Thursday, February 27, 2014

Revival Through the Means of Grace: Communion

Communion. It is something that unites us all and yet because we all do things a bit differently, it can cause separation. If you are new to the UMC, you might have a few questions. Below are a few of the frequently asked questions about communion. If you don't have an answer here, feel free to ask. And if you are too rushed to read, check out the video of Chuck Knows Church and Communion. Oh and be sure to come to church this Sunday. It is Communion Sunday. Maybe you'll leave feeling a bit closer to God and a little less rushed.

Why do United Methodists call this sharing of bread and cup by different names, such as Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion, and Eucharist?
Each of these names is taken from the New Testament and highlights certain facets of this sacrament’s many meanings. Calling it the Lord’s Supper reminds us that it is a meal instituted by the Lord Jesus Christ and hosted by him at his table whenever it takes place. Calling it Holy Communion reminds us that it is an act of the most holy and intimate sharing, making us one with Jesus Christ and part of his body, the church. Calling it the Eucharist, a term taken from the New Testament Greek word meaning thanksgiving, reminds us that giving thanks to God for all that God has done is an essential part of the meal. By using different names we acknowledge that no single name can contain the rich wealth of meanings in this sacred act. 
What do United Methodists mean when they call this act a sacrament?
Our Confession of Faith states: “We believe the sacraments, ordained by Christ, are symbols and pledges of the Christian’s profession and of God’s love toward us. They are means of grace by which God works invisibly in us, quickening [bringing to life], strengthening and confirming our faith in him. Two Sacraments are ordained by Christ our Lord, namely Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.” The term is taken from the Latin sacramentum, which was a Roman soldier’s pledge of allegiance. A sacrament is God‘s pledge of allegiance [love and faithfulness] to us, and our answering pledge of allegiance to God.
Do United Methodists believe that the bread and wine physically or chemically change into Christ’s flesh and blood in this sacrament?
No, we believe that the change is spiritual. They signify the body and blood of Christ for us, helping us to be Christ’s body in the world today, redeemed by Christ’s blood. We pray over the bread and the cup that they may make us one with Christ, “one with each other, and one in service to all the world.”
I am a Christian, but not a United Methodist. Am I invited to receive Communion in a United Methodist church?
Yes indeed. It is the Lord’s Supper, not ours, and it is Christ who invites you. As our ritual puts it: “Christ our Lord invites to his table all who love him, who earnestly repent of their sin and seek to live in peace with one another.” We do not refuse any who present themselves desiring to receive. Whether you should receive Communion with us is between you and God.
I do not wish to receive Communion because doing so would be disloyal to my religion or my denomination. May I attend a United Methodist Communion service and not receive Communion? Yes indeed. We do not want anyone to feel unwelcome because, for whatever reason, they do not choose to receive Communion. Simply remain seated when others go forward, or pass the bread and cup along if they are passed to you, and no one will question what you do.
Should I receive Communion if I feel unworthy?
Two thousand years ago Jesus ate with sinners and those whom others scorned. He still does. None of us is worthy, except by God’s grace. Thank God we don’t have to earn worth in God’s eyes by our goodness or our faith. Your sacred worth, and ours, is God’s free gift. No matter what you have done or what your present condition, if you want Christ in your life you are welcome at his table. Communion provides the opportunity for you to confess your sins, to receive forgiveness, and to indicate your intention to lead a new life.
May young children receive Communion?
Certainly. As The United Methodist Book of Worship puts it, “All who intend to lead a Christian life, together with their children, are invited to receive the bread and cup.” We remember that when some of Jesus’ disciples tried to keep children away from him he said: “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs” (Mark 10:14 NRSV).
But do young children know what they are doing when they receive Communion?
Do they understand the full meaning of this holy sacrament? No, and neither do any of us. It is a wonderful mystery, and children can sense wonder and mystery. Children cannot understand the full significance of family meals, but we feed them at our family tables and at Christ’s family table. Young children experience being loved by being fed. They sense the difference between being included and excluded at a family meal. They have the faith of a child, appropriate to their stage of development, which Jesus recognized and honored. Indeed, he said to adults: “Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it” (Mark 10:15 NRSV).
May I receive Communion without standing or kneeling?
Certainly. In some United Methodist congregations most persons receive Communion while standing, while in others most receive while kneeling; but you are always welcome to receive while seated. If others are kneeling at the rail, you may remain standing and you will be served. You may also come forward and be seated on the front row, or come forward in your wheelchair, and you will be served. Or you may notify an usher, and someone will come to you and serve you where you are seated.
If someone in my family wishes to receive Communion but cannot come to the church service, can Communion be brought to them?
Certainly. As an extension of the congregation’s celebration of the Lord’s Supper, Communion is brought to persons, wherever they are, who wish it but could not attend the service. This can be done by the pastor or other clergy, or by designated laypersons.
Is Communion possible at weddings, at healing services, or at funerals or memorial services?
Yes. If you wish to arrange this, talk with your pastor.

