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Episode 271 | (im)POSSIBLE, part 2: Hope Made Possible

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-yjy3a-132d6b6

In this episode, Rev. Todd discusses that Jesus invites us into a change of mindset, to be agents of peace, offering us a new possibility for relating to others, a way of peace.

December 4, 2022 – Newton UMC – Sunday Worship Livestream

JOY Fellowship Worship Service in Holland Hall: 9:00 a.m.

Worship service streams live at 9:00 a.m. EST (-500 GMT)

Worship Service in Main Sancutary: 10:30 a.m.

Worship service streams live at 10:30 a.m. EST (-500 GMT)

Welcome to our live-streamed Sunday Worship Services for December 4. Today we learn that Jesus invites us into a change of mindset, to be agents of peace, offering us a new possibility for relating to others, a way of peace.

Please support us by giving online: https://tithe.ly/give?c=1377216 or https://paypal.me/newtonumc Your support is vital, especially during this COVID-19 pandemic. You can also write and mail a check to First UMC of Newton, 111 Ryerson Ave., Newton, NJ 07860.

If you are from another church that is not able to host online worship, we would strongly encourage you give to YOUR church and support them. They no doubt need that support as much as we do. God bless you all for your generosity.

REVISITED: Where is the Justice?

Read Romans 12:15-21

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Indeed, the LORD will give justice to his people…” (Deuteronomy 32:36a, NLT)

ferguson-free-hug

In 1999, Mel Gibson starred in “Payback,” which was a 1950’s style crime-thriller directed by Brian Helgeland. I say “1950’s style” because it had Mel Gibson narrating his own story in the kind of way you’d expect to see on the classic police television show, “Dragnet”. The only twist is that Gibson’s character “Porter” is not a police officer, but a petty criminal who ends up being double crossed by his former partner-in-crime and his estranged wife. You see, Porter had cheated on his wife who later, to get back at her philandering husband, joined forces with his partner to plot against him. They shoot him (with the intent of killing him) and steal $70,000 from him…money that he, no doubt, stole from someone else.

To make a long story short, and to do so in a way that does not spoil the gritty fun (or perhaps experience is the better word) that the film is, Porter sets out to payback (hence the film’s name) those who did him wrong. He wages a bloody and intense war on his former partner, on his estranged wife and, eventually, on the crime syndicate that is protecting them. By the end of the film you can’t help but wonder what justice, if any, was done. With that said, it totally satisfies the inner need to see the “bad guy” get his in the end. Of course, porter is a “bad guy” who is getting even with other “bad guys.” This is played up in the film’s slogan, “Prepare to root for the bad guy.”

There are times in our life when we feel we have been wronged by our family, our friends, our neighbors, and other people. In those moments, we often cannot help but feel anger and the desire to get back at such people. Even when we are not seeking to get back at them ourselves, we wish that things would happen to them to “teach them a lesson.” We use terms like karma to express our wish for fate to slap them right where it counts and, if possible, allow us to be there to witness the moment it happens. I know that even while driving down the road, I have prayed that the person who cut me off would pass a police officer and get pulled over. I am sure I am not the only one who has prayed such a prayer.

We live in a world that sees REVENGE as justice. When things don’t go our way, when life seems to be unjust and no one seems to care that it is, we feel that we are then justified to take things into our own hands and exact our own brand of justice. In Ferguson, MO, for example, many protesters turned into rioters when they discovered that no charges were going to be brought against Officer Darren Wilson. As a result, a grieving family had to witness their son’s name being frivolously used to incite riots, store owners and community members alike stood helplessly as they watched their neighborhoods burn to the ground, innocent and peaceful protesters ended up having to endure tear gas and no doubt were fearing for their lives, and police officers had to put their lives on the line to try and keep the situation under control! Where’s the justice in all of that? The fact of the matter is that our own brand of “justice” is often not justice. Revenge is not JUSTICE, revenge is wrong and it solves nothing. All it does is create more victims.

