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“Leaving Behind the Past and Facing the Future with Ashes”

“At the heart of the Christian faith is our participation in the life, suffering, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ as Lord…. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we are delivered from sin and death, and by the Holy Spirit we are born into eternal life with God. This we confess; this we must renew continually in our worship and in our lives” (H. L. Hickman and et. al, The New Handbook of the Christian Year, 1992, p.105). As we enter with great expectation and anticipation the Lenten Season-beginning March 6, we are reminded of this statement: “This we must confess; this we must renew continually in our worship. Further, we are reminded of the early Christians observing with great devotion the days of our Lord’s passion and resurrection. This observance was enunciated clearly in the Book of Joel 2:12-18. This part of the Book of Joel is used as a text during what we call the: “Week of Ash Wednesday,” which is the beginning of the season of Lent. Prophet Joel’s invitation is clear: “Let you heart show your sorrow.” And to manifest what we are to observe this season of Lent, we incorporated in our Liturgical Celebration the use of ashes as a sign of mortality and repentance. In the Old Testament times, people used ashes in a variety of religious ways. For example, 2 Samuel 13:19 tells how a woman who had been raped sprinkled ashes on her head as a sign of grief. Jeremiah 6:26 tells how people rolled in ashes as a sign of mourning. And Job 42:6 mentions the custom of sprinkling ashes on oneself as a sign of repentance. Jesus referred to this latter practice in New Testament times. Speaking to some people, he said: “If the miracles which were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, the people there would have long ago put on sackcloth and sprinkled ashes on themselves, to show that they had turned from their sins!” (Matthew 11:21). Each year on Ash Wednesday, we mark our foreheads with ashes. We do this for two reasons. First, ashes are sign of repentance. They indicate that we are sorry for our sins and do penance for them during Lent. This explains why the minister may say, when he marks us with ashes, “Repent, and believe the gospel.” Second, ashes are sign of our mortality. They indicate that we will die someday. To understand this second sign, recall that right after Adam and Eve sinned, God said to them: “Because of what you have done… you (will) go back to the soil from which you were formed. You were...

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Thoughts…..

In this changing culture, living faithfully according to the will and instructions of God, is becoming challenging. Even with the promise of unity given by our bishops, still many believe that we are facing the most difficult task that is before us as a church. The question is, “Will God find us with unblemished faithfulness and unhesitating obedience in this time of difficult decision-process that will take on February 19 during the special General Conference? Will the United Methodist Church change its traditional understanding of marriage into what is evolving in our culture today? What future do we have as a church? Really, what future do we have? Yes, as a church, we live in a most difficult time. But if we have faith as small as mustard seed, we can take this crisis and make it as a defining moment of hearing and listening to what God is telling us. We need to ponder and reflect upon what God is trying to tell us and what we need to remember. FIRST, we need to stay focus with our faith in Jesus; we need to keep our faith alive and growing in times like this. Our faith in Jesus must empower us to seek to put our whole hope, trust and belief in no one person, but rather in Jesus whose transformative power, vision and communal transcendence not only alters social, economic and political realities, but touches the mind, heart, soul, strength and spirit of every person, community and being on this earth.” It is time for the Church to claim and make it alive what Paul has proclaimed to the Christians in Rome. “I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:1-2) We need to express more of our faith and obedience to the will of God. We need to love Him more through our neighbors. We need to get ourselves more involved and active in kingdom building, His work, ministry, and mission through the Church. We need to seize this opportunity to proclaim the Good News and to show great love and salvation to those who are in need. This crisis that we are facing as a church should reflect our desire and passion to be faithful to Jesus. It must be a time of learning lessons of faith in which our character as...

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2019….. A New Beginning

The new year offers opportunity for change. One of the most encouraging things about new years, new weeks and new days is the word “NEW.” It is the chance to “start over, refresh yourself, change directions, begin anew.” There are some things in our lives that we like to change, and desperately need to. But sometimes, we find ourselves like the flies placed in a glass jar with air hole in the lid. At the start, the flies would frantically bang into the lid trying to find freedom. But if left in the jar long enough, they’ll stop hitting the lid. The flies become so use to circling in the cramped jar that they continue to do so even if the lid is removed. The same thing happens to people battered and burdened by past experiences. They simply give up trying. As we begin this year, it is fitting to look at a man who made one of the most startling new beginnings in Scriptures. His name is Noah and his story is told in Gen. 6-9. Here was a man qualified by God to start again. In a world of unbelief (Luke 17:26-27) by walking with God and he found grace in the eyes of the Lord (Gen. 6:8-9). What can guarantee us change and not only wishful resolutions? Before you begin anew, determine where you are. It requires courage to admit where we are and to allow the Lord of beginnings to guide us and show us our heart. We need him for not all change is good. Consider how the pig rejoices that it is taken out of the pigpen and brought to the frying pan. The prophet Jeremiah asks, “can the Ethiopian change his skin or leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil? (Jer. 13:23). The passage shows how impossible it is for anyone to free oneself from the innate tendency to sin (Jer. 17:9; Rom. 3:23). When you think of new beginnings, leave something behind to move forward. To walk with God means to forget the past by no longer allowing it to hinder your coming closer to God. The Lord assures, “And their sins and iniquities I will remember no more” (Heb. 10:17). Not that God loses his memory, but Jesus already paid for the judgment of our sins. Once we accept God in our hearts and openly admit to Jesus our needs, God covers our sins with the blood of Jesus and He forgets. The change is so real that with His Spirit, we too can forget. Noah left whatever was against God’s will. If we really desire to live...

