My Dear Brothers and sisters in Christ,
With open arms, heart, mind and soul, we welcome you and all of you back to Church in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord, Savior and Friend. Our “In-person” worship services, Bible Studies and life together began Sunday 21st June 2020.
The past months have been quite challenging, if not very difficult, to say the least for all of us. As your pastor and lay staff here at Racine First United Methodist Church, this building has felt quite empty and lonely every time we walk through it, especially during week days. We have missed the warmth of your Christian greetings, fellowship and sounds of praise reverberate on Sundays all, of which form and add beauty to our worship life together. However, let us not forget the wise advice of King Solomon when he said: “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven!” (Eccl. 3:1 NKJV).
Yes! I believe God’s Words are true and applicable in every generation and circumstance of human life. As difficult and at times very painful, observing physical separation in obedience to the government’s health protocols along with God’s interventions, have helped keep us and the lives of our love ones safe. Such were, and possibly are, the times and the associated responses. Thank God that we’ve made it thus far! However, let’s not forget to keep up the good works of prayerfully observing those Safety measures as we begin our “In-person Gatherings.” In light of that, we are encouraging everyone coming for any “In-Persons Gathering” activities including Sunday Bible Study, Worship Service, group meetings, etcetera to please take note and observe the following Racine 1st UM Church’s Specific “Safety and Health Guidelines.
THE GUIDELINES ARE:
- STAY HOME WHEN FEELING SICK - Health experts warn that COVID-19 symptoms are common to those of other viruses and health conditions. Moreover, there are those who are asymptomatic. So, to be on the safe side, if one woke up feeling sick, they are advised to please stay home and away from others.
- SANITIZE AND WASH HANDS – anyone entering the building is required to sanitize at the entry. Sanitizers are available at all entrances, and in all gathering places including the two main doors, fellowship hall, bathrooms and the kitchen. Constant Hands Washing is a must!
- SOCIAL DISTANCING - must sit 6ft apart or may together as a household; no handshakes, no hugging, no physical contacts with anyone outside of one’s family! Please observe seating labels on the pews! It’ll be every other pew!
- WEAR MASK – wearing Masks protects oneself as well as the other person. You are encouraged to mask your mouth and noise during interactions with other people.
- NO GROUP SINGING - the organist, praise team and a Section leader will lead verbal and loud as usual, but the congregation is encouraged to sing along by humming or in hearts.
Remember, these guidelines are not personal, but simply for your Health and Safety and those we all love.
Again, we prayerfully look forward to gathering “In-Person” with you for Bible Study and worship service.
Finally we heartily welcome you, stay safe and healthy as we anticipate having a wonderful time together in Jesus’ name, Amen!
In His service together,
Rev, Jakes Voker
Jakes Voker, Pastor
“Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait….! Says the Lord. ( Acts 2: 1:4 NIV)
Dear Members and Friends of Racine 1st UMC, greetings in the name of our Ascended, yet present Lord and Savior Jesus, The Christ. It’s been quite a while since we last met in our house of worship and fellowship! I don’t know about you, but I certainly missed our “In-person gatherings.” However, I take solace in two important facts around our times of “Social distancing and Safer at Home” protocols put into place by our leaders. First of all, as important as our “In-person gatherings” are, we can only enjoy the maximum benefits when every participant is safe and healthy! You would agree that COVID-19 came with a wave of unstoppable contaminant that is so contagious! By the grace of God, our staying apart for a while seems to be yielding the desired results. It has provided our leaders and scientists the needed time and space to figure out how to slow down the spread and ultimately seek possible cure for this deadly virus. And secondly, as Christian Believers, we serve a God who is “Omnipresent!” His presence is not contained in, and restricted to a building or shrine! We might feel alone, yet we aren’t! Therefore, while “In-person gatherings” are important, when they tend to post danger to our lives, it’s only wise to stay apart until the threat is mitigated and possibly eliminated!
Now, let’s reflect on Jesus’ last command to his first disciples to “WAIT” in Jerusalem until they have received power before
Beginning to bear witness by spreading the gospel all across the region of Judah and other places.
According our Church Calendar, we are entering the Pentecost Season. Here are two important facts about Pentecost we need to keep in mind:
1st. Pentecost is the fifth and last day of the Easter Season. The joyful celebration of the resurrection seems to have been dangling due to uncertainty over the rumors of the pending ascension of their risen Lord and Savior. What’s next and how can we be sure? Those were some of the human thoughts I feel ran across the minds of the first disciples! And 2nd. Pentecost is the product of the first disciples’ obedience to their Master’s command to wait! It was on the day of Pentecost Jesus’ promised Holy Spirit descended upon his first disciples. The Holy Spirit inspired the disciples with power and might to fearlessly bear witness to the resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ. They bore witness to the Good news of God’s salvation made available through Jesus Christ wherever they were and went. Thus Pentecost marks the birth of “The Church” of which you and I are a part today, all because the first disciples WAITED in obedience to their Mater and Lord’s command!
Even in these very difficult and challenging times, let’s learn from the first disciples’ obedience to their Master’s command to “WAIT!” We need to remind ourselves that Jerusalem was not a friendly and peaceful place for the disciples at that time! Yet, they obeyed and waited in such a hassled city.
My friends, we serve a God who is Faithful and True, even when we aren’t. We can count on His promise to see us through, no matter what the circumstances of life we might find ourselves! Hear the words of Prophet Isaiah: (Isaiah 40: 28-31 -NLT)
LET’S WAIT UPON THE LORD!
April Message :
Dear Members and Friends of Racine1UMC,
Belated Easter greetings in the name of our “Risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ”! I prayerfully hope you and your families are staying safe and healthy in these strange and challenging times. My family and I thank the Almighty God for shielding and carrying us safely through these turbulent times.
My friends, no doubts we are living in very difficult, uncertain and fearful times, to say the least! However, let me remind us that in the midst of all that we are experiencing as the results of the evil COVID-19, there is one thing we must never let go of, i.e “CONFIDENCE IN GOD!” Why? One may rightfully ask! There are several reasons we must maintain our Faith and Hope in God, the first two are: 1. Because He says so! Those that confide in and wait upon him surely find strength to overcome their adversities. (Isaiah 40:31). Throughout the ages His words have been proven Trustworthy! (Psalm 18:8-18, KJV). And 2. God as Creator and Sustainer of the universe and all therein, ( Genesis 1:1ff), is bigger and more powerful than all of life’s circumstances combined, both past, present and even in the unforeseen future! Take a moment to listen to a part of King David’s testimony of God’s mercy and power to safe: “Lord, my God, I cried to you for help, you didn’t let my enemies celebrate over me. Lord, my God, I cried out to you for help, and you healed me! Lord, you brought me up from the grave, brought me back from among those going down to the pit. You, who are faithful to the Lord, sing praises to him; give thanks to His holy name! His anger lasts only a second, but his favor lasts a life time! Weeping may stay all night, but by morning, JOY!” (Psalm 30:3-5 CEB).
Hey, let’s take a minute to reflect on the actions of the God described in the Psalmist’s testimony. Can anyone of us recall and relate any events in our life’s journeys on earth, be it in the present, the past and even future hope, to the Psalmist’s God? The God who hears a sinner’s cries, and his anger last’s only a second, but shows his favor a lifetime! He hears the wounded’s cries and heals; saves the faithful from going down the grave, and brings them back up from the pit! The God who allows his faithful ones tears to flow only through the night, but gives them Exceeding JOY in the morning!
Sisters and Brothers in the Risen Lord and Savior, in light of the tough, uncertain and challenging times in which we find ourselves, permit me to share a borrowed adage: “Tough times may come, but they never last, only tough people last. (Author unknown).
People of faith, let me remind us that you and I are the “TOUGH PEOPLE” referenced in the above adage! Do you know why? Well, the Bible tells us and I believe:
“You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the One who is in you (me) is Greater than the one who is in the world!” (1John4:4 NIV)!
Remember, our “Toughness” isn’t rooted in own power and strength, but the One who continuously resides in our hearts and saying: “Fear not, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you and with my righteous right hand!” (Isaiah 41:10-NIV).
In conclusion, again, I certainly identify with your concerns, fears and anxieties around the strange and challenging times in which we find ourselves due to the unexpected global pandemic “COVID-19.” Most importantly, our resurrected Lord and Savior Jesus Christ sees and understands our plights even more fully. As One who didn’t hold back his life, but sacrificed it, died and rose in order to provide us new and eternal life, we can equally confide in and entrust him with our safety and health amidst the ravages of the deadly pestilence, COVID-19 and its associated problems.
As you might be aware, we are continuing to offer opportunities for spiritual nourishment and growth throughout the duration of the “Safe-At Home and Social - distancing” mandates from the government. The Church’s office is being staffed by a skeleton team comprising the pastor and Church Secretary moreover, we live-stream our regular Sunday Bible Study from 9:00 a.m. - 9:45 a.m. and Sunday Worship Services from 10:00 a.m. -11:00 a.m. as usual. We also carry Daily Devotional messages from the Wisconsin Annual Conference Bishop and cabinet on our website.
We pray and hope that everyone would be encouraged to join us every week on Facebook and the Church’s website. Remember, distance is neither a barrier to God’s blessings, nor is it to our services to Him! Let’s patiently keep the faith and confidence in our God, and we shall surely Soar like an eagle above all odds in the name of our Risen Christ! Belated Happier Easter!
You have a very blessed Holy Week and a Joyful Eater Celebration in the name of our Risen Lord and Savior, Jesus, “The Christ!”
Article: First Word Newsletter- April 2020 Edition:
Wherein is your refuge and in whom is your True Security?
God is our protection (Refuge) and source of (strength). He is always ready to help us (Helper) in times of trouble. So we are not afraid when the earth quakes and the mountains fall into the sea. We are not afraid when the seas become rough and dark and the mountains tremble. Selah! (Psalm 46: 1-3- Easy To Read-ERV).
The assurance of safety and security for oneself and family, neighborhood and community, state, nation and the world at large have been one of the primary goals and aspirations of all human beings irrespective of geographical locations and social status. No one walk on this earth blindly without a sense of assuring themselves that if is safe and secure to do so. As important and true our need for the assurance of safety and security are, we do not walk in the streets thinking and panicking every moment over them. The same is true for our society, nations and the world that in normal circumstances, the leaders don’t focus on promoting paranoid behaviors, but contemplate on positive programs and developments that would benefit their people.
