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Posts Tagged Communion

Romans 3.21-24 The Persistence of Leaven Clouds Our Heaven RSUMC 20150920

IMG_2862.JPGBut now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. [NRSV]

Sin is a friend to us all.

  • Even if we don’t invite sin to dinner, it shows up at the table.
  • Even if we don’t plan for brokenness to break in, it will.
  • Even if we begin to build up defense against the darkness of evil, it persists.
  • Even if we had just said “no” a thousand times before, sin creeps into our hearts, minds and actions.
  • It claims friendship that we might never want: So that even our inaction can give witness of sin’s power.

What are we to do?

Our holy meal, of bread and wine, instituted by Jesus for the disciples and for “all who have sinned and fallen short,” is our remedy.

Think back to the dinner that first communion night. Jesus had gathered with friends to celebrate the Passover remembrance. The would have followed generations of Hebrews ritual and instruction since Moses at the tenth plague against Pharaoh in Egypt.

The blood of a sacrificial lamb was placed on the on the lentil, brushing it with the top of the doorway as a sign that those within that house were safe, protected, to be passed over. Thus the name, “Passover” itself remains a promise that God 1) knows the power of sin and death and 2) God is ready to provide a way of salvation for those willing to claim it.

Today I invite you to think about the stickiness of sin. It might start small or we might jump in over our heads, either way, we continue to see it’s power and presence among us.

The starting place to deal with sin, is with ourselves.

Long before we talk about the evils in the world, we look at where we water down goodness/righteousness, God word and presence to make it easier or more convenient for us individually.

Sin creeps in more than diving in  :Shade of Grey

Love your neighbor… as long as I’m around them I will act neighborly and polite.

Feed the poor, clothe the naked, visit the prisoner,….. as long as they deserve it, or not too much trouble.

Forgive your enemy… What good would that do?

Sell all of your possessions…. after I take care of everything else first.

Turn the other cheek….When the other guy goes first.

Don’t worry about the future…. Are we supposed to sell all and go sit on the street corner?

The Happy Meal: Why is Communion the powerful Remedy

The cup connects us to the sacrifice that Jesus made as an exchange on our behalf. Jesus paid our debt.

The Bread, is about dealing with the sticky, glutinous, power of leaven: Meet you in the broken crumbs of sin. Jesus is there for you. (Communion served in our brokenness)

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John 6:35, 41-51 “Hungry?” 20150809 RSUMC

biscuits-plate Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.”They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” Jesus answered them, “Do not complain among yourselves. No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” [NRSV]

Communion:

I ritual of disciples: I have always been conflicted about holy communion being something the church designates as responsibility of the ordained clergy, when Jesus gives the instruction to disciples to remember and relive the ritual with every meal.

We speak of “asking the blessing” or “saying grace” as a mini-ritual of prayer before our meals. I dare not disregard one of few things that the church has made necessary for our elders, but I want to expand what it means to “eat the bread of life.”

Who is hungry?

Poverty among our neighbors.

How will they be fed?

In the text there are references to Moses and the following traditions of ministry of feeding. There are hungry people in Walker and Catoosa, There are hungry people in Culebra and Costa Rica. There are people who are hungry for eternal food on facebook and faceless corners of the earth. Who will feed those we know to be hungry.

Look the other way and change the channel when you see someone who hungers for Jesus. The work is be for us.

How often do we Communion?

Communion is our reminder that there are those who hunger for Jesus. If we feed without sharing Jesus we fool ourselves and those we feed. If we think we can share Jesus without feeding the hungry we fool them and ourselves.

Communion is a celebration of union with Christ Jesus, disciples and all who hunger for grace, forgiveness, direction, answers, hope, freedom, power: Jesus.

An Invitation:

Break bread with someone this week and share Jesus. It might be stranger or your family or best friend, but use the time to share Jesus with one another: read the scripture, sing the songs, tell the story that Jesus gives his life in exchange for ours and Jesus entrusts his presence in the church/body.

