'a Real Son of a Real Mother' did not have a Human Father",
a Christianity Today editorial 12/7/1959
"I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the LORD; let the humble hear and be glad. Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together!
“I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him and saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.
“Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the one who takes refuge in him! Oh, fear the LORD, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack…
The LORD redeems the life of his servants;
none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.”
- from Psalm 34 (ESV, adapt.)
It is a joy to be a part of the family of Jefferson United Methodist Church as we celebrate our 165th year of ministry. The congregation has a wonderful legacy of love and mission, and I feel blessed to be a part of her story. Our area is growing, and our circle of influence grows with it.
Some exciting things have been happening in our congregational family:
* While numbers are rarely a primary indicator of missional faithfulness, our average participation in Sunday worship has increased significantly in the past 2 ½ years; our baptisms and our new members are vastly outpacing funerals and transfers, which is a positive “turnaround trend”;
* We continue to get more visitors each week, and are retaining most of them;
* We have completed a bold building plan to improve and modernize our physical facilities, connecting our worship center with our education building and making some much needed repairs;
* Our new folks have been getting very active in the life of our congregation, in study groups, leadership opportunities and mission;
* We utilize our technological capabilities more efficiently, making use of power point and video in worship and in study;
* In the community, I have been meeting with area clergy in the hopes of gaining greater cooperation in ministry, and our West Jefferson Hills Ministerium continues to do wonderful things, from worship gatherings to collaborative missional efforts.
It has been a busy and positive year! And yet, there are even greater things in our future...
2009 will be my third full year in ministry at Jefferson church, unless our Bishop and his Cabinet determine that a change is in order (which is always a possibility in our connectional system). As I prepare for my third year, the number “3” has been running through my mind. With my love of music and respect for the great hymnody of the Church, the hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy!” has been a frequent refrain. This beautiful classic, with an 1826 text by Reginald Heber, extols the glory of the Triune God:
Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!I have been reflecting on this hymn for the past several months, praying it several times a week as part of my devotional life. I believe we are being challenged by the Spirit to focus in 2009 on “holiness”…the holiness of God and our own calling to be holy for Jesus’ sake in the midst of a broken world. Holiness, after all, was a crucial aspect of John Wesley’s ministry and the early Methodist message, and is an important part of our faith heritage.
Early in the morning our song shall rise to thee.
Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty,
God in three persons, blessed Trinity!
Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore thee,
casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
cherubim and seraphim falling down before thee,
which wert, and art, and evermore shalt be.
Holy, holy, holy! Though the darkness hide thee,
though the eye of sinful man thy glory may not see,
only thou art holy; there is none beside thee,
perfect in power, in love and purity.
Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
All thy works shall praise thy name, in earth and sky and sea.
Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty,
God in three persons, blessed Trinity.
“…a highway shall be there,
and it shall be called the Way of Holiness.”
– Isaiah 35:8
"The LORD reigns; let the peoples tremble!
He sits enthroned upon the cherubim;
let the earth quake!
The LORD is great in Zion;
he is exalted over all the peoples.
Let them praise your great and awesome name!
Holy is he!
The King in his might loves justice.
You have established equity;
you have executed justice
and righteousness in Jacob.
Exalt the LORD our God;
worship at his footstool!
Holy is he!
Moses and Aaron were among his priests,
Samuel also was among those who called upon his name.
They called to the LORD, and he answered them.
In the pillar of the cloud he spoke to them;
they kept his testimonies and the statute that he gave them.
O LORD our God, you answered them;
you were a forgiving God to them,
but an avenger of their wrongdoings.
Exalt the LORD our God,
and worship at his holy mountain;
for the LORD our God is holy!"- Psalm 99 (ESV)
This is not to suggest that we do not need to be in earnest prayer for our world and for all those who will be affected by the financial events of these trying days, particularly the poor; quite the opposite. What it should suggest is that those who number themselves among Jesus' disciples should not be so preoccupied with the doings of Wall Street or Congress that we forget that we have already surrendered everything to our Lord, and that our peace and security will never be found in mammon. Ever. Perhaps God is calling us to a new kind of faithfulness we have never considered, and would prefer to avoid. Perhaps this is an opportunity to refocus, reaffirm, and recommit.
"...whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ - the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ - yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead." - Philippians 3:7-11 (TNIV)
"With a warmed heart and active hands...So, for the first time, we have a mainline Wesleyan study Bible. And the scholarship looks excellent. The General Editors are Joel Green and Bishop William Willimon. Prominent contributors include Thomas Bandy, Ted Campbell, Bishop Kenneth Carder, Paul Chilcote, Kenneth Collins, Maxie Dunnam, Western PA alumnus Jeff Greenway, Adam Hamilton, Western PA alumnus Richard Heitzenrater, Zan Holmes, Bishop Rueben Job, Gregory Jones, Bishop Scott Jones, F. Belton Joyner, J. Ellsworth Kallas, Michael Lodahl, Russell Richey, Theodore Runyon, Bishop Robert Schnase, Michael Slaughter, David Lowes Watson, Bishop Timothy Whitaker, Ben Witherington, Charles Yrigoyen, and many others. That's a heck of a list!
"The Wesley Study Bible helps persons experience God in fresh ways and grow as more faithful disciples. The Wesley Study Bible gives inspiration and practical examples to live your faith with a warmed heart and active hands.
"Written for everyone in: African Methodist Episcopal Church, African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, Christian and Missionary Alliance, Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, Church of the Nazarene, Church of God (Anderson), Free Methodist Church of North America, The Salvation Army, Wesleyan Church, United Church of Canada, and The United Methodist Church."