Sermon Series

Nov. 14, 2021 -- Bible Sunday

Dear God, Thank you for your Word

9 am. Worship Service

11 am Worship Service

Yesterday, we continued giving thanks to God for what He's done for us or given to us by talking about the gift of Scripture. We looked at three reasons why we read the Bible:

  1. It's inspired by God (the word Paul uses in 2 Timothy 3:16 is "God-breathed")
  2. Scripture is illuminated by the Holy Spirit at work as we read/hear and what we read illuminates our path as we follow Jesus
  3. All Scripture ultimately points beyond itself to Jesus Christ, the Word of God made flesh

We finished by looking briefly at how we read the Bible. In all honesty, I could have spent another couple of hours talking about this! So, to follow up on what I said yesterday, here are a few hopefully helpful suggestions:

  • Take your time when you read. Remember that this is not a competition or a race and nothing is gained by reading too quickly. Try to savor what you read, like the first bite of that fresh, warm Krispy Kreme glazed doughnut. 
  • Listen expectantly for the Holy Spirit as you read. Remember that the Bible has layers of meaning that reveal themselves to us as we prayerfully read over the course of our lives. Don't be afraid to ask questions and don't be afraid to use your imagination when you read.
  • Speaking of asking questions, don't be afraid to ask for help. Your pastors are happy to help you out when you have questions about the Bible and we can also help find plenty of resources for further study. It's also very helpful to read the Bible together with other believers and we benefit greatly from other people's wisdom and perspectives.
  • Finally, be a humble reader of Scripture, especially when it comes to passages or verses that are very familiar. When we assume we know all that we need to know about a familiar story or verse, we might stop listening for the Spirit by putting too much faith in our own understanding. Again, God's Word has layers of meaning and we need to always be open to new interpretations and the transformative work of the Spirit.
  •  

I pray this week that you would spend some time in God's Word every day. May God bless all of us as we read, pray, ponder, and practice.

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All Saints Sunday Worship 

9 a.m. Worship Service

11 a.m. Worship Service 

Pledge Form 2022

Week three 10/17/21 -- Our MONEY Story -- Release

Worship Service 9 a.m 

Worship Service 11 a.m. 

Yesterday I talked about the invitation from God’s word to reimagine our economies (household rules/ the way we do things) in light of God’s call for us to radically trust him and to care for the most vulnerable. I shared John Wesley’s advice around money:

 

Make all you can

Save all you can

Give all you can

In this advice is an invitation for you to take some time to reimagine your economy around these matters.

As you prepare to offer your pledge to ministry in 2022 we encourage you to prayerfully reimagine your money story. Where might God be calling you to reimagine your story in light of God’s Money Story? What do you need to rememberabout who God is? What do you need to release in order to know God’s freeing grace? Where might you reimagine what can be? How might God be able to restore your broken places around money and possessions through your life in him?

At the start of all this we challenged you to tithe for just one month to see how it feels. If you have done that, what have you discovered? If you have not yet made that one month commitment we encourage you to give it a try and see how God works through your faithfulness.

As we come toward the end of October, please take time to fill out and return the pledge card we sent you or, even better, complete your pledge online through Realm using the link below. Thank you so much for your faithfulness and your generosity! We pray God will draw you ever closer to His boundless grace in this and every season!

 

Week two 10/10/21 -- Our Money Story -- Reflect

Worship Service 9 am

Worship Service 11 am

This past Sunday, we continued this month's stewardship series Our Money Story by looking at what it means to release our money stories to God. We saw in our first reading from Deuteronomy 15 that God commanded the Israelites to release all debt every seven years. This is similar to the manna in the desert story in that if anyone tried to hoard their manna, it would rot. God is adamantly opposed to greed and selfishness among His people, whether its daily bread or money and debt. This is radically different from the values we see every day in our world. We live in a culture that far too often encourages and even celebrates greed.

This disconnect is not unique to 21st century America, however, as we saw in the Gospel reading from Matthew 19. The story of the rich young man vividly illustrates how money and possessions can pull us away from Jesus and from fellowship with other believers. We know all too well the very human tendency to seek meaning, value, and security in our money and our possessions.

We shouldn’t simply hear judgment or rebuke in these stories, but rather an invitation to a better way to live – the way of Jesus. God calls us to release our grip on those things we cling tightly to, so that we might be freed to cling to Jesus. God calls us to release the grip that money and possessions has on our hearts so we might be freed to be generous to our neighbors. God calls us to release our fears and anxieties to Him so that we might be freed to find our security in God’s steadfast love and abiding presence. God calls us to release one another from debts, to forgive one another as we have been forgiven.

God calls us to release our money stories – especially those parts of our stories that move us away from God’s love and from generosity. We release our stories so that God can begin writing new stories in our lives that reflect the values of the Kingdom of God and the reality of God’s abundant grace given to us in Jesus Christ. This week, I pray that God would open our eyes to new opportunities to live into new story of forgiveness and generosity.

Week One 10/3/21 -- Our Money Story-- Remember

Worship Service 9 a.m 

Worship Service 11 a.m. 

On Sunday, I shared part of my money story and shared some reflection of the good and bad of some lessons I learned about money and possessions in my childhood. This week, we want to encourage you to use your “Our Money Story” Journal (either picked up on Sunday or mailed to you this week) to begin reflecting on your own money story. You can find the questions to guide you on pages 1-6 of your journal. The remembering is helpful, but even more helpful is the invitation to reflect on how the things you learned in your life are impacting you today. What parts of your story are good, helpful, and Biblical? What parts of your story might bear untruths and unbiblical ideas that have kept you from the freedom that God offers us?

Being honest about our story is the beginning point of God’s redemptive work. Here’s a hard truth: unredeemed history repeats itself. In other words, holding on to lies (like mine around productivity and personal value), mistakes of the past, false narratives about the role of money and possessions in our lives, will continue to keep us locked in cycles of unhealthy behavior and belief. Our deepest prayer for each of you this month is that God will help you to see the places that need his redeeming touch, the infusion of God’s Money Story of enough for all, trust in God’s provision, generosity, sharing, and sacrificial love that we see so clearly in the life of the Lord Jesus. We pray for your courage and vulnerability to ask these questions and have the conversation for the sake of your following of Jesus in greater wholeness.

Pastor Toni Ruth

As Rebecca Douglass, Chair of the Finance Team, mentioned on Sunday, we encourage you to bring your pledge card at any point this month. For your convenience we do have an online pledge card. This card can we accessed at on our website and connects directly to Realm so that you can not only set up your pledge but also set up recurrent gifts if you would like to do so. Filling out the pledge card online is very simple, so we encourage you to use this tool.

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Intro to our Money Story

We all have a money story, whether we recognize it or not. Perhaps we are living from a story of fear or shame. Or a story that the church is dying and no longer relevant. Or a story that our actions won’t have an impact. Or a story that we don’t have enough. Where might God be speaking a new narrative into the limited ones we have told ourselves? This theme invites us to discover and tell our money stories in light of God’s money story of liberation and justice. This series encourages us to transform our stewardship practices into more full expressions of who we are and what we believe.

This theme is intentionally direct—it invites us to name exactly what we’re talking about and not skirt around it. To speak of money is to invite tension into the room. We so quickly want to avoid it. But it’s time we reframe this. Money and possessions are one of the most common topics in scripture, and Jesus talked about money more than faith and prayer.

Our money story, therefore, is a spiritual story. Thinking about God’s money story should be liberating, inviting, and transformative.

This stewardship season, we invite you to remember, release, reimagine, and restore your money stories so that we can write the one God is begging us to live into.


Theology in Song

September 19, 2021

Worship 9 a.m. A Charge to Keep I Have

Worship 11 a.m. A Charge to Keep I Have

Yesterday, we looked at the final Charles Wesley hymn in our Theology and Song series, A Charge to Keep I Have. This main idea of this song is that we as Christians have a responsibility to serve God in the world, using the gifts that God has given us. Charles warns (as John Wesley often did in his preaching) that if we neglect our responsibility, if we shirk the duties to which God has called us, that amounts to a betrayal and carries consequences that reverberate into eternity.

One way to think about it is to get a little creative with that word "responsibility" - we have a "response ability" for which God will hold us accountable. A couple of points about that following up on yesterday's sermon:

  • Serving God and others in Jesus' name is a response to what God has done for us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We have been given the free gift of God's grace and salvation - an amazing gift that should inspire to serve God and our neighbors in response.
  • Through the Holy Spirit, we are given the ability to respond. God has given each of us spiritual gifts that we are called to use in service of the Kingdom of God and for the building up of the Body of Christ. Our abilities are not for the purpose of building ourselves up and they are not to be used to make ourselves look good in the eyes of other people, but to give glory to God and to lead others to God's transforming, life-saving grace.

That leads us to a question to reflect on this week: What opportunities do we presently have in our lives to use the gifts that God has given to serve others and build up the Body of Christ? I pray that God would give us the eyes to see the opportunities we have to serve and the courage to use the gifts we have been given for the sake of the Kingdom.

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Wes

 

Worship 9 a.m. - Love Divine

Worship 11 a.m. - Love Divine

September 13th, 2021

In yesterday's sermon, we looked at Love Divine, All Loves Excelling, one of Charles Wesley's most well-known hymns. As I mentioned yesterday, this hymn (like most of Charles' hymns) is theologically rich and evocative. Wesley had a gift for utilizing stunning imagery that was both theologically deep and Biblically rooted. This is why the idea is often expressed that in order to understand Methodist theology, one doesn't need to read a book or listen to sermon, but sing the hymns of Charles Wesley.

In that spirit, here are 3 takeaways from Love Divine, All Loves Excelling:

  1. "…enter ev'ry trembling heart" - Early Methodists in America were often looked down on by members of other Protestant churches for being too "enthusiastic", meaning that a lot of other Christians thought the Methodists were too emotional and too loud. In fact, we were known as the "shoutin' Methodists" and the "singing Methodists" (which was not a compliment). In the journals of early Methodist circuit riders, there are numerous stories of worship services where people's hearts were "melted" or they collapsed because of overwhelming emotional experiences. Charles Wesley was not shy about appealing to or describing powerful emotions and the early Methodist movement was anything but austere and stuffy. It might do us a lot of good in our own time to feel more free to express our emotions in worship and to allow our own hearts to be "melted", even if it's not as dramatic as early Methodist worship.
  2. "Breathe, O breathe thy loving Spirit" - I mentioned yesterday that Charles was evoking Pentecost in this line, with the arrival of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Church. But it goes back farther than that. Charles is also taking us back to the very beginning, when God created Adam out of the dust and the breathed the breath of life into him. Through the Spirit, God also breathes life into us if we are open to receiving that life. It is the breath of the Spirit that inspires and animates us as Christians, helps us when we are weak, and works in us daily through God's sanctifying grace.
  3. "Finish, then, thy new creation" - Sometimes events and history, even our own lives, can seem to lack purpose or direction. Given the number of crises that we are currently facing, it can feel like things are falling apart and it might cause us to doubt that God is still working in the world for the sake of reconciliation. The last stanza of Love Divine, All Loves Excelling is a prayer for God to finish His work, a prayer that the Kingdom would come. That prayer is an acknowledgment of our faith that God is in control of history, that God is still sovereign, in spite of whatever troubles we face. 

I pray this week that we would know and share this great love from God, which is greater than all other loves. And I pray that we might all know the inspiring and comforting presence of God's Holy Spirit, making God's sanctifying grace real in our own lives.

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Wes

September 5, 2021

Can it Be that I Should Gain - Worship 9 am

Can it Be that I Should Gain - Worship 11 am

 

Depth of Mercy - August 29, 2021

Depth of Mercy - Worship 9 a.m.

Depth of Mercy - W0rship 11 a.m.

This week we began our series “Theology in Song” by reflecting on the nature of God’s grace expressed in Charles Wesley’s hymn “Depth of Mercy”. Specifically, we talked about Prevenient Grace- God’s unmerited favor that goes before us and makes a way for us to know God’s love, mercy, and grace available for all people. In response to that we invite you to consider this hymn in your devotion this week.

What does it help you acknowledge about yourself and your struggle?

What does it teach you about how God responds to our human predicament?

What is the Good News of Jesus in this hymn?

When in your life have you experienced the prevenient grace of God?

Depth of mercy! Can there be
mercy still reserved for me?
Can my God His wrath forbear?
Me, the chief of sinners, spare?

I have long withstood His grace:
long provoked Him to His face;
would not hearken to His calls;
grieved Him by a thousand falls.

I my Master have denied,
I afresh have crucified,
oft profaned His hallowed name,
put Him to an open shame.

There for me the Savior stands,
shows His wounds and spreads His hands:
God is love! I know, I feel;
Jesus weeps, but loves me still!

Now incline me to repent!
Let me now my fall lament!
Now my foul revolt deplore!
Weep, believe, and sin no more.

Want to listen and sing along?

Traditional Version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dq-9mPdAtbw

Modern Translation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pm7kTMW3QKA

Don’t forget! We are asking you to share your favorite hymns and what they taught you about theology (the nature of God and what God has done and is doing in the world). More than just your favorite song because someone you love loved it, we want to know how these songs shape our faith in the Lord. You can share your responses here: https://forms.gle/9UmCZFJZbFWuTFb7A



Sermon Aug 22, 2021

ReNewing your Commitment 9 a.m.

ReNewing your Commitment 11 a.m.

The Wesley 21 day Challenge Questions

Reflections from. Sunday, Aug 22th Sermon

On Sunday, we invited you to consider what Paul means when he tells us to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12b-13). This is the every day work of disciples – to let God’s saving work make its way into every part of our lives, working IN us to make us holy. Everyone needs a little help in that work – God’s help and also the help of the community to love, forgive, hold accountable, and encourage. 

 

This weekend the kids and I cleaned up what has long been the play room at our house. I hadn’t been in there in about a year because every time I opened the door I just felt overwhelmed by the work it would take to fix it up. Well, this weekend we could avoid no longer so we all got in there with trash bags and determination. We reminisced over beloved books, threw out trash, decided what we could and could not part with, boxed up what we wanted to keep and filled the car with what we could give away (and I found $40 tucked away in purses and bags and such!). When I walk by that room now I don’t feel so overwhelmed. 

I shared this story with my Wesley Challenge group as we reflected on the power of all 21 questions that John Wesley asked. Sometimes our spiritual lives can feel like that room. Full of old habits that used to work but don’t, some junk that is getting in the way and we need to toss, some stuff we really need to look at and decide if it is worth keeping or not. We may know that we aren’t walking with Jesus like we want to but we just don’t know where to start. John Wesley’s question are one tool that can help us start dealing with the messes that we are tempted to just shut the door on and ignore. They invite us to get real and start working out our salvation. One member of our group said that she felt like if she just saw those questions every day it would help her. She wouldn’t want to answer “no” to some of them and so it would reminder her what choices she most wanted to make. Agreed! Our walks would be more faithful and our lives a little less overwhelming.

I invite you to put these questions on your bathroom mirror and take a moment when you are brushing your teeth to focus on just a couple every day. Let God’s Spirit work in you to help you to will and act according to God’s good purpose. There is grace enough for every day friends and opportunities to grow in our life with God if we will get serious about working out our salvation. I am praying for you and for me too! 

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Sermon Aug. 15, 2021

ReNewing Outward 9 a.m. Worship

ReNewing Outward 11 a.m Worship

Reflections from. Sunday, Aug 15th Sermon

This past Sunday, we continued our Renew series based on The 21-Day Wesley Challenge. The book is structured around 3 "turns": turning upward towards God, turning inwards in self-reflection, and turning outwards toward others. On Sunday, we talked about turning outwards toward others, focusing on our initial thoughts and attitudes about people.

In our Gospel reading for the morning (Luke 18:9-14), Jesus tells a parable about a Pharisee and a tax collector who both come to the Temple to pray. The tax collector cries out for mercy, confessing his sinfulness with tears and remorse. The Pharisee, however, thanks God that he's not like the tax collector and proceeds to inform God about all of his faithful accomplishments. This parable, like the rest of Jesus' parables, is like an onion: if you start peeling, you'll find layer after layer of meaning. If we sit with this parable and seriously reflect on what Jesus is telling us, we might begin to feel the Holy Spirit convicting us about how often we turn outwards toward others in judgment and condemnation, instead of love and compassion. This is exactly what God wants us to discover, not for the purpose of making us feel miserable but for the purpose of leading us to recognition, repentance, and renewal.

There are plenty of things we judge other people for - their skin color, their accent, their clothes, what they drive, where they live, where they went to school, on and on. When we judge others by such shallow criteria, we are robbing ourselves of the opportunity to be a blessing to someone else and the opportunity to be blessed by them. We are also giving more weight to our judgments of others than to God's command that we love our neighbor.

This week, pay close attention to how you think about and respond to other people you meet this week. How long does it take for you for an initial impression to harden into judgment? What are some of your own shallow criteria that lead you to judge other people harshly? What are some ways that you might push past judgment by turning outwards and getting to know someone at a deeper level? Let's pray for one another as we work on being less judgmental and more like Jesus.

Grace and Peace,Pastor Wes

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Sermon Aug. 8, 2021

ReNewing Inward 9 a.m. Worship

ReNewing Inward 11 a.m. Worship

Someone who was paying attention and was a little cheeky left this pencil on my desk on Monday morning. Like I said, WWJD was on EVERYTHING for a season and the question lost its significance. The question, “What Would Jesus Do?” came from In His Steps by Charles Sheldon, a book about following in the steps of Jesus and seeking to grow into the full stature of Christ (see Ephesians 4:11-16). In order for this question to have any real import in our lives, we have to become students of Jesus, learning what he did, what he taught, why he came, and what that means for us. The willingness of every follower of Jesus to grow in maturity in this way is essential. Your faithful discipleship matters so much!

This week, we invite you to reflect on your own walk to become a mature Christian. How might you take advantage of the equipment provided by your church to help you grow in faith? We offer bible studies at every age level, prayer times M,W,F online, weekly worship, opportunities to serve, and a staff of pastors and teachers to help you with any of your question and needs as a disciple. What steps might you take this week to grow in maturity as we all grow together as the body of Christ? Our God is so faithful and will honor every step, even the smallest most tentative one, on the path of discipleship! Trust that you are not alone and get growing! 

On the journey with you, Pastors Toni Ruth (and Wes and Richard too!)

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Sermon Aug 1, 2021

ReNewing Upward 9 a.m. Worship

ReNewing Upward 11 a.m. Worship

Yesterday, we continued talking about what it means to renew our discipleship by looking at the first section of The 21-Day Wesley Challenge, which is about the need for disciples to have an upward focus. Turning upwards to focus on God, Who is greater than us, is the starting point of our daily discipleship, our daily walk with Jesus. We saw that God has made God's self known to us in Jesus Christ and God is near to us - in fact dwelling in us - through the Holy Spirit.

By turning upwards towards God, we are given the perspective we need to how God is always already working in the world. The Holy Spirit Who dwells within us gives us the power and ability to join in that work - the work of reconciliation, justice, peace, and love.

We do need help along the way as we seek to follow Jesus and join in with what God is doing in the world. With that in mind, here are some helpful resources to help you on your daily walk with Jesus:

These might be good starting points (or re-starting points!) for you on your journey. Know that we are praying for you and that you are deeply loved - by us, but most importantly by God. And if you need any help or have any questions about ways you might renew your discipleship and join in what God is doing in the world, please reach out to one of the pastors here at HUMC - we'd love to talk with you about serving Jesus and our neighbors!

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Wes

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Sermon July 25, 20201

ReNewing your Call. 9am Contemporary Worship

ReNewing your Call 11 am Traditional Worship Service

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Services and Reflections July 18, 2021

Link to 9 a.m. Contemporary Worship Service

Link to 11 a.m Traditional Worship Service

Yesterday morning, we started a series called Renew, focused on what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ in today's world. Our Gospel reading yesterday morning was Mark 8:27-38 and the focus of the sermon was what Jesus says in verse 34 about being a disciple: "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me." We did a little digging around Jesus' call to self-denial and what that might mean for us today.

Here's a reminder of three ways we can understand self-denial, along with some suggestions about what we can do about that in our lives this week:

  • We can understand self-denial as suppressing our desires and appetites by the strength of our own will power. We saw yesterday that if we only understand self-denial in that way, it's not helpful in the long run in terms of being a disciple. Our discipleship is more than our efforts to suppress our desires and appetites. What is one thing that you need to say "no" to in order to say "yes" to Jesus and grab hold of your identity as a disciple?
  • At a deeper level, we can understand self-denial as the conscious choice to put the interests of others ahead of our own. By doing this, we are seeking to be like Jesus who tells us that He came "to serve and not to be served". This week, look for a way to serve someone in need - especially someone who might be vulnerable or considered to be "on the margins" in our world. 
  • Going even deeper, we can understand self-denial as the process of allowing God to show us our deepest, truest selves and then giving us the strength to let go of our constructed, false selves. This is certainly a difficult process, even a painful one, choice because so many of us have invested so much time and energy into constructing an identity to show to the world. What Jesus calls us to deny is the false self that we construct so that we can begin to embrace who we really are – children of God, deeply loved, formed and created in God’s image. This week, spend a few minutes praying and reflecting on your identity - what does it mean to you to be a beloved child of God before you are anything else?

As I said yesterday, the self-denial that Jesus is talking about is a combination of all three of those ways of thinking about it. Following Jesus - say "yes!" to being a disciple means that there are things that we need to say no to, many times related to our appetites and desires. Self-denial also means putting other people's interests and needs ahead of our own, especially people who are vulnerable, struggling, or on the margins. Self-denial also means denying a false, constructed self and allowing God to re-create us.

Previous Sermons

Worship July 11, 2021

UNCC Niners United

Sunday, July 11, Rev. Steve Cheyney, Campus Pastor at UNCCharlotte shared a word about being blessed. Challenging us to dig deeper into what it means to be blessed, to see the blessing in the world around us and in our neighbors. The two links are for: Sunday's Worship Service, with Rev. Cheyney's message and the website for Niner United, the UNC Charlotte, Campus Ministry.

 
This past Sunday, Rev Katherine Sherrill shared with us her call story. Have you ever thought about God calling you? One of the vehicle God uses to help us understand and fulfill His calling in our life is through our relationship with Him. Each of us has been created with our own specific and unique gifts, so we can fulfill our call. How do you feel about God calling you to "Go make disciples"?Or do you think that's someone else's gift? God calls us all to be in service to Him.
 
Meditate on the following scriptures reflecting on your relationship with God, and then listen to that still small voice, to hear how God is directing and equipping you to answer your call.
 
Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’” Matt. 22:37 NLT
 
Never stop praying. 1 Thess. 5:17 NLT
 
We love each other because he loved us first. 1 John 4:19 NLT
 
For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. 2 Tim. 1:7 NLT
 
With all my heart I will praise you, O Lord my God. I will give glory to your name forever. Ps. 86:12 NLT

9 am Worship Service

11 am Worship Service

Whether we find ourselves asking this because of wider societal struggles around race, covid, and changing culture or we find ourselves asking this because of personal struggles around life change, we may feel overwhelmed and want to throw up our hands and say, “I don’t know!” The story of Peter and Cornelius in Acts 10 reminds us that meeting Jesus changes our boundary lines and that the truth is after meeting him we cannot go back the way we came or to the way things were. That truth often serves to unsettle us more deeply and yet we claim the promise that we serve a God who is always making a way where there is no way. What’s more, the story of Ruth and Naomi in Ruth reminds us that when we don’t know where we go from here if we can find the courage to make that first faithful step we never go alone. Through time of change and newness, we go together as God’s people one faithful step at a time.

Today take a moment to pray over these words from Isaiah 43:18-21 asking God to open your eyes to perceive the next faithful step and to see the company God has put beside you to embolden the journey from here into God’s next unknown.

