Monday Meditation – Beyond Judaism

Jesus Judaism

Even as the author of Luke’s gospel shows us the countless ways that Jesus and his earthly family are quintessentially “Jewish,” he also shows us that Jesus had come not solely for the Jews but also the rest of the Gentile world.

Eight days after his birth, Jesus’ parents bring him to be circumcised, something that distinguished the Jews from all others.  Yet even as Jesus is placed squarely in the rituals of Judaism, Simon, another Jew, beyond reproach, prophesizes over the baby.

“You prepared this salvation in the presence of all peoples.
It’s a light for revelation to the Gentiles
    and a glory for your people Israel.” Luke 2:31-32 CEB

Luke’s Jesus is Jewish through and through and also going to be a conduit of God to the Gentiles.  Luke places Jesus at a crux between the distinctive and the malleable.  Jesus is both Jew and beyond Judaism.

Why this need to put Jesus rooted in Judaism but also open to those beyond its borders?  Because the movement Jesus began moved to a more open rendering of the community boundaries as it grew and expanded beyond Palestine.

We take for granted the Jesus movement going into Gentile areas but at its insemination, it was considered a “Jewish” movement that went beyond its tribal, cultural and social boundaries.

Thank God!

Dear Lord, we take for granted Your presence in our lives.  Yet there are some who do not know You.  Help us to spread Your gospel long and wide throughout the earth as you intended it should be.  Amen.

Ministry of Administration

Servant Keeper

Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.  Proverbs 16:3

We need all the help we can get with managing our church’s ministries.  Too many times records are kept in a haphazard way that differs from pastor to pastor and secretary to secretary.  Things are lost or misplaced.  Mistakes are inadvertently made.  Keeping track of congregation members becomes more cumbersome as membership grows.  There are so many moving parts to keeping a church running smoothly that surely there must be a way to help church committees manage.

Servant Keeper helps churches to manage the inner processes of running a church.  It helps with finances and membership management, record keeping and more.

Pastor Bradley Schutt, at Millville United Methodist Church, reports that with Servant Keeper “Instead of tracking down folders and hunting for information, anything you need is a quick search away.”

Douglas Lape of Mahomet United Methodist Church tells us that with Servant Keeper “Our time to post the offerings and prepare the deposit documents was reduced by over 40%. Servant Keeper effortlessly integrated into our funds management and our accounting software.  It simplifies all our processes.”

Servant Keeper is proficient, efficient and straightforward in helping churches with their management processes.  While God does establish our plans, we are often asked to implement those plans.  We should take advantage of all the tools available to us in order to do God’s ministry in our churches as a good steward of the talents and funds that God provides.

Monday Meditation – Giving Tuesday

Giving Tuesday

You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions.  In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ” Acts 20:34-35 NIV

A viral video I saw the other day showcased a homeless person who was given $100.  Without him knowing, the giver of the money followed him to see what he could do with the money.

The homeless man went into a store that advertised its selection of alcohol.  The cameras didn’t follow him into the store but waited for him outside, wondering what he was buying.

The homeless man came out with several plastic bags full.  Again without the man knowing, the person who gave him the money followed him to see what he had down with it, what had he bought.

The homeless man ended up passing out his bags to his friends also living on the streets.  When asked what was in the bags, the men and women opened them up to show that their friend had purchased and given them food.

His explanation when asked, “They were hungry.”

This Giving Tuesday – give!

You don’t know what good can be and will be done with your generous donation.  Supply your needs and the needs of your companions on “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday.”  In between those days is a Sunday.  How can you fill other’s needs in your church ministries? And on Giving Tuesday, help the weak among us, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

Monday Meditation – A Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving

As we celebrate Thanksgiving this week, let us remember how blessed we all are.  We all probably have more than we need.  We all probably have more than enough to eat, a roof and four walls to protect us, clothes on our back and people who love us.

This feeling of gratitude reminds me of a song heard in chapel this month.

Curled up in a cardboard box

Joe gives thanks for all he’s got

The label says Frigidaire,

but it’s been home for one full year.

There’s a work of art on the wall,

Joe’s first attempt to draw.

It looks like scribble at first glance,

but that’s just Joe bowing his head.

