March Message from Pastor Jakes
TAKING LENT ALONG LIFE’S JOURNEYS:
Before talking about Lent, let alone take it along life’s journeys, let’s not forget what gave birth and momentum to Lent. As you might be aware, it’s ASH WEDNESDAY! Welcome to Ash Wednesday! The story is told of a pastor who had gone to visit a very sick and hospitalized member on the morning of Ash Wednesday. Before leaving the patient’s room, the pastor said to the patient, ‘Have a Happy Ash Wednesday!” The sick member looked confused, and asked, “What was that?” “Have a happy Ash Wednesday,” the pastor repeated himself. The patient thought for a moment, smiled, and reluctantly answered, “Oh yeah, you have a happy Ash Wednesday too.” So, what is this ASH WEDNESDAY? It is the first day of Lent! Ash Wednesday originates from the Biblical Tradition of either rubbing, sitting in or adorning with ashes and accompanied by fasting and praying as signs of true repentance from sins. This was in response to God’s call upon his people and nation through his messengers. It is also known as “Day of Ashes!” We continue the ancient practice of taking on ashes by putting ashes on individual’s forehead in the sign of a cross. As United Methodists, we emphasize a dual encounter in Ash Wednesday: We belief by taking on the Ashes, one confronts his/her own mortality, and then jointly confess’ his/her sin before God within the community of faith.
So, giving the nature of “Ash Wednesday,” one should see why the patient was confused about his pastor’s farewell, “Have a Happy Ash Wednesday!” It could not easily make sense! Happy and Ash Wednesday just don’t match! In all honesty, confronting one’s mortality and confessing sins in the public can be a real challenge!
However, the good news, Ash Wednesday alerts and helps us prepare for a longer journey of faith and actions known as Lent!
Lent, simply defined, is “SPRING! Lent is a period of fasting, moderation, and self-denial! It provides us the opportunity to reboot our worn out spirit; jumpstart and reinvigorate our physical strength as Christ’s Disciples over a period of forty days (40 days) excluding Sundays, beginning Ash Wednesday and ending on Easter Sunday.
This brings us to my invitation to “Take Lent Alone the rest of life’s journeys.” “Taking Alone life’s journeys” would involve: 1. Humbly recognizing the sovereignty of God; and 2. Viewing life as a sacred and gracious gift from a Sovereign God. Now, with such understanding of life as it relates to our Lenten Journey, we approach Lent with an even more ardent desire to grow spiritually and physically closer to God. As the forty days experience of growing closer to God begin to take roots in our hearts, the process of either diminishing ungodly desires or eliminating some, if not all, of those unhealthy habits no longer becomes unsurmountable task, but one of exceeding joy and peace during and beyond the entire Holy Week. Here are some suggested scriptural exercises to help keep us a bit focus on Lent:
1st. The Lenten decisions – when? Hear what the Apostle Paul says: “Behold, now is the acceptable time, behold, now is the day of salvation!”(2Cor. 6:2). He encourages us to reflect on an area in our lives to see what needs to be worked on, and take it to the Lord in prayer. 2nd. Self-denial - imagine the weight of the cross Jesus bore for you! Ask yourself the hard, but important question: What is it that I must deny myself of in order to be a better disciple of Jesus Christ? (Luke 9:23).
3. Practical Faith in daily life- during this season, go out of your way to be or do something transformative in either your community or for someone in need. (Isaiah 58: 7-8)
4th. Observe and Keep the Sabbath Holy- Intentionally decide that Sunday belongs and would set it aside for attending Church! ( Isaiah 58: 13,14.
5th. Ask God for a Steadfast Heart- make an “Undivided heart” your Lenten resolution. Share that resolution with a trusted person to whom you will be accountable. (Ezekiel 11:19).
6th. Choose and do One act of Mercy- act of mercy is one John Wesley’s Means of grace based Jesus’ “White Throne Judgement Parable” recorded in the Gospel of Matthew. Read Matthew 25: 31-45. Prayerfully ask the Lord to lead you in doing one act of Mercy “for one of the Least” Jesus referred to in Matthew 25:45.
My friends, these six Lenten exercises could possibly compensate for the rest of the Lenten Practices including acts of Piety such as Prayer, fast, etcetera.
