A Call to Prayer for General Conference

therefore-go-umc-gc2016I have just returned from Lake Junaluska Conference and Retreat Center in Lake Junaluska, N.C., where I joined resident bishops of The United Methodist Church in a learning retreat. We heard presentations from L. Gregory Jones, former dean and now senior strategist for leadership education at Duke Divinity School in Durham, N.C., and Marty Linsky, who, with Ronald Heifetz, has written extensively on the topic of “adaptive leadership.”

The retreat was meaningful. One of the byproducts of our time together was deepened conversation about what it means to be spiritual leaders before, during and after General Conference, the top policy-making body of The United Methodist Church which meets once every four years.

A small group of us met daily for breakfast and prayer around this idea and were offered space on the agenda to have a larger conversation with our colleagues about what that spiritual leadership might look like. I’m hopeful that all United Methodist Church bishops will offer prayerful, spiritual leadership in the days leading up to, during and after 2016 General Conference, May 10-20 in Portland, Oregon.

I am asking of United Methodists in the Nashville Episcopal Area these three things:

  1. Pray and fast each Friday beginning in Advent and continuing through General Conference.
  2. Have a Day of Prayer on April 1, the Friday after Easter, to pray for all who will be leading and serving during General Conference. This could take the form of a prayer vigil where the church is open 24 hours and persons agree to spend an hour in prayer.
  3. Pray for the delegations of the Memphis and Tennessee Conferences by name each day:

Memphis Conference Delegation: Click here.

Tennessee Conference Delegation: Click here.

There are a number of groups offering preparation leading up to General Conference and resources are being produced for local congregations to access. Click here for more information.

The United Methodist Publishing House is producing a small guide for the Church which is a re-release of a little guide Francis Asbury published in 1792. The title is: The Causes, Evils, and Cures of Heart and Church Divisions. It will be available in the spring and promises to be a good resource.

There will be other resources forthcoming. One in particular that you will want to watch for is written by Western Pennsylvania Conference Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton: What Are We Fighting For? Coming Together Around What Matters Most.

Your appointive cabinet has covenanted together to be spiritual leaders by Leading, Learning and Loving. I will be sharing more about this in coming days.

In the meantime, I invite you to join me in stepping deeper into a life of prayer as we lean into the season of preparation for Advent, Epiphany, Lent and Easter. As my colleague, Virginia Conference Bishop Jung Jin Cho, prays, “Your Will, Lord, nothing more, nothing less, nothing else.” May this be our deepest prayer in the days to come.

Your Servant for Christ’s Sake,

Bill McAlilly


A Pastoral Letter about health care to the People of The United Methodist Church – Nashville Area

episcopallogoSisters and Brothers:

Grace to you from Jesus Christ, who calls his Church to care for “even the least of these.” One of the ways we participate in that possibility is to create personal, environmental and social conditions in which each individual can receive good health care. In the Gospel of John 10:10b Jesus says, “I came so that they could have life – indeed, so that they could live life to the fullest.” It is our deep desire that all persons across Tennessee might have the possibility of living the abundant life.

The Social Principles of our church remind us of this truth in its statement on the Right to Health Care. “Health is a condition of physical, mental, social and spiritual well-being. Stewardship of health is the responsibility of each person to whom health has been entrusted.” [Para. 162(v), 2012 Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church]

In caring for our neighbors and allowing more of our fellow citizens to have access to good healthcare, I urge your prayerful support for Insure Tennessee, an initiative that Governor Bill Haslam has recommended to the State Legislature. Its passage will allow 200,000 more Tennesseans to have adequate health coverage. The program will be open to Tennesseans earning less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level (approximately $16,000 in annual income for an individual or $33,000 for a family of four).

A special called session of the Tennessee Legislature will be convened on February 2nd to consider the Insure Tennessee plan. I encourage you to do the following four things prior to that date.

1) Become fully informed and educated about the benefits of the Insure Tennessee Plan.

A good website to consult is www.insuretennesseenow.com.

2) Personally contact your Tennessee legislators and give voice to your opinions. Letters, emails and phone calls can all be effective. If you need contact information for a senator or representative, it is available at www.capitol.tn.gov/legislators (Find My Legislator section on right side).

3) Share this letter with friends, family members and neighbors as a part of your witness of care for fellow citizens who need better health coverage. Click here for a PDF copy.

4) Pray for our legislators that they might seek God’s will as a part of their own discernment process.

