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302 West Market Street
Greensboro, NC, 27401
united states

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Website for West Market Street United Methodist Church. 

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WMC Blog

Parable of the Unwise Steward

Carol Key

The parable of the unwise steward is found in Matthew 25: 14-30. To one servant the wealthy person gave five talents, and to another two, and to another one talent. Then the wealthy person went away. You may know the outcome, or you can read it for yourself, but the servant with the one talent buried his in the ground for fear of losing it. The other two servants invested and made an increase in their trusted gifts.

This parable teaches us that we are not to bury our giftedness in the ground awaiting heaven. We are to work to glorify God with our talents, to reach out to others who have no talents, and to grow in faith in this life. We are not to bury our talents in the ground and do nothing. We also learn that God gives us everything we need to do what we are called to do. A talent in ancient times was worth a lot, even as much as a million dollars today. Each servant was entrusted with a worthy amount with the ability to produce more. Even thought the servants were not given equally, all were given what they needed to grow the Kingdom. The expectation was to grow the Kingdom of God now!

We also learn that we work for the Master and not only for our selfish purposes. What we are given is not our own and what we earn is not ours to keep. We are only stewards of the Master's investment, and the Lord expects a return on the investment in our life. To believe that the Lord exists to support and care for us is a false belief denying the truth that we are held accountable. We never own a free ticket, are never offered forgiveness without repentance, and are never justified in living only for our self.

The unjust steward was left out because fear was his god, selfish desires were his purpose, and an opportunity to glorify God was missed.

HOLY FAMILY

Ginger Shields

By: Dan Martin, Senior Pastor

Click here to read Luke 2:1-14.

On a cold day in December, a mother gave birth to a baby boy. Have you heard that story before? The story has been heard so many times that it appears to be old and warn out. We are too familiar with that story.

At the mall I saw a window display of three giant teddy-bears. The large male was dressed as Joseph, the smaller female was dressed as Mary, and the baby bear was in a manger, of course! If there was once a grand mystery around the Incarnation, it has long since been fully explained as three jolly bears now witness to everything we need to know. This scene is plump with emotionalism and sentiment and lacking in hope or power. This is actually very bad news.

How can a cuddly teddy bear help us to deal with our pain? How can cloth and stuffing help us with the slam of heartbreak, the tail lights driving away from a home in a just-broken family, the numb face from horrible news from a medical test, the threat of war, a pink slip on an anticipated regular day at work, or a family member being ripped away from us by eternal death? Everyone wants a “just my sized God,” fluffy and approachable without those negative commandments or transforming expectations. Then, once we get God down to teddy-bear size, we find God is powerless. A reduced God is no God at all. God cannot be less than us…but has to be more than us.

Maybe none of this is true. Maybe a giant hand spun it all into motion and then left. Maybe the horror of a thousand declining centuries will never be made right because we cannot do it and there is no power out there that can help us. Maybe the raw material of this visible life is all there is. Maybe the stars truly are far and cold.

On a cold and star-pierced night, a frightened girl in a strange city gave birth in a stable. When she carried her baby into the temple a few weeks later an old man stopped her to say, "This child will be a sign that is spoken against and a sword will pierce through your own soul also!" This is the promise of God, the heart-aching worry of a new mother, the dire life that would be lived by this child, and the sacrificial power, in our stead, to save us.

In the heart of that mother is born the greatest and most self-sacrificing earthly love in unbelievable and mystifyingly fragile blooms of a hope that could never be imagined or created on our own. This is the day of our powerful hope in Christ Jesus.

Lord, I will give allegiance to You and will trust in the power of the Savior, Jesus Christ, as I humbly bow on this great day and faithfully give thanks for Your sacrifice and hope…for me…and all those I love. I believe in the fragile blooms of hope. Amen.

Share your photo representing HOLY FAMILY and add the hashtag #westmarketchristmas.

CHILD

Ginger Shields

By: Dan Martin, Senior Pastor

Click here to read Luke 1:31-38.

