August 14, 2016
When you were a child, did you imagine you would become the person you are today? Did you grow up with the expectation of hardship, loss and disappointment? Did you know when you were in middle school that parenting would be difficult and occasionally heart-breaking? Most likely not. Typically, we start out in life believing that our dreams are going to be exactly what we dream them to be.
Likewise, we learn and experience in life that sometimes from the hardship, loss and disappointment, joy is borne, hope is renewed. More often than not, the transformation takes a great deal of time and a concerted effort to discover. So the question is, will we take the time and put in the effort to allow God to transform one to the other?
Christian discipleship comes with a Bible full of warnings against following Jesus. You haven’t noticed? Even Jesus delays or discourages followers, especially if their hearts are torn between following him and going their own way. In Luke, chapter 9, it reads like this: “61 Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” 62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’”
Some disciples followed Jesus willingly enough at the beginning but then changed their mind. As Jesus spoke the words of eternal life to them, they found the teaching difficult to accept. As Jesus confronted them with faithful devotion in the Gospel of John, this was the result…of some: “66 Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him.”
Do you remember when you first decided to follow Jesus Christ and accept him as your Lord and Savior? Were you caught up in the emotion of an altar call or was it a gradual understanding of your need for God’s saving grace? Did you naively think that everything was going to be easy from that point on or did you have a full understanding of what it meant to give your whole heart to serve? Do you still have that fire in your heart, the passion for sharing your story of faith with others and your gifts and graces in service to God?
Ponder those questions in the coming weeks especially. You’ve been invited to deepen your understanding of faith and discipleship through various studies – Step Classes, Serving With a Heart, Seeing Gray in a World of Black and White, Disciple Fast Track Old Testament. You’ll be invited to remember that you have a call story, just as those saints who have gone before, some of whom we’ll meet in the sermon today (8-14). As we move into our stewardship program this year you’ll also be invited to commit your time and attention to serving Jesus Christ through the ministries of the church.
We all have a “call story,” the story of how God called us to himself, made us aware of his grace and continues to urge us forward. Committing to Christian discipleship is more than a one-time decision; it is a lifetime commitment. Where does your commitment need to be reinforced?
Grace & Peace,
August 7, 2016
In September of 2014, we became a Vibrant Church Initiative Church, meaning that we accepted the opportunities and challenges to focus on our congregational strengths, enlarge our idea of what it means to be in ministry to our community, and focus our vision and purpose in ministry.
One strength was identified as “Hospitality,” the ability to welcome people into our presence well. Many churches think they’re hospitable when in reality they are hospitable to each other, not so much to worship guests. When strangers were in our midst, even those not at all familiar with being in a church, we were described in very positive terms. The Mystery Guests noted that there is a genuine interest and hospitality extended to new guests. Comments such as, “The atmosphere was very warm and welcoming. I definitely felt like part of the group.” and “I had a warm feeling from the group of people that were there to worship. For me it set a very positive mood for the start of service.” Reports like this indicate that we know the importance of giving people an entry point to Christianity.
A second strength was identified as “Community Involvement,” which is no surprise to most of us. Members of our congregation are involved in a number of civic and service groups and events, and the community is not unfamiliar with our congregation or facilities.
“Facilities” was another strength identified by the VCI Team. It was clear to them, as it is clear to us, that we take pride and enjoy opening our doors for use by outside groups and activities. God has blessed us abundantly and we enjoy sharing those blessings by hosting events such as the Kiwanis Backpack event, Caring and Sharing, Emmaus Reunions, and the Bread of Life Thanksgiving Dinner.
When our church council met for long-range planning and facility assessment, one point was abundantly clear from the beginning and continues to be a priority: We must always have the capacity to host community events such as those listed above. What that means is that in the future we believe it’s important to always have a facility akin to or better than the Ministry Center and Fellowship Hall so that we don’t lose that important connection to the larger community of Mineola.
On behalf of our Board of Trustees, the facilities usage sub-committee of the Trustees, the Church Council, our Lay Leader, and myself, please help spread a rumor that is true! Our intent and commitment is to continue to have adequate facilities to host all the wonderful events that we currently host. The reason I ask for “positive, true gossip” is because regardless of how many times we announce it in worship or council meetings or committee meetings, some are concerned that if the decision is made to construct a new church building those events will be forgotten. Not so.
The Facility Usage Sub-Committee of the Trustees continues to meet on a weekly basis to gather information about how our facilities are used and what it costs to maintain them. They are currently gathering information about the Ministry Center. I will reiterate what I’ve communicated before, the sub-committee is not a decision-making body; they are gathering information so that the council makes decisions based on facts. Also, all decisions, when the time eventually arrives, will be made according to the Book of Discipline.
