For the Sake of Love [Calm and Bright III]

This year Silent Night turns 200 years old.  In the weeks leading to Christmas (Advent) we are using the carol to reflect on what it means to wait for Christ to come into the world.

I will remove disaster from you,

so that you will not bear reproach for it.

I will deal with all your oppressors

at that time.

And I will save the lame

and gather the outcast,

and I will change their shame into praise

and renown in all the earth.

At that time I will bring you home,

at the time when I gather you;

for I will make you renowned and praised

among all the peoples of the earth,

when I restore your fortunes

before your eyes, says the Lord.

 
-Zephaniah 3:19-20

So what are we to do?  What are we to do to prepare for Christ coming into the world?  John the Baptist tells us we prepare by loveing our neighbor, caring for one another and ceasing to participate in systems of oppression.  The crowd is grateful for this news; for things they can each do.  Are we, today, equally ready to live for the sake of love?

[Hear full sermon here]

This week, use these resources to grow in your faith, or with your family.  Scriptures and activities in bold are from DPUMC’s Advent Family Devotion.

First, Do:

On your own: Write 3 love notes to family, friends or coworkers who might need to hear some good news this holiday season.

With children:   In your manger kit, Take out the second smallest and the ball.  Paint or decorate the figure to look like a shepherd, the small balls to look like sheep, and the big ball to be a donkey or a cow.

Then, Read:

Now, Reflect:

Youth and Adults: Recall a story about a surprise.  What were you doing just before the surprise?  Why did it catch you off guard? How what feelings did you go through when you were surprised?

With Children: Ask your child(ren) to remember a time they were surprised:  Was it a good surprise? Did it make them feel mad, sad, glad or afraid?  What did they do after the surprise?

Everyone: Share how the shepherds might have felt about their surprise.  What did they do when they heard the news of Jesus?

And Pray:

Dear Lord, thank you for the good news of Jesus and that no matter what he came for us, Amen

Go Share:

Pray about who in your life might need to experience the love of Christ this Christmas.  Invite one of them to come to worship with you on Christmas Eve.

Share the Love of Christ by setting aside a portion of your Christmas budget for charities that work with children and refugees.  

Quake for Joy [Calm and Bright II]

This year Silent Night turns 200 years old.  In the weeks leading to Christmas (Advent) we are using the carol to reflect on what it means to wait for Christ to come into the world.

The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord,     make his paths straight.  Every valley shall be filled,     and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight,     and the rough ways made smooth;  and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”
-Luke 3:4b-6
In Advent we celebrate that God is coming into the world.  Yet, when God shows up in scripture, it almost always begins with the same words: Do not be afraid. Clearly to stand in the presence of the Lord, or even God’s messenger is awe-inspiring experience. But it should fill us, not with terror, but with Joy. The present is a season of preparation for the joy that is to come. And Joy we should proclaim, for God is coming to make all things right. [Hear full sermon here] This week, use these resources to grow in your faith, or with your family.  Scriptures and activities in bold are from DPUMC’s Advent Family Devotion.

First, Do:

On your own: Everyday this week, capture a picture of something that makes you joyful and share it with a note about why it is important With children:   In your manger kit, find the two matching middle sized figures.  Color, paint, or decorate these to look like Mary and Joseph.  Traditionally Mary is associated with blue because it signaled royalty, peace, and nature.  Joseph sometimes appears as a young man, sometimes as an old man, but always dressed simply.

Then, Read:

Now, Reflect:

Youth and Adults: Write out the story of the day you were born.  If you don’t know it, ask a family member to tell you about it.  What emotions were your parents feeling?  Who was there and how did they respond? With Children: Tell each child the story of the day they were born.  Or, if your child(ren) know the story, invite them to tell it to you. Everyone: How might Mary and Joseph have felt about Jesus coming.  How did they prepare for the baby?

And Pray:

Dear Lord, thank you for moms and dads, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, thank you for my family and for the family of Jesus, Amen.

Go Share:

Find a piece of art depicting Mary and Joseph and share it with your thoughts on our facebook or twitter (@dpumc) #advent Share the Joy of Christ by setting aside a portion of your Christmas budget for charities that work with children and refugees.  

Peace in the Midst of Tumult [Calm and Bright I]

This year Silent Night turns 200 years old.  In the weeks leading to Christmas (Advent) we are using the carol to reflect on what it means to wait for Christ to come into the world.

Then he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
-Luke 21:29-33

Advent (the weeks leading up to Christmas) reminds us that the Kingdom of God is near; the promise of God to set the world right both has been and will be fulfilled.  Around us, we may see great strife and fearful signs in the world, but we are not shaken. The people of God possess a peace that passes understanding. A peace grounded, not in the security of the world, but in the righteousness of God. We can be peace, even in the darkest times, because we know the day of the Lord is at hand.

[Hear full sermon here]

This week, use these resources to grow in your faith, or with your family.  Scriptures and activities in bold are from DPUMC’s Advent Family Devotion.

First, Do:

On your own: Make a list of all the things that trouble you right now in the world.  As you add each item, try not to dwell on blame or anxiety, but offer it to God and ask for wisdom.