This is the Annunciation. Mary, a common woman, takes center stage this time of the year. Mary is venerated by some Christians, ignored by some Christians, and misunderstood by other Christians. At times, Catholics have transformed the peasant Jewish teenage girl into an otherworldly queen. At times, Protestants and Evangelicals have pretended that she never existed, or they have missed the truth that she was the first disciple, that she displayed radical faith and trust in God.

Mary hears the call of God and she responds. She models faith, obedience, servanthood, discipleship, and hospitality.

Mary has been told that she has found favor with God. The Power of the Holy Spirit will come upon her. She will give birth to the Savior. She questions how this can be. She is told that nothing is impossible with God! An ordinary woman has been told that she will do something extraordinary.

Once there was a man sleepily watching a Sunday football game on TV when his children invited him to experience a play they had put together. He came up from his slumber to witness his older son, an obvious Joseph with a broom handle and a robe, his daughter, an obvious Mary with a pillow under her shirt, and the youngest daughter adorned with all the jewelry she could find. The youngest proclaimed that she was all three wise men and that she was bringing “gold, circumstance, and mud!”

The father did not correct her but took some time to reflect on the truth of this proclamation. God loves us for who we are: our gold ~ where we are at our best, our circumstance ~ where we are right now, and even in our mud ~ where we are when we are most human. Mary tells us that God can take our gold, circumstance, and mud and make something glorious with it.

Almighty God, Teach us that what is impossible for us is possible for you. Give us courage to hear this great teaching at Christmas. Amen.

Share your picture representing CHILD and add the hashtag #westmarketchristmas.

PROMISE

Ginger Shields

By: Jill Alventosa-Brown, Pastor of Congregational Care and Older Adults

Click here to read Luke 1:26-30.

As a child I’m sure I made promises to my friends that were, shall we say, less than heartfelt. At times I may have even made promises to my brothers in order to get what I wanted. How easy it is for us to say, “I promise I’ll call,” or “I promise I’ll come see you…” to friends and family; acquaintances near and far. And they usually respond, “I hope so!” Sadly, both parties are fully aware that such promises have an air of flimsiness to them and the likelihood of them being fulfilled is questionable. We have good intentions, but our follow through is often weak. In today’s scripture, Mary is promised in marriage to Joseph. Such a promise had meaning and consequences which depended on the character of each party fulfilling their obligation. Yet even that promise is weak when compared to the promise that the angel Gabriel delivered to Mary. ‘Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you!’ That may sound rather frightening at first, but Gabriel makes it clear that this is a promise Mary will be able to hang on to—not just in the moment, but for the future as well. Still, Mary wondered what it all meant. We don’t hear the questions running through her head, but Gabriel senses them and offers her another promise, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.” This is a robust promise which only God can offer to us. The conversation continues between Mary and Gabriel, but it has been established that the generator of this promise, the Most High God, will keep the promise now and through all the days of Mary’s life. The promise of Advent is that God favors us and chooses to become like us in order that the image of God might be restored in us.

Gracious God, we are grateful for your promise to us of salvation and life abundant in Jesus Christ. Help us to fulfill our promise to let Christ be born in us once more this Advent season. In the name of Emanuel, God with us, we pray, Amen.

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GOOD NEWS

Ginger Shields

By: Erin Althaus, Director of Children's Ministry

Click here to read Romans 16:25-27.

With Christmas just days away, I bet you have presents on your mind. Either you are finished with your shopping or still trying to come up with some ideas, we are all in the thick of buying gifts right now. I don’t know about you but I have a really hard time keeping the gifts that I buy secret. Its so much fun to pick out something for someone then hide it until Christmas. But sometimes I can quite stop thinking about that perfect gift that I’m waiting to give. I’m like a kid in a candy store obsessing about the present and wanting so badly to just give it to them right now!

