[Beyond Sunday] The Life of Christmas Present

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

 

-1 Corinthians 13:1-3, 13

Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol is a timeless tale of holiday redemption.  Ebeneezer Scrooge follows the Ghost of Christmas Present on his worldwide mission to spread the spirit of Christmas.  Scrooge sees not only the power of love to sustain people in difficult circumstances, but also the impact it might have on his own life…if he would only allow  If it is possible for love to transform Scrooge, then we are not beyond its power.   [hear sermon audio]

This week, take some time to go deeper.  Use these scriptures and questions to reflect on the meaning of Advent for your own life.

Texts to read:

  • 1 Corinthians 13:4-12
  • Luke 15

Questions to ponder:

  • What makes you fearful during this time of year?
  • How might God transform that fear into redemption?
  • What are some ways you continue the Christmas spirit all year long?
  • How do you share the Christmas story with your family through the gifts you offer?

    Rawle, Matt. The Redemption of Scrooge: Connecting Christ and Culture (The Pop in Culture Series). Abingdon Press. Kindle Edition.

Do and share:

  • Take a Black and White picture that embodies the gift of love at Christmas and share it on our Facebook or Twitter (@dpumc) with #AdventLove
  • Get a copy of The Redemption of Scrooge (available in paperback and kindle) and learn along with us.

 

[Beyond Sunday] The Remembrance of Christmas Past

The Lord God’s spirit is upon me,
    because the Lord has anointed me.
He has sent me
    to bring good news to the poor,
    to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim release for captives,
        and liberation for prisoners,
    to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
        and a day of vindication for our God,
    to comfort all who mourn,
    to provide for Zion’s mourners,
    to give them a crown in place of ashes,
    oil of joy in place of mourning,
    a mantle of praise in place of discouragement.
They will be called Oaks of Righteousness,
    planted by the Lord to glorify himself.
They will rebuild the ancient ruins;
    they will restore formerly deserted places;
    they will renew ruined cities,
    places deserted in generations past.

 

-Isaiah 61: 1-4

Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol is a timeless tale of holiday redemption.  Ebeneezer Scrooge is forced to confront his past.  The journey is painful but also reignites a spark of compassion in his heart.  If it is possible for hope to reach Scrooge, then we are not beyond its power.   [hear sermon audio]

This week, take some time to go deeper.  Use these scriptures and questions to reflect on the meaning of Advent for your own life.

Texts to read:

  • Isaiah 25:6-10
  • Ephesians 2:1-10

Questions to ponder:

  • Do you keep a journal?  Do you reflect on your past? What about reflection is difficult?
  • When you consider the places you’ve fallen short, who was there to help restore you to faith or relationship?
  • How would you describe the hope of Christmas to someone who does not attend church?

Do and share:

  • Be a part of Christ offering hope to the world by finding a place to serve others this week.  Take a picture and share it on our Facebook or Twitter (@dpumc) with #AdventHope
  • Get a copy of The Redemption of Scrooge (available in paperback and kindle) and learn along with us.

 

[Beyond Sunday] Bah! Humbug!…

And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord…

 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,

and lifted up the lowly;

he has filled the hungry with good things,

and sent the rich away empty.

He has helped his servant Israel,

in remembrance of his mercy,

according to the promise he made to our ancestors,

to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

 

-Luke 1: 46-47,52-55

Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol is a timeless tale of holiday redemption.  Ebeneezer Scrooge is a greedy miser so frozen by loneliness and fear that the warmth of Christmas seems like a threat.   If he can be redeemed and experience the peace of God, then so can we.  [hear sermon audio]

This week, take some time to go deeper.  Use these scriptures and questions to reflect on the meaning of Advent for your own life.

Texts to read:

  • Isaiah 9:1-7
  • John 14: 1-4, 15-24

Questions to ponder:

  • Marley had everything and winds up a restless spirit.  Mary had nothing yet her soul magnified the Lord.  Reflect on your own soul; where are you on that continuum?
  • What holiday tasks or activities cause you anxiety?  Are they necessary?
  • How are you making space for rest and peace during this busy time?

Do and share:

  • Make your own Advent wreath.  Take time each night to light the candle(s) for the week and say a prayer with your whole household.  If you’d like extra resources, check out: https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/2017-advent-home-worship.
  • Get a copy of The Redemption of Scrooge (available in paperback and kindle) and learn along with us.

Bonus:

 

[Beyond Sunday] And So We Give Thanks…

For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land with flowing streams, with springs and underground waters welling up in valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land where you may eat bread without scarcity, where you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron and from whose hills you may mine copper. You shall eat your fill and bless the Lord your God for the good land that he has given you.
Take care that you do not forget the Lord your God, by failing to keep his commandments, his ordinances, and his statutes, which I am commanding you today. When you have eaten your fill and have built fine houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks have multiplied, and your silver and gold is multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied, then do not exalt yourself, forgetting the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, who led you through the great and terrible wilderness, an arid wasteland with poisonous snakes and scorpions. He made water flow for you from flint rock, and fed you in the wilderness with manna that your ancestors did not know, to humble you and to test you, and in the end to do you good. Do not say to yourself, “My power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth.” But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, so that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your ancestors, as he is doing today.

