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 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

Pastor’s Message – August 7, 2018

Standing Up To Fear

“There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear.”
~1 John 4:18 (The Message)

Vacuuming has not been my favorite pastime, and my dog, Isaac, has liked it even less. Granted, the chore grew on me after my sister and her family gave me a powerful vacuum for my birthday the year Isaac appeared. (Yes, I knew I had reached adulthood when I asked for a vacuum cleaner for my birthday!)

For a long time, when I would turn on the vacuum, Isaac would run to the end of the house farthest from the noise. He never barked at the machine, but he didn’t waste time getting away from it. More recently, he has changed his tune. He still doesn’t want to be in the room with the machine when it’s running, but his departure is less of a leap and more of a stroll.

He’s developed a habit of confronting the vacuum cleaner. He inches closer to it, staring at it as if in a negotiation, then calmly walks away. He has learned that while he doesn’t like the vacuum, it doesn’t steal his peace.

We two-leggeds tend to bury our fears. We harbor and nurse them to the point that we cling to them. We hide not the Word of God in our hearts but rather words that convince us we are not enough. Perhaps four-leggeds like Isaac can remind us that many of our fears are just a lot of noise, and we can stand up to them.

The next time you feel familiar fears rising up, stand on God’s Word. Speak the promises of Scripture that God’s children are strong and of good courage. Declare the words Jesus spoke to the wind and the waves. Stand up and face the vacuum cleaner with the confidence that nothing will steal your peace.

all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian

Lectionary Texts for August 12, 2018
2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33
Psalm 130
Ephesians 4:25 – 5:2
John 6:35, 41-51

Pastor’s Message – July 31, 2018

Worship In August: Our Membership Vows (A Study of Ephesians)

When someone joins a United Methodist congregation, we invite everyone in the worship service to turn to page 38 of The United Methodist Hymnal. It doesn’t matter whether the new member comes from another Methodist congregation or is joining a church for the first time with baptism. We always ask the same question: will you commit to this church through your gifts, presence, prayers, and service?

After the new member replies, “yes,” the whole congregation joins together in a welcome and this re-affirmation of the same commitment:
As members of the body of Christ and as a congregation of The United Methodist Church, we renew our covenant faithfully to participate in the ministries of the church by our prayers, our presence, our gifts, and our service, that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with him and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

For the next four weeks, as we worship together in one service at 11AM, we will follow the book of Ephesians in expounding upon what it means to be a member of Christ’s holy Church through our prayers, presence, gifts, and service. Not only will we dive more deeply into understanding our membership vows, but we will also enjoy special music and the singing of favorite hymns.

I look forward to worshiping and learning with you. It is an honor to serve as your pastor!

all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian

Lectionary for August 5, 2018
2 Samuel 11:26-12:13a
Psalm 51:1-12
Ephesians 4:1-16
John 6:24-35

Pastor’s Message – July 24, 2018

Approaching the Tomb: How Scriptural Reflection and Hospice Education Influence the Church’s Conversations About Death and Dying

Dearly Beloved Friends,
As many of you know, I have been working on my Doctor of Ministry degree, and the time has come where I need your help in the research. I need 6-10 volunteers to commit weekly for a total of seven weeks to a study about why we are hesitant to talk about death and dying in the local church. All seven sessions will occur on Tuesdays at 6 p.m., beginning August 21 and ending October 2, in the library. The first session will be a group interview. We will then offer three weeks of Bible study on John 11:17-44, the death and resurrection of Lazarus, followed by two weeks of hospice education from North Mississippi Medical  Center. The final session will be another group interview. You must be at least 18 years old to participate. Please email or call Pastor Darian if you are willing to participate.

Rev. Darian Duckworth

Church office hours will be 9 am – 4 pm Monday – Thursday and 8 am – 12 noon on Friday beginning August 1. The office will continue closing from 12 noon – 1 pm for lunch. We are hoping these hours will be more convenient for those who need to call or visit the church office.
Staff Parish Relations Committee

Pastor’s Message – July 17, 2018

From the Depths of the Earth
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go to the heavens you are there.
If I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
~ Psalm 139:7-8

Last week twelve soccer players and their coach were rescued from a cave in Thailand after nearly three weeks of entrapment. Their survival was a miracle, their rescue was a miracle, and their in-progress recovery is a miracle. There are so many lessons we can glean from this story about the power of teamwork, the willingness of people to risk their lives for strangers, the sacrificial devotion of the diver who lost his life in the rescue preparations.

In the celebration and excitement of this multi-layered miracle, let us not forget who oversaw and executed the rescue and recovery. Jesus Christ was ministering to those boys in the cave. He was instructing the rescuers. He was comforting the parents as they waited. He is the Word made flesh who meets us in the depths of the earth—and the depths of our own darknesses.

No matter how deeply buried we might feel by life’s trials, let us remember two things. One is to give thanks that we are not physically buried by floodwaters in a cave like our little brothers were for so long. The other is to give thanks that Christ is with us in all of our circumstances. Let us receive the miracles that he has rescued us from sin and darkness, and that he oversees our recovery towards healing and wholeness.

all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian

Lectionary Texts for Sunday, July 22, 2018
2 Samuel 7:1-14a
Psalm 89:20-37
Ephesians 2:11-22
Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

Pastor’s Message – July 10, 2018

               The Gospel According to Gump … Forrest Gump

Twenty-four years ago last Friday, the movie, Forrest Gump, opened in theaters. It was a delightful film that has become a favorite of many and won many Academy Awards.

One of the reasons I think Forrest Gump is such a beloved film is that it continually asks the question, “What if?” What if this young man from the fictitious town of Greenbow, Alabama, really met and impacted multiple presidents? What if he did become a star college football player and ping pong champion? What if he had something to do with the development of a “fruit company”?

 Perhaps another question the film dares us to ask more often is, “Why not?” Why not believe that life is like a box of chocolates? Why not sit and make conversation at a bus stop with strangers? At the heart of the film is Forrest expressing his love to Jenny with the unspoken question, “Why not me?” Why not dare to imagine and dream that people like Forrest Gump changed the course of history?

As disciples of Jesus Christ, we can look back over our own history and ask those same questions of “What if?” and “Why not?” They are not questions of regret and excuse but rather invitations to imagine how great life’s box of chocolates can be. As we study Scripture, why not insert ourselves imaginatively in the stories of our spiritual history? What if we obeyed the Word as readily as Forrest obeyed Jenny’s command to run from the bullies?

In the simplicity of Forrest Gump we remember that we are already a part of something bigger than ourselves: the greatest story ever told.

all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian

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

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