Costly Love

Costly Love

December 23, 2018*

Fourth Sunday of Advent

By Pastor John Partridge

 

Micah 5:2-5a              Luke 1:39-45              Hebrews 10:5-10

Love.

Today is the fourth Sunday of Advent and today is set aside to remember love.  But if there’s one thing that anyone knows about love, its that love isn’t always roses and unicorns, sweetness and light.  Sometimes love is painful and not at all like a sappy Hallmark Christmas movie.

But in particular, because this is church, and because we’re celebrating Advent and the birth of Jesus, the love that we’re talking about is God’s love, and the love of Jesus.  And for that, we begin this morning with the prophet Micah who lived and proclaimed the words of God between 750 and 686 B.C.  And in his writings, Micah tells of a king, a rescuer, whom God would eventually send to reunite the Israelites. (Micah 5:2-5a)

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
    though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
    one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
    from ancient times.”

Therefore Israel will be abandoned
    until the time when she who is in labor bears a son,
and the rest of his brothers return
    to join the Israelites.

He will stand and shepherd his flock
    in the strength of the Lord,
    in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they will live securely, for then his greatness
    will reach to the ends of the earth.

And he will be our peace.

Seven hundred years before the Christmas story unfolds, Micah says that the Messiah will be born in Bethlehem and hints that he will be a descendant from the line of King David.  But more curiously, Micah declares that the origins of this coming king are from ancient times.  He is, he will be, a ruler who has been known throughout antiquity, perhaps reminding God’s people that he is the rescuer that the prophets had been writing about from the very beginning.

And it is this rescuer, redeemer, messiah, and king that Micah describes as someone who will stand up for his people and protect his flock through the strength of God.  He is the one who will bring security, greatness, honor and glory to his people.  And it is this king who will finally bring the one thing for which everyone had been praying for thousands of years.  Peace. 

“And he will be our peace.”

Fast forward seven hundred years and in Luke 1:39-45 we read these words:

39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”

From the moment that Elizabeth hears Mary’s voice, she knows, as does her unborn son John the Baptist, that Mary’s son will not only be a blessing to God’s people but will also be their king.  Elizabeth knows that it is through Mary, and through her son, that God has chosen to fulfill his promises to his people.

But so, what?

Of course, keeping promises is a good thing, but what difference does it make to us two thousand years later?

And we can find the answer to that in the letter written to the people known as the Hebrews.  Scholars have argued whether the author of this letter is Barnabus or possibly Apollos who travelled with Paul, but in either case, this is what he says about the coming of Jesus in Hebrews 10:5-10.

Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said:

“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
    but a body you prepared for me;
with burnt offerings and sin offerings
    you were not pleased.
Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—
    I have come to do your will, my God.

First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them”—though they were offered in accordance with the law. Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” He sets aside the first to establish the second. 10 And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

First off, we are reminded that Jesus was quoting the words of King David and Psalm 40 when he spoke about God’s displeasure with the sacrifices of his followers.  Although those sacrifices satisfied the requirements and the specifications of the Law of Moses, they weren’t what God wanted because, although the people were performing the ritual, they were not doing the will of God.  It is as if the people were performing an act of the mind, but not allowing God to reach their hearts.  Beyond that, the writer of Hebrews says that Jesus came to set aside the entire sacrificial system so that he could establish the will of God as the new standard of obedience.   The result, the “so what,” was that where God’s people were once periodically and repeatedly purified, temporarily, through the sacrifice of animals and other offerings on the altar of the Temple, we have now been purified and made holy through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ once, forever.

So, you see, the difference that this makes two thousand years later, the “so what,” of the Christmas story, is the greatest gift that God has ever given to humanity and the most expensive gift ever conceived.  The coming of Jesus, and his sacrifice, death, and resurrection are the gift that brings perfection, purification, and holiness to us imperfect, impure, unholy, and altogether messy human beings. 

The coming of Jesus, son of David, the Prince of Peace, and Lord of lords, is the fulfillment of every prophecy written about the messiah for two thousand years.  The birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is a gift that was and is unimaginably expensive, horrifically painful, and inconceivably wondrous, and it represents the epitome, peak and pinnacle, the very embodiment…

…of costly love.

 

 

 

 

 


Did you enjoy reading this?

Click here if you would like to subscribe to Pastor John’s weekly messages.

Click here to subscribe to Pastor John’s blog.

Click here to visit Pastor John’s YouTube channel.


 

 

*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.  If you have questions, you can ask them in our discussion forum on Facebook (search for Pastor John Online).  These messages can also be found online at https://pastorpartridge.com/. All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.

