Pastor’s Message – January 23, 2019

If I Had Sneezed…

Ten years before a gunman shot and killed him, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., almost died of a stab wound. He was only 29 years old and signing books when a woman approached him, carrying a sharp letter opener. King would survive the attack with surgery and a long recovery, but the blade would narrowly miss his aorta. An article in The New York Times described the close call as, “if he had merely sneezed, he would have died.”

Dr. King would receive many letters wishing him a speedy recovery, but one particular letter from a ninth grader especially resonated with him. She wrote:

I read in the paper of your misfortune and of your suffering. And I read that if you had sneezed, you would have died. And I’m simply writing you to say that I’m so happy that you didn’t sneeze.*

When King delivered what would be his final address on April 3, 1968, famously known for its finale on a “mountaintop,” he recalled the incident and this young woman’s good wishes. He shared her gratitude that he did not sneeze. He describes all of the opportunities he would have missed if he had sneezed. He describes all the progress he would not have witnessed in the Civil Rights era if he had sneezed. He recalls a decade of hard work he would have never known, and might not have happened, had he sneezed.

As I read this story in The Washington Post, I was struck by the way Dr. King looked back on a traumatic, near-death experience with only gratitude. He could have expressed anger at the woman who’d tried to kill him. He could have remembered the stabbing with lament. Instead, he focused on God’s goodness in keeping him from sneezing one night in 1958. Some of the last words he ever spoke to a crowd were not of hate but of thanksgiving.

We read daily of the world’s “misfortune and suffering.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and his anonymous ninth grade fan remind us the power of a heavenly perspective. That perspective is thanksgiving. May we all walk into today knowing this is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it!

all good things to each of you,

Pastor Darian

* This story comes from an article that appeared in The Washington Post on January 21, 2019. The title is, “Martin Luther King, Jr., was stabbed by a deranged woman. At 29, he almost died.”

Pastor’s Message – January 8, 2019

Fire And Water: A Worship Series on the Sacrament of Holy Baptism

Dearly Beloved Friends,
A blessed New Year to each of you! I pray your holidays were full of manifestations of God’s grace and glory.
We spent much time in the fall of 2018 learning about Holy Communion, and we will begin 2019 by devoting our worship hour to the second sacrament of The United Methodist Church: Holy Baptism.
It likely that many of us have questions and strong opinions about baptism. Some of us were baptized as infants and don’t remember the experience. Others were baptized by immersion as adults and have vivid memories of the moment. Some of us were baptized in the UMC, while others have heritages in Baptist, Presbyterian, Catholic, and non-denominational traditions, to name a few. We always bring our experiences to our study of Scripture, but our experiences should never limit what Scripture can teach us. Baptism is a rich topic that carries us back to the creation story and sustains us in the final chapters of Revelation. I look forward to delving into this mystery of God’s grace with you.

all good things to each of you,

Pastor Darian

Lectionary Texts for Sunday, January 13, 2019

Isaiah 43:1-7

Psalm 29

Acts 8:14-17

Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

Pastor’s Message – December 11, 2018

The Mother Praising the Father

One year when I was in elementary school, my church’s Christmas musical included a song titled, “One Small Child.” One of music’s many gifts is its relationship to memory in children. I can vividly remember words to songs from childhood, and “One Small Child” is no different. I especially remember this portrait of the stable in Bethlehem:

See him lying a cradle beneath him
See him smiling in the stall
See the mother praising the Father
See his tiny eyelids fall…
See the shepherds kneeling before him
See the kings on bended knee
See the mother praising the Father
See the blessed infant sleep…

The one line that repeats is, “See the mother praising the Father.” When we sang that line in the musical, all the children lifted their hands in praise. In our nativity scenes we often envision all of these key players: Mary, the shepherds, the kings, the baby… But normally the father is Joseph. In this song, though, the Heavenly Father is present at the stable, and the mother praises him for this “one small child.”

The 3rd Sunday of Advent is also known as Gaudete Sunday, which means, “Rejoice.” It is the day we often remember Mary, the mother of Jesus, and join in her song of rejoicing. On Friday evening at our Christmas concert, you will hear the word, “Rejoice,” sung many times. ’Tis the season to lift our voices, our hearts, and our hands with Mary in rejoicing. I look forward to worshiping this one small child with you this Friday at 7PM and on Sunday at 8:45 and 11!

all good things to each of you,

Pastor Darian

Pastor’s Message – December 3, 2018

The Gospel According to Home Alone

In the movie, Home Alone, the young hero, Kevin, slips into a church as he prepares to defend his home from burglars. He barely sits in the pew before his eyes meet those of Old Man Marley—the “creepy” neighbor who has frightened him throughout the film. Marley approaches him and asks to sit down.

