The Ghost of Baptism Past

The Ghost of Baptism Past

January 15, 2023*

(Baptism of the Lord)

By Pastor John Partridge

Isaiah 42:1-9              Matthew 3:13-17                   Acts 10:34-43

In Charles Dickens’ 1843 novella A Christmas Carol, Ebeneezer Scrooge is visited by three spirits over the course of an evening.  These visits, by the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future, serve to remind Mr. Scrooge about the real meaning of Christmas, and of life, rather than his miserly devotion to the accumulation of wealth at all costs.  In a way, today’s message borrows from that format as we visit scriptures from before, during, and after the life of Jesus Christ, that tell us something about the deeper meanings of baptism in our past, our present, and in our future.  We begin with God’s promise of his spirit, eight centuries before Jesus’ birth, found in Isaiah 42:1-9.

42:1 “Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
    my chosen one in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him,
    and he will bring justice to the nations.
He will not shout or cry out,
    or raise his voice in the streets.
A bruised reed he will not break,
    and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;
    he will not falter or be discouraged
till he establishes justice on earth.
    In his teaching the islands will put their hope.”

This is what God the Lord says—
the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out,
    who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it,
    who gives breath to its people,
    and life to those who walk on it:
“I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness;
    I will take hold of your hand.
I will keep you and will make you
    to be a covenant for the people
    and a light for the Gentiles,
to open eyes that are blind,
    to free captives from prison
    and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.

“I am the Lord; that is my name!
    I will not yield my glory to another
    or my praise to idols.
See, the former things have taken place,
    and new things I declare;
before they spring into being
    I announce them to you.”

Isaiah says that the coming messiah will be filled with God’s spirit and bring justice to the world but will be so gentle that he will not do any further damage the most fragile among us.  Moreover, God will not only call his people to right living, but will hold their hands, call the Gentiles to become a part of his family, and will rescue those who are imprisoned by jailers or by their infirmities.

Last week we talked about how God would use the Messiah to open the doors of his kingdom to the Gentiles, but for our purposes this morning, take a moment to notice how Isaiah declares the promise to put God’s spirit in and upon the Messiah that he would send.  And with that in mind, we move forward to the moment of Jesus’ baptism, and the moment when God fulfills that promise in Matthew 3:13-17.

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”

15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.

16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

Jesus tells John that he has chosen to be baptized even though he, as the perfect messiah, had no actual need of baptism.  Rather, Jesus chooses to be baptized because it is necessary to fulfill God’s promises that the Messiah would be called to righteousness and to model obedience to God for all who would follow him.  And the moment that he rises out of the waters of the Jordan River, the heavens open, the Spirit of God descends, lands upon Jesus, and God audibly proclaims this love for, and his satisfaction with, Jesus and the work that he is doing.

But if the words of Isaiah speak about the spirit of baptism past, and the Spirit of God at the Jordan River appears as the spirit of baptism in Jesus’ present, then what does that leave us for the spirit of baptism future?  For that, let us jump ahead another few years to a month or two after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, and we find Peter as he speaks to a gathering international crowd, Jews, and Gentiles from across the known world, on the day of Pentecost in Acts 10:34-43.

34 Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. 36 You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. 37 You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached— 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.

39 “We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a cross, 40 but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. 41 He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Paul’s point is that God anointed Jesus with the Holy Spirit and then appointed us to follow in his footsteps.  When we choose to follow Jesus, are baptized, and join God’s family as the brothers and sisters of Jesus, we, like Jesus, are baptized and filled with the Spirit of God.  We are therefore empowered by God, to go out into the world and do the work of Jesus Christ and the work of God’s kingdom.  Jesus commands us to preach to the people his future, and of our present, to tell them that Jesus is the one whom they will face on the day of judgement, that it is Jesus about whom the prophets were writing, and that forgiveness comes to everyone who believes in him and puts their faith in him.

In the story, A Christmas Carol, the overnight experience with the three spirits of Christmas past, present, and future, transformed Ebeneezer Scrooge and changed the direction of his entire life.  As the followers of Jesus Christ, our experience with the Spirit of God through baptism, past, present, and future, is similarly transformational.  Just as the spirits did in A Christmas Carol, God does not intend to leave us in the same sorry state in which he found us.  Baptism is a transformational moment when we receive the anointing and the presence of the Spirit of God, and we are commanded by Jesus Christ to be his witnesses, to share the good news with the people around us so that they too can be rescued and adopted into God’s family.

Ebeneezer Scrooge wasn’t visited by the spirits of Christmas so that he could stay the same miserable creature that he always was.  Likewise, we were not baptized to that we could stay the same as we were and do the things we had always done.  Our baptism is transformational. 

