Tuesday, June 26, 2012

To give is to Respond Gratefully

“…they gave themselves first to the Lord.” 2 Cor 8:5b (NRSV)

This summer is shaping up to be a roller coaster ride of temperatures, with at least two weeks so far where we have a 40 or more degree swing in the temperatures.   Unfortunately, the summer also tends to be a roller coaster ride of church attendance and income as well.  
We tend to put family, fireworks and food ahead of worshipping God on our priority list.  The 4th of July is when we celebrate our independence as “one nation under God.”   There is nothing wrong with family, fireworks and food.   But isn’t it a bit strange that this Sunday is traditionally the Sunday with the lowest average worship attendance all year!

Our church giving shows our priorities as well. If we plan to put God first, let’s choose to say thank you to God with the first check we write each week, month, or pay period.  If we give 5% or 10% or more of everything we have back to God, we still have 90-95% to care for our needs and wants.  

When the weather is too hot for comfort, we can rest assured that the offerings we make in thanks for God’s love are changing lives.   They are helping bring smiles to the faces of hundreds of children and youth who participate in our conference camps.   They are helping countless children and leaders know the love of Jesus whether it’s hot, cold, or just right during Vacation Bible Schools in June, July and August.   And they are offering a helping hand to those in need who are suffering from tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, and wild fires.

So even if you are busy with family, fireworks and food on July 4th this year, take the risk of putting God first in your life this summer.  Make the first check or payment you write payable to the church to help you say “thank you” for the blessings you’ve received.  You might also consider making your gifts through online banking or setting up an automatic payment through your church.  Or go to our website at www.wumf.org and make your donation online.   We’ll send 100% of your donation to your church or any other ministry you choose.

---Wisconsin UMF, WI Ann Conf

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Unexpected Messiah

JOHN 13: 1-1 7; 31B - 35

The Fourth Gospel mentions no Holy Communion on the night before Jesus' death. Instead, John's Gospel records that Jesus rises in the middle of supper, trades his robe for a knotted towel, and washes his disciples' feet. This sacra­ment involves no bread, no wine, just feet-twenty-four of them at least, with ruined toenails, burst blisters, yellow corns where the hand-me-down sandals rub and thick cal­luses underneath. When Jesus finishes washing them, he leans close to dry them since his only towel is around his waist. Trust me, that towel is not something you want near your food when the foot washing is over.

On the next to last day of his life, Jesus gives his disciples this example to follow once he is gone, the lesson that he hopes will continue to teach them forever. This lesson is not in words either. It is a lesson in bodies, which the church has always cut a wide swath around. On the whole, we prefer sacraments with inanimate objects: a nice loaf of bread that does not move, a cup of wine or grape juice that will not talk back. These things are much easier to spiritualize than a bunch of smelly feet, each one attached to a singular human being with real warmth, real dirt, real faith, real doubts. Jesus understood how it worked. You cannot take a foot in your hands without getting really close to another person; once that happens God's word becomes flesh.

Whether or not we celebrate this sacrament on a regular basis, it is there to remind us that Jesus does not live inside a cross, an altar, a loaf, or a cup. Until we recognize him in one another, he is not here. Once we meet him in one another, there is no place he is not.

Risen Lord, be known to us in the washing of the feet. Amen.

 --Barbara Brown Taylor, Embark

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Renewal and witness at the heart of Pentecost

You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you. (Acts 1:8)

Pentecost stained glass window
The promise of the resurrected Christ before his ascension was actualized on the day of Pentecost in two types of power: the sound “as of a rushing mighty wind” and “tongues as of fire” (Acts 2:2-3). The advent of the Holy Spirit surpasses all possible description. For this reason Luke the evangelist uses the word “as”.

The powerful wind completely renews the entire atmosphere; it creates a new climate, providing a life-giving environment of breath and energy.  “This energy filled the whole house where they were sitting.”  The disciples were flooded, immersed, “baptized” in this divine energy, as the Lord had previously announced: “before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:5).

The other type of power is symbolized by “tongues as of fire”.  It is a manifestation of the uncreated energy of God.  The fire burns, heats, enlightens. The Holy Spirit acts within the world “as” fire, burning whatever is dangerous or not useful – warming, comforting, strengthening.  The Holy Spirit will forever remain a source of enlightenment, revealing the truth concerning the mystery of the Holy Trinity and of human existence.

The Holy Spirit comes in an hour when “they were all together in one place” (Acts 2:1), in a celebration of thanksgiving – “the Pentecost”.  It comes at a gathering of the faithful – “among the brethren” of “about a hundred and twenty” (cf. Acts 1:15), in order to transform the gathering into the Church of the Triune God.  The “rushing wind” does not originate from some earthly direction but “from heaven”, from the “Father in heaven”.  The fiery presence is split into tongues “and one sat upon each of them”. In this way the direct relationship between the Spirit and the Word of God (the Logos) is revealed, along with the personal nature of the divine gifts.  The Spirit will reveal Christ as Lord and Saviour (cf. I Cor. 12:3) to human beings and will bring him, along with his grace, into the human heart.  The Holy Spirit continues the saving work of Christ, within time and space, radiating the divine energy; in ways, often incomprehensible to the human mind.  “The wind (pneuma) blows where it wills” (John 3:8).

The power, which the disciples received on Pentecost with the advent of the Holy Spirit, does not concern their spiritual progress and personal growth only.  It is not an individualistic enlightenment, a fortunate state of ecstasy for them to enjoy on their own.  It is offered for the transmission of the gospel of salvation to all of the inhabited world, the oikoumene, to continue the work of the transformation of the world, the work which Christ began: “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).  The disciples, who until then had been afraid, are turned into courageous apostles, the ones who are sent to continue the ministry of Christ in the world.  And the Church becomes for all time “apostolic”.

The steadfast desire of each of the faithful is to become a temple of the Holy Spirit, for the personality of each one to be perfected with the maturity of the fruits of the Spirit within them (Gal. 5:22), so that each may become a bearer of the Spirit of love, truth, holiness and reconciliation within their surroundings, to those both near and far, and to contribute to a constant renewal of humanity.

Every celebration of Pentecost offers a new opportunity to each church community and to each of us, to live eucharistically and doxologically the advent and gift of the Holy Spirit, to renew our trust in the Spirit’s power and to implore with all of the intensity of our soul:

--Message of the World Council of Churches
presidents at Pentecost, 2011

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer