When we gather to worship we come before that which is greater than ourselves, God. As we worship, what do we hope might possibly happen? William Boyd Carpenter’s poem, Before The Throne, expresses in a beautiful way what could and perhaps should be meaningful aspects of our own coming before God to worship.
Before Thy throne, O God, we kneel;
Give us a conscience quick to feel,
A ready mind to understand
The meaning of Thy chastening hand;
Whate’er the pain and shame may be,
Bring us, O Father, nearer Thee.
Search out our hearts and make us true,
Wishful to give to all their due;
From love of pleasure, lust of gold,
From sins which make the heart grow cold,
Wean us and train us with Thy rod;
Teach us to know our faults, O God.
For sins of heedless word and deed,
For pride ambitious to succeed;
For crafty trade and subtle snare
To catch the simple unaware;
For lives bereft of purpose high,
Forgive, forgive, O Lord, we cry.
Let the fierce fires, which burn and try,
Our inmost spirits purify;
Consume the ill; purge out the shame;
O God! be with us in the flame;
A newborn people may we rise,
More pure, more true, more nobly wise.
Advent is a great time to recommit ourselves to the transforming power of worship!
– Doug Fairbanks
Published on Friday, December 15, 2017 @ 9:27 AM EDT
In a book entitled “Journey In the Wilderness” by Rev. Gil Rendle there are three questions that resonate with me now and have done so, in several ways, throughout my ministry in The United Methodist Church. The following questions are identified as “formation questions” by Rendle. He uses them in the context of empowering churches to do great things for the Kingdom. I also believe that they are good questions for any who follow Christ to prayerfully reflect upon as one walks with Christ throughout one’s life in Christ. So, here they are:
1. Who are we? Rendle says this is “the identity question.” This is a good question for the church to be asking of itself. And, it is a good question for you and me to be asking of ourselves in the context of our relationship with Christ.
2. What has God called us to do or to be? He refers to this as “the purpose question.” Certainly this is a great question for the church to be reflecting upon in a prayerful manner. Also, it is a fantastic question for you and me to be asking of ourselves, once again, as it relates to our relationship with Christ.
3. Who is our neighbor? Rendle defines this as “the context question.” Another good question for us to ask of ourselves as it speaks to us directly concerning with whom we understand we are to share our faith in Christ.
May such questions and others similar to these help us all prayerfully reflect upon our journey with Christ.
– Doug Fairbanks
Published on Monday, December 4, 2017 @ 12:47 PM EDT
I have shared the following quote from the late Albert Schweitzer with you before, but, it is so very appropriate for this time in our church year, I want to share it with you once again. At the end of his book, “The Quest For The Historical Jesus” he wrote the following:
“He comes to us as One unknown, without a name, as of old, by the lakeside, He came to those men who knew Him not. He speaks to us the same words: ‘Follow thou me!’ and sets us to the tasks which He has to fulfill for our time. He commands. And to those who obey Him, whether they be wise or simple, He will reveal himself in the toils, the conflicts, the sufferings which they shall pass through in His fellowship, and, as an ineffable mystery, they shall learn in their own experience Who He is.”
There are a variety of ways provided for us to respond to those powerful and meaningful words of Jesus. Yet, it is good for us to be reminded that we do so in very real terms when we worship, pray, serve, witness and give of our means at and through First-Centenary. May we all be in prayerful preparation to respond on November 19 and beyond to Jesus’ call to us to follow him by way of our FOLLOW ME commitments.
We are blessed and we continue through Christ and this great church to bless others because of your marvelous generosity. Thanks be to God!
– Doug Fairbanks
Published on Thursday, November 16, 2017 @ 3:49 PM EDT
One morning, a parishioner of mine in Statesville, North Carolina relayed to me that she had stopped by the local Hardees for a sausage biscuit. She went by the drive-thru window and struck up a conversation with the person handing her the biscuit. The conversation basically centered around the fact that the parishioner was on her way to church. The drive-thru attendant said that she would like to go to church but that she could not give any money. The parishioner told her that she did not have to give and should come to church anyway.
At first glance, that seems like a neat thing to say to anyone who might use such a reason for not attending church. At second glance, I beg to differ. There are times when some folk may believe that they cannot contribute of their means, but, that is incorrect. I believe everybody can give something. I also believe that everybody ought to give something. The act of giving is an expression of thanksgiving to and trust in God. And, we are blessed more than we could ever expect through the act of giving. It is not the amount, although our standard is 10% or giving at a proportionate rate in line with how much we believe God has blessed us and how much God will bless this church and the community because of our giving.
Nevertheless, back to my point, everybody can give something. If unable to tithe, then begin with 1% and grow from there. If 1% is not doable at this point, then give any amount. This act will only bless you, the church and the community, even the world.
Certainly, this is something between God and ourselves. However, let it not be lost on us how important, meaningful and enriching living out this very important spiritual discipline is. I am not saying that people should not come to church because they cannot give. Yet, I am saying that people can give whatever they have to give and be blessed. At Mustard Tree/Breakthrough Worship each Sunday evening, offering plates are passed to all in attendance. When the plates are received from the homeless, street persons, and others something is always in the plate. In the end, our giving is an expression of the quality of our obedience, hope and trust in God in Christ.
– Doug Fairbanks
Published on Wednesday, November 8, 2017 @ 3:21 PM EDT
The late Rev. Dr. Peter Gomes stated the following in a sermon entitled Friendships and Relationships which was based on Ecclesiastes 6: 16-17 “A faithful friend is an elixir of life, found only by those who fear the Lord. The man who fears the Lord keeps his friendships in repair, for he treats
his neighbors as himself.”
“Most of us spend most of our time sorting out our personal lives, our little trials, sagas, victories, and defeats. At the end of the day we tote up our score, not for or against the great social or intellectual systems of the world, but in terms of how we stand with the people we value, and perhaps even love. It is easy for religion to pronounce upon the great affairs and events of our time; it can and must do so, but a heavenly religion that cannot help us sort out our daily dose of human experience is of no earthly good.
“The first gift given to us at creation is the gift of companionship: ‘It is not good that man should be alone,’ says God before he provides Adam with Eve. The motivation is charitable. He does not say that it is not practical or convenient for man to be alone. He says, simply, that it is not good, and he proceeds to remedy the matter and provide for the first relationship, the essence of which is companionship each for the other.
“Adam’s need is our need: perhaps we inherited it from him. ‘We need to find ourselves somehow connected to someone other than ourselves.”
Just thinking, it might help our world if more of us went about trying to “find ourselves somehow connected to someone other than ourselves” and someone different than ourselves?
– Doug Fairbanks
Published on Wednesday, October 11, 2017 @ 8:49 AM EDT