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Hebrews 5:5-10 “Obey?” RSUMC 20150322

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So also Christ did not glorify himself in becoming a high priest, but was appointed by the one who said to him, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”; as he says also in another place, “You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.” In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, having been designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek. [NRSV]

In reading this passage we find no parable or stories, no historical travel plans to orient or date the occasion. This is part of a larger lesson or even sermon about Jesus Christ.

The book is called Hebrews and was most likely written by someone who had excellent writing skills in Greek, who knew the Greek version of the Old Testament but was not so concerned about Jesus being the messiah as much as Jesus being the Christ, the Son of the Most High.

The audience seems to be those who might have a mental understanding of Jesus as the Christ, but lack a motivation to have relationship with the Christ. The heart of the book seems to be 4:14 “Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession.”

  • Jesus who has been made perfect, [whole] for our brokenness.
  • Jesus becomes our source for salvation.
  • We connect to this source through obedience.
  • With obedience, we can expect suffering.
  • Through suffering we can expect to find Christ.
  • Therefore, Trust the Jesus with all things.
  • In suffering, joy and eternity

So let’s get to the trouble spot: Obey?!

To obey is to respond in direct relation to command, instructions, or restrictions.

WHY? Would we give up our will to choose God’s?

The resume’ of resume’s

  • Christ was appointed by God for you and me
  • Christ’s kingdom is eternal one, high priest of the order of Melchizedek.
  • Christ who suffered for you and me, died and lives for our benefit
  • Christ modeled the power of obedience as child of God
  • Christ connects us to God as children of God, joint heirs

Bottom line: in a world that is tearing countries, families and lives apart. We need to know our Savior is near!

Melchizedek is this mystical priest that shows up with Abram in the midst of a 4 nations against 5 nations battle, when the larger forces raid one of the nations in the night, Abram takes his trained special force folks at night and brings back the people/families, animals and other possessions and returns them to the king who was defeated. For Abram’s since of justice and restoration, King “Mel” shows up, offers up bread and wine and blesses Abram for his graciousness. (Sound familiar?)

Abram is lead by the creed of grace and is blessed.

It is through the same priesthood that Jesus the Christ is sent by God to give us grace and to bless us in a world that is dividing families and nations and resources.

Why do we obey Jesus?

    • Because he has come to us as a Son
    • He has suffered for our benefit

He has come to bless us who are fighting and divided

Contemporary Question:

Who needs to hear about Obeying Jesus

  1. Those who would run from such a request.
  2. Those who have not hear or have lost faith that Jesus coming to suffer has anything to do with us now
  3. Those who might have heard but don’t see the personal benefit Jesus affords us.
  4. Those who are closed to seeing and experiencing the blessing of following, trusting and obeying THE highest of priest. The one who came to seek and save the lowest and the greatest. Me and you.

The Greatest Threat: is to Obey ourselves in the name of God or in the place of God. (don’t fool yourself, God or anyone else)

This week: Break bread and bless someone this week. Remind them that Jesus died and lives for them and the suffering that threatens their life and joy.

This week: Break bread and bless someone this week. Remind them that Jesus died and lives for them and the suffering that threatens their life and joy.

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1 Corinthians 8.1-13 “Food Glorious Food” RSUMC 20150201

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Bread of Life: Feed the Hunger, Fill Your Spirit First.

Now concerning food sacrificed to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. Anyone who claims to know something does not yet have the necessary knowledge; but anyone who loves God is known by him. Hence, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “no idol in the world really exists,” and that “there is no God but one.” Indeed, even though there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as in fact there are many gods and many lords— yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. It is not everyone, however, who has this knowledge. Since some have become so accustomed to idols until now, they still think of the food they eat as food offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. “Food will not bring us close to God.” We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if others see you, who possess knowledge, eating in the temple of an idol, might they not, since their conscience is weak, be encouraged to the point of eating food sacrificed to idols? So by your knowledge those weak believers for whom Christ died are destroyed. But when you thus sin against members of your family, and wound their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food is a cause of their falling, I will never eat meat, so that I may not cause one of them to fall. [NRSV]

Covered Dish… “A dish with the lid glued on to it with the words: “Covered Dish” as an act of hospitality.

Once I visited a Hindu commune as a seminary assignment. We invited in to observe, but they insisted we participate in order to observe. After 16 verses of singing the Hari Krishna mantra, we had to sing and dances in a circle singing it 16 more times. After which a large curtain was pulled back at one end of the room we were gathered, which revealed two dozen colorful life-sized figures of different idols. There in front of them was our dinner. After were we sprinkled with coconut milk and flower petals were listened to the guru speak for hours and then we had to eat.

What are the limits of southern hospitality? We ate, found our shoes and ran to the car. We stopped at the Varsity on the way home got our Chilli dogs, rings and Frost Orange.

Paul has found himself in a community of folks who are worshiping in a different way. He is confronted with being faithful in the context of those who are not like him.

Paul: Troubling statement, that is easy to leave on the buffet of bible verses: Eating Food nor Avoiding Food will neither save nor condemn up.

Remind your neighbor: “The Spirit is not fed with physical food.”

Girl Scout Cookies come when people typically give up on their new years diet resolutions

Faith Restaurant: I have always wanted to start a spiritual restaurant, coffee house. That not only creates jobs for those who would otherwise find is most difficult to get a job and build some work-equity to help transform their. With profit sharing for those who provide the work.

Using food from a community garden and fair-trade partners and local farmers giving strength to the local community.

Preparing food from purchasing, prepping, serving and cleaning through prayer and Christian fellowship.

Not simply closing on Sunday’s and assuming people know why we do so, but being bold in explaining why we might do so.

In addition to the waiters and waitresses there would be people who provided pastoral care from table to table. Praying, listening, encouraging and modeling Christian fellowship with a busy culture that would rather eat bad over priced food in an attempt to satisfy the hunger of their spirit.

Paul takes the stance that he will abstain from eating meat so his witness might include his eating and so there would be confusion if his food was offered to idols or not, he would eat other things. Some folks are vegetarians for diet choices, others do so for support of animals. Paul is not focusing on health of his body neither animals bodies, he is focusing on his spiritual self: letting his faith take priority to his taste buds. Wow! Now, he is NOT fasting, he is witnesses his Spiritual self in a physical body.

Tell you neighbor: “I am a Spiritual person in a physical body.” Repeat..

I don’t like this passage. You know I like my Krispy Kreme; I like meat. Let’s skip this verse and find one about Jesus and the children or Something that assures our salvation, The Christmas story… leave my food alone.

Food Glorious Food Oliver, the musical, song later used in Ice Age, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, and Charlottes Web, are variant of the words from the forgotten boys home who are given gruel everyday and they dream of having what rich gentlemen get: indigestion.

Food is a marvelous thing. It is the fuel for our physical bodies. There are so many foods that look good, taste good, smell good, have appealing textures, and satisfy the cravings of our chemistry.

Keep in mind, Paul is not fasting. He is not giving up caring for his physical body. He is not making a political statement. He is not controlling his weight. He is not starving himself.

There are times and places to stretch our spiritual grow and maturity that fasting is appropriate and even necessary, but today Paul is talking about eating.

Scout Can Drive

We are surrounded by people in our communities who do not have enough to eat to nourish their bodies. I remember doing a can drive for our scout troop one year. We placed empty bags with a note attached that stated: “We will be coming to your door tomorrow asking for donations of canned foods. Please fill this bag and leave it on your front door and BSA Troup 314 scouts will deliver your gift to the community pantry where it will help feed our neighbors. It was a very successful method of having people informed with a convenient way to collect a great about of food in a short period of time.

At one house the bag was filled with empty cans and a note. “Where is the community pantry? We are in need of food.