Today’s verse reminds us that we have Good News to share. This Good News was a secret whispered by the prophets for ages and fulfilled when Jesus came to us as a baby and lived among us. He ate with sinners and loved those that no one else did. He healed the sick and cared deeply for the broken. His world is an upside world where the first is last and the last is first. And we know that he came to save you and me. We are the sick and the broken and the lost. He came to give his life for us that we could be worthy to spend forever with God.

This Good News is so amazing and so hard to believe. It’s the perfect gift! That someone would love us so much that they would die for us so we would have eternal life. But this Good News that was once a secret is not anymore. We don’t have to keep it to ourselves! In fact, we need to share the Good News with everyone we love, know and meet.

So don’t worry about having to keep this secret, in fact, spread it like wildfire.

Loving God, Please give me the courage and excitement needed to spread your Good News. Amen. 

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GENERATIONS

Ginger Shields

By: Ginger Shields, Director of Family Ministry

Click here to read Luke 1:49-55.

Today's scripture is the second part of Mary's Magnificat, the song of praise to God that she expressed while visiting her cousin, Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist. In the first part of Mary's song, she praises God for the things He has done for her, a most humble and lowly servant. In this second part, she exalts God's greatness and the mercy that He shown to people in generations past and in generations to come. Many. Generations.

The words of Mary are prophetic. Have you ever considered the influence Jesus has had on so many generations? Our calendar is based on Jesus' birth; Jesus and his followers are the most frequent subjects for art in the world; the Bible is currently the world's best-selling and most widely distributed book; recent studies using complex algorithms and database analyses have shown that Jesus is currently the most significant historical figure of all time. Two-thousand years after his death, he is still making headlines. He is still influencing generations.

Can you imagine if Mary knew what we know now? It's expressed beautifully in these lyrics from the familiar Christmas song, Mary, Did You Know?

Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven's perfect Lamb?
This sleeping child you're holding is the great I AM.

It's hard to come to grips with the majesty, power, mystery and magnitude of the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us. Let us worship God--all his holiness and mercy--as Mary did in response to being chosen as Jesus' mother.

Lord, we praise your holy name. Generation after generation, you love us and show mercy, even though we are undeserving. We thank you. In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.

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BLESSED

Ginger Shields

By: Debbie Taylor, Director of Outreach

Click here to read Luke 1:46-48.

Blessed – an often overused word meaning divinely favored, or as in Mary’s case, sacred or holy.  We sometimes say we have been blessed, but earthly prosperity is not a mark of God’s blessing.  Has anyone been quite as blessed as Mary?  The birth of her son upended the ideas in the Old Testament of what was hoped for.  Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth?  Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God?  Where is the earthly reward for all our suffering?  We are looking for that reward here on earth, not this new way of thinking about blessed.  Will we allow ourselves the space at Christmastime to be divinely blessed?  We know there is something special in the air, it’s a mystery but it is still felt.  On Christmas Eve we raise our candles in the darkness and sing the words of Silent Night.  There is the feeling of awe in the candlelit church.  We have been divinely favored by the sacred and holy. 

Lord, help us to stop during this busy season, to find opportunities to witness the divine, and feel how truly blessed we are to know you.  We give thanks for the miracle of your birth, and the gift of hope that it brings. Amen.

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LOVE

Ginger Shields

By: Alice Ann Johnson, Director of Music and the Arts

Click here to read Psalm 89:1-4.

Love Came Down at Christmas

Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, Love divine;
Love was born at Christmas;
Star and angels gave the sign.

Worship we the Godhead,
Love incarnate, Love divine;
Worship we our Jesus,
But wherewith for sacred sign?

Love shall be our token;
Love be yours and love be mine;
Love to God and neighbor,
Love for plea and gift and sign.

(United Methodist Hymnal No. 242)

The above poem by Christina Rossetti (1830-1894) was written in Time Flies: A Reading Diary as her entry for December 29, 1885. The word “love” appears 11 times, twelve if the word “lovely” is included in the count.

