Saint Andrew United Methodist Church

1528 Church Road

Toms River NJ 08755

Good Company

Posted by on Monday, March 12, 2018 @ 8:59 AM

4th Week of Lent

Prayer of the Week

(pray this prayer each day this week)

 

Most High God,

You are Lord over and above all the kingdoms of the world. Yet, often I crave the ‘success’ of this world: wealth, fame, happiness, comfort, pleasure, and other similar things. You remind me that those who receive their reward in the world don’t necessarily receive a reward in your Kingdom. You remind me that while I may suffer sorrow and lack and want in pursuit of your will and your way…   my real reward is your everlasting love. So, you call me to be courageous in speaking and acting for justice and mercy rather than for fame and fortune. You call me to lift up the poor and oppressed rather than aspire for wealth and comfort. This week, give me the courage to endure hardship and sacrifice in this world while caring and serving others. Remind me that by these means I am accomplishing your will for justice and mercy for all people.

In Jesus name I pray. Amen

Read Luke 6:20-26

Week 4: Questions for Reflection

 

Jesus’ warning is clear: if we are rich, well-fed, comfortable, happy, and famous in this world…   chances are we haven’t been living God’s will or ways. If we are poor, hungry, weeping, and un-liked in this world…   chances are we have been living God’s will and ways. The message is simple, the world is unjust and heaps ‘rewards’ on those who commit injustice.  To be right with God means giving ourselves in service to justice and mercy. Often this means the unjust world will punish us with hardship and suffering. But, God rewards us with full and everlasting victory and life

 

How often do you feel rich, well-fed, comfortable, happy, and well-liked?  Can you point to the sources of these comforts and pleasures? What is the source God or the world?

How often do you feel poor, hungry, sad, and un-liked?  Can you point to the sources of these hardships and sufferings? What is the source God or the world?

How can you shift your priorities to more deeply and more often find yourself living God’s will and ways and giving yourself in service to justice and mercy?

 

Action for the Week

Stretch with your courage. There are lots of comforts and securities we hang onto even though we know they have no real value in our lives with God. Do something this week that represents a Lenten sacrifice. Give something up that is familiar but unhelpful. Take on some act of service that promotes justice and mercy.

Pastor Erik

On the Backs of the Poor

Posted by on Monday, March 5, 2018 @ 10:47 AM

3rd Week of Lent

Prayer of the Week

(pray this prayer each day this week)

O’ God of Justice,

I am extravagantly blessed. Even in the midst of my daily trials and challenges I pause this day to remember how much I have been given… and to acknowledge how many people in the world live with much much less. Half of all the people in the world live on less than $2.50 per day. 22,000 children die each day as a result of poverty. More than 805 million people do not have enough to eat. More than 750 million people do not have adequate access to clean water. This week, help me to remember with thanksgiving all that I have. Help me express this thanksgiving in generosity and acts of mercy. Above all, O’ God, help me understand how my society, government, and economy contribute to my blessing at the expense of the poor and help me become part of the solution that brings justice to all the world

In Jesus name I pray. Amen

Read Amos 5:10-13; Amos 5:21-24

Week 3: Questions for Reflection

It’s easy to forget, in our comfort and security, that many people are suffering and vulnerable. We live our days according to the laws and customs of our society, and congratulate ourselves for being good citizens. We might even see what we receive as a ‘reward’ for good behavior. The Israelites in Amos’ time were doing just that…   living and enjoying life. The problem was that the rich, influential people in society were getting an ever-larger share of the land, money, and resources by stripping the poor, powerless people of the little they had…  through various lawful but unjust practices relating to taxes, the law, etc. God rejects all activity that lacks a central concern for justice

How much time do you spend giving thanks for all you have received? How much time do you spend ‘remembering the poor’ and those who have very little in your prayers?

Have our society’s practices cheated the less fortunate among us? If so, How?

Are you currently involved in a ‘cause’ for justice? Do you do something to improve the lot of those who are not just poor but poor as a result of disadvantage?

Action for the Week

Choose an area in your life where you feel that society has given you an advantage (financial, education, job, health, etc.) and do something to help someone who is disadvantaged in that same area

Pastor Erik

What God Requires: Week by Week Theme

Posted by on Monday, February 26, 2018 @ 10:16 AM

As we work our way through the Lenten worship theme What God Requires  there are many engaging and faith-building issues to discover and explore. Here is a week by week list of Scriptures, Sermon Titles, and Overviews for the theme:

 

The season of Lent is a time for intentional self-reflection, preparation, and a commitment to deep, faithful, living. We fast and pray. We give up our old self-centered ways and strive to make God the center of our lives. We follow Jesus’ example of love and self- sacrifice. We anticipate God’s promise at Easter…   that God can raise up new people, faithful people, powerful people capable of extending and expanding God’s Kingdom throughout creation.

This Lenten season, at St. Andrew UMC, we will take up the call for justice. Throughout the Old and New Testaments God’s primary and unwavering call upon all people is to submit fully to God in faithful obedience and to remember God’s mighty acts of love, liberation, and salvation. God’s call in this is unmistakable:

God has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8) 

Ash Wednesday 2/14:             Broken in Every Way             2 Samuel 12:1-7

Justice and injustice exist in the context of personal relationships. When we treat others poorly we sin and grieve God. We need to lift our hearts to God and ask God to make them clean.

 

Sunday 2/18:                           True Fasting                            Isaiah 58:2-9

God reminds us that the most important spiritual disciplines are justice and mercy. We can get caught up in doing ‘spiritual’ or ‘religious’ things while neglecting God’s first, most important desire.

 

Sunday 2/25:                           Remember Your Slavery        Exodus 3:7-8; Deuteronomy 24:17-22

God set people free…   AND God asks in return that we act on behalf of the poor and oppressed, the orphan and widow, and act with justice and mercy.