We had enough to share in our homes and guessed that some kids wanting us to take our trash. Our Scoutmaster took us back to this house and invited us in because he said we needed to see this. If it was just a kids joke, we’d invite the fellow to our troop and if they needed food we could see for ourselves. It was a nice home. The yard was plain but kept. We were invited in and the modest size house had almost no furniture. One box of toys and games for three children, and most of the blinds were pulled so the house was rather dark. We went into the kitchen and the scoutmaster asked to see the cupboard and refrigerator: I remember there were pickles, a bottle of formula-milk, olives and an opened quart of milk. The cabinets were empty except for salt, pepper, Texas Pete’s hot sauce and tooth picks.

We went to the truck and skipped the community food bank. We left every can they would eat. We didn’t follow the rules and procedures; we followed our hearts in love of Christ and compassion on those who were hungry.

Missing the Point

We can feed people and think we have this food thing seal up and covered, while all this good, it skirts around this verse: Paul is affirming that it is more important to satisfy our spirit than our body.

Tell your neighbor, “It is more important to satisfy our spirit than our body.”

Tell your neighbor, “I don’t always like that” “I don’t know if that is true.” “What’s for lunch?”

Bottom line: Feed the Spirit First, Feed the stomach second.

How often to do you spend on feeding your body?

Time Working to buy or grow our food

Time and energy gathering and preparing our food

Time and energy eating food

Time and cost of cleaning up from eating?

Money and energy from eating too much or things that don’t build up our bodies?

How much is all that time….

How much time do we devote to being with God and God’s people, on an average day?

Time praying? Studying the bible? Singing, worshiping?

Fellow-shipping, Serving and encouraging others in the faith?

Who is starving their Spirit?

Let’s make a commitment to God and one another to encourage one another.

Let’s use technology to remind us to prayer, serve and love

Let’s make an intentional effort to feed one another as well as ourselves.

Let’s eat, I don’t know about you, I’m hungry.

Feed my spirit, Fill my heart. Satisfy my cravings. Make me whole. Amen.

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John 1:43-51 “Can Anything Good Come Out of Rock Spring?” 20150118

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The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” [NRSV]

 

1. Jesus told Philip who told Nathanael who told Philip about Jesus.

Discipleship is process of networking.

The invitation is “Follow Me”. Go where I am going.

We are not called to tell people where to go nor what to do. We don’t have to have the answers, we just take them where we are going and growing.

Philip didn’t know it all, but he knew enough.

In knowing Jesus Christ, we know enough to lead us to a community faith, into small groups of study and prayer and Christian fellowship

Our mission is to invite others to follow. Come WITH me and we will find the Lord together.

Goal of fifty new members. Will you join me in finding one person who will follow you to church. Out of the 100-150 of us here, make it your personal mission to bring ONE person this year.

Philip Brings Nathanel, doubting and questioning and complaining, Nathaniel follows and is found by Jesus. Philip on askes Nat to follow, to come with me.

2. How could anything Good come out of the little town of Nazareth?

Nazareth: population 100-150, not included in the Talmud/OT as a city.

Rock Spring: population 4,500 in 2012.  Villanow at 1900. Plainville 375. The smallest incorporated village in Georgia is my home town, Garfield with a population of 202 souls.

  • Steve Wozniack was an electronics hacker, and he and his long time friend Steve Jobs had this idea to create a personal computer. In 1976, the two approached a local electronics store to see if they would be interested in buying a personal computer that Wozniack had built. Their first order was for 50 “Apple” computers.
  • In 1971, three academics each invested $1350 of their own money into the first Starbucks located in downtown Seattle. English teacher Jerry Baldwin, history teacher Zev Siegel, and writer Gordon Bowker opened the store called Starbucks Coffee, Tea, and Spice
  • In 1978, twenty-five year old college dropout John Mackey and twenty-one year old Rene Lawson Hardy, saved and borrowed money from family and friends to open the doors of a small natural foods store in Austin, Texas. Within a year of opening the store, the couple was evicted from their home for using their apartment storage for the store. Homeless and with no place to go they decided to save costs by moving and living at their store full time. Since their store “Saferway” was zoned for commercial use only, there was no shower stall. According to the company’s website, the two instead bathed in the Hobart dishwasher, which had an attached water hose.
  • In the spring of 1891, the 29-year-old William Wrigley Jr. moved from Philadelphia to Chicago with only $32 to his name. Soon after arriving in Chicago, Wrigley began selling soap. As an incentive to the customers, if they purchased his soap, he would give them a free can of baking powder. Soon baking powder proved to be more popular than the soap he was selling, so he switched his business. A year later, in 1892, Wrigley used chewing gum as an incentive for buying his baking powder. Again, chewing gum proved to be more popular than baking powder, and so he switched business again. The first brand of chewing gum Wrigley produced was Juicy Fruit in 1893.

