Giving Up: Enemies

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Luke 19:37-44.

Sometime last week Andrew and I stumbled upon a showing of “Miss Congeniality” on network television. I am a big fan of Sandra Bullock; so, of course, we watched the movie. The film occurs at a national scholarship program *cough* beauty pageant *cough* that includes evening wear, swim wear, talent, and interview competitions. The irony of the interview competition is that no matter the question – no matter the respondent – the correct answer is “world peace.”

Reminds me of when I taught Children’s Sunday School and no matter the question – no matter the respondent the correct answer was “Jesus, God, prayer, church, share!”

(You know it’s true…)

Whenever my 10th grade History Teacher – Mr. Hinthorne – would introduce a new (past) global skirmish in his lectures he would name the groups involved and then ask, “Why can’t we all just get along?” It took my class quite sometime to realize his question was rhetorical…and oh so profound.

Getting along is a part of peace; it is a building block in the peace process. Jesus accuses Jerusalem of disregarding this building block. We heard it – we can imagine it – peoples from different places and circumstances uniting their voices in praise of the Messiah. But the praise is quickly muted by the grumbling of the Pharisees telling Jesus to subdue his followers into silence. This grumbling on Palm Sunday will end in Jesus’ groaning in his Passion. He will bear on his body how the people that surrounded him on Palm Sunday chose a way other than peace.

When we get along, when we participate in peacemaking – not just with those that we already get along with, but with folks that we are different from – we participate in creating unity, harmony, safety, and prosperity. When we participate in peacemaking we continue following the path the Prince of Peace lays before us and we bear the fruit – we show the evidence – of our salvation in Christ.

Getting along is an act I practice by

  1. Talking less and listening more.
  2. Truly listening rather than listening to prepare a response.
  3. Finding ways to walk alongside folks from a variety of life experiences through conversation, non-fiction reading, documentaries, and more.
  4. Making the first move to seek forgiveness and reconcile.

We are a people meant for peace. We are disciples of the Prince of Peace. And I think, on the whole, people would like there to be – we hope for there to be – peace. But do we think that peace is achievable? Is peace just a wish or can peace be our reality?

Peace can be our reality if we apply ourselves to acts of peacemaking. Mr. Hinthorne was right – it all starts with getting along. It is a big task, but we are more than capable. God calls us to this work and provides us with the strength and courage to complete it.

Prayer: “For me, kind Jesus, was thy incarnation, thy mortal sorrow, and thy life’s oblation; thy death of anguish and thy bitter passion, for my salvation. Therefore, kind Jesus, since I cannot pay thee, I do adore thee, and will ever pray thee, think on thy pity and thy love unswerving, not my deserving.”* Amen.

*”Ah, Holy Jesus,” The United Methodist Hymnal 289.


Messiah: And He Shall Purify

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Malachi 3:1-3.

It is said that Martin Luther would offer a doctoral robe from the University of Wittenberg to anyone who could successfully reconcile the Apostle Paul’s salvation by faith alone with faith without works is dead from the Apostle James. From my studies of John Wesley I believe he deserves this robe! While he constantly preached salvation by faith alone, Wesley equally advised the need for works that signify an individual pursuing and maturing in the Christian lifestyle.

Wesley learned from a young age that works were needed alongside faith. His mother, Susanna, wrote about the faith development of John and his siblings in a letter she sent to her son:

The children of this family were taught, as soon as they could speak, the Lord’s Prayer…as they grew bigger, were added a short prayer for their parents, and some Collects; a short Catechism, and some portion of Scripture, as their memories could bear.*

Wesley continued his practice of Scripture study, prayer, and faithful conversation in small group and the assembly throughout his adult life. His devotive work – personal and communal – led him to regularly visiting prisons and hospitals and establishing literacy programs. Later Wesley impressed this lifestyle of faith – the combination of private devotion and active participation – upon the Early Methodists involved in classes and bands. Wesley defines these groups as communities “having the form and seeking the power of godliness, united in order to pray together, to receive the word of exhortation, and to watch over one another in love, that they may help each other to work out their salvation.”** We receive salvation from God and we work out our salvation with God. Wesley understood this to be the nature of salvation and how the people called Methodists mature in our faith.