The New Testament teachings of Jesus remind us over and over again of his ministry of healing and wholeness. I encourage you to respond promptly and faithfully to this opportunity to join him in this mission.

I invite you to share this with your congregation this Sunday. Click here for a PDF copy.

Expecting Greater Things,

Bishop William T. McAlilly

Nashville Episcopal Area of The United Methodist Church

(Middle and West Tennessee and Western Kentucky)


We are 30% of the way to $1 million goal for ‘Imagine No Malaria’

Imagine-No-Malaria-logoThe Jan. 16 issue of the Romans 12 Newsletter produced by the United Methodist General Board of Discipleship includes information about a United Methodist church in Iowa that is working to raise money for Imagine No Malaria and the unique way the church decided how and why to be engaged in mission in a meaningful way.

I want to encourage you to read the newsletter, themed “Running from Malaria,” because it offers helpful information about reframing ministry questions that address global health issues and living as disciples of Christ. A pdf of the newsletter may be viewed and downloaded here.

Because this newsletter talks about Imagine No Malaria, this seems the right time and place to address where we are with our Nashville Area campaign to save 100,000 lives by raising $1 million for Imagine No Malaria by this year’s Memphis and Tennessee Annual Conferences in June 2015.

Through Dec. 31, 2014, our total giving from both conferences is $292,484.36. The total includes $123,068.01 from the Memphis Conference (with approximately 400 churches) and $169,416.35 from the Tennessee Conference (with approximately 600 churches).

I’m going to round up that total number and say we are 30 percent of the way toward our goal!

I am so proud of all our local congregations that are imagining God’s greater things as they raise awareness and save lives. I have heard and read stories about many creative fundraising events, including volleyball tournaments, chili cook-offs, bake sales, Thanksgiving dinners, children’s events, craft sales, Christmas offerings, t-shirt sales, concerts and more.

Unlike many other diseases that await a cure, malaria was eliminated in the U.S. in the 1950s. Even though it is 100 percent preventable, it continues to kill a person every 60 seconds in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Imagine No Malaria is part of a global partnership to beat malaria once and for all. Over the last 15 years there has been a 54% drop in mortality from the disease.

Imagine No Malaria is our opportunity to respond to our calling as Christians and United Methodists—to show our love through generous gifts. As John Wesley said, “It is possible to give without loving, but it is impossible to love without giving.”

United Methodists are committed to a denominational goal of $75 million for Imagine No Malaria and have so far raised just over $64 million. Our Nashville Area goal is $1 million by June 2015.

If your church has not already worked to raise at least $1,000 for Imagine No Malaria and submitted these funds to your conference treasurers, I hope you will make plans to do so in the coming months so we may celebrate reaching our $1 million goal in June at our Memphis and Tennessee Annual Conferences.

To learn more and find resources, visit www.imaginenomalaria.org or contact your district office.

~ Bishop Bill McAlilly, Nashville Episcopal Area of The United Methodist Church (Middle and West Tennessee and Western Kentucky)


DMin degree program is one more way Nashville Area of The United Methodist Church is living into its mission

wesley john

JOHN WESLEY

As I am well into my third year of serving the Nashville Episcopal Area (Memphis and Tennessee Conferences), one issue always on my mind and heart is making sure we have a well-planted Wesleyan theology throughout all of our congregations and ministries.

I want to help secure a Wesleyan theological foundation for our Christian faith and practice that embraces Scripture, tradition, reason and experience. I think this foundation is especially critical for the success of our new Area-wide mission to discover, equip, connect and send lay and clergy leaders who shape congregations that offer Jesus Christ to a hurting world, one neighborhood at a time.

As one of many ways to address this theological grounding, my office is currently coordinating the offering of a Doctor of Ministry (DMin) degree program that begins this month.

To initiate this program with about 10 students from each conference, I, along with Dr. Douglas Meeks and Rev. Tom Laney of the Cal Turner Center for Church Leadership at Vanderbilt Divinity School in Nashville, Tenn., identified potential students. My hope and intention, however, is that this will be only the first cohort of an ongoing program. It is also my desire that those who complete the degree will help carry forth the teaching of Wesleyan theology across our Area.

The DMin program is a partnership with Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C. and the Turner Center. Cal Turner, Jr., has provided a generous grant to make this program possible.

Students will meet four times over a two-year period for two weeks at a time at four different locations: Scarritt-Bennett Center in Nashville, Tenn.; Methodist-LeBonheur Healthcare System in Memphis, Tenn.; Wesley Theological Seminary; and Martin Methodist College in Pulaski, Tenn.