What good can come from RSUMC? Look at the (bulletin). Years ago folks would have said nothing but look we have living witnesses.

What good can come from sharing Christ with folks with whom we work, school, live, play, shop and travel? Nothing in we don’t invite them to follow.

The greatness is not in the size of the person nor the size of the church. Greatness is found in the responding to the invitation to find Christ

Examples of greatness coming out of small beginning

3. Trust the witness of Philip as if Jesus told you first hand.

Trust that you might not be able to reach everyone, but there is someone who will follow you, someone who will journey with you.

We might want it to be someone we know, a family member or someone we conveniently see each week or day.

I keep asking and inviting until i find one who will follow with me.

When the chapel was first built on this location, did the members see the need for an education building, or two, or a preschool, of the spring… who can imagine what ministries will call for what facilities 50 to 100 years from now. But the congregation we will be is shaped by the faithful willingness of those who have paved and reached, taught and sung, praised and raised in times past, stand as a witness for us to continue to extend the invitation. Come, follow me.

The was once the slogan of the United Methodist Church, we moved to Open Door, Open Minds, Open Hearts, to Rethink Church to now the watch word is.. don’t ask, don’t tell.

Seriously, we are not limited by a slogan, our mission is follow Christ and to invite others to join our faith journey.

So why are you sitting here, when there are those still out there.

Amen.

 

 

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John 6:25-35 Bread of Our Ancestors RSUMC 20141102

Communion, All Saints, Signs and Spiritual Satisfaction: A full meal

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When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.” Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'” Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.  [NRSV]

First of all: Reminder, there will be no homework during the month of November. Just class work..

It is fitting that we check in with this passage on All Saints Sunday. Each year on the first Sunday in November think back about those who now no longer with us, in the body, but are ever present in Spirit in our hearts and memories and join in worship with us from the stadium seats of heaven.

[the eight people you sit with in heaven: The three in front are three people we have looked for guidance who have gone ahead, they lead us to toward the throne. The three behind are the three folks who have looked over our shoulder, pushed and poke us, and clean up after us all our years. The last two people we think we would want to sit next to for eternity on the left and right. So who would want to go?]

In the passage from John’s Gospel he recounts how the people looking for Jesus remembered their heritage, but they missed the relationship with God of their kin folks.

There is an old preacher story about a student who went to his 25th class reunion and went to the professor and re-introduced himself to the teacher and said, “I am Dan Smith, I was one of your students.” The professor shakes his head and reflects for a time and then replies, “you may have attended my class, but you were never one of my students.”

Do we just go to the church? do we go through the idea or Christianity or is there a relationship in addition to the teachings. I have been reading a remarkable book by the Barna Group that has been studying the church in great detail since the 1970s. There study of Christians in the United States recounts that in the past ten years, the total number of folks who profess to be Christians or believe Christian morals are good has dropped from 49% to 39% (Nearly half to almost a third.) Of that 39% who claim the title and wear the name tag when asked, 8% report having their closes friends in the church. Conclusion: We like what Jesus said, not so much about the people who are talking about him. (RSUMC may not reflect this as drastically, but it does speak of the country as a whole.)

