[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: