Which Shepherd Are You?

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Which Shepherd Are You?

November 20, 2022*

(Christ the King Sunday)

By Pastor John Partridge

Jeremiah 23:1-6                     Luke 23:33-43            Colossians 1:11-20

I saw a cartoon the other day about pyramids.  The joke was simply that instead of thinking that aliens were needed to explain why cultures around the globe chose to build pyramid shaped structures, maybe it was just because everyone figured out that this shape allowed them to make an enormous building that didn’t fall over.  It wasn’t aliens.  It was physics.

In any case, while we don’t build as many pyramids as once did, we do use pyramids to describe a lot of things.  “Pyramid schemes” are bad because, as investment vehicles, only the people at the top ever make any money. But most businesses, non-profits, not-for-profits, military units, charities, churches, scout troops, and almost everyone else, use some kind of pyramid shaped organizational structure.  There is one, or at least a very small number of people at the very top, then more people that report to them, then an even larger number of people that report to them, and so on.  Sometimes those pyramids are quite large and sometimes they are flatter.  The Catholic Church has the Pope at the top, then cardinals, then archbishops, bishops, and then priests (I think), and our church is a little shorter without a pope, we have bishops, district superintendents, and pastors.  But that’s not exactly right, but we’ll come back to it before we’re finished.

Years ago, when I first read The Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan, I encountered a word that I had never seen used before.  While its component parts were all familiar, the assembly was new to me.  The word that I met, and have grown to appreciate over the years, is… “under-shepherd.”  The idea is familiar to any of us with experience with pyramids and organizational charts.  There’s a shepherd, and then there are subordinate shepherds that work for the shepherd who are therefore under-shepherds.  The concept is simple enough, but it is a useful, and meaningful, way of thinking about our relationship with Jesus.  This is, I think, particularly true as we read God’s words to the prophet Jeremiah in Jeremiah 23:1-6 when he says:

23:1 “Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!” declares the Lord. Therefore this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says to the shepherds who tend my people: “Because you have scattered my flock and driven them away and have not bestowed care on them, I will bestow punishment on you for the evil you have done,” declares the Lord. “I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture, where they will be fruitful and increase in number. I will place shepherds over them who will tend them, and they will no longer be afraid or terrified, nor will any be missing,” declares the Lord.

“The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will raise up for Davida righteous Branch,
a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land.
In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety.
This is the name by which he will be called: The Lord Our Righteous Savior.

Obviously, in the time of Jeremiah, Jesus had not yet come, but even so, even as far back as the book of Genesis, God was often referred to as the shepherd of his people.  But more to the point, the rulers of the nation and the leaders of the church were called to be, and were known as, the shepherds of God’s people.  And some of those under-shepherds were not behaving… shepherd-ly.  The leaders of God’s people were scattering and destroying God’s sheep and God was taking it quite personally.  Because of their actions, God declares a curse and a punishment upon them for the evil that they had done.  God says that he himself will regather a remnant of his flock and will find new shepherds who will do what shepherds are called to do.  They will care for the people under their authority, they will have a spine, and will stand up against the enemies and the dangers that face them, and they will protect their flock so that none of them are afraid or go missing.  In fact, it is at this point that God declares that he will raise up the good shepherd, a righteous branch from the root of David’s family tree, who will do what is right, who will reunite the nations of Judah and Israel, and who will be called, The Lord, our righteous Savior.

And although it may not seem like it at first, that is the image that we have of Jesus in his last moments on the cross.  Although he is dying, the good shepherd gives his life for his sheep.  In Luke 23:33-43, we hear these words:

33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.

35 The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.”

36 The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar 37 and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”

38 There was a written notice above him, which read: this is the king of the jews.

39 One of the criminals who hung there, hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”

40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”

42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Even in his last moments, with one of the last breaths that he had left in his body, Jesus was rescuing the lost and, with his dying breath, he gave his life so that he could rescue God’s sheep.  Jesus is the good shepherd, the righteous branch of David’s line that God promised to his people.  He is the king of kings, the ruler of the nations, and the rescuer of all humanity.  But, as I often ask, what difference does it make?  How does any of that teach me what I need to know to get through my day today?  How does that offer me guidance on how I live my life?  And we find the answer to some of those questions in Paul’s letter to the church in Colossae in these words from Colossians 1:11-20.

We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives,  10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified youto share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Paul’s prayer for the church was that they would be filled with a knowledge and an understanding of God’s will for their lives, mission, and ministry so that they could live lives that were worthy of God and would please God in every way.  Paul prayed that the church would be strengthened with God’s power, have great endurance and patience, and give thanks to God for qualifying the church to share in the inheritance of eternity in heaven.  But Paul also prayed that the church would bear fruit through every good work, and daily grow in their knowledge of God.  I want to repeat that part for emphasis.  Paul prayed that the church would bear fruit through every good work and grow in their knowledge of God. 

And then, Paul repeats the resumé of Jesus and reminds everyone that Jesus is the Messiah, the good shepherd who rose from the dead, and sits on the throne of God as he seeks to rescue all people, reconcile all who are lost with God, and make peace throughout all creation.

All of that, from Jeremiah, to Luke, Jesus, and Paul, serves to remind us that our role, our mission, our place in the pyramid organizational chart, as the followers of Jesus Christ and as the members of his church, is to be under-shepherds.  It is our work, not to scatter and destroy God’s sheep, but to gather them and protect them with our lives, to grow his flock, to rescue the lost sheep, to risk everything that we have to recover the ones that have wandered, to bear fruit, to grow God’s flock, to do good works, to grow in the knowledge of God, to be filled with great endurance and patience, and to give joyful thanks to God.

As the good shepherd has rescued us, let us, as under-shepherds, spend our lives rescuing others, growing, and caring for his flock, so that we might live lives that are worthy of God and please him in every way.


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*You have been reading a message presented at Christ United Methodist Church on the date noted at the top of the first page.  Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Christ UMC in Alliance, Ohio.  Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you.  Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry or any of our other projects may be sent to Christ United Methodist Church, 470 East Broadway Street, Alliance, Ohio 44601.  These messages are available to any interested persons regardless of membership.  You may subscribe to these messages, in print or electronic formats, by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at secretary@CUMCAlliance.org.  These messages can also be found online at https://pastorpartridge.com .  All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.comThe “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

Who Wants a Raw Christmas?

