2 Therefore, as God’s choice, holy and loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.13 Be tolerant with each other and, if someone has a complaint against anyone, forgive each other. As the Lord forgave you, so also forgive each other. 14 And over all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. 15 The peace of Christ must control your hearts—a peace into which you were called in one body. And be thankful people. 16 The word of Christ must live in you richly. Teach and warn each other with all wisdom by singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 Whatever you do, whether in speech or action, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus and give thanks to God the Father through him.
Sermon: We Need Each Other – on Social Holiness
“Haiti has been devastated by an earthquake and people in and around Port au Prince are in desperate need of help. We have a plane full of supplies ready to leave Dallas Love Field at 2PM today. We are looking for any volunteers who can get to the airport with their passport on time. We can get anyone who is available to Haiti at no charge, the plane is ready to go, although we don’t have any information yet on how or when you will be able to return. Is there anyone here willing to go?”
The date I heard this announcement was January 13, 2010, the day after a devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake rocked Port-au-Prince and surrounding areas. This was the lunch announcement made at the SMU Perkins School of Youth Ministry to a room full of United Methodist youth workers.
Would you have volunteered to go help?
I didn’t get on a plane to Haiti that day (although I did go in 2017 and will go again this year) but how remarkable is it that one of the few places they thought to announce this mission need was to the highest concentration of United Methodists gathered together in Dallas that day. It makes sense when you consider that the UMC has a rich heritage of responding quickly and working together to alleviate suffering, especially for the world’s poor.
This morning we are concluding our Back to Grace series on United Methodism. In week one we looked at the Wesleyan concepts of prevenient, justifying and sanctifying grace. Last week we talked about personal holiness & for those who heard my sermon, you were challenged to pick 1 or 2 personal faith practices and “just do it.” How’s that going so far?
Today we are learning about the Wesleyan concept of social holiness. Social holiness is the combination of acts we do as a faith community to grow closer to God, and is often found at the intersection of faith and good works, service and justice. This morning we will look at how we grow in social holiness both inside and outside of the church, including a look at the global United Methodist Church, and most importantly, we will look at why social holiness is critical.
First, we will look at the role the local church plays in nurturing our social holiness.
What is the purpose of a church?
A quote from the Book of Discipline:
“Finally, we emphasize the nurturing and serving function of Christian fellowship in the Church. The personal experience of faith is nourished by the worshiping community.”
If we look at today’s Scripture reading, we are told to “Be tolerant with one another and forgive one another…we were called in the one body. We are to teach one another in wisdom.” There is an emphasis on the one another and the working together as one body. As Christians, we believe that faith isn’t something you get to have all on your own. Wesley once said that no one can be a solitary Christian, we must be in community to grow in our faith. As the sermon title says – we need each other.
Consider the sacrament of baptism.
In our baptismal vows, here’s a question the faith community is asked:
Will you nurture one another in the Christian faith and life
and include these persons now before you in your care?
And how do we respond?
With God’s help we will proclaim the good news
and live according to the example of Christ.
We will surround these persons
with a community of love and forgiveness,
that they may grow in their trust of God,
and be found faithful in their service to others.
We will pray for them,
that they may be true disciples
who walk in the way that leads to life.
When anyone is baptized, we promise as a faith community to nurture not only the baptized, but also one another. We need each other to grow in our faith.
We also nurture each other in the faith when we sing in worship.
Now, I don’t know about your typical week, but in my week, there are no other places besides during worship when I am being asked to sing. As we sing together, we connect with one another in praise and we also learn the basics of our faith. Like memorizing Scripture, the act of singing writes what we believe on our hearts. It lifts our spirits. We need each other to sing.
We need each other in small groups. As John Wesley was beginning the renewal movement we now know as Methodism, they began by forming small Methodist societies and class meetings. The purpose of these small groups was so they could encourage each other in holiness, and a distinct way they grew in their faith as a small group was to give to the poor, visit the imprisoned, and to work for justice and peace. Similarly, in our local church, we meet in small groups and grow in our faith. We spur one another on as we discuss our faith, even disagreeing from time to time. Ideally, if we have done the nurturing work right at the local church level, our natural response will be to find ways in our small groups to love and serve our neighbors.
