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“Blessed Are the Meek”

hand holding earthLast week we started this sermon series entitled “Blessed: Wisdom from the Beatitudes of Jesus.” We talked about those who are poor in spirit long for God, and those who mourn are those who can’t wait for the kingdom of God to come to fruition. We talked about the glimpses of the kingdom of God that we have seen through those in Virginia helping workers who have been furloughed.

This Sunday we continue our second week in our “Blessed” sermon series on the beatitudes where we will study the second beatitude: “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5: 5).

When we think of being meek, we must realize that most of us have spent most of our lives hoping that no one would call us meek. Meek in the eyes of our society is someone who is shy, quiet, or awkward. Someone who must be drawn out of their shell. Someone who gets picked last for kickball, the person who never wanted to be called on during class. In adulthood we see meekness appear in adults who appear uncertain of themselves, in those who miss promotions because they will not go after them. We have been taught to view meekness as a negative attribute in our society, and yet here in these words of Jesus, we see that being meek is an attribute of God.

You see meekness as it is defined in the Bible is something that requires great spiritual strength. People who are meek care more about what God thinks than what other people think. John Piper describes it this way: “Meekness is the power to absorb adversity and criticism without lashing back.”[i] We all should strive to be meeker as we once again recognize the God in whose image we are made.

Jesus Christ was someone who was meek. Many people thought that this promised king would come into the world like a warrior, a military hero, someone fully clad in armor who would save the people and conquer the world through war.

Jesus’ entrance into the world made him vulnerable. He was born in a meager stable because there was no room for him in the inn. He spent the first part of his ministry alone in the wilderness for 40 days being spiritually formed to do his ministry. He did not enter Jerusalem on a steed, he entered on a lowly donkey. He did not hang out with the popular kids and strategic political leaders in order to rise to power. He modeled a ministry of servant leadership where the lowly were exalted.

Come this Sunday and hear more about how we can embody meekness as we practice our faith.

Prayer: Lifter of the lowly, help us to embody the beatitude of meekness. Help us to listen so that other may speak, help us to stop so that others may step up, help us to choose our words carefully when others treat us badly. Help us to model the meekness of Jesus who broke down boundaries and served all of your people. In the name of Jesus Christ we pray. Amen. 

Endnotes

[i] https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/blessed-are-the-meek

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“Blessed are the Poor in Spirit and Those Who Mourn”

Lately I have had many conversations with my three-year-old son about watching his attitude. I am not sure if he knows what this means yet, but it is something I am hoping desperately he learns and soon. You see our attitudes say a lot about who we are. They reflect the inner workings of our hearts. When we have a good attitude, it seems like we are more productive, we are more kind, we are more compassionate, we are more attune to the presence of God working in the world. When we possess a good attitude, we are more able to see the needs of our brothers and sisters in Christ.

When we have a bad attitude, life seems to become all about us, what we have and what we do not have. All throughout the Old Testament book of Exodus we see the Israelites had a bad attitude. They complained about leaving and being out in the wilderness. They tried to take more manna than they needed. They cared only about their instant gratification.

It is so easy to fall into this trap, into this type of negativity and as we all know “misery loves company.” So, this year I have a challenge for you, when you find yourself being negative, ask yourself the reason for your negativity and then try to change your attitude. You may just positively affect the lives of other people and even change your outlook on life all for the glory of God.

As we start our beatitudes sermon series this Sunday called “Blessed: Wisdom from the Beatitudes of Jesus” we must first understand what a beatitude is. Commentary tells us that the word “beatitude” comes from the Latin beatitudo, meaning “blessedness.”[i] In Matthew 5, Jesus pronounces blessings upon the people of God for possessing divine characteristics. In other words, as Marlin Harris describes it “The Beatitudes are God’s beauty in us…it is how God wants [God’s] attitude to be in us.”[ii]

All throughout his ministry, Jesus showed that the people closest to God were the poor and those who were humble. Time and time again Jesus shared parables about those who were poor and uplifted them. For instance, the widow’s mite, also when Jesus told the rich young man that he could not follow him until he gave away all his earthly possessions. The disciples immediately left their lives and followed Christ. There is really something to this. What Christ was trying to show us is that we should always be wanting for God and seeking God.

Psalm 42:1-2 describes it this way: As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.”

I hope you will come this Sunday (weather pending) and celebrate the gifts of the beatitudes and also take the opportunity to remember you baptism and be thankful.

Prayer: Almighty God, help us to always long for you. Keep teaching us that discipleship is a journey and not a destination. Help us to identify with those who are poor in spirit and wear that identification proudly. Help us also to identity with those who mourn that the kingdom of God has not yet come to fruition. Today we mourn as we wait for your coming kingdom. We mourn for starving children everywhere. We mourn that seven days into the new year there have already been seven homicides in D.C..[i] We mourn that now more people die every year from opioid overdoses than car accidents.[ii] We mourn that a seven-year-old girl named Jakelin Caal, died while she was being held at the border and we mourn that adults and children are living in tent cities in the dessert, many who have been separated from their families. We mourn that our country is divided, and we mourn that our church, The United Methodist Church is divided in our understanding on homosexuality.

