Identity Issues

Who are you? The question comes up in every new encounter.  The words may not always be so direct, “what do you do?” “where do you come from?” “where did you go to school?” – the list goes on but the question remains – WHO ARE YOU?
Have you thought about it lately?  It can be daunting.  Who are you? 
Are you your social media feed – a stream of curated pictures, thoughts and comments?  Are you the full list of accomplishments on your Curriculum Vitae?  How about the rewards or compliments you get from friends and society?  Is our identity in out-competing, out-experiencing those around us?
Or maybe its in our immutable characteristics?  Am I the color of my hair or eyes?  Does the pigment of my skin dictate my identity?  Can I be reduced to genetic expression and destiny?
Who are we in this world?  Perhaps our nurtured upbringing tells us who we are?  Are we our parents or grandparents offspring?  Are we the worthy bearers of the names passed along to us?
The questions keep on coming, even as the waters of life threaten to rise, rage, rinse away our every emerging answer.   Injury, firing, death, failure, despair, pandemic.  These storms rise and still the world continues to ask – who are you?
The onslaught of the question can be exhausting.
Thanks be to our God we have a refuge and a hope.
The answer beyond ourselves.
Isaiah tells us God has been a refuge for the poor,    a refuge for the needy in their distress,a shelter from the storm    and a shade from the heat.
The Psalms tells us God is our refuge and strength,    an ever-present help in trouble.Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way    and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,though its waters roar and foam    and the mountains quake with their surging.
God our source of refuge and strength, asks a different question, whose are you?
We find in Genesis, God created human in his own image, in the image of God he created humanity; male and female he created them.
You are an image bearer.
The psalmist sings in reply, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”
Paul writes we are God’s masterpieces, created in Christ Jesus.
We are wonderfully made.
And as to those mistakes and marred understandings – Peter tells us, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
I can be cleansed.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
We are new and renewed
For in Christ Jesus you are all children of God, through faith. 
In Jesus.
I have new life.
In God.
You are wonderful image bearer.
In the Holy Spirit,
We are bearers of God.
Child of God….An identity to rest in…a rock the waters cannot wash away…a destiny no dna can deny…a family no death can destroy…an accomplishment beyond the capacity of our own failures…
Who are you? 
In Jesus – you are loved.
You are a child of God.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.



Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.” Hebrews 2:1

I recently sat down with a community group dedicated to bringing redemption to all of Richmond.  There we heard from a guest speaker, a poet who asked us to consider the cup in our hands.  He spoke of how in his youth outreach he asks them to write about common items, to make them personal and known, to tell a better story.  The speaker elegantly moved onto the rest of his presentation, but I remained thinking about the cup.

That morning, I had read the following line, ‘attention is the beginning of devotion.’ It struck me how often move our attention onto the next thing.  The next show, then next event – even our video feeds can’t wait for us to decide as they automatically play whatever the computer picks next.  We scan, we look, we strain to discover what might be in store for us ahead.  It seems to be our culture’s way.  And so this cup left me wondering, How often do we attend to the everyday ordinary of what already is?

What, and more importantly, who surrounds us has a far greater impact than the ‘next best thing’ on our lives.  Do we attend to the extraordinary blessings of the ordinary parts of our lives?

God’s mercies and blessings are fresh every morning.  Do we rest long enough to attend to where they might be offered, to receive afresh God’s blessings?

As we move into what is for many a very busy season full all sorts of the next best things, I pray you find that time to rest, to receive, to breathe.  May you be in such moments of fresh blessing this Christmas season.

Lord, guide us to those green pastures of rest, so we are able to attend to the ‘cups’ of our lives.  You offer us life in a abundance.  May we attend to your steady presence and be blessed in the everyday spaces of life whatever may come.  We thank you for the reason for this season and the continued merriment and joy it brings.  In Jesus name, Amen.


