Faith United Methodist Church, March 2013
Scripture: “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! 2 Peter 3:18
Reflection: The month of March brings us to the midpoint of the season of Lent. Lent is a special and sacred season of the church year in which we prepare to celebrate Christ’s Resurrection on Easter. It’s a time for us to be intentional about examining our faith journey and focus on getting closer to God. Throughout the season of Lent, Pastors Steve and Cara’s sermons have encouraged us to experience various means of grace that help us to spend time with God and grow closer to Him. Means of Grace are tools that we can develop to help us grow in our relationship with God.
The root of the name Methodist is ‘method.’ From its beginning, Methodism has always encouraged Christians to a disciplined way of living. Did you know that the name Methodist was actually used to make fun of a group of young men because of the ways they took seriously the practice of disciplined Christian living? John and Charles Wesley were members of this group who recognized that if distractions and focusing too much on ourselves can keep us from God, then developing methods and habits to help us focus on God would help us grow closer to God.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” – John 15:5
Apart from God, we can do nothing. Spiritual disciplines are methods that help us keep our focus on loving God first and foremost in our lives. John Wesley called these spiritual practices ‘means of grace.’ Means of grace are spiritual practices that keep us centered in Christ and help us to maintain “holiness of heart and life.” Spiritual disciplines help us make space in our hearts and time in our lives for God helping us to connect to God and grow ever closer to the One who loves us.
Playing a musical instrument well requires daily practice. Becoming a master chef requires learning from mentors and teachers and regular practice using those culinary skills. If you want to play a sport well, you must train and practice daily. To play on a sports team or to play an instrument in a band or sing in a choir requires you to practice not only as an individual, but also with a team. Anything you want to be good at requires faithful practice, dedication, and commitment. The same is true for our relationship with God. To keep our lives focused on loving God, we must be committed to daily faithful practice of spiritual disciplines or means of grace.
Read through the following list of means of grace. Find one that you have not yet experienced and make an effort to explore that practice. Perhaps your ministry team could do this together and commit to encouraging each other in your daily spiritual practices!•Prayer: according to Wesley, is “the grand means of drawing near to God.” •Bible Reading: worshipful reading that is different than reading to prepare a lesson or sermon. •Fasting: practicing various forms of self-denial in order to give priority to spiritual matters. •Holy Communion or Eucharist: Wesley urged Communion as often as possible. •Christian conferencing: conversation in which we remember God is present for discernment and guidance. •Worship: praising and thanking God for who God is and what God has done. •Family devotions: personal devotions outside of the public worship settings. •Works of piety: attention to acts of compassion and devotion. •Works of mercy: attention to acts of justice and service.
Source: Guidelines for Lay Ministry by Sandy Ziegler Jackson, GBOD 2008
Questions for Reflection and Sharing:– What does it mean to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus? – What spiritual practices or means of grace help you to grow closer to God? – In what ways does your ministry team help people to engage in means of grace?
Prayer Focus: Pray for the spiritual growth of our congregation and community; that we would all grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Prayer: Gracious God, as we move through this season of Lent, lead and guide us to more fully experience your love and grace. Help us to make space in our hearts and time in our lives for You so that we might grow in the grace and knowledge our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Guide our ministry team and show us how we can help support each other and our church family in creating spaces, opportunities and experiences to help others grow closer to you. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
A Prayer of John Wesley: “O that we may all receive of Christ’s fullness, grace upon grace; grace to pardon our sins, and subdue our iniquities; to justify our persons and to sanctify our souls; and to complete that holy change, that renewal of our hearts, whereby we may be transformed into that blessed image wherein thou didst create us.”
Means of Grace Challenge:
Spiritual Practices: Select one of the prayer experiences presented during worship this month and try adding that to your daily routine for the next 21 days.
Act of Grace: Donate a Bible to someone who does not have one.