-Deuteronomy 8:7-18

Fortune makes us complacent.  As far back as ancient Israel, they understood that hardship fosters reliance and gratitude and that those attitudes are difficult to hang on to when times are good.  Yet gratitude is the thing that keeps us connected to God and our better selves.   [hear sermon audio]

This week, take some time to go deeper.  Use these scriptures and questions to reflect on your own life and community.

Texts to read:

  • Deuteronomy 6:10-11:32

Questions to ponder:

  • What is the virtue of self-sufficiency?
  •  What is the danger of self-sufficiency?
  • How can reliance on God and gratitude make us more attuned to the needs of others?

Do and share:

  • Take a picture of something for which you are grateful and share it to our Facebook or Twitter(@dpumc) with the tag #ongoingthanks
  • Start a “Gratitude Fund” in an envelope.  Every time you buy a Christmas gift for your family put at least 10% of the cost into the envelope.  The week of Christmas, use that money to bless someone in need.

 

You Are Your Gratitude

Give thanks today for Sarah Hale.  As we gather to gorge on turkey, stuffing, veggies, and pie (and in my case pie and pie and pie), we usually pay some homage to the 1621 feast of the Plymouth settlers and Wampanoag.  But Thanksgiving didn’t become a regular holiday nationwide until 1863.  It was due largely to the efforts of Sarah Hale.  A publisher and tastemaker in the line of Oprah Winfrey, Hale cajoled countless governors, congressmen, and state officials to promote the establishment of a day of thanksgiving.  She harangued William Seward into her cause and wrote to more than one sitting president; finally getting through to Abraham Lincoln.

Why go to all the trouble?  Because in the midst of a moment of division and strife, Hale felt a day of Thanksgiving would help the nation remember who we are.  In being grateful, we focus on the things that are most important to us.  Gratitude is a mirror of our hearts.  In asking for a “Great American Festival of Thanksgiving” Hale also calls it the “Union Festival of America” and highlights the need for unity and permenance.  This is in the middle of the Civil War; unity and permenance must have felt in short supply.  Yet Hale presses for a day when we would celebrate these things, precicely because we needed to remember how important they are.

So this Thanksgiving, raise a glass (or piece of pie) for Sarah Hale.  And as your family lists off the things you are grateful for, as what that says about what is most imporant for you.  Perhaps, even take as part of your prayers, Lincoln’s words from the Thanksgiving Proclamation:

It has seemed to me fit and proper that [gifts of peace and prosparity] should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, … that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

[Beyond Sunday] Take Up Your Cross and Follow

Therefore, my brothers and sisters whom I love and miss, who are my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord.
Loved ones, I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to come to an agreement in the Lord. Yes, and I’m also asking you, loyal friend, to help these women who have struggled together with me in the ministry of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my coworkers whose names are in the scroll of life.
Be glad in the Lord always! Again I say, be glad! Let your gentleness show in your treatment of all people. The Lord is near. Don’t be anxious about anything; rather, bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks. Then the peace of God that exceeds all understanding will keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus.
From now on, brothers and sisters, if anything is excellent and if anything is admirable, focus your thoughts on these things: all that is true, all that is holy, all that is just, all that is pure, all that is lovely, and all that is worthy of praise. Practice these things: whatever you learned, received, heard, or saw in us. The God of peace will be with you.

-Philippians 4:1-9

Christ calls us to take up our cross and follow in his way.  It is an easy cross at first glance: joy, thanksgiving, prayer, peace, and gentleness to one another.   Yet, extending to others the grace we have received is not always easy.  [hear sermon audio]

This week, take some time to go deeper.  Use these scriptures and questions to reflect on your own life and community.

Texts to read:

  • Luke 9:18-27
  • Roman 14:1-9

Questions to ponder:

  • Who are the people in your life you find frustrating? What about their behavior is difficult for you?
  • Do you find yourself judging things you cannot see (like motivations or background?)
  • What would it mean to approach everyone with forbearance?

Do and share:

  • Watch a musical version of Les Miserables and identify all the places grace is offered (or not)
  • Share a quote or picture about patience on our Facebook page or tweet us at @dpumc

 

[Beyond Sunday] Give Up “I’m Right”

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.
Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

-Philippians 2:1-11 (selected)

Living with other people will involve conflict.  But disagreements can be handled with grace if we remember we all have the same goal in mind and if we approach one another with humility.   [hear sermon audio]

This week, take some time to go deeper.  Use these scriptures and questions to reflect on your own life and community.

