Jan 16 2015

Preparing for Worship

Hilarious video on preparing for worship…

Church Appropriate Dance Moves Countdown from Church Fuel on Vimeo.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.thevinepetaluma.org/preparing-for-worship/

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.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.thevinepetaluma.org/epiphany/

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).

Permanent link to this article: http://www.thevinepetaluma.org/12-days-of-christmas/

Jan 03 2015

Author, Michael Faber Coming Jan. 25

We welcome special guest Michael Faber to our worship, Sunday, January 25, 10:00 AM.

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 www.vietchristian.com

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.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.thevinepetaluma.org/author-michael-faber-coming-jan-25/

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.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.thevinepetaluma.org/christmas-solis-invicti/

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.


Permanent link to this article: http://www.thevinepetaluma.org/christmas/

Nov 05 2014

Welcome to America’s Most Caring City

Petaluma residents love it here. This is a truly special city.

Now there’s agreement from an objective source, the Movato blog, which earned instant credibility in Petaluma by naming our beloved city the #1 Most Caring Small City in America.
The 10 Most Caring Small Cities In America By Movoto Real Estate

How do you measure “caring?”

most caring small city in America - PetalumaThe folks at Movato define a small city” as one between 50,000 and 60,000 population. But, how do you measure caring? How often motorists stop for pedestrians crossing the street? Neighbors taking a casserole to their neighbor? How often a friend offers a tissue to one who is crying?

Movato looked at the amount of crime, the number of counselors and therapists per capita, homeless shelters, animal shelters, and car-pooling. Things like that.

Lest we get too full of ourselves (and lose our caring-ness) Novato and San Rafael are also on the list. We beat them, but we’re not gloating. In fact, we’d be happy to provide some lessons on how our Marin County neighbors can improve. Because we care.

Now, who is the most caring church in America’s most caring small city? In my mind, there’s no doubt.

Going through separation or divorce? We care. Read about it HERE.


Permanent link to this article: http://www.thevinepetaluma.org/americas-most-caring-city/

Nov 04 2014

Operation Christmas Child

We’re joining with thousands around the world, packing small Christmas packages for children in need.

Why Operation Christmas Child?

Every year, Operation Christmas Child delivers millions of shoebox gifts to children around the world. Shining the light of Jesus to children affected by war, poverty, disease and natural disaster, shoebox gifts are fueled by the power of prayer, bringing Good News and Great Joy to the ends of the earth!

Can’t see it? Go to VIDEO

How to Pack a Box

It’s easy. But start now. We need to have them packed by Nov. 16.

  1. Find a Small Box

    Use an empty cardboard or plastic shoebox (average size). You can wrap the box, lid separately, but wrapping is not required.

  2. Decide Boy or Girl

    Decide whether your gift will be for a boy or a girl, and the age category: 2-4, 5-9, or 10-14. Download and print the appropriate boy/girl label. Mark the correct age category and tape the label to the top of your box.

  3. Fill With Gifts

    Fill the box with a variety of gifts that will bring delight to a child (see Gift Suggestions below).

  4. Include $7 Donation Per Box

    Help cover shipping and other costs related to delivering your shoeboxes to children overseas by donating $7 for each gift you prepare.

  5. Pray

    Ask God to use your gifts to show His love to the child who will receive your shoebox.

  6. Drop Off

    Place a rubber band around each closed shoebox and bring it to the drop-off location. We’ll collect boxes Sunday and Monday, Nov. 16-17 and then drop them off at Adobe Christian Center. Or you can take yours there directly t

Get Instructions and Labels (Boy or Girl)

More info at Samaritan’s Purse.


Permanent link to this article: http://www.thevinepetaluma.org/operation-christmas-child/

Sep 19 2014

Hope After Divorce

DivorceCare Petaluma testimonial“When Kim left, I was in shock,” said Jack. “I wasn’t sure if it was going to fail or if I had a chance to mend it. I couldn’t believe she was throwing away seventeen years of marriage, twenty years together. For the first time in a long time I was alone. It was totally overwhelming. I couldn’t sleep or eat. Her family stopped talking to me and including me in holiday plans. All my relationships changed.”

Like many going through separation and divorce, Jack struggled at work. He’d stare at the computer screen, but couldn’t concentrate. He made many mistakes. He’s grateful that his co-workers were patient with him as he struggled to accomplish once routine tasks.

