Tuesday, July 26, 2016

We Believe In Jesus

This week, we continue our focus in worship on the Apostles' Creed by considering the second statement: "I believe in Jesus Christ..." John 1:1-14 can certainly be read alongside this statement, and it will be on Sunday as we worship God together (but really, you could read it now if you wanted, of course).

On the website for the United Methodist Church, under the "What We Believe" section, it is explained what we mean we say "We believe in Jesus..." I have found this to be a helpful way to think about it, because saying this can be really confusing. Jesus was and is so awesome and so complex, that I find that I need all the help I can get when trying to share about what this means. I mean, for crying out loud, how in the world can someone be fully divine AND fully human. Doesn't that make Jesus 200%? Not quite...

Here is what our website says about what it means to say "We believe in Jesus..."*

Jesus is...

Son of God
We believe in Jesus as God's special child. We call this the Incarnation, meaning that God was in the world in the actual person of Jesus of Nazareth. The Gospel writers explain this in different ways. In Mark, Jesus seems to be adopted as God's Son at his baptism. In Matthew and Luke, Jesus is conceived by the Holy Spirit. In John, Jesus is God's pre-existing Word who "became flesh and lived among us" (1:14). However this mystery occurred, we affirm that God is wholly present in Jesus Christ.

Son of man
Paradoxically, we also believe that Jesus was fully human. One of the church's first heresies claimed that Jesus only seemed to be human, that he was really a divine figure in disguise. But the early church rejected this. It affirmed that Jesus was a person in every sense that we are. He was tempted. He grew weary. He wept. He expressed his anger. In fact, Jesus is God's picture of what it means to be a mature human being.

We say "Jesus Christ" easily, almost as if "Christ" were Jesus' surname. Yet this name is another way of expressing who we believe Jesus to be. Christ is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word Messiah, which means God's Anointed One. For years before Jesus' time the Jews had been expecting a new king, a descendant of the revered King David, who would restore the nation of Israel to glory. Like kings of old, this one would be anointed on the head with oil, signifying God's election; hence, the Chosen One = the Anointed One = the Messiah = the Christ. The early Jewish Christians proclaimed that Jesus was, indeed, this Chosen One. Thus, in calling him our Christ today, we affirm that he was and is the fulfillment of the ancient hope and God's Chosen One to bring salvation to all peoples, for all time.

We also proclaim Jesus as our Lord, the one to whom we give our devoted allegiance. The word Lord had a more powerful meaning for people of medieval times, because they actually lived under the authority of lords and monarchs. Today some of us may find it difficult to acknowledge Jesus as Lord of our lives. We're used to being independent and self-sufficient. We have not bowed down to authority. To claim Jesus as Lord is to freely submit our will to his, to humbly profess that it is he who is in charge of this world.

Perhaps best of all, we believe in Jesus as Savior, as the one through whom God has freed us of our sin and has given us the gift of whole life, eternal life, and salvation. We speak of this gift as the atonement, our "at-oneness" or reconciliation with God. We believe that in ways we cannot fully explain, God has done this through the mystery of Jesus' self-giving sacrifice on the cross and his victory over sin and death in the Resurrection.

As you consider who Jesus is, I hope that this helps. Still, words may fall short...if you have a relationship with Jesus, you have known Jesus to be a part of your life, even though you might not be able to put it into words (Jesus' nature is a mystery, after all). Trust your heart, your experience, and your relationship with Jesus, as you ponder what it means to believe in him.


O Word of God incarnate,
O Wisdom from on high,
O Truth unchanged, unchanging,
O Light of our dark sky:
we praise you for the radiance
that from the hallowed page,
a lantern to our footsteps,
shines on from age to age.

* http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/our-christian-roots-jesus

**"O Word of God Incarnate," United Methodist Hymnal, 598.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

We Believe in God

Continuing with the theme of "What we Say and Do," for the next 6 weeks we will take a closer look at the Apostles' Creed. Some of you remember growing up and memorizing this creed, others not so much (me...). My first time really spending any significant time with it was in seminary in my History of Christian Thought course. Whatever the case may be, it is worth taking a more in-depth look at. In these words, we declare our faith and trust in God:

I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and will come again to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic (universal) church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

When we are saying this together, whether in our local contexts, or broadly as the body of Christ, this becomes a "we believe..." statement. And we join Christians across the globe who claim this creed to be a fundamental statement of faith and history.

The next 6 weeks, the messages will be organized the following way in this "We Believe" series:

In God
In Jesus
In the Holy Spirit
In the Church---The Communion of Saints
In the Forgiveness of Sins
In the Resurrection and Life Everlasting

The Apostles’ Creed is a framework for Christian belief. The creed is not a checklist of things that one has to agree with in order to be a Christian. Rather, it is the place where we begin our conversation about what we believe God has done in Jesus Christ and explore what that means for the church and us as disciples in our own day and time.

