Sunday, October 30, 2011

What Would You Do?

Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost
Reformation Sunday

2 Corinthians 4:5-12
We preach not ourselves, but Jesus

What does a German farmer in Ephrata PA in 1790 have in common with a lawyer from Chicago in 1873? And what do they have in common with a young Israelite king from three millennia earlier? Wait and see.
• Reformation Sunday (Martin Luther's desire to lead a life and a church of scriptural faith and not human dogma).
United Methodist Heritage. I'm a John Wesley fan. And while Methodism traces its heritage back to JW, several different flavors of Methodism preceded today’s UMC…
Who remembers what CUMC was before 1968? CEUB. (68: Evangelical United Brethren + Methodist Episcopal Church)
How about before 1946? CUB. (46: Evangelical Association + United Brethren)
Anybody know any of the stories of origins of EA or UB?
From the city of York, Reformed pastor PW Otterbein and Lancaster Mennonite M. Boehm famously declared "We Are Brothers" at Long’s Barn in Lancaster PA in 1767.
Berks County layman Lutheran-turned-Methodist Jacob Albright, father of the Evangelical Association, 1800:
• Jacob Albright was that German PA farmer I mentioned earlier. A Lutheran by heritage, Albright went through a spiritual crisis in 1790 when three of his children died of dysentery. While death drives some people away from God, it drives others TO God. Though he found no solace in the Lutheran Church, Jacob Albright DID find comfort through some local UB and Methodist church groups. He dug into the fellowship, immersed himself in Bible study, and spent long periods in prayer, fasting, and self-denial, and was motivated to preach the word. He organized Bible studies and discipleship groups, and his groups elected him as the first overseer or bishop of the Evangelical Association in 1807.  He had turned in his grief to God, and God worked great life through his discipleship.
• We read from 2 Samuel 12 earlier in the service… While David’s son lives, David pleads to God for his son’s life, taking neither food nor comfort for a week. But when the child dies, David takes a shower, worships God, and eats.
• I bet you’re figuring out the connection to the Chicago lawyer in 1873…
Horatio Spafford had had a few great years in the 1860s. Newly married, a prominent lawyer with a fair amount of real estate in Chicago, his life took a turn for the worse when his only son died of scarlet fever in 1870. Then in 1871 the Chicago fire destroyed his properties, consuming his life savings. Then in 1873 while traveling to England follow evangelist Dwight Moody, the ship carrying his wife and four daughters (ages 11, 9, 5, 2) sank in the Atlantic. His wife was among the survivors.
What did Horatio Spafford do in his grief? First, he wrote the hymn It Is Well With My Soul, and then he and his wife moved to Jerusalem (yes, that Jerusalem) and started the American Colony, a religious society and mission which served the needy of the community for three quarters of a century.
• I am amazed and inspired by the stories of these men, who, by the grace of God, in the midst of personal tragedy, turned to God in discipleship. I see in their lives the understanding that yes, death impacts our world, but God is greater, and while we yet have life and breath, we can serve and praise God. For we have something great, something priceless, and it’s not something physical or worldly, it is the love of God which calls us into mission and works our healing along the way.
Your life is a gift, it is not something you own. All life around you is a gift. And the greatest gift is the invitation to eternal life, life without death, life without suffering, life in and through God’s son Jesus Christ. So use the gift of your life to point to the greatest gift.
• Hymn 493 It Is Well With My Soul

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Loving People

Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Matthew 22:34-46
Jesus tells the greatest commandment

• Charge Conference last week. District Superintendent Gary Nicholson shared about The United Methodist Church's mission statement (to make disciples of all nations, for the transformation of the world). We celebrated the missions and ministries of Ctown UMC
                                                                                                          Gary also shared some inspiring thoughts with our Staff/Parish Relations Committee...
                                                                                                          Preferential seating: make sure guests and visitors have a place to comfortably slide in without directing attention to them.
Your territory: Each church leader has responsibility to "watch out" for the ones sitting nearby, check up on them when they're not around, etc.
2-minute rule: For two minutes after church, don't talk to people you already know; instead, seek out new people to talk to.
Each one reach one Each member of the church focus on reaching one new person in a year and disciple-ing them.

Last week Deb K. presented a children's message in which she was dressed as a homeless person and she reported how well people actually received her. (we didn't do too good).

