Monday, August 31, 2015

Sunday, August 30, 2015

English Ministry News and Notes 2015-8-30

  • Devotions with Upper Room - Are you looking for a simple and sweet devotional aid? You are invited to order The Upper Room, a daily devotional that provides scripture, readings, and a prayer for your time with God. An annual subscription is just $6. Please see Frances to sign up!
  • Great Thanks for the wonderful teamwork on Street Fest Outreach Sunday. We welcomed many children and their families with lots of smiles all around. Let's pray that God will continue to give us opportunities to sow seeds.
  • Kicking Off A New Season - We will begin a new season of learning together on Sunday, Sept. 13th. On this day, we will "re-start" our children's and adult Sunday Schools. You are encouraged to take part each Sunday beginning at 9:30a.m. in the Annex.
  • CCUMC Polo's For Sale - we will be ordering more polo's soon. If you'd like to order one, please connect with Ben Wong ($15 each).
  • Prayer Invite - This past Wednesday, Aeri headed for Uganda. She will be there for the next month+ teaching at the Reformed Theological College in Kampala as well as spending a week visiting with YCVM/KCVS. Please hold her, her health, and her ministry in prayer.

Listening Ears, Tracy Allread

Today, we begin a 5 week series studying the letter of James. You are invited to read the whole letter through (it’s short!) as well as study each week’s focus passage. May our faith expand, grow, and be put into action through the series!
We spend a lot of time in our family discussing good listening skills. You see, we have a 3-year-old daughter who is a regular chatterbox. She talks from the time she gets up until she goes to bed. Her oral skills are marvelous, but her listening skills sometimes leave something to be desired. And so we spend a lot of time talking about “listening ears” and reminding one another to use them. The thing about listening is that it is not a simple skill. Sometimes it is possible to listen but not really hear what someone is saying. The book of James addresses the idea that fully living the Christian life requires action. Actively living the Christian life requires listening and understanding. Our passage today specifically addresses this issue and sets the framework for the rest of James’s theological perspective.
The 1st chapter of James begins like many early Christian epistles. James encourages the believers to stand firm amid persecution. This is a common theme as many 1st-century Christians experienced persecution firsthand. The balance of the chapter deals with the importance of really listening to the word. Verse 19 begins with an admonition to be quick to listen and slow to speak and to anger. There is perhaps no wiser practical verse in all scripture. The human tendency is to do just the opposite, it seems. Verse 22 continues with instruction not merely to listen but actually to do what the word says. “Doing” is an important concept in James. For James, listening and even knowing what is right is not enough. You must take your listening and knowing to the next step and do what is right. In verse 26, the writer again cautions against the dangers of the tongue. We do not know much about James’s situation or audience, but they must have been experiencing a reality that many churches experience. Outside persecution can threaten a body of believers, but inner strife, often caused by an untamed tongue, can damage the body.
What an important message for the church today! I have often thought that verse 19 should be etched above the doorway at the entryway to the sanctuary. There is not a better attitude for Christian living than that! Most church crises that I have observed or experienced have occurred because someone was talking much more than listening. There are several ways this is destructive to the fellowship. First, since it is impossible to talk and listen at the same time, if you spend all of your time talking then you probably will not hear God’s word for you. Talking busies our mind to the point that there is not much room for peaceful contemplation with the Lord. Talking can inhibit your relationship with Christ, which will in turn harm the fellowship of believers.
Second, talking can inhibit your relationship with other believers. No one wants to be in a relationship with someone who is not a good listener. When we fail to listen and do God’s word, we often fail to follow God’s important command to love one another in the way that Christ loved us. Third, a failure to control your tongue can harm your Christian witness. An effective witness is rarely one who says all the right things, but often one who listens and cares. A nonbeliever can actually be turned off to the gospel by one whose tongue is out of control and used to harm others. So, your unbridled tongue may even harm the growth of the fellowship.
The message of James for us personally is the same message that is preached in my home on a regular basis. Put on your listening ears! As believers we must be ready to listen and really hear God’s word. To really listen, we must learn to control our tongues. This is an important discipline of our faith. If we cannot gain control of something so small but powerful, we have little hope for a productive, full Christian life. There is a second important part of this message. “Listening ears” are not enough. If we listen to the word, but do not do what it says, then we wasted our listening. As a believer you can listen and know the right way but not follow through, which is as good as not knowing at all. We must act on the word, and put our calling as Christians in motion. Listen and do!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Sunday, August 16, 2015

