November 2016 – To God be all glory

As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another, and if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:12-17

I got an email a few weeks ago from a parishioner and friend, with a note saying – “We saw this sign on a church here in Texas (where they were visiting family). Nathan insisted I send it to you.” The sign said: Jesus is coming – Hopefully before the election.  There was a news story that same week that said 52% of Americans say this election cycle is seriously stressing them out.

The stress of our election cycle is very real, but still probably relatively mild compared to the lives of people in many parts of the world. Remembering Haiti, Columbia, Venezuela, and the Carolinas in our own hemisphere…. Iraq, Syria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, Nigeria, Afghanistan, among the many places enduring much higher levels of suffering than we are used to…

Which is not to make light of our own real trials and struggles. Just to keep our struggles and troubles in perspective, remembering God’s people everywhere are in this life together, according to God’s word. And remembering, as we pray for Jesus and his kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven – we all have roles to play in the drama of his coming kingdom. As a beloved hymn reminds us: O Jesus, I have promised, to serve thee to the end; be thou forever near me, my Master and my friend…

O Jesus, we have promised…to serve you to the end. When we join the church, and every time we welcome a new member, we pledge to practice our faith together, as we say these words from the service of baptism and membership in our hymnal: “As members together with you in the body of Christ and in this congregation of The United Methodist Church, we renew our covenant faithfully to participate in the ministries of the church by our prayers, our presence, our gifts, and our service, that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.”

Together we seek to be faithful in fulfilling our vows. This fall we’ve reviewed the topics of prayer, presence, gifts, service, and witness – with witness serving as a one word summary for the last phrase of our membership vows  – “that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.”

Serving as witnesses for Christ can summarize all the promises we make to God and one another as members of Christ’s body. And the quality of our witness for Jesus, our giving glory to God – depends on our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service…When we do all these together from the heart, God is glorified, and the church flourishes.

The letter to the Colossians tells us we need to be properly dressed at all times – clothed in compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience – wearing, above all, the love of God in Christ… Wearing all this not just as our Sunday best, but as our everyday Jesus clothing…And I say these words from Colossians as a prayer every morning… Yet still I’m aware…

Sometimes my spiritual clothes are in need of patching and washing. Not mending with needle and thread nor washing with Tide or Arm and Hammer, but stitching with prayer and worship;  mending by remembering to give and serve from the heart… Remembering the word of God tells us everything we do, in word or deed, ought to be done in the name of Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. Which seems impossible to do on my own. But together, as a congregation, I see us walking in the right direction…

As we pitch in at the pumpkin patch for the Bourne Food Pantry… As we give to our Backpacks for Schools feeding outreach… As we help with all that goes into being church together…. in worship and fellowship and preparation and clean up after worship… As we heed the words of Colossians, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God…. As we’ve celebrated our Bible Costume Party last week after church, with many helping… In all the ways we try to live by Christ’s teaching and example… Giving thanks to God for every blessing, every hope, every promise from God…

Some say faith is a private matter, between each of us and God. But this is really not true of Christian faith. It takes the company of other believers to faithfully live with Jesus. It takes a functioning congregation to live, teach, and transmit the gospel of Jesus Christ to the next generation and the next…. And this is our job description as believers.

Together we have promised, together we have committed, to being witnesses and disciples, and to raising up disciples and  witnesses for Jesus from generation to generation. As again the hymn says: O Jesus we have promised to serve you to the end. Be thou forever with us, our Master and our Friend… Be with us, Lord Jesus we pray. Because we really can’t do this in our own strength.

But as we recommit to keep praying in the Spirit – participating in worship and service – serving God with gladness – giving of our time, talents, and treasure, freely, as we have received… God will get the glory.  God’s kingdom of grace and truth and love will come, on earth as  in heaven.

Meanwhile, all the way to heaven, God is counting on us to be faithful witnesses, living for the glory of God ever always…. And we can do this together because:

O Jesus, you have promised to all who follow thee

that where you are in glory,

there shall your servants be.

And Jesus we have promised, to serve you to the end,

O give us grace to follow,

our Master and our Friend.

May our Faithful God continue to bless you always, and together may we continue to give all the glory to God.

Pastor Tim