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Middletown United Methodist Church
Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors
Category: Religion & Spirituality
Location: Louisville, KY
Middletown United Methodist Church Podcast
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November 11, 2019 12:52 PM PST

We usually use the word “God” as a single, all-encompassing name, but God has many different names and titles that we find in the Bible, each describing different parts of God’s nature and character. As we grow in our faith and knowledge (intimacy) of God and God’s nature and love for us, we will experience the truth of many of those names for ourselves as we come to know God the Father, the Lord our Rock or our Shepherd, God our Provider, etc.

Many of the names of God can be sorted along two lines: the distant, almighty God who ordered the heavens and the earth, and the God who personally loves and cares about each one of us. Most of us have a tendency to relate to God more closely along one of those identities than the other, but in truth, God is both/and. A deeper understanding of the both/and will grow our intimacy with the almighty, all-powerful Creator God…who has numbered our days while we were still in the womb.

Most of the Hebrew names of God begin with either El or Yahweh, reflecting this dichotomy.

El comes from the Canaanites, and is one of the oldest designations for divinity in the world. Elohimis the plural form of Eland indicates not a belief in many gods, but emphasizes the majesty of the one true God, the God above all other gods. Elohimis the Hebrew word for God that appears in the very first sentence of the Bible. When we pray to Elohim,we remember that he is the one who began it all, creating the heavens and the earth. This ancient name for God contains the idea of God’s creative power as well as his authority and sovereignty. Jesus used a form of the name on the cross (Matthew 27:46).

Yahweh is the sacred, personal name of God given to Moses in Exodus. Yahweh is not a God who is remote or aloof but one who is always near, intervening in history on behalf of his people. Yahweh is closely associated with his saving acts in Exodus, and evokes for us God’s saving power in the lives of his people today.

November 11, 2019 12:51 PM PST

We usually use the word “God” as a single, all-encompassing name, but God has many different names and titles that we find in the Bible, each describing different parts of God’s nature and character. As we grow in our faith and knowledge (intimacy) of God and God’s nature and love for us, we will experience the truth of many of those names for ourselves as we come to know God the Father, the Lord our Rock or our Shepherd, God our Provider, etc.

Many of the names of God can be sorted along two lines: the distant, almighty God who ordered the heavens and the earth, and the God who personally loves and cares about each one of us. Most of us have a tendency to relate to God more closely along one of those identities than the other, but in truth, God is both/and. A deeper understanding of the both/and will grow our intimacy with the almighty, all-powerful Creator God…who has numbered our days while we were still in the womb.

Most of the Hebrew names of God begin with either El or Yahweh, reflecting this dichotomy.

El comes from the Canaanites, and is one of the oldest designations for divinity in the world. Elohimis the plural form of Eland indicates not a belief in many gods, but emphasizes the majesty of the one true God, the God above all other gods. Elohimis the Hebrew word for God that appears in the very first sentence of the Bible. When we pray to Elohim,we remember that he is the one who began it all, creating the heavens and the earth. This ancient name for God contains the idea of God’s creative power as well as his authority and sovereignty. Jesus used a form of the name on the cross (Matthew 27:46).

Yahweh is the sacred, personal name of God given to Moses in Exodus. Yahweh is not a God who is remote or aloof but one who is always near, intervening in history on behalf of his people. Yahweh is closely associated with his saving acts in Exodus, and evokes for us God’s saving power in the lives of his people today.

November 04, 2019 10:51 AM PST

Those we honor and remember on All Saints Sunday tasted the living water. It has become in them a “spring gushing up to eternal life.” At some point they asked for a drink of this water, and there was someone there who could offer it to them. They received a Christian witness, just as we did when we asked for the same drink. It is essential to the kingdom that we be willing to offer other people a taste of the living water. We offer it both as individuals and as a church. It is offered verbally and by our life witness. Part of our life witness is living out the membership vows we have preached about in the previous weeks of this series. We know that we can do much more when we function collectively than what we can accomplish individually. The mission of our church is to manage the mountains ahead of us, cross the deep rivers, and continue to do what we have been doing for 219 years: We offer the truth of the gospel, the bread of life and the living water to those who hunger and thirst for God.

November 04, 2019 10:50 AM PST

Those we honor and remember on All Saints Sunday tasted the living water. It has become in them a “spring gushing up to eternal life.” At some point they asked for a drink of this water, and there was someone there who could offer it to them. They received a Christian witness, just as we did when we asked for the same drink. It is essential to the kingdom that we be willing to offer other people a taste of the living water. We offer it both as individuals and as a church. It is offered verbally and by our life witness. Part of our life witness is living out the membership vows we have preached about in the previous weeks of this series. We know that we can do much more when we function collectively than what we can accomplish individually. The mission of our church is to manage the mountains ahead of us, cross the deep rivers, and continue to do what we have been doing for 219 years: We offer the truth of the gospel, the bread of life and the living water to those who hunger and thirst for God.

