Archive for January, 2014

1Corinthians 1:10-18 “The Message is Power” JUMC 2014012

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Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there are quarrels among you, my brothers and sisters. What I mean is that each of you says, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.” Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one can say that you were baptized in my name. (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power. For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. [NRSV]

Small Groups
The Luminers, a folk-rock group based in Denver, were nominated at for a Grammy as both the “Best New Artist” and “the Best Americana Album”. Their songs are simple and very sing-able. I would guess that is one of the reasons they have become so popular. One of their best know is a song called “Ho Hey.” The title comes from the ‘Ho’ and ‘Hey’ grunted between the lines of the verses. But the main lyrics of this love song speak of a search for love and belonging. These are two very important parts of our human experience that the world hears in a folk song.

Here is a group of folks who moved from different parts of the world, through New York, and find their way to Denver as a home. Theirs is a new family found through music that sings about the journey to belong and find love.

This is what our hymns/songs do for us that we sing today. They are five people, in two years sang to sold-out crowds, sold double platinum number of records and held the honor of having the most shared song on “Spotify” music app. They are not a church; nor are they neither call themselves religious, nor Christian and yet they are sing about the power we offer. What’s up with that?

Myhopewithbrillygraham.org
Bill Graham is the iconic cheer leader for sinners everywhere in our lifetime.
Come the Cross is the invitation of every sermon: Come to face to face with God’s love, God’s proof revealed in the cross.

Paul writes to the churches at Corinth: Don’t fuss, don’t be divided, don’t be fooled yourself or others. It is Christ who is for us all. We are all to be for Christ. Think of all the people:

• we have steered away from faith because our own will, our plan, our traditions.
• we have closed the door of hope because we didn’t speak, invite, or respond.
• Think of all simple ways we empty the cross of its power.

What, you think we have never done that?
On one hand there is nothing we can do that changes God’s love for us.
On the other hand we can make it so difficult for folks and ourselves from experiencing that love now.

Paul’s passion and warning is not to empty the cross of it’s power. How does that happen?
When we don’t reach out to those who are hurting, hiding and those who are full-of-themselves.

Is it the mission of a folk-rock band to tell the world about belonging to God’s love? No.
Is it just for the TV Evangelists to spread the word? Is it just the hired help at the church? No.
“You are My Witnesses.”
Why would you not want to be a witness?
Are the details too cloudy, do you not remember? Then open the book, open your heart and mind.
Are you too afraid,
Are you too busy,
Pick your reasons and excuses…

Paul points to the boiling point: “the foolishness of the perishing.”
Those who are following their own way, and not God’s way, are dying, separating and burning out.
The foolish part is they think they are strong, deserving, and right by their own judgment.

God has show use how much God loves us, in hope….that we would choose to trust and follow God’s way.

Here is our homework:
Pray for God to open the opportunity for us to share the ‘Cross’ with someone this week.
Reach out to someone this week and actually share the message of the cross with someone THIS week.
When you do this, be prepared for it to not be accepted, welcomed, or received. But just do it.

If we are not the ones sharing the Cross, we too are unplugged from its power in ourlives.
There are times we show God’s love in acts of service
There are times we show God’s love in deeds of mercy
There are times we show God’s love in theory and ideas
This week let us show it in words of faith that are alive on our hearts and lips.

Tell someone about the cross
Don’t let the power of the cross be missed
Don’t take credit, don’t look for blame, just look for God to show up, in you, in them, or all around.

Tell them God loves them, Tell them God cares. Tell them God knows us.
Tell them God gave his life for ours in Jesus Christ.
We deserved the death, the hell, rejection and the brokenness for all our sins and foolishness..
Through the Cross Jesus took for us, took on himself the blame, the cause, the reasons
And in exchange,
God gives us power, life and hope.

Is this what our community, our country and world needs to hear? Yes it does.
Who is going to speak it? Sing it? Tell it?

If five people can find their way to Denver and have millions of Lumineer fans listen in a year.
What can five people form Jackson do in year if they are as relentless in telling about Cross of Jesus Christ.
Let’s find out.

