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Monday, October 29, 2012

Transformed Living: Cheerful Giving and Service Pt. 2


Listen to the full audio here!

MP3 File

Although I should be writing my sermon for this upcoming Sunday, I wanted to share a theme from Dr. Daniel's sermon that got me thinking. I think we might all agree that God is a "bounteous God" as Dr. Daniel said, but I don't think we'd all agree that we live like that's true. I know I'm as guilty as anyone else, but why? Why do we feel like we need to hoard our money, our, time, our talents? If you've seen the TV show Hoarders, you know how destructive that can be. But a lot of times it's our gut reaction, it's what comes most natural. 

I have to admit that when I first started working with The Night Ministry in Chicago (an organization that works with homeless individuals among other things), I was annoyed with some of the visitors' behaviors. They would ask for more food, more health kits, make a fuss when I couldn't give them what they wanted, fight with each other over preferred items and generally try to manipulate whatever system we thought we had set up. I feel bad now, but I couldn't understand why they were so "ungrateful," "greedy" and "manipulative." Thankfully God opened up my eyes to another perspective that changed my attitude towards the visitors at The Night Ministry and gave me greater insight into these "annoying" behaviors. 

Unfortunately these visitors had been living in a culture of scarcity. A culture where there is never enough, where you have to fight hard to have your basic needs met, where being polite and generous leaves you starving, cold and taken advantage of, where you take as much as you can because you have no idea when you're going to have another chance. This culture taught them that these behaviors, that I so quickly judged, are the only way to survive. There is no room for giving to others without being sure exactly what it'll get you in a culture of scarcity. There is no trust or guarantee that you will be cared for if you don't look out for yourself first in a culture of scarcity. Vulnerability is dangerous. Generosity is dangerous. Sharing is dangerous. 

What Dr. Daniel was talking about is the opposite of a culture of scarcity, it's a culture of abundance. A culture where there is always MORE than enough, where you don't worry about your basic needs being met, where giving and sharing and loving only enhances your life, where you take what you need and freely give the rest away, knowing that there is always more where that came from. This culture teaches us that generosity and selflessness are the only ways to truly live. There is always room for giving without any expectations of reciprocity in a culture of abundance. You can trust that you will always be cared for in a culture of abundance. Vulnerability is a joy. Generosity is a joy. Sharing is a joy. Sounds great huh? Kind of like the KINGDOM OF GOD.

And while I would bet that most of us do not live the lives that my friends at The Night Ministry do, I would venture to guess that we live much more out a culture of scarcity rather than abundance. We think, with the best of intentions, that "If I give this extra money to the church, or to a charity or to my neighbor who's really struggling, and something happens to my car/house/dog/manicure, I'd be in so much trouble. It's really more responsible for me to hoard save this money for myself, for later, in case something bad happens to me." Now I made that sound a lot worse when you just read it, because when we say it in our head it sounds a lot more like financial responsibility. And there's great value in financial responsibility, but not when it's a substitute for trusting God. 

I don't know where you're living on the scarcity/abundance spectrum today, but I'd imagine there  are days when living in a culture of scarcity is much more appealing because we have more control, or because it's just too risky to trust God this time. This is where we have to examine our hearts, where we have to ask God to teach us how to live out of abundance. Because we can give our 10% and we can volunteer every night of the week, but if we're still living in a culture of scarcity, those things don't bring you joy, they don't bring you peace and it teaches you that everything you've learned about living in a culture of scarcity just might be right. I hesitate to put words in God's mouth, but I'm guessing God would say "that's not the point my child." (when I guess what God would say it often ends with "my child")

So what do we do about this? How do we consciously reject our tendency to live in scarcity? Try it out, trust God, give generously, intentionally stop the voice of scarcity in you head and listen for God (remember is usually ends with "my child"). I'm not saying that it's easy and I'm not saying that it comes naturally for us all, but I am saying that it's worth it. I am saying that this is how God wants us to live and I am saying that God will be there with you. 

I'm happy to continue this conversation with you via email, but I pray that God's true words speak to your heart and lead you to a life of abundance. 

