Tag Archives: John the Baptist

The Sacrament of Baptism

given on Sunday, September 24, 2017

Special note:  Because we have seldom had the opportunity to baptize anybody, I decided to make the entire service a teaching time for the sacrament of baptism.  The following are the comments and the liturgy that I used.  I hope it helps all to understand.


*Opening words about the Sacrament of Baptism:


            Today we are so privileged to have two young people decide to be baptized. The last few years, our small community has watched life transitions shrink our congregation. Today, we get to celebrate in the life transition of baptism.

Baptism is a ritual The Church has initiated for those who chose to accept God’s gift of grace into their lives. As we go through the liturgy, you will hear how the ritual affirms the decision to be part of The Church which includes all Christian denominations.

Baptism in the Methodist tradition begins at any time in one’s life.

  • Parents can bring their children to be baptized as infants committing to raising them within the church of their choice.
  • Young people can make the decision to be baptized on their own at any time in their life as they learn about God and his son Jesus Christ.
  • Adults, even at the end of their life journey, can decide to be baptized acknowledging their acceptance of God’s grace and salvation.

The United Methodist Church acknowledges the baptism of any individual in any Christian denomination. One baptism, whether as an infant or later, acknowledges one’s inclusion as a child of God.       Therefore, those who wish to renew their personal relationship can reaffirm their baptism at any time. Today, we offer the opportunity for any others to join in reaffirming their baptism, too.


Please turn in your hymnal to page 33: The Baptismal Covenant I

(At times the words will be adjusted to meet the particular needs of today’s service.)


Pastor:         Brothers and sisters in Christ:

Through the Sacrament of Baptism

we are initiated into Christ’s holy Church.

We are incorporated into God’s mighty acts of salvation

and given new birth through water and the Spirit.

All this is God’s gift, offered to us without price.


Today as we join in the sacrament of Baptism,

we can also choose to reaffirm our own baptism,

acknowledging what God has, is and will be doing for us,

and affirming our commitment to Christ’s holy Church.


Presentation of the Candidates UMH p.33


*Comments about the decision and preparation of candidates

Each person here today has a story about his or her own baptism. I myself was baptized as an infant. My mom and dad made the decision. I know others here made the decision themselves as young people.

For those who were baptized after making the decision for themselves, the words of the liturgy probably have more significance than it did for me. In order to prepare for baptism, Ali and Sami sat down with me for several meetings to go over the ritual and its words. We talked about what the experience meant to believers and what it means to them. We talked about different ways to experience it, too.

The methods of baptism range from sprinkling drops of water from a small bowl to full emersion in all kinds of water filled settings. As Ali and Sami began thinking about their own baptism, they considered full emersion at Truman Lake, but summer sped past and here we are today.

As you notice, we are going to do all we can to assure them that baptism is a full experience, one they will never forget. What better time for all of us, so far removed by the years from our own baptism, to reaffirm our baptism, too.

The ritual includes three primary parts: the call to repent of one’s sins, the water bath representing the cleansing of one’s sins, and finally the acceptance of God’s gift of the Holy Spirit which is God within us. The words of the ritual have had very few changes since the church first began. Even Jesus Christ experienced baptism and he was about 30 years old when he asked his cousin John the Baptist to baptize him:


Opening scripture: Matthew 3:11-17, NLT


[John the Baptist is speaking.] 11 “I baptize with water those who repent of their sins and turn to God. But someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not worthy even to be his slave and carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 12 He is ready to separate the chaff from the wheat with his winnowing fork. Then he will clean up the threshing area, gathering the wheat into his barn but burning the chaff with never-ending fire.”

13 Then Jesus went from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to talk him out of it. “I am the one who needs to be baptized by you,” he said, “so why are you coming to me?”

15 But Jesus said, “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.” So John agreed to baptize him.

16 After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”


Pastor:         Today I have the honor of presenting

Alex and Samantha Heyer for baptism. (have them stand)


Renunciation of Sin and Profession of Faith (Call to Repent) UMH p.34


Scripture: John 3:16-17, NLT


16 “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.


