Rescued by a Child

CHRISTMAS EVE

God takes our conventional wisdom and turns it upside down.  What we consider wisdom, God declares as foolishness. Imagine God saying, “Seriously?” to ideas we think are the smartest ever…
 
For instance, we may do everything possible in our capacity to protect our own lives and sense of comfort, while God says the path is discovered as we give our lives away in service to others. Or with pride we emphasize the importance of growth and maturity.  Yet God teaches that to best receive what God offers, our approach should be that of a humble, trusting child.

When will we learn?  You’d think we could have figured all this out by now…

It’s a good thing that God doesn’t give up on us.  Again and again, another chance is offered.  It’s there, or should I say He’s there, as God’s gift for our human predicament.  Entering our world in the lowliest of circumstances, a child has been born for our rescue.  The child has come as the very embodiment of God’s wisdom and ways.  His presence is that of the little child who will lead us—along with all of creation—into the renewal of God’s original design and the fulfillment of God’s astounding purposes.  His name is Jesus.  He’s here for you, for me.

In the next weeks we’ll be exploring the question of “Who is Jesus?”  Along the way, we’ll look at what he said, what he did, what others said about him.  We’ll sort through the matters of what He means right now for you, for me.  Please join us Sunday mornings, hopefully in church (we would love to see you), but you can also watch online at our homepage.  Either way, we invite you to come experience not only the rescue He brings, but the life in which we are abundantly loved, together… a life for which we are being rescued.
 
 
 
Listen to the message from Christmas Eve for more on Rescued by a Child
 
Please join us for a One Church worship service on January 1, beginning at 10 a.m.
January 8, our three Sunday services resume at 8, 9:30 and 11 a.m.
 
See FAQs you may have about attending Sunday services at Rapid City First UMC.


Rescue & Obedience

FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT 

Obedience. It’s not exactly a fun word, is it? Whether a dog on a short leash, a teenager sliding in at curfew, or any of us driving slower than what we would like, if we act out of obedience, that means someone else is “the boss” of us. Someone else is in charge.
 
 What does it mean that God asks us for obedience? It means that we’re called to trust God more than ourselves. Again, in looking at our Advent theme of Rescue, we are called to participate in Rescue…and we participate through obedience.
 
Kids walking pathObedience is counter-intuitive to our human nature. It puts self-preservation on the line.  Obedience to God may call us to set ego aside and do something that may have seemed unthinkable the day before, despite what others will think or say. Why? To paraphrase every parent ever: “Because God says so.” God has given a nudge… a nudge for us to act out of love instead of self-interest. Have you ever felt that nudge and ignored it? Most likely, your answer is yes…because most of the time God’s nudge points us to do something inconvenient, scary, annoying or just plain hard. It may even make us want to kick and scream and say, “NO!!” Which of course, as a reaction sounds a lot more like rebellion than obedience, doesn’t it? But because of our love for God, and because of Jesus’ example we are called and encouraged to embrace God’s nudge with a “YES.”
 
 Obedience is sometimes done with grace and peace, and sometimes done in a cold sweat and a lump in the throat…“Why am I doing this???”  Being obedient to God can very definitely mean fighting our own fear, our own thinking, but there’s a reason…

Isaiah 55:8-9  New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
 
You may have heard that God doesn’t call the equipped. He equips the called…But we still have to say, “Yes.”
 
If you’ve been reading this blog the past few weeks and internalizing it, you’ve been working on being obedient to God. Becoming watchful, preparing your heart, finding joy at its source. Centering on these ideas are acts of obedience to God and King… Keep on. Obedience is OUR part of the Rescue, and the only part that is in question… The rest is a sure thing…
 
For more thoughts on obedience, listen to Jason’s sermon on the topic from December 19.
 
 
Please join us December 24th,  Christmas Eve at 5, 7, 9 or 11 p.m. for worship. We would love to see you here!
 
Christmas Day and New Year’s Day will be “One Church” Sundays. There will be one worship service at 10 a.m., instead of the usual worship schedule of three services.
 
Learn more about us on Facebook
 
 


Rescue & Joy

Joy comes from God

THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT
Joy. 
That’s what we’re all supposed to be feeling, right?  “It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” so the song goes.  From the schmaltzy melodies filling up the playlist on your favorite streaming source to the abundance of sweet and savory treats suddenly appearing at all the events of the season, isn’t joy being manufactured in abundance?  I hope you’re experiencing some measure of delight in these things.  Truth be told, I hope this will be my experience, at least to some degree.