Who Wants a Raw Christmas?

A Message for Advent 2022

Imagine that you sit down to Thanksgiving dinner and what’s passed around the table is a big raw turkey, a bowl of dirty, cold, fresh out of the ground potatoes, a loaf of stale bread, some bullion cubes, and a few bowls with flour, sugar, cocoa powder, and butter. Sure, all the ingredients are there to make a fine meal, but there’s clearly something missing and that thing is…

Preparation.

We can buy all the ingredients for a Thanksgiving feast, but without investing the time and the care that it takes to adequately prepare them, they aren’t anywhere near as good as they should be, or as good as we expected them to be.  Preparation is the thing that puts the pieces together, measures out the ingredients, mixes them, and warms them to precise temperatures for a measured amount of time.  Without that preparation, we end up with raw meat and stale bread instead of a succulent roasted turkey with stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, and dessert.  It is the preparation that makes the house smell so good, and drool with anticipation.

It seems so obvious when we think about Thanksgiving and food.

So, why does it seem so hard to understand when we think about the season of Advent?  These four weeks are a time that has been deliberately set aside as… a season of preparation.  It is a time for us to set out the ingredients, Jesus, Mary, Joseph, hope, faith, joy, love, prophets, shepherds, angels, and everything else, measure them out in the right proportions, mix and season them, and warm them in the love of our community of faith.  And then, at just the right time, it all comes together, and what is served is just what we imagined and just we needed to fill our souls to overflowing. 

During this season of preparation, we invite you to come into the kitchen with us.  Join us as we set out the ingredients, measure, share news of family and friends, mix, season, and warm it all, and us, in the love of faith and community.  The result, on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning, will be much more satisfying and fulfilling than raw turkey and bowls of uncooked ingredients.  Like Thanksgiving dinner, the thing that makes us drool with the anticipation of Christmas, and so deeply satisfies our souls, is found in setting aside the time to prepare it, together.

Won’t you join us for this season of preparation?

Blessings,

Pastor John 


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To Heaven, Through Hell

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To Heaven, Through Hell

November 13, 2022*

By Pastor John Partridge

Isaiah 65:17-25                      Luke 21:5-19              2 Thessalonians 3:6-13

Anyone with more than a few laps around the sun is well aware that sometimes life is not a bed of roses, or a bowl of cherries, or however you want to say it, life is not always all that great.  Sometimes it flat-out sucks pond water.  Life is filled with pain, sickness, hurt feelings, tragedy, betrayal, abandonment, loss, suffering, and death.  But it isn’t always bad.  As bad as life can be, and the bad stuff can sometimes last far longer than we’d like, we also know that life can also be filled with joy, healing, excitement, victory, hope, encouragement, friendship, and love.

This understanding is the source of two great quotes that help us to keep our pain in perspective.

Dr. Seuss’s Cat in the Hat said, “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”

When we struggle with death and loss, and when whenever good things end, it helps to remember that the reason that we are mourning, is because of the good things that happened.  But when we are faced with pain in our future, or when we are enduring it in our present, we should remember that Winston Churchill famously said…

“If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

And it is those perspectives that I would like you to keep in mind this morning as we consider where we are going, what we will pass through on the way there, and how should live our lives in the present so that we can keep moving toward our final destination.  We begin this morning reading from Isaiah 65:17-25, as God paints a picture of what life will be like in the world that is to come.

17 “See, I will create new heavens and a new earth.
The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind.
18 But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create,
for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy.
19 I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people;
the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more.

20 “Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days,
    or an old man who does not live out his years;
the one who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere child;
the one who fails to reach a hundred will be considered accursed.
21 They will build houses and dwell in them; they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
22 No longer will they build houses and others live in them,  or plant and others eat.
For as the days of a tree, so will be the days of my people;
my chosen ones will long enjoy the work of their hands.
23 They will not labor in vain, nor will they bear children doomed to misfortune;
for they will be a people blessed by the Lord, they and their descendants with them.
24 Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear.
25 The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox,
    and dust will be the serpent’s food.
They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,” says the Lord.

God will create a new heaven and a new earth that is fundamentally different from the one in which we live, and we will live there for so long, and our healing will be so complete and enduring, that we will hardly remember the pain and the suffering that we once endured.  Life will no longer be a struggle but will be filled with joy instead of weeping.  Old age will be normal and there will never be the sorrow of mourning the loss of a child.  No longer will people and nations be uprooted by famine, warfare, natural disasters, pestilence, unemployment, taxation, or anything else but God’s people will live, work, grow, plant, and endure in one place, in one home, with their families.  Even the animal kingdom will be changed so that we will have no fear of them, they of us, or them for one another.  God’s promise is that there is a better future for all those who love him.

But that isn’t at all the picture that Jesus draws for his disciples.  The future that Jesus describes reminds us that what God showed to Isaiah is the distant “not yet.”  In between our now, and the “not yet” is more of the ugliness that we have seen throughout history, and worse.  As Jesus and his disciples are walking through Jerusalem, the disciples marvel at the beautiful stonework of the temple and its surroundings.  But Jesus uses those stones as a warning of what is to come.  We hear these words in Luke 21:5-19.

Some of his disciples were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God. But Jesus said, “As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down.”

“Teacher,” they asked, “when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are about to take place?”

He replied: “Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not follow them. When you hear of wars and uprisings, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away.”

10 Then he said to them: “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11 There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.

12 “But before all this, they will seize you and persecute you. They will hand you over to synagogues and put you in prison, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. 13 And so you will bear testimony to me. 14 But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. 15 For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. 16 You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers and sisters, relatives, and friends, and they will put some of you to death. 17 Everyone will hate you because of me. 18 But not a hair of your head will perish. 19 Stand firm, and you will win life.

Jesus says that his followers will be hated by their families, friends, neighbors, and the entire world simply because of their love for him.  But in the end, we will endure because who and what we are in Jesus Christ endures even beyond death.  The only way that we can lose is to give up.  Stand firm.  Keep moving forward.

