Tag Archives: hope

January 23, 2022 – Newton UMC – Sunday Worship Livestream

JOY Fellowship Service: 9:00 a.m.

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

Traditional Service: 10:3 a.m.

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

Welcome to our Sunday Worship Services for January 23. Today we learn what it means to live by God’s Spirit and not our own.

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, Part 2: Anointed

Read Luke 4:14-21

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and all of you have knowledge.” (1 John 2:20, NRSV)

festivals-pentecost-dove-fire-370x370

Recently, a fellow colleague and friend of mine got into a conversation about the scripture passage I was preaching on at the church that I serve. The passage is Luke 4:14-21 and is on Jesus’ first recorded visit to the synagogue in Nazareth following his baptism and wilderness experience. In that passage, Jesus is handed the scroll of Isaiah and he opens it up to the following passage: “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, for He has anointed Me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the LORD’s favor has come.” Inspired by the conversation, I have decided to devote a series of devotions on this particular passage, which has become known as “The Christian Manifesto”.

Part 2, Anointed: When we think of the word anointed, a couple things come to mind. The anointing of the sick and the dying comes to mind, as does the anointing of kings and rulers of nations and empires. Perhaps the most common thing that comes to mind when we hear of anointing is connected to that latter concept, in that we think of Jesus who is the Christ, or the anointed one, and who is the King of kings and Lord of Lords. We think of Jesus’ baptism in the water of the Jordan River and his anointing by the Holy Spirit following that baptism. We think of the one who was anointed both King and Savior of the world, the one who humbled himself to a lowly status and lived a life of compassion and love, the one who was betrayed, tortured, and crucified. We think of the one who, ultimately, was raised to life again after three long days of laying dead in a dark, cold tomb.

Thus, when we hear Jesus read the words, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for the LORD has anointed me…”, it comes as no surprise to us. We often think of them as Jesus’ own words and/or as words that were written with Jesus in mind. To some extent this is true in that the one who wrote these words, was inspired by God to do so and that Jesus’ certainly did fulfill those words in such a way that they have forever since been seen as a prophecy pointing toward Jesus’ coming. Yet, that is only part of the truth. The author of Isaiah 61 was writing this to the people of his day and age. This author sees himself as having been anointed by God to bring the good news that one day God would put an end to the injustices of the world, that God would end all oppression, and that the day of the LORD was soon to arrive.

In other words, this passage was written both as a present proclamation in the time of the prophet who wrote it, as well as future prophecy of the coming of God’s Kingdom on Earth! Jesus’ selection of this particular passage, therefore, is definitely not accidental. Jesus saw himself and his ministry as the outset of the coming of God’s Kingdom. He saw himself as the long-awaited Messiah, as the deliverer of all who were oppressed, as igniter of God’s justice and the genesis of the age to come. With that said, Jesus did not see himself in a one player game, where he was some sort of rogue agent of God doing all of the work by himself. This is clear from the beginning, when Jesus hand-selected twelve people to shadow him and to learn how to continue the work once he was gone. From those twelve, who represented the twelve tribes of Israel, the Jesus movement (now known as Christianity) exploded onto the scene in a way that literally rocked the known world and ended up too much for even the Roman Empire to contain.

What’s important to note here is that while Jesus is certainly anointed by God as the Christ, we are anointed by God through the Christ who hand-chose us as his disciples. Christ has sent us the Holy Spirit, in whom we are anointed and in whom we are being sanctified. What’s more, like he did with his disciples, he appoints us as his apostles (messengers/delegates) in the world, meaning that we are sent out as representatives of Christ and the coming Kingdom. This is very much a part of the Christian Manifesto: that all Christians are anointed by the Holy Spirit, through Christ, to continue doing what Christ was anointed to do! May you come to not only understand this, but to acknowledge it and live it out in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
The question is not whether you have been appointed and sent, the question is to what have been appointed and where are you being sent?
PRAYER
Lord, here I am. Illumine me as to what it is you are calling me to do and show me how I am equipped to do it. Amen.

REVISITED: The Christian Manifesto, Part 1: Spirit-Filled

Read Luke 4:14-21

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“The Sovereign LORD will show His justice to the nations of the world. Everyone will praise Him! His righteousness will be like a garden in early spring, with plants springing up everywhere.” (Isaiah 61:11 NLT)

Spirit-Filled

Recently, a fellow colleague and friend of mine got into a conversation about the scripture passage I was preaching on at the church that I serve. The passage is Luke 4:14-21 and is on Jesus’ first recorded visit to the synagogue in Nazareth following his baptism and wilderness experience. In that passage, Jesus is handed the scroll of Isaiah and he opens it up to the following passage: “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, for He has anointed Me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the LORD’s favor has come.” Inspired by the conversation, I have decided to devote a series of devotions on this particular passage, which has become known to me as “The Christian Manifesto”.

