Stewardship Message – November 6, 2018

When I think of our stewardship campaign theme “Here I Am, Send Me”, I think of the story of Elijah. God told him where to go, and he went, although sometimes he went with reservation. After Elijah announced the drought to King Ahab, God told him to hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan. There he was fed by ravens and he drank from a brook; then the brook dried up. After that, God told Elijah to go to Zarephath and a widow there would supply him with food. When he got there the widow only had enough flour and oil to prepare one last meal for herself and her son. Elijah told her to make him a loaf of bread before making the bread for herself and her son. He told her the jar of flour and the jug of oil would not run out until the day the Lord sent rain.

When I think of this story, I am reminded of our stewardship theme, “Here I am; Send Me.” God calls us to trust Him and His plan. The widow had to trust that she and her son would be fed throughout the drought; Elijah trusted God for his every need. This story also applies to us: do we trust God with our finances, our families, our jobs and our future? The widow first had to give food to Elijah before she was able to make a loaf of bread for herself and her son. God calls us to give to Him first. He calls us to give Him our time, our talents, our gifts, and our service first. When we give to him first, everything else falls into place.
We must trust Him and say to God, “Here I am, Send me.” He will provide when we give to him first.
— Rebecca DeSantis

Stewardship Message – October 23, 2018

MISSING THE POINT?
It’s quite impressive to consider all the love, service and giving generated by our church family. Just think of the hundreds of meals delivered to shut-ins, backpacks filled, visits to lonely, bereaved, and incapacitated, gifts of teaching, music, and communications of all sorts, mission trips, money given for operating budgets and numerous special projects, and child care. The list seems endless! We thus rejoice in singing a lovely hymn based on Isaiah 6:8, where the prophet states, “Here I am, Lord. Send me.”

In our exuberant rejoicing, however, could it be that we may miss an important point? As we participate in these worthy activities, are our hearts and souls turned to God, and are our pursuits truly based on love and worship of God? Isaiah himself could not respond to God’s request for a spokesman, until God had removed the prophet’s wickedness, and his sin atoned (Isaiah 6:7). Only then could Isaiah offer himself to be sent.

A wealthy man once ran to Jesus, asking what he could do to gain eternal life (Matthew 19:16-22). He told Jesus that he had from youth kept the commandments strictly, so he asked what else he could possibly lack. Jesus acknowledged the rich man’s sincerity, but He recognized that the man had kept only the letter of the law, not the spirit of the law. Jesus then told the rich man to sell his possessions and follow Him. “Oh,” we respond upon reading this, “we cannot give up our living or all our family and civic responsibilities. We cannot give all.” This kind of thinking misses the point: with the rich man, as with us, Jesus was emphasizing the problem, which is the love and deep attachment to material things, and the strong tug this has on our hearts. What do we really love and trust in? What is the true motivation for all of our “charitable” activities?

In the case of Isaiah, the rich man, and with us, it is critical that we examine our faith and our motives as we prepare for this stewardship season. No, God is not asking us to give beyond what we are able, but rather that our giving decisions be based upon our love and trust in Him. Let us not miss the point in our giving!

Exir Brennan

Pastor’s Message – October 16, 2018

Freeing Our Hands

I will tell of your name to my brothers and sisters;

    in the midst of the congregation I will praise you…

~Psalm 22:22

Last weekend I had the opportunity to offer praise to God “in the midst of a congregation” at a friend’s wedding. I relish the opportunity to worship from a different perspective, to receive from God amid brothers and sisters instead of in front of them.

I also enjoy these opportunities to observe the various ways we worship. There was one particular moment in the wedding service that spoke to me. After the priest read the gospel lesson, he walked off to the side. The Bible and notebook he had held until then were placed on a small table. He walked back to the center of the chancel, directly in front of the bride and groom, and with nothing in his hands, he spoke to them. The words of his homily were very good, but what I remember was that there was nothing between him and the couple. His hands were free to minister to them without barrier.

Our hands are often full, juggling tasks and responsibilities. We carry burdens so many that our fingers are sore from trying to hold them. Unintentionally, all the things we carry can easily separate us from one another —and from the God who asks us to lay everything down. How much more effective would our ministry with one another be if we took the time to free our hands?

When our hands feel heavy this week, let’s take a moment to pause and open empty hands to heaven. Surrender those burdens. Ask God to remove that which separates us from him. Let’s free our hands so our hearts might be full of his glory!

all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian

Lectionary Texts for Sunday, October 21, 2018
Job 38:1-7, (34-41)
Psalm 104:1-9, 24, 35c
Hebrews 5:1-10
Mark 10:35-45

 

Pastor’s Message – October 2, 2018

Worship Series for October and November: HOLY COMMUNION
The Study of A Sacrament

We have entered the final two months of Ordinary Time, the Church’s longest season that lasts from the day of Pentecost until the first Sunday of Advent. One of the “traditions” our congregation anticipates each year is commonly called the Christmas Eve Communion Service. What a glorious service of worship it is: a sanctuary filled with God’s children, candles lit in the cold darkness, the singing of “O Come All Ye Faithful.”

