Gifts

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Ephesians 3:18-21.

This week the TUMC Family welcomes Rev. Kate Ling in worship leadership for our one Sunday worship service at 11am. She will share a message on gifts and a gallery will be on display before and after worship. You will inspired and encouraged by this worship service.

As I study this Sunday’s text, God continues to bring me back to the word power:

  • I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit (v. 16). 
  • I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God (v. 18 and 19).
  • Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine (v. 20).

The Greek word used here is dunamis. Dunamis refers to inherent power that equips a person to perform miracles and the power that perfects the excellence of the soul. The definition of this Greek word reveals that this sort of power is immensely valuable; a person that has it is afforded the influence that generally accompanies riches, wealth, and military prowess.

This power is God-gifted. We receive it upon making a faith claim in Jesus Christ, after which we are filled with the Holy Spirit. This is the power that enabled to disciples to join Jesus in performing miracles. This is the power that gave birth to the Church at Pentecost. This is the power that convicts us of our sin and convinces us of the abundance of God’s grace. This is the power that we each live out – uniquely and personally – through our passions and gifts as we serve God in this world.

I believe this power – this God-gifted power – awakens us to our true selves – to the selves that God created us to be and the selves that we have the privilege of pursuing throughout our lifetime.

We do not want to neglect this gift because with it and through it, God will use us to build God’s Kingdom and increase God’s peace.

Thank you, Pastor Kate, for your worship leadership this week! I treasure you as a true gift and friend in my life.

Prayer: “This star drew nigh to the northwest, o’er Bethlehem it took its rest; and there it did both stop and stay, right over the place where Jesus lay. Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel, born is the King of Israel.”* Amen.

*”The First Noel,” The United Methodist Hymnal 245.

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FAMILY ~ Ministry of All Believers

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Ephesians 4:1-16.

My friend Dan Dixon has the keenest ability to send me cards that 100% describe how I am feeling at the present moment. My most recent installment looks like…

 

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This.

I think it should be titled, “Sarah Miller: This Moment In Time.”

The inside of the card reads, “Ever have one of those days?” And underneath those words Dan kindly wrote, “Yes, we do! Yes, we all have!”

How wonderful it is to be reminded that I am not alone in this life and that I have a great friend that will send me a picture of a soaked cat to lift my spirits.

In the card Dan thanked me for all the ways we stay connected as colleagues as well as friends. We share resources, we ask advice, we laugh, we vent, we sit in silence, we complain about all the things we should have been taught at Candler, and through talk, text, and/or email, we offer “towels” to one another on the days we are utterly soaked.

Dan has the incredible gift of speaking truth in love – “Sarah, you are doing a little too much right now.” “Sarah, listen to your committee members on this.” “Sarah, let that go.” “Sarah, forgive yourself.”

In her book Altar in the World Barbara Brown Taylor writes, “The hardest spiritual work in the world is to love the neighbor as the self – to encounter another human being not as someone you can use, change, fix, help, save, enroll, convince or control, but simply as someone who can spring you from the prison of yourself, if you will allow it.”*

Through the relationship we share, Dan and I are able to be brought out of ourselves – and most importantly, brought out of the stories that we tell ourselves that are not a true reflection of our actual selves – so we can love and nurture, so we can struggle with growth and grapple with fear, and so we can try on the rawness of vulnerability and realize that we can live with that rawness for just a few moments longer than we did the last time.

Barbara Brown Taylor observes that we are all born with “instinctive care” – that innate knowledge to do whatever we need to do to care for ourselves. To love the neighbor as the self requires that we apply that same sort of instinctive care to someone else, that we do whatever is needed to care for another. Barbara Brown Taylor says, “to become that person, even for a moment, is to understand what it means to die to your self. This can be as frightening as it is liberating. It may be the only real spiritual discipline there is.”*

When we apply instinctive care to one another in community we experience unity. We share our joys and sorrows in community. We do not walk alone; we walk with others. We share one another’s burdens and we work together to lighten those loads. We offer affirmation, we ask questions, we seek and share forgiveness. This is what it means to be in relationship with one another. This is at the core of our ministry to one another as believers – caring for one another, which leads us to caring for all, as Christ cares for us.

