Open/Close Menu Connect. Grow. Serve.

The Way of the Beloved (Ash Wednesday)

February 17, 2021

Scripture: Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

1 “Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.

“So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

“And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

16 “And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Theme: The Way of the Beloved

The showy behaviors that Jesus described are designed to draw attention; to get people to notice. But those who engage in serving, praying or fasting so others will be impressed are seeking the wrong kind of attention from the wrong source. It’s God’s attention we need. The point of praying, serving, or fasting is to help us connect with God. When we serve the needs of others, we are responding to the presence of God in others and remembering when God responded to us and met our needs. When we pray, we answer God’s call to step out of our ordinary routine and enter sacred space; to be still in order to be renewed by God’s Spirit. When we fast and let go of the things that cloud our senses, we can see God for who God is: the God who loves us deeply; the God who calls us beloved. Our journey through Lent is a journey to find the treasure of being beloved.

Beloved Wonder

February 21, 2021

Scripture: Mark 1:9-15

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

12 And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13 He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God,  15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”

Theme: Beloved Wonder

The showy behaviors that Jesus described are designed to draw attention; to get people to notice. But those who engage in serving, praying or fasting so others will be impressed are seeking the wrong kind of attention from the wrong source. It’s God’s attention we need. The point of praying, serving, or fasting is to help us connect with God. When we serve the needs of others, we are responding to the presence of God in others and remembering when God responded to us and met our needs. When we pray, we answer God’s call to step out of our ordinary routine and enter sacred space; to be still in order to be renewed by God’s Spirit. When we fast and let go of the things that cloud our senses, we can see God for who God is: the God who loves us deeply; the God who calls us beloved. Our journey through Lent is a journey to find the treasure of being beloved.

Beloved Listening

February 28, 2021

Scripture: Mark 9:2-9

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.

As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.

Theme: Beloved Listening

God uses almost the exact same words as he did at Jesus’ baptism. Only this time, instead of saying to Jesus, “You are my beloved Son, whom I dearly love,” God makes a statement about Jesus: “This is my Son, whom I dearly love. Listen to him.” Rather than the statement being for Jesus’ benefit, it is for our benefit. Jesus was baptized, something all humans can experience, and he was dearly loved by God. Now he is transfigured, something that only Jesus can experience, and he remains dearly loved by God. God loved both the human part of Jesus and the divine Christ. And God wants us to understand that.What are we to do with it? We can listen. We could react like Peter and try to stay busy; to crowd out all of our doubts and fears with activity, but God wants us to listen for a reason. It is in the listening that we hear our truth: we are beloved. In the listening, we are healed. In the listening, we begin to understand our belovedness, believe it, and live into it. Jesus doesn’t want them to share what they have seen, because, just as he needed his 40 days in the wilderness, they needed time to process their experience and sit with it a while. Peter didn’t need to build a dwelling. He was intended to be a dwelling. During Lent, if we will sit for a while and be willing to listen to God’s message of love, we may be better able to embody it

Beloved Passion

March 7, 2021

Scripture: John 2:13-22

13 The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. 15 Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” 18 The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking of the temple of his body. 22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

Theme: Beloved Passion

John is the only gospel that reports Jesus clearing the temple so early in the narrative. John declares him to be the Word, reports his baptism, the calling of disciples, and his miracle of turning water into wine. Then here it is-his passionate clearing of the temple and a declaration that he is the temple, which, if destroyed, will rise up again in 3 days. What does this have to do with love? We were created in God’s image, and our bodies are vessels to contain God’s Spirit within us. Our bodies are a part of who we are and are part of our belovedness. We listen to our bodies and accept our physical capabilities or limitations. But as we listen for the will of God in our lives, we may hear a call to live out our passion to the best of our physical ability and for the good of the kingdom that is coming. In what ways do you need to clear your temple to make way for the Spirit of God to inhabit it?

Beloved Healing

March 14, 2021

Scripture: John 3:14-21

14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

17 “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. 20 For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. 21 But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”

Theme: Beloved Healing

Jesus is trying to help Nicodemus understand eternal life with a story from the exodus. Poisonous snakes have killed some of the Israelites, so God instructs Moses to make a snake, put it on a pole and lift it up. All who look at it will be healed. Jesus is referencing his impending crucifixion and resurrection. In being put on the cross and lifted up, he will be like the serpent on the pole. The world will be healed when they look to him. In lifting up the snake, God is telling us that we will need to face our pain to be healed. Healing will look different for all of us, but to be healed, all of us will need to believe in our belovedness. Keep listening in the stillness.

Beloved Service

March 21, 2021

Scripture: John 12:20-33

20 Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23 Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.

27 “Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30 Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. 31 Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.

Theme: Beloved Service

Jesus is trying to help Nicodemus understand eternal life with a story from the exodus. Poisonous snakes have killed some of the Israelites, so God instructs Moses to make a snake, put it on a pole and lift it up. All who look at it will be healed. Jesus is referencing his impending crucifixion and resurrection. In being put on the cross and lifted up, he will be like the serpent on the pole. The world will be healed when they look to him. In lifting up the snake, God is telling us that we will need to face our pain to be healed. Healing will look different for all of us, but to be healed, all of us will need to believe in our belovedness. Keep listening in the stillness.

Beloved Courage

March 28, 2021

Scripture: John 12:12-16

12 The next day the great crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13 So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting,

“Hosanna!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord—
    the King of Israel!”

14 Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it; as it is written:

15 “Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion.
Look, your king is coming,
    sitting on a donkey’s colt!”

16 His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written of him and had been done to him.

Theme: Beloved Courage

In last week’s passage, Jesus asked if he should request God to prevent what is about to happen, but he does not ask. He makes this entry into Jerusalem with full knowledge of the pain he will face, but he moves forward with courage. The Latin word for heart is cor, and the early definition of courage meant “telling the story of who you are with your whole heart.” Jesus is God’s beloved Son. That is his story. He tells his story with his whole heart when he rides into Jerusalem, deliberately showing vulnerability and humility. He enters the city where he will be killed, showing true courage. He is the type of Savior we need and want, and he is the type of person we should want to be. We need to tell our story with our whole heart, living out our belovedness with our whole heart.

Beloved Witness

April 4, 2021

Scripture: John 20:1-18

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples returned to their homes.

11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; 12 and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

Theme: Beloved Witness

Our journey through Lent has led us to an empty tomb. There can be no greater destination than this.We are so beloved that God offered redemption to us through the death of Jesus Christ. And our journey doesn’t end here. Just like Mary ran to tell the disciples, we are to continue our journey, following in her footsteps to tell those we encounter of our belovedness and to help them connect with theirs. That is our witness: to be love-the love of Christ-to others. Our witnessing journey will not always be easy. We will travel through places of doubt. We will find ourselves at an occasional dead end. But those will be the exact times when God is more present than ever. We just need to keep our practice of being still and listening.

© 2020 Middletown United Methodist Church. All rights reserved.

Follow us: