[Beyond Sunday] Covenant of the Heart

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

 

-Jeremiah 31:31-34

[hear sermon audio]

In 1663 Richard Alleine, a Puritan, published  Vindiciae Pietatis:  or, “A Vindication of Godliness in the Greater Strictness and Spirituality of It”. In 1753, it was again published in John Wesley’s  A Christian Library. Wesley used one chapter, “The Application of the Whole,” on Monday, August 11, 1755, in what probably was the first real celebration of the Covenant Service in the Methodist movement.

 Wesley found the service rich and meaningful, as expressed in his Journal: “Many mourned before God, and many were comforted” (April 1756); “It was, as usual, a time of remarkable blessing” (October 1765). “It was an occasion for a variety of spiritual experiences … I do not know that ever we had a greater blessing. Afterwards many desired to return thanks, either for a sense of pardon, for full salvation, or for a fresh manifestation of His graces, healing all their backslidings” (January 1, 1775). In London, these services were usually held on New Year’s Day. Around the country, the Covenant Service was conducted whenever John Wesley visited the Methodist Societies.

This week, consider John Wesley’s 4 admonitions for covenant renewal.  How might you keep each of these in 2018?

First, set apart some time, more than once,
to be spent alone before the Lord;
in seeking earnestly God’s special assistance
and gracious acceptance of you;
in carefully thinking through all the conditions of the covenant;
in searching your hearts
whether you have already freely given your life to Christ.
Consider what your sins are.
Consider the laws of Christ, how holy, strict, and spiritual they are,
and whether you, after having carefully considered them,
are willing to choose them all.
Be sure you are clear in these matters, see that you do not lie to God.

Second, be serious and in a spirit of holy awe and reverence.

Third, claim God’s covenant,
rely upon God’s promise of giving grace and strength,
so you can keep your promise.
Trust not your own strength and power.

Fourth, resolve to be faithful.
You have given to the Lord your hearts,
you have opened your mouths to the Lord,
and you have dedicated yourself to God.
With God’s power, never go back.

From Wesley’s covenant service of 1890 as found in the United Methodist Book of Worship found online at: https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/covenant-renewal-service

 

[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] 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] The Good Samaritan

But the legal expert wanted to prove that he was right, so he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
Jesus replied, “A man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho. He encountered thieves, who stripped him naked, beat him up, and left him near death. Now it just so happened that a priest was also going down the same road. When he saw the injured man, he crossed over to the other side of the road and went on his way. Likewise, a Levite came by that spot, saw the injured man, and crossed over to the other side of the road and went on his way. A Samaritan, who was on a journey, came to where the man was. But when he saw him, he was moved with compassion. The Samaritan went to him and bandaged his wounds, tending them with oil and wine. Then he placed the wounded man on his own donkey, took him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day, he took two full days’ worth of wages and gave them to the innkeeper. He said, ‘Take care of him, and when I return, I will pay you back for any additional costs.’ What do you think? Which one of these three was a neighbor to the man who encountered thieves?”
Then the legal expert said, “The one who demonstrated mercy toward him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

-Luke 10:29-37

This week we heard several versions of the parable of the Good Samaritan.  In God’s kingdom, “neighbor” is not defined proximity or by affinity but by the capacity to show mercy.  [hear sermon audio]

This week, take some time to go deeper.  Talk with God about how this story challenges you to grow as a disciple.  Read and reflect on these scriptures and questions.

Texts to read:

  • John 13:31-35, 14:15-21
  • 1 Kings 178-24 (Elijah stays with a Phoenician widow)

Questions to ponder:

  • Who could be your modern day Samaritan?
  • What would it mean to accept their help?
  • Our country is currently wrestling with divisions over politics, race, and faith.  How do you read this story differently than in the past?

Do and share:

  • Go out of your way this week to offer mercy to someone you don’t know.  Do it without any recognition.
  • Check out this story of two Good Samaritans from the concert bombing in Manchester, England. Share another story from the news or your own life on our Facebook or to @dpumc on Twitter.  #jesusstory

 

[Beyond Sunday] The Lost Son

Then Jesus[b] said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. 13 A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. 14 When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. 16 He would gladly have filled himself with[c] the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. 17 But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.”’ 20 So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. 21 Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’[d] 22 But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24 for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.

25 “Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. 27 He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ 28 Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’ 31 Then the father[e] said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’”

-Luke 15:11-32

This week we talked about the parable of the Lost Son, sometimes called the Prodigal Son.  It is part of a set of stories Jesus tells about things that are lost.  In the end, there is no one so far gone that they are lost to God.  Whether we are more like the younger son seeking a way home, or the older son trapped in our own judgments, still the father loves us and beckons us to the party. [hear sermon audio]

This week, take some time to go deeper.  Reflect on what it means to be “lost” or “found” through these scriptures and questions.

Texts to read:

  • Luke 15: 1-10

Questions to ponder:

  • What does it mean to call someone “lost”?
  • For whom, if anyone, in your life do you use that label?
  • What do you think the Church’s response to “Lost” people should be?
  • How does this church engage with “lost” ones?

Do and share:

  • Tweet us a picture that means “Homecoming” for you. @dpumc #beyondsunday
  • Share a story about getting lost, or finding something on our Facebook 

 

[Beyond Sunday] The Great Banquet

 Then Jesus said to him, “Someone gave a great dinner and invited many.  At the time for the dinner he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come; for everything is ready now.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of land, and I must go out and see it; please accept my regrets.’ Another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please accept my regrets.’ Another said, ‘I have just been married, and therefore I cannot come.’ So the slave returned and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and said to his slave, ‘Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’ And the slave said, ‘Sir, what you ordered has been done, and there is still room.’ Then the master said to the slave, ‘Go out into the roads and lanes, and compel people to come in, so that my house may be filled.

-Luke 14:16-23

This week we talked about the parable of The Great Banquet.  Jesus proves to be a challenging dinner guest when he calls his host (and us) to invite all to the table, even those who cannot repay the favor. [hear sermon audio]

This week, take some time to go deeper.  Spend some time in scripture and reflect on how inviting you are to others.

Texts to read:

  • Matthew 22:1-14
  • Luke 14:1-14

Questions to ponder:

  • When have you felt like an outsider and longed to be welcomed?
  • When you hesitate to welcome others, what stops you?

Do and share:

  • Share a meal with others.  Take a picture and tweet @dpumc with #beyondsunday
  • If you took a mana bag last week, share the story of giving that away on our Facebook