A man died on a cross almost 3,000 years ago. Death on the cross was a form of execution that the Romans saved for only those who were not Roman citizens and who had committed serious crimes against the Roman Empire. It was an agonizing and terrible way to die. This is where we get the term “excruciating.”
But we forget that many people were crucified by the Romans in the first century. An early and trusted historian named Josephus writes that the Romans crucified almost 10,000 people in the time leading up to 70 A.D., when the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed.
But of those thousands and thousands of victims, the world only remembers one; the one who was resurrected from the dead three days later.
Easter makes all the difference in the world. Easter, Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead almost 2,000 years ago, changed the rules of life and death of the entire cosmos.
It transformed a ragtag group of men who were scared to death and who even denied knowing Jesus, those disciples who ran away from Jesus as he was led the cross and were to be found hiding behind locked doors, into bold believers full of great joy who went on to become missionaries, persons who spread the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Good News of Jesus Christ to the ends of the known world!
But it went beyond the personal stories of the original apostles, to taking away our fear of death. Paul writes to the church on Corinth,
51Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed…
54…then the saying that is written will be fulfilled:
“Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
55 “Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
– 1 Corinthians 15:51, 54-55
So what happened that changed the world?
Join us Easter morning, and the Sundays that follow to find out! We will be looking the resurrection of Jesus, and his other post-resurrection appearances to his disciples and finding out what this means to us.
As we travel through Holy Week together (from Palm Sunday through Maundy Thursday and Good Friday until the celebration of Easter), let this remembrance and joy be made complete in us!
As we journey together,
May God Bless Us!
The season of Lent has begun with Ash Wednesday. Lent is a forty-day season of spiritual preparation before the Easter resurrection celebration. It’s also a time when persons who had committed wandered away from the community of faith are invited back into participation in the life of the Church. By doing this, congregations are reminded of the mercy and forgiveness proclaimed in the gospel of Jesus Christ and the need we all have to renew our faith.
During Lent all Christians are called to participate in a season of self-examinations, to make desired corrections in our lives, observe the spiritual practices of prayer, fasting, Bible study, worship, and acts of compassion for others.
On Wednesday evenings as local pastors and leaders from area church will be exchanging pulpits as we share about what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. We will be doing this from the unique perspectives of Gospel writers Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and the Apostle Paul.
On Sunday mornings doing worship, I will be preaching on how we measure our lives. This sermon series is based on Clayton Christensen’s best selling book, How Will You Measure Your Life? Christensen is a professor at the Harvard Business School. As he attended Harvard Business School class reunions, he noticed something . As the years went on, it turned out some of those who were wildly successful in business and on their way to great wealth ended up not being very successful at being happy. Some of these business leaders who were admired by the world of finance were not successful in having wonderful relationships with their spouses or their children. It led Cliff Christensen to wonder if they way that our society measures our success is they same way we should be measuring our life.
And during Lent our adult Sunday school classes will be studying the book, Mosaic. This study looks at how God uses the broken parts of our lives, and turns them into something beautiful—like an intricate and beautiful piece of mosaic art. There is more information on these classes in this newsletter. All adults are welcome to join either one of our adult classes for this study.
Later in Lent, as we come closer to Holy Week, our sermon series will look at the last places Jesus was at before he gave his life of us on the hill in Jerusalem.
(If you were not able to attend my presentation on my Holy Land pilgrimage on Ash Wednesday, or if you’d like to hear it again in a different forum, please let me know. There has been a request for an additional presentation during a weekday—and hopefully with warmer weather outside! I will schedule this based on the availability of those who express interest.)
Also, after the end of Lent, there will be another special opportunity for persons to grow in their faith coming up this April. This time it will be at Camp Koronis outside of Paynesville, which is closer than Israel! See the article in this newsletter for more information about this upcoming Walk to Emmaus weekend!
As we seek to grow deeper in our faith, this season and beyond,
May God Bless Us!
When we were making plans last summer to gather a group of pilgrims from Fairmont to travel to the Holy Land, a big concern was the political unrest in Israel. Who would have thought that the thing that would cause the most difficulty would be major snowstorms in Jerusalem and Bethlehem?
