A Moment for Mission
“I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.” —Jeremiah 31:3b, NRSVUE
Writing this mission moment three days before the Super Bowl, I wonder: How many people will bet on the outcome of the national championship game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Kansas City Chiefs? A little research offers an answer. About one in five American adults will gamble $16 billion, according to an industry trade group. The majority will bet with family and friends, participate in office pools or take chances with a bookie.
Does your church encourage gambling? While your initial answer may be no, you might be surprised to learn that if congregational events include raffles, lotteries, bingo, door prizes, other drawing schemes and games of chance for fundraising, the answer is yes.
The United Methodist Social Principles (2016) call gambling “a menace to society, deadly to the best interests of moral, social, economic, and spiritual life, destructive of good government and good stewardship. As an act of faith and concern, Christians should abstain from gambling and should strive to minister to those victimized by the practice. Where gambling has become addictive, the Church will encourage such individuals to receive therapeutic assistance so that the individual’s energies may be redirected into positive and constructive ends.”
The Social Principles continue, “The Church’s prophetic call is to promote standards of justice and advocacy that would make it unnecessary and undesirable to resort to commercial gambling—including public lotteries, casinos, raffles, Internet gambling, gambling with an emerging wireless technology and other games of chance—as a recreation, as an escape, or as a means of producing public revenue or funds for support of charities or government.” (¶ 163G).
Thanks to one World Service Special Gifts ministry—the National Anti-Gambling Project—United Methodists are informing church members about the problems associated with gambling and helping individuals addicted to gambling. A World Service Special Gift is a designated financial contribution made by an individual, local church, organization, district or annual conference to a project authorized as such by the Connectional Table.
Does this sound familiar? “Mom, where is my backpack?”
“It’s right on the chair where you left it last night.” ?
Have you ever looked for something and discovered it hiding in plain sight?
That happened to Mary Magdalene, one of Jesus’s followers, on Easter Sunday. She went to Jesus’s tomb and saw that the stone had been rolled away. Two angels asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”
She told them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”
Mary turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not recognize him. She thought he was the gardener.
“Sir,” she said, “if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary!”
In Hebrew, she replied, “Rabbouni,” which means “teacher.”
Mary excitedly ran to tell the disciples, “I have seen the Lord!”
What a wonderful surprise! Even though Jesus had promised he would rise from the grave on Easter, Mary was astonished to see him.
Another saying you may have heard is “seeing is believing.”
A week after Easter, Jesus appeared to his disciples. One was Thomas, often called “Doubting Thomas,” because he did not believe that the man standing before him was Jesus.
“Unless I see the marks of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe,” Thomas said.
After Thomas saw Jesus’s hands and side, he believed.
Jesus told the disciples, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
Today, we rejoice in the promise of Easter. Let’s share the Easter story with others, so that they, too, will see Jesus and believe.
Let’s talk about this:
What happened to Mary Magdalene on Easter morning?
Why is Thomas called “Doubting Thomas”?
What do you like best about Easter?
Loving God, your love is everlasting. May we follow your example. As the hymn says, “Fill us with your love, show us how to serve the neighbors we have from you.” Amen.
From Discipleship Ministries: Easter Day — The End That Wasn't Mighty God of Resurrection and Redemption, we offer our gifts alongside our alleluias! We long for Easter to fill us and soak into our bones like those who were confronted in a graveyard by angels announcing, “He is not here, he is risen!” May we run from here, not walk, because we and every corner of the world so desperately need to hear the news the angels share! Before we speak a word, may others see in our faces that the world has been turned upside down. You win; death loses. In the name of the risen Christ, we pray. Amen. (Matthew 28:1-10)
According to the United Methodist Social Principles, gambling for material gain by chance and at another person’s expense threatens personal character and social morality. It fosters greed and stimulates the fatalistic faith in chance. It downplays the importance of work and suggests that money can solve every problem and greed is the norm for achievement. It serves as a “regressive tax” on those who can least afford it.
The Social Principles add, “It is expected that United Methodist churches abstain from the use of raffles, lotteries, bingo, door prizes, other drawing schemes, and games of chance for the purpose of gambling or fund-raising. … It is incumbent upon local churches to reach out with love to individuals who are addicted, compulsive, or problem gamblers and support efforts at recovery and rehabilitation.” (¶ 163G).
The General Board of Church and Society (GBCS) provides materials for study and action to combat gambling and to aid people addicted to gambling. GBCS, along with annual conferences and local churches, works with coalitions and grassroots organizations (such as the National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling).
Through our support of World Service Special Gifts, we inform about the problems associated with gambling and help individuals addicted to gambling.