What does the Spirit do? His works are ineffable in majesty, and innumerable in quantity. How can we even ponder what extends beyond the ages? What did He do before creation began? How great are the graces He showered on creation? What power will He wield in the age to come? He existed; He pre-existed; He co-existed with the Father and the Son before the ages. Even if you can imagine anything beyond the ages, you will discover that the Spirit is even further beyond. -St. Basil the Great
This Pentecost, I find myself hungering for revival, for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit to awaken God’s people to the fullness of faith. This prayer (or song lyric) was born out of that hunger. Each verse was inspired by scriptures relating to the work of the Holy Spirit.
A Message in Light of the Potential UMC Split (Psalm 46)
Scripture: Psalm 46
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 01/05/2020 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. Click Here for a video of the entire worship service, including the message.
1 God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
3 though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble with its tumult.
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
5 God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved;
God will help it when the morning dawns.
6 The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
7 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.
8 Come, behold the works of the Lord;
see what desolations he has brought on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
10 “Be still, and know that I am God!
I am exalted among the nations,
I am exalted in the earth.”
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.
In the last few days, most major news outlets ran stories on a potential split in the United Methodist Church. Hearing this news brought up many feelings and questions for me.
What did it bring up for you?
Below you’ll find a link to an article with the most accurate information. The article includes links to the actual mediation document and a frequently asked questions article. We’ll also have copies in the church office. I encourage you to read it.
We will be reading this article together tomorrow – Monday, January 6 – at the Leadership Council Meeting. The meeting begins at 6:00 pm in Haley Hall. You are welcome to attend.
The mediation document is a proposal, not a decision. Those who can make a decision for our denomination will gather in May in Minneapolis. This group is called The General Conference and is made up of United Methodist laity and clergy from around the world.
Here’s some background information to give you some context. It’s quoted from the Frequently Asked Questions Document For the past 47 years, The United Methodist Church has struggled unsuccessfully to achieve consensus and compliance with regard to matters of human sexuality. The Special Session of General Conference in 2019 caused significant harm. This work is a significant attempt to not replicate the mood or climate created in St. Louis in 2019. It acknowledges that even in the midst of faithful attempts to stay together, we no longer can remain as one denomination. The divisions are simply too vast. This work is important because it provides a pathway of reconciliation and grace through separation and offers us an opportunity to bless and send one another into a new reality rather than continue to fight and rend our way into irrelevance and destruction.
This latest attempt at a path forward is new for all of us. There are still many questions. As I know more I will continue to share. Be on the lookout for upcoming times of prayer, listening, and discussion.
Hear this my dear ones:
God is faithful and true and at work. God is Sovereign. Jesus is Lord and Savior. The Holy Spirit still speaks and transforms. No human decision changes this.
We are all made in the image of God. All have sacred worth.
We all sin and fall short of the glory of God. All are in desperate need of forgiveness and salvation and the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Our mission has not changed- Making Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World
Our vision has not changed- God is love. We are called to share that love and the hope we’ve found in Jesus Christ with all people.
No matter what is decided, people will leave and people will come.
No matter what is decided, it will not be a magic bullet to kill the church nor a magic bullet to revive the church.
God will redeem the pain and harm we’ve caused one another. Let it end now.
Our denomination is a 12 million-member global church representing very different cultures and values. Likewise, our congregation is diverse in many ways, including strong convictions on these issues and other issues. It’s been this way for a long time.
Look around this room. What do you see? More importantly, who do you see?
We are not issues; we are people, faithful real people drawn together by our need and love of Christ.
What are we to do? Love one another and serve one another. Love and serve Sarasota. In doing so, we love and serve God.
They will know we are Christians by our love, our love made real in our words and actions, in the way we honor one another and work together in the midst of our differences. The world needs to see this.
I love you and respect you no matter your position on this issue or any other issue. I will continue to serve you with every ounce of grace, strength, and skill the Holy Spirit empowers in me and through me. I invite you to do the same.
If you are a follower of Jesus, you have a calling from God,
Come follow Me = call to relationship with Christ, call to salvation
Come follow Me = call to relationship with others, call to serve
You have a mission from God. You have a purpose.
God gives you spiritual gifts to help you figure out your calling to serve and fulfill your calling to serve. Spiritual gifts are divine enablement, like a superpower. God through the Holy Spirit arranges and empowers the superpowers for us to work together for the glory of God and the common good.
To help us understand this Paul gives us a metaphor- One Body with Many Members. We can understand a human body with many parts fulfilling their purpose, working together well.
This reminds me of Mr. Potato Head.
Feet = spiritual gift of Apostleship, the divine enablement to start new things
Ear = spiritual gift Faith, faith comes through hearing (Romans 10:17), the spiritual gift of confidence in God
Ear = spiritual gift of Mercy, the divine enablement of being with people in pain
Eyes = spiritual gift of Wisdom, the divine enablement of seeing a consequence of choices and applying the scriptures in practical ways
Nose = spiritual gift of Discernment, the divine enablement of discerning truth from falsehood, good from evil, right from wrong. “Something smells fishy.”
Mouth = spiritual gift of Prophecy, the ability to speak truth to power
Hand = spiritual gift of Helps, little things done with great love
Hand = spiritual gift of Teaching
There are many more body parts for many more people and spiritual gifts. They work together for the glory of God and the common good.
1 Corinthians 12:12-26 12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. 14 Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many.
Unity in Christ is incredibly important. In three verses, the word “one” is used 6 times. The word “all” is used 3 times. We’re better together.
All spiritual gifts are valuable and needed, thus all people are valuable and needed
So powerful and important, breaks down how the world divides us – Jews/Greeks, slaves/free (v. 13)
1 Corinthians 12:7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
We take the good gift of God and twist it into something it was never meant to be.
