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The Easter Message
I don’t know about you, but I suspect that, like me, you probably don’t much like change. Every time my wife rearranges our furniture in the living room (and she seems to do this several times a year), it drives me crazy. I ask her, “Honey, why do we have to move the furniture around so much? Can’t we keep it in one place?” Most of us don’t like change. You might recall that a popular 2008 campaign slogan for the Obama campaign was “Change You Can Believe In.” Not long after that I was driving in the Houston area when I spotted a bumper sticker, which read, “I’ll keep my money, you keep the change.” Whether you’re a Republican or Democrat, that bumper sticker pretty well sums up our feelings about change. We don’t like it. But change is a fact of life. And the Easter message is that on the first Easter Sunday morning the most radical change in history took place: the resurrection! Jesus was raised from the dead by the power of God!
As we all know, our church is in a time of transition. Transition is that process of moving from something old into something new; it’s about change. I believe that God is slowly transforming our church. We have new people joining and our church itself is changing. We have a new pastor arriving in July. We are working together on the Vibrant Church Initiative to catch the mission vision and goals that God has for our church. This means a new mission vision and a new mission statement. God is working many changes in our church and in our lives personally, shaping us to become God’s servant community fashioned in the image of His son Jesus.
Yet often, we prefer to stick with what’s familiar and comfortable to us. One of the consistent teachings of Scripture is that God calls us out of our comfort zones to journey with Christ down new roads to new places of service. God called Abraham to leave his family to journey to a new land he had never seen. God called Moses to leave the wilderness and journey to Egypt to conform Pharaoh and lead the people to the Promised Land. God called Joshua to lead the Israelites across the Jordan River to take the land God had promised to their ancestors. God called Jeremiah to leave the safety of his family and preach to the Israelites to turn away from their idols and return to God. Jesus called his disciples to leave their fishing nets and follow him and become fishers of men. Jesus called Paul to leave his Pharisaical trappings and become his missionary to the Gentiles. God has worked this way throughout history calling people to leave their places of comfort and journey with God to unknown places of service, people like Augustine, St. Francis, St. Claire, the Wesley Brothers, Dwight L. Moody, Charles Spurgeon, Evangeline Booth, Dietrich Bonheoffer, Corrie ten Boom, Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa of Calcutta and a whole host of other women and men throughout history.
Can you imagine where we would be today if Christ had not left the tomb? We, too, are called to leave the comfortable tombs that we have inhabited for too long.
Several years ago, Reuters news organization reported that in Milan, Italy, a homeless man was hospitalized when he was found wandering around the city. The hospital staff was absolutely amazed when they found that his clothes were stuffed with money.
Although he had been living in shelters and on the streets for more than ten years, he had the equivalent of $30,000 in his possession. It was his life savings, but he couldn’t face spending any of it. The man’s identification papers had expired 13 years earlier. And without proper ID and a current address, the Bank of Italy had refused to exchange his defunct lira for the new euro currency.
How many people’s lives are just like that? They’re hanging on to all the old stuff of their lives. Old habits, old hurts, old wounds, old grudges. And as a result, they’ve locked themselves up in a tomb from which they can’t escape. They’re holding on to what they think is their only fortune.
When in truth, there’s a treasure more valuable than anything we can think of or imagine. A treasure that’s offered without any strings attached. All it really takes is a new identity and a little faith.
The identity comes from Christ Jesus. He has already claimed us, now all we have to do is claim Him. And then that faith in Christ empowers us to leave our tombs behind and follow Him into the future unafraid! That’s the message of the Good News. That’s the message of Christ to us. And that’s the message of Easter! See you in church.
In Joyful Service
What Am I Taking on for Lent?
We’ve come to that 40-day season of the year that we call “Lent.” The season of Lent begins with Ash Wednesday and ends on Easter Sunday. The color purple, which represents it, is a color of penitence and repentance. We begin the season of Lent Wednesday, March 5, with an Ash Wednesday service at 7:00 PM.
Traditionally, Roman Catholics have recognized Lent while we Protestants, unable to know what to do with it, simply ignored Lent. As most of us know, Lent traditionally is a time of sacrifice, a time when you are asked to give up something. Now this can be anything as mundane as not eating ice cream to abstaining from certain activities or social events.
In a contradictory world of scarcity for many and excess for the few, giving up something by the few who enjoy such an abundance of excess really doesn’t have much impact. What is the benefit for either myself or the world if I give up eating chocolate bars for Lent? Other than perhaps creating a craving for chocolate, I can see few benefits from this practice. But a more important question is what benefit will others derive from my act of self-sacrifice? Hungry people will certainly derive no benefit from my abstention from chocolate. The homeless will not be housed any better, nor kept any warmer.