Until Everyone Hears,

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Faith Sharing

I have a hard time explaining "Faith-Sharing" to others. Not because I don't believe we shouldn't do it but because I really don't know how you wouldn't do it. I don't understand the term "Evangelical Christian" because I think its redundant.

Jesus is Good News and Evangelical means believing in the Good News. I guess the confusion sets in when you try to distinguish how enthusiastic you are about believing the Good News.

To me, "Faith-Sharing" is about living your life the way that Jesus calls us to live. But one component of that is telling others this Good News. I feel like our culture today, shuns this a bit because we don't want to offend those who don't believe the same way we do. So I'm embedding a youtube video from Penn Jillette (the magician/entertainer). He's an atheist and has the best explanation of why Christians should share our faith than any preacher I've ever heard.

Until Everyone Hears,

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Revival Through the Means of Grace - Worship

Psalm 22:27
All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord; and all the families of the nations shall worship before him.

But what does Worship really mean?

From the web site:

A typical worship service at a United Methodist church may include a greeting and opening prayer, time for people to greet each other, scripture readings, silent prayer and meditation, an offering, the Lord’s Prayer, a children’s message, the sermon, special music and hymns, and a closing prayer. Communion may also be served.  All are invited to celebrate communion, but you can choose whether or not you wish to participate.

There will be some differences in the services from church to church. Some churches have a more formal style, while others may have more casual or contemporary services.  Some churches will offer more than one type of service.

But if you want to know more, watch this from an expert - Chuck. He knows Church.

Until Everyone Hears,

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Giving To The Needy

Here is a great story I heard from Rev. Mike Cash recently.

There was a man who died and wanted to see the difference between heaven and hell. An angel escorted him to hell. He saw lots of people sitting around banquet tables. Each table had a large pot of delicious stew in the middle of the table. Each person had a large spoon extended on the end of each hand but since the spoon was too long they could not serve themselves so they were all starving and miserable.

Then the man went to heaven and saw the same tables. Lots of people were sitting around a delicious stew and each person had a spoon extended on the end of each hand but they were all full and happy - because the people in heaven had been serving each other.

Giving to those in need not only keeps others full and happy but also makes us full. Full of the love of God. It is a means of grace that connects us to one another and reminds us that we are all in need at some point.

Until Everyone Hears,

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Healthy Living

Matthew 12:33
“If you grow a healthy tree, you’ll pick healthy fruit. If you grow a diseased tree, you’ll pick worm-eaten fruit. The fruit tells you about the tree."
-The Message

I know I'm taking this scripture out of context a bit but it is absolutely true. If you want healthy fruit, you'll grow a healthy tree. So it goes to reason that if you want a healthy person, you'll do healthy things to be that person.

So far we've been doing things that make a difference. Either in our own lives or in the lives of others. But if we aren't healthy, we can't help others.

Thus in order to "put on our own oxygen mask first," we need to take an interest in our own health. What do you do to stay healthy? Go for walks or eat fresh fruit and veggies? How about get more sleep?
Ah sleep, the forgotten virtue! Sleep is essential but I never really understood the complexity of that statement until reading Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep by David K. Randall.

In his book, Randall gives an easy to understand, scientific explanation of all aspects of sleep (or at least as much of an explanation as we have discovered so far). Once you read it you'll understand how restorative sleep can be.

And what about what you put into your body? That can be confusing as well. There are so many differing opinions and options. But one thing is a safe bet: if you can grow it, you can eat it. I know there are a few exceptions here but in general, stay away from bags and boxes. Go back to the garden. Eat the things God talks about in Genesis in as pure of a form as you can get them.

So eat right. Get moving. Then rest. Then tomorrow you can be a healthy tree and bear healthy fruit.

Until Everyone Hears,

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Soul Tending Through Holy Conferencing

Acts 4 - The Believers Share Their Possessions

32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.

When I think of the Biblical idea of Christian Conferencing, I think of this passage of the Bible. Not because I think we should redistribute all of our wealth but because of verse 32. They were one in heard and mind. They were so focused on God that everything else didn't matter so much.

I enjoy getting together with my friends from church but there is a difference between "getting together to have fun"and "getting together to be one in heart and mind."

In John Wesley's Holy Club's he used to always ask, "How is your soul today?" That, my friends, is Christian Conferencing. When we are more concerned with someone's soul than with their Facebook status then we are becoming more Kingdom focused and can channel God's grace at work in our lives.

