A United Methodist Pastor's Theological Reflections

"But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory (nikos) through our Lord Jesus Christ." - I Corinthians 15:57

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Upcoming Sunday's Scriptures (June 3)

Worship – June 3 “Music Sunday

Isaiah 6:1-7
-          The year is 742 B.C. and Assyria is expanding its territory. Israel is trying to get Judah to join in an alliance against Assyria.
-         A scene of God’s presence and holiness.  V. 2 – “feet” is a euphemism for genitals meaning purity.  Holy is repeated three times to emphasize distinctness and no sin.  This picture reminds Israel that God will protect and provide during challenging times.
-         Isaiah feels inadequate in comparison but is made holy to be a spokesperson for God to the people.  The Lord warns that only a few people will listen to what Isaiah and the Lord say.  Within 9 years, Assyria will take over Judah.

Revelation 21:1-4
-         This is one of my favorite passages of scripture, the future scene of when heaven will descend upon earth and all of God’s creation will be made new again.  No more tears, sadness, or death!
-         Verse 1 – The sea was seen as scary to the Jewish people.  This fear will be overcome when the Lord returns. 
-         Alpha and Omega are first and last letters of Hebrew alphabet referring to God’s all encompassing reign over all of creation.

Luke 21:25-28
-         This scripture is not pointing to the end of the present age but to 70 AD when the Romans will take over Jerusalem and destroy the Temple.  That was a terrible time for the people of Israel and Jesus predicted this would happen.
-         “Coming of the Son of Man” is not a second coming reference but a reference to the Daniel passage to show that Jesus truly was the Son of Man whose words had proven true.  The fall of Jerusalem is the last judgment on Israel since Jesus is the last prophet to be sent to God’s people to warn them. 
-         This passage warns us to obey God, to seek peace, and to celebrate Jesus’ victory as the Son of Man.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Thoughts on George Hunter's New Book on Evangelism

George Hunter's new book, The Recovery of a Contagious Methodist Movement is worth the read!  This book is in line with several other books that encourage United Methodists and Christians in general to reclaim what it means to share the good news of Christ with others.  It's a short read that quickly addresses the issues facing the United Methodist Church today.

Here are some of the points from the book that stand out in my mind:
  • To reclaim Wesley's methodology to reach people for Christ is to reclaim the ancient church's approach to evangelism which is a relational/small group/intentional outreach model.
  • Non United Methodist churches that are growing and reaching people for Christ are typically more Wesleyan than the majority of United Methodist churches!  While embarrassing for United Methodists, it just goes to show how easy it is to forget our rich heritage.  Sadly, we think of our Methodist heritage as how we did church back in the 40's, 50's, and 60's rather than the original Wesleyan vision of organizing lay people to receive the good news of Jesus Christ and spread scriptural holiness throughout the land. 
  • The keys to reclaiming our heritage is to realize that we are to be a lay movement within the established church.  The problem is that what used to be a vital lay movement has now become the established church. 
  • Empowering and equipping of lay ministry, intentional spiritual small groups, and a methodical plan to share God's love with all people are the key ingredients that are often missing in the church today.
  • At the heart of our lack of vitality is the false belief that we just can't reach the people who are not already in our church.  This was never an issue with the early Methodist movement in the 18th century.  They had full confidence that God wanted and could reach the people that the Anglican Church was not reaching and those early Methodists experienced the fruits of their labor.
  • Starting new classes and new congregations was the common thread when the Methodist movement was at it's height.  Coincidentally, this common thread is missing throughout our denomination today.
While books like these can be painful reading, they do give us hope to be the church that God has called us to be.  We have a wonderful heritage as United Methodists.  I probably wouldn't know of God's grace or have hope for my daily living if it wasn't for the Wesleyan small groups in my home church.  George Hunter's book reminds me that we need to refocus on lay ministry and vital small groups to guide us once again in spreading scriptural holiness throughout the land.