Grace & Peace,
July 31, 2016
One of the beautiful benefits of being part of a connectional system is that we, as United Methodists, are part of a much bigger picture than we may even know about. For many years I’ve heard reports at our annual conferences about The Lydia Patterson Institute but didn’t really listen to the reports because I didn’t know anything about the Institute. I’ve recently learned, however that it’s history is fascinating. Here is an excerpt from their webpage: www.lydiapattersoninstitute.org:
For almost 100 years, United Methodists have responded to the need for a quality education for those Hispanic students that face tremendous challenges obtaining a quality education. What began in 1913 with Mrs. Lydia Patterson, a Methodist laywoman acting through the Women's Missionary Society of her church, noticing that young Hispanic boys in el barrio had no school to attend began to setup schools in the homes of some Mexican Methodists.
Her spirit and vision is still alive today at Lydia Patterson Institute where over 400 young men and women, a majority of whom are from Ciudad Juarez, continue to be educated in a challenging academic environment while being nurtured in Christian values. LPI was one of the first schools in the US to emphasize the teaching of English as a Second Language in 1921 and to then merge students into the appropriate grade level to put them on the path toward graduation from high school.
Excellence and outstanding achievement has been the trademark of LPI students. Graduation rates of students exceed 95% of those entering as freshmen and over 98% of the graduates continue their education at colleges across the US. The graduation class of 2010, for example, earned 2.1 million dollars in competitive college scholarships.
With the support of the South Central Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church, LPI is positioned to keep faith with its historic commitment to academic excellence and intentional spiritual nurture. LPI is also extending its horizons to the limitless possibilities of cross-cultural enterprises by which she aspires to serve the general Church.
The Staff and Administration see themselves as strategically situated geographically, demographically and historically to serve as a bridge that will span the social, cultural and spiritual realities of a very diverse population. Today's conditions offer us an exciting and challenging moment in which to serve God as we serve mankind.
The Lydia Patterson Institute is owned by the South Central Jurisdiction (our jurisdiction) of the United Methodist Church. I hope you’ll take pride, as I do, in the ministry accomplished through this school.
Grace & Peace,
July 24, 2016
Dear Friends, I was reading from the www.umc.org website a couple weeks ago and I found this information interesting. I’m reprinting it here for you: Why We Give What motivates people to give time, money and care? As Christians, we give, first, because everything we have comes from God. We are stewards of what belongs to God. How we care for that which God has given to us will demonstrate the degree to which we can express our faith, hope and love for God’s creation. However, we do not always operate from this fundamental understanding of giving. As you will see below, people give for many other reasons.
• Compassion – They believe in the cause.
• Affiliation – They belong to the group.
• Tradition – They have a history or practice of giving.
• Recognition – They want people to recognize their generosity.
• Inspiration – The person presenting the need captivates them.
• Obligation – They feel it is the dutiful or expected thing to do.
• Transformation – They want to make a difference.
• Invitation – Someone invites them to give.
• Completion – They are fulfilling a commitment.
When disaster strikes, people are eager to give. Often, giving to these needs generates millions of dollars in aid to “individual need.” People give when they see a need or form a mental image of others in need; perceive a connection with those who will benefit from the gift; experience an emotional response, such as compassion or injustice; or recognize financial integrity in the church or aid the organization to which they are giving. These reasons do not explain or justify our need to give. We already have the first and most important reason before all others: “All things come from you, and of your own have we given you” (1 Chronicles 29:14b, NRSV). Reflect upon and acknowledge what might motivate you to give. Allow the great gift of God’s generosity to transform all of these reasons into one: to give because God first gave to you. Grace & Peace, Pastor Bobbi
July 17, 2016
Have you heard of NOMADS? Nomads On a Mission Active in Divine Service – NOMADS provide volunteer labor for United Methodist organizations. NOMADS demonstrate God’s love through their work and by listening to the people with whom they work. They do new construction, remodeling, and repairs for churches, children’s homes, camps, colleges, outreach missions and disaster rebuilding. Team members do maintenance, cleaning, painting, electrical, drywall, sewing, flooring. With God’s help, NOMADS pretty much do it all.
NOMADS are folks, most United Methodist, some not, who travel by RV to various disaster sites around the United States and help with recovery and rebuilding. They are not the first ones on the scene in a disaster but often times they remain until everyone else is gone – they leave when the work is done. NOMADS typically work four 6-hour days and have days off. They are retired or people able to take at least three weeks off at any given time.
Individuals or couples who wish to participate in NOMADS ministry register as a NOMAD. They are contacted about projects available to them and have the option of accepting the project or not. If they accept the project, they are responsible to get themselves to the project site. Once there, they work and relax with other NOMADS in the same RV camp location.
The NOMADS ministry is undergirded with a powerful prayer ministry called the NOMADS Sunshine Group. Prayer concerns are collected and prayed for on a regular basis.
The United Methodist NOMADS donate over 110,000 hours each year, valued at more than 2.5 million dollars. It is impossible to place a value on the peace of mind, points of grace, and spiritual comfort that has been offered by NOMADS. What true blessings!
Most recently, NOMADS worked in Colorado. Here is their report:
We finished all the skirting on the manufactured home that we could do, without removing the ramp, which requires city permitting. Except for one threshold, that house is finished inside and out. The “windows crew” installed windows on one manufactured home which had been pending for weeks. They also did an outstanding job of fitting windows in another new project that were all too small. That job required shimming every window and will require trim both inside and out. Their ingenuity allowed us to utilize those windows, as we were told they were not returnable. That job will be finished this week. Another part of the crew completed several repairs to another manufactured home also this week.