Do not remember the former things,
or consider the things of old.
I am about to do a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.
The wild animals will honor me,
the jackals and the ostriches;
for I give water in the wilderness,
rivers in the desert,
to give drink to my chosen people,
the people whom I formed for myself
so that they might declare my praise.

I've Been Meaning to Ask...What do you Need

9 a.m Sermon

11 a.m Sermon

Yesterday, we continued our series "I've Been Meaning to Ask…" focusing on the question, "What do you need?" We saw that for many of us, recognizing and acknowledging our needs can be really difficult and that we can serve and love one another by asking each other what we need. Our focus yesterday was not on folks in need, but rather on asking the question. I offered some practical stuff related to asking someone, "what do you need?"

  • Ask the Question - the first step is simply asking the question. This might seem basic, but so often we don't ask the question and we just assume that we already know what someone else needs. If we're trying to be more like Jesus, it helps to remember that many times Jesus asked people what they needed before he healed them. And remember, asking "what do you need?" opens us up to both opportunities to serve and responsibility for one another.
  • Listen to the Answer - don't assume what someone needs before they tell you. This is especially true if you don't the person you're asking that well. When it comes to family and close friends, we might know them well enough to know what they need, but even then we might be surprised. When we ask someone what they need, we need to listen carefully to what they say so that we can serve them in ways that show God's love and grace.
  • Be Present - Two things: (1) Be present with the person you're asking - show up and be there for them as best as you are able. (2) Be present to them - let them know that you're paying attention to what they need. Even if it's for a short time, your loving attentiveness can mean a lot to someone who is struggling.
  • Follow Through - this is also pretty basic and can be summed by saying: if you say you're going to do something, do it. This builds trust but also, it might help us to avoid making promises we can't keep or committing to something we aren't able to actually follow through on.

Don't forget the two challenges I offered you all this week:

  • Spend a few minutes thinking about what you need this week. Reach out to someone you trust and share that with them.
  • Reach out to someone and ask them what they need. Do your best to help them in whatever way you're able.

Have a blessed week, friends!

Grace and Peace, Pastor Wes

Reflections Sunday, July 13, 2021

9 a.m  Contemporary Service

11 a.m Traditional Service

This week Pastor Toni Ruth invited us to reflect on the places in our world, communities, and lives where we see people in pain. Pain sometimes looks like anger, sometimes like tears, and sometimes like stoic grinning and bearing it. No matter what its source, pain demands to be heard and acknowledged or it will fester and express itself in behaviors that harm self and others. Our Lord Jesus always moved toward people in pain with compassion and healing grace. He listened, forgave, included, touched, and loved those who suffered and it changed them. To often our response is like Peninnah – to mock pain, Elkanah – to belittle pain and make it about us, or Eli – to dismiss pain as something else because we don’t understand it. 

When have you been like these characters? 

Who’s pain have you mocked, belittled, or dismissed? 

What might the Lord have you do differently in response to his unfailing kindness and compassion for you?

This week we challenge you to talk to someone whose pain makes you uncomfortable and to jus ask, “Where are you hurting?” and then listen with love. How might this simple question help someone feel seen, loved, and not forgotten? 



Reflections on Sunday Sermon
 
Where are you going is the question of the week. Everyone is going somewhere, especially this summer! We are headed to Wilmington and Myrtle Beach for vacation ourselves and cannot wait! We have made our plans, notified family and friends in the area. We have scheduled our dog sitters (good luck to them!), the only thing left to do is pack our bags. I am sure many of us have vacation plans, or plans to be with friends or family. May your plans include a new purchase of something significant or maybe a home improvement project. The point is, we all are making plans and dreaming of what is next. 
 
So, with all these plans in mind, is walking with Jesus apart of any of them? In the book by Donald Miller, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, he talks about our lives being stories. Some stories are interesting and some are not so interesting. Including a deepening relationship with Jesus definitely makes the story a lot more exciting and interesting, not to mention a ton more adventurous! Donald Miller gives us four pieces of advice in preparing for and living out our lives as a story impacting the world.
  1. Do not be afraid of the challenges.
  2. Do not run from the pain – that’s where the greatest change and deepest meaning from the story comes from.
  3. Do not give up on writing your own story.
  4. As the Bible tells us over 200 times, DO NOT FEAR!
 
So go live the story God is calling you to live!!
 
Pastor Richard


Reflection on Sunday’s Sermon

9am Worship 5/30/21

11am Worship 5/30/21

I’ve Been Meaning to Ask?....Where are you from?

This past Sunday, we began a new series called "I've Been Meaning to Ask…". Our hope is that you will be inspired and motivated to connect and re-connect with one another after such a long period of separation and distancing. But as I mentioned yesterday, it's not simply about beginning or restarting relationships with one another - it's about doing that with God at the center. We hope that we will all remember that what binds us together is not shared interests or even common purpose, but the Holy Spirit of God.

Yesterday, we began our series with the question "where are you from?", which seems like a simple question, but it's often loaded with meaning. Being asked where we're from might make us worry about being judged by other people or, if we're the ones asking, we might be tempted to make assumptions about people based on how they answer. Sometimes, we might worry that people will respond to us the way Nathanael initially responded to Jesus: "Can anything good come from ________________?"

If we're going to connect in ways that go beyond the surface, we need to be open to sharing our stories with one another - where we're from, the people that shaped us, the rhythms of life that formed us. For some of us, this will be pretty easy. But for others of us, this will require a step of faith and courage in sharing where we're from and who we're from. In listening to each other's stories, we may have to push past easy assumptions and unhelpful judgments.

Finally, in order to connect/re-connect with one another, we'll have to invest in each other. We will need to invest our time. Building relationships with depth and trust is slow work and we will need to be patient with each other. Building deep relationships requires an investment of our attention, a commitment to sharing honestly and listening closely to one another. When we invest in one another, remembering the bond we have through the Holy Spirit, sharing the love of Jesus, God rewards our efforts and the Body of Christ is greatly strengthened by our efforts.

This week, reach out to someone in our church family that you don't know very well or haven't talked to in a while and ask them where they're from and be willing to share the same about yourself.



This past Sunday we celebrated Pentecost – the day in the Christian year that we remember pouring out of the Holy Spirit on the apostles and birth of the church. The Holy Spirit is the primary way that we encounter God in our day to day lives. Scripture tells us that the Spirit is our helper, comforter, and advocate. The Spirit reminds us all the things Jesus taught, testifies to the truth of his teaching, guide us into newness, convict us, fill us, empower us, pray for us, and lead us in God’s will.
 
This week take some time to reflect on how you have experienced some of this work of the Holy Spirit and offer praise for the gift of God’s presence in your life. If you find yourself struggling to remember a time that you felt the Spirit, invite the Holy Spirit to be at work in your life in a new way in the days to come.

Reflections on the Importance to Worship

Sermon 9 am.         Sermon 11 am

I didn't actually spell this out in yesterday's sermon, mainly because I have a love-hate relationship with using alliteration in a 3-point sermon, but we looked at three different aspects of Luke’s ascension story in his Gospel and in Acts: waiting, worship, and witness. (Even typing that out makes me feel inspired and annoyed in equal measure…)

The disciples received Jesus’ final blessing (in Luke) and instructions (in Acts) before Jesus was taken up into heaven in a cloud. They were told to wait for the arrival of the Holy Spirit, Who would give them the power to be Jesus’ witnesses to the whole world. Waiting can be frustrating – especially when you’re not sure what you’re waiting for. Of course, we know now that they were waiting for the Holy Spirit to come down, inspiring and equipping them to be witnesses to what God had done in Jesus. We don’t have to wait for the Holy Spirit – the Spirit is always with us!

While waiting as Jesus instructed them, Luke tells us that the disciples were at the Temple, worshiping“through everything”, setting an important example for us. No matter what we’re going through in our lives or in our world, worshiping God with our brothers and sisters (whether gathered together in-person or virtually) is a crucially important foundation for our lives as disciples. Through worship, we open ourselves up to the Holy Spirit, so that we can be empowered and equipped for what God calls us to do.

God calls each one of us to be witnesses. We witness through our words – through telling people about what God has done and continues to do for us and in us. We witness by the way that we talk to people (in-person or on social media) – do our words give grace to those who hear/read them? Are we building people up with our words, or tearing them down? It’s not just words, but how we live our lives. Are people experiencing God’s love and grace in the choices we make and the way we live? 

