As we move further into 2019, what message would you want to share with your loved ones, friends, and, if you had the chance, the world? What message would remind people that love is the answer? What message could inspire people to double-check their attitudes toward people they perceive not as different, for being different neutral, but rather as people they perceive as mooches, hangers-on, not qualified to receive the same level of help (or more help) than they? What message could inspire people to think of no one as “other” and everyone as “us” and “we”? What message could mute the negative aspects of the use of “them” and “us”?
One such message is found in 1 John 4.7-21. Copied from www.biblegateway.com, it is included below. Although 1 John was written for a Christian audience, its message that God is love is a universal one.
I look forward to seeing you soon! Perhaps this passage will lead to some great conversations.
“1 John 4:7-21 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
God Is Love
Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.
13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world. 15 God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. 16 So we have known and believe the love that God has for us.
God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. 17 Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. 19 We love[a] because he first loved us. 20 Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters,[b] are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister[c] whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. 21 The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters[d] also.”
I hope all of you are enjoying this Advent season as we anticipate the birth of Christ anew. Imagine this coming Christmas was the first celebration of the birth of Jesus. We would not know it as Christmas. Would we know, this soon, that anything special had happened? We would not be together as a body of Christ. We might not know each other at all. There would be no historic Christianity to help us through this time of the church year because there would be no church year.
Imagining this Christmas as the first one is an impossible task. There are too many variables, too many “if-thens”, and too many “what-ifs”. There is too much unwinding of history. The exercise boggles the mind.
Now imagine how the Church, which will take many years to develop, will grow. It will grow because of its promise. It will grow because of the rich faith history in which Jesus will be rooted and raised, in which he firmly stands, albeit with his own views. It will grow because it focuses on the needs of the poor and infirm, the rejected and cast out, and because it calls out the baser instincts of people and calls forth the best in people. It will grow because it recognizes the power of love, joy, peace, and hope. One might hope it will not “grow” through coercion nor through the exercise of pain in the name of love and everlasting life.
Bishop John Shelby Spong said this in a recent interview for ProgressiveChristianity.org:
“I think the Christian church has got to see itself in a different way. I think Jesus was a boundary breaker and I think every time there’s a boundary that sets one person off against another, I think the Christian faith has to break that boundary down. That’s the salvation of the church. If we can do that, we can keep relevant. I think we ought to break every boundary. You’ve got to break the boundary around the creed, the literalism of the creed. You’ve got to break the boundary around theology. You’ve got to break the boundary around practice: who’s in, who’s out class warfare. Christianity can’t live in a world that’s got boundaries that sets one person off against another person. So we’re always going to be controversial, we’ve got to be controversial. By our very nature we’re controversial. And if we ever cease to be controversial, we’ll cease to be Christian – and that’s not easy for people to embrace. But that’s where we are.”
Beloved of God, to get through life together, and to share abundant life, we need to break the boundaries that separate. We are not alone. We have each other. We have “I Am.”
Are you contagious? If so, then please come to worship this Sunday to spread your contagion and to catch the contagion brought by your friends here at FUBC. All of us will benefit from being contagious with the love of God as revealed in Jesus. Unlike other contagions, the love of God revealed in Jesus is not a disease. It does not make people sick. It makes people better.
Do you have a fever, a passion, for joy and sharing it? Are you warmed by a vision of the way the world could be if only everyone cared as deeply for others as for themselves? I hope so. A fever, a passion, for joy and sharing it, is a good thing, especially when it is rooted in and motivated by a love for God and a desire to love creation as God does.
I think that every person I know fairly well has known or is now knowing pain and sorrow; has battled through internal conflicts, has experienced loss and suffering. One of the lessons our faith teaches us is that joy can be found and felt and shared and given away even in heartache. It is a joy found through divine love and its human expressions.
Are you contagious with the love of God as revealed in Jesus? I hope so. Whether you are or not, I hope you will join us this Sunday.
Thank you all for a great day last Sunday. From worship through our gathering in Hospitality Hall and our Ministry Council meeting, Sunday was a wonderful day! Thank you for the gift of being your pastor, and for the delightful time we had in Hospitality Hall as we enjoyed delicious food and warm conversation. Thank you for participating in and helping to make possible the spirit of joy that filled our time together, and which regularly does so every time we gather.
Soon we will be in Advent. I am looking forward to traveling through it with you. Here are some incomplete thoughts about the approaching special season which begins the church year.
Advent is near.
Are expectations growing?
If so, for what?
If not, why not?
What are we doing to prepare for Advent?
What will we do in Advent to prepare for Christmas?
What is Advent?
What is Christmas?
In the little over a week before the start of Advent, I wonder if it would be a good idea to meditate on these questions and others, to pray, to reflect, to read the birth narratives in Matthew and Luke, as well as the Holy Week narratives in the Gospels. I wonder if it would be wise not to buy in to the buyin’ on Black Friday or, if that is too much to ask of ourselves, at least wait until noon to start our shopping and risk missing out on the best deals?
The best deal leading up to Advent is not in what we purchase for the best price, but in what the birth of Jesus gives us for free (forgive the pleonasm).
