This Sunday (August 14, 2022), I’m continuing my #BeUMC series with a sermon on the Means of Grace titled “Experiencing the Presence of God.” Our scriptures will be Philippians 2:1-13 and John 15:4-5.
This Sunday, I’m continuing my #BeUMC sermon series with a sermon on the United Methodist understanding of grace. Grace is commonly understood as God’s forgiveness of our sins. In the broader, biblical, (and United Methodist) understanding, grace includes the forgiveness of sins. But a better, more comprehensive, working definition would be that grace is a combination of God’s power and God’s love at work in the world, seeking to redeem all humanity and all creation. My text will be from Ephesians 2:1-10 with a nod to Philippians 2:12.
This Sunday, I’m preaching the first in a sermon series titled “What’s So Great About Being United Methodist?” or, to go with the denomination’s social media campaign, “#BeUMC.” Our beloved denomination hasn’t had the easiest time of it lately, but there are many reasons for us to stick with it. Reasons both theological and missional. This first sermon will feature one of the reasons theological, focusing on our belief that love is God’s reigning attribute. My text will be 1 John 4:7-21. I’ll be referencing John Wesley’s interpretation of this passage, but I aim to preach a sermon of interest to United Methodists and non-United Methodists alike.
Here’s the key quote from Wesley’s Notes on the New Testament:
God is often styled holy, righteous, wise: but not holiness, righteousness, or wisdom in the abstract: as he is said to be love: intimating that this is . . . [God’s] reigning attribute; the attribute that sheds an amiable glory on all his other perfections. 
 John Wesley, Notes on the New Testament, 1 John 4:8.
“Coming Home” has been our theme this Advent and it’s also my informal sermon theme for Christmas Eve. I could use a little help. How do you know when you are home? Or, what does “home” mean to you. Replies to firstname.lastname@example.org or 620-252-9622.
Tomorrow, I’ll be preaching on Jeremiah 33:14-16 and Luke 21:34-38. The first Advent candle will be lit by the Vinduska family at the 8:15 service and the Holt family at the 10:30 service. Shauni Larson and Joy Clemence will be liturgists. The choir will be singing “Our Hope is in Emmanuel” and our hymns will include “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” and “Joy to the World.”
We’ll be honoring our members who have attained the age of 90 years or more this Sunday. I’ll also be preaching a second sermon on Ruth. This one on the second half of the book. You won’t need to have heard last week’s sermon in order to follow this week’s, but if you want to listen to it you can do so here. The choir will be singing The River of Life.
I’m always happy to see one of our “Love Kindness” (Micah 6:8) still up in a yard around town. Have you ever looked at one of those signs and wondered what it means, exactly, to “Love Kindness.” I’ll be talking about that this Sunday, October 31, 2021, as we take a closer look at Ruth 1:1-18.
Also, a friendly reminder to bring your candy if you want to donate to the youth’s Drive-Thru Trick-or-Treat project.
This coming Sunday (October 24, 2021), I’m preaching on Mark 10:46-52, which tells the story of Jesus healing Bartimaeus of his blindness. Bart was persistent and made his way to Jesus despite his disability and the opposition of those around him. That prompts several questions: what’s keeping you from Jesus, what’s keeping you from being the disciple Jesus has called you to be, the person God created you to be? I would love to hear from you. You can text 620-252-9622 or email email@example.com.
Tomorrow morning (Sunday, October 16, 2021), I’ll be delivering a message on the hymn “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling.” This old hymn provides a lot of information about the goal of Christian living in our present age. The choir will be back with the anthem “Blessed Assurance.”
The Gospel reading for this coming Sunday (October 3, 2021) is Mark 10:2-16. It contains one of our favorite sayings of Jesus, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs” (NRSV). But it also contains some of Jesus’ most challenging words: those concerning divorce. I have no personal experience with divorce. Therefore, it seems like a good idea for me to heed the experiences of those of you who do. If you, your parents, or your children went through a divorce, I’m eager to learn from your experience. You can call, text, or email: 620-252-9622 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
An additional bit of information: I have seen cases where I have advised a couple that I think divorce is their least bad option available. I have also presided at weddings for divorced people. Part of what I’ll be doing is explaining how I square my actions with what Jesus said.
