July Message from Reverand Jakes
FINDING SOLACE TOGETHER IN THE WILDERNESS OF OUR FAITH
23 Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised) 24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: 525 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. (Hebrews 10: 23-25).
WAC -2019 – KI Center, Green Bay WI
The KI Center, photo above, was the site of the 2019 Session of the Wisconsin Conference- Friday 14th thru Monday 17th June 2019. The conference officially opened with traditional Indian drums, Friday the 14th June 2019, as usual. Unlike this session, while past annual conference sessions have not been the greatest, this one was the most challenging and practically depressing, to say the least. Let’s not forget, this was the first session of our annual conference following the 2019 Special General Conference held February 23 - 26, 2019 at St. Louis, Missouri. The underlying current of the contentious atmosphere at the 2019 Session of the annual conference was the result of 2019 Special General Conference’s decision that proffered the “Traditional Plan” that contains prohibitions on the ordination of self-avowed homosexuals and clergy persons officiating at any of such relationships ceremonies.
The division amongst the clergy and lay delegates who hold different Biblical and Theological views they believe influence their doctrinal stance on the issue of human sexuality was very visible. Those differences were expressed in various ways and forms: There were those holding placards, some wearing rainbow colors strips of cloth around their necks, while others expressed their feelings by using profaned languages on the conference’s floor! Certainly, the energy throughout the 2019 annual conference session was very high, but in a negative sense as it did not represent a Christian Community gathering!
Amidst of all the contentions and animosities amongst delegates, the Bishop and other leaders managed to conduct the conference’s business successfully each day. The following are some of the highlights:
- The morning devotional services and Bible Study times were very inspiring.
- The delegates successfully deliberated and took appropriate decisions on each of the twenty-five “Actions Items” brought to the conference floor. Two of the significant actions items approved were: a. Wisconsin Annual Conference petition that rejects the 2019 Special General Conference decision that approved the “Traditional Plan” which denies Homosexual rights to ordination and pastoral functions. And b. The petition to separate congregations’ apportionment into three categories as follow: Wisconsin Conference, Jurisdictional Conference and the General Conference. All local churches will now have an opportunity to choose which conference’s program they would like to fund. The Conference’s Treasurer will disburse funds to each conference’s program based on how much is received on behalf of that conference.
- The delegates also voted and elected equal number of clergy and lay delegates to the upcoming Jurisdictional Conference and 2020 General Conference. These delegates will serve as Wisconsin Conference’s official representatives to those conferences for the next four years.
- The Director of Congregational Development reported that thirty new Hispanic/Latino Ministries have been planted across the Wisconsin Annual Conference. He further presented Fifty-eight lay and clergy members from the Hispanic/Latino Communities that were recognized and Certificated as New Ministry Planters.
- Finally, the celebrations of the ordination of three elders, commissioning of local pastors, recognition of four retirees including Rev. Ana Luisa and Rev. Marino Chacon, and a memorial ceremony of deceased members with appropriate worship services were very meaningful as usual.
Reflecting on the foundational scripture for this article, I would encourage everyone to read and reread it with opened heart and mind. The scripture seems to capture one of the reactions of some of our United Methodist brothers and sisters to decision of 2019 Special General Conference regarding “Self-avowed Homosexuals.” Some have decided to either withhold their support including finance, distant themselves or even totally abandon their congregation heritage.
While I do not fully understand the intended consequences of such reactions, especially as it relates to the impacts they may have on your personal faith and local congregations’ ministries and mission, I definitely identify with those reactions. Possibly, they kind of help send a clear message of how deep you are emotionally and spiritually hurt! I say sorry from the depth of my heart! I believe Emotional wounds can be healed through the power of Divine/ Holy Spirit intervention. Unfortunately, the Sovereign God doesn’t need our angry reactions in order to release the Power of his Holy Spirit to heal our wounded hearts and souls. We must first of all obey and then surrender all! As the Hebrew writer urges, we must seize and hold tightly the confession of our hope/faith without wavering, because our God who promised is reliable. We must not forsake meeting together for worship and instruction as believers.
My friends, God has taken each of us and His Church through many storms and trials. What is unfolding in the life of our denomination is no exception! We are all in and going through these times of wilderness
of our faith life and journey together. We cannot fight and win this battle on our own, except we rally together in the Lord, our Savior and Friend, Jesus Christ. Remember, this battle is not ours, but the Lord’s!
