Love Your Neighbor (Acts 1:1-11)

The tone of God’s work in the world gets transposed at the beginning of Acts. Up to this point in the story of God (the life cycle of Israel and the ministry of Jesus), the focus was on “come and see” – see how Israel lived a God-infused life, come Jesus’ call to see God at work in the lives of those on the boundaries of Israel, etc. But at the beginning of Acts, the tone shifts from “come and see” to “go and tell.” From it’s beginning, this new chapter (called the Church) in the story of God has been about going and telling. As God’s people in the world, our lives are proactive in sharing the work of God. As you consider how to love your neighbor today, remember that our DNA as the church is one of initiative and proactivity, not one of hesitancy and passivity. Make that invitation to lunch or coffee, ask your neighbor what you can do to help them out, serve them without expectation of response. When you do, you stand in a long tradition of “going and telling” while simultaneously being a part of the brand new work God is doing in the world.


Questions or discussion? Click here to comment.

Tomorrow on the Daily Connection: Who Is My Neighbor?


About the Author
Isaac Gaff is the Managing Director of Worship and Creative Arts at Calvary UMC

Deeper Dive Podcast (Acts 1:1-11) (Revised)

We had a little trouble with yesterday's podcast file. All is now well.


Randy, Debbie, and Isaac continue the conversation on the nature and role of the church.

Listen in your device's podcast app – Apple version here and Android version here or use the desktop-only player below.


Questions or discussion? Click here to comment.

Tomorrow on the Daily Connection: Love Your Neighbor


About the Authors
Randy and Debbie Reese are Co-Directing Pastors at Calvary UMC
Isaac Gaff is the Managing Director of Worship and Creative Arts at Calvary UMC
 

Teach Us to Pray (Acts 1:1-11)

This passage in Acts is about preparing to go. Prayers of preparation are not simply solicitations of God to bless our upcoming activities, they are moments to form our own souls into the likeness of Jesus – the One sent from God. In this sense, one of the most helpful prayers of preparation (for me) is a familiar prayer attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy. 
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive, 
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, 
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Amen.

Questions or discussion? Click here to comment.

Tomorrow on the Daily Connection: Deeper Dive Podcast


About the Author
Isaac Gaff is the Managing Director of Worship and Creative Arts at Calvary UMC

Sunday Worship (Acts 1:1-11)

This week we'll be exploring Acts 1:1-11.  

In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

Each Sunday you can find the live stream here or watch the archive here

Tomorrow on the Daily Connection: 'Teach Us to Pray' through Acts 1:1-11. 

A Light to My Path (Acts 1:1-11)

Our text for the coming week is Acts 1:1-11:

In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

Question for Reflection:

Have you ever been a "witness" to something? How have you described what you've seen, heard, or experienced to others?

Who Is My Neighbor (Midwest Mission)

You may know someone who has experienced flooding…..maybe you’ve been through that yourself.  I’m not talking about some water in your basement (which can be devastating and very expensive).  I’m talking about water running through your living room.

Those are the times when you need a neighbor to come with the experience of knowing what will be valuable to get you back into your home.  Midwest Mission Distribution Center (MMDC) in Chatham, IL, (often confused in our circles with Midwest Food Bank) is one of the places where the United Methodist Church collects supplies needed in the event of natural disasters and other emergencies.  They don’t wait until the disaster happens to begin collecting….they have to be ready before the floods or tornadoes or hurricanes or wildfires come so that they can immediately send supplies where they are needed when they are needed.

All of the churches in the Illinois Great Rivers Conference (that’s our conference) received an email on Monday that there is an urgent need for cleaning buckets used by those who’ve experienced flooding.  In the month of May alone, the MMDC has sent out nearly 4,000 cleaning buckets to flood victims in Illinois and Missouri.  They now need to restock so that they have these supplies needed for the next emergency….and sadly, there are always those ‘next’ emergencies.

Rain doesn’t discriminate…...it takes its toll on rich and poor alike.  I keep thinking about the song, “The Wise Man Built His House Upon the Rock”......if you know this song, you know that the rains came down and the floods came up, but the house on the rock stood strong.  Well, that’s true in a spiritual sense…...but in this case, flooding has caused damage even to those houses built on a solid foundation.

