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Pastor's Corner

Dear Friends,
Two significant events in the life of Jesus Christ are remembered and observed during Holy Week. One of those events is the crucifixion of our Lord and Savior and we will observe that sacrifice on Friday, April 3, with a Good Friday service. This will be a powerful service of music, Scripture, prayer, and reflection. It will also include the practice of “Stripping the Church,” during which all sacramental cloths on the Lord’s table, pulpit and lectern, as well as all ornamental or sacramental objects are removed from the Sanctuary. Done in silence, this is a dramatic recognition of the abandonment and rejection of Jesus on the night he went to Gethsemane. You can read the account in the Gospel of John, chapters 18 and 19.
The night before that, however, is a less recognized holy day, Maundy, or Holy Thursday. On Thursday, April 2, we will gather as a community for Maundy Thursday but a very special, very customized service is being planned for our congregation. In chapter 13 of John’s Gospel, we read how Jesus demonstrated how to serve through loving one another. The biblical text tells us that Jesus used water and his own garments to wash the feet of the disciples as a loving act of service toward them. He concludes the act by saying to them, “I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other. This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other.”
Our Maundy Thursday Service will be, rather than a foot-washing, a service of Worship, Prayer, Purification and Healing. We will begin our time together in the Sanctuary with music, Scripture and prayer but then we will all move to various areas of our Pacific Avenue location and pray for cleansing and healing for our church. When prayers have been completed we’ll travel together as one people to the Newsom Avenue location of our church and pray for cleansing and healing in every area of that building as well. We’ll come back together as one large group in the Court of Praise to close our time together with Scripture and music. The hope is that we will worship together as one community of faith, believing and trusting that God is drawing us closer to Him while leading us into the preferred future He has prepared for us.
Our participation in Vibrant Church Initiative (VCI) was and is our choice. The “prescriptions” were presented to us as a congregation, we discussed the pro’s and con’s of each one, and in the end voted to accept and begin working on them. The final task in the first prescription is to have a “Service of Prayer and Repentance” led by a someone designated by the annual conference. After much prayer, I told our VCI coach that I feel called by God to lead that service and furthermore, I believe this idea of a service of worship, prayer, purification and healing will be very meaningful for our congregation.
As your pastor, I covet your prayers as the plans for this special service continue to solidify. If the Holy Spirit speaks to your heart and you would like to help me, please contact me.
I continue to be honored to be in ministry with you.
Grace & Peace, Pastor Bobbie
March 1st, 2015
Vibrant Church Initiative (VCI) Update
The mission of our church – of all United Methodist churches, in fact – is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. As with any mission, it can be advanced in a number of ways, some more effective than others. Unfocused ministry efforts, however, are costly in time, morale and money.
An alternative is to approach ministry in a way that capitalizes on a church’s unique passions, resources and abilities and prioritizes ministry efforts. To take that a step further, the church must then match herself to the ministry needs of her members and the community in which she serves. This is the process of discovering a vision for the church.
The vision answers the question, “How can we be most fruitful in the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world?” Our answer won’t be the same as any other church! God expects us to be the best First United Methodist Church in Mineola that we can possibly be.
Everyone is invited to participate in the process of discovering our church vision. The first step is to attend a VISIONING WORKSHOP led by our congregational coach, Steve Stutz, on Saturday, April 11 from 9:00 a.m. – Noon. It’s important that there be a good representation from all of the various groups in our congregation including men’s and women’s groups, Sunday school classes, and Bible studies. There should be representation of all ages and stations of life as well.
Date: Saturday, April 11th
Time: 9:00 a.m. – Noon
Location: Ministry Center’s Court of Praise
*All are invited *Snacks will be served
*Child care is available upon request
February 22, 2015
Greetings Friends,
