Lean on God
The topic of human sexuality that has long been a source of disagreement within The United Methodist Church is becoming a focus of particular concern as we prepare for the Special Session of General Conference 2019 in February. This meeting of delegates from across the world will decide how it is that we will move forward as a denomination in the midst of our differences on this topic. With the uncertainty and perhaps fear that comes with not knowing how the issue may be decided, you may be concerned about what is happening and what this means for our congregation.
Bishop Lewis recently wrote a letter to the clergy of the Virginia Conference laying out her hope for our denomination and our conference. In her letter, she shared these words that I want to pass along to you:
It is my hope and prayer that we can stay a connected church. As the Apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians 3:20, it is God who can do more than we can ask or imagine. I hope that the Virginia Conference will trust in our Lord together. The reason I hold out for hope for this denomination’s unity is because I know what we can do together. I have seen it.
Our conference has been historically and consistently one of the strongest supporters of the missional connection. Our small and large membership churches, through shared ministry in apportionments, help support Global Ministries and 350+ missionaries in 60 countries. We have been a part of the church’s growth in countries such as Cambodia, Brazil and Mozambique. Through our unique conference Initiatives of Hope missional partnership team, we have:
• Supported church and parsonage construction and lay and clergy leadership development in Cambodia and Mozambique.
• Started educational advancement through school and dormitory construction and scholarships for students in Cambodia.
• Provided tutoring and after school programs for at-risk children in Brazil through the Shade and Fresh Water ministry of The Methodist Church of Brazil.
• Opened dialogue and support for Virginia Native peoples as they seek autonomy and sovereignty as well as offering opportunities in cooperation with the conference Native American Ministries team to provide a family camp.
Through our aid to UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief), we have supported disaster response when disasters such as wildfires and hurricanes are more prevalent. The need has never been greater. In 2017, the Virginia Conference supported UMCOR in excess of $1.7 million.
Our churches, big or small, are and can be a source of hope. We are never more like the hands and feet of Christ than when we are working together in ministry.
I share in Bishop Lewis's hope for our denomination and likewise for our church here in Port Republic. I hope that we will remain true to one another and true to our calling to be a family that cares for God's children. Whatever may happen at General Conference in February, there will still be far too many children in our community hungering for food both spiritual and physical. I pray that we will continue to meet that need together as best as we possibly can, for we are a lighthouse shining rays of hope out into our community!
As we prepare for February's meeting, I plan to hold an informational session one Sunday in January during the Sunday School hour. This will be a time to talk about the details of what is being considered and to discuss the questions we have about it. Look for more details as we approach the new year. I also plan to offer a class on Sunday evenings during January on what it means to be United Methodist (this is the class I had hoped to offer earlier this fall but was unable to). We will discuss our United Methodist heritage, beliefs, and structures. While the topics we cover will be broader than the issues of the upcoming conference, this class will help us to understand better where we are coming from and how we make decisions together.
As we walk through these worrisome days and feel uncertain about the future, remember these words from Bishop Lewis: Lean away from fear and lean on God. Lean away from uncertainty and lean into the mission of your local church... God is here. And God is doing something immeasurably more than we know how to ask or imagine.
May it be so! Blessings on the journey, Jim
Sunday's Sermon Snippet
The Best Christmas - Deepest Faith (Luke 1:26-38)
What makes for a good Christmas? Family, friends, food, traditions, and music all help to make the season what it is. Yet the first Christmas, the one in which Jesus was born, had few if any of these elements, and still Mary, Joseph, and the whole crowd made it a Christmas to remember! What can we learn from how they lived that best Christmas?
We begin the story of Jesus' birth with the angel Gabriel's announcement to Mary that she will bear a special child. Upon the angel's unusual greeting calling her "favored one" she is taken aback. As he lays out the plan for her to become the mother of God on earth, she responds with an understandable question: "How can this be?" Whether it is doubt, confusion, or sheer shock at the root of it, she hesitates and lets her uncertainty be known. Gabriel answers her with a threefold answer - the explanation that it is God's Spirit at work, the sign of her older cousin Elizabeth's own miraculous pregnancy, and the promise that no word from God ever fails. Mary, an otherwise unremarkable young woman from an unremarkable village who lived an unremarkable life, did the most remarkable thing. "I am the Lord's servant," she said. "Let your word to me be fulfilled." With those simple words, Mary showed the deepest kind of faith - the deepest faith that made the best Christmas and all Christmases since possible.
A mystic once said, "We are all meant to be mothers of God, for God is always needing to be born." I think what he meant is that we all are called to be the kind of people that help to shine the light of Christ into the world because there is always a darkness in the world that God wants to brighten. What do we do when we hear the angel of the Lord speaking to us, calling us to bring new life into the barrenness of this world? Do we trust that no word from God will ever fail? Do we trust in the hope that we have in the good news of Jesus Christ? Do we stand with Mary and say, "I am the Lord's servant. Let your word to me be fulfilled"? When we do, we begin to make this the best kind of Christmas!
Living in Community
Thank you, Steve, Hannah, Bruce, Davida, and Alisa,
for hanging the greens and decorating the church for Advent!
Thank you, Peggy, for setting up our Nativity set on the altar!
Thank you, Liz, Linda, and Jane, for serving communion on Sunday!
Thank you, Bob and Dianna, for leading us in
the lighting of our first candle of the Advent wreath this week!
What a powerful thing it was to hear you speak of Hope!
Thank you, Bruce, for blessing us with a new refrigerator
to replace the one that had broken!
This Week at Port Church
Wednesday, December 5
9:00 - 11:45 am - Office Hours
Thursday, December 6
9:00 - 11:45 am - Office Hours
6:30 - Cantata Practice
Sunday, December 9
9:30 am - Worship: The Best Christmas - The Bravest Heart
Poinsettia Orders due
11:00 am - Sunday School
12:00 noon - Nativity Set-up
Drive-thru Nativity - December 14 & 15, 7-9 pm
Christmas Cantata - December 23, 7 pm
Christmas Eve Services - December 24, 5 & 11 pm
News and Updates
Find out what is going on at Port Republic UMC this week and in weeks to come!
8525 Water Street
Port Republic, VA 24471