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John 1:29-42 “Have You Shared Jesus” JUMC 20140118

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The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.” The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed). He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter). [NRSV]

There is classic line in the movie Forrest Gump, where Lt Dan asks Forrest if he had found Jesus, Forrest replies, “ I didn’t know he was lost.”

There are those who take literal the need to ask verbatim: “Have you found Jesus?” but for those of us in the church, in the family, the more important question to ask one another is, “Have go gone to share the news that Jesus is near.”

Where do we find Jesus today?

In the quest to find the historical Jesus, there is a fundamental need for faith to accept the proof. I enjoy the history channel as much as the next view. They continue to have programs that offer evidence and proof of different artifacts and discoveries that attempt to prove the validity of the Jesus and other bible characters, but in the end we have to believe that the artifacts, interpretations and discoveries satisfy our beliefs and understandings. It remains a matter of faith and faith shared.

The identity and presence of Jesus is not proven by DNA testing; there are no birth records, and no formal credentials are offered. It is a matter of the testimony of faithful witnesses. Sharing what they have seen, heard and experienced.

John who baptized Jesus tells by-standers, “See that fellow over there? He is the lamb of God. He is the Messiah. He is the one.”

He further reports, “If you come to see and hear me, you are wasting your time; you need to be listening and following him.”

Here is his evidence as an eye witness: “I saw the Spirit of God descend like a dove and it sat on his head, and it stayed there for the whole time.” It is the same evidence that Jane and Michael Banks have while traveling with Mary-Pop-ins, when they visit the bird lady in streets of London. The birds flocked to her and stayed with her. She is kind but she is not Messiah; she is not the lamb of God.

So Andrew hears John tell a story and that compels him to go and tell his is brother Simon to come and see Jesus.

What stories compel us to tell our families that need to come and see and listen to Jesus?

We hear reports about children who have gone through these cold days and nights knowing there were given coats in Jesus’ name and have touched people’s hearts to prepare to give for the children who will need coats in the seasons ahead. What sparks that generosity toward strangers? It is the love and presence of the Messiah, the lamb of God.

We hear of people crossing cultures to build churches, paint and repair houses,

We hear of thousands of people receiving food, clothes, counseling, encouragement and help with transportation, housing, medicine and utilities in our very community all shared to the witness that God provides ways to meet these needs and reveal God’s love toward all people.

We hear of hundreds of lunches are prepared to feed children that parents have left to fend for themselves and we know they have food to eat that have been shared because Christ challenges to share in his name.

We hear music that comes from mortal mouths, hands and hearts that transcends our collective effort to bring people to know the joy and power of Christ with us through cantatas, plays and songs of faithful voices and musicians.

We gather in small groups, classes, studies and service groups compelled to find God’s Word and Work alive in our presence and

The question is not can we tell about Jesus… The question is who has not yet heard?

45% of our own community report they have not heard something worth coming to church to know more about.

Back the text: Look at the God-trusted method of communication. One person gives first hand witness. One person hears who has not seen. Their trust in the story of faith, compels the first hearer to tell someone else. Their re-telling inspires someone they know to go see and hear for them.

Faith sharing compels people to want to hear, see and know more.

I believe we are faithful in sharing the witness of the story when we reach out serve others, but that is the first part of a two part equation.

We are not just doing good deed to be doing good. We go and tell, in many ways, so that people will know God is at work in their presence.

The choir, organ, piano, bulletins, counters, vacuum cleaning, heating, building, painting, patching, preaching, teaching, and more has all worked together to remind one another that God Almighty is in this very place.

If you don’t know where to see God at work, look at the hours devoted, my so many, toward revealing God’s presence is real and available: They question is who is not here who needs to know it?

God know God is here: But some folks has been convinced the church gets in the way. If we have done all that we do and yet they do not come, are we off the hook? Can we write them off?

What if Andrew went with great zeal, faith, authority and confidence to tell Simon, and Simon said,
I’ve got work to do.
I have something more fun to do.
I have something more important to do.
If it makes you happy then you go listen to God’s lamb.
I’m waiting for something more convincing?
I need more evidence.

