God’s grace is powerful. It flows into us and fills us with life and an abundance of gifts. It brings us joy and completion. It draws us into God’s mighty acts of salvation. All of this is God’s gift and it is offered to us without price. But, like electricity from an outlet, we have to plug in to this power in order for it to flow in our lives. What does that look like?
In the United Methodist Church we believe that God’s grace is shared most powerfully through the life of the church, the community that is growing to reflect God’s intentions for all people. We talk about five key ways that we plug in to the life of the church: prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness. These are means of grace that connect us to the awesome power of God in our lives.
It should be noted that plugging in to the church doesn’t happen naturally or accidentally any more than a toaster plugs itself in by itself. These means of grace, therefore, are also disciplines that require our intentionality and commitment. In that way, “Prayers, Presence, Gifts, Service, and Witness,” are more than “vows” of membership; they are the tools by which we plug into God’s grace.
Guiding question: how do I experience the power of God in my life?
The series will be framed through the lens of Jesus’ engagement in these disciplines (and his invitation/teaching toward the disciple around the same.) Theologically speaking, Jesus, as one who is fully human, represents for us the way “to take hold of the life that truly is life” (1 Tim 6:19). The story of his life serves as a model for our discipleship. Then, as the one who is fully God, Jesus fulfills on our behalf that which we can only aim toward in our journey as disciples. We look to him as the “author and perfecter of our faith” (Heb 12:2).
Our commitment to God through the church is properly a response to what God has already done in Jesus. It is a response of joy, a response of hope, and a response of faith–faith that “the one who began a good work in [us] will see it through to completion” (Phil 1:6).
Throughout the series we will have an ongoing receipt of pledges/commitments for all vow points. It will be means of renewing our commitments to the disciplines of experiencing God’s power through the church.
There are many loud voices in our world today which seem to speak on behalf of God. There are also voices which tell us we aren’t good enough, or powerful enough, or rich enough, to really matter. Surely this is not God talking.
God has created each one of us and loves us dearly. God makes a number of covenants in the Old Testament which help us understand God’s intention for humanity. Covenants are typically made between God and an individual, but they are always seeking good for all of God’s creation. God desires to be in relationship with us and for us to be in relationship with others and the world. God desires for us to have life and to value life. God desires for us to recognize that we are significant to God. God desires for us to understand and value our freedom and to use our freedom to worship God. God desires for us to recognize that God is willing to forgive us, and that we should be willing to offer forgiveness to others. These are promises that scripture reveals to us about who God is and who we are in relationship to God and the world around us.
Christmas: it’s a time of year that captures our imaginations with nostalgia, with hope, and with anticipation. Too many of us invest so much energy into making Christmas special that we may miss the very thing that made it special from the beginning.
The story we live out at Christmas ought to reflect the story lived out by the angels, the Magi, the shepherds, and Mary and Joseph, a story where meaning and value were completely re-imagined in light of what God was doing in the birth of his Son. Rather than finding meaning or value in stuff and parties and the overindulgence of our modern experience of Christmas, the ancient story of the coming of Jesus draws us into another way: the way of passionate worship, the way of generous sacrifice, the way of authentic relationships, and the way of vulnerable love. These were the aspects of Christmas that the earliest Christians found special:
Though Jesus was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. (Philippians 2:6-7)
You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich. (2 Corinthians 8:9)
The earliest Christians understood that this story, the story of God becoming human, the story of unbounded love being given away freely, indiscriminately, could change the world.
This Christmas, join us at Johns Creek United Methodist Church as we seek to redirect our hearts to this story that can still change the world.