Sunday, April 29, 2012

CHRISTIANITY 101: I Believe in God the Father Almighty - Hebrews 11:1-6 and Isaiah 40:28-31

Introduction
Today we are going to continue our preaching series entitled Christianity 101, as we explore our faith using the Apostles' Creed as our guide. Last week we began with an overview of the importance of this creed, specifically why the Apostles' Creed even matters. This morning we are going to look at the first affirmation, “I Believe in God the Father Almighty” as we seek to understand the nature of God and the relationship that God seeks to have with each and every one of us.

Abba! Abba!
These first seven words, “I Believe in God the Father Almighty”. What are they saying to us about God? What are they revealing to us about the nature of the God we worship? In a word, plenty.

For centuries, people have tried to understand and learn all there is to know about God. What God feels, what God demands of his disciples, what God likes and dislikes. Information is something we crave, it helps us cope, it helps us process, it helps us feel safe.

This morning as we look to the Apostles' Creed as a guide map to our faith, right here in the very beginning of this creed we are given an insight into the nature of God. A learning that reveals to us one of God's most foundational aspects. God is a father. Now think about that for a minute. God is a father.

In January 2009, Debbie and I were blessed with the opportunity to be able to take a two week trip to the Holy Land. We began our trip in Cairo, Egypt and followed the trek of the Israelites from Egypt, through the Sinai Peninsula, through Jordan, and on up to Jerusalem. We saw many of the places mentioned in Scripture, we saw the historical artifacts and monuments in Egypt, and the high places in the city of Jerusalem itself. Those places and things were absolutely amazing and in fact life altering for me. But there was one single event, one single moment, that amazingly tied all of what I felt and witnessed together. You need to understand that as part of this tour group we had chartered buses that provided our transportation on this trip. Each bus had a driver and a tour guide and while one would describe what were seeing or about to see, the other would....well drive. Well one day, we were in Jerusalem and we were getting back from a day of sight seeing and were in the middle of unloading from the bus at our hotel. As everyone is piling off and going in to get ready for dinner, I lingered a bit in the parking lot. It was a nice day out and I just wanted to soak a bit more of Jerusalem in before going inside. As I was standing there I noticed our driver had gotten off the bus and was heading for a car parked in the corner of the lot. Just as he got about half way to the car, one of the doors burst open and this little girl got out and started running toward our driver screaming, “Abba! Abba!” He started running towards her and when they met she jumped up into his arms and they hugged and spun and kissed. You could see the pure, absolute joy that both of them had at seeing one another. You could witness the awesome power of love that they both felt for one another. This was her father and she was elated beyond words to see him, to feel his embrace, and the security of his presence.

Now as a father, at the most elemental level, this means you are not a solitary figure. “God is a father and, therefore, He cannot be fully understood as a solitary figure, but as One who is in relationship.”1

The Power of Relationship
This entire creed is setup in the form of a relationship. We affirm each member of the Trinity, God, then Jesus, followed by the Holy Spirit. And as a Triune God, that means each member of the Godhead is related. As United Methodists we believe that, “there is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body or parts, of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness; the maker and preserver of all things, both visible and invisible. And in unity of this Godhead there are three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.”2 God the Father, in relationship within Himself, eternal Father of Jesus Christ, is our Father as well.

Now we all have our own definition and experience of Father. For me, it is one as a disciplinarian. My dad was firm and strict. I knew what was expected from me and I knew what would happen to me each and every time I missed those expectations. There was consistency, there was authority, there was respect. But there was also love, devotion, sincerity. My dad, my daddy, is a man I can turn to for advice, for unconditional love, and for an ear to listen. I can count on his strong embrace, his love for the people I love, and his wisdom. There is a real and intimate relationship between me and Wayne Allen, between me and my Abba. And I am very grateful for both aspects of the relationship between me and my dad.

That is the same with God. There is discipline, there are expectations, there is consistency, there is acceptance, and there is the intimacy of an unconditional love. Dr. Timothy Tennent once wrote, “How fitting that when we, as the children of God, are first learning to speak as Christians, we begin with our first “Christian” words, affirming God as father. He is the embodiment of holiness, love, and justice”.3

...and the Almighty!
Then based in that holiness, love, and justice, we find power. Power to create, power to restore, power to redeem. Power to change lives, to bring about miracles. Folks, light was created because he spoke it. Our God is God Almighty! So it is right and appropriate for us to not only affirm God as Father, but as Almighty as well. And the beauty of this lies in its symmetry. The love, reconciliation, and acceptance works within the authority, power, and protection. One informs the other.

Both of our Scripture lessons today explain how rewards come to those that seek him (Hebrews 11:6) and how we will soar on wings like eagles; run and not grow weary, walk and not be faint (Isaiah 40:31). Because of the love of God we will be cared for. Because of the reconciliation God offers us, we will not grow weary. Because of the acceptance that we can all find in God the Father, we will all soar on wings like eagles.

Conclusion
I believe in God the Father Almighty. The Father that loves without merit and shows compassion to all humanity. The Father that redeems this title for all those who have failed it. The Father whose love knows no bounds regardless of appearance, ethnicity, or social background.

The Almighty that has the power to speak light into existence by his very words. The Almighty that can bring peace to tumultuous situations. The Almighty that has the power to save us from all things, especially from ourselves.

Our God, the One True Living God, is an awesome God. I pray that each of you are consistently growing closer to God as you progress down your path of faith. That you are always being transformed. That you are finding it easier to look beyond the outward appearance or background of others to truly love your neighbor as God loves you. That your relationship with God the Father Almighty is renewed and refreshed every day.

As you read Scripture, like our Bible Challenge, spend time in prayer, here at the altar rail, and give of yourself to the growth of this church family, look for God. Seek God out. And I can promise you will be glad you did.

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1. Tennet, Timothy. This We Believe!. Published by Seedbed, 2012.
2. The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, 2008. p.59.
3. Tennet, Timothy. This We Believe!. Published by Seedbed, 2012.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Bible Challenge 04/29 - 05/05

Greetings All!