Pastor:         On behalf of the whole Church, I ask you:

Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness,

reject the evil powers of this world,

and repent of your sin?


Candidate:             I do.


Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you

to resist evil, injustice, and oppression

in whatever forms they present themselves?


Candidate:             I do.


Pastor:         Do you confess Jesus Christ as your Savior,

put your whole trust in his grace,

and promise to serve him as your Lord,

in union with the Church which Christ has opened

to people of all ages, nations, and races?


Candidate:             I do.


Pastor:         According to the grace given to you,

will you remain faithful members of Christ’s holy Church

and serve as Christ’s representatives in the world?


Candidate: I will.


Profession of Faith using the Apostle’s Creed UMH p.35


*Comments about the Apostle’s Creed:

As the Apostles established The Church after Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection, there was an effort to find ways to maintain the common beliefs.

The Apostle’s Creed was the result of the earliest church conferences meeting in ancient times. The creed is divided into three parts that clearly define the Christian belief in the Triune God: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

In the liturgy today, the Apostle’s Creed is divided into three answers to the pastor’s questions. By joining in the Apostle’s Creed, we are restating the foundation of the Christian faith (Have the congregation stand.):


Pastor:         Let us join together in professing the Christian faith

as contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New                                             Testaments.


Pastor:         Do you believe in God the Father?


All:     I believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven

                        and earth.


Pastor:         Do you believe in Jesus Christ?


All:     I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,

            who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,

            born of the Virgin Mary,

            suffered under Pontius Pilate,

            was crucified, died, and was buried;

            he descended to the dead.

            On the third day he rose again;

            he ascended into heaven,

            is seated at the right hand of the Father,

            and will come again to judge the living and the dead.


Pastor:         Do you believe in the Holy Spirit?


All:     I believe in the Holy Spirit,

            the holy catholic* church,

            the communion of saints,

            the forgiveness of sins,

            the resurrection of the body,

            and the life everlasting.


UMC Hymn 191    Jesus Loves Me


Thanksgiving over the water (UMH p. 36)


*Comments about the symbolic use of water:

            Many might ask why water is used in the ritual. Water symbolizes life and rebirth. From the beginning of time, humans have understood that we are born through water, and we are cleansed by water. The Church uses baptism with water to represent the rebirth as a Christian and the cleansing of one’s sins as we ask for forgiveness.

Water is considered the source of life. Today we use water as a symbol of being born into the Christian family. Even though we have been present in the church for years, it is important that we personally recognize that our lives are God driven. Water is a reminder that we are born into God’s family and we are cleansed of our sins.

Join in the liturgy that blesses the water and allows us to experience that symbolic connection to God as our father and to Jesus Christ our redeemer.


Pastor:         The Lord be with you.


All:                 And also with you.


Pastor:         Let us pray:


Eternal Father:

When nothing existed but chaos,

you swept across the dark waters

and brought forth light.

In the days of Noah

you saved those on the ark through water.

After the flood you set in the clouds a rainbow.

When you saw your people as slaves in Egypt,

you led them to freedom through the sea.

Their children you brought through the Jordan

to the land which you promised.


All:     Sing to the Lord, all the earth.

            Tell of God’s mercy each day.


Pastor:         In the fullness of time you sent Jesus,

nurtured in the water of a womb.

He was baptized by John and anointed by your Spirit.

He called his disciples

to share in the baptism of his death and resurrection

and to make disciples of all nations.


All:     Declare Christ’s works to the nations,

            his glory among all the people.


Pastor:         Pour out your Holy Spirit,

and by this gift of water call to our remembrance

the grace declared to us in our baptism.

For you have washed away our sins,

and you clothe us with righteousness

throughout our lives,

that dying and rising with Christ

we may share in his final victory.


