"Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on a rock." (Matt: 7:24)
“What a time to be called to be Christ’s Church,” a friend of mine said to me. We were talking about our world and the challenges that we are facing. There are those facing devastation from volcanos, hurricanes, and floods. There are those facing violence, shootings, prejudice, racism, and bigotry. There are many facing poverty and need. As we face these times, many have become so polarized we cannot respond together. These are challenging times, no doubt.
Yet, our conversation that day was hopeful. “What a time to be called to be Christ’s Church” reminded us that it is in the midst of times like these, the church has the most powerful opportunity to shine and show the world who we are and what Christ is all about.
I was thinking of 9/11 when the World Trade Center fell. How fearful and devastating a time that was in our country. Yet, I remember how First United Methodist Church in NYC became a place of refuge and hope in the midst of the pain. Many of you may remember the huge poster placed in Times Square, “The People of the United Methodist Church are praying for you.” We were not just praying with our words, we were praying with our lives. Many of my friends went to NYC to support the workers. Many of our churches sent water and other supplies. I remember my brother on our visit at Christmas that year asking me, “Is that your church?” “Yes.” The world came to know that we were Christians, by our love.
Jesus in the quote above had just finished the “Sermon on the Mount” and was reminding all who heard him that faithfulness is more than just saying words. It’s a way of life that provides a foundation to not only weather the storms, but actually bring new life out of them.
This month in worship I will be exploring the Vision Statement that MUM has been using for over 10 years. “Serve God, Share Love, Change Lives” has been our foundation statement. What blessings can it bring to us today as we seek to follow Christ? Come, let us explore that together!
“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?” (Psalm 8: 3-4)
Out at the Park Service, I was struck by the beauty of all that was around me. Trees, birds, people walking their dogs, sounds of baseball being played, clouds, and the warmth of the sun. I was also struck by the suffering outside that environment as we prayed: for those in our world, our community and our congregation. In the mist of it all was a group of people singing praise and lifting prayers.
Life has both light and darkness, good and evil, healing and brokenness. In the midst of it all were those who were really aware; that life is more than the surface things. As I took each breath I felt my “heart strangely warmed” and my soul lifted. What came to mind was a note that we used to have in our pews in the church where I grew up. It said:
“Life is for living. God planned it that way. Anything else would be indifference and indifference is always death.”
Live! Look at the wonders in life. Jesus said, “Eyes have you but you see not.”
Live! Look deeper than nature’s miracles on the surface of life. Look for the wonders of love and God within others. See the invisible as well as the visible. “Surely I should have fainted unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord.”
Live! Praise God! Jesus said, “Praise God for what God has done for you.”
Live! Let gratitude be more than an emotion. Make it a generating force of action in your life!
There were days when I was growing up when I needed to be reminded of that. I think I was reminded at the Park Service that there are days when I still need to be reminded. Let’s remember. Let us honor God! Let us Live!
“… Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)
Now that I am older, it seems that I don’t get as much recreation as I should. At least that’s what my doctor (and my body) tells me. That’s why I look forward to summer, because I think of recreation, rest and fun! I think that goes back to my school days when at least for a couple of months the “school work” stopped and we had time to rest and play. Even now, when I no longer have “summers off” (haven’t for over 35 years) my mind and soul still shift into another gear and I seek “recreation.”
I think that shift is a good thing; for me, for you, and for the whole faith community. As I thought about recreation, the quote from Isaiah above came to me. You and I can count on the fact that the God who created us in the first place continues to re-create us anew each moment. The question is will we be open and responsive to God’s healing touch. God doesn’t force this re-creation upon us. It’s a choice we make.
Take a look at the word itself: re-creation. Creation is God’s gift. It is a time to rest and to be revived. Re-creation is essential. Our minds and bodies are not metal machines. Without the rest we need, we burn out. We are more prone to injuries, sickness and even death. Spiritually, our tiredness leads us down reactive roads where we have neither time nor energy to listen and respond to God’s call faithfully. That’s why God doesn’t recommend a “Sabbath”; it's a commandment.
Re-creation is important SPIRITUALLY as well as physically. Unfortunately, the summer months are often the time when we choose to “rest” from worship. Yet, when we omit worship, we lose our best rest opportunity. The opportunity to “rest” in the arms of the One who truly has the power to make us new! What better place can we find to be re-created than in the arms of the one who created us in the first place?
As you will see in the newsletter, there some unique opportunities to plug-in and be renewed. Our Park Service is Monroeville Park West this summer (9:00 a.m. in Pavilion #3 as last year); a relaxing service in a ‘wonder-fill’ surrounding! Our 11:00 service continues in our air-conditioned sanctuary; a place to come and be renewed. Make time this summer to ‘plug-in” and get “re-created” here at church. We can’t be soaring with the eagles when we’re too busy working like beavers!