June 25, 2017
Music and Singing in the Church
The people of God sing. After escaping from the Egyptians and crossing the Red Sea,
the people of Israel sang a song to the Lord (Exod. 15).
Music and song continue to play a vital role in the life of God’s people today. Contemporary culture and modern technology bring new possibilities and new challenges to the music ministry of the church. The church also has greater access and has shown greater openness to a greater variety of music—from classical hymnody to Christian rock, from European cantatas to South African choruses. Such diversity is to be welcomed and celebrated; it reflects the diversity and richness of God’s creation
Singing is a ministry that belongs to all the people of God. The congregation is always the primary choir. The role of professional or volunteer choirs and musicians is to aid the whole people of God in their worship. While anthems or vocal and instrumental solos may be offered, congregational singing, is essential. While it is possible to be actively engaged in worship and in prayer while listening to an anthem or solo, worship provides ample opportunity for all the members of the congregation to join in song—and we encourage everyone to sing.
Today let’s recognize and pay tribute to all of the musicians, our music ministry director, and the choir who lead the congregation in making a joyful noise unto the Lord.
Leona Whitworth, Music Minister, who joined us on April 26, 2017.
Contemporary Service: Mike Engleman, Sally McBurnett, David Miller, Joe Parrish, Malcolm Jones, John Broadway, Marcia Bush, and recently Neal Edwards.
Traditional Service: Organist: Jean Mabe; pianists Barbara Morgan, Maarta Vickers, Richard Elston; choir members: Betty Dubbs, Betty Dearmore, Betty Gackle, Bettie Waller, Jeannette Peel, Shirley Frazier, Danielle Vickers, Anne Morschak, Barbara Morgan, Dan Vickers, Bob Arbuckle, Greg Hollen, Randy Hudson, and Harold Waller.
Congregation—lift up your voices and sing praises to the Lord.
Excerpts from —Commission on Worship, Reformed Church in America, 1996
June 18, 2017
Today I say farewell to you as your pastor and as I leave I am convinced that your new pastor, Paul Thomasson, will love you and care for you as I did. It is difficult to say good-bye; difficult for me and for many of you. One of the hallmarks of the United Methodist Church is the itinerancy – the process of clergy moving from church to church by appointment. There are some wonderful things about the itinerancy, not the least of which is the opportunity for congregations to benefit from the ministry of a variety of pastors and for pastors to be in ministry with so many wonderful people. The down side to itinerancy, however, is that we have to let go of people we love and have grown attached to.
After over a year of prayerful consideration, last winter when I met with our district superintendent I told him that I love serving this congregation. I expressed my appreciation for your love and care of my family and me. I also shared with him that I believed God was preparing me for something new, but I wasn’t sure what. Would it be a new ministry in Mineola? Would it be a new ministry altogether, such as chaplaincy? Or would it be a move to another church in our conference? I was uncertain how; I just knew God was working on my heart. I told him at that time to ask the cabinet to consider me if they found a ministry they believed would be a good fit for me and a good move for Alice as well.
I was surprised when I was contacted in March about the possibility of a move away from Mineola but I was excited also. When I was told about the added responsibilities I would take in Brenham I was excited. When I discovered the children’s development center at FUMC Brenham and that they accepted toddlers, I was excited for Alice. It seemed like a good fit, so I said yes, I would go. I’m sharing this with you because I do not want anyone to think that I am being forced to move or that this move is, in any way, against my wishes. I’m honored to have served Mineola and I’m honored to become the new pastor for FUMC Brenham.
When I leave today, I won’t see many of you again. Others of you will find the time and occasion to come to Brenham to visit me or I’ll come back to Mineola to visit you. But when that happens, we’ll visit as friends. I will no longer be your pastor but I would be glad for the opportunity to remain friends. I hope we can keep up with each other on Facebook or by e-mail or by phone calls. I want to hear about your children and grandchildren, your garden, the remodel on your house or the vacation you just had. We’ll be friends. I will pray for you and you for me.
Pastor Paul will officiate at the weddings, funerals, baptisms, memorial services, confirmations, and the like. He will visit you in the hospital and at home. He will offer pastoral guidance, lead worship, be in ministry and provide administrative leadership for you. I have every confidence in him to serve this community and every confidence in you to love and care for him and his family in return.
