Yesterday we went to worship at First United Methodist Church, Adrian. First United Methodist is on the west side of town, close to Adrian College. The church was established in 1863 (the cornerstone from that first building was in the garden) but the current building looks more like it was built in the 1980’s. There was a spacious parking lot in the back of the church and a big welcome sign over a door so we knew where to enter. Several people greeted us before the service.
The service at First United Methodist was the most traditional we have been to for a while. There was a wonderful organ prelude and the choir processed in. The Associate Pastor, Chris Brundage, wore a robe and stole. The Senior Pastor was on vacation. He must be new at the church because there isn’t a picture of him on the web page yet. Rev. Brundage has been on staff at the church since 2001. The service started at 9:30 with Sunday School after the service. There is a Sunday evening praise service once a month (but not the Sunday we visited).
We sang the Gloria Patri and the Doxology. There were nice instructions for the worship service inside the bulletin. Announcements were running on a wall of the sanctuary until the service started, then the projector was shut down. The choir sang a beautiful anthem. We noticed that there weren’t any children in the service. They might have a separate service and extended Sunday School for the kids, but it felt like the congregation was older and very traditional. Tom wore his usual nice shorts and he was the only man there without a jacket on. This was a surprise to us because we have grown accustomed to more casual attire at church, especially with warmer weather.
The sermon was more than half an hour long, so I have to admit that my mind wandered. But I tried to keep it on the things of God. Rev. Brundage was starting a three-week series on barriers to spiritual vitality. Today’s barrier was not believing that God loves you unconditionally. His solution to this: act like you believe it and eventually you will believe it. Obviously this is a summary of the message.
I was intrigued by one thing that Rev. Brundage said – not a new idea, but I had time to consider it as the sermon continued. This is the idea – and my thoughts on it. God loves us unconditionally. When God tells us no, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t love us. Then Rev. Brundage went off in one direction, and I continued in another. I thought about my parents and the ways they disciplined me. I thought about parents I know that have a hard time disciplining their children because they don’t want their children to be unhappy. I thought about lazy parents I know that say yes because it is easier than saying no. Which parents really love their children? I think it is the parents that are willing to do the hard thing – to say no and to discipline in loving ways. These are the parents whose children grow up to be responsible adults.
God loves us enough to say no to us. He loves us too much NOT to discipline us when we need it. He sets limits so that we can grow in the proper directions and grow into responsible, loving adults in faith. He doesn’t rescue us from every situation caused by our bad decisions because he knows we need to learn to depend on him and respect his limits. We need to learn to fear (respect) God. It would be easier for him to say yes all the time – but we wouldn’t grow, we wouldn’t learn, and we wouldn’t become adults in faith.
Who has loved you enough to say no? Who has earned your respect by setting limits and sticking to them? We are spiritually vital when we learn that our relationship with God involves limits and respecting those limits. We can only pursue a loving relationship when we see God as the parent who loves us enough to say no – and when we grow up enough in faith to be willing to say yes to his limits.