Are You Too Busy for Wonder?

shopping-centerWe’re busy.

All of us have calendars full of events that keep us busy, and this is especially true during December as we prepare for the Christmas season.  We have Christmas parties for church, work and social clubs, invitations from friends, open houses, gift exchanges, family get-togethers, and all of that piled on top of our regular schedules for work, school, and church.

It gets to be a lot.  Almost a burden.

Sometimes, for our own sense of peace and sanity, we need to be careful about which invitations we accept.  If we are to appreciate and enjoy the holiday, we need to find some balance and time for quiet reflection.

But amid all this busyness, we might also remember that in some ways, life wasn’t all that different two thousand years ago.  People were busy.  Just living their everyday lives, doing business, working jobs, raising children, growing crops, preparing food, and all sorts of ordinary, mundane tasks filled their schedules.  And their busyness caused almost everyone to completely miss the most amazing thing that ever happened in the history of the entire planet.

In the second chapter of Matthew we hear this story:

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
    who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

Despite the predictions and prophecies of the Old Testament prophets, despite thousands of years of expectation, despite generations who prayed for the Messiah’s arrival, despite knowing where the messiah would be born, despite the writings of Daniel that gave a good indication of when the messiah would come, despite a collection of professional theologians and priests who dedicated their lives to the study of these scriptures, still they missed it.

Perhaps it’s because they were too busy.

Certainly, God’s messiah arrived differently than anyone expected.  Who would have imagined that the savior of the world would be born to a couple of poor people from the distant countryside?  Who would have guessed that the official birth announcement would be entrusted to a bunch of sheep herders on a hillside?  Who would have believed that a king would be born in barn or a cave, and put to bed in a feeding trough?

As we hear in Luke chapter 2:

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

It was unexpected.

But how much easier was it to ignore amid the busyness of everyday life?

I know that you have things to do.  I know that you have Christmas cards to write, family to visit, cookies to eat, and gatherings to attend.  But don’t let your busyness cause to make the same mistake that the world made two thousand years ago.  Don’t get so caught up in your activity that you forget to remember the story.  Don’t forget to appreciate the blessings of the unexpected.  Don’t forget to appreciate the coming of the Prince of Peace. 

Our busyness will only make us tired.

Don’t allow your busyness to drown out the wonder of this moment.

Take the time to remember the story.

Take the time to be thankful.

Take the time to appreciate the gift, and the blessings, that we have been given.

Merry Christmas.

 

 

 


Did you enjoy reading this?

Click here if you would like to subscribe to Pastor John’s weekly messages.

Click here to subscribe to Pastor John’s blog.

Click here to visit Pastor John’s YouTube channel.

Peace through… What?

Peace Through… What?

December 09, 2018*

(Second Sunday of Advent)

By Pastor John Partridge

 

 

Malachi 3:1-4             Luke 3:1-6                  Philippians 1:3-11

 

Peace.

In our modern world, we have often heard the phrase, “Peace through strength.”  Nations, from ancient Rome, to Hitler’s Germany, to today’s military-industrial machine, have all claimed to bring about peace through having a powerful military, but it has rarely worked out that way.  Peace through strength only works when that strength is used to threaten the peace of others.  Granted, used rightly, and justly, that same strength can be used to rescue people, and nations, from abuse by other nations or from terrorists.  But God’s story leans in another direction.  God’s story bends the claim of “peace through strength” into a different shape entirely.  In Malachi 3:1-4, God says:

3:1 “I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the Lord Almighty.

But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the Lord, as in days gone by, as in former years.

God says that he will send a messenger to his people and this will be the messenger that Israel has desired, and has prayed for, for thousands of years since the time of King David.  But this promise also comes with a warning.  When God’s messenger, God’s Messiah, appears, he will prepare the way for God by refining and purifying his people.  God’s message is that there is strength through purity and strength through righteousness.

But let’s look a little deeper and understand why this is a warning.

Malachi says that God’s messenger will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver and will purify the Levites, the priests of God, and refine them like gold and silver.

Why is that a warning?  It is a warning if you understand how silver and gold are purified.

When silver is refined, the silversmith places the silver over the fire, in the middle of the furnace, where the fire is the hottest and waits while the fire burns away all its impurities.  During this process, the silversmith can never take his eyes away from the silver or it might overheat and be destroyed.  But the silversmith knows the precise moment when the silver has been purified, because at that moment, he can clearly see his reflection in it.  God’s warning is that that he intends to purify his priests, and purify his people, by burning away all of their impurities so that they will reflect his image and his glory.

Peace through purification. 

Peace through trials.

