April 9, 2017
Today is Palm Sunday, the day when we recall the celebration and joy of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. From the Gospel accounts we can imagine adults and children alike lined up to see Jesus and welcome him to their city. The Bible tells us that people were shouting, “Hosanna to the King!” as they referred to Jesus as king. But in their minds, to be a king was much different than the kind of king Jesus was. They were expecting a political king, one who would restore the Israelites to their proper place in society and establish a kingdom of protection and prosperity, an end to the exploitation they had suffered for generations.
Prior to Vatican II, the norm was to read the Passion Narrative – the narrative about Jesus’ betrayal, arrest, trial and crucifixion – on the Sunday prior to Palm Sunday. Then, on Palm Sunday the Palm Narrative of the triumphant entry was read as a kick-off to Holy Week (Monday – Saturday prior to Easter.) By 1992 the Roman Catholic, the Common and the Revised Common Lectionary were all changed to reflect the collapse of the two Sundays’ readings into one. In most United Methodist churches, the pastor chooses which s/he will read – Palm or Passion Narrative.
I am one of those pastors who appreciates the lectionary because it provides a balanced and full presentation of the whole Bible in worship. But I don’t appreciate the collapse of the two narratives. Ideally, we would read each of the different narratives on different Sundays to get the full impact of the season of Lent. If not that, I would like to begin the service with the Palm Narrative and throughout the service shift to the Palm Narrative. Unfortunately, attempting to embrace both narratives in the same worship service takes longer than the typical worship service and inevitably one narrative receives more attention than the other.
All of this history lesson and blathering on about Palm/Passion Sunday isn’t just to fill up space in the pastoral article. I’m writing all of this in the hope that if you’re actually reading the pastor’s article you’ll be inclined to see the need to hear both narratives before Easter morning. There are opportunities during this coming week to experience Jesus’ last supper with his disciples and to hear through music the poignant account of his trial and crucifixion. If you miss out on the services Maundy Thursday and Holy Friday, you’ll miss out on the full impact of Easter.
On Thursday evening our worship committee has planned a special experience for communion. In groups of twelve, the congregation will be seated around a table with “Jesus” as the communion elements are consecrated and served by “Jesus.” On Friday evening, our choir will present a beautiful cantata, “In Calvary’s Shadow,” which takes the congregation from the Last Supper to the crucifixion. Both will be a blessing to you!
Invite a friend to worship! Bring a friend to one of the Holy Week services or to Easter Resurrection Sunday!
Grace & Peace,
April 2, 2017
The Sahara Desert has been a desert for the last 70,000 years but before that, researchers tell us that about 12,000 years ago, “there was a sway in the Earth’s axis, causing seasonal monsoons to shift, bringing rains to new areas, which in turn created abundant watersheds across the Sahara, attracting different animals and eventually people.” (National Geographic, 2013) The National Geographic article described how, on October 13, 2000, a small team of paleontologists discovered two large piles of bones. Human bones. Buried among pot shards, stone tools, beads, and arrowheads, they discovered hundreds of human bones.
The Sahara is a harsh environment with scorching 130-degree heat, no water sources, venomous snakes and scorpions, and sand. Lots and lots of sand. But with a shift in the Earth’s axis and an enormous amount of rain, this desert became “The Green Desert,” inhabitable for humans, even inviting for humans and animals.
Evidently during the periods of The Green Sahara, civilizations grew. From study of the bones, archeologists could tell that of the two different civilizations discovered, the Kiffians were a fish-based civilization, physically very strong and a peaceful people. The other civilization was the Tenerians, herdsmen, mostly nomadic people. From their bones, scientists could tell what the people ate, drank, and how they lived. It’s a fascinating article!
In Ezekiel 37, the prophet writes, “The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2 He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. 3 He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” Then only a few verses later he writes, “11 Then he said to me, “Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’”
Think about your spiritual bones for a moment. Would an examination of your spiritual bones reveal that you’ve been consuming the Word of God on a regular basis, allowing it to bring spiritual nutrients to your soul? Or have you been eating junk food, convincing yourself that books or teachings about the Bible are just as good as the Good Book itself? Have you been exercising your spiritual bones with acts of service and works of mercy so that you stay limber and flexible in God’s grace? Or are you a spiritual couch potato? You get the idea.
The season of Lent is drawing to a close soon. Hopefully each of us has taken adequate amount of time for self-reflection, confession, repentance, and forgiveness. Another important aspect of Lent is to return to God, refocus on God, get our spiritual bones in a healthy relationship with God again. Dry bones are called to life again in God. “14 I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act, says the Lord.” Ezekiel 37: 14.
May your Lent be full of grace!
March 26, 2017
Have you ever been in a vulnerable position, unable to do anything for yourself or someone you love? It’s a terrifying place to be and reminds me of the scripture from John 21: 18 when Jesus says to Peter, “Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” Certainly, the older we get, the more decisions are made by someone else, but that’s not the only example of vulnerability.
An example from my own life was when my daughter was in the intensive care unit and the doctors couldn’t identify the source of an infection that was rapidly shutting down her body. I felt completely helpless and at the mercy of someone, anyone, who could make her well.