We have much to mourn as we witness all the hurt and trauma people are experiencing in our world. Help us to mourn alongside those who have experienced the effects of injustice and oppression, because these are the very forces of wickedness we renounce when we profess our faith and enter this covenant with you.

Even in our mourning, give us hope as we cling to the words from your Scripture in Revelations 21:4: that when Christ returns: “Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.” Help us to cling to the promise of hope as we touch the baptismal waters this day and we make take on the call to bring the kingdom of God on earth through embodying the ministry of Jesus Christ. Amen. 

Endnotes for prayer

[i] https://wjla.com/news/crime/police-7-killed-dc-2019

[ii] https://www.healthline.com/health-news/deaths-from-opioid-overdoses-higher-than-car-accident-fatalities#1

Endnotes for blog

[i] https://www.thoughtco.com/what-are-the-beatitudes-701505

[ii] Marlin J. Harris. “The Beatitudes Bible Study: Group Leader Guide.” WestBow Press: Bloomington, IN. 2006. P. 1.

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“Baptized in the Spirit”

dean baptism 3.13.16
Dean’s baptism at Culpeper UMC on March 13, 2016

I will never forget my son’s baptism Sunday. Dean was 3 1/2 months old and I had entrusted his care and arrival to my family since I had to be at church early that day. I had prepared for this moment. Nelson had chosen the baptismal outfit, it had been laid out and ready to go, my mother-in-law had given me the shoes that Nelson wore at his baptism and I had tried them on Dean’s feet the week before and they fit perfectly. I had made sure that Dean got a good night’s sleep and had packed his bag full of milk and snacks and toys for the possibility that he would get fussy in church.

To my delight, my family arrived on time, but to my dismay Dean was not wearing Nelson’s baptismal shoes, but some ratty brown socks with stars on them. It was obvious I was not a fan of this wardrobe selection, and when I asked Nelson what happened he told me that Dean’s feet were too big for the shoes. So we just went ahead and took his socks off and he was baptized with bare feet.

Looking back now, maybe the socks were more fitting than I realized. After all last week we talk about the light of the star on Epiphany Sunday, and that Jesus Christ is the light that came into the world to offer us hope and everlasting life.

Overall, Dean was remarkably well behaved and did not even cry as he was baptized by me and the other two pastors at Culpeper UMC. It was such an emotional moment for me as I walked him around the church and saw love on the faces of so many people in the congregation. I could tell they already loved my child and they wanted to nurture him in his faith.

This coming Sunday, we celebrate the baptism of Jesus Christ and remember our own baptisms and give thanks to God. We will have a special moment in worship where we remember our baptisms and are thankful. I hope to see you there!

Prayer: Life-giving God, we take this opportunity to say thank you. Thank you for your presence in our lives. Thank you for showing us that there are signs of new life all around us as we see the workings of your Holy Spirit. Help us to be ever attentive to the ways in which the Holy Spirit is work in our lives. In the name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen. 

star socks

Apparently the infamous brown star socks were a favorite of Nelson’s because Dean also showed up for worship on Mother’s Day that same year wearing them.

“Looking for Christ”

 

Nativity Star and Magi Silhouette

There is something fascinating about light isn’t there? Even at a young age most children love their night-lights or animals that project light on the ceiling. For Christmas we bought Dean a fancy night light display and he absolutely loves it. He will not go to sleep without it.

On Christmas Eve, we all love holding our candles and singing “Silent Night.” On Christmas we all love to go and see the many different displays of Christmas lights. When I was in Richmond with my family, we went to see two of the houses on the tacky lights tour and they were amazing!

God our Creator, created us to be attracted to light, because after all, Jesus Christ is the light of the world. This is not the first time God has spoken to us and saved us through light. Since the beginning of the Bible, God has shown up as light. God appeared to Moses in a burning bush, God led the Israelites by a pillar of fire through the night so that they could escape oppression and find new life.

So, it is fitting that the light of a star is the light that points to the Christ child. In Matthew 2:1-12 we hear the story of the magi who followed the star to come and visit Jesus. Now if we read this Scripture closely it disrupts our perfect nativity scene where the three kings are at the manger with Jesus, and the shepherds and the animals.

In fact, the magi are not kings, but “sages or astrologers” and they arrived two years after Jesus was born.[i] At that time, they had been watching the sky for a sign that the prophecy of a Messiah had been fulfilled. When they saw the star, they knew this was it.