The degree program will focus on issues important today that also were part of the original Wesleyan revival: healing and health care delivery, education, urban and rural poverty, and the penal/political/economic system.

The DMin program will employ an interdisciplinary approach to equip pastoral leaders for the challenges of their mission fields. Each course will include work on scripture, Wesleyan theology, congregational formation for mission, and social, economic and political analysis of mission opportunities in middle and west Tennessee and western Kentucky.

I want to express my appreciation to the Turner Center for the grant funds it is providing to cover the cost of tuition for those who decide to enroll. (Students will pay for books and travel.)

The Turner Center also graciously funded an event last August to introduce and explain the degree program to potential students. Dr. Meeks met with the group and, among many things, talked about how John Wesley served “in the world.”

As Dr. Meeks told the potential DMin candidates, if Christ’s love and forgiveness can’t be conveyed by our United Methodist churches in the midst of current events, we are no different than any other organization.

It is my hope that this DMin program will train and prepare these clergy to convey grace and share the gospel while “in the world” so others may learn and know the love of Christ.

~ Bishop Bill McAlilly, Nashville Episcopal Area of The United Methodist Church (Middle and West Tennessee and Western Kentucky)


SOS from Bishop Unda Yemba Gabriel

SONY DSC

Bishop Unda Yemba Gabriel preached at the 2014 Memphis Annual Conference in Paducah, Ky., in June.

Today I received the below communication (originally dated Dec. 28 from Africa) from Bishop Unda Yemba Gabriel, resident bishop of the East Congo Episcopal Area. To remind you, Bishop Unda preached at our 2014 Memphis and Tennessee Annual Conferences in June 2014. He thanked our Nashville Episcopal Area for raising money in 2013 to construct an Episcopal office and residence in the Congo, which I helped dedicate during my August 2014 trip to Africa. If you wish to offer any financial assistance for the current crisis he describes below, please send to your conference treasurer for “Bishop Unda SOS.”  ~ Bishop Bill McAlilly

To brothers and sisters in Christ:

Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

As I write these few lines, my heart is too heavy because of the situation going on in Beni territory, northeast of the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is part of my Episcopal Area. The efforts of our army (are) insufficient to protect people.

People there are killed every day in the neighboring villages and we run the risk of losing all our believers. Two weeks ago, a group of Uganda rebels killed people in the villages (of) Kamango, Oicha and Mbawu. A Methodist family (a father, his wife and their two children) were killed with machetes.

Many people are fleeing to Beni. Our local congregations there are crowded with displaced people who flee from villages for their lives. We need your prayers. But, as you know, food and basic needs must be met. Our evangelization should reach people in need.

I am sending this SOS message to all those who may want to help.

May God be with us all during Christmas, but let’s keep in mind that our brothers and sisters are dying somewhere because of selfish interests.

Bishop Unda Yemba Gabriel
Resident Bishop, East Congo Episcopal Area


Council of Bishops issues statement concerning human sexuality

November 8, 2014

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

Grace and Peace to you!

Below is a statement that yesterday afternoon the Council of Bishops adopted, unanimously, regarding our ministry with all persons, regardless of sexual orientation:

As bishops of The United Methodist Church, our hearts break because of the divisions that exist within the church. We have been in constant prayer and conversation and affirm our consecration vow “to guard the faith, to seek the unity and to exercise the discipline of the whole church.” We recognize that we are one church in a variety of contexts around the world and that bishops and the church are not of one mind about human sexuality. Despite our differences, we are united in our commitment to be in ministry for and with all people. We are also united in our resolve to lead the church together to fulfill its mandate—to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. As we do so, we call on all United Methodists to pray for us and for one another.

This statement is offered to the United Methodist Church to affirm our vow “to guard the faith, to seek the unity and to exercise the discipline of the whole church.” We are mindful that many across the Church will disagree; some expecting more, others expecting less.

As a global church, we wrestle with language that does no harm-either in the United States or abroad. What we are clear about is that the mission of the church to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world is our deepest call and commitment.

We acknowledge that differences and divisions exist within our denomination and across the Nashville Area. Therefore, we will prayerfully consider ways in which to open space for deeper conversation among one another with regard to our differences around our understanding of human sexuality.

Please continue to offer prayer for each other and for the bishops as we move toward General Conference 2016.