I had planned to talk about 1 John 4:7-2 and the hymn “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling” this Sunday, but plans have changed. I’ll now be preaching a sermon about the nature of hell on Mark 9:38-50. This is happening because I like to introduce the scripture passages that I don’t preach on. Mark 9:38-50 has a few things that need to be carefully explained, so I sat down to write out what needed to be said. I started writing a brief introduction and ended up with a full-blown sermon. I suspect and hope that the Holy Spirit was involved.
Note: we’ll still be singing “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling.” In an interesting twist, that hymn still fits with the sermon.
After my sermons on James 1:19-27 (dealing with anger) and James 3:1-12 (taming the tongue) I had requests for the lists I gave. Here they are. They were put together with gleanings from Christian teachers and theologians, and advice from all of you.
10 Suggestions for Dealing with Anger
- Pray. If you feel you cannot pray, try anyway. Speak your anger to God and ask for help finding love in the midst of that which vexes you. If you need an example, search the Psalms—which often contain open and honest reflections on anger. And when you calm down keep praying, pray to remember that God loves you and that your personal worth is grounded in that love.
- Remember that God loves the person you are angry with no less than God loves you. Avoid contempt. Contempt often leads to anger, but contempt can only arise when we deny the value of a person whom God loves.
- Remember that you are loved, but don’t take yourself too seriously. Not everything bad that happens to you is an injustice on a cosmic scale.
- Try to see it from the other person’s point of view. Walk a mile in their shoes. “Be curious, not angry.”
- Remember a time when you have done something wrong and hurt someone and use that memory to find patience and understanding.
- Give yourself permission to express other emotions. If you don’t, emotions like grief and sadness will often present themselves in an eruption of anger.
- When you find yourself unexpectedly set off by something, it may be worth digging into why it set you off. Are there issues that need to be further explored, resolutions that need to be sought? Ask yourself what hurt or fear was triggered.
- Remember that God’s justice will come in the end, and that your anger will not speed it up.
- Calm down before confronting the person who made you angry—give your human brain time to reassert control over your lizard brain. If you have to scream, go someplace where no one can hear you—or at least let those around you know that you’re not angry at them. Then take a deep breath, count to ten, exercise, talk it out with a friend, knead bread, or whatever else brings you peace. As we discussed earlier, expressions of anger in response to anger often just provoke further anger.
- Do not repress or deny anger, but don’t cling to it either.
12 Tips for Taming the Tongue
- WWJD — though Jesus always kept his tongue in check, he still said what needed to be said (often in quite memorable ways, and sometimes quite bluntly). He was not rude or hateful, but he did say what needed to be said. In this, as in all things, we should strive to follow his example. We seek to tame our tongues because we want to accomplish things with the words we say.
- Apologize. You can’t unspeak your words, but you can apologize. It may help you control yourself the next time.
- A rude response to someone’s facebook post is like putting a rude sign up in their front yard. Just keep scrolling. If they consistently say things that offend you—snooze or unfollow them. Facebook spats seldom change anyone’s mind.
- When provoked, follow Abe Lincoln’s example and write out a letter and then wait to send it—you may decide you really don’t need to. This works for both analog and digital. Write emails without putting in an email address, that way you can’t accidentally hit send.
- Don’t feel the need to respond to people you don’t agree with. If necessary, confide your feelings to someone you trust. “Venting” doesn’t necessarily help us deal with our anger, but it may help us contain our anger until we can address it rather than expressing it in a way that would be detrimental.
- Remember that very seldom are people obligated to listen to you. Even less often are people compelled to heed what you say. And you cannot force anyone to respect you. Biting words discourage people from confiding in you, talking to you, or even listening to you.
- Even the truth should only be spoken if you can answer yes to at least one of these three three questions: Is it kind? Is it helpful? Is it necessary?
- Make your criticism constructive—but remember that it still requires some maturity among the person receiving the criticism in order to be received. The ability to listen to constructive criticism is a skill that we should seek to develop in ourselves.
- Don’t respond immediately. Pause. Wise words from Rev. Terry Koehn: “I forget who it was that said, what makes us human is our ability to put a pause between stimulus and response. That pause is where battle with the tongue is fought, and the outcome of that battle is what can sometimes start a war or win the peace” Discern the right time to address the issue.
- “Be curious, not combative.” Remember that the person letting you have it may very well be mad about something else and just taking it out on you.
- In person conversations can help avoid conflict—we can see facial expressions, we can hear the tone in someone’s voice. Written communications can allow us to carefully word what we want to say and give the other person time to think before they respond. Try to discern which approach is best for any given situation.
- Prepare yourself for difficult conversations. Prayer can work wonders.