We all have our own stories of vulnerability; times when we have seriously messed up, times of financial hardship, times when our own pride or stupidity caused unnecessary pain for someone else. Isn’t it a great feeling when the vulnerability subsides? Isn’t it wonderful when someone un-messes the mess we’ve made or bails us out or in some way intervenes on our behalf and repairs the damage we’ve caused? That’s exactly what Jesus Christ does for each and every one of us!
Jesus Christ has more than forgiven us, he intervened on our behalf and paid the price for our mistakes, intentional and unintentional. Through Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, God has reconciled the world to God’s self and given us the assurance of salvation. Where we were once vulnerable, God has anchored us to God’s grace.
How do you pay back something that is beyond price? That’s what I believe is behind the psalmist’s words in Psalm 116: 1-14:
“I love the Lord, because he has heard my voice and my supplications. 2 Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live. 3 The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish.4 Then I called on the name of the Lord: “O Lord, I pray, save my life!”
5 Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; our God is merciful. The Lord protects the simple; when I was brought low, he saved me. 7 Return, O my soul, to your rest, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.
8 For you have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling. 9 I walk before the Lord in the land of the living.10 I kept my faith, even when I said, “I am greatly afflicted”; 11 I said in my consternation, “Everyone is a liar.”
12 What shall I return to the Lord for all his bounty to me? 13 I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord, 14 I will pay my vows to the Lord in
the presence of all his people.”
May your Lent be full of grace!
March 19, 2017
Have you ever wondered why Christians are required to confess their sins and seek forgiveness if God has already forgiven us? Jesus Christ died on the cross to save us from sin, so what’s the point of praying for forgiveness? Why not just try to do better next time?
Sin, confession and forgiveness are the main foci of the season of Lent because at the celebration of Easter we are celebrating Jesus’ defeat over sin and death and his gifts to us of forgiveness and eternal life. It might seem easier to avoid any confession of our sins because who wants to actually recall and reflect on sins we’ve committed against God and one another? Surely there are more pleasant ways of spending our time. But we’ve all heard the maxim, “Confession is good for the soul,” which is an old Scottish proverb. The complete proverb reads like this, “Public confession is good for the soul.” That’s right, “public.” If you think about it, it makes sense.
We define sin as anything that comes between us and God or as some behavior/habit/thought that separates us from God or the will of God. When we confess our sin we’re admitting we’ve done something wrong, something destructive to our relationship with God and/or one another and confession is good for the soul. When we confess we’re admitting, not only to God, but to ourselves that we’ve messed up and that, in itself, helps us realize the degree to which we’ve messed up. Making a genuine and heart-felt confession to God makes us say it out loud, making it real, and more ready to accept the consequences of our sin.
Public confession of sin brings into play the whole process of accountability. It’s good to confess to God, silently or aloud, but when we confess to one another – not necessarily to the one we’ve sinned against – the person to whom we confess holds us accountable to not repeating that sin again. Public confession invites other Christians to “hold our feet to the fire,” so to speak, to stop the sinful behavior, repent and confess to God, and to ask forgiveness of the one against whom we’ve sinned.
It’s not pleasant. It’s not easy. But confession is necessary and it is good for us. Why? After confession is the grace of God who forgives! After confession to one another is the grace we’re supposed to offer one another which is free of judgment and full of forgiveness! The road to a right relationship with God and a repaired relationship with one another begins with the first step – confession. It’s good for us because it allows for a fresh start, a blank slate, a “do-over.”
So friends, reflect on yourself and your behavior. Then repent, pray a prayer of confession and ask forgiveness from God. And then, with God’s grace in your heart, go and ask forgiveness from the one or ones who have been hurt by your sin. And when someone comes to you, seeking forgiveness, give it freely as you have been given it by your Father in heaven.
31 Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you. Ephesians 4:31
Blessings on a Holy Lent!
March 12, 2017
Immediately following Jesus’ baptism, depending on which gospel you read, he was “led” by the Spirit or the Spirit “drove” him into the wilderness where he was tempted for forty days and forty nights. We can read in the gospels that Satan tempted Jesus with turning stones into bread, thereby having the resources to curb his own hunger and feed others as well. On the surface it looks like a good deal! Why not allow Satan to help him out? What could be wrong with a plan that feeds people and helps them out?
I’ve heard it said that the reason Jesus didn’t accept Satan’s offer to make bread out of stones is because Jesus knew that eventually the bread would run out. And then what? Another reason I’ve heard is because Jesus would want people to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps,” so to speak, and figure out for themselves how to fend for themselves. Neither of those answers are appealing to me because they do not reflect the compassion of Christ.
Perhaps Jesus knew the risk of cutting corners. There is something to be said for the “process” of things. Today it’s less usual for people to bake a cake from scratch because the mixes are just fine. And much faster and neater. Some of us change the oil in our vehicles ourselves but most of us don’t have the time or equipment or know-how to accomplish the task. And so we take our vehicles to an oil change place that also vacuums the carpet. I personally like to wash my own car. For one, it gets me moving. That’s simple enough but by washing it myself I notice the car’s condition. If a new ding or dent or scratch shows up, I know about it immediately. There’s something to be said for the “process” of things.