However, let us not forget that what brings us together on December 24 is more than tradition.

It is holy.

It is a sacrament.

It is the body and blood of Jesus Christ.

During the months of October and November, we will deepen our understanding and experience of Holy Communion with a lectionary-based worship series. By the time Advent dawns on December 2 and the “O Holy Night” of December 24 arrives, we will have a greater sense of the power resting in the loaf and cup. I look forward to learning and growing with you as the body of Christ!

all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian

Lectionary Texts for Sunday, October 7, 2018
Job 1:1, 2:1-10
Psalm 26
Hebrews 1:1-4, 2:5-12
Mark 10:2-16

This month’s Communion Offering will go towards Operation Christmas Child. Baskets will be on either end of the altar rail this Sunday for your donations.

Pastor’s Message – September 25,2018

The Prayer of Self Examen

The word, “exam,” is likely not a favorite word for many of us. We think of a big test in school. We think of a check-up with a physician. We think of someone looking closely at details that can impact our lives. While exams may not always feel good, or we may dread their outcomes, they are good for us. They make us wiser, inviting us to pay attention to details we easily ignore. At the end of an exam, we often experience relief.

The prayer of self examen can also bring fear and trembling. St. Iganatius of Loyola introduced this type of prayer in his Spiritual Exercises as a way of coming before God and reflecting on the day’s events. Offered at the end of the day, prayers of self examen invite the Holy Spirit to show us moments of thanksgiving as well as moments we might have handled differently. The prayer ends with surrendering all of the day to God with an eye towards a better tomorrow.

This past Sunday, our passage from James was an excellent model for a modern prayer of self examen. The Holy Spirit invites us to look within for the source of our actions, words, and decisions. More importantly, the passage offers us a prayer of hope to take into tomorrow.

Would you set aside at least one evening this week to offer this prayer? And perhaps offer it at noon time on another day? Pause in silence between each sentence to sit quietly before the Lord. Listen for his voice…
Almighty God, I submit myself to you. I resist the devil, who flees from me. I come near to you, and I thank you for coming near to me. Reveal to me the source of any conflicts today. Show me any cravings in my own life. I desire wisdom from above: wisdom that is pure, peaceful, gentle, obedient, filled with mercy and good actions, fair, and genuine. May I rise into a new day as a peacemaker, who sows seeds of justice with my peaceful acts. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
(Based on James 3:17-18, 4:1, 7-8a)

all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian

Lectionary Texts for Sunday, September 30, 2018
Esther 7:1-6, 9-10, 9:20-22
Psalm 124
James 5:13-20
Mark 9:38-50

Don’t forget we will September 30 will be Youth Sunday. We will have one worship service at 11AM.

Pastor’s Message – September 18, 2018

A Spiritual Practice with Our Words

In worship this past Sunday, we heard a strong word from the letter of James about words. At the sermon’s conclusion, I issued an invitation for us to add a certain kind of daily prayer to our spiritual practices. This prayer focuses not on our own ability to control the tongue but rather surrendering our speech to God’s creative voice.

I invite you to adapt this prayer to fit your voice and context. This draws from both James 3 and Psalm 19:14.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, Lord, my rock and my redeemer. May the content, timing, and tone of the words I speak this day spring from my commitment to you and the consideration of my neighbor. In the name of Jesus, who is the Word, I pray. Amen.

May your week abound with life-giving speech that you both give and receive as beloved children of God. It is a joy to serve as your pastor!

all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian

Lectionary Texts for Sunday, September 23, 2018
Proverbs 31:10-31
Psalm 1
James 3:13-4:3, 7-8a
Mark 9:30-37

Pastor’s Message – September 11, 2018

Tornado Warnings in a Church Daycare

I had last Wednesday afternoon all planned with work in the office and pastoral visits. However, I make plans with the knowing that God might direct my steps elsewhere. Such was the case last Wednesday when the tornado siren sounded just before 3PM.

Thankfully this story does not end with the touching down of a tornado. However, the story does end with our church staff seated on the floor with the children and teachers for over thirty minutes. In 11 years of pastoring churches with daycares or after-school programs, this was the first time I could remember the church’s staff and the childcare staff being together in the same space. Isn’t it strange how it takes the threat of disaster to force us into the same rooms with one another?

So often, churches that provide childcare programs have two entities under one steepled roof. The childcare program and the church operate largely apart from one another as separate organizations. Yet a tornado siren reminds us that at the end of the day, we are one in ministry. The siren of the Holy Spirit, calls us back “to the Rock that is higher than I,” which is Jesus Christ (Psalm 61:2).

