This week, I will begin doing a new summer preaching series titled “We Believe”. It will be based on retired Bishop William Willimon’s 2007 book “United Methodist Beliefs” published by Westminster John Knox Press. For those who come from the UCC tradition at Peace United Church the vast majority of basic Christian beliefs are shared in common with nearly all denominations. Sometimes the terminology is distinctly Methodist but the meanings of the words are shared. I think that only in the last week will the topic veer into unique understandings that Methodist have. I will also bring in some of my own understandings derived from the work of Rene Girard and others into the conversation of what we believe. Our topics will follow the nine chapters of Bishop Willimon’s book:
1. We Believe in the Triune God
2. We Believe in Salvation through Jesus Christ
3. We Believe in the Holy Spirit
4. We Believe in Christ’s Universal Church
5. We Believe in Practicing Theology
6. We Believe in Transforming and Perfecting Grace
7. We Believe in Faith and Good Works
8. We Believe in the Coming of God’s Realm and Reign to the World
9. Thinking like Wesleyans
During this series I hope to use at least one of the Lectionary Readings for the topic at hand, but we will see as we go.
Our readings this week are:
2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19 – King David brings the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem and the party begins. The lectionary committee leaves out a very disturbing story in the skipped verses. In verse 5 there is dancing and singing as the ark comes to Jerusalem, but it never arrives for in verse 6 Uzzah, one of the men traveling with the ark, grabs the ark to steady it because the oxen shook the cart it was riding on. verse 7 says that God was angry and God killed Uzzah. David then become angry with God and refuses to have the ark brought into Jerusalem. The ark is then kept in someone’s home for three months where the family was blessed. When David finally brings the ark to Jerusalem, the singing and dancing resumes, a large sacrifice is made and all the people eat freshly cooked meat. One last little disturbing bit of information is given us: Michal, daughter of King Saul and wife to David, is made angry by David shameless display during the processional. More information is given in verses 20-23.
Psalm 24 – This is a psalm of praise for God and God’s glory. The psalmist asks “Who can be in God’s presence in the holy place?” He also provides the answer: only those with clean hands and pure hearts.
OR Amos 7:7-15 – In verses 1-9, Amos sees a vision of locusts, fire, and a plumb line. Amos pleads with God not to send the locusts or the fire and God relents. Our reading includes the vision of the plumb line and the priest at Bethel complaining to the king about Amos’ words. The priest tells Amos to go to Judah (the southern kingdom, two tribes) to prophesy there. Amos says that he is not a professional prophet but a simple shepherd whom God sent to Israel (the northern kingdom, ten tribes).
Psalm 85:8-13 – The psalmist wants to hear what God will speak knowing that God’s salvation is near. Verses 10 and 11 are especially beautiful. Please read them in context of these six verses.
Ephesians 1:3-14 – This is probably the text I will use for the first “We Believe” sermon, “We Believe in the Triune God”. Paul writes that we have been blessed in Christ by God, who is Father of Jesus, and that we have been chosen by God for adoption as God’s children through Jesus Christ. Paul brings in the Holy Spirit in verse 13 as the seal and pledge of redemption. It is a bit wordy and complicated. You may wish to read it three, four, or five times.
Mark 6:14-29 – Mark uses a “flash back” to tell us the story of the death of John the Baptizer. King Herod hears of Jesus and the work the disciples were doing when Jesus sent them out (Mark 6:12-13). Some people think that Jesus is John raised from the dead, but others think it is a prophet of old. Herod believes it is John back from the dead and Mark then tells us the circumstances surrounding his death. You have probably heard the story many times before but if not now is a good time to get acquainted with it. You may want to compare this short story with the death of Jesus in Mark 14 and 15. Also compare it to Stephan’s death in Acts 6:8 to 7:60.
Have a great week serving the Lord by serving others. Take a moment this week to tell someone of God’s love and forgiveness.
Peace in Christ,