Tag Archives: Unity

July 25, 2021 – Sunday Worship Livestream

Worship service streams live at 10:30 a.m. EST (-500 GMT)
on Sunday, July 11, 2021.

Welcome to our Sunday Worship Service for July 25, 2021. Today we will be discovering the importance of loving friendships and how we are called to be loving friends to those we may not know yet.

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.

July 25, 2021 – Sunday Worship Livestream

Worship service streams live at 10:30 a.m. EST (-500 GMT)
on Sunday, July 11, 2021.

Welcome to our Sunday Worship Service for July 25, 2021. Today we will be discovering the importance of loving friendships and how we are called to be loving friends to those we may not know yet.

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.

The Good News!

Read Luke 2:25-35

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

This may sound a little morbid and/or macabre, but I thoroughly enjoy officiating funerals. Okay, maybe enjoy might not be the right word…indeed, it is not the right word…no, I feel fulfilled in the ministry of serving families in times of grief and despair. I love being present for people in those times, and I thoroughly am blessed to be able to assure the family that death is not the end, but the beginning of something new and eternal…something we all get to join in on…not just now in this current world order, but in the new, eternal kingdom to come.

What good news that is! What awesome news, that we are already citizens of a coming kingdom. In fact, we are not just citizens, but ambassadors of the Kingdom of God. What’s more, we are not just citizens or ambassadors, but heirs to the Kingdom. That means, we’ve been adopted into the family of God and are children of God. What great news that is and it is my honor to share that message with families, because it reminds them of the great hope we have in God through Jesus Christ.

Recently I officiated a funeral for a family of a relatively young man in his 50s. I had deliberated on whether or not I should wear my suit jacket as I was wearing my short-sleeved collared clerical shirt and my tattoos, of which I have many, would be showing. It was summer and no one would blame me for showing up in a short-sleeved dress shirt; however, some might not be thrilled to see a tattoed minister! In my deliberations, I got distracted and ended up forgetting about making the decision.

Of course, that meant that I showed up to the funeral home and then realized I was not wearing my jacket. I was instantly self-conscious about it, but then a peace came over me. I was there to serve that family and I would not let a jacket stand in the way of that mission. I walked in, introduced myself to the family, got ready and officiated a celebration of life that seemed to be really meaningful for those who were gathered to remember the person who had died. I had created a space where they could grieve and celebrate freely.

Afterward, a woman who was probably in her late 60s or early 70s approached me and said, “Reverend, you are truly as cool as your tattoos!” I was taken back by her comment. I was not expecting that comment at all and was left somewhat speechless. All I could muster was an awkward, “Thank you.”

“No, you don’t understand,” she continued, “I have waited my whole life to see this…to see a minister who isn’t afraid to show their humanity.” Again, I was taken back, but managed to say, “Thank you so much, you’ve really blessed me with your words.”

“You are the one who blessed me,” the woman said assuredly. “Thank you so much for being here and for your words.”

I was stunned. I have had people comment on my tattoos before. Usually, I am asked whether or not my congregation knows I have them. I can appreciate the question because that is the perception of the church, a perception the church created itself by forgetting that it consisted of sinners redeemed by grace…not saved by the law or legalism.

This woman who approached me had clearly experienced that somewhere along the way in the church too. This woman so clearly articulated that church was the place where people shed their humanity and act like they are something better that human. The truth is that is NOT THE GOSPEL MESSAGE. We are not better than humanity, we are among those who make it up. We are sinners saved by a gracefuly, compassionate, merciful, and loving God. That is the Gospel message.

Just like Simeon, who had waited all his life to see the Christ child, this woman had waited all her life to see the church reclaim its humanity. It’s not about me and I am certainly not the only minister with tattoos…not in a long shot; however, it is about each of us being true to who we are…because Jesus accepts us for who we are. More than that, Jesus uses our uniqueness for the glory of God and the coming Kingdom. Submitting to Christ means being who we uniquely are for the sake of Christ and following him faithfully in that freedom.

Therefore, let us put on Christ and carry him out into the world in our unique way. Christ’s Kingdom is made up of a vast army of unique people, unified but NOT UNIFORM in Christ’s mission and ministry. If we do that, there will be no stopping what Christ will do next for the transformation of this world into the Kingdom God.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
God didn’t create us to be robots, but to be autonomous, individual people with the freedom to use our unique gifts for the glory of God.

PRAYER
Lord, use me in ways that are unique to who I am so that others may come to know you and your love for them through me. Amen.

