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Sermon transcript for January 25, 2015

Come, Follow Me!
Mark 1:14-20
Belmont UMC—January 25, 2015
Ken Edwards

The obvious question that comes from the Gospel text this morning is why these men follow Jesus without question. He speaks to them, “Come, follow me,” and right away they follow him. The Gospel of Mark begins with a flurry of things happening. There is no long birth narrative and here in the first chapter Jesus is baptized, spends time in the wilderness with the wild beasts and then begins calling disciples.

What motivates these four to become disciples? The two sets of brothers: Simon and Andrew, James and John, are all fishermen. Some wonder how successful they were. We see them mending worn out nets and casting nets into the shallow water on the wrong side of the boat. The only time they seem to catch fish is when Jesus shows them how.

In another place James and John have the nickname, Sons of Thunder. One has to wonder how they got that name. I picture them in preschool, a whirlwind of activity in the corner of the classroom, destroying all the other kids’ toys. I heard Tony Campolo say he could imagine them riding into Capernaum on Harley Davidsons, wearing black leather jackets, with the words, Sons of Thunder, emblazoned on the back.

Some have suggested that they were disciples of John the Baptist and already had some interest in the teachings of Jesus. What motivates them to be Christ followers?  

What motivates us to be Christ followers? When I was a child, fear was a motivator. I recall going to revival services in which the preachers could paint some rather scary pictures of the consequences of not following in the way of Jesus. It doesn’t appear that Jesus uses fear to motivate these four brothers.

When my older sons were in youth group they came to my office one Sunday and asked if they could go to something called Judgment House at a nearby church. Judgment House is what I would call a “Christian” haunted house, set up around the time of Halloween each year. I brought the boys in and told them that Judgment House was a series of fictional scenes that depict teenagers who have made some questionable decisions, got killed in an accident and wound up in the torments of Hell. I said, “You are not going. If you are going to become followers of Jesus, I want you to be loved into that decision, not scared into it.” They agreed.

Fear is not a very good motivator and it doesn’t have a lasting impact on our lives.
Neither is guilt. A lot of us were raised on unhealthy doses of guilt. It can move us to fulfill obligations but not because we want to but because we want to avoid feeling lousy about ourselves. Guilt doesn’t have a lasting impact on us either.

But love does. The Jesus that Andrew, Peter, James and John decide to follow is the one who heard God say at his baptism, “You are my child. I love you. In you I find happiness.” These four and many more after them will hear God say the same thing to them and so do we. Love is a powerful motivator.

Parents of preschoolers meet with disappointment on weekend mornings when they hope to sleep a little later. But their children wake up early and need their attention. It’s usually not a good idea to allow these young children to have free run of the house.

One morning when our oldest was about 4 years old he got up early on a Saturday morning. His mother and I did not hear him and we slept through the whole thing. He appeared beside our bed, which is a high four-poster bed and all I could see was his little face, which was smiling from ear to ear. He said, “Daddy, I made you some breakfast.” And though I grew up on a farm where big breakfasts were served, I am not a fan of breakfast. I like to get up early, drink a couple of mugs of coffee (preferably in silence), get some exercise, and then eat some yogurt, or if I’m really hungry, I’ll eat some fruit as well. I eat because I’m told I need to, not because I want to.

I looked down at the large bowl in my little boys hands. He said, “I made you a salad; I know you like salad.”  I do like salad but I do not like salad at 6 AM on a Saturday morning. In this bowl there was unwashed lettuce, crude chunks of carrots that were neither peeled nor washed, some whole radishes and a few things I could not identify. On top he had poured a pint of blue cheese dressing. I like blue cheese dressing but not at 6 AM on a Saturday morning.

I pulled myself up in the bed and took the bowl from the little boy. I patted the bed beside me and he climbed up and sat there. I put my arm around him and drew him close and said, “I love you so much, son.”  “I love you, Daddy.”  And I proceeded to eat the entire bowl of unwashed, disgusting food because of one thing: love. Love like that will make you do some foolish things. It might even make you put down your nets and follow a stranger.

So the Gospel text is not about what motivates these 4 persons to become Christ followers. Rather the Gospel is about what motivates God to call us in the first place and the answer is love. For God is love. (1 John 4:7)  God calls each of us God’s child. God loves each of us and God finds happiness in us. I will follow a God who loves me that much.

The other question that comes naturally out of this text is: Who is this Jesus that we are asked to follow? I’m not sure the disciples fully understood who they were following. And we have to confess that we fall into the temptation of recreating Jesus in our own image. Jesus is 62 year old white man who doesn’t like dirty salad covered in blue cheese dressing given to him at 6 AM. Jesus is a Democrat or a Republican. Jesus is my buddy who has all the same habits and traits I have. Jesus is easy-going and predictable. This Jesus we have recreated in our image is not very challenging or threatening to our status quo and we like it that way.  