May your Thanksgiving be full of heartwarming experiences, love, and kindness. And may your run-up to Advent prepare you well for what to expect. ~Pastor Jim Sinclair
When I arrived at church recently, I was struck by how pretty the trees looked. They are Kwazan cherry trees that explode annually with pink blossoms for a few weeks in May. We proudly post photos of them on this web page. As those petals fall off the tree, it looks like pink snow across the grass. All too quickly the blossoms fade away and we say, "if only their beauty would last longer."
Thanks to the mild temperatures this fall, the grass is still green and some flowers still linger. But, look at those cherry trees! I don't ever remember looking at them in the fall and noticing the pretty shades of orange the leaves have turned. In this area it is usually the colors of the oaks and maples that garner attention. But, look at those cherry trees! See how gorgeous they look on this sunny fall day.
What story is God telling me with my discovery of the beauty of the cherry trees in fall? That I need to be more mindful of what I see because I have obviously missed the brilliant color in the past? That my expectation of cherry trees looking drab except in spring is wrong, so what other expectations do I have that should be reconsidered? That God might surprise me by having me look at something in a new way causing me to change my thinking?
What story is God telling you with these magnificent trees?
Years ago in gym class a bunch of us boys took wrestling lessons. All these years later I remember the kneeling starting position. One of the things I enjoyed the most was finding out which one of us could get the best of the other with our first moves. It helped to be quick and precise with it. If not, you could lose the match in a handful of seconds.
In Genesis 32.22-32 is told the strange story of Jacob wrestling with a man (angel, God) who eventually knocks Jacob’s hip out of joint. Nonetheless, Jacob refuses to let go unless he is blessed by his opponent. In his wrestling, he came to see “God face to face” (32.30).
Do you wrestle with God through the night? Do you wonder at the idea of God? Has God “struck” you in a way that knocked your “hip” out of joint? When wrestling with your faith do you refuse to let go until you are blessed?
Nights can be long, and longer still when wrestling with God, especially when the struggle dislocates a hip, or upsets equilibrium, or leads to a new view and understanding of the world.
The next time you are in the middle of a long night wrestling with God, do not ever let go until you receive a blessing. It will come. You might have to ask for it. You might have to demand it. You might have to insist upon it. You might need to be firm as you speak to God. Just remember to hang on. The day will break. The blessing will come.
See you on Sunday!
Why do people go to church? Why do people not go to church? Why do you come to church? Why do you not come to church?
I have heard a lot of ideas surrounding those questions over my years in ministry.
On the “not go” side, I have heard:
On the “go” side I have heard:
As you read through them, what ideas did you add to those above? What ideas would you add to them now? With what ideas do you agree? With what ideas do you disagree? Did you shout “Amen!” when you read any of them? Did you recognize any of them based on your experiences here at FUBC and in other churches?
If you never have joined FUBC for an activity, if you have been away from church
for a while, if you have been fence-sitting for a time, or if you are an active part of FUBC, I invite you to worship with us on Sunday mornings at 10:00 a.m., and to explore life together here. I am looking forward to seeing you!
Pastor Jim Sinclair
A letter (text below) was sent from the American Baptist Churches USA to Attorney General Jeff Sessions in response to his remarks which cited Romans 13 as justification for practices such as separating children from their parents in immigration cases.
AMERICAN BAPTIST CHURCHES USA _____________________________
June 15, 2018
Mr. Jeff Sessions, Attorney General
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20530-0001
Dear Attorney General Sessions, I am writing to you today on behalf of the 5,000 congregations and 1.3 million members of the American Baptist Churches USA (ABCUSA). As General Secretary, I serve as the national pastor of the denomination. ABCUSA has a long and distinguished record of service in welcoming immigrants and refugees to communities throughout the United States.
The American Baptist family would like to communicate our deep concern over the unjust immigration policies of the United States government, and in particular, the unconscionable separation of children from their parents on our southern border. As a fellowship of Christ followers who recall the trials of the child Jesus and his parents, who fled from persecution in their homeland to another country (Matthew 2:13-18), we adamantly oppose separating children from their relatives. A just society can fulfill its fidelity to its own laws and border security without resorting to such unwise and harmful practices; instead, we urge that compassion, fairness and family-affirming policies characterize our response to the plight of families on our borders. We note that destructive practices such as the separation of children from parents place a serious burden on our law enforcement agents and officials, who in carrying out such policies find their own consciences ethically compromised and troubled.
Furthermore, we strongly disagree with your erroneous appropriation of the New Testament (in particular, Romans 13) to justify inhumane and unjust governmental actions. No responsible Christian theologian would assert that Romans 13, or any other passage in the Bible, supports the horrific separation of children from parents that we are witnessing at the present time. In fact, both the Old and New Testaments call those who believe in God to welcome refugees and immigrants with open arms and friendship, with loving care and concern, and with the willingness to assist others in enjoying the prospects of a future based on hope and opportunity.
Accordingly, American Baptists wish to express our sincere hope that the separation of children and parents will immediately cease. We urge Congress and the President to approve and implement without delay more compassionate and just immigration policies and procedures. As the leading law enforcement official of our government, it is your privilege and responsibility to lead such an effort. Thank you for considering our position.
Rev. Dr. Lee B. Spitzer, General Secretary
American Baptist Churches USA
Rev Jim Sinclair
Pastor Jim is the minister for First United Baptist Church