The question of the text is what in John’s witness inspires Andrew to think of Simon?
What in Andrew’s enthusiasm and conviction inspires Simon to get up and go see for himself?

This is the powerful part of the text for us to see:
It is the telling of the story. God works through our telling the story. This is where the presence of the Spirit remains, resides and is revealed.

When we stop telling the story, people stop trusting, believing and responding.
No, not everyone jumps every time we tell it, but they will certainly not hear if we don’t tell.
So go tell them, Jesus Christ is here. Come and see, hear and believe for yourself.

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Matthew 3:13-17 “I Need to be Baptized..” JUMC 20140112

baptism3:13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”  But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented.  And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” [NRSV]

Baptism Text: The text from Matthew focuses on the relationship between Jesus and John and the fulfillment of scripture. It also describes the humanity of Jesus and affirms that baptism is not simply a cleansing ritual, but rather a presence and claim experience between us and God.

We celebrate and practice communion on a monthly basis. Each month we have the visual and tangible experience of finding Christ’s presence and it is a refresher or booster of our baptism.

Our communion table is Christ’s table and it open to all persons, for we are all in need of that grace and power of God’s claim on our lives.

Baptism is not a hoop to be checked-off as a membership requirement, although baptism is a sign that we are indeed members of the faith and joint heirs with Christ.

In Jesus’ baptism, it was not proof of his divinity, it is affirmation that we all need to be claimed by God.

Have you been baptized?

Do you remember?

I do not as I was only three months old and wore a linen dress on a hot south Georgia Sunday. Some strange man took me from my mother’s arms and poured cold water on my head and dress. Messed up my hair and caused me to scream and cry my eyes out. Finally I was returned to my father’s arms and was soon blinded by flash bulb from my grand parents who were then scolded for taking pictures in the sanctuary.

When I was thirteen I wore my sued chuck-a-boots, lime green leisure suit and parrot-paisley knit shirt to gather at the alter with my confirmation class lead by Sergeant Elizabeth Smith. I don’t know if she was ever in Uncle Sam’s army but she was certainly in the Lord’s Army and she prepared us to answer the perfect answers to the questions of examination of the faith. I don’t know if anyone at that altar that morning had a Paul-on-the-road-to-Damascus experience, but we were well dressed, well prepared and knew exactly where to stand.

It was more likely that I felt the presence of God’s Spirit in a recognizable way, for the first time, while a camper at Camp Glisson a year after my confirmation.

Divine Divide of Grace and Time

In the Matthew Text the timing between the human-to-human conversation and ritual of coming to John at the river is not about a confession of sinfulness for Jesus.

  • 1. John’s invitation to believers and followers was to turn toward God, repentance. It is a spiritual alignment.
  • Placing ourselves aimed toward God, from where ever we are and face where we are going and becoming in God’s grace.
  • 2. There is the response of Jesus accepting the ritual and practice of belonging to those who need God’s claim of their lives.
  • There is a transformation from John’s invitation to get cleaned-up to Jesus’s choosing to commit his life to the ministry of God’s choosing. So the water becomes not only cleansing; it also is a preparing for part two of our lives.
  • 3. Is God’s claim of our willingness to place our lives and trust in God’s hands and heart.
  • This is my child. When we are baptized, we also become child of God.

This is My Child

The most powerful part of the text is the claiming part of baptism. God declares, this is MY child. This person that John baptize is claim by God, not by John. Baptism is not so much a church ritual as it is a divine parental defining of our identity and relationship with God. We are the kids, God is the parent. We are the family together.

Questions and More Questions:

So are we not Children of God before we are baptized?

The simple answer is no, but that is not a completely helpful answer.

Yes we are children of God’s creation, filled with grace and hope of becoming one who chooses God’s heart to guide our lives. But God does not force the inheritance upon us. But it is ours for the taking.