Cornerstone People: See you next week at Chick-fil-a and Ruby Tuesday! (and for more than just bacon)

Until Everyone Hears,

Sunday, January 19, 2014

We Have A Dream

The close of my sermon today was a contextualized version of this famous speech. I wasn't sure if I could do it "justice" (pun intended) but I do feel like King was honored and Jesus was praised.  Here is a transcript of my rendition of the speech from our 11:15 am service.

...And while today might not go down in history as the greatest demonstration of social justice in the history of Cornerstone…
Sevenscore and eleven years ago, a great American, in whose honor we celebrate a holiday next month signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity. And two score and eleven years ago, another great American, in whose honor we celebrate a holiday tomorrow gave a speech at the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.
But 51 years later, not everyone is free; 51 years later lives are still crippled by the manacles of injustice and the chains oppression. 51 years later we still have people living on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity; 51 years later, humans still languish in the corners of American society and find themselves in exile in their own land.
So we’ve come here to today to worship God but also to proclaim injustices in the world as we dramatize a shameful condition. In a sense we’ve come to church to day to cash a check. When the prophets of the Bible wrote their magnificent words in Amos and in Micah, they were signing a promissory note to which every Jew and later Christian was to fall heir. This note was the promise that all are called to do justice and walk humbly with our God.
It is obvious today that we as Christians have defaulted on this promissory note in so far as the marginalized are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, Christians have given others a bad check; a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of grace in this church. And so we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice
We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind not just ourselves but our community of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of the gospel; now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of oppression to the sunlit path of justice for all; now is the time to lift our community from the quicksands of injustice to the solid rock of Cornerstone; now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children. It would be fatal for us to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of oppressions discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality.

2014 is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that people who stand up for others’ rights just need to blow off steam and will now be content, will have a rude awakening if we decide to return to (going through the motions) business as usual.
There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the oppressed are granted their rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our faith until the bright day of justice emerges.
But there is something that I must say to those who stand on the threshold which leads to the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds.
Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for what is right by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our quest on the high plane of dignity and discipline. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting cultural, political, or physical force with spiritual force.
The marvelous new complacency which has engulfed our society must not lead us to a apathy of all cries for help, for many of you have come to realize that the destiny of those who cry is tied up with our destiny. And have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.
We cannot walk alone.
And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.
We cannot turn back.
There are those who are asking the devotees of human rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as there victims of these unspeakable horrors. We can never be satisfied as long as children are being sold into sex slavery and transported through Atlanta. We cannot be satisfied as long as basic needs for food and water are not being attended to across the globe. We can never be satisfied as long as children are denied education in order to work as free labor. We cannot be satisfied as long as our Christian brothers and sisters are worshipping in secret and unable to read and share the gospel. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until "justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream."¹

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Each of us has a story of our own personal injustice.  You have been the veterans of individual creative suffering and have seen or heard the suffering of others. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Summer Grove, go back to Barrington Farms, go back to Cannongate, go back to White Oak, go back to Lake Redwine, go back to the suburbs of Sharpsburg and Newnan, knowing that somehow these situations can and will be changed. Starting with us.
Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to Cornerstone today, my friends.
And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, we still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in Jesus’ dream.
We have a dream that one day this church will rise up and live out the true meaning of its faith: "Love God and love your neighbor."
We have a dream that one day on the plains of Hartsfield-Jackson, only travelers and business people with good intent will be on board.
We have a dream that one day even the country of North Korea, a country sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
We have a dream that the children in our children’s ministry will one day live in a world where they don’t have to worry about if their purchases are fair trade. Where they need not worry about the content of their consumerism but the content of their character.
We have a dream today!
We have a dream that one day in Coweta county, with as One Roof states has over 300 children living in homelessness in this area. One day perhaps we might might have the resources available so that our people will not live in poverty.
We have a dream today!
We have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."2
This is our hope, and this is the faith that we go home with today.

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our world into a beautiful symphony of people. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be make a difference one day.
And this will be the day -- this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning:
Come thou fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing thy grace
And if Cornerstone is to be the church that it is called to be, this must become true.
And so sing thy grace from the prodigious hilltops of Buckhead.
Sing thy grace from the mighty mountains of Dahlonega.
Sing thy grace from the plains of south Georgia
Sing thy grace from the beaches of St. Simmons
But not only that:
Sing thy grace from Ashley Park.
Sing thy grace from the Square in Newnan.
Sing thy grace from Thomas Crossroads.
From every crossroads both physical and spiritual, sing thy grace.
And when this happens, when we tune our hearts, when we let God in from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children will be able to join hands and pray:
               Your kingdom is here. Your will is done.

Until Everyone Hears,