For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.
Romans 8: 14-17
Monday September 25th – Romans 8: 18-30
Most of us don’t like waiting. We want things now, we demand immediate answers and results. The challenge for us is that our faith as outlined in the Biblical traditions are rooted in waiting. Being an heir of God means waiting in hope for the glory about to be revealed. The trick, according to Paul, is to wait in hope. Hope that we cannot see, but bring us salvation and unites us in Christ’s love. How can we wait in hope this week?
Prayer: Holy Spirit, help us in our weakness, intercede and guide us. Amen.
Tuesday September 26th – Exodus 13: 17-22
What does it mean to be led by the Spirit? One of the promises we see in scripture is that the Spirit will lead us during times of wilderness. In today’s passage, we find the Israelites wandering in the desert after fleeing Egypt. While they wandered, God was with them, in a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night, to lead them along the way and it never left its place in front of the people. We too are given the assurance of God’s presence while we wander in the wilderness.
Prayer: Almighty God, stay ahead of us, leading us by your pillar day and night, so we may be led by you.
Wednesday September 27th – Galatians 4:1-7
The relationship between a parent and a child is one that is filled with love, intimacy, and promise. While not all of our earthly relationships reflect that ideal, we acknowledge that a familial relationship is one that is set apart from other relationships. God calls us God’s children, heirs through God. That means that we are called into a special, intimate, and loving relationship. How do we honor that relationship?
Prayer: Abba, Father, we love you. Thank you for loving us.
Thursday September 28th – 2 Corinthians 5:17-21
It is very easy to hold grudges and hold on to the past. Many of us can think of at least a dozen wrongdoings that we have not let go of. But scripture tells us that when we are in Christ, we are a new creation! This means, we need to be willing to let go of the old, the past that chains us to sin, to claim our new life in Christ. What is a grudge you need to let go this week?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, help us to claim our new life in you.
Friday September 29th – Romans 12
Living as God’s children demands our whole selves! It is not just about coming to church on Sundays, but about obedience in the whole of our lives. And unfortunately, this is not an easy calling! We are to love what is genuine, hate what is evil, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer, offer hospitality to strangers, bless those who persecute us, and live peaceably with all. How can we live into this calling this week?
Prayer: God, help us to present ourselves as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to you.
Saturday September 30th – Romans 8:31-39
When have you felt far from God? Have you ever wondered if God’s love could reach you? In this passage, we are reminded that there is nothing that can separate us from the love of Christ. This means no matter how bad you feel, no matter what sin you have committed, no matter how bad a person you think you are, God’s love still finds us and renews us.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, we thank you that your love finds us no matter what.
Worship Team NLI November 2018 Update
We enjoyed hearing from so many of you during our Listening Sessions in October and November. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and ideas with our team! To meet the current needs of our congregation and to carry on in our mission to invite and welcome new people to our church, St. Matthew’s will continue offering both traditional and modern worship services as well as Sunday School on Sunday mornings. The team agrees that the best time to make a change in our Sunday morning schedule will be either May 1 or September 1, 2019. We are currently drafting a survey to share with the congregation to solicit input on proposed schedule changes. Surveys, both online and paper copies, will be published in January. The team will meet again at the end of January to review the results of the surveys. We aim to submit our final recommendation to Church Council at their February meeting. Ideally, we will have at least 6 weeks to communicate any change in the Sunday morning schedule to our church community. Keep in mind that no final decisions have been made at this time, and our goal is to ensure transparent communication throughout this process.
If you have additional thoughts or questions, you can email Mandy Lloyd, firstname.lastname@example.org, and/or connect with any other member on the team: Nancy Cappel, Susan Ely, Ken Landers, Lyle Minter, Cathy Moberly, Darold Plate, and Elaine Steele. We invite you to continue the conversation with us!
