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The Temple (Part 4)

1 Kings 8:14,  20-21, 25-26 “14 Then the king {Solomon} turned around and blessed all the assembly of Israel, while all the assembly of Isra...

Monday, December 28, 2020

Acts of Faith and Obedience

Luke 2: 21

“On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.”

Mary’s decision to give birth to the child of God was an act of faith in God’s goodness and an act of obedience to His will.  Joseph’s decision not to divorce Mary was an act of faith that God’s wisdom was not his wisdom and an act of obedience to God’s will.

Traveling from Nazareth to Bethlehem was an act of faith that God was with them and an act of obedience to Roman law.  The first act with the baby Jesus after His birth was an act of faith, by naming Him Jesus, and an act of obedience to Jewish tradition, by having Him circumcised.

Christ, as an adult, would call all who had ears to hear to a new faith of transformation in which God’s will is written on our hearts, and to a new obedience that flows from our love.

Joseph and Mary were called to live out their faith.  

Their Child, our Savior, asks the same of us.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

A Life Begun

Luke 2: 18-19

“18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

Mary...the young girl...the servant of God.  Her heart was full. The words of the angel Gabriel and the shepherds spun in her head as she sat with her newborn near her. I imagine that Mary wondered what lay ahead for her child.

Earlier, Mary and Joseph had decided to trust God.  The words of the shepherds must have reinforced this trust.  A new life was beginning for them all.

The first Christmas.  An infant child.  A new mother.  A new father.  

Words of wonder.  A life on earth begun.

Friday, December 25, 2020

The Beginning

Luke 2: 15-17, 20

“15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” 16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.” 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child...20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.”

The angels left.  The great company of heavenly hosts were gone.  The light that had shone round about them was gone and they were surrounded by darkness once again.  The shepherds stood alone in the empty fields.

One of the Shepherds, excited about what he had heard and seen, suggested that they leave the fields and travel to Bethlehem to see for themselves what the angels had revealed to them.  And they hurried off and discovered that everything they had heard that night was true.

Christmas is more than the glitz.  It is more than lights.  It is more than songs and gifts.  It is more than words.  Christmas means the savior is actually in the world.  Christmas means seeking Him, finding Him, and believing in Him.  

Christmas does not end when we give the last gift, cut off the lights, or take down the tree.  It has only just begun.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

God's Peace

Luke 2: 13-14

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

The peace that the angels proclaimed was not peace between nations or peace between family members.  The peace that the angels proclaimed was a more profound peace; a peace offered to us by God.

This peace is to be found through a relationship in Christ; a peace grounded in our faith.  This kind of peace transcends our circumstances and the circumstances of the world.  It is a peace that passes all understanding, and is offered to all who seek Him.

Into this world God’s peace was born.  And the angels rejoiced.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Born Unto You

Luke 2: 10-12

“10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

The shepherds were terrified by the presence of the angels, but the angels reached out to them, telling them not to be afraid.

When God directly intervenes in the world our first reaction is fear.   This is because God’s intervention is unexpected, unusual, and, to be honest, scary.  Are we afraid of God’s messengers or are we afraid of God’s message?  Or both?  God’s messengers may not look like the messengers in our heads.  And God’s message may not always be the message we want to hear.

God’s message normally involves change; change for the world, and change for us.  The coming of Christ offers us the possibility of change ; it offers us the possibility to stop the charade of righteousness under the law and to change for real; to change our hearts; to transform us with God’s help into a new creation in Christ.

So, this Christmas season, remember the message of the angels.  Do not be afraid. Hope has been born unto you.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

The Lowly

Luke 2: 8-9

“8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.”

When we think of God revealing something earth shattering and momentous, we think of mountains trembling, smoke billowing, earthquakes, etc.  But not in this case.

God first revealed the birth of the Messiah to shepherds who were tending their flocks nearby.  He sent His angels to quietly announce the news to them.  

Shepherds were the lowliest occupation in Israel.  The orthodox looked down on them because they could not comply with all of the meticulous requirements of their religion due to the demands their flocks made upon them.

Later in his life, Christ identified himself as “the good shepherd”, a nod, no doubt, to the shepherds that His mother must have told him about, who visited him when he was born.

The lowly shepherds, a child born in a stable, two parents unable to get a room…

And the glory of the Lord shone around them.

Monday, December 21, 2020

The Bread of Life

Luke 2: 6-7

“6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.”

Arriving in Bethlehem, Mary and Joseph found it to be crowded with people who had traveled there for the same purpose, to be counted so that they could be taxed.  They were all compelled to be there by Rome.   And, probably to their dismay, Mary and Joseph found that private rooms for guests were in short supply. So they slept in a place where the overflow of people stayed and where animals were kept at night.

While they were there, Mary went into labor; a young girl, as far from home as she had ever been, giving birth to her first child, in a strange place, under unfamiliar circumstances.   

The Bible is silent about her labor.  Was it difficult?  Was it lengthy?  Was Joseph there holding her hand?  Was there a midwife?  All it says is… “and she gave birth…”.  And just like that, the promised Messiah entered the world.

All of the things they had been told by the Angel of the Lord must have come flooding back to Mary and Joseph as they watched and experienced his birth, as they held him and swaddled him.   

And they lay him in a feeding trough; the Bread of Life.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

The Circle of Love

 My mother used to tell me the story of the day that I was born.  She said it was a cold and dreary day in February.  She remembers one of the nurses told her that her baby would share the birthday of George Washington.  The next thing she knew she was lying in bed and I was being handed to her.  The first thing she noticed was how large I was (almost 10 lbs) and how big my hands were, and how loud and powerful I cried.  She told me, “the minute I saw you I loved you.”  And looking at me, she wondered who I was and who I would become.

The day my daughter was born was a clear, beautiful fall day in October.  We actually went to the hospital  two days prior to her birth.  My wife, Melanie, was in labor for 29 hours.   Our daughter, Erin, finally arrived around 6:00 am on that beautiful day.  The nurses placed her into my arms and the minute I held her a tremendous, overwhelming love came pouring fourth from the deepest part of me.  And as I gazed into her eyes, I wondered who she was and who she would become.

Now, my daughter is pregnant and will soon have a daughter of her own.  She sent us a text the other day that contained an audio of our soon-to-be granddaughter’s heartbeat.  And the love from the deepest part of me came pouring out.  Whoever she is, whoever she becomes, she will be loved.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

The Bell Tolls

The Covid-19 virus has taught me many things.  I have learned about pandemics.  I have learned about social distancing.  I have learned about online grocery shopping.  I have learned about hand washing.  I have learned about not touching my face or eyes.  I have learned about wearing a mask. I have learned that I can do without a lot of things that I formerly thought were necessary.

Most importantly, I have learned that we are interdependent.  We may think we are independent, but unless we are a desert recluse, we all come into contact with other people.  And because of this, my actions or lack of actions affect you.  And yours affect me.  My actions can have serious consequences for you and the people you love.

In order for you and your loved ones to stay healthy, you need me to act in a responsible way.  In turn, I need you do the same.  Society is founded on this interconnected interdependence.  Without it, civilized society breaks down.

John Dunn once wrote

No man is an island entire of itself; every man 
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; 
..... any man's death diminishes me, 
because I am involved in mankind. 
And therefore never send to know for whom 
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. “

The bell tolls.  Does it toll just for me or just for you?  Or for all humankind?  Only you and I can answer that question.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Note to the Congregation During the Pandemic: Remember to Walk in Love

Ephesians 5:1-2

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

Christ came into this world not only to provide us with a path of Salvation but also to provide us with an example of how we are to live our lives; how we are to relate to other people, people that we love and people that are hard to love.  Our dominant motivator in life is to be love.  Love is to be the driving force in our lives.  

Are we walking in love today as Christ loved us, or are we walking in fear, or anger, or apathy?  Reach out to someone each day and share the love of Christ with them.  

May the Love of Christ be with you,
Rev. Eric Lanier,
Interim Pastor, Memorial United Methodist Church

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Note to the Congregation During the Pandemic: Remember to Look for God's Guiding Hand

Leviticus 23: 40-43
“40 On the first day you are to take branches from luxuriant trees—from palms, willows and other leafy trees—and rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days. 41 Celebrate this as a festival to the Lord for seven days each year. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come; celebrate it in the seventh month. 42 Live in temporary shelters for seven days: All native-born Israelites are to live in such shelters 43 so your descendants will know that I had the Israelites live in temporary shelters when I brought them out of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”

The Israelites had a festival they called The Festival of Booths.   It was a time in which they remembered when they wandered in the wilderness and had no permanent home.  The 40 years that they wandered in the wilderness was a time of extreme hardship and danger. Yet they wanted to remember this time.

