As followers of Jesus, we are all called to fulfill the Great Commission. With that in mind, leading people to Christ and making disciples is the goal that has been set before us. We see throughout the New Testament the pattern and practices of Jesus that call us to be fishers of men and lead a life worthy of the gospel.
The mission of the United Methodist Church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
In his sermon, “Disciples Multiply,” Bob Ingle speaks on the topic of discipleship. He says,
“Our mission as a church must be clear if it’s going to be accomplished. We are a Gospel-Centered church making disciples of Jesus Christ. That’s who we are and that’s what we do. Our aim is not to get people to make a decision for Christ but to become a disciple of Christ. Many think Christianity is simply saying to God, ”You can have me after I die.” Not true. Being a follower of Jesus means saying, ‘I don’t want my life or my way. You can have all of me right now and forevermore.’ Being a true disciple requires me to abandon ownership and surrender control of my own life and completely give it to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.”
What are you doing to help further the kingdom for the transformation of the world?
“And they were preaching the gospel there” (Acts 14:7 NKJV).
What is the gospel? We know we should preach the gospel and live by the gospel, but do we know what the gospel is?
A literal translation of the word “gospel” is good news. Now, sometimes before we can appreciate the Good News, we first have to know the bad news.
Here’s the bad news: We’re all sinners. The Bible says,“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard” (Romans 3:23 NLT). And 1 John 1:8 tells us, “If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth” (NLT).
If you’re sharing your faith with someone, don’t assume they’ll necessarily know what sin is. In the Bible, we can translate the word “sin” in different ways. We can translate it as “trespass,” which means to cross the line. Another translation comes from the Greek word hamartia, which means “to miss the mark.”
When the Bible says that we’ve sinned or missed the mark, it means that we’ve fallen short of God’s standard for humanity. And what is that standard? It’s perfection.
Are we perfect? No, we aren’t.
That is where Jesus comes in. Because God knew we could not hit this mark, because God knew we could not be perfect people, Jesus died on the cross for our sin. That’s the good news. Romans 5:6 says, “When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners” (NLT).
Here’s the first verse every Christian should memorize: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16 NKJV).
That is the gospel in a nutshell. Share it with someone. Let’s not turn the Good News into bad news by the way we deliver it, distort it, or leave out parts of it. Let’s deliver the explosive, dynamic, gospel.
As we are hearing more and more about the United Methodist Church and the divisions that are among them, Adam Hamilton has graciously written several posts talking about what as United Methodists we believe. These posts are for those who are remaining United Methodist, and not moving to the Global Methodist Church. If you have questions regarding these posts, please reach out to Pastor Earl and he will assist you the best he can. Click on the link below for the first article.
God’s Mission, Our Mission God’s Holy Spirit calls the Church into being for mission. The Church experiences and engages in God’s mission as it pours itself out for others, ready to cross every boundary to call for true human dignity among all peoples.
As Jesus said: ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:40)
UMCOR, The United Methodist Committee on Relief, takes this call to heart. As the humanitarian relief and development arm of The United Methodist Church, UMCOR is the hands and feet of Jesus whenever and wherever disaster strikes.
In 1940, Bishop Herbert Welch, representing the Methodist Committee for China Relief, proposed the creation of the “Methodist Committee for Overseas Relief (MCOR),” in response to displaced and vulnerable populations in the wake of World War II. Welch commented that MCOR would serve as a “voice of conscience among Methodists to act in the relief of human suffering without distinction of race, color or creed.” This mandate remains true to this day. MCOR grew from providing necessities to refugees and displaced populations, to getting involved in reconstruction, rehabilitation and repatriation of refugees and prisoners of war, restoration of churches and civil operations, and reconciliation – an effort to restore peace and goodwill.
When the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Methodist Church united into The United Methodist Church in 1968, MCOR became UMCOR. – The United Methodist Committee on Overseas Relief.