A beautiful feature of United Methodism is that social holiness extends way beyond the local church – we are connected to other United Methodist churches around the globe.
Even this past week, we showed a bit of this connection in our city by participating in the Back to Grace multi-UMC event. Many from New World were there last Sunday night as The Way led worship and Rev. Felicia Hopkins of FUMC Abilene preached on grace. In fact, I’m excited to share that the churches represented raised over $1000 each for Arlington Urban Ministries and the UTA Wesley Foundation.
Consider the global impact of our Church. Unique to church denominations, all United Methodist Churches are connected. This culture of reaching out to the world is a rich part of Methodism’s DNA and makes us a witness and force for peace and justice around the world.
A beautiful example of how we as a connectional church model this sense of social holiness is UMCOR. A quick story: In 2013, a chemical fertilizer plant in West, Texas exploded – many of you may even have heard the explosion if you lived in South Arlington/Mansfield at the time. At this disaster, as with almost every disaster around the globe, many first responders were on the scene to assist people in need. Laraine Waughtal from the UM Central Texas Conference and members of our conference’s early response team were there early among the American Red Cross, United Way and FEMA’s first responders. Laraine reported that, as a trailer pulled up full of supplies with the United Methodist cross and flame symbol on the side, a trailer from UMCOR, she could hear the other first responders say, “Oh thank God! The Methodists are here! Now we can begin to get things done.” UMCOR is known throughout the world as the United Methodist Church at its finest – quick to respond to those in need and willing to stay until the long-term recovery is complete.
Beyond disaster relief and recovery, the worldwide United Methodist Church has a long history of concern for social justice. Wesley and the early Methodists expressed their opposition to societal brokenness such as slavery, smuggling, inhumane prison conditions, alcohol abuse, and child labor. We are known as a denomination involved with people’s lives, with political and social struggles. As part of our global connection, we are still engaged in speaking out against injustice and working in social justice work today.
From The Book of Resolutions of The UMC: The United Methodist Church believes God’s love for the world is an active and engaged love, a love seeking justice and liberty. We cannot just be observers. So we care enough about people’s lives to risk interpreting God’s love, to take a stand, to call each of us into a response, no matter how controversial or complex. The church helps us think and act out a faith perspective, not just responding to all the other ‘mind-makers-up’ that exist in our society.”
As we take a closer look at today’s passage (text is in bulletin), I want you to see the action words. We are to: teach, warn, sing and do. In fact, Verse 17 says “And whatever you DO, in word or deed, DO everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” The life of Christ is a life of action. We are called to be in mission and service to the world.
Wesley said, “The Gospel of Christ knows no religion but social, no holiness but social holiness. You cannot be holy except as you are engaged in making the world a better place. You do not become holy by keeping yourself pure and clean from the world but by plunging into ministry on behalf of the world’s hurting ones.”
Why don’t we get it right?
John Wesley also struggled with the same question – why don’t we get it right?
At age 86, near the end of John Wesley’s life, most people would have considered him a resounding success. Around the age of 35 he had begun a movement that had spread throughout the British Empire and, by the end of his life it had grown to be the largest church in America. He was widely published and well respected.
But at 86, he was contemplating the significance of his life’s work. A question he asked himself was, “if the Methodist movement he had begun was so successful, as it was, why wasn’t the world a better place?” For John Wesley, the measure of the success of a minister, of a church, of a spiritual movement, of Methodism, wasn’t the number of members who joined the church or the size/number of buildings they had. The true measure of success was whether the world was a better place, a more just place, a more compassionate place.
We have work to do, my friends. We need to heal the world, make it a better place.
We can think of the church as a body.
As today’s scripture says, “Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” The Greek word for bind in this verse is the same word as “ligament,” like the part of the body that holds us together. Think like a human body – When we as a faith community are in great shape, bound together in love, when we are doing social holiness right and taking care of ourselves…
We as the Body of Christ can do amazing things.
When our body is out of whack, the binding of love is replaced by distrust or personal agendas, distracted by politics and division and trying to prove others wrong, we become immobilized, powerless.
(Perhaps worse – when we sit idly and don’t exercise the body at all – there’s no inspiration in that!)