Let’s give God a chance and he will heal and grant us the much needed Solace to the glory of His own name.
You all have a very blessed summer in Jesus’ name.
June Message From Reverand Jakes:
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF OUR CHURCH’S CROSS AND FLAME SYMBOLISM:
Above is the “cross and flame” that serves as the official symbol of identity of the United Methodist Church. The U M Church’s History has it that following the merger of The Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church in 1968, the Cross and flame was adopted as the symbol for the newly founded denomination, “The United Methodist church!” The Symbol relates the New Denomination to God through Christ and the Holy Spirit. In order words, the Cross symbolizes God’s Salvific work accomplished through His Son Jesus Christ on the Cross, and the “Flame” a symbol of God’s abiding Holy Spirit that came with Power in the form of fire and flame on the day of Pentecost. A scripture reference quoting Jesus prior to his ascension: “I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” Luke 24:49). In obedience to Jesus’ pre-ascension mandate to his first disciples, they remained in Jerusalem following his ascension. According to Luke’s Historical Epistle, “Acts,” the promised was fulfilled with the coming of the Holy Spirit as recorded thus:
1When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues[a] as the Spirit enabled them. (Acts 2; 1-4 - NIV)
My friends, let’s not forget that God’s invitation and acceptance of us to be disciples of his Son, Jesus Christ was never by accident, but intentional and clearly rooted in the very nature of The one whom we claim and proclaim our Lord and savior, even Jesus Christ. Needless to say you know the
historical accounts and stories surrounding the birth, life and ministry of this Jesus Christ better than I do! As such we need to constantly remind ourselves that the life and journey of being a “Christian” to which you and I have availed ourselves began with God’s gracious acts of sending us His only “Begotten Son” to both redeem, save and restore our broken relationship and fellowship with himself. The joy of this very generous act was short-lived and even descended into melting untold sufferings, crucifixion, death and burial of the Divine Savior. God being God, death and the grave could not hold the Savior captive! He rose from the dead three days later, and that’s what the Easter Season enacts. We celebrate our Savior’s resurrected, new life and appearances over a period of fifty days before his ascension back to heaven each year.
Consequently, lest we forget that the Church and each believing Christian are the physical and spiritual embodiments of God’s Anointed Redeemer and Savior, Jesus “The Christ” in the world. The tasks and challenges we face today in the efforts at being true to our callings are not new and unique to us! They are the very essence of what it means and takes to be genuine and authentic Christian Disciples! This reminds me of one of the popular United Methodist hymns: “We Are the Church” # 558- by Avery and Marsh, 1973. This song reminds us that the Church is the people- all kinds, all colors, all places….sometimes the church marches on with victory, but other times it stops marching and drags; at times the church rides in comfort and complacency, while at other times it hides in a cowardly manner; sometimes the Church is on fire with crusades, but other times it is actually burning. Yet, we Are the Church together, as all of these experiences help the Church to grow!
Finally, my friends, the revival and revitalization of Racine 1st United Methodist Congregation, our Conferences and our Denomination depends solely on how we each respond to the current realities with which we are faced. The symbolism of the Cross and Flame speaks a volume. For me, it speaks of challenges, but would never quench God’s light that I’m called to bear wherever and whenever the need arises. Yes, the tasks may bend me over, but would never break me! Let the Pentecost Power and Holy Spirit lead us onto victory in Jesus’ name!
May Message from Pastor Jakes
CHRIST IS RISEN! ALLELUJAH!!
As a reminder, several weeks ago I mentioned in my Easter Letter that unlike other slogans, “Christ is risen,” is not just the proclamation of an event on Sunday , and done away with. Notice the present tense “Is.” It is a present occurrence that reinvigorates a believer’s life and vital faith. I have added the word “Hallelujah” which according to Biblical definition is an exclamation of worship or a call to praise. Whenever we proclaim “Christ is Risen” the typical response: “Hallelujah”, a Greek form of the word “Allelua”-meaning “Praise YAHWEH or Praise ye the Lord!”
This proclamation: “Christ is Risen! Hallelujah” often reminds me of the importance of the “Shema” in the life of the Jews. The constant recitation of the “She·ma” essentially informs and reinforces the Jews’ religious tenet and teaching that affirms the Oneness and Sovereignty of their God, “YAHWEH.” This message is recorded in the Hebrew text consisting of three passages from the Pentateuch and beginning with “Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one.” (Deut. 6:4). It also forms an important part of Jewish evening and morning prayers, and is used as their Jewish confession of faith.