As we begin this time together, I want to invite you to think and pray about (maybe even journal, if that is something you do) who God is to you. This week, we will use Genesis 1:1-5, Psalm 85, and
1 John 4:7-13 to guide us as we think about "I believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth." I invite you to consider these texts this week and ponder the question "who is God to you?"

I think of God sometimes as a Father or Mother, provider, sustainer, forgiver, redeemer, a shoulder to cry on and the One who is always with me...Who is God to you?

I hope to see you Sunday!


Holy God,
you have given us grace,
  by the confession of faith of your holy church
  to acknowledge the mystery of the eternal Trinity
  and, in the power of your divine majesty, to worship the Unity
Keep us steadfast in this faith and worship,
  and bring us at last to see in your eternal glory
    One God, now and forever. Amen

*United Methodist Hymnal, 76.

In Christ,


Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The Lord's Prayer: The Kingdom, The Power, and the Glory


For the last 5 weeks, we have studied, learned from, and have been transformed by taking a deep look into the Lord's Prayer. We have pondered what these words mean, and what they can mean, for our lives and the world around us. This week, we conclude with the final piece of the prayer: "For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and for ever. Amen."

These words serve as the "doxology" of the prayer, meaning it is a way to wrap it up as a liturgical piece in a place of worship. It is not original, meaning, Jesus did not actually teach the original audience to say these words. Rather, it is used for the purpose of corporate worship, and also personal prayer/devotion. The first known use of the doxology, in a less lengthy form ("for yours is the power and the glory forever"), as a conclusion for the Lord's Prayer is in the Didache, which is a brief early Christian text (1st century) that includes Christian ethics, rituals such as baptism and Eucharist, and Church organization.

A doxology can be any expression of praise to God. “Doxa” in Greek is “honor” or “glory.” “Logy” is from “logos” meaning “word.” So a doxology is a word of honor or glory.The doxology is a way of saying "I really meant what I just prayed." It is an extended "Amen." And it also brings the prayer full circle: it begins with "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name" and ends with this similar tone of honor and glory given to God.

This Sunday, we will be singing this hymn:

"God of Love and God of Power"

United Methodist Hymnal #578

God of love and God of power,
grant us in this burning hour
grace to ask these gifts of thee,
daring hearts and spirits free.

God of love and God of power,
thou hast called us for this hour.

We are not the first to be
banished by our fears from thee;
give us courage, let us hear
heaven's trumpets ringing clear.

All our lives belong to thee,
thou our final loyalty;
slaves are we whene'er we share
that devotion anywhere.

God of love and God of power,
make us worthy of this hour;
offering lives if it's thy will,
keeping free our spirits still.

This hymn will be sung at the beginning of worship. It is a prayer in and of itself. There are many similarities to the Lord's prayer in this hymn as well--can you find them? Ultimately, this hymn gives God glory and honor, and asks God for healing and guidance in our lives. I look forward to singing it with you.


Teach us, good Lord
to serve you as you deserve;
to give and not count the cost;
to fight and not heed the wounds;
to toil and not to seek for rest;
to labor and not to ask for any reward,
except that of knowing that we do your will;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

*Prayer of Ignatius of Loyola, United Methodist Hymnal, 570

In Christ,


Thursday, July 7, 2016

Lord's Prayer: Save Us

One of my favorite movies is "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" And one of my favorite scenes is when Delmar is baptized. This is a movie "about three stumble-bum convicts who escape to go on a quest for treasure and who meet various characters while learning where their real fortune lies in the 1930s Deep South." One of the "real fortunes" is salvation through baptism for Delmar.

Here is a bit of the dialogue around the event (excuse the language):

Everett: Where the hell's he goin'?
[Delmar runs out to be baptized]
Pete: Well I'll be a sonofabitch. Delmar's been saved.
Delmar: Well that's it, boys. I've been redeemed. The preacher's done warshed away all my sins and transmissions. It's the straight and narrow from here on out, and heaven everlasting's my reward.
Everett: Delmar, what are you talking about? We've got bigger fish to fry.
Delmar: The preacher says all my sins is warshed away, including that Piggly Wiggly I knocked over in Yazoo.
Everett: I thought you said you was innocent of those charges?
Delmar: Well I was lyin'. And the preacher says that that sin's been warshed away too. Neither God nor man's got nothin' on me now. C'mon in boys, the water is fine.

Delmar fully acknowledged that God saved ("warshed him clean") him from his sins. This is what we are asking God to do for us when we pray this portion of the Lord's Prayer. We are telling God "I am sinner, can you help me be clean?"

We pray for God to save us, because only God can. We turn to many things besides God to "save us" from our sins...whether it is entertainment, competition, even our own religious practices and spirituality. There's nothing wrong with these things, of course, but this prayer asks us to do something else: to turn to God for forgiveness and for salvation.


Father in heaven, who at the baptism of Jesus in the River
Jordan did proclaim him the beloved Son and anoint him
with the Holy Spirit: Grant that all who are baptized into his
Name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly
confess him as Lord and Savior; who with thee and the same
Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting.

*Book of Common Prayer, Collects, Traditional 162

In Christ,

Jack Ladd