Pastor:         All praise to you, Eternal Father,  

            through your Son Jesus Christ,

            who with you and the Holy Spirit

            lives and reigns for ever. Amen.


Reaffirmation of Faith UMH p. 37


*Comments about reaffirming one’s faith:

            Even though we are here to witness Ali and Sami in their decision to be baptized, we can take the opportunity to reaffirm our own baptism. God is with us throughout our lives, be we are not perfect.

We make mistakes. We sin. And yet we know that God is always present. It is up to us to recognize that we have failed and must ask for forgiveness.

You are invited to join in with others who wish to reaffirm their baptism, too. The words of reaffirmation do not replace your once-in-a-life experience; it simply reconnects you to God.

With the words of today’s liturgy and the opportunity to experience the water that we have given thanks for earlier. You may touch it, dribble it, sprinkle it, fling it, or even make the sign of the cross with it. You can handle it as you wish, but the pastor cannot re-baptize you.


Pastor:         Remember your baptism and be thankful.


All:     Amen.


Pastor (those choosing to participate, may walk up to the water):     

The Holy Spirit work within you,

that having been born through water and the Spirit,

you may live as faithful disciples of Jesus Christ.


All:     Amen.


Transferring membership from another congregation:


*Comments on transferring memberships:

United Methodist Churches know that one’s membership may need to change due to life experiences. Whether one is moving from one community to another, whether one decides to change denominations for any reason, or whether life circumstances shift one way or another, it is a simple matter of changing one’s church membership.

For those moving from other denominations, becoming familiar with the doctrine of the United Methodists may be necessary. But transferring from one United Methodist congregation to another is much simpler and leaves only one question to ask in order to officially make the transfer.


Pastor:         Sharon Dzula has made the decision to transfer her

membership from her long-time church home of Mt. Tabor to our church.


Will you be loyal to the Community United Methodist Church, and uphold it by your prayers, your presence,

your gifts, and your service?


Transferee:            Yes, I will.


Baptism with Laying on of Hands (UMH p. 37)

Comments on the practice of Laying on of Hands.

As we near the end of today’s service, the time has come to finalize the baptism ritual. Rather than administering the traditional means of sprinkling, we are going to use the practice of laying on the hands for Ali and Sami.

All are invited to surround them as they wish, place their hands upon them or the others who can reach them, as we welcome them into the Christian faith:


Pastor: Alex, I baptize you in the name of the Father,

and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.


Sami, I baptize you in the name of the Father,

And of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.


All:     Amen


Pastor:         The Holy Spirit works within you,

That being born through water and the Spirit,

You may be a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ.


All:     Amen


The Sacrament of Communion:


*Comments about the communion as a church family:

            We are closing the sacrament of baptism with the second sacrament the church recognizes: Communion, aka as the Eucharist, or the Table of Bread and Word.

Throughout history communities have come together around the table. In our congregation, the tradition is the first Sunday of the month, but today sharing the cup and the bread is one final way to welcome all who believe in Jesus Christ to be in fellowship together.


UMC Hymn 620    One Bread, One Body


UMC page 13-14


Thanksgiving and welcome:


*Comments about local membership in the church:

Baptism is the first step in committing one’s self to the Christian lifestyle. The door is open to a life of joy knowing that whatever trials and tribulations we must face on earth, we are given the strength we need.

God is ever with us because he promised that upon our baptism he grants us the Holy Spirit, which is God within us. We have a responsibility to learn all we can about God and how he sent Jesus Christ to teach us how to live:

  • We have a responsibility to live in loving relationships with others.
  • We have a responsibility to love others as we want to be loved.
  • We have a responsibility to do all that we can in all the ways that we can for all that we can.

By joining together with other Christians, regardless of their church denomination, we will discover the joy in living as Paul shares in his letter to the Philippians:


Closing Scripture: Philippians 1:3-10, NLT


Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy, for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now. And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

So it is right that I should feel as I do about all of you, for you have a special place in my heart. You share with me the special favor of God, both in my imprisonment and in defending and confirming the truth of the Good News. God knows how much I love you and long for you with the tender compassion of Christ Jesus.

