Mar 26 2015

Easter Services

Join us for Holy Week in Petaluma

  • Palm Sunday Worship – Sunday March 29, 10 AM

  • Maundy Thursday Service – Th. April 2, 7 PM

  • EASTER Brunch and Worship – Sunday, April 5, 9:30 AM

Easter Services Petaluma

Read more:

What is Maundy Thursday?


Easter Services Petaluma

Holy Week Petaluma


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Feb 12 2015

What Are You Giving Up for Lent?

What are you giving up for Lent?Most think of Lent as time to give up something. Chocolate. Coffee. Twitter. Swearing.

We don’t give up things easily. Most losses in life are losses we didn’t volunteer for. The loss of health. The loss of a job. A home. Our youthful good looks and energy. Faced with the threat of loss, we dig in and fight. We naturally hang on to any scrap of the past we can retain.

Recently, I gave up my claim to perfect health. I used to race through the form you fill out for a new doctor. You know that 3-page form where they list all the maladies a person can possibly have and you check off yours? I used to race through that form. Asthma? No. Cancer? No. Heart disease? I didn’t even read the choices. I just checked “No” for everything. No longer.

I gave up my claim to perfect health. I gave up an illusion. While I was checking “No,” I didn’t know plaque was building up and clogging one of my arteries. (Read “My Halloween Scare”)

It’s the loss that keeps on losing. Kaiser is big on education and they’re educating me on heart health. They want me to give up my apple fritters. Potato chips. Red meat. They also want me to fork over several thousand dollars for the little stent they put into my artery.

They say it’s not about what I’m losing, but what I’m gaining. Clear arteries. The ability to work all day without having to lay down and rest periodically. A longer life.

What are you giving up for Lent?

I think that’s not the right question. It’s not wrong, it’s just not the main question. The operative question for Lent is what do you want to gain?

The prophet Isaiah speaks for Yahweh God when he says it’s not fasting from food that delights God as much as feeding the hungry. It’s not the food that is given up, but the food that is given.

Isaiah 58:6-12

“Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?

Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily;

You may give up food, money, privacy, housing, but you will gain healing. Your light will break forth like the dawn!

So what do you want to gain during Lent?

Freedom? Joy? Life to the full?

Losses will be involved to be sure, but it’s better to focus on the prize.

You give up that TV reality show so you can gain the hilarity of real-life family and friends.

You give up cigarettes so you can enjoy breathing.

You give up an abusive relationship to gain dignity, peace and a chance at healthy relationships.

You give up promiscuity to gain one real-life love relationship.

You give up an addiction to drugs so you can gain the joyful experience of life’s simple pleasures.

You give up some time each morning, so you can gain the peace that comes from Bible reading, meditation and prayer.

You give up pride to reconcile with a former friend.

I’ll give up apple fritters and more to gain a little more time with those I love.

Jesus said,

I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies,
it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.
John 12:24

During this season of Lent, we encourage you to give some time each day to read from a devotional guides which we’ll all be using. Read the Bible reading for the day. Read out loud the prayer.

It may be that the time you’re giving up in order to embrace this 40 day practice is time devoted to a good thing, like sleep. Laundry. A coffee stop on the way to school or work.

But, give the time and you will gain a new perspective. You’ll see a new and different community. A new and different you. Do it for 40 days and you may gain a new life-giving habit.

Meditation by Dave Weidlich, given at Ash Wednesday service, March 5, 2014

Join us for worship during Lent in Petaluma – Sundays at 10 am.


Read 40 Days of Renewal – Plans for Lent 2015

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Feb 12 2015

40 Days of Renewal

Lenten DevotionalActually, 46 days counting Sundays, Lent is a period of drawing closer to God. We strongly encourage you to join with us in several activities designed to open ourselves up to the presence and work of God as we walk with Jesus Christ on this spiritual journey.

Ash Wednesday

This day marks the beginning of our seven week journey. We will hold a brief Ash Wednesday Service, Feb. 18, 7:00 PM.

Lenten DevotionalLenten Devotional 2015

See the Lenten Devotional 2015 HERE.

You can download it by right-clicking on the link. Click on each day’s Bible reference to open the reading in
Would you prefer a printed copy? You can download it and print it, or pick up a printed copy at the Vine Church of Petaluma (donation appreciated to cover copying costs)

Would you like to read and share comments with others who are also on this journey? We’ll do that during Sunday worship, but you can also leave a comment below.

Sunday Worship

We celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ every Sunday during Lent, culminating with our Easter Worship Service, April 5. All Sunday worship services are 10:00 AM at the Vine Church of Petaluma (Directions).

Maundy Thursday & Good Friday

We will hold a Maundy Thursday communion service in our “Upper Room,” April 2, 7:00 PM.


Followers of Jesus often fasted during Lent. Fasting took different forms, from refraining from all food to giving up a specific food or habit for Lent. We invite you to adopt this practice. Let us know how it is going for you. Leave a comment below.

Read More:

“What Are You Giving Up for Lent?”

What is Lent Anyway?




The Lenten Devotional 2015 was originally written and published in 2013 for The High Calling and Foundations for Laity Renewal.
The Lenten Devotional is gratefully reprinted with permission.



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Feb 02 2015

Frontier Church

In 2002, PBS developed a series called “Frontier House.” The shows followed three families who moved to Montana to live as homesteaders did in the 1890’s. No internet, no computers or PDAs or cell phones. No phones. No cable, no TV. No VCRs, no video games. No microwave ovens, no gas lines, no electricity. No cars, no bicycles. No shopping malls – whatever you can make or trade for is what you have.

Their goal was to adapt to the style of life in the late 1800’s and, in five months, build a house, store up enough food, firewood and supplies to survive the harsh winter.

Two of the families had children. At first, the kids had a hard time adjusting to life in the old days. In fact, they hated it. The girls were disgusted with feeling dirty all the time. No make-up, no showers.

The boys missed their leisure time. One boy, about 10 years old, lamented, “my best friend is ‘work.’” Everyone had a task to do and every family had to work together. The adults worried that they wouldn’t have enough of the basics–food, adequate shelter, fuel– to last the winter. The basics of living were no longer taken for granted. All their time was spent on the basics.

By the end of the five months, the children had a different attitude about homesteading life. They had grown to love their animals and the land. The children and their parents loved how they had gotten to know each other so much better. They even enjoyed their frontier school – they were learning.

I tried to picture my family living in a homestead. I was thinking – would my family survive in a frontier environment? It sounds compelling – like a long-term camping trip.

The last episode showed the families back in their 21st century homes. One boy, who had said his best friend was work, he had run a hen house operation in Montana, was now glued to his Nintendo. The family from Malibu had just moved into a new home overlooking the ocean. It was beautiful, spacious, a dream home, yet they talked about how they missed their cabin. Dad was away traveling most of the time and mom missed the one-room cabin because at least she could come home and know who was home. Now, with such a big house, they didn’t see each other. Most telling was the conversation between their teen-age girl and her friends as they sat in their hot tub, which stood on a huge deck overlooking the ocean. “I’m bored,” she said. “There’s nothing to do here.”

frontier church - church essentialsAfter I watched the last episode, I started wondering, “What would it be like to be a frontier church?”

What would we have if we stripped away all the peripheral accessories that adorn the church of Jesus Christ in the 21st Century? What are the essentials that could not be removed? What would happen if we as a church focused on just the basics of church life?

What if?

  • We abandoned our church web page, church signs, advertising. The first century church didn’t have those things.
  • No church organ, no church piano, no church drum set – we only had the instruments we have in our homes. No choir rehearsal, no choir, no praise team.
  • We set aside our printed bulletins and our song books, our pulpit furniture, our projectors, our electric lights.
  • The early church didn’t own a building. What if we didn’t–no church building, no church chairs, no sound equipment.
  • No church boards or committees or no church ministry teams or coalitions – no paid pastor-that came later, no church elders, no church membership even.
  • No church office, no church staff.

What if it was just us, gathered together in a borrowed room. Would there still be something we could call the church? What would we have?

Can you imagine this? I came to two conclusions:

  1. We might have a lot less to argue about.
  2. We might re-discover the basics of being the church. We might be able to recapture the essence of what it means to be the church.

That’s the experiment we’re engaged in at The Vine Church of Petaluma. It’s a liberating and joyful journey. Give it a try.

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Jan 16 2015

Preparing for Worship

Hilarious video on preparing for worship…

Church Appropriate Dance Moves Countdown from Church Fuel on Vimeo.


