“Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. [NRSV]
He Gave His Life
Through this very familiar passage we find the treasure of assurance of God’s Love and Sacrifice and our Purpose and Salvation
Honoring those who have given their life for country, church, faith and…
More that Remembering
Just as we honor and remember those who have died this Memorial Day, it is essential not only to recognize the loss of some family’s know more closely than others, but we also look at the greater good that comes when someone sacrifices for the rest of us.
This is not to be taking as lightly as we do.
In remembering what God has done for us through Jesus’s death and resurrection we acknowledge the love and sacrifice, but we also claim the greater good that comes through this service for us.
More than Memorial
Just as those who gave their life of our country and communities, they did not serve to get credit or fame or just to be remembered. They did it for duty, love, respect, trust and to save those who them they love and nation that is our home.
Jesus didn’t died to be remembered only. His death was a sacrificial death. God trades the value and meaning and purpose of his Child’s life for ours.
Not only do we honor with words and songs and memories on an annual day of remembering, we honor their service by living on in their stead.
Likewise, God service and sacrifice being the greatest gift for us, is not simply to impress or to give a reason for honoring and worshiping God, it is so that we will live on in the place of Christ
The Body of Christ
This is the trade. We live because of the life of others. Graduates give thanks to the parents, grands, teachers, friends and mentors that guided them toward graduation. The students steps that follow graduation is to do something with the next part of their life that is fruit of the labor and seed of new life.
We, the church, are being tested. The exam is this:
- Are we living as Christ or simply remembering the past traditions?
- Are we honoring the memory of Christ, or are we sharing the living Christ with a suffering and broken world?
- Are we honoring the idea of a loving God, but looking for every way to tear down our enemies?
- Is God’s sacrifice and love being lived out in our words and witness?
We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. [NRSV]
The Whole Creation is Groaning
Labor Pains, Growing Pains, vs Aches and Pains
School shoots, political thrashing, volcano eruptions, threats nations and neighbors. It is obvious in 360* view that someone, somewhere is groaning, complaining, fearful, and under attack. It is overwhelming!
Where do we turn? Where is our solid ground? Where is our safety net? Who can save us?
Where is our Hope?
God is our hope and we most often experience God the the Spirit form. We talk more about God and Jesus, but the Spirit moving, speaking, singing, directing and guiding us is our most common experience of God in our lives.
Remind your neighbor. God’s Holy Spirit is in me. “I’ve Got Spirit, Yes I do, I’ve Got Spirit, how about you?”
This Sunday is Pentecost Sunday. It is a special day in the life in of Church we celebrate being people of the Holy Spirit.
Pente-cost: We celebrate this Sunday, fifty days since Easter, as a looking back in the grief, lostness and chaos of life without Jesus by our physical side, to see that the world continues to spare chaos and God is about creating order, purpose and relationship.
In our Weakness
Paul instructs us and the church in Rome:
- While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. And while we are afraid, God is Strong.
- When we are doubting God is holding fast. When we are confused, God is the foundation.
- When we are beaten down, weary and give out, God knows our hearts and intercedes..
When we are in the painful place of uncertainty: and we are even as a global church, The Holy Spirit is calling us to the heart of God, to the Word of God and to the be the people of God for a world in chaos.
God intercedes for Us
The Good News is the God is expecting us to do the trusting and God do the leading. Our trusting we call HOPE>
- Hope is trusting what we cannot explain nor understand
- Hope is trusting God, when there are alternatives to place our trust.
- Hope is leaning in, depending on God to be God and for us to follow,
- Hope is not protecting what we have dominion and control over, it is give God what we think of as our own and trusting God to use all that we are.
Trust God (Hope) to Show up through the Holy Spirit.
When you hear the voice of crazy-making: Call for God to speak words of peace
When you have no words, let God speak through your ‘sighs’ and ‘groans’ let me hear you sigh and groan. You’re good at it. Sometime we need to not speak and turn to God’s word to speak for us.
Before we join in another chorus of complaining and blaming, sing two verses of trusting God to speak through you. Don’t add to the world’s blaming and complaining..
Share God’s words and wisdom of hope, faith, trust, power, and grace.
Have you ever had an attorney speak for you… they will help keep you out of trouble when you want to speak for yourself. Attorney’s get a bad wrap, but in times of chaos they help guide us through the law, speaking in our best interest, this is how Paul reminds us to trust the Holy Spirit.
Stop fussing, don’t fear, stop pointing fingers and assigning blame, turn to the Holy Spirit and God’s word to guide us.
Fight the urge to be correct, to be justified in the moment, to win the argument, to take offense at a post on social media, to label and objectify a person or group…. Lean into the trust/hope that God is longing to speak through us.
Hear the Bad News:
The world is in chaos, because we have placed our hope in other voice.
Hear the Good News:
God continues to love us and call us to hope/trust through the labor, through the chaos, God is with us. Listen to God, Follow God, Hope for God, live for God.