Find more information about NOMADS at www.nomadsumc.org.
Grace & Peace,
July 10, 2016
Dear Friends,Have you heard some of these children’s church bloopers?
Noah’s wife was called Joan of Ark. Moses led the Hebrews to the Red Sea where they made unleavened bread, which is bread without any ingredients. The greatest miracle in the Bible was when Joshua told his son to stand still and he did. When the three wise guys arrived from the east side, they found out Jesus was the manager.
At the conclusion of the Gloria Patri as a child I wondered why we sang, “…which was in the beginning, is now and forever, world without ham. Amen. Amen.”
And you’ve probably heard the wonderful hymn, In the Garden, including the line, “Andy walks with me, Andy talks with me, Andy tells me I am his own…”
We laugh about children’s church bloopers but for fear of sounding foolish, adults often recite creeds, sing hymns, and say prayers without knowing what they’re reciting, singing or saying. For example, in the Apostles’ Creed it states, “I believe in the *catholic church, the communion of saints…” What does the catholic church have to do with it? In your hymnal, if you follow the asterisk you’ll see that “catholic” means “universal.” In the beautiful hymn, Come, Thou Fount of Ev’ry Blessing, is the line, “Here I raise mine Ebenezer…” Who knows what an ebenezer is? It’s a stone of help, sometimes a small pile of rocks erected to indicate that God helped someone in that particular place.
Here are more bloopers from newsletter articles. Laugh a little today! Enjoy the joy of the Lord! Ushers will eat latecomers.
The youth will present Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The congregation is invited to attend this tragedy. The outreach committee has recruited 25 visitors to make calls on people who are not afflicted with any church.
Don’t let worry kill you! Let the church help!
The congregation is asked to remain seated until the conclusion of
the recession. You can find these bloopers and many more at www.angelfire.com
Grace & Peace,
July 3, 2016
When Methodists began worshiping in Mineola it was a settlement, not a city. The Methodists gathered with all other flavors of Christians and worship was held under a tree, not in a building. The year was 1873. By 1876 Mineola was assigned a circuit rider preacher and was listed by the Marshall District of the East Texas Conference as a mission. We’ve come a long way.
The first building used by the Methodists was on the south side of the railroad tracks on the west side of South Johnson Street. The same bell that called people to worship in 1880 is the same bell that our youth ring every Sunday today, in 2016. That frame building was sold to the Catholic Church and relocated to West Kilpatrick Street and later burned.
In 1905, a new building was opened, the doors to the Sanctuary facing North Johnson. The parsonage was located in the adjacent lot. The appraised value of that building, now our Fellowship Hall building, was $8500.00. A 3-story addition was built on the east side of the original building about 20 years later. Membership continued to grow and serve God as The Methodist Episcopal Church, South.
By 1949, the property at the southwest corner of Pacific and McDonald streets was purchased for the site of our present Sanctuary and the “old” Sanctuary became the Fellowship Hall. In 1989, a fully equipped, modern kitchen was added onto the south end of the Fellowship Hall.
In 2001, the FUMC purchased the old Brookshire’s site and remodeled it to be opened in 2002 as the Ministry Center. It became the home of the church offices, the contemporary service, several Sunday school classes, church meetings, and much more.
Throughout our history, our congregation has been a significant part of the larger Mineola area. Today, in 2016, we partner with several civic and faith-based groups to service the citizens of Mineola and the surrounding area throughout the year. Our Ministry Center is used by Kiwanis of Mineola to distribute backpacks, Caring and Sharing to distribute food and gifts at Christmas, Bread of Life to distribute Thanksgiving meals and to raise money through “Breakfast with a Heart.” Hundreds of children learn about Jesus Christ and the Christian faith through His Kids and Vacation Bible School. The facility serves as the location for community meetings, exercise classes, senior adult activities and of course the numerous other ministries of FUMC.
Our Fellowship Hall is the home of the UMW Christmas Store, Boy Scout meetings and events, and was the birth place of Grace Health Clinic and our contemporary worship service. The halls of the education building have been the walkways to Sunday school classes, children’s activities, fellowship events, and much more.
As we look to the future, let’s remember the past. Our forefathers and mothers gathered under a tree amid the few houses known as the Mineola Settlement. Sometimes they had a preacher; usually they sang hymns to God, prayed, and studied the Word of God without one. The church is that. People who worship God. Join me in saying a prayer of thanksgiving for those who made God a priority.
Grace & Peace, Pastor Bobbie
June 26, 2016
“So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them.” Genesis 1:27
I confess to you that I have struggled with my feelings in response to the loss of humanity and losses to humanity that occurred on Sunday morning, June 12, in Orlando, Florida. A young man unleashed terror on a group of people who, just as he, was created in the image of God. I continue, as perhaps you do, to be disturbed and incredibly sad and those feelings have prevented me from offering any response through this weekly article.
The presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America put it best when he wrote, “We are killing ourselves. We believe that all people are created in God’s image. All of humanity bears a family resemblance. Those murdered in Orlando were not abstract “others,” they are us.” And I would go on to say that the families and friends who lost loved ones are no different than any of us. Anyone with a child, a parent, a brother or sister, etc. can either relate to their grief because they have experienced their own or can imagine how devastated those families are.
ELCA Presiding Bishop Eaton’s words strike a chord because, in them, we are reminded that despite the distance between Mineola and Orlando or the differences of opinion, whether political or social or theological, we are all part of the same human family. When we see each other through the eyes of God, as persons of value, worthy of grace, then we realize we must get on our knees for others the way we get on our knees for ourselves.
Our hope must come from Jesus Christ. In Christ we are reconciled to God and one another. Through Christ we are invited to the ministry of reconciliation which can, if we choose to participate in it, help us find common ground within all the different parts of our human family. It certainly will not be an easy practice because passionate opinions are high on all sides. We must examine ourselves as individuals, a Church, and a society, realizing the ways in which we have divided ourselves and allowed division to be destructive. We must confess that we have not been as passionate about reconciling as we have about arguing. But a return to the basics of loving God and neighbor, we might discover that we are not as distant from one another as first believed.
Our own bishop, Janice Huie, wrote this in her response to the Orlando massacre, “United Methodists offer our affirmation of the unconditional love of God for all people. We remind fellow Wesleyans to extend compassionate, grace-filled expressions through word and deed which will stand as a reminder that everyone – including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons – is God’s beloved child.”
Prayers for healing for individuals, families, the community of Orlando, and the rest of us who are watching from a distance are desperately needed. By the time this article is published it will have been a couple weeks from the date of the tragedy itself but the pain will still be raw for so many. In addition to prayers let us agree to be the positive force in the midst of negative, hurtful words and deeds. With the power of the Holy Spirit let us agree to invest our energy in building bridges in the midst of destruction.
Grace & Peace, Pastor Bobbie
June 19, 2016
God is full of surprises. Last spring I hosted and led a small group meeting at my home as together we read, Longing For Spring. I scheduled it for Friday nights because Fridays were the only nights I was free for six consecutive weeks. When the group started meeting I looked at it as work, something I was expected to do as the pastor and group leader. Boy was I surprised.
The discussion on the first week was okay. Things were a little awkward because none of us really knew each other very well. The next week God showed up. That’s the only way I can describe it. Others in our group brought insights to our reading that I hadn’t seen, details I hadn’t noticed. We started to share some of our personal interests and concerns. And, I have to say, the meal was good.
By the third week time flew by. Instead of “members of the group,” they became, “my small group.” My small group didn’t feel the need to knock before they came into my home and everyone felt comfortable rummaging through my kitchen, looking for utensils and serving dishes. We spent more time talking during our meal and we abandoned some of the suggested activities from the book’s author. We shared much more of our personal lives.
At some point, I’m not sure when, our discussions took on a life of their own. They were more, sometimes less related to the chapter we had read in the book. My small group became my extended family and it was far from a work-related activity to meet on Friday nights. We all marveled at the fact that we looked forward to coming together, one of us said it like this, “I just kept telling myself all week, ‘Hold on til Friday! Hold on til Friday.’”
I’m not a “small group” kind of person. Or, at least I wasn’t before I was a member of that particular small group. There were six of us in my small group and we met on a weekly basis. We had a book that we all read together but if someone hadn’t gotten around to reading it, it wasn’t any big deal. We prayed for one another, laughed a lot, and shared one another’s lives.
We almost always started our evening with prayer and a simple meal. We occasionally sang a hymn and each week we read the Bible together. Our study book recommended particular contemporary movies to watch and we often discussed how they related to the book and scripture readings. The small group experience built relationships and God surprised each of us along the way.
On behalf of my small group I’m writing this newsletter article. We want others to discover what we’ve discovered. We hope more people will join a small group for about six weeks, long enough to get over the awkwardness of new relationships and begin the process of growing together. Watch the newsletter for types of small groups that will be forming. If you’re interested in being in a small group, leading a small group or hosting a small group, please contact me at email@example.com or call me at the church office.
Grace & Peace, Pastor Bobbie
June 12, 2016
I have a book by Rev. Dr. Jim Moore, entitled Do You Have Alligator Arms? The content wasn’t what I thought it was going to be. In the book, Dr. Moore uses the football term, alligator arms, that is sometimes used by coaches, players or commentators to describe (and criticize) a would be pass receiver who keeps his arms protectively and timidly close to his ribs instead of stretching out full length to
catch the ball. He writes about how some of us Christians hold back instead of risking and embracing the life of a Christ.
One of the chapters is about Christian maturity. He says that when one is mature in faith one’s response to certain situations is different that when one is new to faith. For example, he gives the example of a situation in which a person is hostile toward another or rejects another or lashes out at another. When there
may have been a day when one’s reaction to those situations was to take it personally, get revenge, respond with equal hostility or anger, the mature Christian doesn’t take such situations personally.