Peace through the refiner’s fire.

We await the return of Jesus.  We are expectant.  But we are warned that, for us, his return may not be easy.

John the Baptist reinforces this same image in Luke 3:1-6, where we hear these words:

3:1 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene— during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet:

“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
    make straight paths for him.
Every valley shall be filled in,
    every mountain and hill made low.
The crooked roads shall become straight,
    the rough ways smooth.
And all people will see God’s salvation.’”

John preached that God’s people must busy themselves preparing the way for the arrival of the Messiah by repenting of their sins.  “Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low, the crooked roads shall become straight, the rough places smooth”, and only then… “all the people will see God’s salvation.”

Peace through repentance.

And finally, we come to the Apostle Paul as he writes to the church in Philippi and prays for them as we see in Philippians 1:3-11.

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

Right off the bat, Paul begins by saying that God has begun a good work in his church and prays that God will continue the work that he has already started.   And, just in case you missed the importance of this, I want to restate it.  Paul tells the church that what they are doing is good, but that God isn’t finished with them yet, that there is more work to do, that we are a work in-progress, and he is praying that God would continue to move us in that direction until we have accomplished everything that God has intended for us to do.  Second, Paul reminds the church that whether we are together or apart, we share God’s grace and we share God’s work.  And finally, Paul’s prayer is that the love of the church may grow greater and greater, that the people will grow in the knowledge of God and in depth of insight into the mind of God so that  we might be able to discern what is best, so that we might be pure and blameless on the day of Christ’s return, and so that the church will be filled with the fruits of righteousness, so that God would be given praise and glory.

And if we boil that down, we find Paul’s prayers for the people of Jesus Christ are these:

Peace through the perfecting work of God.

Peace through the grace of God.

Peace through love.

Peace through the knowledge of God.

And we hear the united voices of Malachi, John the Baptist, and the Apostle Paul saying,

“Peace through the righteousness of God.”

The second coming of Jesus Christ will not be easy.  We must work diligently to live up to the high calling as a kingdom, and as priests, of Jesus.  We are being refined and purified into something better.  We must daily work to move toward the perfection of Jesus, to struggle daily to be more like Jesus, so that we can love others like Jesus.

It is no accident that Isaiah 9:6 describes the Messiah this way:

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

We are a kingdom of priests, be he is…

The Prince of Peace

No matter the strength of a nation, or it’s swords, horses, and armies or navies, peace through strength will always fail… without the Prince of Peace.

There can only be peace…

            …through Jesus.

 

 

 

 


Did you enjoy reading this?

Click here if you would like to subscribe to Pastor John’s weekly messages.

Click here to subscribe to Pastor John’s blog.

Click here to visit Pastor John’s YouTube channel.


 

*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.  If you have questions, you can ask them in our discussion forum on Facebook (search for Pastor John Online).  These messages can also be found online at https://pastorpartridge.wordpress.com/. All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.

A Righteous Branch

Christmas-treeA Righteous Branch

December 02, 2018*

By Pastor John Partridge

 

 

 

 

Jeremiah 33:14-16                 Luke 21:25-36                        1 Thessalonians 3:9-13

 

Hope.

As we begin the season of Advent today the word we remember, and the word that we will repeatedly encounter, is… hope.

But that the same time, we remember that the first Sunday of Advent is traditionally celebrated as the one in which we remember the contributions of the prophets of old.  These two themes are inextricably intertwined because it is in the prophecies of old, and in the faithfulness of God, that leads us to have hope for the future.

That may seem to be a little vague, but let’s begin with the prophecy and the promise of God found in Jeremiah 33:14-16 where we hear these words:

14 “‘The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will fulfill the good promise I made to the people of Israel and Judah.

15 “‘In those days and at that time
    I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line;
    he will do what is just and right in the land.
16 In those days Judah will be saved
    and Jerusalem will live in safety.
This is the name by which it will be called:
    The Lord Our Righteous Savior.’

We remember from last week, that God’s promise, his sacred covenant, with King David, was that one of his descendants would rule over the people of Israel in righteousness forever.  And now we hear Jeremiah say that God intends to keep that promise, that God is raising up a righteous branch from David’s family tree, a man that would do what is just and right, so that Judah and Jerusalem will live in safety.  Jeremiah also tells us that God has named that man, that righteous branch, the Lord, Our Righteous Savior.

Who else could this be but Jesus?  And as we begin our preparations for Advent and Christmas, it seems especially obvious that this must be Jesus.  But when we realize that this is Jesus, then we also remember that God has been faithful and has done what he had promised to David, to Jeremiah, and to the people of Israel.  You see, it is in remembering the faithfulness of God that we discover hope.

