On the Fourth of July, Americans celebrate Independence Day. Why should Christians care to observe the birthday of one particular country? Like the Biblical Hebrews, the United States of America has conceived of itself as a chosen people, called by God to be an example to the world. America has sometimes failed to live up to this calling, but we should continue striving to fulfill our lofty ideals. In today’s service we discuss what it means to be a righteous nation. We also remember Washington Gladden, a prolific minister who preached that righteousness and salvation are not only for the individual, but for society as a whole.
Last Thursday, June 3, many Christians celebrated the Feast of Corpus Christi, an annual remembrance of the presence of the body and blood of Christ in the bread and wine of the Eucharist. Different types of Christians have different opinions about whether Christ is literally present in the elements of communion, or whether it’s a symbolic ritual through which we can focus our minds upon our connection with Christ and what he has given us by sacrificing his life for the salvation of humanity.
I hold to the symbolic view of communion — and I believe there are many ways that we can connect with Christ, through prayer, meditation, ritual acts, as well as acts of service to our fellow human beings.
No matter what we do to seek connection with the Divine Human who was embodied in the Lord Jesus Christ, it is essential that we do so, for it is through such connection that we discover and come to manifest our truest selves. For when we receive him, in the words of John the Apostle, we “become children of God — children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” [John 1:12-13].
When Christians take communion, the bread and wine of the Eucharist represent the body and blood of Christ. This sacramental ritual helps us become one with Christ, together with each other in the church. Beyond rituals, how can we feel connected with Christ so that we can grow in his divine image? In this service, we explore the theme of the church itself as the mystical body of Christ, in which we should be united in helping each other become our best selves.
Today is Pentecost, the holy day in the Christian liturgical calendar commemorating the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and other followers of Jesus Christ, fifty days after Easter. The term Pentecost means “fiftieth” in Greek, and was used by Greek-speaking Jews to refer to the Jewish harvest festival called the Feast of Weeks, which was celebrated on the fiftieth day after the offering of the first fruits of the harvest to God.
Metaphorically speaking, Jesus can be considered as the first fruits of the resurrection of humanity from corruption and death to eternal life in heaven. Fifty days after the tomb was found empty on Easter Sunday, another celebration of the amazing work of God took place, as the harvest of human souls to be gathered into God’s Kingdom was bountifully expanded. As recorded in the Book of Acts,
Today is Pentecost, the day each year when Christians celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit. In the early church, many people believed in ongoing revelations from God. For much of Christian history, this belief was suppressed, but it reemerged with the Pentecostal movement in the early 20th century. In this service we discuss the openness to the gifts of the Spirit that has brought controversy and confusion and the potential for positive change. We also tell the story of William Seymour, an African American minister who was a founding leader in the rise of Pentecostalism.
Last Thursday, May 13, was the Feast of the Ascension, the holy day in the Christian liturgical calendar commemorating the ascension of Jesus Christ into heaven, forty days after his resurrection from the dead on Easter. The first chapter of the Book of Acts describes how the resurrected Jesus ministered to his disciples and spoke to them about the Kingdom of God, and then, at the end of the forty days, he rose into heaven and has never publicly returned to the earth again.
As we call to remembrance the departure of Jesus, in his glorified and exalted state of immortal perfection, from this imperfect world to the eternal world beyond, it is an appropriate time to consider what it means for any human soul to ascend from the earthly plane to heaven. Going to heaven to live forever with God — salvation, as Christians call it — has been characterized in various ways. Some believe we go to heaven if we have the correct religious beliefs. Others believe we must live a Christlike life of love and service to our fellow human beings if we wish to attain the heavenly state of salvation. Still others believe everyone will go to heaven no matter what, even if they had the wrong beliefs and lived a life of sin.
What is the meaning of salvation? Some say that people are saved if they have the right beliefs. Others say we must live a good life, following the example of Christ. And some believe that in the end, everyone will go to heaven. But how do we really ascend from the sinful world of the flesh to the heavenly world of the Spirit and attain to eternal life with God? In this week’s service we explore these important questions. We also tell the story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a 20th century minister and martyr who taught that true faith can be costly.
Today is Mother’s Day, a day when people in many countries around the world honor the mothers of their family and celebrate the loving bond between a mother and her children. On this day, we should also consider the spiritual dimensions of motherhood. To be a mother is to be like God, for God not only is our Father in heaven, but also our heavenly Mother.