In Psalm 46: 1-3, the Psalmist is addressing situations that heighten and bring to fore consciousness of the need to concentrate on “Safety and “Security!” The Psalmist’s original audiences were the ancient Palestinians often oppressed by fear of adverse forces of nature and the oppressive foreign powers. Life was not normal for them. They had explored every humanly possible means with the hope of restoring normalcy to ensure their “Safety and Security,” but to no avail. It was during this time of uncertainties and a sense of hopelessness that the prophets and the Psalmist
showed them the most effective ways to overcome their fears and ensure True Safety and lasting security. The Psalmist invited the Palestinians to have Faith in the living God. When they did, God provided them with three things that ensured the safety and security for which they so much desired: first God provided them Refuge. We all need protection, don’t we!
Secondly, God provide them with the needed strength. Without strength, no one survives, let alone live a meaningful and productive life.
And Finally, God assured them to be their Helper, not only out of their existing conditions, but in all future circumstances. Listen to His promised: “14if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land!” (2Chronicles 7:14)
Friends, the same God who listened and helped the first century believers out of their fears during periods of challenging and uncertain times is still the same God in our times, today, tomorrow and forever! He has revealed himself in and through the person of Jesus Christ! (Heb. 13: 8).
My question is: In these times of challenges of unabated fears, uncertainties and difficulties, “From where, and in whom is your true Security?”
In the words of the Psalmist, my security -My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. 3He will not let your foot slip- he who watches over you will not slumber; 4indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. Our help is in the name of the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. (Psalm 121:2-4; 124:8).
My friends, have you forgotten that with Christ on this troubled life’s sea, the waves and overflowing flood will not sink our boat? For He said, “Be Still!” “Quiet!” the waves and troubled sea obeyed! (Luke 8: 22-25).
In times like these, we may listen to human solutions, but let’s not panic in fears and set our hearts on them, for they are temporary! Here’s what the Apostle Paul says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Philippians 4:6)
Do not allow the allow devil to steal your anticipated Easter Joy that is on the horizon. In his own words, our Lord says: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:20-ESV).
Finally, let’s heed and take these promises of our Lord and savior to heart: "I Will Never Leave You Nor Forsake You!”
We must be strong and courageous. We must not be afraid or terrified because of the what is unfolding, for the LORD our God goes with us; he will never leave us or forsake us” Our God commands our confident trust in Him. (Deuteronomy 31:6- paraphrased).
Therefore, like Joshua, I say, choose you today, in these difficult and uncertain times, whom you will trust for your safety and security! As for me and my family, we have chosen the Lord, we will listen, trust and follow his lead.
You have a blessed Holy Week and a Joyful Easter in the name of our Redeemer and Risen Christ!
“IN TIMES LIKE THESE……..” God has a message for you! Are you willing to listen?
Time and again I have either used or heard people use the expression: “In Times like this or these…” This introductory phrase is often used when an unfavorable event and circumstance that has the potentials to generate a sense of uncertainty into the future actually happens or just the news about it hits the airways. The emotional responses of those impacted either directly or indirectly by the actual or the rumors of the bad situation are not limited only to a sense of uncertain future, but also the feelings of anxiety, frustration, powerlessness, despair, disappointment, numbness, etc. Certainly, as negative as those feelings may appear to be, the truth is that one or more of them are often every human’s initial emotional response to difficult, challenging and even incomprehensible life threatening event, be it real or mere rumors. Living in a world full of so much chaos and vulnerabilities, it would seem to me that no one is immune or an exempt to any of the emotional responses mentioned above. If this is true, then it should also be true that we all, on one occasion or another, have heard or used the phrase, “In times Like These!”
Permit to me to highlight some of the events of our time that makes the use of the phrase “In Times like These” very necessary for guidance and encouragement to ourselves, our loved ones, our community, and possibly the world. First of all, in times like these, when the unfolding events of our age seem to suggest that the Bible Prophecy of the “End Time” is closing on faster than we ever imagined or are prepared for. As a case in point, the United Methodist Denomination is at the verge of schism over disagreements around the Interpretations and Authority of Scriptures, with the issue of “human sexuality” at the forefront.
In times like these, the news of the dangerous “Coronavirus” has become a reality, a worldwide pandemic. It has spread to over fifty countries including the United States, infected thousands of people and killed over two thousand human beings in China alone, and yet continues to be a serious threat to our very existence according to the world Health Organization recent ”CVID19 reports. Not only that this virus is killing people, but it is equally posing more damaging threats to the future of all the affected countries. For an example, in the United States, with just fifteen confirmed cases of “COVID19, it has been predicted that the economic will not experience any growth throughout the rest of 2020, and the possibility for another economic recession is very high.
In Times Like These, when crimes such as mass murder of innocent people in sacred spaces, work places, school campuses, armed robberies, drive-by shootings etcetera are on the rise, at times as closed as at our door steps. The “Molson Coors’ mass shooting,” Milwaukee, that left five innocent people plus the shooter dead happened on “Ash Wednesday,” 02/26/2020, and that’s just one of the fresh realities of the uncertainties of our times and age.
As a Christian, “In Times Like These,” what would be your possible response? Oh, yes! It’s not just about you and me, but also others who might be counting on us because of our faith background “In times like these.” How would you help? Remember, none of us gets a free pass when it comes to circumstances of life that tend to post threats and dark clouds over the future of our very existence. As for me, it is in “Times Like These” that I tend to seek and draw more closer to my Creator and Savior God as revealed in Jesus Christ!
