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Being a Certain Kind of People: State of the Church

“Pastor, how’s the church?” is a question that people of various ages and types of connectedness ask me. My family and friends will ask similar things, likely because it’s close to the same question in their eyes as the culturally normal question, “How’s work?”

At the beginning of a new calendar year, we’re naming and celebrating what God is doing and is calling us to in the coming years. (This is, after all, the 152nd year of Kearney First United Methodist Church. The framework of this visioning is contained in the Charge Conference booklets, which are available in the church office.)

Each sermon will stand alone; yet, together, they will communicate the discernment of the Administrative Council, the administrative committees, and the program or discipleship leaders of the church. We’ll name and celebrate ways in which we are deeply grounded in the gospel – the good news of Jesus Christ who lived, died, rose, and will come again. We’ll name, celebrate, and ponder the particular sort of people Christ has called, and is calling us to be, for the sake of God’s mission in and for the world, particularly in Kearney. Additionally, we’ll explore the idea of being a value-driven community and explore some biblical values that are both defining and aspirational for us as Kearney First UMC. The Administrative Council has been through a journey of discernment over much of the past two years to name and clarify these values: holiness, caring, graciousness, and equipping. We anticipate these values shaping our lives together as the people called First United Methodist Church.

At the end of 2023, Pastor Seungli’s sermon invited us to consider what our prayers for the year would be (sermon on December 31, 2023). In this spirit, I invite us to include these five petitions as part of our prayers, meditations, reflections, and guides this year (I’ve listed them as collective, church-centered petitions, but they can easily be individualized):

1. Jesus, teach us to be your discipling community, to love you and our neighbor.

2. Jesus, guide us to be a holy people, for you are holy.

3. Jesus, teach us to be a caring people, for you are caring.

4. Jesus, teach us to be a gracious people, for you are gracious.

5. Jesus, teach us to be an equipping people, for you equip all whom you call.

As we go through this year, we’ll reference these marks of the people God is calling and enabling us to be by the power of the Holy Spirit. If you’d like to study the primary texts for each of these sermons, they’re listed below, along with an extended prayer petition.

7-Jan – Being a Certain Kind of People

- Texts: 1 Peter 2:2-6, 9-10; Matthew 22:37-40; 28:19-20.

- Jesus, let your sanctifying grace be abundantly present in us – especially through our spiritual practices – regenerating our love for you and our neighbors, as we grow as your disciples.

14-Jan – Marked by Holiness

- Texts: 1 Peter 1:15-16, cf. Lev. 11:44-45, 1 Thes 4:7

- Jesus, let your holiness fall afresh on us, making us like you, so that we may know, love, and live into the fullness of the character of God we see in you.

21-Jan – Marked by Caring

- Texts: 1 Jn 3:17-18; James 2:15-16; Mt 25:35-36

- Jesus, friend of sinner, guide us to be a people whose care for others becomes a beacon of hope and welcome to a sin-sick world.

28-Jan – Marked by Graciousness

- Texts: Eph 4:32; Col 4:6; Lu 6:36; Mt 20:1-16

- Jesus, God’s love is proved through your pouring out of yourself for the sake of others; let that same love be in us, so that your graciousness may be seen through us.

4-Feb – Marked by Equipping

- Texts: Eph 4:11-12; 2 Tim 2:2; Heb 10:24-25

- Jesus, guide us into practices and situations through which your Holy Spirit equips so to live as your disciples who help others grow as your disciples.

Finally, on February 11, we’ll explore together at least one interpretation of Jesus’s “Parable of the Talents” (Mt 25:14-30), which will transition us from the communally-focused series about who God is calling us to be as church to a more personally-focused series on being praying people for the season of Lent.

I’m honored to be on the journey of discipleship with you as pastor.

Peace be with you.


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