Thank you, George Hunter.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Sermon (May 27) - "A Red Hot Faith"

     It’s no contest.  No contest at all.  My wife is a lot tougher than I am. 
     For example, when we’re in a restaurant and we order chicken wings for both of us, it’s a bit humiliating when I have to say, “She’ll have the ‘killer sauce’ and I’ll have whatever sauce you have for toddlers and young children.”
     How many of you liked to eat those fire ball candies?  Let’s just say that they’re not my favorite candy.  They leave me feeling like I have a sore throat for the next three weeks. 
     On a scale that has “red hot” at one end and “ice cold” on the other hand, I would suppose that many of us like to be somewhere in the middle.
     But our scripture reading this morning doesn’t give us that option.  Our scripture from the Book of Acts reminds us that we the church, are to be red hot followers of Jesus Christ.
     Red hot.  Not cold or lukewarm.  Red hot and on fire!
     You might recall what John has to say about one of the seven churches from the Book of Revelation.  John, in writing about the church of Laodicea says, “I know you works; you are neither cold nor hot.  I wish that you were either cold or hot.”
     Just a week ago, the disciples were filled with joy as they went back to Jerusalem after having seen Jesus lifted up into heaven.  Specifically, we are told that after Jesus ascended, they worshipped him and returned to the city with great joy and they continued in the temple blessing God.
     Now, keep in mind that this was before Pentecost had even happened.  This is what the followers of Jesus were doing during this “in between” time.
     Think about this with me for a moment.  If the disciples were filled with joy and were praising God even before the Holy Spirit was sent upon them, can you imagine what the Day of Pentecost must have been like?
     It wasn’t like the disciples were cold going into Pentecost as we sometimes portray them. These disciples were filled with joy and they were blessing and worshipping God at every moment.  You can’t go wrong with that.  Blessing and worshipping God continually.  That’s powerful stuff when you have followers of Jesus together and waiting eagerly for what God is going to do next.
     And when the Day of Pentecost finally came, we don’t find timid disciples standing on the sidelines.  Luke tells us that they were all together in one place, which tells me that they were together because they were praying and they were eager for what God was about to do.
     We get this same sense of joyful and hope-filled waiting in the Season of Advent, which is the church season that leads up to the celebration of the birth of Jesus.  In that great song of Mary, the mother of Jesus, which we know as the Magnifat, Luke tells us that Mary prays, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”
     Mary had a red hot faith even as she was carrying the Son of God in her womb.  In a similar way, those first followers of Jesus had a red hot faith even as they were waiting expectantly for the birth of the church through the outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit.
     Pre-Pentecost or Post-Pentecost, we find a red-hot community of disciples eagerly anticipating what God was about to do next.
     That’s the wonderful thing about being red hot in our faith.  Awesome and wonderful things happen.  And it leads us to anticipate the next awesome and wonderful thing that God is about to do.
     This kind of active faith and radical trust in the power of God at work in our lives is especially good news for those of us who are going through transitions.  I think specifically of our graduates who are being recognized this morning.  This is a time of transition for them as well as their parents, and there may be a sense of anxiety and fear which is to be expected.
     But know that in the midst of your anxiety and fear, is a God who stands ready to empower and equip you to be his disciples in whatever new challenge you may be facing.
     Yes. God wants to use ordinary people like you and me to proclaim and live out the good news of Jesus Christ in our various walks of life.  And God promises to be present with us through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.  Luke tells us that when the wind of the Spirit came upon the disciples on that Pentecost Day that divided tongues of fire appeared among them and rested on each of them.
     Things got red hot as God’s Spirit enabled them to speak in different languages in order to communicate the message of the risen Christ to people of all nationalities who were visiting Jerusalem on that day.  And really, the entire Book of Acts tells the story of how the early church was living out its red hot faith.  People came to know Christ day by day through the powerful witness of the disciples.
     I was talking to a couple of pastors in our District after a meeting.  You know how we Methodists like to have an unofficial meeting after the official meeting?  Well, we were having a meeting after the meeting and one of the pastors all of the sudden got really fired up and he said, “I didn’t enter the ministry just so that I could play church, you know.  I became a pastor so that I could be part of something awesome for God – to reach our neighborhoods and our cities with the love of Jesus and to see real transformation.”