I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you, and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one.They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth. [NRSV]
The entering into and committing oneself to a continuing relationship. Christians see themselves as a people of a covenant with God. The New Testament or “New Covenant” is that covenant of the saving work of Jesus Christ through the grace of God and the response Christians make in their profession of faith and baptism. This understanding of covenant has been important throughout the life of United Methodism.
Source: A Dictionary for United Methodists, Alan K. Waltz, Copyright 1991, Abingdon Press. http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/glossary-covenant
¶ 125. United Methodists throughout the world are bound together in a connectional covenant in which we support and hold each other accountable for faithful discipleship and mission. Integrally holding connectional unity and local freedom, we seek to proclaim and embody the gospel in ways responsible to our specific cultural and social context while maintaining “a vital web of interactive relationships” (¶ 132). At the same time, we desire to affirm and celebrate our relationships, covenants, and partnership with autonomous, affiliated autonomous, affiliated united covenanting, and concordat churches (¶¶ 570-574) as well as other partners in the Wesleyan and ecumenical Christian families. Our worldwide connectional relationship is one of the ways we carry out our missional calling beyond national and regional boundaries. For our connectionalism to become a living practice, we need to carry the worldwide nature of The United Methodist Church deep into the life and mission of our local congregations. Only when we commit ourselves to interdependent worldwide partnerships in prayer, mission, and worship can connectionalism as the Wesleyan ecclesial vision be fully embodied. Guided by the Holy Spirit, United Methodist churches throughout the world are called afresh into a covenant of mutual commitment based on shared mission, equity, and hospitality.
In covenant with God and with each other:
We affirm our unity in Christ, and take faithful steps to live more fully into what it means to be a worldwide church in mission for the transformation of the world.
We commit ourselves to crossing boundaries of language, culture, and social or economic status. We commit ourselves to be in ministry with all people, as we, in faithfulness to the gospel, seek to grow in mutual love and trust.
We participate in God’s mission as partners in ministry, recognizing that our God-given gifts, experiences, and resources are of equal value, whether spiritual, financial, or missional.
We commit ourselves to full equity and accountability in our relationships, structures, and responsibilities for the denomination.
We enter afresh into a relationship of mutuality, creating a new sense of community and joyously living out our worldwide connection in our mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
A Companion Litany to Our Covenant for the Worldwide United Methodist Church
Leader: In covenant with God and each other, we affirm our unity in Christ.
People: We will take faithful steps to live as a worldwide church in our mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
Leader: In covenant with God and each other, we commit ourselves to be in ministry with all people.
People: In faithfulness to the gospel, we will cross boundaries of language, culture, social or economic status as we grow in mutual love and trust.
Leader: In covenant with God and each other, we participate in God’s mission as partners in ministry.
People: We share our God-given gifts, experiences, and resources recognizing that they are of equal value, whether spiritual, financial, or missional.
Leader: In covenant with God and each other, we commit ourselves to full equality.
People: We uphold equity and accountability in our relationships, structures, and responsibilities for the denomination.
Leader: In covenant with God and each other, we enter afresh into a relationship of mutuality.
People: With God’s grace, we joyfully live out our worldwide connection in our mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
From The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church – 2016. Copyright 2016 by The United Methodist Publishing House. http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/section-1-the-churches
Wesleyan Covenant Groups
WESLEYAN SMALL GROUP RESOURCES
• Books on the Class Meeting
• Covenant Discipleship resources
• Overview of Covenant Discipleship
• Introduction to Class Leaders
• In Mission Together
• Books on Wesleyan community
• Books and studies on discipleship
John Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement, succinctly described the plan of discipleship in what he called The General Rules. As Christians, we are to (1) do no harm by avoiding evil of every kind; (2) do good to all people; and (3) attend upon all the ordinances of God like participating in worship, taking Communion, reading the Bible, praying, and more.
Unfortunately, knowing that does not always translate into living it. Learn more about how Wesley’s concept of small groups as a place for accountability and spiritual growth have been adapted for today.
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the parent loves the child. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith. Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? This is the one who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not with the water only but with the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one that testifies, for the Spirit is the truth. [NRSV]
- When were you baptized? By whom? At what age were you baptized?
- What is the Spirit saying to the world through you as a baptized person in Christ?
- If you have not been baptized would you like to talk with John about Baptism?
Late summer in 1964, my parents handed me over to some old white-headed preacher in South Georgia, who I think was the District Superintendent at the time, who baptized me. The pastor asked my parents, my family, and the congregation gathered at the church to reaffirm their faith, to join in the promise to raise me in the faith. I believe I was less than three months old, but I don’t remember the details first hand. But I remember thirteen years later confirming that infant baptism. And in the past forty years have been lived on the roller coast of trust and doubt, obedience and sin, all grounded in life in Jesus Christ.
The water of salvation and the sacrificial blood of love have paved this ride. In the letter of first John there is in Chapter 5, the confirmation that belief in Jesus Christ is an ongoing choice of
- Baptism as Incorporation into the Body of Christ.
- Baptism as Forgiveness of Sin.