The poem is based on 1 John 4: 7-11: Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

Our scripture for today, Psalm 89: 1-4 begins “I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever…”

Let us remember this as we sing our carols this Christmas.

Dear God, thank you for the love you have sent to your people. In this season of love, help us to love others as you love us. Amen.

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HOME

Ginger Shields

By: Lauren Cook, Family Ministry Logistics Coordinator

Click here to read 2 Samuel 7:8-11.

We recently moved to a new house and wow, what a stressful process.  It was a little embarrassing realizing how much “stuff” we have acquired over the years. Moving yourself means you have to pick up, pack up, and unpack every single thing that you own. The process seemed like it would never end, and it actually hasn’t yet.  After we moved, everyone would ask “How is the new house? Does it feel like home yet?”  We moved our stuff and ourselves into a new house but, I quickly realized that our home never changed.  We never left it because, our home is where we are all together with God.  This house was our home from the moment we all slept there the first night. My home is where my family is and where we are with God, the house is just the shell keeping us warm and dry.

In today’s passage from 2 Samuel, God tells David “I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have destroyed all your enemies before your eyes. Now I will make your name as famous as anyone who has ever lived on the earth! And I will provide a homeland for my people…and I will give you rest from all your enemies.” God is promising David that his house and kingdom will endure forever.  These words were repeated in Luke 1:31-33 when the angel Gabriel said them to Mary. This promise was finally fulfilled when Jesus was born.

Dear Lord, thank you for always keeping your promises and for being with us wherever we are. You are our home. Amen.

Share your photo representing HOME and add the hashtag #westmarketchristmas.

BAPTISM

Ginger Shields

By: Pam Strader, Pastor of Program Ministry & Pastoral Care

Click here to read John 1:23-28.

“I baptize you with water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know.  He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.” John 1:26.

John the Baptist wanted the people to be ready.  He was there to prepare the way of the Lord.  He told them that the reign of God was at hand, and called them to repent and be baptized.  “Be ready,” he says. “Make the path straight for the Lord.”  The One they were awaiting was coming. The Messiah was at hand. Baptism was the starting point. It was just the beginning of preparing for God to be at work in their lives through this amazing hope called the Messiah. During Advent, we are also to be in preparation. While we decorate houses and bake cookies, there is more to be done. Are our hearts ready? Are our lives ready for Christ to come? Do we heed the call of John to prepare for the coming of the Lord? As the baptism of John was a cleansing to prepare for the coming of the Messiah, what are you doing to cleanse your heart and life for the birth of Christ this Advent season?

Give to me O God your wisdom for my life.  Open my eyes, ears, and heart to help me discern what you would have me to make straight in my life to prepare for the coming of Christ. Baptize me with your Holy Spirit that my path may be straight and my life made whole through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.  

Share your photo representing BAPTISM and add the hashtag #westmarketchristmas.

NAME

Ginger Shields

By: Dan Martin, Senior Pastor

Click here to read John 1:19-22.

I had a great-aunt who lived next door. When I would bring a new friend home she would call us to her presence on the front porch or in her front sitting room where she would immediately ask my new friend, “Who are you?” Her question was not as rude as it may at first appear for she was only trying to know who their family was and where they had come from. Identity to her was important and allowed her to have a bridge into their identity not only by name but also by family.

Throughout the Holy Bible names are important. Isaac has the name of “laughter” having been born of an elderly woman. Jacob, the “grabber,” became Israel, “he that walks with God.” John the Baptist became known with an action verb by a name self-imposed as “the one crying in the wilderness.” Our names are declared as a name known by God at our Baptism. We become known to God and to God’s people with a name that means something. Our very name becomes a witness to the grace of God as we move from having just a name to a place of having a name known and blessed by God.

When Moses became the bearer of the Ten Commandments he inquired as to the name of God that he might be able to tell the people from where the Commandments had come. The Lord instructed that “I Am who I Am” as YHWH would be the name. God knew that a true name would have given added and undeserved power to the created. We do not know God’s name…but we know God…in the incarnate Son by the name of Jesus, Emmanuel, Prince of Peace, Lord of Lords, and King of Kings.