      But he wasn’t finished.  He went on to say, “There are people who have no idea that Jesus is real, and yet we the church are just standing by as if we don’t even care.  I’ll tell you right now, I’m pretty sick of it.”
     It got really hot all of the sudden and I think I got singed. 
     The Christian author, Evelyn Underhood put it so well when she wrote, “The church wants not more consecrated philanthropists, but a disciplined priesthood of theocentric souls who shall be tools and channels of the Spirit of God.”
     The quote is too good to not say it again.  “The church wants no more concescrated philanthropists, but a disciplined priesthood of theocentric souls who shall be tools and channels of the Spirit of God.”
     When I can, I like to help with the community lunches that we serve here at the church each week.  We have wonderful teams of people who serve in this ministry. 
     This past winter, I looked at my watch and noticed that it was close to noon when the lunch would start.  I quickly went downstairs to offer a prayer before the meal.  It’s a way for me to connect with the people we serve.
     When I entered the kitchen, I was surprised to find a new person helping our team of volunteers with the lunch.  Just when I was about to ask if they were ready for me to pray, our newest volunteer,  Jason beat me to the punch, and with great enthusiasm he said, “I’ll go out and say the prayer!”
     I remember in that moment feeling sorry for myself and thinking, “But I usually get to say the prayer.”  I shrugged it off and as Jason was offering the prayer, I turned to our lunch crew and said, “Well it sure seems like Jason has a lot of energy!”  And our volunteers all said in unison, “Yeah, but he’s wearing us out!”
     Just then, Jason pops back into the room and with a great big smile says, “Finished the prayer!  I’m ready to take the plates of food to the tables!”  I remember in that moment thinking to myself, “But I usually get to take the plates of food to the tables.”
     Jason worked at full throttle speed, taking plate after plate of food out to our guests.  Our kitchen crew couldn’t dish up the food fast enough for Jason.  In just a short amount of time after leaving the kitchen, he was back in the kitchen ready to take out more plates. 
     What usually took about ten minutes for two or three of us to feed 50 people, took Jason only about three to five minutes.  He was a one man wrecking crew.
     Once everybody was served, our crew sat down to eat.  We had just started eating when we heard the dishwasher running.  It was Jason!  He had already eaten and was now single handedly washing the dirty dishes!
     I finished eating and went into the kitchen and I introduced myself to Jason.  I said, “Jason, we really appreciate your help today.  We’re not used to someone with your energy and enthusiasm.”
     He replied with a great big smile, “Oh, no problem.  This is my way of giving back for everything your church has done for me.”  And he went on to share how our church had helped him get back on his feet again during a very low point in his life.  He couldn’t stop thanking me for what our church did for him.
     He said, “I felt that the Lord wanted me to meet you so that I can receive some mentoring as a new Christian.  Can you meet with me sometime?”
     Well, Jason and I ended up finding a time to meet.  And one of the things I shared with Jason was to affirm him for his red hot faith and his enthusiasm in serving the Lord.  I told him that I longed to have some of his energy and joy in serving the Lord.
     But then I said, “You might want to think about slowing down a little bit or you’re going to wear us all out!”  Jason has a red hot faith.
     This past Thursday was the anniversary of the time when the founder of Methodism, John Wesley felt his heart strangely warmed.  During a prayer meeting in 1738, he received an assurance that Jesus Christ died on the cross for his sins.  That heart- warming experience ended up igniting a red hot fire of transformation and newness of life throughout England and then here in America that continues to this day.
     Methodists will always be known as a people of warm hearts.  But will we be known as a people with a red hot faith?
     My friend, Dr. Ed Zeiders, who served as President of United Theological Seminary in Dayton believes that every church needs to think, act, and behave, as if they were the only church in the county.   “That’s how urgent your mission is” he said.  “What would you do differently if you knew that you were the only church in existence in this whole surrounding area?”
     I’ve thought about the significance of what he said.  There are almost 150,000 people living in Fairfield County.  And just think if there was only one church in this large area to share the good news of Jesus Christ with so many people.  What would we do differently?
     No time to play church. It’s Pentecost.
     No more mild sauce. Only red hot will do.
     At least for this church…