Later, UMCOR expanded its scope to include agricultural and community development projects, as well as medical relief and development, and disaster risk reduction programs. No one in 1940 could have foreseen the depths and breath of what UMCOR is today.2
This transformative work is categorized into three areas: • Humanitarian Relief/Disaster Response • Sustainable Development • Global Health
If you’d like to give to UMCOR Sunday, please mark your offering as such. There will be envelopes available to you on Sunday.
One Wednesday a year, sometime in February or March, you notice people at work, school, or elsewhere with a smudge on her forehead. Then you remember it is Ash Wednesday and they must have received the imposition of ashes.
This practice we use to mark the first day of Lent may seem odd. People go to church mid-week to have a cleric place dirt on their foreheads.
In the early days of the church, it was even more dramatic. Pastors did not dip their thumbs into the ashes to draw the shape of a cross on your forehead. Instead, they poured or sprinkled ashes over your head.
Under other circumstances, most would run from the filth of ashes. Yet we participate in this practice that is growing in popularity. In fact, the receiving of ashes seems to connect with all sorts of people.
The Rev. Kim Kinsey offers ashes to a youth on the sidewalk outside of Christ United Methodist Church in Albuquerque, NM. Photo courtesy of the Rev. Kim Kinsey.
In “A Service for Worship for Ash Wednesday” in the United Methodist Book of Worship, two suggestions of what worship leaders may say as they make the sign of the cross on another’s forehead are offered: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return,” and “Repent, and believe the gospel.” Each points to an aspect of what the ashes represent.
Remember that you are dust…
Ashes were an ancient symbol of our humanity. In Genesis, we read that God formed human beings out of the dust of the earth (Genesis 2:7). The Hebrew word translated dust, is occasionally translated ashes elsewhere.
When Abraham felt the need to acknowledge the difference between him, a human being, and the infinite God, he referred to himself as dust and ashes. “Let me take it upon myself to speak to the Lord,” he said, “I who am but dust and ashes” (Genesis 18:27).
…and to dust you shall return
Our humanity also calls to mind our mortality.
After expulsion from the Garden of Eden, the first humans are told by God, “you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19 NRSV). A sobering thought for each of us.
Ancient people wore ashes as a sign of mourning. For example, Mordecai puts on sackcloth and ashes to grieve the many deaths he sees coming from an order King Ahasuerus gives to kill all Jewish people (Esther 4:1-3). The prophet Jeremiah later calls the people of God to “roll in ashes” as a way of mourning the coming devastation from an opposing army (Jeremiah 6:26).
Receiving the imposition of ashes is a powerful way to confront our humanity and mortality. They remind us that we are not God, but God’s good creation. In them we recognize that our bodies will not last forever, and come face-to-face with the reality of our eventual death.
Ashes also signify our sorrow for the mistakes we have made. People in ancient times wore sackcloth and ashes as a way of expressing their repentance of their sins.
When Jonah reluctantly preached to the people of Nineveh after the giant fish spit him up on the beach, the King and his people put on sackcloth and sat in ashes. God saw this act of repentance and spared the people (Jonah 3:1-10).
In the New Testament, Jesus warms the cities of Chorazin and Bethsaida saying, “if the miracles done among you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have changed their hearts and lives and put on funeral clothes and ashes a long time ago.” (Matthew 11:21 CEB).
The dried palms from the previous Palm Sunday are burned to make the ashes for Ash Wednesday. Photo by Kathryn Price, United Methodist Communications.
On Ash Wednesday, we confront our sin. We recognize our inability to live up to all God has created us to be, and our need to be forgiven. No matter how far we have come in our spiritual journeys, each of us has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).
The palms waved the previous Palm Sunday to welcome Jesus as our King, are burned to form the ashes. In a sense, they serve as a reminder of how far we fall short of living up to the glory of Christ.
…and believe the gospel
While this all may sound fatalistic, it is not the end of the story. Lent leads to Easter, the day we celebrate that though our bodies are temporary and our lives are flawed, a day of resurrection will come when we will live in the presence of God forever.
One Wednesday every year we worship to remember who we are, and hopeful of who we can be.