“If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

But what does that mean for us today?  How does that inform us, or teach us, about how we might survive, one day at a time, through the weirdness that is life in the twenty-first century?  And that is one of the things that Paul addresses in his letter to the church in Thessalonica in 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13

In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teachingyou received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate. 10 For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”

11 We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies. 12 Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat. 13 And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good.

Clearly, this isn’t a prescriptive text that tells us everything about how to live as a church in times of disruption and chaos, but Paul says that one of the things that we need to be to be doing, as we have heard in other passages in recent weeks, is to keep busy, and to stay on task.  And one of the ways that we do that is to stay away from people who are bad examples.  The first among these bad examples are people who aren’t doing anything.  But worse than that are the people who aren’t doing anything and are using their free time to disrupt the people who are doing something.  Also, a part of Paul’s description of these disruptors is that they are people who claim to believe, and count themselves among the believers of the church, but do not live as if they believe because they don’t do the things that the scriptures teach.

Paul says that, because he and his ministry team intentionally wanted to be a good example, they did not accept a salary, or gifts, or meals, or anything else while they were in Thessalonica.  They didn’t do so because pastors, missionaries, and work teams aren’t entitled to being paid or even being treated well, but because they wanted to be a model for the people to follow.

It is worth noting at this point, that the phrase Paul uses here, has been borrowed, grossly misinterpreted, and misused by a recent political campaign.  Apparently, there has been someone, during the most recent election, that was claiming that the phrase, “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat” implies that welfare or giving to the poor runs against biblical principles.  But that is, frankly, spiritual malpractice.  Paul’s statement, and this example, in this case, is for internal church use and is ministry specific.  When the church was busy working, and fed its workers afterward, it didn’t make sense to feed people who didn’t do any work.  Paul wasn’t saying that the church shouldn’t feed the poor, that would be contrary to the words of Jesus.  What he was saying was, don’t show up to eat lunch at the Habitat for Humanity work project if you aren’t doing any work.  In that specific case, the food was intended to feed the workers.  And so that sentence should not, and cannot, be misconstrued to try to say that Jesus doesn’t want us to feed the poor.

Let’s summarize.  What we heard today is that we are on our way to someplace better.  God is at work, even now, preparing a place for us to live forever and in that place all the broken things of this world will be fixed.  There will be no more mourning, or crying or pain, parents will no longer have to bury their children, no longer will people and nations be uprooted by famine, warfare, natural disasters, or pestilence, and will all live, work, grow, plant, and endure in one place, in one home, with our families forever.

But between here and there, will be pain, and suffering, and death, and all the other terrible things that we have come to expect from our broken world.  Not only will those things continue but, at times, they’ll be a lot worse.  In the meantime, whether things are better for us or worse, the message is to stay on task, to keep doing the work that God has given us to do.  And while we’re doing that, we should stay away from busybodies who keep other people from doing their work.  Stay away from people who are idle and disruptive because they’re just going to waste your time and keep you from doing the work that God has given you to do.

The message for today is just to stay busy.  God has given us work to do as individuals, and as a church.  We can expect to go through difficult stuff.  We can expect that the horrors of this broken world will not get better and will often get worse.  But through it all, we need to keep moving forward, keep doing the work of Jesus Christ, and keep on calling the world to hear the message of the gospel so that they too can receive healing, rescue, and restoration.

Never tire of doing good.


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*You have been reading a message presented at Christ United Methodist Church on the date noted at the top of the first page.  Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Christ UMC in Alliance, Ohio.  Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you.  Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry or any of our other projects may be sent to Christ United Methodist Church, 470 East Broadway Street, Alliance, Ohio 44601.  These messages are available to any interested persons regardless of membership.  You may subscribe to these messages, in print or electronic formats, by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at secretary@CUMCAlliance.org.  These messages can also be found online at https://pastorpartridge.com .  All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.comThe “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

Rumors, Disappointments, and Trickery

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Rumors, Disappointments, and Trickery

November 06, 2022*

By Pastor John Partridge

Haggai 1:15b-2:9                   Luke 20:27-38                        2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17

As I read this week’s scriptures, I was repeatedly struck by how much each one reminded me of an election year and all the ads with which we are bombarded on television, radio, newspapers, internet ads, and junk overflowing our mailboxes.  It doesn’t take a genius to spot half-truths, twisted truths, innuendo, exaggerations, and outright lies by almost everyone running for every party.  Everyone says that they are in favor of “family values” but no one seems to think that integrity is a family value.  No one is ever as good, or as righteous, as they are portrayed in their campaign commercials, and the opposition is never as wrong, greedy, power hungry, or evil, as the candidates want us to believe. 

But life is like that.  Life is not black and white.  None of the candidates are as pure as the driven snow or as evil as the devil incarnate.  None of them are going to bring about socialism, or fascism, or bring about the end of democracy as we know it.  Every candidate, like every one of us, is their own unique mixture of good and evil.  There is some truth in every campaign commercial.  But I doubt that you will find a commercial that is 100 percent truthful and that’s what makes choosing whom to support so difficult.

It has always been like this.  In the very first presidential election, Jefferson’s campaign accused John Adams of being, um, equipped with the reproductive parts of both genders, and Adams’ campaign threatened that Thomas Jefferson would openly promote prostitution, incest, and adultery.  But if you’re like me, you find the whole exercise in election year democracy to be disappointing.  I expected, and I expect, better.  I genuinely desire truth in advertising.  I’d really like to see a debate with real-time fact checking, and Family Feud style buzzers with a big red “X” … or something.  Because the truth gets so intermingled with the spin and the deception that it becomes almost impossible to tell the difference.  I mean, just once, can we have a candidate that tells us what they’re for, without spending half their time telling us what the “other guy” is for?

That’s enough ranting for today, but let’s listen for those same messages, eerily repeated from thousands of years ago, in our scriptures today.  We begin with Haggai 1:15b-2:9, which records for us the thoughts and the feelings of the people of Israel as they have returned from Babylon after seventy years of captivity.  They should have been filled with joy, right?  But one of the first, and principal emotions that the prophet Haggai records for us is… disappointment.

