Last Sunday, we talked about the vision for all of St. Luke’s family of ministries – St. Luke’s church, The Story Houston, Gethsemane, Nick Finnegan Counseling Center, St. Luke’s Day School and After School and Summer Camps, as well as Bridges Academy. We are all are striving for the vision of “A city transformed by the love of Jesus.” Each of those ministries has its own mission statement, all of which work to bring about our common vision. This is our north star, and it is the why we do what we do. This week, we will talk together about the mission of St. Luke’s church. What is it that we actually do as a church to bring about the vision? Our mission is to equip families and individuals to live and love like Jesus. By living and loving like Jesus, God will use us in the work to transform the city by that love. Come this Sunday and hear our message “The Jesus Movement” as we focus on our mission in our series called “A City Transformed.”
A PERSONAL PRAYER
Loving you seems easy. Your message of love is so attractive, so inspiring. You share good news of grace. You share a promise of peace. You spent your life healing the sick and feeding the hungry, forgiving the sinner and serving the lowly. You loved us so much you died on a cross to break down the barrier of sin between us and God. How can I not love someone like you?
Where I have trouble is when you ask me to move from loving you to following you. You have challenged me to do the same work you do, to be downwardly mobile rather than upwardly mobile, to forgive my neighbor over and over and over, to welcome the stranger, to visit the prisoner, to sell what I have and give the money to the poor and follow you. When the multitude came to hear you preach and were hungry, you said “you give them something to eat.” It is too much, God. The challenge is too radical. I feel a bit like the man who then “walked away sorrowful, because he had great possessions,” or like the fellow who said he couldn’t come to the banquet because he had a wife and oxen to deal with. Too often, I just give in and live like everyone else around me… fighting with my enemies rather than praying for them, striking back rather than turning the other cheek, and chasing “the good life” which is nowhere near as good as the abundant life you offer me.
And actually, I think really loving you is more than that feeling I have for you. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments…” (John 14:15)
So maybe, God, rather than turn away as I do so often, I can take a step in your direction. Rather than giving up or giving in, maybe I can move from following you at a distance, watching you love others, to following you more closely, living and loving like you do just a little bit more.
Help me, Lord. I want to live and love like you do. Amen.
SOME THOUGHTS TO SHARE
Beginning next Saturday, February 24, the General Conference of the United Methodist Church will gather in St. Louis, Missouri to consider issues around human sexuality, and specifically same-sex marriage and ordination. You may see stories in the media about the conference, and you may have already heard conversation about it on social media. You can read some information about that conference, and some of my thoughts on what is important for St. Luke’s as the broader church wrestles with this important issue here. This coming Sunday, we join in prayer for this meeting in our worship services.
What would you say to the people you love most if you knew you had but days to live? How would you sum up what you hope your life has taught them? I am so excited about our Scripture + Shared study and sermon series for Lent, 2019. The study and series title is “The Book of Glory,” which is what the second half of the Gospel of John is often called. It includes Jesus’ “last discourse,” his parting gift to his disciples. We have been recording eight video lessons in which Dr. Jaime Clark-Soles, New Testament professor at Perkins School of Theology at SMU, has conversations with me and some of our other pastors about these powerful chapters of Scripture, which lead up to the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. Now is the time to download the app, sign up for a Scripture + Shared study group or reach out to a friend to study these verses together. In addition to the video lessons, I will be preaching on these chapters, and there are daily readings to help you in your personal devotional time during Lent. The study begins the week of March 3. To register, visit www.stlukesmethodist.org/groupfinder or visit the Connection Center after the worship service.
Don’t forget 2019: the Year of Gratitude! This week, I received a number of notes of gratitude from you all. They encouraged me so much. I also wrote notes of gratitude to some folks. It is a marvelous discipline. Remember, the principle is that the practice of thanksgiving builds a heart of gratitude. We are challenging one another to write 365 thank you notes or other expressions of gratitude, one each day, offered for what someone has done or who they are. These expressions should be beyond expected common courtesy. If you haven’t started yet, start now, and just aim at one each day. If you quit, just come back and start again, and keep at it. Send me some of the thank you notes you have written to others so that we might use them to encourage one another.
Sunday, February 17
Lord of all, we struggle with the ways of the world and trying to make a name for ourselves, only to find that all we need is you. Set us free from what binds us and keeps us from you. Open our hearts and remove the things that hinder us so that your joy can fill us. Help us to live life so that we reflect your love. All honor and glory is yours. Amen.
Monday, February 18
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for walking with us each day. Guide us to share your love, compassion, and encouragement with all of your children. We are grateful for your love and support. Amen. -Prayer by Sherry Ritcheson, Church Council
Tuesday, February 19
Lord, I confess that I am afraid and discouraged. Scripture tells me to not be anxious about anything, but to present my requests to you. So, today, I pray my most fervent prayer request. Please take care of this request and give me your strength and courage. Thank you for being with me wherever I go. Amen.
Wednesday, February 20
Heavenly Creator, Help us to not be distracted by the things of the world so that we stay focused on you. Let us forget the mistakes that are behind us and strain toward what is ahead of us. Help us to work towards the goal and win the prize for which you have called us heavenward in Christ Jesus. Amen.
Thursday, February 21
Loving God, you have shown us the true meaning of unconditional love. Guide us to follow your loving ways. Help us to show love to our family members every day. Give us opportunities to perform acts of love for our friends. Let your love shine through us into small incidental moments we share with strangers. Help us to seek out and love those who are in need. Grow us so that your great love overflows into all that we do. Amen.
Friday, February 22
Dear Lord, as we embark on a new year full of goals, we pray that our “Year of Gratitude” transforms our church, church leaders, families, and community. Lord, we are so grateful for your love and grace that we ask you to guide us as we pass them on to those who impact our lives. Amen. -Prayer by Sam Autry, Church Council
Saturday, February 23
“I love you Lord, God, my strength.” Psalm 18:1 Thank you God for being my rock, in whom I take refuge. Thank you for protecting me and for saving me through your precious son, Jesus. “When the earth all around is sinking sand, on Christ the solid rock I stand, when I need a shelter, when I need a friend I go to the rock.” Amen. -Prayer by Karen McCarver