This week we finish up our study of the history of Israel in Judges. The highlight of these last several chapters is the story of Samson as found in chapters 13-16. His is a tale of romance, intrigue and what happens when we put what we want above what God wants for us.

Next up is one of the shorter books of the Bible and the first named after a woman - Ruth. Ruth's devotion to her mother-in-law is endearing and touching and how she is rewarded for her faithfulness is nothing short of amazing (listed in Jesus' genealogy!).

Finally, we move on to the book of I Samuel. It details the history of the Israelites as it details the life of one of their famous leaders, Samuel, who was the last of the judges and the first of the prophets. The first seven chapters deal mainly with his birth, calling and ministry, before turning attention to Israel's request for a king, fulfilled in the person of Saul.

Here is the schedule:

29, Sunday: Judges 2-5

30, Monday: Judges 6-9

1, Tuesday: Judges 10-13

2, Wednesday: Judges 14-17

3, Thursday: Judges 18-21

4, Friday: Ruth 1-4

5, Saturday: I Samuel 1-4

 May God add His richest blessings to the reading, the hearing, the understanding and the living out of His Holy Word. Amen.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Friday Fives

1. Preaching Series - Do you know the Apostles' Creed? Can you say the Apostles' Creed from memory? More importantly, do you know what each phrase of the Apostles' Creed means? This week we are continuing our preaching series based upon the Apostles' Creed,entitled Christianity 101. This creed is full of meaning, steeped in theology, and foundational for who we are not only as Protestants, but as United Methodists. During this nine week series, we will take this creed, piece by piece, and examine what it is we are truly saying when we recite it. This week we will look at the affirmation, "I believe in God the Father Almighty". My prayer is that this will not only deepen your knowledge, but strengthen your faith as well. Bring a friend and come join us, as we all learn together!




2. New Member Class - On Sunday, May 20th at 12:45 P.M., I will host a new member class in my office. If you have been attending Druid Hills for at least three months and would like to take that next step in becoming a member of this church this class is for you! To register for this class, either call the church office at 629-5688, or email me at daryl.allen@flumc.org. This is a one session get together where we will discuss what it means to be a United Methodist, what it means to be a member of Druid Hills, and offer you a little background on the history of this church. If this is of interest to you I hope you will make plans to attend.




3. 2012 General Conference - This week, Tuesday, April 24th, General Conference began in Tampa. This body is the decision making body of our denomination. Hundreds of people, our elected delegates, have gathered to determine the direction of our church for the next four years. Please be in prayer for the people involved that they would be guided by the Holy Spirit, open to the will of God, and faithful to our Lord's leadings.





4. National Day of Prayer - This Thursday, May 6th, is the National Day of Prayer. Starting back in 1952, when President Harry S. Truman declared a National Day of prayer, this day has been set aside to pray for guidance and our national leadership. I encourage you to find a way to mark this day with intentional prayer for our leaders and for each other. When we as believers band together in prayer and call on the name of God, we are teaching a new generation the importance of prayer, and making room in our lives for God to do what only God can.




5. Librarian and Historian Needed - If you are interested in helping us maintain the fantastic library here at Druid Hills or you are passionate about recording the important events in the life our church, we have an opportunity for you! We are in need of a church librarian to help keep our library organized and a church historian to help chronicle the important events in our history. Neither one requires significant time, just a passion for the job. If you are interested in either position please see me and we will talk.




Have a great weekend and see you Sunday!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Midweek Moment

For those of you participating in our congregational Bible Challenge, our reading over the last several weeks has been, in a word, uncomfortable. There has been significant violence, more rules given than one cares to count, and rituals laid out that were very different than anything any of us have experienced. It is this part of Scripture that turns many people off to the idea of reading through it.

There are many reasons for this tendency. One reason is that we have moved away from a narrative style to a historical style. Another, is the violence. The blood being spilled on altars, being shed in battle, the number of battles that were undertaken, can at times make us uncomfortable or turn us off. Another reason I have heard, is the rules. So many rules.

I was in that boat this week. I had stopped reading the Challenge and was drudging through it. So I took a break, just a minute or two. I prayed for God to help me get through this, to restore my joy for reading Scripture. Immediately that prayer was answered. I was given a new perspective in which to read this part of Scripture. Love. I know that sounds simplistic, but bear with me.

Prior to their trek into the wilderness, the only life these people knew was as a slave. There were told when to sleep, when to eat, what to eat, and when to work. There was no freedom in their life whatsoever. They had control over nothing. Everything they did came from the wishes of another person. Up to this point, they never had to govern themselves, rule over themselves, or live together as a free people.

Now they are set free. Have you ever seen what sometimes happens to young adults that taste freedom those first years after they move away from home? It is almost too much. They make poor decisions, they waste their resources, and sometimes have to come home, embarrassed and hurt. Those feelings of safety, those rules of protection that they had at home are gone and when left to their own devices, cannot handle themselves.

I think that is a reason God laid out all of these laws and specific directives that we have been reading about in our Bible Challenge. God understood the danger and despair that may have come the Israelites way, had they suddenly been forced to live with unconditional freedom. God loved them so much, that he took care of all of that for them. We read in Joshua 1:8-9, “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” He told how to act so they could learn how to live free, how to live together, how to be the people God wanted them to be.

Love. God took care of everything for these people so they could have a chance. All they needed to do was trust. How many times have we looked at what God has setup for us, only to go in a different direction...our direction. Trusting God is hard, but is always worth it.

So, next time you read a passage of Scripture that at first seems tedious, try looking for the love of God in that passage. Hopefully, that new perspective will bring some joy back to your endeavor.

Have a great week and I will see you Sunday!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Thought to Share...

As many of you know, I have been reading through our General Conference devotional, 50 Days of Prayer. Each day a new author has been chosen to share with its readers. Today's devotional, titled The Call, really spoke to me about perspective.

