The Church Triumphant

After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice, saying,

“Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
[Rev 7:9-10]

The seventh chapter of Revelation begins with this - another glimpse into the heavenly worship that goes on above us (check Rev 5 for another epic visual). The communion of saints, too many to count, before God’s throne, singing praise to the Lamb. They, the church triumphant revel in their realized salvation, rejoicing that they are never apart from God ever again.

They are the martyrs. They are the persecuted. They are the faithful.

The word says, “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” (7:14)

We hung on this verse for just a little while in worship… If you pay attention to it, it gets to the heart of what Jesus is revealing in this revelation to John.

The Communion of Saints isn’t a crew of passive believers that Christ washed.

The Communion of Saints, too many to count, took the life of Christ and the love of God seriously.  They took the grace that was offered in the gift of eternal salvation and honored it with lives well lived in the name of the Lamb.

The saints lived lives like Jesus was real and came to find that it was all true. They held on to love of God, their salvation, in the face of the worst the world had to offer, and they prevailed. They triumphed.

This is a text that we usually read on All Saints Day, that day in November that we celebrate and remember those that have gone on before us to glory. We remember that we’re part of a cosmic church that goes on without end.

The Book of Revelation goes on from this point to paint vivid pictures of God’s work to redeem the world. Stories of monsters, the Great Enemy, the broken city, wayward peoples. But it doesn’t end there, not ever. The story always ends with God’s win on behalf of the people of the world.

This Sunday, we’ll turn the corner towards the beautiful end God has in store for us, which is really just the beginning, as we dig through John’s conclusion to Revelation.

I hope to see you at 11am on Sunday morning in Revive Worship!

In Christ,
Pastor Jarrod


April 10 was quite the event in Revive Worship. It was the second time for us to join with our La Jornada family to share in a bilingual worship service, followed by an amazing time of fellowship and food. La Jornada is a growing service at FUMCA and is a fun group of Christ’s servants that worship passionately every Sunday. It is such a joy to be in ministry with a worshiping community like Revive - people that are so fearless in worship and willing to jump in on an idea that might seem crazy.

The energy given to us by the Holy Spirit in the Great Hall on Sunday was rich. Center 313 and Jornada de Fe were so Christ-centered in their musical leadership and it was a blessing to witness our faith families singing God’s songs together in English and in Spanish.

It’s such a tangible reminder of what Jesus calls us to through Holy Communion - to be one family, undivided even though we have our differences, because there is one Jesus.

Our lesson from Revelation on Sunday spoke to us of a heavenly worship service, witnessed by the writer, John. A worship service where all of creations - heaven and earth - bow to worship the Lamb, Jesus Christ:

‘Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, singing,
“To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory and might
forever and ever!”’ [Revelation 5:13]

We encounter that heavenly worship here on earth when we bridge divides, remembering that Jesus is the savior of all - not the savior of a few.

This is a revelatory truth in a world that likes to profile and divide up the children of God.

At the close of our worship, another revelation was shared, if it can be called that, that I am being reappointed at the start of our next appointment year (July 1) to another church.

There’s no easy way to share this news, and our Pastor-Parish Relations Committee Chair, Bill Campbell, did a wonderful job in sharing what’s coming next. But, as there were questions, I’d like to add a couple of answers.

One of the things I’ve felt called to do as I stepped into the UMC ordination process is to help start new churches.  I am passionate about reaching the unchurched and dechurched among us for the Kingdom of God - especially among young adults.

So, next year I’ve been offered the opportunity to start a Church Planting Residency with Union Coffee, a new church start in North Dallas.  Union serves great coffee, something I can’t live without, but also has created a unique community around a culture of food, service, fellowship, and … worship.  They are looking to plant new sites in the area.  I’ll be working there over the next year with the hope that I will join with them in planting a new site in our Central Texas Conference.

That could bring me back to Arlington. Or to Fort Worth. Or to Mansfield. Or... wherever the Holy Spirit may lead.