It’s hard not to take things personally, especially when we’re passionate about something. But as Christians we’re asked to reflect the life of Christ who was able to look deeper into emotional actions and see the pain or passion of the other person. Jesus Christ taught us to pray for those we label as our enemies, to turn
the other cheek, and to bear one another’s burdens. It doesn’t mean we’re supposed to be door mats that people can walk all over but rather that we can live gracefully, offering others the same space we expect ourselves. So, how do we gain that kind of maturity? Perhaps the first point is to realize that it’s not about us. The reason someone is upset, lashing out, angry, frustrated or even hostile is not necessarily the result of something we have said or done! In
fact, many times it has little or nothing to do with us personally and has only to do with the person who is upset, lashing out, angry, frustrated or hostile. The second point is to realize that even if someone’s emotional outburst is a result of what we’ve said or done, there’s a very good chance that communication
– or lack thereof – is the root of the problem. If at least one can keep their composure, the mess can be sorted out.
Spiritual maturity comes with time and practice. Some of us are mature in some spiritual matters and some in others. The point is, we’re on this journey together and it’s not a competition. Let’s be patient, kind, loving and graceful toward one another in all matters.
Grace & Peace,
June 5, 2016
God at the center. I love those words. To me they mean that God is at the center of all things; all things revolve around God who is the creator, instigator, initiate, and beginning. “God at the center” means to me that there is a reflection of God in each of us and that we have access to God, should we so choose.
God is humble, humble to the point of dying on a cross for each one of us, regardless of our worthiness. It’s pretty amazing that God is so powerful and yet humble. Jesus declared that he was sent to be a servant to all and that’s what he taught the disciples as he washed their feet at the Last Supper.
God is humble, humble to the point that God doesn’t push into our lives uninvited, doesn’t insist on his own way (we have free will, remember), and waits in line for his turn for time with us. I don’t know about you, but sometimes that line can be pretty long! There are things to be done, thoughts to be thought, schedules to keep, etc. So many demands for our time and attention put God somewhere around “not at the very end” and “not at the front of the line.” If God was just a little pushier and a little less humble, He’d get more attention from us, right? So, really, it’s God’s fault. Hmmm.
If God were a bit more insistent on having His own way it would mean less free will for us. Semi-free will. And let’s face it. Even if God were more insistent, we’d still have enough free will to give attention to all the other priorities (some very important ones, no argument there.) So it’s either free will or no free will. God as we know God now or a manipulative God who treats us like puppets? I prefer to keep my free will, as do you most likely, than the alternative.
The challenge then, is to move God up to the front of the line in our list of priorities. Finding time and space for God requires effort on our part. IF we desire to seek the presence of God in our lives, we need to be silent and rest in prayer. To do that, we let go of ourselves, which allows us to hear God. When we sit in silence, even if it’s only for a few moments of each day, we turn our minds to our creator and begin the process of allowing God to be the center of our world. God at the center.
I challenge you this week to find time in your schedule for TAG time, Time Alone with God. When you’re in the shower, driving, doing the dishes, washing the car or taking your daily walk, turn off the electronics and the music. Start with a simple prayer as you breathe: Holy Spirit, come (inhale); Holy Spirit, fill (exhale.) When you’ve spent a few seconds clearing your mind, ask yourself how your soul is. Take notice of your distractions and take notice of how you’re feeling: angry, happy, frustrated, anxious, at peace, etc. When your silent time is over, thank God for the time together and go on with the rest of your day. You might be surprised how much silent time you have throughout the day that you could use to connect with God.
Grace & Peace,
May 29, 2016
May 20th concluded the United Methodist Church’s General Conference. One of the most publicized topics has to do with the United Methodist wording related to sexuality in The Discipline. If you’d like to read about General Conference in more detail, including the legislation on human sexuality and many other topics, go to www.umc.org/news-and-media/united-methodist-news. An excerpt from the United Methodist News Service about the Council on Bishops proposal to the delegation is printed below:
By Heather Hahn and Sam Hodges May 18, 2016 | PORTLAND, Ore. (UMNS)
General Conference delegates apparently have hit the pause button on the denomination's quadrennial debates related to homosexuality.
Late afternoon May 18, the delegates voted by 428 to 405 to accept the recommendation of the Council of Bishops to delay a debate on homosexuality at this gathering of the denomination’s top legislative assembly and let a proposed commission study church regulations.
The bishops asked for the body’s permission to name a special commission that would completely examine and possibly recommend revisions of every paragraph in the Book of Discipline related to human sexuality. The commission would represent the different regions of a denomination on four continents as well as the varied perspectives of the church. The Book of Discipline is the denomination’s governing document.
“We accept our role as spiritual leaders to lead The United Methodist Church in a ‘pause for prayer’ — to step back from attempts at legislative solutions and to intentionally seek God's will for the future,” said Council of Bishops president Bishop Bruce Ough in announcing the recommendation.
The bishops also suggested they might call a special General Conference in 2018 or 2019 to deal with such proposals, Ough said. He also leads the Dakotas-Minnesota Episcopal Area. Other bishops stood behind Ough as he read the statement.
Friends, regardless of your opinions about human sexuality and all the related topics, I hope you will join with me in praying for God’s wisdom for our bishops as they begin their work on this commission. Let us also remember that our United Methodist Church declares that all persons, gay and straight, are persons of “sacred worth” and so pastors and churches are committed to be in ministry “to and with” all persons.
Grace & Peace,
May 22, 2016
Today is Trinity Sunday, the day in the Christian calendar on which we celebrate the holy mystery of the Triune God, God: Three In One, The Holy Trinity. There are various ways to name it but no way to explain it because it is exactly a holy mystery. We cannot explain in human terms how God can exist at one time, in unison, as three persons: Father/Creator, Son/Redeemer, Holy Spirit/Sustainer.
We get bogged down every time we try to explain any holy mystery of God. How can Jesus be fully God and fully human at the same time? You’d think the two would collide at some point, causing the fully God side to make a mistake or the fully human side to be a tad bit self-righteous (no pun intended.) How is it that the bread and the juice of communion become for us symbols of the body and blood of Jesus Christ? How could Jesus die and be alive again after three days in the grave? How is it that we can go to the Bible and it means one thing, and then read the same passages days, weeks or years later and we can understand something completely different? They are holy mysteries.
Our first clue should be the first word, holy. It’s what we’re not, in this definition of the word. Yes, we are a holy people, meaning set apart for the special work of God. But holy mysteries are holy because they are of God alone. We’re not part of that. The prophet Isaiah expressed it like this: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55: 8-9)
Our second clue might come from the word, “mystery.” A mystery is something that we have to explore and put together like a puzzle. So we might say that the Trinity can be described as a candle with a wick, wax and flame or like the three ways we experience H2O ice, steam, liquid. All are part of the same identity but are experienced or used in different ways. Those metaphors are examples of how we humans have tried to explore and explain the Triune God but each one falls short in some way. The mystery continues.
Today our lectionary texts include Psalm 8, which describes the first person of the Trinity, God the “Father” or God the “Creator,” the person who is known to us through creativity. The epistle lesson is from Romans, chapter 5 which describes the second person of the Trinity, God the “Son” or God the “Redeemer,” the person who is known to us as our Savior who became human, lived among us, died for us on the cross and rose on the third day. And in the Proverbs and Gospel of John, we’re given a description of the third person of the Trinity, God the “Holy Spirit” or God the “Sustainer,” whom we experience as the presence of God that is always with us. All work together in love to be in relationship with each one of us and to all of creation.
God bless you!
Grace & Peace, Pastor Bobbie
May 15, 2016
One of the most prominent memories I have of going to church as a child is Sunday school. All the children gathered in the gym for…well, honestly, I don’t remember why we were in there but I’m sure it was something the adults thought was very important. From the gym, we were dismissed to our individual classrooms which were used during the week by the elementary church school. Our Sunday school classes weren’t large but I remember enjoying them, making friends that didn’t go to my school, and getting to know the adults who taught us. (Each year one of the ornaments I hang on my Christmas tree is the manger ornament I received from my Kindergarten Sunday school teacher.)
One of the highlights was when we got to move to a new Sunday school classroom. It was a really big deal on Promotion Sunday to go from the gym to the new classroom as an older child, at least older than I was the previous school year. And then, when we went to the youth room we had made it in the big league, so to speak. What I don’t remember is whether or not my childhood church offered Sunday school classes for adults. As an adult and as a pastor I want to expect that adult classes existed but that my parents just didn’t attend.
As a young adult, before going into ministry, one of the things I most looked forward to each Sunday was going to my Sunday school class. I was part of a single’s Sunday school class that was taught by a married couple who loved to teach the Bible. But the relationships I built in that class were what made me continue to attend. We helped each other move, change jobs, raise children, and have a comfortable group of friends to hang out with. And we went to lunch together every Sunday. All of that is to say that being involved in an adult Sunday school class contributed to me recognizing and accepting a call to ministry.
Adult Sunday school classes are incredible resources of learning, friendship, support, and God’s grace. On Sundays, May 22 and 29, all the adult Sunday school classes will be hosting a Sunday school “Open House.” What that means is that on those two Sundays, each of our classes will be expecting new people to visit them for the day, whether they are people who are not currently a member of a class or if they are people who typically attend one class but are interested in knowing how other classes function.
Make a commitment this week to try something new over the next two weeks! Check out one of the awesome adult Sunday school classes we have at our church. Here is a list of classes and locations:
Covenant Class meets at 9:45 in Room 101 in the Ministries Center
First Journey Class meets at 9:45 in the Activities Room of the Ministries Center
Promise Class meets at 9:45 in room 103 in the Ministries Center
Seekers Class meets 9:45 in the Fellowship Hall on Johnson and McDonald
Grace & Peace,
May 8, 2016
One of my favorite Psalms is Psalm 121, which starts out like this: “I lift up my eyes to the hills - from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” The psalmist goes on to write about God who protects, shields, and keeps one from danger and even evil. But the important part, in my opinion, is the very first couple of stanzas: I lift up my eyes and receive help from God.