People not valuing their own gifts = self-exclusion 15 If the foot would say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear would say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many members, yet one body.
Story of me freaked out I didn’t have certain spiritual gifts “all pastors have”. I had the false idea that there was a certain gift mix for pastors.
I didn’t have- leadership, evangelism, shepherding, apostleship
I did have- administration, teaching, wisdom, mercy
The grace and truth- “Everyone in this room is called to be a pastor. Everyone in this room has a different gift mix. You will lead, you will answer your call in the way you are wired. You will bring your gifts to being a pastor.”
We are one body with many members. It’s not about solo-heroic leadership. It’s about us doing it together.
We value each other’s gifts and we do it together. That’s how we make disciples. That’s how we transform the world. That’s how we grow in grace. That’s how we do it- together.
Invitation to discover your spiritual gifts
God’s wired you and given you a mission. It’s good, so don’t self eliminate. God made you you. You’re important and needed.
People not valuing another person and their gifts = exclusion of others 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; 24 whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, 25 that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.
We suffer together and we celebrate together. That’s what it means to be the Body of Christ, the Family of God.
Extended Quote by Nadia Bolz-Webber Sermon on Spiritual Gifts (which, unfairly, doesn’t include snarkiness)
“This ended up being one of my more difficult weeks in recent memory and I found myself having no choice but to rely on the prayers and faith and wisdom and compassion of those brothers and sisters in Christ whom God has put in my life – because frankly I was tapped out. Which is hard because I’d so rather have all the gifts myself and not have to rely on others. But when it feels like a failure on my part that I don’t have the faith or compassion or prayer life or wisdom that I need, I just have to remember that the only real failure is when I fail to recognize that I do actually have all the faith and compassion and prayer and wisdom I need – it’s just that someone else in my life is holding it for me.
See, I believe that it is God’s intention that we need each other. Not in a creepy co-dependent having no boundaries type of way. But in a bearing the face of Christ kind of way because when I cannot see goodness, when I cannot see hope or beauty or the face of Christ in my own heart, in my own life, and through my own eyes I need you to do it for me.”
This is why we’re part of the Body. We need each other. We value each other. We can’t do it alone. We weren’t designed to do it alone.
Accept the invitation to discover your spiritual gifts, to know how valuable you are, how needed you are. God has a purpose for you- to bring glory to God and build up others.
Theme Verse for this series, 1 Peter 4:10-11 10 Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. 11 Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.
Prayer- Jesus it is such a great grace that you offer us salvation. Even more so, you offer us the chance to join you in your saving work. You trust us that much. You empower us that much. Reveal to us our spiritual gifts. Reveal to us the calling that you’ve placed upon our lives so we may fulfill it together, so we may fulfill it for your glory, so we may fulfill it for the common good, so we may fulfill it for the building of your Kingdom. Help us to know that we know that we know how valuable we are to you and how valuable we are to each other. God, we ask by the power of your Holy Spirit, that all people would know their value, their purpose, their place in your Body. Thank you, Jesus. Amen.
Matthew 5:1-12 NRSV When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way, they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
We receive your blessings and pray for the Holy Spirit to make them real in our lives.
Renew a right spirit within us, a poor spirit, a spirit which knows our deep need of your grace and deliverance. Free us from trying to save ourselves. Free us for the fullness of your kingdom.
Soften our hard hearts with the gift of tears. Help us mourn our brokenness and the brokenness of our world. Help us feel it fully. Help us welcome the refreshment of your comfort and share it well with others.
Generous Savior, you fill each person with gifts, talents, and strength. Open us to meekness, that we may gladly surrender them to your authority and discipline. In our hands, they are often weapons. With you, they are refined for your glory and the common good.
Bread of Life, sour every false and destructive appetite, that we may hunger and thirst for righteousness alone- a right relationship with you, a right relationship with others and between others, a right relationship with ourselves, a right relationship with your creation.
We bless you and honor you for your unending mercy, a flood of grace, pouring out and spilling over. Make us mercy-full. May all people know you like this.
Suffering One, break our hearts as yours is broken. In the breaking, create in us clean hearts, pure hearts, undivided hearts. Our deepest desire is to see you at work in us and all around us and to one day see you face to face.
In your grace, please don’t stop with our hearts. Re-Birth us fully in the breaking and creating. Named your beloved, your children, forever.
One with you and each other
One in your great work of peace
One in your words and ways
One in commitment to reconciliation and righteousness
One in facing of falsehood
One in the bloody bonds of persecution
One in your joy
One in your promises
One on earth and one in heaven
All week long we wrote Belong on each other’s palms. We wrote on our fingers, too. Needed and Loved. Safe, Understood, and Purpose.
We wrote it because they’re our deepest longings. Every single one of them in every single one of us.
We wrote it because we wanted to hold on to their truth and each other and the One who would help us find them.
You can hold on, too, with us and with Him. You belong.
Ephesians 2:13-18 Now in Christ Jesus, you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace; in his flesh, he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father.
You are our peace
You proclaim it
You create it
You bring us near
Without you there is
No identity rooted beyond this dust
Without you we are
Outsiders, Outcasts, Orphaned
Our need is so deep, so desperate
So beyond us
It took flesh, your flesh to make peace
Your torture puts hostility to death
Your broken body breaks down every dividing wall
Your blood makes us blood
What wondrous truth
What dazzling grace
Bring us near again, Jesus
Help us remember and re-member
Make us one in your generous, fierce love
This reflection came from a week leading middle school worship at the Warren W Willis United Methodist Summer Camp in Fruitland Park, Florida.
It feels especially needed given the hate and division being promoted in our country.
Should you ever want a gentle ear to listen, or a gentle heart to pray, I would be honored to be that for you.