December 2018 Article

Dear JUMC Family and Friends,

This year marks to 200thanniversary of “Silent Night”, probably the most-sung of all the Christmas hymns. I offer this devotional for your reflection during the busy days ahead this Advent and Christmas season.

It happens every Christmas. Hustling, bustling, shopping, traveling, cooking. Parties, banquets, Santa Claus, pageants, decorations, trees, lights, clothes. 

We get caught up in the season of Christmas, stressed about making arrangements to see and please everyone, pressured to balance an already busy schedule with unlimited amounts of additional activities, pushed to attend, give, join, gather and perform. 

But it happens every Christmas. We are busily tending to our own flock, when out nowhere, the calm and peace and tranquility of Christmas comes. We are never prepared for it. We are always stunned. And amazed. And we experience the awe of the nativity, an event we never witnessed, but of which we somehow have mysterious first-hand knowledge. 

Silent night, holy night,
all is calm, all is bright
round yon virgin
mother and child.
Holy infant, so tender and mild,
sleep in heavenly peace.

It happens every Christmas, and it is frequently this hymn that catches us off guard. We vividly see and experience the serene relief of a world with a newly-born savior. 

Then we are transported to the nearby hillside, where shepherds busily tended their sheep, completely unaware that they had been chosen to receive the best news ever heard. We join them, trembling, no quaking, with fear. And above them, the sky is laid open with what can only be described as glory. 

Glories stream from heaven afar,
heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!
With the angels let us sing,
Alleluia to our King;
Christ the Savior is born.

And this we can’t imagine or experience first-hand. Neither Bach nor Mozart ever composed music that remotely compared to the songs the angels sang that night. The total, absolute majesty that only heaven could produce, suitable for the greatest tidings from a glorious God to his lonely creation. We know it is unfathomable, and reserved only for the time when we enter his glory. 

But we can see the glory in our Lord and Savior. He is our window, our path to our heavenly home. Even as a baby… 

Son of God, love's pure light;
radiant beams from thy holy face
with the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth,

Dear Father, 

It happens every Christmas. We get so caught up in the spirit of the season, that we lose sight of the meaning of Christmas, and the reason for the celebration in the first place. Keep us mindful that you are constantly reaching out for us, that you are always there for us. Just as you were many years ago on that amazing, Silent Night. Help us to see your glory through your glorious son, Jesus Christ.

Merry Christmas!

Cecil

November 2018 Article

Dear JUMC Family and Friends,

I was just looking at a calendar of various November Holidays. I found many that you might expect, such as All Saints Day (November 1), Thanksgiving (November 22), etc. I also found Black Friday (November 23) and Cyber Monday (November 26) listed a “state holidays”! This surprised me a bit, but in retrospect it probably shouldn’t have. Contrasted with Thanksgiving, we are reminded of the perpetual conflict between gratitude and greed. This month, I want to explore these together.

Greed says “I must have more.” Gratitude says, “I have enough”. Greed says, “My life is not complete”. Gratitude says, “I am so blessed”. Greed is a joy-robber. Gratitude restores true joy.  Greed breeds selfishness. Gratitude releases generosity. Greed leads to covetousness. Gratitude fosters contentment.

Here’s another thought. Greed can actually lead to gratitude…when the desire is met. The problem is, this kind of gratitude is circumstantial, and therefore temporary. It isn’t long before some new “toy” captures our attention. Greed again manifests in our desire to have the new, the latest, the beautiful—and the praise that goes with it. This is compounded with the jealousy that can develop toward those who already have (or seem to have) what we want (or think we want). The Bible describes this as “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life” (1 John 2:15-17) that comes from misdirected love.

You see, love is what you and I were created for. Love for God, love for others. When sin entered into God’s perfect creation, this love shifted its focus to “the world and the things of the world”. It seeks to please self rather than God. This in turn gave rise to the brokenness in our hearts, lives, home, and communities. 

The good news? God loved us too much to leave us this way with no recourse. This is why He sent Jesus! The Bible says that Jesus is the ultimate demonstration of God’s love for us. When you and I turn from our sin toward Jesus and place our faith in Him, this love is restored to us by the Holy Spirit who comes to live in us. We are able to love God, who first loved us. We are able to love others as we are loved. This love becomes the motive of our thoughts, words, and actions until we are received into eternal glory.