Serving Christ With You,
Bishop William T.  McAlilly
Resident Bishop

*For more information about this statement from the Council of Bishops, click here to read Nov. 7 story from the United Methodist News Service.


Day 34: God’s Transforming Presence- Offering Christ to a Hurting World

2 Corinthians 5:17Day 34
So then, if anyone is in Christ, that person is part of the new creation. The old things have gone away, and look, new things have arrived!

I’m a person who likes change. But what does a change experience mean to someone who likes things the way they are? It can be painful. Moments of creativity seem less divine and more like hardship.

Where is God when change needs to happen inside and outside of us?

Change is uncomfortable. Change can also bring doubt, fear, and uncertainty. Change may mean death. If you’re not one to seek out change, you’re not alone. Change is hard. Christ says to be new in Him everything must be re-created. It must not stay the same.Change, faith and death connect us to God and allow us to know true presence of transforming power in Christ. If it weren’t for change, faith and death there would be no hope in resurrection and new life.

I believe faith is what gets us up in the morning. Hope and love are what pushes and pulls us through life. A life full of faith experience prepares us for death. Death sometimes happens while we are still alive. Death of our old self allows us to live a new eternal life. Change prepares us to meet God. Re- creation changes who we look like in Christ, because Christ makes all things new.

Are you “old” or are you “new”?
Are you “changing” or are you “staying”?

May you experience change, death of the old and life of the new, in and through Christ.

O God, be in me, and everything that needs to be new in me. May the re-creations you have planned for all your people and your church be realized through servant-hood, compassion and change. AMEN.

The Rev. Regina Proctor
Spiritual Formation Team-TN Conference

– – – – –
REFLECTIONS FOR THE DAY |
Use a program on your computer, a traditional journal, or feel free to use the comment section of this blog post to record your reflections as a conversation with others…
READ – What spoke to me as I read today’s meditation?
REPENT – Where is God showing me that I have failed to be obedient to the call to discipleship today?
RECEIVE – What words of redemption and grace is God offering to me?
REMEMBER – Who and what is God calling me to remember in prayer related to today’s reading?
RESPOND – How is God calling me to respond today?

RESOURCES:
> DOWNLOADS – 40 Day Walk prayer guide (.PDF), 40 Days of Doodles kids journal (.PDF)
> CLICK HERE for sermon starters/suggestions


Day 33: Offering Christ to a Hurting World

I Peter 5:10Day 33
After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, the one who called you into his eternal glory in Christ Jesus, will himself restore, empower, strengthen, and establish you.

How long is “a little while?” When you are healthy, waiting “a little while” can be mildly uncomfortable. When you are suffering, enduring “a little while” can be excruciatingly painful.

Think for a moment about how the woman in Luke 8, with the issue of blood must have felt after suffering for a year, and then another, and then another ten years on top of that. Can you imagine the sense of hopelessness and desperation she must have been experiencing?

How about the woman in Luke 13, who suffered for eighteen years with back issues?

And what about the man in Luke 5, crippled for thirty-eight years? Yet, into each of their lives stepped the transforming presence of Jesus Christ.

Each had not suffered so long that they were beyond the limits of Hope. That is Good News both for our lives and our churches. The God of all grace can heal a twelve year illness, untangle eighteen years of dysfunction, and even break thirty-eight years of addiction.

Today, pray with thanksgiving, inviting the God of all grace to bring his transforming presence into areas of long suffering in our lives.

Prayer: Thank you, God of all grace, for restoring, supporting, strengthening, and establishing each of us and our churches. Amen.

Jonathan Dow
Executive Director, Aldersgate Renewal Ministries

– – – – –
REFLECTIONS FOR THE DAY | Use a program on your computer, a traditional journal, or feel free to use the comment section of this blog post to record your reflections as a conversation with others…

READ – What spoke to me as I read today’s meditation?
REPENT – Where is God showing me that I have failed to be obedient to the call to discipleship today?
RECEIVE – What words of redemption and grace is God offering to me?
REMEMBER – Who and what is God calling me to remember in prayer related to today’s reading?
RESPOND – How is God calling me to respond today?

RESOURCES:
> DOWNLOADS – 40 Day Walk prayer guide (.PDF), 40 Days of Doodles kids journal (.PDF)
> CLICK HERE for sermon starters/suggestions


Day 32: Missional Excellence

Galatians 5:13-15Day 32
You were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only don’t let this freedom be an opportunity to indulge you
r selfish impulses, but serve each other through love. All the Law has been fulfilled in a single statement: Love your neighbor as yourself. But if you bite and devour each other, be careful that you don’t get eaten up by each other!