It is in remembering the faithfulness of God that we discover hope.

 But how?  How does remembering the past help us to have hope?  And the answer to that is found in reading the words of Jesus found in the New Testament, but today we specifically look at Jesus’ words to the disciples found in Luke 21:25-36 where we hear this:

25 “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. 26 People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. 27 At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

29 He told them this parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees. 30 When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. 31 Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.

32 “Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

34 “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap. 35 For it will come on all those who live on the face of the whole earth. 36 Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.”

Jesus, the Son of Man, promises his disciples that that there will be signs that will precede his return to the earth and people who are alert and watching for those signs will know, just as we see the signs and know that spring is coming, we will know that his return is near.  But Jesus doesn’t just declare that he will return, he proclaims that when he comes, he will return, not as a suffering servant that obediently submits to torture and crucifixion, but with power and great glory as a conquering king.

But what does he mean when Jesus says, “this generation will not pass away until all these things have happened.”?  Part of our problem in understanding comes about because we started reading in the middle of the story.  In the beginning of the conversation, the disciples were marveling over how beautiful the temple and the surrounding buildings were, and Jesus said that soon all of them would be torn down with not a single stone left upon another.  And so, as we read this part of that conversation, Jesus is explaining that the destruction of the temple was so close at hand, that most of them would live to see it.  But we can also understand that the coming of the kingdom of God begins with the death and resurrection of Jesus.  It is because, as you will remember from last week, we have been called to be a kingdom and priests. 

The kingdom of God is not just something that will come on the day of judgement at Jesus’ return, the kingdom of God is something that we do every day.  With the resurrection of Jesus, the kingdom of heaven has been planted on earth, and it is up to us, every day, to live like Jesus, to become more like Jesus, and to make the world around us more like heaven than it was the day before.  It is up to us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, to speak for the voiceless, and intervene for downtrodden and the abused and to, as much as possible, make our community, and our world, a better place.

But what would that look like?

In 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13, Paul has both kind words, and a prayer for the church in Thessalonica.

How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? 10 Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.

11 Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you. 12 May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. 13 May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.

Paul compliments the people of the church by saying that he and the others who have ministered there are filled with joy in the presence of God because of them.  They are so proud of what the church is doing for the kingdom of God, and they would be blessed by God simply by knowing that they had played a part of leading the church in that direction.  But Paul’s prayer for the church is that they might be able to return and teach them even more.  And Paul also prays that God would make their love for one another, and for everyone around them, increase and overflow.  That God would strengthen their hearts so that the people of the church would be blameless and holy in the presence of God.

Paul was proud of the work that the church was doing but his prayer was that the people would so filled with love, that the love of Jesus would overflow into the life of the church, but also into the lives of their community and everyone around them.  Paul’s greatest prayer was that the church would become so much like Jesus, that they would be blameless when they stood in the presence of God.  Just as Jesus was raised up as a righteous branch from the tree of David, we too are called to be a righteous branch growing up in the midst of the chaos of our world.

So, you see, God made a covenant with King David that one of his descendants would rule over the people of Israel in righteousness forever and, as he always does, God kept his promise.  And just as God made a promise to David, Jesus has made a promise to each of us.  Jesus has promised that he will return, not in suffering, but in triumph.  But while we wait, we are called to do the work that Jesus began, to be Jesus to the world around us, to be so filled with his love that our love overflows into the lives of one another and into the lives of the people in the community, and the world, around us. 

It is a message of promises kept.  It is a message of prophecy fulfilled, and prophecy yet to come.  It is a message that even today fills the people of God, that fills us, with purpose.

It is… a message of hope.

 

 

 


Did you enjoy reading this?

Click here if you would like to subscribe to Pastor John’s weekly messages.

Click here to subscribe to Pastor John’s blog.

Click here to visit Pastor John’s YouTube channel.


 

*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.  If you have questions, you can ask them in our discussion forum on Facebook (search for Pastor John Online).  These messages can also be found online at https://pastorpartridge.com/. All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.

An Advent Invitation

advent-candles

We are, once again, entering the Advent Season.  Advent literally means the arrival of someone, or something, of great importance, but for us it is more than just marking the calendar to make note of his arrival.  We all know that our celebration of Jesus’ birth is on December 25th, but still, we deliberately set aside four weeks, and four Sundays, prior to that for special recognition and celebration?

But why?

We set aside time, because we are creatures of habit.  We get in ruts, we get stuck in our routines and habits, and we tend to live every week in the same pattern as the last.  If we allow ourselves to do that at Christmas, then Jesus’ birthday will get overrun with the busyness of the ordinary and ordinary is the one thing that it should never become.

