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Through the Valley: Week 1

November 4, 2019 at 10:19 pm · · 0 comments

Through the Valley: Week 1

Sometimes we paint a picture that the Christian faith is all about the mountaintops, and we expect Christians to be good and happy all the time. But we all know that the Christian faith is not all sunshine and mountaintops. The Christian faith does not mean that we get to avoid suffering or pain. In Psalm 23:4 we find a promise, “Even though I walk through the valley of darkness, I will fear no evil, for you are with me, your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” The operative word is “through”- God walks with us through the valley of the shadow of death. This Sunday we began a three-week series called Through the Valley, about faith in the midst of the struggle, pain, and darkness. This Sunday was All Saints Sunday, which meant that we remembered the saints who have gone before us. In light of All Saints Sunday, we began our series talking about grieving loss of loved ones.

We often deal with grief by numbing or avoiding it, but those two ways of dealing with grief cause more harm in the long run. Ruth 1 can teach us some important truths about grief. In Ruth 1, we encounter a woman named Naomi who endures much grief- she loses her homeland and extended family in a move to Moab because of a famine. Then, her husband and both of her sons die. In the midst of all the grief, she decides to return home to Bethlehem. When she is greeted by her community, she doesn’t hide her grief, she gives voice to her deepest feelings. She is honest with God and with her community about her grief. She expresses emotions of anger, bitterness, and emptiness. While we tend to numb or stuff down our grief, Naomi teaches us how to lean into our grief. When we lean into our grief, God begins to lead us through the darkest valley. After Naomi’s outburst, the scripture says that Ruth and her arrived during the season of the barley harvest. New life was bursting forth at the harvest. God is at work redeeming Naomi’s tears. In time, as she journeys with God through the darkest valley, she becomes instrumental in match-making for Ruth and Boaz, and she has grandchildren, who are a part of the lineage of Jesus. Grief and loss do not have the final word, God does.

There is something powerful in how the community responds to Naomi’s grief. They don’t criticize or question her or share unhelpful platitudes. They allow her to feel what she feels. They engage in a ministry of presence with her. Ministry of presence is simply being present to someone who is grieving. It is not necessarily saying anything, for there isn’t anything we can say that will fix the pain. Ministry of presence is listening to them and telling and showing them that you are there for them in the midst of the struggle. Ministry of presence lets people know that they are not alone and that God and their community cares for them in the midst of the valley.

Henri Nouwen shared a thought-provoking quote about loss: “And still I also believe that absence might lead to the awareness of a new presence. Lately, I have found much comfort in the words of Jesus: ‘It is for your good that I leave, because unless I leave my Spirit cannot come.’ Jesus’ leaving meant that he would become more intimately present to us, that he would unite himself in a new way with us. Because of his death we can say: ‘Not I live but Christ lives in me.’ I have a feeling that this is not just true of Jesus, but in and through Jesus of all people who leave us. In their absence we can develop a new intimacy with them and grow. We even can become more like them and fulfill their mission in life until the day comes that we too have to leave so that our spirit can stay with those we love. In this way mourning can slowly turn into joy, and grief into rebirth.”

Scripture Readings:

  • Monday- Ruth 1
  • Tuesday- Ruth 2
  • Wednesday- Ruth 3
  • Thursday- Ruth 4
  • Friday- Psalm 43

Questions to Consider and Discuss:

  1. In your own experience, how have you dealt with grief? What does it look like to “lean into grief”?
  2. How is God inviting you to engage in a  ministry of presence with someone who is hurting?

Be the Change: Week 2

October 28, 2019 at 4:14 pm · · 0 comments

Be the Change: Week 2

This week we finished up our two-week series called Be the Change, inspired by the quote, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” We looked at the story of Jesus feeding the multitudes in John 6. In John’s version of this story, a young boy offers his bread and fish to Jesus to help feed people. When the disciple Andrew sees the meager offering, he inquires, “What good is that for a crowd like this?” That is a question that perhaps many of us ask in our lives. What good is my talent in the midst of people so much more talented than me? What good is my voice in a room full of people with much more wisdom? What good is my $20 with a need of $20,000? We live in a culture of scarcity, a mindset of never enough.