Maybe Jesus didn’t accept Satan’s offer to make bread out of stones because the process of growing the wheat, harvesting, mixing, kneading, waiting, baking, and slicing is a process that’s better done in community. Think how many people have something to do with bringing the bread to the table. Consider the life that’s lived in the “waiting” time. And consider the appreciation when the bread is shared by friends and family around the table. In this scenario, the cycle of growing, harvesting, making and eating the bread goes on forever; therefore, the bread doesn’t run out. And throughout the process there are points of entry for many people to share the success in community rather than all alone.
Faith is a process. We don’t automatically believe in Jesus Christ simply because someone told us to. We learn, inquire, share, struggle, believe. Then we learn, inquire, share, struggle, believe. Faith is a process that takes a lifetime of belief and unbelief, a lifetime process that, in its best form, is done over a long, long period of time. No short cuts.
Spend some time on your faith development by joining the online Bible study (yes, you can still join and spend some time catching up), attending the weekly Wednesday prayer services (5:30 p.m., Sanctuary) or taking up a spiritual discipline that will challenge you.
Blessings on a holy Lent –
Grace & Peace, Pastor Bobbie
March 5, 2017
It’s been a few months since I’ve given an update on Vibrant Church Initiative and many of you are probably thinking, “I thought that was over…???” Vibrant Church Initiative isn’t a program, it’s a process, designed to jump-start us back on track with making disciples for Jesus Christ in effective ways.
One of the initiatives we set out to accomplish was leadership development, which included several steps. Our Staff-Parish Relations Committee has completed and even updated the job descriptions for our staff. This accomplishment was a collaborative effort between the staff and the committee so that the descriptions are as accurate as possible.
Another part of leadership development was initiating annual staff assessments. SPRC began that process in the summer of 2015, continued and improved it in the summer of 2016 and will continue and improve it in the summer of 2017. In case you’re wondering, SPRC also completes an annual assessment on me, your pastor, a practice which has been in place for several years. Annual assessments are incredibly helpful because they increase the quality of communication while keeping everyone on the same page with regard to expectations.
Lest you think job descriptions and assessments are only for the staff and clergy, think again. Part of leadership development involves identifying and equipping all persons in the use of their God-given spiritual gifts. In 2016, we implemented the spiritual gifts inventory three different times. About two dozen folks attended the classes and identified their gifts. Using your gifts should be joyful and rewarding. Completing the inventory helps you figure out where and how you can serve Christ through the church. If you’d like to take the inventory either on paper or online, please contact me!
Other ways we’ve worked toward better leadership development include the partnerships between SPRC Committee members and staff/clergy, the annual leadership development orientation and training, and the development and adoption of the Conflict Resolution Policy.
Thank you to all the folks who have worked diligently on all these projects and more. It has truly been a team effort and the process continues.
Thank you for keeping our church leadership, wonderful church volunteers and the church staff in your prayers. All strive to give their best for Christ and the church, dedicating hours to the ministries of this church for one goal – to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
Grace & Peace,
February 26, 2017
Today is Transfiguration Sunday, the day we celebrate Jesus’ being transfigured on the mountain. Jesus only took three of his disciples with him to witness the event, Peter, James and John. While on the mountain, Jesus’ face shone like the sun and from within the cloud a voice claimed Jesus Christ as “Beloved.”
In the Old Testament reading, Moses also goes up on a mountain. He took his assistant, Joshua and the elders were invited to go part of the way to the top. During the 40 days and nights Moses spent with God on the mountain, he was given the law and commandments written on stone. We can only imagine that Moses was changed during that time with God.
Today in worship as we celebrate Jesus’ transfiguration I invite you to begin praying for your own transfiguration. On the heels of the Season of Epiphany and Transfiguration Sunday, we enter into the season of Lent. This Wednesday is Ash Wednesday which marks the beginning of 40 days of self-reflection and confession in preparation for the celebration of Easter. This year, I invite you to spend 40 days in the presence of God with intentionality and discipline.
Take these steps beginning today:
~Pray for God to change your heart in a way that allows you to love God more passionately.
~Pray for a transformational 40-day Lent and open your mind to what God can accomplish.
~Observe a Lenten fast. You might choose to fast for one meal each day or one day each week. Fast from a particular food that you eat on a regular basis, such as white flour or processed sugar. Observe a fast from negative language/attitudes. The point of fasting is to remove a distraction or to cause noticeable loss of something.
~Attend Ash Wednesday Service on Wednesday, March 1, at 6:30 p.m. in the Sanctuary.
~Commit to attending worship every Sunday between March 6 and Easter Sunday, April 16.
~Participate in the online Lent Bible study, Worship in Light of the Cross.
~Participate in a Sunday school class every Sunday between March 6 and Easter Sunday, April 16.
~Increase your offering or tithe during the month of Lent.
