Monday, February 12, 2024

Heaven All Around Us

The most compelling message of the Transfiguration is, for me, the imagery of heaven’s close proximity in time and space. Paul said that in God, “we live, and move, and have our being.”1 Jesus said that the kingdom of God is within and among us.2 Still, it seems our thoughts of heaven are anchored in the imagery of “up.” So it’s hard to think of heaven the way Jesus described it to Nicodemus when he spoke of himself as the one who both “came down from heaven” and “is in heaven.”3

The Ascension portrays Jesus as going up, up, and away. Elijah was carried up and away in a fiery chariot. Even the Transfiguration took place up on a mountaintop. But perhaps the imagery of “up and away” is intended to communicate a higher plane in our thinking and relationship to each other. Johnson Oatman wrote in his hymn,4

Lord, lift me up, and let me stand
By faith, on heaven’s tableland;
A higher plane than I have found,
Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.

Everyone is called to pray as we have come to understand prayer to be, so far, and through prayer, to grow in that understanding. All of humanity is called into the eternal conversation of prayer that connects us all in heaven and on earth. We are invited to explore the implications of the idea that from God’s perspective, everyone who has ever lived is still alive. The compelling imagery of the Transfiguration invites us through prayer to explore the broadest possible realms of spirituality in the concept of heaven all around us.  

[Audo of Complete Sermon]

Audio of the sermon preached by Rev. Bill Lawson
February 11, 2024, at Briensburg UMC
Bible Readings for Transfiguration Sunday, Revised Common Lectionary Year B
2 Kings 2:1-12, Psalm 50:1-6, 2 Corinthians 4:3-6, Mark 9:2-9

COVER IMAGE: Bellini, Giovanni. “The Transfiguration,” 1480. Wikipedia: The Free Encylopedia.  
Accessed 12 February 2024. Painting.

Luke 17:28 (KJV).

Luke 17:21.

John 3:13 (KJV).

Oatman, Johnson Jr. “Higher Ground,” 1892. Hymnary.  Accessed12 February 2024.

© 2024, William H. Lawson, Jr. All rights reserved. 

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Loving Everyone into Sacred Community

Jesus began his ministry by loving everyone into sacred community before he ever began the teaching, healing, and other facets of his ministry. This is the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. This year’s theme comes from the Great Commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God… and your neighbor as yourself…”1 The challenge for followers of Jesus has always been to reconcile our relationships with God’s love. Wherever we fall short in loving as Christ loves, we are invited to acknowledge and revise our behavior. How we relate to each other within and beyond the faith community is a reflection of the progress we are making in our ultimate reconciliation and unity with God, humanity, and all Creation.

Humanity has been invited into an ongoing holy conversation ever since Jesus announced, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.”2 Everyone is invited to join this eternal spiritual chat room and to engage as participants in exploring all the ins and outs of a universal faith community that spans all barriers of time and space and life and death. Beliefs, expressions, and practices will always differ among everyone as they always have, and people will always continue to associate and organize around similar ideas and objectives. We are all called and sent to love one another into the sacred community of God’s family.


Excerpt from the manuscript of the sermon preached by 
Rev. Bill Lawson on January 21, 2024, at Briensburg UMC.

Bible Readings for the 3rd Sunday after the Epiphany,
Revised Common Lectionary, Year B
Jonah 3:1-5 & 10, Psalm 62:5-12, 1 Corinthians 7:29-31, Mark 1:14-20

Complete Sermon with Bibliography and Notes:
 [ PDF | MP3 Audio | All Text Formats ]

 COVER IMAGE: Pixabay User ooceey. “Unity in Diversity,” 2020. Pixabay.
Accessed 16 January 2024. Image.

Sunday, January 14, 2024

Angels Coming and Going

Today is Human Relations Day in The United Methodist Church, and tomorrow is the national observance of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday. Human Relations Day is celebrated annually across our denomination on the Sunday before King’s observance. The UMC website says, “Human Relations Day calls United Methodists to recognize the right of all God’s children in realizing their potential as human beings in relationship with one another.”1 Similarly, our mission statement here at Briensburg United Methodist Church is “Helping each other serve to our full potential.

Just think how the world would be if everyone could feel the love and friendship, the mutual respect and supportiveness, and the sense of community we share in this room today. Many communities around the world already do feel this way about each other, and they do extend this love into all their other relationships. But there are still many others who feel differently and extend their animosities into all their relationships. Part of our work as believers in the teachings and example of Jesus is to overcome their hostility with our love – with God’s love. St. John framed it metaphorically at the beginning of his Gospel in the Good News Translation, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never put it out.”2

I’d like to share this from The King Center Website:3

 Martin Luther King, Jr. described the “Beloved Community” as a society where “caring and compassion drive political policies that support the worldwide elimination of poverty and hunger and all forms of bigotry and violence. At its core, the ‘Beloved Community’ is an engine of reconciliation.”

Human Relations Day emphasizes the value and potential of every human being. Jesus did that. In his allegory of the Judgement of the Nations, “when the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him,” Jesus specifically targeted the way people treat each other across governments, societies, and institutions in addition to individuals. The messages of people like Martin Luther King, Jr. challenge us all to listen to our own better angels, to be thoughtful about our unseen environment, and to treat everyone as spiritual beings like Christ or like angels, or like divinely created souls whose bodies are temples of the Holy Ghost.


Excerpt from the manuscript of the sermon preached by 
Rev. Bill Lawson on January 14, 2024, at Briensburg UMC.

Bible Readings for the 2nd Sunday after the Epiphany, Revised Common Lectionary, Year B
Psalm 139:1-6, 1 Samuel 3:1-10, 1 Corinthians 6:17-20, John 1:43-51

Complete Sermon with Bibliography and Notes:
 [ PDF | MP3 Audio | All Formats ]

COVER IMAGE: William Blake. “Jacob’s Dream,” 1805. Public Domain. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 14 January 2024. Painting.