People occasionally ask me how I choose what I’m going to preach about and how do I know which scripture passage to use. Fortunately I can answer, “I don’t have to choose either.” Let me explain. Planning and leading worship are two of the most important responsibilities I have. They are also two of the most enjoyable and rewarding responsibilities I have. I was taught and I believe that the sermon itself is not the central or climax of worship. Instead I believe that the sermon is one component of an entire worship experience for God’s people.
So, as we move through the liturgical seasons of the church (Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost/Kingdomtide), I follow the Revised Common Lectionary. The RCL is a calendar and table of suggested scripture readings for a three-year cycle. The readings for each Sunday and holy day – typically one each from the Old Testament, Epistles, and Gospels – are meant for the weekly service of worship on the Lord’s Day. It provides a systematic approach to the use of Scripture in worship. The RCL is not uniquely United Methodist; it’s used by many denominations. Its use is voluntary and I like it because I’m never tempted to use only those scriptural passages that I like, am comfortable with, or fit my personal take on things.
Once I’ve read and prayed over the lectionary readings for a particular Sunday or holy day, I select one of them as the focal point of the sermon. I typically spend 6-8 hours in sermon preparation including prayer, study, review of a wide range of biblical commentaries, and consideration of the season and state of the church. I trust that the Holy Spirit will guide my thoughts, writing, and delivery of the sermon. My goal is to follow the Spirit and not my own agenda.
With the help of the worship committee, the worship services are designed to create an atmosphere for worship where the hearts of the people connect with the heart of God. The calls to worship, prayers, music, children’s sermon, and sermon are all integrated by that chosen lectionary selection from the Bible.
Worship is the work of the people. If you want to connect at a deeper level with God, here are some suggestions: 1) Be prayed up before you come to worship, 2) Resist the temptation to “check out” of worship, and 3) Decide ahead of time that God has something special just for you every time you open your heart for worship.
Grace & Peace, Pastor Bobbie 
February 15, 2015
Dear Friends,
I invite you to observe a holy season of Lent. Our United Methodist Book of Worship describes it like this: “Lent is a season of forty days, not counting Sundays, which begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday. Lent comes from the Anglo-Saxon word lencten, which means “spring.” The season is a preparation for celebrating Easter. Historically, Lent began as a period of fasting and preparation for baptism by converts and then became a time for penitence by all Christians.
From Holy Thursday through sunset Easter Day are the climax of Lent (and of the whole Christian year) and a bridge into the Easter Season. These days proclaim the paschal mystery of Jesus Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection. During these days, the community journeys with Jesus from the upper room, to the cross, to the tomb, and to the garden.”
During the season of Lent, Christians are invited to observe this forty-day season as a serious time of spiritual preparation by practicing a spiritual discipline. I invite you, then, to observe a holy Lent by self-examination and repentance, prayer, fasting, self-denial, and by reading and meditating on God’s Holy Word. Keep in mind that all of these practices are more than just “giving up” something that doesn’t really matter to us anyway. The practice of these particular spiritual disciplines are about reminding us of the sacrifice Jesus Christ made for each one of us on the cross. Do more than read about it in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; really meditate on the account of the crucifixion. Do more than pray a laundry list of things for God to do; spend time in quiet, listening to God. Fast from one meal each day and donate that meal time for volunteer service or the money you might have spent on food to buy food to donate to the hungry.
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent and we’ll observe Ash Wednesday by worshiping together at 6:00 p.m. in the Sanctuary on N. Pacific.
Grace & Peace,
Pastor Bobbie
February 8, 2015
Greetings friends,
The mission of the church is to reach out to those within the community, receive them as they are, relate them to God, nurture and equip them, and send them back into the community in order to make the community a more loving and just place in which to live. With that in mind, the United Methodist Men’s Foundation established an Office of Civic Youth-Serving Agencies/Scouting Ministries. The purpose of this office is to promote the use of programs across the Church and to help local congregations understand how they might use civic youth-serving agencies as an outreach ministry within their community.