As we celebrate the Epiphany this Sunday, the revelation of Jesus Christ to the magi, it is a beautiful time for us to recommit our lives to God. John Wesley, the founder of our denomination, did something special at the beginning of every year to help all Methodists recommit their lives to Christ. He led what was called a “Covenant Service or Watch Night Service” usually on New Year’s Day.[ii] The purpose of the service “focused in the Covenant Prayer, which requires a person to commit themselves to God.” [iii]

So may we all recommit our lives to God at the beginning of this new year with this beautiful prayer:

“I am no longer my own, but yours. Put me to what you will, place me with whom you will. Put me to doing, put me to suffering. Let me be put to work for you or set aside for you, praised for you or criticized for you. Let me be full, let me be empty. Let me have all things, let me have nothing. I freely and fully surrender all things to your glory and service. And now, O wonderful and holy God, Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer, you are mine, and I am yours. So be it. And the covenant which I have made on earth, let it also be made in heaven. Amen.”

References
[i] http://www.umc.org/news-and-media/what-was-the-star-of-bethlehem

[ii] https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/covenant-renewal-service

[iii] Ibid.

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“Blessed to Serve”

 

Advent Candles Christian Cliparts

For the past three weeks we have been journeying with Ebeneezer Scrooge as he has met the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future through studying the book “The Redemption of Scrooge” by Matt Rawle.                                                                           

When we met Scrooge at the beginning of the study he was a stealer of joy, a miser, a party pooper, and absolutely miserable. He was annoyed by the joy of others and could not understand the meaning of Christmas.

Today we meet Scrooge on a different day. Today we meet him on Christmas morning where he has been given a second chance.

There is something about Christmas where redemption is in the air. Scrooge was redeemed that Christmas morning where he found reconciliation with his nephew Fred by joining him for dinner. His redemption shone through the generosity he bestowed to others including buying the largest turkey to bring to the Cratchit’s.

I think it is in our human condition to root for the underdog. We want people to succeed who in our world’s view have little ability to do so. We love movies like “Rudy,” “The Blind Side,” and “Mighty Ducks” where the heroes find redemption through their own hard work and the support of others.

The Bible is filled with stories about underdogs who with God’s help do mighty things. David killed the giant Goliath. Gideon defeated an army of Midianites of which he was severely outnumbered. Noah built an arc. The disciples were given the power to heal other people.

In this day and age, I believe that it is us Christians who are charged to find redemption, not only within our relationship with God, but in our role to the world.

We cannot find redemption and salvation on our own, but through Christ who died for our sins and was raised from the dead so that we could be saved. This is our redemption through Christ.

This is why I love the Christmas story. It points us toward redemption to so many facets of the world. I hope you can come this fourth Sunday of Advent and hear about the peace that Christ is offering to us and how we are blessed to serve as agents of peace.

Prayer: Prince of peace, we thank you for stilling the storms of our lives. We thank you for giving us so many examples of people in the Bible who lived your ministry of peace. Help us also be peacemakers in the world so that you may be know. In the name of Jesus Christ, we pray.  Amen. 

“Rejoice in Joy”

Advent Christmas Clipart

Some of my earliest Christmas memories include holding a burning candle and singing “Joy to the World.” At my home church on Christmas Eve, we end the service by singing “Silent Night” and all the lights are turned out. Then on the last verse everyone, following the pastor’s direction, raises their candle high into the sky on the last verse. There are no words that can describe a moment like this…just pure awe and joy.

Then all of the sudden after a brief pause, the lights come on and we sing a hearty and happy “Joy to the World.” This is one of my favorite things I experience at my home church.

On this third Sunday in Advent, we take a moment to stop in the busyness of our lives and receive Christ, our joy. This is what the tradition of the pink candle is all about: to take one week out of the four weeks of Advent and rejoice!

This Sunday we will take a close look, at Mary, the mother of Jesus, who was the first to experience the joy of Christ. I hope to see you at church!

Prayer: Almighty God, we thank you that you make joy available to us at all times and all places through our faith in Jesus Christ. Like Mary, help us to embrace the joy that is bestowed upon us through the new life we encounter all around us. Help us to share joy with others, especially this season of Advent. In the name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen. 

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“Prepared to Remember”

Christmas Wreath Clipart

This past week I bought my son the book “The Night Before Christmas.” It starts: “Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring not even a mouse…” We know this story, and some of us may know all the words. How many of you had this book read to you when you were a child? During this season of Christmas we are called to remember. We turn on the radio and remember (well most of the words) to the Christmas carols that come on. We remember loved ones as we hang ornaments on the tree, but most importantly we remember the story of the Christ- child.

This past week in Bible study, we shared stories of our earliest Christmas memories and we all we able to share, in great detail, some of our earliest memories of Christmas. There is something powerful that happens when we remember isn’t there? In our time of remembering we honor the past, we apply what we have learned to the present, and we look towards the future with hope.

On this second week of Advent, we will light the candle of love, and are called to remember the greatest love story ever written about: the gift of Jesus Christ.

I hope you will come and celebrate the second week of Advent this Sunday!

Prayer: God, you are the true embodiment of love. Thank you for giving us the most amazing gift of love, in Jesus Christ. Help us to once again prepare to receive this amazing gift into our lives. Help us also prepare again to remember our own stories, and our own callings. Help us to not be afraid to share the ways in which we have experienced your love with others. In the name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen. 

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