Pastor’s Message – June 26, 2018

                                      Led By Mercy, Strengthened By Love
This week’s message is modified from a blog post of the same name. You can read the whole, original post at www.darianduckworth.com/musings

Sometimes when we don’t know how to pray, or what to say, we lean on the prayers that have gone before us. One such prayer that I find myself uttering often is “Kyrie Elieson — Christ, have mercy.” Rooted in Scripture, it is the plea of a blind man named Bartimaeus. Simple and powerful, the prayer reminds us that we all stand in need of a grace we cannot earn: as individuals, as communities, as institutions. Within the prayer is a longing for transformation.

Yet I have longed for something “more” to pray. One morning, as I watched my dog’s nose lead him around the park from one scent to another, another prayer from the past came back to me.

Let mercy lead
Let love be the strength in your legs
And in every footprint that you leave
There’ll be a drop of grace

The late singer-songwriter, Rich Mullins, co-wrote this song with his friend, Beaker, for Beaker’s newborn son, Aidan. The “you” in Mullins’ song is the singular child, Aidan, but his prayer is also a blessing for all God’s children to follow mercy, to find strength in love, and to leave a legacy of grace. It makes a wonderful
prayer for ourselves, our families, our leaders, and any other group.

On Sunday we will hear a story of mercy leading Jesus to two women in need of healing. If we follow him, then we follow mercy. If he is led by mercy, let us pray that we, too, will be led by the mercy that saves us and sets us free!

all good things to each of you,                                                                                             Pastor Darian

Lectionary Texts for Sunday, July 1, 2018
2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27
Psalm 130
2 Corinthians 8:7-15
Mark 5:21-43

Pastor’s Message – June 19, 2018

                                           Monday Morning Confessions

Dearly Beloved Friends,

Next Sunday, our passage will come from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, which inspired me to put this week’s newsletter piece in the form of a letter. I’ve spent most of this Monday morning with Paul’s letter, and I must offer the first of two confessions to you: I wish I’d opted to preach on David and Goliath or Jesus calming the sea instead! Paul’s letter is rich and wonderful, but its structure is also complicated. In order to understand what he says, I have to look at other portions of
the letter. I’ve gone back and forth from Acts to 1 Corinthians to various passages in 2 Corinthians in order to see the whole picture of his message.

Last week, one of our nation’s leaders chose a few verses of another letter by Paul (Romans 13) to defend of an immigration policy. This was a widely publicized sample of an error that happens frequently in all areas of life: we pick and choose verses of Scripture and take them out of context to defend a certain point. In order to understand one or two verses of Scripture, we must keep them in conversation with all of Scripture. In reverence to God’s Holy Word, we need to be careful how we engage its powerful words in our conversations.

This leads to my second confession: I have been guilty of quoting Scripture out of context to make points, too. I regret having done so but am grateful that I learned from good mentors and teachers how to hear the whole story of God’s Holy Word. As we read next Sunday’s lectionary passages together this week, I encourage you to look at what comes before and after each passage. Look in the footnotes of your Bible for a larger context. Listen to the Holy Spirit unpack the larger story—because you, beloved child, are part of that story, too.

all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian

Lectionary Texts for Sunday, June 24, 2018
1 Samuel 17:1a, 4-11, 19-23, 32-49
Psalm 9:9-20
2 Corinthians 6:1-13
Mark 4:35-41

Pastor’s Message – June 12, 2018

                         Ordinary Time Worship Series for June & July: MISSION
Next Sunday we will embark on a seven-week worship series that developed from one word I hear multiple times with various meanings. That word is “mission.” Sometimes we use it as a noun to refer to an ideal or purpose, such as “our church’s mission.” We use it as an adjective to describe going somewhere with the intent of spreading the gospel, like our “mission trip” to Haiti later this year. It is the capitalized name of a ministry in our community, “The Mission,” that provides  services like Celebrate Recovery. We add an “s” to it and talk about a desire to “do more missions.”

