Nov 25, 2016

Advent


Advent is one of the worship seasons of the church year. It is a time of spiritual preparation for the joy of Messiah’s birth at Christmas. Like Lent, Advent is an occasion for introspection and prayer—although our culture has made Advent indistinguishable from Christmas holidays.

Advent, at least in one significant way, celebrates and teaches believers the meaning of “why” God sends the world a Messiah. Unless we learn from God the divine purpose of creation, which is to “till and keep God’s garden,” (Genesis 2:15) then a perpetual battle for national pride, land, and natural resources persists. Yet, Isaiah’s prophetic vision of “swords into plowshares” and “spears into pruning hooks” triggers our memories, faint as they may be, regarding God’s intention at creation. God created people to live in a community based on mutual respect and peace—a community that is bent on feeding its members from the least to the greatest. Faithful stewards preserve this teaching of the Lord. The First Advent raised a promise that when the Messiah comes, God brings the divine intention for God’s people to fruition.

Washington Irving once wrote: “Great minds have purposes; others have wishes.” This insight leads to the realization that without expectancy, we lack purpose. Achievers, in particular, exhibit this attitude of expectancy. We see this attitude most forcefully in the way achievers minimize their losses. They do not grieve over failures or what might have been. Rather, achievers look around the corner in anticipation of the good things that await. All these achievers have to do is show the determination to get there. The accomplisher rejects the notion of “can’t.” 

As a result, this kind of person is able to open more doors than others, strike better deals, and attract more energetic and resourceful people to work with them. The achiever sets higher standards and gets others to help meet them. The achiever wins confidence and nurtures vitality in others. This kind of person expects to succeed. When combined with desire, expectancy produces hope—and hope makes all things possible. Living the expectant life is simply an act of good judgment.

The Apostle Paul says, “ . . . we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Romans 5:3 5).

When God arms Christians with good judgment and with hope, the world looks a lot less intimidating. Advent is the Christian season that reminds us that hope springs eternal with God. As God sends us Messiah, God also sends us the hope that does not disappoint. This is a result of God’s grace and our faithful belief in the promises of God. Why not try to practice some good ’ol fashioned hope-filled expectation this Advent as we come home to FUMC of Arlington for Christmas . . . .

Come, Worship
Stay, Learn
God, Serve

PS. Don’t forget the La Posada Family Advent Festival that will take place on the 30th of November this year at 6:00 pm in the Great Hall. Contact Rachel Patman for more information.


Nov 18, 2016

Reign of Christ Sunday


This coming Sunday we as a church will celebrate Christ the King Sunday, the last Sunday of the Church Year. Also called the Reign of Christ Sunday, this day concludes our annual worship journey that tells the story of Jesus. This Sunday bridges one worship year with another as next week—the first week of Advent—begins a new worship year of expectation and hope. As we navigate Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost, each helps the church tell Jesus’ story. For Christians, Jesus is our leader and as such, asks us to be leaders as well. We may not have kings anymore but as long as human communities exist, we will always have leaders.

We each have a degree of influence with other people—sometimes in the family, classroom, or neighborhood. Yet, not everyone knows how to employ influence. Thus, the better we understand our God-given influence, then the better we can use it for good. To be a leader, disciple, or follower of Jesus is to employ our influence to further the aims revealed in God’s realm or kingdom. This realm signifies for Jesus God’s intention for creation.

So, the better we understand our leadership influence, the better we understand the why and how of our leadership gift. Disciples are, in fact, stewards of the leadership talents that God has entrusted to us. When God endows a disciple as a leader with spiritual influence, then God expects such persons to use them to build up the realm of God.

Every person has a gift (or gifts) to offer God’s Realm. The chief task of leadership is to aid members of Christ’s church to identify their talents, nurture these talents, and then set these disciples loose on the world. If this can be done in systematic ways, the gifts that our local church can offer our community and the world would be indescribable.

“Follow the Leader” simply means to follow Jesus, become a leader, and let Jesus model that leadership for all of us.

Come, Worship
Stay, Learn
God, Serve

Nov 11, 2016

Veterans Day


Today is Veterans Day and so I want to share something that should give us pause to be both grateful and mindful of what our nation’s soldiers—men and women—have done to make our freedom possible.

It is the VETERAN, not the preacher, who has given us freedom of religion.
It is the VETERAN, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press.
It is the VETERAN, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech.
It is the VETERAN, not the campus organizer, who has given us freedom to assemble.
It is the VETERAN, not the lawyer, who has given us the right to a fair trial.
It is the VETERAN, not the politician, who has given us the right to vote.

We salute all the men and women, dead or alive, wounded or well, who have served our country in the name and spirit of freedom and truth. We owe them a debt that money cannot pay, and which words cannot describe. It is not a matter of which war in which they served or during which years of peace they stood ready to protect and defend the citizens of this country. There have been big wars and little wars, but no war is little to the soldier who risks his/her life for our country. And, no death is diminished by the size or length of the engagement in which a brave soldier dies.

We salute, honor, and offer our thanks to every soldier who has served this country, from the Revolutionary War, which made us a nation, to the present war against terrorism being waged in Afghanistan, Iraq, and around the world.



Come, Worship
Stay, Learn
God, Serve

Nov 4, 2016

All Saints Sunday


Our Christian Faith teaches that life is not over when we die. There is a special day in the Christian Calendar called All Saints Day (which in fact falls on November 1 but we will celebrate on Sunday the 6th). On that day, we profess our faith in an on-going relationship between those who have died and we who are living. We are touched when we remember friends and loved ones who have outrun us to heaven, but the concept of the “Communion of Saints” (Apostles’ Creed) suggests that there is an on-going spiritual relationship between those who are dead and those who are living. Just as we believe that Jesus, who was dead and is now alive continues to touch our lives, so we believe that our friends and loved ones who have died are now alive and continue to touch our lives. Many find great comfort in that idea. I know I do.

The Bible clearly reminds us that those who have rounded the bend of the river of life that we call death are “balcony people” for us in our continuing struggle in this life (Hebrews 12:1-2). It is not just Jesus who is the “pioneer and perfecter of our faith,” there is a whole cloud of witnesses, who having kept the faith now cheer for us as we struggle to keep it too. There are some days and some ways in which we sense this to be true. “Death ends a life, but it does not end a relationship.”

Consider yet another aspect of this idea. We tend to think that when someone dies, that for all practical purposes it is all over. You may be surprised to learn that this is not true. When people with whom we have unfinished business die, death does not finish that business. I do not know how a broken relationship affects the dead, but I do know that it continues to affect the living. I have been dealing with this concept for more than four decades. It is much more difficult to settle a broken relationship with someone who is dead than with someone who is alive. I have seen people go through years of agony and therapy because a parent or child or friend died before an important broken relationship was settled.

“Death ends a life, but it does not end a relationship. The relationship struggles toward resolution in the survivor’s mind, but no resolution is found.” Wrap your mind around that idea and see where it takes you.

Come worship with us Sunday as we remember those who have graduated to heaven.

Come, Worship
Stay, Learn
Go, Serve


PS: Don’t forget that Daylight Saving Time ends this Sunday, November 6!

Image: "All-Saints" 15th century. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

 
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