Read Thru the Bible~1 Corinthians 1-2 (Unification of the Universal Church)

Read Thru the Bible~1 Corinthians 1-2 (Unification of the Universal Church)

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(Pictured, the ruins of ancient Corinth.)

The ancient city of Corinth located in Greece, was where Paul shared the Gospel of Jesus Christ during his second missionary journey. (Check out Acts 18) After Paul spent some time with them, maybe up to 1 1/2 years there, Paul and some compatriots left Corinth to go start new churches. As Paul continued his travels he heard there was some conflict among the Corinthians, so he sent this letter and other letters to follow, to help the faith community work out their differences, and to remind them that it is by the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and no other message that we are saved. Our read through the Bible video has an excellent description of what was going on in this faith community.

As we read chapters 1 and 2 today, perhaps there are two things Paul would continue to scold us for today in modern life application. First and foremost, there is this question of unity. If we are all unified by the Gospel of Jesus, why is there so much division in the Universal Church? Perhaps this will be the first question we are all asked on the day of judgment. While Paul used the example of different leaders coming through the city and their teaching, we have the different denominations that have been used to divide us. Paul says, “Let there be no divisions among you!

Friends, can we put aside our differences and work together for the Gospel message? In addition to denominational differences, we have differences within our own denominations, we have theological issues that continue to divide us. Can we agree to disagree and move forward?Many people believe that we are now in  a post-Christian world. If that is truly the case, we need each other. Paul appeals to us to work together for the common good, which is the Gospel message.

The second point Paul brings to us is that the Gospel message must be in the forefront of all we do. “ For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” All other things fall into the background against this simple and profound truth. Yet we in the Universal Church have found all kinds of things to argue about and we have forgotten to keep this truth in the forefront. By the way, this is not a one time thought that Paul gives us, but rather we see this theme running throughout his letters. Paul says the reason we are here, the reason that he has been willing to risk his life over and over again, is to bear the truth of the Gospel message. Christ died for our sins, was resurrected, and we can have his cloak of righteousness in exchange for our sinful nature, just for accepting his grace and mercy given to us at the cross. This is the simple truth. We in the Universal Church try to make it too complicated.

John Wesley said, “If your heart is as my heart, take my hand.” Can we as the Universal Church have unity and together point to the work of Jesus on the cross? We have a long way to go. What is one thing you can do, for a neighbor who is of a different denomination, for a friend who is of a differing theological opinion, to show unity among us. “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” Check out this song with the same title.

Read Thu Bible ~ Job ~Waiting

Read Thu Bible ~ Job ~Waiting

We are in the book of Job in our read through the Bible series. Job is perhaps one of the most difficult books of the Bible to understand. The reason for this is that Job is trying to figure out how God’s justice works in the world. Job and his friends are trying to make sense of the suffering in the world. Humans have tried to make sense of suffering since the beginning of time. If you have not watched the video on Job, check it out here.

Meanwhile, what do we make of Job? For years there has been an adage of being as “patient as Job,” yet Job is anything but patient. His friends do one great thing for him: For the first week, they sit with him and wait, saying nothing. Then Jobs friends try to tell him he is in the wrong, they argue and contest his innocence.

My favorite part of this powerful book is when God answers Job out of the whirlwind. Beginning in chapter 38 God responds to Job’s accusations against God saying, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements—surely you know?”

Like Job and his friends, I, too, am waiting. I am waiting for next steps. I am waiting to see God’s timing on the birth of my granddaughters. As I wait, I feel helpless. As I wait, I wonder where my patience has gone, after all, it is a fruit of the spirit. As I wait, I watch all of the other responsibilities that I have ebb and flow, while I am in a holding pattern. As I wait, I think of Job. He demanded a response from God as to his plight, and God’s answer is perhaps an answer to us all. “Where were you when I laid out the foundations of the earth?” Can you tell me……

When I read this magnificent poetry I stand in awe, once again, that the God of the universe even cares about me or my waiting. And I think about others in the biblical witness who had to wait for God’s timing….

