The Way of Hope

When we think about “The Way of Hope” in Advent I think about the message of of John the Baptist whose ministry echo’s Isaiah’s text, “A voice crying the the wilderness, prepare the way of the Lord.”

For American Protestant Christians “prepare” seems to mean an ever increasing flurry of activities and plans during the Advent Christmas season. But almost every Advent/Christmas I find myself asking, Have I/we taken on too much? Have we over planned and over scheduled this season? Have we mistaken the call to “prepare the way” with being busy rather than preparing our own hearts? Are just filling our lives with “doing” and failing at “being?” 

We’ve made advent about all the things we need or want to do before Christmas from shopping for presents, to decorating, planning myriads of events, and in the life of the church many meetings about what we plan for in the coming year.

But in all our planning and preparing for activities, we may be failing to actually prepare ourselves for the hope in Jesus Christ that God calls us to. 

Instead of every day being the burden of more busyness, what if during Advent we chose some ways to just BE.

Some ways to do that could be to adopt a practice or practices (not too many!) that help us just to be in God’s presence and in the presence of people we care about. Consider during Advent trying one of the following:

  • Weather allowing, take a walk each day and enjoy the falling leaves
  • Have a cup of coffee with a friend you’ve not seen in a long time
  • Read the birth stories of Jesus from Matthew and/or Luke
  • As part of a daily time with God sit in silence for 5, 10 or 15 minutes and just listen for the still small voice of God.
  • Say “no” to some event or activity that will feel like it will overload your schedule.
  • Try a new/different devotional practice.

In the Advent season we are reminded that we are children of God. We do not have to do more to be God’s children. We do not have to be busier to be God’s children. We just ARE God’s children. In this season of Advent let us find time to just be in the presence of God and know that our God is the way that leads to life!

Anticipating Hope

This Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent. Advent is a time of preparation, hope and anticipation. This first Sunday we will gather in worship to think about what it means for us to hope by anticipating for future God is preparing for us.

The scripture for Sunday is Luke 21:25-36. In this passage of scripture we read about the earth shaking, people fainting in terror and fearing for the future. But in the midst of that fear Jesus tells them not to be afraid but instead to anticipate the work of God. “When these things begin stand up and lift your heads, because your redemption is near.”

We live in a time of history where people have a lot of fears. We have national and political division in the news every day. We hear every day about strife, war and division in other nations. We see division, fighting and struggle in our own United Methodist Church family as we struggle with differences of theology around human sexuality. How can we be a people who love and care for each other even when we disagree with each other?

Just when we might want to despair. Just when we might feel like there is no hope is when the hope and light of Christ breaks in and shines the brightest. Jesus would say to us not to be bowed down by our fears and anxieties. Jesus would tell us, like the lilies of the field, not to be worried about tomorrow. Don’t bow your heads in fear, instead stand up! Stand up! because through the coming of Christ into this world your redemption draws near. The light is coming, it prepares to dawn. And the coming of the dawn, the coming of the Son rise brings us hope and joy!

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

 

 

 

Advents Coming! Stay Tuned.

During Advent this year I will be blogging about our Advent worship series “A Thrill of Hope!”

I have been looking at moving my blog in a new direction and I look forward to using this space as a place to talk about worship, preaching, themes that we are following throughout the year, and other ministry at Indianola First UMC.

Keep and eye out later in the month for the Advent series posts to begin!

Indianola First UMC’s Leadership Stand for Inclusion!

In response to the decisions of the 2019 General Conference of the UMC the Administrative Council of Indianola First UMC adopted the following statement –

“First UMC Indianola Iowa is an inclusive church for ALL people in our community, liberals, conservatives, LGBTQ+, straight, young, persons of every race and ethnicity, old, rich, poor, whomever.

First UMC loves and cares for EVERYONE regardless of what the UMC does or does not decide….now and in the future.”

We will be sharing our understanding of our nature as an inclusive congregation of God’s people because we believe that sharing God’s love with everyone all the time in every way possible is at the heart of the gospel.

God loves all, and all means all!

Tim Bonney, Lead Pastor

Who Now Will be Welcome?

Today is an unusual anniversary for me. It was on February 28th, 2010 when I officially ended my last Baptist pastorate. (From the early 1990s through 2010 I had served God as a pastor in the American Baptist Churches, USA. ) When I left the ABC that day I knew that my intention was to become a United Methodist. It would be a couple more months before I would receive my first appointment and July of 2010 before I officially started serving in the UMC at Cedar Fall First UMC as their Associate Pastor.

After starting at Cedar Falls First UMC, as soon as I was able, I started the process of transferring my orders to the Iowa Conference of the United Methodist Church.

During the entire process I felt very supported by the leadership of the Iowa Annual Conference. I felt very affirmed by members of the Board of Ordained Ministry who led me through the process. I felt affirmed by my District Superintendent in that process. For me it was a very welcoming and refreshing process.

Today I’m blessed to be serving in my third UMC appointment. I can say without reservation that each of the three churches I have been appointed to have been good fits for my gifts and graces. I have been blessed In my UMC service! 

During my time in the UMC I also have been proud to serve undo two fine prophet and pastoral Bishops who give great leadership as well as excellent Conference Superintendents. In short, I have felt welcomed, affirmed, blessed and proud to be serving in the Iowa Annual Conference of the UMC!

After such a wonderful experience in the UMC in Iowa, this week’s Special Called General Conference has been particularly painful and disheartening. This weeks General Conference failed to live up to my own personal experience in the UMC because the General Conference declared by its votes, its actions, its rhetoric, and its political tone that everyone will not be welcome in the UMC.

Yet I, and many many United Methodists, believe this is a complete contradiction to the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. If I have become anything in the past nine year, I have become a Methodist. I am a Methodist because I believe deeply in the overpowering, life changing, life giving grace of God through Jesus Christ. It is a grace that runs before us and loves us before we ever respond, it is a grace that carries us through life and into the presence of our God. It is free, it is unearned, it is for everyone!

So the big question for me today is now and in the future who will be welcome? Who now will we judge worthy of being part our denomination? And can we really call ourselves Methodists if we don’t welcome everyone whom Jesus loves? Because for me being a Methodist has always and ever will be about God’s boundless love!