NLI Update October 2018
Fall is a busy time at St. Matthew’s, and NLI is no exception! In September, the Vision Alignment Team and Church Council members met with St. Matthew’s NLI Mentor, Rev. Reggie Tuck, who led them in a discussion on discerning the values that best characterize St. Matthew’s. The Worship and Communications Teams have been meeting since this summer, and just this past Sunday, the Worship Team hosted two of three planned listening sessions. A total of 60 people attended both sessions and shared their thoughts on worship. The next listening session will take place Tuesday, October 23, at 7:00 pm in the sanctuary. If you’re unable to attend, but would like to share your thoughts with the Team, please email Mandy Lloyd, email@example.com.
The second session of Financial Peace University began on October 7. As you may recall, one of the five NLI recommendations we received suggested offering Financial Peace University. So far this initiative has been a great success.
Another NLI recommendation being implemented this fall is the formation of life groups. A successful pilot program was held last spring, and 3 life groups involving 37 St. Matthew’s members began meeting in September. The groups are meeting on a weekly basis through the end of this month. We have one adults group, one parents of teens group, and a blended young adults/young families group.
As we move through the fall into the Advent season, you’ll see additional opportunities seeking your participation. I hope you will take advantage of them, so that we can include your input as we take this journey.
Please feel free to contact me with your questions, suggestions, and ideas.
Church Council Chair
- Why is corporate worship (worship with others) important to you?
- Which service do you usually attend and why?
- What factors impact your worship attendance decisions?
NLI July 3, 2018 Update
I would like to introduce to you the members of our NLI Strategic Worship and Communications teams. The Strategic Worship Team is tasked with evaluating the current worship schedule and identifying ways for all age levels to engage with Sunday School and worship. The Communications Team will develop a strategic communications plan that will contemplate updates to St. Matthew’s website and social media presence, as well as address the ways we communicate to those within and outside of the church through our bulletins, symbols, and signage.
The members of the Strategic Worship Team include: Nancy Cappel, Susan Ely, Ken Landers, Mandy Lloyd, Lyle Minter, Cathy Moberly, Darold Plate, and Elaine Steele.
The members of the Communications Team include: Susan Adams, Fran DelVecchio, Kim Lauer, Chris Laughlin, Keith Robertory, and Lori Taylor.
These groups will begin meeting shortly, and we will be sharing their progress as they move forward. Additionally, each group will be looking to the congregation for feedback and input as they do their work. Stay tuned for these opportunities. I want to thank these members of our congregation for agreeing to help lead us as we discern how best to address the critical issues of worship and communication. Please keep these team members and their efforts in your prayers.
The Vision Alignment Team has also continued their work. The members of the Vision Alignment Team are John Alexander, Leeanne Alonso, Carolyn Andrukonis, Karen Chevalier, Earl Conklin, Neil Hough, Beth Lanthier, and Boe Workman. At their last meeting, they considered a draft presentation created by Boe Workman, which includes the feedback St. Matthew’s members provided during the NLI Weekend last fall and input from the Discipleship Committee. The Church Council will hear more about the VAT’s progress and plans for congregation outreach, which they expect to begin in the very near future. This outreach will occur in multiple forms and in a variety of settings so that everyone will be able to provide input.
Please continue to be in prayer for our church as we implement the NLI Report Recommendations, and please feel free to contact Neil or me with any questions, concerns, or comments.
From Pastor Neil
Here is an NLI update, as reported to the St. Matthew’s Church Council on February 28, 2018. After more than a year of preparation, we held our NLI Retreat weekend in October 2017. The weekend culminated with a celebration worship service and a presentation of our NLI report. This report describes St. Matthew’s areas of strength, areas of weakness (where we have room to grow) and outlines five Innovations that are designed to help us take the next steps of faithful ministry. After much discussion and two lively town halls, the Innovation Report was accepted by an 84% majority of members present at a called Church Conference in November. The five Innovations are in the areas of: vision alignment; communications; worship; discipleship; and generosity.