Like so many words used over and over in the church, it’s easy for us to lose sight of what “mission” means for us as disciples of Jesus.

Did you know that The United Methodist Church devotes multiple pages in The 2016 Book of Discipline to describing our mission as a Church? Here is one powerful statement from that description:

The mission of the Church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world by proclaiming the good news of God’s grace and by exemplifying Jesus’ command to love God and neighbor, thus seeking the fulfillment of God’s reign and realm in the world.

Over the next seven weeks, I invite you to read, re-read, and meditate upon this statement. Pray not only for our congregation but also for The United Methodist Church as we seek to live into this calling. I look forward to exploring MISSION with you as we live into Jesus’ great commission!

all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian

Lectionary Texts for Sunday, June 17, 2018
1 Samuel 15:34-16:13
Psalm 20
2 Corinthians 5:6-10, 14-17
Mark 4:26-34

Pastor’s Message – June 5, 2018

                                                     Thistle Theology
Sunday’s gospel text told the story of Jesus healing a man with a withered hand. I love these stories of healing in the Scriptures because they reveal a very personal God who longs to make us whole. The healing Jesus provides to us is not always immediate. Like faith, healing takes time. We sometimes have to endure pokes and prods and ups and downs. Becca Stevens, an Episcopal priest and founder of Thistle Farms in Nashville, leans on thistles as a  powerful metaphor for healing in her book, Love Heals:
In the small space below the blossom and above the dagger thorns, there is a smooth part where you can hold onto the flower to harvest it. Since the plant is known for its dangerous sharp edges, this smooth spot comes as a sweet surprise, like all grace. Thistles remind us that despite the thorns, creation remains healing and beautiful. They teach that people, like plants, are all part of that creation, and there is no one we need to condemn or leave behind.

As United Methodists, we are firm believers in grace. Healing and grace are as closely intertwined as pieces of the thistle. Let us not grow discouraged when life feels like a crown of thorns. Let’s remember instead that under that crown of thorns is the face of God whose blood was shed to make us whole.

                                                                             all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian

Update: Louisville First United Methodist Church
As previously shared, at a church conference held on March 25, 175 members of First UMC of Louisville expressed a desire to leave The Mississippi Annual Conference. On Wednesday, May 23, Bishop James Swanson, Sr., emailed an update on the discernment process for First UMC of Louisville.  Below is a statement from that email:
“After exploring the potential viability for ministry, the leadership of the Mississippi Annual Conference deemed that it is vitally important to sustain a strong United Methodist presence in Louisville and Winston County. Therefore, the conference has decided that First UMC of Louisville will continue as a United Methodist church and Rev. Carl Grubbs will serve as interim pastor there effective Thursday,
May 24.”

At Annual Conference, Bishop Swanson announced that Rev. Tom Potter has been appointed as pastor of Louisville First UMC for the 2018-2019 appointment year. Please be in prayer for the Louisville church and its leaders.
If you would like to read a copy of the full email from Bishop Swanson, please email me at darianduck@yahoo.com and I will forward it to you.

Pastor’s Message – May 29, 2018

Bishop James E. Swanson, Sr. and the Cabinet of the Mississippi Conference worked prayerfully to appoint clergy to every church in our Annual Conference during the Appointment Sessions. As Chairperson of the Staff Parish Relations Committee, I give thanks for the ministry of our pastor, Rev. Darian Duckworth, who has served us as a pastor, teacher, leader and friend in Christ. Our church is projected to receive Pastor Darian for another appointment year. We ask for your prayers for her and we also ask that you remember to lift up the churches and pastors throughout
Mississippi that share this time with us.
Serving Christ Together,
Robin McCormick

Coming Alive In The Spirit
In our worship services on Trinity Sunday, we heard Isaiah’s glorious vision of a throne room where heavenly beings come alive and God himself invites us to participate in His work. Once we glimpse God’s glory, there’s no going back to our old ways of looking at the world. When Isaiah’s vision ended, he carried it into his vocation of prophecy: warning and encouraging God’s people with his powerful voice.  I am so looking forward to another year of coming alive in the Spirit with you here at First UMC of West Point as your pastor. What are your dreams for your life? What are your dreams for our church?
Let’s dare to dream that the heaven Isaiah glimpsed is indeed a reality here on earth!