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The Human Heart

Advent is the one Liturgical Season which seems to have broad appeal. It is short, and the payoff is long on good feelings. After all, this is the “season of anticipating joy.” Even the dusting of snow and the cold wind are part of what makes this time so special. Our expectations are so high and everything, as we hope for, should join in the festivities of the season. We expect that the “message” we hear from the pulpit will add to our joyful expectations. However, there is a sobering tone which brings us back to the real meaning of this season-Preparation for the Coming of Jesus. The unknown author of Third Isaiah runs the full length and breadth of Human Heart. Israel returns from exile in Babylon. Their hopes were great, but the results were less than spectacular. They realized that human achievements are tainted by sin and always lack the perfection we too often proclaim. There is a limitation as to what humans can achieve, hope and build. Even our best intentions and greatest works leave us still looking for true and enduring peace and happiness. In many instances, we have become fearful of the works of our hands. We must admit that at times we are under threat of what we produce, achieve and discover. From the result of human work, of the work of human intellect and the tendencies of his or her will…human beings are living increasingly in fear. We are becoming afraid that what we are producing…can readily turn against us. With this human condition, the unknown author of Third Isaiah proclaims: never despair. There is always plenty of reason to HOPE. This hope does not come from further exploits in technology or economic stability and prosperity. The ultimate affliction of human heart must turn to God for reconciliation that brings peace and drives out fear. Consider Isaiah 64:8: “You are our Father; We are the clay, and You are the potter; And we are the work of Your hand.” It is so easy for us to be distracted and preoccupied with the things that pass, and to miss the time of God’s coming. Too often we are looking for all the right things in all the wrong places. Advent is time for us to focus our eyes, perk up our ears, and ready our hearts for the God who comes at the appointed time. If we are off busying ourselves with many things, we can easily miss the one thing that is required for our salvation. Part of being ready is the awareness of just how much we need God’s healing grace. Often the season of Advent...

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“Living in the Realm of Prayer”

“Living in the Realm of Prayer” Pray without ceasing….(I Thessalonians 5:17) Thanksgiving is just around the corner and this means that we will be busy planning for celebrations and family dinner. Not to mention about shopping. If there is one thing we need to do during this time of thanksgiving season, we need to pray.” We need to immerse ourselves in the realm of prayer. As Paul indicated in his Letter to the Christians in Thessalonica, “Pray without ceasing (I Thessalonians 5:17).    It is not enough for us to merely believe in God. We must cultivate and nurture a hunger that desire to hear from God, to know God and to capture His vision. Prayer is at the heart of this desire. John Wesley pointed out, “Prayer is the breath of our spiritual life. Without prayer, our life in God cannot continue.” He warns, “Nothing can be more plain than that the life of God in the soul does not continue, much less increase, unless we use all opportunities of communicating with God.” Wesley strongly believed that “the neglect of prayer” is the most important cause for Christians losing their faith. If I have one gift to give to our Church, I would offer the gift of prayer. Everything follows from prayer. Have you ever wondered why this is the first promise in our membership vows? I strongly believe that the question asked by John Wesley “How is it will your soul?,” at the beginning of the conduct of Annual Conferences, Class Meetings, Societies and Band Meetings is a question that inquires the hunger of the heart. It evaluates the state of your relationship with God and it is in the context of prayer because Wesley believed that everything follows from prayer. Same with our church! Anything happening to our church is attributed to prayer and everything that will happen to our church can be attributed to prayer. Pastor Kim, the pastor of Qumran Methodist Church-the seventh biggest single congregation of the whole world, is noted for his prayer life. Before he married his wife, Pastor Kim asked her four questions. FIRST, he asked her, “The church is in dire need of prayers. Would it be ok with you, if we just cancel our honeymoon and have an overnight time of prayers instead?” To this, his wife answered yes. So he asked his next question. “The church is so poor, it does not even have a bell what about not buying wedding rings for ourselves so that we could get a bell for the church again?” Again, she readily said yes. Then came the third question, “Also, an extravagant wedding is inappropriate at...

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