English Ministry News and Notes 2015-8-16

  • We Celebrate Another Wonderful Summer of HC Club Ministry and Adventures in Faith!  Great thanks to our fantastic and faithful team of staff and volunteers!  Please be sure to greet and thank our AiF sharers from worship today.  You are encouraged to hold the new year of HC Club in prayer.
  • Street Fest Outreach Challenge: Next Sunday, we are set to open our doors and welcome children and their families in.  It's our attempt to be faithful in responding to this opportunity through Street Fest. Your presence makes an important difference to our outreach efforts and commitment.  We can't do it without you.  So...Sign up today!  We are aiming for a minimum of 24 volunteers to make this a "go!"  Thank you!
  • Street Fest Sunday Worship: Please remember our joint time of praise, prayer, and meditation next Sunday, Aug. 23rd, begins at 9:30 a.m.  
  • Adult Christian Ed Survey - Please be sure to return these today.  You can do so in person or online to Charlie or Pastor Emily.

Final Installment on Ephesians: Week 6 [Ephesians 5:15-20]

The following introduction and invitation to reflect comes from You are encouraged to meditate and pray with this week’s lectionary text throughout the coming week.

This week’s reading from Ephesians continues the theme of transformation—personal, congregational, and network-wide—of last week’s reading.

Today, Paul gives us another frame to understand why these transformations are so important for us. They are about ensuring we can “live not as unwise people, but as wise.”

Last week, we explored one set of corporate practices essential in our transformation: small groups that hold us accountable and support the changes we need to make so God’s Spirit can transform us.
This week, Paul gives us another set of corporate practices he sees as means of grace by which we can receive and grow in such wisdom: congregational singing of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, and congregational and personal practices of thanksgiving.

Holy solitaries” is a phrase no more consistent with the gospel than holy adulterers. The gospel of Christ knows of no religion but social; no holiness but social holiness (”from the preface to the 1739 collection, Hymns and Sacred Poems)

This is also why these collections of hymns were made to be sung not merely at meetings—whether of the society as a whole, or in the class meetings, but also as part of the daily practice of each individual Methodist, wherever they would go. The form of the hymnals as books was of such a size as to fit in a pocket so that more and more these psalms and hymns and spiritual songs could become the “playlist” of each Methodist, and the collection as a whole their “iPod.”

The primary means by which Christians offer their thanksgiving to God together (Ephesians 5:20) is the Great Thanksgiving. This is why Christians have gathered at least weekly for most of the history of the church, East and West, not only to hear the word and sing hymns of praise, but also to celebrate at the Table of the Lord.

Wisdom from psalms, hymns, spiritual songs and thanksgiving? Really? Really! We learn what we sing more profoundly and more permanently than what we say or hear. And when we express gratitude together, we are enabled to overcome and begin to rewire our brains away from their inherent focus on ourselves individually and what’s wrong, a pessimism that leads to paralysis, and are enabled to imagine and bring about more of what’s good for all.

Isn’t that exactly Paul’s point? We move away drunkenness, a self-indulgent and negative behavior (5:18). And instead, we embrace personal and corporate practices that redound to wisdom, goodness and joy, with psalms, hymns, spiritual songs, and acts of thanksgiving.


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Sunday, August 9, 2015

English Ministry News and Notes 2015-8-9

*Great thanks to all those who pitched in and helped spruce up the church last Sunday! Did you notice how bright our gate plaques are?!

*Please Stay! Cyrus will share a more in depth mission trip report back of his time in China during fellowship following worship. You are invited and encouraged to join in over refreshments.

*God Loves Children! Do We? We have been faithfully scattering seeds of faith among the Homework Club children for five+ years, and now there is a stirring to do more and go further. If you feel called and moved to help pray for and discern how we might do just that, please meet with us on Tuesday, August 11th at 11AM.

