Sermon Series: ‘More Alike Than Different –
Christianity and Islam’
Rev. Marcus Atha and Fazeel Khan
Scripture: Genesis 21:9-20 <Click passage to read it
Reflection on 40 Days with Wesley by Rueben Job
Day 35: Tension Between Being and Doing
I really appreciated Job’s recognition that both being and doing are important components of faith development. Too many times we live in a binary of focusing on one or the other. We align with Mary or Martha. Job stresses that as Christians we are called to live in the tension between being and doing because both are necessary for us to become Christ-like.
I feel like Job’s juxtaposition of being and doing falls a little short. Separating the two into social holiness and personal piety is too simplistic for me. I agree that we need spend time loving neighbor and loving God. Perhaps, what I longed for was more explanation of social holiness. I don’t think serving, solely as an act of “doing,” necessarily creates the social holiness that Wesley aspired when he talks about the one providing service as laboring “to do good to their souls…to awaken those that sleep in death” (First Wesley Reading). The latter phrase reminds me of the prophet Ezekiel’s prophesy of dry bones coming to life.
It is possible to serve at an arm’s distance away—to meet a physical need by politely serving a meal, handing someone a sandwich, providing a bus pass, or giving some spare change. These provisions are important. Sometimes they are truly life sustaining. It is possible to walk away from serving at an arm’s distance away feeling good about oneself and all that one has done to work hard, make good choices, and not end up like the one needing served, without God ever entering the picture.
How much more powerful it is when being and doing are interwoven! The dry bones of the server and the served come to life when service also includes being—opening oneself up to being in intimate relationship with one being served—opening oneself up to being served by the one for whom you come to serve. Intimacy can come in the form of eye contact, a hug, taking time to stop doing and intently listen to the other persons’ story without trying to fix them—just being present—and sharing something about ones’ own life in the course of the conversation.
Lent 2017 reflection on 40 Days with Wesley by Rueben P. Job
Day 25: Do No Harm
I admit, I’m distracted from the overall content of the devotion by the question, “What did Jesus write on the ground with his finger?” The scripture from John 8:3-11 says, “Jesus bent down and wrote on the ground with his finger.” It must have been important if it was included in the story, right? I’ve done a little research and the greatest consensus is that we don’t know and should not be distracted by that. Buy why is it mentioned?
Bible.org commentary suggest that “the act of writing itself was regarded as a symbolic act. In Exod 31:19, the first set of tablets were inscribed by the finger of God. The first time Jesus stooped to write, it is specifically mentioned that he wrote with his finger (8:6). This may well constitute a symbolic allusion to the person of Messiah: he writes with the same authority as God, because he is God” (https://bible.org/seriespage/11-exegetical-commentary-john-8#TopOfPage).
I am challenged by story of the beggar who died in the streets after having been denied requests for food and drink which is in the second Wesley Reading. The Rich Man and Lazarus story is a powerful one. How often do we go through the day oblivious of the needs of persons around it? If you have not read it lately, I recommend reading it—Luke 16:19-31. I am challenged to be more present and aware. What about you? What stood out to you in the reading?
Reflection on 40 Days with Wesley by Rueben Job
Day 12: Our New Nature
“Men [and women] are generally lost in the hurry of life.. and seem to think that.. their new nature will spring and grow up within them, with as little care and thought of their own as their bodies were conceived. …there is nothing more certain than that the Holy Spirit will not purify our nature, unless we carefully attend to his motions (John Wesley, Sermon 138, On Grieving the Holy Spirit.)”
The new nature Wesley is referring to is our new life in Christ. My response to the reading and the many necessary interruptions I’ve experienced already today is a prayer:
My God, the great potter, who dwells within me, please speak clearly and loudly this day. I desire to hear your voice and to follow your light. Please remove the unnecessary distractions in my life. Help me to embrace and love the child who desires for my attention while I pray. Give me the patience and wisdom needed this day to care for those who are sick. Thank you for your continual work to shape and mold me into the beautiful, radically loving person I was created to be. Amen.
