Mar 25, 2016

What Is the Church Good For?

Today is Good Friday—obviously an irony-laden title—but in three days we will observe Easter. Easter is the good news on which the birth of the church at Pentecost is predicated. Thus we rejoice and ponder the nature of the church which will be filled this Sunday, as it rarely is.

Luke sees conversion as a process worked out in the heart of the church. The Jerusalem community prays together (Acts 1:14, 24 25; 2:42 45; 4:32 35); it shares life (4:32), meals (Acts 2:46 47), faith (Acts 4:20), and material goods (Acts 2:44 45; 4:32 35), and it lives in an atmosphere of joy (Luke 24:52). Although there are signs of early persecution, the Twelve continue to preach the Word: “They rejoiced that they were considered worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name. And every day in the Temple and at home they did not cease to teach and proclaim Jesus as the Messiah” (Acts 5:41 42).

As we draw near to the end of Lent and the beginning of Easter, we, as United Methodists, carry on the work of Christ’s church that has gone on before us for 20+ centuries. Our prayer is that despite our disappointments in individuals within our church—either leaders or followers—we recognize that we are Christ’s people. This means we are called upon to give the best that we have and be the people Christ expects us to be. My hope is that we can all become part of a community that prays, shares, and has faith together. If we can do this, by God’s good grace, then we will indeed be a community of joy.

I look forward to a glorious Easter this Sunday at the worshipping place!

Come, Worship
Stay, Learn
Go, Serve

Mar 11, 2016

Is God Smiling during Lent?

My friend, Thomas Lane Butts, sent me this from Monroeville AL some time ago and I want to share it with you as we get nearer to Holy Week.

It is said that Robert Louis Stevenson told this story first. It really does not matter since the truth of it is there, regardless of who told it first.

A sea-faring vessel was caught in a storm off a rocky coast. The high winds and waves threatened to drive the vessel to its destruction. In the midst of the terror, one daring passenger, contrary to orders, made his way across the ship. He finally got to the pilot house. There he saw an intriguing sight: the ship’s pilot lashed to his post. Secure against the raging storm, he held the wheel fast, turning the ship, inch by inch, back out to sea. The pilot glimpsed the watching passenger and smiled. The brave passenger made his way back below deck where the other passengers huddled in fear. “Don’t be afraid,” he said, “I have seen the pilot’s face, and he smiled. We are safe.”

Life can get to be rather scary from time to time. The storms of life can frighten even the bravest. We are afraid because we do not know what turn events will take. We are not sure of the confidence of the people who are in charge. Uncertainty is the father of fear, just as anxiety is its child. In times of uncertainty we need to hear an encouraging word or see a hopeful sign!

Jesus is to the world what the brave passenger was to those other passengers who were scared out of their wits. Jesus was the bearer of good news. He came to say, “God is smiling.” No other word is necessary if we know that our creator is smiling.

John reported how Jesus actually put it in John 14. “Let not your hearts be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many available rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you, that where I am, there you may be also . . . .” Take courage, friends. All is not lost. Jesus says that God is smiling. If you can trust Jesus, all is well.

Several years ago I bought a print of a painting of Jesus. Every picture I have ever seen of Jesus portrays him with a serious or pained look on his face. The most optimistic look I had ever heretofore seen upon the face of Jesus was barely pensive. This new picture (which I love!) portrays Jesus with a broad smile on his face. It hangs in my study at home where I can see it as I work. When life gets grim and it appears the whole world is ‘going to perdition in a hand basket,’ I study the face of the smiling Jesus. It makes a difference in how we think about the ultimate outcome of things if Jesus is smiling . . . and God is smiling. They can see a turn of events in this sad world that is yet hidden from our eyes. But, if Jesus smiles and God is smiling, why in the world should I be so dismayed?

During this season of Lent when so many of us are trying to rearrange our lives to fit the spirit of Jesus in our kind of world, close your eyes and see Jesus smiling.

Come, Worship
Stay, Learn
Go, Serve

Mar 4, 2016

On Vision

Rick S. Johnson once wrote:

I live in a rapidly growing area, growing so fast that my Bishop, District Superintendent, and I have been looking for land to start a new church. As people look at barren land, what is it they see? 
A person starting a new business sees a new store with a beautiful parking lot—jammed with paying customers. Another person could see a home-site with trees, landscaping, and children playing, with a horse or two completing the vision. Church folks looking at a raw piece of land, however, envision a dynamic new congregation, where worship and Christian education help a community live the gospel. In each of the three cases, there is one common thread: all see something that is not there—yet! Each looks through the eyes of hope. They look not at what is, but rather what can be.

Are we at FUMC of Arlington capable of seeing things that are not there? Our challenge as a congregation is to be the visionaries for people in our community who need hope. If a church cannot offer people then what is it that we have to offer? This season of Lent, as we prepare for the glorious resurrection of Jesus by God’s mighty act, may we be part of the great hope that God offers Arlington—and the world.

Come, Worship
Stay, Learn
Go, Serve

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