  • Sara, Hannah, and Elizabeth all waited to be with child
  • Simeon and Anna waited to see the salvation of God in the form of baby Jesus
  • The women waited at the cross of Jesus watching him die
  • And the disciples waited in the upper room for the Holy Spirit to come….
  • The list goes on and on……

We all have the opportunity to wait. While we wait, God works on our hearts in new ways, to grow us, and God shows us grace. God uses this waiting to mature us as better disciples, and the Fruit of patience is being cultivated. And those things that we were supposed to be doing, well, God will take care of that too, in new and wonderful ways. So I am growing in grace, and I am waiting; just like Job was waiting.

When have you had the opportunity to wait? How did God offer you unexpected grace in the midst of waiting?

Meanwhile, while you are waiting, keep reading through Job and check out this song “While I am Waiting” by John Waller.

Read Thru Bible ~ Exodus ~ Who is this God?

Read Thru Bible ~ Exodus ~ Who is this God?

This past week as we read through the Bible together we have had the opportunity to discover some of the characteristics of God. Exodus helps us answer the question, “Who is this God?”

We get a close up picture of who this God of the Israelites is through God’s call to Moses. In chapter 3 we hear God say to Moses, “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey…”

What does it mean for us that God sees us, hears our cries, knows our suffering, and comes down to rescue us? What does that mean to you for this day, a day of abundant snow on the East Coast, a day that is hard for some of us, and a joy for others?

In fact, God did see the hardships of the Israelites and called Moses to rescue them. Can you imagine the picture of all those Israelites leaving Egypt and going to a foreign land? Have recent world events given us similar pictures? Those leaving Syria due to war torn lands–They too are refugees, just as the Israelties were. What does God call us to do in this time of flight, this God who sees, hears, knows and comes down?

If you did not watch the video on the Holiness of God, you might want to catch it here. Tomorrow when we worship together on-line, we will use the Exodus passage to talk a little bit about this God who watches over us.

I hope you will be able to join us on line, Sunday morning the 24th at 11:30 am. This is the link to join us at zoom.us.

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Post Christmas ~ What now? Post Advent Devotional

Post Christmas ~ What now? Post Advent Devotional

When I was a kid the post Christmas season always seemed to be a let down. I was so excited about Christmas itself, that I often failed to see that part of the beauty of welcoming the Christ child was the process. We forget process in our day and age and go for the end goal. There is beauty in process…there is beauty in the journey.

Christmas is a time to remind us that there is much more ahead BECAUSE of the Christ child. Now that we have celebrated the light that has come into the darkness, we can BE that light in the world.

What does that look like for you, being the light of the world? Maybe it means enjoying the process and the post-Christmas celebrations. After all, we are actually still in the 12 days of Christmas. For the early Christians, Christmas day was just the beginning of the celebration. In our culture, Christmas day seems to be the end all. The Christian calendar defies that the season has ended, but encourages us to be part of the process.

What would it look like to just begin the celebration now, a few days after the day of Christmas. How can you enjoy the Christ child today and celebrate and reflect all that the Messiah brings?

 

 

Advent Devotional, Dec. 25, by Pastor Sarah Dorrance

Advent Devotional, Dec. 25, by Pastor Sarah Dorrance

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” John 1:1-5, NRSV.

We were in the Italian catacombs around the outskirts of Rome. Our guide turned off the lights that were shining on the myriad of tunnels—and it was dark, everything was pitch black. A full minute in the dark seemed like an eternity. I was ready to have the light shine on us again, especially in this place, a place where those of the early centuries had been buried. It was an eerie feeling. How do you feel when you are in pitch darkness?

Jesus was God enfleshed—the Word—the Logos—who came to bring light into the pitch black darkness of the world. Through Jesus life came into being, and that life was the very spark—the illumination that shines into that darkness. Like the catacombs in which I had stood, is there a part of your life that seems dark that needs the light of Christ shining in it? Is there a part of your life that needs new life—the spark of “being” all that God created you to be? Come to the manger. Let the light of Christ shine on you; Let the life of the newborn child flow through you.

