Wooed and Pursued

(We are the beloved of God, and because God loves us so deeply, God never stops pursuing us, drawing us to God's self, or growing us in love and grace.) Grace is a word that carries all sorts of meanings and connotations in the modern English language… * We say “grace” at a meal to offer a prayer of thanks. * To be “graceful” or “gracious” suggests that one is courteous, kind, and pleasant. * We might say someone moves with “grace” when they are elegant and move with ease. But as a word we use in talking about the Christian faith it carries a very specific meaning and sits at the center of our understanding of who God is and how we experience God’s care for us. The Christian faith teaches that grace is “… the love and mercy given to us by God, because God wants us to have it, not because of anything we have done to earn it.” (umc.org) John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist tradition gave us a significant and rich understanding of how God’s grace woos us, claims us, and grows us in Christ-likeness. Wesley understood grace as God’s active presence in our lives giving us the power to respond to God and live a victorious life in Christ. Songwriter Matthew West sums up the power and promise of God at work in our lives with these words: Grace Wins. As we make our way through each day, face challenges of all kinds, suffer hardships and hurts; as we doubt, despair, and deal with all manner of disappointment, the Bible, John Wesley and Matthew West all remind us that God is at work for our good... that because God loves us so dearly and so deeply, God's desire for us is unstoppable.... and God’s grace always wins! Worship Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Xcw9sLegjA

A Heart for Doing Life Together

We modern Americans are an independent lot. We take pride in forging our own trails, building our own future, and doing things the way we want to do them. And there’s something to be said for vision, perseverance, and the desire to make one’s own way in the world. But if we spend much time at all in the Gospel accounts of the life of Jesus, we see that the life of a follower of Jesus is not an independent life, but a life lived in community. Among the first things that Jesus did in his public ministry was gather a group of people around him with whom to do life. They traveled together, prayed and worshiped together, served together, encouraged and challenged each other, and surely even had fun together. God’s own self lives in community as the Triune God, the three-in-one God (sometimes called by the names Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). We were made for community by a God that dwells also in community. Across the history of the Christian church, followers of Jesus have found comfort, encouragement, and growth in their life with Jesus, as they’ve been a part of Christian community. After Jesus ascended to heaven, that first small community of followers launched the church. Our own Methodist tradition was birthed in groups of followers who met to pray for each other and hold each other accountable in their faith habits. And still today we continue to find that same support and encouragement in the community that is the church - for our own benefit and the benefit of the world! Worship Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d_ZEi_AQvj8

Frustrations abound when people around us don't think like we think and do things like we would have them be done. And we might (jokingly) exclaim, "Wouldn't the world be a much better place if everyone just thought and acted like me?!" Of course, the world would not be a better place if that were the case. In fact, it might be that the world would come to a screeching halt if we were all alike! If we were all engineers, who would create the music and art that inspires us? If we were all teachers, who would grow the food and make the clothes we need. It takes everyone doing what they do best for us each and all to enjoy a functioning, safe community. And the church is no different. If in the Body of Christ (another name for the church) we were all stellar administrators, who would lead the worship music and prepare the worship space and Communion elements? What if we were all the best at keeping the building in good order and fixing broken things, who would welcome newcomers, visit the sick, and teach the children? As it is, in God's wisdom, God has created each one in the Body of Christ to bring, do and be, what only that person can bring, do and be. God has created each one with special and unique abilities and gifts designed to benefit the Body and ultimately the world. What part are you in the Body of Christ? We aren't complete without you! Worship Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WSAGN-sJFD4

Heart of Worship

One of the silver linings of the COVID-19 pandemic, has been the opportunity it has given us to recognize and praise the many people in our communities and around the world who have always - and especially during this difficult time - served the greater good; helped people in need; and given sacrificially for the benefit of others. Seeing and celebrating the best in healthcare workers, public servants, retail and food service workers, community leaders, as well as everyday people who are kind, loving, and caring, helps us to be better people ourselves. To praise another is to recognize the good in them and be inspired to find and develop that good in ourselves. The practice of Christian worship does the very same thing for the followers of Jesus. To praise a good and gracious God who makes God's own self known through Jesus, is to be inspired to find and develop that same goodness and grace in ourselves. As we lift our hearts and voices in worship on a regular basis, we not only articulate our praise to God, we are formed in our own hearts, lives, and loving to be more like the One we worship. For all its diversity in content and context, corporate Christian worship is one of the most dearly held, dearly beloved, gifts of the faith. People of faith the world over, throughout the ages, have held worship as the central practice of their faith. The heart of our life together as the church is to connect with God and each other in worship and praise. Even across the current digital distance, God is worthy of our adoration, praise, and worship... of our best efforts to offer up something of worth to the One Most Worthy. Worship Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VHaHM7k2rZI&t=4s

Heart for the Stranger

It's common to see on a mom's social media feed, a photo of their child with the caption, "My heart." Shorthand for expressing how deeply she loves her child; how committed she is to that child; how very much her mind, her life, her work, her efforts, are invested in her children. Sweethearts sign their notes to each other with a heart - it's a symbol of their love and affection. One source claims that the red heart emoji ❤️ is the second most used emoji the world over (second only to the joy smiley face emoji, represented by a teary-eyed laughing face [ ] ). For much of human history, the heart has been considered the seat of human emotion, and the place where those things most dear to us reside. In a worship series titled "Matters of the Heart" that Pastor Elizabeth Gilbert will launch on July 12, she will share some of the things most dear to her in her life with Jesus and in her ministry. In "Matters of the Heart" Pastor Elizabeth will reveal the heart Christ has given her for the stranger, for worship, for the unique gifts Jesus has given each of us, and for our life together in community. Union Chapel Worship will continue online at least through the Sundays of July. You'll find worship each week posted on Union Chapel's YouTube Channel (search YouTube for Union Chapel Indy), as well as linked to the church's Facebook page, facebook.com/UnionChapelIndy. Worship Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wZ01vmnBuLk

Keep On Keeping On

So much of our lives are marked by beginnings and endings, by starts and finishes. We memorialize the first day of school each year for our children with photos, and then we close the year with parties and celebrations. Graduations from preschool, grade school, high school and college mark both the ending of an era, and the beginning of a new chapter in a student's life. A race or a ball game begins with both civic and sports-related ceremonies and then ends crowning a victor. Even a parade is book-ended with lights and sirens and flags and waving! Over the last month Union Chapel UMC has marked the closing of Pastor Andy Charnstrom's active career in ministry as they've thanked Pastor Andy for his service and leadership and wished him well in his retirement. This ending opens to a new beginning, as well. Today marks the first Sunday of Pastor Elizabeth Gilbert's service at Union Chapel. Beginnings and endings bring questions and sometimes concerns. We both grieve what is past and give thanks for all the good it held. We look to the future with questions, concerns, anticipation, or excitement. We know that change is inevitable - and usually a good thing - and it's hard - and we don't always like it. But we also know that Jesus is in all of it, and the great work that God has started at Union Chapel, God will continue and complete. Today we give God thanks for God's faithfulness in all things, including all that God is doing - and will continue to do - in and through the people, ministry and mission of Union Chapel United Methodist Church! Worship link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LEiirfHr5G0&t=13s

Listening for My Name

Easter service. "An uncertain and troubled time... just like today."

Better Than Expected (Palm Sunday)

Hosanna in the Highest! (Palm Sunday celebration)

The Big "Yes"

Once upon a time, there was nothing. Who lit the fuse?

Goodness and Mercy

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