Yet Jesus has a profound response to this culture of scarcity. In this story, Jesus took the five loaves of bread and two fish, gave thanks to God, and gave it to the crowds gathered. Somehow the baskets of bread never emptied, and everyone had enough to eat. In this story, Jesus shows himself as the great provider, who can bring enough and even abundance out of the things we view as scarce. The young boy didn’t listen to the voice of scarcity, he chose to offer what he had to Jesus. The young boy chose to be the change and offer his gifts to Christ. He trusted God to provide and believed God was the source of blessing. What if we resisted the mindset of scarcity and trust that God provides? What if we offered our own forms of five loaves of bread and two fish to God?

From the UMCOR Sager Brown mission trip to Project Read to youth mission trips to small groups and Sunday Schools- all these ministries and missions exist because someone stepped up and said, “Yes, I’ll be the change.” These ministries transform lives because someone offered to God their own forms of five loaves of bread and two fish to God and trusted God to use them to be a force for good in the world. The next time you ask yourself the question “What good is that for a crowd like this?” remember the young boy with the five loaves of bread and two fish. Remember that our offerings have the capacity to be the change and do good in our world. Trust that God has the power to bring enough and even abundance out of the things we sometimes see as scarce.

“The world lies in the power of the evil one. The world does not recognize the light that shines in the darkness. It never did; it never will. But there are people, who in the midst of the world, live with the knowledge that he is alive and dwells within us, that he has overcome the power of death and opens the way of glory. Are there people who come together, who come around the table and do what he did, in memory of him? Are there people who keep telling each other the stories of hope and, together, go out to care for their fellow human beings, not pretending to solve all problems, but to bring a smile to a dying man and a little hope to a lonely child? It is so little, so spectacular, yes, so hidden, this Eucharistic life, but it is like yeast, like a mustard see, like a smile on a baby’s face. It is what keeps faith, hope, and love alive in a world that is constantly on the brink of self-destruction.” – Henri Nouwen

Scripture Readings: 
Monday- John 6:1-14
Tuesday- Matthew 14:13-21
Wednesday- Mark 6:30-43
Thursday- Luke 9:10-17
Friday- Psalm 147:1-20
* As you read the different versions of the feeding of the five thousand this week, consider these questions: How are the stories alike? How are they different from each other?

Questions to Consider and Discuss:

  1. Where in your life do you have a scarcity mindset?
  2. What are your own forms of “bread and fish” that you can offer to God?

Be the Change: Week 1

October 20, 2019 at 4:18 pm · · 0 comments

Be the Change: Week 1

Sometimes we wonder if one person can actually make a difference in the world. Sometimes we become so overwhelmed by all that is wrong with the world that we doubt that we can make a positive impact as just one person. This Sunday we began a two-week series called “Be the Change,” a series where we are asking the question “Can one person actually make a difference?” Through this series, we hope to embrace and live out the quote “Be the change you want to see in the world.” To change the world, we have to change ourselves first.

Daniel was a prophet who lived during an era when the Jews were living under the Persian rule. Daniel was a Jew with a strong faith in God, and he served the Persian king by interpreting dreams and signs. But when a law was passed forbidding people to worship any god other than King Darius or else they would be thrown into a pit of lions, Daniel was put into a difficult position- to save his life and dishonor God or to risk his life and honor God. Daniel chose to pray to God by an open window in his home just like he always did. His disobedience to the Persian law lands him in a pit of lions; however, God ensured that the lions would not touch Daniel and his life was spared. This miracle moved King Darius to belief in God, and he abolished the law about worshipping King Darius and replaced it with a call for everyone to follow the God of Daniel.