If you want to see God’s justice, take a look at the picture for this devotion. It is of an officer who, in the midst of protests in Portland, Oregon over the Michael Brown case, hugged a twelve year-old boy who was crying because he saw the world around him falling a part. He was feeling the weight of the grand jury’s decision and was concerned about police brutality toward young black kids such as himself. In response to seeing the boy crying, the officer asked him what was wrong and, when the boy told him, he asked if he could have one of the “FREE HUGS” the boy’s protest sign was advertising.  JUSTICE is LOVE. JUSTICE is MERCY. Justice is KINDNESS. While the world around is often UNJUST, God is calling us to LIVE JUSTLY, to LOVE MERCY, and to WALK HUMBLY with God. That doesn’t mean that we sit back and let the innocent get trampled over; rather, that means that we peacefully and lovingly stand in solidarity with the oppressed without falling victim to the urge to GET BACK at the oppressor. LIVE JUSTLY and inspire others, through actions of peace and love, to join you in doing the same.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Social justice cannot be attained by violence. Violence kills what it intends to create.” – Pope John Paul II

PRAYER
Lord, help me to spread JUSTICE through peaceful actions of LOVE, MERCY, and COMPASSION. Amen.

Episode 270 | (im)POSSIBLE, part 1: Peace Made Possible

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-498f9-1323e35

In this episode, Rev. Todd discusses that, today we learn that Jesus invites us into a change of mindset, to be agents of peace, offering us a new possibility for relating to others, a way of peace.

November 27, 2022 – Newton UMC – Sunday Worship Livestream

JOY Fellowship Worship Service in Holland Hall: 9:00 a.m.

Worship service streams live at 9:00 a.m. EST (-500 GMT)

Worship Service in Main Sancutary: 10:30 a.m.

Worship service streams live at 10:30 a.m. EST (-500 GMT)

Welcome to our live-streamed Sunday Worship Services for November 27. Today we learn that Jesus invites us into a change of mindset, to be agents of peace, offering us a new possibility for relating to others, a way of peace.

Please support us by giving online: https://tithe.ly/give?c=1377216 or https://paypal.me/newtonumc Your support is vital, especially during this COVID-19 pandemic. You can also write and mail a check to First UMC of Newton, 111 Ryerson Ave., Newton, NJ 07860.

If you are from another church that is not able to host online worship, we would strongly encourage you give to YOUR church and support them. They no doubt need that support as much as we do. God bless you all for your generosity.

REVISITED: Black Friday

Read Luke 6

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles. Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow.” (Matthew 5:40-42)

Black FridayIt’s the day after Thanksgiving, and if you are reading this there are a few possibilities. 1) You are reading it in a long line waiting to check out at your local department store and have nothing better to do at the moment. 2) You just got home from an all-night shopping spree and were just checking your email before hitting the sack for an all day recovery nap. 3) You just woke up from a nice sleep after eating tons of Turkey and stuffing yesterday; you are not the type to rush to the store for anything and so you are reading this with fresh and rested eyes. 4) You are reading this from outside of the United States and, perhaps, none of the top 3 really applies.

Yes, today is the day Americans like to call “Black Friday,” meaning that it’s the days that sales go through the roof as people go shopping for Christmas toys and goodies for their families.  Traditionally, black Friday was the day that stores went from being “in the red” to being “in the black”, meaning that they were no longer negative in the bank account after “Black Friday,” hence its name.

Now, people head out on Black Friday with the best of intentions.  They want to buy as much for their kiddies and family members as possible, for the least amount of money.  After all, Christmas is about giving, isn’t it?  The problem is that, en masse, people tend to get out of control. What starts off as a nice idea to buy people things that we can give them, turns into a stampede as people literally push through and over people in order to be the first to get their pick!  People have literally died on “Black Friday” as a result of the herd, and I do mean herd, of people trampling over them.

On the flip side, there are billions of people around the world that are going without food, water, shelter, clothing, etc. There are community outreach organizations that will not be able to reach all of the people in need in their communities as a result of a lack of funding.  So many people in this world, and in our own communities, are deprived of the major necessities and yet where do we spend our money and resources?

In the end, we like to think that we are teaching our children and our families about giving; in reality, we are teaching our children and families about receiving.  Christmas is very much centered around our families and close friends, making sure that the wealth is shared our own.  Sure, we’ll drop a coin in a bucket on the way into Wal-mart, for good measure; however, what is important is that OUR kids get the presents they want, that OUR family gets the presents we feel they need or would like, and that OUR friends get gifts too.