The Church has chosen to use five youth agency programs, one of which is the Boy Scouts of America. The Boy Scouts were chosen as one of the five agencies because of their Christian teachings, long-standing connection with local congregations and their recognition of the God and Country program. For many years United Methodist congregations have enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship with the Scouts and FUMC Mineola is one of those congregations.

Chartered by Congress in 1910, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) emphasizes strong personal values, character, self-worth and usefulness, caring relationships, a desire to learn and productive and creative use of time.

We’re honored to be associated with the Scouts, especially Pack 385, chartered by our church.

Grace & Peace, Pastor Bobbie
 
February 1, 2015
Greetings Friends,
I love Jonah the Reluctant Prophet because his crazy, bold (if not rebellious) actions make me laugh at myself. One of my gifts, not so spiritual gifts, is having a strong will. I’m writing this article while on break at the Texas Annual Conference Board of Ordained Ministry where many of us, clergy and laity, have gathered to interview persons who have heard a call to ministry. All of that is to say that hearing so many rich stories of God’s grace brightly at work in the lives of the candidates makes me remember my own call to ministry.
My own call to ministry is riddled with strong-willed stubbornness and that’s no big surprise to most. If it’s any consolation I’m far less so as I continue to mature in life and in call. Jonah the Reluctant Prophet and I are soulmates that way. I’ve learned that my passion for those who are marginalized doesn’t have to be expressed with aggression or accusation. It is easy to take that road, believe me, but over the years I learned that my method wasn’t effective but, ironically, I managed to alienate and marginalize those I believed needed to be chastised.
I don’t like the ending of the Book of Jonah because I don’t know what happened to my soulmate, Jonah. Did he stay on the edge of the city Nineveh and sulk, staining his heart with judgment toward the Ninevites or was God able to soften his heart toward the city? Did he consider that God was going to extend grace so strongly that the “outsiders” (people who don’t know the heart of God) would inevitably become “insiders” (knowing the heart of God)? Or did he re-engage with the citizens, introducing and teaching them about the heart of God?
The Book of Jonah is an amazing story about the depth and breadth of God’s unbounded grace toward all people. As I’ve been reminded in a myriad of ways today in the midst of ordination interviews, every person is precious, honored and loved. The Reluctant Prophet had a narrow view of God’s grace as I believe all of us have owned at one point or another in our lives. My hope for myself is to practice erring on the side of love. When I finally arrive in my eternal home, I hope the mistakes I’ve made will be chalked up to having too big a heart.
Thank you, Church, for being a beautiful representation of Christ for me and for our whole community.
Grace & Peace, Pastor Bobbie

January 25, 2015
Greeting Friends,
It's mid-January and already signs of new life are evident.  I've already had more than a couple of conversations about the best mixes of soil for vegetable gardens in Mineola and evidently the time has arrived to plant onions, lettuce, broccoli, spinach... Did I mention it's only mid-January?  Ecclesiastes says that there's time for everything and mid-January is the time to prepare the soil and plant the right produce in order to have a fruitful garden.
In a sense, the same is true in the life of the church.  There are seasons in which dormancy offers opportunities for rest and reflection.  And there are seasons of preparation, for planting and for harvest.  The seasons of the church, however, are not quite as structure as the seasons of nature.
So here's a prayer request for intercession for our congregation, a multi-faceted prayer request if you'll indulge me please.  Not everyone in our church family is in the same season which causes me to ask that you pray for each other as we move into the future that God has ordained for us.  Pray that as some of us feel the need to move on and forge ahead we don't leave church family members behind;  those who aren't ready to embrace a future for whatever reason.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not advocating staying put or ignoring the needs we have for change.  I simply ask that we all be sensitive to one another.
Another facet of this prayer request is for courage.  Pray that God provide - wherever it happens to be needed to whoever needs it - courage to forgive, confess, participate in holy conversations.  Some may need courage to stay the course or follow God in a new direction.
Finally, pray for unity of spirit among us.  The apostle Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians that we are stronger together than we are divided.  Let's pray that all of us learn to better appreciate diversity as a gift than a challenge because it's essential to the body of Christ.
"Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice!  Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace.  And the God of love and peace will be with you."  II Corinthians 13:11
Grace and Peace, Pastor Bobbie
 
December 2014 Pastor’s Corner

Greetings Friends! 

