Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Freedom’s Eve

The founder of the Methodist movement, John Wesley and his brother Charles first called the people together for a Watch Night service on Christmas Eve in 1755. It was a time for the people called Methodists to rededicate themselves anew to God at the doorway of a new year. It was a time for the Covenant Prayer to be prayed by all:

I am no longer my own, but Thine,
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed by thee or laid aside for thee,
Exalted for thee or brought low by thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
Thou art mine, and I am Thine. So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
Let it be ratified in heaven. Amen (Book of Hymns #607)

Recently the Eastern Pennsylvania Annual Conference extended cabinet helped to serve lunch at the feeding program provided at Tindley Temple. Rev. Elaine Ayers, the pastor, explained to me the significance of the Watch Night service as it pertains to the African American community. On December 31, 1862 slaves all around the country gathered together in anticipation of the stroke of midnight when the Emancipation Proclamation would take effect and they would be legally free. On “Freedom’s Eve” they worshiped God and rededicated their lives to God as they moved into a new chapter of their life and history.

God is a God of new beginnings. God is always about the business of offering all of us “Freedom’s Eve.” Whatever is binding us does not need to hold us down if we are in Christ Jesus. I hope that everyone will take time, whether in church or with family and friends to observe a Watch Night time of worship on December 31st. Celebrate your freedom in Christ and rededicate all that you are and all that you have to God. Look forward to new avenues of service to God in the year to come.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


The word “believe” is seen on billboards and bumper-stickers. It is a slogan for city rejuvenation and youth empowerment. It is used in lyrics of old love songs (“Then I saw her face, now I’m a believer!). However, I believe it is best expressed in the meaning of a relationship between God and people. A teenage girl was visited by an angel long ago and told some pretty amazing news: “now you will conceive in your womb and bear a son and you will name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.” (Luke 1:31) Mary believed, even though she was a virgin, even though she was not married, even though she was poor and from a lowly family. When Mary visited Elizabeth, her aged cousin who was also pregnant with an unbelievable baby, she exclaims to Mary: “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.” (Luke 1:45)

Every day the good Lord makes promises to you and to me. Some of them are pretty unbelievable. God is always working for good, doing impossible things through unlikely people. Yet we humans tend to get fixated on the negative and won’t believe what God is promising to do, despite the evidence. Mary had many fine attributes but her greatest one was her ability to believe where she could not see. That is the meaning of faith. What is God promising to you that you will not believe? Put away doubt, fear, and cynicism and believe. A believing heart is precious to God, not only at Christmas but for all time.

Monday, December 13, 2010


Recently a pastor in one of our small town churches told me that they participate every year in a Christmas parade that marches down Main Street. Many years they have entered a float in the parade but this year they simply had a live donkey and a young woman dressed like the Virgin Mary carrying Baby Jesus. They walked along in the procession of colorful floats, marching bands and fire equipment. At the end of the event the parade judges awarded Mary, Jesus and the donkey first prize.

The celebration of Christmas with all of its material trappings, parties and food can occupy our attention and distract us from the real meaning of the season. I hope that Mary and Jesus will win first prize in your life this year and always. Jesus is walking with us in all of the parades of our life. He came to earth to be “God with us.”

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Prayers for North and South Korea

There are wars and rumors of war in every place on the globe. The recent conflict between North and South Korea brings to mind the Korean War and the threat of a new war there is yet another sobering reminder of the strife of human beings caused by sin. The affects of the Korean War (1950-1953) continue even today as North and South Korea are still divided, even after the end of the Cold War.

Bishop Jeremiah Park (the bishop of the NY Annual Conference), writes “Another war must never be repeated…as peace-loving people this is indeed the time to pray for God’s mercy, wisdom and guidance.”

During this time of Advent while we read the words of Isaiah that dream of a day when swords will become plowshares and spears are made into pruning hooks (Isaiah 2:4) let us renew our efforts not only to pray but to wage peace in this world. Wherever we are in the world we can be agents of peace by helping to bring reconciliation and forgiveness. Jesus is our “Prince of Peace” because he was willing to suffer and give his life for the cause of peace between God and people. Likewise, as his followers there is suffering involved in peace-making. Putting yourself in the middle of two warring factions is risky business. Do it anyway and in so doing you are ushering the day of the Lord and walking in the footsteps of the Lord.