Fortunately, we can help.  We can go to www.midwestmissiondc.org to see details, to get the list of supplies needed in the cleaning/flood buckets, and to learn more about the MMDC.  If you’d like to make a financial contribution, you can do that through our Calvary App or put Flood Buckets in your check memo.

Even if you don’t get everything on the list for a cleaning/flood bucket, feel free to bring even one item to the church and we’ll make sure it gets to Chatham.  If you’d like to be the driver who delivers these items to Chatham, that’s great, also!

May we continue to be in prayer for people cleaning up after flooding…..this process is a very long and arduous process.  May songs of praise and perseverance fill their hearts while cleaning out the muck.


Questions or discussion? Click here to comment.

Tomorrow on the Daily Connection: A Light to My Path


About the Author
Debbie Reese is the Co-Directing Pastor of Calvary UMC

Deeper Dive Podcast (Matthew 19.13-14 and Proverbs 22.6)

Debbie, Randy, and Isaac take a deeper dive into what it means to "train a child in the way they should go" along with the church's role and attitude toward children as part of the church body.

Listen in your device's podcast app – Apple version here and Android version here or use the desktop-only player below.


Questions or discussion? Click here to comment.

Tomorrow on the Daily Connection: God Stories


About the Authors
Randy and Debbie Reese are Co-Directing Pastors at Calvary UMC
Isaac Gaff is the Managing Director of Worship and Creative Arts at Calvary UMC
 

Teach Us to Pray (Matthew 19:13-14)

Our text for this week is Matthew 19:13-14:

Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

I can’t think of a more appropriate way to speak about the intersection of today’s Scripture (from Matthew) and prayer, so I’ll Richard Rhor do it:

Jesus calls us to exactly what the Zen master calls his students to. I once stayed in a Zen monastery in Japan. The master was calling monks who had been there for years to what they called “beginner’s mind.” Similarly, one of Jesus’ favorite visual aids is a child. Every time the disciples get into head games, he puts a child in front of them. He says the only people who can recognize and be ready for what he’s talking about are the ones who come with the mind and heart of a child. It’s the same reality as the beginner’s mind. The older we get, the more we’ve been betrayed and hurt and disappointed, the more barriers we put up to beginner’s mind. We must never presume that we see. We must always be ready to see anew. But it’s so hard to go back, to be vulnerable, to say to your soul, “I don’t know anything.”
Rohr, Richard (2003-03-01). Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer (pp. 32-33). The Crossroad Publishing Company. Kindle Edition. 

As you pray today, ask God for moments to see something familiar in a new and curious way (much like a child).


Questions or discussion? Click here to comment.

Tomorrow on the Daily Connection: Deeper Dive Podcast


About the Author
Isaac Gaff is the Managing Director of Worship and Creative Arts at Calvary UMC

Sunday Worship (Proverbs 22:6 and Matthew 19:13-14)

This week we'll be exploring Proverbs 22:6 and Matthew 19:13-14.  

Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it. (Proverbs 22:6)
Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:13-14)

Each Sunday you can find the live stream here or watch the archive here

Tomorrow on the Daily Connection: 'Teach Us to Pray' through Proverbs 22:6 and Matthew 19:13-14. 

A Light to My Path (Proverbs 22:6 and Matthew 19:13-14)

Our Scripture for the week ahead is Proverbs 22:6 and Matthew 19:13-14:

Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it. (Proverbs 22:6)
Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:13-14)

Question for Reflection:

  • What attributes of childhood are especially aligned with what Jesus calls "the kingdom of heaven"?

Who Is My Neighbor? (Coffee and a Cause)

When is drinking a delicious cup of coffee serving your neighbor?  Many of you are doing that right now…..or maybe you’ve finished your coffee for the day.

In response to so many needs throughout the world, Calvary’s Jr. High Youth partnered with Cozzee Coffee to be in ministry internationally and nationally.  On April 2nd and 9th, the youth served the delicious coffee and sold bags to use at home.  Not only are the coffees delicious, but most importantly 100% of the profit goes to special projects throughout the world.  The youth were able to choose two projects from the list supported by Cozzee Coffee where they wanted to make an impact for Jesus Christ.