The man’s gentle voice surprises us all—especially Kevin. As he converses with Kevin, we realize that Marley is the opposite of scary. He is sad, lonely, and afraid. When Marley tells Kevin that he hasn’t spoken to his son in years, Kevin advises him to call his estranged family. Marley admits that he’s afraid of what his son might say.

“No offense, but aren’t you a little old to be afraid?” asks Kevin.

“You’re never too old to be afraid,” Marley replies.

On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: Do not fear, O Zion. Do not let your hands grow weak. The Lord your God is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory. … (Zephaniah 3:16-17)

In a season where angels and prophets command us not to be afraid, the old man and the little boy remind us that we’re all afraid of something. Sitting side by side on a church pew, their salvation begins with a conversation. Kevin overcomes his fear of Marley. Marley overcomes his fear of calling his son. Kevin saves Marley from his loneliness. Marley will save Kevin from the burglars.

What do you fear?

Look around, and see the Savior in your midst. As Marley said, we’re never too old to be afraid. We’re also never too old to be saved from our fears.

This Advent season, let us be set free from fear and released to glorious hope!

all good things to each of you,

Pastor Darian

Lectionary Texts for Sunday, December 9
Malachi 3:1-4
Luke 1:68-79
Philippians 1:3-11
Luke 3:1-6

Pastor’s Message – November 27, 2018

The LIGHT Has Come: A Worship Series For Advent and Christmas

May I begin this week’s reflection with a confession?

When the temperatures outside were still near 80 in September, I began listening to Christmas music.

I have a friend who once said she could listen to Christmas music year round, and I know what she means. As a kid, one of my favorite songs was, “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” My mom loves to recall how I would be singing it when she dropped me off at school in every month except December!

Tidings of great joy and good news for all people abound in Advent and Christmas. Even people who don’t believe in Jesus are humming along to songs about him in concert halls and shopping malls. But the Christ child’s message of hope and peace is one the Church must proclaim year round with our lives and our words. The light over Bethlehem never goes out, no matter how dark the skies of life might seem.

During the Advent and Christmas seasons, we will use the acronym of LIGHT to guide us through the lectionary readings. We’ll reflect on the prophets some weeks and gospel writers other weeks. A common thread throughout will be that the Light has come, the Light is here, and the Light will come again. Such is our proclamation as the body of Christ! I look forward to worshiping with you in this sacred and holy season.

all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian

Lectionary Texts for December 2, 2018
Jeremiah 33:14-16
Psalm 25:1-10
1 Thessalonians 3:9-13
Luke 21:25-36

Pastor’s Message – November 13, 2018

Marching On to the Beat I Drum

Last Sunday our children’s choir wonderfully led us in worship with the song, “I’m Gonna Sing When the Spirit Says Sing”. While they rehearsed before the service, I video recorded them. When showing the video to Bailey, our children’s choir director, later I said, “I love the way that none of them are clapping at the same time.” We laughed at how they clapped not at the assigned time but when they felt like clapping. Or perhaps we should say, they clapped when the Spirit said clap.
The children’s marching to the beat of their own drummer reminded me of a song my 7 year-old niece and I sang together on repeat last week while I visited her. “This is Me” is from the film, The Greatest Showman.
I am brave, I am bruised I am who I’m meant to be, this is me Look out ‘cause here I come And I’m marching on to the beat I drum I’m not scared to be seen I make no apologies, this is me At the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, how grateful I am for the unique rhythms God has placed in us. We are not cookie cutter Christians. The Spirit of God has breathed creatively into each of us. This is you. This is me. This is us. Let’s march on to the beat God drums in our hearts!

all good things to each of you,

Pastor Darian

Sunday, November 18, 2018                                                                                                                                                                           1 Samuel 1:4-20                                                                                                                                                                                                           1 Samuel 2:1-10                                                                                                                                                                                                            Hebrews  10:11-14, 19-25                                                                                                                                                                                            Mark 13:1-8

Sunday, November 25, 2018                                                                                                                                                                                      2 Samuel 23:1-7                                                                                                                                                                                                            Psalm 132: 1-12                                                                                                                                                                                                            Revelation 1: 4b-8                                                                                                                                                                                                        John 18:33-37

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

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.