Grow in Service [Beyond Sunday]

 James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”  And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?”  And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.”  But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?”  They replied, “We are able.” Then Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized;  but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”

-Mark 10:35-40

All of us have an instinct to shine, to be the best at something, to gain attention for our accomplishments.  But Christ says the way of discipleship is not one of glory, but one of service to others.   [hear sermon audio]

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

Read:

Reflect:

  • Who in your community is underserved?
  • Who needs to hear about Jesus?
  • What comforts might you have to sacrifice so others can hear the good news of Jesus?

Do:

  • Get uncomfortable: Make a list of changes and opportunities around you that make you uncomfortable.  Ask yourself how your comfort contributes to the needs of others and how it interfers.  Pick one item and do something this week to push beyond your comfort zone.

Share:

  • Find someone who needs an act of kindness this week and do some thing nice for them without recognition.
  • share a story of how someones service to your impacted your life in our Facebook group or on Twitter and Instagram (tag us @dpumc).

 

Grow in Attention [Beyond Sunday]

I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing…

If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.  I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.

-John 15: 5, 10-11

Simone Weil wrote: “Attention, taken to its highest degree, is the same thing as prayer. It presupposes faith and love. Absolutely unmixed attention is prayer.” As we explore what it means to live in Christian community we begin with these two things.  That we owe one another our prayers and our presence; we owe attention.    [hear sermon audio]

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

Read:

Reflect:

  • Where does your attention focus most often during your day?
  • Where does your mind attend when you pray?
  • Who in your life might need your attention either in prayer or presence?

Do:

  • Show up for someone: Make a point this week to schedule time with someone you haven’t seen in awhile.  Come with no agenda other than hearing how they are and asking how you can best show up for them right now.

Share:

  • Hold someone in prayer each day for the week.  At the end write them a small note, letting them know you were praying for them.
  • Take a selfie with someone you show up for this week and share it in our Facebook group or on Twitter and Instagram (tag us @dpumc).

 

Fear of Our End [Beyond Sunday]

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures;

he leads me beside still waters;

he restores my soul.

He leads me in right paths

for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley,

I fear no evil;

for you are with me;

your rod and your staff—

they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me

in the presence of my enemies;

you anoint my head with oil;

my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me

all the days of my life,

and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord

my whole life long.

-Psalm 23

It has been said: getting old isn’t easy, but the alternative is worse.  Most people carry a fear of both dying and of growing old.  But, surveys show that older people are usually happier than anyone else.  And as Christians, the core of our faith is that death indeed holds no power.  [hear sermon audio]

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

Read:

Reflect:

  • Take a look at the Service of Death and Resurrection in the United Methodist Hymnal (#870) or online at umcdiscipleship.org.  Make a plan for your service.  What scriptures would you like read?  What hymns or songs sung? Notice how you feel during the process.  What questions does it raise for you about dying?

Do:

  • Ask a guide: Invite to lunch someone you consider to be in the “next stage of life”.  Ask them about their experience of aging and what they have learned along the way.  Share your fears about growing older and see how they respond.

Share:

  • Find a song you hope would summarize your life when you die. Share it in our Facebook group or on Twitter and Instagram (tag us @dpumc).

 

Fear of What’s To Come [Beyond Sunday]

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good;

-1 Thesselonians 5:16-21

It is impossible to know what is ahead. Sometimes we fear that change will mean loosing thing we love.  Sometimes we fear we’ll miss out on fun or opportunities.  But if we are focused on our fears, they multiply.  If we can be grateful for the present moment, it is easier to move forward into what God has in store.    [hear sermon audio]

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

Read:

Reflect:

  • Journal about a future event or possibility you are anxious about.
    • Write a title at the top of the page.
    • Write the facts you know next 
    • Divide the next section of the page in half.  On one side write the three things you are most afraid of.  On the other, write three things you hope for.
    • Below write a prayer naming your hope to God and asking for discernment in the midst of fear.

Do:

  • Gratitude Cards: Get a stack of index cards or post-it notes.  Each day, write on at least one card, something you are grateful for.  At the end of the week, go through all the cards, giving thanks to God for all the good things in your present.

Share:

  • Write out one thing you hope for the future and share it in our Facebook group or on Twitter and Instagram (tag us @dpumc).

 

Fear of What’s Out There [Beyond Sunday]

Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let us go out to the field.” And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” And the Lord said, “What have you done? Listen; your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground!

-Genesis 4:8-11

Yes, you are your brother (and sister)’s keeper.  Yet we too often approach the world around us with suspicion.  Fear says you must compete and others seek your life.  But facts say we are better off when we work together and that Americans are safer today than they’ve been in decades.  Faith calls us to quiet our fears and reach out with love.     [hear sermon audio]

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

Read:

Reflect:

  • Find a news story about something that worries you or makes you afraid.  Take note of who is quoted and how they use statistics (if they do).   Now try and find the same event reported in at least two other sources.
    • What facts are consistent?  Can you verify them?
    • Who uses language that elicits fear?  What do they have to gain from you being afraid?
    • Faithful responses are shaped by love of neighbor.  How could you respond to this story with love of all involved? 

Do:

  • Lectio Divina: Find a quiet place where you can focus.  Choose one of the scriptures above.  Read through it slowly aloud.  Listen for a phrase or image that captures your attention.  Read it a second time and try to hone in on a word.  Take some time to ponder that workd and image.  Share with God what you hear and ask how this should shape you today.  REad the passage once more giving thanks for God’s word to you.

Share:

  • Take a picture of something you fear  or use the one from last week. Write out why you fear this and share it in our Facebook group or on Twitter and Instagram (tag us @dpumc).

 

Understanding Fear [Beyond Sunday]

But Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.” 31 Then the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against this people, for they are stronger than we.” 32 So they brought to the Israelites an unfavorable report of the land that they had spied out, saying,
-Numbers 13:30-32

Everyone is afraid of something.  With good reason, fear can protect us from danger and helps us learn our limits as children.  But we get into trouble when fear rules our lives.  God will call us to do scary things, so we must learn to evaluate our fears, take the wisdom that is there and then move beyond into greater life.     [hear sermon audio]

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

Read:

Reflect:

  • Recall a time from your childhood that you were afraid.  As you tell that story to yourself or someone else, take note of:
    • What your fear felt like
    • What was the threat you were responding to
    • How the threat was resolved
    • Where might God have been at work
  • Name something you fear now.  Describe it to yourself or someone else and especially note:
    • What you fear feels like
    • What is the threat your responding to and how realistic is it?
    • What resolution do you hope for
    • How might God be at work in this

Do:

  • Praying the Scriptures: Take one of the scriptures above and read it through.  Identify the promises offered and list them using the words of the verses.  Pray to God by first reading a promise from the text and then offering your own experience of that promise fulfilled or naming your need for that promise in your life now.

Share:

  • Be a part of our Brave Challenge.  This week take a picture of something you fear and share it in our Facebook group or on Twitter and Instagram (tag us @dpumc) with a caption about why you’d like to overcome that fear.

 

[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.