Heaven help me when I feel low,

to be just a little bit more like Joe.

When he’s not at his residence,

He’s a landmark down on Rivers Bend.

Where he mans the mission and he combs the street,

Shines a light for those in need.

It’s his way of giving back, keeping who he is intact.

For all he does he don’t get jack,

but he’s got a few Jacks back on track.

Heaven help me when I feel low,

To shine just a little bit more like Joe.

There are some who have nothing.  We pray for those who are without this Thanksgiving, find some peace, protection, satiation and love for the rest of this year.

Let us not only do our individual parts to help but also support those institutions that now exist to help those in need, like our churches and our government.  Matthew 25 speaks to us not only as individuals but also collectively as nations.

A Little More Like Joe, Lyrics & Music by Robby Hicks ©2009

Monday Meditation – Unity

Unity

For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:12 NIV

We are in this together.  There is no part of the body of Christ that we can excise in order to bring about unity.  We are in unity.  The question is how we learn to live with each other in all our differences and diversity, wrongs and sins.

First we must choose to be together no matter what.  Staying together in an era where divorce is so common can appear to be an old-fashioned idea especially if one party feels as if the other is beating them up.  Perhaps it is best to walk away.

And yet we can’t.  We are in this together whether we want to be or not.  We are the body of Christ.  We can’t leave each other alone no matter how much we want to do so or in fact do so.  We are inextricably tied together with one another.  We will face one another in heaven one day.

So let’s learn to love one another as God loves us.  That is, better than we love ourselves.

Monday Meditation – God Is Always Here

God Is Always Here

And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 29:20b NIV

I don’t know what it is like to not know God.  I don’t know everything about God but I do know God is real.  And that makes all the difference in the world.

I may feel it.  I may live it.  But I am never alone.  God is always here.

I may be confused. I may be scared.  But I am never alone.  God is always here.

The world may seem like it is crumbling.  But we are never alone.  God is always here.

Violence may be all around me.  Strangers may trample over me.  But I am never alone.  God is always here.

We don’t always understand.  Our confusion is confounding.  But we are never alone.  God is always here.

It is in this togetherness with God that allows us to withstand the trials and tribulations we go through.  Not because we know the “why” but because we know the “Who.”

We are never alone.  God is always here.

Las Vegas – We Stand With You

Las Vegas

We here are GCFA stand in solidarity and love with the people of Las Vegas, Nevada against the brutal violence perpetrated against humanity late Sunday night.  When one part of the body is hurt, the entire body suffers.  It is only in love that such wounds can be healed.  We send our thoughts and prayers to those hurt in this act of domestic terrorism.   Just as importantly, we stand firm in our Christian conviction that death shall not have the last word.  Our risen Savior has broken the bonds of death and set free all its captives.

Evil may think it has won this day.

Fifty plus are dead, over 500 are injured.  Firefighters had to wear Kevlar vests to the scene along with the police.  In today’s social scene, bullets made to pierce, not just flesh, but cement and plaster, are readily available for sale.  Military grade weapons pervade the American landscape–yet we still have faith and hope.

We have faith and hope that there is a greater power in this world that is a light against the darkness.  Love will always triumph over hate.  For every Good Friday, a resurrection is promised.  We hold onto that promise for ourselves, our church, our country and all the people as children of God.

We stand in any breach of faith and hope that has been cracked by this night of cruelty. “And let them give it to the doers of the work which is in the house of the LORD, to repair the breaches of the house,” 2 Kings 22:5b (KJV) We stand that those whose faith and hope is tested by this night of horror who can stand upon our shoulders for resolve until their hearts and bodies have been mended by the Holy Spirit of God.

We will continue to pray and do what must be done to challenge the circumstances that allow such acts of depravity to occur according to the Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church. (#3303, 3426)

Today is the day
God deplores violence in our homes and streets,
rebukes the world’s warring madness,
humbles the powerful and lifts up the lowly.
And so shall we.  (A Companion Litany to Our Social Creed)

An Investment In the Kingdom

Your Alternative to Traditional Banking

For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Luke 14:28-30 ESV

We are excited to let you know about the United Methodist Credit Union Association (UMCUA) and some of the ways association members can be your financial partners in ministry, helping you to build up the Kingdom.