Daniel was just one person going against the Persian law and government. His action to stand up for his faith combined with God’s power led to monumental change in the land. King Darius along with many others in the empire began to follow God. Daniel dared to be the change he desired to see in the world. The same can hold true for us too. When we commit to “being the change” and that combines with the mighty power of God, we can create positive change in our world. Positive change does not always have to be something big and drastic, it can start small. Positive change often starts with just one- one prayer in front of an open window, one act of civil disobedience against an injustice, one child to sponsor, one $20 bill you give, one commitment to listen to understand. Will you dare to be a Daniel in our world?

Scripture Readings:
Monday- Daniel 6:1-9
Tuesday- Daniel 6:10-22
Wednesday- Daniel 6:23-28
Thursday- Daniel 3:1-18
Friday- Daniel 3:19-30

Questions to Consider and Discuss:
1. What are your thoughts on the quote “Be the change you want to see in the world”? Do you like the quote? Why or why not?
2. How is God inviting you to “be the change” in your own spheres of influence?

Set in Stone: Week 5

October 6, 2019 at 9:15 am · · Comments Off on Set in Stone: Week 5

Set in Stone: Week 5

This Sunday we wrapped up our sermon series on the Ten Commandments called Set in Stone by looking at the last four commandments.

“Do not kill.” Exodus 20:13 All humans are made in the image of God, which means that when we harm another person, we harm the image of God. All life matters to God. This commandment was given in a tribal society, where people feared for their lives as different tribes conquered each other. Some of us may wonder how this command relates to us today. However, we aren’t as different from the ancient Israelites as we would like to think. Our society is filled with violence. This commandment invites us to consider how we might change the church to be the sort of place that produces and supports nonviolent people. Jesus expanded this commandment to include that if you hate or resent another, you have killed in your heart.

“Do not steal.” Exodus 20:15 Stealing is taking something that is not ours without the owner’s permission. If you have ever been stolen from, you know the fear, anger, and feeling of being violated that theft causes. Stealing harms people and hurts the community. This command protects people’s property, but it also was given to protect the poor. In the Promised Land, everyone was given a parcel of land. There was no reason to steal because the community took care of each other and everyone had enough.

“Do not testify falsely against your neighbor.” Exodus 20:16 This commandment extends further than the courtroom to include lying in any form. Gossip and rumors can be forms of bearing false witness. This commandment speaks to the power of our words. Our words have the power to be weapons of destruction or the building blocks of community. God is a God of Truth, and as followers of Christ, we are called to be a people of truth and honesty.

“Do not covet.” Exodus 20:17 To covet is to crave and strongly desire anything that belongs to someone else. We could covet another’s possessions or even covet someone else’s personality traits. You perhaps have heard it said that comparison is the thief of joy. Comparison and coveting are closely linked. Coveting is the thief of joy too. It can lead to jealousy and resentment, and it can be quite harmful for ourselves and our relationships with others.

All four of these commandments can be summed up in this way: Love your neighbor as yourself. When we love our neighbors, we start to see them as God sees them- as beloved and worthy children of God.

Scripture Readings:

  • Monday- Exodus 20:13-17
  • Tuesday- Genesis 4:1-16
  • Wednesday- Matthew 5:21-26
  • Thursday- James 3:1-12
  • Friday- Psalm 19:1-14

Questions to Consider and Discuss:

  1. How does is disobeying these commandments cause harm to one’s neighbor? Community? Self?
  2. Which one of these commandments do you struggle with following the most?
  3. How is God inviting you to love your neighbor this week through these commandments?

 

Set in Stone: Week 4

September 29, 2019 at 9:37 pm · · Comments Off on Set in Stone: Week 4

Set in Stone: Week 4


This week we continued in our sermon series Set in Stone on the Ten Commandments. Often these commandments can be seen as rigid, burdensome rules, but during this series we have been looking at these commandments through a fresh lens to discover how they are lined in grace and guidelines that lead to full life. Today we talked about two commandments that relate to our families: honor your parents and do not commit adultery.

