It’s About Love, Not Survival

The trend is hardly even news any more — despite the growth in population in the United States, the number of Christians in America continues to decline. According to the Pew Research Center’s newest report, the United States is a significantly less Christian country than it was seven years ago.
 
The Pew survey shows dramatic shifts as large numbers of people leave major denominations, including the United Methodist Church.
 
In a similar study, the General Social Survey (GSS), reports that while about 30 percent of Americans identified themselves as “Protestant” in 1972, that number is only 15 percent today. In other words, based on the GSS, main-line Protestant churches lost half their people over the last 40 years.

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Hatred, Love and Easter

The world was shocked, once again, by an overwhelming display of hatred on March 15, in Christchurch, New Zealand, as a white supremacist live-streamed the killing of 50 people gathered for prayer at the Al Noor Mosque and the Linwood Islamic Centre. An additional 50 people were injured.
 
A 28-year-old Australian man, described in media reports as part of the “alt-right”, was arrested and charged with murder. The attacks have been linked to an increase in white supremacism and alt-right extremism globally. The suspect published a manifesto and live-streamed the first attack on Facebook Live. It is the deadliest mass shooting in modern New Zealand history.
 
The U.S. has seen a rise in violence by white supremacists, including the murders of 11 people at a Pittsburgh Synagogue last fall. There was also a deadly clash at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017, the murders of nine people at a church in Charleston in 2015 and the deaths of six at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin in 2012.
 
This doesn’t even count the other mass shootings: Aurora, IL, February 15, 2019, 6 dead; Mercy Hospital, Chicago, November 19, 2018, 4 dead; Thousand Oaks, CA, November 7, 2018, 13 dead; Stoneman Douglas HS, Parkland Florida, February 14, 2018, 17 dead. The list goes on, there were 323 mass shootings in the US in 2018.
 
We live in a world of brokenness and sin; a world where hatred breeds hatred and violence breeds violence.
 
And yet, this is the world into which Jesus came. Jesus came to this world to “put flesh” on the love of God. He came to bring healing to our brokenness, to overcome hatred with love. And for his efforts, Jesus was crucified between two thieves.
 
As harsh as that is, we know that it is not the end of the story. We know that even death could not stop Jesus’ love. Because of Easter, we know that love has the power to overcome hatred. Because of Easter, we know that God offers a forgiveness that overwhelms judgment.
 
Each year, we travel through Good Friday to get to Easter. The crucifixion and resurrection remind us that while our world is still broken, God’s agenda is reconciliation. We are forgiven; we can forgive. We are loved; we can love.
 
To live as Easter people is to live with love as our guide. To live as Easter people is to respond to hatred with love. To live as Easter people is to love so fully and completely that we overwhelm hate. Love is not weakness. Love is stronger than hate, if we choose to truly love. Love can turn an angry young boy into a faithful follower of Christ.
 
Please join us as we make this journey to Easter:
–  Palm Sunday, April 14, at 9:30 and 11 am: We will remember Jesus’ triumphant entry in to Jerusalem with the waving of palm branches.
–  Good Friday, April 19, at 7 pm: We will remember Jesus’ sacrifice for us, share in the Lord’s Supper, and be led      in worship by the Chancel Choir singing Gabriel Faure’s Requiem.
–  Easter Sunday, April 21, at 9:30 and 11 am: We will celebrate the message that love overcomes hate.
 
Easter gives us the power to bring healing to the brokenness we encounter, even within our own lives.
 
–Jay

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Time to Rethink Lent

 
Christians need to re-think Lent. To most people, all this talk about self-denial and fasting is like the talking about astrophysics or nanotechnology. It makes sense to some people, but most people just politely nod their heads and then live their lives as they had before.
 
 
 

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Beyond Cards and Chocolates

Ah, love is in the air! Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, a day for romance and lovers. Or is it? Would the real Valentine (yes, he was a real person, not a cherub who shot arrows) even recognize our February 14 celebration?

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Whose Birthday Is It, Anyway?

The sales have already started! Last year, Black Friday crept into Black Thursday. This year, Christmas “Black Friday” sales started in October! The advertisers’ job is to tell us what we need. We “need” that new technology. We “need” that new toy or that new outfit. It just won’t be Christmas if that one special item isn’t under the tree!

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Called To Do Great Things

Nearly every day at UMCL I hear the story of someone whose life has been touched by the various ministries of this congregation. Whether it is a teen struggling with questions of faith, or a young adult looking for community, or a family needing winter coats for their kids, each story portrays a way that this congregation is “Jesus with skin on.”

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