Texts to read:

Questions to ponder:

  • Describe an issue of conflict you are experiencing right now?
  • Why do you hold your position? (Why are you right?)
  • Try to describe an opposing position of integrity.
  • What do you have to risk being wrong about to bridge the gap?

Do and share:

  • Find someone who disagrees with you on an important issue. Ask them “Can you tell me what you think about [issue] and why you think that way?”  Just listen; offer no comment or rebuttal.  Later, Try to write down their argument without editorializing.  What do you notice about yourself in those moments?   How could God be using this conflict to help you grow?

 

[Beyond Sunday] Give Up “I Like”

I thank my God every time I mention you in my prayers. I’m thankful for all of you every time I pray, and it’s always a prayer full of joy.

I’m sure about this: the one who started a good work in you will stay with you to complete the job by the day of Christ Jesus. I have good reason to think this way about all of you because I keep you in my heart.

God is my witness that I feel affection for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus.

This is my prayer: that your love might become even more and more rich with knowledge and all kinds of insight. I pray this so that you will be able to decide what really matters and so you will be sincere and blameless on the day of Christ. I pray that you will then be filled with the fruit of righteousness, which comes from Jesus Christ, in order to give glory and praise to God.

Most important, live together in a manner worthy of Christ’s gospel. Do this, whether I come and see you or I’m absent and hear about you. Do this so that you stand firm, united in one spirit and mind as you struggle together to remain faithful to the gospel.

God has generously granted you the privilege, not only of believing in Christ but also of suffering for Christ’s sake. You are having the same struggle that you saw

meface and now hear that I’m still facing.

-Philippians 1 (selected)

Living with other people is uncomfortable.  One person talks too loud, or asks too many questions, or just does that thing that grates on our very last nerve.  Yet we are wired to need each other.  Even our faith is incomplete without the fellowship of others.  Only when we learn to be grateful everyone– even for those who make us uncomfortable– are we able to approach others with the love of Christ.   [hear sermon audio]

This week, take some time to go deeper.  Use these scriptures and questions to reflect on your own life and community.

Texts to read:

Questions to ponder:

  • Is there someone in your community with whom you struggle to get along?
  • How often do you pray for them and give thanks for the good things they do?
  • If you gave thanks for that person regularly, what might change in your relationship?

Do and share:

  • Write a prayer of thanksgiving for someone who annoys you.  Use it in your time with God for 7 days.
  • Write a note to someone you might unintentionally annoy thanking them for their love and patience toward you.

 

[Beyond Sunday] Children’s Sunday

Each year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Passover Festival. When he was 12 years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to their custom. After the festival was over, they were returning home, but the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents didn’t know it. Supposing that he was among their band of travelers, they journeyed on for a full day while looking for him among their family and friends. When they didn’t find Jesus, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple. He was sitting among the teachers, listening to them and putting questions to them. Everyone who heard him was amazed by his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were shocked.

His mother said, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Listen! Your father and I have been worried. We’ve been looking for you!”

Jesus replied, “Why were you looking for me? Didn’t you know that it was necessary for me to be in my Father’s house?” But they didn’t understand what he said to them.

Jesus went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. His mother cherished every word in her heart. Jesus matured in wisdom and years, and in favor with God and with people.

-Luke 2:41-52

We want our children to grow up as good faithful people.  But as they past from childhood to adolescence, faith can manifest in surprising ways.  [hear sermon audio]

This week, pray for the children and youth in your life.  Ask yourself if you are really prepared for them to be the people you’ve taught them to be. Read and reflect on these scriptures and questions.

Texts to read:

  • Deuteronomy 6:4-9
  • Proverbs 22:6

Questions to ponder:

  • What things do you think are most essential to teach to children?
  • Have you ever been surprised by how someone lived out their faith?
  • How did that experience help you grow?

Do and share:

  • Ask a child how they see God.  Pray about what you can learn from them.
  • Share a story of how you invested in the next generation on our Facebook (dpumctx) or Twitter (@dpumc)

 

[Beyond Sunday] Washed by Grace 4

Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing… Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach…He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish…

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.”  A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.”  He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.

-John 21:1-19 (selected)

Jesus is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.  Our need for Christ, and for a community, remains the same age to age. But the world keeps changing at an ever quicker pace and how we share the God’s grace has to change from time to time too.  The good news is God is always ready to do a new thing and call His children home.   [hear sermon audio]

 

This week, take some time to go deeper.  Ponder your own baptism, or what being baptized could mean for your life.  Read and reflect on these scriptures and questions.

Texts to read:

  • Isaiah 43:1-3, 8-14, 18-19
  • Matthew 28:16-20

Questions to ponder:

  • Who first invited you to church?
  • What difference has being a part of a church made in your life?
  • Who in your circle might need to be invited?

Do and share:

  • Invite someone to church.  Offer to pick them up or meet them at the door; to sit with them; and take them to brunch or lunch afterwards.
  • Pray about who you might intentionally mentor over the next year.