 
Greater truth be told, I long for something more.  Perhaps, you do too.  Joy is not dependent upon songs, sweets, circumstances or our mood, in as much as joy derives from the actions of a mighty and loving God.  Our God has come and is coming in ways that turn our world upside-down.  The lowly are lifted; the hungry eat their fill, while the proud and powerful receive their comeuppance.  The poor and the poor in spirit receive God’s favor.  That’s a message that either comforts or challenges or leads to sobering self-examination or some combination of all three and more. 
 
We can be certain of this, God’s on a rescue mission. From ancient times prophets declared that our Creator is One who goes to great lengths to ransom the captives, redeem the enslaved, and restore the broken.  Mary, the God-bearer, bore the reality of this mission in flesh and blood.  Her child has come to our rescue.  He is the ultimate reason for our joy.
 
Learn more about that joy from this week’s sermon by Pastor Greg.
 
Today, we had our children’s Christmas program at Rapid City First UMC. Please be sure to check out some photos from the morning posted on Facebook.
 
Next week, we will move on to Rescue & Obedience for this blog and our sermon focus will be on Obedience. Please join us at 8 a.m., 9:30 a.m. or 11 a.m.
 
Christmas Eve, we will be offering worship four times in the evening. We hope you will join us! Please refer to our home page or the Facebook event for those times and types of services provided to best engage with a variety of spiritual walks, needs and schedules.


Rescue & Preparation

SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT
“Prepare the way of the Lord.” For those who are familiar, that phrase credited to  John the Baptist may bring-to-mind a certain song. If you’re a fan of the musical Godspell (or have a little time and are curious), here’s a link to a clip from the original 70’s movie version… Try not to get distracted by the time capsule hair, clothing, etc., but watch the attitude (then come back here and finish reading)… Did you notice the joy and abandon with which people hear the call, drop everything and move toward being washed clean? They prepare for what’s next. They leave things behind as they move forward. Real life isn’t quite as easy as a movie musical though, is it?
 
Each moment we are alive is the present. Our time, second by second, is leaving a trail of the past. As we press on into the future, our next moment, our next step, do we step with faith? Or do we step with regret, fear, or maybe anger? Or are we oblivious that we have a choice and that it matters?
 
MŠdchen betrachtet AdventskranzWalking through Advent, and Christianity in general, we can strive to live presently in thankful, mindful balance. It’s a tension of looking ahead to God’s great plan, while at the same time, respecting the past, recognizing where God has already been at work, revealing grace to us. The Bible shows us where God’s people have been, mistakes made and lessons learned…how love saves and has been modeled to us through Jesus and what we need to know about the very nature of God… A faith community provides a place where we can hear and live together through similar stories, but from contemporary timelines…Yes, God still performs miracles, large and small with people right here around us.
 
Individually, as we stop today and look at our lives—as we Prepare—where has God already been at work that we can recognize and be thankful? If we’ve never really paid attention to that presence, it might be hard to pinpoint… Or we might blame God for things that are people’s doing (That whole “free will” thing humanity’s got going on, really gives God a bad rap…). What memories—Christmas or otherwise—add to that thankfulness? What regrets or bitterness do we have that we need to drop and walk away from, seeking forgiveness, as we Prepare for Rescue?
 
When we travel, it pays to  pack only what we need. We don’t want to take too much. We don’t want to leave the necessary behind… We travel a journey to Rescue. What do you really need, and need to give up, to be Prepared?
 
Hear more about the idea of being Prepared through Pastor Greg Kroger’s sermon from December 4, 2016.
 
Next Sunday, December 11, 2016 at 8 a.m. we will have a traditional service with the Sermon theme of “Joy” then at 9:30 and 11 a.m. we will have our Christmas pageant “Twas the Night Before” presented by our children. Please join us!
 
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Rescue & Watchfulness

FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT

Watchfulness.  We set out today for a journey over the next few weeks, a journey seeking Rescue. Watchfulness is our starting point.  The Rescue is a gift we receive from a God who gave us nothing less than God’s own self.  This incredible present is the very presence of the creator of all that is, ever was, and ever will be.