As we continue our study of the Book of Revelation, one of the things God reminds us of in the book is that God’s view of things is large. God’s offer salvation is large - limitless. And God’s church stretches through time - past, present, future. The UMC lives this out through the connection - we are a global church, focused on bringing the Kingdom of Heaven into local communities.

All that to say, that it is a blessing to know that pastors may change, and people may move, we are all part of the one, universal, and apostolic church.

Still, we have plenty of work to do together over the next several weeks!

In Christ,

Pastor Jarrod

Revealing Revelation

Revive Worship Family,

What a glorious day Easter Sunday was! I’m not sure if I’ve heard our people sing louder. It was such a blessing to be present, much less be the pastor that morning as we celebrated the Risen Christ.

Christ the Lord is risen!

From here, we head into the Great Fifty Days of the Easter Season, a time to reflect on what it means for us, and the world, that Christ rose from the dead and is Lord of all. So, at FUMCA we’ll be taking an opportunity to dive into a book of the Bible that gets to the heart of the love of God for the world - and God’s desire to renew the world under the lordship of Christ.

This Sunday, April 3, we’ll begin a new journey:

Our Easter Season 2016 Worship Series:
Revealing Revelation

The Book of Revelation has been controversial since its inception. Its vivid imagery, depictions of violence and empire, and cryptic allusions to the return of Christ have made it a book that is easy to misuse and misinterpret.

But, what if we took Revelation and refused to get caught up in picking apart its symbols … Trumpets … Dragons … Numbers … And read it as a letter to people, to churches, in trouble and losing their faith.  What if we took this book and realized it was from a servant of Christ to fellow servants of Christ that said this:

This is hard right now.
And it might get harder.
But hold onto Christ -
God is with us.

This Easter Season we’ll take on the mysteries of the Book of Revelation, and wonder together of the life God calls us to as people of God in the world that longs for the Kingdom of God to break through.

April 3 - Revealing Revelation
Revelation 1:4-8

April 10 - Worthy is the Lamb
Revelation 5:11-14

April 17 - Bigger than Us
Revelation 7:9-17

April 24 - City of God
Revelation 21:1-6

May 1 - No More NIght
Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5

May 8 - Benediction
Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21

I hope you’ll join us each Sunday for the next six weeks as we read this powerful book!

In Christ,
Pastor Jarrod

Lost and Found

Then his father said, ‘Son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad because this brother of yours was dead and is alive. He was lost and is found.’” - Luke 15:31-32 [CEB]

This past Sunday, I preached the third sermon of my preaching career on the parable lovingly known as the Prodigal Son. Each time I’ve studied this special story from Jesus, the heart of Luke’s Gospel, I stumble across something new to ponder.

That’s one of the most wonderful things about reading God’s Word… You can read the same story, the same passage, many times in your life, and like the Father running towards the prodigal son to greet his long-lost child, the Bible brings to you what you need to know in the moment.

For the first time I was struck by a thought:

Did the older brother get over himself and go to the party?

You probably know this story at this point, but a quick refresher…

Little brother is full of himself. Asks for his inheritance in advance of his father’s death. Effectively saying his family is dead to him.

Little brother moves to a foreign land and squanders his money. Ends up homeless and living in pig pen. Wises up, decides to go home to live as one of his father’s servants… If that’s ok with his dad.

Father runs to meet little bro, interrupting the prodigal son’s repentant speech, to shout back to the house that it’s time to start a block party - his son was lost, but now is found.

Big brother gets word of this. Won’t go to the party. Shouts to his father at the injustice of all of this… but the father’s grace trumps worldly justice.

Jesus doesn’t finish the story - on purpose. He never tells us the decision of the older brother. Does he sit on the outside? As a prodigal himself? Or does he, like his little brother, come to his senses and realize that the father’s grace is greater?

