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We have a lot of bird nests in our yard, at least four or five families of finches have made our backyard their home. I don’t know this for sure, but a couple of the nests are in the same place this year as they were last year so I like to imagine that generations of finches have made Grace their home.
This year, there was a baby bird that left the nest a little too soon. I was doing some yard work and watering a few plants one morning and all of a sudden a baby bird flapped up from behind some tall grass, obviously annoyed by their unwanted shower. The bird could kind of fly, but it was really just hopping and flapping around, making it a couple inches one way or another.
I decided to take a break from my yard work, because the bird wasn’t hurt, it was a little shocked and surprised, trying to find its way in the world. I thought this bird was lost and alone, but I was wrong.
Even though the bird wasn’t in the nest anymore, the next time I looked out the window, this baby bird was being fed. Another time, there wasn’t just one bird checking in on the baby in the yard, there were three. This baby bird didn’t just have parents that cared, it had a community. A flock had formed around this bird to make sure, even when it was out of the nest, that everything would be ok.
Over the next few days, the bird gained enough strength to ‘fly’, but it could only make it about a foot off the ground. Over time it gained the strength to fly onto our patio furniture, but it couldn’t fly back into the nest. Even though the bird couldn’t find their way back to the nest, they were ok, the other birds kept looking out for them and even though it first seemed like this baby bird was lonely, it was never alone.
One day, Irene made a little bird bath, and we never saw the bird hop in, but we saw the splashes and knew it appreciated the water because not too long after that the bird flew away. They found their way back to the nest and they started the adventure of creating their own nest too.
To our graduates, if you don’t get the point of that story, ask a parent, ask Nathan and Patty, ask any of the volunteers that help with youth group, confirmation, or Sunday school, because they’re all here to see you soar.
At Grace we have been looking at the life of John Wesley, exploring the history of the Methodist church and learning from the scriptures to see what it means to revive our faith. Each week we are seeing what it looks like to reclaim the freedom and grace and peace that God has for us and for everyone. Our reading from Ephesians today sums up much of our Christian faith within the Methodist tradition and it’s a passage that was especially important to John Wesley because he preached from it at least 40 times in his lifetime. “You are saved by God’s grace because of your faith. This salvation is God’s gift.”
The great thing about this word salvation is that it’s in a present/future tense. Salvation, God’s love at work in our lives, is something that’s happening now and will always happen into the future. More often than not, when the Bible talks about salvation, it’s in a present/future tense. God’s grace is with you now, because God’s grace is always with you.
Think of the present/future tense like this, the Vikings aren’t in the Super Bowl, it’s true now and it’s sadly always been true. Or if football isn’t your thing, think about it like this, graduates, older people, such as myself, don’t understand your slang. It wasn’t too long ago that I finally figured out what people were saying when they were saying stan. When it comes to culture, I am out of touch and always will be a bit out of touch.
God’s grace, God’s love, is a present/future, it is with you now, and it will never let you go. This grace always has been and always will be.
The gift of grace, the freedom, the hope, to know that you don’t have to prove yourself, you don’t have to earn love, you are utterly and completely loved right now, just as you are, no matter what you have done and no matter what has been done to you. This divine, sacred, love is with you.
The Greek word for grace is χάρις charis. χάρις Charis, grace, is kindness, an expression of selfless love that is completely undeserved and yet always freely given. Grace is a baby bird being cared for by a community until it can fly. We are never more like God then when we give of ourselves to others, so it might not surprise you that Charis is the root of the word charity. God created us to live with grace, and we seldom feel more alive and joyful than we do when we are serving, blessing, and helping one another, that’s χάρις charis, that’s grace.
In our theology as United Methodists, how we talk about God, it’s always centered in Grace. We talk about grace as the character that of God, God loves, blesses, helps, heals and gives us hope. Grace is how God sees us, grace is this love and compassion that is with us regardless, and yet this grace compiles and challenges us to become the people that God is inviting us to be.
Throughout our lives we are inspired by grace to know that we are loved and to live into the life that God wants for us. Through grace, God draws us closer and as we accept and live into this movement of grace in our lives and with this love we’re transformed.
Sometimes we are oblivious to our own transformation. Every now and then God’s grace is obvious, but at least in my life grace is a lot more like a leaky faucet, it drips with subtly and nuance. In the moment you barely notice it, but over time your faucet isn’t just full, it’s overflowing.