Day7: Becoming a Prayerful People
Job starts the Day 7 reflection with these words: “It is amazing that the disciples did not ask Jesus to teach them how to tell a parable, multiply the loaves, or heal the sick; but they did ask him to teach them how to pray.” I can’t say that I have ever thought about Jesus’ teaching in these terms before…but now that Job mentions it, I do wish Jesus had left us a few more instructions. Imagine if Jesus had taught the disciples these things and they had taught us and we could teach others…imagine the impact! No one would have to go hungry if we could multiple loaves. If we could heal everyone, no one would have to suffer with cancer…when I think about these amazing possibilities, I am reminded of the role of prayer in making the gospel accessible, in feeding the hungry and healing the sick. Prayer offers us an opportunity to develop a deep and profound connection to God is the foundation that makes all these things possible.
Today, I also want to remind you of the invitation Pastor Marcus gave us on Sunday to be in prayer at noon each day using these words:
“God of Love, forgive us for not loving You with our whole hearts. In this time of wilderness, may we listen for the guidance of Your Holy Spirit. Help us to let go of our: self-reliance, certainties, prejudices, rigidity, fear, timidity or whatever holds us back from being whole-hearted. As Jesus’ disciples we are a Resurrection people; flood our imaginations with hope and help us to embrace a hope-full future. Grant us peace and knowing for the next faithful step. In the name of Perfect Love, Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.
Day 4 of 40 Days with Wesley by Rueben P. Job (2017).
Prayer is our lifeline, a means by which we bond to God and garner heavenly direction for our lives. The prayer says, “…I come to make myself fully available to you, your will and your way. Speak to me gently and clearly, for I am yours and desire to hear, understand, and be obedient to your slightest whisper. Speak, for I am listening.” Job starts his reflection with the statement, “Jesus sought silence and solitude to pray and seek his beloved Abba’s direction. No matter where we are in our busy and noisy world, we can do the same, but it will take practice, patience and perseverance.” Certainly it takes discipline to make quite time with God. John Wesley set aside hours each day. And, no doubt it significantly impacted his life and his relationship with God. If you are able to do this, please keep doing it.
Although it is true that God speaks to us in the silence and solitude, I think it is important to note that God also speaks to us in the chaos, so long as we are listening. I grew up in a relatively small farm house with five siblings. Silence and solitude were not a part of our vocabulary. Although it is true that I spent most of my prayer time in the silence before meals and before falling asleep, God was also present and speaking to me through singing—ok shouting—of songs we learned in church choir¸ through interactions my mom had with neighbors in the midst of our quarreling, and through learning to reconcile differences. I admit that it is easier to focus on listening to God when I am still. But, since having kids, I have come to realize that I cannot carve out enough quite time at times of the day when I am alert.
For years I wrestled with my priorities, my reality, and God’s expectations of me, always feeling inadequate. And, then I read the book, Listening for God: A Minister’s Journey Through Silence and Doubt by Renita J. Weems. She set me free from my guilt for not making enough quiet time. She writes about her journey of acknowledging the reality of her life. She describes asking God and listening to God to speak to her “amidst the clutter of family, the noise of pots and pans, the din of a hungry toddler screaming from the backseat during rush hour traffic, and the hassles of the workplace.” She expected God to talk to her through the routine of her life and she sought to listen to God in the ordinary aspects of her day. And, she discovered that God wasn’t silent; God was speaking to her in different ways that in the past.
If God is omnipresent and desires an intimate relationship with each of us, then God is present in the midst of the noise and chaos as well as the silence. So, of course God is available to speak to us through it all. The question I have to ask myself is not whether God can speak, but, “Am I tuned in to listen?” As Job goes on to say in the reflection, God speaks to us via many different means. How is God speaking to you today? What stood out to you in the reading?