It makes sense to me that the first thing one needs to do - or that a church needs to do, for that matter – is to look up and find God. It reminds me of a trust and team-building exercise I used to do as a youth director. One person is blindfolded while his/her partner, who can see, guides the blindfolded partner through a maze. Only words of encouragement can be offered; nothing like, “Okay, you’re going to take two steps up.” Instead of walking directions, the guide partner can only say things like, “Don’t worry. I’m not going to let you get hurt. You can trust me.” The idea is that the partners learn to trust one another to guide them and keep them from harm, even as they walk an obstacle course blindfolded.
Psalm 121 reminds me of this “trust walk” exercise in two ways. First, we (individually and corporately) don’t know the path that lies ahead of us. We don’t know the pitfalls, we don’t know when we’re going to be stretched or challenged or even in danger. We also don’t know what great things God has in store for us – blessings and lessons learned and experience gained and relationships strengthened. But we know that in our ignorance of the future we can trust that God will be with us, ordering our steps and protecting us if we look to God. But first, we have to look to God. Lift up our eyes and look to God.
Second the psalm reminds me of a trust-walk exercise is that when we’re blindfolded we’re extremely vulnerable and trust in our guide is essential. The psalmist says, “I lift my eyes.” If we’re always looking down, worried about every single step, focused on our feet, we’re not going to see the path God has planned for us. We have to look up, take off the blindfold, so to speak, so we can move forward.
Church, please continue to pray for the future of our church as our church council continues to lead us with integrity and courage. We have a called church council meeting on Saturday, May 21, with Rev. Mike Bonem, a church consultant. Mike’s expertise is helping organizations, particularly churches, do strategic planning for the future. He helps by teaching congregations how to navigate through complicated planning for the future God has prepared for them. We’re blessed that Mike will be with us that Saturday.
While 99% of our church meetings are open to anyone who wants to attend, this particular meeting is for church council members only. It’s not an attempt to be secretive but rather an attempt to keep this gathering at a size most beneficial for the work that needs to be accomplished. The council will be reporting any decisions or outcomes of the meeting to the church through the newsletter.
Grace & Peace,
May 1, 2016
Have you noticed? Have you not heard? Our church leadership is showing initiative, courage, faithfulness and stewardship over all that God has given us: facilities, land, people, spiritual gifts. The Holy Spirit is moving in mysterious and exciting ways because our church council and the committees and ministry teams associated with it are following that same Spirit.
Let me get more specific. On May 15th, during our combined worship service in the Court of Praise in the Ministry Center, everyone will witness the benefits of all the work that has gone into creating a “Simple Pathway to Discipleship.” On that Sunday our council will “roll out” a plan that provides answers to the question, “What can I do to grow in my faith?” Whether you are a newcomer to our congregation, perhaps even a first- time worship guest, or if you’ve been around for a long time, this discipleship plan provides step-by-step instructions for how to love God more fully, share faith more effectively and serve your neighbor more willingly. This new Simple Pathway to Discipleship can be used by adults, parents for their children and youth. We’re very excited about it and look forward to its unveiling on May 15th.
On that same Sunday, your Evangelism Committee has prepared a few surprises, including gifts for each and every one of us! You’ve noticed the shiny silver boxes with the big red bows that we give to each first-time worship guest and you may have already figured out that they’re full of chocolate and welcoming tokens that encourage folks to make their church home with us. Soon you’ll notice the re-arranging and redecorating of our entry spaces and Narthex so that information about getting involved with church ministries and classes is readily available. Keep an eye out for beautiful blue posters in the windows not only in our church building but at locations throughout our city. Evangelism is a multi-layered ministry that invites, welcomes, witnesses, and integrates people into a relationship with God and a church home. We’ll learn how all of us are “evangelists”!
I’m particularly proud of the work our Board of Trustees is doing. This is work that is quite often behind the scenes and, frankly, thankless. But without our trustees we would all be unable to accomplish the ministry God has entrusted to us: Loving God, Sharing Faith, Serving Neighbors. The trustees are being very proactive about the use and maintenance of the buildings including both campuses and the parsonage. Most recently they are assessing the systematic replacement of air conditioning units, the continued attention to grounds and landscaping, the safest response to the new open carry gun law, and several other safety concerns. I’m so grateful for the recently installed security system at the parsonage (which I can control with my phone!) and the quick response they’ve provided for minor maintenance issues.
Please continue praying for our church leadership and, as requested, please offer your help and support as well. They are leading us well!
Grace & Peace,
April 24, 2016
APRIL IS CHILD ABUSE PREVENTION MONTH
Today is Blue Sunday. I encourage you to consider the dilemma of an overworked, under-funded system of child protective services. Take a moment to consider these common but often unnoticed situations…
Please pray for:
1. Foster parents who spend hundreds of their own dollars in preparation to be licensed.
2. Foster children who are teased and bullied because of situations that exist at no fault of their own.
3. Social workers who have impossible numbers of case loads.
4. Foster parents who consistently love, teach, and cheer for the children in their care when others give up, get frustrated or ignore.
