This morning we attended the First United Methodist Church of Ada, Ok. The occasion was the baptism of our youngest grandson, Ronan. The whole family was present, Scott, Kali, Asher, Solomon and Mazie from Tulsa, Stephanie and Paul Zito from Sydney, Australia, my brother Trent and my mother Carolyn Cole Pound from Carnegie, Dan, Sarah and Drake Cody who are Ronan’s family, plus all of Dan’s family.
It was a great way to start a new year- a baptism, communion, worship, a family gathering, some time for prayer. My prayer is for the Father, Son and Holy Spirit to fill us all with His presence and power... Send a revival to us, our church, our community and our land.
There was an unusual baby born in Palestine several winters ago. This baby was a Palestinian Arab by birth. She was found abandoned in a roadside heap of trash hear the West Bank town of Ramallah, one of the scenes of violence in the war between Jews and Arabs. She was taken to a Palestinian hospital and saved by a group of Muslim doctors. She was named "Salaam," which is Arabic for "peace."
Salaam found a permanent home a few days after her birth in a home run by Christian nuns in Bethlehem. But her health worsened. She was turning blue and losing weight. The Palestinian doctors determined that Salaam had a hole in her heart, and her lungs weren't receiving enough blood circulation. Lacking the facilities to do surgery, the baby was taken to a hospital in Jerusalem. Israeli doctor Eli Migalter operated on Salaam. The Jewish surgeon worked for free. The nuns in Bethlehem raised nearly $11,000 to pay for hospital costs. Following the operation, Salaam made a full recovery.
That winter, Arabs, Christians, and Jews crossed the boundaries of their hatred and conflict to unite in caring for a little child, whose name was "peace." If that's not a Christmas story, I don't know what is.
This is a stories of life, mercy and grace. Christmas is a story of God's love for us and how our lives are transformed through His grace. Our theme for 2012 is "52 Stories." I am starting a new sermon series the second week in January about the "The Power of Story." Hopefully each week throughout the year we will hear from some of you, your stories of grace, hope and transformation. God is all about the "Story!" Have a blessed week.
We can get so use to things that we don't always see or notice reality. Someone else who is not used to seeing what we see notices stuff. Take Christmas for example. We are so use to "peace on earth" and decorated trees and homes and holiday food and giving and receiving gifts. We live in a day where there's a whole cottage industry, spending billions of dollars creating an idealized expectation of Christmas… Hallmark, sentimentalized, manufactured moments! When Jesus was born, all was not calm, all was not bright. That little baby did not sleep in heavenly peace. There was a price on His head. An angel comes to Joseph whose life has been disrupted by this whole story. God says to Joseph, "Get up… take the child and His mother and escape to Egypt… for Herod is going to search for the child to kill Him." Read it for yourself in Matthew 2.
Why does he tell us about the agony of Bethlehem, this odd part of the story? Maybe if Jesus could enter into a world where unthinkable evil and suffering takes place, then maybe our world, a world in this last century that has seen two world wars and unspeakable genocides, maybe Jesus could come into our world. Maybe you know about agony. Maybe you have suffered a loss that has broken you. Maybe there will be an empty chair around a table this year that has never been empty before, and it hurts you so badly you almost wish it wasn't going to be Christmas because you don't want to look at that chair. Maybe it's a broken heart. Maybe it is a child who has run far away from you or from God. Don't you give up. See, Jesus comes to Bethlehem in the time of King Herod. But what if He hadn't come? What if He wasn't savior? That's what we're talking about in this series… "What if…?"
I was listening to "This American Life" on NPR this weekend and there was a segment giving an explanation of the current economy situation. I thought it was insightful and I thought you might find it helpful. Here is the link:
Most of you are aware that in the fall we did a congregational survey called Reveal. The purpose of the survey is to give us some insight as to where we are as a congregation and individuals regarding some key factors. One set of those factors are “Spiritual Beliefs and Attitudes.” I have used two or three of these in sermons the last few weeks. Let me list them for you:
1. Salvation by Grace
3. Personal God
4. Christ is First
5. Authority of the Bible
6. Identity in Christ
8. Giving Away My Life
These eight key spiritual beliefs and attitudes are listed or ranked by there importance. In other words “Salvation by Grace” would have a higher value in the general Christian community than “Personal God”, etc. The ranking would vary some depending on a particular religious group. The Catholics would have a somewhat different opinion about what constitutes “salvation”. Most all Protestant groups would consider “Salvation by Grace” number one.
New Covenant as a community comes out this way:
1. Salvation by Grace 51%
2. Trinity 82%
3. Personal God 63%
4. Christ is First 56%
5. Authority of the Bible 38%
6. Identity in Christ 43%
7. Stewardship 31%
8. Giving Away My Life 19%
We will be talking more about these outcomes over the next few months.
In my devotional time this morning the following was the reflective reading after the scripture readings from the Psalms and book of Acts. I thought it was meaningful and thought you might find meaning it in as well.
"We seldom get rid of an evil merely by understanding its causes… and for all our insight, obstinate habits do not disappear until replaced by other habits. But habits are won only by exercise, and appropriate education is the sole means to this end. The patient must be drawn out of himself into other paths, which is the true meaning of "education," and this can only be achieved by an educative will…
…no amount of confession and no amount of explaining can make the crooked plant grow straight; it must be trained upon the trellis of the norm by the gardener's art."
-From "The Practice of Psychotherapy" by Carl G. Jung
By the way the reading is taken from "A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants" by Rueben Job and Norman Shawchuck.
Hey, Check out the video that the Daily Oklahoman in their "In Style" section of the paper on Beverly and her Santa creations. There is a brief 15 second commercial before you get to her video - Daily Oklahoman There was also a write up about her in the paper on 11/20/08. Enjoy!
The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are my personal views; they do not directly reflect the thoughts or opinions of New Covenant United Methodist Church, its staff, leaders, or congregation.