Jen Hibben, Associate Pastor

Transformed Living: Cheerful Giving and Service Pt. 1

Listen to the sermon here: 

MP3 File

Transformed Life: Cheerful Giving and Service, from 2 Corinthians 9:6-11, was the sermon today. I love how God speaks through our pastor, Dr. Daniel. This scripture lesson reveals good news about God and how God blesses us beyond measure.  The Apostle Paul wrote, "The point is this: he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." We often view the law of sowing and reaping in a negative light, but that's not necessarily how God intended it because there's a positive -- sow kindness or sow love and reap kindness or reap love. So one thing Paul is saying is that there is a law of bounty at work in the world. Secondly, we can learn that cheerful givers are cheerful because God is a bounteous and giving God by nature. Consider John 3:16. With God, the problem is not on the supply end!  If a person had 1,000 gallons of water, for example, to give someone else who had only a one gallon vessel to receive it, how would the 1,000 gallons be given?  So it is with God who has so much more to give than we can contain.  Thirdly, cheerful givers are cheerful because God has made them a promise: "He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your resources and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way for great generosity, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God." Can you imagine if we, as God's church, did all we could, how great God's impact through us could be in our community? How is God calling you to transform your life by being a cheerful giver?  Before we can reap, we must sow. Before we enjoy God's blessings we perform faithful obedience. Before we experience a blessing, we bless others. Thanks be to God. Stewardship is not just about financials -- it's about prayer, presence, gifts, service and witness.  Whenever and whatever we sow, we get to reap!

Gene Kelsey, Director of Christian Education

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Make a Bed - Keep them Fed

October 17, 2012 – WDMUMC UMY to Hope Ministries for “Make a Bed – Keep Them Fed”

Do you know what it feels like to go hungry? Would you know where to go for help? Would you feel scared, alone, embarrassed, or grateful and loved? These were some of our thoughts as over 20 youth and 6 adults went to the Bethel Mission in Des Moines on Wednesday, October 17th. The group participated in Make a Bed – Keep Them Fed at the Hope Ministries emergency shelter for homeless men. We brought food items for the Hope CafĂ© as well as new bedding and pillows. The youth were divided into four groups, which each group was assigned a bed number and provided the first name of the gentleman who would be sleeping there.  We removed the old bedding, put on the new sheets and pillows, put on a new quilt from another church group, and then folded them back to make the bed inviting. Following those tasks, we then wrote notes of encouragement to the men who would sleep in those beds that night and then the group prayed together for each man by name. Here are some of the thoughts shared by the youth following this eye-opening and touching experience.

  •  Jack – “We learned what it was like for people less fortunate than us. It felt good to give someone else hope. It was fun when we prayed as a group because all of us got to participate and add something to the prayer. I want to do this again.”
  • Charlie – “It was a learning experience to actually see how others may live. It gave me the opportunity to realize how special even one video game is when I see those who have no games.”
  • Bre – “I was surprised by the number of beds at the shelter. It was fun to write the encouraging card and hopefully helping them with encouragement and hope.”
  • Breanna – “It reminded me that we have so much more than we need. We get caught up in our everyday life that we forget about those with no food and no place to sleep. I am looking forward to help with other Hope Ministries needs and activities.”
  • Sidney – “It was fun but so sad to see all of the men who were there. I had not really thought about it that much, so it was surprising to see. It felt good to help them without even seeing them. It was an excellent experience!”
  • Nate – “It was eye-opening to see the number of homeless men. It was also great to see the number of people committed to helping other in a Christian manner. It felt good to help those less fortunate.”
  • Carson – “I would like some of my Christmas money to go to Hope Ministries.”

It was an amazing experience for all and made us all think of our many blessings. David Burrier from Hope Ministries reminded us of Mathew 25:35-40 – “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

Darin Woodwood, West Des Moines UMC member

Monday, October 22, 2012

Another Successful Fall Omelet Breakfast!

Two times a year, April and October, the Mits-Wits Adult Sunday School hosts an omelet breakfast for our Church.  This event has become legendary for delicious omelets, pancakes, waffles and biscuits & gravy.  Many have said that this is the best, most cost effective breakfast in town.  The breakfast staff works like a well-oiled machine, taking orders, preparing the meals and delivering them piping hot to your table. 

