Monday Meditation – A Known Story

Third Sunday in Advent

We all know the story.  We’ve heard it a thousand times and again every year around this time.  And in case we might have temporarily forgotten it, we are retold it by tv programs, Christmas pageants and choir cantatas.

Charlie Brown in frustration asks who knows what Christmas really means.  Linus takes the stage and paraphrases Luke.

 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.  An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.  This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:8-14 NIV

There is a familiarity to the story that makes us feel secure and rooted.  We can count on it to order our lives.

Yet familiarity can dull anticipation.  It may not breed contempt but it does lack a sense of expectancy.  Children find comfort in reading the same storybooks every day but this sense of looking forward to the books is hardly dampened by the repetition.  Let us take a lesson from our children and not lose our excitement no matter how many times the cow jumps over the moon.

The story we have to tell is no fairy tale.  How much more inspiring is the Truth?

How awesome is our God?!

Dear God, while You reign from heaven above, You live and love in the midst of Your creation.  Never leave us alone.  We need You too much.  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 – 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.

Prayer for Texas and Louisiana

Embed from Getty Images

Lord God, so many are in peril this day as rough waters surround so many in Texas and other areas nearby, literally and figuratively.  Lord we ask for your Son, the one to whom we can turn to in times of trouble to bring His peace to those in danger.

Lord we pray for those who have answered the call to help.  Give them strength to carry out their mission of rescue.  Let those who are called to give, give readily, both in their time, gifts and finances.

When storm clouds plant themselves above our heads help us to remember that the rainbow is yet to come.  Lord help us through these torrential times.

We thank you for all that you have done for us thus far in our lives and the life of our country.  Let us remember that at the heart of it, we are all your children in need of help and love all the time.  Let us be to one another the hands and feet of Christ even as the heavens are thrown open.

We pray this in our savior’s name, Jesus Christ, amen.

How to Help

You can make a financial contribution to UMCOR’s disaster response efforts by giving to U.S. Disaster Relief, Advance #901670, or to Material Resources  Advance #901440, through your local church or directly through their website.

Whether you put together hygiene kits or cleaning buckets, take a collection to support our shared response through UMCOR, or spend some extra time in prayer for those caught in the path and for those who will respond, thank you!

Resources

More information about response efforts is available on these conference Facebook pages: The Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist ChurchLouisiana Conference of The United Methodist ChurchRío Texas Conference of The United Methodist Church and Central Texas Conference.