Work is underway on several of the Innovations and you will be hearing much more about them in the coming weeks. At its January meeting, St. Matthew’s Church Council approved a seven-member Vision Alignment Team (VAT) consisting of: John Alexander, Leeanne Alonso, Carolyn Andrukonis, Karen Chevalier, Earl Conklin, Beth Lanthier and Boe Workman. The VAT is just beginning its work of discerning God’s vision for the next season of St. Matthew’s ministry. They will be meeting with our mentor, Reverend Reggie Tuck on March 18. One of the primary questions they are considering is: what does God’s preferred future for St. Matthew’s Church look like? As part of their work, they will be asking the entire congregation to join them in the discernment process. So, I want to ask you – as part of your Lenten spiritual discipline to pray for God’s guidance for St. Matthew’s Church. Ask God to help us dream God’s dreams for our church and community. Ask God to give us courage to move into the future with confidence and faith and hope, not fear and anxiety. Ask God to help us grow closer to Jesus and have a clearer picture of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.
In other NLI news, a Discipleship Team is being formed and is meeting this week to start envisioning a plan that will strengthen our ability to be and make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Members of the Discipleship Team are: Annette Landers, Chris Ligon, Jenny Ligon, Gail Krieder, Sean Moran, Susan Moran, and Keisha Smith. The Trustees are exploring ways to improve signage in and around the church. And, starting on March 18, we will be offering Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. The Church Council, VAT, and Discipleship Team, along with other church leaders are reading Membership to Discipleship: Growing Mature Disciples Who Make Disciples by Phil Maynard so that we can have common language as we carry out God’s mission together. Members of the Discipleship Team will be attending an Intentional Discipleship workshop led by Phil Maynard on March 15. These were all action items outlined in the Innovations Report.
As I said above, some of this work is just beginning and you will hear a lot more in the coming weeks. More importantly, you will be invited to grow closer to Jesus in your own life and participate in the discernment and decision-making processes as we dare to imagine what God is dreaming – not only for St. Matthew’s Church, but for the community and the world that so desperately needs to have a life-changing encounter with Jesus. God has blessed St. Matthew’s United Methodist Church with an abundance of gifts, so that we can be a blessing to the world.
Dear St. Matthew’s Church Family,
On Sunday afternoon, we held a called Church Conference to vote on the Innovations we were given in the NLI Report. Here are the results of the voting:
Total votes cast, 150: Yes, 126 (84%); No, 24 (16%).
I want to thank everyone who participated in the town halls and came out on Sunday afternoon to participate in the Church Conference. Whether you voted “yes” or “no,” your passion to do God’s work and commitment to St. Matthew’s Church is evident. Please continue keep St. Matthew’s UMC in your prayers as we work together to fulfill God’s dreams for the church and community.
Attached is the link for the NLI Report St Matthews Final Innovation Report 10.15.17.
What is Next Level Innovations (NLI)?
NLI is an investment in our larger churches that have a recognized potential for reaching more people in their community and inviting them to become disciples of Jesus. These churches have healthy and coachable leadership (clergy and lay).
NLI is based on similar programs in other UMC conferences, such as Missional Church Consultative Initiative (MCCI) out of West Ohio Conference and Healthy Church Initiative (HCI) from the Missouri Conference. Like the above mentioned programs, NLI has multiple components including a foundation of prayer, monthly clergy training, two to three laity training events, an intensive weekend of church study, a detailed report and recommendation for innovations specially developed for the church, and follow up coaching for a year or more.
Who is Invited to Participate?
District Superintendents have carefully studied and selected potential church participants. Churches selected have met size, health and potential growth requirements. Leadership, both clergy and lay, should be teachable and ready to lead change.
What is the Church’s Commitment?