With children: Build a manger.  You can use Popsicle sticks or other materials (for DPUMC Joel has kits available).  Leave it empty for now. Over the coming weeks, you will add to the scene.

Then, Read:

Now, Reflect:

Youth and Adults: Recall a time from your childhood when you traveled to see family.  What was the journey like?  Where did you stay?   What was it like to stay in a strange place? With Children: Ask your child(ren) to remember a time they traveled:  Can you remember us spending the night somewhere else?  Where were we? What was it like to stay there? How did you feel about coming home? How might Mary and Joseph have felt in a strange city.  What do you think it was like sleeping in the stable?  Who is like Mary and Joseph today?

And Pray:

Dear Lord, Thank you for our family and our home. Thank you for this season of Advent so that we can wait for you together, amen.

Go Share:

Find a modern story that reflects Mary and Joseph’s journey and share it with your thoughts on our facebook or twitter (@dpumc) Share the peace of Christ by setting aside a portion of your Christmas budget for charities that work with children and refugees.  

Silent night, holy night/ All is calm, all is bright/ Round yon Virgin Mother and Child/ Holy Infant so tender and mild/ Sleep in heavenly peace Sleep in heavenly peace Silent Night v1

[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

 

[Beyond Sunday] What’s Up With Politics

2 Keep the king’s command because of your sacred oath. 3 Do not be terrified; go from his presence, do not delay when the matter is unpleasant, for he does whatever he pleases. 4 For the word of the king is powerful, and who can say to him, “What are you doing?” 5 Whoever obeys a command will meet no harm, and the wise mind will know the time and way. 6 For every matter has its time and way, although the troubles of mortals lie heavy upon them. 7 Indeed, they do not know what is to be, for who can tell them how it will be? 8 No one has power over the wind to restrain the wind, or power over the day of death; there is no discharge from the battle, nor does wickedness deliver those who practice it. 9 All this I observed, applying my mind to all that is done under the sun, while one person exercises authority over another to the other’s hurt.

-Ecclesiastes 8:2-9

Where there are people, there will be politics.  How do we as the people of faith navigate our relationship to the state and to each other.  [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:

  • How does your faith inform your politics?
  • Do you find your politics informing your faith?
  • Do you ever see us as a people trying to “restrain the wind”?

Do and share:

  • Listen to 30 minutes of a quality news source different from your typical leaning.  Note the feelings that come up in you.
  • Find a story of faith positively impacting politics.  Share it in our Facebook group or on Twitter (@dpumc).

 

[Beyond Sunday] Reaching Out

Now when Jesus returned, the crowd welcomed him, for they were all waiting for him. 41 Just then there came a man named Jairus, a leader of the synagogue. He fell at Jesus’ feet and begged him to come to his house, 42 for he had an only daughter, about twelve years old, who was dying.

As he went, the crowds pressed in on him. 43 Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years; and though she had spent all she had on physicians,[l] no one could cure her. 44 She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his clothes, and immediately her hemorrhage stopped. 45 Then Jesus asked, “Who touched me?” When all denied it, Peter[m] said, “Master, the crowds surround you and press in on you.” 46 But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; for I noticed that power had gone out from me.” 47 When the woman saw that she could not remain hidden, she came trembling; and falling down before him, she declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. 48 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”

49 While he was still speaking, someone came from the leader’s house to say, “Your daughter is dead; do not trouble the teacher any longer.” 50 When Jesus heard this, he replied, “Do not fear. Only believe, and she will be saved.”

-Luke 8: 40-50

We heard from Rev. Jim Bankston about what it takes to reach out to our neighbors.  This is part of our church’s 2 year Vibrant Church Initiative [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:

  • How many of your neighbors are like you? (age, race, income etc)
  • How often do you come into contact with people who are unlike you?
  • The woman who was healed had suffered long with a bleeding, odorous illness.  When you come into contact with people like that, how do you respond?

Do and share:

  • Journal each night about every person you talked to that day.  Note how they were like you and how they were unlike you.  Based on your notes, how well do you deal with those outside your comfort zone?
  • Visit a sick friend or elder this week and share a story or picture in our Facebook group or on Twitter (@dpumc).

 

[Beyond Sunday] It is Well With My Soul

38 Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39 She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. 40 But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; 42 there is need of only one thing.[a] Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”

-Luke 10: 38-42

Everything about our culture encourages us to side with Martha.  We are told that if we work hard we will succeed.  We are told everyone should do their fair share.  We are told that if you don’t have something it is because you didn’t work for it.  Yet God’s favor cannot be earned by our work.  Grace is given and calls us to rest at the feet of the Lord.  Our lives should balance both activity and contemplation in their turn. [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:

  • Describe a struggle you encountered that you could not work yourself through.
  • How do you spend time resting with God?
  • What happens to your soul if you do not rest?

Do and share:

  • Set aside a whole 24 hours for rest this week.  Document how keeping a Sabbath changes your week.
  • Find a video of your favorite praise music and share in our Facebook group or on Twitter (@dpumc).

 

[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.