We are blessed to have volunteer musicians who spend hours in rehearsal and are present faithfully every Sunday morning to create an atmosphere of worship where all our hearts connect with the heart of God through the Holy Spirit.  Please take a moment to than 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. 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 t have ore 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 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 in ministry?

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

  November 2014 Pastor's Corner
 Greetings Friends!
     I've been told there are 40-something shopping days left until Christmas.  Not this year.  I'm not going to succumb to the commercialization of God's gift to the world, Jesus Christ.  Last weekend I heard myself ask the question in the midst of a sermon, "How many times have we complained that the world never changes when we, ourselves, are unwilling to to change?"  (As a side note I have to say, it's very unsettling to be preaching a concept when suddenly the words make a direct hit on one's heart!)  I've spent some time in prayer the past few days because I wasn't sure what it was about me that God wanted to change and the answer that keeps surfacing is to celebrate a holy Advent that ushers in a glorious Christmas celebration of Jesus' birth.
     It's interesting to me that as soon as I decided to exchange the commercialized holiday season for a more spiritually satisfying one, I began to look forward to the approaching weeks.  If you'd like to join me in this journey to Christmas, please come along!  There are three things I think that we could do as a church family that will benefit us greatly.  First, join me in an Advent of prayer.  Let's set aside 15 minutes of each day to pray for anyone in need.  If you are willing to contribute in some way to creating an Advent devotion guide, please let me know.  Second, join me in an Advent of fasting, not from food but not from harmful thoughts, words, and communication.  Let's refrain for the 25 days of Advent from speaking, texting, e-mailing or otherwise communicating negativity.  Read Colossians 3:8-15 for further clarification.  Third, let's get ready for the coming of Baby Jesus!  All the churches in the Northwest District are collecting items for a baby shower throughout the Advent season.  Include baby items on your Christmas list: diapers, powder, rattles, blankets...you get the idea.  We'll collect the items and give them to babies who need them.
     As always, I'm honored to be in ministry beside you, I'm proud to be part of this family of faith and I love you!
                        Grace & Peace, Pastor Bobbie
 
October 2014 Pastor’s Corner

Greetings Friends!

I’m writing this article on Wednesday, October 1, the first day of confirmation classes for our youth.  One of our youth directors, Johnny Callison, will be teaching the classes with me, which combine opportunities for learning about the Christian faith and what it means to be a member of The Unitied Methodist Church.  Two things come to mind when we start talking about confirmation.  First, what is it?  Second, why bother with it?

Often confirmation is spelled incorrectly: “conformation”  If we offered conformation classes, it would be to teach people how to be like everyone else in the UMC.  That’s not the purpose.  The purpose of confirmation is to provide young people the opportunity to confirm the decision that was made on their behalf at their baptism.  The United Methodist understanding is that the ritual of baptism is a celebration of the grace of God that is present in the life of an individual (of any age), whether or not that person is aware.  Often the parents and faith parents make promises on behalf of an individual who is too young to make a commitment to Jesus Christ for themselves.  Indeed, even the church makes promises on behalf of that individual to provide them with opportunities to grow in their faith.  When the baptized come of age, they attend confirmation classes to understand what it means to be a Christian and choose whether or not to confirm that faith.