Grace & Peace,
June 11, 2017
As our time in ministry together comes to a close, my heart is full. I’m so grateful for the way this congregation has accepted my leadership from the very beginning of my appointment in Mineola.
We jumped right into ministry together by participating in VCI (Vibrant Church Initiative.) We accepted the prescriptions given to us and surpassed all expectations in accomplishing them. For three years now we have gone door to door to introduce ourselves to our neighbors, offering them information about our church, our ministries, the gift of salvation, prayers, and carols through our Christmas Neighborhood Walks. The Bridge to Community Service and Evangelism events were so much fun! I’ll never forget the residents of Autumn Winds dancing to the rock-n- roll 50’s music when we barbequed hamburgers and hot dogs for them.
Our worship time together has been one of the things dearest to me. I love praising God with you, regardless of the style of music. I get the best of both worlds when I start my Sunday mornings with praise and worship and then finish off my Sunday mornings with traditional worship. What makes it so wonderful, I believe, are the friends in both places.
I remember Pastor Darrell telling me I would be amazed when I participated in the first time with Caring and Sharing. He described frozen turkeys being thrown from one person to another as the boxes were filled and toys piling up as people donated them with such compassion. I didn’t see any turkey-tossing but Caring and Sharing is truly an incredible ministry event that touches so many people it’s impossible to count.
This congregation is so deeply tied to the community that I believe the community feels a special bond with us. I smile when I see on flyers, “Mineola Ministry Center,” instead of “FUMC Ministry Center.” Yes, it’s a type-o, but doesn’t it warm your heart that so-called outside groups consider the ministry center theirs?
The staff of this church, past and present, during my tenure as your pastor has been a real source of support. Each one of them goes above and beyond in serving Christ through the ministries of this church. They work together as a team, helping and encouraging each other whenever necessary. When they come to a ministry opportunity they don’t see lines of delineation, they simply do ministry. We should all be grateful for their hard work and dedication. Most pastors complain about the lack of folks willing to be in leadership in the church. This past fall, when we began making calls for nominations and leadership, the answers we received were so positive! Our leadership report was 100% full when we went to charge conference and folks have taken their responsibilities very seriously. Our lay leadership is a team to be envied, especially our core leadership team of church council.
Thank you a million times over for your love for my family and me, your patience, and your willingness to serve in ministry. A special thanks to everyone who planned, prepared and attended the church picnic, AKA my farewell party, a couple weekends ago. It was great fun and I absolutely loved it!!!
Grace & Peace, Pastor Bobbie
May 28, 2017
As I was in the church council meeting tonight (5/22), I thought of these words from the prophet, Jeremiah, in chapter 29, verse 11, which reads, “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”
Our congregation is very blessed with lay leadership who exhibit courage and compassion in equal measure. Our church council considers carefully when faced with decisions because a future with hope is lived one decision at a time.
It’s very important that we all have the same information about the church council’s work related to our facilities. Right now there are rumors and misinformation flying around and I ask that you please don’t contribute to that behavior. Everything the council has done or decided or is gathering information about is in the council meeting minutes, available to anyone who wants to read them.
Last week I gave you information about options that we have and the process we have to follow in order to make any of those options a reality.
At the called church council meeting in May 2016, over a year ago, the church council voted to gather information about two different options with regard to our facilities. They were:
1. Tear down Education Bldg./rebuild to meet needs/then sell or trade Ministry Center
2. Tear down Education Bldg./rebuild at that location to meet needs or don’t rebuild and remodel the “dungeon” in the Ministry Center.
A facilities sub-committee was formed and they began to meet on a weekly basis for several months, gathering information about transitioning from one location to another, costs of building and remodeling, completing asbestos studies on the education building, costs of demolition and abatement/removal of asbestos, requirements of historic district building remodels, etc. They did an outstanding and meticulous job!
While the sub-committee was gathering information, the opportunity to trade the Ministry Center for the Mineola Library arose. So when a called church council meeting was set for May 13, 2017, our goal was to look not only at the two options listed above, but also the possibility of acquiring the Library and the house next to it. The options we planned to discuss included:
1. Tear down the Education Building, sell the Ministry Center and build a new facility at the location of the Education Building;
2. Trade the Ministry Center for the Mineola Library and adjacent house, demolish the Education Building, the Library and the adjacent house, and build a new facility along Pacific or McDonald.