~Devote five hours of your time doing volunteer work through the church, Kindness Kottage, Bread of Life Ministries, the school district or an agency of your own choosing.
In the Gospel of Luke, chapter 14, verse 27, Jesus says, “ Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” The cost of discipleship is high. It requires sacrifice and commitment but it transforms each of us into a new creation. The Apostle Paul wrote in II Corinthians, chapter 5, verse 17, “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” When we draw close to God and allow God to transform us through repentance, discipline, commitment, and faithfulness, the rewards are very much worth the cost.
May your Lent be holy.
Feb 19, 2017
At a recent meeting of our district’s clergy, the devotion was based on Proverbs 3: 5-6, which reads, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” The words didn’t punch me with their full impact until several days later, after taking time to mull them over in my mind and heart. You see, during the reflecting on those words I began to realize how many times each day and in how many activities I rely on my own insight! In conversations when I began, as I think all of us do, to fashion my response before the other person was finished speaking, the words caused me to stop my anticipation to speak and really listen to the other person. For me it was very difficult.
The words invaded my day-to-day activities as well. For example, when Charlie and I take communion to the homebound and assisted living or nursing home residents, we always close our time with individuals by praying with and for them in their unique circumstances. On our last occasion it felt different because of the words in Proverbs. Rather than closing my eyes during our prayer I found myself looking around and taking in all the details. I saw photographs of weddings and children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. I noticed well-loved Bibles and thought in my mind, “That Bible is loved like the Velveteen Rabbit was loved with worn pages and torn covers.” I noticed the medications and greeting cards, nick-nacks from previous homes, and quilts or bed covers. The words, “lean not on your own insights…” influenced my prayers because I suddenly realized I was holding hands with this precious man or woman whose home was full of memories and love and strength.
This past weekend it was with a very heavy heart that I traveled to San Antonio. The woman I refer to as a sister, the person who I attribute to bringing me back to faith and specifically to the United Methodist Church, my mentor and confidante, was in an intensive care unit and unresponsive. Jean had been in the hospital for three days before I decided to go be by her side and, honestly, I had told myself I wouldn’t go until Sunday afternoon…after worship, thinking that I shouldn’t be absent on a Sunday morning. But that was based on my understanding. Others in the congregation gave me different advice: “If you don’t go, you may regret it.” “You need to be with your family.” “Being with Jean is more important right now.” And so I did not lean on my own insight, but rather on God’s as it was told to me by others. I’m so grateful that I went, I prayed with and for her and my family, I took care of household things so that others could take care of Jean. And I’m thankful to God that she is well on her way to full recovery from Spinal Meningitis.
Sometimes we can’t see the full picture because we’re relying on our own insight or, from another version of the Bible, our own understanding. This week I invite you to take this Proverbs passage or another of your own choosing and allow the Holy Spirit to influence your daily life.
Grace & Peace,
Feb 12, 2017
The United Methodist bishops of Texas have issued the following letter to all of us.
An Open Letter to United Methodists in Texas and All People of Good Will
Date Posted: 2/3/2017
We, the United Methodist Bishops of the State of Texas, greet you in the love of Christ. We call upon those who claim the title “Christian” to remember that our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, began his life as a homeless refugee, fleeing with his family to Egypt (Matthew 2:13-15). Just as the Holy Family was forced to flee their homeland and seek safety, too many flee for their lives in our violent, terror-plagued world. In the face of such human tragedy in our world today, we, the bishops of The United Methodist Church in Texas, call upon all United Methodists to see Christ in the refugees of today, regardless of their nationality and/or social, religious, economic, or political background. We share with others a common sense of frustration, hopelessness, and confusion as we view the unfolding images of today’s refugees in the news. We desire to welcome the sojourner, love our neighbor, and stand with the most vulnerable among us, while also being concerned for the security and well-being of our communities, state, and nation. It is legitimate and proper to be concerned about the safety of our neighborhoods and our country. It is also proper and right that we reflect Christian compassion and values in our response. Jesus was explicit in his teachings when he said, “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.” (Matthew 10:40). We cannot let fear rule the day; we must let love champion our actions. We are a nation founded on immigration and forged by the courage of shared values to be a “light on the hill” and a beacon of hope in a broken world. As Christians and as Texans, our values are grounded in respect and hospitality toward strangers. We recognize that these are difficult and complex times that call for the best of America’s values and our highest witness as followers of Jesus Christ. Accordingly, we call upon President Trump, Governor Abbott, and the leaders of our nation and state to seek a more compassionate response to immigrants and refugees. Joining with those who desire a safer America, we pray for a just and caring response to those most in need of our help and love. Yours in Christ, The United Methodist Bishops of the State of Texas Bishop Earl Bledsoe, The Northwest Texas Conference (Northwest Texas-New Mexico Area) Bishop Scott Jones, The Texas Conference (Houston Area) Bishop Mike Lowry, The Central Texas Conference (Fort Worth Area) Bishop Mike McKee, The North Texas Conference (Dallas Area) Bishop Robert Schnase, The Rio Texas Conference (San Antonio Area)
Grace and Peace,
Feb 5, 2017
Most Christians believe we are to help the poor but how are we to make good judgments on who to help and who not to help? Are there Bible Scriptures that tell us just how we can help the poor and what we can do to help them?