The Door is Open

Think of Baptism as a doorway. You can walk in and see the life God has prepared for us. And once you have seen it you know what life God has for you. It is reflected in the life and teaching of Jesus.

We might think we can walk through that door, but the only way to undo awareness of coming of age is to choose rejection or apathy. But the Door of Baptism never closes.

There are those who would teach that you better utter the magic words, “I accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior” before we draw out last breath because then it is too late. But they does not actually follow with a Gracious Parent who crosses the chasm of death to make a way for us.

A View from the Lap of God.

If you are seated in God’s lap, embraced in arms of love and mercy, kneely at the feet of the one who breathed breath from your first and last, if you look into God’s eyes and say: “I want no part of you, let me go.” I believe God lets us go.

If you are face to face with God in judgement and God asks, “Do you love me” and we reply “I hate you.” God does not force us to love.

If we are faced with the full picture of our life filled with failures, fears, sins and struggle and we say “Lord have Mercy” Why would God of Grace revert to the ways of the Law? God will have mercy

SO WHY NOT WAIT UNTIL THEN?

It is the power, life, claim, assurance, comfort, peace, grace, love that we live without if we wait.

God wants for each of us to be part of the family, why would someone want to just be a guest when they could be kin?

Salvation is a process. (Baptism is the start)

We are claimed and saved so that we can grow in relationship with God and God’s people.

This is why we are a church.

To claim the outsider, the orphan, the widow, the forgotten, the rejected, the proud, the hard-hearted, that together we grow together toward God.

When there are those outside the family, how can we celebrate in the house?

(The unwritten part of the Prodigal Sons story: The father can’t be in the party when there are those on the outside looking in with anger, jealousy, fear, division, confusion, hate, etc.)

Baptism is our entrance into the party of salvation.

Come on in, the Party is on!

 

 

 

Notes from UMC.org and GBOD.org

In all forms of Christian baptism, God claims those being baptized, whatever their age or ability to profess their faith, with divine grace. Clearly an infant can do nothing to save himself or herself, but is totally dependent on God’s grace, as we all are — whatever our age.

Most traditions that practice or recognize as valid the baptism only of believers — those who have professed faith in Jesus Christ for themselves in some public way — practice baptism not as a means of grace by which God saves and claims us, but rather as a further act of public profession and/or an act of obedience to the command of Christ that his followers be baptized. That is why these “believer’s baptism only” traditions generally refer to baptism as an ordinance — an act ordained or commanded by Christ — rather than a sacrament. The term sacrament means “an oath” and refers to God’s covenant with us (first of all) and ours in response to God’s gracious provision of salvation in Jesus Christ.

United Methodists recognize the baptism of “believers only” traditions, provided those traditions baptize people in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit as generally understood in historic Christianity. We offer baptism to people of all ages who have not previously received Christian baptism in any form. We do not rebaptize those who have already received Christian baptism in any form. Even when the people being baptized are believing adults and are ready to profess their faith, our first emphasis is upon the gracious action of God who establishes the covenant of baptism with us rather than upon the individual’s decision.

Who tells you who you are?
We receive our identity from others, from the expectations of friends and colleagues, from the labels society puts upon us, and from the influence of family.

To become Christian is to receive a new identity. You no longer allow others to tell you who you are. Christ now claims you and instructs you. A Christian is one who has “put on Christ.”

Baptism celebrates becoming that new person. That is why the church’s ritual begins with putting off the old, renouncing sin and the evil powers of the world, and pledging our loyalty to Christ.

God Initiates the Covenant
We also believe that in baptism God initiates a covenant with us, announced with the words, “The Holy Spirit works within you, that being born through water and the Spirit, you may be a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ.” This is followed by the sign-act of laying hands on the head, or the signing of the cross on the forehead with oil. The word covenant is a biblical word describing God’s initiative in choosing Israel to be a people with a special mission in the world, and Israel’s response in a life of faithfulness. The baptismal covenant calls us to a similar vocation.