The author, Bishop Larry Goodpastor, speaks to us about our tolerance for the status quo and while at times that can be good, but at others, when the status quo is not good enough, it can be devastating. Here is what he wrote:


Read MARK 1:14-20

Now is the time!” (Mark 1:15, ceb). With those words, Jesus initiates his mission and calls all to respond with a life-changing perspective and a life-engaging involvement in that mission. “Now is the time!” The in-breaking reign of God invites us to leave behind everything that ties us to the status quo and to move boldly into God’s missional future.

“Now is the time!” With those words, we gather today in Tampa to begin General Conference. “Now is the time!” Will we hear the call of Jesus to catch a glimpse of and join what God is already up to in the world, or will we refuse to hear and be content with the status quo?

On this day, we too have come to the edge of a body of water and to the edge of our future. From that first call issued along the waters of the Sea of Galilee to the renewed call by the waters of Tampa Bay, we are invited to turn our attention and energy toward the vision of a transformed world. When God’s reign of love, mercy, and grace arrives, everything about our life, our world, and our church must be reconfigured because at that point our business cannot go on as usual.

The Greeks distinguished time with two words: chronos, which is time that can be measured and controlled; and kairos, which is time that is filled with possibility and signifies more about quality than quantity. Will General Conference 2012 be a kairos moment, and will the “now-is-the-time” call become an invitation to move faithfully into God’s future with hope? Or will we find ourselves locked into the chronos of agenda and deadlines?

Meditate on “time”: this time, our time, the next ten days of time; in silence, listen for the call of Jesus and respond to this kairos moment.

—Larry Goodpaster

General Conference begins today. Please be in prayer that the church's status quo, where it is unacceptable, be changed so the glory of God may shine in its place.

Have a great week!


Sunday, April 22, 2012

CHRISTIANITY 101: Why the Apostles' Creed Matters II Timothy 4:1-5 and Romans 1:16-17


Introduction
Today we are beginning a new preaching series entitled Christianity 101. For some of us we have been in the church our whole lives. For others, maybe it has been the majority of your life, and yet for others, just a brief while. Regardless of where you find yourself on that spectrum, it is important that we are consistently examining what it is that we believe. After all, if one is to grow in their faith, one needs to know what that faith encompasses.

Therefore, over the next nine weeks we are going to explore our faith using the Apostles' Creed as our guide. We will take each affirmation one by one, break it apart, and see what it is we are professing when we recite this creed in worship. Today we are going to begin with an overview of the importance of this creed, specifically why the Apostles' Creed even matters.

History of the Creed
Let us begin with a few basics about this creed. The word “creed” comes from the Latin credo, which means, “I believe.” Originally, the Apostles’ Creed was not a formal written statement of faith like we have today. In the earliest days of the Christian church, it started as a baptismal formula used for new believers on Easter. The early church asked questions like: “Do you believe in God the Father Almighty? “Do you believe that he is the maker of Heaven and Earth?”, “Do you believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord?”, and continued through all twelve of the affirmations. From those questions the Creed developed into its current form over many generations. It’s not called the Apostles’ Creed because Jesus’ disciples wrote it, but rather because it reflects the teachings of those first disciples. Some traditions go as far as to say each Apostle contributed one affirmation that were then brought together to form the Apostles' Creed.

However, what we do know for sure, is that it is the oldest and most widely accepted creed and is recognized, in some form, by all branches of Christianity; Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox.

The Need for a Creed
Let's begin with a few simple questions. How many of you know the Apostles' Creed? How many of you can say the Apostles' Creed from memory? More importantly, do you know what each phrase of the Apostles' Creed means? This creed is full of meaning, steeped in theology, and foundational for who we are not only as Protestants, but as United Methodists.

One of the most important questions we all need to be able to answer is what we believe. If we are going to be effective disciples for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, if we are going to strive to be dangerous for Jesus Christ, we need to know what we believe. Knowing what you believe and why you believe it, and being able to articulate that, is what takes your faith from intellectual to personal. And it is a personal faith that will change not only your life, but the life of others.

But to simply be able to recite this creed is not enough. I have a friend that was interviewing before the Board of Ordained Ministry, and they asked her to explain her faith. She thought for a moment, and then replied to a room full of ordained elders, “you know the Apostles' Creed, that is what I believe.” While technically correct, that was not good enough.

From Words to Foundation
John Wesley understood the importance of being able to make your faith personal and being able to articulate it. In fact, the reason we are called Methodists is because people were ridiculing Wesley for the strict “methods” he followed as part of his faith practice. Wesley knew the power of Scripture, the strength of the Apostles' Creed, would all be lost if they are remained words on a paper. And just words on a paper would not help in times of trial. The need for us to transition this creed from words on paper to a foundation for our faith is best outlined in our first Scripture lesson this morning.

Listen again, “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” (II Timothy 4:1-5, NIV). Paul was calling Timothy to build his life upon a firm foundation and he goes on then to predict what will happen when people forget biblical correctives and follow their own whims.

Without a foundation, a solid foundation, we place ourselves at risk. We make ourselves vulnerable to deception and temptation. We make ourselves a target of fads and whims. Without this as a part of our foundation, we could and might fall for anything.

Creedal Foundation
Now before we go any further, before you draw any more observations and conclusions from my message today, I want to make one thing clear. Everything we do as a body of believers, everything you count as truth in this life, needs to be judged in light of this. Scripture is the basis for all we do, it is the light for all we see, it is the foundation for how we live. Everything we do should be done in light of this.

This creed, our Apostles' Creed, is a statement of faith, a piece of a larger method we should all employ in our personal walk of faith.

Conclusion
This life of faith is something. It calls us to believe in things unseen, have faith in things uncommon, and tells us there is strength found in community with other believers. But this all boils down to us as individuals. You as an individual person, I as an individual person, have to believe. I cannot believe for you and you cannot believe for me. But we have to believe. We have to trust.

