Recently, UMC Discipleship Ministries began launching materials around the theme “See All the People.” This message of reaching people and expanding the church into the community has begun to bear fruit as churches have begun launching campaigns to strengthen their own disciple-making systems. In the stories of the church season of Epiphany, we find people who were always present around Jesus because of his preaching, teaching, and healing. Jesus truly saw all the people; and as a result, the people were always with him. As the church makes connections in the community to bring people to know Christ, we would do well to make note of the way Jesus responded to the crowds.
Upon reflection of the entire season after Epiphany this year, we find a comprehensive way to make connections with our communities: discover our spiritual gifts, understand our need for one another and the love of God, and know that wherever Jesus goes, a crowd is sure to follow. The question is: “Are our churches ready to go and meet the crowds as we ‘see all the people’?”
A sampling of Pastor Laurie’s sermons are found on this website. Contact the church office if you’d like a copy of a specific message not found here.
The nets teaming with fish are an image to be placed alongside that of the crowd “pressing in” to see Jesus. The miraculous catch is an object lesson for the new disciples — and it can be one for us, as well, if we open our eyes, not only to see Jesus, but to see those who show up whenever Jesus is doing his thing.
Since it is so often a passage shared at weddings, many people fail to realize that this famous chapter is set in the context of Paul’s discussion of spiritual gifts
Text: 1 Corinthians 12:1-11 How many of you have taken a spiritual gifts inventory before (show of hands)? How many remember what that inventory told you your spiritual gifts were (show of hands)? If your hand is still raised, then tell me what your gifts are, and I’ll send you home early. If not, then […]
Texts: Isaiah 43:1-7, Luke 5:15-17, 21-22 I came across a couple of articles in my reading this week which, on the surface, dealt with very different topics, but ended up resonating in the same part of my heart. The first was about challenges that younger people (millennials, specifically) are facing these days — how they […]
Message for Epiphany Sunday Texts: Matthew 2:1-12, Isaiah 60:1-6 Albert and I have set our wedding date for May 4th and made flight reservations for our honeymoon; we are going to do a home exchange in Holland, so I will get a chance not only to see the country where Albert was born, but to […]
propose to you that the faithful Christmas stance is one of brightness — of focusing on what is positive instead of feeding hopelessness, negativity and fear as we regard both the present and the future. This is not Pollyanna, pie-in-the-sky, cheap grace, rose-colored glasses. It is true hope.
A counter-cultural, faithful, Advent-observant mindset is one that cultivates calm in the face of the chaos, and the division, and the pride, and the fear. It does not get drawn into heated and disrespectful debate, but calmly speaks truth. Like a lighted candle in a dark room, it does not need a megaphone to draw the right kind of attention. It is not an approach which buries one’s head in the sand in the face of so much injustice, but stands calmly and firmly on the ground of love. It refuses to get caught up in fear, refuses to drown in a sea of hopeless.
Some people are rather uncomfortable with the word holy — at least they are uncomfortable about applying the word to themselves. Striving for holiness is all well and good for someone other who wants to become a nun or a pastor. But holiness as a personal goal for a “regular” person? That’s too much, too high of a standard. People also chafe at the concept of holiness when it gets tangled up with self righteousness. The term “holy” has come to be associated with people who are judgmental, who lord their supposed moral superiority over others, who claim that they are going to heaven while others are not. I want to encourage you to lay those notions aside, and consider a different picture of holiness.
For me, the observance of Advent is about being profoundly counter-cultural. Even if it is only for a day a week, or a morning, or an evening. It’s stepping away from the mall, away from the smartphone, away from the television and away from the computer. It’s stopping to listen, not only to the whisperings of God, but to the deep yearnings that are conveyed in the earth’s sighs and in those of the most tired and weary and grief-stricken among us. When we are quiet and still, we become aware again of how fragile and precious life is, and how carefully and purposefully we need to direct our time, attention and resources to the building of life and peace, to the multiplication of compassion and kindness.
While there is “no reason” for Job’s suffering, God makes the ultimate “lemonade out of lemons” — always responding with grace and opportunity for healing and growth. We would do well to look for signs of this in our “times of trial.” Actually, this lesson from Job is an overarching theme of the entire Bible. Time and time again, God’s people experience difficulty. Sometimes the hardships come as a direct result of being faithful — the chosen one is targeted by enemies. And yet, these heroes and heroines persevere, and something even better comes about — often, a result that blesses a whole community.