In the second year of King Darius, 2:1 on the twenty-first day of the seventh month, the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai: “Speak to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, to Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest, and to the remnant of the people. Ask them, ‘Who of you is left who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Does it not seem to you like nothing? But now be strong, Zerubbabel,’ declares the Lord. ‘Be strong, Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land,’ declares the Lord, ‘and work. For I am with you,’ declares the Lord Almighty. ‘This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt. And my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear.’

“This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea, and the dry land. I will shake all nations, and what is desired by all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ declares the Lord Almighty. ‘The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘And in this place I will grant peace,’ declares the Lord Almighty.”

The people of Israel finally get permission to go home, they leave Babylon, they travel 1600 to 1700 miles, on foot, and arrive in Jerusalem to find it, as it was left, in ruins and now overgrown with vegetation.  It was something of a letdown for all of them even if they expected it.  They had heard the news.  Letters from Jeremiah and others had gone back and forth.  Their minds knew that it had happened, but that didn’t change the reality of the impact that it had when they saw it in person.  And the disappointment was worse for those who had seen, visited, and had lived in, Jerusalem, and knew her magnificence and beauty, before she was destroyed.

 But God’s word to his people is to be strong “for I am with you.” “My Spirit remains among you. Do not fear.” And God promises that although the foundations of the new temple didn’t look like much, and although it was politics and the threats of their neighbors that had halted construction so that not a single stone had been moved in two years, what was coming was going to be even better than before.  God owns all the gold, all the silver, and everything else in, on, or under the earth.  And God’s promise was that the glory of this new temple would be even greater than the old one, not just because of its architecture, but because God’s presence would make it a place of peace.  And it was that temple, which was later renovated, redesigned, and expanded by Herod the Great, that still stood in the day of Jesus almost six hundred years later.  And as we see in Luke 20:27-38, they were still playing political games.

27 Some of the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus with a question. 28 “Teacher,” they said, “Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. 29 Now there were seven brothers. The first one married a woman and died childless. 30 The second 31 and then the third married her, and in the same way the seven died, leaving no children. 32 Finally, the woman died too. 33 Now then, at the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?”

34 Jesus replied, “The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. 35 But those who are considered worthy of taking part in the age to come and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, 36 and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection. 37 But in the account of the burning bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ 38 He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.”

The Sadducees, although not technically a political party, was one of the primary factions vying for power, control, and influence in Israel in the time of Jesus.  Knowing that Jesus had things to say about the resurrection and the life to come after death and judgement, and as a group, completely disbelieving in the possibility of resurrection, they come to Jesus with a trick question.  The question is a total set-up.  The plan for this entire encounter is for the equivalent of today’s debate soundbite that makes the other guy look stupid.  They believe that they have designed an impossible question that sounds reasonable on the surface but cannot be answered without looking foolish or making the Sadducees appear to have superior reasoning.

But it doesn’t work.

It doesn’t work because Jesus isn’t guessing.  Jesus isn’t theorizing about what the theological implications might be, or whether there is, or isn’t an afterlife, or whether there is, or isn’t a resurrection, or judgement, or whether God’s house is a real place.  Jesus isn’t guessing.  He’s been there.  He’s seen it.  He knows how it works and he knows the rules.  And so, when the Sadducees come to him with a question that they have carefully crafted and spun to push their own narrative, Jesus stops them cold by simply saying that they’ve completely misunderstood the rules.  Marriage was created for us, for humans, to reveal to us a glimpse of what God’s love for us will be like in the next life.  But in the next life, when God’s love has been revealed to us in full, there will be no need for marriage.

Some time later, the church in Thessalonica is being unsettled with internal strife between its members because of theological and politically motivated internal rumors that were designed to divide the church.  Yikes.  But, although our situations are distinctly different, this does sound a little familiar to us in the Methodist Church about now.  In any case, into this internal struggle, Paul writes his second letter to the church and includes these words in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17.

2:1 Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers and sisters, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by the teaching allegedly from us—whether by a prophecy or by word of mouth or by letter—asserting that the day of the Lord has already come. Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessnessis revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.

Don’t you remember that when I was with you, I used to tell you these things?

13 But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as firstfruitsto be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. 14 He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

15 So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachingswe passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.

16 May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, 17 encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.

There were words spoken, letters written, rumors circulated, and even prophetic speeches, which were fake news.  There were stories that were attributed to Paul, Silas, Timothy, or others on their mission team that claimed that the second coming of Jesus Christ had already happened.  Some person, or persons, unknown were, for their own purposes, attempting to deceive the church most likely to gain an audience, or a congregation, or even a group of churches, that they could somehow use for their own benefit.

And Paul answers these rumors by saying yes, there is a day coming when a rebellion against God will happen on earth, and yes, there is a day coming when Jesus Christ will return in judgement over all of humanity, but today is not that day. 

Today, we can expect life to be filled with disappointments when our fellow human beings, and we ourselves, fail to live up to our expectations.  Today, human beings will continue to vie for political power, authority, and influence and continue to use trick questions and twist our words to embarrass us.  Today, there will be rumors, letter writing campaigns, and even prophetic type speeches, and other sorts of fake news designed to divide us and distract us from our mission.  And, as sad as that is, we must remember, and cling to, the good news that we heard in each of these stories.

God’s word to his people today is the same as it has always been.  Be strong “for I am with you.” “My Spirit remains among you. Do not fear.”  Remember that our God is the God of the living and the dead, that our lives do not end when our hearts stop beating on this earth, but that we have an eternity for which we must, even now, be using our time to prepare.  Remember, that God chose you.  Remember that God called you to this mission, through the gospel message, so that you might share in the glory of Jesus Christ.  Stand firm and hold fast to the teaching that has been passed on to you in your home, in your Sunday school classes, Bible studies, in church, or in what you have read and studied in the scriptures.  Do not be deceived.  Test everything.  Test the rumors against what you know to be true, but also do not be afraid to test your own biases against those scriptures as well, for too many well-meaning people have been suckered into believing a lie because that lie just happened to align with a bias that they already held.

God’s word to his people today is the same as it has always been.  Be strong “for I am with you.”


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*You have been reading a message presented at Christ United Methodist Church on the date noted at the top of the first page.  Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Christ UMC in Alliance, Ohio.  Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you.  Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry or any of our other projects may be sent to Christ United Methodist Church, 470 East Broadway Street, Alliance, Ohio 44601.  These messages are available to any interested persons regardless of membership.  You may subscribe to these messages, in print or electronic formats, by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at secretary@CUMCAlliance.org.  These messages can also be found online at https://pastorpartridge.com .  All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.

Straight on till Morning

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Straight on till Morning

(All Saints Sunday)

October 23, 2022*

By Pastor John Partridge

Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4                     Luke 19:1-10             2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12

I’m sure all of us have seen it, but in the Walt Disney version of Peter Pan, Peter famously makes up directions as he explains to Wendy how one finds their way to Neverland.  And in so doing he says that the way they must go is to take the “Second star to the right, and straight on ‘till morning.”  Of course, the original book by J. M. Barrie did not include the word “star” and so folks have argued whether Mr. Disney intended to say that Neverland was in outer space somewhere, or simply wanted to refer to the old seafaring tradition of navigating by the stars.

We see similar conversations about navigation in all sorts of movies and television shows with such dialog as, “Come right three degrees, and full speed ahead.”  Navigation is all about checking to see where you are and making course corrections as necessary until you arrive at your destination.  And that describes much of the teaching that we will find in today’s scriptures.  As we read these passages of scripture, let us consider where we are, what direction we are going, and how we might make the journey to our destination.  We begin this morning in another book that we seem to rarely visit.  We begin with the words of the prophet Habakkuk in Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4.

1:1 The prophecy that Habakkuk the prophet received.

How long, Lord, must I call for help,
    but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, “Violence!”
    but you do not save?
Why do you make me look at injustice?
    Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?
Destruction and violence are before me;
    there is strife, and conflict abounds.
Therefore the law is paralyzed,
    and justice never prevails.
The wicked hem in the righteous,
    so that justice is perverted.

2:1 I will stand at my watch
    and station myself on the ramparts;
I will look to see what he will say to me,
    and what answer I am to give to this complaint.

Then the Lord replied:

“Write down the revelation
    and make it plain on tablets
    so that a heraldmay run with it.
For the revelation awaits an appointed time;
    it speaks of the end
    and will not prove false.
Though it linger, wait for it;
    it will certainly come
    and will not delay.

“See, the enemy is puffed up;
    his desires are not upright—
    but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness.

Habakkuk cries out that God is silent and is not answering his prayers or the prayers of his people.  There is violence, injustice, wrongdoing, destruction, strife and conflict, the law of their nation is paralyzed and doesn’t do anything and only codifies, institutionalizes, and perpetuates the injustice so that the wicked always win and persecute the righteous.  But, even in the face of injustice and all these other things, Habakkuk decides to stand at his watch, to do what is right, and continue to do his duty regardless of the wrongdoing and injustice that surrounds him.

And God replies that this is the right choice.  Habakkuk is told that God’s word is coming.  It may wait longer than expected but it is coming.  But until then, God’s command is to continue, to hold fast, persist, endure, persevere, and to live by faithfulness.  How often do we find ourselves in the middle of difficulty, suffering, or pain, worry, discomfort, confusion, uncertainty, or other unpleasantness and wonder why God isn’t answering our prayers?  How often do we witness injustice and a failure of our government, our church, our employers, our schools, or the people around us to do anything about it?  And God’s answer is that Habakkuk has made the right choice.  Hold fast, persist, endure, persevere, do your duty to God, and live by faithfulness until God’s answer finally comes.

But what about the people who have wandered from their faith?  What about the people who have become so married to the problem, so far down the rabbit hole, that they themselves have become a part of the problem?  And for that answer, we turn to the familiar story found in Luke 19:1-10 where we hear these words:

19:1 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short, he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.

When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.

All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”

But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now, I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”

Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Zacchaeus was wealthy and some, or even most, of his money had come from his employment as a tax collector for the empire of Rome.  Tax collectors were given a license, a franchise, to collect taxes.  They had certain… deliverables, targets, or quotas that they were expected to return to the Roman treasury but aside from that, they were permitted, and expected, to collect what they needed to pay for their salaries, the salaries of their employees, which may have included bodyguards, if necessary, plus all expenses.  Some tax collectors were more honest than others and some were notoriously corrupt and enriched themselves by collecting far more than necessary. 

Zacchaeus was well-known in that place.  Everyone knew who he was and what he did for a living and as we saw in this story, he was automatically condemned by his job description and his association with the Roman government, and considered to be a sinner, an outcast, and a traitor to his country because of what he did.  But after Jesus invites himself, and all his friends, to his house for dinner, Zacchaeus proclaims that he will give half of all that he owns as well as four times the amount of anything that he did dishonestly. 

What we hear in this proclamation by Zacchaeus, I think, is him standing in front of Jesus and swearing that he had done his best to do his work as honestly as possible, and to oversee his employees so that they did their work honestly as well.  If Zacchaeus had been in the business of being deliberately dishonest, as some tax collectors were, then doing what he said that he would do, would not only bankrupt him but would wipe him out financially.  Zacchaeus stands before Jesus and desperately wants to do what is right and in doing so, Jesus sees his heart and proclaims that “Today salvation has come to this house” because… the mission of Jesus Christ was, and is, to seek and to save the lost.

Most of us learned the story of Zacchaeus before we were in grade school. and we’ve always used it as a story of rejoicing as one of God’s lost children returns to the kingdom. But if we look a little deeper, if we look at Zacchaeus as someone who was not being deliberately dishonest, as I think his proclamation to Jesus would indicate, then the story isn’t just about the lost being saved.  It’s about Jesus rescuing someone whose heart was in the right place, a person who always loved God, and who always desired to remain faithful, but was lost because the church, and its people, threw him out.  Zacchaeus was lost because people didn’t like his employer, or his employment.  Zacchaeus was lost because no one believed that it was even possible for tax collectors to be honest.  Zacchaeus was lost because his politics didn’t align with his church.

But Zacchaeus was saved because he remained faithful despite the criticism and ostracism that he experienced from his friends, countrymen, and his church.  Zacchaeus endured, persevered, and remained faithful, Jesus saw that Zacchaeus’ heart was in the right place, and he opened a door to let the outsider come back inside.

And those were exactly the things for which Paul praised the church in Thessalonica as he wrote them a letter in 2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12 and said:

1:1 Paul, Silas,and Timothy,

To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:

Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing. Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.