In an age where product loyalty is declining, so is loyalty to denominations.  People choose a church based on size, what the church can offer them (not necessarily in the area of spiritual formation), and proximity to their home.  Why bother with confirmation?  Because there is a beauty and uniqueness to the UMC that is often overlooked and under-appreciated even by its members.  We believe in a balance between personal salvation and service to the world.  We believe that God’s grace works throughout our lives to perfect us in love.  In other words, by God’s grace we grow in the likeness of Christ.  That grace casts out all fear and so our assurance of salvation is lived out as an expression of love toward God and neighbor rather than a fear of eternal damnation.  We bother with confirmation because we want individuals to understand what it means to be uniquely United Methodist.  After prayerful contemplation, study and guidance, confirmation students are given the opportunity to join the church by promising to uphold it by their prayers (for and with the church), presence (actually showing up...not just worship), gifts (financial support), and service (to the church and the world.)

So here’s my question to you, church: How faithfully are you fulfilling your membership vows?  Perhaps it’s time to brush up on – or learn for the first time – what it means to be a full member of The United Methodist Church.

                                                Grace & Peace, Pastor Bobbie

 
September 2014 Pastor's Corner

Do we worship idols?  The answer may surprise you.

Greetings Friends!
We are made in God's image and are meant to be creators of life and hope, not the consumers of our culture's shiny gods.  We have the ability to change the world and create a legacy that will live forever in the lives of generations to follow.  That legacy starts when each of us takes the hard steps of financial discipline and fulfilling the call to generosity that God has placed in all of us.

During the month of October, as we learn about the spiritual discipline of stewardship, the topic of money will be a big part of the focus.  Why?  Because money and financial resources are a big part of our lives.  Stewardship Emphasis is not to make you feel guilty, nor is it to say that you have to be exactly like this or that person.  The goal is for all of us to ask questions of ourselves and be open to the possibility that God will lead us in new directions in our lives.  I strongly encourage you to look at this time of emphasis as an opportunity for spiritual formation and growth.

During the first four weeks of October, we'll be challenged in a number of different ways.  We'll be asked to look for the idols in our own lives and name the ways these idols enslave us, holding us back from living in the true freedom that God desires for us.

We'll be challenged to consider the place that money, work, and debt have in our own lives.  What are our common understandings of these, and might the witness of Scripture lead us to some different understanding?

We'll be challenged to ask ourselves what it means for us to be faithful, to save, and to give.  How do we balance all the competing interests in our lives?  What priorities does God want us to have?

Finally, we'll be challenged to give with our hearts, not out of obligation or a sense of duty and not just when we think the recipient deserves our gift.  Instead, we'll be challenged to give the way God gives¾freely, fully, with no favorites or expectations of repayment.

It is our prayer that, at the end of these four weeks, we will have begun to grow into the people and church that God created us to be.

Let’s do this as a whole church, trusting that God has much for each of us to learn about ourselves and God.  The theme for the whole month of October is this: first: putting GOD first in living and giving.

August 2014 Pastor’s Corner

Greetings Friends!

I continue to give thanks to God for the honor and privilege of serving in ministry beside so many faithful people.  I am humbled by your willingness to serve Christ through the ministries of Mineola First United Methodist Church.

As I write this article we have just completed the second day of Vacation Bible School and already we are seeing the results of time, prayer and preparation.  Without hesitation one of our fourth grade girls agreed to read scripture in worship next Sunday.  She is so excited and has already begun practicing saying, “Please stand for the reading of the gospel.”  One of the moms told me this morning that her son was up and out of bed way-y-y earlier than necessary because he was excited about coming back to the church.

The entire fourth grade boys class exempted themselves from crafts and recreation and the regular VBS schedule so that they could leave the church and work on someone’s yard.  They wanted to practice kindness as a whole group.

It’s only Tuesday, folks!  I can’t wait to see what God is going to do tomorrow, and the next day, and the next…

While many churches across The United States are struggling to attract children and youth to worship and church events/activities, we struggle with questions like, “How are we going to accommodate all the children who want to attend HIS Kids?”

The kingdom of heaven is like the church which echoed Jesus’ words, “Let the children come to me, and do not stop them…” (Matthew 19:14)  The kingdom of heaven is like the church that was not afraid but opened their doors and welcomed them in, surrounded them in love and taught them faith in Jesus Christ.