The season of Advent is a time to prepare for the coming of our Lord and one way to prepare for Christ’s coming is to consider our place at the intersection of faith and works. How are you engaging in private devotion? How are you engaging in active participation? What do you receive from these works? How have these works matured your faith? Recalculating to the course of this intersection and/or continuing through this intersection leads us in the ways of holy living – in the ways of holiness. In working out the salvation we have received, we are made well; we are forgiven of our sins and purified in this life.

How will you prepare for Christ’s coming through your faith and works this week? How will you meet, love, and grow with your Savior at your intersection of faith and works?

Prayer: “Let all mortal flesh keep silence, and with fear and trembling stand; ponder nothing earthly minded, for with blessing in his hand, Christ our God to earth descendeth, our full homage to demand. Rank on rank the host of heaven spread its vanguard on the way, as the Light of light descendeth from the realms of endless day, that the powers of hell may vanish as the darkness clears away.”*** Amen.

*Letter from Susanna Wesley to John Wesley, July 24, 1732.

**Albert Outler, John Wesley 178.

***”Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence,” The United Methodist Church 626.

Community Instruction

Sunday’s Scripture ~ I Timothy 2:1-7

For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself a ransom for all (I Tim 2:5-6).

There is an abundance of theology packed into this credal statement from the Early Church.

  • There is one God
    • A statement affirming monotheism – the belief in one deity, rather than
    • Polytheism – the belief in many deities or
    • Henotheism – the belief in one deity with an allowance for other deities in a hierarchy under the lead deity.
  • One mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus
    • A statement affirming that Christ Jesus proceeded from the one God, and is of the same substance with the one God, to be the physical, tangible, living, breathing, dying, saving link between God and humanity.
    • Christ Jesus is not a separate deity under God; they are the same, just as the Holy Spirit is the same with them. Together those three – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – are the Trinity – One God in three persons.
    • The need for Christ Jesus to be our mediator indicates a rupture in our relationship with God. This rupture is caused by sin and we cannot fix our sickness with sin on our own. We need God’s power and God’s power is available to us in Jesus.
  • Himself human – A statement affirming the humanness of Jesus.
    • We believe that Jesus has two natures; he is fully human and fully divine.
      • As fully human Jesus is able to stand in humanity’s place and take the punishment for sin.
      • As fully divine Jesus as God incarnate can save humanity from its condemned state due to sin and break the power of sin over humanity.
    • Jesus did not ‘appear’ human or ‘appear’ divine as some speculated; he was God incarnate.
  • Gave himself as a ransom for all – A statement affirming that our sins are atoned for through Jesus’ death and resurrection.
    • Through atonement we are made at one with God once again.
    • Hebrews 2:14-18 describes Jesus atoning actions writing, “Since, therefore, the children [humanity] share flesh and blood, he himself [Jesus] likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death. For it is clear that he did not come to help angels, but the descendants of Abraham. Therefore he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.”

Most theological education took place through oral tradition in the Ancient World and in the Early Church. Much of the society had very little or no formal education; so, learning occurred through telling the same stories or lessons repeatedly to help all members of the community – children by age and children at heart – commit them to memory and behavior.

The more ‘meaty’ the statement, the more learning to be ‘digested’ and ‘converted into lived energy’ for each individual. 

The above credal statement contains 25 words. If you were to write a credal statement for your faith using only 25 words, what would your credal statement say? What concepts would you include? What teaching would you name? Spend some of your devotional time this week writing your statement and then share it with someone. 

My credal statement reads:

God created out of chaos. God created Jesus to atone the chaos. God creates out of my chaos. God forgives our chaos. We are redeemed. 