                                                                                               all good things to each of you,                                                                                                                   Pastor Darian

Lectionary Texts for Sunday, June 3,2018
1 Samuel 3:1-20
Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18
2 Corinthians 4:5-12
Mark 2:23-3:6

Pastor’s Message – May 22, 2018

The Only True “Royal”

In Sunday’s sermon I shared a beautiful moment from the royal wedding: a photographer captured the joy of a page boy in a moment of waiting. As much as I loved it, that was not my favorite part of the service.

My favorite part of this worship service was the congregational singing. All 600+ guests stood and joined their voices to sing two hymns, “Lord of All Hopefulness” and “Guide Me O Thou Great Redeemer.” There were no soloists. No one voice stood out among the others. There was one song sung by one people. Among those people were Elton John, Marcus Mumford, at least one Spice Girl, and likely other recognized singers. Among those people were famous actors and actresses, models, sports stars, dukes, duchesses, and even a queen. Gospel choir joined with boy choir joined with some likely tone-deaf attendees. In congregational singing no one voice is greater than another.

Whether the song comes from a cathedral in Europe or a rural chapel in North America or an open-air gathering in Africa, choirs of voices throughout the world and across time humble us before the mighty sound of God Almighty. The only one worthy of the “royal” title is Jesus Christ, whose Bride is the Church. The Church is not just the cathedral or the chapel or the tent revival. The Church is all of the above and so much more, the choir of earthly and heavenly voices who choose to praise Lord of all Hopefulness and to follow the Great Redeemer. The Bridegroom has extended the invitation not only to a royal wedding but to a heavenly marriage.

Next Sunday, as we gather to worship the Trinity that we call, “Holy, Holy, Holy,” will you join the song?

all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian

Lectionary Texts for Trinity Sunday, May 27, 2018
Isaiah 6:1-8
Psalm 29
Romans 8:12-17
John 3:1-17

Pastor’s Message – May 15, 2018

Praying As Paul Taught Us

As we observed Ascension Day this past Sunday, I invited you to join me in the practice of memorization. With so many electronic devices to help us remember appointments and phone numbers, we are not as quick to commit things to memory.

Because of the memories of our biblical ancestors, who told and retold the old, old story of Jesus and his love, and the movement of the Holy Spirit, the Word of God is now at our fingertips. Yet we spend little time memorizing passages of Scripture. These “wonderful words of life” serve us so well in life’s hardest times when we treasure them in our hearts and minds.

This week, let us pray as Paul taught us in Ephesians 1:17-19. Don’t spend too much time pondering what each phrase means. Understanding will come with time. For now, let us focus on making this prayer as familiar to us as Psalm 23 and the Lord’s prayer are.

While we studied the New Revised Standard translation on Sunday (printed below), feel free to memorize any version. You can access many translations at www.biblegateway.com.

17 I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, 18 so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the
working of his great power.

all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian

Lectionary Texts for Sunday, May 20, 2018
Acts 2:1-21
Psalm 104:24-34
Romans 8:22-27
John 15:26-27, 16:4b-15

Pastor’s Message May 8, 2018

Worship Series For Entering Pentecost: Calendaring

Many of us use calendars on a daily basis, and there is no shortage on options for keeping track of time. Which do you prefer?
a. old-fashioned paper calendar(s)
b. electronic calendar(s) on the computer
c. both a & b
d. none of the above because you can have an amazing memory and don’t need one!

