senior pastor's blog

SENIOR PASTOR'S BLOG


Welcome to the Blog page of the Senior Pastor for the Williamsburg United Methodist Church. 

Scroll down for the latest message from Rev. Dr. Bill Jones.

SENIOR PASTOR'S BLOG

BUILDING A TEAM


Here’s the church, here’s the steeple, open it up and here’s all the people. Do you remember that childhood jingle? It’s the people part of that trilogy that I want to us to think about. At the beginning of 2018 we launched our Five-Year Strategic Plan, New Horizons on the Road of Discipleship. We worked diligently casting a vision, building a staff and raising the funds for the future of this great congregation and its mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. We believe God is calling us to touch hearts and transform lives for the glory of God and the good of the world. Now we must do one more thing to transform that dream into reality. In 2019 we must build a team.


Christianity is no spectator sport. You are not invited to watch a game on Sunday and call in your opinions on Monday – no “Monday morning quarterbacks” here, as they say. You are invited to come out of the pews and play the game. If this church realizes its God-given potential in the first quarter of the 21st century, it will be the direct result of members becoming ministers, a crowd becoming committed, an audience becoming an army for the Lord. Just to think about it makes my spine tingle with excitement. According to national statistics, about 10% of church members do the church work and about 50% are content to be consumers. The other 40% do not engage in ministry because they either are not asked or they do not know how. I like to think that at Williamsburg UMC we are above the curve on members engaged in ministry, but I don’t have any statistics to prove it. Though from the comments I get from people who say it’s hard to find a parking space in our parking lot during the weekdays, not to mention Sundays, something must be going on here, almost 24/7. Still, I am on a recruiting mission for people who are interested and willing and wanting to play on God’s team for the good of the world. Are you willing to join the team?


Paul said in Ephesians, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. And let there be no confusion about it. There are certain qualities necessary for those who would be ministers throughout the congregation. First, be humble and gentle, says Paul. Humility is the ability to know ourselves as God knows us. The word humble comes from the root word humus. Be down to earth versus putting on airs. Humble people neither exaggerate their goodness or their guilt. Just be who God has called you to be and always set your standard of life against the example of Christ who calls you into partnership of ministry with Him. Be gentle. Gentleness is the ability to place each thought and each motive under the control of God. Second, be patient and loving, says Paul. God’s work in the church takes time, and it requires patience. Patience is the ability to take a step back. Love was such a unique Christian concept that they coined a new word for it in the first century. They called it Agape – the single-minded determination to seek another’s highest good no matter what. Patiently, loving people are long-suffering people. They persevere to the end. Finally, be unified and peaceful. Once upon a time a group of birds got together and thought they would build a church. The starlings insisted on a lot of educational space for their ever-increasing population while the parrot felt they only needed a small room for dialogue. The canary wanted to sing the great hymns of the church but the humming birds thought they should stick to the same old tunes so everyone could hum along. The ducks thought everyone should be baptized by immersion. The owl said he would only attend if they had night services. The dove wanted to have peace marches and the hawk seemed content just to have chicken suppers. They called Mr. Rooster to be their pastor, elected Bob White as treasurer, and asked Mr. Chicken to chair the board. After a few weeks you could hear the raven crying, “Nevermore, nevermore. We’ve just got a church for the birds!”


Why are we here? We are here to glorify God and make disciples of Jesus Christ. Sometimes it is good to be reminded that we have one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God who is Father of us all, who is over all, through all and in all. Are you willing to join the team? Check out ways you can be in ministry through Williamsburg UMC under the “Serve” tab on our website or just click here.


Rev. Dr. Bill Jones

Senior Pastor, Williamsburg UMC

1/7/19



WHAT WOULD CHRISTMAS BE WITHOUT MUSIC?


What would Christmas be without music? At Christmas, people sing. Believers and unbelievers, artists and Johnny-one-notes, infants and adults. Most everyone will stop what they’re doing to listen to carolers as they stroll through the streets and the shopping malls singing familiar Christmas songs, both the sacred and the secular, O Come, All Ye Faithful as well as Rudolf the Red-nosed Reindeer, and often we join in the singing. We hear the Christmas music and our attitude changes. We find ourselves more joyful and more eager to share that joy with others. What joy floods our hearts as we sing “Joy to the world, the Lord has come!”


This year two of our most beloved Christmas songs will celebrate significant anniversaries. One hundred fifty years ago, Phillips Brooks penned the words to the beloved Christmas carol, “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” Two hundred years ago, Joseph Mohr who wrote the lyrics to “Silent Night,” and Franz Gruber, who composed its melody, sang it for the first time. Let’s look at these two songs.