My friends, the Lenten Season is upon us. Lent is a season of forty days, excluding Sundays. It begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Week Saturday each year. It is a season that offers an opportunity for us to confront our human conditions, sins that tend to keep us at a distance from our Creator. Like the challenging times and days of the prophets and Jesus’ first disciples, honest repentance is not an option, but required of all believers. A contrite and penitent heart is the key that unlocks God’s answers to our prayers and fast for His intervention into our dark circumstances and uncertain future.
“In Times Like These,” God has a message for you, me and the world. I have prayerfully selected Seven (7) scripture passages and listed them with prayerful hopes that you may read and meditate upon them this Lenten Season. As you read each lesson, I would encourage you to do so with contemplation on any of those distressing events of life mentioned above in mind.
The lessons are follow:
- “The Lord your God is in your midst, the Mighty one will save…. (Zephaniah 3: 17 -)
- Jesus got up, rebuke the wind and said to the waves, Quiet! Be still!” and they obeyed him. (Mark 4:39-41 ).
- “Look at the birds of the air, they do not sow or reap or store in bans, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more than they?” (Matthew 6: 26-).
- “Be not anxious for nothing, but in everything (good, bad and even worst), by prayer and supplications, with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ, Jesus.” (Philippians 4: 6-7 )
- “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways, submit to Him and He will make your paths straight!” (Proverbs 3: 5-6).
- “Cast all your anxieties upon the Lord because He cares for you!” (1Peter 5: 7).
- “When I am afraid, I put my trust in You..!” (Psalm 56: 3).
Finally remember, “In Times Like These,” God is saying, “Be Still and know that I am God, I will be exalted in all nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10).Our God is bigger and more powerful than any life’s event! Let’s heed His call and encourage others to do the same.
Have a very Lent
February Message 2020
ON LIFE’S STORMY SEA, LET’S NOT FORGET CHRIST’S ON THE VESSEL!
“One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side of the lake.” So they got into the boat and set out. As they sailed, Jesus felt asleep. A strong wind came down on the lake, so that waves swamped the boat, and disciples were in great danger! The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” Jesus got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. “Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples.” (Luke8:22-25a).
Members and friends of 1st UMC,
It’s often said that the journeys of life, be it spiritual or temporal, are full of twists and turns!” The truths, at times the twists and turns are far beyond our ability to deal with them all by ourselves without the intervention of an external power, it could be either God or a God sent Good Samaritan.
You may agree with me that the recent losses of six members of our congregation to death in less than five weeks is an example of life’s twists and turns that neither families of the deceased nor our congregation can handle without help from our Lord who is our hope, Comforter and strength, Jesus Christ. Let me invite you to pause for a moment of silence in prayer for our departed members and their respective family, namely: Rose Petus, Hilda Ayers, Sandra Koleske, Judy Madsen, Betty Simonson and Dolores Coates. Let’s pray that
their souls rest in perfect peace, and light perpetual shine upon them. May our God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit be present to console, comfort and strengthen all the families and our congregation as we together go through these difficult times of mourning the loss of those precious loved ones!
My friends, I don’t know about you, but giving the timing of their deaths, makes the memories of each of those “life-long members” so fresh and difficult for me to understand, let alone to easily get over! Some may argue they were old, home-bound and no longer active at Church functions including worship services! I get that! Why these may be true, I also know that over the last five years I have had the opportunity of building pastor-parishioner relationship with each of them either directly or indirectly. Indirectly, we thank God for a very dedicated and compassionate “Parish-visitor” in person of Mrs. Sue Mills.
Sue keeps track and visits with not only the home-bounds, but also any member of our congregation that might have a need for pastoral care and reports same to me for a follow up. It’s a real blessing to have such a wonderful Christian lady like Sue as a volunteer-member on our Ministry/Mission Team here. I say thank you Sue for all you do for the sake of your love of Jesus Christ and your willingness to share that love with others!
As their pastor, I’ve had direct interactions with each of the now deceased members through visitations wherever they were, be it in their homes, Assisted Living Facilities, hospitals, Rehab center and rarely at church events too. Apart from being their pastor, each of them was loving member of our closely knitted community for whom I have a special place in my heart! It breaks my heart that in such a short space of time, we would lost six members of a congregation that is struggling to increase its membership! Yes, each of you will be truly missed! I’m I questioning God why these series of deaths at this time in the life of our congregation? Not at all! He’s the Creator of the deceased, and his love for them never ends! He’d sustained them in this life and has faithfully promised to be their Sustainer in the life-eternal.
Here’s what I’m doing: Like Jesus’ first century disciples sailing on a very turbulent/stormy sea, and shouting to him, “Master, Master, don’t you care that we are drowning?” I’m equally calling and shouting for his help as we too sail on this stormy sea of life! If we ever needed the power of his presence both as individuals as well as a congregation, this is the time we need him most!
Therefore, my friends, I would encourage all of us to take heart and remain confident in God’s promises, especially that, He will still (calm) the storm in our lives to a whisper! (Psalm 107: 29a). What an assurance! I take comfort in the fact there are no storms and turbulence in this life that our God cannot calm. Like the first disciples, in the midst of every storm, let’s not forget that Christ is on the vessel, and will surely calm the storm to the glory and honor of his own name.