NLI churches commit to a number of activities over a period of three or more years. They commit themselves to a practice of daily prayer for the ministry of their church. They support their pastor’s participation in monthly training. Each church forms an NLI team that helps the pastor implement the training they receive. Church leaders participate in two to three training events designed for laity, around issues such as breakthrough prayer and stewardship. Church leaders and attendees participate with a consultation team and mentors in a weekend long intensive study of the strengths and weaknesses of their church, and the best potential innovations to move forward. Upon receipt of the NLI report and recommended innovations at the end of the weekend, the church will hold a series of town hall meetings to decide whether or not to proceed with the innovations. If the innovations are accepted, the church then works with their mentor to implement the innovations. If the innovations are not accepted, the mentoring, peer groups and laity training come to an end.
What is the Clergy Commitment?
Clergy participants are expected to attend approximately nine NLI meetings – these will be held locally for the majority of the work day. There will be associated reading and projects with these trainings. Clergy are then expected to return to their church and with the help of their NLI team begin to implement the ideas and innovations about which they have learned. Clergy will help organize, prepare for and fully attend the Innovation Weekend.
Topics that are likely to be included in clergy training are all from the larger church perspective, including breakthrough prayer techniques, how to lead change, stewardship, discipleship, staffing, and aligning vision with staff and laity. Special topics may be designed for the needs of each particular group of churches.
What is the District Commitment?
The District will provide leadership and administration for NLI and secure outside funding to offset much of the significant cost of this ministry. The district will secure training locations and leaders and district staff will participate fully in each of the NLI weekends. The district will arrange for and oversee the Innovation Mentors for each church. The District is giving significant staff time to the development of this process and these churches over the next several years, all without increasing the apportionments. This is possible due to the income from the new District Offices and grants from the Virginia Conference and the Virginia Foundation.
What is the cost?
The overall cost of NLI exceeds $10,000 per church. Each church will be asked to contribute $3,000 over the course of three years; $500 for the first year, $1500 for the second and $1,000 for the third.
In addition, clergy will be asked to purchase books and materials for their training and each church will be asked to cover the cost of hospitality and meals for the weekend Innovation Consultation team.
How is this different from every other conference/district program we’ve seen come to us over the years?
First of all, this program has been developed after a study of several very successful programs in other conferences and states – this model of super-charged training of the clergy, mentoring, and an intensive weekend study, followed by individualized plans for growth has been used over and over again over the last ten years or so to revitalize congregations throughout our denomination.
We didn’t want to just take someone else’s model though – we think Northern Virginia churches are unique, and large churches in our area have significant struggles that are not the same as other churches. So we invested the past year in interviewing and designing this program with a team of large church pastors who have already succeeded in growing large churches in this area. The team committed to bringing you the best resources they wished they’d had as they grew their churches- and that became NLI.
This was never intended to be a one size fits all program; each church will take what they need from the program and contextualize it to the current situation. Each church will have an individual mentor, so it is not just information shared, but a plan to implement with accountability as well.
There is also a significant investment of Conference and District funding and staffing. These investments would not occur if there was not significant belief that NLI will make a difference in these churches and in their communities for Christ.
What if we already have a mission, vision and strategic plan set out, or in development?
NLI is intended to work with the church wherever it is in its lifecycle to help move to the next level. As a church lives in to their current strategic plans, the pastor may develop more resources and the laity may find available training through NLI that can help their current strategic plans. The innovations that will come from the Innovation Consultation Weekend will not occur until year 2 of the NLI process, and at that time the church can discern if those innovations become a new part of the strategic plan, or they can choose not to implement them.
How much laity time and effort will this take?
How much clergy/staff time and effort will this take?
Each church should have an NLI team that has been oriented to the process, and will assist the lead clergy in communications and accountability. During the first year, this group will meet at one Orientation meeting, and 2-3 additional times with the lead pastor for training, as needed. There should also be a team working to prepare for the Innovation Weekend Consultation that will occur in the second year; they will do a self-study of the church and prepare for the special weekend. After the weekend, if the church goes forward with the Innovations, there will be substantial laity teams working on each of the Innovations.
For the first year, the major time commitment will be for the lead pastor. There will be approximately nine full or partial day meetings to develop resources, insight, and leadership techniques specific to large, Northern Virginia churches to help lead changes that are to come. The pastor may need additional help or scheduling work-arounds, and the church should be prepared to allow this time investment. Other clergy and/or staff can plan a role in both some of the training events and in assisting the pastor in implementation and administration.