God Has Chosen Us
Christians have also understood the baptismal covenant in light of Jesus’ baptism. At Jesus’ baptism, God said: “This is my son.” While Jesus’ relation to God as Son is unique, for Christians baptism means that God has also chosen us as daughters and sons, and knows us intimately as a parent.

So the most important things about us, our true identity, is that we are now sons and daughters of God. That is why the introduction to the United Methodist Baptismal Covenant states, “We are incorporated into God’s mighty acts of salvation and given new birth through water and the Spirit.”

The introduction also says, “Through the Sacrament of Baptism, we are initiated into Christ’s holy church.”

Baptism Is the Door
From the beginning, baptism has been the door through which one enters the church. It was inconceivable to many that one could respond to God’s grace by reciting the renunciations, affirming one’s faith in Christ and loyalty to the Kingdom, without joining the fellowship of those who are committed to mature in that faith. As the “Body of Christ” in the world, baptism commissions us to use our gifts to strengthen the church and to transform the world.

Why Baptize Babies?
From the earliest times, children and infants were baptized and included in the church. As scriptural authority for this ancient tradition, some scholars cite Jesus’ words, “Let the little children come to me…for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs” (Mark 10:14). However, a more consistent argument is that baptism, as a means of grace, signifies God’s initiative in the process of salvation. John Wesley preached “prevenient grace,” the grace that works in our lives before we are aware of it, bringing us to faith. The baptism of children and their inclusion in the church before they can respond with their own confirmation of faith is a vivid and compelling witness to prevenient grace.

Baptism Is Forever
Because baptism is a sacrament of God’s grace and a covenant that God has initiated, it should not be repeated. However, God’s continuing and patient forgiveness, God’s prevenient grace, will prompt us to renew the commitment first made at our baptism. At such a time, instead of rebaptism, The United Methodist Church offers the ritual for the reaffirmation of baptismal vows, which implies that, while God remains faithful to God’s half of the covenant, we are not always faithful to our promises. Our half of the covenant is to confess Christ as our Savior, trust in his grace, serve him as Lord in the church, and carry out his mission against evil, injustice, and oppression.

Baptism Is the Beginning, Not the End
You have heard people say, “I was baptized Methodist,” or “I was baptized Presbyterian,” which could mean that in baptism they got their identity papers and that was the end of it. But baptism is not the end. It is the beginning of a lifelong journey of faith. It makes no difference whether you were baptized as an adult or as a child; we all start on that journey at baptism. For the child, the journey begins in the nurturing community of the church, where he or she learns what it means that God loves you. At the appropriate time, the child will make his or her first confession of faith in the ritual the church traditionally calls confirmation. Most often, this is at adolescence or at the time when the person begins to take responsibility for his or her own decisions.

If you experienced God’s grace and were baptized as an adult or received baptism as a child and desire to reaffirm your baptismal vows, baptism still marks the beginning of a journey in the nurturing fellowship of the caring, learning, worshipping, serving congregation.

What Is a Sacrament?
The word sacrament is the Latin translation of the Greek word mysterion. From the early days of the church, baptism was associated with the mystery that surrounds God’s action in our lives. That means that at best our words can only circumscribe what happens, but not define it. We cannot rationally explain why God would love us “while we were yet sinners” and give his only begotten Son that we should not perish but have eternal life. That is the most sacred and unfathomable mystery of all. We can experience God’s grace at any time and in any place, but in the sacrament of baptism we routinely experience that amazing grace.

From A United Methodist Understanding of Baptism by Mark C. Trotter.

Q. Does The United Methodist Church now have an accepted understanding of baptismal theology and practice?

A: Yes. Our church’s position is expressed in the services of the Baptismal Covenant (especially Baptismal Covenant I) in The United Methodist Hymnal, 1989, and The United Methodist Book of Worship, 1992, and in By Water and the Spirit. All of these have been approved by the General Conference — the only body that can speak for the whole denomination.

Q: What does United Methodism fundamentally believe about baptism?

A: Baptism is a sacrament. In a sacrament, God uses common elements — in this case, water — as means or vehicles of divine grace. Baptism is administered by the church as the Body of Christ. It is the act of God through the grace of Jesus Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit.

