Centerport United Methodist Church
The Pastors' messages comes from the March issue of our monthly church newsletter - The Focus.

Unshakeable, Unremitting Love

Just A Closer Walk With Thee    

Glenn Hinson was a professor who held moderate views in an extremely conservative seminary. At one point, Hinson found himself at the center of a volatile conflict. Exposed to regular attacks opposing his stance and theology, he began taking long and vigorous walks every day. Those walks became Hinson’s time with God. He transformed his inner fear and anger into a practice that benefited his physical and spiritual health. He stood his philosophical ground, but he did so without apology or hate.

Times of stress and challenge may require more time with God, not less. As Martin Luther once remarked, “I have so much to do today that I need to spend an extra hour with God in prayer!” 

Even when we’re not conflicted, we are very busy people. Even at church we keep ourselves occupied with a variety of activities and programs, leaving little room to stop, reflect and pray. All of that holy activity, though, can carry us far from our spiritual center.If we are not careful, we will be like Martha and miss our moment. You remember Martha, sister of Mary and friend of Jesus. When he came to visit one day, she was the perfect host, slaving away in the kitchen preparing meals for a houseful of guests and generally doing everything that hospitality required. All the while she went into a slow burn while Mary stayed with the Jesus and the other guests and hardly lifted a finger to help.

When Martha complained to Jesus about this, he said in effect that Mary was actually the better host, for she sat and listened and engaged him in conversation. Given a choice between doing her hosting duties and learning from Jesus, Mary had chosen “the better way.”One of the sins of good church folk is that we do so many things for Jesus that we do not have time to be with Jesus. We distract ourselves with so many tasks that we fail to see what Jesus is already at work doing - for, in, and among us. We may wind up estranged from our brothers and sisters by allowing our hard work to create envy and resentment in our hearts.

Lent is a wonderful time to come out of the kitchen and sit at the feet of Jesus. We are told to take time away from our customary activities — virtuous as they may be — to “sit at the feet of the Master” and make space-making spiritual practices for ourselves to deepen our relationship with God. We don’t even have to feel guilty about not doing as much — it’s what we’re supposed to do!

That is why Lent is a prime time to nurture our inner life. Most of the year we fill our inner space with worry about things that might happen and guilt about things that have already happened. And beneath our worry and our guilt there is a deep fear of empty spaces.Lent offers a beautiful opportunity to discover that, even deeper than the worry, lies the presence of Christ offering us a better way. It is a gentle but also demanding season, a time of solitude but also community, a time of listening to the voice within but also a time for paying attention to the voices of hurting and needy people.

All of this is made possible by engaging in some form(s) of spiritual practice — intentional attitudes or activities that open us to experiencing the presence of God. Traditional practices include prayers, meditation, reading the Bible or devotional literature and attending worship. In recent years many Christians have been adding to the list so that we now think of a variety of activities — listening to music, working with your hands, sitting in a sunny window or even knitting — as spiritual practices.As Trevor Hudson writes, “Anything that allows us to be still or to focus our attention on the Holy One can be a spiritual practice. Anything we come back to, day after day, anything to which we give our attention, can be a spiritual practice. Washing dishes, walking the dog, even taking out the trash.”

Or, as Glenn Hinson found, taking a long and vigorous walk to spend time with the source of love and strength during difficult, stressful days fits the bill, too.What will you do to practice being in God’s presence this Lent? How will you come out of your kitchen to spend time with Jesus?

When we live Lent attentively, open to the presence of the Divine, readying ourselves to receive the Spirit, the Easter proclamation of the risen Christ will reverberate into the deepest places of our being. And, somehow, the dishes will get done along the way.                     

Blessings, 
    

 Pastor Roy        

 

A few days ago I was in my office trying to catch up on filing and the sorting out of notes from meetings, and I came across one of our worship service bulletins. The bulletin was “An order of Reception and Welcome into the United Methodist Church and the Local Community of Faith”. As I sat with it and actually read and re-read the words, I felt the call to share my thoughts with you, my Brothers and Sisters in Christ, for included in this bulletin was a call for a deeper understanding of what we need to reflect, and who we may need to become, as a people of faith.   


Included in the “Introduction to the Service” is the following statement from the pastor: “Through confirmation, and through the reaffirmation of our faith, we renew the covenant declared at our baptism, acknowledge what God is doing for us, and affirm our commitment to Christ’s holy church.” Collectively as members of the congregation, members of the body of Christ, we are called to reflect upon God’s grace and good will towards us. Through baptism, God has claimed each one of us as God’s own, we are all God’s children and we celebrate the love that God has for us, and are surrounded by a community of faith that actually has promised to support and pray for us, as we grow in our lives as disciples. A covenant of support was pledged to us when we experienced the sacrament of baptism, and now we reflect upon this and as members of a community of faith, declare and pledge our support for a new disciple. Additionally, as a community of faith, we come to recognize that God’s grace is also reflected and shared with us through our interactions with one another. And we re-affirm our commitment to follow the command: “Love One Another”, as we recognize how much God loves us.  


On page three, the pastor addresses the congregation with the question “Will you nurture one another in the Christian faith and life and include (the new member) now before you in your care?” At the root of this question is the understanding that we, as a congregation have a responsibility to not only work on our own faith journey, but as we are called to make disciples and to love one another, one of the ways that this is manifested is in service to each other.   We serve God by serving others. So the question to us is will we be there for each other? Will we offer our help to each other? Will we support each other? Will we care for each other?


Part of the congregational response to this question is “we will surround (the new member) with a community of love and forgiveness, that (new member) may grow in their trust of God, and be found faithful in their service to others.” There is a re-affirmation: we are a group, a support system, a community that reflects love, an expectation: we offer forgiveness for mistakes (sins that are committed – for after all we are all sinners)…and confirmation: our knowledge and love of God, through the personal grace of God that we experience in our own lives, is the driving force, as we will utilize to help our new member to grow in their trust of God. We accomplish this by reflecting the character of God – as demonstrated to us through the life of Jesus – in our lives and deeds, leading that member to transform their own life into one that includes the faithful service of others.  


The last part of this response is “We will pray for them, so that they may be a true disciple who walks in the way that leads to life.” Prayer is one of our personal Spiritual Disciplines. It is a fundamental resource and tool that we as Christians need to call upon, need to focus on, need to share, and commit to. Therefore, as we welcome a new member into the flock…we pray for them, for we know that prayer is a foundational component in the development of Christian faith.   


When you become a member of the United Methodist Church, you take on vows that highlight the importance of love of God, love of one another, importance of community, prayer, service and commitment. These are concepts and fundamental principles of our faith, and we cannot simply recite them from a piece of paper every time we are blessed to have someone who desires to join with us and become a member of our congregation, we have to understand these concepts, accept them, live them and reflect them…we are called into commitment, and must be aware and understand the depth of this commitment to our faith.  


One of the vows that we take as members of the Church is a pledge to participate faithfully in our local member church through our prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness. By doing this we are committing our whole selves – heart, mind, soul and strength to God and to being disciples. “Change Me Lord…Make Us One!” 


May God Continue to Bless you and walk with you on your Journey. 

    

Brother Wayne Redman
Certified Lay Minister