It’s easy to be like John Wesley was – contemplating our progress and wondering why the world is not yet a better place. The work of justice and reconciliation, the work of transforming the world, the work of God….it’s slow work. It takes time, and we need everyone to work alongside each other in order to make an impact.
But please take a moment with me and imagine what our future could be like if we committed to getting social holiness right. If we, as the Body of Christ, work together to grow in discipleship and work together to be a force for change in the world, if we connect with one another and have the courage to stand up against the world’s injustices and brokenness – we have (with the help of God’s spirit working in us) the potential to be a force that brings God’s reign on earth as it is in heaven. We have the potential to truly make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
We need each other to make transformation happen.
Remember the Haiti announcement at the beginning of this sermon?
Raise your hand if you went on that trip (should be no hands). I didn’t go then either.
But raise your hand if you’ve been on an international mission trip? (keep your hands up)
An out of state mission trip? Any mission trip? (keep your hands raised)
Now raise your hand if you have been engaged in mission work locally – you’ve volunteered, handed out a manna bag, collected donations?
Raise your hand if you’ve ever contributed to the offering at church (hopefully all hands are raised)
This is social holiness – all of us working together to transform the world. God will call each of us in different ways to use our gifts and resources, time and talents for God’s service.
It is my deepest prayer that each of us will Listen to that call.
That we will Have the courage to respond. To get our hands dirty.
It is my prayer that transformation will happen and God’s reign will be on earth, and that we will move forward with passion and excitement as we trust in the slow work of God!
Things to consider:
Where is God calling you to be in service?
Are you giving your fullest to God? If not, why not?
Who do you need to connect with in order to be held accountable in your discipleship?
Giving credit where credit is due: The Scripture passage used was from the Common English Bible. Several quotes in this sermon were from umc.org. Quote from Laraine Waughtal found in Vance Morton’s post “UMCOR – the Methodist Connection at it’s Best” on ctcumc.org. Story about John Wesley at age 86 found in sermon “Social Holiness: Our Wesleyan DNA” by Rev. Dean Snyder.
It’s no secret that I love creating art. Especially art with meaning.
I have a few projects I have been asked to paint this summer. One is for my kids’ school outdoor learning center. The second is for bulletin covers for a series of church services. Today I had time to work on rough drafts and the beginning stages of the projects, here are a couple of works in progress.
Life comes to us in seasons. In childhood, we are babies, small children, big kids, preteens and teens first. Then we get to be young adults, middle aged adults and so on.
I believe the leap from childhood to adult is one of the more fascinating seasons, probably why I have spent so many years in youth ministry. One of the great joys of youth ministry is that we get to be on the sidelines as these seasons of life change for the youth. It is humbling to watch someone go from high school student to discovering themselves as adults. You can guess, but you might not ever be able to fully predict how youth will turn out. Occasionally I’ve had the great privilege of reconnecting with former youth and they have crossed over to become my adult friends.
It wasn’t in my youth ministry per se, but for about the last 25 years, I’ve loved watching my nieces make this journey too. I am really excited and proud of how they are turning out.
This week I’ve also discovered that family can cross over to become adult friends as well. This is a joy in our new season of family life.
During the last several months, I have discovered a love for creating art and I have a dream of sharing that love with others. The process of creating art can be relaxing, healing, even a way to connect with God. I would love to lead a ministry someday that encourages people to nurture their creativity.
I often use art and creative expression as part of the senior high Bible study I teach. Even though I have more enthusiasm than artistic talent, I don’t let that hold me back. This summer I thought I’d experiment with leading a mini art camp at my house.
How it worked: I invited just enough students (my friends’ kids) to fit around my kitchen table. I researched ideas from Pinterest and my own art classes, picked up supplies, sketched out a lesson plan. Old shirts were purchased from Goodwill to serve as art smocks, a drop cloth was out down, and voila! Art Camp!
Day One was focused on drawing faces and basic art elements. We created art journals and portfolios.
As a class, we came up with the following rules before we started:
1. We are all artists. (We are made in the image if a great Creator and Artist – Claim it!)
2. Be nice to others.
3. Sharing is what we do.
4. Be nice to yourself. (We tend to be our own harshest critics so those negative thoughts were not allowed at Art Camp!)
5. Everything is an experiment.
6. Be careful.
Pretty good rules to live by, don’t you think?