Remember, the Christian Faith is about relationship building and sharing. We begin with God and share that experience with those with whom we interact and possibly rub shoulders every. Lent reminds of our Lord’s redemptive sacrifices for sinners like you and me! It also provides us the opportunity to enact our Lord‘s sacrificial life-style in our daily lives. With prayers and joyful hearts, let us take Lent with us life’s journeys in Jesus’ name!
HAVE A BLESSED LENTEN SEASON!
THE EPIPHANY: what it means for our Christian life and service…..?
Exodus 24:12-18; Psalm 99; Philippians 3:7-14; Matthew 17:1-9
Epiphany is one, if not the most important, church season for all believers. Epiphany is about who we are and who we want to become. While Christmas and Easter Seasons are equally important, they are about God. They are very much about what God has done for us and we should never forget that. But in many ways during Christmas and Easter we are observers. We are like fans at a football game. While we admire and appreciate the team’s skill and success, we bask in their glory, and we gain from their victory but we were not actually participating in the play on the field.
Epiphany helps us to understand what that victory means in our lives, how that victory changes us, transfigures us. Unlike sports where the player is very much affected by the victory, this victory via Epiphany made no change to the player. God being the player didn’t change. In this case only the cheering fans such as Moses (Exod. 24:12-18), the transfigured man Jesus and the disciples are greatly impacted (Matt. 17: 1-9); Apostle Paul’s life is impacted and his world view changed upon his encounter with Jesus Christ (Philipp. 3:7-14); and the Psalmist receives a revelation and declares the sovereignty of the ALMIGHTY! (Psalm 99:1ff.). In every Human encounter with the Divine, we often change. All believers are changed! That is what we begin to understand in Epiphany.
What are we changing from and to what, one may ask? We are changed from living life controlled by wrongs/sins that separated us from our Creator (Rom. 3:23; 6:23) into a restored relationship with our Creator through the blood of Jesus Christ. As the Bible says: “you were bought at a price. (1 Corin.6:20). In this newly restored relationship, we’ve surrendered our lives and loyalty to Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul reminds us that anyone in Christ, she/he is a new creation, the old have passed away and the new has begun. (2Corin.5:17). We are changed! We are a new Creation! Doesn’t it sounds refreshing to know that no matter what one’s life’s journey has been, no matter what it is even now, there is hope for rejuvenation, revival and to thrive in the right direction!
This truth is applicable and accessible to all human beings through the gracious and abundant generosity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Do not miss out! Let not the Spirit of EPIPHANY pass you by! As Christ’s disciple, let your life and deed radiate and glow with Christ-like love and care wherever life may take you!!
A Happy and Blessed Epiphany,
WALK WITH THE “NEW MAKER!”
“….He 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." 6He said to me: "It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. 7Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children." (Revelation 21: 1-7).
We live with the undeniable fact that Life is a journey! I surmise that all journeys have highs and lows, and life as a journey is no exception! Distinctively, life is a journey that begins and ends with each person at a particular time and place over which none of us has no saying, let alone control over in this world. Take for examples, which one of you had a saying in the choice of the family into which you are born? How about our gender, color of our skin, the culture- ethnic/tribe, community and even of nation of origin? For me, these facts bring to mind three difficult, yet importantly soul searching questions: The first: who and whose am I? The second: How did I get here and why? And the third: How can I possibly make it in a place and position/situation I did not have a saying in either creating or choosing to be in, but simply found myself in? Until one honestly wrestles with and finds truly convincing answers to those essential questions of “Life,” the tendency is to live a self-deceptive life! A self-deceptive life leads to the illusion and unsubstantiated claims of self-sufficiency, ultimate possession of who one is, and all one has in this world.
Thank God Almighty that we don’t have to continue struggling with those three pertinent life’s questions any longer. The answer to those questions are found in our relationship with the ONE who revealed to Himself to the Apostle John as the Alpha (The Beginning) and the Omega (The End), Jesus Christ. (Rev. 21:1-8 NIV).
Jesus Christ is the Incarnation of God, The Creator and Sustainer of the world and all therein, including me and you. (John 1:1, 14).