God knows your name and God knows you. You are a Child of God, called with an action verb purpose, sacramentally consecrated at the hand of God, fully entrusted to the merciful grace of a Savior who is fully known. In Jesus, we fully know God, and through Baptism, God fully knows us.

God, fully know us and reveal your purpose to us. Hear our prayers, lead us into discipleship, call our name frequently, and teach us the full saving grace of Jesus Christ, our Savior.  Amen

Share your photo representing NAME and add the hashtag #westmarketchristmas.

LIGHT

Ginger Shields

By: Rhiannon Kelly, Director of Youth Ministry

Click here to read John 1:6-8.

If you have spent anytime around a teenager in the last year or so, you have certainly heard something described as being “lit”. It’s a good thing--it means something was “on fire” in a good way. It’s a term of endearment really, so to hear a student say “Youth group last Sunday was lit!” is certainly music to the ears of a Youth Director.  We often use these metaphors of fire and light to signify what is good and positive. We juxtapose the light with the darkness, good versus evil, and so forth. Jesus is our light and we have that same light in us that we are to use to shine bright for others as a representation of Jesus’s love.

At a recent Family Ministry Volunteer’s meeting we explored this notion of being the light and helping others to see the light. If you are blindfolded and trying to navigate your way through an obstacle course, you are likely to trip and fall and lose your way as your eyes can see nothing but darkness. We talked about the things in the lives of the children and teens in our church that may be “keeping them in dark” and preventing them from seeing, feeling, and being the light of Christ. Phones, sports, screens, and peers were the not-surprising popular answers.

I believe a lack of feeling like they belong is what mostly keeps kids these day in the dark about Christ’s love.  And maybe not just kids, don’t we all want to feel we belong? It is really important for all of God’s children to feel welcomed, loved and to be an integral part of the larger system we are a part of. And for us, that is our church. We must be the light unto others and allow ourselves to feel that light from our church family. Let’s make West Market Church lit for everyone!

God, please help me find the ways in which I can be a witness to the light that is Christ and open my heart to feeling your love and light from others. Amen.

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REJOICE

Ginger Shields

By: Ginger Shields, Director of Family Ministry

Click here to read 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24.

The first time I remember focusing on the words in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 was in 2007,  when doctors were trying to diagnose the issue with our 3-year-old son's arm. We didn't know whether the diagnosis would result in an amputation, chemotherapy, or surgery, but the uncertainty and the options left me little about which to rejoice and to be thankful. It was during this time that I heard Corrie Ten Boom's account of her time in a Nazi prison camp from her book, The Hiding Place. I pray that her story encourages you as much as it did me.

Corrie and her sister, Betsie, had been moved to Barracks 28 and were appalled by the living conditions: "Our noses told us, first, that the place was filthy: somewhere, plumbing had backed up, the bedding was soiled and rancid."

They reached their bunks, and Corrie continued, "We lay back, struggling against the nausea that swept over us from the reeking straw...Suddenly I sat up, striking my head on the cross-slats above. Something had pinched my leg. 'Fleas!' I cried. 'Betsie, the place is swarming with them!' . . .'Betsie, how can we live in such a place!'"

Betsie prayed for an answer and replied: "'Corrie!' she said excitedly. 'He's given us the answer! Before we asked, as He always does! In the Bible this morning. Where was it? Read that part again!'"

They read 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 and began to rejoice and thank God (Betsie enthusiastically and Corrie reluctantly) for everything about Barracks 28: for each other, for the Bible they snuck in, and for the crowding so that many people could hear God's Word. Finally, Betsie suggested that they thank God for the fleas: "'Give thanks in all circumstances,' she quoted. It doesn't say, 'in pleasant circumstances. Fleas are part of this place where God has put us.' And so we stood between tiers of bunks and gave thanks for fleas. But this time I was sure Betsie was wrong."