Part 1, Spirit-Filled: While Luke does not go into detail about what Jesus was doing or saying upon returning to Galilee, it is important to note that following the wilderness trial, Jesus returns to Galilee. This is the region his hometown was in and so it was a region very familiar to Jesus. It is often the case that we return to what is familiar to us to begin our lives, even if that is not where we end up in the end. This is certainly the case for Jesus as well. What was important to Luke to note was that the Jesus who came back into Galilee was different from the Jesus who left Galilee to get bapitzed. There was just something different about him. This carpenter from Nazareth began teaching in the synagogues and was making a name for himself around the region, so much so that no doubt the people in his hometown would have heard the news. In fact, the first thing Jesus did when he arrived at his hometown was go to the synagogue to teach, and people seemingly gathered there to listen to him.

This opening to the passage serves two purposes. The first is that it is a preface to us on what it means to be filled with the Holy Spirit. In today’s culture, we live in a time where, for many, being Christians means becoming the bastians of “traditional values”. We live in a time where being “born again”, for many, means that they said the sinner’s prayer and accepted Jesus, which ultimately became a part of the “in” club…where “in” means “in heaven” and everyone else is left out. Yet, when we take care to notice what a “born again” (if you will humor me on this) and Spirit-filled Jesus looks like, what we see is someone who is transformed. He no longer is a carpenter; rather, he is a teacher and miracle worker. He is no longer a builder of houses; rather, he the messiah and the builder of God’s Kingdom. He no longer is a small-town guy who isn’t noticed by anybody; rather he is someone who now garners much attenion. What’s more, he doesn’t go into the synagogue to uphold traditional values and claim his acceptance in the “in” club; rather, he goes in to open the eyes of those who thought they alread saw and knew, and he was now claiming that those were excluded and a part of the “out” club were now the ones who were being included.

Second, as we will see in this upcoming series, this is a passage that is not just to open the eyes of the people in the synagogue, it is also meant to open the eyes and instruct the lives of those who read it. Jesus takes the words of the prophet Isaiah and transforms them. As we will see, Jesus reads them in a way that reframes them and sets forth a manifesto for all Christians throughout all of the ages. It is in the synagogue in his hometown of Nazareth, where Jesus shows the world what being filled-with God’s Holy Spirit and authority leads to. It is in the synagogue where Jesus lays out what following him, the Messiah, the Son of God actually means. In Jesus’ manifesto, and in his life and teachings, he makes it clear that the Spirit of the Lord is upon him and, by extension, is upon us. That through him and his anointing as the Christ, we are called to bring the good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives, to bring sight to the blind, to bring freedom to the oppressed and to proclaim the coming of the Kingdom of God. I pray you reflect on that and, hopefully, our eyes and our hearts will be opened together as to what Christ means by “the poor”, “the captive”, “the blind”, “the oppressed” and the coming of “God’s favor”, as well as what Christ is calling us to do about it.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
Christianity is not a set of passive beliefs; rather, it is the very path on which believers live out the life and teachings of the Christ.

PRAYER
Lord, illumine my path so that I may see clearly the way in which you are calling me to follow. Amen.

January 16, 2022 – Newton UMC – Sunday Worship Livestream

JOY Fellowship Service: 9 a.m.

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

Traditional Service: 10:30 a.m.

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

Welcome to our Sunday Worship Services for January 16. Today we learn how centered living comes from understanding God’s purpose in this season.

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.

A LOOK BACK: God’s People, part 149: 1 Baptism

Read John 3:22-36

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism,” (Ephesians 4:5, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

water-baptism

Part 149: 1 Baptism. As was mentioned in the last devotion, the Bible includes 4 perspectives on the Baptism of Jesus of Nazareth. To briefly sum it up, in Mark, Jesus was baptized by John, with no mention of any crowd. Upon coming out of the water Jesus saw the heavens open and the Holy Spirit descend upon him like a dove. Then he heard the voice of God tell him, “You are are my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

In Matthew, John reluctantly baptized Jesus after trying to talk him out of it. Following his baptism, Jesus saw the heavens open and the Holy Spirit descended upon him like a dove. Then the voice of God announced, presumably to all who were there to witness it, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

In Luke, Jesus is baptized by his cousin John during the same time that everyone else is getting baptized. Following his baptism, the heavens opened up and the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form as a dove and settled on Jesus. Then the voice of God proclaimed, “You are my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.