Instead, we set aside Advent as a season of preparation just as we set aside Lent as a season to prepare for Easter.  For four weeks, we remember and reflect on the many aspects of the Christmas story.  We remember the shepherds and the angels, Mary and Joseph, Elizabeth and Zechariah, Anna and Simeon, and finally, the arrival of Jesus.  Each of the characters of the Christmas story have something to tell us and we can be shaped by God as we learn from them.

I hope that you will join us on this journey of preparation.  Oh sure, you can just pop in on Christmas Eve and feel as if you’ve worshipped, but then you’ll have missed the greater message.  You could save a lot of time if you only watched the last ten minutes of Star Wars or Casablanca or Gone with the Wind.  But while only watching the climax of the story may inform you how the story ends, it doesn’t carry you along on the journey, it doesn’t inspire, it doesn’t stir your emotions or let you feel the passion of the story.

To say that you have experienced these films and been changed or shaped by them, you need to watch the whole thing, often more than once.  We watch them, and we imagine ourselves as a part of the story.  We take the time to put ourselves in the place of the characters and imagine what it would be like to live through the story as they did.  Good movies, and good books, do all those things to us and this is the story that surpasses them all.  This is the greatest story ever told.

And so, I invite you to join us on an Advent journey as we prepare our hearts for the arrival of the King of kings.  I hope that, if you can, you will commit yourselves to worshipping with us, not just on Christmas Eve, but every week during this sacred season of preparation.  Allow yourself to be drawn into the story, to experience its drama, its emotions, and its passion.  I promise that if you do, you will experience a Christmas Eve, and a Christmas, that will be more deeply meaningful, more passionate, more life-changing, than you will ever find possible by simply skipping to the end of the story.

Won’t you join us on this amazing journey?

Blessings,

Pastor John

Why Our King Matters

Why Our King Matters

(Christ the King Sunday)

November 25, 2018*

By Pastor John Partridge

 2 Samuel 23:1-7                     John 18:33-37                        Revelation 1:4-8

There is a common question that all of us use, but it annoys us when our children ask it of us.  So annoying is this question,that although we often think it in our heads, we will not speak it out loud to anyone but our closest friends.  We would almost never say it to our employers, or supervisors, or to anyone in a position of authority unless we were deliberately being combative or defiant.  Nonetheless, the question is valid.  In fact, it is good practice to ask it of ourselves, and a good corporate board, church committee, or political body should ask this of itself on a regular basis.

What question is so important?

It’s simple.

The question is… “So, what?”

As a church, or as a corporation, a school, or a government, or even as a public speaker, whenever we make a decision, or write a speech, we need to answer the question, “So what?”  Is any of this important?  Is any of this relevant?  What do we expect to happen afterward because we’ve made this decision?  What do we expect, or even hope, that people will do because of what we are deciding to do?  The answer to the “so what” question will almost always guide us to making better decisions and to refining the details of the decisions that we make. Our church just organized the preparation and delivery of over 1,000 Thanksgiving dinners.  But, so what?  Why did we do it?  What did we expect to happen because we did it?  If we hoped that the recipients of those dinners would behave in some way, or take some particular action because we prepared those meals, did we make that clear?  Did we explain why we did it?  Did we clearly express an offer of some kind?  If we hoped that they might come to church, did we invite them? (Yes, we did).

Answering the “so what” question helps us avoid doing work for the sake of doing work and just appearing to be busy.  Answering that question both before, and after, a planned event or decision, helps to remind us to “connect the dots” and to develop consistent strategies to accomplish our goals.

And all of that brings us to today, as we celebrate “Christ the King” Sunday.   But so,what?  Why do we set this day aside in the church calendar?  What difference does it make that Jesus is the King?  It makes a lot of difference.  And, as we read through our scriptures, we discover why. We begin in 2 Samuel 23:1-7 where we hear the last words of King David.

23:1 These are the last words of David:

“The inspired utterance of David son of Jesse,
    the utterance of the man exalted by the Most High,
the man anointed by the God of Jacob,
    the hero of Israel’s songs:

“The Spirit of the Lord spoke through me;
    his word was on my tongue.
The God of Israel spoke,
    the Rock of Israel said to me:
‘When one rules over people in righteousness,
    when he rules in the fear of God,
he is like the light of morning at sunrise
    on a cloudless morning,
like the brightness after rain
    that brings grass from the earth.’

