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On my journey, I have found, felt, and learned:
• Put God first—God is in control! Not me.
• God—Jesus loves me—unconditionally
• God is love—I have a personal relationship with God
• God is not a terrorist—God is not dead
• God will help me if I ask him. I am willing
• I love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength
• God has given me tears of joy instead of pain
• God has taught me I can have pain and not suffer
• God has taught me to count my blessings everyday
• Now that God is in my life—I love my life
• God has given me the fruits of the Spirit
• Serenity, peace, faith, love, joy, laughter, bold obedience
• God has given me the gifts of washing dishes, making perfect cookies, and singing praises—God has taught me I can have peace and laughter
• Someone loved me first before I could feel God’s love. I had to learn to love myself before I could love others
• God has given me the desire of my heart, my husband, my son, Michael, coming home
• Volunteer at the Salvation Army, Hope Harbor and Goodwill
• Pay it forward. I always want to help the poor and hurting people—now I AM with God’s help
Why wouldn’t I want to serve this God—Jesus?
I am very happy
• God has shown me people to show love—words and acts of kindness, affirmative gifts, and spending time
• God has lifted my anxiety, depression, allergies, over active bladder, and lowered my high blood pressure
• My job is to love people—God sees them
• The Holy Spirit is in me—Guide me
• God has taught me it is the little things that matter
• God has taught me that I am good enough and that I am loved
• I have learned to surrender to God’s will—not mine
I praise God. I thank God. I trust God. I need God! Everyday!
A dear friend gave me a lovely bracelet for Christmas that has the word FAITH on it. This gift has caused me to contemplate my faith.
Where did it come from? How has it grown? How do I want it to continue to grow?
I have faith in things in life that happen over and over. I have faith the sun will come up in the east every single day. I have faith that Mathetes members will pray for me when I ask. I have proof of these.
But what about my faith in God’s constant presence in my life?
I can’t see the wind, but I know it’s there because I can feel it. I can’t see God, but I have faith He is present in the incredible sunrises that are like my own personal gift-wrapped day; present in the hopeful birdsong of spring; present in the glee of a child’s laughter; present in a lingering hug from someone I love; present in the fresh smell of rain; present in the silence of softly falling snow. There are many things that help my faith to grow; the constant volunteering of you, my church family, each month at Loaves and Fishes no matter if it’s steamy hot or frigid cold; the joy of praise songs and beautiful stained-glass windows in worship; the kind word of support I receive when needed; the hug of a grandchild; safety when driving down I80 at 75 mph.
When I am totally aware of what is happening around me in any moment, I find my faith grows. Sometimes what’s happening wouldn’t be my choice, but I have faith that God is in it and good things will come from it. And for me that is the future, paying attention to life right now and having faith that God is with me each and every moment.
This is God’s gift to me whether I deserve it or not. All I have to do is have faith as I accept this gift, the gift of being forgiven and loved no matter what. After all God sent his son to earth to live and die for me.
So, when does the new year officially begin? Is it the minute that ball drops in Times Square? Or is it when the first baby of 2019 is born?
In our house, the holiday season ends when the left-overs are gone, the Christmas tree is taken down, and the last college football bowl game is played. Even though the relatives have gone home and both high school and college have cranked up, it doesn’t feel like a new year until that 41st and final bowl game was completed. Now we can turn and face the new year. Cause we just can’t wait for the Super Bowl to get closure in 2018.
So, this year the new year starts on January 7th. Then, the dust from the collapse of 2018 will have mostly cleared. Now, we squint toward the far horizon of 2019 and start to fill in important dates we already know are coming down the pike.
Then, we can get serious about 2019. We can avoid it until about half-time of the National Championship College Football game tomorrow. Then, the mixing and matching of one season over two calendar years is over and we can focus on the future without the past weighing us down.
As our Zen Buddhist masters teach us, “The past is perfect.” It cannot be altered or perfected any more. It just is. Though 2018 can still affect us, we can no longer effect it. So, it is time to put the past behind us and move on. We cannot grab hold of the future until we let go of the past. I don’t know about you, but I always need God’s help with that one.
“God, please help us let go of 2018 so we can live fully in the present in 2019.”
Grace & Peace,
As 2018 comes to an end we are drawn into a rhythm of reflection and commitment. How did your life change this past year? What wounds will you bear? What joys have brought new vitality? Where have you seen God? Has your journey this past year been led by God?
Some of these answers we may like and others we wish to have made different choices. We begin looking at January 1 as a day of hope. A day in which we can renew commitments, try out new practices—re-create ourselves.