The Poor in Spirit
Jesus spoke about the “poor in spirit” and pronounced a blessing on them. Is Jesus talking about the financially poor? In Matthew 5:3 He said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The poor in spirit may be those who are despised in this world, they are looked down on by many; they are humble, contrite people. The poor in spirit are blessed because they are small in their own eyes. Since God resists the proud, He gives grace only to the humble (James 4:6). The poor in spirit are not those who are not prosperous necessarily, but those who consider others better than themselves. They are broken over their sinfulness. Christians need to love one another and we should help those who are in poor spirits too but to be poor in spirit is not to be poor financially, although that could be part of it, but it is to be meek and humble.
Jesus Warns of Those Who Ignore the Poor
Jesus gave a startling wake up call to all who would profess their belief in Him. When Jesus comes to the earth and judges between the sheep and the goats, “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least among you, you did not do for me‘“ (Matthew 25:41-45).
Let’s remember Kindness Cottage, Grace Community Health Care, Bread of Life Food Pantry—all of which could use donations and volunteer assistance. Let’s pray for those we know who are desperately in need in our community, some without enough food, some who cannot pay their rent, utilities or perhaps prescriptions. We could even pray for someone who crosses our path whom we see is down and out.
“When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.” Maya Angelou
Let’s begin now to focus on ways in which each of us can help the poor in our community.
Grace and Peace.
Jan 29, 2017
Our church leadership participated in a leadership kick-off on the first Saturday of January. Our guest speaker was Rev. Alan Van Hooser, pastor at Cheatham Memorial UMC in Edgewood, TX. In his address he taught us the difference between technical change and adaptive change. Technical change is what we’re used to. Technical change is easier to initiate that adaptive change because it entails simply moving things around or switching components, one for another. For example, in the church we make technical changes when we install new leaders. If we’re not having good attendance at a church event, our inclination is typically to change the date or the time. And technical changes are necessary and can often solve the problem. However, if an event is ill-attended because it lacks relevance to the target audience, it doesn’t matter when or at what time its scheduled people still aren’t going to attend. Imagine offering an instructional class on the use of mimeograph machines. Not many will show up, regardless of when we offer it. Rather than a class about mimeograph machines, perhaps a class about the many uses of the office copier would be more relevant to people who need copies of documents. That would be an adaptive change.
Technical change can be calculated by experts but adaptive change requires learning. The example I gave above is a very simple one. Adaptive change challenges us to re-think complex issues and make courageous new decisions for the purpose of growth in an organization. We used to believe the purpose of evangelism was to add members to our church rolls. What we have learned is that a church roll book can be in the thousands but if it is an inactive or dying church, the numbers are no longer important. The adaptive change we’ve made in the church is that the purpose of evangelism is to introduce people to Jesus Christ. Therefore, to measure the effectiveness of the church’s evangelism (which is, by the way, every person’s responsibility) by the number of conversions and recommitments to the faith – baptisms and confirmations of faith – that occur.
In the United Methodist Church we believe in prevenient grace, that is the grace that is active in every single person’s life, whether they know it or not. God plants the seeds of prevenient grace in the hearts of the unbeliever, the doubtful believer, the used-to-believer, the faithful believer in Jesus Christ. Prevenient grace is that tug from God that pulls us in God’s direction even without our acknowledgement. So if the seeds of God’s prevenient grace are already in the hearts of the people in our families, neighborhoods, communities, etc., then our responsibility is to help people recognize and accept that grace. Our ability to make adaptive changes in the way we make disciples for Jesus Christ is key in this scenario. We need to re-educate and re-think the ways we engage with our community. We must keep reminding ourselves that our goal is not to make more United Methodist members for the sake of growing our roll book but our goal is to introduce people to a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Grace & Peace,
Jan 22, 2107
On January 4th, the United Methodist Church observed Human Traffic Awareness Sunday. The following is information related to that event as well as a tie-in to the article this Sunday on page 2.
“He redeems their lives from oppression and violence;
their blood is precious in his eyes.” Psalm 72:14, CEB
They are slaves — child soldiers, teens forced into prostitution and middle-aged women working as indentured servants. More than 20.9 million men, women and children are held against their will, scared to leave and unaware of their rights. They are victims of greed, false hope and broken promises.
The crime is human trafficking. The people of The United Methodist Church are working to stop it. We care about issues happening beyond the doors of our local churches and outside our comfort zones.
The invisible victims may live in our neighborhoods, work at local businesses or attend area schools and colleges. We may buy products they make, benefit from services they provide and unknowingly invest in unscrupulous deals brokered by their captors.
Criminals lure vulnerable people into involuntary servitude, debt bondage, sex slavery and more. The enslaved endlessly fold and glue matchboxes, cultivate fields unprotected from pesticides and spend childhood used as sex toys. The perpetrators dehumanize, torture and steal the sacred worth of God’s children.