Jesus, Son of God, is describing the love of God the Father for all of us. A love that knows no boundaries, or manners, or decorum. A love that permeates all of creation, is ever reaching out to all people as beloved children, and calls to put others before ourselves.

Because, here’s the thing, we can all fall off the living-like-Christ bandwagon. It’s hard. It’s complicated. It’s tough to be grace-offering people, even as we are filled by God’s grace.

The grace… the forgiveness… the love of God levels the playing field.

Broken sinners as we are, God loves us and wants us to come home. And bring others with us.

Have a blessed week and may you all know that you are found!

In Christ,

Pastor Jarrod

Bearing Fruit

The gardener responded, ‘Lord, give it one more year, and I will dig around it and give it fertilizer. Maybe it will produce fruit next year; if not, then you can cut it down.” - Luke 13:8-9 [CEB]
I’m not personally the best gardener.  I’ve tried to grow herbs, vegetables… a lawn… and I’ve definitely had more misses than hits.  Mostly, I’ll admit, it’s because I haven’t done my due diligence with regard to the plants. Planting at the proper times. Protecting them from weeds and bugs. Watering and fertilizing them as they want.

Part of it also is talent… Gardening is just not my thing. However, it is Jesus’ thing.

We are Christ’s crop and Christ is doing the best he can to get us to grow and bear that fruit.

He’s not the first person in the Gospel of Luke to call on people to bear fruit, however. John the Baptist has a similar word to offer in Luke 3, in preparation for those that would listen to receive the Messiah:
“Produce fruit that shows you have changed your hearts and lives… The ax is already at the root of the trees. Therefore every tree that doesn’t produce fruit will be chopped down and tossed into the fire.”

Yikes, right? But, before you get scared, John explains himself:

“Whoever has two shirts must share with one who has none, and whoever has food must do the same.”
 To tax collectors coming to be baptized he says, “Collect no more than you are authorized to collect.”
 To soldiers coming to be received, he says, “Don’t cheat or harass anyone, and be satisfied with your pay.”
You might not be a tax collector or soldier, or maybe you are, but the picture of a fruitful and changed life is clear.

Be kind to the other.
Share with the other.
Take care of each other.

It’s something I often think when I’m at a personal crossroads, about to make a decision that I’m skeptical about -

If I believe in Christ - then I should… what?

While John the Baptist is rough around the edges, the words of Christ carry the same urgency, the same message - to change our hearts and lives. But, Christ, as the Son of God, the gardener in the Father’s Garden, can offer something John, a human, cannot: the Grace of God.

And that grace is this:
You have a chance,
In this very moment,
To start bearing fruit.

Be kind to the other.
Share with the other.
Take care of each other.

Imagine, if we the Revive Worship community, and all those who follow Christ, chose to make that decision right now, at the same time.

In Christ,
Pastor Jarrod

Two Roads Diverged

As I sit and reflect on our lesson from the second Sunday of Lent (Luke 13:31-35), thinking and praying on the determination of Christ in his plan to redeem us from our sins, a poem from the great Robert Frost comes to mind.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear ...

Maybe you know these words from The Road Not Taken. They’re commonly read literature and poetry studies, outlining a choice common to all of us, as travelers in the world:

Do I go right at the fork in the road?
The way where the path is clear and well-trodden?

Or do I take a risk and veer to the left?
Where the way isn’t as clear?
Where people haven’t yet left tracks to follow?
Where the end is unknown?

When Christ began his ministry on the earth, after spending forty days in the desert, enduring the temptations from the Enemy, he returned to his community with the end in mind. 

He knew his goal - it would be the cross.
He knew his purpose - redemption of the world from its sins.

And nothing would distract him from getting there.

Not questioning and pestering disciples.
Not confused and conniving Pharisees.
Not violent and power-hungry Herod.