This week, ask God to help you be more patient when you have to wait, reflect on the importance of worship in your life, and be mindful of the opportunities you have to be a witness to God’s love and saving grace.

Lift your Eyes and See Help

Sermon 9 a.m.

Sermon 11 a.m.

Sermon Reflection:  Consider how God has been at work in your life. When have you felt God’s protection over you? When have you been overwhelmed and in need of help and called out to the Lord? How did God respond to you?

Pastor Toni Ruth quoted from the Heidelberg Catechism the following:

“I trust in [God] so entirely, that I have no doubt that he will provide me with all things necessary for soul and body. Moreover, whatever evils he sends upon me, in this troubled life he will turn to my good, for he is able to do it, being Almighty God, and determined to do it, being a faithful Father…We can be patient in adversity, thankful in prosperity, and with a view to the future we can have a firm confidence in our faithful God and Father that no creature shall separate us from his love;” (Heidelberg Catechism, Questions 26 and 28)

Spend a little time together thinking about both God’s ability to help you and God’s determination to do so. Where do you need God’s help today? Ask the Lord for help and for confident trust that the words of the Psalmist are true, “The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forever more.”

 

Sermon May 2, 2021

This past Sunday, we looked at the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, found in John 11. It's easy to forget all that happens before Jesus raises Lazarus - it's a pretty long chapter and it's a fairly difficult scene that can make us feel a little uncomfortable. We might wonder why Jesus waited so long to go see Lazarus, Mary, and Martha. It can be a little uncomfortable to see how forcefully Martha speaks to Jesus. And, like I mentioned in my sermon, grief makes us uncomfortable anyway. As much as we might want to skip to end of the story, there are some important lessons that John wants to teach us in the 42 verses before Jesus calls Lazarus out of the tomb.

Lesson #1 - Jesus wants us to bring our authentic selves to him. When Martha approaches Jesus, she is angry. She questions Jesus' late arrival to Bethany, demanding an explanation for why he wasn't there earlier to save her brother from death. Soon after, Mary approaches Jesus and asks him the same question, but Mary breaks down weeping at Jesus' feet. Both are truly heartbroken and bring their authentic grief to Jesus. In response, Jesus doesn't scold them or ask them to calm down. He doesn't respond defensively to their questions, but listens patiently and lovingly and then grieves with them.

Lesson #2 - Jesus shows us how to grieve (and how to be present with those who grieve). Jesus' response to Mary, Martha, and the friends who have gathered was to listen to their pain, to embrace them, to weep with them, and to pray. When we are on our own journeys of grief, we need people who will listen in love, closely enough to know when to embrace us or not, people who will weep with us, and people who will pray for us. When those we love are grieving, we can offer what Jesus offered that day in Bethany - listen in love, embrace, weep, and pray.

Lesson #3 - Jesus is with us. This is a central theme for all of John's Gospel - the truth that God became flesh in Jesus and came to earth to be with us. This is made clear in chapter 11 - Jesus is not some distant, unfeeling superman who hovers above everyone and everything. He is right in the middle of what is happening. He loves and grieves and cries. It is a comfort to us to know that Jesus knows our sorrows and our pain and our grief. When we are struggling, we can be reassured that Jesus is with us and he understands what we are going through.

I'm praying that you all have a good week and that you find comfort and reassurance in the promise that Jesus is always with us.

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Wes

Lift Your Eyes

April 25th, 9 am. Worship

April 25th, 11 am. Worship

On Sunday, Pastor Toni Ruth challenged us with a little known story from 2 Kings 6:8-23. In the story a servant of God who is afraid lifts his eyes and sees that in the face of a challenging and fearful situation he is not alone because God’s army fight with him. “Do not be afraid! There are more with us than with them”, says Elisha. When we are afraid of following God call to faithfulness God reminds us that we are not alone, we just need to look up and see.

What challenging time are you facing that makes you want to go hide? What hard work of change in your life do you feel you cannot do alone? What situation in the world makes you throw up your hands in despair crying, “Alas Master! What will we do?” If God has called you in faithfulness to act, repent, change, or speak up for God’s truth then you do not need to be afraid. Even if things don’t turn out like you hope, God is fighting for you and God’s way wins in the end always.

Pastors Toni Ruth and Wes also invited us to begin thinking about what it means to love and be in relationship with our neighbors of different races and ethnicities. As we prepare for this God led work or relationship building we invite you to think about your own story and experience of race and to listen to the stories of someone of a different race with your ears open to hear what they have to say without judgement or defensiveness. Let’s begin praying that God will lead us faithfully in this good church work.

 

Sermon April 18, 2021

Sermon Reflections

This Sunday’s sermon focused on our Purpose from God. God has a purpose for everyone, and some are better at living it out than others. God’s purpose for our lives should be the force that propels us forward to becoming the people God calls us to be. The martyr Stephen from the book of Acts gives us an excellent example where staying focused on God led him to a path of freedom even though it cost him his life. Stephen gladly laid down his life for His God. Maybe God is not calling us to be martyrs like Stephen, but in a very real sense He is calling us to lay down our lives for Him by realigning our focus and purposes to match God’s. What we receive in return is so much more than we can imagine! What is your purpose? Where is your focus? What is God’s purpose for you? If you are looking to explore that more deeply, consider becoming more involved in the church body and finding those places where you can find your own identity, belonging and purpose, and at the same time help others find theirs!

 

Pastor Richard

Sermon Link - April 11

On Sunday, we looked at a story that serves as a turning point in the Gospel of John (12:20-36). We saw how a brief encounter between some Greeks, two disciples, and Jesus represents the arrival of Jesus' "hour" - the moment when the scope of Jesus' mission is revealed: the salvation of all people. For John, this is the meaning of the light breaking into the world, the purpose for which Jesus was born, crucified, resurrected, and raised to God's right hand.

Jesus says in verse 32 that when he is lifted up (on the cross, out of the tomb, and in the ascension), he will draw all people to himself. All people - not some people, not a small group of chosen people, not just righteous people. All people. This something that we often struggle with. We almost instinctively assume that there has to be some condition, some requirement, some command that we must obey in order to be saved. The scandalous thing about salvation in Jesus Christ is that it is grace, unearned and freely given.

Of course, like any gift offered to us, we can reject it. We can work against other people recognizing and accepting God's invitation to life. We can find ourselves standing with the Pharisees, acting like gatekeepers thinking that we can decide who's 'worthy' to receive grace and who isn't. The truth is that we're all unworthy and we all need God's grace, forgiveness, and mercy. The amazing thing is that God continues to offer that free grace to us again and again, inviting us to come out of darkness and draw near to the light of Jesus.

This week, I want to invite you to find practical, concrete ways to embody God's grace for someone else. Is there someone who you know that needs a word of encouragement or acknowledgement that they are loved? Is there a need for reconciliation and forgiveness in your own life with someone who has hurt you or that you have hurt? Is there an opportunity - large or small - for you to reach out and serve someone in need? As followers of Jesus, let's work together to share God's light in our world this week.

 

March 28th - Palm Sunday
 
Yesterday, we looked at Mark's account of Jesus' Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. We saw how this "parade" into Jerusalem was actually something of a parody of imperial processions (known as "Triumphs") in the 1st century Roman Empire. These Triumphs were massive parades celebrating the military dominance of the Roman Empire, which were actually celebrations of Rome's power to mete out violence and death on a huge scale.
 