Our discipleship is a journey of re-creation. “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new” (2 Cor. 5:17).
In these closing hours of this year, I encourage you to consider how you might live into the reality that you are a new creation and allow Christ to re-create you. Consider the following practices that will help to create space for Christ and for transformation.
Contemplative Practices: Connecting with God through practices of prayer, liturgy, sacred reading, and experiences of awe and wonder.
Participating in worship services
Lectio Divina—listening to the words of Scripture
Daily private prayer
Times of silence and solitude
Communal Practices: Connecting with others through practices of hospitality, learning, generosity, and experiences of vulnerability and interdependency.
Inviting others to join you for coffee after Sunday service
Participating in small groups and book studies
Ministering with children and youth on Sunday mornings and/or Wednesday evenings
Sharing in meals with one another
Missional Practices: Connecting others with God through practices of service, justice, humility, and experiences of engagement and solidarity.
Serving with Loaves & Fishes, JFON Clinics, Volunteers in Mission, or the UMW
Discerning how God is uniquely calling you to service and ministry
Practicing acts of kindness and compassion with those that look, speak, and believe differently than you
Relax! You’re here! Kids and grand-kids are dressed and pressed. Food at home is prepared. It’s too late for any other Christmas Eve preparations. You’re here. Relax and enjoy the atmosphere.
Some of you have returned annually to this space, the place of your spiritual origins, like salmon to their home stream. You’ve come from all over the world to be back home with family for Christmas. Maybe you’d forgotten how just walking in the door settles the dust of your busy soul. Maybe you didn’t remember how that muscle at the bottom of your diaphragm lets down when you enter the sanctuary and you have to sigh profoundly. Hearing that organ, singing the same old songs, resonates with something deep within your chest retuning the core of your being. You’re home. This God space is your space. Your soul was birthed from this sanctuary.
At night the windows are dark and dead. But you can close your eyes and see the greens and golds that glow through them during the day. The height of the ceiling makes you keep looking up into a dark cavity that’s like tunnel to the heart of God. The warmth comes from the wood, the candles and the faces.
Tonight, we’ll light all the candles on the Advent Wreath. We’ve been waiting to torch that big white one in the middle for a month now. We’ll lift our candles and shut down the lights to sing “Silent Night” together. We’ll remember the mystery and wonder of how God does things; expectantly, surprisingly, in places that you wouldn’t usually look for God. We’ll leave this place reconnected with our spiritual family of origin; Joseph, Mary, the shepherds, the kings, the angels.
We’ll also be reminded of those relationships that taught us what the love of God was like; Mrs. Smith, our old Sunday School teacher, Mr. Jones, the youth group leader. And some of us will go back out into the cold and darkness with our inner batteries re-charged, ready to be the light of God for a dark and gloomy world.
Grace & Peace,
In Advent we wait for the coming of Jesus. In our prayers and hymns we experience the longing for a Messiah to set things right. We sing “Come thou long expected Jesus.” And then at Christmas we sing “Joy to the world, the Lord is come.” And yet, is there not still a bit of longing in us?
The last day of guaranteed delivery before Christmas comes and goes. The singing of Christmas carols is over before we finally get the hang of verses 3 and 4. Christmas leftovers only last for one delicious sandwich. Family is gone just as it started feeling like home again. And the incessant trudge up the ladder to take down Christmas lights in 15-degree weather looms over you. If you leave the lights up would it make Christmas last longer?
Christmas is the time when we think that everything will be made right, relationships restored, miracles happen, and snow will fall just as you finish watching It’s a Wonderful Life. Christmas is the time when we believe that the Prince of Peace has come and has set the world to rights.
But it just doesn’t seem to last. In Advent we experience longing and then we move to the longing of Christmas.
Following in the way of Jesus, our discipleship, is a path of longing. The Sermon on the Mount is one of the most the complete compilations of Jesus’ teaching on life in the kingdom of God—the kingdom of peace. At the beginning of this teaching Jesus says that those that are poor in spirit, those that mourn, those that are meek, and those that hunger and thirst for righteousness are called blessed. All of these experiences are experiences of emptiness and longing.
As Advent draws to a close and Christmas will very soon be over, you will experience longings. Let these longings lead you to the Christ that has come, is coming even now, and will come again. This is your discipleship.
