Welcome: All You Need is Love

For some people, it's fun to throw a nice party. For some, to plan an interesting guest list, set a nice table, and plan special food is the epitome of hospitality. To be remembered for a lovely event is thanks enough for their efforts that welcomed others into their presence and home. In the Gospel of John, Jesus welcomes people into his "home," his dwelling place and relationship with God. He does it not with a lavish setting and fancy food. He does it on his knees as he washes the guests' feet. To welcome and love like Jesus is a tall order. But the Beatles taught us just how easy it really is... All You Need Is Love. <3 Worship Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TffWrzKRQzQ

God's Gift

Few of us make it through this life without disappointments, mistakes, and outright failures. Falling down is a part of life. And it's easy to let those negative experiences define us. Our shortcomings cling to us much more insistently than our successes and achievements. We might even come to believe that we are less than others, not as good as the people around us, and not worthy of care, respect, love, or affirmation. But the good news is that God doesn't see us that way. Even if we - and others - don't think much of us, God loves us passionately and completely. It matters not who we are or what we and others think of us, God welcomes you into the family of God. Come on in! There's a place for you here. Worship Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vtuXEanmMuo

Lent: God’s Extreme Love

It's become popular in retail establishments and stores for someone to greet you when you enter. Sometimes this is a person who stands at the door and has the sole job of saying, "Welcome!" to everyone who enters. Sometimes it's less formal, as in an employee behind a counter shouts out, "Welcome!" while attending to other matters. But rarely does the welcome go much beyond that. No one invites you in, learns your name, provides for you or seeks to really serve you. The welcome God offers through Jesus is all of this - and so much more. Because of God's great love for us, God not only shouts, "Welcome!" when we turn toward God; God also gets to know us, meets us in our needs, serves us as both Master and Servant, and ultimately leads us in welcoming others. God's welcome makes us one with God, one with Jesus, and one with each other. Welcome to the family of God! We've been saving a place just for you! Worship Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FxGcSXJ1BRE

Outward

We often live our lives like desk-drawer organizers. Work concerns stay at work. Family issues stay at home. Travel and leisure have their own space in our lives. Many people use multiple calendars for this very reason—one for work, one for family, etc. But one personal efficiency expert declares, “You have one life; use one calendar.” It’s hard enough to integrate all our activities into one calendar, what will we do with our church stuff, our God stuff? Do you keep it separate from everything else? The questions we have been asking ourselves in The 21-Day Wesley Challenge seem to suggest that we have one life that relates to God, faces internal struggles, and interacts with others in the world. It’s certainly less complicated to bring our one divine love to our one life along with everyone and everything in it. When our one faith is lived out in our one life, the One we follow is revealed and made real... Worship Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uO-oX2go-Pg

Inward

The ancient Greek philosopher, Socrates, said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” A more well-known quote, though, is “Ignorance is bliss.” Just imagine these two perspectives applied to the purchase of a home. Would you rather buy and live in a house that had never been inspected? Or would you prefer a home that had been completely examined? Most of us would rather know the condition of the home. When you are aware, you can make urgent repairs, schedule seasonal enhancements, and plan for improvements to meet your long-term needs. It’s the same with the condition of your faith. The examination of your soul gives you the opportunity to become more loving and Christ-like. Worship Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pVYksqe3bQw

Upward

This time of year in the Midwest it's wise to keep your vehicle serviced and ready for inclement weather. Snow, ice, and rain are on the weather menu on any given day. If your car is not ready, you are going to have trouble getting where you are going. We especially need to make sure our windshield wipers are in good repair and we have plenty of windshield wiper fluid. Your journey can come to a complete stand-still if you can't get your windshield clean. Without being able to see where you are headed, it's impossible to get there! The same is true with our journey of faith. It's hard to make any progress toward God, toward love, and toward faithful living if we can't see where we're headed. Jesus helps us keep our sight clear and focused, so that we can journey toward God with confidence and clarity! Worship Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gtlOs5Zgcwk

At the Table: Comfort Food

"Comfort food" came into the American English lexicon in the mid-1900's. It quickly came found its place in our language to indicate those foods that bring us feelings of comfort and safety, that satisfy a nostalgic longing, or even make us feel loved. Coming to the table where a favorite dish is served can fill more than just our empty stomachs. Jesus invites us to bring all of our longings to his table. Especially those longings that can't be filled with chocolate or macaroni and cheese. When Jesus said, "I am the bread of life," he meant to give us hope that with him, we can find everything we need to be filled, satisfied, nourished, and loved. At Jesus' table, we find not only welcome and good company, but life itself. Worship Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JIlPs347msw

At The Table: It's a Party!

Audrey Hepburn famously said, "Life is a party. Dress like it." What a wonderful invitation to live most fully in each moment and celebrate every day! But Hepburn was not the first to liken life to a party. The Jewish tradition has long likened the coming reign of God as a festive banquet. And Jesus carried that theme into his ministry. Jesus encouraged us to make every meal a festive occasion, inviting everyone near and far to join the party. Pull up a chair, have a seat, and join the fun! You are invited, too! Worship Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UuYn76z--Fw

At the Table: A Picnic

Sometimes when we meet a person outside of the usual context we might not recognize them. For example, when we encounter the doctor's receptionist at the grocery, we might not recall their name or recognize them at all! Then when they speak, or smile, or extend their hand, the familiarity of those actions place the person for you. Suddenly you remember exactly who they are! Following Jesus' death, no one expected to see him again. Even those closest to him did not understand that he would return, nor what that experience would be like. So when Jesus shows up to walk with two of his followers on the road to Emmaus, they don't recognize him. Only when Jesus performs the familiar act of breaking bread and offering wine to them do they realize who they are with. In Scripture Jesus often revealed himself at the table. He does the same today. Come, have a seat, meet the Master. Worship Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GqBbJBTs0eg

At the Table: A Wedding Banquet

Some of our most memorable experiences with friends and family, even strangers, have been around a table. The relaxed conversation shared over good food has a way of drawing us closer together. As we tell stories, hear about the lives of others, ask thoughtful questions, and wonder about life together, we develop deep connections that sustain us when we are away from the table. Jesus knew the power of the table. A close look at the stories of Jesus in the Bible reveals that he spent a great deal of time at the table with all kinds of people. It was there that people were welcomed, fed, loved, encouraged, and even challenged sometimes. It was there that community developed and outsiders found their place. It was at the table that Jesus revealed who he was. Worship Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gRw0gsVCoaE

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