It’s a Family Thing

Isaiah 8:10-16, Matthew 11:2-11 and Luke 1:46b-55

At the very least, family members will send Christmas cards to each other. At the most, families will gather in groups from 2 to 200 or more! And if there be few family members, friends like family come together to enjoy each other’s company.

Our two New Testament scriptures for our Third Sunday in Advent have two cousins speaking and asking questions about the overlapping work of God in their lives. Mary and second cousin John the Baptist both declare that Jesus is special. Jesus does not hesitate to say they are correct. Even so, Mary and John the Baptist ask questions of Jesus and have their moments of uncertainty and deep suffering with their beloved family member. Sounds like family doesn’t it?!

For all the joy that Mary has in her bearing the Messiah, she faces what we all face as followers of the Lord: the cost of discipleship. A wonderful and abundant life, but still challenging spiritually, emotionally, and for some, physically painful. John will be executed. Mary will suffer as a mother when her Son is also executed.

The family story is deep and wide, full of life, full of sorrow, and costs everyone something as they stay family for “the long haul.” God’s story is “family” writ large from beginning to end.

This Sunday we will celebrate the joyful journey that we, today, continue that Mary and cousin John participated in generations long before us! A good group of relatives to be a part of!

Happy Advent….Merry Christmas almost!

Pastor Barry

The Peace of John the Baptist

Isaiah 11:1-10, Romans 15:4-13 and Matthew 3:1-12

I’ve never been much for being hollered at! We had very few ministers in our small town UMC who were given to shouting or calling the congregation a “brood of vipers!” Being yelled at by a coach or even parents was one thing, but the preachers I knew were not that way…for the most part. Even one of the Baptist preachers just across from our Methodist church was not much of a shouter. His name was literally “Bro Love.” A very warm and caring pastor for my Baptist friends. Not much of a shouter. But, here and yon in our community churches…there were shouters!

So, we do have in Matthew 3 John the Baptist, a fairly stern prophet who minces no words about the locals! But our other prophet, Isaiah, in chapter 11 seems to quietly point to a coming peaceable kingdom led by a child. Even animals, predators and prey, will get along! And Paul in Romans goes on about being in “harmony” with one another and then about “peace and joy.”

We might ask, “Does John the Baptist shouting in the wilderness have any peace within himself or does he even expect peace in God’s coming reign as King?” Lots of upheaval to say the least?! Looks like a lot of finger pointing for those within range!

One way to address this tension between high drama against sinners and a peaceable kingdom about to appear is to realize the Bible reflects virtually every human emotion and feeling, every depth and height of human experience. What do WE feel and experience when the whole range of the Word of God comes to us on any given day and hour?

This Sunday we will explore John’s prophetic voice as well as strive to see how John might have also had a peace about him even as he draws close to execution. We’ll see what comes of this prayerful effort during this Sunday’s worship on the Second Sunday of Advent. Peace and joy to all you (us) sinners…..and dearly beloveds of Jesus Christ!

Pastor Barry

Keep The Light On

Isaiah 2:1-5, Romans 13:8-14 and Matthew 24:36-44

Isaiah speaks of the “light of the Lord” while Romans mentions the “armor of light.” Matthew insists on keeping our eyes open, keeping watch lest we miss being ready for the coming of the Lord at any time!

Most of us can only stand so much light at once! In fact, some behaviors and thoughts we prefer to keep in the dark! Advent is a reminder that light is important to get us to the final, ultimate Light. And sometimes (most of the time?) light dawns on us gradually, like the gradual light of morning dawn. We symbolize the slow unveiling of light by lighting five candles during the Sundays of December adding as we go until the fifth and last candle, the Christ candle is lit near or on December 24th.

For some, however, a sudden blinding moment in life is the time when all changes spiritually for the better. Paul’s dramatic Damascus road experience for instance. But for most of us the unfolding of our life before God is gradual as we receive more light from our walk in faith, hope, and love over a lifetime.

Either way, we are told to “stay awake,” “be alert” for the coming of the Lord. A good night’s sleep and a daily nap are not bad things but staying awake and alert to things of the Spirit are crucial to an “abundant life.” Worship together is one of those disciplines to keep us “alert.” I hope you look forward to our Advent Sundays of worship as you receive “more light” for your ongoing journey of life with God!

Pastor Barry

Cultivate a Heart of Gratitude Part 5

The ungrateful see little of His great love; but the grateful feel their heart is a shore and His love is a sea that never stops coming in. – Ann Voscamp

For the next few days, learn how to Cultivate a Heart of Gratitude Within Your Home this Thanksgiving Season—7 simple ways

Part 5 of 5.
• Journal
• Tell Stories
• Serve
• Create
• Sing
• Connect
• Remember.
Why do we celebrate Thanksgiving? Take some time to remember the history of this holiday. Watch Peanuts The Mayflower Voyage with your kids (you can rent it from the library or pick it up from the store and make it a yearly family tradition). This surprisingly informative movie tells the story of the dangerous and difficult voyage made by the Pilgrims and the challenges they faced when they arrived in America. Talk with your kids about God’s provision for the pilgrims.

Remember also how God has and is caring for us. How true are the words of, William Jennings Bryan, “On Thanksgiving Day we acknowledge our dependence.” We all have stories. God has brought us through valleys. He’s been with us in joy and sadness. And he will be with us in the days ahead.

Not only will intentional gratitude enrich Thanksgiving, it will help us as we look forward to the season of Christmas, where the desire for stuff can run high. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to battle this cultural trend by cultivating thankful hearts in our families now, hearts of profound and simply joy?

Thanksgiving, after all, is a word of action. – W.J. Cameron

Let us be actively thankful this Thanksgiving, remembering how we’ve been loved. Pick one or two of the above suggestions you think would bless your family and lean into the loveliness of this season.

Blessings,

Chaplain Rob

Royalty Comes For Thanksgiving

Jeremiah 23:1-6, Revelation 1:4-8and Luke 23:33-43.

There are a lot of historical Kings (and Queens) that would make me uncomfortable if they appeared at my house for Thanksgiving! I don’t think any of the King Herods would be less than frightening. Henry VIII of England might eventually find reasons to falsely execute me! King George III might well tax me more without due representation! I did see Queen Elizabeth II along with President Eisenhower in 1958 and we were about a hundred yards apart but I was not invited to have a meal together!

But…..Jesus, King of the Jews and ultimately King of a New Heaven and New Earth will be at our table for Thanksgiving. And there will be no fear! As it turns out I, along with millions are part of a royal family to begin with! This is a wholly different notion of Kingship than that of all other earthly kings. Something has changed about Kings even from the glory days of David and Solomon. This eternal King asks me (and us) to sit beside Him and enjoy all the benefits of a righteous, just reign of a good and gracious God.

We should all share this vision of a good King at table with us this Thanksgiving. After all, we are part of the royal family now!

Blessings for the coming season of thanks, family, friends, and food!

Pastor Barry

Cultivate a Heart of Gratitude Part 4

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. – 1 Corinthians 15:57

For the next few days, learn how to Cultivate a Heart of Gratitude Within Your Home this Thanksgiving Season—7 simple ways

Part 4 of 5.
• Journal
• Tell Stories
• Serve
• Create
• Sing.
The beautiful thing about song is that it will find its way into our hearts and overflow into our minds and upon our lips when we least expect it. Once a song finds a home, it greets you when you’re making breakfast, brushing your teeth, doing chores, or just walking down the street. Have your kids pick a song/hymn about thankfulness and sing it before dinner or while you’re cleaning dishes. Some classics to consider: Now Thank We All Our God, Praise to the Lord The Almighty, Give Thanks (with a grateful heart), My Heart is Filled With Thankfulness. (You can listen to the song online to get the tune right or print the lyrics, if necessary.)
• Connect. Take time during dinnertime in November to connect. Tell your kids about your Thanksgiving memories and traditions when you were a kid, with whom you celebrated, what you ate, games you played, places you went, etc. Ask your family or friends who may be sharing a meal with you to finish this statement, “It really doesn’t feel like Thanksgiving to me without …”

Chaplain Rob

Cultivate a Heart of Gratitude Part 3

Sing praise to the Lord, you saints of His, and give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name . . .– Psalm 30:4

For the next few days, learn how to Cultivate a Heart of Gratitude Within Your Home this Thanksgiving Season—7 simple ways

Part 3 of 5.

• Journal
• Tell Stories
• Serve
… together as a family. Collect canned goods, rake leaves for your neighbors, volunteer in a soup kitchen, or invite an outsider (maybe a college student, a single person from church, or someone who is new to the area) to celebrate Thanksgiving with you. Ask your kids to think of someone from their school whom they might like to bless with a basketful of goodies. Start a “giving jar” where you put spare change or extra dollars with the goal of giving to someone in need. Ask your kids if they have any ideas regarding service. Get creative. The possibilities are endless.
• Create. Have your kids make creative place cards for Thanksgiving dinner. Instead of just cards with names, have them write, ‘I’m thankful for Grandma.’ Or be even more specific, ‘I’m thankful for Grandma’s chocolate chip cookies.’ ‘I’m thankful for Dad’s funny stories.’ ‘I’m thankful for trips to the fire station with Uncle Joe.’ This will cultivate a thankful heart in your children and bless the people who are sharing the meal with you. (Even if you’re not hosting Thanksgiving dinner, volunteer to bring place cards even if you don’t normally use them).

