An Invitation into Community

“Do not be afraid.”

How many personal fears can you name in 10 seconds?

Maybe: A child’s future? Paying the bills? Being alone? Aging and illness? People on the “other” side of an issue? Gossip? Looking stupid? Being pregnant and unmarried? A family service member dying overseas? Getting laid off? Being in a dead-end job forever?

In “Invitation” by Joyce Hollyday*, the author reminds us that Jesus’ first recorded words after the resurrection are “Do not be afraid.” These same words appear in regard to his birth, his ministry, and his death, besides the Resurrection. And they also appeared as a message from God throughout the Old Testament. It is an age old message, repeating like a heartbeat throughout time as God continues to call us to Himself.

Learning more about Jesus and the power of his Resurrection, the perfect love that is calling to us, helps us to understand what the apostle John later put into words in 1 John 4:18, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out all fear.”

Those personal fears that seem so near, shrink in importance when we can embrace the truer reality of a loving and living God.

Easter Sunday is here again. The best news the world has ever known is still alive and true today. We welcome you to come to First United Methodist Church to worship and celebrate in community on April 1 at 8:00, 9:30 or 11 a.m. or at Main Street Square at 6 a.m.  If you don’t understand all that is said and happens at worship, it’s okay. We are all growing. First Church is a great place to learn and grow in faith, discovering the perfect love that is greater than all our fears. Please come.
 
 

*These thoughts are based on short writings from an assortment of notable authors in “Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter” from Plough Publishing House, copyright 2003.



Turning

Luke 22:61-62 Common English Bible (CEB)

61 The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter, and Peter remembered the Lord’s words: “Before a rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” 62 And Peter went out and cried uncontrollably.

Peter. His personality is so big. The stories in scripture about him point out his boldness, which sometimes misleads him. It’s easy to find people we know in that description, maybe even ourselves.

In his essay, “Turning,” Henry Drummond*, writes about this closing passage from Luke 22, ending the story of Peter’s bold, three-part denial of Jesus after his arrest. The disciple had tried to hide in plain sight and warm himself by the fire, but instead finds himself recognized repeatedly in the courtyard near the high priest’s house, where Jesus was being questioned.

Drummond points out that at the moment of Peter’s third denial, when the cock crows and Jesus’ prophecy is fulfilled, Jesus looks right at Peter… Jesus doesn’t turn away from the one who denies him, but turns toward him.

What does that mean to know that similarly, when we deny Christ with how we live or speak, how we treat others, he turns to us first, before we realize what we’ve done, and looks right at us? He sees us as we are, facing us in our worst moments, not turning his back.

Also, is it Peter’s simultaneous recognition of his own sin with the view of Christ’s loving face that drives Peter to his deep repentance? 

 This week, as we walk the final days toward Easter, where might we be denying Christ in our lives? Do we recognize Christ’s loving face looking at us, offering grace and calling us to truly follow him? Where do WE turn?
 
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A long-standing tradition at First UMC during Holy Week is our hosting of noontime services, inviting in pastors from other downtown churches to take turns sharing the message each day. This week, we invite you to join us at 12:05 (Mon-Fri) in our sanctuary for a brief worship service, followed by lunch downstairs in our fellowship hall. We urge you to take time from your busy day to focus on Christ and community. We hope you will come away both physically and spiritually fed, and reminded that you are not alone on your faith journey.

We also invite you to our Maundy Thursday Tenebrae Service, starting at 7 p.m. March 28. This service features choir, orchestra, communion, scripture readings and diminishing candlelight, reminding us of Christ’s last hours before his death on the cross.

Easter Sunday, we will be part of Sunrise Services at 6 a.m. at Main Street Square, as well as having 8:00, 9:30 and 11 a.m. services at First UMC, 629 Kansas City Street.
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*As we enter into the final week leading up to Easter this year, we share some thoughts based on short writings from an assortment of notable authors in “Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter” from Plough Publishing House, copyright 2003.

 


Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. Ephesians 1:3

Recommended reading: Ephesians 1

Thomas Ken has been called “England’s first hymnist.” He was born in Little Berkhampstead on the fringe of London. When his parents died, he was raised by his half-sister and her husband, who enrolled him, Winchester College. He was later ordained in ministry and returned to Winchester as a chaplain. He wrote three hymns in 1674 to encourage the devotional habits of the boys. The hymns were song privately in their rooms. All three hymns ended with a common stanza, “Praise God, from Whom All Blessings Flow.” He became a chaplain to England’s King Charles II. He then became a bishop. The Doxology was sung at his funeral.

My prayer for the week is two stanzas from his hymns:
Dear Lord: Awake, my soul, and with thy daily stage of duty run. Shake off dull sloth and joyful rise, to pay thy morning sacrifice. All praise to Thee, my God, this night, for all the blessings of the light! Keep me, O keep me, King of kings, beneath Thine own almighty wings. Amen



Give Yourself to the Lord

But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Galatians 6:14

Recommended reading: Galatians 6

After graduation from college, Isaac Watts returned to Southampton and spent two years writing hymns for Above Bar Congregational Church. He moved to London and joined Mark Lane Independent Chapel. He was asked to be teacher and then was hired as the associate pastor. He soon became the senior pastor, which he retained for the rest of his life. In
1707 his song book Hymns and Spiritual Songs was published. It included the hymn “Alas! and Did My Savior Bleed” based on the above verse. When Fanny Crosby heard this hymn in 1851 at revival service, she recalled that when they reached the third line of the fifth stanza, her soul was flooded with celestial light.

