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“Greater Gifts” January 2019

The season after Epiphany this year has been broken into two complementary series designed to equip congregations to “see all the people.”  The first series, “Greater Gifts” focuses upon lifting up the gifts in the community, strategically acting together as one body with many interconnected parts. This body, then, works as a cohesive unit to reach out beyond the walls of the church and bring people to know and receive the love of God.
The season after Epiphany almost always begins with a transitional Sunday—Baptism of the Lord—in which we encounter the narrative of Jesus’ baptism and John’s very dramatic description of baptism in Jesus’ name. The voice of God rings from heaven at Jesus’ baptism: “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased” (Lk. 3:22, NRSV). When we are baptized or gathered at the baptism of others, how do we hear God’s voice affirming each new member of God’s family? The second week contains Paul’s description of spiritual gifts—how the Spirit works in and through them and how we are gifted for being a part of the body of Christ with one another. A little bit of explanation is needed around the theme for week three, “Being Needy”: This phrase has a certain negative connotation that often relates to people who require a little more attention than others (we all likely know people like this). We all need one another, however, in order to be part of the whole body of Christ. The purpose of all these gifts is revealed in week four, in which the whole point of acting together is revealed—“having love,” which is the most important of the “marks of the new birth” (faith, hope, and love), as shared by both the apostle Paul and John Wesley.  We’ll examine spiritual gifts together.

Week 1: Baptism of the Lord January 13 “You Are Beloved” Luke 3:15-17, 21-22 

Week 2: Second Sunday after the Epiphany January 20 "Gifted for Others” 1 Corinthians 12:1-11

Week 3: Third Sunday after the Epiphany  January 27 ”Being Needy” 1 Corinthians 12:12-31

Week 4: Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany  February 3 ”Love” 1 Corinthians 13:1-13

“See All the People” February 2019

See All the People is a message of reaching people and expanding the church into the community! Jesus truly saw all the people; and as a result, the people were drawn to him.  Followers of Jesus, church members, would do well to make note of the way Jesus responded to the crowds!  Do we see those who sit beside us in church?  Do we see people in the community as persons who want to become involved in serving Christ?   In the first week of the series, the pressing crowd is mentioned alongside Jesus’ encouragement for his first disciples to go fishing. The image of the fish breaking the nets becomes an image analogous with the people “pressing in” on Jesus. The second week recalls “a great crowd of Jesus’ disciples and multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon” (Lk. 6:17). They were expecting Jesus to heal them. This image is a powerful one as we imagine the crowd relentlessly reaching for Jesus, that they might touch him and receive his healing power. Week three bids us to put ourselves in the shoes of the crowd listening to Jesus’ sermon. The message of loving enemies was (and is) so countercultural that it still causes us to question our very instincts as powers threaten to overtake and divide us.  Week four, Transfiguration Sunday, presents a dramatic scene as Jesus is transfigured as he stands with Moses and Elijah.  Jesus, Peter, John, and James then descended the mountain, and Jesus healed a boy with a demon—to the astonishment of “a great crowd” (Lk. 9:37).  Upon reflection of the entire season after Epiphany this year, we find a comprehensive way to make connections with our communities: discover our spiritual gifts, understand our need for one another and the love of God, and know that wherever Jesus goes, a crowd is sure to follow. The question is: “Are we ready to ‘see all the people’?” 

Week 1: Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany February 10 “The Pressing Crowd” Luke 5:1-11 

Week 2: Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany February 17 “The Expectant Crowd” Luke 6:17-26 

Week 3: Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany February 24 “The Questioning Crowd” Luke 6:27-38 

Week 4: Transfiguration Sunday March 3 “The Astounded Crowd” Luke 9:28-43 
 
*Scriptures cited are from the New Revised Standard Version Bibles found in our church’s pew racks!