God does not intend for us to stay the same.

God intends for us to change the world.


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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 Cares?

Note: What follows is specific to Christ Church, but if you attend elsewhere, please feel free to consider how it might apply to you in your ministry context. How can you be a part of something new?


Who Cares?

January 2023 Newsletter

Do you read your alumni newsletter as soon as it arrives?

Do open your newspaper, or internet news first thing every morning to check on the scores of your college teams?

Do you have season tickets to the Mount Union football games, or did you sit in the cold to watch the Raiders play their post-season games this winter?

In essence, what I’m asking is, do you care about what’s happening on campus?  Whether it’s Mount Union specifically, or Ohio State, Ohio Northern, Wittenberg, or wherever you went to school, my question is the same.  Do you have a passion for young people who are on university campuses?

Specifically, I’m asking, do you care about their spiritual well-being?

This week our Staff – Parish Relations Committee was discussing, and nominating persons who we… guess… have a passion for university students.  Our goal is to form a small team that will consider how Christ Church might take a more active role in campus ministry.  Just because we are a mile away and not right on the edge of campus, like the folks at Union Avenue, doesn’t mean that we don’t have a role to play.  But what is that role?  What would campus ministry look like for us?

Does that sound like a conversation in which you would like to participate?  It doesn’t matter if you are a snowbird, or if you don’t drive at night, what matters is that you have a passion, that you care about the spiritual care of the young people on campus.  If that’s you, please let me, or Sara Sherer, know who you are.

Our church budget has a line item for hiring a new staff person that will help us with campus ministry (along with applying for a grant from the East Ohio Conference).  But this isn’t something that we can just contract out.  We can’t hire someone to do ministry for us, we must be in ministry with them.

But is that the right thing to do? 

Is campus ministry a good fit for Christ Church?

Those are exactly the questions that we need to answer.  And, if you can help us find those answers, if you have a passion for the University of Mount Union, or if you care about the spiritual well-being of the students on campus, then please raise you hand and let us know so that we can put you on our team.

I am excited for the exciting things that Christ Church is doing.  I think that God has new and wonderful things in store for us in the future.

I hope that you will be a part of it.

Blessings,

Pastor John


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Humbug!

Humbug!

Christmas 2022

by John Partridge

Another year has passed, and we are only a short time away from Christmas. With my return to school this Advent season has seemed to be even more of a whirlwind than before even though we no longer have children home and the demands of sporting events and Christmas concerts. And despite the busyness, perhaps because of the busyness, it feels less like Christmas than usual. This week I intend to decorate.  Being festive for the holiday season is typically not my “thing” but I feel the need to do it just so that the visible signs, the decorations, and the lights, can help to prepare me, and bring me into the spirit of Christmas.

It isn’t uncommon for me to feel a bit of humbug during this season, and I once played a lot of Christmas music to fight against it. But music isn’t as easily accessible to me as it once was.  But although I know that some of you are die-hard Christmas people who start decorating before Halloween, play Christmas music almost year ‘round, put up five Christmas trees, and own a Christmas sweater for every day in December, I suspect that I’m not alone.  I’m pretty sure that there are others of you who fell like Christmas has snuck up on them and who are struggling with a bit of ‘humbug.”  It doesn’t yet *feel* like Christmas. 

Maybe it’s because the kids aren’t at home, or because we haven’t gone to a Christmas concert, because we haven’t had time to decorate, or because there’s an empty chair at the table that held a loved one last year, or because… well, because life happens, and all sorts of things happened to us since last year. I get it. It’s happened to me.

But whether that resonates with you or not, I invite you to fight against the humbug. We still have some time left.  Come to church, listen to the choir, sing some carols, enjoy our decorations, push yourself to do some decorating of your own, even if you only have the energy to put up a construction paper Christmas tree, then do it.

Put Christmas Eve on your Calendar and come and enjoy a celebration of the Christ child with us at 7:00 pm. And remember that this year, Christmas falls on Sunday so plan on being here at Christ Church, or wherever you worship, on Christmas morning. It isn’t a surprise.  It happens every seven years.  But rather than thinking of it as an inconvenience, consider it an opportunity to celebrate the birth of Jesus on his birthday.  It’s a bit like children who are born on February 29th.  They have a birthday every year, but they only get to celebrate on their actual birthday once every four years.

Don’t let Christmas sneak upon you.  Talk to your families.  Plan to join us on Christmas morning to celebrate the birth of our Savior.  We won’t be long.  I promise that the sermon won’t be long.  But I hope that all of you will decide to come to the party and celebrate with Jesus on his birthday. 

Don’t be a humbug.

I look forward to seeing you on Christmas Eve on Saturday, and the next day on Christmas morning.

Blessings,

Pastor John


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Where is Jesus on Your List?

Where is Jesus on Your List?

by John Partridge

It is the time of lists. We have all sorts of lists. We have chores that must be done, decorations to put out, cookies to bake, gifts to buy for the kids’ gift exchanges at school, gifts to buy for the gift exchange at Sunday school, or Kiwanis, Rotary, Lions Club, bridge club, train club (actually we don’t have one), open houses, bowling team, things to do before our visiting relatives arrive, packing that must be done before we leave to visit other relatives, last minute projects that need to be completed for school or for work, and of course a list of gifts to buy for family, friends, your letter carrier, newspaper person, lawn service, fitness coach, more gift exchanges, employees, pets, neighbors, and who knows what else.

But amid all the busyness of the season, and among the lists of things we have to do, and gifts we have to buy, where is Jesus?

Will coming to church on Christmas Eve or Christmas, be the only time that you remember to check Jesus off your list?  Will you put a few dollars in the offering plate at church, or a few coins in the red kettle at the drug store, and check that off your list too? 

As we spend time with family, friends, co-workers, and parties for clubs and other activities, how much time will you spend with Jesus?  If we made a list of all the places you spend time this season, where will Jesus rate on that list?  As we spend money, and buy gifts, where will our gifts to Jesus rate? Will our gifts to Jesus match what we spent on our spouse or our children? Will he be measured more closely to the tip we give to our letter carrier? Or will our gifts to Jesus rank closer to what we’re spending on gifts and outfits for our pets?

I’m not saying that you should, necessarily, give those gifts to Christ Church, but when the season is over, how will Jesus rank?  How much time will you spend with him?  What gifts will you bring him?  How will you honor him?  Will you feed the hungry?  Clothe the naked? Comfort the troubled?  Heal the wounded?  Love the unloved?

Before we get too wrapped up in our busy-ness let us seriously consider…

…Where is Jesus on our list?


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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!

Click here to listen to the podcast

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Or click here to skip straight to the sermon: https://youtu.be/05dgjGhOKY4

Children’s message: How is Jesus like a steam locomotive? https://youtu.be/iHXcL3eD4O0

This week’s challenge: What does it mean to “be prepared in season and out of season”? https://youtu.be/wL-8uCk8TAw


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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The 80-20 Rule

The 80-20 Rule

Some years ago, when we were serving First United Methodist Church in Barnesville, Ohio, there was a Radio Shack store, inside of a pharmacy, just a block or so away from my office.  I didn’t shop there often, but for some projects it was handy to pick up needed supplies.  But suddenly, there were “Going Out of Business Sale” signs across the front of the store, along with a schedule of weekly discounts that began at 20 percent and ended around 70 or 80 percent when the store would close. 

I was a little sad that a store that I liked and found to be convenient, was going to close, even if I didn’t shop there as often as I might have liked.  But, in this case, I knew the owner.  And so, one day when I bumped into him, I asked him why he was closing the store and his answer was both sensible and simple.  He said that the Radio Shack part of the business consumed 80 percent of his time and effort but generated only 20 percent of his revenue.  Even worse, it occupied over 80 percent of the square footage of his store.  As a result, closing the Radio Shack and moving the pharmacy across the street to a smaller store, with lower rent, ended up saving him as much money as the Radio Shack franchise generated in income, while saving him 80 percent of his time and effort.

Of course, we aren’t running a pharmacy or a Radio Shack franchise, but there is a similar 80-20 rule that applies to churches and volunteer organizations everywhere.  That rule is that, in general, 80 percent of the work is done by 20 percent of the people.  Without doing the math, my feeling is that, at Christ Church, the percentage of our congregation that are “doing the work” is much higher than 20 percent, but our goal is always to do better.

This week our Staff Parish Relations Committee met to begin our Charge Conference paperwork, and our church committees have already begun discussing their budgets for next year as they also prepare for Charge Conference.  Soon, our Nominations and Leadership Development Committee will begin to meet, discuss, and nominate those who will lead and serve on the committees, missions, and ministries of Christ Church during 2023.  I hope that, even now, you will begin to think and pray about how you can be a part of what we are doing for the kingdom of God together.

Why?  Simply because we need you.  You have thoughts, ideas, skills, talents, knowledge, and abilities that no one else has.  Your suggestions, and your help, can and will take us places that we could not go without you.  If you aren’t one of those “20 percent” that are already doing six things, I hope that you will consider where you might “plug in” next year.  I hope, that as our nominating committee begins to meet, that you might consider saying “yes” to positions that they might ask you about, or be prepared to say “no, but” and suggest some other place that you feel is more suitable and better matches your skills.  I hope that you will not sit on the sidelines and wonder “Why doesn’t my church do that other thing?” when you might just be the first person to think about it, and your suggestion might just be the catalyst for launching something new that benefits our community or helps our church to grow.

Jesus didn’t call 20 percent of his disciples to do 80 percent of the work, and he doesn’t do that now either.  Jesus calls upon all of us are to do the work of the church and the work of God’s kingdom.  Certainly, he is not calling everyone to serve on a committee, but if not, I hope that you will think about, and pray about, where God might be calling you to serve.

Blessings,

Pastor John


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How to Find Our Livestream

Christ Church after a winter snowfall

How to Find Our Livestream

I was told this week that some of our folk, on those days when they cannot attend in person, are still struggling to find our livestream on Sunday morning.  So, although I explained it to the person who asked, I will write it out here because I know, for many of us, it’s much easier to learn new things by following the directions a few times.

For some of you, this is going to be obvious, and if you are one of those folks feel free to move on to something else, but I hope that this will be helpful to those that need it.

First, turn on your computer or your smartphone, either will work, but after that the directions will be just a little bit different.

On a computer:

  1. Open whatever browser that you commonly use.  This is probably Google Chrome, Apple’s Safari, Microsoft Edge, or Firefox but it might be something a little less common.  Hopefully, you know which browser you use.
  2. Navigate to YouTube.com.  You may need to type that in the navigation bar at the top or you can type it into the “Search” bar.  Either way, click on that and go to YouTube.
  3. Once you are on the YouTube webpage, click on the search bar at the top and type “pastor John Partridge” or “John Partridge church.”  You can’t just type “John Partridge” even though that’s the official name of my channel because there is a well known actor by the same name and you will be inundated with his videos unless you include “pastor” or “church” in your search.
  4. After you’ve typed that, click on the magnifying glass, or hit “Enter.”
  5. That should bring up, within the first few options, a picture of me, and the name of my channel “John Partridge.”  Click on that.
  6. Once there, my instructions might be a little… fuzzier… because I never go online to look at my channel while we are livestreaming.  But, what I think happens, once we start the livestream at 10:15 am Sunday morning, is that at the top of my channel, you will see some notification that we are, at that moment streaming video. 
  7. Click on that notification and it should take you to the livestream that is in progress.

On a smartphone:

If you have not installed the YouTube app on your phone, then follow the directions for “On a computer” listed above. 

  1. Open the YouTube app.
  2. Click on the magnifying glass.
  3. Type “pastor john partridge” in the search bar as described above.
  4. Click on the circular photo of me where it says something like “98 subscribers, 256 videos.”
  5. That will take you to my channel and at that point the instructions are the same as for #6 above.

Another note:  If you haven’t done so already, subscribing to the “John Partridge” YouTube channel might make it easier for you to find it.  In addition, if you are watching on your smartphone, if you click on the “notification bell” and allow notifications, then YouTube will send you a message whenever our livestream is… live.


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Past Pain, Present Gifts

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Click here to watch the livestream: https://youtu.be/it1TKSb3tn4


Past Pain, Present Gifts

(formerly – Violence, Division, and Unexpected Gifts)

May 29, 2022*

By Pastor John Partridge

John 17:20-26            Acts 16:16-34             Revelation 22:12-17, 20-21

Mary Todd Lincoln was crazy.  Okay, that’s not entirely true.  Mary Todd Lincoln, the wife of President Abraham Lincoln, was a sufferer of an undiagnosed mental illness and was extraordinarily difficult to live with.  By making a long-distance examination from historically documented accounts, historians of today guess that Mary Todd Lincoln may well have suffered from bipolar disorder and, in an era far removed from a diagnosis, let alone a treatment of any kind, her disorder often made life in her household unpleasant. 

Other husbands of that era might have, and sometimes did, have their wives and family members with such a disorder committed to an insane asylum.  Many of them clearly were not insane by our modern standards but were simply so difficult to live with that they were removed to the care of someone else.  Abraham Lincoln didn’t do that.  He loved his wife Mary, he cared for her, and he found it within himself to withstand her rages, outbursts, depression, and other manifestations of her disorder. 

