I know that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it; God has done this, so that all should stand in awe before him.
Merry Christmas! Now that we are in the liturgical Christmas season (which runs from Christmas through Epiphany -- January 6), I can write “Merry Christmas” without a hint of guilt that I am jumping the gun. I want to thank each of you who participated (in any way) in our Christmas Eve services at Revolution and at Keystone. Christmas Eve gives us the opportunity to greet people who might not enter a church on any other day of the year, and I thank each of you for your warmth and welcoming spirit.
On Sunday, we will be returning to our regular Sunday morning schedule and celebrating worship through the tradition of Lessons and Carols -- scriptures describing the joy of the Christ child entering the world interspersed with (mostlY) familiar hymns and songs.
Then, on January 6, we will begin a new sermon series: “Hello, My Name is . . ..” Throughout the first four weeks of the year, we will be discussing different elements of the life and ministry of Jesus. It should be a great way to welcome the new year as well as a terrific opportunity to invite a friend to join you in worship!
My prayers are with each of you as the calendar turns. This has been a year of changes, surprises, tears and laughter. At every turn, God has been beside us to comfort us in our pain, laugh with us in our joy and encourage us in our questioning. May the months ahead fill us with a desire to continue to be God’s people in our communities.
Peace in the new year and in every year,
December 28, 2017 - 12:00 am
Praise God with drum and dance!
Praise God with strings and pipe!
Praise God with loud cymbals!
Praise God with clashing cymbals!
Psalm 150:4-5 (CEB)
I am one of those people who like to listen to Christmas music throughout the year. It reminds me of happy memories, but also of the collision between the sacred and the secular -- the way in which faith informs popular culture and vice versa. However, I tend to be fairly picky about the seasonal music for which I do and do not care. “The Little Drummer Boy” is one of my least favorite Christmas songs. It was written in 1941 and first recorded by the Trapp Family Singers (who inspired the musical “The Sound of Music”). But I’ve truly never understood the appeal of a song that describes a drum being played in close proximity to a newborn baby, with the mother nodding in approval.
But this is the world into which the Christ child is being born -- two thousand years ago and today. A world of messiness and noise. A world of disruption and disarray. A world of hatred and war. And yet, into this cacophony, the Prince of Peace enters. And just as the newborn child is not distressed by the banging drum, Jesus’s mission was never diminished by the topsy-turvy world in which he found himself. He shared God’s message of love and compassion -- preaching it most freely to those who needed it most deeply.
The little drummer boy could have stood silent for fear of disturbing the child. For any other child in the history of the world, that would have been the wise decision. But, for Jesus, he felt that he needed to give forth his offering. May each of us not choose silence for fear of disruption or for fear of not playing well enough. May each of us err on the side of noise and action in praise and response, confident that our savior will receive our gifts and transform them into works that will change the world.
An advent peace be with you,
December 14, 2017 - 12:00 am
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Friends, as Candace shared with us on Sunday, we are on the cusp of Advent -- the time of celebration and preparation when we are getting ready to recognize the birth of the Christ child coming into the world and when we are preparing for the return of the King. But, as Candace pointed out, Advent is also the start of the church’s calendar. As we begin this new year (and as we look forward to 2018), I want to encourage you to consider your giving to the church and to other organizations that share God’s love in the world.
I often talk with people who are excited about sharing their gifts (financial as well as personal) but think of it only as an act of generosity. Sharing what we have been given is a spiritual discipline in which we are called to be engaged; just as we enrich our spiritual lives through engaging in prayer, the study of scripture and meeting with small groups, we also enrich our spiritual lives by a committed plan of financial giving. That plan should be based in discussions with God -- prayers of discernment on how best to use our resources to physically and spiritually change lives in our community and in our world.
There is a biblical presumption that God’s people will offer a tithe -- ten percent of their income -- toward God’s work in the world. I invite you to use this number as a benchmark for yourself. If you have not done so yet, create a budget for you (and your family) for 2018. What is your anticipated income and what are your anticipated expenses? If you have never made a regular commitment to the church, what changes might allow you to offer one or two percent of your income on a regular basis? If you have given regularly, consider if God is working with you to be able to share an additional percentage of your income with the church or with another faith-based organization that is working in the community. If you already share a ten percent tithe, is there an additional ministry to which you feel connected that could use your help as you go above and beyond?
Remember that special giving opportunities exist throughout the year -- not just in our weekly giving. On several Sundays in 2018 we will join in other churches with “special offerings” dedicated to specific ministries, including education, the support of Native American communities and disaster relief through UMCOR. During this Advent season, Revolution’s church council has challenged us to go above and beyond our normal offering to raise $1000 to offer support during the holiday season to those families served by Baby Grace ministries. Baby Grace, which operates through Revolution and other local churches, provides support for families at or near the poverty level through the provision of necessary supplies.
Reystone has engaged in a variety of ministries throughout our community, our state and the world in 2017. In the coming days, I am asking you to join me in prayerful consideration of what ministries we can create, renew and support in 2018 and how each of us is being moved to be a part of that plan.
December 1, 2017 - 12:00 am
500 W. 40th St. KCMO 64111(816)931-1858sunday mornings at 11:30