Tomorrow, part 4

Blessings,

Chaplain Rob

Cultivate a Heart of Gratitude Part 2

A grateful heart is one that finds the countless blessings of God in the seemingly mundane everyday life.

For the next few days, learn how to Cultivate a Heart of Gratitude Within Your Home this Thanksgiving Season—7 simple ways

Part 2 of 5.

  1. Journal
  2. Tell Stories. Share the story of Pastor Martin Rinkart with your family.

In 1636 the Thirty Years’ War was raging. Death, disease, and economic collapse enveloped Europe in a fog of terror. One German pastor, Martin Rinkart, is said to have buried five thousand of his parishioners in one year, an average of fifteen people daily! Yet under the shadow of death and amidst a crucible of chaos, Rinkart penned this beautiful table grace for his children:

Now thank we all our God
With heart and hands and voices
Who wondrous things had done
In whom His world rejoices.
Who, from our mother’s arms
Hath led us on our way
With countless gifts of love
And still is ours today.

Talk about this with your family. Was this man in denial? Out of touch? Hardly. Rinkart was a person of audacious faith. He knew thanksgiving flows from love of God, not outward circumstance. Share this story and sing the table grace he wrote for his children.

Tomorrow, part 3.

Blessings,

Chaplain Rob

Cultivate a Heart of Gratitude Part 1

Courtesies of a small and trivial character are the ones which strike deepest in the grateful and appreciating heart. – Henry Clay

For the next few days, learn how to Cultivate a Heart of Gratitude Within Your Home this Thanksgiving Season—7 simple ways

Part 1 of 5.

Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it. – William Arthur Ward

Thanksgiving is too wonderful a holiday to let slip by without some intentional, active gratitude. But unless we’re deliberate, that’s exactly what will happen. Already busy lives seem to be compounded this time of year, right? By the time Thanksgiving Day arrives, we can be so emotionally and physically tired from all the prep or travel that the actual “giving thanks” gets lost.

But the Christian heart is a heart of gratitude. And to the extent that we express gratitude, we reflect the heart of our Savior and brother, Jesus Christ. God’s word implores us:

Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! (Psalm 100).

We were made to worship and enjoy the triune God who has set his love upon us and lavished us with good gifts. Yet where or how do we begin this journey into the very heart of Christ? Here are some thoughts to assist you in cultivating a thankful spirit within your family this season!

  1. Journal. In the beginning of November or a few days prior to Thanksgiving Day, place a journal on your kitchen counter (or a highly trafficked area) or attach a paper to your refrigerator. At the top of the page you can write or print, I’m thankful for… Then encourage your family to fill out the journal as things come to mind during this season. Include anything and everything that comes to mind from the simple pleasures of life, I’m thankful for hot coffee! To the profound, I’m thankful that God’s mercies are new every morning. Have the thankful person be sure to include his or her name next to the line of gratitude. Tell little ones who cannot write to simply share with someone in your home who can record it for him/her. On Thanksgiving Day, select a person to read the list or pass it around the table giving each person a chance to read.

Chaplain Rob

The Day Is Coming and Now……?

Malachi 4:1-3, 2 Thessalonians 3:11-13 and Luke 21:5-19

By the end of November we will have moved through all the Seasons of The Christian Year from Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Pentecost, and Kingdom Tide. The scriptures this Sunday highlight the expected Last Days and God’s final “winding up/down” of human history as we know it. Very dramatic, very cosmic!

The all too human tendency has been to predict when the End is near. There are New Testament warnings to NOT do this but still books and sermons persist in saying “look, it’s all over by next year!” I will share two of those books/booklets on Sunday. One from the late Sixties (!) and the other from 1988 (!).

Sunday we will look at three texts that speak to those Last Days. But no predicting day or hour! Better still we will be encouraged to stay alert and still “do the work!” Of walking by faith! Tending to the “least of these” even as the world collapses around us and then God makes “all things new.”

Do we have an interesting, exciting faith, or not!!??

See you Sunday!

Pastor Barry