Commandment #5: Honor your parents. The word “honor” in Hebrew means “heaviness.” In English, it means something like “carries a lot of weight.” To honor is to treat with great importance and with respect. We often think of this commandment in terms of calling young children to obey their parents. However, this commandment was given to adults, calling them to take care of their aging parents. The commandment contains a promise of living a long life if we obey it. It is not necessarily a guarantee for long life, but taking care of our parents sets an example for children to take care of us when we are older. The marker of a vital society is how we treat the most vulnerable. Honoring our parents can be difficult to define, but we know it when we see it. We can honor them by obeying their house rules, by taking care of them when they grow older, by spending time with them, by making one of their signature recipes, and/or by telling them “thank you” or “I love you.” Honoring our parents is a way we can honor God.

Commandment #7: Do not commit adultery. There comes a point in many of our lives, where we stand in front of the person we love the most and say the words: “In the name of God, I take you to be my husband/wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish until death do us part.” Adultery happens when we break the marriage covenant and are unfaithful to our spouse. Fidelity is often not encouraged in our society. We see that in our media- from tv shows to movies to books. People throughout scripture struggled with obeying this commandment too. Adultery breaks a covenant not only with our spouse but also with God. Jesus talks about adultery in terms of internal motives. Jesus said that if a married person looks at someone who isn’t their spouse with lustful thoughts, he/she commits adultery in the heart. Adultery causes harm in a marriage, it negatively affects children, and can disrupts one’s family and community. The positive view of this commandment is to be faithful in marriage. Marriage is a gift from God- it is a gift to be loved and to love another. We honor God through honoring our marriage covenant.

Love is a choice. It is a conscious decision to love and serve one another above yourself. We invite you to choose love this week and to honor your parents and your marriage covenant.

Scripture Readings:
Monday- Exodus 20:1-2, 12-14
Tuesday- Ephesians 6:1-4
Wednesday- Matthew 21:28-32
Thursday- Matthew 5:27-32
Friday- Psalm 71:1-24

Questions to Consider and Discuss:
1. How can you honor your parents more fully?
2. If you are married, we invite you to consider- What is one way you can honor your spouse this week?

Set in Stone: Week 3

September 22, 2019 at 8:30 am · · Comments Off on Set in Stone: Week 3

Set in Stone: Week 3

We live in a culture where busy is expected, exhaustion is a status symbol, and productivity is an indicator of our self-worth. We often view rest as a means to an end, with the “end” being going back to the grind of more work. Yet when we are on the edge of burn out, when we are not our best selves because of our exhaustion, and when our happiness wanes from the long days, we know there has to be a more sustainable way to live. This week we looked at the fourth commandment of the Ten Commandments in our series Set in Stone that helps us embrace a better way to live. This commandment states, “Remember the Sabbath day, and treat it as holy.”

Until God delivered them, the Israelites were living as slaves in Egypt, working seven days a week with back-breaking labor. For a people who never got a day off, this commandment of God must have been so freeing for them. For the Israelites, the Sabbath was not just a command, it was and is a gift. In Exodus 20, God reminds us of the story of creation. In six days, God created the whole earth, and on the seventh day, God rested. We rest because God rested. The rest was not a means to an end, the rest was the culmination. The rest was just as important as the productivity. The first thing God declared “holy” was Sabbath. If we can get this commandment right, we can recapture the sense of the holy. According to Exodus 20, Sabbath is intended to be a holy and set-apart day, a day without work, and a day to the Lord.

To keep Sabbath, we must remember four “R’s”: 1) Remember. This is a day to remember God and how God is active in our lives through Christ. It is a day to give thanks for rest, celebration, and play. It is a day to remember that God set apart a day to rest and enjoy the world without distraction. 2) Rest. It is a day for us to recharge and rest. If we think we do not need rest, we are essentially saying we are more indispensable than God. 3) Reflect. It is a day to experience life with wonder and awe. Sabbath helps us discover where we are going and whether or not it’s where we want to end up. 4) Rejoice, Sabbath was given for pleasure and joy. We are meant to enjoy the gifts of creation, gifts such as good food, time with friends and family, naps, and long walks outside. God delights when we are at rest and enjoying life. In his book How to be Here, Rob Bell writes, “Sabbath is when you spend a day remembering that efficiency and production are not God’s highest goals for your life. Joy is.” We encourage you to take some time this week (hopefully a whole day!) for Sabbath to rest, be renewed, and remember God.