Christ is Risen, Hallelujah! Lest we forgot, the significance of this historical event is incredible, as it is the foundational truth and essence of the Faith you and I profess and proclaim. Here’s how the Apostle Paul declares the nature of Christ’s Resurrection in relationship to our Faith: “…. if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. (1Corinthians 15:14).
Christ’s resurrection provided the needed strength and courage for his reluctant, disbelieving and fear-gripped, disciples who later became “World Changers!” These first disciples took the Good News to the four corners of the world in His name. It is the cornerstone of our Faith and spiritual substance. The Resurrection claims and proclaims victory over sin, death and promises new life to all believers then, now, in this life and the life hereafter. It is continuing event
My friends, Christ is Risen! Hallelujah! Christ’s resurrection avails us to the wonderful gift of a new and vibrant life. Thank you for recommitting yourself to being a witness and a pilgrim dedicated to taking and sharing this good news and sharing it with all those you might encounter this Easter Season and beyond.
Remember, we are the Church, Christ’s arms, feet, and mouths together!
A very blessed and Joyful Easter season to you and your family in the name of our Resurrected Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!
April Message from Pastor Jakes
LIVING WITH THE AFTER MATH OF 2019 SPECIAL GENERAL CONFERENCE – a brief reflection.
Dear Fathers, Mothers, Brothers and Sisters, sons and daughters gathered here at 1st UM Church, 745 Main Street, Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior, “The Christ.”
Since the end of the three days, February 23rd -26th “Special Session of the General Conference” held in St, Louis, MN, the anxiety levels of some members of our congregation, including lay and clergy members of our annual conferences and the entire denomination continue to rise high and higher. These rising emotions are due to the Special General Conference’s ruling that kind of reaffirmed one of our denomination’s “Social Principles that prohibits the ordination of homosexual people and the performance of “Same Sex Relationships by any appointed clergy person. I said “Reaffirmed” because as far as I know the prohibitions have been a part of the Church’s Discipline/law for a very long time. A brief history might be helpful:
1st. The Birth United Methodism in America- John Wesley’s, the founder of Methodism, opposition to slave trade and to smuggling caught the attention of the leaders of two other denominations, “The Evangelical United Brethren Church and the Church of the United Brethren in Christ”. Following assertive consultations and examinations of each denomination’s beliefs/doctrines and social creeds amongst leaders of the
three denominations, the agreement to merge was finalized in 1968, thus giving birth to what we now know as the “United Methodist Church!”
In line with the merged denominations common concerns for social justice and authentic life of Christian Discipleship, the Methodist Episcopal Church- North had adopted a Social Creed in 1908 at General Conference held in Baltimore. Similar statements were adopted by the Methodist Episcopal Church – South and the Protestant Methodist Church.
The Evangelical United Brethren and the United Brethren Church also adopted Social Principles in 1946 at the time of their unification in 1946. These beliefs regarding Social Issues and moral standards, being very similar, were brought forth at the seat of the 1968 General Conference. (Book of Discipline, 1968 ed. Part III, P. 52/ 1972 ed. Part III, P. 88. Social Principles).
Four years following the merger, in 1972 the issues of the definition of “Marriage and Human sexuality
i.e. Homosexuals in particular began to
draw attentions. The excerpts of the 1972 General Conference’s rulings on the above issues are as follow:
1. Marriage – ‘We assert the sanctity of the marriage covenant. Marriage between a man and a woman has long been blessed by God and recognized by society.” (Para.72.B. BOD. 1972ed. P. 85).
And 2. Human Sexuality – “We recognize that human sexuality is a gift of God, and we believe that persons may be fully human only when that gift is acknowledged and affirmed by themselves, the Church and society. We call all persons to disciplines that lead to the fulfillment of themselves, others and the in the stewardship of this gift.” (Para,72. C. 1972 BOD. P.86.)