There are several things we can reflect on for our own faith as we think about the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem:
 
  • Jesus calls us to follow Him, to join in his procession that ultimately leads to life. He talks about this way in the Sermon on the Mount: “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it." (Matthew 7:13-14) What other roads are we tempted to follow in our world? What "parades" lead us away from God's Kingdom and towards violence and death?
  • We also saw how Mark doesn't include details accidentally - it's important that Jesus began his entry into Jerusalem from Bethphage and Bethany and the Mount of Olives because those places had deep meaning for Jewish people in 1st century. This can invite us to reflect about places that have deep meaning for us - what places in your own life are places of hope or joy or expectation? 
  • Mark's telling of the Triumphal Entry is unique because it's partially about unmet expectations. Many people following Jesus were looking for a warrior Messiah who would overthrow Rome. When Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem not to conquer, but riding humbly on a donkey, it's likely that there were people who were disappointed. It could be that they were part of the crowds who cried for Jesus to be crucified later in the week. We also know the sting of unmet expectations. We're familiar with disappointment. This story invites us to reflect on how we deal with disappointments and unmet expectations. What might it mean for us to move from unmet expectations to transformedexpectations?
 
At the start of this Holy Week, take a few minutes to reflect on the narrow way that Jesus calls us to follow - what is difficult about that path? How does God show up as we follow the narrow road? What does it mean for us to take up our cross and follow Jesus in the world today?

Written on the Heart

Lenten Sermon Week 5

On Sunday, March 21st we considered

 Jeremiah 31:31-34 where God says

“I will make a new covenant with Israel…it will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors…a covenant they broke though I was their husband…This is the covenant I will make…I will put my law within them,, and I will write it on their hearts.”  

In this text, God promises a new covenant that will give us not just the DESIRE to be faithful to the promise but the CAPACITY to be faithful.   No longer will we say, “I do these good things (service, devotion, worship, prayer, giving, etc) this so that I will be loved, forgiven, and in relationship with God”. Rather we will say, “I do these things because I am loved, forgiven, and in relationship with God.” 

God is not looking for external obedience that shapes internal relationship but rather internal relationship that shapes external obedience. God accomplishes this transformation of humanity by sending us Jesus to mend our broken human heart (or will) and show us the way of faithfulness.  

As you consider what it means to have God’s law written on your heart, a law of love for God and love for others, what steps might you take that reflect your identity as God’s people? Here are a few ideas, pick one or two and see how God invites you both to rend your heart and claim his promise.  

  • Print the attached coloring sheet (attached) and read the description of the piece from the artist. In a spirit of prayer, color this heart and asking God to show you what this promise means for you.
  • Attend a Bible study (Tuesday at 10 am in person or on Zoom ID 848-9159-8689) or Lenten study (Sunday at 11 and 3:30 or Wednesday at 7:00 on Zoom ID 853-3703-5116)
  • Join us for weekly prayer M, W, F at 10 on Facebook but available anytime you want to pray after 10. 
  • Reach out to a friend of another ethnicity and check on how they are because many are struggling this week in the wake of another race related murder spree.  
  • As a gesture of gratitude and from a servant’s heart take 10% (a tithe) of the stimulus money you receive and give it to this church or another ministry that seeks to share the love of God. 
  • Make a commitment to live Holy Week, participating in all the activities that will begin next week as we journey to the cross with Jesus. 

Lent Week 4 - Look up and Live

Sermon Follow-Up - March 15th - Sermon Link

By Pastor Wes

This past Sunday morning, we talked about snakes, specifically fireball-spitting snakes. Another name for these deadly creatures that attacked the Israelites in the wilderness is Numbers 21 is "angels". I say that only half-jokingly. We saw how the serpents (literally in Hebrew "the seraphim snakes") were sent as messengers of God. In this case, messengers of God's judgment against the people of Israel for their disobedience and complaining.

In his conversation with Nicodemus in John 3, Jesus mentions this story, telling Nicodemus that he too will be lifted up. And like the Israelites looking to the serpent on the pole for healing and life, we look to Jesus on the cross for healing and salvation. In the midst of our struggles, our pain, our own struggles with sin, God calls us to look to Jesus, to look up and live.

We are approaching the end of the season of Lent, journeying with Jesus to Jerusalem, rending our hearts because we know our sin - we know the ways that we have been disobedient or unloving or selfish, on and on. The weight of our sin threatens to overwhelm us. We want to hang our heads in shame and we might even fear God's judgment and anger.

But in His amazing grace and unending love for us, God calls us to raise our heads, to lift our eyes to see Jesus lifted up: lifted high on the cross where he died for our sins, lifted out of the tomb and out of death, and lifted in glory in His ascension, now seated at God's right hand. Even in the midst of our Lenten journey, we claim the promise of God's gift of forgiveness, grace, and eternal life. Friends, look up to Jesus and live!

Lent Week 3  Sermon Link THE 10 COMMANDMENTS

Sermon Reflection -- March 7 ,2021

by Pastor Toni Ruth

 

On Sunday we considered the boundaries of the covenant on Mt. Sinai that we know as “The 10 Commandments.” Pastor Toni Ruth challenged us to shift from thinking of them as discrete rules that save us to understanding them as boundaries that SHAPE us into the people God calls us to be. Rather than reading them as “you shall and shall not” we are invited to read them as “you are and are not.” 

Who you are in relationship with God

1. You are the people who have one God

2. You are the people who do not worship idols

3. You are the people who use God’s name rightly with honor

4. You are the people who honor a day of rest with God to restore 

Who you are in relationship with others

5. You are the people who honor your parents 

6. You are not the people who kill

7. You are not the people who commit adultery

8. You are not the people who steal

9. You are not the people who lie 

10. You are not the people who covet

Take a moment with this list and consider how well you are living your identity as a follower, not of the rules but of Christ. Where is God inviting you to rend your heart/to repent so that you can be more faithful and fruitful? 

Now consider what word you most need to hear to support and direct your growth into who God calls you to be. Where is God inviting you to claim his promise to help you live faithfully not just the letter but the spirit of the law? 

Give thanks for how God has been moving in you and our community forming us into the image of Christ so that we can bear kingdom fruit for his glory.

Pastor Toni Ruth

Reflections - Walk before me.
 
Yesterday we considered God’s covenant with Abraham and Sarah when they were 99 years old, still without a child, and waiting for the fulfillment of the promise that a multitude would come from them. How hard it is to believe in God’s promise when we can’t see it!
 
We talked what God means when he says to Abraham “Walk before me and blameless” and Pastor Toni Ruth encouraged us to get pieces in the right order.
First we repent, turn, rend or let go of what keeps us from God,
THEN we walk before God
sometimes God leads from in front of us clearly pointing the way
sometimes God leads from behind whispering encouragement .
THEN along the way God makes us whole (or blameless).
 
So, when you look at your life this Lenten season, where are you longing for wholeness? What does God invite you to turn from in order that you can grab hold of his covenant promise and walk with him to that wholeness?
 
Maybe you’ve been waiting what feels like a lifetime to see God’s promise of wholeness fulfilled in you. Where is God inviting you to see that the promise is still there and God is still right with you, walking with you into the promise one day at a time?
 
This Lent, how can you rend your heart so that you can claim that promise from God that is everlasting – a promise to make you whole? 
 
Pastor Toni Ruth

This is the Sign

Sermon Link -- February 21,2021

by Pastor Wes

In my sermon on Sunday, we went all the way back to the beginning (well, almost) to look at the covenant that God established with Noah after the flood. We saw how this covenant set a trajectory in Scripture that culminates with Jesus Christ. We saw that Jesus is the embodiment of the sign of God's promise.

First of all, Jesus is the embodiment of God's promise that He will be with us. This is literally what the word Immanuel means (which we see in Isaiah 7:14 and again in Matthew 1:23) - God is with us. And Jesus reveals that God is with us, not in judgement or anger, but in love and offering grace. God is not with us as an adversary, but as our Advocate. (Read John 14:15-31 for more about this.)

Secondly, Jesus is the embodiment of God's choice to set his bow in the clouds. Our God - the God revealed in Jesus Christ - is not a warrior God. This is the reason that we refer to Jesus as the "Prince of Peace". Through Jesus' death and resurrection, God has given us peace. This peace is not simply the absence of conflict, but a peace that is shalom, wholeness. This is a gift of God's grace and love, demonstrating yet again that our God is not a vengeful warrior, but a gracious and kind Advocate.

Finally, and perhaps most astounding of all, God is working in us to make us the sign of His promise and His presence. The Church is the Body of Christ and we are called to embody God's presence and God's peace in the world. This is only possibly through the Holy Spirit working in us, through us, and at times, in spite of us. Just as God is not our adversary, we must be mindful that we are not adversaries of God, standing in the way of God's work in the world.