Scripture Readings:

  • Monday- Exodus 20:8-11
  • Tuesday- Genesis 1:31-2:3
  • Wednesday- Psalm 92:1-8
  • Thursday- Isaiah 56:1-8
  • Friday- Matthew 11:28-12:14

Questions to Consider:

  1. How can God’s gift of Sabbath help you experience the fullness of life?
  2. What three things renew you?

September 15, 2019 at 11:01 pm · · Comments Off on Set in Stone: Week 2

Set in Stone: Week 2

We are in the middle of a sermon series on the Ten Commandments called Set in Stone. We often can see the Ten Commandments as a divine finger wagging of “Don’t do this” or “Don’t do that.” However, the Ten Commandments were not meant to be these rigid rules brought down by God, they were given in a context of grace. They are guidelines to show us how to respond to God’s grace and point us towards the way life is meant to be. This Sunday we looked at the first three commandments, which all are related to how we can worship and honor God above all else.

The first commandment is “You must have no other gods before me.” Polytheism was the custom at the time this law was given. Egyptians worshiped numerous gods, including a god of the sun, of the Nile, and even Pharaoh. Throughout the Exodus narrative, the Israelites saw how God was greater than any of the gods of Egypt and how God could do what no other god could do. Therefore, God did not want the Israelites to worship any other god besides the Lord God. We may think worshipping other gods is an ancient problem, but a god is simply something or someone you are devoted to above all else. Something becomes a god when our whole lives are centered around it. A god we worship may be money, work, power, status, success, or a relationship. If we choose to serve false gods, they will eventually let us down. If we can get this commandment right, the other ones are easier to obey.

The second commandment is “Do not make an idol for yourself.” Back then, idols were often carved images or statues of gods or animals that people would worship. The effects of this commandment are similar to the first commandment in that it leads to having something that is not God at the center of our lives. The issue of idolatry is found in the results of such worship and the type of person it creates. If we worship an idol, we become more like that idol, but if we worship Christ, we become more like Christ.

The third commandment is “Do not use the Lord’s name as if it has no significance.” Names are important to who we are. There is power in God’s name. This commandment calls us to respect and honor God’s name, for God is holy and sacred. Instead of using God’s name to control, manipulate, or control others, we ought to use God’s name in earnest. We are called to spend our lives glorifying God’s name. These three commandments, when taken together, show us how to worship God above all else. May we be a people who protest idolatry with prayer and choose to be devoted to God above all else, as a grateful response to God’s grace.

Scripture Readings:

  • Monday- Exodus 20:1-7
  • Tuesday- Exodus 32:1-16
  • Wednesday- Exodus 32:17-35
  • Thursday- Ephesians 4:20-32
  • Friday- Psalm 115:1-18

Questions to Consider and/or Discuss:

  1. What are you devoted to above all else?
  2. Does the way you talk to God and about God honor the Lord’s name?

Set in Stone: Week 1

September 8, 2019 at 11:04 pm · · Comments Off on Set in Stone: Week 1

Set in Stone: Week 1

When you think of the Ten Commandments, what comes to mind? Perhaps you think of one of the Ten Commandments movies, like the one starring Charles Heston. Perhaps you think of a general list of “Thou shall nots.” Or perhaps you think of the controversies of displaying the Ten Commandments in government buildings and public schools. When we think about the Ten Commandments, many of us aren’t particularly enthused or passionate about them. This Sunday we began a new sermon series on the Ten Commandments called Set in Stone, where we hope to shed some new perspective on these commands to see them not as burdensome, rigid rules but more as guidelines to experience freedom and point us to the way life is supposed to be. We hope to write the commandments on our heart as our moral compass.