The first ministry is Nuru International which provides agricultural loans and training to farmers in East Africa.  According to Cozzee Coffee’s website, “Since 2008, Nuru International’s focus is to end extreme poverty in remote, rural areas.  Resources are limited and the need is both urgent and overwhelming.  To compact this issue they have designed transferrable systems and workflows that can quickly address need, create lasting impact and facilitate their expansion to more countries. The heart of the Nuru Model is to deliver a self-renewing and self-sustaining pipeline of leaders and finances to enable lasting change in extremely poor remote rural communities.  Their projects must operate efficiently and effectively without dependency on long-term international support.  They believe that the most powerful solutions for ending extreme poverty lie within the very same people who live in it every single day.”

The second ministry is Beloved Atlanta which provides counseling to survivors of sex trafficking.   Again, from the Cozzee Coffee website, “Atlanta is the number one city in the U.S. with the highest sex economy income of $290 million each year.  When a woman from this industry is welcomed into the BeLoved Atlanta Home, she has often experienced years of trauma and hopelessness. In fact, 95% of women in prostitution are victims of sexual abuse as children, teaching them at a young age that they are not valued, loved or safe but the BeLoved team believes in their value and that they deserve to be respected by their community.  When the world often looks at these women as criminals, BeLoved believes each woman is gifted, strong, and trustworthy; they are survivors.  Through a discipleship program the Beloved team provides Christ-fostered healing.”  

Our youth are passionate about making a difference in our world and this is a practical way of doing so.  I’m so proud of our youth for their huge hearts.  If you didn’t have an opportunity to participate in this ministry, there will be other opportunities to reach out…..the choices are all around us.  And….you can go to Cozzee Coffee’s website at any time and get your coffee fix for a cause.

(An amusing aside…..Laura Burke, our Director of Junior High Ministry, was told by the coffee company that most people want whole bean coffee….so she ordered more of that.   However, as it turned out, Calvary coffee drinkers prefer ground coffee.  With many requests for ground coffee, Laura found herself purchasing an inexpensive coffee grinder to personally grind bags and bags of coffee….only to find that it took too long.  A trip to HyVee who graciously allowed her to grind coffee there, resulted in an overworked coffee grinder (Laura, did you break it?)!  So…..rest assured that Laura Burke got your coffee ground just in time for you to pick it up that Sunday!)


Questions or discussion? Click here to comment.

Tomorrow on the Daily Connection: A Light to My Path


About the Author
Debbie Reese is the Co-Directing Pastor of Calvary UMC

Love Your Neighbor (Hebrews 10:23-25)

We often read Hebrews 10:25 exclusivley in the context of the full church gathered in worship on Sunday (and it does speak to that), but there is a larger (and smaller) context of gathering that is rooted in the DNA of the early church that is hyper-local (neighborhood based). In the book of Acts, Luke tells us that "Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts" (Acts 2.46). Both the temple courts (the large gathering) and the home (the small gathering) were places of ministry, encouragement, and love. 

In 21st century culture, our homes tend to be places where immediate family members seal themselves off from the world around them. Even our home architectural shift in the last century illustrates this move. As Christians, our homes are as vital a place of ministry as the church building (maybe even more so). Sharing a meal together is the center of one of our most sacred actions (Holy Communion) and is, in a small and localized way, enacted every time we sit and fellowship at a table with our neighbors. Take time this week to plan a meal, open your home, and invite others to share a meal with you sometime in the coming weeks. You'll be tapping into the roots of our faith where you'll find the beautiful intersection of love of God and love of neighbor.


Questions or discussion? Click here to comment.

Tomorrow on the Daily Connection: Who Is My Neighbor?


About the Author
Isaac Gaff is the Managing Director of Worship and Creative Arts at Calvary UMC

Deeper Dive Podcast (Hebrews 10:23-25)

Debbie, Randy, and Isaac talk about the church in terms of what it means to be the "Body of Christ" along with how the church is similar/unique among organizations.

Listen in your device's podcast app – Apple version here and Android version here or use the desktop-only player below.


Questions or discussion? Click here to comment.