Sunday Worship Preview - June 3

Sunday, June 3 - (9:00 & 10:30 Services) & Wednesday, June 6  (6:30 P.M. Casual Service @ Crossroads, 2095 Fair Avenue)

Features - Gospel Music Sunday; Trinity Sunday; & Holy Communion

Scripture - Isaiah 6:1-7; Revelation 21:1-4; & Luke 21:25-28

Theme - All of our music ministry teams will be leading us in a service of gospel music.  This is a Sunday for us to sing our faith and celebrate God's grace and the good news of Jesus Christ! 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Upcoming Sunday's Scriptures (May 27)

Sermon (May 27) – “A Red Hot Faith”
Pentecost Sunday

Acts 2:1-21
-         Acts is 2nd volume of Luke’s telling of story of Jesus & the beginnings of the church.
-         Pentecost in original Jewish context – An agricultural festival celebrating the first fruits in anticipation of more to come.  This comes 50 days after Passover/Easter and it also was the 50th day after the 1st Passover when the Israelites and Moses made it to Mount Sinai to receive the commandments and laws from God. 
-         The pouring out of the spirit on Pentecost and the new believers is like the first fruits of many more to come.
-         The Holy Spirit is the presence and power of Jesus who is now ascended.  Pentecost explains how the fearful and inadequate disciples were able to be faithful witnesses to the people around them.
-         Different languages – Greek was the main language, like English is for Europe.  The miracle was that the disciples were able to speak in languages they didn't even know!  (Side Note: I wish the Spirit would have given me a Pentecost moment during my final exams when I was studying German, Spanish, & Greek!)
-         The church caused quite a stir on Pentecost.  How is the church turning heads today?
-         Pentecost and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is the fulfillment of the prophet, Joel in the Old Testament. 
-         What does it mean to be saved?  It means to be rescued from sin and death and live out the new creation that God intends for the world. 

John 15:26-27 & 16:4b-15
-         Following Jesus opens us up to facing dangers in this world.  We need to remember that the opposition isn’t about us but is directed toward Jesus. 
      -     Verses 8-11 speak of the Advocate/Holy Spirit/Helper.  Advocate is a legal term 
             referring to a lawyer who is defending us.  The Spirit is our lawyer who shows that
             it’s the world that should be judged, not the truth about the way of Jesus.

A Cafe Epiphany

A couple of days ago, I was in a cafe enjoying my vanilla steamer.  By the way, this hot drink is a great deal compared to the expensive mochas and lattes! 

Across the room was a young mother with her newborn.  I commented that her baby looked like he was only a few weeks old and that he was adorable.  She said that he was only weeks old and his name was Colten.

In the course of our brief conversation, I discovered that she and her husband had moved to this area from Michigan.  I shared that my church was experiencing a baby boom.  We've had several births and baptisms lately.  She smiled and asked which church I attend.  I gave her the name and invited her to join us some Sunday.

As our quick exchanged came to an end, I continued to read my bible at my little table.  A few minutes later, I heard the sounds of a mother playing with her pride and joy.  You know those sounds of delight.  "Hi there.  You're mommy's little boy, aren't you?  You're so handsome! I'm gonna get you!"  She was speaking these words to her smiling newborn as she was holding him up with raised arms there at her table. 

It was in that moment, that I had my cafe epiphany.  I felt God saying to me, "This is how much I love you, Robert.  Like the love and joy of a loving mother who is delighting in her newborn, you are secure in my arms and I will always love and delight in you."

There are many images of God in the bible, some that are masculine and some that are feminine.  This epiphany reminded me of how God's unconditional and everlasting love is like the joy of a mother holding her newborn baby.