I am grateful to work in a building whose first floor, the Child Development Center, reminds me of who Jesus is everyday.

all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian

Lectionary Texts for Sunday, September 16, 2018
Proverbs 1:20-33
Psalm 19
James 3:1-12
Mark 8:27-38

Pastor’s Message – August 28, 2018

September Worship Series: PRACTICALITY (A Study of James)

Our lives are full of stories of unsolicited advice. Most likely our teachers, parents, and grandparents have given us practical wisdom over the years in the form of popular phrases. For example:
Watch your mouth…
Don’t judge a book by its cover…
Burning bridges is not a good idea…

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that the most practical of advice has biblical roots. As Christians, obeying these commands should be the natural fruit of a relationship with Jesus Christ. Yet we are tempted and tried and find ourselves pulled away from the fruits of the Spirit. One of the best books of the Bible to draw us back on the track of lovingkindness is the letter of James. James uses simple metaphors, much like Jesus’ parables, to teach us how to live in harmony with God and each other. We will spend the month of September with this practical, short, and wise book of the New Testament. Though the titles of this sermon may seem simple, the Spirit’s lessons in James are deep.

I look forward to exploring God’s Word this month as we grow and learn together. It is an honor to serve as your pastor!
all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian

Lectionary Texts for Sunday, September 2, 2018 Lectionary Texts For Sunday, September 9, 2018
Song of Songs 2:8-13                                       Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23
Psalm 45                                                            Psalm 125
James 1:17-27                                                   James 2:1-10, 14-17
Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23                                 Mark 7:24-37

SYMPATHY…We extend sympathy to George Purnell and his family on the death of his father, Mr. Hugh Purnell who passed away on Tuesday, August 21 in Tupelo. Services were on Tuesday, August 28.

AND THE LORD ADDED…We welcome Mae Ellen Sugg into the membership and fellowship of FUMC. Mae was baptized on Sunday, August 26.

There will not be a newsletter the week of September 3rd. Happy Labor Day from the FUMC staff.

Pastor’s Message – August 21, 2018

Spiritual Forces in Heavenly Places

Over the weekend I traveled to the Mississippi delta, where I served as a pastor for four years, to officiate at a memorial service. One of the delta’s most distinctive features is the sky’s visibility. The land is flat, and the horizon seems so close. As I traveled west on Highway 82, and the hills of Winona lowered to the farmland of Greenwood, I was very aware of the sky and its constant activity.

Do you ever take the time to look at the sky?

Do you really see what’s happening in the sky?

Do you watch the mix of dark and light clouds seemingly dance —and sometimes fight?

Looking, seeing, watching… These are all admonitions the apostle, Paul, has offered to us from Ephesians over the past month. This upcoming Sunday, he seems to describe what’s going on behind those clouds in the sky as he writes about “spiritual forces in heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12.)

Creation is an excellent teacher and expression of God’s Word. In preparation for worship on Sunday, I encourage you to set aside time to gaze into the sky. Don’t try to figure out what’s happening. Simply notice the beauty, movement, and mystery. Give thanks to God for the awe and wonder of what we can and cannot see. When we gather in worship, we will learn more about what’s going on behind the scenes of visible creation and how these heavenly places teach us to pray.

I look forward to seeing you Sunday, if not before then. It is an honor to serve as your pastor and fellow sky-gazer!

all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian

Lectionary Texts for Sunday, August 26, 2018
1 Kings 8: 22-30, 41-43
Psalm 84
Ephesians 6:10-20
John 6:56-59

Pastor’s Message – August 14, 2018

Waiting for Water to Boil

While my one-cup coffee maker is my go-to for coffee and tea most days, I still have an affection for the stovetop kettle. When I take the time to boil the water and wait nearby, those few minutes I would spend in a rush to get things done become a time to be still and wait.

In the grand scheme of a 24-hour day, waiting for water to boil only takes a few minutes. Why did I need to hurry through even a few minutes of each day, when they could be a time of rich conversation with friends on the phone, at the table, or with the Lord? Boiling water on a stovetop can be dangerous because we’re dealing with extreme heat that left unattended can lead to destruction. The key word is “unattended.” In our refusals to wait and to be still, to fill every moment of every day with activity, our souls become unattended. Our relationships with God long for tending. The Living Water and Fire of Pentecost whistle to us to be still, to slow down, and to pay attention.

In waiting and being still before God, we may also wonder, “What’s the point?” We are a society driven by quick results and efficiency. The kingdom of God, though, is a place of slow miracles that change us not with the end result but in the the process of being “filled with the Spirit.” This Sunday we will learn more about being “filled with the Spirit” from Ephesians 5 — and making the most of our time well spent in God’s presence!

all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian

*These newsletter reflections are often shorter versions of my weekly blog. Visit www.darianduckworth.com/musings to read the longer stories!*

Lectionary Texts for Sunday, August 19, 2018:
2 Kings 2:10-12, 3:3-14
Psalm 111
Ephesians 5:15-20
John 6:51-58