They wanted to remember it so that they could celebrate God’s deliverance of them.  God eventually led them to the promised land. And this is what they celebrated.

Hopefully we will look back on this time and see God’s hand, leading and guiding us through the hardships and the dangers.  And we will celebrate our deliverance.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Note to the Congregation During the Pandemic: Remember to Care for Your Spirit

Matthew 15: 1-9
1Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, 2 “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands before they eat.” 3 He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God said, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever speaks evil of father or mother must surely die.’ 5 But you say that whoever tells father or mother, ‘Whatever support you might have had from me is given to God,’ then that person need not honor the father. 6 So, for the sake of your tradition, you make void the word of God. 7 You hypocrites! Isaiah prophesied rightly about you when he said:

8 ‘This people honors me with their lips,
    but their hearts are far from me;
9 in vain do they worship me,
    teaching human precepts as doctrines.’”

Lately we have all been reminded,several times a day, to wash our hands.  According to health officials, this simple thing is very important in keeping us healthy.  But we must also remember to keep our soul healthy.  

Jesus’ disciples were guilty of not ritually cleansing their hands before they ate.  On the other hand, the Pharisees were guilty of having dirty hearts. Jesus accused them of putting the rituals of religion over the things of the spirit (such as mercy, kindness and grace).

Let us all do those things that are necessary to stay healthy, like washing our hands.  But let’s also do those things that keep us strong spiritually

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Note to the Congregation During the Pandemic: Remember to Fellowship

Hebrews 10:24-25 
“24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
The writer of Hebrews is encouraging Christian congregations to fellowship with one another. An integral part of this fellowship was, and still is, meeting together.  As Christians we meet together at worship, in Sunday School, in bible study, on work teams, in committee meetings, or maybe we just have a fellowship meal together. Fellowship is an important Christian discipline.  We can learn a lot about God from others. The Holy Spirit works in our fellowship, leading others into our paths, and leading us into the path of others for the work and the will of God.
In times like these we have to fellowship in different ways, but we should never forget to practice fellowship.  The writer of Hebrews, if he were addressing this subject today might say, “ Let us consider how we may show love to one another and perform good deeds for one another from a distance.  Let’s postpone our meetings for now, but let’s not get out of the habit of fellowship. Continue to encourage one another and support one another through this time of trial. The day that we will meet in worship again is approaching.”

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Note to the Congregation During the Pandemic: Don't Forget to Pray

Acts 1: 12-14
"12 Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city. 13 When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. 14 They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers."

After Jesus’ ascension, the disciples were told to return to Jerusalem and wait.  Jesus had told them that they would be baptized by the Holy Spirit but I am sure they did not know what they were waiting for.  While they were waiting they all prayed together, men and women. And they prayed constantly.

How are we spending our time during these days of waiting?  Are we praying? Here is a small. list of things we could pray for:
 Pray for the members of our congregation.  Use a directory and pray for one page of members per day.  Pray for their health and safety during this time. Lift them up to God but name. 
Pray for the health care workers who are treating the sick.  Ask God to guide them and let them feel His spirit.
Pray for all those people who are sick with the corona virus that they be made well.
Pray for the families of those whose loved ones have died.
Pray for our nation’s leaders as they struggle to make decisions that will protect us.
Pray for the people of other nations as they struggle as we do.

Let us spend our time of waiting in prayer for one another, for others, for this nation and for the world.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Note to the Congregation During the Pandemic: Remember to Stay Connected

1 Corinthians 12: 12-14
12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by[c] one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

In the scripture above, the Apostle Paul is reminding us that we Christians belong to the same body.  We may have different gifts; we may look different; we may approach a problem from a different angle; but we are all part of the body of Christ.

It is important that we stay connected with other members during this time of social isolation.  Please call each other. Let others hear your voice. Encourage and support one another. For those that you cannot speak to directly, send them a note by email or by mail.   Let them know that they are in your thoughts. If you are on Facebook, visit the pages of members and let them know that you are praying for them.  

We are made up of many different people, but we are all of one body.  The body of Christ.

May the love of Christ be ever with you,