How could you adapt this idea and use it in your ministry? Who can you ask for help?
I’m tempted to play it cool, but I’m really excited and honored to have been selected to write a feature article for The Youthworker Journal. This is a very big deal for me! I have copies of YWJ going back over fifteen years – and now my name is on the front cover. As my husband pointed out, I not only made the cover, I made Marko’s beard! How crazy is that?
My article is about 1800 words on how we as youth workers can explain brain research to parents and answer the question that plagues every parent of a teenager: “Is my kid normal?”. I loved the process of researching and long form writing for the journal.
I only subscribe to the magazine electronically now, so I’m hoping to get my hands on an actual paper magazine copy soon. It is very cool have part of the Youthworker Movement represented in YWJ!
We are a sports family. Between the 3 kids, my husband and myself, we have played soccer, cross country, track, baseball, basketball, football and cheerleading. As an athlete, a sports mom and also a coach, I spend a lot of time at games and practices, and a lot of time on the sidelines. Today I even had the special opportunity to watch my niece play in a volleyball tournament in Dallas (my picture of the day.) What really struck me this weekend were the voices and messages from the parents and fans around me.
For the most part, the parents and other coaches I overhear are supportive and encouraging, but not all of them. I heard a coach reprimanding his player-son this weekend in a way I would never accept as a way he could coach my child. I’ve half-joked with other parents that you can always tell who the coach’s kids are because the coach reserves a special tone of voice for yelling at their own kid…although to be fair, usually that same coach’s kid reserves a special tone of voice for talking back to his coach. Among the fans, there are a handful of parents that say things like “Why did you do that?!” “Are you going to actually play hard this game?” “What were you thinking?!”
I’ve also overheard plenty of parent-fans openly and loudly criticize the calls of refs, usually just teenagers or volunteers working as a referee for the game. My brother shared with me that the niece I watched play today has spent time working as a referee, and was really hurt by snide comments fans made about her calls. My niece is beautiful, smart, talented and an all around lovely young person, so it’s painful to hear about how thoughtless parents/fans could be.
It’s tough to just sit there and hear kids getting berated like that, especially about playing a game. Sure, it’s tough to watch the kids you love lose a game or play poorly, but that doesn’t mean it is your job to criticize them. I love sports and I hope that kids grow up loving sports too…but I wonder if how we adults are on the sidelines can kill the joy of sports. I even wonder how many of these vocal critics could play any better if they were on the field. There is a lot to be said for encouragement over criticism. In fact, I think there are really important lessons here for parents, coaches and youth ministers alike.
To parents and fans: As an athlete, I can tell you that players know full well when they mess up. There are plenty of self-critical voices. Critical voices from the crowd or from parents especially do not help. Here’s an idea on what a parent or fan could say at the end of a bad game or play instead of criticism:
Good: “I am proud of what a good team player you are/of how hard you work.”
Really good: “I loved watching you play!”
Even better, add: “I especially loved when you did [specific play here].”
The message that gets caught here is one of love, no matter what. Add to this an offer to work on a specific skill in between games, or to somehow spend quality time with the kid, and you’ve got a kid who knows unconditional love.
To the coaches: The best coaches I’ve seen will substitute out a player after a bad play to explain on the sidelines what could be done differently, then put the player back in. It’s the difference between openly criticizing (ouch!) and patiently redirecting…which may feel like the difference between being scolded/embarrassed versus being taught. To the parents who are coaches (myself included here), let’s remember to try to treat our own kids like a part of the team – neither giving them special treatment beyond the rest of the team, nor giving them harsher criticism.
To my fellow youth ministers: There are great lessons learned on the playing field for youth ministry. Our “players,” the members of our youth ministry, need us to come alongside as encouraging voices and coaches, not critics. They need us to come alongside their lives and not say things like, “what were you thinking??!” “Why did you mess up like that?!” but rather, send messages into their lives that say, “I love watching you grow in your faith!” “I’m proud of who you are becoming.” “I loved when you did [this specific act of love, grace, mercy].” When youth mess up, we can quietly pull them aside, coach better behavior and then send them back in. Correct privately, praise publicly.
What results from this is players (youth) who know unconditional love – that’s what we hope for, right?
