Where Love Leads

Could you have guessed ten years ago what your life would be like today? Even looking back over the last year, would you have thought that you would be living where you are today, doing the things you are doing today, and have the priorities that you have today? Life can be uncertain, and like our GPS apps leading us through construction, we are constantly recalculating. The Old Testament story of Ruth is a story about a family and their lives that take many unexpected twists and turns. They face difficult times, hard decisions, loss, hunger, and financial hardship. They live for a time as aliens in a foreign country and on the margins in their own hometown. Throughout though, they discover that the protection and provision of God is present and powerful, leading them always toward God's plan and purposes. We may not always know where we're headed, but when God goes before and with us, we always know where we are - safe in God's loving care. Worship Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p0kjKLAE0EA

Finding Hope in Grief

Sometimes mere words aren’t enough. Sometimes what we’re facing escapes the bounds of language and human description. Sometimes what we face defies our ability to make any sense. It’s in moments like this that our hearts are broken, our faith is challenged, and we’re so crushed that to even pray seems impossible. Jesus, upon the death of His friend Lazarus, and seeing Mary weep, “He groaned in the spirit, and was troubled.” (John 11:33) For the man, Christ Jesus, mere words could not describe the grief He was experiencing in that moment of loss. Let the irony, transparency, and humanity of that moment sink in; the ONE whom John said was THE WORD (John 1:14), had no words. He wept. He groaned. He was troubled. Why is Jesus so qualified to come to your aid? He doesn’t sit idly by and witness your pain and suffering, He too groans in earnest empathetic pain, and He’s ready to do something about it. The life and ministry of Jesus calls us to a place of living a life of love and not fear. We are a people of prayer. We are a people of hope. We are a people who can allow the love of Christ to shine through us in our everyday mission of loving people through acts of kindness, even in the midst of grief and despair. Before God’s Spirit would eventually intercede with unutterable “groanings” that were too great, too intense, too overwhelming, and too painful for words, Jesus groaned and wept with humanity, committing to never leave us nor forsake us. Worship Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wunZtEDG6Y0

Maybe you’ve heard children boasting on the playground about how brave or strong or smart they are. Undoubtedly, someone will eventually call another to, “Prove it!” Words only go so far; eventually we all want proof of the amazing things we claim to be true. Followers of Jesus are often bold to praise a generous, loving, gracious Friend who is always there, never lets them down, and is faithful in season and out. The world looks at our claims about Jesus, and rightly demands, “Prove it!” A faith that lives only in words and worship is a flimsy faith, indeed. But a faith that shows itself through action is a powerful, active faith that easily ‘proves’ a present, caring and compassionate Lord. Worship Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oOXf3NYuwbY

Our sense of smell has the power to turn us away from something, draw us in, and even trigger deep memories. The smell of a musty basement might take us right back to grandma's root cellar where we played hide-and-seek as a child. A delicious smell from the kitchen let's us know that supper is about ready. Certain aromas tell us its time to clean out the refrigerator. Scripture encourages followers of Jesus to be a 'fragrant offering to God,' just like Jesus was. So just what are others smelling as we Christians make our way through the world? Is it a pleasant experience that draws them in and points them to the goodness of God? Or is it not? Does the world's experience of us repel them because it is so unpleasant? The everyday mission of loving our neighbors through acts of kindness goes a long way toward helping the world smell good! Worship Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bSFNhUdYCDQ

Everyday is full of details, obligations, responsibilities, and tasks that require our attention and effort. Everyday we brush our teeth, feed our families, go to work, and get at least a little sleep. Everyday we seek to be our best selves, love the people who are important to us, and contribute value to our families, communities, and employers. And everyday - as followers of Jesus - we are called to serve and live like Jesus. Of all the everyday things we do everyday, this last might be the most daunting. To live like Jesus is a tall order! But it is also very doable. The everyday mission of a follower of Jesus is to simply love. And we can do that right where we are, with the people who are already around us. We can answer Jesus’ command to love God and love others through the everyday mission of loving our neighbors through acts of kindness. Join Union Chapel Indy in May to grow in the everyday mission of loving our neighbors. Worship link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cxOYOoeHLTU

So What Now?

So now what? We just celebrated the foundational event of the Christian faith; the highest, holiest day on the Church calendar; the unofficial annual "Day of Chocolate," and now what? We spent six weeks preparing and planning for the day, and now that Easter has come and gone, what's next? If you are a church-goer, you might be planning to take a few weeks off - after all, you probably went to church a few extra times during the season. If you aren't a church-goer but celebrate the day with candy, new clothes, family gatherings, and egg hunts, you might be wondering this week why you spent so much money on a single-day celebration! For faithful followers of Jesus, the question, "So now what?" is significant. It can't be that the big worship experience is all there is to the day. Surely the Resurrection carries meaning and impact beyond Easter Sunday! And indeed, it does. We have been witness to something amazing, and we have a story to tell! So now what? Now we go, give, serve, and love because we have witnessed the greatest story of giving, serving, and loving. Worship Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PTwyJd6Ncsw

Easter Sunday, Upside-Down

The core of Jesus' teaching as found in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) teaches that to be a follower of his is to live in ways that are often over and against the ways of the culture around them. So much so that life with Jesus has sometimes been called "upside down." The story of Jesus’ death and resurrection is the ultimate upside-down story. When it seems that all is gone – Jesus is dead, love has lost, hope is extinguished – God turns the grave itself upside down and raises Jesus from death to life! And what’s more, the power that up-ended Jesus’ death and returned him to life is that same power available for the dead parts of our lives. God wants nothing more than to enter our lives and turn our failures, heartaches, hurts, and little deaths upside down – bringing new life into every area of our existence. In the Upside Down Kingdom of God, death never has the final word. In the Upside Down Kingdom of God, new life is always on the other side of defeat. Worship Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eJMLHGwXnaQ

It is the tradition of the Church during the week between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday to remember Jesus' sacrifice in crucifixion. This year at Union Chapel Indy we remember this dark time with a Tenebrae Service. "Tenebrae" is the Latin word meaning "darkness." In the sanctuary we will recall Jesus' final hours with the observance of Holy Communion (in the Methodist tradition, everyone is welcome to participate), and the biblical story of Jesus' last hours. As we tell the story we will extinguish candles, darken the sanctuary, and drape the platform in black... all symbols of the human death Jesus suffered. Worship concludes in total darkness and with a loud sound (called strepitus in Latin) to represent the closing of Jesus' tomb - and convey the sense of the total loss of God's presence and the effect of the death of Jesus on all of creation. Worshipers are invited to then leave in silence to ponder the impact of Christ's death and await the celebration of the coming Resurrection. Worship Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKZMSrWMGj0

Good Fruit (Palm Sunday)

Early followers of Jesus were especially bold to live in the ways he had taught and modeled. They included and welcomed the outcast and alien. They sought justice for the oppressed. They valued and served the poor and undeserving. They lived according to the law of love, not the law of Rome. Some around them observed that "...these people have been turning the world upside down..." The core of Jesus' teaching as found in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) teaches that to be a follower of his is to live in ways that seem upside down to the ways of the culture around them. In this Upside Down Kingdom of God the blessed are those who are poor, those who mourn, and those who are persecuted for his sake. In the Upside Down Kingdom of God subjects live for others, not themselves. Citizens don't live according to the rules, they live to a higher standard of love. And followers of Jesus are part of a community that shows mercy and compassion to others; never condemns, tears down, or belittles others. In the Upside Down Kingdom of God, followers of Jesus are known by their loving words and actions that reflect the love and lordship of their King, Jesus the Christ. In the Upside Down Kingdom of God, followers of Jesus are known by the good fruit they produce. Worship Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b6HQKQFlxFA

Judging Others

You hear it on the school playground; in the teens' locker room; at the coffee shop; around the water cooler at work... the seemingly harmless remarks that are intended to, ever so subtlety, raise ourselves up and put others down. "My mom and dad are taking me to Disney World for spring break. Where are you going?" "After school today my dad's taking me to pick up the car he bought me. Are you still driving your mom's van?" "Did you see how that woman was dressed? Seems a little over the top for someone her age." "What was he thinking? I would never be so crass as to say such a thing out loud - even if I thought it. No wonder he got passed over for that assignment." And the snipes, the criticisms, the judgments only escalate from here. With little effort, we can make ourselves out to be better than nearly anyone else around us. We always have a way to 'one-up' others, as we claw our way to the top of the heap. In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), Jesus teaches his followers about life with him in the kingdom of God. And most everything about life with Jesus stands over and against the ways of the world. In the upside-down Kingdom of God, the poor are blessed, people live for others, the rule is love, and prayer is about relationship, not results. And Jesus also has a shortlist of don't's in his sermon. One of them: Do not judge. It seems a simple and clear enough command until we try to live it out. In the upside-down Kingdom of God, living in love with others means not condemning, criticizing, or belittling others. In the upside-down Kingdom of God, our measure is Jesus, not others. Worship Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lmb_5MmrQQ0&t=4113s

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