The Losses of Divorce

“Divorce represents many, many losses,” says Dr. Archibald Hart, a psychotherapist and psychology professor at Fuller Theological Seminary. “There are many associated losses when you go through divorce.”

Paul had already lost his job and his career was in a tailspin when his wife of twenty-nine years filed for separation and divorce. “I made mistakes,” he admits, “but, I was hoping it could be mended. My oldest daughter wouldn’t speak to me. My eight-year-old daughter took my picture down from her bulletin board. My life changed completely.”

Seeing the effects of divorce on children adds to the difficulty. “My children lost their confidence,” said Catherine, whose children were twelve and sixteen when her husband moved out. “Their grades suffered. My daughter missed weeks of school and fell impossibly behind.”

Coping with Separation and Divorce

Many cope with the loss of a spouse by attempting to fill the position with someone new.

“At first I got on a couple of dating sites and looked for a lady,” said Jack. “I figured if [my ex-wife] can do it, I can do it. I dated a few ladies and realized it was the wrong thing to do. I was not content in my own singleness and my own body. So, trying to convince somebody that I had it all together wasn’t working.”

A better response to separation and divorce is to find support from others who have walked the path. Support groups provide a safe place for formerly married people to express their emotions, where they are heard, understood and encouraged to embrace positive attitudes and healthy actions.

Divorce may be a setback, but it can also be a time of tremendous healing and growth. One author wrote, “You can go through it or you can grow through it.”

“I knew what I needed to do, said Jack. “I reached out. I got on a bowling league. I got on the computer looking for divorce counselors and divorce support groups. Sitting around the house with my dog was not enough. My twenty-two year old son didn’t want to hang out with me. I reached out and found DivorceCare at The Vine Church.”

Paul found a lot of encouragement in DivorceCare. “It helped me to see how other people have walked this road. I couldn’t understand what I was going through.” DivorceCare helped Paul understand that his anger and resentment are normal responses to the loss of marriage.

“It saved my sanity,” said Jack. DivorceCare showed me that I need a relationship with the Lord. I need to start believing that I’m not alone. He is always there. It taught me the skills of what I needed to do. I needed to get well inside – with my heart, my soul, my mind before I learned how to be alone. I enjoy my singleness. I was selfish. At times I thought I was the only one giving to the relationship. Now I look back and see that she gave me a lot. She hung tough through all my drinking. Now I’m more compassionate and caring. Humble. Forgiveness. I’m determined that I’m going to learn from my mistakes. I’m better equipped next time, if there is a next time.”

Paul said it has given him hope. “It’s certainly not something I wanted to walk through, but I am walking through it.”

Support for Divorce

The Vine Church of Petaluma is offering a support group to provide help, hope and healing for those going through separation and divorce. DivorceCare is a 13-week video seminar series featuring experts on divorce and recovery topics as seen from a Christian perspective. Each session includes a video seminar and small group discussion. Seminar topics include, “Facing my Anger,” “Facing My Loneliness,” “New Relationships,” “Single Sexuality,” “Caring for Children,” “Financial Survival,” and “The Freedom of Forgiveness.”

The Vine Church is located near the Petaluma Auto Mall at 1129 Industrial Avenue, Suite 208, Petaluma, CA 94952. Call the church office for more information, 707-256-8463 or go to www.thevinepetaluma.org/dc/ for more information and to register.

Names have been changed to protect confidentiality.


Permanent link to this article: http://www.thevinepetaluma.org/hope-after-divorce/

Sep 08 2014

Campus Ministry at Sonoma State University

InterVarsity Christian Fellowship Sonoma State University

InterVarsity Christian Fellowship staff Sara and Jenny in a recent visit to the Vine Church

Campus Ministry at Sonoma State University is alive and well, despite setbacks.

InterVarsity Christian Fellowship faces formidable obstacles this year after being “de-recognized,” meaning they are no longer recognized as a campus club. They no longer have free access to campus rooms. To use the large group meeting room they’ve used in the past, they now must pay $1,000 per use and provide proof of insurance.

This is a setback for InterVarsity chapters at all 22 campuses. But, it’s bigger than that. This is a setback for freedom in the nation that presumes to represent freedom throughout the world. You can help.

Read Pastor Dave Weidlich’s recommendations.


Permanent link to this article: http://www.thevinepetaluma.org/campus-ministry-at-sonoma-state-university/

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