Q: What is the difference between infant baptism and believer’s baptism?

A: In all forms of Christian baptism, God claims those being baptized, whatever their age or ability to profess their faith, with divine grace.Clearly an infant can do nothing to save himself or herself, but is totally dependent on God’s grace, as we all are — whatever our age.

Most traditions that practice or recognize as valid the baptism only of believers — those who have professed faith in Jesus Christ for themselves in some public way — practice baptism not as a means of grace by which God saves and claims us, but rather as a further act of public profession and/or an act of obedience to the command of Christ that his followers be baptized. That is why these “believer’s baptism only” traditions generally refer to baptism as an ordinance — an act ordained or commanded by Christ — rather than a sacrament. The term sacrament means “an oath” and refers to God’s covenant with us (first of all) and ours in response to God’s gracious provision of salvation in Jesus Christ.

United Methodists recognize the baptism of “believers only” traditions, provided those traditions baptize people in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit as generally understood in historic Christianity. We offer baptism to people of all ages who have not previously received Christian baptism in any form. We do not rebaptize those who have already received Christian baptism in any form. Even when the people being baptized are believing adults and are ready to profess their faith, our first emphasis is upon the gracious action of God who establishes the covenant of baptism with us rather than upon the individual’s decision.

Q: May we have our baby dedicated instead of baptized?

A: No. The theological understandings of the two services are very different. Dedication is a human act — something we pledge or give to God. Baptism is a divine act, a pledge and gift God gives to us. Baptism of infants includes the reaffirmation of the vows of the baptismal covenant by parents, sponsors, and the congregation; but chiefly it celebrates what God is doing and will do in the life of the infant.

Q: Isn’t it better to wait until they are older and let our children decide for themselves whether or not they want to be baptized?

A: No. We no more wait for our children to decide about being in the family of God than we wait for them to decide if they would like to be a part of our human family. As parents, we make many decisions — in matters of health, safety, education, for example — for our children. Of course, they may later reject what we have done for them. But this possibility does not relieve us of the responsibility to do all that we can for them spiritually, as we do in other aspects of their lives.

Q: How about christening?

A: Christening is not a separate ritual, but rather historically part of the ritual of baptism. The use of the term christening for the sacrament probably comes from two sources: chrism is the word for the anointing oil traditionally used in baptism as a sign of the sealing by the Holy Spirit; second, in the past, children were sometimes actually given their (Christian) names in baptism. In our current ritual, parents are not asked for the name of the child, but the pastor does baptize with that name and without using the family or surname. This meaning of christening is expressed, for example, in a ceremony for the naming of a ship. Unfortunately, the term christening has been used sometimes in our history as a way of diminishing the significance of infant baptism or of indicating that it is something different from and less than the baptism of an adult. This view is completely inconsistent with the Wesleyan understanding as expressed in By Water and the Spirit, the Services of the Baptismal Covenant in our hymnal and book of worship, and The Book of Discipline.

Q: Is sprinkling the only way that United Methodists baptize?

A: No, our church has always offered to people being baptized and to the parents of infants the choice of sprinkling, pouring, or immersion.

Q: May I be baptized again if I feel the need?

A: No, baptism is an act of God, and God does it right the first time.Our side of the covenant relationship with God will need recommitment and reaffirmation, but God always remains faithful to the divine side.

Q: How can I “remember [my] baptism and be thankful” when I was baptized as a baby?

A: What we are called to remember in reaffirmation is the gift of God’s grace, not a particular event. Through appropriate remembrances and celebrations, our children can be enabled to “remember” their baptism as much as they “remember” their physical birthday.

Q: May a person who has not been baptized participate in Holy Communion?

A: Yes, our church does not seek to close God’s Table, although the historic and normal Christian order of the sacraments is baptism first — as birth into the family — and Communion following, as continuing nurture at the family table. Pastors and congregations reach out and encourage those who partake at the Table to share fully in the life of God’s people, including coming to the font after appropriate preparation.

Q: Should every baby be baptized?