So, this week in your own life, reflect on how you might embody the presence and peace of God. How can you join in with what God is already doing in the world?

Pastor Wes


Third Sunday of Advent 12/13/2020

Sermon Link PEACE

Read Isaiah 61:10-11 and then read Luke 1:46-55 and consider Mary in the icon of Mary comforting Eve.
  • How do you identify with the lowliness of Eve and her sadness?
  • What joy comes to you, as it came to Mary, in the understanding that Jesus is coming to redeem our sadness and our loss?
  • Spend some time in conversation and prayer with the Lord about where this word needs to pierce you today. What good news is God offering to you in your life today?

_________________

Second Sunday of Advent 12/6/2020

Sermon Link HOPE

We continued our Advent series Joy to the World yesterday by looking at the first part of verse 2 of the famous hymn. The original wording was: "Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns! Let men their songs employ!" God calls us to use our songs to worship and to proclaim the Gospel message of salvation and peace. We see specifically how Isaiah 40:6-11 gives us songs to sing to people who desperately need messages of hope and peace in our world today. I compared Isaiah 40:6-11 to a classic progressive rock album because, for one reason, I'm a total music nerd. But the main reason is that the list of things we are to proclaim, the songs we are to sing from that passage, fit together and flow like a classic prog concept album.

Here's the track listing for Isaiah's prog concept album masterpiece:

1. "All people are grass, their constancy is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the Lord blows upon it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades…"

This is a difficult word for us to hear, but it's not a song of lament. It's a song of reality that confronts us with the truth of our mortality. A mature faith, rooted in truth, must hear and sing this song. We can bear to hear and sing this song because of the one that immediately follows.

2 "…but the Word of our God stands forever."

We can bear the truth of our mortality because of our faith in God and God's Word. As Christians, we proclaim that the Word of God which stands forever has come to us in the flesh in Jesus Christ.

3."Here is your God!"

Jesus, the Word of God made flesh, was also given the name Imanuel, which literally means, "with us God". Jesus is God with us, so we don't to wonder about where God is and we don't have to worship at certain places or in certain buildings. God is with us always in Jesus Christ and through the Holy Spirit.

4."See, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him; his reward is with him, and his recompense before him."

The Lord is mighty and strong, but that strength is not used for violence or revenge. We do not serve a warrior God, but a God of peace and restoration. Jesus, who told Peter to put away his sword, shows us what our God is like.

5."He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep."

Our God is not a soldier, but a shepherd. This is the God Who gives us abundant life, salvation, grace, mercy, and truth because of His faithfulness and steadfast love for us. That's good news worth singing and shouting about!

So as we continue this Advent season, I pray that the joy of the Lord will be in all of our hearts and that we will sing the songs the God has given us with boldness!

Grace and Peace, Pastor Wes
____________________

First Sunday of Advent, 11/29/2020

Sermon Link: JOY!

Advent is a time of waiting and preparing and 2020 has been rife with opportunities to do both of those things. The weariness of waiting posses particular challenge to us as we can lose focus, forget what we are preparing for, what good thing we wait for. One spiritual antidote to that is to take a cue from Isaiah 63-64. Pick on of these moves and take some time to sit with God today.
  • Lament
Have you allowed yourself to lament the losses and powerlessness of this year? Not to grumble to but to feel all that and cry out to God? God meets us in our laments with his presence to sit on the ash heap and mourn what is lost. Receive him there.
  • Repent
If God feels hidden from you, perhaps it is an opportunity for you to some reflection and self examination. Where have you been putting your trust? Have you been expecting God to show us as you want him to rather than looking for God where he is? What sin might God need to deal with in you to make you ready to receive him?
  • Remember
God is not a superhero riding in the save the day, God is a potter. He works slowly, steadily, intentionally in our lives to mold and shape us for his coming. God is a work in all our waiting, moving in small ways to prepare us. Where do you need to shift your focus so you can receive Jesus from expected people and in unforeseen ways?
 
Today may there be joy for you in your waiting as you know the goodness of the one you wait upon.
 
Pastor Toni Ruth
 

Christos Kyrios
Nov. 2 - Nov. 22

Sermon, November 22, 2020

Christ the King Sunday

Christ the King Sunday is the culmination of the Christian year and the last Sunday before the beginning of Advent. This represents a dramatic shift – we go from focusing on the reign and rule of our Lord Jesus Christ to once again awaiting the arrival of the King as a little baby. That shift reminds us that the “cosmic Christ” that we talked about yesterday – Jesus as the Lord of all creation – is also the same God that has come to near to us in the birth of Jesus and is present with us through the Holy Spirit.

We talked yesterday about how the language that we sometimes see in Scripture, particularly when Paul talks about the “cosmic Christ”, sounds strange to our ears. Even a phrase like “kingdom of God”, which sounds so familiar to us when it comes to Scripture, reflects a different worldview than ours. We don’t typically think of our world as divided up into kingdoms – we talk about nations or states. Instead of kings, we talk about presidents or governors or leaders.

While I’m not suggesting that we remove the word “kingdom” from our Bibles, it’s occasionally helpful think about things in a slightly different way. We saw yesterday that one way of thinking about the Kingdom of God is to think of it as a culture – the culture of God. We talked about the various cultures that we can participate in and how, even in small ways, those cultures make claims on our lives. For followers of Jesus, the culture of God is above any other culture that we might be a part of.

The culture of God is defined by the sacrificial, risk-taking, outcast-embracing love of Jesus. It’s a culture that reflects the Lordship of Jesus Christ over all things. There are times when some of those other cultures – political, social, even entertainment and hobbies – conflict with the culture of God. This means that we have to make some hard decisions about what defines who we are, what we build our lives on, what or who has power over us.

This week:

  • Think and pray about what it means in your life to be part of the culture of God.
  • What does it mean for your everyday life to take the Lordship of Jesus seriously?
  • As we begin the season of Advent next week, what are the sources of your hope and joy in this very difficult year?
Pastor Wes


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2 Timothy 4:1-8
Yesterday Pastor Toni Ruth challenged us to consider what it means to call Jesus the Truth. As you reflect on this sermon, take a moment to look up one of these passages from John's Gospel and consider what it means for you to call Jesus the Truth of God.
 
According to John the Truth:
  • Resides in Jesus (1:17)
  • Is something we DO (3:21)
  • is the purest form of worship (4:23)
  • liberates us, set us free (8:32)
  • is something we bear witness to (8:33)
  • is what Jesus tells and the devil does not (8:40)
  • is what the Holy Spirit guides us into (16:13)
  • is what sanctifies us (makes us holy) (17:17)
 
What does it mean to you to submit to Jesus as Lord? Where do you feel resistance to the Truth that the Lord offers? How might yielding your life to the truth of Jesus make you a more faithful disciple and servant?

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Sermon 11/8/2020
Reflection

I have always suspected that the popular "Elf on the Shelf" was devious, even evil. But until yesterday, I did not realize that the "Elf" was actually the Canaanite fertility god Baal. Just kidding…

In all seriousness, in looking at the beginning of Elijah's ministry and his struggle against idolatry, we saw how we have our own idols in our time. They may not take the forms they did in ancient times, but we still struggle with divided loyalties and the temptation to put any number of things above our commitment to Jesus Christ.

We also saw that (according to Scripture) the idols worshiped in the ancient world - in Canaan, Corinth, or Rome - were not real. Much like the "Elf on the Shelf" is just an inanimate doll that parents have to secretly relocate every night, the idols of ancient times were also inanimate, unliving, unable to actual do anything. That didn't make idol worship fake or safe - the behaviors and beliefs of idol worshipers were and still are very real. We make an idol of whatever it is that we put above God and serving that idol shapes and guides our choices and behaviors.

Living under the Lordship of Jesus Christ means that our faith in God and our daily decision to follow Jesus shapes our choices and behaviors. An important aspect of our work of discipleship is recognizing our idols and allowing God to tear them down. That can be a difficult and even painful process, but one that is necessary for us to grow as disciples. But we can be encouraged, because God has given us power through the Holy Spirit, Who works in us and through us, making real God's sanctifying grace in our lives.

