“and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”
Hope may be a gift but at times hope can seem like a distant memory. Our nation has been struck by a powerful hurricane putting hundreds of thousands of lives in turmoil. Closer to home and heart, we have loved ones and friends suffering and struggling with uncertain times and difficult health issues. Often times there is no answer to the question of why life can be so challenging at times. Even in the midst of all that can adversely affect our lives, there is hope, hope that our Lord Jesus Christ will strengthen us in our greatest time of need. There is hope because God will pour into us hope for a new day, whatever that day may bring. God has never left you, not for a second of your life. God does not cause your suffering but your hope in Christ is realized by the gift of presence and resolve in the midst of suffering. A life well-lived in hope is one that knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that God is with you; this affirmation is made real through the witness of those who offer faith when faith seems to be failing you. A life well-lived in hope is also one that offers hope to those that are struggling and hurting. Maybe our hope lies in the promise of Jesus to be with us, “even to the end of the age.” Jesus did not promise that our lives will always be a bowl of cherries but does affirm God’s presence even in those times of perceived hopelessness. A life well-lived in hope is a witness of character that is defined by how we react to events that challenge our convictions and our faith, empowered and equipped by our gracious and merciful God. Thank you Jesus for the gift of hope and the witness of hope that others share with us.
“But strive first for the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
So what is the “Kingdom of God” really all about? Maybe Pilate’s question has even more profound meaning than ever, “what is truth?” (John 18:37) The Kingdom of God is not about hate, violence, bigotry, or any other attitude that diminishes the life of another. The truth is, the Kingdom of God is about the incredible grace and mercy of God that offers joy, even in the midst of an uncertain world. If you want to know what the Kingdom of God is all about, check out Jesus Christ, the Word that became flesh and dwelled among us. (John 1:1) Jesus is the Kingdom of God in the flesh and offers an alternative to the worries of day to day living. The righteousness of God lives out the Kingdom “which has come near.” To strive for the righteousness of God is to be motivated by the witness of Jesus Christ who reached out to those that others had no desire even to give the time of day. To live in the righteousness of God is to do what is right, for the benefit of somebody else, to love your neighbor and above all else love the Lord your God with all of your heart, mind, soul and strength. The truth, as Pilate and all the others who may be asking, is that Jesus is the “Lord your God, the holy One, [and] you are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you.” (Isaiah 43:3-4) To live in the truth is affirming and living out what is right; to hear the cry of the needy, to care for those who are oppressed, struggling, hurting, and alone. Maybe to really know the truth is to live out the Gospel message of grace, hope, love, peace, and forgiveness; to strive for a closer relationship first with God then to one another. To do what is right is to witness a faith that does not succumb to worry but rather celebrates the miracle of God in everyday living. So, strive first for the Kingdom of God in all your living and you will be a profound blessing to someone else as you have been blessed. Thank you Jesus.
“Instead, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourself in all your conduct; for it is written, you shall be holy for I am holy.”
I Peter 1:15-16
Have you ever thought of yourself as “holy?” We know God is holy, and we call the Bible the Holy Bible, but to say we are holy sounds like a stretch. It also sounds like a stretch that the Son of God died on a cross and was resurrected so that our lives may be transformed by the amazing grace of God. It may also sound like a stretch to say that we will do “even greater works” than Jesus ever did in his earthly ministry. (John 14:12) It is all true, the holiness of God is carried on through the gift of God’s presence in each of us; we have been redeemed, equipped, and empowered by the Holy Spirit that dwells in each of us. Being holy does not mean that we sit around all day and consider everything that God has given us, nor does it mean to think of ourselves as any better than anybody else (holier than thou). What is does mean is that we are set apart to continue the work that Jesus has begun in each one of us and that we have been called to witness the joy of believing in something far greater than ourselves. To be holy means that your life is prayer lived out and faith proclaimed as “doers of the Word.” (James 1:22) You are a hero to somebody, you may not know it but because you are holy, part of the holy Body of Christ, your presence in the world has made a profound influence in the life of somebody else; that proves you are holy, and blessed. The call to holy living is a call to action, not to apathy. You are needed because you are holy, set apart to witness the love of God to someone desperately in need of God’s grace in their life. Never forget how much God loves you and the gifts you have been given to make a difference in the life of somebody else. Never forget that God has also set people apart to reach out the hand of Christ to you so you may know what the joy of the presence of God along the way is all about. Maybe think of it this way, you are holy as Jesus is holy to truly celebrate the joy and peace of God in amazing ways so you, and all you touch in this life will have life, in abundance. Thank you Jesus.
Rev. Tom Joyce, pastor
Fields United Methodist Church
“Indeed the body does not consist of one member but of many.”
I Corinthians 12:14
It is incredibly humbling to watch people who have amazing gifts; carpentry, gardening, speaking, singing, athletics, technology, and chemistry just to name a few. As I see so many with so many gifts I can’t help but think, “where do I fit?” I cannot do what others can do and not sure what I can do would add anything to the mix. Have you ever questioned what you are called to do or what gifts you are able to bring to the church? If the church consisted of those only interested in teaching, how then could we have music in our worship? Or if the church was only interested in those who could go on a mission trip that could only frame a house or repair a roof, how then would we ministry to those who are going through challenging times in their lives? You are important to the life of the church, not only important but critical. Without the gifts you offer to the church, the ongoing ministry of Jesus Christ would surely suffer. St. Paul describes the church as the “Body of Christ,” not a few individuals that do only certain things. God has blessed you in incredible ways and what you bring to the church is critical to the ongoing ministry of Jesus Christ. We are connected to each other with a common purpose to serve Jesus Christ and all those who are in need of God’s grace in their lives. We laugh together, cry together, and rejoice together. Where else can you be a member where you are offered grace no matter who you are or what you have done? Where else can you serve with what you have been blessed with by God rather than be told to go home because you do not fit in or not have abilities that are sought. Amazing thing about God, all are accepted and all are offered a chance to serve with the gifts they possess. Yes, some are teachers, others are not; some are artisans and others have no clue what a carpenter’s square looks like. And know what, that is ok, because you are offered grace to learn and God offers the Holy Spirit to empower you to do things you never in your wildest dreams would have thought you could do. You are needed because you are loved and God wants a relationship with you more than anything else in the world. If you want to know God is with you, you will know God even more fully when you serve the people of God. You are needed because you are loved more than you will ever know. Thank you Jesus!