Kingdom Building

“What you do in the present—by painting, preaching, singing, sewing, praying, teaching, building hospitals, digging wells, campaigning for justice, writing poems, caring for the needy, loving your neighbor as yourself—will last into God’s future. These activities are not simply ways of making the present life a little less beastly, a little more bearable, until the day when we leave it behind altogether. They are part of what we may call building for God’s kingdom.” – N.T. Wright

Holy God, you have called us to follow in the way of your risen Son, and to care for those who are our companions, not only with words of comfort, but with acts of love. Seeking to be true friends of all, we offer our prayers on behalf of the church and the world. Guide us in the path of discipleship, so that, as you have blessed us, we may be a blessing for others, bringing the promise of the kingdom near by our words and deeds. Amen. (Revised Common Lectionary)

Gratitude

As I listened to Cory’s sermon yesterday, I couldn’t help but think of Chapter 9 on “Gratitude” in Learning to Pray. I had just read it and – still fresh in my mind – I started thinking about how much life has changed over the last month, and how we’re each discovering in our own ways how little we actually have control over.

It made me think of all the things I miss from “before”:  worshiping together in one location, sitting in a crowded stadium watching the Packers play football, laughing with family at one dinner table. At the same time, I realized how little gratitude I had for all those things when I had them.  How I rarely, or never, said “thank you.”

I think there may be a direct connection between how much control we think we have over parts of our lives, and the measure of our gratitude. Think about it. It’s simply impossible to be thankful or grateful to someone else when you think you’ve accomplished something on your own.

Dr. Kalas says, “Gratitude is the recognition that no one is a solitary achiever.” So, if I think I have total control over things in my life, then I’m it. There is no one else to thank. But friends, every human being is a debtor. And until I admit how little I have sole control of, how much difference others have made in my life, I’ll never truly be able to express appropriate gratitude.

Unfortunately, that’s what happens too often in my relationship with God. Saying thank you, showing gratitude, acknowledging God working in my life and the lives of others… How many opportunities have I allowed – continue to allow – to slip by? What about you? What gratitude and thankfulness is going unspoken in your life right now? How can we heighten our awareness of just how blessed we are, and then live out our gratitude?

img_3295

My Heavenly Father, thank you for the blessings in my life. Thank you for providing me with wisdom and discernment in unsettling times. Thank you for providing me with strength and courage in frightening situations. Thank you for wrapping me in the reassurance of your love through scripture, and the working of the Holy Spirit through others during times when I think I’m completely alone. God, thank you. Jesus, thank you. Holy Spirit, thank you. Amen.

Check it Out

Today’s read is Prayer: The Ultimate Conversation by Dr. Charles Stanley

stanleyFrom Amazon: Have you ever considered what it means to talk to God? Is it really possible to communicate with the Creator of all that exists and be able to understand His plans and purposes for your life? Perhaps there are questions you desperately need answered. Maybe you are facing a trial that is too large or difficult to face on your own and you yearn for divine direction. Or it could be you are simply curious about what He would say to you.

In Prayer, The Ultimate Conversation, which is based on a lifetime of walking with the Father and fifty-five years of ministry founded on prayer, Dr. Charles Stanley not only teaches the disciplines of intercession but also explains how to fight life’s battles through intimate communion with the Lord. No matter what confounding questions, perplexing circumstances, or seemingly insurmountable dilemmas you are facing today, the solution to them is absolutely obvious to God—and He longs to share His answers with you. Draw closer to the Father. Get to know God by engaging with Him in Prayer, The Ultimate Conversation.

About the Author

Dr. Charles F. Stanley is a New York Times bestselling author who has written more than sixty books, with sales of more than ten million copies. He has been senior pastor of the First Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia since 1971, and his outreach ministry—In Touch—reaches more than 2,800 radio and television outlets in more than fifty languages.

Odds & Ends

  • IMPORTANT REMINDER:  Beginning tonight at 6:30, Cory will be on Facebook Live leading a new Bible Study on Philippians. As Cory mentioned this past Sunday, Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi should be an interesting read for us since Paul wrote this letter during his imprisonment. Hmmm… just what can be accomplished when you can’t leave where you are?  We shall see!
  • In anticipation of tonight’s Bible study, you might be interested in this  (approximately) 5-minute video from The Bible Project:  New Testament Letters: Historical Context. While the examples given in the video are primarily from Romans, it still provides good information on how to approach any of the New Testament letters.
  • It wouldn’t be an “Odds & Ends” post without a Christianity Today link! This week I’m recommending the article Resurrection Hope Extends Beyond Easter Sunday, by Jarvis J. Williams, an associate professor of New Testament interpretation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville.
  • And please remember… Missions, outreach, and everyday expenses don’t stop for COVID-19. Donations to NCUMC may be sent to P.O. Box 194, New Castle KY 40050.

 

I close today with one of St. Benedict’s prayers. God be with us.

O gracious and holy Father,
give us wisdom to perceive you,
diligence to seek you,
patience to wait for you,
eyes to behold you,
a heart to meditate upon you,
and a life to proclaim you,
through the power of the spirit
of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Easter Sunday

John 20:11-18 (NIV)

Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).

Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!”

Love divine, In raising Christ to new life you opened the path of salvation to all peoples. Send us out, with the joy of Mary Magdalene, to proclaim that we have seen the Lord, so that all the world may celebrate with you the banquet of your peace. Amen. (Revised Common Lectionary)

Maundy Thursday

What Does “Maundy” Mean?

Derived from the Latin word mandatum, meaning “commandment,” Maundy refers to the command Jesus gave his disciples in the Upper Room at the Last Supper: to love with humility by serving one another.

John 13:12-17

12 When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

From the Lectionary:

Eternal God, in the sharing of a meal your Son established a new covenant for all people, and in the washing of feet he showed us the dignity of service. Grant that by the power of your Holy Spirit these signs of our life in faith may speak again to our hearts, feed our spirits, and refresh our bodies. Amen.