Tuesday, November 9, 2010

God's Harvest

“Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” - Matthew 9:35-38

Jesus was not a person to stay in one place. He didn’t sit in an office waiting for people to find him. He traveled constantly during his brief three year ministry to all the cities and villages teaching the good news of the kingdom of God and curing people of their diseases. At the Riggs Union Church and the Sturgeon United Methodist Church we are in the midst of a sermon series called “Exploring the Kingdom of God.” We are studying the verses in the gospel of Matthew that teach about God’s kingdom. It has been an exciting and enlightening journey so far.

So what is this “good news of the kingdom” that Jesus is proclaiming. The good news begins with an awareness that God is here and God is near. God is actively seeking us. God understands our human limitations and struggles and diseases. God sees us clearly and God loves us completely. When Jesus looked upon the crowds of people his first response was not to judge them or condemn them in any way. Another human being might have looked upon the harassed and helpless crowd and thought, “what a pathetic bunch of losers. I am glad I’m not like them.”

But not Jesus! His first response is to have compassion. This compassion gives us a beautiful window into the heart of God. God does not rush to condemn or judge. God rushes to heal and to love. God seeks us out to set us free from the bondage of sin, to heal the diseases of body, heart and mind that would trap us in darkness and fear. The good news of the kingdom assures us that a loving shepherd is right beside us, filling our being with light and protecting us from evil.

Jesus tells his disciples that God’s harvest is ready. God’s grace has been at work in the world preparing hearts and souls to be brought into loving relationship with God. God needs laborers to establish those relationships. Jesus says, “Ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers.” He wants us to know that God’s harvest always begins with prayer. We cannot assume that we have the authority to help with the harvest until God gives it to us. We do not know who God will choose to do the work, but we are all encouraged to pray for those laborers. If we feel called to be a laborer in God’s harvest then we must first pray that God would find us worthy. So pray and don’t stop.

Jesus says “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” Is it possible that the laborers are few because the work is so challenging? It is so much easier to wait for people to find us, but working God’s harvest means that we must go out build relationships with people we do not know. Laborers in God’s harvest can experience rejection and personal deprivation at times. But they receive a life overflowing with the knowledge and love of God. They experience life as Jesus lived it, in partnership and friendship with the creator of the universe. What an awesome privilege it is!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Adopt a Family

On September 11, 2010 Sturgeon church members washed the exterior of a home in Sturgeon as an expression of God's loving kindness. Church members also provided lunch to the family that day. We had not met the family before but felt led to knock on their door and offer to help. They were most grateful. They said that some of the neighbors were critical of the condition of their home but no one ever offered to help until we did. As we were cleaning the siding we noticed some broken windows at the home and offered to replace them. The Sturgeon UMW provided the resources for replacing the windows. The family has four children and the broken windows were a hazard to them. We hope to continue with projects of loving kindness in the Sturgeon community as a way of helping people see God's love in action.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Exploring the Kingdom of God

“At daybreak [Jesus] departed and went into a deserted place. And the crowds were looking for him; and when they reached him, they wanted to prevent him from leaving them. But he said to them, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose.” So he continued proclaiming the message in the synagogues of Judea.” - Luke 4:42-43

At the Riggs Union and the Sturgeon United Methodist Churches, we are in the midst of a sermon series entitled: “Exploring the Kingdom of God.” The kingdom of God is complex and unfolding. Exploring God’s kingdom requires patience and diligent study over time if we are to discover what it is and how we can be a part of it.

It is clear from scripture that one of the main reasons Jesus came to earth was to inaugurate or establish God’s kingdom on earth. In the scripture from Luke 4, Jesus says that he “must proclaim the good news of the kingdom.” In Matthew 4 verse 17, Jesus begins his public ministry with the words, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” It is the very presence of Jesus on earth that altered the course of history and has brought near the final arrival of God’s rule or kingdom on earth.