–Rev. Dave Clark
One of the most difficult things to do in life is to say “Good Bye.” I arrived at Trinity UMC for my internship in June 2018 and now I have come to the end of my time here. Serving here was one of the most incredible, inspiring, and wonderful moments in my ministry. I was given all the possible opportunities to fully serve. This experience has helped me to grow spiritually. It has helped to deepen my call to ministry. I have learned a lot on youth ministry and hope to share my experience with my church in Kinshasa, DRC. I am not saying “Good Bye,” but rather, “See You Soon.” I am very hopeful that I will be back and start school at Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary in fall 2019.
If I speak of “home” in the United States—Trinity UMC in Grand Island, Nebraska is my home. No matter where I will be in the US, Trinity will always be my home.
I am very thankful to God who allowed to me to come and serve at Trinity.
I am very thankful to the church members for your love, care, gifts, and hugs. You have been a family to me.
I am thankful to Pastor Kelly and Pastor Dave who allowed me to extend my ministry to other areas like preaching, leading service, and serving communion.
I am thankful to Molly who is a wonderful director. She allowed me to express myself and share my previous experiences in ministry. Her listening skills encouraged me to have a voice. I have learned a lot of things with her.
I am thankful to all of the church staff Susan, Jason, Alexandria, and April for being so supportive.
I am thankful to all children and youth for allowing me to minister to them. I didn’t only teach them, but also learned from them.
Until We Meet Again!
Advent is the beginning of the Church year in which the life of Christ and the gospel is enacted in the Scriptures we read, the prayers we say, and the hymns we sing. The gospel is a journey that is embodied in our lives and not just a benign belief that we happen to agree with.
Advent is a season of waiting and a season of hope. We look around and see a word full of violence, injustice, pain, hurt, and loneliness. It is a world that is waiting for a Messiah to set things to rights; to the way that God intended. The coming of Christ in his birth, in Word and Spirit, and in his final victory enflames hope in our lives and gives shape to our discipleship.
Theologian Jürgen Moltmann describes hope as the glow at “the dawn of an expected new day.” As we journey through Advent toward the celebration of the coming of the Christ child, that dawn becomes brighter and brighter and hope drives us to act as though the day has already dawned.
In the early songs and poetry of the gospel narratives, the coming of the Messiah signaled a great reversal, a world turned upside down. Last week I used the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and I will use his words again from his 1933 sermon on the text of Luke 1:46-55 (Mary’s Song):
God is not ashamed of human lowliness but goes right into the middle of it. God draws near . . . [to] the excluded, the powerless. What people say is lost, God says is found; what people say is “condemned,” God says is “saved.” Where people say No! God says Yes! Where people turn their eyes away in indifference or arrogance, God gazes with a love that glows warmer there than anywhere else. Where people say something is despicable, God calls it blessed.
Our journey of discipleship is a journey of reversals. The dawning of a new day will come in ways that are not expected; are you ready? Will you be a part of it? Is hope kindled within and guiding you to new and unexpected places?
—Rev. Dave Clark
We like people with answers. It helps us to feel secure and maintain our sense of certainty. And yet, there are over 300 questions recorded in the Gospels that Jesus asked. Well asked questions are more than just information gathering techniques, they are a way to probe our very lives.
Questions can help us move beyond the status quo and reach the potential for which we were created. Questions can wake us from our complacency.
An important question that ought to drive us is: What is a disciple? As a United Methodist Church our mission is to make disciples for the transformation of the world. How are we to fulfill a distinctive mission if we have not thought about what it is to be a disciple.
Does being a disciple of Jesus mean that you are a member of a church? Does it mean that you believe a particular set of doctrines?
In Nazi Germany, the theologian and pastor, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, stood up to both Hitler and the church that acquiesced to the nationalism of the day. This resistance led him on a journey that ended in his execution. Bonhoeffer wrote a book entitled Nachfolge (often translated as The Cost of Discipleship). In this influential book, he wrote about the first steps of discipleship. His words should get us thinking in radically different ways about what it means to be a disciple:
The first step, which responds to the call [of Jesus], separates the followers from their previous existence. A call to discipleship thus immediately creates a new situation. Staying in the old situation and following Christ mutually exclude each other. At first, that was quite visibly the case. The tax collector had to leave his booth and Peter his nets to follow Jesus. According to our understanding, even back then things could have been quite different. Jesus could have given the tax collector new knowledge of God and left him in his old situation. If Jesus had not been God’s Son become human, then that would have been possible. But because Jesus is the Christ, it has to be made clear from the beginning that his word is not a doctrine. Instead, it creates existence anew. The point was to really walk with Jesus.
As we begin this Advent season, awaiting the coming of Jesus, may we reflect and ask new questions about the new life that Jesus opens to us as we follow him in discipleship.
—Rev. Dave Clark