A Methodist Catholic Spirit

In the year 1750, John Wesley published his sermon titled “Catholic Spirit,” which became a treatise for early Methodist dialogue and cooperation with other Christian churches. The scholar Albert Outler writes that Wesley’s concern was “to narrow the field of irreducible disagreement between professing, practicing Christians and to transfer their concerns from argument about faith in Christ to faith itself…” In the sermon, Wesley describes the essential core of Christian belief and how we can love other Christians who may disagree with us on other matters.
Importantly, the sermon is written in the context of interchurch cooperation. In other words, it deals with how Methodists are to interact with Christians of other denominations who may disagree in some theological emphases, modes of worship, or church government. The core essentials of faith are still held in common (the supremacy of God, the divinity of Jesus, faith filled with love, etc.), but how are we to navigate differences in the other areas of Christian belief? Wesley asks, “Though we can’t think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion?” These are important questions for us, as well.
Though Christians may not always agree in their theological opinions and worship preferences, Wesley shows that our commonality in the essentials of the faith enables us to “unite in love.” Love is the central thread that runs through the entire sermon. It bridges the personal squabbles we have over non-essential matters of belief. It calls us back to a theological center, built on the teaching and example of Jesus: “By this shall all know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).
To be sure, Wesley does not advocate for “speculative latitudinarianism,” an indifference to all opinions. For Methodists, beliefs really do matter, and some theological opinions are certainly closer to the truth than others. However, even within these entrenched disagreements, Christians can still have love. Though we belong to different denominations, worship in different ways, and hold to different doctrines, the theological center of holy love holds us together.

Wesley concludes his sermon, “And now run the race which is set before thee, in the royal way of universal love… keep an even pace, rooted in the faith once delivered to the saints and grounded in love, in true, catholic love, till thou art swallowed up in love for ever and ever.” May we heed this wisdom in our own lives of faith. May we strive along the more excellent way of love— neither dismissing our differences nor tolerating falsehoods, but honing the center, holy love.


For further reading—


And the sermon text itself here



Once again the beauty of change falls among us.  We fold up our swimsuits and shake out our sweat shirts. The mower parks in the shed while the rakes are brought out to gather burning leaves falling from our trees. Change allows us to see clearly what we will miss and what is in store.
Here at Central change continues.  Our Ad Council met last night and agreed to slowly pull back our Covid restrictions. We will not ask for all to wear masks all the time. We still ask for compassion from all and will be providing masks for any who desire one. Thank you to all for doing your part! The change in our hospital occupancy and daily case numbers are something to be celebrated. When we move to yellow we will take down the tape.

With the changing year comes a new pledge drive for 2022. This Sunday we celebrate our Stewardship Sunday and the same, yet changing mission we have at Central to offer Jesus’ love to all. Do you remember it? That first time Jesus jumped off the pages of Scripture and transformed you with the reality of His power?  That love, that prevenient grace, that redeeming truth, that work – that’s what we are about together at Central. That’s the light we are keeping on with our commitment for 2022. I cannot wait to celebrate the changed lives from the work with you in the coming years.

Still, the greatest thing about change is that our Savior does not, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Heb 13:8)

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Joseph


The Means of Grace

If you happened to catch Pastor Joseph’s blog article last week, you’ll recall it focused on the Methodist doctrine of entire sanctification (or, “Christian Perfection”). Among the doctrinal distinctives of our church, this is perhaps the most beloved. As Methodists we are optimistic about God’s grace. Though in our own power and by our own merit, we can achieve nothing of salvation, we believe God’s grace is powerful enough to deliver us from both the guilt and the power of sin in this life.


John testifies: “Those who have been born of God do not sin, because God’s seed abides in them; they cannot sin because they have been born of God” (1 John 3:9, NRSV). John is not claiming we’ll have a sinless perfection but a freedom from ongoing, high-handed sin. In place of sinful rebellion, the believer is filled with the holy love of God. Again, “Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world” (1 Jon 4:17, NRSV). The essence of holiness is perfect love. This love of God and neighbor so fills our hearts that we are oriented entirely away from the rebellious habit of sin and enabled to live a godly life. This is the renewal of the image of God within us.