Gary’s virus scenario: Suppose there was a virus in the neighborhood (aka sin) and it guaranteed to infect and kill everybody and you learned of the antidote (Jesus). Would you wait for infected folks to knock on your door to give them the antidote or would you knock on their door to offer it?

1 Thessalonians 2:4, 8:   4We have been examined and approved by God to be trusted with the good news, and that’s exactly how we speak. ... 8We were glad to share not only God’s good news with you but also our very lives because we cared for you so much.

Closing Hymn: insert As A Fire is Meant for Burning

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Does God Care What We Wear?

Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost

Matthew 22:1-14
A man invites many to a wedding banquet, but throws out one who is "not wearing the wedding garment."

First things first: What’s up with the invitation?
                                                                                                          Jesus has been speaking to the religious leaders, several parables back-to-back about how God’s invitation to the people of Israel has been rejected by Jewish lay and leadership alike, and that some of the initially invited (ii) even killed the messengers.
                                                                                                          Why did the ii reject the invitation? They had other things to do, they put other things first. Perhaps they took the invitation for granted. The passion of the early days was gone.
                                                                                                          Therefore the King invites everybody else.  Those who formerly had no invitation (the Gentiles) are now invited.
• Twenty centuries later, we Gentiles easily forget that we’re not the initially invited. We fall into complacency and a sense of entitlement (which is not unlike the downfall of the initially invited).

• Part 2: What’s up with the wedding clothes?
If part 1 is about invitation expansion, part 2 is about invitation acceptance.
It’s not so much about a wedding party, but about dressing the part.
It’s not so much about what do your clothes look like, but what impression do you leave on people? When people look at you do they see a person transformed by God, or is there nothing visible in you that marks you as belonging to God?

Story: There was a heavyset woman who went to an exercise and diet clinic. The first thing the supervisor did was draw a silhouette on a mirror in the shape she wished to become. As she stood before the mirror, she bulged out over the silhouette. The instructor told her, “Our goal is for you to fit this shape. We recommend this routine of diet and exercise.”
  For many weeks the woman dieted and exercised. Each week she would stand in front of the mirror, but her volume, while decreasing, still overflowed. But she persevered in her recommended diet and exercise routine. Finally one day, to everyone’s delight, as she stood in front of the mirror she was conformed to the image of the silhouette.
& when she went forth, she was a woman transformed, clothed in habits of healthy living.

• Galatians 3:26-27: You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourself with Christ.
                                                                                                          Pictures of [laborer, runner, doctor, dancer] (tell by clothes)
                                                                                                          Picture of Christian (tell by actions)
• Colossians 3:12-17:
As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. 13Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. 16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. 17And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Knowing Jesus

Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost
World Communion Sunday

Philippians 3:4b-14

What excites Paul:
His impeccable credentials do not earn him righteousness with God. (that’s bad news except for the fact that righteousness is given to him, and that is good news.)
Any righteousness he has is God’s.
Any righteousness he has comes from knowing Christ and becoming like him. (and knowing Christ is eternal life, John 17:3)

• What excites me:
Story from Luke 24, Easter afternoon, 2 disciples headed home from Jerusalem, encounter with resurrected Jesus, who spends time with them and breaks bread with them   and in the breaking of the bread their eyes were opened and they recognized him (Luke 24:30+).

• What excites Jesus:
Relationship with you.
In communion, Jesus says, "I have a gift for you... I give to you my righteousness, in the form of the sacrifice of my own self for you.  Remember my sacrifice in somberness, yes, and celebrate my gift in joyful worship. Love me and learn me as though you were consuming me, let me sustain you like my Father sustained your fathers in the wilderness, let me be in you and in many so that many can be saved and many can be one, one with me and one with my Father."

World Communion Sunday arose out of a time of suffering in American history, the Great Depression, between the great world wars.  A Presbyterian pastor from Pittsburgh sought to do something both real and symbolic to proclaim that God is God indeed, in spite of politics, economics and future shock... in spite of suffering beyond our comprehension.  The idea spread slowly but grew as its message of interconnectedness in Christ was picked up by churches and nations.  Through a unique kind of suffering, Jesus Christ offered himself for the reconciliation and redemption of the world, and across denomination and border and time we proclaim together that God is worthy of our praise, and that in all that we do, we, the children of God, need God every hour.     

Hymn: In the Breaking of the Bread