It turned out that Betsie wasn't wrong. The guards were pervasive around the camp, but avoided Barracks 28. As a result, Betsie and Corrie were able to lead 2 worship services each day, never really understanding why guards and supervisors were always absent. 

One day, Betsie, seemingly very proud of herself, told Corrie that the women had asked a supervisor to come into Barracks 28 to settle a dispute. "'But she wouldn't. She wouldn't step through the door and neither would the guards. And you know why?' Betsie could not keep the triumph from her voice: 'Because of the fleas! That's what she said, 'That place is crawling with fleas!'' My mind rushed back to our first hour in this place. I remembered Betsie's bowed head, remembered her thanks to God for creatures I could see no use for."

Almighty God, sometimes it's extremely hard to rejoice and be thankful. Please give us the strength to keep gratitude at the forefront of our lives, especially during this season of waiting and preparation.  In Jesus' name, Amen.

Share your photo representing REJOICE and add the hashtag #westmarketchristmas.

CHANGE

Ginger Shields

By: Rhiannon Kelly, Director of Youth Ministry, Holden Hughes, WMC Youth, and Sadock Imatha, WMC Youth

Click here to read Psalm 126.

Change can be difficult, unwanted, unwelcomed and just plain hard. We tend to cower at the thought of change and it almost brings about a twinge of panic to even consider it in certain aspects of our lives. But not all change is negative, and even the change we fear can sometimes prove us wrong. 

Two of our West Market Church high-schoolers changed schools this year and experienced some of the anxiety associated with change.  Holden Hughes explained, “As I started at a new school this year I was anticipating and anxious about not being accepted by my peers. But two people really started engaging with me in the beginning, and now I have lots of friends and really like being there. It just took a couple of people showing that they cared.”

Sadock Imatha had similar concerns about changing schools: “I thought the new school I transferred to was going be really tough academically.  It’s not quite as bad as I thought, and it is getting easier as I️ go. I have been adjusting by doing my assignments earlier so I can get help if needed. I think this school will be good for me.”

Holden and Sadock also said this about change: “God has a desire for us to change and grow spiritually. But often we stay still and don’t pay attention to or follow through with those things we feel God is asking us to do. It is important to improve your life to help improve other’s lives- to be the people that show up and care. When you feel like God is wanting you to change, don’t wait around. Maybe it’s time you lead a Bible study, or help out in the community, or just read your Bible more often. Maybe it’s something you need to cut out of your life, a major change. We have to make adjustments in our lives to go with the changes.”

God help me to recognize the changes you want me to make to help myself, help others, and glorify you. Amen.

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GARDEN

Ginger Shields

By: Dreama Lovitt, Music Associate & Organist

Click here to read Isaiah 61:8-11.

Before being gifted with my first orchid, I generally considered myself to be a ‘black thumb,’ a natural born plant killer. But my orchid glowed with health and happily blossomed again and again! It was remarkable and refreshing to find a plant that didn’t die in my presence. I was sure I’d turned an important corner in my relationship with growing things, until a professional gardener, amused by my glee, informed me with an ironic smile that ‘orchids love neglect.’

By the proper amount of neglect or care, I now have many happy orchids. The success with the orchids has led me to experiment with growing vegetables outside. I purchase rich, organic soil and pour it into raised beds, add some fertilizer, and try my best to follow the planting instructions on the seed packets. Then, with the proper light and daily watering a miracle occurs. Tiny sprouts begin to form! Soon lettuce, kale, carrots, radishes, and herbs are all ready for harvest.

So, what does a garden have to do with righteousness?

When we consider righteousness, we think of ethical and just behavior. Iniquity is the opposite: morally unsound and unjust behavior. Can we be moral and ethical without God? Perhaps. But maybe righteousness also holds a deep seed of humility, of acknowledging our humbleness and bowing to the Divine. And when we are humble, we realize that all our greatest efforts come from something bigger than ourselves. The soil makes the seed sprout. And isn’t soil a rather lowly thing? God makes us yearn for righteousness. And, in our humility, God guides us to it and praise!