 

Sunday 3/4:                             On the Backs of the Poor        Amos 5:10-13; Amos 5:21-24

The rich get richer. The poor get poorer. The vulnerable are exploited. Our responsibility is to confront corruption with justice and mercy.

 

Sunday 3/11:                           Good Company                       Luke 6:20-26

Jesus central teaching is a reversal of worldly expectations. We need to remember that we do not gauge our success or well-being by the standards of this world…   but by the extent to which we are obedient to God’s justice and mercy.

 

Sunday 3/18:                           Extravagant Justice                 Matthew 20:1-16

In Jesus, God’s justice is extravagantly generous. We are called to remember that God treats us better than we deserve.

 

Palm Sunday 3/25:                 The End of the World             Psalm 118:1,2, 19-29; John 12:12-15

When Jesus enters Jerusalem on Palm Sunday two worlds are about to collide cataclysmically. The injustice of the world collides with perfect the justice and mercy of God, something has got to give.

 

Holy Thursday 3/29:               Darkness Before the Dawn     Luke 6:27-36

During the Last Supper Jesus makes God’s new promise…   by his sacrifice God opens a way for all people to be forgiven, reconciled, and redeemed. It’s the greatest embodiment of Jesus’ life: love that exhibits extravagant and generous justice and mercy.

 

Easter Sunday 4/1:                  Arise!                                      Mark 16:1-8

While injustice seems to be ‘locked in’ to our experience of the world throughout history…   it does NOT have the last word. It’s shocking, bewildering, and amazing! Jesus is alive! And, with him reigns justice and mercy for all.  

Remember Your Slavery

Posted by on Monday, February 26, 2018 @ 10:05 AM

2nd Week of Lent

Prayer of the Week

(pray this prayer each day this week)

God of Compassion and Freedom,

So many times and in so many ways I have found myself enslaved in my life. Enslaved to fear or doubt. Enslaved to worry or concern. Enslaved to addiction or bad habits. Enslaved to an illness or injury. When I am enslaved my spirit, my courage, and my hope feels broken. But you call out to me your promises of deliverance and hope. You send your Spirit to inspire and heal me. You set me free! In my freedom you call me to remember your grace and share it with others in works of justice and mercy. This week, as I remember the way you liberated me from all that kept me in bondage, give me the opportunity to share your hope with others who are enslaved. As I express thanksgiving for your grace, allow me to share a taste of that grace with someone who is weighed down and broken with hopelessness.

In Jesus name I pray. Amen

 

Read Exodus 3:7-8; Deuteronomy 24:17-22

Week 2: Questions for Reflection

The central and anchoring narrative of the Israelites is the story of how God freed them from slavery in Egypt. God used Moses to lead them from suffering and oppression, through the wilderness for 40 years, and finally to the promised land. When the people were given The Law, a central feature of the Law was to remember their days of slavery by caring for the poor, the widow, the orphan, and the foreigner. For the afflictions of these people were the same afflictions of the Israelites under the slavery of Egypt.

Do you have an ‘central and anchoring’ narrative of your life? If so, prepare your story so that you can remember it and tell it.

What has enslaved you during your lifetime? How is/was God present?

Has God set you free? If so, how? If not, what gives you hope as you continue to wait for liberation?

Action for the Week

We all have a ‘life-story’, as you consider yours look for recurring or overarching themes. Have you repeatedly struggled in bondage in a certain area (addiction, health, finances, relationships, etc.)?  This week give thanks to God for the grace that has delivered you. Seek out an opportunity to help someone who is struggling with the same sort of bondage you once suffered from.

 

Pastor Erik

True Fasting

Posted by on Monday, February 19, 2018 @ 10:17 AM

First Week of Lent

Prayer of the Week

(pray this prayer each day this week)

 Almighty God,

Sometimes I am just going through the motions. Although I love you, believe in your promises, and have faith in you…   sometimes my heart just grows cold and discouraged. I go through the motions of worship, prayer, devotion, and feel very distant from you. I listen for you and hear nothing. In these times I know you are trying to reveal something to me…   something important about the condition of my heart. You gently remind me to put first things first: I cannot be right with you if I am unrighteous towards others. I cannot find peace in your grace and mercy if I am unjust and unmerciful towards others. This week help me to put first things first. Check my heart O’ God and remind me to be righteous, generous, merciful in all of my ways. Then, and only then, bring deep personal fulfillment to my devotion to you.In Jesus name I pray. Amen

Read Isaiah 58:1-9

Week 1: Questions for Reflection

 

Isaiah is prophesying condemnation on the people for the hypocrisy of their spiritual discipline. On the one hand, they are fasting and praying and asking for God to help them while they are in exile. On the other hand, they themselves are treating the less fortunate among them with oppression, injustice, and neglect. God’s promise of hope and salvation can only come to those committed to righteousness and justice.

The people were wondering why God wasn’t responding to their prayers and fasting. Have you ever been frustrated with God’s silence or unanswered prayer? When?

Through Isaiah, God was trying to reveal the hypocrisy of the people and guide them to a more authentic relationship with God by holding them accountable to a just and merciful relationship with each other. Has God ever confronted you in such a way? What happened?

As we seek God’s grace and mercy, as we seek the protection of God’s justice, God reminds us to be graceful, merciful, and just to one another. How can you increase your awareness of justice and make acting justly part of your spiritual practices?

 

Action for the Week

Whenever you pray or practice any spiritual discipline begin by asking yourself if you’ve knowingly treated anyone with injustice or neglect. If so, let your FIRST spiritual action be to make apology, restitution, or an uplifting act of mercy…   then make your personal devotions to God.

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