By proclaiming faith in the God of freedom, United Methodists condemn slavery as wrong. God calls us to proclaim release to the captives and set the oppressed free (Luke 4:16-19).
Just ask yourself, “What can I do?”
Local United Methodist churches around the world are striving to learn about human trafficking and to teach others how to spot and stop the growing crime.
The General Board of Church and Society is an active global partner in trying to end slavery and human oppression. The board engages annual conferences in becoming involved and fighting for those without freedom from destructive and life-threatening circumstances. Thanks to support from the World Service Fund, the board participates in the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in increasing awareness about human trafficking throughout The United Methodist Church and the world. The agency is committed to promoting the “Rescue and Restore” initiative of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The program rescues people brought into the United States illegally as victims of human trafficking and, through a multitude of social services, restores them to new life.
Learn how you can alleviate human suffering. Go to http://umc-gbcs.org/issues/human-trafficking.
Grace & Peace,
Jan 15, 2017
Tomorrow is an important day for each of us individually, for Mineola as a community and for us as a nation. We will celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. and the incredible impact his ministry had on all. Here are some excerpts from the Presidential Proclamation:
With profound faith in our Nation's promise, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., led a non-violent movement that urged our country's leaders to expand the reach of freedom and provide equal opportunity for all. Dr. King joined a long line of heroes and vindicated the belief at the heart of our founding: that humble citizens, armed with little but faith, can come together to change the world and remake an America that more closely aligns with our highest ideals.
Dr. King recognized that, as a country built on the foundation of self-governance, our success rested on engaging ordinary citizens in the work of securing our birthright liberties. Together, with countless unsung heroes equally committed to the idea that America is a constant work in progress, he heeded the call etched into our founding documents nearly two centuries before his time, marching and sacrificing for the idea of a fair, just, and inclusive society. By preaching his dream of a day when his children would be judged by the content of their character -- rather than by the color of their skin -- he helped awaken our Nation to the bitter truth that basic justice for all had not yet been realized. And in his efforts, he peaceably yet forcefully demonstrated that it is not enough to only have equal protection under the law, but also that equal opportunity for all of our Nation's children is necessary so that they can shape their own destinies.
Today, we celebrate the long arc of progress for which Dr. King and so many other leaders fought to bend toward a brighter day. It is our mission to fulfill his vision of a Nation devoted to rejecting bigotry in all its forms; to rising above cynicism and the belief that we cannot change; and to cherishing dignity and opportunity not only for our own daughters and sons, but also for our neighbors' children.
Make plans to celebrate MLK Day tomorrow beginning with a CommUnity Rally in our Sanctuary at 5:00 p.m., followed by the MLK March from our Sanctuary, down Johnson Ave to the downtown gazebo. Bring a friend!
Grace & Peace,
Jan 8, 2017
At about the age of 30, just prior to beginning his public ministry, Jesus was baptized by John the Baptizer in the Jordan River. Today we’re going to celebrate his baptism.
At both services today we’ll also be installing our 2017 lay leadership. All ministry teams, committees, board members and chairpersons will be installed for service to the church. They will come to the front of the congregation to be recognized by everyone, asked questions about their leadership commitments, and then they, along with UMM/UMW officers and program staff, will be prayed over. The installation is an important practice because everyone in the church should be able to recognize the people who will be leading them. The congregation needs to identify those for whom they will be praying and those whom they will be supporting with prayers and ministry involvement.
The lay leadership won’t be the only ones making a special commitment to Christ and the church – so will all of us. Today at the close of the sermon, everyone present will be invited to renew their baptismal covenant by saying vows and using water, the symbol of Christian birth. The community will be invited to answer these questions affirmatively:
Will you turn away from the powers of sin and death?
Will you let the Spirit use you as prophets to the powers that be?
Will you proclaim the good news and live as disciples of Jesus Christ,
his body on earth?
Will you be living witnesses to the gospel, individually and together,
wherever you are, and in all that you do?
Will you receive and profess the Christian faith as contained in the Scriptures
of the Old and New Testaments?
You’ll then be presented with a bowl of water, invited to dip your fingers into it, and touch the water to your foreheads. It will be beautiful and moving! If you’re not already baptized, you may choose to say similar words to God in silent prayer and receive a blessing rather than water when you come forward.
As a community, let’s give thanks for those who will be leading us this year and thanks to God for the gift of baptism!
Grace & Peace,
January 1, 2017
Happy New Year!
There’s something refreshing about the idea of starting new. Even the resolutions we abandoned sometime last year seem redeemable. Our church father, John Wesley, believed the start of a new year was the perfect time to recommit one’s devotion to God. He established in the Methodist Movement the “Watchnight” or “Covenant Service” which started promptly at Midnight on New Year’s Eve. Historically, a Watch Night Service would be three hours or longer, including readings from Scripture and hymn singing.