“If my house were not right with God,
    surely he would not have made with me an everlasting covenant,
    arranged and secured in every part;
surely he would not bring to fruition my salvation
    and grant me my every desire.
But evil men are all to be cast aside like thorns,
    which are not gathered with the hand.
Whoever touches thorns
    uses a tool of iron or the shaft of a spear;
    they are burned up where they lie.”

Because he was the king, and because God had carefully and specifically chosen him from among his people, it was with David that God had made an enduring, eternal, and everlasting promise.  God’s promise to David was that a member of his family, one of David’s direct descendants,would, forever, rule over Israel.   Righteousness was to be set upon the throne of God, and evil was to be cast aside and burned in the fire.  For that reason, we know that whomever will be the king, must be from the lineage of David, and from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, we know that Jesus was indeed a descendant from that line.  And in John 18:33-37, Jesus himself answers the question of kingship as he is questioned by Pilate.

33 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

34 “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”

35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”

36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate.

Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king.In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

It seems obvious, but if you want to know if Jesus really is a king, maybe the best thing to do is simply to ask him. Pilate does exactly that and Jesus says that yes, he is a king, but that his kingdom is not an earthly one.  Jesus says that the very reason that he was born, the reason that he came into our world, was to testify about,to tell the world, the truth.  And more than that, Jesus says, everyone who is on the side of truth, let me repeat that, everyone who is on the side of truth, will listen to him.

After all of that this is what we have: 1) God promised David that one of his descendants would sit on the throne and rule over Israel forever.  2) Jesus has the lineage, the pedigree, the family tree, or the genealogy to be that person and to carry that title.  3) When asked by Pilate, Jesus claims that kingship, and declares that his mission, the entire reason for his presence on earth, is to tell the truth.

But after all of that, we are still left with the question: So, What?

What difference does it make that Jesus is the King? 

And in Revelation 1:4-8, John answers that exact question in several different ways.

1:4 John,

To the seven churches in the province of Asia:

Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness,the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.

“Look, he is coming with the clouds,”
    and “every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him”;
    and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of him.”
So shall it be! Amen.

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”

 John tells us that Jesus is the faithful witness, the one who was sent to testify tothe truth.  He says that Jesus is the first person to rise from the dead, and that Jesus is the ruler of all the kings of the earth.  That’s a big deal.  Throughout time there have been mayors, burgermeisters, governors, presidents, princes, barons, counts, dukes, khans, prime ministers, caesars, emperors, and kings.  But Jesus rises above all of them, and rules overall of them because not only is Jesus a king, Jesus is the king, the King of all kings and the Lord of all lords. 

It is because Jesus is the king that he was able to free us from sin and death,and as king Jesus has transformed us into a kingdom, a people, together, who follow, and who do the will of God.  But not only has he brought us into his family and into his kingdom, Jesus has made each and every one of us to be priests who serve God.  Everyone who loves the truth, everyone who is on the side of truth, must listen to him. And, because Jesus is the King of Truth, and because Jesus was sent to testify to the truth, then we know that as his priests, we also must also testify to the truth.

It is the “So What” that tells us who we are and gives us purpose and meaning.

In this season of Thanksgiving, we are thankful for who Jesus in.  Because Jesus is the King of kings and the Lord of lords, because he was sent by God to testify to the truth, and because he has raised us up and appointed us as a kingdom and as priests, we know what we must do.  We are not called to be merely worshipers of God.  We are called to be a kingdom of priests for a risen Jesus. We are called to be go out into the world, into its highways and byways and dark alleyways, to and testify to the truth and tell the world about Jesus.

Because of the “So what” we discover that we are not spectators, but instead we are witnesses who have been called to testify to the truth.

Jesus is the King.  Jesus is our king.  And our king has appointed us as priests, so that we will testify to the truth and save the world.

Let’s get out there and get busy saving the world.


Did you enjoy reading this?

Click here if you would like to subscribe to Pastor John’s weekly messages.

Click here to subscribe to Pastor John’s blog.

Click here to visit Pastor John’s YouTube channel.




*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 r electronic formats, by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at secretary@CUMCAlliance.org.  If you have questions, you can ask them in our discussion forum on Facebook (search for Pastor John Online).  These messages can also be found online at https://pastorpartridge.wordpress.com/.All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.

Eulogy and Obituary for Marcene Buchs

Eulogy for Marcene Buchs

October 06, 2018

by Pastor John Partridge

My family and I moved to Alliance during the last week of June.  And so, on Thursday of this week, when Mike and Amy asked me if I had even had a chance to meet Marcene, I honestly wasn’t sure.  Until I stared working on my remarks for today and pulled up her obituary and saw her photograph.  But then I knew.  I knew that I had met Marcene but hadn’t yet had the chance to get to know her.  But many others did.  At church, Marcene was known to be a sweet lady who was always well put together.  She was always dressed fashionably, not to in any way act as if she was better than anyone else, but simply because being impeccably dressed was important to her.  She had flair.  People noticed when Marcene entered a room.  She was known, always, to be a classy lady as well as a person of deep and personal faith.

