[Beyond Sunday] Together

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

-Ephesians 5:1-2

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash There is a difference between truth and brutality.  Paul’s words encourage Christian communities to be honest with one another but to learn to speak honestly with love.  Too often our divisions are caused by the wounds we inflict in anger as much as by differing ideas.   [hear sermon audio] This week, use these scriptures and questions during your own devotion time or with your family.

Texts to read:

Questions to Ponder:

  • What does anger feel like for you? What signals does your body send you that you’re angry?
  • How do you typically handle your anger in a conflict?
  • Righteous anger can move mountains; unrighteous anger can rend families.  How does your faith help you know the difference?

Do and share:

  • Invite someone you disagree with to trade handwritten letters with you about the subject of your conflict.  Pay attention to how you feel when you read their words.  Work on channeling your own feelings into upbuilding words.
  • Many people are anxious or even angry about the UMC’s Called General Conference in February.  Take some time this week to write your thoughts, concerns or fears on a postcard and mail it to the church office.
 

[Beyond Sunday] Whale of a Tale 4

 That is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing. And now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” And the Lord said, “Is it right for you to be angry?” Jonah 4:2b-3
We love tidy stories. Three acts with a Happy-Ever-After at the end. Maybe that’s why we skip the 4th chapter of Jonah. Without this last act, we have a story of repentance and forgiveness with everyone content at the end. But scripture pushes further, challenging us to ponder the full extent of God’s grace. If God is as merciful as we believe, perhaps we, his body, will have to expand who we are willing to care for.  [hear sermon audio] This week, take some time to dive into these scriptures and questions during your devotion time.

Texts to read:

Questions to Ponder:

  • Who comes to mind when you hear God’s final question: And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left?
  • How do your present feelings affect them?
  • How do your present feelings affect you?

Do and share:

  • Make a list of those you find it difficult to offer grace.  Set aside time this week to pray for each person on the list.  What does God say to you through that prayer?
  • Post on social media about your gratitude for a time you were given grace.  You can tag us @dpumc.
 

[Beyond Sunday] Whale of a Tale 3

Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk. And he cried out, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth. Jonah 3:4-5
The response of the Ninevites to Jonah’s “preaching” is almost incredulously large.  A nation falls down to worship and repent and return to God.  When we proclaim the work of God this should be the response we dream about.  Isn’t God’s grace supposed to be for everyone?   [hear sermon audio] This week, take some time to dive into these scriptures and questions during your devotion time.

Texts to read:

Questions to Ponder:

  • To whom in your life might God be calling you to share the good news of grace?
  • What makes that difficult?
  • What difference might a relationship with God make in their life?

Do and share:

  • If you made a list of what you struggle to sacrifice to God last week, return to it.  (if not make one this week)  Journal about how you did on sacrificing something last week.  This week,  pick one thing to work on that could help you tell others about God.
  • What is one thing God has done for you in the last year?  Make a short video giving thanks for that and share it on social media.  You can tag us @dpumc.
 

[Beyond Sunday] Whale of a Tale 2

As my life was ebbing away,     I remembered the Lord; and my prayer came to you,     into your holy temple.  Those who worship vain idols     forsake their true loyalty. But I with the voice of thanksgiving     will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay.     Deliverance belongs to the Lord!” Jonah 2:7-9
God doesn’t put Jonah in a fish to teach him a lesson.  God sends a fish to save Jonah from his own choices.  But only there, held suspended between a watery grave and life on shore, does Jonah come to terms with his soul.  In the fish he learns to let go of his pride and arrogance and offer praise to God, despite his circumstance.   In chapter 1, we discussed where God might call us to go.  In chapter 2 we wrestle with what we might endure to embrace our calling.   [hear sermon audio] This week, take some time to dive into these scriptures and questions during your devotion time.

Texts to read:

Questions to Ponder:

  • When in your life has faith or praise been most difficult?
  • When you are struggling, how do you make space to talk to God?
  • Describe a time when you had to let go of what you thought was right in order to follow God?

Do and share:

  • Songs have always been a powerful expression of faith and struggle.  What songs do you turn to when you’re wrestling with God?  Share one on our Facebook group or Twitter (@dpumc).
  • Make a list of what you struggle to sacrifice to God.  Pick one thing to work on this week.
 

[Beyond Sunday] Whale of a Tale 1

Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai, saying, “Go at once to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before me.” But Jonah set out to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.

Jonah 1:1-3

Jonah is a story every church kid has heard and almost no one knows. Yes, it is a story about how impossible it is to run from God.  But when we get beyond the children’s Bible picture, complex themes of calling, fear, grace, and hypocrisy emerge.   In the first chapter, we discover just how far out of our comfort zones God might call us to go. Join us for a 4-week journey through this whale of a tale and its message for our divided world.  [hear sermon audio]

This week, take some time to dive into these scriptures and questions during your devotion time.