Finally as we begin anew our journeys of faith and service this new year, let’s do so by allowing God to do big and amazing ministry and mission through us in our community and the world to the glory of his own name without wavering in doubts and despair. Yes! He is on your vessel, and will surely calm whatever storm may come your way!
In His service together,
January Message 2020
NEW YEAR, ALL THINGS NEW!!
3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. 5He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”(Rev. 21:3,5).
What a blessing to be a part of God’s blessed and unfailing promise to make “ALL THINGS”, not some, but “ALL THINGS, NEW!”
This is John’s prophecy about God’s desire to instill and maintain freshness in both heaven and earth. No doubts that this prophecy was meant to address the dangling, spiritually lukewarm relationship between God and His chosen people, Israel. This is a wakeup call for the first believers to honestly reflect on their journey of faith and deeds.
The key word in the prophecy is “NEW!”
Our God is always in the business of making “New” to replace the old that are no longer effective in serving their intended purposes. For instance, we hear the prophecies around the passing away of the old earth, old heaven and old city of Jerusalem. These places had been desecrated and polluted by sin that alienated them from God and made them spiritually dead and useless to Him. (Rev. 21; 1-5).
Remember, God is not only concerned with replacing only old ruined earth and cities, but also with making new creations including peoples of all nations, cultures, tribes, races, etcetera. The newness is possible only as one accepts Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. The Apostle Paul reminds us that when anyone is in Christ, he/she is a new creature. Yes, the old passes and gave way to the NEW! (2Corinthians 5:17). Implicitly, this is a call for spiritual awakening and renewal that would lead to total transformation of the old into a new, enthusiastic and vibrant Christian life and service.
My friends, we’ve concluded another year, 2019, yet we each brings with us a mixed baggage into the new no matter what has been our life experience. For some, Christmas and New Year were celebrated with joys, other not much of a joy, while still for another nothing to be joyful about at all! Whatever was your experience during the past year, I would encourage you to empty your baggage at the Savior’s feet in the “New Year-2020.” What’s in your baggage from 2019 that needs to be replaced with NEW contents this New Year? Jesus invites us to Cast all, again, not some, but all, our Burdens upon him because he cares and will sustain us! (Psalm 55: 22;
1Peter 5: 7). Let us count on our God’s faithful promise to make “All Things,” not some, but “All things NEW!”
Well, how about prayers for new health, new spiritual insights, new energies and new courage to live and serve God with new enthusiasm. The needed new life and new way of being are possible when one keeps a close connection to God through daily devotional life and active participation in the ministry and mission of one’s congregation.
The desires to cultivate the needed newness among us are reflected in our congregation’s revised vision and mission statements. Our vision: “To inspire all to live faithfully through Jesus Christ.” And the mission: “Gather, Equip and Serve.”
As you’re aware, all of our ministry and Mission endeavors are aimed at being a seeking and nurturing faith community.
Therefore, we intentionally invite and encourage all members as well as would be members of our congregation to see the importance of active participation in the
gathering for fellowship, proper equipping in God’s word, and service to one another, our neighbors and the world in the name of Jesus Christ. Gathering, Equipping and Serving God through services to our neighbors and the world in the name of Jesus Christ are very central to our congregation’s ministry and mission.
Finally, thanks for your faithfulness Christ’s ministry and mission services through our congregation the past year! May God continue to bless you and all of us with NEW Spiritual directions, new commitment and the new will power as we continue to serve in His vine-yard.
Have a very Blessed New Year in Jesus’ name!
THE “ADVENT/CHRISTMAS WREATH”- what’s the significance, if any?
My Christian Friends,
Pre-Christmas greetings to you and your families in the name of the expected, yet present, Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.
The fact that most of the practices and symbols used in our faith Traditions to communicate its divine message were borrowed from both ancient and contemporary cultures cannot be denied. As you might be aware, some of the holidays, hymns/songs, etcetera that we claim to be “Christian’s” today actually came from other cultures including secular.
Therefore, as a curious Christian, I often try to find out the origin and significance of some of those symbolisms and practices. So, in this article, I will briefly explore the use of “Wreath” at the beginning of Advent/Christmas Season each year.
You and I know that “Wreath” is simply made of ordinary materials such as leaves, fruits, flowers, foliage, intertwined or arranged in a circular shape. This intertwined object was originally used either as a common household ornament or a decoration worn as a mark of honor or victory. So, what’s the significance of the “Wreath” as Christians use it each year at the very beginning of the season they claim marks the celebration of their Savior’s Birth?