I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. 10 For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return. 11 May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God.


Pastor: Now it is our joy to welcome you as sisters in Christ.


All:     Through baptism

            You are incorporated by the Holy Spirit

                        Into God’s new creation

            And made to share in Christ’s royal priesthood.

            We are all one in Christ Jesus.

            With joy and thanksgiving we welcome you

                        as members of the family of Christ.


Pastor:         Let us rejoice in the faithfulness of our covenant God.


All:     We give thanks for all that God has already given us.

As members of the body of Christ

and in this congregation of The United Methodist Church,

we will faithfully participate in the ministries of the Church

            by our prayers, our presence, our gifts,

our service and our witness

            that in everything God may be glorified

            through Jesus Christ.


UMC Hymn 77       How Great Thou Art (to the accompaniment of Elvis)


Closing words and benediction UMH p. 39


Pastor:        The God of all grace,

Who has called us to eternal glory in Christ,

Establish you and strengthen you

By the power of the Holy Spirit,

That you may live in grace and peace.

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Do We Ever Grow Up in God’s Eyes?

–given on Sunday, January 10, 2016

Scripture base: Luke 3:15-22 (lectionary reference to Jesus’ baptism)

Luke 18:15-17

Biblegateway.com connections:

[ Jesus Blesses Little Children ] Then little children were being brought to him in order that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples spoke sternly to those who brought them;

[ Jesus Blesses Little Children ] People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them.

[ Jesus Blesses Little Children ] People were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them; and when the disciples saw it, they sternly ordered them not to do it.



Have you ever noticed that you never feel grown up? One of life’s more embarrassing experiences is running into an old high school classmate and not even recognizing him or her, but then there is that voice. Suddenly a thousand memories rush over you and recognition is there!

The process of growing up does make physical changes in our appearance, but the process does not have the same effect on our brains.   The more we age, the more knowledge we gain; but does this mean we grow up in God’s eyes?

We often address God in our prayers as ‘Father’ and we ask him for guidance. We go to God to complain and to ask for help. The attitude we take is often the same as that we use with our earthly parents. Do we ever grow up in our parents’ eyes?   Do we ever see our own children as grown up?

In the commentary for this week’s lectionary, there is an interesting reference to Dominican Priest Jude Siciliano. He explains an old Southern saying that I have never heard before: “God has no grandchildren.”

The saying means that our faith is not handed on the way family heirlooms or family stories are handed on from one generation to the next. Although we honor our ancestors in the faith from Adam and Eve, through Abraham, Moses, and the apostles, our faith is not handed down from them. God has no grandchildren; God has only children. The Lord entered our lives directly through our baptism. Our parents and godparents certainly want to see us have the gift of faith they have received but they cannot give that gift; it is from the Lord.


Maybe the secret to growing up is not to grow up. If we are always, regardless of chronological age, a child of God it seems like we do not have to “grow up.”

But let’s back up this aging thing a bit. Aging is a process that begins on one’s birthday. There is no doubt that we have earthly, biological parents. Even Jesus was born with earthly parents, but it was during Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River that God’s presence became public when the Holy Spirit descended upon him.

Our baptism publically declares God as our father. As God’s child, we are never going to grow up. We can grow, but we are never going to outlive God. We are always his sons and daughters. We are never grandchildren. Nothing can forcibly separate us from our heavenly Father.

Can we ever grow up though? Certainly we can. We are organic beings who can physically develop from newborns to toddlers to school-aged kids to high school students, and even on to be parents.

Yet, through all these developmental phases, God is with us. As our heavenly parent, God is always present. He is available at any moment in time. He loves us even when we make mistakes.

In our closing hymn, Jesus Loves Me, we are reminded of how God loves us as his children. We might think the hymn refers to the youngsters, only, but if we are God’s children then age does not matter. Remember, we are God’s children even if we turn 5, 15, 55, 91, or 101.

