New Year’s Revelation

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The Common English Bible translation is available at Cokesbury.com by Abingdon Press

Perhaps you saw Bishop Ken Carter’s post on Facebook yesterday inviting others to join a group of us who are reading through the New Testament this year. Our goal is both simple and doable—that is to read a chapter a day beginning with the Gospel of Matthew and reading through the Book of Revelation. Having completed the New Testament, we then would repeat the Gospels. By following this pattern we will, together, read, pray, and reflect on the sweep of the New Testament.

This morning I read Matthew 2, the coming of the Magi.
“From the east they came to Jerusalem asking,Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We’ve seen his star in the east and we’ve come to honor him.’ Well, as you know, when King Herod heard this, there was trouble. The king was troubled and that made everyone else troubled. So they gathered the important people and Herod secretly called the magi and found out from them the time when the star had first appeared. The Magi did as they were instructed, as you know, and followed the star from the east, found where the child was—they entered the house—and saw Mary with the child. They fell on their knees; they honored him, opened their treasure chests and presented him with gifts—gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Then, having been warned in a dream went home by another way.” (Matthew 2:1-12)

After reading chapter 2, I picked up Tom Long’s commentary to Matthew and read his introduction. He reminded me of something I have known, but not remembered in a while: “The Gospel of Matthew was not originally written to be a book in the Bible. It was intended to be a resource for the church—a particular group of people worshiping, serving, praying, striving Christians.”

He further writes: “He wrote his Gospel to speak to a very immediate and urgent congregational crisis. His original readers were wrestling with how to be faithful to Jesus Christ in a changing world and in difficult circumstances, and the Gospel of Matthew was a first-aid manual for this church in the midst of struggle.” (Matthew, Tom G. Long, pg. 1 italics added)

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Rev. Jorge Acevedo

My library is full of books to address the same dilemma. Jorge Acevedo, one of our most creative and dynamic United Methodist leaders, is writing a resource for the United Methodist Church. The title: Vital Churches Changing Communities and the World. It will be read widely and devoured by many. It promises to be a helpful, effective resource in this age of the rapidly changing landscape of the United Methodist Church. The book will address five areas: Pastor, Lay Leadership, Worship, Small Groups, and Mission.

For the last 35 years I have been buying and reading and buying and not reading similar such resources. The bookshelves in my library are overflowing. I have done my part to keep the United Methodist Publishing House in business. I keep reading and buying, thinking that somewhere there is as nugget, a word, a story, something that will make the penny drop and it will all become clear and I will finally have the missing link. I keep reading. I keep buying. (Well actually, I did not buy Jorge’s sample. It was sent to me by the UM Publishing House. It comes with the territory, I am discovering.)

I have a notion, though, that perhaps the month of January will be better spent reading the Gospel of Matthew—a book on how to be faithful to Jesus Christ in a changing world and in difficult circumstances. Lord knows, this is a changing world and we live in difficult circumstances.

• We are hoping to ease our way down off the fiscal cliff of a bruised and broken economy. This morning I read The Tennessean headline: “Weary lawmakers passed emergency legislation to avoid a national ‘fiscal cliff’ of major tax increases and spending cuts in a New Year’s night culmination of a struggle that tested divided government to the limit.”
• We are becoming increasingly aware of the plight of the Veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Jodi McCullah, Dir. of S.A.F.E. writes “I find there are military families who struggle with more than 12-years of deployments and usually refrain from speaking up about it at their churches because they learn, like their soldiers, NOT to ask for help – they learn to ‘solider-up and move on…'”
• 
We continue to struggle with violence in our land as an open house is held today at a repurposed school for students who attended Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn.

You could add your own list to the difficult circumstances in this changing world of ours.