Finally, in John there is no mention of Jesus baptism at all; rather, John reveals that he saw the Holy Spirit descend like a dove upon Jesus and he proclaims that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. This has been assumed to have happened during Jesus’ baptism, even though it is not explicitly in the text.

With those perspectives summarized, it must be made clear that all four perspectives give us different ways of understanding one baptism. This may seem to be an unnecessary distinction to make; however, it is theologically and doctrinally important to make this distinction because by being baptized and commanding his disciples to baptize, he instituted it as a holy Sacrament.

In Matthew, Jesus stated to John that he was to be baptized because it was important that he fulfilled all that God required. What’s more, in the great commission, he commanded the following: “Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20, NLT).

In Jesus’ baptism we have the model for all other baptisms in Jesus’ name. For Jesus, there was only one baptism, through which Jesus received the Holy Spirit and was sent out for preparation in the wilderness and, from there, sent into ministry. Thus, there is only ONE baptism. There was only one baptism for Jesus. Only one baptism for his disciples, and only one baptism for any person being brought into faith in Jesus Christ. Paul also acknowledged there being only one baptism (Ephesians 4:5).

The importance of acknowledging one baptism is that is acknowledges that what God does is final. Once baptized, God’s grace has been given to us and begins transforming us through the Sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. This transformation is a lifelong process in which we are being perfected in God’s love. There is no need to be “rebaptized” or baptized a second or third time, for our first baptism covers us sufficiently.

The challenge for us is to have faith that God is working within us through the Holy Spirit. We cannot control God or control outcomes by going through more than one baptism. If we were baptized at birth, we can remember our baptism and take the Christian faith upon ourselves through our confirmation of that baptism; however, there is only one baptism.

Likewise, if you have not been baptized but are feeling called to Jesus’ mission and ministry, then I would like to personally encourage you to get involved in a local church and begin to discuss baptism with your pastor. Baptism is necessary because it is a public profession of Jesus Christ as Lord, and it is a witness to the power of the Holy Spirit. For those of us who have been baptized, let us reflect on our baptism and our call to follow Jesus Christ. What does it mean that we’ve been baptized and have confirmed our faith in Jesus Christ as Lord. Let us be challenged to take our baptism seriously and open ourselves up to being ambassadors of God’s Kingdom as opposed to the kingdoms of this world.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“At Baptism, I received grace – that quality that makes me share in the very nature of God.” – Mother Angelica

PRAYER
Lord, as I remember my baptism, spark in me a renewed commitment to you as Lord. Amen.

A LOOK BACK: God’s People, part 148: 4 Views

Read Mark 1:9-11; Matthew 3:13-17; Luke 3:20-22; John 1:29-34

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“The following day John was again standing with two of his disciples. As Jesus walked by, John looked at him and declared, ‘Look! There is the Lamb of God!’”  (John 1:35-36, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

baptismofjesus

Part 148: 4 Views. Naturally, following a devotion on John the Baptist we will move into one of many parts on Jesus. Today’s focus will be on Jesus’ baptism. The great thing about the New Testament is that the most widely-read accounts of Jesus’ life, teachings, and ministry were all included in the canon. What I mean by that is that Mark, Matthew, Luke and John were all the most widely-read and most universally agreed upon in ancient Christianity. So, they were included even though there are differences between them.

But as most blessings, there is a hidden curse there as well. Overtime, the four stories are read so much and become so familiar that they begin to blend together in the minds of the people reading them. This is not just regarding individual people, but entire communities and churches are guilty of doing this. One of the most common places this happens is in the Nativity Story. Also, the Passion Story has this sort of hodge-podge storytelling happen to it as well. Another area in the Gospels this happens is with regard to Jesus’ baptism.

What is certain is that all of the Gospels have Jesus’ baptism in it; however, each of the Gospels tells it slightly different. The best way to study the difference between the accounts is to read them all, side by side. I hope you have read the suggested Scriptures above. For the purpose of space, I will merely list out the differences here.