If this is the goal of our salvation, and if Methodists truly believe its possibility in this life, then how do we receive this gift? How are we remade in the image of holy love? John Wesley saw a pathway in the means of grace. He described the means of grace as “outward signs, words, or actions ordained of God, and appointed for this end—to be the ordinary channels whereby he might convey to men [prevenient], justifying, or sanctifying grace” (Sermon 16: The Means of Grace).


Grace is essential for growth in the spiritual life. We cannot grow ourselves. We cannot make ourselves holy. We need the spiritual nourishment of grace, and it is always a gift from God. Therefore, we must wait upon God in the places he has promised to meet us with that grace and allow it to do its transformational work within us.


These channels of grace include our practices of prayer, Bible reading and study, attending worship, the Lord’s Supper, Christian fellowship, serving the poor, visiting the sick, and many others. These are the places where God does his deepest, most interior work of changing our hearts from a heart of sin to a heart of holy love. Perfect love. It is a process, perhaps better described as a “perfecting perfection.” But as Methodists, we believe that God both desires and is able to do such a profound work of grace within us that we can be utterly renewed in the divine image of holy love. It comes by grace. And it’s found in the means of grace.


Do you expect to be made perfect in love in this life? Are you earnestly seeking this grace in the means that God has provided? Can we be a church that is so utterly renewed in the image of holy love that it radically transforms the community around us for the glory of God?


“O what people of God we ought to be; and grace can make us so!” (Francis Asbury)


-Pastor Phil


Christian Perfection

John Wesley preached over and estimated 40,000 times in raising up the Methodist movement. At the end of his life, he wrote the following,

This doctrine (of full sanctification) is the grand depositum which God has lodged with the people called Methodists; and for the sake of propagating this chiefly He appeared to have raised us up.” 

Wesley taught Methodism as holiness of heart and life or true scriptural Christianity.  Christian Perfection or Full Sanctification became a defining doctrine which set apart the Methodists.  He defined this Christian Perfection most full as:

In one view, it is purity of intention, dedicating all the life to God. It is the giving God all our heart; it is one desire and design ruling all our tempers. It is the devoting, not a part, but all our soul, body, and substance to God. In another view, it is all the mind which was in Christ, enabling us to walk as Christ walked. It is the circumcision of the heart from all filthiness, all inward as well as outward pollution. It is a renewal of the heart in the whole image of God, the full likeness of Him that created it. In yet another, it is the loving God with all our heart, and our neighbor as ourselves.


Reflecting on his preaching of Christian Perfection, Wesley goes on,

“In the same sermon I observed, “`Love is the fulfilling of the law, the end of the commandment.’ It is not only `the first and great’ command, but all the commandments in one. `Whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, if there be any virtue, if there be any praise,’ they are all comprised in this one word, love. In this is perfection, and glory, and happiness: The royal law of heaven and earth is this, `Thou shall love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength.’ The one perfect good shall be your one ultimate end. One thing shall ye desire for its own sake, — the fruition of Him who is all in all. One happiness shall ye propose to your souls, even an union with Him that made them, the having `fellowship with the Father and the Son,’ the being `joined to the Lord in one spirit.’ One design ye are to pursue to the end of time, — the enjoyment of God in time and in eternity. Desire other things so far as they tend to this; love the creature, as it leads to the Creator. But in every step you take, be this the glorious point that terminates your view. Let every affection, and thought and word, and action, be subordinate to this. Whatever ye desire or fear, whatever ye seek or shun, whatever ye think speak, or do, be it in order to your happiness in God, the sole end, as well as source, of your being.” (Ibid., pp. 207, 208.)


I concluded in these words: “Here is the sum of the perfect law, the circumcision of the heart. Let the spirit return to God that gave it, with the whole train of its affections. — Other sacrifices from us he would not, but the living sacrifice of the heart hath he chosen. Let it be continually offered up to God through Christ, in flames of holy love. And let no creature be suffered to share with him; for he is a jealous God. His throne will he not divide with another; he will reign without a rival. Be no design, no desire admitted there, but what has Him for its ultimate object.