Seniors, there is a lot that is about to change in your life, but with all of the external changes that are coming your way, don’t miss out on cherishing how much change and growth has taken root within you. Trust me, if you don’t easily see it in yourself, there are a lot of people that are here to point it out to you. The ways that you open your hearts to one another, the ways that you reach out with compassion and mercy, your desire for justice, the passion to see our world live up to its potential
When John Wesley was about the age of our graduating seniors, they devoted themselves to hoping that what we read from Ephesians is true, “You are saved by God’s grace because of your faith. This salvation is God’s gift. It’s not something you possessed. It’s not something you did that you can be proud of. Instead, we are God’s accomplishment, created in Christ Jesus to do good things. God planned for these good things to be the way that we live our lives.”
Seniors, God’s grace is with you and here at Grace it is an honor to be with you too. God’s grace, God’s love is not something that you can possess, and yet it’s a gift that’s always with you, comforting and challenging you to live into the justice and joy that is already yours. So claim this grace and live out God’s plan for you to do the good things that should be the way we live our lives.
There may be times that you feel like a baby bird that fell out of the nest too soon, but don’t be afraid, because we’re all here, hoping in grace, so we can see you soar.
You are saved by God’s grace because of your faith. This salvation is God’s gift. It’s not something you possessed. It’s not something you did that you can be proud of. Instead we are God’s accomplishment, created in Christ Jesus to do good things. God planned for these good things to be the way that we live our lives.
Celebrating Our Seniors
Owen Barstad, Isaac Dotson, Lauren Drake, Sam Hoffman, Lydia Johnston, Phoebe Link, Cecile Lorenzen, Will Lucas, Mary McFetridge, and Jack Olson.
May 10 – 15, 2021
Click on the day to expand the guide.
Read – John 16:1-4, Matthew 5:10-12
Notice – When John Wesley went to Epworth, his hometown, he drily noted that the current parish priest “did not care to accept of my assistance.” Then, he wrote, “After sermon John Taylor stood in the churchyard and gave notice as the people were coming out, ‘Mr. Wesley, not being permitted to preach in the church, designs to preach here at six o’clock’ … at six I came and found such a congregation as I believe Epworth never saw before. I stood … upon my father’s tombstone, and cried, ‘The kingdom of heaven is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost’ [Rom. 14:17].” John preached on his father’s tombstone because he was not permitted to speak within the church. The apostle Paul wrote, “If possible, to the best of your ability, live at peace with all people” (Romans 12:18). John Wesley often did their best to persuade to live peaceably, yet he found himself hated and harassed. How does Jesus call us to respond to opposition? Where does our faith call us to work for change rather than reinforcing the status quo, especially when we know that our calls for change will bring about opposition?
Pray – Jesus, you didn’t hate even when others hated you. You also didn’t abandon your mission when facing their hate. Keep teaching me how to live with your kind of steadfast love and sense of mission. Amen.
Read – 2 Corinthians 5:11-15
Notice – John Wesley concluded, as Paul wrote to the Corinthians, that Christ “died for the sake of all,” not just for “the elect.” John Wesley believed that God’s all-inclusive love and grace gives us the freedom to choose, that our lives are not predestined one way or another. This belief in God’s free grace and our moral freedom (called “Arminian,” after a Dutch preacher, Jacobus Arminius) became a defining part of Methodism. Paul, expressing some of his core convictions, wrote, “So we try to persuade people.” What differences do you see between trying to persuade people and trying to force them to believe as you do? In what ways can loving and caring about someone be more persuasive than arguing in an “I’m right—you’re wrong” spirit? Through the centuries, “Calvinists” (after John Calvin, who strongly believed that God predestined some people for salvation and the rest for eternal loss) and Arminians have had heated debates. Wesley, in keeping with his “Catholic Spirit,” once wrote, “However I love the persons who assert it, I abhor the doctrine of predestination.” Are you able to love people who hold views different from yours, and will not (at least for now) be persuaded to change?
Pray – Jesus, even when we Christians differ about just how you save us, we agree that you do, and that we are grateful for that gift. I thank you for the ways your love and grace are at work in my life. Amen.
