Pastor Steve’s Blog December 2, 2018 Today marks the beginning of Advent. Advent, for those that come from outside of mainline churches, marks the beginning of the new church liturgical year. The season of Advent includes the four Sundays prior to Christmas Day. It can be as long as twenty-eight days, if Dec 25 falls on a Sunday or as short as twenty-two days, if December 25 falls on a Monday, making Christmas Eve the fourth Sunday of Advent. In their “Overview on Advent” David Bartlett, Barbara Taylor and Kimberly Long, point out “During the Advent season, the church prepares for the coming of Christ. Even as we make ready for the baby to be born in Bethlehem, the themes and texts explored during Advent take us beyond the birth, and even beyond the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, to a new moment of expectancy as the Day of Christ approaches and the reign of God is made fully manifest.” They go on to explain, “The coming of Advent jolts the church out of Ordinary Time with the invasive news that it is time to think about fresh possibilities for deliverance and human wholeness. Peace is at the heart of the promise born at Advent. It is difficult, however, to set out on the journey without repentance and forgiveness.” At Advent, God’s people summon the courage and the spiritual strength to remember that the holy can and will break into daily life. Let us open our broken hearts to God and to His healing grace and God will lead us to His peace. Advent is not a season of passive waiting and watching, rather it is a season for opening up our lives and letting God fill us with anticipation and renewed hope.
December 2, 2018
February 24, 2019
Pastor Steve’s Blog Feb 24, 2019 Well, the time has arrived for the called special General Conference meeting in St. Louis, MO from Feb 23-26 to deal with the issue of what will be the United Methodist Church’s stance on the subject of human sexuality. The point of my blog this week is to encourage you to continue to pray for God’s wisdom and guidance for both the lay and clergy delegates that are attending this called special General Conference from all over the world. This issue has been debated at every General Conference (which meets every four years) since I was in High School in the mid-1970’s, so I know the delegates are feeling the weight of this issue. As I mentioned in my pastoral letter to the congregation, there are strongly held beliefs on both sides of this issue and those beliefs should be respected. It is ok for us to have a disagreement of belief on this, and other issues, because God will not love us any less. We live in a world affected by sin, so none of us has the perfect answer or all the revelation on any issue with which we grapple. Knowing that should help to keep us humble. Therefore, as humble servants of Christ, let us esteem others more highly than ourselves and be kind to one another…even in our disagreements.
February 17, 2019
Pastor Steve’s Blog February 17, 2019 I want to start this week’s blog with the Scripture from John 15:20: “Remember the words I (Jesus) spoke to you, ‘No servant is greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.’” We are very lucky to live in a country that affords us the opportunity for freedom of religion. I know some would argue that we are losing some of that freedom as society is increasingly being called “post-Christian.” I, too, am concerned about that, but we are not losing our lives just for professing our Christian faith as has and is happening in other countries in the world. Because of that I don’t think that we, as a church, give much thought to this Scripture and the reality of persecution. But for some, the reality of persecution and death is all too real. I don’t know if you will recall back in 2015, when ISIS was seemingly at the height of its power in Africa and the Middle East, the horror of ISIS killing people for no other reason than for professing their faith in Jesus Christ. I read the following article this week in Decision Magazine. The title is: “Bodies of Christians Executed by ISIS Found.” “The bodies of 34 Ethiopian Christians killed by the Islamic State (ISIS) in 2015 have been found in a mass grave located on farmland near the coastal city of Sirte, Libya, which ISIS gained control of in 2015 before United Nations-backed forces regained control in 2016. The grave was discovered during the investigations of the terrorist group’s captured members, and the bodies of the Christians have been exhumed and will be repatriated to Ethiopia. According to Reuters, and ISIS propaganda video posted to social media in April, 2015 showed militants shooting and beheading Ethiopian Christians, who were in two groups, on the beach and in the scrubland. This incident happened two months after ISIS members executed 21 Coptic Christians from Egypt; a mass grave containing their bodies was found in 2017.” This week let us give thanks for the country in which we live. It may not be perfect, but it is our country and generally affords us a persecution free zone to practice our faith. Let us also pray for those who live in other places that, still to this day, suffer persecution for their Christian faith.
February 10, 2019
Pastor Steve’s Blog February 10, 2019 I want to confess one of my sins to you. It is my impatience at distracted drivers who get lost on their cell phones when they are stopped at a red light…and when the light turns green…we just sit there instead of moving forward. After some seconds, and nothing is happening, I am put in the position of having to be impolite and honk my horn. Has that ever happened to you? With some humor, let me go ahead and apologize up front if you were the car I honked at. I was reading in a book this week called “The Jesus Challenge: 21 Days of Loving God and Neighbor” by Justin Larosa and I ran across an interesting heading on page 16 of the book entitled: “Distracted from distraction by distraction.” Obviously it caught my attention since I am blogging about it now. Let me share these few paragraphs with you since Justin makes a good point and is worthy of some considered thought as we live out our lives this week. “T.S. Eliot wrote these words a long time ago. They still fit. Our culture is busier and more technologically connected than at any other time in history. The digital age promised fewer work hours, more efficiency, and a hyper-connected world. It has delivered on those promises—except for maybe fewer work hours. But not without cost. People are distracted and overscheduled. Disconnecting from technology is a constant struggle for everyone, and we don’t yet know the long-term effects of gazing at electronics. But we have seen disconnected living—both subtle and obvious ways—including in the spiritual life. Additionally, twenty-four hour connectivity has delivered non-stop communication about conflict, polarization, and violence, perpetuating fear among many. While we will never go back to the days of rotary phones and answering machines, we must find ways to mitigate distracted living because distracted living diminishes our ability as Christ followers to live out Jesus’ Greatest Commandment. Distraction is a gigantic hurdle.” Has distracted living impacted your ability to live out the great commandment of loving God and loving your neighbor? If so, how? What changes do you think you can make to get a different outcome?