As she was putting her baby back into the cushioned carrier, the mother looked my way and thanked me one more time for the church invitation. Turning toward the door to leave, she said, "God bless you."

Thanks to this cafe epiphany, I have felt blessed all week.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Bob Dylan's Picture of the Second Coming

Recently during a lecture, New Testament scholar, Tom Wright sang the Bob Dylan song, "When the Ship Comes In" to help give us an idea what that future time will be like when Jesus returns and sets up his gracious and loving kingdon over all creation.  A big thanks to Thomas McKenzie for sharing this.  During this final week of the Easter season leading up to Pentecost Sunday, this song helps us to celebrate the glorious future that awaits us thanks to Jesus' life, death, resurrection, ascension, and second coming.  Come Lord Jesus, come!

Oh the time will come up
When the winds will stop
And the breeze will cease to be breathin’
Like the stillness in the wind
’Fore the hurricane begins
The hour when the ship comes in

Oh the seas will split
And the ship will hit
And the sands on the shoreline will be shaking
Then the tide will sound
And the wind will pound
And the morning will be breaking

Oh the fishes will laugh
As they swim out of the path
And the seagulls they’ll be smiling
And the rocks on the sand
Will proudly stand
The hour that the ship comes in

And the words that are used
For to get the ship confused
Will not be understood as they’re spoken
For the chains of the sea
Will have busted in the night
And will be buried at the bottom of the ocean

A song will lift
As the mainsail shifts
And the boat drifts on to the shoreline
And the sun will respect
Every face on the deck
The hour that the ship comes in

Then the sands will roll
Out a carpet of gold
For your weary toes to be a-touchin’
And the ship’s wise men
Will remind you once again
That the whole wide world is watchin’

Oh the foes will rise
With the sleep still in their eyes
And they’ll jerk from their beds and think they’re dreamin’
But they’ll pinch themselves and squeal
And know that it’s for real
The hour when the ship comes in

Then they’ll raise their hands
Sayin’ we’ll meet all your demands
But we’ll shout from the bow your days are numbered
And like Pharoah’s tribe
They’ll be drownded in the tide
And like Goliath, they’ll be conquered

Copyright © 1963, 1964 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1991, 1992 by Special Rider Music

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Founders' Day Celebration - "An Early 19th Century Methodist Class Meeting"


Welcome everyone!  It looks like all ten of us are here for our weekly Methodist class meeting.  I hope you can stay after our meeting for a delicious meal.  You know what they say.  When Methodists meet, they eat!


This is a very special day for Methodists here in New Lancaster.  We are now an official Methodist Episcopal Church!  For the past thirteen years we’ve been meeting weekly as a Methodist class here at Ed Teal’s cabin.   He moved from Baltimore, Maryland all the way out here to New Lancaster back in 1799.   If it wasn’t for good ol’ Ed, maybe we wouldn’t have had  these Methodist meetings all these years.  Oh, and here’s a little word to the wise.  Even though we still can’t find those soft shell crabs here in the Ohio country, there is plenty to eat if you are a good hunter. OK. Let’s offer up three cheers for Ed Teal.

Hip-Hip-Horray!  Hip-Hip-Horray! Hip-Hip-Horray!


We all know that our Methodist class meetings wouldn’t be growing without Ed, but we also need to give some credit to last fall’s earthquake.

 (Other group members start chuckling.)

 Isn’t that right, George? Of all people, you should know.


Aw shucks, Jacob, why do you always look at me when you talk about that dern earthquake?


Because before that dern earthquake, I did everything I could think of to get you at just one of these Methodist class meetings.  I bribed you, I promise you good food.  Remember, when Methodists meet . . .

…They eat!


George, I not only bribed you and promised you good food, I even offered to swing by on my horse to pick you up.  But none of that worked.  It wasn’t until that dern earthquake that you finally got scared into religion. That’s why you started going to hear the Methodist Reverend who loves to preach out in the open here in New Lancaster.  You and hundreds of others have come to Christ because of those earthquake tremors.  And now here you are attending a Methodist class meeting every week and growing as a Christian.