I’ve just returned from a week-long pilgrimage to the Holy Land with a group of 60 United Methodists from Minnesota and the Dakotas. They were lead on this excursion by their regional leader, Bishop Bruce Ough. The purpose of this trip was to increase the spiritual vitality of persons. Christians have been traveling to the Holy Land for centuries to walk where Jesus walked, and to experience the origins of the Christian faith in a way that cannot be replicated anywhere else on earth.
It was a wonderful experience to visit religious historical sites that date back to Jesus, and even before then. We visited and prayed at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, built over the cave where Jesus was born, and spent two days in the region of Galilee, where the majority of Jesus ministry took place. We walked through the last hours of Jesus life, remembering the Upper Room where Jesus had his Last Supper with his disciples, walked the Mount of Olives and the Garden of Gethsemane, visited the house of the high priest Caiaphas, walked the Way or Sorrow to the place where Jesus was executed on the cross, and finally entered the empty tomb from which Jesus was resurrected.
For me, on this visit to the Holy Land, the two places where I felt most touched by God were praying at the Western Wall (the remnants of the foundation of where the Jerusalem Temple was before its destruction) and the stone at the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus prayed just before his arrest.
As Leonard Sweet, an author and theologian writes,
“A pilgrimage, by definition, is a journey of transformation;
we are never the same at the end as we were at the beginning.”
While in the West Bank, on the Palestinian side of the Israeli wall of separation, I and some of our group were invited to dinner in the home of a Christian family in Bethlehem. A few nights later, as a small group of us were walking in Jerusalem, I had the chance to have an impromptu lengthy conversation with an elite Israeli police officer who had been brought to Jerusalem for riot control. These modern day encounters, along with visits in Bethlehem to the Aida Refugee Camp, Hope secondary school, Bethlehem Bible College, as well as a meeting in the city of Ibillin with Archbishop Elias Chacour at the Mar Elias School brought into focus the contemporary struggles that face Israelis and Palestinians.
The Holy Land is a place that is holy to believers who are Jewish, Christian, and Moslem, where the history of the world was changed forever, and where history is still being made.
Preparations are being made for another future trip to the Holy Land. If you would like to learn more when details are available, please contact me at the Fairmont United Methodist Church.
There will be another special opportunity for persons to grow in their faith coming up this April. This time it will be at Camp Koronis outside of Paynesville, which is closer than Israel! Keep your eyes open for more information about this upcoming Walk to Emmaus weekend!
As we seek to grow deeper in our faith,
May God Bless Us!
Sometimes when I read multiple books at the same time, there is a common thread that can be seen.
Among the books I am reading now is the management book, The Wisdom Of Crowds: (Why The Many Are Smarter Than The Few And How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies, And Nations), by James Surowiecki. At the same time I am looking at our worship series Committed to Christ, by Bob Crossman, as well as The Covenant Bible Study, the study we are using for our adult Sunday school class in the basement parlor.
One of the points that James Surowiecki makes through research studies in The Wisdom Of Crowds is that a diverse, yet connected group of persons makes better decisions than they do separately, and also better decisions that even the smartest person in the group. He also tells us that persons more likely to pay their taxes, and persons are less likely to cheat on their taxes if they believe that everyone else is paying their fair share of taxes also. This also has implications on their contributions (both financial and non-financial) to a larger group as a whole. If we believe that everyone is contributing fairly, according to their gifts, graces, and resources, we are more likely to contribute what we have to the larger group.
As we have been talking about our Commitment to Christ in Sunday morning worship, I have been challenging each of us to personally take a step or two in growing in our commitment to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The areas of spiritual growth that have been highlighted are personal prayer, Bible reading, regular worship attendance, witnessing about our faith to others, financial giving, and service to others. If each of us takes a step toward personal spiritual growth, our congregation as a whole will bolder, more fearless and led to a greater degree by the Holy Spirit and by Jesus.
And last week in our Covenant Bible Study, as we studied Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, we learned about how each of us are a unique and important part of the Body of Christ.
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.
– 1 Corinthians 12:12
So here is a common thread in the three completely different books: All of us are part of the Body of Christ and also this congregation together. If all of us (or at least the majority of us) make it a point to grow in our faith this coming year, the Body of Christ will benefit from each of our individual contributions to the whole. And when more of us contribute our fair share of prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness – it enhances the probability that even more of us will serve our Lord and God with all of our heart, and mind, and soul, and strength!
Something for each of us to think about, huh? See you in church!
May God Bless Us!