3. Trade the Ministry Center for the Mineola Library and adjacent house, demolish the Education Building. Renovate the Library, demolish the house or renovate it.
4. Demolish the Education Building, continue to use the Sanctuary, add rooms to the Ministry Center.
5. Sell the Ministry Center, renovate the education building.
6. Do Nothing
This year, we had the advantage of the information gathered by the facilities sub-committee which included estimated costs and potential benefits/inhibitors. After a great deal of discussion and prayer, the council voted to explore further Options 2 and 3. The only difference between the two options is what to do with the Library and its adjacent house.
The council voted to form a working sub-committee that will work under the direction and authority of the church council. It will be comprised of an odd number of people and will be small enough to work efficiently. Members of the congregation are invited to nominate themselves to serve on this sub-committee which will begin meeting in August. The purpose of this sub-committee is to gather information only, not to make decisions. The purpose of this sub-committee is to gather information only, not to make decisions. The purpose of this sub-committee is to gather information only, not to make decisions. (Please feel free to read it until you wrap your head around it.)
If you would like to volunteer to serve on the sub-committee to gather information but not make decisions, please notify the church office. Your information will be forwarded to the council who will choose the sub-committee members. There will be some people who will serve only a short time, perhaps in the capacity of consultation, and others will be permanent members. The council was clear that we want representation from trustees, finance, and staff-parish relations committee, both worship services and a balance of all other characteristics.
Important points the council wants the entire church to know include:
We gave considerable weight to visibility of our church,
If we continue as we are, we will continue to incur significant maintenance costs,
Whatever decision is eventually made, we do not want to give up the facility usage we currently enjoy,
Our overarching goal is to unify our congregation,
We are only exploring options at this time, gathering information. There are many steps between exploring and voting on a plan and implementing a plan (as outlined in the newsletter article May 21.
Any chosen option will be completed in phases over years of time.
This is an exciting, although emotional, time for our congregation. We are experiencing a great deal of change and whether change excites or worries you, please keep in mind that generations of faithful folks have paved the way to where we are today. They, too, faced excitement and anxiety about making these kinds of impactful decisions. It is our responsibility as stewards of all that God has given us to also make decisions , being sensitive to the emotional ties we have to our church buildings.
We are blessed! And God has placed this particular congregation in this particular place of Mineola for many reasons. Lives are made better through the ministries of this church. I’m so very proud of the work accomplished thus far by our church leadership who are doing hard work.
Grace & Peace,
May 21, 2017
I wish every member and guest of our congregation could see the quality and
quantity of work that is accomplished by our leadership! It is with sincere prayer and great love of Christ and His Church that they spend hour upon hour looking forward and researching options that best align with the will of God. I’m not exaggerating at all. It is truly an honor to work alongside them; I’m humbled by their dedication.
For about two years the church council has been working diligently to assess our current facilities and their functionality in light of the size of our congregation, our ability to financially support the facilities, and how we use our facilities. It is not an easy task. We were already aware of the presence of asbestos and mold in our Education Building. We had acknowledged that large sections of our buildings were not in compliance with ADA standards – in other words, they weren’t/aren’t fully accessible by all persons. Additionally, we came to realize that we have a great deal of unused space at both campuses (at least for part of the year) and too little or inadequate space for other ministries.
In May, 2016, you may recall that our church council met in a called meeting which was led by Mike Bonem, a church consultant. His only purpose in leading that meeting was to help our leadership discern and discover the options available to us with regard to facility usage. We began by remembering our vision statement: Loving God, Sharing Faith, Serving Neighbor. We continued by identifying our values as a local church:
Spirituality – Enhancing personal relationship with God. Listening and getting right with God and His direction.
Relationships – with each other, God, and community (Discipleship.) All members of the church – both services.
Service – helping each other and the community; individually and as a group.
We spent time identifying what we need in terms of facilities. We evaluated our current facilities and how they either support or inhibit our vision. We then listed and discussed facility options for the future. One thing we all immediately agreed on is that we could not do nothing. We unanimously agreed that being satisfied with the status quo was not effective in several ways. First, it was not taking responsibility for the stewardship of the physical buildings God had given to our care or the current and future generations of Christians God had given to our care. Second, we had to recognize once and for all that the safety and accessibility of our facilities had to do
with people’s ability to participate in discipleship opportunities. Third, we agreed that the amount of money we were/are spending on facility maintenance was hindering our ability to grow current ministries and start new ones.