Does this not make a huge difference when we consider birthday celebrations? If we never grow up in God’s eyes, then we never have to feel grown up. The opportunity to be forever young is a gift that we can accept.

How do we accept God’s gift? There is only one way. We accept Jesus in our lives, and publicly affirm the relationship through our baptism. Accepting God also means that we accept the responsibility to follow his teaching and to live according to his Golden Rule. If we do not unwrap God’s gift, then we will never discover the secrets of life everlasting.

As Christians, remembering our baptism can keep us young. Even though it is possible to never participate in a reaffirmation of faith service, reviewing the baptismal covenant is one way to celebrate being God’s child. [Turn to p. 32 in the UMH to read the statement concerning baptism and/or review of the covenant ceremony.]

The Baptismal Covenant is God’s word to us, proclaiming our adoption by grace, and our word to God promising our response of faith and love. Those within the covenant constitute the community we call the church .

Persons of any age are suitable candidates. Infants and others unable to take the vows for themselves are presented by parents and/or sponsors. . .

. . . Baptism is not administered to any person more than once, for while our baptismal vows are less than reliable, God’s promise to us in the sacrament is steadfast.

Baptism is an outward sign of one’s acceptance of God as our heavenly father. Baptism defines God’s relationship with us. We are responsible as sponsors and as independent adults to accept God’s gift.

Unwrap God’s gift by reading the Bible. We know that our earthly parents and grandparents have learned many secrets to life, but those who model reading the scripture, going to church, serving one another in love, will always be children in God’s eyes. They opened up God’s gift and used it. As you unwrap God’s gift to you, too, you will learn that the secret to never growing up is accepting God as your heavenly father.

  • Apostles’ Creed (UMH 881)
  • Invitation for baptism/church membership (UMH p.33)
  • Closing prayer (UMH 253)





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Building Our Christian Foundation Series: 2. The Sacrament of Baptism

given on Sunday, January 18, 2015

  1. The Sacrament of Baptism


The weeks after Christmas traditionally review the story of the Baby Jesus and his early, pre-ministry years. The Bible provides only small pictures of those first 30 years as Jesus grew up, learned a trade, and prepared for the ministry he was born to provide.

One of the stories in the scripture is that of John the Baptist, who was Jesus’ cousin. As you remember, when Jesus’ mother Mary discovered she was expecting, she went to visit her older relative Elizabeth (Luke 1:39-56). When Elizabeth learned she was expecting, the Holy Spirit filled her and she knew that Mary’s baby was the Messiah. Elizabeth herself was expecting and she gave birth to a son John.

The Scripture tells the story and provides Christians the very foundation that supports our faith. Still the Scripture needs careful study and analysis to maintain our strong foundation. As all builders know, a strong foundation will need monitoring and attention throughout the life of the building or it can deteriorate. The building can fail just as one’s Christian lifestyle if we do not continue reading and studying the Scripture.

The Scripture also provides the other building blocks for our faith. The story of Jesus’ baptism is one more brick in our Christian foundation and it supports another—the sacrament of Baptism. One thought might be if Jesus is baptized, then we need to be baptized; and that is one basic way to rationalize our own baptism, but there is more to the sacrament than just dipping some water over our head.

First, what is a sacrament? Basically a sacrament is a religious act of outward and visible sign of inward and spiritual divine grace, in particular.


Sacraments are very important to the life of the Church. They are a means of grace. John Wesley said, “By ‘means of grace’ I understand outward signs, words, or actions, ordained of God, and appointed for this end, to be the ordinary channels whereby he might convey to men, preventing, justifying, or sanctifying grace[The Means of Grace. http://wesley.nnu.edu/john_wesley/sermons/016.htm%5D. This means a sacrament is an outward action that represents God’s giving His grace on the inside. They are God’s channels for supplying His grace to human beings. [Accessed on January 17, 2015 at https://www.nph.com/vcmedia/2369/2369939.pdf]


A second sacrament that the United Methodist Church practices is communion that is included more frequently in our calendar than baptisms.