*We have new refrigerators! Great thanks to the BOAT "Fridge Task Force" of Arlene, Steve, and Laura for researching, recommending, then purchasing our 2 new fridges. New guidelines for usage will soon be shared.

*Street Fest Outreach Sunday is here! In just 2 weeks (Aug. 23rd) we will invite in the many children and family visiting Chinatown for Street Fest. Special thanks to planners: Michelle, Katty, Peggy, and Pastor Meina. A sign up sheet will be circulating today so that you can indicate your willingness to donate snacks and participate through your presence. You make all the difference! Worship will begin jointly at 9:30 a.m. in the sanctuary.

Continuing in Ephesians: Week 5 [Ephesians 4:25-5:2]

The following introduction and invitation to reflect comes from You are encouraged to meditate and pray with this week’s lectionary text throughout the coming week.
Ephesians this week focuses on the personal transformation of individuals and systemic transformation across congregations and networks.

These transformations included moving away from lying to truth-telling for the sake of the whole body, using anger as an occasion to seek reconciliation quickly (vs 25-27), moving former thieves into hands on community service with the poor (vs 28), talking together in ways that were never to be destructive of others, but always about building up the whole body and blessing all who hear or overhear (vs 29). This last transformation meant putting an end to all conversation that is filled with bitterness, rage, uncontrolled anger, fighting for the sake of fighting, slander of others or malice. Instead, the conversations must be driven by kindness, compassion, and mutual forgiveness (vs 31-32).

All of these are not just individual changes, but cultural ones. And all of them are necessary if we are to be imitators of God, walking in love as Christ has loved us and gave himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God (5:1-2).

Cultural shifts and transformation is difficult to live out and sustain if not supported. Paul envisions the congregations and their larger network working together in some way to provide the support needed to live into this vision of sanctified life in Christ.

In short, helping these transformations happen for more people requires a process of accountability for individuals and congregations alike.

Such accountability was the heart of the General Rules of the United Societies, the “large-group” ministries formed by John and Charles Wesley. The first two of these rules— “Do no harm” and “Do good” — each including specific lists of behaviors, were guidance for concrete practices to help people enact the baptismal covenant of the day and as ways of making these verses from Ephesians 5 come to life for people.

A key learning in early Methodism, though, was that having these rules as lists – not unlike Paul’s list in Ephesians 5 - makes almost no difference in the lives of individuals or wider systems. You could recite the rules, memorize them, hold them up as ideals for all in a larger group to follow, and next to nothing would change. Indeed, during the first year or so of the Methodist societies, Wesley and others noted how people were floundering more than growing, and the societies themselves were in some financial crisis. The large group couldn’t and didn’t help people live accountably. It would take a smaller, face-to-face group, to do that. The class meetings that began as a means to collect funds for the societies soon became the needed small groups where people could give weekly accounts of how they were (or were not) living out the General Rules, and each person could offer support to the others to do so better.

Class meetings were already on the wane by the 1830s in “white” American Methodist denominations, though they continued strong among African-American Methodist denominations. In General Conferences in 1848, the divided white Methodists, North and South, made participation in class meetings essentially optional for church membership, and by the early twentieth century, the class meetings themselves were considered optional as a ministry for congregations to offer.

There are ways to reclaim a positive practice of accountable discipleship so individuals, congregations and networks of congregations can enable the kinds of transformation Paul describes to be lived reality for more people. Covenant Discipleship is one of these ways. The Covenant Discipleship website provides much guidance on ways we can recapture the core practices of accountable discipleship and thereby develop leaders who will live as and make disciples of Jesus Christ who are being transformed by God's grace and power.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Worship Videos 2015-8-2