My friends, I do not in any way pretend to know what your journey through 2018 has been, but one thing I do know, no life’s journey is ever free of ups and downs in this world. Whatever has been the circumstance of your journey through 2018, I can only say, as you enter the “New Year- 2019,” be sure to begin and end the journey with the “NEWMAKER!”- Jesus Christ. He is the ONE who is the Beginning and the END of
Life’s journeys, no matter which direction life takes you and me. He has promised to make “ALL THINGS,” not some, but “ALL THINGS NEW” on our journey. What other good news can we take with us than to know that we are not entering this dark and unknown 2019 year alone, but with the ONE to whom nothing is hidden and with whom nothing is impossible! Remember the Psalmist’s confession: “Your (God) word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. (Psalm 119:105). Do not despise his offer to make “All Things New” in your life, for your life and for the journey of your life beginning now if you would allow him.
Until then, you and your family have a very blessed and prosperous New Year in the name of the Christ- Child.
Dear Advent People,
Greetings in the name of the One whose glorious and triumphant arrival all believers eagerly await! Advent Season reminds, invites and challenges us to heed the Prophet John the Baptist’s exhortation: “Prepare the Way for the coming of the Lord, the Christ Child!” (Matt. 3:3). It is a season that calls us to live life in both the present as well as the future. While looking forward to the return of our Lord and Savior, we are equally invited to exhibit Christ-like compassion and generosity in daily life.
Advent Season points us to Jesus’ parable of the “White Throne Judgment” commonly known as the “Sheep and Goats” recorded in Matthew 25:31-45. In the story, the goats and sheep seem to have had Advent moments as both watched and waited expectantly for the fulfilment of their Master’s unfailing promised rewards. Indeed, the promise came to pass, but with each receiving only their deserved rewards. The goats were rewarded with seats on the Master’s left hand. This represents a reprimand for possibly focusing on the “Self and the Divine” at the expense of being sensitive to needs of those around them. The Sheep were also rewarded with sitting at the Master’s right hand along with additional praises for exhibiting Christ attitudes such as catering to the needs of those around them.
“CHRIST-MAS,” what an exciting day we all anticipate! The Question: How prepared are……?
This season also calls upon us to celebrate the giving and receiving of gifts, to love and be loved in the name of the Christ- Child, God’s greatest gift of love to each of us and the world. Truly, ours is the God of unconditional love and care for the needs of all of creations including humans.
Surprisingly, even with the abundance of God’s provisions, there are those who still live on the margins of life as though there isn’t enough to go around. You will agree that these are realities we witness daily as large number of homeless families roam the streets and around church offices daily to beg for help with such unthinkable sustenance as lunch, bus passes, prescriptions, driver license, birth certificate, etc.
Your Church, Racine First United Methodist, has been responding and will continue to do so only with your continual prayers and generous gifts toward the “Pastor’s
Emergency Fund.” We say thanks a million, and may God continue to replenish your resources.
In view of the above, here are two opportunities for Christmas –giving: 1st- The annual “Christmas-gifts” that support our congregation’s ministries and missional expenses. And 2nd the “Christmas Eve Offering.” As usual, this extra-mile giving at Christmas Eve Service is designated for the “Pastor’s Emergency Fund.” I prayerfully encourage our continual support for this fund that directly impact the life of either a needy person or a family that cannot afford the basic necessities of life. Honestly, you and I may take some of those needs such as lunch, prescription cost, gasoline etcetera for granted because we don’t necessarily have to worry about them; yet they are real issues for someone! Remember, Jesus is our Guest of honor at Christmas, and he says, “...whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me!” (Matt.25: 40-NIV).
Finally, thank you all for being faithful partners in the Service of our Lord and Savior as we continue to the extensions of His love, care and joy to those He brings along our path this season and beyond.
A blessed Christ-mass and a Joy-filled New Year,
DO NOT FRIGHT OR FLEE, TRUST IN GOD!..if 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.” (2Chron. 7:14- NIV).
Specifically, the above text is one of God’s responses to King Solomon’s prayer offered on behalf of his nation Israel at the dedication of the Temple he had built. We learn from Scripture that King David had offered to build this “House” for the name of the LORD, but the LORD rejected the offer on ground that David had shed too much blood. (1 Chronicles 22:7-8). However, the LORD promised David that one of his sons would build his dreamed Temple for the LORD’s name. Within the interim, King David’s wife, Queen Beersheba give birth to the King’s second son and he named him Solomon which means “Peaceable.” Biblical History has it that as a young baby, the LORD loved Solomon. One would think because the LORD loved Solomon, succeeding his father as the next king on the throne would have been very easy and smooth! Well, that was just the opposite! We must not forget that Solomon was born at a time when His Father was facing strong oppositions from political enemies that included loyalists of the late King Saul as well as within his own circle. In fact, there are stories that because Solomon was still a young man at the time of his father’s death, one of his uncles and his older brother conspired and resisted his coronation as the next King. Solomon’s army had to take the least thinkable actions in order to bring the situation under control. The nation Israel and its people were still far away from total trust and obedience to the way and will of God!