  • In Mark, the earliest Gospel we have: Jesus is baptized by John in the Jordan.
    • As Jesus came out of the water HE saw the heavens splitting apart and the Holy Spirit descend upon him like a dove.
    • Then HE heard the voice God telling him that he is God’s son…and that God was pleased with him.
  • In Matthew: Jesus is baptized by John in the Jordan, though John tried to talk him out of it.
    • Jesus told John he must do it to carry out all that God requires.
    • Following the baptism, Jesus saw the heavens open and Holy Spirit descending up on him like a dove.
    • Then God’s voice proclaimed, implicitly to the people witnessing this, “This is my Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
  • In Luke: When all the people gathered were being baptized, John also baptized Jesus.
    • In that moment, the heavens were opened (notice it does not state someone saw this…but that this HAPPENED) and the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus in bodily form like a dove.
    • Then God’s voice proclaimed, “You are my son, with whom I am well pleased.”
  • In John: There is no mention of Jesus being baptized. Go ahead, take a look.
    • All that is mentioned is that John saw the Spirit descend upon him like a dove.
      • Most assume that this happened when John baptized Jesus; however, that is because people are reading the other three Gospels into it.
        • It may be a safe assumption, but it is still an assumption.

These are the 4 views of Jesus baptism. They are very similar; however there are some marked differences between them. One thing can be certain, Jesus was baptized and that baptism was like the shot heard around the world. In Jesus, a fire was stoked that not even the Roman Empire could put out. The challenge for us is to remember our own baptism and our own confirmation in the Christian faith. Do you remember the fire you once had, provided you had it, for Jesus? Do you still have that same passion and/or fire burning within you today? If not, why? What can you do to have it re-stoked within you? Today you are challenged to find your fire for Jesus Christ once again, for the harvest is plenty and the workers are few (Luke 10:2).

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
The Holy Spirit cannot be contained.

PRAYER
Lord, fill me with your holy, uncontainable, unquenchable Holy Spirit. Amen.

January 9, 2022 – Newton UMC – Sunday Worship Livestream

JOY Fellowship Service: 9 a.m.

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

Traditional Service: 10:30 a.m.

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

Welcome to our Sunday Worship Services for January 9. Today we learn how resetting your soul begins with remembering who you are. In baptism, God calls us beloved.

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.

A LOOK BACK: God’s People, part 147: The Baptist

Read Luke 3:1-22

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“So he immediately sent an executioner to the prison to cut off John’s head and bring it to him. The soldier beheaded John in the prison, brought his head on a tray, and gave it to the girl, who took it to her mother.”  (Mark 6:27-28, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

john-baptist

Part 147: The Baptist. Virtually everyone, at least in the Western World, has heard the name of John the Baptist. They may not know much about him or his theological significance; however, they have at least heard about him and probably have visions of a wild, hairy crazy man shouting at people while standing in the middle of a muddy looking river. Even so, that image is not too far from the truth and it was certainly how Herod and some of the Jewish religious leaders thought of him.

No doubt, in first-century Judaea, John was a little too fiery for his own safety. His sharp words and accusations against sinners in general, but specifically against the political and religious authorities, were dangerous because of the constant threat of revolt. The last thing Herod or the High Priest at the Temple needed was someone to come along and stir up a revolt. Such a revolt could cost all of them their positions and their lives under Roman rule.

John’s message was clear and consistently recorded in all four of the Gospels. Mark wrote: “This messenger was John the Baptist. He was in the wilderness and preached that people should be baptized to show that they had repented of their sins and turned to God to be forgiven” (Mark 1:4, NLT). Matthew wrote: “‘In those days John the Baptist came to the Judean wilderness and began preaching. His message was, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near’” (Matthew 3:1-2, NLT).

Luke wrote: “Then John went from place to place on both sides of the Jordan River, preaching that people should be baptized to show that they had repented of their sins and turned to God to be forgiven” (Luke 3:3, NLT). Finally, John’s Gospel does not reveal John’s actual message; rather, it echoes the Synoptic (Matthew, Mark and Luke) Gospels’ account of John’s prophetic purpose: “I am a voice shouting in the wilderness, ‘Clear the way for the LORD’s coming!’” (John 1:23, NLT).

But that is not the message that got John in trouble. What caused him to be so dangerous is that he called out the religious leaders for being a brood (or family) of snakes. He told them that they would not escape God’s wrath or fiery judgment. He also called out Herod Antipas for having an affair with his brother’s wife, Herodias, and “Many other things.” Because of his persistence in challenging people to repent of their sins and follow God, John the Baptist was arrested and eventually beheaded.

The truth is that NOBODY likes to be called out or challenged. For instance, some people have told me that they didn’t like my Advent sermon series, including my Christmas Eve service, because it used Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Hitler as an illustration as to why this dark world needs Christ and why it is important we “pledge our allegiance” to Christ and make room for him…and him ALONE…at our inn! But my job is not to make people feel comfortable; rather, my job, like the Baptist’s, is to prepare the way of the Lord, and to clear the road for him.”