This creed is a start. This creed helps us to remember the basics of our faith, puts words to our faith, light to our journey, and hopefully comfort to our walk. It is my prayer that this series will not only deepen your knowledge, but strengthen your faith as well.

This creed is twelve statements that all begin with “I believe”. As we progress through this series, I encourage you to listen with open hearts, hear new insights as the Holy Spirit reveals them to you, and to allow yourself to be moved by what God reveals to us along this journey.

We all, as individuals and as a community, have potential. And our potential as change agents for the transformation of this world will be enhanced by the strength of our faith, the conviction of our beliefs. Therefore, we need to know what we believe so that we can be about our mission, our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Bible Challenge 04/22 - 04/28

Greetings All!

This week we move into a study of the book of Joshua. Some very famous stories are found here including the fall of Jericho which features one of Jesus' ancestors (Rahab). Personally my favorite moment from Joshua comes when he leads the people in thinking about who they will serve: "Choose you this day whom you will serve....but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!" (Joshua 24:15).

Following Joshua we will move into the book of Judges which picks up the history of Israel after Joshua's death as God begins a new work in the leadership of the people through a series of leaders called judges.

I pray you enjoy this journey as we begin to get back into a more narrative style of writing.

Here is the schedule:

22, Sunday: Deuteronomy 32 - Joshua 1

23, Monday: Joshua 2-5

24, Tuesday: Joshua 6-9

25, Wednesday: Joshua 10-13

26, Thursday: Joshua 14-17

27, Friday: Joshua 18-21

28, Saturday: Joshua 22 - Judges 1

May God add His richest blessings to the reading, the hearing, and the living out of His Holy Word. Amen.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Friday Fives

1. Preaching Series - We are beginning a new preaching series this week based upon the Apostles' Creed, entitled Christianity 101. Do you know the Apostles' Creed? Can you say the Apostles' Creed from memory? More importantly, do you know what each phrase of the Apostles' Creed means? This creed is full of meaning, steeped in theology, and foundational for who we are not only as Protestants, but as United Methodists. During this nine week series, we will take this creed, piece by piece, and examine what it is we are truly saying when we recite it. My prayer is that this will not only deepen your knowledge, but strengthen your faith as well. Bring a friend and come join us, as we all learn together!




2. New Member Class - On Sunday, May 20th at 12:45 P.M., I will host a new member class in my office. If you have been attending Druid Hills for at least three months and would like to take that next step in becoming a member of this church this class is for you! To register for his class, either call the church office at 629-5688, or email me at daryl.allen@flumc.org. This is a one session get together where we will discuss what it means to be a United Methodist, what it means to be a member of Druid Hills, and offer you a little background on history of this church. If this of interest to you I hope you will make plans to attend.




3. 2012 General Conference - Starting next week, Tuesday, April 24th, General Conference will begin in Tampa. This body is the decision making body of our denomination. Hundreds of people, our elected delegated, will gather to determine the direction of our church for the next four years. Please be in prayer for the people involved that they would be guided by the Holy Spirit, open to the will of God, and faithful to our Lord's leadings.





4. Church Historian - Do you have a eye for history? Do you enjoy preserving important events in the life of the church, through word and picture? Then we can use you. We are in need of a church historian. The position is not time consuming, just in need of someone that is passionate. If you are interested please see me and we can talk.





5. Librarian Needed - Did you know that we here at Druid Hills have a fantastic library? There is an absolute vast assortment of books and the topics covered within its shelves. However, we need some help in keeping it organized. If you would like to help with its upkeep and with the adding of the donated books we have received, please let the church office know. This resource is a tremendous asset to our church and one we all can use!



Have a great weekend and see you Sunday!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Midweek Moment

As United Methodists we are entering into a very special and significant time in the life of our church. You see, we are more than just Druid Hills United Methodist, or members of the Florida Annual Conference, or even just members of the Southeastern Jurisdiction. We are United Methodists, one body, the world over. We are represented in more than 125 countries around the globe. Therefore, for us to be effective and vital we must be organized. We must have a common mission and common goal and it must be communicated effectively for it to have any impact.

One of the ways that we undertake this responsibility is to gather, once every four years, for General Conference. This gathering is comprised of people elected from every annual conference, clergy and laity. This body is our decision making body. They are the only group that can speak for the United Methodist church as a whole. They are the only body that can make amendments to our Book of Discipline. As you can see, there is great responsibility that comes with being an elected member of the General Conference.

This year, General Conference it is not only being held in the state of Florida. It is being held in Tampa. We are just an hour and half from these proceedings. They are basically in our backyard.

For the past 34 days I have been reading a prayer devotional put together by our denomination. It is compiled from people around the world giving their insight into how we can pray for this version of the General Conference. I invite you to join me in praying for this body. Prayers for discernment, for obedience, for grace, and for wisdom. Even though we may not be elected delegates, we can still be a dangerous, real, and vital part of the proceedings through our prayerful support.

General Conference this year will run from April 24th - May 4th at the Tampa Convention Center. If you would like to know more about General Conference, click here.

Have a great week and I will see you Sunday!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Please Help

We received the following request in the office this week and I wanted to pass it along to you for your consideration.
_________________________________________________________________________________

HELP A DESERVING GRADUATE BY DONATING YOUR CAPS AND GOWNS

Got a cap or gown from your previous graduation that is collecting dust and taking up space?

As you know, graduation is a celebration of accomplishment for each student, no matter their age or the degree they are receiving.

There are many students in Marion County who can’t afford their cap or gown, and may not attend their graduation because of that. You can help them by donating your gently used cap(s) or gown(s), high school or college – all schools and colors.

Through Project Hope of Marion County, we are collecting these items and will be making the public aware of your generous gift and distributing them to schools and students as requested.