Read – Psalm 119:1-16
Notice – Bishop Reuben Job, in his book Three Simple Rules, paraphrased the three General Rules of Wesley and the early Methodists as “do no harm,” “do all the good you can,” and “stay in love with God.” How can these rules help you live into the reality the psalmist expressed: “I will give thanks to you with a heart that does right as I learn your righteous rules”? What is one step that you can take today to do no harm? How can you strive to do good this week? What is something that y0ou need to do to stay in love with God?
Pray – God, thank you for accepting me just as I am. Now guide me as, in grateful response to your love, I seek to use these rules to guide me in living more and more as you lived on earth. Amen.
Read – John 15:9-17
Notice – After visiting a Methodist “band” (a small group) of coal miners, John Wesley described their commitment in his journal: “No person ever misses his band or class…with one heart and one mind [they] ’provoke one another to love and to good works.’” This group, Wesley said, could be “a pattern” for all Methodists. Love leads to commitment and obedience, as Jesus said in today’s passage. We often react negatively to the idea of obedience, whether because we hate to submit or because so many “authorities” have been unreliable and untrustworthy. But obedience comes readily if it means helping and pleasing someone you love, value, and trust. Jesus described that type of obedience not as obedience out of a grudge or even a sense of obligation, but obedience born of love for God. Have you ever experienced that kind of obedience? What did it feel like? What did those moments of obedience change in your heart and life? If you haven’t experienced that kind of obedience, what step, no matter how small, could you take towards obedience in love?
Pray – God, I love you, and I trust you. I want my life to bring you honor and joy as I obey your guidance. Mold my attitudes and actions from the inside out to always be pleasing to you. Amen.
Read – Psalm 149:1-5
Notice — Charles Wesley wrote over 6,000 hymns. Many of your favorite church hymns were likely written by Charles. The psalmist writes, “Let them praise God’s name with dance; let them sing God’s praise with the drum and lyre!… Let the faithful celebrate with glory; let them shout for joy on their beds” (verses 3, 5). For some of us, singing is a natural way to express our joy and faith in God, but song is only one of the methods of joy mentioned in our psalm today. How can you praise God and celebrate grace and peace today?
Pray – Jesus, I offer all glory, praise, and honor to you today. Make of my life a song of justice and joy, grace and peace. Amen.
Read – Ephesians 5:15-21
Notice -Jesus told the Samaritan woman he met at Jacob’s Well that the living water he would give her would be “a spring of water that bubbles up into eternal life” (John 4:14). That same sense of bubbling, overflowing gratitude, and life fills today’s reading. When have you most clearly sensed the joy, meaning, and acceptance that God gives bubbling within you? In what ways have you been able to express your thanks for God’s gift? On this Saturday, ask God to fill you with the Spirit as you worship this weekend, whether you are gardening, cooking, golfing, napping, or taking care of odd jobs around your home. Plan to live as a person of gratitude, letting the joy of your life bubble up and overflow.
Pray – Jesus, instead of just numbing my pain, worry, or disappointment, you offer me gratitude, purpose, and life. Fill me with your Spirit, and send me into the coming week with your song ringing in my heart. Amen.
2021-22 Grace United Methodist Foundation Scholarship Awards
Cecil Bolsinger Scholarships
- Chris Becker, Iowa State University
- Mason DeLange, University of Iowa
- Tesloach Ding, Iowa State University
- Fiona Donnelly, Drake University
- Issac Dotson, St. Olaf or Iowa
- Olivia Dotson, University of Iowa
- Lauren Drake, Wisconsin, Iowa or Loyola
- Bridget Easler, University of Iowa
- Brian Goode, Iowa State University
- Rob Goode, University of Iowa
- Kaitlyn Groetken, University of Northern Iowa
- Stephen Haider, OLT – Clinical Pastoral Training
- Madeline Johnston, University of Iowa
- Lydia Johnston, University of Nebraska, Omaha
- Will Lucas, Iowa State University
- Mary Margaret McFetridge, Scripps College
- Jack Olson, Colorado State
- Sarah Sahlin, Northwest Missouri State
- Asher Titus, University of Iowa
- Evan Witke, DMACC
- Jared Witke, Iowa State University
Heather Hartline-Funaro Scholarship
- Phoebe Link, University of Denver