Today we are going to reaffirm our baptisms because the UMC honors any Christian baptism. Once baptized, there is no reason for a second baptism. Of course, if one has not been previously baptized, participating in the reaffirmation can include a first-time baptism with a few additional questions.

For those who are unfamiliar with UMC baptism, the denomination’s website provides this abbreviated set of descriptors:

  • Through baptism we are joined with the church and with Christians everywhere.
  • Baptism is a symbol of new life and a sign of God’s love and forgiveness of our sins.
  • Persons of any age can be baptized.
  • We baptize by sprinkling, immersion or pouring.
  • A person receives the sacrament of baptism only once in his/her life.


As we read through the liturgy (the written script in the hymnal), we should see the way these descriptors are blended into the language. The one thing you will not see is the action of sprinkling, immersion or pouring by the pastor upon the members. In a reaffirmation, the already-baptized members dip their own hands into the water or touch it and decide how they want to experience the water on their own. (If you are not baptized, we can do so today or we can make a plan to have a formal baptism at another time.)

Understanding baptism is often assumed and not reviewed as much as communion or even the Christian seasons of Advent and Lent. Baptism may not even be part of one’s memory if our parents had us baptized as infants. Participating in the reaffirmation gives us a review and may even stir up that tiny little fire into a raging flame. We cannot predict when the Holy Spirit will make its presence known, but we open the door to it when we are baptized.

One of the explanations for baptism uses the metaphor of a door:

From the beginning, baptism has been the door through which one enters the church. It was inconceivable to many that one could respond to God’s grace by reciting the renunciations, affirming one’s faith in Christ and loyalty to the Kingdom, without joining the fellowship of those who are committed to mature in that faith. As the “Body of Christ: in the world, baptism commissions us to use our gifts to strengthen the church and to transform the world.


Entering into the Christian family through the door of baptism, begins a relationship which carries responsibility. Baptism is an open sign that we have accepted Jesus as our savior and that his life, death and resurrection was done so that we might have salvation, life eternal.

A covenant means responsibility. Baptism is an outward sign that we believe, and in the liturgy that belief is outlined with the Apostles’ Creed. It explains each part of what we believe as Christians. When we reach that point in the reaffirmation ritual, read each line, pause, reflect, and then move on.

Sometimes being a Christian is stressful because we are challenged by the secular world around us. At baptism, adults can understand the responsibility of accepting God’s commandments to love God and to love one another. We also accept the commandment to share the story and make disciples of others for the transformation of the world.

Right now, those responsibilities are being challenged. What is swirling around us is evilness. We, as baptized children of God, we must accept the job of living our faith openly. We raise our children to follow God’s law. We model Christian lifestyle in our communities. And we participate in ministry so the Word can reach others.

As for our children, they too are part of the Christian church. The United Methodist Church does practice infant baptism, but until that child can make the decision to join the church, it is our responsibility to provide the teaching, the guidance, and the practices of living our Christian faith. As parents, if we baptize infants, we are acting on their behalf.

Today’s reaffirmation ritual is an excellent time to teach them that they are baptized. If they are not baptized, we need to ask them if they are ready. If they are unsure, that is their choice. If anybody wants to be baptized, they are welcome to do so. If there are still questions that have not been answered, then ask. We are building foundations so now is the time to make sure we understand, that we have made the right choices, and that we move forward in the process of building our Christian foundations.

Please join me in a closing prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father,

Today we remember our baptism

and offer baptism to your newest children.

We confess we have forgotten

our own baptism and its significance.


Remind us that water symbolizes

the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

During these moments,

remind us, too, of our parenting role

as we promise to help others

build their own Christian foundations.


As we depart today,

fill us with your Holy Spirit.

Knowing our foundation is strong

because we love one another

as you love us. –Amen.