One of the greatest fears of growing old in America, and most everywhere, is that we will be forgotten an alone. Who’s task is it to remember our older generation? Who’s task is it to feed and clothe the poor? Is it the government’s responsibility? (NO!) It is our command, commission and calling!

The Teachers Question and Answer session of teaching

Also in the text, is the first question from the people, after Jesus leaves from feeding the 5000 he goes to pray and rest and the people find him and want to know how he got ahead of them.

Teacher how did you get hear ahead of us? God is not to be figured out..

To the crowds Jesus says, Are you only looking for entrainment? a free meal? something amazing to talk about?

Teaching: Work for what the Son of Man will give you. Feed the hungry and poor so they will know God, Jesus, Spirit, things that are eternal.

Back step 1: How do we do the things that you do? What’s the trick? What’s the power? (We are just like you and we can do what you do if you show us. then we won’t be a bother you any more)

Jesus: First you are not seeing God in Jesus, only a free lunch. Second, I want you all to follow not replicate and replace me….

Back step again: If you want us to know you are God, then give us a sign. We know Our story how Moses and the Israelite tribes ate manna, show us the manna! Show  us the manna. Show us the proof and then we will believe you like our kin believed Moses.

Communion

Jesus: Moses was not responsible for the manna; God sent the manna then, and I am the manna now. I will satisfy your Spiritual hunger.

Q: How often is too often for communion. One of the complaints about communion is 1) Why don’ t we use wine like Jesus did, and not watered down but the good stuff just like Jesus made for the wedding? 2) If we communion too often it will loose it’s meaning. 3) It takes up too much time in the service. 4) It is just a hot-bed of germs and virus waiting to be swapped.

A: 1) Methodist heritage, Wesley didn’t want to promote alcoholism and didn’t want those who struggled with alcohol to be required to taste what was best for them to avoid, just to received the grace,

2) If we eat food too often we will grow tired of eating and will all starve to death because we have taken the meaning out eating food. Doubt it

3) Preparing, serving always take more time and energy than eating. Thank you servers here and every where you are served.

4) More people touched the door handle to get in this building than will touch one of these cups. If you didn’t get germs off the door, your chair or in greeting each other  you are no more nor less likely to get germs from sharing the cup.

Heart of the matter. We are sharing the same menu and same ritual that those who started this church and those who gather in the upper room. It just bigger than we are.

5) Too often is not the question: Is it too often to tell my father that I love and respect and admire him? Now that he has gone to heaven, I think about his most every day. Express you love daily.

Our Class work is to come to the table, with each other.and know we join with those in heaven, and those in this place, and everyone who calls on the name of Jesus to feed and fill and satisfy our hearts today.

Once satisfied, we can do all things in Christ who lives and strengthens us..

 

 

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2 Peter 1:16-21 and Matthew 17:1-9 What I Want JUMC. 20140303

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2P: For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that voice was conveyed to him by the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven, while we were with him on the holy mountain. So we have the prophetic message more fully confirmed. You will do well to be attentive to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by human will, but men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. [NRSV]

MT: Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, “Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” [NRSV]

Context of coupling of text
Firsthand Gospel Application

This is a very interesting couple of passages because we have the gospel account of historical, miraculous events and a second text in 2Peter where there is a teaching tot he church that directly based on that first hand experience.

The context of the Transfiguration mountain passage is part mystery and miracle of incarnation. My question of the text is: are Peter James and john those who can most appreciate and understand the reevaluation or are they those who most need it.

Transference
Transfer of authority and story, Avoid transferring the authority

The story clarifies Gods method do revelation through people and relationships as the central mode of communicating Gods word and presence. This is replicated in Peters rebelling to those in his letter and input hearing.

A secondary teaching mode is the Journey

The disciples are taught different parts of the story along the way, not all at once. Peter shares the journey with others affirming their journey in belief and understanding.

We leave the story here and it would be clean, neat and safe doe us all. But the heart lesson is the transformation of Peter between the two accounts.