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Jan 06 2015


epiphanyToday (January 6th), the Church celebrates Epiphany, a Greek word which basically means manifestation or appearance.  On Epiphany (sometimes called Theophany – Vision of God) the Church celebrates the revelation of God the Son in Jesus Christ.  Western Christianity focuses this celebration on the visit of the Magi – as described in Matthew 2:1-12, viewed as the revelation of Christ to the Gentiles.  Eastern Christianity instead celebrates the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan by John the Baptist (Matt. 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11) – seen as his manifestation to the world as the Son of God.  (Western Christianity also celebrates the Baptism of Jesus, as well as the Miracle at the Wedding of Cana on this day.)

The account of the Magi in Matthew says nothing about their numbers, though it is widely assumed there are three, most likely based on the three gifts mentioned in the Matthew account, gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  However, in Eastern Christianity (especially the Syriac church), the  magi often number 12.  Though the Matthew account does not identify them as kings, the tradition of their being kings is likely based on a verse from Psalm 72:11, May all kings fall before him.  In Ben Hur, Lew Wallace, devotes a good portion of Part One to a description of the three Magi, Balthazar from Egypt, Melchior – a Hindu, and Gaspar, a Greek.  Though fiction, Lew Wallace spent considerable time researching the Middle East before writing his novel. Earlier, in 1857, John Henry Hopkins, Jr., rector at Christ Episcopal Church in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, wrote We Three Kings for a Christmas pageant at General Theological Seminary in New York City where he taught.

epiphany-cross-swimSince Eastern Christianity celebrates the baptism of Jesus Christ on Epiphany, it is not surprising that Epiphany, in that tradition, often involves swimming.  A priest usually blesses the waters by casting a cross into the waters.  Any number of volunteers then attempt to retrieve the cross.  The priest then bestows a special blessing upon the one who retrieves and returns it – the blessing extended to his family.  The swimmers often brave cold waters at this time of the year (though not in Florida or Australia) – so that in some parts of Eastern Europe and Russia, Epiphany usually involves a special form of winter swimming, which often requires making a hole in the ice.  (A brisk way of following Christ.)

In Eastern Christianity, Epiphany (Theophany) is also a traditional time for performing baptisms (in contrast, baptism are performed in some Western Christian tradition upon Easter Vigil.

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Jan 04 2015

12 Days of Christmas


Though we celebrate the birth of Christ on December 25th (as I wrote in a previous post), the Church, by tradition, celebrates Christmas for 12 days, as best known in the well-known Christmas carol, The Twelve Days of Christmas.

The 12 days occur between Christmas and Epiphany (January 6th), which celebrates the visit of the Magi upon Jesus.  (Matthew 2:1-12.)

Some traditions celebrate Christmas as the first of the 12 days, and so January 5th becomes the last of the 12 days.  Other traditions celebrate the day after Christmas as the first of the 12 days, so that Epiphany becomes the last of the 12 days.  (England celebrates Boxing Day, December 26th, as the first of the 12 days of Christmas.  It has nothing to do with fighting.  Instead, employers gave a Christmas box to their servants and tradesmen.)

Many traditions associate the 12 days of Christmas with what is knoChritmastidewn as Christmastide (which parallels the Easter-Tide that follows Easter).  Other traditions celebrate a 40 day Christmastide which ends on February 2nd, which the Church, by tradition, celebrates the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple.  (Something I may write about later.)

In some traditions, part of the 12 days includes days of fasting and religious observances, while in other traditions, the 12 days represented a time of feasting and merrymaking.  For many, gift-giving not only occurred on Christmas, but also during the 12 days, and often in increasing amounts, as reflected in the Christmas Carol.  (The Shakespeare play, Twelfth Night, is based on the 12 days of Christmas).

By tradition, as conveyed in the song, those who observed the 12 days of Christmas tended to give gifts on each of the 12 days, increasing in amount, until they gave the largest gift on 12th day.  Those who observe this tradition do not take down Christmas decorations until the end of the 12 days.

In many traditions, each of the 12 days celebrates a saint or event (something else I may write about in a separate post).

