Sunday Worship (Coming Home - Week 4)

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This week we'll be exploring Luke’s Gospel, Chapter 1, verses 46-55:

And Mary said,

I’m bursting with God-news;
    I’m dancing the song of my Savior God.
God took one good look at me, and look what happened—
    I’m the most fortunate woman on earth!
What God has done for me will never be forgotten,
    the God whose very name is holy, set apart from all others.
His mercy flows in wave after wave
    on those who are in awe before him.
He bared his arm and showed his strength,
    scattered the bluffing braggarts.
He knocked tyrants off their high horses,
    pulled victims out of the mud.
The starving poor sat down to a banquet;
    the callous rich were left out in the cold.
He embraced his chosen child, Israel;
    he remembered and piled on the mercies, piled them high.
It’s exactly what he promised,
    beginning with Abraham and right up to now.

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

A Light To My Path (Coming Home - Week 4)

Our text for the coming week comes from Luke’s Gospel, Chapter 1, verses 46-55:

And Mary said,

I’m bursting with God-news;
    I’m dancing the song of my Savior God.
God took one good look at me, and look what happened—
    I’m the most fortunate woman on earth!
What God has done for me will never be forgotten,
    the God whose very name is holy, set apart from all others.
His mercy flows in wave after wave
    on those who are in awe before him.
He bared his arm and showed his strength,
    scattered the bluffing braggarts.
He knocked tyrants off their high horses,
    pulled victims out of the mud.
The starving poor sat down to a banquet;
    the callous rich were left out in the cold.
He embraced his chosen child, Israel;
    he remembered and piled on the mercies, piled them high.
It’s exactly what he promised,
    beginning with Abraham and right up to now.
 

Question for Reflection:

This passage is at the heart of the Christmas Story, but at first glance, it seems disconnected. How do you make sense of Mary's song in the larger Christmas Story?

Who Is My Neighbor? (Home Sweet Home Ministries and Safe Harbor)

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As I write this, I can hear the wind whipping around the corner of my office and I can see the branches of a pine tree being blown back and forth.  The thought of going outside for any reason makes me want to curl up in front of my fireplace with a cup of hot chocolate.  And I think of those who have no other choice…who have no warm office in which to work, who have no warm home in which to live…..who have no choice but to hope a shelter is open in the evening where they might get a warm meal and a cot on which to sleep and thaw out for a bit.

That’s why Calvary is a strong supporter of Home Sweet Home Ministries and a regular provider of meals for Safe Harbor…both agencies which offer shelter for the homeless.  I love Home Sweet Home’s vision statement:  ‘Our ministry is to be a place of refuge and renewal powered by Jesus Christ.’

In an effort to better understand the needs of our community and to most faithfully use the tithe that Calvary so graciously gives to glorify God, I did a very informal community needs assessment last summer.  One of the things I learned was that affordable housing is one of the biggest needs in Bloomington/Normal.  It is impossible to work a minimum wage job and provide housing for a family.  In fact, minimum wage jobs often don’t guarantee a 40 hour work week, so it’s nearly impossible to provide housing for one.  Work more jobs, you say?  If you are single, that might work (although when your employer calls you to work and you have to go to your other job, how long do you think they’ll keep you?).  However, with even one child, going to work and paying for childcare is cost prohibitive…and when you add the other living expenses…well, you get the idea.

Is there something we can do?  Yes!  I’m glad you asked!  Of course you can always just stop by one of our community shelters and offer to help in any way that they need (remember to ask what they need rather than what we think they need).  There are always financial needs for those places in town who provide shelters.  Although we certainly don’t have a homeless shelter, Calvary uses our Good Samaritan Fund to help with emergency needs (which sometimes include temporary housing or food).  Our Christmas Offering this year goes to the Good Samaritan Fund so that we might help folks who just need a boost.

Along with others in the community as well as our church, I am going to participate in Home Sweet Home Ministries’ ‘A Night in a Car’ on Feb. 2 at Trinity Lutheran Church in Bloomington.  You can donate toward my ‘car’ or sign up to bring your car and spend the night yourself.

None of us likes to see someone suffer from homelessness…and it’s even more frustrating to see the problem and not know what to do about it.  As we celebrate Christmas this year, may we know that our God sees every single person and allows each of us to reach out to others in a variety of ways.  Maybe someone just needs your encouragement this year.  Maybe they need a coat.  Maybe they need a meal. There’s one thing that people of all ages and stages can do:  we can all pray.  Will you join me in praying for those who are cold today?
 