Prayer: “Have thine own way, Lord. Have thine own way. Thou art the potter; I am the clay. Mold me and make me after thy will, while I am waiting, yielded and still. Have thine own way, Lord. Have thine own way. Search me and try me, Savior today! Wash me just now, Lord, wash me just now, as in thy presence humbly I bow.”* Amen.

“Have Thine Own Way, Lord,” The United Methodist Hymnal, 382.

PictureLent ~ Reflect

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Our very own Pastor Kate is preaching this week! I hope you will join her in worship on Sunday and to receive the Scripture and message that God has prepared in her to share with each of you.

This week’s #picturelent focus word is Reflect. If you are reading along with the #picturelent devotions you will observe a reflective tone throughout: (1) of Jesus reflecting on Hebrew Bible Scriptures and (2) of how we are called to reflect Jesus’ love through our service in the world.

This reflective tone causes me to pause. I often think about how I am reflecting  Jesus’ love through service to, for, and with my neighbors. But reflecting on these Scripture texts has drawn my attention to something I have known for some time, but I have not had at the forefront of my mind: Jesus was not always the first person to offer the lessons he taught. His lessons are steeped in the Hebrew faith tradition. Some he taught verbatim scroll to people and others he expounded upon to bring a new interpretation. These lessons were passed down generation to generation and Jesus’ endorsement – God’s own Son saying “Yes! This! Do and keep doing this!” – of these lessons reinforce their importance and life-givingness.

I am convinced that we are able to care for others after the example of Christ through responsible stewardship of our resources that leads us to responsible living in the world. Whether time, talents, prayers, or passions, when we order them properly – offering first to God and then to neighbor – God’s blessings abound for the whole community. These lessons in stewardship were not advents with Jesus; Judeo-Christian lessons of stewardship were appropriated from Egyptian culture where the first fruits of all harvests were offered to Pharaoh, who was considered a deity. Instead of offering first fruits to Pharaoh we offer them to God. And then the remaining fruits are available for us to steward and share.

As I reflect on this interaction of Jesus reflecting on texts and then people reflecting his love through service, my mind comes to my friend Holly. She is my primary yoga teacher, the one responsible for walking with me and leading me through the wide world of yoga. Holly is a strong woman of faith and she is deeply committed to sharing the compassion she experiences in her relationship with Christ with others. When structuring the class schedule at her yoga studio she intentionally and purposefully dedicated her Sunday class as a Give class. Participants do not pay for this class; rather, they offer themselves in their practice and, in appreciation of that practice, participants offer a donation that Holly then gifts to a local philanthropy. Why does she do this? Because it is an expression of her understanding Scripture and an outpouring of her commitment to serve others after the example of Christ. Holly’s commitment to serve others after the example of Christ has even benefited the Tuskawilla Community as she gave the offerings from January’s Give classes in support of our support of the Conference Imagine No Malaria Campaign.

This is one example of a person’s understanding of Scripture nourishing her care and compassion for her neighbors. To incarnate this sort of understanding requires an exposure to God’s Word and time intentionally given to studying the connection between reading God’s word and living it out. To incarnate this sort of understanding requires reflection.

If you look in our mosquito net in the Narthex, you will see Firefly Yoga covering a few of the mosquitoes representing Holly and Firefly’s support of Imagine No Malaria. If you are committed to being one of TUMC’s 100 families to commit to the campaign, please write your name over a mosquito and hang it in the net as a sign of your support!

Bearing in mind the dual nature of reflections in this post, consider these questions: What is the subject of your recent reflections? What reflections are you showing in the world? Thinking on your activity in the world, what do they reflect as your source? What do they say about what you have been studying?

Prayer: “Blessed Jesus, at thy word we are gathered all to hear thee; let our hearts and souls be stirred now to seek and love and fear thee, by thy teachings sweet and holy, drawn from earth to love thee solely!”* Amen.

*”Blessed Jesus, at Thy Word,” The United Methodist Hymnal 596.