July 11, 2021 – Sunday Worship Livestream

Worship service streams live at 10:30 a.m. EST (-500 GMT)
on Sunday, July 11, 2021.

Welcome to our Sunday Worship Service for July 11, 2021. Today we will be discovering the nature and purpose of worship. Discover the life God created us to live.

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: Dying for Both Sides

Read Galatians 2

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Pray that I will be rescued from those in Judea who refuse to obey God. Pray also that the believers there will be willing to accept the donation I am taking to Jerusalem.” (Romans 15:31)

saint-paul-the-apostle-07

In the Bible, there is a man named Saul who was born in the city of Tarsus in the Roman province of Cilicia. He was well educated and rose up to be a scholar of the Torah, a Pharisee, and a zealous defender of the Jewish faith. When a new sect of Judaism broke out claiming that a Nazarene rabbi by the name of Yeshua bar Joseph was the messiah and that Gentiles should be included in the Jewish covenant, he lashed out against the group, having many of them arrested. According to Acts, one was even killed.

With that said, this Saul encountered the risen Yeshua, you may know him by his Greek name Jesus, somewhere in or around Damascus, which is a city in Syria. This experience transformed Saul into a follower of Jesus. Paul tells us in his letter to the Galatians that, following the encounter with Christ, he went into Arabia for a while and then came back to Damascus. After three years he went to Jerusalem and met with Jesus’ brother James, and his disciples Peter and John.

To make a long story short, Jesus’ brother James and Paul didn’t really get along…at all. Peter and John weren’t too crazy about Paul either. James believed that in order for Gentiles (non-Jews) to become a follower of Christ they had to first become Jewish, since Jesus was a Jew. Paul thought this was ludicrous, seeing Jesus’ death and resurrection as the opening up of the covenant to Gentiles. If they had faith in Jesus who was likened to a Gentile on the cross (being under God’s curse as the Torah claims of anyone hung on a tree), then they would be brought into the Jewish covenant despite not being circumcised or being bound to any one of the Jewish laws.

Though they struck a deal and Paul left thinking he had their blessing to go and preach the Gospel as he felt Jesus had called him to do, James, Peter and John never really accepted Paul’s vision. We find out from Paul in his letter to the Galatians, and in Acts, that James and his followers were counteracting Paul’s Gospel message and causing people to question this “self-proclaimed apostle” who had never been an eye-witness of Jesus. This angered Paul, as anyone would imagine, but it did not stop him from trying.

Paul had been gathering up a collection for the church in Jerusalem and he was going to bring that collection to them, hoping to reconcile their differences if it cost him his very life. Paul was afraid it would. His last written words, written to the church in Rome (a community he had never met), ask for prayers that the non-believing Jews won’t attack him (as he was a heretic in their eyes having abandoned his Pharisaic Judaism for this new messianic Judaism) and that the church in Jerusalem would accept his offering. Unfortunately, his prayers were not answered.

Paul was arrested, and eventually died, trying to get both sides (his and James’) to be unified, even if different, in the cause of Christ. Today, like then, the church is split on many fronts and we seem to get stuck on one side or the other. We fail to see Christ in the midst of our differences. Like Paul, we are called to see Christ in those who believe differently than us. We are called to find the balance of reconciliation, even while remaining true to what we firmly believe. There are many contentious issues dividing the church, yet there is still ONE Lord! Rather than deeming each other heretics, let us have the grace and the humility to see that Christ is indeed working in, through, and in spite of us all! Remember, he Gospel calls us to be a people who are unified in LOVE, even if divided by difference.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“You don’t get unity by ignoring the questions that have to be faced.” – Jay Weatherill

PRAYER

Lord, help me to see you even in those who think and believe differently than me. Humble me, I pray. Amen.

May 30, 2021 – Sunday Worship Service

Worship service premieres at 10:30 a.m. EST (-500 GMT)
on Sunday, May 30, 2021 on YouTube. Starting at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, June 6, we will resume in-person services as well as stream live on YouTube.

Welcome to our Pentecost Sunday Worship Service for May 30, 2021. Today we will be discovering the importance of the Holy Spirit as one of three coequal persons in the Holy Trinity. Let us discover how this can bring us toward spiritual maturity as well as toward hope, healing, and wholeness.

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.

May 23, 2021 – Sunday Worship Service

Worship service premieres at 10:30 a.m. EST (-500 GMT)
on Sunday, April 25, 2021 on YouTube.

