[Beyond Sunday] The Way We’ve Come

Image:  Gathering to Build the Tabernacle  by Yoram Raanan

O give thanks to the Lord, call on his name,
make known his deeds among the peoples.
Sing to him, sing praises to him,
tell of all his wonderful works.

1 Chronicles 16:8-9

For millennia, people traveled the world without Google Maps or even physical maps as we know them.  Wayfinding refers to a class of ancient arts that allowed our ancestors to navigate seemingly impossible expanses.  Today, when we find ourselves disoriented or unsure where God is leading next, we too can pause, assess and read the signs to find our own way forward.  We begin by remembering all God has brought us through to reach this point.    [hear sermon audio]

This week, take some time to go deeper.  Use these scriptures and questions to reflect on where God is leading you.

Texts to read:

Questions to ponder:

  • Describe a time God carried you through a situation.
  • How did you celebrate that victory?
  • How have you seen God at work through DPUMC (or your faith community)?

Do and share:

  • Write a thank-you note to God for the way God has been active in your life or church.
  • Make a video testimony of something God has done for you and share it on our Facebook or tweet @dpumc with #Wayfinding

 

[Beyond Sunday] Even the Lone Ranger had Tonto

After a few days, Jesus went back to Capernaum, and people heard that he was at home. So many gathered that there was no longer space, not even near the door. Jesus was speaking the word to them.Some people arrived, and four of them were bringing to him a man who was paralyzed. They couldn’t carry him through the crowd, so they tore off part of the roof above where Jesus was. When they had made an opening, they lowered the mat on which the paralyzed man was lying.When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Child, your sins are forgiven!”

Mark 2:1-5

Who are the people that can and will take you to the feet of Jesus when you are too tired, or hurt, or broken or distracted to go yourself?  We all need people.  More than that, we need people who will encourage, motivate, and hold us accountable.  Without real connections, we will find ourselves adrift and miserable.  God made us for community. [hear sermon audio]

This week, take some time to go deeper.  Use these scriptures and questions to reflect how you are seeking happiness through Christ.

Texts to read:

Questions to ponder:

  • What relationship has had the most significant impact on your faith?
  • When you are unhappy, how do you let people help you?
  • Do you find it easy or difficult to invest in other people?  If difficult, what makes it hard?

Do and share:

  • Write a note to someone you are grateful to have in your life.
  • Share a poem or quote about relationships on our Facebook or tweet @dpumc with #happiness2018

 

[Beyond Sunday] Living Distracted

The tragedy is that we are indeed caught in a web of false expectations and contrived needs. Our occupations and preoccupations fill our external and internal lives to the brim. They prevent the Spirit of God from breathing freely in us and thus renewing our lives.

Nouwen, Henri J. M.. Making All Things New (Kindle Locations 109-111). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

The modern era brought a host of solutions and devices to not only make work easier but also give us more to do in our free time than ever.  So why are rates of depression, anxiety, and dissatisfaction on the rise?  Why are mental health issues among children and teens skyrocketing? Being busy does not lead to happiness.  But focusing on meaningful work does.  Rest, and quiet do.  God did not intend for us to live our lives distracted  [hear sermon audio]

This week, take some time to go deeper.  Use these scriptures and questions to reflect how you are seeking happiness through Christ.

Texts to read:

Questions to ponder:

  • When are you in silence? (not even background noise)
  • How do you respond to being still?
  • What is your favorite distraction?  Does it always make you happy?

Do and share:

  • Notice the moments you are tempted to fill up.  Make a note every time you reach for your phone, or social media or other distraction.  At the end of the week tally how much time you spend on these things.
  • Make a list of your questions about happiness.  Share one on the Resolution: Happiness Event on our Facebook or tweet @dpumc with #happiness2018

 

[Beyond Sunday] Resisitance is Expected

 But Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the Lord will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.

-Exodus: 14:13-14

Seeking happiness often requires change and no change happens without resistance.  But even when we feel like giving up, when we don’t know the way forward, God is always there.  God is prepared to fight the battle when we cannot.  And the end of the story has already been written. (spoiler alert: God wins) [hear sermon audio]

This week, take some time to go deeper.  Use these scriptures and questions to reflect how you are seeking happiness through Christ.

