This year’s Christmas Eve Candlelight Service will be at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, December 24, 2022.
This Sunday (December 11, 2022), the Choir will be performing selections from What Sweeter Music by John Leavitt. They will be joined by the following instrumentalists.
Flute: Jessica Minnich, Laura Bogner
Clarinet: Mark Ahlman
Bassoon: Hannah Sullivan
Violin: Steve Easterday, Alyssa Byers
Viola: Russel Clark
Cello: Nicholas Dvorske
Bass: Brayden Smith
Piano: Dawn Anderson
Percussion: Cole Parsons
Oboe: Colby Stevens
This Wednesday, December 7, 2022, at 7:00 p.m. we’ll be covering pages 61 through 79. This is not a pleasant chapter, but I look forward to our discussion.
The bulletin for tomorrow, Saturday, December 4, 2022, can be found at the link below.
Unfortunately, there has long been a strain of anti-semitism in Christianity. But I’ve noticed that the anti-semitic folks who call themselves Christians have gotten louder lately (at least in the U.S.A.). Christian anti-semitism makes no sense. It is contrary to reason. It is contrary to any reasonable interpretation of the story scripture tells us. Below are just a few examples why.
- Jesus was born a Jew (Luke 2:1-15), circumcised on the eighth day (Luke 2:21), raised a Jew (Luke 2:22-52), was in ministry as a Jew (Luke 4:14-22) and died a Jew (Luke 23:26-43). He was the embodiment of Israel through whom God accomplished all that had been promised to Abraham. You can’t take the Jew out of Jesus.
- As Christians, we were grafted onto God’s Abrahamic project through Jesus Christ. What God is doing in us has not replaced Israel; instead we have been attached to Israel. The apostle Paul warned us not to get cocky. (Romans 11:11-24; 15:12).
- God made promises to Abraham and Sarah; Isaac and Rebecca; Jacob and Rachel; David and countless others. God made promises to Israel as a whole, as a people. (And those promises included their descendants living among us now.) Finally, through Jesus Christ, God made promises to us. If we believe God is true to God’s promises, that means God is true to all of God’s promises, not just the promises made to us. Who are we to try to hinder God?
Now, one of the counter arguments that might be made is that Jesus often disagreed with, argued with, and ran into trouble with Jews. Well, I have often disagreed with, argued with, and run into trouble with Christians. None of that makes me any less a Christian. None of that made Jesus any less of a Jew.
Christian anti-semitism is senseless, but it is not harmless. It does great harm to Jewish victims. It does harm to non-Jewish bystanders. And it does self-inflicted harm to its perpetrators. It is long past time for those who call themselves Christian and yet perpetrate anti-semitism to repent and return to the arms of the King of the Jews who died for them.
Below is one of my favorite prayers of thanksgiving. I wanted to share it with you today.
All things come from you, O God,
and with gratitude we return to you what is yours.
You created all that is, and with love formed us in your image.
When our love failed, your love remained steadfast.
You gave your only Son Jesus Christ to be our Savior.
All that we are, and all that we have, is a trust from you.
And so, in gratitude for all your gifts,
we offer you ourselves, and all that we have,
in union with Christ’s offering for us.
By your Holy Spirit make us one with Christ, one with each other,
and one in ministry to all the world; through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.
— Hoyt L. Hickman 
 The United Methodist Book of Worship (Nashville, TN: United Methodist Publishing House, 1992), 552.
Because Thanksgiving is tomorrow, there will be no Bible Study on Inspired tonight.
I don’t have any special insights into the mass shooting at Club Q (an LGBTQ+ nightclub) in Colorado Spring last Saturday (November 19, 2022), but here are a few things from my theological perspective.
I’ll start with Guns. America’s idol worship of guns is what made it possible for one assailant to kill five people and injure another eighteen. Some ancient gods demanded human sacrifice. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, does not. The way the Second Amendment is currently being misinterpreted by many people in the United States (including a majority on the Supreme Court) makes guns into idols. And they are idols that regularly result in human sacrifice. The death of human beings made in the image of God: our siblings. I’m not opposed to hunting; I’m not opposed to shooting sports; I am opposed to the way we have allowed the weapons of war to make our communities into war zones.
Another obvious factor is the rise of hateful anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric out of the mouths of people who should know better. I had a woman (not a member of College Avenue UMC) come into my office raging about the possibility of the UMC becoming LGBTQ+ affirming in our doctrine and discipline. She then asserted that school teachers are “grooming” children to make them trans. I don’t believe this woman had any actual contact with Manhattan schools, but someone in the news had convinced her that teachers—teachers like my mother and my parishioners—were grooming kids.
That utterance is in the running for the most inane thing I have ever heard. It would be hilarious if it were not for the potentially deadly consequences. There are mentally ill people who hear these things, who don’t realize that the folks on the TV are simply lying for ratings or votes. (I do think that some of the folks who are lying for ratings or votes have lied so long or become so full of hate that they have come to believe their own lies.) Whatever the motive of the liars, some people fall for them. And then the lies become deadly.
The man who went into Club Q must account for his sin. But those who egged him on, those who lied for ratings, and those who lied for votes have also sinned. They all need to accept responsibility, accept the consequences, repent, and “come to Jesus.”* And those of us who have said little or nothing must take courage and speak up.
*Please note I’m not condemning people who hold traditional beliefs about human sexuality in general. I’m talking about those who hold such beliefs and spew hate and lies. Unfortunately, there are LGBTQ+ affirming people who are also full of hate and willing to embellish the truth to achieve their ends—they also need to repent and “come to Jesus.” Regardless of our theological beliefs, we who claim to follow Jesus are called to always speak and act out of love (as best we can) and truth (as best we understand it).