THE CHRISTIANIZED WREATH
Friends, let’s be clear that Christians throughout the ages have always adopted all kinds of symbols regardless of their origin and original nature. This seems to be in line with the nature of the God whom we serve! Our God is the Creator of the universe and all therein. (Gen. 1:1-2). Our God has the ability to create something out of nothing, and transform even the most useless into the invaluable (1Peter 2:10), all to the glory of His own name. This God has also endowed us, the human creature made in his own “Image”, with the capacity to be creative and do greater things, (John14:12). Consequently, the modern day Christians adapted and modified a common household decorative, “wreath,” into a symbol of exciting expression of the joyful celebration of their Savior’s birth. So, the once ordinary wreath has been transformed to be used for divine purposes. Following the transformation, the wreath now has a new descriptive name, i. e. “Advent /Christmas Wreath as well as new significance with respect to our faith expressions. The “Advent/Christmas Wreath” symbolizes: 1. The circular form- symbolizes eternity, an unending circle of life, growth and everlasting life. 2. The Advent Wreath also represents a welcoming and open environment that acknowledges the Christmas season, adds beauty and warmth to many homes or businesses every Christmastime. My friends, the Advent / Christmas Wreath contains vast meanings that I cannot fully cover in this little article. However, I have couple of simple, yet very important messages that I would like to share with you: 1. Our God is always in the business of making all things new and more useful. And2. If God can bless and add deep meanings and values to an insignificant material, we can rest assured that he certainly has a better plan (Jer. 29: 11), for each of us as we transition from 2019 into 2020.
Remember, love, hope, peace and joy are the true intrinsic nature and significance of the Christ Child’s birth, observed at Christmas! Ours is to let go, and trust God with whatever our life’s circumstance. You and I matter most to our God! (Zech. 2:8; Isa. 49:16; Matt. 6:26)
You have a Merry Christmas, and a very prosperous New Year in the name of the Christ-child.
ALL SAINTS DAY: what is it? Why do Christians celebrate it just about the same time of “Halloween?”
32 What more can I say? I would run out of time if I told you about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets. 33 Through faith they conquered kingdoms, brought about justice, realized promises, shut the mouths of lions, 34 put out raging fires, escaped from the edge of the sword, found strength in weakness, were mighty in war, and routed foreign armies. 35 Women received back their dead by resurrection. Others were tortured and refused to be released so they could gain a better resurrection. (Hebrews 11:32-40CEB)
Traditionally, both secular culture and some Church traditions associate “All Saints Day” with November 1 and often celebrate it on the first Sunday of November every year. Racine 1st UM Congregation is among those Churches that honor and celebrate “All Saints Day Sunday” on the First Sunday of November of each year. Let’s a take a few minutes to briefly reflect on what All Saints Day is and why it does comes just about the same time when you are preparing for “Halloween?
Well, the following is a brief history: originally known as All Hallows (hallows = saints) or Hallowmas (mas = Mass), with Halloween (een-evening before or eve), All Hallows Eve (October 31). Initially, many believers rejected “All Hallows” as a Holy Day because of modern associations with witches, ghouls, the macabre, and a preoccupation with death that began to grow up around the Holy Day in the medieval period. Also, Protestants have generally tended to be uncomfortable with this day in its association in Roman Catholic tradition with the doctrine of
Purgatory and praying for the dead. Historically, “All Souls Day” began in the third century to honor martyrs of the Christian Faith. By the seventh and eighth centuries it developed as a way to honor any of the saints of the Church who had attained the full status of heaven. Moreover, during the early medieval period in the eleventh century, the following day, November 2, came to be observed as All Souls Day to remember those who had died but had not yet achieved the “beatific vision”(blissful, happy life) of heaven, or who were still in Purgatory. This became a time to pray and intercede for these departed saints. This being the Roman Catholic doctrine, Protestant objected to it.
However, due to lots of curiousness during the medieval period, these two days “All Hallows Day” and “All Souls Day” began to accrue a lot of popular mythology and became overlaid with kinds of superstition. Now, most of what concerns modern Christians actually developed in Ireland and England from pagan Celtic festivals and was imported into the United States by immigrants in the middle 19th century. It was not until the late 19th century that “Halloween” emerged in its modern Western version, which was then exported to other countries. Such syncretism of Christianity with pagan beliefs in Halloween that lends a bad reputation to All Saints Day in both Western and other nationals’ Protestant thinking.
Above those issues, traditionally in the Church the two days of All Saints Day (November 1) and All Souls Day (November 2) were valued as times to celebrate heritage and those Christians of the past who faithfully transmitted the Faith to succeeding generations. For instance, Martin Luther actually chose All Saints Eve to send his Ninety Five Theses to the Archbishop. His challenge to the Church and its leaders to reform was set against the background of the heritage of that Church. After the Reformation, both Lutheran and Anglican traditions retained the celebration of All Saints Day as a time to honor those who had been faithful.
Today, many Protestant churches combine the two traditional days (All Souls and All Saints) into the observance of All Saints Day. The day focuses not only on honoring departed members of the Church and local congregations, but also those still living who have contributed to the work and ministry of the Church in significant ways. Since most years November 1 falls on a weekday and most Protestant churches do not have weekday services, we usually celebrate “All Saints Day” the first Sunday of November.
In summary, “All Saints Day” is a Christian Holiday to remember and honor the faith heritage of those who have and continue to help nurture us in our faith!
Join us Sunday 3rd November 2019 @ 10:a.m for “All Saints Day Worship service” at Racine 1st U M Church for a celebration of the lives and legacies of those faithful believers.
October Message from Pastor
“TROUBLED, BUT NOT DESTROYED!”
8We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair (2 Corinthians 4:8 - NRSV)
Fellow believers gathered at Racine 1st UM Congregation, greetings and a warmed welcome to the new season of the year in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. I don’t know what your summer was like, but leaving each passing season with an attitude of gratitude and approaching the new with a heart of hope for the future can be very rewarding! I prayerfully encourage us to exhibit such attitudes at all times on our Faith Journey.