This Jesus who calls us to follow him is the image of God. I recently sat at my desk and reread the little book, Three Simple Questions, by Bishop Rueben Job. At Rueben’s memorial service last Sunday I spoke of his stewardship of words. And in just a few short paragraphs, Rueben tells us who we are asked to follow in Jesus, the Christ. Listen to his words.

“The God Jesus reveals shatters all our little ideas about God and reveals a God who is author and creator of all that is. In Jesus we see a God who reverses the values of our culture and turns upside down our scheme or priorities, leaving us gasping at the sight of such bone-deep love, justice, and mercy. In Jesus we see such bold and radical truth that we tremble in awe and then cry out for help as we try to practice the faithful way of living he demonstrated so splendidly.”

“In Jesus we see a God who does the unexpected and the unpredictable. We see Jesus choosing to be the friend of sinners and being just as comfortable with the very wealthy as he is with the homeless beggar. We see a God who refuses to accept the boundaries that culture establishes and who moves with ease among scholars, religious leaders, soldiers, prostitutes, farmers, fishermen, tax collectors and demon-possessed men and women—inviting them all into a new way of seeing the world, a new way of living, a new kingdom.”

In Jesus we see a God who is not swayed by popular opinion, loud adulation, or noisy rebellion. In Jesus we see a God who is not controlled by any ideology, philosophy, concept, force, or power. In Jesus we see a God who is never under our control. . . . Jesus reveals a God who is always and forever beyond us, completely other than we are, yet who wants to come and dwell within us. Jesus reveals a God of love.” (pp. 21-22)

I was in Junior High School and I was sitting on the back row of church with a bunch of other young people. Our District Superintendent was preaching. We were passing notes to one another and giggling. Several times we got that scolding look from our parents as they turned and glared at us.

The District Superintendent was a kind and gentle man and I kept hearing him use the word love. He repeated, “God loves each of us.”  “God is love.” He kept saying it and I found myself listening, against my better judgment. He looked at us and said again, “God loves you.”  I knew this. We sang, “Jesus loves me, this I know,” in Vacation Bible School. I heard it in Confirmation, but on that day it was like I was hearing it for the first time. The Holy Spirit was delivering this message to my heart and my mind and I found myself transfixed.  

The sermon ended and the preacher invited persons who wanted to pray to come forward during the hymn. We were standing and all of sudden I realized that I was walking, walking down the aisle and toward the chancel. I fell on my knees at the kneeler. I came face to face that day with the One who has said to me all my life, “I love you. You are my child. You make me happy.”

Kneeling there, I heard Jesus say, “Come, follow me.”


Jurgen Motmann wrote, “The message of the prophet is a message for the people, a message sent into the camps of the exiled, and into the slums of the poor. It is a word against the captains of the arms industry and the fanatics of power. If we really understood what it means, it bursts the bonds of Sunday worship. For if this message really lays hold of us, it leads us to Jesus, the liberator, and to the people who live in darkness and who are waiting for him—and for us.”  (The Power)

This Advent may we hear our call to be witnesses to that light and hope that came to us in Jesus Christ. In Christ light and hope have come into our dark world.

 

Music Ministry

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Music Ministry Mission Statement

The music ministry of Belmont United Methodist Church strives to glorify God through music in all gatherings and presentations.
The music programs at Belmont offer opportunity for:

- Education
- Spiritual Growth
- Fellowship
- Participation in ministry
- Stewardship of gifts and talents
- Outreach

All choirs are voluntary, and everyone is welcome and encouraged to participate, regardless of experience. All participants strive for excellence, dignity, reverence and integrity in all musical endeavors.

For additional information regarding the Belmont Music Ministry, contact: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , Director of Music Ministries
383-0832 ext. 29, or click on these links:

Adult choirs
Youth choirs
Children's choirs

Music News

Upcoming music events

February 15 - Nashville Children’s Choir concert, 3:00 p.m. in the sanctuary

March 1 - Reginald Smith Jr and Deron Johnson in concert, 2:00 p.m. in the sanctuary

April 13 - Lipscomb University choir/orchestra concert, 7:30 p.m. in the sanctuary

April 26 - Sanctuary Choir concert, 3:00 p.m. in the sanctuary


Belmont UMC's Pipe Organ Specs

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To view or download the organ specs, click here
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Sermon transcript for January 18, 2015

“Your Servant is Listening”
1 Samuel 3:1-20
Belmont UMC—January 15, 2012
Ken Edwards, preaching

There must have been times when the young Samuel wondered what his mother had gotten him into; he had spent virtually his entire childhood assisting in the temple at Shiloh, training to become a full time servant of God, loyally waiting on the priestly family of Eli.

