Tag Archives: Gospel

February 5, 2023 – 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 February 5. Today we learn that a fresh start requires being open to Jesus’ invitation to us as well as to those who are not valued in our community – the outcasts or the marginalized.

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.

January 22, 2023 – 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 January 15. Today we learn that a fresh start begins with living in awe and gratitude of God’s gifts.

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 Inner Skeptic

Read Psalm 14

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“And you must show mercy to those whose faith is wavering.” (Jude 1:22)

chirrut-imwe-and-jyn-erso

Everyone knows that I am a HUGE fan of Star Wars. Recently, the latest film in the Star Wars Universe was released, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”. The film follows a series of mostly new characters who are on a mission to get the blueprint plans of “The Death Star” from the evil Galactic Empire. If they succeed, it is possible that they can find a weakness that will help them destroy a weapon so powerful that it can eliminate entire planets in a matter of seconds.

Without spoiling the story for you (as I run a strict, no spoiler, ship), the characters of Jyn and Cassian are the unlikely leaders of a slim-to-none chance to infiltrate the enemy base and steal the plans of the dreaded battle station, “The Death Star.” All throughout the film, the characters are constantly being tested in their abilities, in their trust of one another, and in their faith.

In fact, wrestling with faith is a MAJOR theme in this film. Each of the characters, in their own way, find themselves wrestling with their faith in the existence of the force. One of the characters, Chirrut Îmwe, is a member of the Guardian of the Whills, which is a religious order that at one time were protectors of the Temple. Following the Temple being raided by the Galactic Empire, the Guardians remained true to their beliefs and sat out in the streets preaching about the Force.

What’s important to note is that thought the age of the Jedi and their use of the force, are not far removed from the time period that this takes place, many question the existence of such a “Force”. The Jedi themselves are quickly fading into mythological obscurity. How quickly hope fades, how quickly people fall from faith into the hopless state of despair. This is, honestly, the human condition.

When Jyn runs into Chirrut, he asked her if she knew what she was wearing around her neck. The crystals she was wearing were what the Empire had come to the Temple to raid, they were what powered the lightsabers. Chirrut sees it as a sign that the Force was alive and well. In fact, throughout the film, this monk kept reciting a powerful mantra, “I am one with the Force,  the Force is with me.”

Throughout the film, there are many skeptics who question this monk’s devotion to what they see as nothing more than a fairytale. Yet, his unwavering faith to the Force witnesses to these people and causes them to see beyond the inner skeptic within them. One by one, each of them is confronted with the choice between placing their faith in the Force or in continuing to deny the Force that is within them and all around them.

What I want to make clear is this, today’s Scripture is NOT calling the one who wrestles with his/her faith a fool. Everyone should be wrestling with their faith in God. It is was makes that faith real and it is how one grows in faith; however, the Scripture is stating that the one who concludes, absolutely and definitively that THERE IS NO GOD is foolish. Such an absolute proclamation leads nowhere but placing oneself in the place of God.

To make that proclamation is to shut oneself off from the discovery of the divine. There is not a single human being that can definitively know Ultimate Reality and, therefore, it is ultimately foolish for them to shut themselves off to the possibility of God based off of whatever limited “evidence” they may think they have. Not one of us can possibly have ALL of the evidence to make any conclusive and definitive proclamation.

We all operate on faith. We operate on the faith that there is a God or we operate on the faith that there is no God. Skepticism is good and healthy; however, it only gets us so far. The question for us is this, can we silence the  inner skeptic? Can we get to the place where we move beyond skepticism and acknowledge the faith that we are already operating on? If so, we can continue to wrestle with our faith and grow in it. I pray that, if you are struggling with your faith, this devotion may be your inner Chirrut Îmwe, reminding you that you are one with the Force (aka God) and that the Force/God is with you. I pray that you choose to move beyond faith in “no God” to faith in the God who is wanting to work miracles in you and through you.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” – Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

PRAYER
Lord, I believe. Help me in my unbelief. Amen.

January 22, 2023 – 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 January 15. Today we learn that Jesus is the way to life, and he calls us to make fresh starts in faith. A fresh start requires courage, focus, and practice.

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.

January 15, 2023 – 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 January 15. Today we learn that Jesus is the way to life, and he calls us to make fresh starts in faith. A fresh start requires courage, focus, and practice.

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.

January 8, 2023 – 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 Sanctuary: 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 January 8. Today we discuss the Baptism of the Lord and it’s significance as we move from after the Epiphany toward Lent.

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.

Inevitable

Read 1 John 3:16-18

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2 NLT).

