SER # 1Xa
FIRST UMC – NEBRASKA CITY
EPIPHANY OF THE LORD SUNDAY
SUNDAY JANUARY 3RD, 2021
TEXTS: DEUTERONOMY 8: 1 – 20
THEME: REMEMBER THE LORD YOUR GOD
Finally, we are in the year of the Lord Two thousand and twenty-one (2021). Many of us watching or listening to our service today know how challenging the year 2021 has been to us as country leave alone the whole world. We are still dealing with Covid-19 challenges and we keep praying that the good Lord will carry us through. We have all changed the way we are doing things either as a group or as individuals. Many words of been used to describe the setting we are in from “new normal to a better normal.” We must know that the health of our life effects how we do things every day more so this pandemic. As a church we are figuring out how to do church beyond the four walls. How do we invite new members in when we are mostly meeting in our homes? How do we do children and youth ministry? I do believe with the wisdom of many of you God work will continue. I can’t wait to hear our choir singing back and for us being able to sing in church. As we start the year 2021, I am reminded of the words that were spoken to the people of Israel as they settled in the land of promise (Canaan). They were words of warning to the people. The challenge for us when it comes to 2021 is to never forget how far the Lord has journeyed with us. God is going to deliver us from this covid-19 not in a too far future and when this happens, we should never forget the Lord our God and his faithfulness.
Now allow me to say two quick sentences about what makes a lasting covenant. One: A covenant will only remain valid if the parties involved are willing to keep their pledge. Two: The center of the covenant is aimed at the good will of the parties involved.
In our Bible reading this morning God is reminding his people never to forget certain things just because all was going well. They needed to keep to the vows. This is what makes a covenant relevant:
- They were asked never to forget God’s commandments.
- Never forget to bless God when you had enough.
- Never forget that all the goodness they enjoyed came from God.
- Never forget where God had taken them from (slavery in Egypt).
Today as we look back the good Lord has carried us from far places. I would like to tell you also that never forget the covenant that you have made with your God today. God on his part will never forget what he has promised you today.
As we reflect on our covenant vows that we have shared today I would like to lift a few of the words and commitment around those words. We will be guided by the John Wesley words that he used for the covenant service. We will try to re-arrange and put together his thoughts as we explore this year’s covenant commitment. As I think of this covenant, I am reminded of the words from the writer of the book of Hebrews who wrote; “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).
- Acknowledge who God is to us: As we begin the year 2021, we must allow God to take control of our heart and to be the one in charge. One, by allowing ourselves not to live in any kind of sin that we know about. God holiness doesn’t mix with unholiness. Two, by accepting Christ as our Lord and our head. We do this by renouncing our own worthiness and let the Lord be our God. Three, we renounce our own righteousness. We have to believe our righteousness is only possible to Jesus himself. We have so many sinful spots in our own life that only the blood of Jesus can cleanse it. We are not the light, but we reflect the light of Jesus in us. Four, we depend on the wisdom of God alone. The wisdom of God is like a torch it will guides us through the uncertain moments, through the dark valleys of our life even at time when we are lost, of words he will guide us on what to say. Five, Jesus is the source of our salvation. We can never save us from anything. It is the blood of Jesus that has saving powers.
- Giving Our Self to the Lord: By offering ourselves to the Lord, we have to accept that God knows the best for us. This calls for a relationship that we need to invest in the four ways: One, Set apart time with God. We must invest some time with God in three main ways. A have time with God alone. This time would be used to study the bible as well as learn other things that relate to your faith. B have time with God with a small group. There might be some group activities like group studies or workshop that will keep your relationship with God stronger. C invest time in the cooperate worship. There might be seminars or church wide community service that one would be involved with. During these time with God, they become time of self-searching how “is it with your soul.” Are there things of my life that need to be changed? Two, be serious about the working of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit then will be our teacher, our counselor and our guide to our everyday activity when allowed. Three, depend on God. Four, be faithful. Faith is one special eye that we posses that does not involve sight. The writer of Hebrews defines it in the best way. “Now Faith is the assurance of things hoped for; the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).
- Accept God’s Service: This invites us to a few things on the faith walk. It was John Wesley who once said, “Christ will have no servants except by consent, Christ will not accept anything except full consent to all that he requires” One, to be servants who are willing to work under the command of our Lord Jesus. This means our services would not be directed towards serving our own good but to what God wants to do. This means surrendering our own will at the feet of Jesus. So, when we say a prayer we end with this phase, “May thy will be done not mine.” It is never easy to say that because we already have in mind what we want. Two, Allow God himself to put us into doing. In doing this we might find ourselves exposed to suffering like Paul or even with no work to do. We might find ourselves in need and we might find ourselves with a lot. What is important here is to avail ourselves for his service. We must be willing to give our heart to his pleasure and disposal.
- God Gives us Inner Strength: There are moments in life that we feel that what we need is the inner strength. We get worn out from the inside. That strength does not come from food or anything physical, but we desire to experience that comforting inner peace. This is what God promises to give us in this covenant. Those moment when there is a loss in the family, or something happens so dramatic and takes away the inner strength, we need to call on God for he offers the living water. This time of dealing with Covid-19 issues can be energy draining. So, the words of the Psalmist remind us, when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we shall fear nothing for the LORD is with us and his rode and stuff comforts us, and his cup of love overflows (Psalm 23). As we empty ourselves and our burdens to him then he takes over. It was the writer of the words in the book Isaiah who gave us these comforting words when we feel weak and empty; “He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases the strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall be exhausted; but they who wait(hope) for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40: 29 – 31).