Welcome to our Pentecost Sunday Worship Service for May 23, 2021. Today we will be discovering the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. In fact, the Holy Spirit guides us in being the hands and feet of Jesus Christ. Let us discover how this can bring us hope, healing, and wholeness to others as well as 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.

May 16, 2021 – Sunday Worship Service

Worship service premieres at 10:30 a.m. EST (-500 GMT)
on Sunday, April 25, 2021 on YouTube.

Welcome to our Sunday Worship Service for May 16, 2021. Today we will be discovering that, while we are diverse, Christians are called to seek unity under ONE vision…that of Jesus Christ. In fact, diversity actually strengthens our carrying out that vision. Let us discover how this can bring us hope, healing, and wholeness to others as well as 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.

RECLAIM, Episode 11: Unity

RECLAIM premieres on YouTube every Saturday at 9:00 a.m. EST (GMT -400).

In this brand new video series, Pastor Todd of First United Methodist Church of Newton, NJ brings passionate awareness and helpful tips on various transformational Christian practices and theology. Each episode will inspire and motivate spiritual growth through time-tested practices and and wisdom.

This week’s episode invites you to RECLAIM unity as a God-given requirement. Pastor Todd discusses what unity is and why it is so important.

Understanding Paul, part 6

Read Romans 15:22-33; Acts 21-22

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28 CEB).

Decapitación_de_San_Pablo_-_Simonet_-_1887To sum up this series, I think it is beyond doubt that Paul is the most influential theologian in the history of Christianity. As this series has attempted to show, much of the problems that Christians run into when it comes to interpreting Paul arise directly because Paul is interpreted as a “Christian” theologian. Yet, the truth of the matter is that, while he was an Apostle of the Risen Christ, the Apostle Paul was NOT a Christian but a Jewish theologian. He just happened to subscribe to the Jewish sect known as “the Way” and believed that Jesus had called him to preach the Good News of an open Jewish covenant, through Christ, to all the Gentile world.

Throughout the centuries and especially in Christianity Today, Paul has become a conservative icon of the church and a guardian of the faith. Thus, his words and writings have been used to uphold church doctrine and dogma in support of slavery, against women clergy, and for the definition of marriage between a man and a woman. In fact, the Apostle Paul’s words on marriage are also the foundation of the Roman Catholic doctrine on clerical celibacy. For those supporting such doctrines and positions, Paul’s words have become a rallying cry; however, by and large the Apostle Paul’s writings have divided more people than they have united. While those seeking to keep things as the perceive they’ve always been find Paul to be their champion, others who are frustrated by the Church’s resistance to change find Paul to be irritating at best and downright egregious at worst.

All of this division, all of this animosity, all of this tension coming from a man who literally spent his life trying to unite people in Christ Jesus. While Paul was Jewish and firmly believed that Jesus was the JEWISH MESSIAH, he also firmly believed that this Christ, through his death and resurrection, had opened up the Jewish covenant to all Gentiles, through their faith in Jesus Christ. This set him at odds with both the Jerusalem church, as well as with the majority of Jewish people as a whole. Yet, rather than abandon one side for the other, Paul spent the rest of his shortened life and ministry trying to make peace with all parties and he tried to unite them in the grace, peace and love of the Risen Christ.

Throughout his ministry, Paul collected money from his Gentile church communities in order that he might bring a peace offering and financial support for the church in Jerusalem. In Romans 15 he wrote to the church community in Rome to pray not only that he be rescued from those who don’t believe in Judea, but that the leaders of the church in Jerusalem (e.g. Jesus brother, James, among others) find his monetary gift to be acceptable. We also learn, in Acts 21, that Paul’s worries were founded as the church wanted him to prove he was a committed Jew by going to the Temple and going through a purification ritual with his fellow Gentile travelers. In complying with them to solidify the unity he was seeking, Paul sealed his own fate, was arrested by the Temple guards, was sent to Rome and was, eventually, martyred.

Paul literally died in order to bring unity to an already divided church. He was not the conservative icon of the church in his day, but a progressive (to use today’s language) visionary of an INCLUSIVE church. He believed and died for a church that would INCLUDE all people who share faith in Jesus Christ. He strived for a church that would live in LOVE and live out Christ’s commandment for us to LOVE ONE ANOTHER. Paul died to witness to his belief that we “all are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 5:28). This, for Paul, was the Gospel message and it should be the message that we, too, embrace as the Gospel Message.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Talent perceives differences; genius, unity.” – William Butler Yeats

PRAYER
Lord, build me into a peacemaker. Even as I hold firm to my convictions, keep me convicted to bear your grace in all things. Amen.