Each week Pastor Sarah offers a devotional reflection to connect with the South Shore UMC Family. Use this entry as a way to prepare your heart and mind for worship. See you Sunday!
This week the South Shore Community continues our summer series entitled This We Believe. During this series we will study core concepts of United Methodist Belief. This knowledge will enrich our faith and draw us towards greater lived expressions of Christ-likeness in our daily lives. I hope you will join us safely in-person or online via our broadcast platform for this time of study!
Sunday's Scripture ~ Luke 15:1-7.
Devotional Scripture ~ John 4:23-24.
John 4 shares Jesus' conversation with the Samaritan Woman. He meets her at a well and engages her in rich theological and cultural dialogue.
Long had there been a riff between Jews and Samaritans, and at the core of their estrangement was their disagreement over the proper location for worship. The Jews identified that proper place as the Temple in Jerusalem, while the Samaritans identified a mountain where their (common) ancestor Jacob worshipped. In response Jesus says to her, "The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth" (vv. 23-24).
The location of one's worship does not matter. How one worships is what matters.
We believe that Jesus is God's truth made flesh. The prophets foretold of a coming Messiah, and Jesus is Emmanuel. Jesus says later in John, "I am the way, the truth, and the life" (14:6). Jesus - the truth - has come and he does a new thing. He baptizes with the Spirit. What constitutes true worship of God, then, is a worshipper that has accepted Jesus as God's truth, and has received the Spirit.
We commonly associate 'receiving the Spirit' with baptism. Baptism is a sacrament - an outward sign of an inward, spiritual grace, whereby we believe the power of sin over us is broken and the guilt of sin in us is removed. Through baptism we formally acknowledge our membership in God's family and commit ourselves to following the way, the truth, and the life of Christ.
My Aunt Jean, my mother's twin sister, died tragically on Monday of this week. And it has been a whirlwind. Please pray for our family, especially her husband, Rodney, and their daughter, Stephanie.
Stephanie asked if I would help with the services to celebrate my aunt's life and new life.
I am so honored.
Last night I had the opportunity to sit down with her Bible. It is a well-loved book. The first several pages of her Bible were written over with dates and the most seminal thought from the sermon she heard that day.
Years and years of sermons. Years and years of study. What a gift. What a legacy.
I began searching for her favorite Scriptures - denoted by her careful underlining of the passages - with a pen that would not bleed through the delicate pages and a ruler.
A RULER! I love my Aunt Jean.
She underlined and highlighted this verse from I Peter, "As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God" (4:10 NKJV). Reading this verse and thinking of my Aunt reminded me of the commitment we make in baptism
to following the way, the truth, and the life of Christ
of worshipping in acceptance that Jesus is the Christ and in accountability to the leading and shaping of his Holy Spirit
which curates the gifts within us that we are to responsibly steward out of us for the benefit of all God's children.
That - friends, is my Aunt Jean. She lived her love for God and others loudly and daily through her generosity. Through her sweetness of Spirit. Through her sense of humor. Through her compassion. Through her tenderness. She would never think of withholding what God trusted and entrusted her to give. That will forevermore be her legacy in my life.
Her legacy is my inspiration. I am so grateful.
As deeply as I grieve, even more is the depth of my love and gratitude for her. I praise God for her life and new life, trusting that she continues her worship in spirit and in truth now in the complete presence of God. This future awaits each of us through the gift of resurrection. This future begins in our present through the sacrament of baptism. Thanks be to God.
Reflection: Write out the truths you know of God because of your relationship with Jesus. Which of Jesus' lessons resonate with you most deeply? What do they reveal to you about God? How do they shape and guide your spirit?
Prayer: "When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll; whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul. And, Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight, the clouds be rolled back as a scroll; the trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend, even so, it is well with my soul. It is well with my soul, it is well, it is well with my soul."* Amen.
*”It Is Well With My Soul,” The United Methodist Hymnal 377.
**Devotional Resource: The Weekly Prayer Project by Scarlet Hiltibidal