For as long as I can remember, Dick Warren has been the king of the omelet breakfast.  Planning, organizing and honing his team, bringing the Mits-Wits to the top of the fine art of breakfast.   On the day of the breakfast, you would expect the king of breakfast to be lording over his workers.  But not Dick, he takes the hottest, messiest, wettest job – washing dishes. 
Everyone pitches in to make the breakfast a success.  Whole families work to make the breakfast a memorable meal.  We have sons, daughters and grandchildren of members running orders, delivering meals and clearing tables.  The breakfast has become a family event.
Some years the earnings are up and some years they are down. This year we didn’t clear as much as we wanted.  Everything we earn goes directly to our Church.  The unprepared food is donated to Wednesday Night Live (a case of biscuits and a case of pasteurized eggs).  In the end, everyone wins.

See you in April for the Spring Omelet Breakfast.

Mike Plymale, Mits-Wits Member 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Transformed Living: Presence

October 14, 2012 Sermon at WDMUMC from Gene Kelsey our Director of Christian Education

MP3 File

Friday, October 12, 2012

Transformed Living: Prayer

A great adventure unfolds when we discover the freedom, promise, and rewards that
come with committing ourselves to a closer relationship with God through the treasures
of prayer, presence, gifts, and service -- the treasures of a transformed life. With that in
mind, West Des Moines United Methodist Church has made this the theme for our
stewardship campaign. This past Sunday, Pastor Jen spoke about the first treasure -- the
importance of prayer and standing in the gap. Ezekiel 22:30 gives us that thought as God
says, "I looked for anyone to repair the wall and stand in the gap for me on behalf of the
land, so I wouldn't have to destroy it. But I couldn't find anyone." Pastor Jen shared with
us that sometimes our view of prayer is too narrow. Prayer makes a difference. In the
scripture God is looking for someone -- anyone -- to stand in the gap for a city. But found
no one. What is prayer? It's a conversation with God. It's talking. And it's listening. Now
talking is easier, and we seem to be good at that. Whereas listening is harder; it's tiring;
and we're not so good at this. With listening there may be silence, and we're not
comfortable with that. It's hard. But it doesn't mean God isn't talking. Nor does it mean
we should stop trying to listen. If we want to be involved with what God is doing, we
need to listen to, and for, God. God wants us to stand in the gap. There's a concept called
social penetration theory. Part of it has to do with friends and self-disclosure. Not only
thoughts and ideas, but who we really are. As a conversation goes further, the more we
open up and share. One friend shares something about themselves and the other responds
with something about themselves at the same level. And through conversation with God
we learn more about God and we change. Prayer bridges the gap between today's reality
and the future we want or the way things need to be. We stand in the gap between now
and the future, between the rich and the poor, between hope and despair. Prayer is a
treasure to be valued. It's a discipline we need practice. Because God is looking for
someone like us to take a stand.

Gene Kelsey, Director of Christian Education 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Cut it Out

click here for a transcript of this week's sermon.

Last Sunday's sermon, "Cut It Out"  came from a difficult scripture passage -- Mark 9:38-50, in which Jesus offers some blunt teaching with gruesome imagery.   Pastor Jen Hibben captured and so effectively delivered the message Jesus wants all of us to hear.  It starts out with the disciples tattling on someone who is apparently and successfully throwing out demons in Jesus' name even though that person was not one of them.  We don't know the story of this person, or even his name.  Had he met Jesus?  Or was he just using the "magic" of Jesus' name?  What we do know is that he just wasn't part of the "in" crowd -- the disciples.  Were the disciples protecting Jesus?  Nevertheless, Jesus said, "Cut it out."  Acts of mercy and justice were being done!  The kingdom of God is here!  And this man was an example.  From there Jesus made it a teaching moment.  What was holding the disciples back?  Whatever it is, "Cut it out."  And as part of that teaching, He speaks about Hell, and then something different than what we think of as being the opposite.  We often think of Heaven.  But in this situation, Jesus was contrasting Hell with Life.  He said that if your hand, or your foot, or you eye offends , to cut it off or cut it out.  Not literally, though, because these body part do no operate independently of the heart.  The heart is what He was ultimately getting to.  And the surgical imagery of amputation implies how hard it is to change the heart.  It's not easy!  Sometimes there are bad habits or addictions that hold us back -- attachments that seem like they're actually part of us.  And they hold us back from Life.  Jesus came to give us abundant life.  And He comes with blunt instructions -- cut it out, whatever is holding us back.  And what we get is Jesus and real life!  

Gene Kelsey, Director of Christian Education