Covenant: God's People

Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16

The season of Lent is a time of spiritual preparation—a time to ready ourselves to hear again the story of our redemption and salvation through the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Of the many things remembered during Holy Week, we recall Jesus gathering for a holiday meal with his friends, and after supper taking a cup and saying “drink from this, all of you, this cup is a new covenant in my blood, shed for you and for many.” These words are familiar to Christians because they are at the center of the ritual we share whenever we celebrate Holy Communion. However, the covenant can only be understood as “new” if we understand there have been other covenants…other expressions of divine love and grace.

In fact, the origin of gospel (good news) we tell today is rooted in God’s work in Genesis, and threaded through story after story and episode after episode of what is sometimes called the “Old Testament.”  The whole length of scripture reveals a portrait of the way God speaks, thinks, and acts in all manners of circumstance; it is a portrait of the utter faithfulness and love of Creator for the creature. One aspect of that portrait reveals that the God of scriptures is a God who makes covenant with creation, and with nations, and with people.  It is a gospel story of God’s relentless pursuit of us…a story that begins in Genesis and is still unfolding today.

Covenant: God Remembers

Genesis 9:8-17

The season of Lent is a time of spiritual preparation—a time to ready ourselves to hear again the story of our redemption and salvation through the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Of the many things remembered during Holy Week, we recall Jesus gathering for a holiday meal with his friends, and after supper taking a cup and saying “drink from this, all of you, this cup is a new covenant in my blood, shed for you and for many.” These words are familiar to Christians because they are at the center of the ritual we share whenever we celebrate Holy Communion. However, the covenant can only be understood as “new” if we understand there have been other covenants…other expressions of divine love and grace.

In fact, the origin of gospel (good news) we tell today is rooted in God’s work in Genesis, and threaded through story after story and episode after episode of what is sometimes called the “Old Testament.”  The whole length of scripture reveals a portrait of the way God speaks, thinks, and acts in all manners of circumstance; it is a portrait of the utter faithfulness and love of Creator for the creature. One aspect of that portrait reveals that the God of scriptures is a God who makes covenant with creation, and with nations, and with people.  It is a gospel story of God’s relentless pursuit of us…a story that begins in Genesis and is still unfolding today.

There Are No Words

Mark 9:2-9

Have you ever been so struck with awe that words failed you?  A clear night sky with no light pollution reveals the shear magnitude of creation. The smell of your newborn child’s hair fills your nostrils—a smell of innocence and purity—and peals back a depth of love you’ve never before experienced. Standing in the congregation, singing a hymn, you are struck with a sense of presence so powerful it sends a shiver through you and brings tears to your eyes. If you’ve ever had an experience for which there were simply no words adequate to convey its meaning and power, then you have an inkling of what Peter, James, and John went through on the mount of transfiguration.

Nearly every scene in the Gospel of Mark depicts Jesus actively engaged in the work of his ministry. We see him teaching, calling, healing, working miracles and casting out demons, and engaged in debate with the religious authorities.  Jesus is the actor and speaker in nearly every scene. Today’s scripture is an exception.  Jesus doesn’t speak a single word, and the “action” in the scene is done to Jesus rather than by Jesus. In the company of his close friends, he is suddenly transfigured, and his dazzling appearance overwhelms the bewildered onlookers.

Scholars call this scene a “christophany”...but if you ever find your way up that mountain with Peter, James, and John, you’ll probably find that there are no words for what happens there.

When Life Comes at You

Mark 1:29-39

Everyone loves it when Jesus shows up. His presence makes a difference. Things happen. Mother-in-laws are healed. The sick are cured. Demons are cast out. Lives are changed. This is true not only for the people of Capernaum in Jesus’ time, but also for us here and now. Jesus comes to our house as surely as he went to the house of Simon and Andrew where people lined up at the door. Faith comes a bit easier in those moments. Jesus is real. His presence is felt. Results are seen. All is well.

