Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Get Ready to Meet God

The Advent Season is about getting ready to meet God. It reminds me of those signs that we used to see on the mountains when I was a boy. We’d be going up the Saluda Grade (NC). The curves were so sharp that we often got sick. Round and round we’d go and then up ahead we’d see something painted on the side of the mountain: “Get ready to meet God!” Well, I tell you I felt like I was going to meet God and soon. The First Sunday in Advent started this year with that marvelous Luke 21 and talk about the end of the age and the coming of the Son of Man in the clouds. We are warned to stay alert and wait and pray lest we miss the Messiah when he comes. I often wondered how anyone could miss him coming in the clouds, but… Then, the next couple of Sundays the Gospel takes out to the Jordan River where we meet that wild prophet of Israel, John the Baptist. Some scholars tell us that John was probably a member of the Essene community that had moved out to the desert, away from the evil city, to wait on the coming of the Messiah. He preaches a repentance for the forgiveness of sins. It sounds strange to us mainline, modern, Christians. Repentance is something that you hear revivalist preachers preach, not cultured uptown preachers like me. But, the Gospel for Advent, preparing us to meet God, takes us out to hear John. John says that a new world is coming so you’d better get washed up. Repent means to change your mind. The word in Hebrew means to turn around, to turn yourself. You’re walking away from God which we all tend to do, and repent means to turn around and go back toward God. No one is spared in John’s preaching, the religious, the rich, the average person. All are brought face to face with the reality of life without God. John was so impressive they wondered whether he was himself the Messiah. Some asked him: “What then should we do?” If the Kingdom is coming in Messiah, then what are we to do? Now, you might expect that he’d say something that sounds high-minded and thrilling like: “Go, save the world!” Or that one that we hear all the time around here: “Go change the world!” Instead John says: “If you have two coats, give one to someone who doesn’t have one. Don’t steal from anyone. Treat all fairly. Be content with your wages.” Just take care of the little things, the simple stuff, and you’ll get yourself ready. No grand sweeping requirements, just simple acts of human kindness. Jesus, the Messiah, will take care of the grand sweeping stuff. You do what you can where you are. This Season is about being alert to meet God. Last Sunday we met God in the Children singing and celebrating and sharing the story of the hymn “Silent Night”. Next Sunday, the pipe organ and the youth/adult choirs will give us the love of God. In our quiet services of vespers we meet God/Christ in Holy Communion. And, in the many acts of kindness that you will do for others: the angel tree, money for the poor. In all these things, keep alert, God/Christ is just around the corner. John the Baptist says: “Here’s Jesus.” In him, the kingdom of God is met. Blessings! Dave Nichols

Monday, December 3, 2012

A Passion to Give

I’m finally getting around to writing the last installment of my Discipleship Series ending, of course, with pledges toward the 2013 mission and ministry budget of the church. We United Methodists define discipleship as uphold the church and each other with our prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness. This is about gifts and giving. It’s appropriate, I guess, that I write about giving in this season of Advent/Christmas. More people give during this time of year than any other. During this season, even the hardest heart is softened to share and give to others who need. Our angel tree which bears cards for children’s gifts for Christmas is already empty. We are gathering supplies to make flood buckets for those affected by hurricane Sandy; others have already given money to this. Last week, our parking lot was full of people lined up to register for Goodfellows, which gives gifts of food to needy families. Monies are raised every year for this from the community of Spartanburg. Christians are by nature giving people. They give in many ways. They give their time, talents, and money to support the work of God’s kingdom. And, every year just before Thanksgiving we appeal to each other to pledge to the mission of the church for another year. This year as we approached giving and pledging toward the church’s budget, I said that I am not a fundraiser. When God called me to preach, he didn’t say anything about raising money. He never said anything to me about this time of year. All I heard was: “Follow me and preach the Gospel.” My calling is to preach the Gospel and then I rely on God and my congregation to do the rest. My wife and I give; we tithe. We lead by example. I don’t know what anybody gives to the church unless they want me to know. Some are not concerned about my knowing and will share it with me. I am grateful. However, if you don’t tell me, I don’t know. I could. As Senior pastor, I have every right to know, but I elect not to know. Charlie Graves, a former Senior pastor, whom I buried recently, had a great impact on Bethel and the Spartanburg community. He once said that he didn’t want to know so that he wouldn’t be tempted to treat people differently. I feel the same way. What I expect is that every family will contribute something. I expect that every family will pledge. Giving all of our resources together we do, In Christ’s name, an extraordinary ministry here. The downside of not knowing is that some people communicate their feelings with their money. If someone withholds their giving, I don’t know it, unless they tell me. So, someone can stop giving and I would never know. My hope is that each person gives out of their love for Christ and his church. My hope is that they give as a response to what God has done and is doing in their lives. Now, if someone is waiting on the perfect church to give to, good luck. Giving is a reflection of my faith, and God promises to bless us if we give him something to work with? What are you giving God to work with? It is an exciting thing to see what God will do with five loaves and two fish. Blessings! Dave Nichols


Thanks for checking out my blog. I'm new to this, as you can probably see. But, I, like you, have convictions and ideas worth sharing. I hope this will be an opportunity to connect with others who are Christian and/or religious. I am happily United Methodist. I am committed to the basic teachings of our church, and to the compassionate outreach to the world.

I hope these pastoral ponderings will generate something in you that is hopeful.

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About Me

A graduate of Newberry College and Duke University Divinity School.  I have served as a pastor in the United Methodist Church since 1975.

The Sea of Galilee

The Sea of Galilee
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