Who is our mentor, and how does that part work?
Mentors have been recruited and will be assigned to churches by the NLI District team, including your District Superintendent. Our mentor is Reverend Reggie Tuck, Senior Pastor of Messiah UMC in Springfield.
Mentors are for the whole church, and will probably most often have a one-on-one relationship with the pastor as well. They will coach, resource, challenge, and help implement innovations throughout the entire process. Your church will not be alone in figuring out what to do next – you will have a mentor who has already done this work in their own churches and ministries.
Series: The Return of the King
Sermon: Paradise Found – Neil Hough
Scripture Reading: Revelation 19:6-10, Revelation 21:1-7
And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life. Those who conquer will inherit these things, and I will be their God and they will be my children. (Revelation 21:5-7)
Monday September 26 — Revelation 16:1-21
Even though apocalyptic writing, like prophetic writing, envisions the future, its purpose is not to promote speculation. The purpose of apocalyptic writing is to challenge hearers to change their lives right now. Revelation 16:15 is a parenthetical reminder from the living Christ to be prepared at all times for his return. Read Matthew 24:36-44 to find out what Jesus said about watchfulness. Note that Jesus also says that “only the Father” knows the day and hour of the end of the age. What would you do differently if you knew for certain the day and hour of Jesus’ return? What would be important to you? What trivial matters would you let go? How can you live like that today?
- Prayer: Eternal God, remind me that only you know the day and hour of Jesus return. Prepare me to be ready, whenever that day arrives. Help me be ready every day. Amen.
Tuesday September 27 — Revelation 17:1-18:24
Chapters 17 and 18 describe the fall of Babylon—Rome, the “Great Whore”—which stands in stark contrast to the New Jerusalem described in chapter 21. God’s judgment of Rome is consistent with themes of warnings and judgment found in the writings of Old Testament prophets. In the images of Revelation, we find both the justice of God’s judgment and the hope of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. In Isaiah 43:18-19, it says that a “new thing” means the “former things” must go away. Can you give up “former things” so that God can do a “new thing” in your life?
- Prayer: Almighty God, I am ready for you to do a new thing in the world, beginning with me. Help me let go of “former things” so that you can make all things new in me. Amen.
Wednesday September 28 — Revelation 19:1-21
Revelation 19 begins with a description of the heavenly celebration of God’s victory. It reminds hearers that worship is the primary response to God’s salvation. In many respects, the Book of Revelation is a book of worship. It describes how God’s people worship God, even on the most difficult days, and in the midst of trials and tribulations. If you can, find a recording of The Hallelujah Chorus by Handel and listen to it today. Join in the celebration of God’s victory.
- Prayer: Lord God, I worship you today, not only for the promise of future glory in heaven, but also for the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ today. Amen.
Thursday September 29 — Revelation 20:1-15
In Revelation 13, John describes God’s people as those whose names are written in the “Lamb’s book of life.” This is a vivid image describing everyone who has accepted the grace of God that has been offered by the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ—the Lamb of God. The judgment described at Jesus’ return is meant to inspire repentance, acceptance of God’s grace, profession of faith, and holy living in the present. This is a day for giving thanks. Give thanks for God’s gift of salvation by accepting His grace and becoming a follower of Jesus.
- Prayer: Heavenly Father, today I confess my sin and I accept your grace and forgiveness. With your help, I will be a faithful follower of Jesus. Write my name in your book. Amen.
Friday September 30 — Revelation 21:1-27
The Revelation ends with the vision of God’s new heaven and new earth. The city of Rome—the city that represents the empires of the world—was a whore that was judged and ultimately defeated. The holy city—the New Jerusalem—is a bride. It is the bride of Christ. This new city is not built with human hands. It is God’s new creation: a gift of God. The last chapters of Revelation offer an image of what God intends for us. If this new life is what God desires for you, what is preventing you from living this new life right now? By God’s grace it is possible. Are you able and willing to trust God?