They are a group of credit unions throughout the United States working in collaboration to provide an alternative to traditional banking.

Each credit union operates independently and provides banking and lending solutions to clergy, laity and local churches throughout the Unites States. As a member of a United Methodist church you are eligible to join and take full advantage of all of their products and services designed with you in mind!

You might wonder what exactly is a credit union and why would you join one?

One of the biggest reasons, is that when you partner with them, you are making an investment in the kingdom.

You see, the more members they have; the better dividends they can pay and the more projects they can fund like the building project with 1st UMC in Upland, California. Personal savings and checking accounts, home and auto loans to church construction projects and refinances  are just a few of the ways they are investing in our United Methodist connection.

UMFCU, a member of UMCUA, funds church loan for installation of energy saving solar panels

“We are happy with these needed funds to complete the installation of our solar panel energy efficient and money saving project.  This is our second loan with the UMFCU and we appreciate the competitive rates and terms and great member services.”  Maxine Sawtell, Chair of Board of Trustees of 1st UMC of Upland in Upland, CA.

credit unions

UMFCU President and CEO, Ramon Noperi, congratulates 1st UMC of Upland for its solar panel church loan.  Maxine Sawtell and Andy Parsons from 1st UMC Upland, accept the loan.

This is but a glimpse of the partnerships within the United Methodist Financial Credit Union Association.

Stop by online to learn more.

www.umcua.org

Monday Meditation – Football Season

Football

Football season is upon us.  So begins that great past time activity – Monday morning quarterbacking!  It is something pastors are familiar with only theirs is called Sunday afternoon pulpit preaching.

This activity occurs when the game or sermon has been experienced and at the next available gathering time for fans or congregation members, attention focuses on what the coaches and quarterbacks and preachers and ministers “should” have done.  It is a time when everyone has an opinion about what happened even though none were actually on the field or in the pulpit.

Learning can happen in the stands or easy chairs, and the pews.  But be mindful not to critique from the sidelines or the back pew unless you’re ready to get on the field or in the pulpit to show how your observations should be taken and how they can improve the game or message.

Getting on the field can take many forms.  I don’t mean you actually have to make it as a player or a coach, or be ordained as an elder or deacon.  If your advice is good enough to be shared, share it, not just with other fans but with the team leadership or church leadership.  Dialogue (two-way communication) is important in this day and age of social media isolation and selfies.

Yet remember the three rules of sharing one’s opinion.

  1.   Is it relevant?
  2.   Is it necessary?
  3.   Is it kind?

Dear Lord, help us to share what we know with others in a way that is both helpful and gracious.  Let us not just critique for the sake of gossip but to be helpful.  Help us to listen and watch carefully so that we might know of what we speak when we talk.  Amen.

 

A call to Love is a call to Love – EVERYONE. What?!

embracelove

On Facebook, I have seen some examples of people of color loving neo-Nazis and white supremacists.  In forming intimate friendships, they have been able to love the hate out of them and become friends.

If we are all made in the image of God, and thereby worth everything in God’s eyes, enough for God to send God’s Son to us, then is loving the enemy something central to all our lives as Christians?

Are we prepared to do this as a church?  Can we #embracelove around our neo-Nazi brothers and sisters?

In order to love we must first prepare ourselves.  How can we do so?

  1. Loving each other. We must be a living example of a people who love one another without conditions.
  2. Resting in the love of God and our fellow Christians. Learning to accept love will help us to teach others how to do so as well.
  3. Learn to listen. Truly listen to hear the other not to prepare a retort or comeback.  Listening to understand is not acceptance.
  4. Rely on hope. We will not always succeed.  Some will resist our embracing them with love.  We must never lose hope that God will touch their hearts in some way that lies beyond our presence in their lives. Only God redeems the irredeemable.

No one is beyond reproach from God or God’s followers.  While we as a church do not accept the rise of Nazism and we do not believe in one race’s superiority over another, we also believe that all are deserving of God’s love and healing touch, no matter what their sin.

Dear Lord, we live in troubled times.  Help us to see each other’s worth not in skin color but in the content of our character, the strength of our love for one another and the righteous grace You bestow upon us.  Amen.