5. Children who love their parents unconditionally.
6. Families who are successfully reunited and healthy.
7. Teachers who help foster children integrate into a classroom in
the middle of the year.
8. Therapists, medical personnel, physicians, law enforcement officers, first responders, attorneys, and a host of others who bear the burden of children’s pain by intervening on the children’s behalf.
9. Volunteers who make a difference through CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate), Rainbow Room, Child Advocates, and many other satellite child advocate agencies.
10.Churches who minister to the specific needs of children who are abused and neglected, their families and foster families.
11.Foster children who are separated from extended family, toys, pets, clothes, friends, teachers, church families, and extra-curricular activities.
Grace & Peace,
April 17, 2016
As we welcome new visitors and members to our worship services and ministry opportunities, I am mindful that we represent a diverse background of denominations and traditions. Personally, I relish diversity because I love to hear stories of faith about how God has worked and continually works gracefully in people’s lives. I love to hear how people hear and experience God through prayer, study, service and call.
One of the unique practices of United Methodism is the apportionment process. It is a strange practice to those of us who come from a “congregational” church model in which each individual congregation is independent with regard to decision-making and many practices of church life. But to those of us who have been United Methodist for some time, we recognize the apportionment as just one more connectional link between the local church and the beautiful web that is the United Methodist Church.
In Three Simple Rules, Bishop Rueben P. Job writes of three ways to change the world. Although the rules are ancient, they are timely for today’s world. According to Job, “The Wesleyan movement is a prime example of this new creation that is formed when these…rules are adopted as a way of living.” These rules tie directly to today’s goals of apportionment giving.
1. “Do no harm”: We can live a life that God wants for us by helping others. Apportionments, taken together, enable us to help more people in more ways. As Job says, “It is possible to practice a way of living that is in harmony with the life of Jesus and survive, even thrive, in a world like ours. It is both a challenging and rewarding way to live; and each of us, with God’s help, can live such a life fully, faithfully, and joyfully.”
2. “Do good”: We can live a life that God wants for us by helping others, even those we will never meet, those we consider to have nothing in common with, or who might differ from us economically or culturally. “The words of Jesus and of Wesley suggest that doing good is a universal command. That is, doing good is not limited to those like me or those who like me.” Doing good is directed at everyone.
3. “Stay in Love with God”: Seeing our apportionments help others not only gives us personal satisfaction, it demonstrates concretely that we are in love with God. “Staying in love with God was the primary issue of a faithful life then, and it is today. For from such a life of love for God will flow the goodness and love of God to the world. It can be no other way.” Apportionment giving transforms all—the giver, the church, the annual conference and especially the recipient. “We practice the rules; but God does the transforming; the renewing, and the building of the house—the house of our lives, the house of our church, and the house of our world.”
This past week our congregation received certificates of thanks for paying 100% of our apportionment giving at both the district and conference level. Thank you, church, for being a faithfully connectional church.
Grace & Peace
April 10, 2016
Next Saturday morning I will lead a class on the topic, “Discipleship and Salvation.” Christians are blessed to follow in the footsteps of generations of faithful saints who were not perfect but living the best Christian lives they could. Generation after generation, the pathway of discipleship has included the personal practices of devotion and compassion and the corporate practices of worship. Devotion is the name for private activities that draw us into Scripture, focus our
attention on prayer and help us be mindful of God’s presence. Devotion is much more than spending a few minutes each day reading from a daily devotion guide, although such resources certainly have merit. It also includes spending time each day in personal prayer, reading, studying, and reflecting on Scripture; and spending time in silence and
solitude. Worship, like devotion, is directed toward God. But unlike devotion, which is personal, worship is done as a community of faith. In worship, a faith community joins together for praise, prayer, and hearing God’s Word. Although many individuals think of
worship as a private act (ever heard, “I can worship at home…or at the soccer game”?), it is not. We confess our sins in the presence of God and one another. We pray for one another as we hear concerns of the people of God. We hear together the interpretation of Scripture, and we leave empowered to minister to the world. Compassion represents practices of caring for the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of others. Some refer to such care as “acts of mercy.” Through compassion, we put our gifts, blessings, and talents to use on a personal level, caring and extending God’s grace to individuals. Acts of mercy and compassion are important ways in which we follow the biblical commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves. Justice is the corporate side of compassion. It involves seeking peace and wholeness for all people and all of God’s creation. When the church seeks justice, it moves beyond
meeting the needs of individuals and looks at the root causes of social ills, such as poverty, hunger, slavery, sickness, and oppression. The work of justice sometimes means getting involved in politics, economics, and law; and it often involves being an advocate for those who lack the power and resources to make their voices heard. By
striving for justice, we honor a God who is just and who desires the well-being of all people. A center point of United Methodist theology is our Wesleyan understanding of grace. We affirm that salvation comes entirely through God’s grace and that God’s grace is with
us throughout our lives and at every stage of our faith journey. Grace can be defin