What I want vs what God wants for me

God wants Peter James and John to see and share a moment with Jesus Moses and Elijah.
In this moment they have the true reality of Jesus’s identity and role, the confirmation of OT laws and prophet AND the ultimate confirmation from God divine pronouncement. It does not get any clearer.

Only Peters response is vocalized among the disciples. Just because the others are silent doesn’t mean their response was different.

God is about revealing the connection and Peter presents a disconnection.

< Story of connection >

Peter hears the voice of God, sees the pieces of old and new fit together before his eyes, and his response is to build, make, do, control the situation.

Let’s make some monuments

The movie, Monument Men, a WWII drama about protecting the accomplishments of artists and sculptors work from destruction by the failed Hitlers orders at the end of the war. It is a moving witness of bravery and boldness to save the evidence of our culture and accomplishments. It is worth the ticket price for sure.

Peters response is not so different. We need to capture this moment and memorialize it so that others can come to those holy place.

Recount my trip. Worth going to the holy ground but what stands today are the very thing that Peter wanted. Including fragments of crusader walls defending the structure, a monastery, double decker church and a gift shop and roaming peacocks revealing their splendor and hidden glory. The very monuments that Peter hoped for are present.

But these are not the things God declared as important or necessary on that spot. The instruction was to listen and understand, to hear and believe.

In the moment Peter changing a from confident planner and designer in charge to one falling to the ground in fear and trembling.

The gift of Perspective in Time

It is in the 2P passage that Peter has learned and is teaching from his weakness.

You would do well to listen to use who know what we are talking about.
It’s not about you
Your plans
Your rules
Your traditions
Your good deeds
Your Intensions.

It is about the Holy Spirit, No you.

We come to the table of holy communion and it is about connecting with God
It’s not about our sin, or worth, or fault, no blame
It is a table of love and grace.

So come and be filled, be connected, be loved and claimed by the God who sends us Gods only child that we might believe, trust and live I return. Come, let go, and allow God to fill you today.

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Matthew 5:1-12 “Are You Blessed?” JUMC 20140202

sermononmountWhen Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.  “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. [NRSV]

Blessed.

Are you blessed? Look at the blessing side of these equations:

  • Citizenship in Heaven
  • Comforted here and now.
  • Inheritors of the earth
  • Filled with Satisfaction
  • Swimming in Mercy
  • Able to see God’s presence
  • Known to be God’s child
  • Have a place in heaven
  • Heavenly Reward Waiting

Character Traits of the faithful

  • Poor in spirit, Mourning, Meek
  • Righteousness Seekers, Mercy, Seekers of God’s heart
  • Makers of peace; Teased, Taunted, Tested and Tormented for doing what is Godly.

Jesus begins his teaching ministry to the crowds with instructions that define the measurable, witness-able, tangible descriptors of those who ‘get it’, those who would be followers, disciples, Christians.

Look Around you today

Are you surrounding by the blessed or cursed? Honestly we are some of both, some of the time.  This is why we continually repent, pray for forgiveness, and seek to live a new the new life we celebrate in Holy Communion.

We come to the table because we have turned the other way.

Jesus begins be giving us a measuring stick of identify and path toward citizenship.

Forgive me, for I have sinned.

  • Forgive me, for I have acted like I knew better than God and other Godly saints.
  • Forgive me, for I have forgotten that you gave your son for my life. I forgot what that feels like.
  • Forgive me, for I have stopped growing my spiritual relationship.
  • Forgive me, for I have taken your grace, but not shown it to others.
  • Forgive me, for I have not had pure thoughts, motives, actions and words.
  • Forgive me, for I have not tried to make peace and even stirred up trouble myself.
  • Forgive me, for I have persecuted others because they were different.
  • Forgive me, for I have said and done all kinds of evil that does not reflect your presence in my heart and life.
  • Forgive me, for I have forgotten your Joy and misplaced your Gladness and Love.

Jesus words start as descriptors for Disciples and become daggers of conviction when we have not stayed on the path of Blessing.