In Luke 11, one of Jesus’s disciples approaches and makes a simple request: “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John [the Baptist] taught his disciples” (v. 1). In response, Jesus teaches the disciples what has become known as the Our Father or the Lord’s Prayer. No other prayer is more important to Christians than this prayer. It is the Lord’s prayer—the prayer he taught us to pray. There are a host of other prayers we overhear Jesus praying in the Gospels, and I’ll mention them below. But only with this prayer does Jesus say, “Pray like this.”
Each word is saturated with meaning, a meaning that we often miss when we pray it by rote as we gather in our churches for worship. Each of its six petitions (five given by the Lord, one added by the early church) reflects the major themes from Jesus’s life and ministry. The prayer is meant by Jesus to shape our lives and, through us, to shape and change the world.
Multiple Versions of the Lord’s Prayer?
There are three versions of the Lord’s Prayer that came to us from the earliest period of Christianity. We are most familiar with Matthew’s account, found in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:9-13). The English version of that prayer was influenced by William Tyndale’s 1525 translation, which in turn shaped the form of the prayer as it appeared in the sixteenth-century Book of Common Prayer and finally the King James Version of 1611. Tyndale’s version was modified slightly into the version most English-speaking Protestants and Catholics pray today. Let’s look at the King James Version side by side with a modern translation of Matthew’s version of the Lord’s Prayer. Modern versions, in this case, the Common English Bible, are based upon more reliable Greek versions of Matthew’s Gospel than were available in 1611:
In addition to different versions of the Lord’s Prayer rendered by various English translations, we have a different version found in Luke’s account of the prayer. Here it is from the Common English Bible’s translation of Luke 11:2-4:
Father, uphold the holiness of your name. Bring in your kingdom. Give us the bread we need for today. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who has wronged us. And don’t lead us into temptation.
Notice that neither of these New Testament versions of the prayer, Matthew’s or Luke’s, includes the traditional closing doxology, “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.”
There is a third version of the Lord’s Prayer that comes to us from the early church, in a document called The Didache or The Lord’s Teaching Through the Twelve Apostles to the Gentiles. This is a fascinating document describing the practices of the early church that some scholars believe was written in the first century, and others the second century, offering guidance in the Christian life. In chapter 8 of The Didache we find Matthew’s version of the prayer quoted.
Do not pray as the hypocrites, but as the Lord commanded in his Gospel, pray thus: “Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy Name, thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, as in Heaven so also upon earth; give us today our daily bread, and forgive us our debt as we forgive our debtors, and lead us not into trial, but deliver us from the Evil One, for thine is the power and the glory for ever.” Pray thus three times a day.
Note that this version included the doxology. Note, too, the closing words that are in bold, “Pray thus three times a day.” This is a remarkable testimony to the importance of the Lord’s Prayer for early Christians.
Over the years this prayer has come to mean a great deal to me. I pray it with my church family every weekend in worship. I pray it and meditate upon its words in my morning walks. I pray it together with my seven-year-old granddaughter at bedtime when she spends the night. I’ve prayed it with broken people sitting in my office. I’ve prayed it at every wedding I’ve officiated. I pray it at every hospital call I make. I pray it with the dying, and with their friends and family at each funeral or memorial service.
I once visited a woman in hospice care. Helen hadn’t been responsive in hours. Her eyes were closed, her breathing had become more labored, and the hospice nurse said that the end was imminent. She had not spoken since the previous day. I pulled up a chair to the bed, gently took her hand in mine, spoke to her, and also to her family sitting around the room. I reminded her of Christ’s love and his promises. I read Scripture to her. And I told her how grateful I was to have been her pastor. I then took anointing oil and, with my thumb, made the sign of the cross upon her forehead, a reminder that she belonged to Christ. Finally, with each of her loved ones touching her, we prayed, giving thanks to God for Helen’s life and entrusting her to God’s care. At the end of this prayer, I said words I had spoken thousands of times before. “Now, let us join together in the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples to pray saying,
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us, not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.
