A Chosen People
We are more likely today to hear the words “Looking Forward” than "Looking Backward". This is certainly the case in political seasons where candidates implore us to stand with them and "look forward" to a rosy future. This idea of the future is much more appealing than the present and, heaven forbid, the past. Opponents are seen as looking backward. The word itself carries a certain stigma, e.g., a backward child, a backward thinker. Look Forward, Move On. Has a nice ring to it.
But to see where you’re going it's good to know where others have been. It's true you can't change the past, but you can surely learn from it.
For those who would not deal with the past, they may deign to change it, leaving out the good parts and focusing only on the bad. The blame for current problems is often past mistakes – of a nation, a family, a marriage, a relationship. If you can’t fix a problem, then fix the blame for it. We see the 40s and 50s as a period of segregation and discrimination forgetting it was also The Greatest Generation. We conveniently forget our colonial ancestors as patriotic and family-centered, and remember them only as permitting the practice of slavery.
One place you can't rewrite history is the Bible. A fine old hymn starts off: "Give Me That Old Time Religion". Is there any other kind? Christianity is guided by a set of books, the Bible, the latest of which was written almost 2,000 years ago. The final books of the Old Testament were written about 500 years before that. Christians believe (or should), that the Word is sufficient for our lives. The Bible is the same yesterday and today and forever.
But Christians can fall into this trap, too. If Jesus is all we need for the abundant life and a place in eternity, why study the Old Testament? Just leave off that unpleasantness and focus on Christ. Anyway, it's mostly about war, violence and God’s pitting His people against others. For sure, it includes lust, power, intrigue, war, sex, greed, family loyalties and family squabbles, as does most any account of history. This is a history of a chosen people, their love of God, beautifully told. The Hebrews weren't selected by God because they were superior, but because God wanted to show his love and what obedience to Him would mean to a people. The Hebrews did not obey God and He withdrew His support. They became captives of the Babylonians and Syrians and eventually subjects of Rome. This despite numerous warnings by the prophets. But out of all this chaos, God gave us the promise of a Messiah. It is not Plan A versus Plan B, but all part of God's great plan.
As to wars, it has been said that Rule #1 in fighting a Biblical war is to first wait 400 years. According to Genesis 15: 13–16, God said to Abraham, Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own…
Our Bible study group has recently completed the life of David and will soon begin a study of Abraham. Maybe by studying this important part of our Biblical history, we can become better equipped to look forward to a rosy future.
Summer Greetings From the Pastor
New Hope UMC has been adopted! According to Webster, adopt means 1. to take by choice into a relationship; 2. to take up and practice or use as one’s own, (i.e., another’s mannerisms); 3. to accept formally and put into effect. Adoptable synonyms include embrace, espouse: embrace implying a ready or happy acceptance, espouse adding an implication of close attachment to a cause and a sharing of its fortunes.
Buncombe Street United Methodist Church in Greenville is the informal adopter, New Hope, the adoptee. We will celebrate our "close relationship, our happy, close attachment" with a Special Singing / Scripture Service on Sunday, July 31st, 11: 15 a.m. at New Hope, to be followed by a Fellowship Dinner.
How did this relationship begin and how has it continued? In the Fall of 2015, New Hope was faced with a financial challenge of some proportion in repairing the stained glass windows in our sanctuary. One thing we could do was to sell our choir robes – in excellent condition. An ad was placed in The Advocate in December offering them for sale to help defray expenses of repairing the windows.
That ad touched the heart of Buncombe member Jim Doolittle who responded to it. I was so excited – the first call and someone apparently wanted to purchase our choir robes. But Jim did not want the robes. He told me to keep them. However, Jim explained that he was inspired by this ad and wanted to help New Hope.
Over the past six months, Jim and others have traveled from Greenville to Rowesville on two occasions, meeting with members of our congregation, inspecting the windows, and conferring with us. There have been phone calls, emails, texts, and snail mail between Jim and several members of New Hope. A loving, caring relationship has developed between the two churches and members.
Through the efforts of Jim and others at Buncombe we received financial support for the windows project, now completed. But the story does not end with financial support. Buncombe has the talent to assist us in other areas as well - a large urban church assisting a small-rural church. This is Christianity in Action!
Christians are adopted by our Lord God, as stated in Romans 8:14b – 17 with these words: because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by Him we cry, "Abba, Father." The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His suffering in order that we may also share in His glory. We are all adopted into the sonship with our Lord and Savior.
We will worship together as Christians in praise, prayer, song and fellowship on July 31st. You are cordially invited to join us on this most auspicious occasion. We need a close count by Monday, July 20th for our caterer. If you plan to join us, please contact Pastor Sandra or any member of New Hope UMC.
May God Bless You!