Worship March 14, 2021
I welcome you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
As we gather together in community to nurture our faith, take a deep breath and feel the spirit rise from the depths of your soul.
In joyful spaces and serene places, we come to worship today.
In meditation, we are grounded to our Creator God.
We love you Lord. We gather praying that this will be a time set apart from the world to be renewed and restored. Even when the demands of the world call us away from you, help us remain grounded in you. By the strength of your Spirit, help us pursue the prize of God’s upward call in Christ Jesus. Amen.
Hymn UMH #314 In The Garden Hymn in English and Korean Pastor Sooah Na & YoungKwang Jun United Methodist of GNJ
Scripture Mark 1:35-39, Philippians 3:12-16
35Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. 36Simon and his companions went to look for him, 37and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!” 38Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else-to the nearby villages-so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” 39So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.
12Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. 15All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently that too God will make clear to you. 16Only let us live up to what we have already attained.
Meditation Prayer…Amazing God, we come before you and long to know you better. Help us to see the ways you call us and live into being the person you have created us to be. Imprint your message of love on our hearts, so that all we do in your name is a witness to your grace. Amen
What causes your life to get challenging?
When life gets challenging, we have a choice to either fall back into the sin that is so enticing and easy for us, or to persevere and trust that when we follow Christ, we will live into even more than we have ever imagined.
For example let’s look at the situation Tom the railroad worker had to face.
Tom is applying for a job as a signalman for the local railroad and is told to meet the inspector at the signal box.
The inspector decides to give Tom a pop quiz, asking: “What would you do if you realized that two trains were heading towards each other on the same track?”
Tom says: “I would switch one train to another track.”
“What if the lever broke?” asks the inspector.
“Then I’d run down to the tracks and use the manual lever down there,” answers Tom.
“What if that had been struck by lightning?” challenges the inspector.
“Then,” Tom continued, “I’d run back up here and use the phone to call the next signal box.”
“What if the phone was busy?”
“In that case,” Tom argued, “I’d run to the street level and use the public phone near the station.”
“What if that had been vandalized?”
“Oh well,” said Tom, “in that case I would run into town and get my Uncle Leo.
This puzzled the inspector, so he asked, “Why would you do that?”
“Because he’s never seen a train crash.”
Most of us, well, probably none of us, have faced Tom the railroad workers situation but we all face challenges in life.
What causes your life to get challenging? If we started to create a brainstorm list of all the things that have caused us challenges in life the list would be pages and pages and pages long.
When life gets challenging, no matter what the challenge, we have a choice. We have the to either fall back into the sin that is so enticing and easy for us, or to persevere and trust that when we follow Christ, we will live into even more than we have ever imagined.
This morning I was reminded of the need for perseverance. My sweet friend Pastor Amy Strom was sharing a devotional on Facebook. Her devotional was a piece about perseverance written by N. T. Wright.
Pastor Amy starts the devotional in the usual way, reading to a camera and I’m sure envisioning her followers out in the Facebook world. She probably thought about the folks in her congregations, she has two of churches in north western Minnesota.
As the video starts, we see Pastor Amy sitting in what looks like her office. The camera is positioned in front of her, and she is talking into the camera Then twenty-four seconds into the devotion Keegan the kitty takes over. Keegan walks back and forth in front of the camera, even stopping to look directly into the lens. Pastor Amy fights the giggles and Keegan continues, Pastor Amy moves her head to the edge of the screen and Keegan continues, Pastor Amy says, “Keegan get out of the way” and Keegan moves but only for a short period of time. Throughout the majority of the five-minute video Keegan is visible – his head, his tail and even the whole body.
Pastor Amy’s post say “Keegan! He is an object lesson for this devotional from N.T. Wright. It’s a devotional about perseverance in Prayer. He, meaning Keegan, persevered in getting the attention!!! And I will add that Pastor Amy persevered in holding herself together.
Challenges come in all shapes and sizes. From the funny, as demonstrated by Keegan and pastor Amy to the ridiculous as seen by the story of Tom the railroad worker to the very serious we might face in life.
Do you have a guilty pleasure? What is your “bad habit” or the thing that you tend to return to when things get overwhelming? I think we all have them, those guilty pleasures or bad habits we turn to.