Now, that’s something to be grateful for!

Cecil

October 2018 Article


 Dear Church Family, 

I have been inviting you to share with me anything you’d like for me to write about. Well, this article is a response to one of those questions, “How to get your sermons?” I am delighted to answer that question. I believe, if you are going to sit under someone’s ministry, you should know where they come from in terms of their personal testimony and relative to how they prepare the message they bring each Sunday (or any other time). 

First, let me share with you that I preach, with rare exceptions, from the lectionary. If you are not familiar with that term, let me share a bit about it. The lectionary is a three-year cycle of Scripture lessons. Most of the time, the lessons are taken from the Psalms, the Old Testament, the Epistles, and the Gospels. These lessons follow the Church year, beginning with Advent and moving through Pentecost. Following this calendar allows a preacher and congregation to experience the flow of God’s redemptive plan. Preaching from the readings have been a valuable discipline for me in that they keep me from relying too much of my “personal Bible”, that is, my favorite books, passages, etc. It also prevents me from selecting a certain text in order to advance some personal agenda of mine. So it is from the lectionary, then, that I prayerfully select the passage that I will preach from. 

Once I know the lesson that the message will be taken from, I begin to study the text itself within its larger context. This includes several readings of it, which may then lead to deeper exploration of certain words, phrases, etc., as the Holy Spirit lifts them out for me. 

The next step for me is to examine the witness of the early church with reference to the text or topic in question. I particularly explore the “Apostolic Fathers”. The Apostolic Fathers were contemporaries of the apostles and were probably taught by them, carrying on the tradition and teaching of the apostles themselves as their direct successors. 

From the witness of the early church, I search out the Doctrinal Standards and General Rules of our own church. The Standards are 1) the Articles of Religion of the Methodist Church, 2) the Confession of Faith of the United Evangelical Brethren Church (with whom the Methodist Church merged in 1968 to form the present United Methodist Church), the Standard Sermons of John Wesley, and Wesley’s Explanatory Notes on the New Testament. 

The Scripture, the early Church, and our own foundational documents. These are my “two or three witness”. I am delighted to say that the unity of the three consistently encourages me in my own walk with God and in confidently proclaiming to you the “faith once for all delivered to the saints”. But there’s more! 

The final step in my sermon/ lesson preparation is to take all that I have studied before God with this prayer, “Father, what is Your NOW word for us?” I have come to believe that there is no new word from God. He has said all he has to say. I do, however, believe that He always has a now word for His people. By that I mean that what He has said and done in the past has life in the present to shape the future. Ours is to hear and obey! 

Make it so, Lord! And start with me! 

Cecil

September 2018 Post

Dear Church Family,

You may be able to tell from my preaching that I have two passions. The first is to see people come to repentance and faith in Christ. The second is to help believers forward in holiness. This second passion is my motive for inviting you to join me at 6:00 p.m. on Sunday evening, September 16, for the New Room Project (NRP) Launch Event. 

What is the New Room Project? It is a covenant discipleship ministry that takes its name from the first Methodist Building in the world. The “New Room” was built in 1739 in Bristol, England, and became ground zero for the early Methodist movement. It was a place where the gospel was preached, disciples were made, and ministry was born.

The New Room Project is developed in that same spirit. It is not a place for perfect people. It is a place for those of us who need Jesus, who know we need to change, and that we need the power of the Holy Spirit and the strength of each other for this to happen. Our goal is to become like Jesus from the inside out…together.

The New Room Project seeks to ground participants in the doctrine, experience, practice, and discipline that move us forward in God’s kingdom.  We meet weekly to learn, share, and pray together. 

If you desire to see the Great Commission fulfilled in and through your heart and life, then I hope you’ll join us to learn more about this opportunity!

Also, if there’s anything you’d like me to write about in future articles, remember you can email me at pastor.jayumc@gmail.com! I’d love to hear from you!

Every Blessing!

 Cecil