As we concluded, one of her children spoke up and said, “Did you all see that?” Another replied, “Yes, I was watching her. She moved her lips, speaking the Lord’s Prayer with us.” It was a holy and beautiful moment. These were the last words Helen would attempt to speak before she passed a few minutes later. I’ve seen this happen again and again. (I’ll share another similar story later in the book.) Each time it happens, it reminds me of just how important this prayer is to so many. It is deeply embedded in the hearts and minds of most Christians.
****This article was written earlier this week in regards to the much hyped publicity regarding communion. Pastor Earl felt it pertinent to share with you what we as United Methodists believe about communion, so there is no confusion on the subject. **** So this is what we at the Cawker City and Glen Elder United Methodist Churches believe about communion.
June 21, 2021
Over the last week I have followed the story of the Catholic Church debates over whether President Joe Biden should be allowed to receive Communion because of his position on abortion. In light of their debates, I’m sharing with Bluff City Church four things we, as United Methodists, believe about Communion.
1. Methodists believe Communion is God’s gift not the church’s gift.
Methodists should never debate, as the Catholic church currently is, whether some individuals should be permitted access to the Table. Deciding who deserves to receive communion is beyond the job description of the church.
The origins of Communion begin with God’s gracious character revealed in Christ. It does not begin or end with the church. This means the church does not get to refuse anyone the privilege or participating in God’s gift. We did not create communion. We, therefore, do not get to limit Communion. We do not even “take” Communion. We receive Communion. And our job is to help others also receive it. The church is a recipient of grace. We do not own grace. We do not restrict grace.
2. Methodists believe that in Communion God folds the past and future into the present.
This belief begins not with the nature of time, but in the nature of God. The past, present, and future all collapse in on each other because we worship a God who transcends time and makes one community out of all of us. God’s presence has been given to the people of God in all times and places. The past, present, and future are God’s eternal now. As God was present in the Exodus, so God is present now. As Jesus is present in the future new creation, so Jesus is present now.
This presence, in fact, is not a symbolic presence. It’s a real presence. The God of all time has folded all moments into this moment and given us not symbolic presence but God’s active, passionate, attentive presence.
But there’s more.
In Communion, the church literally participates in the Exodus story, the liberation of God’s people from the bondage of Egypt, sin, and death. That past event is brought into the present.
In Communion, the church literally participates in the future resurrection and redemption of all things. That is, Communion brings God’s future restoration and new creation into the present such that we are present in the future. When we celebrate Communion, we celebrate with all the saints who have gone before us in death and also await God’s restoration of all things. Your family members who have passed on in death are present in the Communion moment.
This also means that Communion makes us present to other believers who are also presently alive and receiving Communion. We are participating in divine grace as a Communion with believers in China, Russia, Taiwan, Afghanistan, and Palestine.
3. Methodists believe the Table is open to everyone.
Our language is that we have “an Open Table.” No one is restricted from the Table. No one is too unworthy because no one was worthy to begin with.
Will unworthy people receive Communion if we leave it open to everyone? Well, yes. But unworthy people receive Communion even when the Table is “closed” because no one is worthy to receive Communion.
Jesus celebrated the Passover meal with Judas, who was soon to betray him. Jesus washed Judas’s feet that same night. Jesus knew beforehand that Judas would betray him, yet he was not kept from divine grace. If Jesus can wash Judas’s feet and receive him at the Table, who are we to restrict anyone from the Table?
4. Methodists believe Communion even works grace into the lives of Non-Christians.
Even non-Christians can participate in the Communion moment. They may not become Christians that exact moment, but they do, nevertheless, participate in grace. And that grace can lead them to conversion. When we say our Table is “open,” we mean that no one — not a Buddhist, not a Muslim, not an Atheist, no one! — is kept from the Table. Communion is the moment when all of us, undeserving as we may be, find God’s grace given to us in tangible ways. The church doesn’t own Communion, so we don’t even get to restrict it to those inside the church. The God of all creation has gifted it, through Jesus, to all of creation.
If you would like to learn more about what we believe about Communion, here is a link to several helpful resources.