When things get challenging in our lives, it’s easy for us to slip back into our unhealthy habits. Sin in our lives creates not-so-great coping mechanisms. God’s redeeming work allows for those habits to be broken and for us to find our identity in Christ, not in ourselves. We can create new habits to live into who we are in Christ. What habits and patterns do we tend to fall into when life gets difficult for us?
In the scripture I read earlier Mark gives us this beautiful image of Jesus who has to get away from the business and demands on him. He seems to need to re-focus and re-center himself. Imagine the people gathering around him and following him everywhere he went.
It must have been exhausting to be doing so much for others (the healing, casting out demons, feeding the hungry, teaching and preaching)—exhausting, even for the Son of God exhausting. Jesus models for us what is most important about handling the exhaustion, the stress and the depletion of our emotional resources–not that we fall back into bad habits, but that we take a step back and pray.
Jesus spends a lot of time in deserted places praying–even when people are looking for him. These refueling moments are almost always followed by another period of ministry, the healing, casting out demons, feeding the hungry, teaching and preaching. Even Jesus needed to keep himself grounded in his relationship with the Creator and He did that through prayer.
Paul, in his writing to the people of Philippi, encourages them and us to keep going. We are not somehow immediately “cured” of our sin and life is suddenly perfect for us. It is that we are called to persevere, remembering and living into the fact that Jesus Christ has redeemed us! It is not about what has come before, our past sins and habits we have developed over the years. What matters, what matters is who Christ raises us to be and the steps we take to get there.
John Wesley, who was a leader of a revival movement within the Church of England known as Methodism deeply believed that God’s grace was so much greater than our sin. Through the work of God’s sanctifying grace, God’s freely given presence and power to restore the fullness of God’s image in which we are created we can attain total sanctification. It is not an easy process, and we don’t get there all at once. Bit by bit, by pressing on, we attain what Christ offers to us. Paul recognized he only gets where he is by the grace of God. Likewise, we only become sanctified through God’s grace and with God’s presence.
What healthy habits is God calling you to? In the midst of life’s challenges, how do you find time, like Jesus did, to center yourself in God? What do you need to change in your own life to be focused on Christ, not on the shame and guilt of your sin? How do you remember that God’s grace is even more than your sin? What is the next small step in your pursuit of a godly life?
Sin is constantly lulling and wooing us back into the “easiness of sin.” Through Christ’s grace, we are called to more — to respond to challenges firmly rooted in who Jesus calls us to be. We need to make time to pray, to meditate, to sit with Christ in order that we learn to trust that God will lead us into a fullness of life. We are called to be even more than we ever dreamed we could be apart from God. May we be rooted in prayer and in trust in the one who has saved us all.
CLOSING PRAYER: Gracious God, you extend yourself to us every day in countless ways. Help us to focus on you, and who you are, and who we are in you. In the moments when we are inclined to fall backwards on our path, send your Spirit to remind us to have faith, to trust in you. Help us to retreat into you, rooting ourselves in your grace and in your love. In the name of Jesus the Christ, Amen.
God of Grace and Glory,
We come to you to ask you to save us from the weight of our past.
We remember the ways we have hurt others, and we are truly sorry.
Take the heavy yoke of our sin from us and give us what we need to restore broken relationships.
We pray in the name of Jesus, in whom all things are made new. Amen.
Our confidence is to be found in Christ, and our righteousness comes through faith in Christ.
Help us press on toward the goal of becoming more and more like Jesus in all that we do.
In the name of Jesus Christ, praise God, we are forgiven!
And together we pray in the name of the One that taught us saying.
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen
Today we affirm that our strength to resist the temptations around us comes from our connection to God and to community. As we give today, we celebrate the ways God is at work in our connections and relationships.
Prayer of Dedication
Draw us close, oh God, closer to you, and closer to one another. May your Spirit overflow and your love run deep. May we be renewed in you. And even as we give these financial gifts to you, may you open our hearts and minds to a deeper awareness of our new identity in you. In Christ’s name we pray, Amen.
Hymn 10,000 Reasons GNJ Worship Band United Methodist of GNJ
- Beginning March 28, Palm Sunday, Mora UMC will offer in-person worship services in addition to the YouTube broadcast, both at 10:30 a.m. Social distancing and the wearing of masks are required. All sanitation protocols are in place and will be followed according to the MDH and CDC.
- The Mora UMC has a few positions open on the Education and Trustees Teams, if interested please call Pastor Deb.