11 With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith. 12 We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul thanks God for the church in Thessalonica because the faith of its people is growing and because the love that they all have for one another is increasing.  Paul boasts to his other churches about the perseverance, faith, and endurance that the Thessalonians have shown in the face of trials and persecution.  And so, Paul, Silas, and Timothy pray for the church, and for the people, of Thessalonica regularly and constantly, praying that God might answer every prayer for goodness, and bless every action that was motivated by faith, so that the name of Jesus would be glorified.

But the three passages that we read today are all quite different from one another.  What is it that connects them?  What is it that we can take away from our time together today?  Let’s review and see what we find.  First, we learned from Habakkuk, that God doesn’t always answer our prayers the way that we would like him to nor as fast as we think God should.  Life doesn’t always go the way that we want.  Our government doesn’t always do the right thing.  Our legal system and our church do not always find justice the way that they should.  But we are called to do our duty, to remain faithful, to do what is right, to persist, persevere, and to endure because God is coming.  Although we may not live to see it on this earth, there is a day coming that God will bring justice.

Second, we learned from the story of Zacchaeus that sometimes even the church gets lost.  Sometimes people and institutions get so caught up in politics, culture wars, the pursuit of wealth and power, and other things, that they forget the things that are really important and chase out people who are genuinely faithful and who are doing the best they can.  But as the followers of Jesus Christ, our mission is to do what Jesus did.  Our calling is to remain faithful even if our church loses its focus and gets lost.  Our mission is to find the people whose hearts are in the right place, find the people who lost heart, and find the people who couldn’t find their way to God because the church was such a poor example, and then open the door so that they can find their way back to God.

And third, although this echoes the first two, is that the focus of our ministry, the focus of our lives on this earth, is to be guided by our faith in Jesus Christ so that our faith and love for one another grow, and that our actions are led by our desire for goodness, and our deeds prompted by our faith so that the name of Jesus Christ is glorified by what we do, by who we are, by how we love, and by the grace that we show others.

No matter how difficult life gets, no matter how lost our culture, our government, and even our church may be, as the followers of Jesus, our mission is to remain faithful, to seek out the lost, to invite them in, and to have the grace to hold open the door even to people that other people threw out.  Our goal is to be like Jesus, to love others like Jesus, and to lead others toward Jesus, until it’s our turn to join the saints in that final journey.  And, although our destination isn’t Neverland, we might imagine that the last directions we hear as we leave might be to take the…

“Second star to the right, and straight on ‘till morning.” 


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*You have been reading a message presented at Christ United Methodist Church on the date noted at the top of the first page.  Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Christ UMC in Alliance, Ohio.  Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you.  Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry or any of our other projects may be sent to Christ United Methodist Church, 470 East Broadway Street, Alliance, Ohio 44601.  These messages are available to any interested persons regardless of membership.  You may subscribe to these messages, in print or electronic formats, by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at secretary@CUMCAlliance.org.  These messages can also be found online at https://pastorpartridge.com .  All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.

Coming Soon!

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Coming Soon!

October 23, 2022*

By Pastor John Partridge

Jeremiah 31:27-34                 Luke 18:1-8                2 Timothy 3:14 – 4:5

For those of us who grew up going to real movie theaters, as well as possibly the Netflix generation in a different format, we remember the movie posters and the movie trailers that would run, interspersed with commercials for popcorn, candy, and soft drinks, for fifteen minutes before the movie started.  And the banner under which all these appeared was, “Coming Soon.”  “Coming Soon” was meant to inform us that something amazing, spectacular, and wonderful was about to happen and build our anticipation and desire to see it when it came to town.  This was, I think, especially true for the golden age movie serials as well as the Star Wars type movies that were patterned after them.  Coming soon, is a phrase that is designed to get our attention, to take our focus, of only for a moment, away from our present troubles and busyness, and look forward to the future and the appearance of something new.

And, although we won’t find the words “Coming Soon” anywhere in scripture, the idea that it represents is a common theme of the prophets, Jesus, and the gospel writers alike.  We heard the words in the scriptures that Susan used last week, and I’m going to use some of those same scriptures this morning but will look at them from a different direction.  The first words that we heard last week from the prophet Jeremiah, and will hear again this week, compare almost exactly to the modern usage of “Coming Soon.”  In Jeremiah 31:27-34, we hear…

“The days are coming,” declares the Lord… doesn’t that sound a lot like “Coming soon?”

27 “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will plant the kingdoms of Israel and Judah with the offspring of people and of animals. 28 Just as I watched over them to uproot and tear down, and to overthrow, destroy and bring disaster, so I will watch over them to build and to plant,” declares the Lord. 29 “In those days people will no longer say,

‘The parents have eaten sour grapes,
    and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’

30 Instead, everyone will die for their own sin; whoever eats sour grapes—their own teeth will be set on edge.

31 “The days are coming,” declares the Lord,
    “when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel
    and with the people of Judah.
32 It will not be like the covenant
    I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand
    to lead them out of Egypt,
because they broke my covenant,
    though I was a husband tothem,”
declares the Lord.
33 “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel
    after that time,” declares the Lord.
“I will put my law in their minds
    and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
    and they will be my people.
34 No longer will they teach their neighbor,
    or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
    from the least of them to the greatest,”
declares the Lord.
“For I will forgive their wickedness
    and will remember their sins no more.”

God announces through Jeremiah that something new is coming.  The days are coming, when God will once again plant his people, kingdoms, and nations and watch over them as they rebuild.  In those days, as we heard last week, everyone will be held responsible for their own sin because… in those days, in the days that are coming soon, God will make a new covenant with his people that will be different from the covenant that he made with them when he led them out of slavery in Egypt.  This will be a new covenant, a new contract, a new promise that God will write upon the minds and hearts of his people.  It will be a new day, a new era, and a new relationship between God and his people.  And that day is… coming soon. 