October 28, 2019 12:48 PM PDT

The Transfiguration of Jesus as recorded in Mark 9:2-8 parallels that of Elijah. This time it is a mountain rather than a river that separates. The mountain carries the same high symbolic weight as the river. Jesus takes Peter, James and John up on a high mountain. There he is transfigured before them; his garments glow intensely white, and Elijah and Moses appear with him. Peter is beside himself at this revelation and calls out, “Let us make three booths, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” Then a voice comes from a cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.”

Peter, James, and John had been privileged to experience the transfiguration of the Christ. What followed from this revelation? Though they were not perfect, the mantle was passed on to them. Just as Elijah continued miraculous works after Elijah passed the mantle to him, Peter, James, and John came back down the mountain to assume the role of discipleship in a new way. They moved ahead and began the work of growing into the daily meaning of their inheritance. To do this they worked: no sooner were they down the mountain than people flocked around them for nurture and healing. It was not till much later that they were able to wear the mantle of Jesus in a way that befitted the experience.

The mountain is a symbol similar to that of the river. Moses received the commandments on the mountain; he came back down to wrestle with the people until they understood what it means to be in covenant relationship with God. Jesus went onto the mountain at the beginning of his ministry in Matthew; and he came back down to carryforward his work. As miraculous as a transfiguration may be, it still points to the same two consequences: the spirit is passed on, and the meaning of it does not rest until embedded into everyday faithfulness. It’s as simple as that.

We receive the faith, and our lives are transfigured. We are convinced we shall be loyal forever, faithful in every phase of life. How easy it will be. Are we not clothed with the mantle of the Spirit? What then is there to do? When I have a lot to do, I make a “to do” list.When I go to the store, I make a shopping list. When I have decisions to make, I make a list of pros and cons. There are many reasons we make lists.

October 28, 2019 12:47 PM PDT

The Transfiguration of Jesus as recorded in Mark 9:2-8 parallels that of Elijah. This time it is a mountain rather than a river that separates. The mountain carries the same high symbolic weight as the river. Jesus takes Peter, James and John up on a high mountain. There he is transfigured before them; his garments glow intensely white, and Elijah and Moses appear with him. Peter is beside himself at this revelation and calls out, “Let us make three booths, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” Then a voice comes from a cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.”

Peter, James, and John had been privileged to experience the transfiguration of the Christ. What followed from this revelation? Though they were not perfect, the mantle was passed on to them. Just as Elijah continued miraculous works after Elijah passed the mantle to him, Peter, James, and John came back down the mountain to assume the role of discipleship in a new way. They moved ahead and began the work of growing into the daily meaning of their inheritance. To do this they worked: no sooner were they down the mountain than people flocked around them for nurture and healing. It was not till much later that they were able to wear the mantle of Jesus in a way that befitted the experience.

The mountain is a symbol similar to that of the river. Moses received the commandments on the mountain; he came back down to wrestle with the people until they understood what it means to be in covenant relationship with God. Jesus went onto the mountain at the beginning of his ministry in Matthew; and he came back down to carryforward his work. As miraculous as a transfiguration may be, it still points to the same two consequences: the spirit is passed on, and the meaning of it does not rest until embedded into everyday faithfulness. It’s as simple as that.

We receive the faith, and our lives are transfigured. We are convinced we shall be loyal forever, faithful in every phase of life. How easy it will be. Are we not clothed with the mantle of the Spirit? What then is there to do? When I have a lot to do, I make a “to do” list.When I go to the store, I make a shopping list. When I have decisions to make, I make a list of pros and cons. There are many reasons we make lists.

October 21, 2019 10:30 AM PDT

Across Northern Africa stretches the largest desert in the world, the Sahara, almost as large as the United States. From east to west, it measures thirty two hundred miles, farther than the distance from New York to San Francisco.

Mile after mile of scorching, shifting, sand dunes make up the Sahara, where temperatures reach 130 degrees Fahrenheit during the summer –so hot that breathing is nearly impossible. Yet at the eastern edge of this mammoth oven lies one of the richest, most fertile valleys know to human kind –the Nile Valley.