- Baptism as New Life.
- Baptism and Holy Living.
- Baptism is the doorway to the sanctified life.
- Baptism as God’s Gift to Persons of Any Age.
- Baptism is appropriate for any day the community of faith is gathered.
Baptism by Water and the Holy Spirit.
Water is the cleansing from the fate of sin and death, the blood is that sacrifice in grace through Christ the we become part of the presence of Christ in the world, empowered and guided by the Holy Spirit.
“I am the church, you are the church, we are the church together…
” The Church is the people of Christ. [UM Book of Hymns #475]
- Stories of the Believers:
- Witness of the Believers”
From the UMC.org site below:
Who tells you who you are?
We receive our identity from others, from the expectations of friends and colleagues, from the labels society puts upon us, and from the influence of family.
To become Christian is to receive a new identity. You no longer allow others to tell you who you are. Christ now claims you and instructs you. A Christian is one who has “put on Christ.”
Baptism celebrates becoming that new person. That is why the church’s ritual begins with putting off the old, renouncing sin and the evil powers of the world, and pledging our loyalty to Christ.
God Initiates the Covenant
We also believe that in baptism God initiates a covenant with us, announced with the words, “The Holy Spirit works within you, that being born through water and the Spirit, you may be a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ.” This is followed by the sign-act of laying hands on the head, or the signing of the cross on the forehead with oil. The word covenant is a biblical word describing God’s initiative in choosing Israel to be a people with a special mission in the world, and Israel’s response in a life of faithfulness. The baptismal covenant calls us to a similar vocation.
God Has Chosen Us
Christians have also understood the baptismal covenant in light of Jesus’ baptism. At Jesus’ baptism, God said: “This is my son.” While Jesus’ relation to God as Son is unique, for Christians baptism means that God has also chosen us as daughters and sons, and knows us intimately as a parent.
So the most important things about us, our true identity, is that we are now sons and daughters of God. That is why the introduction to the United Methodist Baptismal Covenant states, “We are incorporated into God’s mighty acts of salvation and given new birth through water and the Spirit.”
The introduction also says, “Through the Sacrament of Baptism, we are initiated into Christ’s holy church.”
Baptism Is the Door
From the beginning, baptism has been the door through which one enters the church. It was inconceivable to many that one could respond to God’s grace by reciting the renunciations, affirming one’s faith in Christ and loyalty to the Kingdom, without joining the fellowship of those who are committed to mature in that faith. As the “Body of Christ” in the world, baptism commissions us to use our gifts to strengthen the church and to transform the world.
Why Baptize Babies?
From the earliest times, children and infants were baptized and included in the church. As scriptural authority for this ancient tradition, some scholars cite Jesus’ words, “Let the little children come to me…for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs” (Mark 10:14). However, a more consistent argument is that baptism, as a means of grace, signifies God’s initiative in the process of salvation. John Wesley preached “prevenient grace,” the grace that works in our lives before we are aware of it, bringing us to faith. The baptism of children and their inclusion in the church before they can respond with their own confirmation of faith is a vivid and compelling witness to prevenient grace.
Baptism Is Forever
Because baptism is a sacrament of God’s grace and a covenant that God has initiated, it should not be repeated. However, God’s continuing and patient forgiveness, God’s prevenient grace, will prompt us to renew the commitment first made at our baptism. At such a time, instead of rebaptism, The United Methodist Church offers the ritual for the reaffirmation of baptismal vows, which implies that, while God remains faithful to God’s half of the covenant, we are not always faithful to our promises. Our half of the covenant is to confess Christ as our Savior, trust in his grace, serve him as Lord in the church, and carry out his mission against evil, injustice, and oppression.
Baptism Is the Beginning, Not the End
You have heard people say, “I was baptized Methodist,” or “I was baptized Presbyterian,” which could mean that in baptism they got their identity papers and that was the end of it. But baptism is not the end. It is the beginning of a lifelong journey of faith. It makes no difference whether you were baptized as an adult or as a child; we all start on that journey at baptism. For the child, the journey begins in the nurturing community of the church, where he or she learns what it means that God loves you. At the appropriate time, the child will make his or her first confession of faith in the ritual the church traditionally calls confirmation. Most often, this is at adolescence or at the time when the person begins to take responsibility for his or her own decisions.
If you experienced God’s grace and were baptized as an adult or received baptism as a child and desire to reaffirm your baptismal vows, baptism still marks the beginning of a journey in the nurturing fellowship of the caring, learning, worshipping, serving congregation.
What Is a Sacrament?
The word sacrament is the Latin translation of the Greek word mysterion. From the early days of the church, baptism was associated with the mystery that surrounds God’s action in our lives. That means that at best our words can only circumscribe what happens, but not define it. We cannot rationally explain why God would love us “while we were yet sinners” and give his only begotten Son that we should not perish but have eternal life. That is the most sacred and unfathomable mystery of all. We can experience God’s grace at any time and in any place, but in the sacrament of baptism we routinely experience that amazing grace.