The question to be asked here is this: how do you react to being challenged? Do you reflect and change, if there is need to do so? Or do you have a knee-jerk reaction and lash out in defense of yourself? I, to be completely honest, have found myself on both sides of that question. The challenge for us is to heed the warnings of the prophets in our lives. Let us NOT be a people seeking warm and fuzzy comfort, but a people who seek to prepare the way of the Lord and clear the road for him.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Having our fundamental assumptions about life challenged is never a comfortable thing.” – Maajid Nawaz

PRAYER
Lord, help me to be receptive to the ways you are challenging me. Lead me from who I am to who you created me to be. Amen!

A LOOK BACK: God’s People, part 146: Anna

Read Luke 2:36-38

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Soon afterward Jesus began a tour of the nearby towns and villages, preaching and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom of God. He took his twelve disciples with him, along with some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases. Among them were Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons; Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s business manager; Susanna; and many others who were contributing from their own resources to support Jesus and his disciples.”  (Luke 8:1-3, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

anna-rembrandt

Part 146: Anna. In the last devotion, Jesus’ parents brought Jesus up into the Temple to be circumcised on the eighth day, according to Jewish custom. Following the ceremony, they ran into an old man named Simeon who blessed the child and prophesied on the significance of his birth. This man had been promised by God that he would see the coming of the Messiah and now, having witnessed the Christ-child, he was content to die.

The story does not end there; rather, it continues on in a woman named Anna. Before getting into Anna’s story, there needs to be a basic awareness of the social norms of first century Judaea. Typically, society did the value that women had in society was relegated to childbearing, childrearing and housekeeping. The women were responsible for passing down the faith to her children as a part of her childrearing duties; however, that was the basic extent of women’s value in first century Judaea.

Men, on the other hand, had the real voice. Thus, it makes sense that someone like Simeon, in the context of the times, would be the one to prophecy and proclaim the coming of the Christ. It makes sense, within the first century social framework, that visions and proclamations would come from men and not women. In fact, if you look at the Gospel of Matthew you will notice that the visions and actions were done on the part of Joseph, not Mary. Mary has absolutely NO VOICE in that Gospel.

But Luke is not Matthew and his Gospel operates counter to the way the other Gospels operate. Sure, Simeon gets his moment in the Temple to see visions and proclaim the Christ child; however, he is merely a common person. He’s no prophet or soothsayer; rather, he is just an old man holding on to the promises of God.

Anna, on the other hand, is described by Luke in the following way: “Anna, a prophet, was also there in the Temple. She was the daughter of Phanuel from the tribe of Asher, and she was very old. Her husband died when they had been married only seven years” (Luke 2:36, NLT). Simeon was a common man, and Anna was the prophet. As is always the case, Luke flips the social conventions of his day on their head.

While Simeon saw a vision and shared that vision with Mary and Joseph, Anna began praising God and proclaiming to the whole Temple that the Messiah had arrived. While Simeon was blessed with holding the child and praising God before the child’s parents, Anna was tasked by God with proclaiming the Good News to the whole Temple that day.

Luke lets us know that Anna was an old woman, who had been widowed for many years. Widows with no sons to care for them often became homeless. This may have been the case for Anna, who is said to have NEVER left the Temple day or night since the death of her husband. But there’s more to it than that. The reference of never leaving the Temple also suggests that Anna was in close and never-ending communion with God! Wow, right?

This aged widow, this “nobody” in terms of first century social standards, was in direct communication with God through fasting and prayer. Rather than having been voiceless, Anna is the one who tells everyone the GOOD NEWS! You see, God cannot be imprisoned or contained by our social standards. God transcends them and empowers those we would rather keep in their place.

The challenge for us is to reflect on this. We are being to challenged to reflect on the ways in which we try to keep people in their places by placing our social standards like giant cinder blocks around the necks of the voiceless. Remember, God’s ways are not our ways, and God’s wisdom far surpasses our own. Let us be a people who step out of the way and defer such judgment to God.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.”  – Paul of Tarsus in Galatians 3:28

PRAYER
Lord, help me to see past my own biases and the biases of my society in order to see people as you see them. Amen.

January 2, 2022 – Newton UMC – Sunday Worship Livestream

JOY Fellowship Service: 9 a.m.

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

Traditional Service: 10:30 a.m.

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

Welcome to our Sunday Worship Services for January 2. Today we learn how God is always with us, no matter where in the world we find ourselves.

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.