Well, it wasn’t no earthquake that brought Peter and me to these meetings, Jacob.  When Ed Teal told us about that Barbara Heck lady over there in New York back in the 1760s and how she got so fed up with her family and friends gambling their money away playing cards and then got them to start having Methodist class meetings instead, why, that inspired me to want to do the same thing here in New Lancaster!  That’s why you don’t see no cards in our log cabin, right Pete?

(Peter Reber offers an unconvincing nod of approval and looks the other way hoping that the conversation topic changes quickly.)


I’m glad you mentioned Barbara Heck, Sarah.  She must have been some kind of woman to help get those Methodist classes get started here in America.  In many ways, it’s the women who have led the way in helping Methodism to grow in England and all the way over here in America.  And let’s not forget Susannah Wesley, John and Charles’ mother who started gathering people in her own home for bible study and worship back in England.  They say that so many people came that it filled their house every Sunday evenin’!

Mary Canode:

Well, just look at our group of ten here.  We have five men and five women.  How can religion make a difference if it’s just the women or if it’s only the men?  We all need to take responsibility for our faith and to help each other move on to perfection.


 Great point, Mary!  And you mentioned that Methodist word, “perfection.”  The kind of perfection where we are in total love with God and our neighbor.  That reminds me.  We aren’t here to reminisce about the past. We’re here to have our Methodist class meeting.  Every week, we meet so that we can share how we’re living out our Christian faith.  We’re here to help each other.  To encourage each other.  To pray for each other.  And to share how we’re doing with those General Rules that John Wesley encouraged us to use.  What are those General Rules again?


Do no harm.  Do good.  And stay in love with God.


(With a little good natured sarcasm.) After only meeting every single week for the past thirteen years, you already know these three General Rules by heart.  I’m impressed!

Thomas Orr’s Wife:

Well, honestly, Jacob.  These are easy to remember.  And real simple too.  Hey, maybe we should just call these the three simple rules instead.  The Reverend might even want to preach a three week sermon series on these sometime!

George Canode:

I think we need a fourth simple rule. 


What would that be, George?

George Canode:

Watch out for earthquakes! Cause me is real scared of them earthquakes!  I swear I can still feel those tremors!


I think we’ll just stick with these three simple rules, George.  Ok, who would like to start?  How about the Weavers’?  Share how you have done no harm this past week.  That’s the first simple rule.

Elizabeth Weaver:

Well, Christian and I were in a conversation with another couple here in town and they were badmouthing another couple that we know.  I mean, they were going on and on with gossip and slander. 


What did you do, Elizabeth?  That must have been an awkward situation for you both.

Elizabeth Weaver:

Well, to be honest, we don’t like the couple they were talking about too much either and we were tempted to just join in and offer some very unkind words as well.  But then I remembered that scripture in Galatians that says, “For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”  When I remembered that verse, I just knew that we shouldn’t join in the gossip. 


Very good Elizabeth.  Who knows, maybe by not joining in their gossip, they saw something different in you and Christian.  Maybe they’ll think twice the next time.  OK, does anyone want to share about something good that you did this past week that brought honor to God and where you made a positive difference?  That’s the second simple rule.  Do good.  Who would like to share?

Thomas Orr: 

Well, I’ll be happy to share, Jacob.  We have a new family that just moved into the area from Lancaster, Pennsylvania. They just keep coming and coming from that direction.  That’s a long way to travel in some beat up wagons, you know. 

This family is real nice, but they don’t have much of anything.  So, I told them that I would help build their house for them.  They couldn’t believe that I was willing to do that in my spare time.  But I told them how some of my friends had helped my wife and me out when we moved into the area and that we just wanted to offer them the same hospitality.  They even said they would make us some shoo fly ply to show their appreciation.  I just love those Pennsylvania Dutch people!  I think it was that verse from I John we talked about a while back that reminded me that I should help these folks out.  Here’s the verse.  I even memorized it. “Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another.”


