Fulfilling All Righteousness

Matthew 5:13-20

Jesus' ministry was different. The growing reputation concerning him—the healing, the call to repentance, the preaching "with authority,” and the announcing of God's Kingdom—were strange and new and exciting to many people.  But what of the old ways? What about the traditions, so familiar and comforting? If too much change occurs too quickly, who will be left to remember the ancient ways and carry forth our legacy? Change is hard...but Jesus' ministry was very different.

Matthew reminds his readers that Jesus did not come to abolish the old ways—the Law and the Prophets—but to fulfill them.  God's people had in fact "settled" for much less than what God had in mind for them. Their leaders had cherry-picked the laws of God, excusing their own infractions while demanding utter and unbending adherence from others. They had reduced the meaning of "righteousness" from a living relationship with God to a functionary checking-off of semi-religious boxes. Now Jesus had appeared, announcing that God's people need not keep the law, but rather to be kept by it through God's love. In this way, God's righteousness will be truly fulfilled.


Matthew 5:1-12

     Where do you place yourself in order to hear the Sermon on the Mount? Jesus climbed mountain with his closest disciples, and sat down to teach. Do you stand with that inner circle, the apostles-in-training? Some came to learn by overhearing, eager to know the ways of God but not ready to raise the hand and ask the teacher. Are you with these? Some came for healing, and some for hope, and some for help with their poverty, and some came because that's where the crowd was heading. Are you among the outer rings, the fringe-followers of Jesus who know more about the mob than the Master?  Wherever you stand, Jesus has a word for you. The word is "blessed." Makarioi in the Greek. It describes a place of wholeness, peace, and righteousness with God. It is a word for all of God's people.

     Jesus is revealing how it will be when we put ourselves under the loving care and grace of God. We are brought together, from every circumstance and station of life, so that in the power of the Holy Spirit we might complete the blessing of God, and fulfill all righteousness. We are not alone in life's circumstances, we are part of the body of Christ and citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven. You will be there for the one who mourns, I will be there to sustain and defend the gentle and humble ones, and yet another will be there for you when you hunger and thirst for the righteousness of God.  Together, we become the inheritors of what we can never do by ourselves. Together, we are blessed by God.

Fishing Tales

Matthew 4:12-23

    For most people in our time, taking a fishing trip has little to do with feeding ourselves or the survival of our family; it's a matter of sport. And for those who are truly "hooked", there's more to fishing than simply choosing the right bait or learning to properly play a fish. One of the most important attributes of a true angler is the ability to stretch the truth—to tell stories about the great big fish we caught, or the one that got away. When we tell a tall fishing tale, we're following a time-honored tradition of the modern sports fisherman.

     With such a background to the subject of fishing, its important to remember that the fishermen Jesus called to be disciples were fishing for their lives, and for their well being.  When Jesus asked them to put down their nets, when he offered to show them "how to fish for people", he was asking them to walk away from everything they'd ever learned about how to support themselves.  He asked them to give up their livelihood; he asked them for nothing less than a bold act of complete and total trust in him.

    In time, the tales these disciples told would come to be called "the good news". The good news for us is that we serve a God who calls us forth...Jesus still calls us today.  If we are bold enough, even now we can turn from what we've always known and follow him in faith.

Embracing Our Cultural Diversity

Julie Ascuncion grew up in Honolulu, Hawaii and moved to Southern California 40 years ago.  She attended CalState LA. After working for 35 years, she retired as a Programmer Analyst.

Julie is married, has two 2 children, 8 grandchildren, and 2 great-grandchildren. She has been a proud UMW member for over 20 years and is currently serving as the Cal-Pac Conference UMW Secretary. She has held positions in the former Pasadena District and at her local church.

Julie has also served on the Board of Laity for the Cal-Pac Conference. She attends the Filipino-American United Methodist Church in Hacienda Heights.

In her local church, Julie serves as Chairperson of the Church Council and has held other positions in various committees such as Outreach, SPRC, and Social Action. Julie also volunteers as a study leader for Bible study classes. She currently serves as President of the Methodist Hospital Women’s Auxiliary in Arcadia.

After retiring, she and hubby have enjoyed traveling and spending time with grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Julie is an avid reader and enjoys volunteering — at the Methodist Hospital, a local museum, the Performing Art Center and her church. She also enjoys taking classes in upholstery, sewing, and dancing. But Julie’s main passion is volunteering at church and serving the Lord by being involved with the United Methodist Women and its missions.

Clean and Ready

Isaiah 42:1-9; Matthew 3:13-17

    People get cleaned up and dressed up for important events.  A woman gets her hair done, picks out a new business suit, and buys a new briefcase because she has an important job interview in the morning. A young man stands in front of the mirror, clean-shaven, smelling of cologne, and tugging at the first tuxedo he’s ever worn in his life—his prom date is waiting across town and he wants everything to be right. A chief master sergeant pulls his dress uniform from the closet and carefully puts it on, adding three rows of medals, laces up the shoes that are polished like mirrors, and buckles on his ceremonial sword;  after more than 30 years he will celebrate his retirement today. For important occasions the “everyday” just won’t do—a special event requires a very special kind of preparation.

    When John the baptist appeared in the wilderness, he stepped into a long line of prophets and elders—stretching back across the span of Israel’s history—who told the people to wash and dress themselves, for the Lord God would soon be made manifest among them. Little did anyone know just how special this event would turn out to be, for God himself was washing them in order to prepare them for receiving the Holy Spirit.

Grace, Sovereignty, and the Innocents

A Covenant Prayer in the Wesleyan Tradition
a prayer of commitment for the new year

I am no longer my own, but thine.

Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.

Put me to doing, put me to suffering.

Let me be employed by thee or laid aside for thee,

exalted for thee or brought low by thee.

Let me be full, let me be empty.

Let me have all things, let me having nothing.

I freely and heartily yield all things

to thy pleasure and disposal.

And now, O glorious and blessed God,

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,

thou art mine, and I am thine. So be it.

And the covenant which I have made on earth,

let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.

A Festival of Lessons and Carols


In 1880 E. W. Benson, then Anglican Bishop of Truro, England, composed a Festival of Lessons and Carols, based on ancient sources, for Christmas Eve. In 1918 it was adapted for the chapel of King’s College, Cambridge, but its Dean, Eric Milner-White, who also wrote The Bidding Prayer. The Blessing after that Lord’s Prayer, addd by Milner-White, was first included in its present form in 1930. The Lessons given here have been customarily used in recent years at King’s College. The service has been edited for United Methodist congregations.

—United Methodist Book of Worship—

Meditation on Christ the Light of the World


Christmas is the most earthy of the Christian religious observances. In Christianity, God takes on the form of a human person. This is a remarkable and outrageous assertion—foolish and scandalous, according to Paul of Tarsus.

The point of this assertion is not to suggest some magic or extra-terrestrial happening. This is not pyrotechnics. It is not like the northern lights or sunspots. It is the declaration that God enters the world in decisive ways to tell us human beings what the big picture is all about…

...The Christmas story is the claim that the world’s reason for being is love. Not the sentimental kind favored in soap operas.  But the love once described by a wise commentator as “love with its eyes wide open.” Christmas really belongs to all those people in the world who long for love and peace and hope.

—Excerpted from GOD IS WITH US, by F. Thomas Trotter—