Flowing through the valley is the great Nile River, the longest river in the world. It was not the river alone that made the valley so abundantly fertile. It was the fact that prior to the building of the Ashwan Dam, the Nile river overflowed each year generously depositing all over the valley layer upon layer of rich tropical soil, washed down from the jungles of Central Africa.

What the Nile did until it was contained is a picture of our Proverbs verses: A generous person will be enriched, and one who gives water will get water. It is when your heart overflows generously that you are enriched to the point of life being meaningful. It is when your heart overflows generously that you provide refreshing water for all the parched lives around you.

Some of the sharpest teachings in Scripture are about money. For example, the incident of the widow’s mite, the parable of the talents, the alabaster box, and other stories, deal with money. In the early church the tragedy which overcame Ananias and Sapphira was a money matter and an example of how many who started out to follow Christ fell out over money and its use.

Our dilemma is easily stated. The church cannot do without money. This was true from the first and is increasingly true in our economy which is a “money” economy. But the church also teaches that money can be (note I didn’t say “is”) the root of all evil. We find ourselves balancing our focus between wanting to provide everything we can through our ministries and being able to pay the bills. History reminds us of times when the church exploited its people by setting up a church culture that promoted the selling of indulgences. When the church gives her heart away to money, she offers a false witness. Last week we talked about our consistent presence in the church enabling us to discern truth from false teaching. That discernment will also tell us when the church’s bank balance is more important to us than what we are doing to bring in the kingdom. Of course, this brings us around to the original dilemma. The church cannot do without money.

The church tends to apologize for her need of money, but we shouldn’t have to do that. You understand, I’m sure, that everybody doing their part keeps us afloat and allows us to support our ministries. We are deliberately not using a money focus story from the Bible today. Rather than talk about the actual dollars, we want to talk about generosity of a spiritual nature.

Leonard Bernstein once said: “I fully confess that nothing exists in this life of ours until or unless I can share it with others. Sharing, if I may be so bold, is the whole meaning of my life, whether it be with one single person or five or five million.”

When we are generous with our love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, the church will always be able to pay its bills. And we will be a congregation filled with glad and generous hearts.

October 15, 2019 07:25 AM PDT

Jesus has already begun to create controversy with his ministry. He slips into the festival of the tabernacles quietly but eventually ends up in the temple courts, where he begins to teach. His teaching authority is immediately questioned, prompting the response that begins in verse 16. Those who follow wholeheartedly, as we saw in Caleb’s story last week, will be able to discern the difference between teaching that comes from God and teaching that is self-promoting. This relates to our membership vow to be present here, where we hear the word of God proclaimed; where we share prayer, study, and mission service. The more “experienced” we are as followers, the greater our ability to discern what is authentic.

Jesus gives a beautiful promise in verses 37-38: if we drink the living water he offers, rivers of it will flow out of our hearts. We will be alive, both as individuals and as a church, and be able to share the blessings of faith with others. Our worship each week offers us a drink of the living water so we might stay spiritually refreshed and let the river that flows from us carry the gospel to others. If our thirst for it is not quenched, we cannot do this. This is why our presence here, together, is of vital importance to the kingdom.

October 15, 2019 07:25 AM PDT

Jesus has already begun to create controversy with his ministry. He slips into the festival of the tabernacles quietly but eventually ends up in the temple courts, where he begins to teach. His teaching authority is immediately questioned, prompting the response that begins in verse 16. Those who follow wholeheartedly, as we saw in Caleb’s story last week, will be able to discern the difference between teaching that comes from God and teaching that is self-promoting. This relates to our membership vow to be present here, where we hear the word of God proclaimed; where we share prayer, study, and mission service. The more “experienced” we are as followers, the greater our ability to discern what is authentic.

Jesus gives a beautiful promise in verses 37-38: if we drink the living water he offers, rivers of it will flow out of our hearts. We will be alive, both as individuals and as a church, and be able to share the blessings of faith with others. Our worship each week offers us a drink of the living water so we might stay spiritually refreshed and let the river that flows from us carry the gospel to others. If our thirst for it is not quenched, we cannot do this. This is why our presence here, together, is of vital importance to the kingdom.

October 07, 2019 09:26 AM PDT

Caleb is a good example of perseverance and not losing sight of goals and purpose. He received God’s promise; wholly followed God; didn’t fear the giants; didn’t allow delays or circumstances to make him bitter or cause him to give up. If we are wholeheartedly committed to our membership vows and to making God’s kingdom a reality through our efforts as a church, there will be no mountain we can’t climb; no giant that will stop us. The discipline of prayer enables the believer to practice wholehearted following. Focus on prayer by leading a special prayer time for the church at the end of the service. This could be done at the altar, special stations, etc.

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