Wonderful, Thomas.  Thanks for sharing.  Well, we’ve shared about the first two simple rules of doing no harm and doing good.  The third simple rule is staying in love with God.  As we all know, staying in love with God involves a lot of different things like prayer, bible reading, attending these class meetings, worship, and receiving the Lord’s Supper any chance we get.  I hope you’re all doing these things.  But I have a surprise for you!  Our circuit rider preacher, Rev. James B. Finley came to Lancaster to help us celebrate the founding day of our being an official Methodist Episcopal Church.

(Rev. James B. Finley Enters the Room)


Welcome Rev. Finley!  What a joy it is for us that you’ve traveled here to be at our class meeting today.  We’ve just been discussing the three General Rules like you’ve been encouraging us to do and maybe you can share some thoughts about the third rule and how we can stay in love with God.

Hello again to my new friends!  I’m glad that Jacob invited me today but you know I’ve not been to the New Lancaster Methodist Class meeting enough to remember all of your names and faces.  I am meeting so many new people as I travel this new Fairfield Circuit and other new Methodist Class Meetings….but I do remember Jacob and his wife but help me out this morning so I can connect names with faces….…who are the:


Thanks for coming to the Class meeting today.

What I love about the Class Meetings is how they provide an opportunity to keep learning about our Christian faith and life.  The Class meetings help keep us accountable for the way we live our lives.  You’ve probably figured this out already but to believe is one level of faith but to do is quite another level of faith.  The class meetings are to help us be aware of our life and then to share with each other how we do our faith each day.

John Wesley taught us a set of General Rules that help us do our faith each day.  You know about these General Rules:  (1) DO NO HARM, (2) DO GOOD, AND (3) STAY IN LOVE WITH GOD.

These are wonderful rules. They are rules that anyone of you can follow.  They are not hard BUT they require your practice every day. 

Men, do own a horse?  How old were you when you first rode a horse?  Did you ride your horse well the first time you mounted.  Do you ride your horse well now?  Why do you think you ride well now? 

Ladies, do you bake pies?  Do you remember the first pie you ever baked?  Was your first pie a success?  Are your pies baked better now compared to your first pie?  Why do you think you bake better pies now? 

Practice…..that is the important word.  Practice is how you learned to ride a horse and practice is how you learned to bake pies.  Practice is also important if you want to follow the teachings of Jesus.  Just because you believe in Jesus does not mean you will live like Jesus.  Believing and doing are two steps in Christian living.  Every day you must practice Christian living.

How can you practice Christian Living?  The General Rules!


Actually to STAY IN LOVE WITH GOD helps you DO NO HARM and DO GOOD.

To STAY IN LOVE WITH GOD means you will discipline your life to always be aware of God.  You will:

FIRST…PLAN TIME TO PRAY EACH DAY...maybe at the beginning of the day as you thank God for the restful sleep with new energy for the daily work and then pray again at the end of the day as you thank God for the opportunities you had to witness to others about God.

A SECOND DISCIPLINE….READ AND STUDY THE SCRIPTURE EACH DAY….Did you have some kind of map to guide your journey to New Lancaster?  Sure, you did!  Well the Bible is your map to Godly living.  Read it and learn from it.  Discuss it with others and share your thoughts about God. 

A THIRD  DISCIPLINE….WORSHIP EVERY CHANCE YOU HAVE…..Every time I come to visit you as I travel the Fairfield Circuit I want to see your faces in worship.  When I am not able to be here I want you to worship with Jacob, your Class Leader.  Worship keeps our faith alive.  Men, you can’t ride your horse forever can you?  Of course now, you need to stop so the horse can rest and eat.  It is the same with your spiritual life.  You must stop to rest and eat the spiritual food of God’s teachings at least once a week. 

A FOURTH DISCIPLINE….HONOR THE LORD’S SUPPER…Do you remember the first disciples?  After Jesus’ death and resurrection they remembered his encouragement to break bread and drink the cup AND REMEMBER HIM.  The Lord’s Supper is the sacred moment that you remember Jesus.