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Jan 03 2015

Author, Michael Faber

We welcomed special guest Michael Faber to our worship, Sunday, January 25, 2015

Meditations on the Lord's Prayer by Michael FaberMichael Faber is a bi-vocational minister of the Gospel and California lawyer. He has been preaching the gospel since 1993 at various churches in Northern California. Pastor Faber graduated Fuller Seminary in 2012 with a Masters Degree in Theology and Bible. He is bilingual in English and Vietnamese, and also speaks some Chinese Mandarin, German, Greek and Hebrew. He currently ministers in the Sacramento, California area to senior citizens and several Vietnamese-American churches. His sermons have been recorded and shared in the U.S. and in Vietnam through

In 2013 he published his first theological book Meditations on the Lord’s Prayer and published it in both the United States and India. In 2014, he published a small booklet entitled Seven Words of Jesus from the Cross, and a longer work entitled Keys to a Happy Life: The Beatitudes According to Jesus. His sermons have been published in English, Vietnamese, Telugu, Tamil and Hindi.

More on Michael’s book, Meditations on the Lord’s Prayer.

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Dec 24 2014

Christmas & Solis Invicti

Sol Invictus Aurlius

Roman Coin – Emperor Aurelian on one side – Sol Invictus on the other side

In 274, the Roman Emperor Aurelian added Solis Invicti (The Unconquered Sun) as a Roman god, and set December 25th as his festival because of his birth on that date – Dies Natalis Solis Invicti (Birthday of the Unconquered Sun).  The Roman Emperor Constantine officially ended this festival.

Since the 18th Century, some have proposed that the early Church set December 25th as the birthday for Christ because of the pagan celebration of Dies Natalis Solis Invicti.  In other words, they believed the early Church simply substituted one celebration for the other, in the hopes that unbelievers would more readily accept Christianity because it had a substitute celebration for a day they already celebrated.

However, as I mentioned in another post, several early Church fathers advocated and celebrated December 25th as the birthday of Christ long before Aurelian set December the 25th as the birthday festival for the Roman god Solis Invicti.  While this date was not yet universally accepted within the Church as the birthday of Christ till later, yet Emperor Constantine officially ended the festival of Dies Natalis Solis Invicti, somtime before his reign ended in 337.  So it is unlikely the Church adopted December the 25th as the birthday of Christ because of, or as a substitute for this pagan festival day if the festival day had already ended.

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Dec 23 2014


Merry-Christmas-HPWCChristians celebrate December 25th as the birth of Jesus Christ.  Yet none alive on Earth knows for sure the actual date of the Birth of Christ – and Scripture does not even mention the date of His birth.  So why do we celebrate His birth on December the 25th?

We do so based on a long-standing tradition in the Church going back to the early Church fathers.  Starting during the 2nd Century, Ireneus, Hippolytus of Rome, and Sextus Julius Africanus, among others, identified December 25th as the date of Christ birth, with his conception occurring 9 months earlier, on March 25th.  However, the consensus was not unanimous – others speculated other dates, and Eastern Christianity originally celebrated the birth of Christ on January 6th (which we now celebrate as Epiphany – when the magis visited Jesus).


John Chrysostom – Byzantine mosaic in the Hagia Sophia

However, December 25th eventually prevailed, even in Eastern Christianity.  But why?  John Chrysostom explained in a sermon he delivered in Antioch around 386.  He begins with Zecharias, who served in the Temple on the Day of Atonement, when the angel announced the coming birth of John the Baptist, as described in the Luke 1:5-23.  According to the Hebrew calendar, the Day of Atonement occurred in late September to early October.

Chrysostom goes on to follow Luke who describes the angel telling Mary about the birth of Christ during the 6th month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy.  Chrysostom, following the thought of earlier Church fathers, calculated this date as March 25th, the conception of Jesus Christ, who was born 9 months later on December 25th.

Even then, some objected that Israelite shepherds did not  watch their sheep in the fields in the middle of winter.  Chrysostom responded that by Mishnaic tradition, certain shepherds of Migdal Eder (near Bethlehem), watched their flocks by night year round out in the pastures for the Temple sacrifices.  He also referred to Jacob, who told Laban, that while he watched his sheep, he endured the heat by day and the frost by night when he would go sleepless.  Genesis 31:40.

So even while we do not know for certain the date of the birth of Christ, there seems to be good reason to support December 25th in Church tradition.  Even if Jesus was born on another day, we still would want to select a day to celebrate his Incarnation, and December 25th is as good a day as any, perhaps better than other days, to celebrate his birth.


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