Grace Avenue 2018-2019 Worship Guide
Proverbs 25:11 reminds us that, “A word fitly communicated is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” Unfortunately, we live in a world where words are far too often misused and become weapons used against others. Add to this the overwhelming amount of words used every day in normal communication (emails, texts, social media, phone conversations, etc.) and we find ourselves lost in the noise.
The 2018-2019 Grace Avenue Atlas attempts to guide us back to some basic words “fitly chosen”. These words of faith open us to infinite possibilities regarding our relationship with God. These words of hope return us to foundational doctrines and open us to dreaming of the church and people God has created us to be. These words of love are the essence of who we are as God’s people and what we can become as Christ’s followers.
Throughout the year we will move from series to series with the overwhelming joy and knowledge that God’s Word and our words can be a holy balm for a wounded world.
God made us to be together. After God created the first human being God realized, “It is not good that the human is alone” (Genesis 2:18). So God placed us in a web of relationships; families, tribes, groups, communities, etc. Finding our place in those relationships can sometimes be challenging. We want to be in relationships that are authentic, caring and hopeful. We want to belong. In John 15 we are taught that in Christ we are connected as a branch is connected to a vine. Beyond the superficiality we so often experience, we can belong to one another and to Christ who is the “True Vine”. <<MORE INFO>>
In spite of all we have, we feel like something is missing. We feel uncertain and incomplete. “There is a gap”, Diana Butler Bass argues, “between our desire to be grateful and our ability to behave gratefully—a divide that influences our understanding of morality, worship, and institutional religion itself”. The Psalmists remind us that gratitude returns us to a deep and abiding relationship with God. How different do our lives appear when we fill them with gratitude? <<MORE INFO>
In a world constantly striving for more, we often find ourselves feeling the opposite; empty. We attempt to fill our lives with things that are temporary. The clutter leaves things in our lives even more complex. God teaches us that fulfillment comes through wisdom not through acquisition. God’s wisdom teaches us that we live in a world of abundance not scarcity.
John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Movement, found fulfillment in a simple formula; Earn, Save, Give. <<MORE INFO>>
Attention is a noun. Attend is verb. It means so much more than simply showing up or being in attendance. In a spiritual sense it is the intentional awareness of God’s presence and power in our lives. With so much “noise” in the world today, it easy to miss God’s goodness all around us. Such attentiveness requires that we search not just for the right answers but for the correct questions. Gracious change happens when we focus to discern what God is already doing in our lives. Such mindfulness is at the heart of all Thanksgiving. <<MORE INFO>
The characters at the beginning of Luke’s Gospel are not without their problems. Elizabeth suffered from infertility. Zechariah was incapable of speaking for nine months. Mary & Joseph are not yet married when Mary discovers she is pregnant. The birth of their child takes place away from home in a town where they were conscripted to go for tax registration. Proper lodging and maternity care was nowhere to be found. Poor and disenfranchised shepherds have their watch interrupted by an angel chorus.
In spite of the external circumstances of difficulty the story of Jesus’ birth is the anchor of joy in our faith. It is a reminder that joy comes from inside us as a fruit of the Spirit. The external trappings of the Christmas season are no match for the miraculous work of God, and when joy arrives, it cannot be contained, only shared. <<MORE INFO>
The New Year begins with the reminder that Christ is revealed over and over again.
This manifestation is the bright light of God shining in our lives and burning in our hearts. From this we are called to renew our baptismal faith and make to commitments in our covenant with God. <<MORE INFO>>
In a world that seems more and more divided, the followers of Christ are called to unity.
The visible representation of the Body of Christ is found through service. We all have different gifts but they are intended to be used for serving, not self-gain. We forget that the beautiful words of I Corinthians 13 were written to a community that was not experiencing or expressing love, but division. We recapture the wholeness of God by first seeking to serve like Jesus. <<MORE INFO>>
In Luke’s Gospel Jesus descends to a level place (Luke 6:17) to deliver some of his most important teachings about living as his followers. Jesus proclaims with boldness the nature of the Kingdom of God. His instructions to us are radical and uncompromising. They are intended to transform the world. It is a calling to live out God’s love with boldness and courage.
During this series a called General Conference of the United Methodist Church will be held in St. Louis, MO. Delegates from around the world will gather to determine what kind of church we will be going forward especially as it relates to issues of human sexuality and our witness as the followers of Christ. We will gather in faith, not fear, to pray, listen, remember and worship that God is greater than anything that could divide us. Whatever the result we will pledge to live into God’s future design with boldness. <<MORE INFO>>
The season of Lent begins in the wilderness. The 40 days of Lent correspond to other places in the Bible where 40 is mentioned; the time on the Ark, the years the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness, the days Jesus spent following his baptism in wilderness of temptation. The wilderness reminds us of the importance of trusting God. When everything else we depend on is stripped away, we experience what matters most. <<MORE INFO>>
Central to our faith is the experience of forgiveness. Jesus commands us to forgive others in the same fashion God forgives us (Matthew 6:14-15) but the reality of forgiveness seems much more difficult.
When we are at fault we have a hard time forgiving ourselves. When others hurt us we lose energy and focus by withholding forgiveness. The transformation which comes through forgiveness is on full display in
Christ’s suffering and passion. From the Cross he declares: “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). We cannot truly be who God created us to be without forgiveness. <<MORE INFO>>
How does one know the resurrection is real? It comes through the testimony of faithful followers of Christ. The testimony is not simply words but actions that reveal the living Christ to others. Otherwise, as the Apostle Paul asserts: “If Christ hasn’t been raised, then our preaching is useless and your faith is useless” (1 Corinthians 15:14). In other words, Easter is dependent on witnesses. Do we witness to the resurrection with boldness and conviction or hesitation and uncertainty? <<MORE INFO>>
The heart of our theology is God’s grace. This unearned love and unmerited favor is always fresh and refreshing. John Wesley laid it out so that we would know that God’s grace encompasses every step of our lifelong spiritual journey. It is with the grace of God that we live in covenant with others. Nothing could be more basic or extraordinary. <<MORE INFO>>