No matter how you translate it, whether you say, “the days are coming,” or “coming soon,” or “I will…” God presses his people to look forward, to look past their present suffering, to put their trust in God, and look toward the future.  And in the parable that we heard last week, and again this week, this is very much what Jesus is doing as well as we hear these words in Luke 18:1-8:

18:1 Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’

“For some time he refused. But finally, he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”

And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you; he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

God promises to bring justice to his people who cry out to him, but Jesus encourages us not to stop, to continue praying, to continue to cry out to God for justice, because prayer is the expression of our faith.  Prayer is a mechanism by which we shift our focus, look past our present condition, and look forward, because fundamentally, prayer is an expression of our faith in God and our hope for the future.

But… as we hold on to our faith, and as we look toward the future, how do we live, love, and care for the people around us… today?  These are exactly the kind of questions that Paul answers in his second letter to his protégé Timothy as we hear these words in 2 Timothy 3:14 – 4:5:

14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of Godmay be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

4:1 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke, and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.

What should we do today?  We should continue to do the things that we’ve been taught to do, to teach the things that we’ve been convinced of by the Spirit of Jesus Christ and continue in our faith.  We should continue to study scripture, and use it to teach, rebuke, correct, and train others in righteousness so that the people of God might be fully equipped for every good work.

Paul’s charge, or assignment, to Timothy carries forward to each of us two thousand years later.  Preach the word, be prepared, at all times, to tell the gospel story and the message of salvation and rescue.  Correct, rebuke, and encourage, and offer instruction, but do these things with great care and patience so that the message that we bring is the message of scripture and not just a modern interpretation that resonates with our culture and makes us feel good.  Keep your head, stay calm… no matter what, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, and be in ministry, at all times, to all the people around you.

Paul’s instruction to Timothy, much like the words of Jeremiah and the parable of Jesus, remind us that the day is coming, and coming soon, when we will all stand in judgement.  Our mission is not to get bogged down in the troubles of today, but to look forward past our present troubled and divisive times, to look past our present condition, and live, love, teach, preach, correct, rebuke, and encourage so that we can bring as many of our neighbors, friends, coworkers, and classmates into the gates of heaven as we possibly can.

No one can know the day or the hour of Christ’s return, but just as God’s people were called in the time of Jeremiah, and just as they were in the time of Jesus and Paul, we are called to look forward, to look past our present struggles, to put our trust in God, and look toward the future.  Because even if we don’t know when he’s coming, we know that he is… coming soon.


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*You have been reading a message presented at Christ United Methodist Church on the date noted at the top of the first page.  Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Christ UMC in Alliance, Ohio.  Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you.  Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry or any of our other projects may be sent to Christ United Methodist Church, 470 East Broadway Street, Alliance, Ohio 44601.  These messages are available to any interested persons regardless of membership.  You may subscribe to these messages, in print or electronic formats, by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at secretary@CUMCAlliance.org.  These messages can also be found online at https://pastorpartridge.com .  All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.

Will Faith be Found on Earth?

An image of earth in God's hand

Will Faith be Found on Earth?

October 16, 2022

Dr. Susan Haddox

This Sunday was Laity Sunday wherein the wonderful lay persons (ie. not clergy persons) of Christ Church took over our worship service. Dr. Susan Haddox, who is a professor of Religion at the University of Mount Union here in Alliance, brought us all a wonderful message about faith and how it can be found in the twenty-first century. There is, however, no text for me to post here, but I invite you to click the links below that will take you to the podcast, the recording of the full livestream, or to an edited version that only includes Dr. Haddox’s message and scripture readings.


Click here to listen to the podcast

Click here to watch the livestream: https://youtu.be/tmj3jwL77eg

Click here to see Dr. Haddox’s message, “Will Faith be Found on Earth?”


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Pastor’s Report 2022

Hipster pointing to a white board that says "Pastor's Report"

Pastor’s Report 2022

Christ United Methodist Church

Rev. John Partridge

Every year, I am asked to present a report of the year for our annual Charge Conference. It’s really sort of a “what I did last summer” kind of report that asks, “What did your church do for the last year?” Long ago I decided that my answers should not be seen as any kind of a secret, and so I publish them here, and in our church newsletter. I’m excited about the future of Christ Church and its people and I hope that by talking more about it, others might learn about it and join us in our mission to care for the people around us, and around the world, the way that Jesus cares for us.

The official question that was asked this year was this:


Explain how the church is fulfilling its mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Review the current year and how you plan to meet your congregational goals for the upcoming years. What specific goals relate to your mission field.


An my answer is as follows:

Christ Church has continued to move forward into a new post-Covid world in which many people remain unsure of attending social gatherings and events with large groups, and church attendance seems to sometimes be among these.  In addition, some of those who were regular in attendance prior to the pandemic simply fell out of the habit.  But, for whatever reason, we continue do everything at Christ Church with excellence so that, as we invite out neighbors, coworkers, and friends, and as those who previously attended test the waters and find their way back, they will all find a community of faith, love, and support that is filled with hope for the future and for an eternity with Jesus.

Christ Church is also considering ways in which we can be more intentional about attracting and inviting others into fellowship and inclusion in our community of faith.  To do that we are exploring opportunities that might exist for each committee and small group within the church as well as potential new ways to reach out to our neighborhoods, new ministries, and even additions to staff.  We have already launched a new children’s ministry offering Sunday school and children’s church so that these options are available to all families in attendance and give them the flexibility to choose what works best for them.

And, at the same time, we have not stopped doing what we have always done.  Volunteers from Christ Church once again provided free concessions each week at the Alliance Chamber of Commerce Concert at the Caboose series of events and raised $737 in donations in support of the Alliance Area Habitat for Humanity, over one hundred meals pass through our doors every Tuesday through the Alliance of Churches, Scouts BSA Pack and Troops 50 continue to mentor and teach valuable skills to young men an women, our United Women in Faith will again teach cooking skills to our neighbors, we continue to support Red Bird missions in Kentucky, provide education for students in Sierra Leone and Liberia, and the list goes on.

Our mission calls us to be a bright shining city on a hill, a beacon of hope to the hopeless, and a place of healing to a hurting world where we can be Jesus to our neighbors and to the world.  I believe that Christ Church is not only doing those things, but we are looking for ways to do them better.


I hope that, if you haven’t already, you would join us at Christ Church in-person, or online. Because I have no doubt that together we’re going to change the world.


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Are You Carrying Your Tambourine?

Are You Carrying Your Tambourine?