Texts to read:

Questions to ponder:

  • How do you feel when things around you change?
  • Have you ever found yourself resisting a change, even though it was a good thing?
  • Where do you see God working for change in your community?

Do and share:

  • Make a list of your questions about happiness.  Share one on the Resolution: Happiness Event on our Facebook or tweet @dpumc with #happiness2018

 

[Beyond Sunday] Happiness and Expectations

 On the seventh day they rose early, at dawn, and marched around the city in the same manner seven times. It was only on that day that they marched around the city seven times.  And at the seventh time, when the priests had blown the trumpets, Joshua said to the people, “Shout! For the Lord has given you the city.  …  So the people shouted, and the trumpets were blown. As soon as the people heard the sound of the trumpets, they raised a great shout, and the wall fell down flat; so the people charged straight ahead into the city and captured it.

-Joshua 6

Happiness does not come from immediate gratification.  It is the satisfaction that comes only with long effort and accomplishment.  Becoming happy requires us to learn to love working the plan, even when we are unsure of our purpose or how God will finally work things out. [hear sermon audio]

This week, take some time to go deeper.  Use these scriptures and questions to reflect how you are seeking happiness through Christ.

Texts to read:

Questions to ponder:

  • How did Rahab become apart of God’s plan for the Israelites?
  • Imagine waiting in Rahab’s house as the Israelites marched around the wall.  What do you think she and her family felt in those 7 days?
  • How might God be calling you to be a part of God’s work in your community?
  • What is difficult about strategic waiting?

Do and share:

  • Identify something you feel called to do, a goal you want to work towards, and make a plan.  Pray about each step and as you accomplish things, journal about your feelings and how you see God at work.
  • Make a list of your questions about happiness.  Share one on the Resolution: Happiness Event on our Facebook or tweet @dpumc with #happiness2018

 

[Beyond Sunday] Happiness and Expectations

Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. The two went down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit (for as yet the Spirit had not come upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus). Then Peter and John laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, saying, “Give me also this power so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain God’s gift with money! You have no part or share in this, for your heart is not right before God. Repent therefore of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and the chains of wickedness.” Simon answered, “Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may happen to me.”

-Acts 8:14-24

Happiness is more than a passing feeling.  It is a core desire; the sense of security that comes when our psychological needs are met.  Often people talk about God wanting us to be happy.  But do we understand what that means? True happiness cannot be bought or made or earned.  As Wesley put it: “In this alone can you find the happiness you seek; in the union of your spirit with the Father of spirits; in the knowledge and love of Him who is the fountain of happiness, sufficient for all the souls he has made.”  (John Wesley. Sermon 77 “Spiritual Worship”) [hear sermon audio]

This week, take some time to go deeper.  Use these scriptures and questions to reflect how you are seeking happiness through Christ.

Texts to read:

Questions to ponder:

  • When was the last time you felt truly happy?
  • Looking back, how do you see God active in that moment?
  • Have you ever tried to earn or bargain for happiness?  How?

Do and share:

  • Go out of your way this week to do one small thing to make someone else happy.
  • Make a list of your questions about happiness.  Share one on the Resolution: Happiness Event on our Facebook or tweet @dpumc with #happiness2018

 

[Beyond Sunday] The Gifts We Bring

 “On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”

 

-Matthew 2:11

The three wisemen have only a brief appearance in Matthews gospel.  But those verses have spawned a myriad of traditions about who they were, why they brought their gifts and what the visitation means.  Behind all of it is a simple idea: the birth of Christ was a momentous event and this King is worthy of honor and due the gifts of our own hearts.  [hear sermon audio]

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

Texts to read:

  • 1 Corinthians 12
  • Romans 11:1-7
  • Numbers 24:15-19 (chapters 22-24)

Questions to ponder:

  • What gifts have been given to you?
  • Who in your community could be helped by your gifts?
  • What part does fear play in the gifts we give and the gifts we withhold?

Do and share:

 

[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.