Check those closets!
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If you do happen to have any caps and/or gowns to donate, please contact the church office and we will tell you who to call.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Drama – The Postlude: Luke 24:13-27 and 28-35


Introduction
Have you ever had your eyes so focused on a goal, your spirit so driven by a mission, that once you reach it, you find yourself asking, “what now?” Over these last 40 days we have been so focused on preparing ourselves for last Sunday, did you find yourself wondering this past week, “what do I do now?” Well, today we are going to conclude this nine week series entitled The Drama. Each week we have looked at our role in Jesus' crucifixion, the roles of others in his crucifixion, and last week we looked at how people responded when he rose from the dead. Today we are going to continue that walk as we look to how two travelers on the Road to Emmaus responded when Jesus walked with them and what we can learn from that encounter.

The Journey
It was Sunday afternoon on that first Easter day. Scripture tells us that two followers of Jesus were walking a slow and sorrowful seven miles from Jerusalem to the village of Emmaus. By our usual view of things, they were not famous or important people. One is identified simply as Cleopas, and the other is not even named. But they apparently had loved Jesus very much and followed him earnestly in their own way. They thought he was the one who had come to redeem Israel but now he was dead crucified like a common criminal. They were afraid and unsure of themselves and of the future.

I can picture them in my minds eye, walking slowly along the dusty road, reminiscing and questioning. They recalled those happier days when Jesus was among them, teaching and healing. They poured out their grief to one another, pondering the mystery and pain of the last few days as Jesus was killed and buried. They had no answer for the meaning of all that had happened to them. They were also mulling over some disturbing news they had received earlier in the day. Some of the women had been to the tomb early in the morning. Jesus’ body was not there. Instead they encountered an angel who said that Jesus was not dead but alive. What could all this mean? Who could have stolen his body from his grave? What should they and the disciples do now?


As our lesson opens this morning, these two men were walking and talking between themselves, and a stranger joined them and walked along side them. Breaking in on the conversation, he asked, "What is it you are talking about?" I imagine after the two travelers exchanged a puzzled look between themselves, one replied "Could you be the only visitor to Jerusalem, who does not know the tragic events that have occurred there the last few days?" Then one of the men shared with this stranger all that had taken place, who Jesus was, what had happened to him, as well as their present grief and confusion.

Then the stranger said, "Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?’ Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures” (Luke 24:25-27, NRSV).

As they neared Emmaus it became evident that the stranger intended to journey farther, beyond the little village. They begged him to stay with them for the evening to share some more of these wonderful new insights into God's plan and purpose. So he stayed. That evening, when they were gathered around the table, he took the bread and blessed it, and broke it, and gave it to them and at that moment they knew who this stranger was. It was Jesus! The story of the women was true. He is alive!

Immediately Jesus was gone from them. They were amazed that they hadn’t recognized Jesus before when they were walking and he was teaching them about the Scriptures. But they got up and returned to Jerusalem, immediately because they had great news to share with the disciples about all that they had seen and experienced.

He's Out!?!
Now what I love about this story is the reactions, the stir, that Jesus caused. While he slips into these situations very inconspicuously, he leaves behind an enormous wake.

This first day of the week, the same day his tomb is discovered empty, Jesus is on the move. There is no time wasted. Cleopas and his companion are walking down the road and Jesus just sort of “joins” them. He just eases into their conversation. But he does it in such a way that these two men are hooked. We know this because as they come to end of their journey, Jesus makes as if he is going to continue. But they stop Jesus, and as Scripture says, strongly urge, him to stay. This traveler that just happened upon them has moved them so much, in just these few hours of walking, they cannot bear the thought of parting company. Now they do not realize it is Jesus so that has no bearing on their desire for Christ to stay. They are enamored with the man himself. The passion that he is exuding, the wisdom he is imparting as they discuss Scripture, has captured these two men.

Then as they are sharing a meal, as they are breaking bread, they recognize him, and he vanishes. Now these men do not waste an instant. They agree that, “our hearts [were] burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the Scriptures to us” (Luke 24:32, NRSV). They were not just interested, or entertained. Their hearts were burning!

Burning to the point that these two men felt a need to return to Jerusalem, quickly. Scripture says, that same hour. They did not wait until the next day, or until they had cause to go back. That same hour, that was almost evening. That same hour, immediately, they got up and returned to Jerusalem to tell the apostles and their companions what they had seen and who they had been with.

In one interaction Jesus caused intense attraction, he caused hearts to burn, and he caused immediate actions. In one interaction. In one interaction where he identity was not known. And I believe that is what we as Easter people, we as disciples of Jesus Christ are called to do as well. We are called to be contagious, infectious...dangerous. One of the major concerns I have about United Methodism is that we are no longer dangerous.

John Wesley, the founder of our denomination, felt the same way. He once said “I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease to exist either in Europe or America. But I am afraid lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power. And this undoubtedly will be the case unless they hold fast both the doctrine, spirit, and discipline with which they first set out.”

We've lost our heritage. We've lost that discipline. We've lost that passion for small groups. We've lost that emphasis on Bible Study. We've lost the practice of accountability groups. We've lost that understanding of our liturgy and our hymns. We've lost entire generations from the body of Christ. We've have become comfortable and lost our edge. Jesus brought thousands to God because he held fast to the principles of God. John Wesley brought thousands to God because he held fast to Scripture and was always striving on to perfection.

But there is hope. Our faith tradition is rich and storied. Full of established methods for us to be in this world but not of this world. Ideas for us to thrive, as we once did. Ways for us to love people into the Kingdom and render the ways of this world weak and ineffective. It begins with Scripture, flows through community, and manifests itself in how we treat one another.

Be Dangerous!
So my challenge for all of us...be dangerous! Equip yourself with a means for Christian growth and accountability. Make your faith the basis for your life. Attend church weekly, go to Sunday School weekly and study your Bible daily. Make this community and its impact a priority. Find ways to expand your knowledge and gain your edge. Find ways to live your faith publicly and boldly. Be consistent in your daily walk. Find ways to make this world a better place because you were in it.

And all of this can begin right here. Use this rail, wear this rail out. This place is a place of healing, of strength, of peace. There is no judgment here. There is no ridicule here. Just God. For whatever you need, you can give it over to God here.

Jesus was dangerous. Jesus preached acceptance in a world of division. Jesus preached humility in a world of power. Jesus preached love in a world of fear. Let us follow his example, let us regain our edge, let us be dangerous once again.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Bible Challenge 04/15 - 04/21

Greetings to all my Easter People!

This week we continue our journey through the book of Deuteronomy. This is the last of the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible thought to be authored by Moses. Its name literally means "things or words" and the book consists of three sermons or speeches delivered by Moses, a recounting of the law and some other material including an account of Moses' death. One of its most significant verses is considered to be verse 6:4, which constitutes the "Shema", a definitive statement of Jewish identity: "Hear O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one."

Here is the schedule:

15, Sunday: Deuteronomy 4-7

16, Monday: Deuteronomy 8-11

17, Tuesday: Deuteronomy 12-15

18, Wednesday: Deuteronomy 16-19

19, Thursday: Deuteronomy 20-23

20, Friday: Deuteronomy 24-27

21, Saturday: Deuteronomy 28-31

May God add His richest blessings to the reading, the hearing, and the living out of His Holy Word. Amen. 

Friday, April 13, 2012

Friday Fives

1. Preaching Series - This week we are concluding our Lenten preaching series entitled, The Drama. Our focus each week has been upon some of the people who interacted with Jesus in those last days; government and religious officials, disciples, and general followers. We began this series on Ash Wednesday reflecting upon our role in this drama, for we are not without a part to play. Over the last several weeks we have looked at the roles of Pontius Pilate, Simon Peter, the onlookers, Nicodemus, Simon of Cyrene, Judas, and Doubting Thomas. This week our attention to the Emmaus Road, as we see how an interaction with Jesus sparked an incredible emotional response. Bring a friend and come join us, as we all learn together!





2. New Member Class - On Sunday, May 20th at 12:45 P.M., I will host a new member class in my office. If you have been attending Druid Hills for at least three months and would like to take that next step in becoming a member of this church this class is for you! To register for his class, either call the church office at 629-5688, or email me at daryl.allen@flumc.org. This is a one session get together where we will discuss what it means to be a United Methodist, what it means to be a member of Druid Hills, and offer you a little background on history of this church. If this of interest to you I hope you will make plans to attend.




3. Ocala Health and Rehab - This Sunday is our week to go and minister to the residents of Ocala Health and Rehab. I want to extend an invitation to all of you to come and join us, Sunday at 2pm. Ocala Health and Rehab is located just down the street from the church on the corner of Lake Weir Road and SE 24th Road. We begin with a few hymns, I give a brief devotion, and we wrap it up with a few more hymns and a prayer. It is a wonderful time of fellowship and spreading the love of Christ I am sure you will enjoy it and be glad you participated! All are welcome and I hope to see you there!




4. May Newsletter - If you have an article for next month's newsletter, please get those into the office by this Sunday, April 15th. You can hand write them on a newsletter submission form and drop them by the office, or can email them to Carole at druidhillsum@aol.com.





5. Librarian Needed - Did you know that we here at Druid Hills have a fantastic library? There is an absolute vast assortment of books and the topics covered within its shelves. However, we need some help in keeping it organized. If you would like to help with its upkeep and with the adding of the donated books we have received, please let the church office know. This resource is a tremendous asset to our church and one we all can use!



Have a great weekend and see you Sunday!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Midweek Moment

As you all know, this past week we had our Annual Easter Tableau. Prior to my arrival at Druid Hills, I had never heard of a Tableau and was not familiar with it at all. Now, after being exposed to it for the last three years, I absolutely love the Tableau! The opportunity we get to touch lives, witness to the Good News of the Gospel, and reach out to this community is indelible.

But that is just the beginning. As guardian of the prayer tent, as celebrant over the Holy Communion, I get to see the impact this Easter Tableau has on those that witness it. I get to hear their voice, see their emotion, and pray for their concerns. I also get a tad bold in the tent and ask them what they thought of the presentation. This year, every single person went out of their way to express how moved they felt as they traveled through and witnessed those scenes from the last days of Christ's life on Earth. It is one thing to hear this story and/or read this story. It is entirely different to see the story! And it is in that seeing that God is revealed in many wonderful ways.

I had one family come through for prayer and communion. They had just moved into the area from up north and had only been in Ocala for a handful of days. They were moving to Florida to follow a job and had to sell one of their cars to help pay for the move. They were returning home from picking up the father/husband from work. The caveat was that he was two hours late getting off work. Two hours. Not minutes. Hours. They happened to drive by and see the Tableau in full swing, and in a moment of spontaneity, decided to drive through. They were so moved by what they witnessed and felt, they parked and came into the tent. The mom and dad were extremely emotional as we spoke and often times had to pause to get their voice back. They were so appreciative of this time with God and thankful for our efforts in creating this environment. Now imagine what would have happened if dad got off work on time. They would have driven by before we started and never driven through. God redeemed that late discharge from work by giving this family an experience with him through our Easter Tableau.

As Easter people we have a responsibility to spread the Good News of the Gospel. One way we here at Druid Hills UMC do that, is through the Easter Tableau. Therefore, I encourage you to find ways to be Easter people every day; to be Tableau people every day. Let that story of God's love permeate your entire being. Cause the people in your wake to become emotional because you shared the love of God through word or deed. Force this world to be a better place because you lived in it. Let this story of love, sacrifice, humility, servanthood, redemption, and forgiveness be shared with all you encounter. Let this story, be the story of your life so that through you, others may know that He lived and that He is alive forevermore!

