Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
This is a big weekend at St. Matthew’s UMC. In addition to all sorts of exciting activities that are happening all weekend long (from ASP tool training to the Club 56 children’s retreat), the biggest event of the weekend happens on Sunday morning at 11:15 when twenty-three of our eighth-grade youth will be confirmed. That’s right, this Sunday is Confirmation Sunday. On that day we will celebrate the faith journey that these young people have made over the last year. During the service, our confirmands will commit to us and to God that they will continue to journey with God and the church in the coming years, we will commit to continue to walk with them on their journey of faith, and we will pray that each of them would be strengthened by the Holy Spirit.
Confirmation is a big deal. It is a big step in the lives of these youth and a big moment in the life of our church. But what exactly is it? Too often, we think of it as the beginning of faith. This is probably (at least partly) because confirmation is associated with receiving full membership rights in the United Methodist Church; after Sunday, our confirmands will be eligible to serve on committees and the like. But, when we take time to think about it, we know that confirmation is not the beginning of faith. God created each of our confirmands and has been journeying with them since before they were born. For those who have been previously baptized, they have been members of the church (though not “voting” members) since baptism. They have all been recipients of God’s grace and members of our faith community long before this Sunday.
Nor is confirmation the end of faith. Too often, we think of confirmation as “graduation” from church, or as something that has little connection to what comes after it. True, confirmation does celebrate the completion of a difficult year of study and represents a major transition in life. But we empty it of much of its meaning when we view it as simply a “destination.” Confirmation is a commitment to the life of faith – to the arduous task of trying to follow Jesus for the rest of your life. Confirmation is intended to lead to renewed and deeper commitment to the way of Jesus. Perhaps it would be better understood as a “refueling station” rather than as a “destination.”
In baptism, God promises to always be with us and makes us a part of the church, the community that is called to be a part of God’s work in the world. In that act, we are given more love and grace than we can possibly imagine; baptism is a sort of love letter from God. Confirmation is a way of responding to God’s love letter with a love letter of our own, promising to seek God and follow Jesus in all that we do. And, even more importantly, confirmation is a time when the whole church prays for the Holy Spirit to give us (especially those who are being confirmed) the strength to live lives that are faithful to the God who we have come to know in Jesus Christ.
In short, it’s kind of a big deal. We hope that you take the time this weekend to check it out.
Brian and Denise
May 4, 2012
Think about the best sermon you’ve ever heard (we won’t be offended if it isn’t one of ours). What was it like? Why did you like it? Was it long, or short? Did it touch your emotions? Did it stimulate your intellect? Did it play upon your deep-seated hopes or fears? A sermon is a commentary upon Scripture. At its best, a sermon is an invitation to enter a passage of Scripture more deeply and to become better acquainted with the God who we meet in that passage. But beyond that, a sermon can be almost anything.
This week is the last week in our four-week series, “Encountering the Living Christ: You Gotta Read the Bible.” This Sunday, our Gospel lesson is from Luke 4:14-21. In this passage, Jesus preaches a sermon. But there’s something strange about this sermon: it’s only one sentence. As you prepare to come to worship this weekend, we encourage you to read this passage a few times and think about what it would have been like to hear this short, simple, and powerful sermon. What would it have been like to hear what Jesus was saying on that day?
You may know that we at St. Matthew’s have partnered with United Methodist Family Services (UMFS), an organization that facilitates adoption and foster care and provides support to families who are in the adoption and foster care process. This Sunday, our children will be hosting a car wash to raise money to help sponsor a community-wide UMFS foster care awareness event. Participation is simple: when you come to worship, drop your keys with one of our (adult) car washers. Once worship is over, pick up your keys and your clean car. We encourage you to take part in this excellent opportunity to support an important ministry in our community.
So come this weekend as we explore what it means to encounter Christ through Scripture and raise some money to make a difference in the lives of families and children who are in need. We hope to see you here!
Grace and Peace,
Brian and Denise
September 2, 2011
August really went out with a bang didn’t it? Earthquake and a hurricane - Brian said the only thing that was missing was the locust and frogs. Pat and I were on the island of Ocracoke, NC for a week’s vacation during that eventful week. Sitting by the waves we did not feel the earthquake – however a mandatory evacuation drove us off the beach on Wednesday because of the hurricane. It was an eventful vacation.
Going through ‘crises’ like these may cause us to take stock of what is really important in life. They cause us to prioritize and may cause us to consider the bigger scheme of things.
As we move into the fall we are beginning a new sermon series in which we are asking “Who Are You?” Who are you as disciples of Jesus Christ in your work settings? Who are you ten years after 9/11, who are you as you live between memory and hope? Who are you as we get back into the groove of a fall schedule; can church help you answer the basic questions of your identity? Who are you as a servant; who are you in service WITH?
Our scripture for Sunday is Matthew 5:13-20. Come and discover if you “Are the Salt Lick at Your Work?” We will be exploring what Jesus meant when he said we are to be the salt of the earth. Being a disciple of Jesus means that all of our work can be ministry work.
On Sunday we will be blessing the tools of our trade. We would like each person to bring some item or tool that represents your vocation: a hammer, a checkbook, a stethoscope, a house listing, a diaper, a cookbook, etc. If you are retired, please bring an item related to your previous work life or something that relates to how you ‘work‘ in retirement as a grandparent, a gardener, a caregiver, etc. If your vocation has a uniform associated with it please wear your uniform. We will then offer these tools and our work to God‘s service and ask God‘s blessing upon our work. Invite a neighbor to bring their tools of their trade and join us for this special service.
Yours in Christ,
Denise and Brian
It’s hard to believe that this is already the last weekend of August. Before we know it, Labor Day weekend will be here, school will be starting, and Friday afternoon traffic out of the DC area will be (slightly) less miserable. As the Summer winds down, we pray that you enjoy some moments of calm and relaxation. And, for those of you who are enjoying end-of-summer vacations, we pray that you have safe travels and a refreshing time away from your regular routine.
This Sunday will be the final Sunday of our Season of Creation. Throughout this season, we have explored the importance of honoring God’s creation as a way of honoring and worshipping God. We have explored our relationship to God, others, and the world around us; the ways in which creation itself points us towards the God who created it; and the promise that God intends for all of creation to be redeemed and resurrected to new glory.
Each Sunday during this season a different aspect of creation has helped us to focus our worship on God. So far we have worshipped God by looking through the lenses of land, forest, and air. This Sunday, we will worship God by celebrating God’s gracious gift of water. Judy Hall will be preaching on the story of Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well in John 4:7-15. We invite you to read ahead to prepare yourself for this powerful story of God’s overflowing love and look forward to seeing you on Sunday as we discover together the amazing things that God is doing in and through God’s creation.
Yours in Christ,
Denise and Brian
This week: Judy Hall will deliver the message “Come to the Water” at all three services. The scripture will be John 4:7-15.