Is there someone in your life presently that relates to or resembles my above “moment in time?” How might you reach out to them, and in so doing, instinctively care for them as you would for yourself? Consider how your actions will draw the two of you closer together. And imagine what our world would be like if we all genuinely and diligently answered our calls to to this sort of care.

Prayer: “Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love; the fellowship of kindred minds is like to that above.”** Amen.

*Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World, 93.

**”Blest Be the Tie That Binds,” The United Methodist Hymnal 557.

 

Rock of Ages: Living Stones

Sunday’s Scripture ~ I Peter 2:4-10

This week’s Rock of Ages passage names the people of God, the disciples of Christ, the sisters and brothers in the Spirit “living stones”. That’s a curious title or classification because I do not think we often conceive of stones as living. They are inanimate. They can be sturdy, precious, porous, or soft. They are instrumental in construction projects. They are a pain to dig out of the ground to prepare it for a garden. They have the ability to stub your toe like no other.

But living? Do stones live?

As I thought about an example of living stones, my mind went immediately to volcanos – mighty and powerful living stones capable of spewing acrid ash and lava with temperatures nearing 2192 degrees Fahrenheit. Our history books detail the destruction wrought by volcanos – names like Vesuvius and St. Helen live in infamy. And yet they also create new land and regenerate land that was once unsuitable for agriculture to be vibrant and capable of producing crops.

In 2002 I served on a mission team in Costa Rica. Towards the end of our trip we hiked a mountain that was home to a monastery and the largest illumined steel cross in the country. Across the horizon from the monastery-mountain was what I would call a “stirring volcano.” Our guides told us that it had not erupted in some time, but it was not classified as dormant because it would have fits of spewing ash and rumbling the near by ground. As a result, the families that called the volcano home – either living on its side or at its base – were very attuned to its activity and ready to respond at any given moment.

I think the image of a volcano is an appropriate image for the church – and more specifically – the image of a stirring and active volcano. Churches have wonderful “volcano” moments during certain seasons of the year – Christmas and Easter especially – and also for Tuskawilla when our little orange friends come to visit. But what about the other seasons in the year? What about the other 46 weeks?

Presently we are in the height of Ordinary Time – the season of the church year that spans the time between Pentecost and the beginning of Advent. Many people hear the word ordinary and think “nothing special.” But this time of the Christian year is so special in that it grants us space to put into practice everything we have learned about the coming, birth, baptism, life, teaching, suffering, death, resurrection, ascension, and victorious return of our Lord, Jesus Christ. We accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior because something between his coming and his victorious return stirred us so much that we committed our lives to him.

We remain in that commitment with him because his enduring presence – the Holy Spirit – continues to stir up  and reinvigorate that commitment. And then the months between Pentecost and Advent set in…and the “activity” in the Christian Year appears to slow down because we are not moving from season to season to season as we do from Advent to Christmas to Epiphany… Maybe our reactivity to God’s stirring becomes slower. Maybe we hit the snooze button on the stirring…and if we do that enough, we become dormant.

God gave us life and calls us to life. God made and makes us living stones. God’s Spirit within each of us is alive and well and wants to and does move us into activity. We are not being true to our identity as living stones if we are dormant. And if we are being true to our identity as living stones, then the effects would be felt not only by those who are connected together as this volcano of faith but also by those in our surrounding community. Our action should prompt, generate, lead, and sustain positive and affirming reactions in our community.

What is God stirring in you? What signs of God’s life and awaken-ness are you displaying to your and our neighbors? How will you make this week during Ordinary Time extraordinary?

Prayer: “Spirit of promise, Spirit of unity, we thank you that you are also the Spirit of renewal. Renew in the whole Church that passionate desire for the coming of your kingdom which will unite all Christians in one mission to the world. May we all grow up together into him who is our head, the Savior of the world. Amen.”*

*”For The Church,” The United Methodist Book of Worship 503.