But not once had he perceived God’s presence in the temple or God’s purpose for his life. Samuel had been dedicated to God, but where was God? What was he supposed to do now? The text says that there were not many words from God being heard and there were no frequent visions to guide him. It was a quiet, barren spiritual environment.

Because Samuel did not yet know the Lord, he must have been directionless, wondering, and confused. Why was he at the temple? Why was he dedicated to this barren life? His role models for life did not offer much encouragement either. As priests, Eli’s sons were greedy, gluttonous and completely self-centered. They cheated the people, stole from the temple and desecrated it.

Eli was Samuel’s mentor. Apparently, he was kind, wise and obedient, but he was incapable of controlling his sons’ behavior and the sanctity of the temple had not been maintained under his leadership. He was a weak leader. With no vision or experience of his own, all Samuel could hope for was a lifestyle like that of Eli and his corrupt sons.

Samuel lived in Shiloh and Shiloh was thought to be God’s dwelling place, where the light always burned to symbolize that God was at home and where an oracle could always be obtained by priestly rites and rituals. At Shiloh the Israelites believed that they had God’s presence as a captive audience. At Shiloh Samuel literally slept in front of the Holy Ark of the Covenant. But the word of the Lord had not been revealed to him. It was a visionless, voiceless, experience. Where was God? Why was Samuel in Shiloh? What was God’s purpose for him?

And then one night the word of God came to young Samuel in an exchange that was both comical and tender. It was comical because Samuel thought Eli was calling him and he woke the old priest up three times before Eli was convinced that the word was from God.

Where had God been all this time? Have we not asked ourselves this question at one time or another? Where was God during difficult days? Where was God when answers did not come? Where was God when depression or confusion came over us? Where was God when we went to church week after week and felt nothing of God’s presence?

The Psalmists often asked God this same question. Were you hiding from me God? Were you asleep? Did you turn your face away from me? Were you angry? Will you always remain silent?

Is God no longer around? Does God have no words to speak to our generation, our culture, our church? Does God no longer offer us visions of hope and direction for our future? Will God reveal God’s purpose for us?

These are fair questions but they may be the wrong questions. It’s possible that we, like Samuel, have been face to face with the holiness of God but unable to perceive God’s presence because our spiritual senses have been dulled by a dark night of the soul or our busyness, or because we have forgotten how to come into God’s presence and hear God’s word.

Henri Nouwen once wrote, “The question that must guide our organizing activity in the parish is not how to keep people busy, but how to keep them from being so busy they can no longer hear the voice of God who speaks in the silence.” (source unknown)

Where has God been? God has been in Shiloh, near the Ark of the Covenant. But the vision and hearing of the Eli, his sons and their attendant and trainee, Samuel, have been dulled to the possibilities of communicating with this revelatory God.

Where is God? God is here! And God has a word and a vision for the people of this church, but we will need to have our spiritual senses awakened! God has been here all along. God has a purpose for our lives and we will need to learn to listen for it.

In last week’s text on Jesus’ baptism, a voice speaks from heaven, “You are my son, whom I dearly love. In you I find happiness.” (Mark 1:11 CEB) We want to be able to hear God say to us, “You are my child, whom I dearly love. You make me happy.”

Bishop Rueben Job wrote of that passage, “Like a sharp clap of thunder God can get our attention. But at other times God gets our attention with something that may be more like a gentle breeze touching our cheek, or a simple thought or urge that will not let us go. . . . Our task is to listen and pay attention so that we do not miss the gentle whisper or that sharp clap of thunder. They often come unannounced from many sources, such as Scripture, prayer, worship, events of the day, and other totally unexpected sources.” (When You Pray, pp. 33-34)  

From the text we find clues for being able to hear God when God speaks. The first is to lie down! Be still! Samuel did not hear God in the moment of activity or when he was going about his daily temple duties, he heard God when he was lying still in the quiet of the night, alone, at rest, at the shutting down time of the day. We will need to be still, stop moving, stop our frenetic activity, our multitasking.