In 1663 Richard Alleine, a Puritan, published Vindiciae Pietatis: or, “A Vindication of Godliness in the Greater Strictness and Spirituality of It”. In 1753, it was again published in John Wesley's Christian Library. Wesley used one chapter, "The Application of the Whole," on Monday, August 11, 1755, in what probably was the first real celebration of the Covenant Service in the Methodist movement.
Wesley found the service rich and meaningful, as expressed in his Journal: "Many mourned before God, and many were comforted" (April 1756); "It was, as usual, a time of remarkable blessing" (October 1765). "It was an occasion for a variety of spiritual experiences ... I do not know that ever we had a greater blessing. Afterwards many desired to return thanks, either for a sense of pardon, for full salvation, or for a fresh manifestation of His graces, healing all their backslidings" (January 1, 1775). In London these services were usually held on New Year's Day. Around the country the Covenant Service was conducted whenever John Wesley visited the Methodist Societies.
After the time of Wesley, several versions of the Covenant Service were developed, gradually giving Wesley's material less space in the total service. The heart of the service, the Covenant Prayer, requires persons to commit themselves to God. This covenant is serious and assumes adequate preparation for and continual response to the covenant.
A reprint of the Covenant Prayer is on the inside of the newsletter. I invite you to find a quiet place, settle your attention in prayer and pray this prayer with devotion in your heart.
Grace & Peace,
December 25, 2016
Finally the day has arrived to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ our Savior, Redeemer and King! I hope you enjoy hearing the scriptural references and singing the Christmas hymns of our faith. What beautiful words and music envelop this day, cozying right up to the closeness of family and friends as we welcome the baby Jesus to our world.
This world is not as prepared or welcoming as it should be for this God-Child. We’re not loving as well, caring as deeply, sharing as willingly or sharing our faith as readily as we need to be. But Jesus doesn’t wait. He comes to us anyway, into this world full of danger and chaos and pain. Why? Because that’s when and where we need him the most. This precious gift of a Savior is our gift from God, given with unleashed, indiscriminate love. What will you bring to Jesus today?
May God bless you and your family this Christmas.
Grace & Peace,
December 18, 2016
We are blessed to have volunteer musicians who spend hours in rehearsal and are present faithfully every Sunday morning. They do everything in their power to create an atmosphere of worship so that our hearts connect with the heart of God through the Holy Spirit. Please take a moment to thank them in person or by sending a card!
We are additionally blessed to have a dedicated church staff who, without exception, perform their duties with grace, humility and excellence. Their hours are long and often their work goes unnoticed unless something doesn’t go right. Be sure to thank them in person or send a card.
If you would like to thank our volunteer musicians and our church staff in a tangible way, please write a check to the church for any amount you choose and write “Christmas Blessings” on the memo line. Thank you!
And, by the way, here’s the Top Ten List of Things Every Pastor Wants to Hear for Christmas:
10. Pastor, I have a large sum of money I’d like to donate to the church to spend on a ministry that will put people in a relationship with Jesus Christ. And yes, this donation is beyond my tithe.
9. Pastor, the church leadership voted and they want you to have more time for prayer, pastoral care, teaching, and sermon preparation so we want you to come to meetings only if we can’t handle it ourselves. And we think we can handle all of them ourselves.
8. Pastor I want to be in a Bible Study/Sunday School (circle one or both). Could you recommend one?
7. Pastor, would you help me figure out how to get more involved
6. Pastor, I think God is calling me to full-time ministry. Could we meet?
5. Pastor, would you pray with me?
4. Pastor, I’d like to get a little more leadership training.
Do you have any suggestions?
3. Pastor, even when we disagree I want you to know that I love you.
2. Pastor, I know you’re not perfect and nobody expects you to be.
1. Pastor, I pray for you and your family every day.
Grace & Peace, Pastor Bobbie
Dec 11, 2016
The liturgical/worship calendar begins the first Sunday of Advent, which was two weeks ago. Advent is a season of four weeks including four Sundays. Advent derives from the Latin adventus, which means “coming.” The season proclaims the comings of the Christ – whose birth we prepare to celebrate once again, who comes continually in Word and Spirit, and whose return in final victory we anticipate. Each year Advent calls the community of faith to prepare for these comings; historically, the season was marked by fasts for preparation. Each Sunday of Advent has its distinctive theme: Christ’s coming in final victory (First Sunday), John the Baptist (Second and Third Sundays), and events immediately preceding the birth of Jesus Christ (Fourth Sunday).
We use purple or blue for paraments, stoles, and banners. And there are many symbols of Advent in and around our worship areas that carry significant meaning. Some of them are:
Wreathes of holly and ivy or red colors symbolize Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection;
Pine and Fir, as in our Christmas tree, whose leaves are ever living, ever green symbolize eternal life;
Prophetic readings from the Old Testament including Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zephaniah and Micah who foretold the saving work of God;
The lighted Christmas tree is a symbol of the One who brings light into our darkness, healing to our brokenness, and peace to all who receive him.