Happy and a very Blessed Fall!!
In light of the above, I am tempted to reflect on the topic: “Troubled, but not Destroyed,” as asserted and proclaimed by one of the heroes and giants of our Faith, the “Apostle Paul.” In Paul’s letter to the Christians at Corinth, he records his personal relationship with the Church and the hardships he had to endure on this second mission trip and field. He goes through all kinds of trials and turbulence because of the Apostle’s passion and commitment to seeing Christ’s Mission and salvific Message to the Corinthian Christians grounded and fruitful. Therefore, the Apostle refuses to give in to those hardships and difficulties, instead focuses solely
on his faith in the Master and Lord Jesus Christ, who is the author and finishers of his as well as our faith. (Heb. 12: 2-KJV).
Can you relate to the narratives of the Apostle Paul’s struggles and difficulties he had to go through for the sake of his Mission in the ancient city of Corinth?
Well, one might rightly argue that the difficulties and hardships 1st Century Christians and preachers faced are not the same as those we face in 21st Century Church, including here at Racine 1st UM congregation. However, it is also true that those obstacles and barriers to spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ such as: bureaucratic structures, doctrinal crisis, reluctance to accepting the gospel, envy, prejudices, blasphemies, and all other forms of difficulties and hardships that negatively affected the first century Christian Brothers and Sisters are pretty much alive today and active in the life of the 21st Century Church.
The evidence of the presence of the those first century vices that worked against the spreading of Jesus Christ’s message of salvation in today’s Church are overwhelming. For instance, the issues of the interpretations and authority of the Holy Bible was and still a major cause of conflict and division among many denominations including our own United Methodist Church. It is no secret that the United Methodist Church it’s on the verge of splitting due to disagreement over the ordination of homosexuals and clergy officiating at such relationships. This is an issue that has been in the United Methodist Church since 1968. Unfortunately, not much has been done by the Church’s highest and only legislative decision making body, the “General Conference” up to now.
Consequently, this half a century unresolved issue resurfaced at the seat of the 2016 General Conference. The Judicial Council of the General Conference was mandated to seek a way forward. At the seat of the February 2019 Special Session of the General Conference, the denomination reaffirmed its half a century old position on homosexuals by a vote of 54% in favor to 38% against. Since then, churches in the United Methodist Jurisdictional, Annual and Districts Conferences, specifically in the United States, are divided over the reaffirmed decision.
As the saying goes, “When two elephants fight, the grass suffers!” As the results of this doctrinal disagreement at the top, the local congregations including ours, Racine 1st UM Congregation, is presently going through intense pressures and difficulties as some families have already withdrawn their membership.
Indeed, these are challenging times not only for us, but for all faithful and should be lifelong members of United Methodist Church and Local Congregations.
In the words of the Apostle Paul, Yes, we are hard pressed on every side in every way, but thank God, we not destroy!!
In the midst of all of these, we need to draw courage and strength from the Apostle Paul’s comforting words to the Church at Philippi, today’s Church and even ours as follow:
“13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider that I have made it my own yet; but one thing I do : forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the [heavenly] prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-15-(AMP)!
Key among our challenges includes but not limited to difficulties with attracting new members into our congregation. However, we remain focus on our goals and continue to develop new ways for effective ministry and mission among ourselves and the larger community. Over the last several months we have developed new ministry and mission strategies guided by simple, yet effective, vision and mission statements as seen on this postal:
Our VISION: Inspire all to live faithfully in Jesus Christ.” MISSION: Gather (Heb. 10:25); Equip ourselves (2Tim. 2:2), and to Serve (Matt. 25: 40).
My friends, taking the message of the Gospel through ministry and mission events that express Christ-like love and fellowship in our community with prayerful hope of making new disciples of Jesus Christ is very central to our call and is our goal.
The following are photos of one of our summer outreach events known as” First United and Neighbors Fest” (FUN FEST), held second Saturday of September every year. This year’s FUN Fest brought together a cross-session of community members including children, parents/grandparents, the homeless, Police and Fire Departments as well as members of our congregation.
Kids’ face painting and Bouncy House
Fire Dept. & K9 Unit / Meals’ Time
Table Prize Raffle Draw of donated items
Furthermore, we recently employed a Coordinator for our Family Education and Nurture Ministries. The new Coordinator is Rev. Jennifer White. Rev. Jennifer is an ordained Minister of the AME Church/ second year student of Garrett Theological Seminary, Evanston, IL. This is another important step toward effective ministry/mission efforts among our members and the larger community.
My friends, indeed we are pressed hard on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair. In these difficult times, our congregation needs everyone’s collective prayer, gift and grace in order to continue the wonderful ministries and mission endeavors among ourselves and the community in the name of Jesus Christ.
Thanks, for all you are, all you do and all you continue to be and do for the sake of Jesus Christ.
YOU ALL HAVE A VERY BLESSED AND A HAPPY FALL SEASON!
In His service together,
<<<<<Welcome Back To Church>>>>
It’s almost unbelievable that the summer weather is slipping away so fast without notice! With just barely three weeks, where is summer heading? What next?