*Let us now turn to the UMH #50 for the reaffirmation of our baptism.



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Breaking Sin’s Code (Part 3): The People

given on Sunday, March 3, 2013

Bible reference:  Malachi 2:17-3:19

Breaking Sin’s Code (Part 3):  The People


         What do you do when a boss or a leader tells you to do something and you know it is wrong?  As I read Malachi 3, I thought of all the leaders we watch and hear whether in business, in churches, or in government.  How many times do they announce some decision or ask somebody to do something and you know it is wrong?

On Friday, one of the world’s religious leaders retired—the Pope.  Can you imagine serving in that position and dealing with all the negatives within the church as a result of priests misusing or even abusing their position as church leaders?

Pope Benedict made a decision that might re-write policies for a pope’s term.  I feel he made a decision for the benefit of the church because he knew he could no longer fulfill the responsibilities of the position adequately.  He acknowledged his human weaknesses.

What do we, as the laity or as the worker or as the individual citizen, do when leaders mislead?  Maintaining our Christian principles challenges us in our daily lives without additional pressures from our leaders to do something against our beliefs.

Look at the verse, Malachi 2:17:  You have wearied the Lord with your words.—the NIV.   Malachi was prophesying to the people that they were not following God’s rules.  He was there to get their attention, to give them the strength to do what was right even if the priests were leading them astray—even if simply modeling inappropriate behaviors.

Now consider that verse in our current culture today:  You make God tired with all your talk. –the MSG   We all know that talk is not the only thing that makes God tired.  We are doing what is wrong.  We are thinking wrong thoughts.  We are even playing wrong.  With all the billions of people living around this globe making mistakes, God must be tired.

God must be tired.  Why we are tired!  We are tired of living in a world filled with greed, with violence, with abuse, with drought, floods, or other meteorological disasters.  We are tired of living according to society’s standards that clearly place us in a non-Christian position whether at work, in schools, in homes and even in personal relationships.

Just reviewing the negative possibilities wears me out.  How do we break sin’s code—or hold—when even the leaders are misleading?  Why should God protect and care for us when we fail to follow him despite the misleading of even the religious leaders?

Malachi knew the people needed to hear the prophecy just as much as the priests did.  He did not leave them out.  He warned the people that since God was worn out from their sins, he was sending messengers.  Not just one messenger, he was sending two!

Of course prophets sent messages for thousands of years as recorded in the Old Testament.  Still, Malachi added a different dimension to messenger than himself, a prophet, and the emphasis he places on the messenger indicates a closer relationship with God.

Look at Malachi 3:1:  The Lord who rules over all says, “I will send my messenger. He will prepare my way for me. Then suddenly the Lord you are looking for will come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant will come. He is the one you long for.” –the NIRV

The book of Malachi clearly presents the prophet Malachi as reporting God’s words directly.  The written rules of language show the quotation marks, the attribution of God’s words through Malachi’s reporting.  The messenger “will prepare my way for me” is God’s words.

Granted, the words do not say John the Baptist will prepare the way for me in the form of Jesus Christ.  But remember the times, the culture.  Malachi was a prophet, and the people understood that function.  It truly was an avocation, a spiritual gift, which was completely within the norm of the times.

In our culture, today, do we have prophets?  Do we have individuals who speak as though God has assigned them the responsibility of speaking for him?  I cannot think of any who have been identified as prophets since Paul established the church after the crucifixion.  Maybe this is a problem for the people.

What if our global society accepted the career of prophet and listened closely for the next announcement from God?  Would the people be following the prophet or would they continue to follow the wide range of leaders who do not follow the word of God?

Political leaders certainly are not prophets from God.  Business leaders follow the prophecy of economic gurus rather than God.  Community leaders frequently have hidden agendas that determine their announcements.  How, then, are the people, living their daily lives, raising their families, working to meet their personal needs and dreams suppose to hear God words?