An Opposing View

  • Cursed are those who are full-of-themselves
  • Cursed are those who stoic, selfish, and prideful,
  • Cursed are those who know better than the rest of us
  • Cursed are those who know better than God
  • Cursed are those who judge with a log in their own eye
  • Cursed are those who see only their wants and vision
  • Cursed are those who to quiet to stop injustice or too loud in self-preservation
  • Cursed are those who to sacred to be bold for God

Bottom Line:

The attitudes of Matthew 5.1-12 are the called such as they begin in our hearts and minds and then affect our actions and environment.

If our task is to make disciples of others for the transformation of the world, it begins by ‘checking’ our attitude to see if our heart and minds are God before we move to words and deeds.

Have someone ask you these questions this week and answer them honestly:

  • Am I always right?
  • Where does pride blind me and hinder others?
  • Who knows best how to live in relationship with others?
  • Am I willing to change what is broken in my life?
  • Am I willing to see and feel how others feel and see life? And me?
  • Will I speak bolding for God today? Each day?
  • What scares me? Why would I be afraid if God is captain of our team?

What’s at Stake?  EVERYTHING

  • Being Blessed or Curse.
  • Being included or outside.
  • Saved or Damned.
  • Loved or hated
  • Remembered or forgotten
  • God’s or my Own.

What is God doing about it?

  • Has given us Christ to follow
  • Has given us Christ for our sin
  • Has given us Christ for living
  • Has given us The Spirit for power and guidance
  • Has given us the Church for fellowship and encouragement
  • Has given us Word to study, learn, grow and share
  • Has given us Music to tell and share
  • Has given us ministry to share and reach
  • Has given us resources to build and invest

The question, Our Question:

“What am I doing about my attitude and my actions as child of God?”

Come to the Table and start fresh in the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ. Come to the table and be filled, anew.

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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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Ezra 3.10-13 To Laugh or Cry 20131124 JUMC

communion_Grapes 10 When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests in their vestments were stationed to praise the Lord with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, according to the directions of King David of Israel; 11 and they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the Lord, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel.” And all the people responded with a great shout when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. 12 But many of the priests and Levites and heads of families, old people who had seen the first house on its foundations, wept with a loud voice when they saw this house, though many shouted aloud for joy, 13 so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people’s weeping, for the people shouted so loudly that the sound was heard far away. [NRSV]

Returning Home is Never the Same:

The experience of Ezra and the people coming back to Jerusalem from exile comes with the mixed blessing of building something new with the sorrow of what is no longer reality. 

John Wesley opposed preaching outside to reach the poor and disconnected, but in doing so transforms the church and the world for Jesus Christ, The council of Bishops, after great study and prayer is putting the resources in vital congregations. Those left behind linger by their choice to live in the past, The commitment is to remember and acknowledge the loss of what we once were, while experimenting in building the new church. The Church of England stayed in the past and is empty. The Russian Orthodox Church has the liturgy but no connection with the people.  In our life time, the church will become something new.

Who is our Leader, Who do we Follow?

Remember when Billy Graham was the iconic central figure of the protestant church. Who is next? One of the TV preachers? One of the book publishing authors? One of the political preachers? It is scary to not have the map. But if we follow the old ways we will not find the new Church.

Who Is Lost and Who is Found

It is not comfortable to be lost, but its worse to stay where we are and swap familiarity for faith One of the important questions to ask as a church: What the best day of Jackson United Methodist Church? If you say,  some time in the past, you don’t think much of the present and have no hope for the future. If you say, the best day are ahead, then we don’t throw in the towel and we grow closer toward the Light of Jesus Christ. Looking backward, we are grateful and thankful for those who have paved the way before us, but the work of paving a new way is not over.

The Road Goes On, or Does it?

It continues. Where do we start? At the table: Jesus promises to meet us at the table as often as we gather in presence and memory. Remember and Eat. Learn from our past, and step out in faith in our future. Come to the table and let’s eat, weep and shout for joy!

Communion

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