for a church like this? May we humbly suggest Celebration of Christ? Do we always get this pursuit of peace right? Hardly. But it is always our goal, and when we fail, we will confess and repent and try to be honest and real with you.

So COME HOME to a church where peacemaking is a way of life, and where we actively work to reconcile people first to God and then to each other. We'll be looking for you. And

if you have further questions, write us here or on our Facebook page, or call us at (727) 381-0709. If we're not there, leave a message and we WILL call you back. We'll be looking for you.

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(727) 381-0709

3651 71st St. N. St. Pete, FL 33710

3651 71st St. N. Saint Petersburg, FL 33710

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