- Prayer: God of Hope, give me the courage I need to trust you completely and fully enter your Kingdom. Today, I will live the new life you offer through Jesus Christ.
Saturday October 1 — Revelation 22:1-21
The Bible ends in the same place it begins: in a garden. The paradise lost when Adam and Eve fell from grace, because they wanted to “be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5) becomes paradise found. The world, that God loves so much that he sent his Son to live and die for its salvation, is redeemed by God’s grace. This story has a happy ending. It gives us hope. How do you keep hope alive when it seems that all hope is lost? What instills you with confidence in God’s promises? Are you ready to live your life—today—as if you believe God’s Word?
- Prayer: Merciful God, grant me the wisdom to look to you, and you alone, for hope. Help me live the life you intend for me to live. Help me be the person you want me to be. Amen.
September 4, 2016
Sermon Series: Words to Live By
Sermon: Words to Live By: Courage
Scriptures: Haggai 1:15b-2:9; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17
Yet now take courage, O Zerubbabel, says the Lord; take courage, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest; take courage, all you people of the land, says the Lord; work, for I am with you, says the Lord of hosts, 5according to the promise that I made you when you came out of Egypt. My spirit abides among you; do not fear.
Haggai 2: 4-5
Scriptures for the week:
Moses encourages the Israelite people enter a new land and begin a new chapter of their lives. God says these words to us today, as we face new chapters in our lives. We may be facing a new year of school, a new job, a change in our family or life. As we face changes in our lives, a new beginning, God encourages us to be strong and courageous, comforts our fears; and promises to be with us.
At some point in our lives, we will have to step up into a leadership role. It may be in our homes, our work places, our church, or in the community. Leadership comes with great power, but also with great responsibility. Leadership also requires courage–courage to step up to the tasks before us and to face our fears. God says these words “be bold and courageous” to Joshua as Joshua steps up into leadership. As God encouraged Joshua to be a bold and courageous leader, God encourages us today.
While our strength and courage may wane, God’s strength is everlasting. This song to God reminds us that our courage does not find its true power in our own abilities, but in God’s faithfulness which never fails. Even when we doubt, God never gives up on us. When we are weak, God holds us up. What are the places of your life where your courage lacks? Lift up those places of weakness to God and find encouragement in God’s promise of faithfulness.
Our culture today glorifies our own strength and independence. In contrast, Paul lifts up our weakness, and not our strength. He says over and over again, it is through our weakness that we will find God’s strength and that we deceive ourselves when we think our strength is enough. Today, Paul challenges us to surrender our strength before God. Our true courage comes from God’s strength. What would our lives look like if we relied on God’s strength, rather than our own? How would our relationships transform?
Courage does not mean that we will not face suffering or affliction. In fact, living courageous lives, lives worthy of the calling God places in our lives, may mean that we may face additional trials. But in that suffering, Paul assures us that while we may be afflicted or persecuted, we will not be destroyed because Jesus Christ lives and reigns in us. What are the trials you face today? What places in your life do you feel like you have been struck down? Lift up these trials to God, knowing that God will not let these places be the end of the story.
Perhaps one of the places in our lives where we need the most courage is as we face death. In this passage, Jesus prepares his friends for his death. In this passage, Jesus makes two promises. One, that he prepares a place for each of them in his Father’s home, and second, that he does not abandon them or leave them orphaned, but leaves with them the Holy Spirit. Jesus offers us these same promises as we face the difficult reality of death in our lives. Jesus reminds us that death is defeated by Christ, and we face it with courage knowing that Christ offers us the promise of resurrection and new life.