Texts to read:

Questions to Ponder:

  • Every believer has a calling from God.  How would you describe yours?
  • Has your calling ever led, or seemed to lead somewhere that made you uncomfortable?  Describe that time.
  • Which voice is stronger in your life right now: calling or fear?

Do and share:

  • Jonah 1 is Jonah’s call story.  Other Biblical figures– like Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Moses– have call stories.  Spend some time this week finding call stories in Scripture.  Which one resonates with your own call?
  • Do something this week that scares you and share a picture on our Facebook group or Twitter (@dpumc).

  Feature image by MiniPress and available for download at: https://www.etsy.com/listing/488606806/instant-download-your-word-is-a-lamp-to?ref=shop_home_active_1

 

[Beyond Sunday] Bible Sunday

​ But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it,  and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.  All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,  so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:14-17
We presented elementary students with their first Bible this week at DPUMC.  It was a great day to reflect on the importance of scripture to our faith and formation.  [hear sermon audio] This week, take some time to go deeper.  Use these scriptures and questions to reflect in your devotion time.

Texts to read:

Do and share:

  • Make your own scripture resource file.  Get a journal or some index cards.  Then spend some time finding scriptures you love for each category and put one on each page or card.
    • Scriptures for times of Joy
    • Scriptures for times of Greif
    • Scriptures for times of Disappointment
    • Scriptures for times of Uncertainty
    • Scriptures for times of Hope
  • Encourage your friends to make a list of these scriptures too.  Swap lists and add their thoughts to your file.
  • Share a scripture of Joy in our Facebook group or on Twitter (@dpumc).
  Feature image by MiniPress and available for download at: https://www.etsy.com/listing/488606806/instant-download-your-word-is-a-lamp-to?ref=shop_home_active_1  

If your kids and youth have questions this week…

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all yourstrength, and with all your mind; and your neighboras yourself.”

Luke 10:27

This week we didn’t have a traditional sermon at DPUMC.  We tied up our series on difficult questions of faith by answering questions from the congregation.  So it wasn’t possible to write my usual Tuesday follow up blog.  Instead, I thought I’d offer some information to help parents and grandparents answer some difficult questions they may be asked this week.

The testimonies of Dr. Blasey Ford and Hon. Kavanuagh continue to dominate the news.  The ongoing nomination process has sparked a national conversation about consent, assault, men and women’s experiences and rights.  These subjects are as important as they are sensitive. Children and teens need to have their questions honored and feel safe talking to the adults around them.   If the young people in your life have questions, it is because they are seeking your wisdom about the person they should become.

Many parents will want to shield young children from the explicit details.  But children are capable of grasping consent and how they should treat others in an age-appropriate way.  They can be reminded Jesus loves them and everyone.  Because we love Jesus, we also love other people and treat them nicely.  We only hug or touch others if they say its okay.  And people should only hug or touch them if they say its okay.

With older children, you might emphasize that God has created each person and that all are equal in Christ.  You can read together Psalm 139 or 1 Corinthians 12:12-14 and along with the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:36-40, Mark 12:30-31, Luke 10:27).  Discuss what it means to love others as ourselves.

With pre-teens that might also include a conversation about substances, like alcohol and drugs, that inhibit our ability to make good decisions and can even put us in dangerous situations.  You might find the UMC’s Social Principles a helpful guide.  From the section on Women and Men:

We affirm with Scripture the common humanity of male and female, both having equal worth in the eyes of God. We reject the erroneous notion that one gender is superior to another, that one gender must strive against another, and that members of one gender may receive love, power, and esteem only at the expense of another. We especially reject the idea that God made individuals as incomplete fragments, made whole only in union with another. We call upon women and men alike to share power and control, to learn to give freely and to receive freely, to be complete and to respect the wholeness of others. We seek for every individual opportunities and freedom to love and be loved, to seek and receive justice, and to practice ethical self-determination. We understand our gender diversity to be a gift from God, intended to add to the rich variety of human experience and perspective; and we guard against attitudes and traditions that would use this good gift to leave members of one sex more vulnerable in relationships than members of another.

UMC Social Prinicples ¶161

Teens, especially, may be wrestling right now because Ford and Kavanaugh were themselves teenagers on the night under discussion.  Your teen may know a friend who abuses alcohol or drugs, or who has been the victim of sexual assault.  Try asking for and listening to their opinion first.  If they have questions, remind them that sex is a good gift from good, but meant to be a gift between married people. Help your teen understand that loving others, means respecting their boundaries; loving yourself means being careful about the people you spend time with and the situations you put yourself.