My prayer for the week: Dear Lord, as we look at all the big and little things happening around us, we see Your hand at work. The Holy Spirit helps each of us to see Your glory. We listen to you speaking to us and we choose to live by faith guided by the Holy Spirit. In Your Holy Name we pray. Praise God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit! Amen



Be Filled With the Spirit

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. Colossians 3:15

Recommended reading: Colossians 3

Elton Roth was born in Indiana and led his first church choir when he was fourteen. He attended Moody Bible Institute and Fort Wayne Bible College. He studied music in Europe. Elton became a singing evangelist and song leader. He
formed the Ecclesia Choir, which performed around the country. Later Los Angeles became his home. One of the first hymns he wrote the words and music for was the hymn “I Have a Song That Jesus Gave Me.” He wrote over one hundred
hymns. He wrote the spirit filled hymn, “In My Heart There Rings a Melody” on a hot summer day in Texas. It became a favorite hymn for many years around the world.

My prayer for the week: Dear Lord, we come to You every day seeking You and asking You to use us for Your glory. We are so grateful for Your Holy Word that teaches us the great truths of the Scripture. We gladly learn how to live our lives from the teaching in the Bible. Praise God. Amen



We are Redeemed by Christ

Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us for it is written, “Cursed us everyone who hangs on a tree.” Galatians 3:13

Recommended reading: Galatians 3

Samuel Wesley, Sr. was a penniless and unpopular Anglican pastor in Epworth, England and it riled him that his wife, Susanna’s kitchen Bible studies were more popular that his sermons. He was often severe. His crops were burned, livestock maimed and even his home was torched by Epworth’s citizens. He lost his manuscripts and hymns in the fire. Only one hymn, “Behold the Savior of Mankind” was rescued from a 1709 fire at Samuel’s home. This hymn became the
forerunner of many wonderful hymns from his sons, the famous Wesley brothers, Charles and John.

My prayer for the week: Dear Lord, when times seem dark, You give us rays of hope. Hope steadies the faltering soul. We are to care for those around us and help bring them hope. Your love brings circles of light to our daily lives and that provides us joy. Praise the Lord. Amen.



The Cross of Christ

But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Galatians 6:14

Recommended reading: Galatians 6

Isaac Watts finished his college studies and returned home to Southampton and wrote many of his hymns for the Above Bar Congregational Church. He then became a tutor. He then felt the tug toward the ministry. On his twenty-fourth
birthday, Isaac preached his first sermon. The following year he became the assistant pastor of London’s Mark Lane Church. Later he became the lead pastor of the church. In 1707 he published his hymns in a book of hymns. The book was an instant success. His hymn “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” based on the above verse was in the book of hymns. Many consider this hymn the finest hymn in English history.

My prayer for the week: Dear Lord, without You we are nothing. Thank you for giving us the strength to serve You. Please provide us the courage and confidence to be a witness for You by sharing Your Good News. Amen



Jesus, Our Living Savior

…He was crucified in weakness. Yet lives by the peace of God….we also are weak in Him, but we shall live with Him by the power of God toward you. 2 Corinthians 13:4

Recommended reading: 2 Corinthians 13

Phoebe Palmer was born in New York City. At the age of 20 she married Walter Palmer, a physician. Phoebe led women’s a prayer meetings in her home. She and Walter traveled throughout the area preaching. She wrote articles and books.
She is now considered the “Mother of Holiness Movement in the United States.” She wrote the words to the hymn “The Cleansing Wave” in 1867. Her daughter, Phoebe Palmer Knapp married at the age of 16. Phoebe Knapp composed lively hymns in the home the Knapp Mansion with fine music room with a pipe organ. She wrote the music for “The
Cleansing Wave.” She and Fanny Crosby were close friends.

My prayer for the week: Dear Lord, use our hands to serve others and our hearts to love others as You did for each of us. Thank you Lord for the great opportunity to use our arms to lift others up. In Your Holy Name we pray. Amen



We Need the Lord at All Times

Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our  sufficiency is from God. (2 Corinthians 3:5)

 Recommended reading: 2 Corinthians 3

 As a child Annie Sherwood Hawks wrote poetry. She began writing Sunday school songs as young wife and mother.  Dr. Robert Lowry of Hanson Place Baptist Church set many of her hymns to music.  Annie wrote the hymn, “I Need Thee Every Hour” in June 1872.  Dr. Lowry wrote the refrain.  Annie wrote over 400 hymns throughout her life.

My prayer for the week: Dear Lord, no matter how fast we move, the pace is never so quick that God is not with us all the time. We are excited that You are always with us Lord. We rejoice in Your love Lord and worship, praise and love You.  Help us to serve You. In Your Holy Name we pray. Amen



The Glory of God Through Us

For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.  (2 Corinthians 1:20)

 Recommended reading: 2 Corinthians 1.

 Russell Kelso Carter was an athlete, rancher, educator, preacher and physician. He was surrounded by Christian influences since his birth in Baltimore.  He wondered from the truth as a school boy until age 15, when under the influence of the cadet prayer-meeting he made a profession of faith in Jesus. But he made a mistake, he did not forsake is old companions and an up-and-down experience for 14 years. He was on the verge of death from his chronically diseased heart. He had heard of the “prayer of faith” for healing. He made a consecration that covered everything. A quietness came over him. He recovered in three days and served the Lord the rest of his life and wrote the hymn, “Standing on the Promises” in 1886.

Prayer for the week: Dear Lord, At times life seems run wild but You hold the reins.  We need to live on earth as You would guide us. We need to ask You for everything and be prepared for You to change everything. We are healed by the power of God. Praise the Lord.  Amen