If you chose (d), please call me immediately and share your secret for memorizing so much information! Most likely this informal poll would reveal a variety of ways we steward our time. Some of us probably have more than one calendar, such as one for family and another for work. No matter what our personal preferences are, we need help ordering God’s gift of time.

The next four Sundays are more than dates in May and June, more than Mother’s Day and Memorial Day Weekend. Did you know that we are entering a new season on the Church’s calendar? The Day of Pentecost on May 20 is the celebration of the Holy Spirit’s coming, and the Sundays surrounding it have special designations as well. These special Sundays are opportunities for our multiple calendars to find meaning in God’s calendar.

For the next four weeks, we will talk about the meanings of these special days and how they can help us calendar our time more effectively. I hope you will save the dates for Spirit-filled worship where heaven meets earth!
May 13: Ascension Sunday
May 20: Pentecost Sunday
May 27: Trinity Sunday
June 4: The Season After Pentecost Begins

all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian

 

Lectionary Texts for Ascension Day (observed May 13, 2018):
Acts 1:1-11
Psalm 47
Ephesians 1:15-23
Luke 24:44-53

Pastor’s Message May 1, 2018

Sunday Morning Choices

“I don’t have time to get up at 7 or 8 and go to church. But I do have time to go to brunch.”

This past Saturday, I happened upon an article in The Washington Post about the popularity of Sunday brunch. The above quotation came from a 30-something Virginia woman. One question after another came to me as I hovered over her statement.

Why does church seemingly demand more time than brunch? (If you’ve ever gone to brunch in the Washington, DC, area on a Sunday morning, you know there’s likely to be a long wait!)

What makes brunch worth one’s time more than the worship of God?

What is missing from church?

These are questions I will not attempt to answer in this short space, but they are questions we as the Church continually need to ask. It would be easy for regular churchgoers among us to become irritated and judgmental about this young woman’s choice, but I would discourage us from doing so. Such stories are an opportunity for us to look within and ask how we can better reach one another with the good news.

Perhaps we can begin by rethinking the phrase, “go to church.” Psalms 120-134 are known as “Psalms of Ascent,” and many of them speak of traveling in thanksgiving to a place of worship. Instead of “going to church,” what if we saw Sunday worship in the eyes of our ancestors: an opportunity to ascend with Christ into heavenly places, to climb to greater heights in God’s love? We are not on a linear course to a destination. Instead, we climb towards the glory of Mount Zion.

From a place of worship, perhaps we can hear the Spirit’s answers to some of our questions. Perhaps we will discover how we might set a meal as scrumptious as Sunday brunch. With God’s Word as the main course, His Church can certainly become a place worth spending time!

all good things to each of you,

Pastor Darian

 

Pastor’s Message, April 24, 2018

As you’ve been reading in the newsletter for the past few weeks, our annual Children’s Sabbath will be this Sunday, April 29. We’ll celebrate in one worship service at 11AM. There is only one thing that I don’t like about Children’s Sabbath: it only comes once a year!

However, we are constantly looking for new ways to involve the youth and children in leading worship. They’re reading Scripture and offering prayers, in addition to the duties of acolytes, crucifers, and 4th Sunday ushering. When I was recruiting assistants for the Holy Thursday service, I was so blessed when all the children replied, “yes.” And some children even approached me and asked if they could help. What a way to warm a pastor’s heart!

It would be easy for us to slip into a mindset that the worship hour on Sunday morning, especially on Children’s Sabbath, is a performance—that we gather to observe them for entertainment. But that is not at all what worship is. Worship begins when we come to God with the wonder, innocence, and expectancy of children. Of course, there will be joy and laughter alongside the reverence due to God’s name. We will gather on Sunday not to be entertained by children but to follow their lead in serving God.

This month’s lectionary texts have included passages from 1 John, and John frequently addresses his readers as “little children.” May we all know how loved we are as children of God as we seek not to be entertained in life but to expect eternal life as we worship our risen Lord!

all good things to each of you,

Pastor Darian