Be an adult they can come too.  Even if they or their friends find themselves at a party, on a date, or in a situation they’re uncomfortable with, let them know you are someone they can call with no questions asked until the morning.

For a deeper family study, you might read 2 Samuel 13-15 or Judges 19-20.  Be aware that both these stories contain difficult content including sexual violence.  In both, the assault and subsequent injustice have devastating effects for the Israelites.

Whatever questions your kids have, remind them that they are loved and that you are a safe place to bring their fears and anxieties.

Prayers for you this week parents.

[Beyond Sunday] What’s Up With End Times

​ Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a loud voice from the throne say, “Look! God’s dwelling is here with humankind. He will dwell with them, and they will be his peoples. God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more. There will be no mourning, crying, or pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Then the one seated on the throne said, “Look! I’m making all things new.” He also said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Then he said to me, “All is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty, I will freely give water from the life-giving spring.


Revelation 21: 1-6

Perhaps no faith questions provoke as much speculation as, “What happens after we die?” and “What will the end of time look like?”  The Wesleyan traditions have never been focused on the last days.  The final victory is already won and the details are known only to God.  What matters more is do we follow the commands Christ gave us for the here and now. [hear sermon audio]

This week, take some time to go deeper.  Use these scriptures and questions to reflect in your devotion time.

Texts to read:

Questions to ponder:

  • Why do you think people engage in speculation about end times?
  • How might the belief that we will leave this world behind affect the way we behave now?
  • How might the belief that God’s final plan involves returning and dwelling here affect the way we believe now?

Do and share:

  • Take some time to chart our your beliefs.  What questions do you have about the end?  Where did you learn what you believe?  How have those beliefs changed over time?
  • Research art connected to Revelation.  Share an image in our Facebook group or on Twitter (@dpumc).

Feature Image: Guernica by Pablo Picasso

[Beyond Sunday] What’s Up With Perfection

God is love, and those who remain in love remain in God and God remains in them. This is how love has been perfected in us, so that we can have confidence on the Judgment Day, because we are exactly the same as God is in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear expects punishment. The person who is afraid has not been made perfect in love. We love because God first loved us. If anyone says, I love God, and hates a brother or sister, he is a liar, because the person who doesn’t love a brother or sister who can be seen can’t love God, who can’t be seen. This commandment we have from him: Those who claim to love God ought to love their brother and sister also.

-1 John 5: 16b-21

As Methodist, we talk about the life of discipleship as going on to perfection.  But does that mean that every mistake we make is a failure?  If God is love, is it possible that we are called into a perfection that is not a burden, but a graceful reflection of the love that is in us?  [hear sermon audio]

 

This week, take some time to go deeper.  Use these scriptures and questions to reflect in your devotion time.

Texts to read:

Questions to ponder:

  • When have you felt pressure to be perfect?
  • Was the pressure for perfection internal or external?
  • How does the idea of perfect in love change your perception of perfection?

Do and share:

  • Step out of your comfort zone and try something new or do something you don’t feel you are very good at.  Record how it makes you feel and what you do with those feelings.
  • Take a picture of a random act of kindness this week.  Share in our Facebook group or on Twitter (@dpumc) and include how it expresses perfect love.

 

[Beyond Sunday] What’s Up With Simplicity

Then the ruler said, “I’ve kept all of these things since I was a boy.”

When Jesus heard this, he said, “There’s one more thing. Sell everything you own and distribute the money to the poor. Then you will have treasure in heaven. And come, follow me.” When he heard these words, the man became sad because he was extremely rich.

When Jesus saw this, he said, “It’s very hard for the wealthy to enter God’s kingdom! It’s easier for a camel to squeeze through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter God’s kingdom.”

-Luke 8:20-23

Do we own our stuff or does it own us?  While Jesus never passes judgment on either wealth or poverty, he does point out that the accumulation of things usually indicates attachment to things.  And we are not meant to carry things with us into the kingdom of God.  [hear sermon audio]

This week, take some time to go deeper.  Use these scriptures and questions to reflect in your devotion time.

Texts to read:

Questions to ponder:

  • When have you let possessions define who you are to yourself or to others?
  • How many things in your house have not been used in the last 6 months?  The last year?
  • How does your relationship with stuff affect your relationships with others?

Do and share:

  • Take a less stuff challenge:  Try to go 1 week without buying anything other than food.  Keep track of the things you think you need and how you got around buying something. #lessstuff
  • Choose an area of life you need to simplify.  Give away unused clothes, Stop eating out,  Give up coffee shop coffee.  Share your story in our Facebook group or on Twitter (@dpumc). #lessstuff