A: No, the baptism of a baby assumes that the child will be nurtured and formed in the faith at home and at church.

Q: How do we express our own decisions to be Christian disciples if we have already been baptized as infants?

A: In services of profession of faith and confirmation before the congregation, we respond to God’s grace by repenting of our sins, declaring our faith in Jesus Christ, and becoming professing members of the church.

Q: Does baptism mean that I am saved?

A: No, salvation is a lifelong process during which we must continue to respond to God’s grace. Baptism offers the promise that the Holy Spirit will always be working in our lives, but salvation requires our acceptance of that grace, trust in Christ, and ongoing growth in holiness as long as we live.

Q: Do I have to be baptized in order to be saved?

A: No, but baptism is a gift of God’s grace to be received as part of the journey of salvation. To refuse to accept baptism is to reject one of the means of grace that God offers us.

Q: How can I recommit myself to Christ when I have had a powerful spiritual experience?

A: Confirmation and profession of faith are only the first of our affirmations of faith. As we experience God’s work in our ongoing lives of discipleship, we can express our commitment through participation in services of baptismal reaffirmation (Baptismal Covenant IV).

Q: Does baptism make me a member of the church?

A: Yes, baptism is the act of initiation and incorporation into the universal church of Jesus Christ, The United Methodist Church, and the local congregation, as our ritual makes very clear.

Q: Is there more than one category of church membership, according to By Water and the Spirit?

A: Yes, all people who are baptized become baptized members. Those who are baptized at an age at which they are capable of professing their faith must do so and become professing members as well (they cannot choose to be baptized members only). Those baptized as infants or young children do not become professing members until they are able to profess their own faith.

Q: Does this mean that little children can vote and hold office in the church?

A: No, the governance of the church and other such matters will be the privilege and responsibility of professing members. A similar distinction operates in secular government: Children become American citizens when they are born, but they cannot vote or hold office until later in life.

Q: Will our church start counting baptized members and regain the membership numbers we have lost in the last several decades?

A: No. While other records will certainly be kept, only professing numbers are to be counted in statistics of church membership.

Q: How will our system of rolls and record keeping be changed?

A new system of record keeping designed by the General Council on Finance and Administration went into effect in January 2005. These new records and forms are in accord with actions of the General Conference regarding our theological understanding of baptism and membership. The most salient changes are the development of a “Record of Faith Journey” for each member and of a “Permanent Church Register. ”

Q: What is the difference between “full member” and “professing member”?

A: The difference is the distinction between an institutional orientation and a communal orientation. To be a “full member” is something anyone can be in any secular (or volunteer) organization. Being a “full member” usually means simply that “I have joined the institution; I have paid my dues.” To be a “professing member” is to make a statement of commitment and participation in a community of disciples. Being a “professing member” expresses continuing action both within the faith community and in the world. It is a statement about an individual’s ongoing relationship and commitment to God and the church through Jesus Christ.

Q: Is a “baptized member” and a ” preparatory member” the same thing?

A: No. “preparatory members” are people the church views as candidates for membership. That category includes “baptized children and youth of the church eighteen years of age and under who are not full members, and other persons who have been enrolled in confirmation preparation.” (2000 Book of Discipline ¶ 229.2 ) “Baptized members” communicates our sacramental understanding that in baptism people ” are initiated into Christ’s holy church.” (“Services of the Baptismal Covenant,” Service I and II)

Q: Why does The United Methodist Church so understand baptism, membership, and salvation?

A: United Methodism stands in the historic heritage of the Christian faith through the ages and, specifically, in the legacy of John Wesley.Wesley was an Anglican priest. As a result, United Methodism has inherited a “high” understanding of the church, the sacraments, and other aspects of worship. Wesley was also an evangelical revivalist. As a result, United Methodism emphasizes the necessity of conversion, personal relationship with Christ, and witnessing to others. Neither of these aspects alone represents who we are. As United Methodists, we hold the two together in our baptismal theology and practice and in our broader understanding of how God works in our lives for salvation.