Therefore, in response to the prayer of this young new King with such unwavering heart for his people and obedience to the LORD, yet the LORD response is neither a difficult requirement nor a blank check! The LORD simply responds with a reminder to Israel that if as His chosen people, who are called His name would do the following: will humble themselves and pray and seek His face and turn from their wrong doings-either by actions or inactions, then their LORD would do that which He had promised since the days of their ancestors, especially Moses, Abram (Genesis12:1-3) (Lev. 20:26); From heaven God will forgive the penitent and heal/restore the blessings King Solomon’s nation and people had lost! Solomon and his people did exactly that: They humbled themselves, prayed, Sought God’s Face (Attention) in total repentance, and God forgave their wrongs and healed their brokenness!
My friends, though the message was directed toward addressing the issues of spiritual and moral paralysis in ancient times, but it is still relevant to contemporary faith life and journey. You will agree with me that the situations for which Solomon prayed to
the LORD for help still exist afresh in our national, congregational and personal faith lives. Think about the general attitudes of most people toward the Church today! Will you truly say ours are in any ways better than those of ancient times?
Two lessons are clear from the above message: No matter how grave the circumstance neither did Solomon throw up hands in total fright nor flee! Instead, he turned with CONFIDENCE to the GOD WHO HAD CALLED AND APPOINTED him King over His own people in PRAYERS! The Holy and Almighty, yet Merciful God, heard Solomon’s prayers and prescribed a very simple, but effective means by which their lost blessings could be restored as mentioned above.
We live in a community and world that the words “GOD,” “Church” or “Religion” have become offensive in the hearings of many. Evidently, we are witnessing a steady stream of declines in membership and spirituality across denominational lines, Congregations, including ours,! What would you do? Fright or Flee? In Psalm 139:7-16, the Psalmist ask: “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? Oh, may be join another congregation that is equally hanging in there by the booth stripes?
My friend, as for my family and me, we will not fright or flee!! But, Like King Solomon, we will TRUST the LORD and PRAY for HIS INTERVENTION AND BREAKTHROUGH!!
As your pastor, I invite and encourage you all to join us for a BREAKTHROUGH PRAYER! IN THESE TIMES OF TRIALS AND CHALLENGES FACING GOD’S CHURCH, WE CAN NOT AFFORD TO TURN BACKS! CAN GOD TRUST AND COUNT YOU?
Remember, God will never fail us! This is the time for all of us to unite our hearts and minds in BREAKTHROUGH PRAYERS so that this spiritual war-fare Satan is waging against our Church will not prevail!
DO NOT FRIGHT OR FLEE, BUT LET’S TOGETHER DECLARE 2019 A YEAR OF INTENTIONALLY TRUST IN GOD FOR A BREAKTHOUGH IN THE LIFE OF OUR CONGREGATION! DO NOT GIVE UP! THE BATTLE IS GOD’S, AND HE WILL SURELY SEE US THROUGH!! AGAIN, CAN GOD TRUST YOU?
THANKS FOR your PRAYERS AND ALL YOU DO THROUGH OUR CONGREGATION BECAUSE OF YOUR FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST.
THE FUN FEST- an EMBODIMENT OF Racine 1st UMC Rethinking Church:
According to the United Methodist Communications Services, “Rethink Church” is not just a mere new slogan. The concept of Rethinking Church is as old as the denomination’s very existence. It is rooted in the heritage of our denomination, defined by its social principles and it is one of the major distinctives of United Methodists. Rethink Church finds expressions in various and diverse aspects in the life of the Church. They include Open Communion Table, involvement with local, national and global ecumenical movements. United Methodists believe the Church is more than a single denomination, local congregation and any designated structure. We also believe that Church is about offering God’s love and care to those looking for real hope and true meaning to their lives. We further believe personal acts of faith, and worship help us draw closer to God and grow in our faith understanding. These personal acts and worship are meant to equip us for taking the Church outside the walls to seek and lead others to the saving knowledge and grace found only in Jesus Christ.