God has created us with the ability to make many choices about our lives, including how we reach out to those who do not know Christ. Our role is to take what we’ve learned from God and pass it on to others.

Why? Because there is a hurting world out there. It is a world where the majority of people don’t know Christ, and don’t think they want to know Christ.

And we all get to choose what we are going to do (or not do) about the people in our own communities and throughout the world who don’t know Christ. We get to choose how we will reach out to offer help to those who need assistance, to those who need to know someone loves them and that someone cares.

When Jesus was being talked about by the villagers in Jericho for befriending Zacchaeus, note what Jesus said to the crowd on that day, “The Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10).

This captures the heart and ministry of Jesus. Can we say the same? Is this our focus? We might ask ourselves the following: If people followed me – would they get to Jesus?

Prayer: God, give us a heart like the compassionate and caring heart of Jesus. Stir within us a passion and burden for those who do not know you. Help us to get out of our comfortable places and begin to see people like you see people. AMEN

The Rev. Daphne Moses
Chairperson, Order of Deacons-Memphis Conference

– – – – –
REFLECTIONS FOR THE DAY |
Use a program on your computer, a traditional journal, or feel free to use the comment section of this blog post to record your reflections as a conversation with others…

READ – What spoke to me as I read today’s meditation?
REPENT – Where is God showing me that I have failed to be obedient to the call to discipleship today?
RECEIVE – What words of redemption and grace is God offering to me?
REMEMBER – Who and what is God calling me to remember in prayer related to today’s reading?
RESPOND – How is God calling me to respond today?

RESOURCES:
> DOWNLOADS – 40 Day Walk prayer guide (.PDF), 40 Days of Doodles kids journal (.PDF)
> CLICK HERE for sermon starters/suggestions


Day 31: Congregational Excellence

Day 31Colossians 3:12-14 (Read verses 12-17)
Therefore, as God’s choice, holy and loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Be tolerant with each other and, if someone has a complaint against anyone, forgive each other. As the Lord forgave you, so also forgiveeachother. Andoverallthesethingsputonlove,whichistheperfectbond of unity.

Henri Nouwen’s book, The Return of the Prodigal was my companion through the season of Lent this year. Reflecting on his personal experience of the parable and Rembrandt’s painting, Nouwen invited me to encounter “Love Divine” anew. For me, personally, the most captivating element in Rembrandt’s composition is the younger son tenderly embraced by the loving father; hands covering, comforting, receiving, and restoring. It seems to me the primary task of the church is to become the Father who runs from the house to receive and restore the wounded and broken.

“James” called our church and asked, “If I come to your church, will you love me?” As he arrived the following Sunday, I was struck and intimidated by his physical appearance. He was 6’4, wears a kafia (Arabic head-covering), a military vest, and carried a black bag. Others had received him, long before I met him, which created for me worry as to the actual answer to his question, “Will you love me?” Did we love him?

A few weeks later, while visiting James in his home following a hospitalization, I noticed a framed bulletin on the wall over his chair. “James, tell me about that.” “That’s the bulletin from my first Sunday at our church. That’s the day I found my family. That’s the day I found love.”

It seems to me that vital congregations answer the question, “Will you love me?” with a resounding, “Yes!” We, the Church, offer through our hands the comforting, restoring, and tender embrace of “Love Divine”. Our churches have been placed in communities where people are asking us, “Will you love me?”

Prayer: O, Love Divine, all loves excelling, renew in us ears to hear, eyes to see, and hands to receive those in our communities who long for your tender embrace. Clothe us with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, and may the deep mystery of your grace be revealed in and through our lives. In the name of Jesus the Christ. AMEN.

The Rev. Max Mayo
Cookeville First UMC- TN Conference

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REFLECTIONS FOR THE DAY |
Use a program on your computer, a traditional journal, or feel free to use the comment section of this blog post to record your reflections as a conversation with others…
READ – What spoke to me as I read today’s meditation?
REPENT – Where is God showing me that I have failed to be obedient to the call to discipleship today?
RECEIVE – What words of redemption and grace is God offering to me?
REMEMBER – Who and what is God calling me to remember in prayer related to today’s reading?
RESPOND – How is God calling me to respond today?

RESOURCES:
> DOWNLOADS – 40 Day Walk prayer guide (.PDF), 40 Days of Doodles kids journal (.PDF)
> CLICK HERE for sermon starters/suggestions


Day 30: Missional Excellence

Matthew 28:20bDay 30
“Look, I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age.”