Our nation benefited from his suffering.  Historians speculate that the mental fortitude of Abraham Lincoln, forged and strengthened through years of caring for Mary, and enduring the suffering that went with it, made him singularly qualified to stand against the stress, arguments, negotiations, and other mental and emotional difficulties that were thrust upon him during the American Civil War.  Anyone who had not lived through what he had already endured, might not have been able to cope with the demands of the presidency in that era. 

In an odd sort of way, his suffering was a gift.

But what does any of that have to do with us?  Well, before we get to that part, let’s begin at the beginning and remember when Jesus explains what the purpose of life will be for his disciples and all who would choose to follow him.  We hear that story in John 17:20-26 as Jesus prays…

20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me, and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.

25 “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26 I have made youknown to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”

In this short prayer, there are a few things that I want to highlight.  First, Jesus asks that our relationship with God be the same as his, that just as God is in Jesus, we might also be in them.  More specifically, Jesus says that he passed the glory of God that had inhabited him, on to his followers so that we might be one, in the same way that Jesus and God are one.  And because of the glory of God that dwells within us, and because of our unity of purpose and togetherness, that the world would know that God loves us. 

Second, Jesus asks that his followers would be able to come to where he is, and to see his glory.  And third, that Jesus’ purpose in revealing God to us, was so that we might be filled with the love of God.  And we can see that this last one, combined with Jesus’ command to go into all the world and preach the good news, tells us that God’s goal is not to rule the world, but to fill the world with his love.

But how do we do that?  How do we reveal God’s glory and God’s love to the world around us?  Certainly, there are more ways to do that than we can count, but one particularly dramatic way is found in one of Paul’s missionary journeys recorded in Acts 16:16-34 where we hear this:

16 Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. 17 She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” 18 She kept this up for many days. Finally, Paul became so annoyed that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment, the spirit left her.

19 When her owners realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. 20 They brought them before the magistrates and said, “These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar 21 by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.”

22 The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. 23 After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. 24 When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.

25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. 27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”

29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in, and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. 34 The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household.

I cannot even begin to count how many sermons can be, and have been, written about this passage.  But for today, I want to look at two specific things.  First, that this earthquake was extraordinarily specific.  It was strong enough to wake everyone up and to shake the foundations of the prison, but where earthquakes ordinarily collapse buildings and jam doors shut, this one unlocks and opens doors, opens padlocks, loosens chains, and releases feet bound in iron stocks.  That is particularly specific and not at all the way that earthquakes and other natural disasters usually work, and this is how we see God in the story.

Second, when the jailer discovers that this has happened, he draws his sword to kill himself rather than be tortured to death, which was what usually happened to anyone who allowed a Roman prisoner to escape.  But Paul hears the sword come out of its sheath, knows what the jailer intends to do and calls to him that everyone is still there.  Once again, this must be an act of God.  Even if Paul and Silas convinced the other prisoners not to escape, the chances of no one leaving are so slim that this is also evidence of God’s hand because they were all there.

And the jailer comes to faith in God because he saw, with his own eyes the hand of God at work in the world on behalf of Paul and Silas.  He witnessed that the doors were unlocked, the chains loosened, and the iron shackles unbound, and he witnessed the power that kept a jail full of prisoners from escaping when the doors stood wide open.  And he experienced the simple act of human kindness that Paul showed to him.  All that Paul had to do to escape was to leave.  All that Paul had to do to get revenge for the beating that was inflicted upon him was to remain silent.  But Paul did not remain silent.  He did not try to escape or to pursue revenge.  Instead, Paul showed kindness to the jailer.

And he, and his entire household, were saved.

And we connect the dots by remembering the words of Jesus that we find in John’s Revelation contained in chapter 22:12-17, 20-21.  Jesus said:

12 “Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.

14 “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.

15 Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.

16 “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give youthis testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.”

17 The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes, take the free gift of the water of life.

20 He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.”

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.

The important idea here are that there will be a judgement but that anyone can come into the kingdom of God.  Everyone is invited and sharing the gift of eternal life is a gift that each of us can give to all the people that we care about. 

God’s goal is to share the message of the gospel throughout the entire world so that the world is filled with God’s love.  Paul brought that jailer and his family into the kingdom of God simply through an act of kindness when anyone would have understood his desire for revenge.  And sometimes, suffering and pain are the doorway through which we must pass in order to receive an unexpected gift.

Abraham Lincoln’s struggles made him strong enough to bless a nation.

Paul and Silas’ suffering allowed them to rescue the jailer and his entire family.

What can you do this week, to point others toward the kingdom of God?

How might the pain of your past bless others in the present, or in the future?

How many of the people around you might you give the gift of God’s love?

And how many of those people are separated from eternal life by one… simple… act of kindness?


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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.