Have a great week and I will see you all on Sunday!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Drama – Doubting Thomas' Role: John 20:1-9 and John 20:24-29

Introduction
Today is the day. Today is the day we celebrate and remember the final and permanent victory over death that Jesus secured for each of us. Today is the day that we mark the victory complete, as Jesus rose from the dead. This year, as a means of preparation, we have used the season of Lent to look at those people who interacted with Jesus just prior to his death and just after his resurrection. We have looked to our role in this drama as Scripture tells us Christ was “pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:5); we looked at Pontius Pilate as we pondered the question of what shall we do with Jesus, “crown him or crucify him”; we looked at Simon Peter and the great hope that is ours through God's wonderful gift of redemption even in the midst of our failures; we looked at the onlookers, friends and enemies alike, as we saw the importance of love and community; we looked at Simon of Cyrene and how apathy can affect us in our lives; and we looked at Judas, as we examined not only the things he did do, but also the actions that he did not do as well. Today we shift to Thomas, aka Doubting Thomas, as we seek to understand what true faith looks like.

Miracles Anyone?
How many of you believe in miracles? You know, those results that occur with no reasonable explanation as to how they came to pass. Now growing up I was exposed to all types of miracles. From the miracle of my friend remembering all the names of all the girls he was dating at the same time, to the miracles of how some of my class mates could remember to breathe much less graduate high school.

But those are not the miracles I am talking about today. Today we are talking about the miracle that is part of the Greatest Story Ever Told. Today, we are talking about a person that was dead and then alive.

Oh, Thomas!?!
Now before we get to the climax of this Greatest Story, I want us to spend just a minute or two looking at a particular player in this drama that often gets a bad rap, and unfairly too I might add. Thomas, Doubting Thomas to most of us today.

Thomas was one of the twelve disciples and Scripture also refers to him by the name Twin, or Didymus in Greek. Thomas is largely thought of to have been a very loyal and outspoken individual, deeply attached to Jesus. Some scholars feel Thomas was given the moniker “doubting” simply because he said what he thought, and more than likely was saying what other people thought as well. Thomas was a deep seeker of truth. He would believe anything, as long as he had reason too. Including miracles. His doubt was more than likely his way of responding to new information, processing new material, and not a way of life.

All of this doubt comes because Thomas is being told about an encounter that some of the apostles had with Jesus after his resurrection. For whatever reason, Thomas was not present for it. I suspect, if Thomas was there for this first encounter, was able to see Jesus, and hear his words, this entire story of doubt might never have been written. This one instance, this one situation, where Thomas is struggling to digest what is being explained to him, where he expresses some doubt, has been used to brand him.

So let us put ourselves in Thomas' shoes. You have spent significant time with Jesus. You have followed him, listened to him, lived with him. You are intimately aware of the message that he has been teaching and of the ministry that he has been performing. You have witnessed the miracles he has performed first hand. You have had behind the scene access for the better part of three years. He has even told you that he would be crucified, defeat death, and would come back after his death and meet with you and the apostles.

But yet when it all happens, and for whatever reason he is not there, Thomas expresses doubt as to what he is told. But remember Thomas loved Jesus, was probably still grieving the death of Jesus, and may have been having a hard time not only processing this information, but just listening to words. I do not believe Thomas was saying that he would not believe because he was being hard-headed. I think Thomas was struggling because he was mourning. I believe Thomas was sad. I believe Thomas was confused. I believe Thomas was struggling just to think about normal things logically and coherently, much less something like a miracle. Something like a person coming back from the dead.  

But He Did!
And Thomas was not alone in this struggle. Our first Scripture lesson shows the reactions of a few other of Jesus apostles and followers. Listen again, “Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!” So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed.(They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)

He saw and believed. Sight prompted his belief. Mary's reaction at finding Jesus' body gone was not, “Oh yeah, he told us about this.” She was worried, she was scared. She ran back to tell the others. The others did not respond with an air of calmness either. They ran back to the tomb wanting to see this for themselves. Thomas was not the only one that had doubts. They all did. After all, it was not everyday that a person comes back from the dead.

Hello Thomas
But as believers in the one true, living God, as disciples of Jesus Christ, we are called to live a life of faith. I have a piece of Scripture on the wall in my office, II Corinthians 5:7, “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” Jesus will no longer come back and allow us to place our fingers on his wounds the way Thomas did. We cannot just sit back and say, prove it to me. We have to be willing to walk out on the branch and stand strong. To do things that may not make sense or may not be comfortable. And at times, go against the cultural norms of our society and follow Christ, rather than humanity. Thomas was not some horrible, cynical, pessimistic man. He is me. He is you. He is searching for truth. He is searching for peace. He is searching for reassurances.

Conclusion
This Greatest Story Ever Told, this Easter message, is not some neat and tidy story, with easy to follow story lines and a “live happily ever after” at the end. This is radical. This is life changing. Folks, this is exciting. Jesus' victory over sin and death, this unmerited and unconditional act of grace and love that is given to all of God's creation, is massive. And it takes great faith to believe in it so that it shows not only in our words, but permeates throughout every thing we are and everything we do.

If you hear nothing else this morning, please hear this. You are loved. God created you specifically. Jesus loves you unconditionally. He wants you to believe that with all that you are and never to doubt that for one second. But here is the great thing. When you do feel doubt, when you do feel disconnected, when you do feel all alone, he will help you. Go to God, come into this community, share those feelings with a trusted friend, with me, or directly with God through prayer and ask God for help and strength. Not only does he not want you to doubt or have to bear that burden, he will help you when you do!

Do not let doubt build a wall between you and Christ. Jesus went to great lengths to show us his love, so I encourage you to help him out. When we are strong, share your strength. When we are given new learnings, share your knowledge. When we have felt the power and movement of the Holy Spirit in our lives, share our experience. Let us be the beacons of faith for those that doubt in this world. Let us be the light that erases the darkness in the midst of uncertainty. Let us celebrate today and every day the fact that we are all saved by grace through faith.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Bible Challenge 04/08 - 04/14

Greetings All!

This week we finish up our reading of Numbers as we move onto the last section of the book which details the remainder of the Israelites' forty years of wandering on the plain of Moab before crossing the Jordan River.