Please join me praying daily for the children who expect even now to start or return to HIS KIDS in September.  Join me in praying for the adults who care for them.  Please pray for God to call from among us the right men and women who will teach and lead and assist with HIS KIDS.

As always, if you need me for anything please contact me by e-mail at rmaltas@sbcglobal.net, call the church office at 903-569-5426 or on my cell phone at 281-793-7558.

Grace & Peace,
Pastor Bobbie

 
July 2014 Pastor’s Corner

Greetings Friends!

            I continue to give thanks to God for the privilege of serving beside you in ministry and the warm hospitality you have extended to my family and me.  As I write this, I’ve not yet moved into the office or parsonage, nor have I officially started my appointment as your pastor but I already feel at home.

            I’m very much looking forward to the listening gatherings which are set to begin in July.  So far, nine individuals or couples have offered to open their homes to church members so that I have an opportunity to get to know as many of you as possible in a more intimate setting.  Another aim of the gatherings is to create an opportunity for us to listen to one another.  My hope is that the gatherings are diverse in age, perspective, personality, and dreams for our church.

            These are the questions posed as discussion starters at each gathering:

Who are we (as a church) when we are at our best?
What is possible for us?
What do you love about our church?

            Now is the time to sign up for your first and second choice of dates for the gatherings.  You’ll be notified about which date you requested but please be aware that the number of attendees will be limited so please sign up early and be flexible.

            I’ve set aside multiple dates throughout July and August in order to accommodate additional daytime or evening gatherings.  So if you want to host one but haven’t gotten around to it, please contact the church office at 903.569.5426 or mineolafumc@suddenlinkmail.com.

            Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have questions.  My email address is rmaltas@sbcglobal.net.  I don’t have consistent cell phone coverage but you can certainly leave a message or text me at 281.793.7558.

Grace & Peace,
Pastor Bobbie

 

June 2014 Pastor's Corner
Goodbye!

Someone has pointed out that "Goodbye" is a shortened version of "God be with you."  I want to thank you for the privilege of serving as interim pastor here at First United Methodist Church and for the opportunity of living in this wonderful Mineola community.  As Cathy and I have mentioned frequently, Mineola has been our favorite place of all the churches I have served!  What a wonderful town and what a great church to serve!  I envy pastor Bobbie.  It's hard to believe the time has passed so quickly!

What a privilege it has been for me to serve this amazing congregation!  I have never served a church that has been so actively involved in so many different ministries that are making a difference in people's lives in so many ways.  Dietrich Bonheoffer, the Lutheran pastor and theologian, who was murdered by the Nazis in 1945, had a clear vision of what the church was called to be.  He received this vision by viewing the church through the lens of Jesus Christ.  Bonhoeffer described Jesus as a "man for others," that is, a man who selflessly lived and died for the benefit of others.  Bonhoeffer argues that just as Jesus was the man for others in his earthly life so the church is called to be a "church for others," whose focus is outside of itself and which identifies itself not with the rich and powerful, but the poor and powerless.  Bonhoeffer summed up in his "Letters and Papers from Prison," how such a church would look: "The church is the church only when it exists for others...The church must share in the secular problems of ordinary human life, not dominating, but helping and serving.  It must tell men [and women] of every calling what it means to live in Christ, to exist for others... It must not under-estimate the importance of human example (which has its origin in the humanity of Jesus and is so important in Paul's teachings); it is not abstract argument, but example, that gives its word emphasis and power."  First United Methodist Church certainly fits this definition.  You demonstrate your love for others by example and not just word.  I have seen this in so many ways in just the short time I've been here.