And yet, across the Nashville Area of the United Methodist Church the Christ will be honored because some congregation will offer shelter to those in the cold, a meal to those who are hungry, a coat to one who is cold. Across the Nashville Area of the United Methodist Church a family will find their way into a congregation, seeking to begin again and that congregation will open its arms and hearts and connect them to Jesus Christ. Across the Nashville Area of the United Methodist Church a veteran will find hope, a child will find love, a teenager will hear the call of Christ and respond to full-time Christian ministry. Somewhere this week, because of the faithfulness of the people called Methodist, darkness will be turned back and the light of Christ will shine.

So this day, I fall on my knees, and worship the Christ child who brings “Hope for the hopeless, Love for the loveless, Peace for the restless – Because greater things are yet to be done, greater things are still to come!”

I pray you will join me as together we seek to honor the One who came so that we might be faithful in the hard places this world brings our way.

 


13 Comments on “New Year’s Revelation”

  1. saw 6 review says:

    Awesome! Its in fact remarkable piece of writing, I have got much clear idea regarding from this post.

  2. ideasparker says:

    Jorge’s book is filled with key principles and practices of vital congregations. UMCom will be offering an online course to supplement the book. Additionally, Rethink Church’s Change the World event in May will tie into Vital. Rethink Church will also offer a free sermon series for congregations with impactful ideas to practice faithfulness and increase fruitfulness.

  3. 1922blue says:

    I’ve never seen a church yet with a sign in the front window stating “Gone out of Business” there is always work to be done.
    With God’s help, we will..

  4. Steve Fisher says:

    Try reading Matt Chandlers book Explicit Gospel alongside the read through of the New Testament. Matt is pastor of the The Village Church in Texas and has spirit driven insight into the gospel “on the ground” (mission), and the “gospel in the air” (eschatology) , and how the two are best balanced in congregations.

  5. Betsy Pickens says:

    Thank you for that truth! In a world that is hurting; we sometimes think God is not listening. When we here of the little ways that God’s servants are bringing light to a dark world…we see help one person/problem at a time. We need to listen for the small moments of grace; not those huge miracles to see God’s hand in everything good around us. Thanks be to God!

  6. Peggi Billman says:

    I believe it’s true that we can fill our bookshelves with books, articles, magazines, etc. all seeking “the answer” to whatever dilemma we might be facing at home, at work, in our faith community, marriage, etc. I also believe it always comes back to The Word being the best we can read for direction. To read about Jesus and then be Christ-like in all we do is a greater thing to do! To show God’s unfailing love to all through our actions, not our filled bookshelves is the highest calling. I recently posted on Facebook: God loves you – not did – not will – He loves you RIGHT NOW! How we show that love to others is our choice but He gave us the perfect example in His son. Today, in Joelton, we celebrate the opening of our new expanded Hope Center, hoping to reach more with God’s love through provision of food, counsel, clothing and friendship. Two of my sons, working in Brazil (shoresofgrace.com) spread His love to prostitutes, transvestites, the poor and rescuing children from sex trafficking. They take sandwiches, cookies, art supplies, music and even nail polish (the girls love having their nails done) to the streets and sit down with the homeless – because they are their friends. They listen, they share and they pray with these precious ones and watch how God loves them.

    Keep up the good work spreading the Good News, Bishop!

  7. prechaphil14 says:

    Thank you Bishop for your thoughtful and challenging remarks. I have just been working on the Epiphany passage for Sunday, and decided to take a break and check my emails. I’m glad I did. It is an awesome responsibility and an exciting, yet humbling privilege to stand before a congregation of fellow pilgrims each Sunday and share “good news” to so many who are broken and in despair. There never seems to be enough time to read everything I want to read and reflect upon in preparation, but God has a way of delivering when I get out of the way and let God shine through.

  8. Gary Drum says:

    Fine idea. After years of Course of Study, workshops, etc., I’ve accumulated all those sort of books you mention, becoming especially aware of how many when I bought a house two years ago and had to pack everything. And some of the books had some good ideas. Some I don’t really remember reading, though I know I did. But, Sunday after Sunday, I’ve never failed to find good ideas in Scripture relevant to whatever issues the churches I served were facing. And those early Christians who had only Scripture managed to have rather “vital congregations.”