Our Christmas tree is decorated, not with traditional secular ornaments, but with Chrismons. The Chrismon (pronounced kriz-mon) Tree, a sign begun in the Lutheran Church of the Ascension in Danville, Virginia, has now spread to many other congregations. The evergreen tree is covered with signs of Christ, such as stars. Many congregations who use real trees save the Chrismon Tree trunk to make a cross for Lent.
Our Advent Wreath is a simple circle, a sign of life without end. It’s four Advent candles encircle a central white Christ candle. Some, our church included, but not all congregations use the traditional color rose on the Third Sunday of Advent when the lectionary reading is Mary’s Song in Luke. Each of the candles represents a Sunday in Advent and occasionally we use special words as well.
My prayer for you is that Advent is truly a time of preparation for your heart to receive Jesus Christ once again into your own heart. Many blessings on you and your family.
Grace & Peace,
Dec 4, 2016
Do you know how to help a friend or family member navigate the journey of grief? Too often we believe we have to have the perfect words to help a loved one feel better after experiencing a loss. To further complicate things we blurt out words that are less than helpful simply because we have a need to say something. While some of our common sayings may sound good, they’re not particularly helpful to a person dealing with grief. For example, “God needed another flower for His garden.” (Really? And God had to take my friend/spouse/child?) Or, “Someday you’ll look back on this and feel happy for the memories.” (Probably true. However, it’s as far from that feeling right now and impossible to get to.) Sayings like this are meant to help and spoken with the best of intentions.
Rather than “explaining” loss, it’s helpful to those who need comforting and those who want to do the comforting to stick to simple statements of being present. For example, “I don’t understand why this happened but I want you to know I’m here for you.” Or, “I wish I could say something to make you feel better but I know I can’t so just know that I love you.” And at times, the best thing to say is nothing. Simply be with the grieving person and allow them to express that grief.
Grief is different for each person. There’s no set length of time one might grieve, although prolonged grief that interferes with a person’s ability to function on a daily basis is best handled by a trained counselor. One’s reaction to grief varies as well. Some people fall silent, others prefer to talk. For some it’s comforting to be alone, for others to be around people. The best we can do is be supportive of friends and family who are grieving.
The holidays are particularly difficult for people who are grieving because for one, their loved one is no longer here to share the traditions and special moments or for other reasons their lives are significantly different than last year…and not in a positive way. Another thing that makes holidays so difficult is that there is a great deal of pressure to be happy. Grieving people get the message over and over again throughout the holidays that surely they can postpone their sadness until after the season!
But grief doesn’t stop for a holiday, not even Christmas. And that is why our congregation hosts a Blue Christmas worship service. This year it’s on Sunday evening, December 11, at 6:00 p.m. in our Sanctuary. People who attend will experience a space where it’s “safe” to be sad in the midst of jingle bells and good tidings of great news. The message and music and liturgy will be particularly aimed at bringing comfort and peace in the midst of grief.
Perhaps this is the worship service that will help you make it through the holidays. Or maybe you know someone who has, at some point this year, experienced grief. Consider those who have lost a loved one to death or experienced divorce. Think of those who have lost employment or whose children have moved away from home. Do you know someone who has been struggling financially or had to change their living situation due to health or age? Grief comes in a number of ways! Identify yourself or someone in your life who might benefit from our Blue Christmas worship service. And invite them!
Grace & Peace,
Nov 27, 2016
Dear Friends, The best gift we have ever been given is the gift of salvation. Whether you can
remember the date, time and place when you accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior or if it was a gradual process of learning to follow Jesus Christ by first giving your heart to Him, salvation is a process. It is a disservice to God when we assume the work of God’s grace is complete when we make our first confession. On the contrary, God’s grace continues to work in the heart and life of the disciple, drawing him closer to God, teaching her to love as Jesus loves, and come to understand at deeper and deeper levels how sin destroys and God saves.
Our individual salvation stories are as unique as each of us. For some, salvation meant freedom from addiction. For others it meant the recognition of God’s deep and abiding forgiveness. Some of us experienced salvation as the eye -opening, unbelievable love of God. Still others of us recognized the gift of salvation when we went on a mission trip and witnessed the powerful Holy Spirit. Our journeys are different but the end is the same – eternal life with God! And the really good news is that we aren’t on this journey alone. We have the support and love of Christian community which shares our burdens, hears our confessions, accepts us in our brokenness, and celebrates our choice.
Throughout the years of our Christian lives, justification happens time and time again. Why? Because the closer we get to God, the more we try to imitate Christ, the more we recognize how far away we are. And so, we ask for forgiveness as we recognize sin at work in our lives and we do whatever we can to break that cycle. And each time we experience justifying grace, ask for forgiveness and turn away from that sin, we experience sanctification. Sanctification is the process of growing more and more like Jesus Christ – loving how and who Jesus loves, serving how and who Jesus serves.
Can we ever expect to be made perfect in this life? According to the Wesleyan way of salvation, absolutely! Why? Because through Christ all things are possible. And by perfect, I mean perfect in love, not in the way of the world. Even John Wesley didn’t believe that most of us would ever reach Christian perfection but we can sure have fun trying. Together with our brothers and sisters in the faith, we are on a journey.