Guest blogger Rev. Luke Dowdy

Youth Pastor at Berlin Brethren Church, in Berlin, PA

A note from Pastor John: As you can tell from the header, today’s blog isn’t from me, it’s from my Ashland Seminary classmate, Luke Dowdy. Luke shared this devotion during the last online meeting of our World of the Hebrew Bible class, and I was so struck by it that I asked him to share it with me, so that I could share it with all of you. I hope that you like it as much as I did.


Rev. Luke Dowdy

Today’s devotion is inspired by our recent studies in women of the Old Testament. I’d like to introduce our passage with a question; “Are you carrying a tambourine?”

Let’s set the context. Moses had been sent by God on what seemed to be an impossible mission of freeing an entire people from slavery with only a staff and the revelation of his name. Through the course of making his appeals to Pharaoh, followed by 10 devastating plagues, the Israelites are hurried out of Egypt and sent on their way. But it doesn’t take Pharaoh long to change his mind and go chasing after them.

The people begin to panic and Moses intercedes for them, leading to the famous crossing of the sea. We know that after the Israelites cross on dry land to safety, the waters that were being held back by God come crashing in and destroy Pharaoh’s chariots and horsemen. It was a moment of deliverance!  God had come through for them when they needed help the most.

            Then in Exodus 15, we’re told the people of Israel began to sing. “Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the Lord, saying, ‘I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and rider he has thrown into the sea. The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him. The Lord is a man of war; the Lord is his name.’”

The song of deliverance in chapter 15 continues a bit more. But what caught my attention the most was actually what happens after, beginning in verse 19. “For when the horses of Pharaoh with his chariots and his horsemen went into the sea, the Lord brought back the waters of the sea upon them, but the people of Israel walked on dry ground in the midst of the sea. Then Miriam, the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women went out after her with tambourines and dancing. And Miriam sang to them: ‘Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.’”

This reading on women and daily life have me thinking of a packing list. We all have one when we travel, whether on vacation or an extended trip…and the Israelites are probably no different.

If you were told you were about to flee Egypt on short notice, what you would pack? What is so essential to your family, your survival, your identity that you’d take with you? Let’s set aside the plunder taken from the Egyptians in chapter 12 for a moment and focus on the packing list. I’m guessing there might be some type of cookware, maybe a bread basket. Clothes make sense to cover your family. Oils for various needs are appropriate. Perhaps a skin for holding liquids. Would you pack an heirloom that’s been passed down that you want to be sure your children get?

But of all the things to pack leaving Egypt hastily, when space is tight, and you don’t want to be bogged down for the journey, they make room for tambourines! Where did they come from? It seems out of place.

Imagine the packing conversations, wondering what to leave behind to make room for the instrument. Honestly, I’m not sure I’d let my wife bring a tambourine as an “essential item” if we were about to embark on an extended trip.  

But Miriam and the women seem to know that praise was up ahead, something worthy of worship…and they were prepared! They left Egypt in anticipation of great things to come…and they packed their tambourines! The instruments made the list!

I think we can all ask, “Are we carrying a tambourine” in anticipation for what is ahead, something worthy of worship because God will pull through when we need him the most? Of all the things I’ve packed for my day, so to speak, is one of my items a tambourine?


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Why Do You Belong?

Why Do You Belong?

by John Partridge

Written September 15, 2022 for the October Chimes Newsletter

NOTE: I wrote this last month for our church newsletter, got busy, and neglected to post it here until now. But, in a way, I’m glad I did because it reminded me to follow up. And I needed the reminder because although this was sent to everyone at Christ Church, I haven’t (yet) had a single reply. And I really do want to hear your answers. So go ahead and read what follows, but when you’re done, let me know WHY do you choose to attend church where you do?


I started thinking about my topic for this message and thought it would be a reminder to invite others to church, your neighbors, friends, co-workers, and other people that you might casually encounter during your day.  But as I thought about what that reminder might sound like, my train of thought went from “Invite your friends” to “What should we say?” to “Why do we like it here?”  And so, although my intent is still to encourage every person at Christ Church to be invitational, I realize that we don’t automatically know how to do that.  We freeze up when we try to think of something sparklingly witty to say, or even just when we desperately try to find something to say that doesn’t sound stupid or silly.

Toward that end, I thought I should start my asking you all to think, not about how you would invite someone else, but to think about why you choose to come here.  Some of you come here because you’ve been members for more years than I have been alive.  Others of you come because your parents and grandparents and other extended family all come here.  I get that.  On the surface.  But I also know that there is a deeper reason.  There have been times when people left Christ Church.  There were times that were hard, and that were sometimes… unpleasant. 

And yet you persisted.  Why?  What is it about Christ Church that attracted you here?  What is it that made you stay when others were leaving?  What is it about Christ Church that makes you choose to worship here rather than in churches that are closer to your homes, or might otherwise be more convenient?  Christ Church has a lot to offer, but I’m not going to share my ideas with you just yet.  I want you to think about your deeper reasons for being here because those are the reasons that you will want to have prepared when you have an opportunity to invite someone to visit here.

For this month, that’s it.  That’s my invitation to each one of you.  Don’t answer for your children, or for your parents, or for anyone else.  Just think about your answer.  Why are you here?  Why have you stayed here?  Why do you like it here?  What is it about Christ Church that gives you joy?  Don’t answer right away.  Think about for a day, or a week.  Then I want you to write it down.  I want you to write it down and put it somewhere that you can look at it from time to time, in the bathroom where you’ll see it while you brush your teeth or use it as a bookmark for the book you’re reading, but put it somewhere that you’ll see it, and by seeing it, you’ll begin to internalize it.  That way when the opportunity presents itself for you to invite someone, you will know why you want to come here and why you like it here.  That it.  There’s no need to overthink it and make it difficult.  When you invite people to church, the easiest thing to do is to tell them why you like it here.

And, after you’ve done that, if you feel like sharing, I’d love to fill this space in a month or two with a bunch of your answers.

Blessings,

Pastor John


That’s it. Please respond in the comments, or by email, snail mail, or hand me a note at church, but let me know what you think. Why do you go to church in the place you have chosen? Why are you here?  Why have you stayed here?  Why do you like it here?  What is it about Christ Church (or wherever you go) that gives you joy? 


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