Marcene Buchs grew up taking care of her dad.  And when she had done that then it was time to take care of her mom, and then it was her Aunt Ellen.  She was a caregiver.  It wasn’t a life that she chose, but she accepted it as her responsibility.  She grew up in Beechwood in a family of farmers.  But she came to Christ United Methodist Church more than 60 years ago when her family moved to Alliance while she was in the fifth grade.  She was both faithful and dedicated to our church and was sure to attend every week for as long as she was able.

Over the years, she worked as a secretary and kept the bills paid.  She didn’t have a fairy tale life by any stretch of the imagination, but she was known for her strength of character, she always took the high road, did things the “right way,” and always did everything well and with excellence.  Although she never felt sorry for herself, sometimes the events and the circumstances of her life led her to feel insecure.  She lived in a small town, and she knew what people said about her, but that, and despite her insecurity, she refused to retreat, and forced herself to participate in the community.

Marcene was always “super-devoted” to her family and to her grandchildren.  She didn’t just care about what they did, she devoted herself to exploring, learning, and doing her very best to understand what they did whether it was sports, or music, or quilting, publishing, or rocket science. Marcene was a reader, and she had always read everything.   But whenever she knew what her family or friends were interested in, she read about that too.  Although she didn’t have a CD player in her home, she did have one in her car.  And so, in order to listen to her grandson Chase’s CD’s, she would get in her car and drive around town so that she could listen to them.  As Mike and Amy went through her things, they discovered that Marcene had kept detailed records of her life and of her family’s life.  Events and projects that they had long forgotten, were carefully recorded and kept in her albums and notebooks.

Marcene Buchs was a minimalist who loved order.  She owned a small number of outfits and when she bought a new one, an old one had to go.  Nothing in her home was out of place.  She appreciated order and she paid great attention to every detail.  But Marcene’s insistence on perfection only applied to herself.  She was forgiving of others and understood that they were different than she was.

Perhaps the most obvious example of who Marcene was, is found in her son Mike.  As the saying goes, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”  And Mike didn’t become the caring, considerate, intelligent, driven, and loving person that he is by accident.  He is a living example of Marcene’s influence on his life and a reflection of who she was.

Much of her life was devoted to caring for others and while was greatly loved by others, she loved them all right back.  But, as I noted earlier, Marcene’s faith was important to her.  She made sure that Mike grew up in the church and passed her faith on to him.  And when her grandchildren arrived, she invested herself in them so that they could learn it as well.  As I talked to Mike and Amy, we knew that Marcene would not want this moment to pass without sharing her faith with you as well.  Marcene Buchs put her full faith and trust in Jesus Christ as her savior.  She believed that Jesus died for her sins so that she could, at this very moment, stand before God, forgiven, redeemed, and perfect.  We know where Marcene will spend her eternity, and she wants every one of you to join her there when your day comes.  If you don’t know how to do that, Marcene’s family and I urge you to talk to one of us afterward.

But of all of us, Mike knew her best of all.  And so, although he knew that he wouldn’t be able to stand up here today and share his thoughts, these are his words:

A Son’s Reflections

by Michael Robert Johanson

We are gathered here together to honor and celebrate the life of my mother, Marcene Buchs. My mother was a throwback and maintained the sensibilities of another time always attempting to do the right thing optimistically even when it was not popular or easy. She was not deceived by the complexities in this world and was firmly rooted in the simplicities that are the foundation of our being.  That is her message to us.  She would have loved the flowers in the room today and would remind us all to enjoy the sight and scent.  She would not want any of us to mourn today rather to channel the spirit she has put in all of us to live up to our potential, do the right things, listen, encourage, pick each other up when we fall have hope, faith and leave a positive mark on this world.

I have spent much time this week thinking of what should be said, attempting to properly honor my mom’s memory or even partially convey the wonderful life my family and I were lucky enough to share with her.  Should I list all of her accomplishments which were many?  She was capable far beyond what we all saw – she had a mighty inner strength.  Should I tell stories from the farm in Beachwood?  Those would be funny particularly the “hammer story” (though probably still not funny to her brother my uncle Bob).  Her happiness, optimism and vision of the future during her youth – she always did her very best?  The energy and pride she always exemplified in the workforce?        But all of this can be read in the newspaper this week.  What isn’t there is her devotion and love for her family.  Her grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, brother and his family, taking care of her mother, father, and her son who were always steadfastly by her side and her by them.  I came along not under ideal circumstances, but you would have never known it. Her devotion and love made my life ideal.