Therefore, the United Methodist Church welcomes all people with opened hearts, opened minds, and opened doors for the transformation of lives in the name of Jesus Christ. Essentially, to be an United Methodist is to be a member of a Body of Christians committed to reaching out to and serving the poor, hungry, sick, cripples and seeking the lost in the name of Jesus Christ.
Consequently we, the Racine 1st United Methodist Congregation, have adapted an out-reach Ministry and Mission effort Known as FUN FEST, acronym for “First United & Neighbors Fest.” This annual FUN Fest affords us the opportunity to intentionally share at least three hours of worship, fellowship, and food with the economically, politically, socially and religiously diverse population of our community and its environs. This is one of the reasons we claim to be a “Perfect Church for Imperfect People!,” We boldly strive to seek to connect and grow together in our faith by sharing our gifts of resources and time with any available neighbors of ours in obedience to our Lords command. (Matthew 25:31-40). Some of our neighbors at this year’s annual FUN Fest were: the homeless, families of incarcerated persons, women and men from the shelters, the Racine Fire Fighters as well as ordinary members of our community.
Activities included melodious gospel music by our Praise Team, tasty food, drinks, bouncy house, raffle draws, touring medium and large Racine Fire Department Trucks, face painting and packages with important information about our congregation and Evangelism stuff. We were blessed to have interacted with a little more than a hundred
people in just three hours. Our thanks to all who donated money, the precious baskets and other items. We also thank all members of the Organizing Team Chaired by Jeanne
Whiteside and assisted by Liza Michna, Beth Michael, Ron and Linda Tremelling, Carol, Pete Sr. and Jr. Feest, Patti Walker, Connie Boehm and all who helped one way or another! Deeply appreciated!
Finally, let’s keep Rethinking and acting Church in ways that touch and transform lives in Jesus’ name.
The following are some beautiful photos of the Fest for your enjoyment.
You all have a very blessed fall season.
Luke 18:16 16But Jesus called the children to him and said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.
“…as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, [even] to them that believe on his name:” (John 1:12-NIV)
Members and Friends of Racine 1st,
Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
No matter what your summer has been, the truth are we’ve been blessed with God’s gift of life spared in us to enjoy the “Out-doors,” even when it was really HOT at times. Summer often afford us opportunities for personal and Church-wide out-reach activities: For some of us, this is the time of year when we are mostly out-doors, either on long planned adventures, or visiting with families, relatives and friends, or participating in community /neighborhood events or just for the fun of enjoying the friendly weather.
As a congregation, some staff members including our Chancel Choir often take time off, and guest musicians covered each Sunday. Our Mission and Out –reach activities such as Vacation Bible School; our collaborative meal programs (Sack lunch & Hot meals) get increased number of participants. Local and International Mission trips are mostly planned around the summer. Ironically, attendance at Sunday morning Worship Services are often low! Whatever has been your experience, let’s not forget to give God the glory! The Apostle Paul admonishes: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Rom, 8:28).
Now, out of the business of summer, we invite you, “All of God’s Children,” to join us to say good-bye to summer and to welcome the fall Season by participating in the “First United and Neighbors Fest” (FUN Fest). Did I say “All of God’s Children?” A resounding YES! As in the above scripture lessons, the Deuteronomy passage uses the phrase: “All of God’s children” in reference to the “Chosen and Ritually cleansed Jews.” While the gospel writers expanded the notion of being God’s Child (ren) to include all who accept Jesus Christ, not only as God’s son, but as Lord and Savior of all of sinful and estranged humanity. In the context of the latter, we as disciples of Jesus Christ, aka “Racine 1st United Methodist Church,” all of our Mission and Out-reach activities are solely aimed at reaching and inviting all persons. The invites include both believers and non- nonbelievers to share in God’s unconditional love and grace made known through the life and death of Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul better captures it by saying: “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith” (Galatians 3:26 NIV). We honestly belief that our congregation is where to belong as everyone is somebody and everybody is someone special. This makes us a perfect Church for imperfect people who seek to know God, to grow in faith and service together.
Welcome Back to Church in Jesus’ name! Join us for worship on Sunday 9th September 2018 to begin a new Church year with our Chancel Choir and the Praise Team to the glory of God!