A commercial for the Arby’s Fast Food Restaurant shows a man running down a street. The city looks like a ghost town. The only sound that can be heard is an eerie blowing of the wind that scatters paper between the high rise buildings. As the man runs wildly down the street, he cries out, “Where is everybody?” A few moments later he frantically screams again, “Where has everybody gone?” Then he sees a stranger dressed in a long black coat and walking slowing down the street with his back turned. In exasperation he runs up to the stranger, grabs him by his shoulders, and says, “Where is everybody?” The stranger slowly turns around while eating a sandwich and says, “To Arby’s – roast beef sandwich sale.”

How often do we find ourselves like the man in the commercial? In times of crises how often have we felt alone, fearful and desperate? It seems as if everyone has gone to Arby’s or to a party, but we have not been invited. Instead we are left all alone with our violent thoughts, alone with our grief, alone with our uncertainties that rob us of our energies. Moreover, in recognizing our loneliness and despair how can we not remember others who are dying without a circle of support, children who are neglected, persons who are poor, hungry and depressed, those who are assaulted and left to die. In the midst of this pang of loneliness it may appear that God has abandoned us.

However, let us not lose heart. Let us not grow weary. Through the quiet and unrelenting presence of God’s Spirit, working through us, Jesus invades our lonely, yearning and bleeding world. Jesus becomes “Word made flesh” in the touch of a hand, in acts of compassion, in a hot and nutritious meal, in clothing the naked, in visiting the imprisoned, even in words of healing and sympathy. Jesus’ presence is made real to us in the ordinary day-to-day occurrences of life in order that we may know what the Gospel writer Matthew knows: God’s grace is with us, and Jesus is “with you always, to the end of the age.”

Prayer: Holy and Gracious God, what a blessed assurance to know that in the midst of our struggles, when the pressures of life mount from day to day, you will be with us, always. Thank you for your promise that you will never leave us all alone and forsaken. May your Spirit renew us with your everlasting grace and love. AMEN.

The Rev. Bettye P. Lewis
Director of Connectional Ministries – TN Conference

– – – – –
REFLECTIONS FOR THE DAY |
Use a program on your computer, a traditional journal, or feel free to use the comment section of this blog post to record your reflections as a conversation with others…
READ – What spoke to me as I read today’s meditation?
REPENT – Where is God showing me that I have failed to be obedient to the call to discipleship today?
RECEIVE – What words of redemption and grace is God offering to me?
REMEMBER – Who and what is God calling me to remember in prayer related to today’s reading?
RESPOND – How is God calling me to respond today?

RESOURCES:
> DOWNLOADS – 40 Day Walk prayer guide (.PDF), 40 Days of Doodles kids journal (.PDF)
> CLICK HERE for sermon starters/suggestions


Day 29: Offering Christ to a Hurting World

Luke 10:36-37Day 29
“What do you think? Which one of these three was a neighbor to the man who encountered thieves?” Then the legal expert said, “The one who demonstrated mercy toward him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

When I was a girl my father on several occasions asked me to go with him to his clinic on a weekend afternoon to assist him with a patient who had sustained a cut that needed to be sutured, or a fishhook that needed to be extracted.As the only doctor in our county during my early childhood, he worked at the hours when his patients needed him.I recall my own inner struggle with the impulse to look away from the wounds, to avoid eye contact with the suffering patient who might be holding back their own tears. But most vividly, I realize that my father was cultivating my capacity for compassion: getting past the fear or revulsion about another person’s suffering or injury, moving into a helpful form of assistance that would promote healing, and leading me to meet Jesus Christ—the one my father had decided to serve long before he trained as a physician.

The suffering of Jesus as he was tried, abused and executed was difficult for his disciples and his followers to confront. We see several responses, from hiding to standing by in anguish. We are called to follow Jesus into the suffering of our own journeys and to be present in love to the suffering of others. By not looking away, we grow the courage to address the suffering of our own neighbors in this world.

Together, all of us who follow Jesus are invited to behold His suffering in the events of Holy Week. We are invited to resist looking away, and then, beyond horror or curiosity, we are invited to behold with love and hope the suffering in our own families, communities and global human family.Where have you and I recently been tempted “to look away” or to escape from the wounds of our neighbors? As we follow this invitation of Jesus, let us pray that we will share in the resurrection power of new life and hope, as we bring the transforming presence of Christ into every situation.Prayer: Jesus, where can I behold you in the world I inhabit? Give me courage to love and serve you with compassion. In Your grace. AMEN.