Worship Resources with The General Board of Discipleship.

 

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MySundaySermons: 2013 in review on WordPress.com

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 3,900 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 3 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Matthew 2:1-12 Wise Men Bring Gifts to Christ 20140105 JUMC

Are these for Jesus or Me?
In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem,  asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.”  When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him;  and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.  They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:  ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.'”  Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared.  Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.”  When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was.  When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy.  On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road. [NRSV]

Christmas Gifts

If you think about how much time we spend thinking about the perfect gifts to give, looking for the best deal, waiting in lines or for the deliveries to arrive, wrapping and transporting our gifts. There is a great deal of investment in every gift, no matter the monitory value of the gift itself.

Do you ever read about Mary and Joseph giving each other gifts? Did the shepherds draw names and play games to see who gets which gift? Do the Maji just find the best deal along the way or at the last moment?

Gift giving can hold many different meanings.

The obligatory gift is an oxymoron. Gifts ought be given of free will and love and not obligation. But if you don’t give someone a gift there is hell to pay in the not giving. Can you imaging only giving gifts to some of your family and not to all of them. What would be the message if you didn’t explain why.

  • Did you run out of money or just didn’t want to spend your resources.
  • “Its not the gift its the love or thought that counts”  But how do you express your thoughts and love? Is it clear to the recipient?
  • Did you run out of time, ideas, opportunity? Could you not make a home-made card from a used piece of paper that expressed your heart?
  • “We can’t buy everyone something” My great-grandmother in her late nineties still bought a bar of soap for every member of her nearly 100 member extended family. “It is something I know you can use, so use it and think of me.”
  • Did you get everyone something, or many somethings, but you gave them what you wanted them to have or to become?
  • Gifts are a tradition: I bought my father Old-Spice Soap-on-a-rope for years just because he seemed to like them on Christmas morning. I was helping him carry some boxes to donate and found three soaps-on-a-rope from the past three years and I got the message.

Gift Giving Is a Tricky Business

What do we learn for the Wise men? Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh 

Wealth, Extravagant Royal spa treatment and Glade Tomb-fresher

Gold has been a standard of exchange and value, beauty and tender for thousands of years. Frankincense comes for the roots of a small shrub that contains trace amounts of fragrant oil and was burning in the palaces of the king Herod daily and made as offerings to their gods without end. Myrrh, smells like dried prunes and was used in preparing a tomb.

  • Gold is completely practical: A gift card.
  • Frankincense: Extravagant Generosity, acknowledging Jesus as true King.
  • Myrrh: A Preparing for Jesus’ death, even at his birth. Telling the whole story
  • The Star-watching Travelers Journey: You have to leave home, journey in faith and uncertainty, and follow the signs you have.

Reframing our Gift Giving Practice

If you take a painting or photo and removed it from the frame and mat and exchange the boundaries, you will see the image in a new way with new meaning.

So go with the same gifts we have given: What if we connected why we give the gift with the hope we have for the gift.

“I gave you this tie, because I want you to look your best, feel confident and want you to think of our love when you wear it.”

Is that what you meant the gift to be? or did you just need something to go with a shirt.

“I gave you this game, because I want you to know joy and to share time at home playing with me. I want to spend more time being with you.”

Is that what you meant the gift to say? of did you just know they were hinting like crazy for that game.

“I gave you this vacuum cleaner because I am unimaginative but I do like a clean house and I want it to be easier on me to keep the floor and our home clean for you.”

Is that what you meant to gift to do? of did you just know the old one blew out and you needed a new one anyway.

Keep the Magi Model in mind:

Not just with Christmas gift, but all gives, seasonal, birthday and church gifts..

Practical AND Extravagant AND with a Purpose, Explained.

So Now You Tell Me..

So John, why didn’t you tell us this before Christmas. I don’t have a great answer but I will say: It is never to late to explain our gifts.

Don’t assume the message is conveyed that you hoped for the person. Tell them.

Finally. . be known as doing all three parts in your giving

Practical AND Extravagent AND with a Purpose, Explained.

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