But what about the times when “life happens” and our faith is challenged? It seems like there is only darkness and Jesus is nowhere to be seen. Some will abandon faith and give up on the Church and Jesus himself. Mark’s gospel tells us that Jesus gets up early—not to abandon us but to find a quiet and deserted place. It’s about prayer—both his and ours. It’s no longer about what is happening around us or to us but what’s happening within us.

The deserted places of our lives are the places of Jesus’ prayer—they are sacred places. They are the starting point for his message of good news. Good news comes from the empty and desolate places where there is nothing but God. Jesus will leave this deserted place to go proclaim his message in the neighboring towns…and in our hearts.

Legacies

The Purpose of United Methodist Women

United Methodist Women shall be a community of women whose purpose is to know God and to experience freedom as whole persons through Jesus Christ; to develop a creative, supportive fellowship; and to expand concepts of mission through participation in the global ministries of the church.

2018 UMW Calendar of Events

Feb. 8th—UMW Luncheon
Feb. 17th—CalPac Conference Mid-Winter Events
Feb. 23rd-25th—Women’s Retreat, Aldersgate Retreat Center
Mar. 8th—UMW Luncheon
Mar. 10th—South District Mission u Study, La Mesa Foothills UMC
Apr. 12th—UMW Luncheon
Apr. 21st—South District Mission u Study, Vista UMC
May 12th—Mother/Daughter/Friend Luncheon
May 18th-20th—UMW’s Assembly, Columbus, OH
June 2nd—Quiet Day Apart, Santa Ana UMC
June 14th—UMW Luncheon
June 28th-July 1st—Mission u, Biola University
July 30th-August 4th—Annual Rummage Sale
Sept. 13th—UMW Luncheon
Sept. 22nd—South District Celebration—San Carlos UMC
Oct. 11th—UMW Luncheon
Oct. 27th—CalPac Annual Celebration
Nov. 3rd—Cranberry Tea
Dec. 13th—UMW Luncheon Christmas Program

Putting Down Our Nets to Follow Christ

Mark 1:14-20

A Call…an invitation…a summons…an overture that demands a response.  If the scriptures are clear about one thing, it is that God does not sit idly somewhere on the far side of eternity, distant and detached from creation. The witness of our scriptures is that God gets involved in the world.  Suddenly, surprisingly, often startlingly, God intervenes in history and works to bring about his purpose and will. Most often, the intervention of God in creation involves human agents, who work and witness on God’s behalf.

Another thing about which scriptures seem clear is that to be called by God will rattle you a bit.  Those whom God calls are portrayed in the scriptures as reluctant, dismayed, even on occasion initially disobedient.  It is no easy thing to be called by God, even when—as is the case with the first people Jesus encountered in his public ministry—we are asked to simply put down our current projects and follow. The call to follow Jesus is a call away from fame and fortune…it is a call to servanthood, sacrifice, sweat…a call to become like Christ Jesus himself.

Difficult or not, follow we must if we are to know the peace of God. And so this Sunday, a call is being issued to serve God for the coming year by serving God’s congregation at First UMC of Orange, as an Associate In Ministry.  Many who worship this day are called, or will be, to other mission fields and other endeavors.  But for a handful, today is a powerful day of invitation, of summons…of call.

Sharing the Christ We Know

John 1:43-51

The mission of the United Methodist Church is “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the the transformation of the world.” But how, exactly, does a person become a disciple of Jesus? It turns out to be a question that was as important to the early readers of John’s gospel as it is today. The answer is as rich in complexity and diversity as the human race. Some people seek the path of God aggressively, and others are surprised to stumble upon the truth. Some believe with little more than a nudge, and others “will not believe until they see the Lord for themselves.“ In the midst of such diversity a pattern does emerge, however. People with good news end up sharing that news on a person-to-person level…and those with whom it is shared have an personal encounter with Jesus that is transformative.

These encounters with Jesus are the essential piece in sustaining the Christian movement for over 200 years.  So much so, that from the standpoint of evangelism, our task as Christians is not to “prove” the truth of the Christian faith to others, (though libraries and bookstores are filled with the excellent scholarly writing of Christian “apologists”). Nor is our task to persuade others to become Christian. Our task is to simply say, “Come and see.”

Jesus himself will take it from there.