First, O Little Town of Bethlehem. In 1865 Phillips Brooks, then a young preacher in Philadelphia, spent some time in the Holy Land. On the day before Christmas he rode from Jerusalem to Bethlehem and went into the fields where, we are told, the shepherds were abiding. On that Christmas Eve, he attended a service at the ancient Church of the Nativity, not far from the place where Christ was born. In 1868 he wrote this hymn for the children of his Philadelphia Sunday school to sing at their Christmas service. The Civil War had ended only three years earlier. Yes, Lee and Grant had signed their peace accord at Appomattox and shaken hands on the deal. Yes, battle-weary veterans from both sides had laid down their arms and trudged home. But half the nation still lay in ruins, and the notorious Andrew Johnson – by most accounts the worst POTUS the nation had ever seen – was doing his best to dismantle the rights that had been won for the former slaves at such a terrible human cost. On the home front, north and south, families had been decimated by the carnage of the most brutal war America had ever known. Wives and mothers counted themselves lucky if their husbands and boys had come home lacking an arm or a leg or an eye or shivering with PTSD. They knew he could easily not come home at all. In 1868, it gave Americans some comfort to picture the humble Bethlehem stable as the place where hope and fear meet each other – and where hope emerges the ultimate victor. Is it any wonder that Christmas time each year is also a season of hope?


Second, fifty years before Philips Brooks wrote his Christmas carol for Sunday school children in America, Joseph Mohr in Austria put pen to paper to write one of the world’s most beautiful Christmas Carols, Silent Night. It was Christmas Eve, and at the Church of St. Nicholas in the alpine village of Oberndorf, Father Mohr was preparing for the midnight service. He was distraught because the church organ was broken, requiring him to scrap the beautiful music he had planned. (One legend says a poor little church mouse got hungry and began nibbling on the organ bellows, putting it out of commission for the Christmas Eve services.) Mohr got an idea – to write a song that could be sung without the organ. He wrote Silent Night. His organist Franz Gruber, set the poem to music, and on December 24, 1818, it was sung for the first time as a duet with Mohr’s guitar. Rev. Harry Mahoney of Dedham, Massachusetts, ponders this thought: “It occurs to me that, in a day when friends, family, the news media and general public routinely complain that laws, relationships, marriage vows, the government, and even our country’s economy and security are broken, we can all benefit greatly from a reminder that, were it not for a broken organ, there would never have been a Silent Night. And that it was into a broken world that ‘Christ the Savior was born.’”


Rev. Dr. Bill Jones

Senior Pastor, Williamsburg UMC

12/1/18



WHAT IS THE BIBLE?


How the Bible came to be is a pretty fascinating story. We sometimes call the Bible God’s book, but God didn’t write it or drop it from the sky. The Bible is the inspired Word of God, spoken through God’s people. God inspired people, men and women, to write the stories, prayers, laws, letters, and testimonies found in the Bible. So even though we say the Bible is inspired by God, it was written by people, many different people writing at different times and places spanning nearly one thousand years!


The Bible has been around for a long time as a single book, but that’s not how it all started. One of the reasons it took so long for the Bible to become one book is that it really is a collection of books. The word bible actually comes from a Greek word that means “the books.” The Bible is a library. Each of the books in some way expresses experiences of God’s presence and activity in the Jewish community (Old Testament) and the Christian community (New Testament). In other words, no one author decided one day to write a Bible. The Bible came together over a long time.


Much of the Bible was spoken before it was written down. Imagine sitting around a campfire being told the story of how God created the world, or how the young shepherd boy David took down the giant enemy named Goliath with his little slingshot and a single stone. This is how the Jewish people first told stories of their encounters with the living God. They prayed prayers, sang songs of joy and sadness, and shared wisdom with each other. Eventually, the stories and all the different writings found in the Old Testament were written down, but it took centuries for all the books to make it into print. And those first manuscripts weren’t like our books. They were written on scrolls made of animal skins or reed paper.


Even the stories about Jesus we read in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were told by word of mouth for decades before being written down. After Jesus’ death and resurrection around AD 30, his life, and his teachings were remembered and first passed along orally by his followers. No reporters recorded eyewitness accounts of Jesus during his lifetime. Eventually, as some of the first followers of Jesus began to die, the early Christians realized they needed to preserve what Jesus said and did, so they started writing this down. The first writings of the New Testament were actually the letters of the apostle Paul (written in the 50s) not the Gospels (written between 70 and 90 AD). The last books of the New Testament were likely written in the early second century.


Eventually, the Hebrew Bible – what Christians call the Old Testament – were gathered into collections of scrolls. And the Christian community eventually gathered the individual books and letters being used by different churches into a single list or canon. The canon was a list of accepted writings that became authoritative for the life and faith of the Christian community. But coming up with this final list was not easy. The process went on for nearly three hundred years. In an Easter letter written in AD 367, a bishop named Athanasius offered a list of twenty-seven books to be considered as having authority for faith and life. Even though the debate continued, the twenty-seven books are the ones still included in the New Testament.


If you compare Bibles today, you might find that they don’t all contain the same number of books. Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox Bibles differ somewhat in the number of Old Testament books. Protestant Bibles usually have 39 Old Testament books and 27 New Testament books. Roman Catholic and Orthodox Bibles include some additional books known as the Apocrypha. The Protestant reformer Martin Luther included the apocryphal books in a separate section of his translation of the Bible in the sixteenth century. He said these books were good to read, but did not have the same authority as the 39 books included in the Jewish canon. The point is that the Church agreed these books were written by the Holy Spirit working through many different authors, each with a distinct purpose and point of view.


Rev. Dr. Bill Jones

Senior Pastor, Williamsburg UMC

7/11/18