Well, these are a few of the ways you can STAY IN LOVE WITH GOD.  I hope you are serious enough about Jesus to continue to practice your Christian faith every day. 

Think about this.  Here we are in New Lancaster in the month of May in 1812.  You, and other Methodist Class Meetings on this frontier, as well as those back on the East Coast, are starting something important for the spiritual growth of America. Think about 100 years from now in New Lancaster in 1912 and realize that you are starting something now that will influence them  Think about 200 years from now and some Sunday in May and what the Methodist people will be doing in New Lancaster in 2012.  Can you even think that far into the future?  You are forming a spiritual future to carry the Word of God and the Spirit of Jesus to others.

My friends, the General Rules are Mighty Rules and I hope you practice them every day you live. 

I have been looking at the table in the corner that is covered with good food to eat.  Jacob has taught you well. Whenever Methodists meet…


…We eat!

Rev. Finley:
But there is something else that Methodist do well when they meet……WE SING.

Thanks to the hymns of Charles Wesley, John’s brother, we have many hymns that remind us of the powerful love of God and Jesus, our Christ.  I sing these hymns as I ride along the circuit.  One of my favorites is “O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing.”  Just think what it might be like if we had a thousand tongues to sing our great Redeemer’s praise.  Who knows, someday there might be a thousand tongues in New Lancaster to sing of God’s praise.  Before we go over to the table to eat, let’s stand and sing this wonderful hymn together…..and let’s raise the roof of this little cabin.

(Rev. Finley and the Methodist class start singing and invite our congregation so sing, “O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing”)

Lancaster First UMC Early History Video - Part I

Sunday Worship Preview - May 27

Sunday, May 27 - (9:00 & 10:30 Services) & Wednesday, May 30  (6:30 P.M. Casual Service @ Crossroads, 2095 Fair Avenue)

Sermon - "Red Hot!"

Features - Pentecost Sunday; Graduate Recognition; & Holy Baptism (11 A.M.)

Scripture - Acts 2:1-21 & John 16:4b-15

Theme - Even before the day of Pentecost and the giving of the Holy Spirit, the disciples were already willed with joy and a passionate desire to worship God.  When Pentecost came, they became even more "red hot" in their faith.  What does it mean for the church to have a "red hot" faith today?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Upcoming Sunday's Scriptures - May 20

May 20 – Bicentennial Founders’ Day Celebration & Ascension Sunday

Acts 1:1-11

·        This is an ascension day reading when Jesus ascended to be seated at the right hand of God, the Father.
·        Luke, who wrote the Gospel also wrote this book.  Another title of this book could be, “The Deeds and Teaching of King Jesus Part II.”
·        Even though Jesus only appears in the first nine verses in this book, it is all about Him!
·        Acts is similar to other books of the 1st century.  Unlike the Gospel of Mark, a quick read gospel, Luke has a more in depth audience in mind.
·        Acts is a book about the church and a book about Jesus.  The key event was the resurrection of Jesus 
·        Another key feature of this book is the presence of the Holy Spirit. 
·        The twelve disciples correspond to the twelve tribes of Israel.  Jesus is bringing Israel together through the birth of the church for the sake of the world.  The disciples want to know when the time will be fulfilled.  See Psalm 72 & 89 for this longing of the Jewish people. The answer is yes and no.  Easter inaugurated the kingdom.
·        Jesus gives the disciples a road map for how the kingdom will expand; first, Jerusalem, then Samaria, and then to the whole earth.
·        The word “earth” in the bible is referring to the whole cosmos, not just the planet earth.  A whole new cosmos is our eventual home for eternity (heaven and earth together!)
·        Jesus is lifted up (ascended) not to outer-space but to the heavenly sphere of God’s creation.  The cloud refers to the cloud in the wilderness story of the Israelites.  It’s a sign of God’s presence!  Jesus will return when heaven and earth and made one.  Jesus ascending is a parody of the ascension of the Roman emperors.  Jesus is the true king of the world. 
·        The disciples are called to pray and worship.