Tomorrow on the Daily Connection: God Stories


About the Authors

Randy and Debbie Reese are Co-Directing Pastors at Calvary UMC
Isaac Gaff is the Managing Director of Worship and Creative Arts at Calvary UMC

Teach Us to Pray (Hebrews 10:23-25)

Link to Hebrews 10:23-25

How do we pray when we meet together? There are many ways to pray together in a group, but a common one christians have practiced for centuries has been a “call and response” style of prayer (our prayer of confession and prayers of the people at Calvary usually follow this format). One person leads in a statement and the congregation responds. While there are many things at work in this kind of prayer, I want to highlight two:

  1. This kind of prayer is primarily an act of communal formation. Since the individual words are not chosen and formed by each individual in the congregation, it’s an opportunity to form ourselves through agreement with the prayer (that’s the meaning of the word “amen” - I agree). If you find yourself wondering what to “do” when someone else is giving voice to a prayer; try to listen with the intent to affirm, and then let that affirmation become a part of who you are becoming in that activity of prayer.
  2. Call and response prayer is unique performative picture of the church working together in worship. One of the words we often translate as “worship” in the Bible (leitourgia) can also be translated as the “work of the people.” This kind of prayer together helps us recognize (in real time and space) that we are Christ’s church doing the collective work of worship.
     

Questions or discussion? Click here to comment.

Tomorrow on the Daily Connection: Deeper Dive Podcast


About the Author
Isaac Gaff is the Managing Director of Worship and Creative Arts at Calvary UMC

Sunday Worship (Hebrews 10:23-25)

This week we'll be exploring Hebrews 10:23-25.  

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Each Sunday you can find the live stream here or watch the archive here

Tomorrow on the Daily Connection: 'Teach Us to Pray' through Hebrews 10:23-25. 

A Light to My Path (Hebrews 10:23-25)

Our text for the coming week is Hebrews 10:23-25:

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Questions for Reflection:

  • How can we make the "considering" of spurring each other to love and good works a part of our prayer life?
  • How does meeting together (in all its various forms) contribute to love and good deeds?

Who Is My Neighbor? (Illini Fighting Hunger)

We didn’t know who was going to eat it or how it might benefit a family struggling to make the budget stretch a little further…..and it didn’t matter…....we loved knowing that we were doing the will of God.

That was the attitude of those who spent their Wednesday evening, May 3, transferring rice and oatmeal from huge packages to smaller units that families or individuals can use.  Does this sound like a menial, unimportant task when the need is so great?  Why not just buy several cases of Minute Rice and give them out as boxes?  As is true of many products, large quantities purchased in gross are so much cheaper and therefore go further than pre-packaged products.  Part of our commitment to this food packaging is also paying for the supplies (including the rice and oatmeal).  Your offering dollars, through the Outreach Team, provided the supplies so that we packaged 2,000 pounds of rice and 500 pounds of oatmeal!  I’m estimating that each package of oatmeal or rice would feed at least 6 people.  That means that in 2 hours, we packaged enough food for 15,000 people!  Incredible!  Thank you!!!

Comments I heard during the packaging: “I love being able to do something very practical to help people.”  “It is so great to be able to do this with our kids.”  “It’s wonderful that all ages can participate in helping feed people all around us.”

Our United Methodist connection allows us to partner with Illini Fighting Hunger (IFH), a Registered Student Organization (RSO) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a program of the Wesley United Methodist Church and the Wesley Foundation at the U of I, as well as a chapter of Universities Fighting World Hunger. IFH was founded out of a desire to address local and international hunger issues by making meal packaging events more frequent, more accessible, and more effective in Illinois.   You can learn more about IFH here.

How cool is it that students involved in campus ministry at the U of I are able to partner with us to make a difference in the lives of people we may never meet…..or maybe we will!  I think it’s been a couple of years ago that Parkside Elementary students who receive food from our Backpack Ministry found in their weekly supply of food, some meals that Calvary had packaged.  One of Calvary’s own children was one that received that food and excitedly told her mom when she got home, “I got one of those meals that we helped package!”

So…..we may not know the neighbors who receive the food we package…...or maybe we do.  No matter who receives the meals, the important thing is that our God knows each of them by name, loves them, and calls us to partner with them in life.  Thank you God!! 


Questions or discussion? Click here to comment.

Tomorrow on the Daily Connection: A Light to My Path


About the Author
Debbie Reese is the Co-Directing Pastor of Calvary UMC