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

Love Your Neighbor (Coming Home - Week 3)

This week's "Love Your Neighbor" comes from this year's Advent Devotional found here:

"There are people in our neighborhoods, in our church, and in our community who need to know of God's joy. Select someone to visit today. Visit by phone or in person. Go as a family or by yourself. It doesn't necessarily have to be a visit to a home. Maybe there is someone you see in a place where you go to eat. Stop by today and talk with that person. Tell the person you visit one way he or she brings joy to you."

Teach Us To Pray (Coming Home - Week 3)

This week's "Teach Us To Pray" draws from our Advent Devotional Guide (found here):

"Today read again John 1:6-8. Make a list together of the things that bring light to our lives and make us joyful. Paint or draw a picture of something that makes you joyful."

John 1:6-8:
There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. (NIV)

Sunday Worship (Coming Home - Week 3)

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Our Scripture this week comes from Paul’s Letter to the Thessalonians, Chapter 5, verses 16-24; and from Psalm 30, verses 4-5”

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil.
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. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.

Sing the praises of the Lord, you his faithful people;
    praise his holy name.
For his anger lasts only a moment,
    but his favor lasts a lifetime;
weeping may stay for the night,
    but rejoicing comes in the morning.

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

A Light To My Path (Coming Home - Week 3)

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Our Scripture for the coming week comes from Paul’s Letter to the Thessalonians, Chapter 5, verses 16-24; and from Psalm 30, verses 4-5”

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil.
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. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.

Sing the praises of the Lord, you his faithful people;
    praise his holy name.
For his anger lasts only a moment,
    but his favor lasts a lifetime;
weeping may stay for the night,
    but rejoicing comes in the morning.

Question for Reflection:

What does a life of perpetual rejoicing, continual prayer, and non-circumstantial thanksgiving look like for you?

Who Is My Neighbor? (Gift Giving That Keeps Giving)

You may have already finished your Christmas shopping.  If so, congratulations for your organizational skills!  If not, there are ways to help others as you buy gifts for those people who have everything and really don’t want anything.  My parents got to that stage of their lives and were unable to use the ever-practical restaurant gift cards.  My solution?  I think I bought them a goat.  I can’t quite remember….maybe it was a llama.  How could I forget the specifics of such a gift?  They didn’t have to feed it (which made my dad happy)......I had given a goat (or llama) in their name to Heifer International to help families around the world earn a living. 

This year, I shopped at Crossroads Handcrafts of the World right here in Downtown Bloomington.  I chose gifts that were appropriate for the person for whom I was shopping, and also gave back to the persons who made them.  I love being able to support those who are trying so hard to support themselves!

Those are just 2 examples, both offering tangible support.  (I wish I would have thought to include a toy goat or llama in my gift to my parents…..that would have been a nice connecting gift.)  This was given through Heifer International, which offers many more options for helping people around the world.

I’m sure the many of you get many requests in the mail, e-mail, or by phone all the time for supporting particular charities.  It can get very overwhelming.  I can’t answer questions about all of them, but I can give you some ideas from the ones I do know about who help others while blessing your gift receiver.

  • Fair Trade stores everywhere…..even online.  Just search ‘fair trade’ and you’ll see the options.
  • United Methodist Committee on Relief:  if you’d like to help those affected by wildfires, hurricanes, tornadoes or other natural disasters, this might be of interest to you.
  • Local places like The Baby Fold, Home Sweet Home Mission, or any number of other places in our community who address human need.
  • United Methodist Missions:  go to UMCmission.org, then ‘give to mission’, then ‘search for projects’ and you’re certain to find that special project that connects to that special person in your life. 
  • Have a teacher gift to find?  How about purchasing a teacher or student school bag kit for the Midwest Mission Distribution Center in Chatham, IL?  http://midwestmissiondc.org/projects/projects

These are just a few suggestions and I know you could come up with your own list at least this long.  There’s no shame in shopping the ‘usual’ places, of course.  Those places also provide jobs.  However, if you have parents like mine were, or teacher gifts like I struggled with, or other kinds of conundrums, maybe the above suggestions will help as we help our neighbors throughout the world.