“All Hands” needed for Spring Church Cleanup and Repair Day, Saturday, May 21st at 8:30AM-12PM. Please join the Trustees to do some “housekeeping” of our Church facilities. We have work for all ages. Projects: Clean Classrooms, Social Hall, Kitchen, and Library furnishings, windows, whiteboards, and shelves. Vacuum and wipe down chairs and couches. Organize storage areas. Install two new mini-blinds in the Rev. Ken Jackson Food Closet. Inspect plumbing for leaks etc. The Trustees provide cleaning supplies, repair parts and small tools. Come to the Social Hall for your assignment and supplies. Contact Carol West at firstname.lastname@example.org or 703-347-1650 for questions or concerns.
Sermon Series: The Gifts of Christmas
Sermon Title: The Gift of Anticipation
Scriptures: Isaiah 2: 1-5, Matthew 24: 36-44
“But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.” Matthew 24: 36-44
Monday November 30 – Romans 13:11-14
We are a procrastinating people. We put off things until the very last minute and then panic when it is not done. In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he reminds them that it is time to wake from sleep. Salvation is near, and the time of living honorably has come! What have we been putting off? What are we dragging our feet in doing? How can we live into Paul’s words and “put on the Lord Jesus Christ?”
Tuesday December 1 – Isaiah 2: 1-5
This passage from Isaiah anticipates a day when war will be no more, when “nation shall not lift up sword against nation” and the Lord’s reign will be established. While we are not yet in that world, what would it look like if we lived anticipating that day? What would our world look like if our first reaction to violence was not more violence, but instead to seek God’s peaceable kingdom? Most of all, this passage reminds us that to build for God’s peaceable kingdom, we are to rely on God’s words of wisdom, rather than our own. Today, say a prayer for God’s will to be done, and not our own.
Wednesday December 2 – Psalm 25: 1-10
In the last few weeks, we have witnessed horrendous acts terror. Many lives were lost and families and communities continue to grieve for the loss of loved ones. In the midst of the pain and grief we feel, this Psalm is a prayer for guidance and deliverance. When it seems like there are no right words and we are overwhelmed with sadness, we turn to God seeking mercy, justice, steadfast love, and faithfulness.
Thursday December 3 – Jeremiah 33:14-16
God always keeps God’s promises, do we do the same? During the season of Advent, we read from many prophecies from the Old Testament, because Jesus was the fulfillment of God’s covenant, God’s promise, made to the Israelite people long ago and fulfilled in our midst today. Jesus was not a new promise, but a very old promise made long ago, fulfilled today, and revealed in the days to come. What promises have we made that we have forgotten? As we prepare for the fulfillment of a promise, can we also remember our promises and work towards fulfilling them?
Friday December 4 – Romans 12: 14-21
When we are wronged, what is the right and humble way to respond? Are we to respond with anger and seek revenge–which is often our immediate reaction? The problem with seeking revenge is that it destroys ourselves and our relationships. In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he offers another way: “Bless those who persecute you; bless, and do not curse them.” What would our lives look like if we lived by this model? How would our lives be transformed if we gave food and drink to our enemies? Paul’s powerful words remind us that good always triumphs over evil: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Saturday December 5 – Matthew 25: 34-46
Jesus tells us that whatever we do for those who are hungry, thirsty, and imprisoned, we do for Jesus. In a season when we anticipate our Lord Jesus Christ, as we prepare our homes, buy gifts, make travel plans for Christmas, how are we preparing our hearts and our relationships for the coming of Christ? Do we see the face of Jesus Christ in our neighbors, strangers,co-workers, friends, and strangers? How do our behaviors and attitudes need to change so that we treated each person like they were Jesus?
Sermon: Simple Possessions
Scripture Readings: Matthew 6:24-34,1 Timothy 6:6-9
Of course, there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains. (1 Timothy 6:6-9)
Monday November 9 — Matthew 6:24-34
Human beings spend a lot of time worrying about having enough: having enough time, having enough money, having enough of the right kinds of possessions. Some people on the margins worry about basic necessities like food, clothing, and shelter, but most of us have more than we need. Jesus’ teaching about material possessions does not deny that we have needs. Instead he challenges us not to let our desire for more and our concern with having enough keep us from trusting and serving God. He challenges us to make sure we keep our priorities in order.