The Longest Night Service, Wednesday, December 21 at 6:30pm, Chapel
Christmas Eve Services, Saturday, December 24, 5pm, 7pm and 10pm
Christmas Day Worship and New Year’s Day Worship, 11am
For some of us, this week was the beginning of a journey, and for others, an ending. For some, it was an emotional undertaking, and for others, a physical exertion. But each one of us leaves Alabama a changed person, no matter how obvious that change might be. Whether tagging clothing or constructing a ramp, tearing down a roof or building up friendships, we have united for seven days in an adventure into the deep and dirty. The Sand Mountain Parish was filled with hard-working and painfully poor families, but every one we met was kind, caring, thankful, and welcoming. Even though some of us complained, we were honored to be able to help the not-so-well-off of our country. The experience of this week was a harsh and beautiful one. Who knows what a little more love in the world will do?
Interested in joining the North Broadway UMC youth group? Contact Pastor Heather at email@example.com
(Part 2 of a blog series on worship)
Sometimes I hear people say, “I don’t like liturgy.” I used to think it was kind of boring, actually, because when I was growing up, there was very little variation in what we did from Sunday to Sunday. However, one Sunday, when I was a young adult, I came to worship after having had a life-changing retreat experience, where the meaning and function of the church and worship came alive for me. It happened that we had a baptism that day, and when we read the liturgy together, the words leapt into my consciousness with lively joy! They took on real meaning, and reminded me exactly of who I was as a baptized disciple.
Maybe the problem hadn’t been the liturgy itself. Maybe it had been me!
Don’t misunderstand–there is such a thing as poorly constructed liturgy, or liturgy that uses language that is too archaic and inaccessible. There is such a thing as mindless rehearsal of memorized words that take on no life. That is not the kind of liturgy anybody wants to find themselves enduring for an hour on Sunday morning!
The Liturgy of the Church is a generally agreed upon structure and content for the acts of worship that occur in a worship service. General agreement emerges over time, as the structure and content have been tested by experience, and have been adopted by a broad group of faith communities. We have a liturgy for the sacraments: baptism and communion; a prescribed liturgy for funerals and weddings; and a basic order of worship. All of these are printed in the United Methodist Hymnal.
The use of liturgy in worship supports the communal nature of worship. While each worshipper experiences worship personally, worship is not a private event. Liturgy enables the community to rehearse together their shared understanding of God, Christ, the Spirit, the life of discipleship and the work of the church.
The liturgy, while developed over time, is rooted in ancient traditions of the church—linking us to the ways our ancestors in the faith spoke about God, Christ and Spirit. The language of liturgy changes slowly, but it does change in response to experience. The official Communion Liturgy of the UMC has been updated several times. You can still see previous liturgies printed in our hymnal as alternates, and for historical purposes.
In the spirit of Ecumenism that arose during the mid-20th Century, our liturgies were updated to bring them into closer conformity to the practices of other Christian communities. When we pray the prayer for Holy Communion, it is in a form, and with similar content to prayers for Communion that are prayed in Episcopal, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, and Lutheran congregations, among others. So we are, in a sense, united with the larger Body of Christ when we share in Communion using a shared liturgical prayer.
Every pastor knows that people have preferences and strong feelings about worship! But personal preference can never be our guide for worship, since we worship together. Preference-driven worship, to use Paul’s analogy, could result in worshipping to enhance the activity of the small toe, while the eye went blind, or the ear went deaf. We worship for the whole body—and that is another gift of liturgy. It delivers us from the tyranny of preference—that of the pastor or of the people—and invites us into a space larger than ourselves, where we are likely to encounter a God who is larger and holier than we.
[Link to part 1]
Part 3 – Substance- the Revised Common Lectionary and the Tradition
Part 4 – Order, part 1: the Liturgical Year
Part 5 – Order, part 2: the Basic Pattern
Part 6 – What we bring to worship: Experience and Reason
Weekly on Sunday Mornings
8:30 a.m. Casual
9:45 a.m. the Source (preview)
11:00 a.m. Traditional
11:00 a.m. Kids’ Own Worship
9:45 a.m. Christian Education