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

Love Your Neighbor (Coming Home - Week 2)

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From this week's Advent Devotional (found here):

There are people in our neighborhoods, in our church, and in our community who need to know of God's love. Select someone to visit today. Visit by phone or in person. Go as a family or by yourself. It doesn't necessarily have to be a visit to a home. Maybe there is someone who waits on you at the grocery store. Stop by today and talk with that person. Tell the person you visit how you are reminded of God’s love because of what that person has said or done.

Deeper Dive Podcast (Coming Home - Week 2)

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Randy, Debbie, and Isaac talk about some of the origins of Advent and follow up on the background of Psalm 85.

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


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 (Advent Week 2)

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Spend a moment or two praying through our Psalm for the week today. Stop and ruminate on phrases that ignite your spiritual curiosity, and pray for the union of righteousness and peace.

Psalm 85, verses 1-2 and 7-13.  

Lord, you’ve been kind to your land;
    you’ve changed Jacob’s circumstances for the better.
You’ve forgiven your people’s wrongdoing;
    you’ve covered all their sins. 
Show us your faithful love, Lord!
    Give us your salvation!
Let me hear what the Lord God says,
    because he speaks peace to his people and to his faithful ones.
    Don’t let them return to foolish ways.
God’s salvation is very close to those who honor him
    so that his glory can live in our land.
Faithful love and truth have met;
    righteousness and peace have kissed.
Truth springs up from the ground;
    righteousness gazes down from heaven.
Yes, the Lord gives what is good,
    and our land yields its produce.
Righteousness walks before God,
    making a road for his steps.

Sunday Worship (Advent - Week 2)

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This week we'll be exploring Psalm 85, verses 1-2 and 7-13.  

Lord, you’ve been kind to your land;
    you’ve changed Jacob’s circumstances for the better.
You’ve forgiven your people’s wrongdoing;
    you’ve covered all their sins. 
Show us your faithful love, Lord!
    Give us your salvation!
Let me hear what the Lord God says,
    because he speaks peace to his people and to his faithful ones.
    Don’t let them return to foolish ways.
God’s salvation is very close to those who honor him
    so that his glory can live in our land.
Faithful love and truth have met;
    righteousness and peace have kissed.
Truth springs up from the ground;
    righteousness gazes down from heaven.
Yes, the Lord gives what is good,
    and our land yields its produce.
Righteousness walks before God,
    making a road for his steps.

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

A Light To My Path (Advent - Week 2)

This week we'll be exploring Psalm 85, verses 1-2 and 7-13.  

Lord, you’ve been kind to your land;
    you’ve changed Jacob’s circumstances for the better.
You’ve forgiven your people’s wrongdoing;
    you’ve covered all their sins. 
Show us your faithful love, Lord!
    Give us your salvation!
Let me hear what the Lord God says,
    because he speaks peace to his people and to his faithful ones.
    Don’t let them return to foolish ways.
God’s salvation is very close to those who honor him
    so that his glory can live in our land.
Faithful love and truth have met;
    righteousness and peace have kissed.
Truth springs up from the ground;
    righteousness gazes down from heaven.
Yes, the Lord gives what is good,
    and our land yields its produce.
Righteousness walks before God,
    making a road for his steps.

Question for Reflection:

One of the most poetic lines in the Psalms comes from this Psalm: "Faithful love and truth have met; righteousness and peace have kissed." What does the embrace of righteousness and peace look like in your life?

Who Is My Neighbor? (Redbird Mission)

Calvary’s Outreach Team has a practice of supporting local, national, and international ministries.  You’ve heard a lot about local and international ministries, but maybe not as much about our focus on our national focus on Redbird Mission.  Nestled in the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky,  The needs are great in these isolated areas and we want to be a part of meeting the needs.
Redbird Mission tells their story better than I could, so check out the ways in which God is working through them by going to this site:  http://rbmission.org/about-us/


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

Love Your Neighbor (Advent Week 1)

Often, loving your neighbor requires preparation. Today's prayer action from this year's Advent Devotional is a great way to do that (see the whole devotional here):

"As we get ready to celebrate again the birth of Jesus, we sometimes get very busy. Today, take a ten-minute break. Sit quietly. If it helps you to concentrate, look at your Advent wreath. Pray, asking God's help to bring quiet and calm to a busy world."

Deeper Dive Podcast (Coming Home - Week 1)

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Debbie, Randy, and Isaac talk about the historical background of Isaiah 64 and its significance for understanding Isaiah in general and this chapter in specific.

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


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