This is the way wherein those children of God once walked, who being dead still speak to us: `Desire not to live but to praise his name; let all your thoughts, words, and works tend to his glory.’ `Let your soul be filled with so entire a love to Him that you may love nothing but for his sake.’ `Have a pure intention of heart, a steadfast regard to his glory in all you actions.’


Is your soul so filled with love?  Have we thought of God’s glory in all our actions?  What would our world, our community, our homes look like if we had such purity of intention?


May we remember who we are and Whose we are.  Lord, hear our prayers…


Wesley’s full sermon – The Circumcision of the Heart

Wesley’s  – A Plain Account of Christian Perfection


A Tale of Hope

The cool air catches me off guard when I step out the front door each morning.  A thoughtless breath becomes a gasp as the crisp air shocks my lungs.  I should be prepared.  I told my children to put on a jacket.  I knew the forecast, however, the memory of summer’s heat lingers long.


Still the coolness calls us back outside from our conditioned air for playful evenings and longer conversations around the fire.  The turning of the trees beckons our boots to trod again the trails of the woods.  Hiking allows our family to be together to see the glory of God’s creation and remember similar explorations of years gone by.  It is good to gather inside.  It is also good to have the space be in adventure together outside.


I love how unexpected moments arise during hikes.  Vistas on the way to the peak.  Animal encounters which stop our tracks. Stories and conversations which could not be had in cramped quarters. All blessings which would not occur if we did not commit to the journey, make preparations of clothing, food, & water, and go.  The journey between these moments might take hours and be hard, but stitched together they hold a thread of the tale we tell about our lives. 


I believe it is such a tale of hope that Paul speaks to in 1 Thessalonians, “We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul had been run out of Thessalonica and had just heard from others reporting back from the community.  Paul had committed to a journey, was blessed by his unexpected time along the way, underwent uncertain, hard times, and now is relaying his hope of how it is all coming together while his ultimate destination still lays ahead.


Friends, I pray you find such hope in this season. The air shifts and new opportunities arise.  Yet the memory and reality of our arduous journey through the pandemic continues. I am thankful you continue to share God’s love and follow Jesus in this season. Your everyday labor of love is making a difference in our neighborhoods, community, and world.  Our hope will endure in Jesus as we continue this journey together.  There are such wonderful stories ahead.


May God’s blessings find your path this day and may His love surround you.


In Christ,

Pastor Joseph



The color of passion and bull taunts, cherry flavored t-shirt stains and fall apples – now has become a somber mark for our county.  This past Wednesday, Wayne County reached red on Indiana’s Coronavirus Map, the highest advisory level attainable.  This advisory level translates to a hospital which is nearly maxed out, more Covid cases than we have had at any other time, and more tragic deaths.

We are now asking you and any who enters Central to wear a mask at ALL times throughout the building.  We are asking any who are sick or might be sick to stay home on Sunday morning and join via our livestream (found here on our webpage or on our Facebook page).  We will continue this for at least the next 2 weeks (until we have 2 straight weeks of being below red). We can do this to create gracious space in these hard times.

We are asking for prayer, constant prayer for the nurses, support staff, doctors, frontline workers…for the patients, the sick, the families, the isolated…for all of Wayne County and the world.  We are still fighting this all together.  If you or anyone you know is still unvaccinated, we will again be hosting the mobile vaccination unit at Noon this Sunday.

Let us remember that our call to follow Jesus is one which often brings us to love our neighbor in ways which where hitherto unimagined. Let us remember also how red points to that Holy Spirit fire which sustains in the unknown. Let us remember Jesus, red on the cross, who taught us true love bleeds.  Let us remember John’s words as we wrestle with the unknown, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.”  Let us have wisdom to walk in this light in this season.


Yours in Christ,

Pastor Joseph