Sunday, March 29, 2015

Palm Sunday

“They took palm branches and went out to meet him.  They shouted, ‘Hosanna!  Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessings on the king of Israel!’” (John 12:13, CEB)

“Riding on a donkey of humility,
Jesus entered into Jerusalem -
A king without a battalion of guards
without horses, without military tanks,
without canons and machine guns.

The children laid down the branches
Of palm trees as carpet on the ground
Others lifted them up to hail him
While chorusing hosannas as he drove by,
‘Blessed is he who comes
in the name of the Lord.’

Today Jesus enters into
The gates of homes, churches and
Other machineries of control and
Down deep into every human heart.

Today let hosannas resound
Saying no to wars and weapons
No to hatred, revenge and death
But yes to the subtle claim
In the heart to let the love of Jesus reign.”

            [--Elizabeth Padillo Olesen, cited from at 

When Jesus entered Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday, he was challenging the people to choose whether or not they would claim him as a King of military might (symbolized by a white horse that he should have ridden) but as a King of peace (symbolized by the lowly donkey that he did ride).

Today, Jesus challenges us with the same choice:  welcome him as the Lord of warfare and “might makes right”? or as the “Prince of Peace”? In today’s world of violence, hatred, prejudice, terrorism, and war, Palm Sunday dares us to welcome the one who challenges us to claim him as the “Prince of Peace.”  Remember, God loves you and I do, too!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

I Am A Christian

“Then the father said to him… ‘We had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.” (Luke 15:2)

“When I say... ‘I am a Christian,’ I’m not shouting ‘I’ve been saved!’” 
I’m whispering ‘I get lost!  That’s why I chose this way.’

When I say... ‘I am a Christian,’ I don’t speak with human pride.
I’m confessing that I stumble – needing God to be my guide

When I say... ‘I am a Christian,’ I’m not trying to be strong.
I’m professing that I’m weak and pray for strength to carry on.

When I say... ‘I am a Christian,’ I’m not bragging of success.
I’m admitting I have failed and cannot ever pay the debt.

When I say... ‘I am a Christian,’ I’m not claiming to be perfect,
My flaws are far too visible but, God believes I’m worth it.

When I say... ‘I am a Christian,’ I still feel the sting of pain,
I have my share of heartache which is why I seek His name.

When I say... ‘I am a Christian,’ I do not wish to judge.
I have no authority – I only know I’m loved.”
         [--Attributed to Maya Angelou, this poem was actually written by Carol Wimmer in 1988, and it is cited 
            HERE from the book Chicken Soup for the Christian Family Soul

Remember, God loves you and I do, too!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Grace Greater Than Our Sin

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.” (Psalm 51:1-2)

"Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,
            grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt!
Younger on Calvary’s mount outpoured,
            there where the blood of the Lamb was spilt

Sin and despair, like the sea waves cold,
            threaten the soul with infinite loss;
Grace that is greater, yes, grace untold,
            points to the refuge, the mighty cross.

Dark is the stain that we cannot hide.
            What can avail to wash it away?
Look! There is flowing a crimson tide,
            brighter than snow you may be today.

Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace,
            freely bestowed on all who believe!
You that are longing to see his face,
            will you this moment his grace receive?

Refrain:  Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that is greater than all our sin!
        [-Julia H. Johnston, from The United Methodist Hymnal, #365]

God’s grace and forgiveness is greater than any sin, any wrongdoing, any brokenness or guilt that we might have.  Instead of being a victim of sin, He invites us to be a victor over it. 

But we have to stop trying to fix ourselves; stop trying to “earn” our way to God, or get Him or others to “like” us. Instead, simply accept His acceptance of you, just as you are (warts and all).  When you do, you’ll discover the true joy of a forgiven heart…yours!.  Remember that God loves you and I do, too!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Welcome to REACH

“Not that I have already reached the goal, but I press on to make it my own…” (Philippians 3:12)

In life, most of what we experience that’s worthwhile cannot be achieved without stretching (or “reaching”): to grow into a man or woman, an infant must stretch itself physically; for us to graduate from High School, college, or grad school we must stretch ourselves mentally; and for us become mature men and women of God, we must stretch ourselves spiritually through regular participation in prayer, worship, Bible study, and the Sacraments. So why should it surprise us that in order for our church to grow and become the church that God wants (and calls) it to be, we must also stretch or “reach”?

Well, for the last several years we here at East Cobb UMC have already been engaged in stretching ourselves in spiritual and financial ways that we had not done in many, many years.  We called that journey “be BOLD,” and during it we unveiled the general vision for the future to which we believe God is calling us as a church.

Now, as we approach the end of the 24-month giving phase of “be BOLD,” it’s time that we consider how both we as individuals and we as a church can “reach” even more to see that vision (now seen more clearly and in more detail) come to pass.

That’s why I’m pleased to introduce “REACH”, our church’s new a 36-month vision journey to enable us to achieve our God-given future through a construction project that will reach IN to our own lives, UP to God, and OUT to our community and world.

In the coming months, you’ll see, hear, and read much more about this journey, but I wanted you to introduce to you today, and tell you how excited I am to be part of it with you! It’s truly the culmination of all that we’ve been working on and praying for over the last 5-6 years as a church!

The first thing you’ll want to do is sign up for one of our five free “REACH Vision Preview Events” happening later this month.  At these, you’ll be inspired as we share more about God’s vision for ECUMC, and how we each can be part of it. Some of our venues will be limited-seating, so register today by clicking HERE

This is an exciting time to be part of God’s kingdom at East Cobb UMC! Always remember that God loves you and I do, too!