A better question for us to ask ourselves is not “What am I giving up for Lent” but rather “What am I taking on for Lent?” What project or activity can I engage in that will make a real difference in people’s lives. What can I do during Lent that will brighten the life of someone? I can’t help but believe that it makes far more difference to God what we are doing to help others than what we are giving up to spiritually help ourselves. And as so many have delightfully discovered, when we help others we ourselves are the real beneficiaries.
When we consider that Christ identified himself with the poor and helpless (“Insofar as you have done it to the least of these, you have done it unto me.”) we are really serving Jesus when we serve people who need help. And we ourselves receive a blessing. Any of you who have ever served in Caring and Sharing or volunteered for the Kindness Kottage know what Jesus meant when he said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” I would like to start a tradition here at First UMC to take on something rather than give up things for Lent. Recent bulletins have had a Lent Commitment card (and cards will be available at the Lenten service) that have a list of service opportunities which you may volunteer for during the season of Lent. I ask you to consider taking on one of these opportunities and experience the blessedness of which Jesus was speaking. May this Lent truly become for you a spiritual growing experience in which you grow not by giving up a self-centered activity but by taking on a self-giving activity that will benefit both yourself and others.
See you in Church,
Grace & Peace,Darrell
However, the General Conference of 1996 placed the term Interim Minister in the Book of Discipline. The 2004 Discipline reads, Par. 338.3:
Interim appointments may be made to charges that have special transitional needs.
a) Interim clergy may serve outside the annual conference where membership is held under the provisions of paragraph 337.1, with approval and consent of the bishops involved.
b) Interim appointments will be for a specified length of time, established in advance following consultation with the district superintendent, the pastor parish relations committee, and the interim pastor.
So why do we need interim ministers anyway? The idea of pastoral transitions in the UMC is similar to running the mile relay race in the Olympic Games. A baton is passed from each runner to the next, in full stride, never missing a beat. So the total race is run more efficiently by multiple runners than could be achieved by any one runner. That’s fine, unless the baton is mishandled – not passed at the right time or within the prescribed space – or dropped.
And it can happen in pastoral changes, too. The “opening” comes at the wrong time. The “right” successor is not presently available. The church is so wounded by the circumstances creating the opening that healing time will be required before it can fully embrace the leadership of a regularly appointed pastor.
An interim minister, sometimes called a TIIMS, a Transitional Intentional-Interim Ministry Specialist, is an experienced, mature, United Methodist pastor trained for the specialized ministry of the interim time. He/she is appointed by the bishop “for a specified length of time, established in advance” to lead the congregation in a time of healing and renewal as its wounds heal and it prepares for a new day in its life with a new pastor, yet to be appointed.
Interim Ministry is a far-cry from simple “pulpit supply!” Supply is akin to just keeping the doors open so the congregation still worships during the transitional time. Interim Ministry is a time of analyzing the wounds and hurts of a church and leading it to face or deal with these with clearly stated goal of bringing new congregational health and a return to vital ministry in the community.
Transitional Intentional Interim Ministry Specialists are NOT supply pastors. We are NOT filling a pulpit. We are specialists serving for a specific period of time with specific ministerial tasks. Our functions are suggested by each of the words in our title:
Transitional – One function is to bring the church from wherever it is to a new, hopeful and creative place in ministry. Part of our job is to move the church to a new place in preparation for its next pastor and to help it through that transition.
Intentional – We enter into a church with four specific formative tasks:
1. Identity: To help the church see its identity realistically.
2. Direction: To guide the church in discerning God’s leading for the church.
3. Leadership: To equip the church’s changing leadership.
4. Connection: To strengthen the church’s denominational connection.
The only pressure we allow ourselves is completing these tasks in the allotted time.
Interim – We are here to serve for a limited period of time with a specific beginning and ending date.
Ministry – What we do is every bit as important and essential to the church as the generalist in ministry, the local pastor. However, out tasks are limited, time bounded and specific.
Specialist – What we do is highly specialized ministry. We are very intentional and specialized in our tasks of ministry for a designated period of time, helping churches transition from whatever their situation is now to a new situation.
Probably the most helpful way to think of us is as specialists. If you needed heart surgery you wouldn’t go to a general practitioner. You would want a heart specialist with skills in heart surgery. Sometimes churches need interims who are specially trained to help churches through transitions to come to terms with their history, their identity, their changing leaders during the transition, their connections with the conference and their hopes for the future. That’s where interims can be helpful. Part of their effectiveness comes in knowing that they are only temporary and will only be serving in the interim between regular pastors.
Another helpful way of thinking of us is as backup quarterbacks. When the quarterback is injured or incapacitated in some way a backup quarterback can play a vital role in helping the team to win the game. A few years ago, we saw the importance of a backup quarterback dramatically demonstrated in the recent Orange Bowl game between Texas and Alabama when Texas quarterback Colt McCoy was injured. Unfortunately, Texas really didn’t have a capable backup quarterback freshman who was sent in to replace McCoy and the game was no contest after that. Interim ministers, like backup quarterbacks, can play a vital role in helping congregations to become equipped and ready for their new pastor.