- What are the biggest worries in your life? Do you ever worry that you won’t have enough (time, money, possessions)? How do your worries affect your relationship with God?
- Prayer: Eternal God, grant me the courage I need to trust you with my whole life. Help me to trust you and to get my priorities in order. Help me put you first in all things. Amen.
Tuesday November 10 — 2 Chronicles 1:7-13
God’s message to Solomon is similar to Jesus’ message to his disciples. According to 2 Chronicles 1:10, Solomon did not ask God for honor or wealth or possessions. He simply asked for wisdom. In Matthew 6:35 Jesus insists that his disciples should simply seek (ask for) the Kingdom of God and the righteousness of God—and trust God with the rest. This is not supposed to be the “secret” to health and wealth. This is not to say that the way we can get what we want is by not asking for it. The point is that we should ask for what we most need—God’s wisdom, God’s righteousness, and God’s Kingdom—and trust that God is good.
- Pay attention to your prayers this week. For what are you asking God? Can you differentiate between what you want and what you need?
- Prayer: Merciful God, forgive my selfish desire to have it all. Fill me with wisdom and righteousness, and receive me into your Kingdom. That is my humble prayer. Amen.
Wednesday November 11 — Luke 12:13-21
One of the ways Jesus challenges our conventional wisdom is by insisting that his followers will have different priorities that the rest of the world. While the rest of the world—represented by the rich landowner in Jesus’ parable—is storing up treasure on earth, Jesus’ disciples will be storing up treasures in heaven by being good stewards of God’s creation and serving God’s purposes in the world.
- What is your response to Jesus’ parable in Luke 12:13-21? How will you apply its lesson to your life? Where are you storing up treasure today?
- Prayer: Generous God, thank you for providing the many blessings that I enjoy today. Help me to use them to advance the purposes of your Kingdom in the world. Amen.
Thursday November 12 — 1 Timothy 6:6-9
The letters of the New Testament are focused on the mission and ministry of the Church in the world. The letters to Timothy contain words of advice and warning to a young Christian leader. Specifically, they warn Timothy not to be distracted from his primary purpose in life and not to let others be distracted as well. The lesson is that our desire to have more is a temptation that will lure us away from and distract us from what should be the highest priority in our lives: our relationship with God.
- What is your level of contentment this week? How does the desire for having more (of everything) distract you from your primary purpose in life: to love and serve God?
- Prayer: God of Love, I confess that even when I have more than enough, I do not experience contentment or joy. Transform my desires, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Friday November 13 — Hebrews 13:1-5
The final chapter of the Letter to the Hebrews contains some general exhortations that include these words: “Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’” (Hebrews 13:5). The point is not that having money is wrong or bad, but that loving money can hinder and interfere with our ability to love God. We think we can do both. But Jesus insists that we can’t: see Matthew 6:24.
- What do you think about Hebrews 13:5? Have you ever been tempted by the love of money? How have you resisted the temptation? How much money (and possessions) do you need in order to feel content?
- Prayer: Almighty God, I know that all that I have and all that I am has come from you. Give me strength to keep my life free from the love of money and possessions. Amen.
Saturday November 14 — 2 Corinthians 12:1-10
The apostle Paul pairs the account of his mystical experience with the reality of the thorn in his flesh. He says that he could boast about his vision, but the thorn in his flesh keeps him grounded. He tells the Corinthians that he has learned to be content and that his weaknesses require him to put his whole trust in God’s grace and the power of Christ.
- Is it easy or hard for you to confess your weaknesses and put your whole trust in God’s grace? How have you experienced the power of Christ and the grace of God? How does your experience of God’s grace and the power of Christ bring you contentment?
- Prayer: God of Grace and God of Power, help me follow the example of Paul and boast in my weaknesses so that your power and grace will dwell in me always. Amen.
This Week at St. Matthew’s