We are in the middle of a five part sermon series on the vows we take when we join the United Methodist Church. In review, the first Sunday I preached on Mark 1:35 and talked about the need to pray. Just as Jesus had to find the time to pray, so too do we need to find the time to pray. Prayer in private reflects prayer with our family and vice versa. And they affect our ability to pray in public. Jesus is busy in the start of Mark’s gospel, “immediately” going into the wilderness, preaching and casting out demons in Capernaum, and beyond. It’s a crazy start. But it speaks to our lives today as we are often on the go from place to place. And it is only by stopping to pray, by engaging in the much needed discipline of spending time listening (and sometimes talking) to God do we find the strength to make it through. We often just have a short window, so we need to make the most of it and not squander it. How else will we fight off the multitude of demons and distractions that this world piles upon us? The second Sunday I preached on Acts 2:46-47. I talked about the vow of presence. I referenced a mega-church that forgot the need for presence and squandered an entire congregation. We may be much smaller, but we are likewise called to commit ourselves in presence, especially in worship. Worship is central to who we are as Christians, just as it was to the first Christians following the day of Pentecost. God was adding daily to the number who were being saved because they took the time to be deeply present with each other, in worship, in small groups, and around the table. I challenged us to look at how we are present in the life of the church. And that extends beyond a physical presence. It involves the sometimes guilty pleasures that we engage in, to put down our Facebook, our cell phones, our computers. To get out of the screen and to spend real time listening to, laughing with, and praying for each other. It was only by spending time with each other that the early church was able to know how to address the needs of the community they served. This Sunday I’ll be preaching on our gifts. The fourth Sunday, October 8, I’ll be covering our service. And the last Sunday we’ll cover our witness. You’ll notice points of crossover between those vows from time to time, and that’s a good thing. The way in which each of our vows helps inform the other helps us to connect the bigger picture of what we are called to commit ourselves to.
Sometimes I hear talk about someone being a Christian but not needing to be in church. And while it is true that we can find God at work in nature, or on the television set, or in a great devotion, there is nothing that replaces the importance of your presence. You know what’s going on when you are in church. You know the needs of the church when you are in church. You know who is sick when we lift up our prayer requests. You get to hear the Word of God preached and the Good News of Jesus Christ shared. Your presence is vital because you were created in God’s image and we need you with us in order to be the body of Christ together!
As all of this unfolds from Sunday to Sunday and every day in-between, I’ll be calling us to reflect further on the commitment to our vows of prayer, presence, gifts, service, and witness. We’ll have cards out in the next few days, first via e-mail, then in the bulletin closer to the end of the sermon series. On those cards you’ll be invited to write down how you plan to live out your vows and place those at the altar on the last Sunday, October 16. I hope you’ll be in prayer as we move forward. I know the Holy Spirit will lead you if you ask. Maybe too if you try to run in the other direction! God’s Spirit is moving at Cahill UMC, and I am excited to be here with you for this journey together!
Grace and Peace,