Throughout the gospels Jesus uses parables and metaphors to speak about the kingdom of God. A parable is a story that uses familiar language and concepts to explain something far more complex. Jesus’ parables of the kingdom do not have one particular message but layers and layers of meaning that unfold for us as we are ready to receive their deeper truth. The parables of Jesus by design are meant to challenge us and make us question and wonder and pray and converse about their meaning. Their meaning often challenges our understanding of the world precisely because our world is not the way God wants it to be.

God’s kingdom is a powerful kingdom. It is about light and life and heaven on earth. Everything that Jesus does calls us into relationship with God and works to strengthen that relationship. Jesus teaches us that we cannot discern the kingdom of God through our own effort, but we do have a role to play. As we desire to live in God’s light and desire God’s truth above all things, seeking God in prayer, worship, and study, God prepares us to receive God’s precious gift of the kingdom.

God gives us eyes to see and minds and hearts that understand who God is and what God is trying to accomplish in our world only when God discerns that we are ready. Our understanding is always a “God thing.” It is always a very humbling experience to receive God gift of discernment. Christians can never be arrogant in our understanding because we know that our discernment is a gift of life that comes from God only when God knows we are able to hold it.

Knowing about God’s kingdom and living from it is so crucial because there are other kingdoms in our world that undermine what God is doing. There are other forces in the world that would keep us in darkness and cause us to doubt and suffer needlessly. Jesus felt an urgency to proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God in order to alleviate this kind of suffering. As we explore the kingdom of God, we prepare ourselves to move from darkness to light, from death to life. We also prepare ourselves to be found worthy to hold God’s truth in our hearts and live that truth in our lives so others may receive God’s gift and live as well.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Wonderful Birthday Celebration!

On August 15th we celebrated J.P. Bradley's 80th birthday with his entire family in worship. This family picture is a clear image of how God continues to pour out blessing upon blessing year after year. What a gift that they would share their special day with all of us.

Friday, August 13, 2010

New Six Week Sermon Series Begins on Sunday!

Beginning this Sunday and running for the next six weeks we will continue to explore the Kingdom of God by focusing on Jesus' Sermon On the Mount. The upcoming texts are listed below for your personal study and devotional life:

August 15 - Matthew 4:12-22

August 22 - Matthew 4:23-25, 5:1-12

August 29 - Matthew 5:13-20

September 5 - Matthew 6:5-15

September 12 - Matthew 6:19-34

September 19 - Matthew 7:13-29

Riggs Vacation Bible School

The Riggs Church led a wonderful Vacation Bible School August 2-5, 2010. Generous offerings from the children were matched by the congregation and used to purchase animals for people in need through Heifer International.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Exploring the Kingdom of God Sermon Series!

Throughout the summer we will be exploring the Kingdom of God during worship through the many "Kingdom" parables of Jesus. We will be looking at why and how Jesus used parables in teaching about the Kingdom. We will also be including a time of hymn singing from a new "Praise and Worship" song book.

Here are a few of the upcoming texts for your personal study and devotional life:

July 18 - Mark 1:9-15, Luke 4:42-43, Matthew 6:33; 7:7-8

July 25 - Mark 4:26-29, Matthew 13:1-23

August 1 - Matthew 13:24-43

August 8 - Matthew 13:44-58

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Monday, July 5, 2010

Sturgeon Congregation July 4, 2010

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Riggs Congregation July 4, 2010

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New Beginnings July 4, 2010

We had a great beginning worship on July 4, 2010 at the Sturgeon and Riggs United Methodist Churches. We reflected on the ways in which God has worked and continues to work through key "beginning" moments: creation, speaking through the prophets, the incarnation of Jesus, the beginning of a new ministry. In each of these moments God is working to bring light into darkness and order into chaos revealing God's saving and loving relationship with all creation. Following Holy Communion each member lit a prayer candle and then passed the candle lighter to another as a reminder of how we share the light of Christ with each other and with the world.