Many people have never learned how to disagree in a spirit of love, or how to continue loving those with whom they disagree. We are like the poet who penned:
“To dwell above with saints we love,
That will be grace and glory.
To live below with saints we know;
Well, that’s another story!”
Unity doesn’t come easy. In St. John’s Gospel chapter seventeen Jesus prayed that his disciples would be as one. But Jesus not only prayed for unity, He modeled it for us. Remember when the apostles came to Him complaining about people who were preaching in Jesus’ name that were not part of their group? Jesus told his apostles not to stop them and said, for “whoever is not against us is for us” (Luke 9:50).
Christian unity is not determined by whether we completely agree with each other about scriptural interpretation, doctrine, politics, worship style, or sundry denominational polity matters. Christian unity IS determined by whether we love one another in Christ, and whether we reflect the love of God in the world.
This past Sunday our unity in Christ was certainly obvious as we welcomed our Bishop, the Rev. Dr. Debra Wallace-Padgett as our guest preacher. I certainly appreciated her message on The Faithfulness of God, and I was equally moved as she led us in the consecration of our new sanctuary. It is certainly something that I will never forget and deeply appreciate the Bishop’s willingness to lead us in such a historic occasion.
I wanted to also let you know that our Bishop has issued a special call for a season of prayer and fasting. Just a few days ago the Commission on the Way Forward, of which Bishop Wallace-Padgett is a part, issued their final recommendations to the Council of Bishops concerning LGBTQI issues related to ordination and marriage equality in the United Methodist Church.
This issue will ultimately be decided by over 800 clergy and lay delegates from across the world who will gather at a Special Session of the General Conference in St. Louis, Missouri, February 23-26, 2019. Please keep in mind that these are only proposals and recommendations at this point. Nothing has been decided.
In light of this, our Bishop is asking all of us, beginning this June through February 26, 2019 to commit to the following two spiritual disciplines:
- Fast from eating once a week, Thursday after dinner to mid-day on Friday. If health issues preclude you from a food-fast, select something else such as television, adult libations, or some other form of enjoyment or entertainment.
- Join the whole United Methodist Church in a daily four-minute prayer at 2:23-2:26 (a.m. or p.m.). This is the future date of the Special Session of the General Conference previously mentioned. If this time is impossible for you, please select an alternate time.
This is certainly an era for United Methodists everywhere to live out the Christian unity we have in Christ in the bond of love. I hope you will share with me in this special time of reflection and supplication. For more information on the work of the Commission on the Way Forward and the recommendations from the Council of Bishops, please go to umc.org or umcna.org.
The warm, lazy hazy summer days of June and July will soon be upon us and as many of you know, I always announce a special sermon series for these months. This year I am turning our attention toward the power of music! Some of my fondest memories are of sitting on a piano bench with my mother and learning the great hymns of church.
I am grateful for this great gift that my mom gave me because she reminded me that a Methodist not only studies the scriptures but sings the faith through sacred hymns and melodies. John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, is famous for declaring that a Methodist always has with him or her two books: a Bible and Hymnal.
I certainly learned to sing my faith and have turned to those tunes in many trying times and literally sang my way through the darkness. Most of historic hymnody have very moving stories about how they were composed. The sad thing is that many people do not know these stories and if we are not careful, we will raise a young generation of church goers who do not know the hymns of the church that are at the heart and fabric of our faith.
On June 3, I am inviting you to join me for the beginning of my new summer sermon series: Hymns My Mama Taught Me and What They Say About Life and Faith.
I look forward to being back in the pulpit this coming Sunday at 8:30 and 11:00 a.m. Traditions as I continue my current sermon series: Confronting the 8 Most Common Objections to Christianity.
There are three sermons left in this series and I don’t want you to miss a one! Expect God to do great things!
See you Sunday!
P.S. Two Sundays ago, Mr. Frank O’Neil, Chairperson of the Finance Committee, shared an update about where we currently are on the REACH Campaign pledges toward our new sanctuary and additional expansions. He also included a letter with more detailed information in the bulletin this past Sunday. He informed us that we are $600,000 below our needed $6 million. Think of it this way: We currently have reached $5.4 million. That actually means that we are well on our way to 90%!!! That is something to celebrate! It also means that this is a reachable goal. I know that $600,000 is a lot of money, but if 500 Asbury families could each give an extra $1,200 it would be done – that is $100 per month. Who doesn’t want to reach 100%!!!
I know we can do this because I know that you love Asbury and are thankful for all that God is doing. Pray about and then let’s work together to finish the task.