The people, each and every one of us yet today also, are told so many different things that messages become confused.  The images that bombard people from all the various medias today cloud the simple words needed to follow God.  The news reports no longer report the news as a responsibility.  Even the news reports are colored by the popularity of names, events, and money.

God set a timeline in the words Malachi sharedYou have turned away from my rules. You have not obeyed them. You have lived that way ever since the days of your people long ago. Return to me. Then I will return to you,” says the Lord who rules over all.  There it is, when you return to God, God will return to you.

Amazing.  Such a simple timeframe.  Is this the reason God said he was sending a messenger?  Was Malachi’s prophecy strong enough that the people did begin to return to God?  Is the 400 year gap between Malachi’s announcement to the people how long it took for the people to return to God?

The verses in Malachi 3 answers the people’s obvious question, “How are we to return?”  There is no simple answer to that question, especially since the people were not following God’s original ten commandments, they were following all the minute, picky, self-serving rules the leaders kept adding in to the original ten.

In the verses 9-12, the key problem identified is the tithing and offerings.  The manner in which they were being handled demonstrated how God was not the first priority.  In the next few verses, harsh words against God, like the use of profanity and vulgarities we hear today, was a problem.  And there is the sharp statement in verses 14-15:

14 “You have said, ‘It is useless to serve God. What did we gain by obeying his laws? And what did we get by pretending to be sad in front of the Lord? 15 But now we call proud people blessed. Things go well with those who do what is evil. And God doesn’t even punish those who argue with him.’”

Those are frightening words today.  In the King James version even the words of verse 15 are clear:  15 And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered.  It reminds us of the seven deadliest sins:  pride, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed, and sloth.  This list was created by Pope Gregory of the 6th century. [This was not the last pope to resign although he did.  When Pope Benedict decided to resign in February, the news stated that the last pope to resign was Pope Gregory XII in 1412 ad, according to CNN on February 2, 2013.  (Accessed on March 2, 2013 at http://www.cnn.com/2013/02/11/world/europe/pope-resignation-q-and-a)]

Despite what has transpired within the Catholic Church during the last month, the words in verse 15 identify the problems that keep the people separated from God.  Whether the word is proud or successful or leaders or prosperous, the problem boils down to the first of the Ten Commandments:  Thou shalt have no other gods before me.  –the KJV.

The exact words do not matter; the message of Malachi is the same.  Hope for those people who remained faithful is offered in the final verses of Malachi 3:16-18:

     16 Those who had respect for the Lord talked with one another. They cheered each other up. And the Lord heard them. A list of people and what they did was written on a scroll in front of him. It included the names of those who respected the Lord and honored him.

     17 “They will belong to me,” says the Lord who rules over all. “They will be my special treasure. I will spare them just as a loving father spares his son who serves him. 18 Then once again you will see the difference between godly people and sinful people. And you will see the difference between those who serve me and those who do not.

What does Malachi tell us today?  The very same thing.  We must keep no other gods before the Heavenly Father.  Despite all who are deemed leaders in our society, we are to follow God.  Hear those words again:   16 Those who had respect for the Lord talked with one another. They cheered each other up. And the Lord heard them.  . . . “They will be my special treasure. I will spare them just as a loving father spares his son who serves him.

Today, take Malachi’s prophecy and evaluate your life today.  Do you keep God your focus?  Do you follow the words of the Bible?  Are you one that God hears and treasures?  What started out weeks ago as an MRI of our own hearts continues today.  We must remember our covenant with God on a personal level.  We must live our lives following His commandment.  And as we renew that covenant with communion today, we must be strong enough to follow God even when the leaders in our society do not.

Dear God,

Thank you for the words of hope

     Malachi shares with us even today.

Thank you for the guidance

     of Your word.

Help us to be honest

      with our own evaluations.

Help us to be brothers and sisters

      in your Christian family.

Let us be the leaders who follow

      Your commandment.

Let us be the faithful

     that You declare as Yours

     now and forever.  –Amen



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