So why do we need Rescue?  Because of our own humanity. In ways, large and small we’re torn and conflicted.  I know for me, the good things I intend to do, I don’t.  The things I wish I could stop doing seem to be never-ending habits.  The person I want to become stands in my imagination just outside my grasp, in spite my best intentions.  Who will Rescue me from this life-sapping, exhausting struggle?  Who will Rescue you?  Rescue comes from the One who was, who is, and who will come again. This Rescue is a promise we have received.

Child boy traveling by amd looking from a window.

And so we watch. 

Watchfulness includes waiting.  That part can test our patience.  We spend lots of time waiting for what’s next.  Waiting for a day’s work to end, waiting for the weekend, waiting for vacation…waiting in line, waiting for an appointment, waiting for test results…waiting for treatments, waiting through treatments, waiting to see if treatments have done the job…waiting for others, waiting to grow-up, waiting for love, waiting for commitment…waiting to see if diet and exercise will work, waiting for things to slow down, waiting for life that is truly life, waiting for life that is beyond life…
 
We’re watching and waiting, but they’re not separate from the Rescue. Each activity is essential…we play an active role.  Dreaming and longing set the stage for Rescue.  We name our highest hopes, our deepest desires to Live Life Loved.  We watch.  We wait.  We remember God has come to us, is among us, and will return to us.  Even in watching and waiting streams of living water flow.  As water drawn from a crystal-clear spring, to soothe a parched throat, the thirst of our inner being is satisfied through the down payment already provided.  The Spirit of God is present and pointing to a greater reality yet to come.  God who began a great work in Bethlehem will bring all things to completion through that same child, our Savior, our Rescuer.  The Rescue already underway will be complete.  Until then, we Watch, and can be confident, reminding ourselves that God is busily at work on our behalf.
 
We invite you to come, visit and learn more or call us at 342-4498 and ask questions… 
 
Sunday next week, December 4, thoughts on Rescue will move from Watchfulness to Preparation.


Live life loved

 
“Live life large.” Have you heard of that? It’s supposed to mean live life on your own terms, get all you want out of this world. In some ways it sounds great, but it’s not necessarily the best way to go … At Rapid City First United Methodist Church, we prefer the focus of “Live life loved.”

We know if you’re struggling in life right now, your reaction may be, “Live life loved. What the heck?” For instance…

If you’ve been in any relationship where guilt, shame and abuse of any kind are heaped upon you, or where people don’t seem to care abouyou, love may not seem real – or it seems warped, ugly, self-serving…

If you have made personal choices that sent you down a road you wish you hadn’t traveled, it can be impossible to feel loved, to feel worthy of love, or to give love…

If life is nothing but hard—when existence is a struggle for food, shelter, time, sobriety… you or someone you care about is suffering through cancer or other illness…when someone you love has recently died, just waking up in the morning can be painful. How do you live life loved?
 
During the season of Advent, beginning the Sunday after Thanksgiving, we begin a journey toward Christmas. We spend four weeks creating a little room in our normal, everyday lives for a big thought on faith and where it comes from. The gift of Rescue. We are rescued by a King. No matter what is going on in our lives, there is a loving Savior who will walk through it with us and change us from the inside out.  It is each of us making a claim on God’s love that gets it started.

To those who already know the love we’re talking about:

Live life loved. Who are we, when we know or remember we are loved? We are better. We are happier, calmer, more at peace. We feel supported. When we receive love, claim love, we have love to give. Even when life is at its hardest.

When we live life loved, we remember who we are and whose we are: God’s child. One forgiven by and embraced by the living Christ.
 
When we live life loved, we are people in action, people serving our families, friends and community.
 
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At Rapid City First United Methodist Church, we love, grow and serveWe live life loved.

Honestly, we are human, so we don’t always do it well, but we do it! We keep practicing, and like new skaters on the ice, hold each other up in joy.

You can too. We welcome you to join us. We can support you while we all continue to learn about the love offered from God who made and brought you here. We even have a weekly study, Under Wraps, going on during Advent that helps teach more about God. Sundays, each service will focus on different aspects of this journey and our rescue as we move toward Christmas.

You are valuable, you are worthy, you are loved. You can choose to live life loved. We welcome you to contact or visit us if you’d like to learn more.