Mary Pipher described her journey to wholeness in Seeking Peace. She was learning to practice meditation and learning to be fully present to one thing at a time. She writes, “I have a long history of doing two or three or seventeen things at once. I am cooking, but planning my next road trip. I am talking on the phone but wondering if I have a can of tuna handy for lunch. I am bird watching but wondering if I have offended someone. I am walking, but even as I smell the French lilacs in the air and notice a heron on the lake, I am thinking of presidential politics.” (p. 218)

Through the Psalmist we hear God say, “Be still and know that I am God.”
If you are like me you have trouble being still. We have a work ethic that does not want us to take moments of stillness and quiet—it always seems like wasting time to us. There are times when I’m alone in the car, or running (not still physically but quiet and experiencing some level stillness is inside of me), at times when the house is quiet and I’m caught up with work or too exhausted to keep going. And in those moments I may experience some clarity about the God’s presence and purpose in my life.

I used to sit down and pray something like this each morning, “Okay, God, tell me what you want me to do today? What can I add to my already extensive list?” I prayed that prayer for 50 years and never got an answer.  I have changed my prayer practice. Most mornings now I will find time to sit in my favorite chair and say to God, “Here I am again. Allow me to be in your holy presence.” I don’t talk a lot and tell God what to do; I try to allow myself to be with God, to be still, to be quiet, and to wait. And God prepares my heart and mind for the day ahead and for what may come.

We need to be still! And we need to be quiet! Soren Kirkegard said that if he were a doctor and were allowed to prescribe one remedy for all the ills of the modern world, he would prescribe silence. Most of us fill our lives with sounds and most of us find silence a little unsettling. But Elijah heard God in the stillness and the silence of the holy mountain, at a time when he was too exhausted to go on his own energy and he had to rely on God.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. heard God in the quiet of his kitchen in Montgomery, Alabama, late one night. King had not set out to be an activist or a crusader but the day after Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of a bus, Ralph Abernathy talked King into accepting the leadership of the Montgomery Improvement Association and King accepted assured that the bus boycott that had begun would be over in one day.

By the end of the second month of the boycott, King was feeling the weight of his role and began to despair. He offered his resignation and was refused.

Later in the month he returned home after a long day of meetings. It was around midnight and he was exhausted and he longed to join his family who had already gone to bed. A threatening phone call was keeping him awake—he was getting 30-40 threats a day. He made a pot of coffee, sat at the table with his head in his hands and he cried out to God. There he met the living Christ in an experience that would carry him through to the end of his life. He said, “I heard the voice of Jesus saying still to fight on. He promised never to leave me alone. No never alone. No never alone. He promised never to leave me, no never alone.” (Welcoming Justice, God’s Movement Toward Beloved Community, Charles Marsh and John Perkins, pp. 16-17)

When we are still and quiet we will want to listen! I’m not suggesting that I have ever heard God speak in those moments of quiet stillness, but sometimes in those moments there will come an inner knowing, a certitude, about something. Sometimes I come away knowing that I need to be quiet and still more often, but that’s a good message for me to hear. Sometimes I am inclined to check on a friend or a church member because they came to mind in those moments of quiet. Sometimes I hear that I need to let something go or pay more attention to my family. Sometimes I simply enjoy the quiet stillness and that is enough.

Today a story about a boy named Samuel allows us to imagine God calling our name in the quiet, stillness. God is calling us to fulfill God’s purposes in our world. God is calling us to something beyond ourselves. God is preparing us for the words, “Here I am!” “Speak, Lord, for your people are listening!”


Jurgen Motmann wrote, “The message of the prophet is a message for the people, a message sent into the camps of the exiled, and into the slums of the poor. It is a word against the captains of the arms industry and the fanatics of power. If we really understood what it means, it bursts the bonds of Sunday worship. For if this message really lays hold of us, it leads us to Jesus, the liberator, and to the people who live in darkness and who are waiting for him—and for us.”  (The Power)

This Advent may we hear our call to be witnesses to that light and hope that came to us in Jesus Christ. In Christ light and hope have come into our dark world.

 

Adult choirs

Sanctuary Choir

This is the primary choir for 10:30 a.m. Sunday worship. In addition, they present several musical programs each year and sing for other various church events. No audition is required for membership and rehearsals are every Wednesday 7:15-9:00 p.m year-round. Childcare is provided.

Belmont's Sanctuary Choir has released Song in the Night, a CD collection of worshipful music from various cultures. All selections on the recording have been performed in Belmont worship services. The CDs are $10 each, and you can place your order now by downloading and filling out the order form posted here. Please return your order form to the church office or e-mail in your order to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Bell choirs

Carillon Ringers - A group of intermediate/advanced handbell ringers with music reading abilities. They rehearse on Sunday 5:30-7:00 p.m. August-early May.

Celebration Ringers - A group of beginning/intermediate handbell ringers who rehearse on Thursdays 1:00-2:00 p.m.


   

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