Welcome to Living Water United Methodist Church
Welcome to Living Water United Methodist Church

Pastor Brian invites you to join us for contemporary Sunday worship at 9:30 a.m.

Come as you are
Grow as you are led
Serve as you are able.

 

New sermon series "Where do we go from here?"

Sunday School is available for children.

Our church is handicapped accessible--no steps!

February 2017 Streams of Thought

 

In his provocative and insightful book The Ragamuffin Gospel, the late Brennan Manning's main thesis is that we are, regardless of status or achievement, ragamuffins in desperate need of God's grace.

 

Consider the Apostle Paul's observation that our personal successes are little more than "garbage" (Philippians 3:8). This seems a bit harsh as does Manning's contention. But Manning does not leave us there (nor does Paul)--in relation to God's grace we are more like ragamuffins than Park Avenue tycoons.

 

But when we embrace God's grace and come to the Father through His Son we become "joint-heirs with Christ" and we draw upon the "riches of His glory in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:17; Philippians 4:19). We will always retain the deep need, spiritually-speaking, of the ragamuffin but we have access to infinite spiritual riches in Christ which bring strength, courage, healing, redemption, forgiveness, mercy, and abundant eternal life
(John 10:10).

 

Grace does not approve of or gloss over sin; it forgives and assures us that we are loved by God even when we fail Him. But it also
pushes us toward being controlled by Christ (Romans 6). The Ragamuffin Gospel is one of the best books I've read on the
messy, holy reality of God's grace; it's messy in the sense God is not
afraid to take on all the effects of sin in our lives. It's holy in the sense it transforms us and helps us live in the power of Christ.

 

We will always need God's grace, coming to Him as ragamuffins with furtive glances and excuses for why we are the way we are or do what we sometimes do. But God, as Manning reminds us (and Paul does in different language) receives ragamuffins in all their messiness. He cleans them up in the grace and blood of Christ and sends them back into the world to serve and love others in His name.

 

Grace and peace,

Pastor Brian

January 2017 Streams of Thought

 

We return to Matthew 2 for this month's article. Last month we reflected/speculated on the use of the gifts Jesus received from the Wise Men/Magi. There is the possibility they funded the family's flight to Egypt in light of King Herod's murderous rage.

 

God told the Magi to go home another way without informing Herod where the child was (they had called Jesus "King of the Jews" and this apparently triggered Herod's paranoia). One Roman emperor supposedly said it was better to be Herod's pig than his son (there's a play on the words "pig" and "son" in the language of the time).

 

But the story of Herod's homicidal rampage against the little boys in Bethlehem is only in Matthew's Gospel and no records outside the Gospel confirm it; the possible explanation is an event like that in a tiny town like Bethlehem wouldn't have gained attention unless it touched off a revolt.

 

But two big questions loom: Why did God send the Magi another way if He knew what would happen? Why is this story in the Bible?

 

The short answer to the first one is "I don't know;" on the other hand God allows us to choose good or evil. And this story, like some other disturbing ones (a bunch in the Old Testament; a few in the New Testament) reminds us God is sovereign but He does not to micromanage every aspect of life; this goes back to the first question and the issue of free will.

 

It's much like us as parents; we set boundaries and encourage our kids to stay within them. Sometimes they choose not to honor or respect those boundaries. We can debate and argue what free will is, how far it goes, or how much God influences it. And we can argue whether people have a basic sense of right and wrong and
to what extent it is present in any given person.

 

But back to our text/story; these are the events that kindle doubt over God's goodness, power, or even existence. We scream, among other things, "Why doesn't God do something?" We
think in terms of God's power, of a God, we could rightly argue, who has the kind of power to stop evil dead in its tracks.

 

But God doesn't usually work that way. And God has done something. He sent His own Son, whose birth we just celebrated, to die for the sin of the world, even for people like Herod. God suffered in Jesus Christ to bring salvation to a world drowning in violence, blood, and conflict. In the cross was judgment and grace, justice and forgiveness.

 

Those who embrace the cross find God has gone to extreme measures to change human lives and destinies. The cross says no one is beyond the hope of redemption; the cross is the focal point of mercy and grace and the empty tomb of Christ says the power of the cross is ours to receive.

 

Let us walk in the power of the crucified and risen Christ as we begin a new year of ministry at LWUMC.

 

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Brian

 

December 2016 Streams of Thought

 

Matthew 2 records the visit of the Wise Men or Magi. Contrary to
tradition, the Wise Men were not at the manger. Luke recorded
Jesus' birth; Matthew recorded an event 18-24 months later. Luke
uses the Greek word for infant; Matthew uses the word for small
child (toddler in our terms). It's very likely this was in Bethlehem
given the terrible atrocity of King Herod trying to kill Jesus by ordering the killing of the boys in Bethlehem 2 years of age or younger (more on that in the January newsletter).

 

One question Matthew's text raises is "What happened to the gifts?" Gold, frankincense, and myrrh were expensive gifts; it would be like shopping at Neiman-Marcus for a 2-year-old. Jesus was a poor kid from an obscure village in Palestine under Roman occupation. The Magi were drawn by a star (which could have been seen by anyone looking at the night sky). In the ancient world heavenly signs meant a person or event was coming which would affect the lives of countless people; they were right on both counts.

 

But back to the gifts; do we chalk this up to embellishment by the writer or did God in His wisdom use the Magi to financially take care of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus during their exile in Egypt to escape Herod's murderous wrath? Considering their social status they might not have had the money to flee that distance to get as far away as possible from Herod. They would need money to travel and then buy, build, or rent shelter in Egypt. By selling the fragrances they could have gained enough to travel and settle down. The gold might have been hidden away for emergencies
or for the return trip. If this was the case it's likely Joseph worked his trade in Egypt to obscure the fact his family had items of great value.

 

Or maybe they anonymously gifted everything to the poor and fled to Egypt on faith. Scripture doesn't tell us; all we can do is speculate. But as great and costly as those gifts were they were nothing compared to the gift God gave the world in His Son.


And the best gift we can give Him is our hearts and lives.


Have a blessed and holy Christmas.

Pastor Brian

 

Contact Us Today:

Living Water UMC
1155 Grand Ave

Marion, IA 52302
 

Phone: 319-368-6418 Monday through Thursday 9 a.m. to 12 noon

Closed Friday + Saturday

 

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Miranda, liturgist

Living Water Praise Band; Pastor Brian, Cathy, Linda (guitar), Joel (violin), Tim (guitar) + Chris (drums)

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