I love Whole Foods grocery stores. There isn’t one near my house, so it’s a rare treat. I love walking the aisles surrounded by vibrant colors and aromas of natural, organic, healthy foods, most of which are foreign to me. Chia, flax, collard, gluten-free, vegan super foods with brands like Annie’s and Kathleen’s and Organic Pete’s. It almost feels like shopping in a foreign country’s market.
I’ve been focusing on the word “whole” a lot in my prayer life lately. Having been so broken for the last couple of years has made me appreciate the fullness, the vibrancy of Wholeness. I am so thankful to the God that restores my soul and makes me whole again.
From 1 Thessalonians 5:
“16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not treat prophecies with contempt 21 but test them all; hold on to what is good, 22 reject every kind of evil.
23 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.”
Do you have certain words that speak to your heart? What are they?
Wednesday night is senior high Bible study night (SBUMCSHBS). Tonight we continued our series on the book of John and Jesus’s last days. Tonight’s lesson was multisensory and went really well, so I thought I would share it with everyone.
Supplies: dish tubs filled with warm water, towels, chairs, hand sanitizer, matzah, kosher grape juice, kosher candy (optional), Kings Hawaiian Sweet Bread loaf (or whatever your church uses typically for communion)
The study begins before anyone enters the room. A sign on the door asks participants to remove their shoes and socks, and to enter and sit quietly.
In silence: One person at a time, leaders guide each person to a chair in front of the water tub. Ceremonially wash and dry each person’s feet. We ended with leaders washing each other’s feet.
Then we welcomed everyone to Bible study and reviewed the stories we have been reading (for us it was Jesus raising Lazarus and Mary anointing Jesus’s feet)
We took turns reading parts of John 13. I’m putting the text here, courtesy of Biblegateway.com, with some of the discussion questions interjected:
Jesus Washes His Disciples’ Feet
It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.
2 The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
This led to discussion about whether or not Jesus was naked under the towel. Did towels look like we think of today? The good news is we are in the habit of visualizing the stories as we read! (Religious scholars and historians feel free to help us out here. I’m just reporting what we talked about.)
6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
7 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
8 “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”
Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
9 “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”
10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.
12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.
At this point we talked about how it was a common practice of hospitality to provide a basin for washing guests’ feet. The actual washing would be done by a slave, not the host, so Jesus’s act had more meaning. How did it feel to have your feet washed?
Jesus Predicts His Betrayal
18 “I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfill this passage of Scripture: ‘He who shared my bread has turned[a] against me.’[b]
19 “I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am who I am. 20 Very truly I tell you, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.”
21 After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “Very truly I tell you, one of you is going to betray me.”
At this point I introduced the matzah and explained it’s history in Jewish tradition. We talked about the significance of unleavened bread to God’s saved people. I also taught about what “kosher” food means. We sampled kosher grape juice with a piece of matzah as we read the next section:
22 His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. 23 One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. 24 Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, “Ask him which one he means.”
25 Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?”
26 Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. 27 As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him.
Snap! What just happened? What did it look like when Satan entered Judas?
So Jesus told him, “What you are about to do, do quickly.” 28 But no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him. 29 Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the festival, or to give something to the poor. 30 As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night.
Here we tried the sweet bread so everyone could taste the difference between leavened and unleavened bread.
Jesus Predicts Peter’s Denial
31 When he was gone, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him,[c] God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.
33 “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come.
34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
The last two verses are our memory verses for next week. Whoever can recite them next week earns a candy prize. To close the lesson we shared our joys and concerns, we prayed, and then everyone got to sample a piece of kosher candy on their way out.
How does it feel to have someone serve you?
When have you served others?
How is your foot washing like baptism?
Which character would you be in this story?
What did you think of the foods?
How do you show love to one another?
I got a lot of productive work done today, scholarship essays and other legwork, but I also carved out an hour to go to my happy place, my painting table.
I painted and got my hands sticky with gel medium. I’m working on about 5 mixed media canvases at once, alternating as my heart whispers to me. I would love to create art that inspires others, and I would love to inspire others to create art.
If we are the sons and daughters of a Creative God, and we are made in His image, it only makes sense to me that we can draw closer to Him as we explore our creativity. How do you do this?