Jesus had a much more radical view of what it meant to give. For Jesus giving was to be unconditional, which means that we shouldn’t give just based on relation or friendship or any other kind of condition. And, for Jesus, there was no limit as to how much one should give. Jesus gave his entire life, literally, so that others could have the life he gave up.  This devotional is written, not to discourage you from shopping for gifts for your little ones, family and friends but, rather, to encourage you to view the world as your children, family and friends. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful world indeed if the poor, the sick, the naked, the destitute, the blind, and all of those in need got to experience “Black Friday”? If you answered yes to that last question, the challenge for you is to do something about it. God bless you as you answer that challenge!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

It is true that to give is to truly receive; however,  you receive so that you may give even more.

PRAYER

Lord, let me be a blessing in the lives of those who need it. Thank you for those who have been a blessing in my life. Amen.

REVISITED: Thanksgiving Day

Read Psalm 100

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Let your roots grow down into Him, and let your lives be built on Him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.” (Colossians 2:7 NLT)

FirstThanksgivingBig

Well, it is getting to be that time isn’t it. Tomorrow is the holiday that we in America call Turkey day…I mean Thanksgiving Day. After all, not all of us eat Turkey, and all of the turkeys that survive T-Day are ever thankful for that! All jokes aside, this is the holiday that begs Americans to remember the story of the Pilgrims. When the Pilgrims landed in Massachusetts in 1620, they were not prepared for life in the wilderness and they did not really know what to grow or when to grow it. Enter in the Native Americans, namely the Wampanoag tribe, who taught the settlers how to survive (including how to grow and harvest their food) in exchange for protection against tribal enemies.

By the time of the first Thanksgiving meal, there were only 50 out of 100 Pilgrims alive to share in the meal. Half of them had died during the first winter in the New World. Those remaining Pilgrims invited 90 Wompanoag to share with them in a feast, as a way of giving thanks to them and to God for their alliance and survival. Of course there is a ton more to the history than what I have recounted here; however, this is the gist of the story that the Thanksgiving Day observance in the U.S. is centered on.

Of course, it wasn’t long before more settlers showed up in Massachusetts and it is quite unfortunate that the original thankfulness that the Pilgrims had shown toward their Native American neighbors had all but been forgotten. The rest is sadly history. The European settlers flourished and grew in numbers, while the Wampanoag suffered major losses in their population. The European settlers, unbeknownst to them, brought bacteria and illnesses which killed many within the Wampanoag tribe. On top of that, with the European settlers came Western Civilization and it’s wars. One such war was King Phillip’s war, where the English colonists and their Native American allies fought against other Native American tribes. During that war, the Wampanog lost over 40 percent of its population and many of the surviving males in their tribe were sold into slavery in the West Indies. On top of that, many of the women and children were enslaved in New England. So much for the spirit of thankfulness, huh?

While this may seem like ancient history, the fact remains that the very feast we partake in year after year is rooted in that ancient history. What’s more, like the original Thanksgiving between the Settlers and Wampanoag tribe, our Thanksgiving is so short-lived that we often forget what we were even thankful for before the turkey, or Tofurky, coma settles in. In fact, it seems like our thankfulness is, by and large, nothing more than a trivial tradition that bears little resemblance to true thankfulness.

The challenge for us is become a truly thankful people who do not trivialize such an important part of what we were created to be. Let us begin to truly be thankful for everything we have been given. Too often we express our thankfulness through words, but words are so often very cheap! The first Pilgrims did not express their thankfulness merely with words, but through their actions in protecting their Native American allies and through inviting them to share in their harvest feast! Let us, too, be a people who show God that we are truly thankful by sharing what we have with others, no matter how unlikely it may seem for us to have a relationship with them. God has created us all and has provided all of us with all that we need. If we are truly thankful for those things, and if we truly recognize that everything we have are gifts from God, then we will not hesitate in being generous in our giving and THANKFUL in our living! This Thanksgiving, make thankfulness the meat that you feast on!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” – Melodie Beattie

PRAYER
Gracious God, I thank you for all that I have including my life. Give me the strength take what I have and share it with those in need, so that my thankfulness can move from words into action. Amen.

Episode 269 | In Paradise

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-qmzdk-131af62

In this episode, Rev. Todd discusses that, today, a lowly criminal on a cross shows us that the location of the entrance door in paradise comes through humble faith.