The Rev. Diane Luton Blum
Spiritual Formation Team-TN Conference

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REFLECTIONS FOR THE DAY | Use a program on your computer, a traditional journal, or feel free to use the comment section of this blog post to record your reflections as a conversation with others…

READ – What spoke to me as I read today’s meditation?
REPENT – Where is God showing me that I have failed to be obedient to the call to discipleship today?
RECEIVE – What words of redemption and grace is God offering to me?
REMEMBER – Who and what is God calling me to remember in prayer related to today’s reading?
RESPOND – How is God calling me to respond today?

RESOURCES:
> DOWNLOADS – 40 Day Walk prayer guide (.PDF), 40 Days of Doodles kids journal (.PDF)
> CLICK HERE for sermon starters/suggestions


Day 28: Missional Excellence

2 Corinthians 8:1-5Day 28
Brothers and sisters, we want to let you know about the grace of God that was given to the churches of Macedonia. While they were being tested by many problems, their extra amount of happiness and their extreme poverty resulted in a surplus of rich generosity. I assure you that they gave what they could afford and even more than they could afford, and they did it voluntarily. They urgently begged us for the privilege of sharing in this service for the saints. They even exceeded our expectations, because they gave themselves to the Lord first and to us, consistent with God’s will.

The Macedonian churches actually gave beyond their means as they responded to the desperate needs of their brothers and sisters in the Jerusalem church, even while they faced their own extreme hardship. Their extraordinary generosity far surpassed even the greatest hopes and expectations.

How were they able to accomplish this task?

They were not successful because of their abundant skills, compassion, or even a great love for their Christian brothers and sisters. No, the Macedonian churches excelled and did even greater things, because they gave themselves first to the Lord. They were able to reach out to others only through God’s grace and God’s provision.

God was not only primary, but in fact everything.

If we, likewise, are to be successful ambassadors for God, reaching out to bring the love of Christ to a lost, lonely, desperate world, then we also must surrender our all to God. We must humble ourselves before our omniscient Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer, offering everything we have and everything we are, seeking His will, not ours to be done in His mighty Church.

Prayer: Almighty, gracious, and loving God, we come to you this day grateful and humbled by the overflowing abundance of your grace, love, and blessings in our lives. We relinquish ourselves and our gifts and abilities entirely to your service to do your will. We also come to you repentant for all the times and ways we have made your holy Church our church. We ask now that you will use us as your vessels to accomplish your perfect will. AMEN.

Theresa Johnson
Spiritual Formation Team-TN Conference

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REFLECTIONS FOR THE DAY |
Use a program on your computer, a traditional journal, or feel free to use the comment section of this blog post to record your reflections as a conversation with others…
READ – What spoke to me as I read today’s meditation?
REPENT – Where is God showing me that I have failed to be obedient to the call to discipleship today?
RECEIVE – What words of redemption and grace is God offering to me?
REMEMBER – Who and what is God calling me to remember in prayer related to today’s reading?
RESPOND – How is God calling me to respond today?

RESOURCES:
> DOWNLOADS – 40 Day Walk prayer guide (.PDF), 40 Days of Doodles kids journal (.PDF)
> CLICK HERE for sermon starters/suggestions


Day 26: Pastoral Excellence

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Ezekiel 22:30

I looked for anyone to repair the wall and stand in the gap for me on behalf of the land, so I wouldn’t have to destroy it. But I couldn’t find anyone.

Why pray? Does prayer really matter? Won’t God do whatever God wants to do regardless of whether I pray? These questions, or other similar questions, have undoubtedly pricked the edges of most of our consciousness at some time or another. A candid walk through Scripture tells us otherwise. For some reason, God has chosen to invite us to carry the privilege, and, albeit, the burden and responsibility of prayer. God needs our prayers. Ezekiel 22:30-31, is nothing short of a call to arms, or knees, if you will. “But I found no one.” Ouch! What if my prayers really could make that much difference?

Greater things…what are those? Let us stretch our expectations. It was mid- morning when the knock came to my office door. A church member asked me if I could immediately join him and his wife in the sanctuary for prayer. She was already on her knees at the altar, as her husband whisked me to her side. Her son was the president of US Airways, and they had just received word that one of their planes had crashed into the Hudson River. She did not need to say more. We all know that when a plane crashes, lives are lost. The question is usually, how many? I immediately began praying with the authority entrusted to Jesus’ followers on the Day of Pentecost. I prayed for all of the obvious, including that her son would be given wisdom and discernment in dealing with the fallout and ramifications of this crash. What came out of mouth at the end of my prayer actually embarrassed me. With an authority that I did not know was in me, I declared, in the name of Jesus, that not one life would be lost in this crash! My body was covered in goose bumps. How could I possibly have asked for such an impossibility! I felt myself sort of silently breathing, “I am sorry, God.” We parted, and I went back to my office.

The world knows this story as, “The Miracle on the Hudson.” Could my prayer have really made a difference? Not one life was lost! I wonder. GLORY! God said, “If I can find one person to stand in the gap…” Is that person you?

Prayer: Lord, forgive us for not taking the call to prayer more seriously. May we walk in no other authority than the authority of love as we use that authority for your glory. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.

Rev. Dr. Diana M. DeWitt
Chairperson, Spiritual Formation-TN Conference

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REFLECTIONS FOR THE DAY |
Use a program on your computer, a traditional journal, or feel free to use the comment section of this blog post to record your reflections as a conversation with others…
READ – What spoke to me as I read today’s meditation?
REPENT – Where is God showing me that I have failed to be obedient to the call to discipleship today?
RECEIVE – What words of redemption and grace is God offering to me?
REMEMBER – Who and what is God calling me to remember in prayer related to today’s reading?
RESPOND – How is God calling me to respond today?

RESOURCES:
> DOWNLOADS – 40 Day Walk prayer guide (.PDF), 40 Days of Doodles kids journal (.PDF)
> CLICK HERE for sermon starters/suggestions


Day 25: God’s Transforming Presence- Offering Christ to a Hurting World

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2 Corinthians 5: 16-17

So then, from this point on we won’t recognize people by human standards. Even though we used to know Christ by human standards, that isn’t how we know him now. So then, if anyone is in Christ, that person is part of the new creation. The old things have gone away, and look, new things have arrived!

Paul knew at a visceral level the transforming power of Jesus Christ. The “old man” was a terrorist bent on destroying members of the Way. The “new man” was the most compelling ambassador for Christ in history.

For years, I carried the view of my Jewish father who renounced God after the Holocaust and bore deep resentments towards Christianity after experiencing much anti-Semitism. In high school I wrote a term paper about the hypocrisy of Christianity. I was known for my sharp and critical tongue. In college and in divinity school, I studied the psychological and sociological functions of the Christian faith with the aim of explaining it away. I disdained those with child-like faith. I even accused a Christian professor of the NT as being anti-Semitic.

Despite marrying Jay, a budding pastor, my struggles with Jesus continued for six more years. It was the brokenness of our marriage that finally drove me to my knees. I had a vision of Jesus on the cross, with the words, “Stop running, you who are heavy laden. Find rest in me.” Thus began a process of rebirth that continues to this day. I am becoming a “new creation” in Christ, Our marriage was also re-created, and within a year we were pregnant with our first child (previously I was afraid to be a mother). God helped my tongue become one that blessed rather than cursed others (James 3:10). He replaced my heart of stone with a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26).

We United Methodists face a Corinthian culture that is secular, indulgent, and success-driven. We, like Paul, encounter broken, desperate and devastated persons, yet there is the wisdom of our Wesleyan heritage and the transforming grace of the Holy Spirit to help others shed the “old life” and become the new creation. Let us step with Jesus into this ministry of transformation.

Prayer: Gracious Lord, we come to you with personal confessions of our own doubts and unbelief. Set us free to experience your transforming power and grace, and then to be agents of your transformational grace to others. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.

The Rev. Christine Archer
Spiritual Formation Team-TN Conference

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REFLECTIONS FOR THE DAY | Use a program on your computer, a traditional journal, or feel free to use the comment section of this blog post to record your reflections as a conversation with others…
READ – What spoke to me as I read today’s meditation?
REPENT – Where is God showing me that I have failed to be obedient to the call to discipleship today?
RECEIVE – What words of redemption and grace is God offering to me?
REMEMBER – Who and what is God calling me to remember in prayer related to today’s reading?
RESPOND – How is God calling me to respond today?

RESOURCES:
> DOWNLOADS – 40 Day Walk prayer guide (.PDF), 40 Days of Doodles kids journal (.PDF)
> CLICK HERE for sermon starters/suggestions