Well, this kind of reminds me of one Jesus’ Kingdom Parables, “The three servants and the Master,” in Matthew’s Gospel. In this story the wealthy man entrusts portions of his wealth to his three servants with no specific conditions. He leaves and stays away for a long time. While he was away, two of the three servants made the decision to invest their shares of the master’s wealth; they did and gained profits. Unfortunately, the other servant didn’t invest his share of the wealth, and thus did not generate any profit. After a long time away, the wealthy man returns unexpectedly and begins to settle account with the three servants. The first two that had invested their shares of the master’s wealth in preparation for his return, reported their entrusted shares with along the profits. The master not only commends them saying: “Well done, Good and Faithful Servants,” but also promises to put them in charge of even greater things as well as offers them shares in his happiness. (Matthew 25: 14-30).
My friends, I don’t know what your summer has been, but the one thing I do know is that one way or the other; it’s been a journey through times. For some a time to visit with families and friends to share fun, joy and happiness, yet for others, it’s been a journey through rough and turbulent times including struggles with either one’s own or a family members’ health issues. Still for others, it’s been a time of struggles to make ends meet in terms of daily sustenance. The good news is, we’ve either made it, or are making it through no matter what our journey experience this summer. In the midst of our diverse journey experiences this summer, remember our
Lord and Savior Jesus Christ’s invitation as he stands with arms stretched out and saying:
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest!” (Matt.11:28).
The Racine First United Methodist Church loins our Lord and Savior in extending a very warmed “WELCOME BACK TO CHURCH” to you, your family and friends with opened arms, opened hearts and opened minds of Jesus Christ!
As you may remember, September is the month when both normal and new exciting activities that were halted for the summer are resumed. You are Welcome to join any of our various Spiritual Formation groups including the Choir, Praise Team, Church (Sunday) School for all ages, United Methodist Women and You/Young Adults Groups. You are invited to join us on the first Sunday of every month from 9:00 a.m. -9:45 a.m. for the recognition and celebration any milestones over potluck breakfast. The event is known as the “ Fellowship of Friends, Relatives, Acquaintances, Neighbors and Co-workers, (FFRANC) Sunday. Another popular community outreach event held each year here is the First United and Neighbors Fest, (FUN-Fest). This is coming up Saturday 14th 2019. Time: 12:00 p.m.-3:00 p.m. We offer many other Faith Formation and Spiritual growth opportunities that you can’t afford to miss!!!
Again, Welcome to the “Prefect Church for Imperfect People” that intentionally Gather to seek God in order to Equip themselves for faithfully Serve God through services to their community and the world in the name of Jesus Christ.
Finally, I prayerfully you enjoy the rest of your summer time and the Labor Day, but don’t forget the Greatest and lasting enjoyment is with your church’s family in Jesus Christ!
Rev. Jakes Voker
August 2019 Message From Pastor
Friends and Families in the Lord, greetings in the name of Jesus, the Christ! I prayerfully hope you are enjoying all the moments and fun activities we often missed during the cold winter season. The summer weather should afford us opportunities such as gathering outdoors, road trips and flights to visit distant families, friends and favorite sites, getting “vitamin D” from the sunlight, but yet being mindful to stay safe and cool in the event of heat waves. Knowing that there are two sides to every event in life, I don’t mean to say that life is all rosy for everyone during the summer. No, not at all! Unfortunately, life events can take a turn and trend in unexpected, even uncontrollable, directions at times. My heart and prayers go out to all of you whose lives and joy have been negatively impacted by any adverse circumstances this summer. Rest assured, you are not alone as a member of God’s House hold of believers! You are the apple of God’s eyes. ( Zechariah 2:8).
There’s always been and continues to be a special place in God’s heart for you, you and me! Why is that so? One may rightly ask!
The simple answer is, as a member of the human family amongst all of God’s wonderfully marvelous and gigantic creations, you are the ONLY ONE CREATED IN AND BEAR THE IMAGE of your CREATOR! You are very special and do have a special place in God’s Kingdoms Work! You and all humans possible an inherently unique nature known as the “SOUL” that God can not afford to lose or see it destroyed. When satan attempted at taking control of the human soul, God took the form of a human being and was born in person of Jesus Christ to redeem our soul.
Consequently, as redeemed and disciples of Jesus Christ, God’s WORK of redemption through the message of the Good news of Salvation has been committed into “OUR HANDS!” On one occasion Jesus reminded his first disciples: “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit--fruit that will last--and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. (John 15: 16 –NIV).
I believe the Lord’s reminder was not meant only for his first century disciples, but includes the contemporary, you and me, as well as the would be ones.
I have said all of the above to remind and invite us all to recommit ourselves to boldly and fearlessly take GOD’s WORK in OUR HANDS” with us at all times and in all places so that others might hear the “Good news of Salvation as found only in and through Jesus Christ. As the church, let us take this soul and lifesaving message into our community at any given opportunities. Remember, the church is not called to sit only in air-cooled sanctuaries and in cushioned pews, but to reach out to neighborhood picnics, workplaces, grocery stores, shopping centers, sporting events, on face book, formation group meetings and everywhere! Let’s not give the devil an inch of foothold in our lives! We have the message that would save the world, but will never accomplish such noble mission until you and I can deliver it!
Finally, remember we are called to Gather, Equip and to Serve in ways that inspires and transforms lives, one life at a time, in the name of Jesus Christ! “GOD’S WORK, YOURS AND MY HANDS!”