3. Homosexuals- “No less than Heterosexuals are persons of sacred worth, who need the ministry and guidance of the Church in their struggles for human fulfillment, as well as spiritual and emotional care of a fellowship which enables reconciling relationship with God, with others and with self. Further we insist that all persons are entitled to have their human and civil rights ensured, though we do not condone the practice of homosexuality and consider this practice incompatible with Christian teachings.” (Para. 72.D. P. 86. BOD 1972 ed.). Simply put, anyone who claims to be a “Homosexual” won’t be ordained to serve as a clergy in the United Methodist Church, and no appointed clergy of the United Methodist Church is permitted to officiate at “Same-sex Relationships!
Since the adoption of this statement, subsequent General Conferences have not done much to adequately address it, except for minor modifications and simplifications to the language in response to sporadic protests against ruling until the 2016 General Conference when a decisive action was taken. Remember, the General Conference is the highest legislative decision-making body in our denomination! This body meets every four years with equal number of lay and clergy members of 600-1000 delegates from across the world. Their major tasks are to review current policies and adopt new policy plans for the entire Church.
So, at the 2016 General Conference held in Boston, the Council of Bishops was instructed to constitute a “Commission On a Way Forward” in the hope of resolving this more than a century old conflict that continues to hinder the denomination’s unity, ministry and mission and they did. The “Commission On a Way Froward” comprised 32 members including 11 retired and active bishops, clergy, representatives of major stake holders and advocate groups such as the LGBTQIA, progressives, centrists conservatives, seminary professors, lawyers, and other professionals. The group received many recommendations from diverse interest groups including local Churches, annual conferences and the Council of Bishops as well as concerned individuals. Over the period of three years the commission met nine times and deliberated and voted on all of the proposals in order to determine which ones would be brought to floor of the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference for legislative actions. In consultation with the Council of Bishops, the “Commission On A Way Forward” brought forth three of the proposed plans to the floor of the just ended 2019 Special Session of General Conference held February 23-26 2019 in St. Louis, Minnesota. There were 864 certified delegates at the conference. The three proposed plans were: 1. The One Church Plan, 2. The Connectional Conference Church Plan and 3. The Traditionalist Plan. According to conference’s voting rules of eliminations, the “Connectional Conference Plan was eliminated in the first round. Another round of vote was taken on the One Church and Traditionalist Plans. The “One Church Plan got 384 votes and the “Traditionalist Plans received 438 Votes. Choosing the “Traditionalist Plans” means the Church’s restrictions on the “Practice of Homosexuality“remains unchanged!
Now what? One may ask!
People are responding in various and diverse manners to this decision of the Special General Conference. Some are angry, some dumfounded, some have withdrawn membership, yet there are others who are conciliatory and have become more prayerful for the fate of our denomination. Included in this April publication of our Church’s Newsletter are two “Pastoral Letters:” 1. from the president of the Council of Bishops and 2. from Bishop Jung of our Wisconsin Conference. I encourage you to prayerfully read them.
As your pastor, I am equally concern, but neither perplexed nor hopeless. Why? Because I take comfort in the fact that the God whom I serve is bigger than any problems that may come my way. Therefore, in time like these, I’ve learned to lean more on the Christ that faithfully promised to build His “CHURCH” against which the gates of hell won’t prevail! (Matt. 16: 18). Lest we forget that “THE CHURCH” is of God, and Jesus Christ is the Head, in whom ALL THINGS Hold Together! (Col. 1: 17-18). Jesus Christ is still in control in the midst of this current storm!!!
With such grounding in my faith, I do not easily panic, but continue to seek my God’s favor and intervention. I have always said, and I say it again, no matter what the decision of the General conference, I won’t treat anyone differently than I did prior! Before I became a “Pastor,” I am a Christian first and foremost. I always pray that my relationship with people, irrespective of their social and spiritual conditions, would be guided and influenced by my desire to truly reflect the love of Jesus Christ, to whom I owe my vow and utmost loyalty.
Finally, no matter how the General Conference reaffirmation of its stands on the issues of the ordination of people in same-sex relationships might affect you and your loved ones, rest assured that your God has not given up on you, and I prayerfully hope you won’t too. You and all of us are legitimate sons and daughters of a loving and caring God. Therefore, as the Apostle Paul says, “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves.” (Romans 12:3; 15:1). He further encourages us thus: “not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Do not allow the decision of the Special General Conference become a wrench to your faith and love of Jesus Christ who gave his life to demonstrate God’s unconditional love for you. Remember, at the end of the tunnel, there is an unquenchable Light.”
Have a very blessed Lent, and a JOYFUL EASTER in the name of our Risen LORD!
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!