This Sunday we talked about a part of the Ten Commandments that is perhaps the most important part, yet a section we rarely read. Exodus 20:1-2 is known in most Christian denominations as the preamble to the Ten Commandments. The verses state, “Then God spoke all these words: ‘I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” While it is known as the preamble in most Christian denominations, it is the first commandment for our Jewish brothers and sisters. This announcement helped the Jews and us remember who God is and how God acts on our behalf.

The Ten Commandments were not given in a vacuum as a general list of rules, they must be read in the context of Genesis and Exodus. At the beginning of Exodus, the Israelites were living as slaves in Egypt. They cried out to God for rescue, and God empowered Moses to lead them out of captivity and into freedom. At the outset of the Ten Commandments, God wanted to remind the Israelites of the depths of God’s mercy and grace. They weren’t some “just because” laws, they were principles to bring stability and moral purpose to the Israelites. The law helped give them a unique national identity and were an extension of God’s liberation. They were commands given by a God who loved Israel and wanted them to be a light for the world. They were a guide to show them how life was intended to be.

The same God who rescued the Israelites from captivity rescues us from captivity. Some of us are rescued from being a slave to fear, works righteousness, addiction, or toxic relationships. It’s from a place of rescue and deliverance that God gives us the Ten Commandments. These commandments are meant to be principles to live by, as a grateful response to the God who brought us out of slavery. We receive these commands in a context of grace, where grace always comes before the law. How do we respond to God’s grace? We serve God by writing the commandments on our heart and living them out each day.

Scripture Readings:

  • Monday- Exodus 20:1-2
  • Tuesday- Exodus 3:1-22
  • Wednesday- Exodus 7:1-13
  • Thursday- Exodus 13:17-14:31
  • Friday- Exodus 15:1-19

Questions to Consider and Discuss:

  1. From what bondage has God rescued you?
  2. Does Exodus 20:1-2 change your perspective on the Ten Commandments as a whole? Why or why not?

Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.

March 12, 2019 at 4:37 pm · · Comments Off on Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.

Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.

This past Wednesday was Ash Wednesday, marking the beginning of the Lenten season. This Sunday we began a Lenten series called “Listening at the Cross,” in which we will spend the next 7 weeks at the foot of the cross, leaning in close to hear what Jesus says. Oftentimes in the Protestant Church, we can have a hard time making the cross real; however, there could be no Easter Sunday without a Good Friday, no resurrection without a death- which is why we are spending this Lenten season at the cross. Each week of this series we will deep dive into each of the seven last words (or rather, statements) of Jesus at the cross. This week we began with what is believed to be the first of the last seven words of Jesus: Father, forgive, them, for they know not what they do.

In Luke 23, we find Jesus beaten, bloodied, and barely able to walk. When they get to Golgotha, the Roman soldiers nail Jesus’ hands and feet to a cross. When people were crucified, they ultimately died by asphyxiation, where they wouldn’t be able to get enough oxygen to breathe. Jesus was in horrific physical pain but also emotional agony too, as the crowds, leaders, and soldiers sneered against him. Yet in the midst of such great suffering, he strains his breath to offer a simple prayer, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Jesus asked God to forgive people who undermined his ministry, called for his crucifixion, and killed him. This is quite an unexpected prayer, and it would have been shocking to anyone who overhead it. Jesus wanted us to overhear this prayer. It would have been easier and less painful to pray silently, but he wanted us to see him offering compassion towards the people who wronged him.

Jesus offers this prayer not only for the people by the cross that day, but for all of us who have ever wronged God. Jesus’ compassion and mercy extends to all. As Jesus prays this prayer from the cross, we discover no deed is unforgiveable, no person unredeemable. The part of this statement “for they know not what they do” implies that Jesus knows these people, their hearts, and their pains. It is an invitation for us to take a step back when we are wronged to consider another person’s story and have compassion on them. I have come to believe that each person who does something we consider offensive and egregious does so out of great suffering and pain of their own.