This week, find some time to reflect on the following questions and pray that God will help you to be faithful in following Jesus:

  1. How do we begin to recognize the idols in our lives? What are some potential idols in your life right now?
  2. What resources has God given you to recognize and reject possible idols? What Scriptures, practices, or prayers help you the most in doing that work?

We pray that you will have a week full of God's grace and comforting presence and we look forward to being with you all again in worship!

Grace and Peace, Pastor Wes

Sermons: 11/2/2020 Link

Here are some ideas for you to use to reflect on Sunday’s sermon: Turn off all tech and go outside to take a walk this week, take a family member with you if you can. While you walk spend some time reflecting or talking about how you have known Jesus as Savior, how you have experienced his grace, and what it means to you to call him your Lord.
 
  1. Pastor Toni Ruth reminded us that to call Jesus Lord means to follow his way. Read the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) and do some self evaluation. Where does the sermon comfort you? Where does it challenge you?
  2. Christo Kyrios (Christ is Lord ) is a costly allegiance. What would it cost you to choose his way above all other? What keeps you from making that commitment?

Pastor Toni Ruth





Because of HUMC....

In the month of September we’ll be highlighting and celebrating the difference that HUMC and her ministries has made in the lives of individuals and the community.  We invite you to think about the difference your connections made at HUMC have made in your faith journey and to share that with us online by tagging the Church in a FaceBook post or sending your word to the church office email    or mail to the church P.O. Box 970, Harrisburg, NC 28075

Sermons:

September 6th

September 13th

September 20th

September 27th

Anthem in honor of Gwynn Morris. All The Way Savior Leads Me

 

Moses

MOSES - This month we journey with the most important leader in the Old Testament in hopes of learning about God and human nature.  From rivers to deserts to mountain tops, Moses' journey has much to teach us about a life with God.

August 2, 2020 - Witness Moses: Unexpected Beginnings -  Pastor Wes - Scripture Lesson Exodus 2:1-10 - WORSHIP LINK

 

Past Sermon Series

Connection, Delight, Recreation, and Memory

July 5th - Connections -- Worship Service Youtube Link

July 12th - Delight  -  Worship Service Youtube Link

July 19th - Rest and Relaxation - Worship Service

July 26th - Memory - Worship Service


 

Leaning into the wind of Holy change” 

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. 

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change..”- Psalm 46:1-2

 

In Acts, the Holy Spirit blows through the first believers and in a time of seismic change offers reminders, direction, revelation, and encouragement. 

How might the lessons in Acts helps us to move with the Spirit through our own time of transformation?

June 7   Letting go of the past, embracing the future Sermon 6/7/2020

June 14  Stop! Pay Attention! Let the Spirit lead. Sermon 6/14/2020

June 21  Get out of the way

June 28  Into the unknown where God awaits Sermon 6/20/2020

 

Building Blocks of Faith

John Wesley was known to have quoted the maxim “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.” In a world where christians are often divided by different ways of thinking, what are the “essentials” in which we are to be unified? This season we will use the Nicene Creed to explore the teachings and beliefs that form the foundation of our faith upon which all else in built.

 
We pray that in this difficult and confusing time, we remember that our strength is in God, Who holds our lives in His hands. Know that you are not alone and that you are loved – by your church family and by Almighty God!
 
Pastors Wes and Toni Ruth
 

The last week of Jesus’ live often passes in a holy week blur.
This Lent we will slow the story down to focus on the events of that last week in order to focus on each movement and be challenged to reflect on how the story of Jesus shapes our lives. As we seek to find ourselves in the story of Jesus we will consider

What will we risk to follow Jesus?

Feb. 26th Ash Wednesday: Preparing the Canvas Worship at 6:30 pm

March 1st - The Parade: Risking Reputation (Matthew 21:1-11) Communion Sunday

March 8th - The Temple: Risking Righteous Anger (John 2:13-21)

March 15th - The Teaching: Risking Challenge (Matthew 22:15-22)

March 22nd - The First Dinner: Risking Rejection (Mark 14:3-9)

March 29th - The Last Supper: Risking the Loss of Friends (John 13:3-16) Communion Sunday

April 5th - Palm Sunday
9:00 The Garden: Risking Temptation (Mark 14:32-36)

11:00 Cantata: The Last Week

April 9th - Holy Thursday Worship 6:30
The Last Supper: the Rest of the Story
2020 Confirmation Class will help lead worship

Every generation complains about those that follow them, but what younger generations need is for adults to see them, understand them and invest in them 

Kids today need you and you need them too!

February 2nd - Kids today need to know they belong 

February 9th - Kids today need to know that they matter

February 16th - Kids today need to know that they have a purpose

February 23th - Transfiguration Sunday

Wednesday -  February 26th - Ash Wednesday Service 6:30 p.m.

 

 

The last week of Jesus’ live often passes in a holy week blur.
This Lent we will slow the story down to focus on the events of that last week in order to focus on each movement and be challenged to reflect on how the story of Jesus shapes our lives. As we seek to find ourselves in the story of Jesus we will consider

What will we risk to follow Jesus?

Feb. 26th Ash Wednesday: Preparing the Canvas Worship at 6:30 pm

March 1st - The Parade: Risking Reputation (Matthew 21:1-11) Communion Sunday

March 8th - The Temple: Risking Righteous Anger (John 2:13-21)

March 15th - The Teaching: Risking Challenge (Matthew 22:15-22)

March 22nd - The First Dinner: Risking Rejection (Mark 14:3-9)

March 29th - The Last Supper: Risking the Loss of Friends (John 13:3-16) Communion Sunday

April 5th - Palm Sunday
9:00 The Garden: Risking Temptation (Mark 14:32-36)

11:00 Cantata: The Last Week

April 9th - Holy Thursday Worship 6:30
The Last Supper: the Rest of the Story
2020 Confirmation Class will help lead worship

It’s the start of a new year and an opportunity get your vision checked and corrected by God so you can see more clearly and live more faithfully in 2020.

VISION 2020

January 5    Seeing Yourself Clearly - Communion Sunday

January 12   Seeing the Situation Clearly

January 19   Seeing the World Clearly

 January 26   Seeing God Clearly

 

 Special Congregational Meeting

*Town Hall to review final Building Team proposal

1:30-3:00 in the Sanctuary

*Church Conference to approve 2020 Building Plans

2:00 in the Sanctuary

(All Full Members may vote)



State of the Church and Annual Charge Conference

Tools for the Spiritually Stuck

November 10th I Believe, Lord Help My Unbelief

Putting the Habit into Practice: Listen

November 17th A Thorne in the Flesh

Guest Preacher: Rev. Steve Cheyney

3rd Grade Bible Sunday

 Christ the King Sunday

November 24th In Him All Things Hold Together

Putting the Habit into Practice: Learn

 


You're Speaking My Language 

 

Gary Chapman developed a theory known as love languages in his book The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Last.  Chapman suggests that everyone has a way that they choose to give and receive messages of love to others, a language that they speak.  The 5 love languages are: Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Gifts, Physical Touch, and Quality time.  The main idea is simple: the way we most easily get the message, “I love you, you matter” is the way that we are most likely to show others that they are loved and matter to us.  The key to healthy relationships of all kinds is to pay attention to the way that others most often show their love and then to learn to speak their (love) language.  In paying attention and learning to speak a new language we can intentionally BLESS others in effective ways that help share God’s love.  

October 13th -- Introduction and Words of Affirmation 

October 20th -- Acts of Service and Quality Time 

October 27th -- Physical Touch and Gifts 


  • September

    How to Live Like a Christian
    Living as a faithful disciple in our world offers real challenges.  Whether we’re dealing with the temptations of social media or wondering how to engage those we disagree with the Book of James is full of practical advice for Christians.  Using these tools can make all the difference in our daily life.

  • August

    All the Feels
    The Psalms show us a full range of human emotions that the writers felt without censoring them.  What would it look like for us to talk honestly about the feelings we experience without hiding them from God and others?  Knowing God created all these emotions and understands can give us “all the feels.”

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