Finally, thanks again for your love, support and patience with me for my mistakes.  I will keep both you and pastor Bobbie in my constant prayers.  My prayer is that God will equip pastor Bobbie for the challenges ahead and that you might share together a productive and fruitful ministry as FUMC endeavors to be "the church for others."  I know God has great things planned for First United Methodist Church and for the town of Mineola.  May God equip you with every spiritual gift and blessing for the ministry God has prepared for you.  Tony Bennett once sang, "I left my heart in San Francisco," but Cathy and I have truly left our hearts here in Mineola.  May God richly bless you with every spiritual blessing available in Christ!

In Joyful Service,
Darrell

May 2014 Pastor’s Corner

Christianity and Civility

“Precisely because rudeness is quite common, it is not a trivial issue.  Indeed, in our day to day lives it is possibly responsible for more pain than any other mortal failing.” – Emrys Westacott

Webster’s dictionary defines “civility” as “civilized conduct, especially: courtesy, politeness; a polite act or expression.”  Increasingly, we are living in a less and less civil world.  It seems like everywhere we turn, we witness acts of incivility and rude behavior: at the grocery store, the bank, the airport, even driving on the road.  We find rude behavior from the intrusive cell-phone user who holds loud conversations in public to the hostile highway driver who cuts us off with a quick swerve of his car.  Politeness seems to be on a downward spiral.  The truth is that rude behavior is becoming more and more prevalent.  This doesn’t make it any more acceptable.

Dr. P.M. Forni is an award-winning professor of Italian Literature at Johns Hopkins University, who recently wrote a book entitled, “The Civility Solution: What to Do When People Are Rude.”  Forni has some interesting observations about why we are rude, particularly in our cars.  He notes that two distinct forces coalesce in the experience of driving that tends to influence drivers to become rude.  One force is anonymity and the other is stress.  The experience of driving tends to be an anonymous one since we are so isolated in our cars from other drivers that there is very little interpersonal contact.  This tends to make the experience of driving an impersonal one.

The second force that combines with this is stress and which of us does not live under stress?  When we’re under stress and driving, we tend to lash out at what we perceive as something that is impersonal.  What we tend to forget is that the car that just cut us off is being driven by a human being with feelings, emotions and rights just like ourselves.  When these two forces combine (stress & anonymity), people tend to respond to others in rude ways, yelling at the other driver, honking the horn, chasing them, cutting them off in return or making an obscene gesture.  Remove one of these factors and the whole situation changes.  For example, suppose you are in a contest with a rude driver who has given you an obscene gesture and you retaliate with another obscene gesture and suddenly you realize the person in the other car is your next door neighbor, or perhaps your child’s school teacher or principal.  Remove the anonymity factor and the whole situation changes.

Forni also makes a distinction in his book between what he calls focused and unfocused rudeness.  Focused rudeness exists when the rude behavior is focused on a particular individual or group.  For example, if you’re a supervisor at work and you tend to be rude toward one particular worker because he or she irritates you or there’s just something about him or her you don’t like.  Most rude behavior though is unfocused and almost unconscious such as the person who will take a cell phone call in the restaurant or theater and carry on the conversation in a loud voice and not even think about whether this may be disturbing others.  The thought that this behavior might be rude never even crosses their mind.  They don’t intentionally set out to be rude, but for all their good intentions they are.  Most rude behavior is unfocused.

The apostle Paul had something to say about Christians and civility.  In Ephesians 4:32, Paul exhorts the Ephesian Christians, Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

Christians are to live differently in the world with our model of behavior being Jesus Christ.  Instead of retaliating against rude behavior wit rudeness, we are to respond with kindness and civility.  As Paul once told the Christians in Rome, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).  It may no necessarily make you feel better but it will provide a standard and example for the other person to follow who is engaging in the incivility.  The next time someone salutes you with the one-finger salute, try smiling at him or her and saying, “God bless you!”  If nothing else, this will probably confuse and bewilder the person exhibiting the rude behavior.  Be kind to one another.
Grace & Peace,
Darrell
April 2014 Pastor's Corner

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

                                          Darrell

March 2014 Pastor's Corner