Prayer: Jesus, Savior of the world. Shine on me, Lord, shine on me. Let my worries and concerns become smaller as your light and life grow bigger and brighter. Thank you for the gift of the Christ Child who gives me new possibilities in this life and beyond. Amen

Advent Devotional, Dec. 24 by Pastor Beth Hutton

Advent Devotional, Dec. 24 by Pastor Beth Hutton

I have always loved the traditional image of the holy family by the manger in a stable.

My parents have a beautiful glass ornament of that scene that I have coveted since I was a little girl. It’s a beautiful portrayal of Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus. Leave it to Bible study and seminary to smash this image in my mind forever, because for a multitude of reasons it’s probably not an accurate portrayal. Many scholars believe the holy family would not have been alone in a stable out back.

Archaeological digs have found that a typical First Century peasant home was usually just one main room with four windowless walls. This main room was divided into two areas with no wall between the two areas. One area, the larger of the two, was the main living area for the family. This was the place where the family ate and drank, entertained visitors and slept at night. The second area in the home was about four feet lower than the main living area. You would walk down some steps to get to it. And this smaller, lower area was a place where the family kept their livestock and animals. On the ledge between this lower area for livestock and the upper main living area for people, there were holes carved into the floor where feed would be placed for the animals. These were the mangers.

Where did visiting relatives and friends stay in a house like this? Frequently such homes had a guest room built on the roof of the house. This is where the guests stayed. But Luke tells us that at the time Jesus was born there was no room in these guest quarters. So in all likelihood Jesus was born in the main living area where Joseph and Mary were staying with the rest of the family. Then, when Mary gave birth to Jesus, she wrapped her son in strips of cloth and laid him in one of the mangers in the family living area.

This is why I say to you that Jesus Christ was born not out in a barn but in the heart of a home. God sent His son into a real world to be a source of light and hope for people.
What does this mean for us today? First of all we are dealing with a personal God. When God chose to take on the body of a little baby and be born upon this earth, God chose not to be born outside in a barn but right in the middle of a home — a family. Jesus chose to be born not outside away from people but inside with people like you and me. The point is that Jesus wants to be right in the middle of your life as a personal God. He wants you to have a close and intimate relationship with Him. He wants your heart to be His home.

How will you welcome Jesus into your heart and home this year?

Loving God, how amazing is it that you come right into the middle of our world, right into the middle of my life. Help me remember the birth of Jesus that I may share in the song of the angels, the gladness of the shepherds, and worship of the wise men. Close the door of hate and open the door of love all over the world. Let kindness come into every home with every gift and good desires with every greeting. Amen.

Advent Devotional, Dec. 23 by Cathy Watkins

Advent Devotional, Dec. 23 by Cathy Watkins

Luke 1:46b-55

Micah 4:6-8

2 Peter 1:16-21

Mary rejoices over God’s choosing her, a humble servant girl, to be the mother of the Messiah. While news of her pregnancy as an unwed young girl sets Mary’s life into a tailspin, she nonetheless endures the hardships and recognizes God’s great mercy in all that is taking place. She gladly accepts her mission to serve God even though the course is not clearly laid out for her. She is willing to be the servant and glorifies God for who God is and praises God for the fulfillment of the covenantal promises God had made to Abraham.

 

Like Mary, we see the great compassion God has for his people and rejoice in the promise of a Savior. As we look upon the manger this season, let us remember our need for this Savior sent out of God’s great love for us. We as sinners can stand before God with all of our flaws and rejoice that Jesus is the One who has come to restore us to our rightful place in the kingdom of God and all we need to do is humbly walk as a servant of the living God.

Savior of the world,

Thank you for coming for us, to offer us grace and mercy in ways we had never known before. Empower us to be your living servants. Amen.