Chinese Choir

Chinese Sermon

English Sermon

English Ministry News and Notes 2015-8-2

  • Are You In? There are 23 days left to the 30 day prayer invite/challenge. You are urged and encouraged to join in (if you haven't already), or keep on. Let's lift up, surround, and soak CCUMC with our prayers! To learn more, connect with Pastor Emily.
  • Impromptu Work Day Today! You are warmly invited to lend a hand today after worship to ready the church to host a wedding in 2 weeks. Please connect with Al for specifics.
  • Mission Trip Sharing: Cyrus will be sharing highlights and stories from his recent mission trip to China next Sunday, Aug. 9th, during Mission Moments (short version) and over fellowship (longer version). Please plan to stay and be a part of it!
  • Sharing Hospitality: The hospitality calendar is WIDE open for the next stretch! You are invited to pitch in - by yourself or with friends - and provide simple refreshments for our time of fellowship. The sign up calendar is located near the refreshment table. Thank you!
  • God Loves Children! Do We? We have been faithfully scattering seeds of faith among the Homework Club children for five+ years, and now there is a stirring to do more and go further. If you feel called and moved to help pray for and discern how we might do just that, please connect with Becky or Pastor Emily.

Continuing in Ephesians: Week 4 [Ephesians 4:1-16]

The following introduction and invitation to reflect comes from You are encouraged to meditate and pray with this week’s lectionary text throughout the coming week.
“One body, one Spirit, one hope of calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all”—that’s seven “ones” in a very short space. Combine that with Paul’s calling upon the people “to walk worthy of the calling by which they had been called, being zealous to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond-chains of peace,” and what is conveyed is a sense of urgency about the teaching and the practices he is about to offer here. It is certainly possible the communities that made up the “Ephesian circuit” did have it all together, or mostly so, and Paul was simply urging them to keep it up. But the strength of this rhetoric at least suggests Paul may have been concerned that some of them may not.
Paul offers two watchwords here for those seeking to embody the oneness that God establishes in the church: “walk worthy” of your calling in Christ Jesus, and “keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond-chains of peace.”
Very often, groups seeking to build community or improve partnerships aim and settle for everyone getting along and no one’s feelings getting hurt. That, however, turns out to be a great recipe for miscommunication and dysfunction, not healthy community! Paul sets a much higher bar. Our unity isn’t forged in our feelings. It is forged by the Holy Spirit and bound together by the peace of Christ. Peace (Shalom) in the Bible doesn’t mean simply a lack of conflict. Instead, it always points to the abiding presence of health and wholeness even in differences and conflict.
Paul goes on to enumerate the many ways we are empowered to keep the unity of the Spirit within and across our congregations. In verses 4-6, he lists multiple ways God has laid the foundations for our unity.
The work of the Spirit moving among us continues to empower our unity and peace through the diversity of people and gifts the Spirit gives us—apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers. While other “gift-lists” are more expansive (see Romans 12 & I Corinthians 12), these five seem to include the key roles necessary for the growth and multiplication of Christian communities, almost wherever they are.
And note that Paul does not say all five gifts are present in the pastor, or in any one person. Quite the opposite! The people are the gifts! Some are apostles. Some are prophets. Some are evangelists. Some are shepherds. Some are teachers. Persons exercising these gifts in the community equip the followers of Jesus for their hands-on ministries and build up the body of Christ. Building up the body does necessarily mean making the congregation or the network larger. It means helping the congregation or the network of whatever size to function with the unity and integrity of one body.
Further, these five kinds of gifted people and their differing roles offer these two key functions (equipping the saints and building the body) toward particular goals—unity in faith (which does not mean merely uniformity in beliefs), unity in knowing Jesus (which includes following his direction), and, ultimately, maturity “into the full stature of Christ” (as we Wesleyan Christians would say, “Christian perfection.”) In short, the goal of all of these roles is to make us all, with our varying gifts and roles, as competent in fulfilling and witnessing to God’s reign in our lives as Jesus was in his.
Finally, this goal was intended to be achieved by all persons in these communities, not just a select few (verse 13). That’s why Paul is adamant in the verses that follow that not achieving this goal it is not an option. “That’s why we must no longer be infants, tossed about and carried along by every passing fad of teaching, the trickery of people and their skill in methods of deception; instead, we are [all] to grow up by all means into Christ, the head.” Perpetual growth (growing in holiness toward perfection in love in this life) is to be the normal mode of Christian life, not the exception. Full maturity (perfection) in Christ in this life is its expected and achievable end.