November 20, 2022 – Newton UMC – Sunday Worship Livestream

JOY Fellowship Worship Service in Holland Hall: 9:00 a.m.

Worship service streams live at 9:00 a.m. EST (-500 GMT)

Worship Service in Main Sancutary: 10:30 a.m.

Worship service streams live at 10:30 a.m. EST (-500 GMT)

Welcome to our live-streamed Sunday Worship Services for November 20. Today a lowly criminal on a cross shows us that the location of the entrance door in paradise comes through humble faith.

Please support us by giving online: https://tithe.ly/give?c=1377216 or https://paypal.me/newtonumc Your support is vital, especially during this COVID-19 pandemic. You can also write and mail a check to First UMC of Newton, 111 Ryerson Ave., Newton, NJ 07860.

If you are from another church that is not able to host online worship, we would strongly encourage you give to YOUR church and support them. They no doubt need that support as much as we do. God bless you all for your generosity.

REVISITED: The Christian Manifesto

Read Isaiah 61:1-3; Luke 4:14-30

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Thus says the Lord GOD: Enough, O princes of Israel! Put away violence and oppression, and do what is just and right. Cease your evictions of my people, says the Lord GOD.” (Ezekiel 45:9)

The Christian ManifestoOkay, I’ll be the first to admit that the over-commercialization of Christmas can be sickening. I mean, there we were walking down the aisle of our local department store looking for costumes and goodies for Halloween and I saw workers ’round the corner setting up their Christmas displays…and this was the beginning of October!!! What is up with that!?!? Pretty soon it will be Christmas in July!

With that said, now that Halloween has passed I have started to feel those warm and fuzzy feelings that tend to come as the holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s) are approaching. Just this afternoon I was listening to my iPod while driving and I happened to see that I had David Phelps on it, so I went to his album and chose to listen to his rendition of my favorite Christmas song ever: “O Holy Night”.

If you have never heard David sing O Holy Night, let me tell you that you need to stop reading this now and listen to it. For those who are reading this devotional online, I have included a link to the video of David performing it live (go to about 1:14 in the video to skip the intro…and never mind the televangelist-esque feel to the video…his voice is totally worth it). As I was listening to this man belt out the song with heart and emotion and one of the best voices I have ever heard sing the song, I began to have a revelation of the true meaning of this song. While “O Holy Night” is certainly a Christmas song, there is no doubt that its message is one that should be sung in our hearts all year-long.

The third verse captures what I believe to be the heart of Christianity: “Truly He taught us to love one another; his law is love and His gospel is peace. Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother; and in His name all oppression shall cease. Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we, let all within us praise His holy name.” If we learned nothing else of Christianity, let it not be said that we did not learn this–that Christ’s law is love and his Gospel is peace. Let it not be said that we failed to  learn, as Christians, that in Christ’s name all oppression should cease!

In Luke 4:18-19, Jesus made it very clear that he was anointed by God “to bring good news to the poor…to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, [and] to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” If this was Jesus’ mission, and if we are his resurrected body carrying on his work and mission in the world, then doesn’t it go without saying that Luke 4:18-19 should be our manifesto, our mission, as well?

Christians have argued whether or not Jesus was focused on social or spiritual matters; however, I believe that Jesus was focused on both and that the two cannot be so easily disconnected. How can we be sound spiritually if we are not sound socially? How can we be sound socially if we are not sound spiritually. Too often the West has tried to compartmentalize the human being, and it has come at great peril. Rather than deny one for the other, let us embrace the fact that Christ has called us to live each moment of our lives with the same passion for God’s mission as David Phelps has in singing O Holy Night. Let us live our lives in a way that reflects the hope, the healing and the wholeness of God! Remember, Christ’s law is LOVE and his Gospel is peace…in Christ’s name all oppression (Spiritual, emotional, physical, social, and psychological) shall cease!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“It is impossible to enslave, mentally or socially, a bible-reading people. The principles of the bible are the groundwork of human freedom.” – Horace Greeley

PRAYER

Lord, you have called me to bear Christ’s name. His mission is my mission; help me to have the courage to stand up against all forms of oppression, regardless of the cost. Amen.

A biweekly devotional