Well, we have come to the end of another calendar year. We say goodbye to 2014 and hello to 2015. How will you make 2015 better than 2014? The old idea of making a “New Year’s Resolution”. Personally, I started my resolution on December 3, 2014 when I took my first steps on the treadmill Cheryl and I have at home. My goal at that time was to walk 20 to 25 minutes 3 days a week and eventually get to 30 minutes a day 5 days a week. Well, I am doing just that. My legs ache a little but I am beginning to feel better. Sometimes my walk turns into a short trot as I try to stretch myself. (Listen carefully and you can hear me patting myself on the back!)
I don’t tell you this to make you feel guilty. I avoided regular exercise for years and no matter what anyone said I just did not want to do it. What changed was our Parish Nurse, Judy Lightowler, said she would coach me, encourage me in this effort. I also talked to my Primary Care Physician who has always asked about my exercise, or lack thereof, and she gave her approval. What I want you to think about is “What can you do to improve your life and health?” If you know, find a partner to work with you and find someone to encourage you.
What can you do in 2015 to make your church better than in 2014? When we have a baptism at our churches or when we remember our own baptism, as we will do this coming Sunday, we pledge to God to do five things. When you do these five things, hopefully improving in 2015 in the areas where improvements can be made, your church is strengthened and will grow. Don’t depend on someone else to do these five things; do them yourself. But also remember, it is not all about you but is about God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit working in the Church that Jesus established.
Your baptismal vows include the line that “as members together in the body of Christ and in this congregation, we renew our covenant faithfully to participate in the ministries of the Church by our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service, and our witness, that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.”
Prayers – Are you praying for your church, your ministers, the other people? Praying daily or just occasionally? A praying church will be a growing church.
Presence – Are you attending church worship as often as possible? If you are not in town to attend your church are you attending church wherever you are? If you cannot physically be in church, did you know that most Sundays Grey Eagle UMC streams its worship online?
Gifts – What are you giving back to the church? Are you making a tithe? Are you able to give a little more in the coming year? Our churches cannot function without your generous gift. Please pray about what you can give to the church.
Service – What are you able to do for the church and with the church? Can you lead or participate in a local mission outreach? Can you contribute to the vitality of the church by what you do? Do you have ideas about what the church could be doing, have you shared those ideas, and would you be willing to lead?
Witness – Are you telling others about your faith in Jesus Christ? Are you inviting others to know Jesus? Are you inviting family, friends, and others to attend worship with you? If others watched you would they see a witness to Christ?
If you have read this far, thank you for your patience. We now turn to the readings for this Sunday,
This Sunday is both the “Second Sunday after Christmas” and “Epiphany Sunday”. We will also be renewing our baptismal vows and Sunday will be “Covenant Renewal Sunday”. Our Lessons for each of these Sundays are:
Second Sunday after Christmas
Jeremiah 31:7-14 – A song of praise to God for the Israelites returning to Jerusalem from Babylon.
Psalm 147 – Praise to God for God’s care of Jerusalem.
Ephesians 1:3-14 – In Christ we have received spiritual blessings, adoption into God’s family, and inheritance toward redemption.
John 1:(1-9) 10-18 – The Word, who exists with and as God, became flesh and lived in the world. The world rejected the Word, but we have received it, grace upon grace.
Isaiah 60:1-6 – The glory of the Lord has come and the nations will come bringing gifts of frankincense and gold.
Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14 – A prayer to God to bless the king who will reign with justice and the nations will bring gifts.
Ephesians 3:1-12 – The mystery revealed to Paul is also for the Gentiles which is why Paul preaches and suffers in other nations.
Matthew 2:1-12 – The magi, number unknown, visit the child of Joseph and Mary bringing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. The king is disturbed by the news.
Covenant Renewal Sunday
Joshua 24:14-18 – At the end of his life, Joshua calls on the people to commit their lives to God.
Jeremiah 31:31-34 – A new covenant will be written, not on stone tablets, but on the hearts of the people.
1 Peter 1:13-25 – We are called to live changed lives, different from our past and from society, because we have been cleansed by Jesus’s blood.
John 15:1-17 – Jesus is the Vine and the Father is the vine grower. We are the branches which die when disconnected from the Vine. However, we bear the fruit of love when connected. To love others as Jesus loves us is to bear the fruit of God’s economy.
Have a great New Year’s Eve celebration. If you drink, don’t drive. If you drive, don’t drink.
Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor