Milestones of God’s Grace

I started this blog almost three years ago to talk about God leading me to change the direction of my ministry and became a pastor in the United Methodist Church.  For those of you who have read my posts you probably have noticed that my posting has been much less frequent in recent months.  Well, life has just been both good and busy.  

I have been blessed these past nine months to serve in my new appointment at Grace UMC in Sioux City.  It has been a lot of fun getting to know the people of Grace, learning my way around Sioux City, and working in ministry with my new charge.  As the same time I have been continuing the process of working with the Board of Ordained Ministry of the Iowa Conference of the United Methodist Church to complete my transfer of orders to the UMC and seek recognition as an Elder in Full Connection.  

Part of the requirements of receiving such a recommendation involved me completing courses in UMC history, doctrine, and polity.  I completed all of those classes in February of this year.  Also in February I had what will probably be my last meeting with an examining committee of the Board of Ordained Ministry.  And I am pleased to say that the BoOM has recommended me for full membership in the Iowa Conference!

This means that my name will come before the Clergy Session of the Conference in June for a vote.  If I receive an affirmative vote from those eligible to vote in the Clergy Session I will be an Elder in Full Connection in the UMC.  

For me this is a milestone in a lot of ways.  It is a milestone in completing the process with the BoOM.  In that process I felt very encouraged and affirmed while the examining committee members continued to ask good questions, seek understanding of my ministry and calling, and make decisions about my progress in the process.

It is also a milestone for me because, as I’ve shared many times now, I have felt for a long time that God wanted me to be a United Methodist serving God in a UM local churches.   I’ve shared here in this blog how I believe God nudged me and guided me over the years into a Wesleyan understanding of the Christian faith which led me to seek out the UMC as my church home.

Each Christian tradition has its strengths.  But what has continued to attract me and continues to pull me into the UMC has been John Wesley’s teaching and understanding of Grace.  God’s gracious love, described by Wesley as Prevenient, Justifying, and Sanctifying continues to capture my heart and my imagination.  What Wesley called the scripture way of salvation with its emphasis on the work of God’s grace in each of our lives throughout our lives colors and enriches everything that is best about United Methodists.  

I am also empowered and enriched by the sacramental theology of the UMC.  I was reminded again this Sunday in Communion how much my heart is warmed by the liturgy of the Great Thanksgiving and in the breaking of the bread and sharing of the cup.  There is something so right and so heavenly to bend down on one knee so that a small child can take a piece of bread and dip it in the cup with a joyful smile on her face as she is told that the body of Christ was given for her!  There is such Holy Spirit power in the voices of the congregation declaring as one that “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again!”  Some Sundays I can only think to myself, “it just doesn’t get any better than this!”

Yes indeed, I am deeply honored that the clergy of the Iowa Conference will consider my credentials this June, and I am deeply blessed to be serving the Lord in the Iowa Annual Conference of the UMC and here in Sioux City at Grace Church.  I am very glad to be a United Methodist!

May each of you be blessed as we continued to celebrate the Risen Christ in these Great Fifty Days of the Easter Season.  “Christ the Lord is Risen Today!  Alleluia!”

Stepping Out in Faith

Last week First United Methodist Church in Church Conference decided to move forward with its building and rennovation program. This program has been in the works for a number of years but in the last two the church has made major steps forward in honing the vision and raising funds for this very important project.

In the building plan a new addition will be added to the building which will include a new entrance, a new welcome area, a new coffee fellowship area, a new nursury, chapel, and meeting room. The sanctuary of the church will be renovated and brought up to date, the chilren’s area will be remodeled and the offices will be moved and redesigned. It is an exciting and historic project!

Through the process the building committee and the church have captured a vision for how God might use our church in Cedar Falls, how we might expand our ministries, and how we can work to be a light for Jesus Christ in our community.

The history of First UMC is that this is a building church. It is a church that has build new facilities but also a church that has built ministries in this community. It is a place where generations have been baptized, confirmed, and raised up in the faith of Jesus Christ. It is a church that teaches people how to act on what they believe.

Now First UMC has taken another step of commitment and stepped out in faith to say to Cedar Falls that we are here, we want to grow and help you grow. We want to contribute even more to this community. We want to share in your faith want and growth in faith. And we want to let you know that all are welcome to come and share in Christ’s love and grace and at Christ’s table.

We walk by faith and not by sight because we believe that if we do what Christ calls us to do he will help us to meet the needs of others in the name of Jesus!

We will be breaking ground on July 3rd following a 9:00 a.m. Transformation Worship Experience with the entire church. Meet us on the church lawn as we commit not only to transform our building but also to let the transforming power of Jesus work in our lives!

Holy Week Journey with Jesus

Sunday is Palm/Passion Sunday.  On Sunday we begin a journey with Jesus through his last days before his crucifixion, death, and resurrection.

Palm Sunday has always been a time for the triumphal entry of Christ.  We have the children carry palm branches down the aisle and we sing loud hosannas.  But in recent years the Church has also reemphasized the passion, that is death of Christ on the cross.  It is too easy to jump from the triumphal entry on Palm Sunday to the triumph of the resurrection and never talk about the scandal of the cross.  It is too easy to forget to talk about the suffering servant when we are singing songs of joy and triumph.  So this Sunday we will talk about Christ’s death and what that means for our faith.

On Maundy Thursday many churches around the world will celebrate the institution of the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion.  First UMC in Cedar Falls will have a reenactment of the last supper with the disciples and we will also share in the sacrament together.  In the days between Palm/Passion Sunday and Maundy Thursday Jesus has been meeting the challenge of the religious and political leaders of his day.  He has continued to talk about his radical gospel of love and the grace he offers.  When he comes to Thursday it is time to again try to get the twelve to understand that he intends to give his life for them.

On Good Friday we will celebrate Christ’s sacrifice.  Ten churches here in Cedar Falls, including First UMC, St. Timothy’s UMC, St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, and seven other congregations will participate in a procession of the cross from Overman Park through downtown Cedar Falls to the foot of the steps at St. Patrick’s Church.  We will read portions of the stations of the cross and remember Christ’s love and sacrifice for us and for the whole world.

There are many theories about the atonement of Christ, that saving act which happens for us on the cross.  Different Christians describe Christ’s work on the cross with different metaphors from scripture.  But what we all agree on is that Jesus Christ died to give us knew life and to offer us the saving gospel.  It is hard to imagine such a sacrifice, it is hard to comprehend what Christ gave up for us, it is hard to imagine such a cruel death.  But what we can know and do know is that the scriptures tell us that we can love God because he first loved us.  When are given God’s grace so that we can respond to him.  We are given God’s grace when we respond to him.  And we experience God’s grace each and every day as he sanctifies us and leads us to grow in grace each day.

If we really look at the cross and really look seriously at the one who would call us to be servants to all for the sake of the gospel then when we reach Easter Sunday and the tomb is found empty we can with even greater joy should and sing “Jesus Christ is Risen Today!” with joy, with amazement, with wonder that the one who is our savior became the greatest by being the servant all.

Lord Christ let us travel with you this week in your way and on your path that we might see the glory of your resurrection this week with new eyes, with new hearts, and with greater joy!

I Believe….

I am in the third week on a sermon series in Transformation Worship at First UMC Cedar Falls called “I Believe…”  It is a sermon series based on the outline of doctrines taught in the Apostles’ Creed.  (If you want to remind yourself of the content of the creed click on the tab “ecumenical creeds” at the top of my blog.)  The series is in a response to a request that I preach about basic Christian beliefs.  I cannot think of a simpler easier to understand summary than the Apostles’ Creed.

A lot of Christians do not realize that in the same time frame in which the ecumenical creeds were being formulated to answer doctrinal issues of the day the church was also deciding which books would end up in the canon.  The canon is the list of books which are found in the Bible.  In particular the Nicene Creed and issues around the incarnation of Christ were very much a part of the discussion at that time.

The canon didn’t just drop out of the sky.  The Church chose books which were in use of the church, were believed to have Apostolic authorship or connections, and which taught the faith of Jesus Christ as taught by the church, Christ, and his Apostles.

The Discipline of the United Methodist Church declares that the scriptures are the primary source for our doctrine and that we utilize scripture, tradition, experience, and reason as we work out our faith life together.  It is important that we have these bedrock teachings on which to give a basic foundation to our faith.   Certainly there is a lot of room for differences of viewpoint and understanding.  But there needs to be a basic outline of agreement which defines what it means to be Christian just as the Articles of Religion and the Confession of Faith of the EUB outline for us what it means to be United Methodists.