If she were planning today’s service she would be playing videos in the hall of rockets launching things I’ve built into space.  A spread of magazines that Amy had created that highlighted her handiwork that she was so overjoyed to see on a newsstand.  She would play highlight reels of her grandson Noah throwing a football.  She often went on long drives to listen to songs on the CD player of her grandson Chase that always lift her up and “made the sunshine come out”. Those songs were played today prior to this service per her request and they meant the world to her.  She was very proud of all of Chase’s accomplishments. She would showcase her “superhero” grandson Ellis’s many activities, performances, beautiful voice and intellect and also remark how she was able to get a little piece of her own son back through him.  She would spent endless hours studying and learning about all our interests and made them her own.  And while none of this would be about her.  In her mind it was all about her, and it is.

I found a folder this week in her important papers titled Emotional Serenade.  In this folder of poems and writings I got a chance to get inside my mom’s spirit in ways I had not seen before.  In her writings I think she described who she was far better than I ever could in the following poem:

THE CATALPA TREES ARE BLOOMING ON HAINES AVENUE

The Catalpas are blooming on Haines Avenue;

their snow-like blossoms are fresh and white and new.

They crown the branches of the stately trees

and cover the ground with a summer freeze.

In time, long green beans will appear,

hanging amidst the elephantine leaves part of the year.

This makes Haines different from Wright, Union or Summit,

indeed it is the very best part of it!

The red bricked street of a yesterday,

scene of a childhood summer of play.

I was fresh from the farm and an isolated life

thrust on a sidewalk of kids amidst workman and buses,

backyard cherry trees – neat houses and gardens,

flower bedecked porches, new shoes bought on an

afternoon trip downtown, birthday parties on the lawn,

bank tellers, clothiers, teachers, mailmen, executives

and retirees – a grocery store that smelled so right

with licorice cigars and other delights…

everything so lazy and forever.  Now all gone mainly

BUT THE TREES

I had always known the infinite variety of trees;

all the magical appendages moving in the breeze;

their sudden brilliant hues burning even after the fade;

their wealth worth more than could ever be paid.

Yet I was amazed at the leaves on a hunt for my son

and ran around saying, in effect, “Here’s one, here’s one!”

Then it was the Ginkgo that mesmerized me,

but the Catalpas are a gift by the powers that be

and are for the moment what’s happening on Haines.

They come to me, and the thrill never wanes.

  • BUCHS

My mother was always my unexpected messenger encouraging me (and all of us) to accomplish the impossible and she led by example in ways that I didn’t always understand or comprehend.  But eventually, I would always understand completely.  While her life didn’t always meet the expectations she perhaps had for herself, she made the best of every moment and worked tirelessly to make sure those around her had the best opportunities, were the best prepared, and when we needed a boost, she was there to lift us up.  Though 620 Wright Ave was just a small dot on big planet she always encouraged me to be OPEN and ready to take on the world.  She taught me that if I opened up my mind I could be and do anything.  If I opened up my dreams the impossible became possible. If I opened up my heart I would always be surrounded by the very best people.  If I opened up my eyes the path forward would always be clear.  And if I opened my arms she would and will always be there.

In her notes this week she left me a final piece of advice in her Emotional Serenade folder.  I’m not sure she wrote it but she typed it and put in a place so I would see it first.  I think is a continuing message for all of us:

“People tend to look in each other’s wallets instead of each other’s eyes.  You can’t buy a look into someone’s heart.  Or a loving look.  Or a smile.  The retention of important memories is a gift beyond price.  Memory is where the proof of life is stored.  Unobstructed access to memories is both a sign of good health and a measure of true wealth.  Money can’t buy health and money can’t buy hope.”

I am thankful for the time that we have had on this Earth together, and her passing reminds me to value the time we all have with our loved ones. To allow our ‘time’ on this planet to walk with us rather than be our adversary and to cherish every moment, because they will never come again. What we leave behind is not as important as how we lived, and I know how much my mother loved this life and those of you who shared it with her. So those of us who knew her will understand when I say that her passing to me is truly only that state in which she exists within all of us whose lives she has touched, which is why today is not about an end. I know she lives on within me and my children and that too shall pass to my children’s children. No good-byes mom, just wonderful memories.  You will walk with me always. I will see you again.

-Michael Robert Johanson

Continue reading