As a The Walking Dead I must say that I am extremely happy with the series finale. Season 11 has been the most engaging, enthralling, spiritual and brilliant season of the entire series in my humble opinion. Everything has, in some ways, come full circle and you really get a sense that the shows creators intended the show to come to this place all along, especially the show’s adept theological underpinnings.

Case in point, without any spoilers (as you know I run a tight no-spoiler ship), let’s look at episode 19, which is entitled, “Variant”. In that episode, Lydia (who’s only a teenager) is up on platform keeping watch for any threats, including the possible zombie herd which can really wreak havoc. One of the adult characters, Aaron sees her and joins her asking if she would like him to cover for her. She declines and he can tell that something is up between her and her friend Elijah.

So, being concerned for her, he asked her if something was up between them. She mentioned how there was a “moment” between her and Elijah, meaning that she was falling in love with him and him with her. The moment was that they almost kissed and that really freaked Lydia out. Why? Because it brought back too many memories of her boyfriend, Henry, who died an awful and horrific death.

“I…uh…I don’t think can again,” Lydia told Aaron, in a sad and depressed and wounded way.

Aaron, seeing her about to break down and at a loss of words, began to speak. “I…uh…used to be married once.” From there he proceded to tell her how he met his husband back in Washington D.C. His husband, Eric, would continually ask him out and he kept saying no. There was an instant connection between them, but for 6 months he kept saying no.

“Why?” Lydia asked him.

“I don’t know. I guess I thought I was too busy or that I    wasn’t ready. Maybe I was just afraid,” Aaron replied. “But eventually I said yes, and our time together, those years in Alexandria, it was the happiest moments of my life.”

Aaron, pausing with tears in his eyes, took a deep grief-filled sigh. “You know, after he died, I thought, you know, I’d give anything to take back just one of those nos so that we could have one more day together.”

Then, pausing, Aaron looked at her and said, “Lydia, loss is inevitable. It always has been. The only thing we can control is when we say yes.” Walking away, Aaron left Lydia there to keep watch and think about her relationship with Elijah.

Friends, this is an example of the deep kind of theological and spiritual content you find in this show. Here we have a teenaged woman, who is confessing to her friend…and a mentor to her…how she is no longer able to let herself have a relationship with someone she likes because of the loss she has faced.

This is a common side-effect, or consequence more appropriately, of grief. We’ve all been through it. We find ourselves bargaining with God, angry that we have experienced loss at all, perhaps guilty, and certainly in despair. Those things can lead us, if we succumb to it, to withdrawl and not allow anyone to come close to us again. This is exactly what Lydia was going through, and Aaron understood it because he had experienced it too.

While it may be, in context, be focused on her relationship with Elijah, Aaron’s words to Lydia are true for us too. Loss is inevitable. We live in a broken world of loss and pain and suffering. Loss has always been inevitable. And that pain can cause us to say NO to others as well as saying NO to Christ. The only thing we have control of, by the grace of God, is when we say yes. Christ, in fact, calls us to say yes to drawing close to him and to us drawing others to as well.

We can say no because of the loss, the hurts, the pain we’ve suffered, because we find it too risky or painful. We can allow our brokenness to shut us down, or we can SAY YES to Christ and yes to being in a godly relationship with others. Through Christ we can avoid shutting down and saying no, and we can live a fulfilled life of YES to being builders of Christ’s community, the Kingdom of God, on earth as it is in heaven.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“’Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” Lord Alfred Tennyson

PRAYER
Lord, help me to grow in my capacity for love, despite the hurts and hang ups I have. Heal me and use me in service of your kingdom. Amen

January 1, 2023 – Newton UMC – New Year’s Sunday Worship Livestream

Combined New Year’s Sunday Worship Service in Main Sanctuary: 10:30 a.m.

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

Welcome to our live-streamed Christmas Sunday Worship Service for January 1. Today we will learn that God can be found in even the least expected places.

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.

January 1, 2023 – Newton UMC – New Year’s Sunday Worship Livestream

Combined New Year’s Sunday Worship Service in Main Sanctuary: 10:30 a.m.

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

Welcome to our live-streamed Christmas Sunday Worship Service for January 1. Today we will learn that God can be found in even the least expected places.

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.

December25, 2022Newton UMC – Christmas Sunday Worship Livestream

Christmas Sunday Worship Service in Main Sanctuary: 10:30 a.m.

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

Welcome to our live-streamed Christmas Sunday Worship Service for December 25. Today we will learn that the long-awaited Savior comes to us, unexpectedly, as a baby, to reveal God’s possibilities in the face of human impossibility.

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.