“There is no such thing as a purely logical, unemotional decision,” Mike explained to us. “Listen carefully and respectfully to all. Anxiety is contagious and anxiety makes people stupid. Much more is accomplished when people are calm and encouraging.” Those are the words we were given as we celebrated the fact that we had narrowed our options down to three possibilities.
Immediately, a sub-committee began meeting on a weekly basis to gather information about the three options chosen by the council. They were charged to gather as much information, statistics, and cost estimates on those options as possible. The sub-committee chairperson, Justin McMillan, presented the sub-committee’s findings to the Council earlier this year.
The Church Council had a second called meeting last Saturday, May 13th, to further narrow down our options. It was a productive and positive meeting and by next week the minutes of that meeting will have been proofed and approved and the results of the meeting will be published in the newsletter and on the website.
Today, what I want to share with you about that meeting is that no decisions have been made and no decisions will be made without adherence to the process outlined in the United Methodist Book of Discipline. When the time comes, this is the process we will follow:
Under the supervision and authority of the Church Council, a new facility sub-committee comprised of representatives from our administrative committees, both worship services, and as much balance of age/gender/race as possible will be formed. (If you are interested in serving on this WORKING committee to gather information, please be praying about it and instructions to nominate yourself will be forthcoming.)
The Facility Sub-Committee will begin meeting, probably on a weekly basis, with specific tasks to accomplish. They will meet as many weeks/months as necessary to accomplish their tasks.
The Facility Sub-Committee will present their work to the Church Council.
The Church Council will discuss the information and either request more information on a given option or entertain a
motion, a second, discussion and vote to accept the option.
Having chosen an option that includes sale, acquisition, purchase or renovation of any church building, the council
will analyze the needs of the church and community; project the potential membership with average attendance,
write up the church’s program of ministry, develop an accessibility plan and develop a plan for funding the work. Having accomplished all of the above, the membership of the church will be notified at least 10 days in advance of a charge conference to vote on the option. The district superintendent will preside over this meeting.
If voted to accept, the plans will be presented to the district building committee for approval.
If approved by the district building committee, the district superintendent and pastor must sign off on the plan. The plan will be implemented.
As you can see, the process is not one that happens overnight. Any decision made by the church council must be presented and approved by the church membership. Likewise, the church-wide decision must be approved by the district building committee, the district superintendent and the senior pastor. The purpose of all these steps is to insure the protection of the congregation and its ministries. What we don’t want to do is begin a project that impedes ministry or puts an unnecessary strain on church finances.
The council will communicate transparently as our future is explored. I hope this article serves to give you some background and future newsletters will outline exactly what the sub-committee will be exploring. In the meantime, please continue to hold one another and our church leadership in prayer.
Grace & Peace, Pastor Bobbie
I grew up in the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church, specifically Immanuel Lutheran Church in Waterloo, Iowa. I was baptized by Pastor Oetting who soon retired. The associate pastor, Rev. Kramer, assumed the role of senior pastor when I was young and it was he who confirmed me when I was 14. I was only in junior high but I remember it was a HUGE disruption when the church hired a young new associate pastor, Rev. Weiss. It took him years to “fit in.” He was the “new guy” until I left that church in my late teens.
Years after I left Waterloo, Iowa, I learned that my childhood church had fallen on hard times. It was the same story that many churches from all denominations live: the neighborhood around it changed but the congregation did not; it remained isolated and homogenous. The vote to close, relocate and reopen Immanuel at a new location was heart-wrenching to some and a surge of excitement to others. The vote to move the church passed and today their website indicates that it is a growing and vibrant congregation.
My point? My point is to share with you that change is difficult for all of us, whether we endorse it or not. Please, please, please, take care of one another with sensitivity and compassion realizing that we all assimilate to change and different paces. In all things, God is present and surrounding us with grace upon grace, bringing rainbows and butterflies out of ashes and grave clothes. Love one another with the agape love of Christians.
