And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.
(Mark 1:7 NIV)
“There is an acute shortage… of toilet paper.”
Johnny Carson, the Tonight Show, Dec. 19, 1973
This second week in Advent we are spending time with John the Baptist, one of the many prophets and preachers who prepared the way for Jesus’s arrival. It’s not only that Jesus came down at Christmas. He was long-expected, as the hymn goes, and John the Baptist and others lost to time were responsible for building that expectation.
We don’t always do well at recognizing forerunners. History remembers a few towering figures while generally forgetting about all those who came before. Preparing the way for others, preparing for others to join, follow, and even take over for us, is a huge part of the success of a church, a business, or even a family. The best forerunners shepherd their message well.
It’s been a strange year to shop for toilet paper. In March many of us were dismayed to see empty shelves of paper products even as their producers reassured us there was no actual shortage and supply would keep up. This past month as COVID-19 cases crept up again, a fresh round of panic buying kicked in, and once again photos spread of cleared-out stores.
Oddly enough, a friend of mine named Rev. Michael Reed (some of you may remember that he came to preach to us last year about his infant and family health ministry in Trenton called “The Maker’s Place”) shared a devotional last year using a previous toilet paper shortage as an illustration of the way worried news can spread. Apparently, in December of 1973, Johnny Carson read a news clipping that stated simply that there was an impending shortage of toilet paper. He read it with comic effect and faux panic, but a semi-true urban legend sprang up that Carson single-handedly caused a run on stores and a corresponding toilet paper panic, too.
I was reminded of that devotional and that story when our own panic set in last Spring. With this perspective in mind, I understood that these disruptions happen from time to time and that it would all be quickly resolved. There was no need to buy toilet paper out of the back of someone’s truck for $5 a roll. When the shortage came, I was prepared, because I had been prepared.
It’s a silly illustration, perhaps, but we all need people to show us the way and help us understand the events to come. John the Baptizer let the people who came to him know to expect the coming of one greater than he who would fill them with the Holy Spirit, hope, and a new purpose. Take time today and this week to remember those who prepared you for the challenges and opportunities of life, the large, the small, and the in-between, remembering the people we often leave out of our own stories but without whom we would be nothing.
Grace and Peace,
How Much Transformation Can Really Happen Through Our Screens?
When we gather to worship, to study, or to serve together, we do so for reasons both ordinary and extraordinary. It’s nice to see people, sure, and to sing songs, but we also hope and expect that the Holy Spirit will reach into each of our hearts and work a transformation within. How much can be achieved through these same tired devices we use for everything else? Well, my hope remains the answer is “a lot.” As we continue in video worship for the next several weeks, you are invited to participate and share in this most-21st century, 2020 way of doing liturgy. Opportunities to share prayers, scripture lessons, and more are available to be compiled into our weekly worship time. If you would like to participate – or even if you wouldn’t necessarily like to but feel like you could – please contact Pastor Ben.
Almost Christmas, a Wesleyan Advent (Wednesday evening class canceled)
In his well-known sermon, the Almost Christian, Wesley preached about those whose faith was almost the full, life-giving reality of discipleship, but not quite. Christmas and the Advent before it are annual reminders of the miracle of incarnation, the God who loved and loves us so much they had to come down to earth and show us.
Bruce LaPenta and Lynn Becker will be leading a 5-week Zoom small group called “Almost Christmas.” Materials are purchased and available to pick up in the church office. Please leave a $10 donation for your copy of the Study Guide. Bruce’s class can be joined Sundays at 9am. Lynn’s is Tuesdays at 2PM. We hope to see at least 20 people connect through this study – all are welcome.
Continuing Coffee Hour Over Zoom
Laura Newton is hosting a coffee hour this Sunday over Zoom. You can follow this link to share about your week and hear how others are doing. Trust me, if you’re shy, you will be welcomed with joy.
Worship with Flemington UMC on Facebook
Each Sunday at 10:30am, reach for your phone, tablet, computer, or other internet-connected device for a time of music, prayer, scripture, and preaching. Watching live gives the opportunity to comment in real-time with prayer requests, updates on your life, and more, but if you view the service later you can still comment and share prayer requests and experiences from your life with your church.
If you don’t have a Facebook account, you can simply visit the church’s Facebook page:
The videos are all accessible there without the need to create an account or login. If you have technical questions, please reach out.