Are you looking for a place to belong? You’ll receive a warm welcome at Richmond United Methodist Church.
We are a church dedicated to Jesus Christ. We are committed to outreach and to minister in His name.
There is an array of family-oriented ministries providing opportunities for children, youth, and adults to grow in faith, to enjoy Christian friendship, and to serve Christ.
There is a place for you at Richmond United Methodist Church.
I heard a story not too long ago about a Sunday school teacher trying to use an illustration from real life. “All right, kids, can you tell me what animal is furry, has a long, bushy tail, and climbs in trees?” The kids simply stared back at her, so she added another hint. “These animals are known for eating nuts.” Still, the children looked back at her, refusing to say a word. Exasperated, she tried one more hint: “Dogs bark at them and chase them around?” Finally, one little boy held a hand up and said, “Well teacher, I know the answer is supposed to be Jesus, but I’ll be dang if that doesn’t sound like a squirrel.”
When I read that story, I couldn’t help but reflect on giving children’s sermons through the years. Believe it or not, I don’t try to get the kids to say things that might embarrass their parents. (Granted, most of the time the kids don’t need any help from me…) And to be blunt, most of the time I’m trying to lead them down nice, easy paths to simple answers. But this approach also leads to an obvious problem that the Sunday school teacher faced: the kids pick up on things. They know that they’re supposed to say certain phrases whether they believe them or not. In some cases, they are coached before even leaving their homes that some statements are not to be uttered.
This problem is not isolated to our children, however. Many of us “seasoned” Christians have been coached and trained throughout many years of church membership to give certain “pat” answers. And yet again, only too often this approach leads us into the pitfall of not really thinking about our faith, of directly applying the tenets of Scripture to our daily lives in a meaningful way that changes us.
Paul told the Philippian church, “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed — not only in my presence but now much more in my absence — continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (Philippians 2:12). Please remember that Paul is talking to believers, to members of the church he helped plant. Yet he reminds them that the work of sanctification is an ongoing matter; a continual effort to “work out your salvation” in order to better follow the will of our Lord.
“Fine. Great. Thank you for those statements of the obvious, Preacher. Exactly what are we supposed to do, how do we do this?”
Friends, the hard truth is that this is a hard truth. Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). So we should go to church and be active in some way, right? Paul elucidated on this concept by saying, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24). So we should resist the urges to do the things we know we shouldn’t do?
But yet again, I fear that these are just the “pat” answers we know that we’re supposed to give without really thinking about what is being asked. To work out our salvation with fear and trembling means to come before Jesus understanding how abominable our sin is in His eyes, but then to see the love and forgiveness that He wants us to embrace by confessing that sin and being holy. That means more than dressing up like Swiss cheese; it means trying not to sin anymore, and actively working against the sin that is running rampant in our world.
I truly believe, my dear friends, that this effort must begin through the disciplined study of God’s Word. As Paul tells his protégé in the faith, Timothy, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Therefore, as we come to the summer months of enjoyment and relaxation, I encourage the church to make reading our Bibles a practice of primary importance. Please bring your personal Bible to worship on Sunday mornings; bring along a notebook and a pen, too. My prayer in this season is that God will speak to us in new ways that change how we look at His will, at His Word, and at our lives. So I hope you can write down what God is saying, and then that we will continue working out our faith together as His body.
In Christ, Byron