I love interim ministry and know God has called me to this specialized area of ministry. I consider it a privilege to work with you and ask that you pray for me as we work together through the five developmental tasks in preparation for your new pastor.
See you Sunday.
In Joyful Service,
Sunday schools can be a real blessing to those who attend them. I am pleased to be a facilitator for the Promise Class that meets in the Ministry Center every Sunday morning at 9:45. For the past several sessions we have been enjoying a series written by Adam Hamilton called “Enough”. The following are key insights that Rev. Hamilton offers to enhance our Christian calling. “Enough” refers to money and how we utilize it. He asks, “If you were free from debt, how might you be able to use your resources to make a difference in the lives of others?”
It’s about money and more importantly our life’s purpose. “Society tells us that our life purpose is to consume; the Bible tells us that our life purpose is to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Our money and possessions should be devoted to helping us fulfill this calling.” How do we accomplish this when there is barely enough to pay our family’s expenses?
Without a plan to reach our goals, we are in danger of becoming like the prodigal son who wasted his inheritance and had no plans but to spend his money foolishly. A plan gives us concrete steps that we can take to accomplish our goals.
Here are six financial planning principles that can help all of us become better money managers:
Pay your tithe and offering first.
Create a budget and track your expenses.
Simplify your lifestyle (live below your means).
Establish an emergency fund.
Pay off your credit cards, use cash/debit cards for purchases, and use credit wisely.
Practice long-term savings and investing habits.
“To be a Christian is to follow Jesus Christ and to seek to do his will in our lives. It is to say, ‘Here I am, all of me! I’m yours. Put me to work, help me to serve, use me to accomplish your work.’ Now, if this is our life purpose, then our money and possessions should be devoted to helping us to fulfill this calling….We are blessed to be a blessing.” --Adam Hamilton
I must admit that money and how to use it is a constant struggle for me. Do we view money in its proper context? Is it a tool or is it an obsession? When is enough, enough?
And above all, please remember our purpose: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of time.” – Jesus
Herb Miller once told an interesting story about the honey bird. The honey bird is a strange fowl that lives in the jungles of Africa. It gets its name from its fondness of honey. Not only does it like to eat honey but it will also lead people to trees where the bees have stored their honey.
The honey bird calls to people until it gets their attention. It then flies from tree to tree calling for them to follow. When the bird finally gets to the honey tree, it stops and the natives find the honey. After the honey has been gathered the people usually leave some of the honeycomb on a branch of the tree so that the honey bird will have a reward for its services.
The natives and the honey bird are good examples for us Church folk. We are indebted to many, yet often take people for granted. Have you thanked anyone lately – have you left honey on anyone’s branch ?
I want to leave some honeycomb on the branch.
I want to thank all of the men and women who gave their time for 24 weeks during the school year to make His Kids such a successful event.
Special thanks to Children’s coordinator, Gayle Fuller, for her superb organizational skills, leadership and enthusiasm.
I also want to thank the Vision Committee, UMM, UMW for staffing a booth at Mineola May Days.
Even more, I want to thank our church staff for all of their hard work on behalf of our Lord’s church here in Mineola. They labor diligently to do God’s work here at FUMC. It is truly a calling. If you appreciate what they do, leave a little honey on the branch for them.
Here is some honeycomb for the mentors who have helped with the Confirmation class this year.
I would also like to thank all of our volunteers who have taken on the mantle of servanthood, have embraced the fact that they – like all Christians – are called to ministry, and have pulled their weight (or more) as a part of the Body of Christ.
Here is honey for all of you. But, better than honey, may our Father draw you into a closer and deeper relationship with Him.
See you Sunday.
Mother’s Day is just ahead and I have been thinking about the importance of a good mother and how she can give her child the ability to face the world valiantly. I remembered a statement that I read in a book by John Killenger. I found it in a book he wrote entitled “Lost in Wonder, Love, and Praise.” I hope this is a blessing to you, especially you mothers.
I believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of the loving God, who was born of the promise to a virgin named Mary..
I believe in the love Mary gave her son, that caused her to follow him in his ministry and stand by his cross as he died.
I believe in the love of all mothers, and its importance in the lives of the children, they bear. It is stronger than steel, softer than down, and more resilient than a green sapling on the
hillside. It closes wounds, melts disappointments, and enables the weakest child to stand tall and straight in the fields of adversity.
I believe that this love, even at its best, is only a shadow of the love of God, a dark reflection of all that we can expect of him, both in this life and the next.
And I believe that one of the most beautiful sights in the world is a mother who lets this greater love flow through her to her child, blessing the world with the tenderness of her touch and the tears of her joy.
Thank you, moms, for all you do for your families.
See you in church on Sunday!