Eventually the people, his disciples, would catch up with him and understand that Christ desires for all who carry the name Christian to travel this road of self-sacrifice with him. Each of us may have our own way of navigating the path Christ has for us. But they all lead to the same place - the arms of a loving savior. Our roads may diverge at times, but Jesus is always at the end, waiting for us.

I pray that you’ll join us for worship again this Sunday, as we ponder the obstacles in our paths to the life Jesus calls us all to.

In Christ,
Pastor Jarrod

Welcome to the Path

9 The devil brought him into Jerusalem and stood him at the highest point of the temple. He said to him, “Since you are God’s Son, throw yourself down from here; 10 for it’s written: He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you 11 and they will take you up in their hands so that you won’t hit your foot on a stone.[c]”

12 Jesus answered, “It’s been said, Don’t test the Lord your God.”[d] 13 After finishing every temptation, the devil departed from him until the next opportunity.
- Luke 4:9-12

On Sunday, Rev. Brian kicked off our Lenten season in Revive by preaching the text we most commonly read on first Sunday of Lent - the temptation of Christ by Satan in the wilderness.  Luke’s version is highly descriptive, outlining a threefold temptation from the Enemy, put on Christ after Christ had already spent forty days starving in wilderness.

Create bread from these stones, the Enemy says.
I will give you the world to rule, the Enemy says.
Demonstrate your God-ness by leaping from this roof, the Enemy says.

In each case, Christ refuses.  But, he was tempted.  He was tempted to give in - but he doesn’t.  Christ is the Son of Man, as he says.  Meaning that he was fully human.

He felt.
He hurt.
He hungered.

But, he is also the Son of God - meaning that he is fully God.

He empathizes with us.
He knows our pain.
He feeds us life-giving bread.

Christ is like us, but so very not like us at the same time.  He took on our humanity and showed us that we can, through his strength, overcome our tendencies to go our own way.

He shows us a new path, and this season of Lent we are invited to join Christ on this path, together.  During our time on Sunday morning, we’ll follow Christ on his journey to the cross, as he preaches, teaches, and saves the very people who will persecute him  Christ doesn’t take any detours from the road set before him, and he calls us to travel along with him, through the cross, to the empty tomb.

If you’d like to study ahead, here is our roadmap for our time together in the coming weeks.

February 10 - Ash Wednesday - Before We Start, We Practice
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
Discipleship takes preparation.  Jesus gives us just a few ideas.

February 14 - Lent One - The Starting Line
Luke 4:1-13
It all begins with temptation.

February 21 - Lent Two - Getting Off Track
Luke 13:31-35
Perseverance in the face of our culture, maybe the hardest part.

February 28 - Lent Three - Traversing Obstacles
Luke 13:1-9
Sometimes, the greatest obstacle to growth is ourselves.

March 6 - Lent Four - Don’t Look Back
Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32
God invites us to keep going, no matter how we lose faith.

March 13 - Lent Five - Almost Done, But Not Yet
John 12:1-8
Just when we think we’re done, when we’ve figured out the path, it all changes.

March 20 - Palm Sunday - Not The Finish Line
Luke 19:28-40
People thought that Christ’s entry into Jerusalem would fix everything.  It didn’t.

*Holy Week*

March 24 - Maundy Thursday - Fuel for Marathon
Luke 22:14-20
We are called to remember Christ, through the meal he gave to us as fuel for the lives we lead as his disciples.  All are welcome on the journey.

March 25 - Good Friday - It is Finished
John 18:1-19:42 (selected verses)
As Christ dies on the cross, he prays, “It is finished.”  Is it?

March 27 - Easter Sunday - Love Wins
John 20:1-18
Just when everybody thought it was over, that all was lost, a new hope arises from the darkness.

I pray that you’ll join us for worship this week and every week during this important season.  The Path that Christ calls us to is not an easy one, but the best things are never easy.  This Path is a strenuous marathon, a dangerous hike, a course full of obstacles.  But, together with Christ, we can win.

In Christ,
Pastor Jarrod