I believe that these faith statements are vital because connect us with the historical church, they remind us of the priorities of faith of the early church, and they give us a framework on which to begin the difficult and important task of Biblical interpretation.

In the coming weeks I will be preaching about Christ’s death and resurrection, the Holy Spirit, what it means to be part of the holy catholic church, and finally the eternal life which we can all experience through the love and grace of Christ.

While someone may think that a sermon series of basic Christian doctrine could be dull, it should not be.  We should be excited to talk about what we believe and how it has changed and is changing our lives!

I Believe!

Contemporary Worship and Historic Christian Practice

As we enter the Advent Season this coming Sunday we will be lighting Advent Candles to commemorate the season in Transformation Worship.  So why do we celebrate Advent and light Advent Candles in a Contemporary worship service.  Isn’t contemporary worship about worshipping in a way that isn’t traditional?  Well, not exactly.

Contemporary Worship is about finding ways to share the heart of the Gospel of Jesus Christ with a post-modern audience.  It is about finding ways to communicate the old old story of Jesus Christ and God’s love for us in new ways.  But contemporary worship is not about tossing aside the gospel in favor in order to contemporary.

So, how do you tell what activities in worship are to be updated to make worship contemporary and what things do we do in worship that always remain?   We have to understand that the same basic elements of worship that are found in a meaningful traditional service are also found in a meaningful contemporary service.  In both forms of worship we pray, we sing praises to God, we share joys and concerns, we study the scriptures, we share in gospel music with musicians in the service, we he the message of the gospel preached, and we share in the Sacraments.

What is different is not the foundational content of worship but instead it is a matter of style and context.  In a Contemporary service the goal is to connect with the current culture.  So music is in a style that fits styles of music that are most popular today.  Sermons should confront, as much as possible, contemporary issues that people are dealing with today.  In Contemporary Worship you try to avoid insider language that only active and long time Christians will understand.

Even the way people dress in Contemporary Worship is geared to fit the current relaxed nature of fashion in our culture.  The pulpit robes and albs worn by some pastors in traditional worship are actually based on academic garb and on street clothes worn by an average person in the day in which pastors began to wear such clothing.  So in contemporary worship a more relaxed dress fits our more relaxed culture.

However, Contemporary worship must continue to preach the same gospel of Jesus Christ, teach the same doctrines,  and emphasize a view of history that is Christ centered rather than culture centered.  So why do we continue to light Advent Candles even in a Contemporary worship service?  Because we as Christians need to put the Christian year and the Christian calendar above the secular calendar.  We need to remember that Advent and Christmas are foremost about the coming of Jesus Christ in the world.  And no matter how “contemporary” or “post-modern” we may get, we are here to teach the same gospel which Jesus brought to the world centuries ago.

Transformation Worship

Tomorrow is the first Sunday for the Transformation Worship Experience at First United Methodist Church of Cedar falls, Iowa.  Worship begins at 8:30 a.m. followed by fellowship and the opportunity to attend Bible study as part of the FUMC Sunday School program.

As part of our worship we will be sharing together in the sacrament of Holy Communion, we will sing praises together, read from the scriptures, and celebrate God’s transforming grace in our lives!

If you are in the Cedar Falls area please come be our guest for the inaugural Sunday of this new worship experience.

Transformation Worship Experience

Last night the Contemporary Worship Design Team at First United Methodist Church chose a name for our new contemporary worship experience which will begin September 5th at 8:30 a.m. The worship time will be called “Transformation.” The name Transformation was chosen because it reminds us of the transforming power of Jesus Christ to bring us His redemptive love and grace, to give us the grace to grow as Christians and to transform our lives into the kind of people God wants us to be.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1-2

When we begin Transformation it will be a new worship gathering, in a new location in the church, at a new time, with a new order or worship and a new and fresh opportunity for us to worship together.

I am very excited with the work that the Transformation Worship Design Team is doing and will be doing in the coming weeks as we prayerfully work to make this a gathering that will glorify God, help our church to worship the living Christ, and allow us to invite new friends into our church fellowship!

Let’s Be Transformed!
Tim Bonney