Forgiveness is hard, but forgiveness is necessary. If we cannot forgive others, it closes us off from the grace we need. Forgiveness enables us to experience true freedom in Christ. The power of forgiveness comes from the truth that it did hurt and matter, yet I still chose to forgive. Rather than being gripped by a grudge, Jesus invites us to find freedom through forgiveness.

Scripture Readings:
Monday- Luke 23:26-35
Tuesday- Matthew 18:21-35
Wednesday- Matthew 6:7-15
Thursday- Isaiah 1:10-20
Friday- Psalm 51:1-19

Questions to Consider and Discuss:
1. Jesus prayed the prayer “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” over you too. What does that mean to you?
2. Are you holding a grudge against someone who has wronged you right now? If so, do you think you could overcome the wrong done to you by praying the prayer “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”?

March 3, 2019 at 4:39 pm · · Comments Off on Listen

Listen

This past Sunday was Transfiguration Sunday, where we remembered the story of the transfiguration and God’s invitation of the disciples to listen to Jesus. Jesus’ transfiguration is an intriguing and illuminating story. One day, Jesus took his disciples Peter, James, and John to the mountaintop to pray. While praying on the mountaintop, Jesus is transformed before the disciples eyes, his face and clothes change and a radiant glow shines forth from him. Then, Moses and Elijah appear and talk with Jesus. In this mystical experience, Jesus’ identity as God was affirmed. God tells the disciples, “This is my Son, the chosen one. Listen to him.” The disciples had all sorts of voices speaking to them- voices of the Roman government, Jewish leaders and Pharisees, families, friends, and their own internal voice. Out of all these other voices, God invites the disciples to listen to Jesus.

We too all hear all sorts of voices throughout the day- voices of politicians, authority figures, family members, friends, and even voices in our own heads. In the midst of all the other voices in our lives, the top priority voice for us to listen to is that of Jesus. As Christians, listening to Jesus is one of the most important, if not the most important, things we can do.

This week was a difficult week to be a United Methodist. At General Conference this week, the One Church Plan, the plan that the Council of Bishops recommended, failed. Instead, the Traditional Plan passed in a vote 53% to 47%, a vote that shows the bitter division in the church right now. While the Traditional Plan passed, 2/3 of American delegates voted for the One Church Plan, so this decision has created much angst within the American United Methodist Church right now. The Traditional Plan upholds, strengthens, and enforces the current language in our Book of Discipline (the book that contains the doctrine and law of the UMC). However, much of the Traditional Plan was ruled unconstitutional by the Judicial Council. As of right now, we are not sure what we have, as we wait for an official ruling from the Judicial Council in April 2019. Some are grateful this plan passed, while others feel hurt, angry, and personally harmed by this legislation. Whatever your emotions about General Conference, the invitation from the Transfiguration story remains pertinent. Listen to Jesus. We wonder, what would Jesus’ response be to this General Conference and the legislation passed? What would Jesus have to say about how we have treated each other this week? What would happen if we all took some time to take a deep breath, stop, and listen to Jesus?

This Wednesday we begin our Lenten journey. More than ever we need Lent right now, with its emphasis on prayer, self-denial, and listening to Jesus. This year during Lent, our sermon series is entitled “Listening at the Cross.” We will be journeying through the last words of Christ before his crucifixion. In the wake of General Conference, we hope the journey to the cross this Lent will help us all open our hearts and ears to Jesus.

Scripture Readings:
Monday- Mark 9:2-9
Tuesday- Luke 9:28-36
Wednesday- Matthew 17:1-8
Thursday- Mark 8:27-38
Friday- Deuteronomy 6:1-9

Questions to Consider and Discuss:
1. Julian Treasure says, “I think listening is the most generous gift you can give another human being.” What are your thoughts on that statement? Why do you think that is?
2. Spend five minutes in silence each day this week, praying the prayer of Samuel “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.” As you listen to Jesus this week, what does he reveal to you?