My prayerful listening suggestion: Find and listen to the recording of Jim Erb’s arrangement of “Now Is the Cool of the Day” as performed by Impromptu in Richmond, VA, which can be found on youtube. Jim Erb was the Choral Director at the University of Richmond, VA, for many years, and was the founding conductor of the Richmond Symphony Chorale. He is most famous for his gorgeous choral setting of “Shenandoah.”

As you listen, consider and pray:  How can we allow God to guide us to righteousness? What can we do to live out and exemplify God’s righteousness?

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TREE

Ginger Shields

By: Jill Alventosa-Brown, Pastor of Congregational Care and Older Adults

Click here to read Isaiah 61:1-4.

This passage from Isaiah has special meaning to me. When I was hearing my call to ministry, this passage, especially as quoted by Jesus in the 4th chapter of Luke, resonated with how I wanted to be used by God. Jesus, at the beginning of his public ministry in Luke, tells those gathered in the synagogue in Nazareth that he has been anointed to preach, teach, heal and liberate people. The people in exile needed to hear the good news that Isaiah was proclaiming and the people surrounding Jesus also needed to know that God had not forgotten them during the Roman occupation. I still believe this is a word we need to hear in our time. We still have poor people who need good news; we still have brokenhearted people in need of mending; we still have people who are either physically or spiritually captive; we still have prisoners; those who need justice and we still have people who mourn. Whether we are bearers of the good news of Jesus Christ or the recipients, when we are set free to love; when we are healed from the physical, emotional and spiritual wounds of the past; we can, through this process, become trees showing off the glory of God in our lives. Isaiah names these recipients of God’s deliverance as oaks of righteousness: a sign that God is not done with us and is still in the business of building and rebuilding people, places and lives. In this Advent season, we are invited to consider how we are becoming the oaks of righteousness that give shade and shelter and display God’s glory for all to see.

O God, pour out anew your spirit on us so that we might take up the ministry that Christ accepted and thereby carry out your work to bring light and hope and freedom to your people all over the world. In the name of Christ we pray, Amen.

Share your photo representing TREE and add the hashtag #westmarketchristmas.

WATER

Ginger Shields

By: Rhiannon Kelly, Director of Youth Ministry

Click here to read Mark 1:4-8.

Several years ago on a youth mission trip in Florida I found myself sitting in a church courtyard praying that God would give me guidance to face some challenges. I became mesmerized by a very old stone fountain dripping and pouring water from one tier to the next and splashing over the side. I was reminded of this quote by Margaret Atwood: “Water does not resist. Water flows. When you plunge your hand into it, all you feel is a caress. Water is not a solid wall, it will not stop you. But water always goes where it wants to go, and nothing in the end can stand against it.”

In the scripture John the Baptist is described as wearing camel’s hair clothing and eating locust dipped in wild honey. Not your likely character description for the one who was charged with leading all of the people of Jerusalem to be baptized in the Jordan river. And surely, this was not an easy job for him. God doesn’t tend to put the “likely” folks in positions to spread His messages and do His work. He picks the normal, locust-eating folks like us. That creates some self-doubt, uncertainty and obstacles. But John made things clear to the people when he said “I baptize you with water, but Jesus will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” It wasn’t about him. It’s not about us.

We are called to be vessels of God’s love, redemption, and grace. We are human--our bodies are 60% water. We face obstacles and we have self-doubt. We don’t always feel like the “likely” leader.  However, we can be the stepping stones to Jesus for others with the Holy Spirit providing the guidance, counsel, and strength we need.

The quote from above ends: “Water is patient. Dripping water wears away a stone. Remember that, my child. Remember you are half water. If you can't go through an obstacle, go around it. Water does.”

Father, let me feel the presence of the Holy Spirit guiding me to the other side of my obstacles. Amen.

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