Grace and Peace,
May 7, 2017
We are truly blessed with so many gifts from God. Our church has relationships with over 100 children in our neighborhoods who learn about faith in Jesus Christ through music, Bible stories, games, crafts, and class time at His Kids. On our last day of His Kids a couple weeks ago I heard grumbling and complaints that the ministry had come to a close for the semester and the children have to wait until next Fall for the next session. In the meantime, they’ll be with us this summer at Vacation Bible School! You may not realize it, but many churches of all denominations across the United States don’t have any children connected to them in any way!
Our youth group is a blessing through their participation in and service to First UMC Mineola. The group is growing and strengthening on Sundays and Wednesdays. One of the exciting things happening on the first Wednesday nights of the month is snack supper with adult Sunday school classes. In former months, our dear Sunday school classes were assigned a month to provide snack supper for the youth on Wednesday nights but things changed drastically when it was The Seekers Class who prepared dinner. Not only did they prepare and serve the food, they sat at the tables with the youth, making connections and impressions that will last a lifetime – for the youth and the class! This week it’s the Covenant Sunday school class and, in addition to eating together, they’ll make cards for some of our congregation who can’t get out as much as they used to.
With active, growing ministries like these, we all need to be diligent about safety. We refer to ourselves as a “Safe Sanctuary Church,” committing ourselves to the safety of children, youth and adults from anyone who would try to bring harm. Safe Sanctuary trainings are important! In the early years of the trainings, folks resisted, saying, “What? The church doesn’t trust me to be around children? I’ve been a member here for 20 years and they’re asking me for permission to do a background check? Well, let me tell them…..” But after a few years, folks came to realize that the reason we train is so that we can say that we’ve done everything possible to create a safe environment for everyone.
There are other procedures we call “Best Practices,” those procedures that allow us to say that we’ve done everything we can to protect our church, the congregation and the community. We now have a Conflict Resolution Policy to help folks navigate through disagreements. We have a Building Policy that provides guidance for the proper use of our facilities. We have internal financial guidelines that insures good stewardship by all entities connected with the church, including annual internal audits. All of these things may seem like “much ado about nothing,” but more than a couple times we’ve been so blessed to have checks and balances in place because there have been questions. Because we have these policies in place we hold ourselves to a higher level of honesty and integrity than what might be necessary because we love our church!
Grace & Peace,
April 30, 2017
I have been reminded lately of the scripture from 1 Timothy, chapter 4, verse 12:
Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example
in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.
These words were written to Timothy, a pastor who had studied under and taken the Apostle Paul as a mentor. The writer of 1 Timothy, which is an epistle (a letter), has the purpose of supporting, encouraging and strengthening Timothy’s spirit in the work of ministry. The advice given to Timothy was to be an example to all in the congregation, to show himself as a model worthy to be copied. We don’t know if this young pastor had been criticized or dismissed because of his youth – perhaps some in his congregation assumed he wasn’t mature enough to be respected as a leader.
I was reminded of this verse on Easter morning when I was led in worship by a significant number of our middle and high school students. They had clearly spent time and effort in planning the worship service. They had obviously practiced their individual parts, all of which contributed to a wonderful presentation of the gospel’s resurrection story. Under the guidance of our youth director, Johnny “Moe” Callison, and other adult volunteers, I have no doubt that the youth group experienced a deepening of their faith, as did I, through participation in this worship service. So, youth group, Moe and volunteers, thank you so much!
This text from 1 Timothy is not written for Timothy alone, it is for church youth groups everywhere. It is a call to live as examples, whether leading in a worship service or going to classes or hanging out with friends. Our church youth, just as adult Christians, need at all times and in all places to remember that people are observing our behavior and listening to our language. Will others observe and hear an example worthy of representing Jesus Christ and his Church? Let’s all pray it is so!
The text also has a word for those of us who assume we are too old, too mature, too sophisticated or too educated to learn from our youth. Let us not be so full of pride that we neglect opportunities set before us by the Holy Spirit to learn and grow in our faith. Everyone who attended the Easter Sunrise service was reminded of the love the Father has for each of us, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ at his crucifixion and the glorious miracle of the Resurrection.
If that wasn’t enough, our FUMC Mineola youth also set before all of us the example of servanthood through participation in mission trips and all-church ministries such as the garage sale, the campus clean-up day, Vacation Bible Study, children’s sermons, Valentine cards to the homebound, and so much more.
When you see members of our youth group, tell them thank you. If you’re able to support them financially, make your check to: FUMC and put “youth” in the memo line.
Grace & Peace,
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 th