Then we turn our attention to the book of Deuteronomy. This is the last of the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible thought to be authored by Moses. Its name literally means "things or words" and the book consists of three sermons or speeches delivered by Moses, a recounting of the law, as well as an account of Moses' death. One of its most significant verses is considered to be verse 6:4, which constitutes the "Shema", a definitive statement of Jewish identity: "Hear O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one."

Here is the schedule:

08, Sunday: Numbers 12-15

09, Monday: Numbers 16-19

10, Tuesday: Numbers 20-23

11, Wednesday: Numbers 24-27

12, Thursday: Numbers 28-31

13, Friday: Numbers 32-35

14, Saturday: Numbers 36 - Deuteronomy 3

May God add His richest blessings to the reading, the hearing, and the living out of His Holy Word. Amen.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Final Night

I want to invite you to come out this evening and be a part of the last night of the Easter Tableau. It runs from 8:00 to 9:30 PM and gives you the opportunity to drive or walk through six scenes from the last few days of Christ's life.

There's also the opportunity for you to partake in Holy Communion with me at the end of the drive through. Many people shared with us last night how moving it was to be able to see the scenes with their own eyes and visualize some of the things that Christ went through.

I encourage you to bring a friend and come out and take advantage of this opportunity.

I hope to see you there!

Friday Fives

1. Preaching Series - This week we are continuing our Lenten preaching series entitled, The Drama. Our focus each week will be upon some of the people who interacted with Jesus in those last days; government and religious officials, disciples, and general followers. We began this series on Ash Wednesday reflecting upon our role in this drama, for we are not without a part to play. Over the last six weeks we have looked at the roles of Pontius Pilate, Simon Peter, the onlookers, Nicodemus, Simon of Cyrene, and Juda. This week our attention will turn to Thomas, also known as Doubting Thomas, to see what true faith looks like. Bring a friend and come join us, as we all learn together!






2. Easter Celebration - We are asking for your help again this year, to ring in Easter! On Easter Sunday morning, April 8th, we are asking for everyone to bring in two items. One, a flower(s) to help us decorate our wooden cross. As you come into worship you can place your flower on the cross and watch as it becomes transformed into a cross of color, beauty, and life. The other item we are asking you to bring is a bell. During worship we will use them to help ring in Easter and celebrate that fact that our Christ has risen and defeated death. So begin looking now and have your flowers and your bells ready for Easter!





3. Easter Tableau - We are half way through our annual presentation of the Easter Story. The last night is tonight, from 8-9:30pm, and we would love for you to come out, bring a friend, and share our gift. A great many people have given of themselves to make this gift special and meaningful. You can drive through or walk your way around. We are also offering Communion at the end in the prayer tent. Everyone is welcome and we would love to see you there. Spread the word!






4. UMCOR Assistance - Many of you have heard about the devastating tornadoes that have hit parts of 12 different states including, Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee. As United Methodists we have an arm of our denomination devoted to helping those in this type of need. It is called UMCOR. UMCOR (United Methodist Committee On Relief), first and foremost, requests prayers for all who have been affected by these tornadoes and storms. If you would like to donate to this cause please mark your offering US Disaster Response, UMCOR Advance #901670, and we will forward it on. Thank you in advance for your faithfulness.





5. Librarian Needed - Did you know that we here at Druid Hills have a fantastic library? There is an absolute vast assortment of books and the topics covered within its shelves. However, we need some help in keeping it organized. If you would like to help with its upkeep and with the adding of the donated books we have received, please let the church office know. This resource is a tremendous asset to our church and one we all can use!



Have a great weekend and see you Sunday!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Midweek Moment

As I sit and ponder this week, and everything it means, I have had one goal in mind. I have wanted to be open. I have wanted to be fluid. I have wanted to be flexible to go in whatever direction the Holy Spirit would lead me. This has been a very challenging, but extremely interesting endeavor.

My mind has gone in numerous directions. The words, thoughts, and feelings that have coursed through my soul have covered a wide spectrum. I have read, I have prayed, I have meditated, I have sat outside, I have sat in quiet silence trying to listen. I have even taken to sketching this week, as a means to process what I am experiencing. However, as diverse as these thoughts have been, as varied as my methods have been, there has been one foundational aspect to all of them; intimacy.

Even now as I sit here and type this reflection, that feeling of intimacy is strong, and actually familiar. Right now, I am remembering, very vividly, actually sitting in the Garden of Gethsemane, just across the Kidron Valley from the old city of Jerusalem, at the foot of the Mount of Olives. It was the middle of the day and I sat on the ground, in the shade offered by this particularly gnarled olive tree. (In fact, I have a piece of that tree in my office today.) I can recall sitting there, just soaking up the experience of being in Jerusalem, being in a sacred place, a place where my Savior walked, and maybe even sharing some of the same shade, from the same tree he sat under. That day was just over three years ago now, and the feelings of intimacy I have been feeling this week are the same as those I felt that day.

Everything Jesus did in his earthly existence was done for his Father's creation. The lessons he taught, are for us. The miracles he performed, are for us. The emotions he felt, are for us. The life he lived, is for us. The life he laid down, is for us. The death he conquered, is for us. The love he gave, is for us. The relationship he now offers, is for us. Jesus did not come into this world to condemn it, but to save it. Jesus did not come into this world, to offer some blanket style of redemption. It was all personal. It was all intimate.

Jesus died for you specifically. Jesus died for me specifically. He knew our names, before we even existed. Everything he did on Earth, was done so that we, as individuals, might experience eternal life in his presence. It was done so that Daryl Allen might experience eternal life in the presence of Jesus Christ. It was done so that you might experience eternal life in the presence of Jesus Christ. This is personal. This is intimate.

This week, remember that. I pray that you feel that intimacy, that you are moved by that intimacy, and that you are transformed by that intimacy.

May your Holy Week be special and one you never forget!