Hello Everyone and Happy New Year,
Yes, five days into the new year I am still having to think about writing “2016” on all my documents, etc. It will probably take a few more days until it becomes an ingrained habit or until “muscle memory” takes over and I don’t have to think about it.
The same thing is true for any new endeavor we take up. It takes conscience repetition until it “sets in”. The further between the acts of repetition, the longer before the new action becomes routine. For instance, with my diabetes I used to take multiple daily injections of insulin. When I started using an insulin pump I would change the infusion site every three days. It took me a while to make it routine; to go from a 20 minute procedure that I had think about each step to something that now takes 10 minutes or less. When I started my newest Continuous Glucose Monitor it needed to be changed every week. It took me a couple of months to no longer follow the step-by-step instructions. Now I change it every 2 1/2 weeks but I know the steps and it goes quickly.
Why am I telling you all of this? Because I believe that attending worship to give praise and glory to God our Creator and to receive the Good News, the Word of Grace, need to something that we routinely do. We need to make it a part of our lives so that when we miss a week we feel like we missed something vital (which in fact you have). When we attend worship we make an additional connection with God and we connect with our brothers and sister who are also worshiping. We sing, we praise, we pray, we hear the Good News, we receive Communion and we leave as changed people.
This week both Peace United Church and Grey Eagle United Methodist Church will be holding our Annual Covenant Renewal Service. In this service we will hear the Good News, recommit our lives to follow Jesus Christ, remember our Baptisms, and receive the body and blood of Christ in Communion. If you are a regular attendee of worship this service will add new meaning to following Christ. If you are not in regular attendance, why not start this week? And then the next, and then the next, until it becomes a part of your life. Grey Eagle UMC worships at 9:00 AM on Sunday and Peace United worships at 10:30 AM. Will I see you there? I hope and pray so.
Our readings this week are:
Isaiah 43:1-7 – God declares that all the people of Israel have been redeemed and that God will bring back all those who are scattered throughout the world. The waters will not overwhelm them and the fires will not burn. For those whom God has called nothing will prevent their return. Is it possible to read about the waters and fire as being a reference to the violence of the world and that for those whom the world would destroy God will vindicate? Another note: this being “Baptism of Jesus Sunday” the Lectionary Committee chose this passage because of the “passing through the waters” in verse 2.
Psalm 29 – This psalm speaks about the power of the “voice of the Lord” which is over the waters (see Genesis 1:1-3) and flashes like flames in a fire. The Lord is “enthroned as king forever” and gives “strength to his people”.
Acts 8:14-17 – In the verses preceding this selection Philip has been traveling around Samaria preaching the Good News of Jesus, casting out demons, and healing the lame. Many people believed and were baptized by Philip. When word got back to the disciples in Jerusalem, they send Peter and John to check it out. Peter and John find that the people who believed were only baptized by water and not the Spirit. So they lay their hands on people and pray for the baptism of the Spirit which they receive. This is a troubling passage for many Protestant Churches. It says there is a two step baptism: one by water and one by the Spirit. I believe that the Spirit is always active in our lives and that in the act of baptism, whether the person is an infant, teenager, or adult, the Spirit is there. I may talk about this in my sermon this week.
Luke 3:15-17, 21-22 – The first three verses are John the Baptizer’s declaration that the Messiah will be someone who is more powerful then he. The one who follows will judge with a winnowing fork and a fire. The final two verses are a very short non-description of Jesus’ Baptism. Luke simply says that AFTER Jesus was baptized and WHILE he was praying, the heavens opened, the Spirit descended upon him, and a voice from heaven declared the Jesus was the Son and the Beloved. This is a shorter description that Mark’s (1:9-11) and much shorter than Matthew’s (3:13-17). In all three version, Jesus then leaves for a 40 day wilderness experience.
Have a wonderful week serving God by serving your neighbors.
Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor