Pastor’s Message – March 15, 2022

Updates On The United Methodist General Conference

Some of you may have heard the news that the General Conference of The United Methodist Church has been postponed again until 2024. I thought this would be an opportune time to share some basic information about this news and refresh our memories on our denomination’s structure.

General Conference meets every four years and is made up of clergy and laity in UM congregations around the world. Every Annual Conference elects delegates to attend General Conference as their representatives. Our Annual Conference is made up of the churches in the state of Mississippi, and we meet annually. This year we’ll meet in July in Tupelo. Ralph Weems will serve this year as our member to Annual Conference, and I’ll serve as your clergy member.

General Conference was supposed to meet in 2020 but was postponed to this year because of the pandemic. We recently learned it would be postponed again until 2024. Tensions have continued to simmer in our denomination around convictions on human sexuality. There is a piece of legislation that the General Conference was to consider if they had met this year that would formally create a new, more conservative denomination known as the Global Methodist Church. Leaders of the Global Methodist Church have announced that they are planning to launch the new denomination on May 1, even though General Conference has not met.

So, what does this mean for us as a United Methodist congregation? Quite simply, no actions or decisions are needed from us right now. We will keep doing the work God has called us to do right here. We’ll remain informed on what develops, and when the time is right will offer some informational sessions. We will pray for our denomination and the larger body of Christ, and we give thanks for all you bring to his body here in West Point and throughout the world.

all good things to each of you,
Dr. Darian

Pastor’s Message – March 8, 2022

How Do We Pray with Ukraine?

When national or international tragedy strikes, we often have two responses when that tragedy feels far away and unrelated to us. One is that we “doom-scroll,” which means we become consumed by the news, the images on our screens, and the tweets and posts filling our timeline. The other is the opposite, where with a sense of helplessness we try to escape by not paying attention at all.

Our call as followers of Jesus Christ is to find a place of balance between those two responses. We are called both to weep with those who suffer and to keep ourselves grounded in hope and not despair. As we watch the pain of war unfold in Ukraine, we ask ourselves, “what can I do that will make a difference? And where do I start?” Whether you fall into the camp of being overwhelmed or wanting to escape or are somewhere in the middle, I wanted to offer a few suggestions of how to pray. I would love to hear how you are praying for the Church in Ukraine and Russia as well.

1. Visit www.everymomentholy.com/liturgies where a beautiful liturgy is available for “grieving a national tragedy.” This can be used responsively in your family or offered as a singular prayer.

2. When you read or watch a news story about the war, as soon as that segment is, press the “pause” button and offer a prayer for those you just saw on the screen or in the story.

3. An employee of Compassion International who immigrated to the US from Ukraine at the age of nine shared this powerful idea. At 5 p.m. Ukraine time, a curfew begins where everyone has to go into the shelters. Children especially are very scared at this time everyday when they must go into hiding. Set an alarm on your phone for 9AM our time (Ukraine is eight hours ahead of us, so this would be 5PM their time), and offer a prayer for the children.

4. Pray Psalm 91 (our text for this past Sunday) for the Church in Ukraine and Russia daily.

Let us not live in fear but pray in hope. Let us not isolate ourselves from chaos but engage with those who suffer with our prayers. Let us be the body of Christ.

all good things to each of you,
Dr. Darian

Pastor’s Message – March 1, 2022

What Brought Us Joy in February

Every month I like to take a moment and share what I’ve been reading, watching, or listening to that has brought me joy over the past month. The hope is that in sharing what has lifted my spirit, you will take time to ask God what has lifted your spirit as well.

The Eyes of Tammy Faye (movie): All that many of us know about the late Tammy Faye Bakker was what we saw on television, but there is always more to a person than what the screen can show. This is especially true now that we carry screens in our pockets, complete with social media, all the time. Jessica Chastain gives a powerful performance that helps us to see that, though Tammy Faye made mistakes, she was a woman with a call and a love for God and people. I loved learning more about her.

When Ghosts Come Home by Wiley Cash (book) : I have loved Wiley Cash’s work ever since he released his bestselling debut, A Land More Kind Than Home. His latest novel is set in a small, coastal Carolina community with a big mystery and even greater tensions in the early 1980s. It’s a heavy read with subject matter that made me tear up sometimes, and the ending made me gasp with surprise. But isn’t that evidence of good writing, too?

The Gilded Age (TV): Raise your hand if you loved Downton Abbey? Now imagine that Downton moved to New York City in the decade following the Civil War. I am loving the characters, the pacing, the dynamics, and there is no better examination of greed and tradition on television right now than this. The show does air on HBO, as opposed to public broadcasting, so some episodes are for more mature audiences.

I’d love to hear what’s bring you joy this month and all year long!

all good things to each of you,
Dr. Darian

Lectionary Texts for Sunday, March 6, 2022
Deuteronomy 26:1-11
Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16
Romans 10:8b-13
Luke 4:1-13

Pastor’s Message – February 22, 2022

Giving Up Anxiety for Lent: A Lenten Worship Series

Next week, we enter the Lenten season, which begins with the Ash Wednesday service on March 2. Every year it seems that I move through the same two routines around this time:

I am eager for Lent to begin and enjoy planning for public worship and personal disciplines.
I am so surprised with how quickly Lent seems to arrive!

Isn’t time so funny in the way it seems to fly one day and drag another? Or perhaps the better question is: aren’t we funny creatures the way we measure time?

How we steward God’s gift of time during Lent can be a tremendous experience of spiritual growth. For centuries, we followers of Jesus hear an invitation to fast from something so that we might learn on what we need to be feasting instead: the riches of his grace! This past Sunday we sang a verse in our hymn of praise that indeed declared, “Feasting on the riches of his grace, resting ‘neath his sheltering wing…”

One of the greatest enemies we battle in our quest to feast & to rest with Him is anxiety. What if we decided to fast from anxiety and worry during Lent this year? I see some of you scoffing and chuckling and rolling your eyes as you read that last statement! You likely wonder, “How am I supposed to give up anxiety?!”

We all need help in our fasts. Our time in worship and meditation in the Word of God will help us as a congregation to do exactly that. I encourage you to search your own heart to see if God might lead you to give up something personally as well. After all, holiness is both personal & social. So let us walk into this Lenten season aware of our need and awake to his grace.

all good things to each of you
Dr Darian

Lectionary Texts for Transfiguration Sunday (February 27, 2022)
Exodus 34: 29-35
Psalm 99
2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2
Luke 9:28-36

Pastor’s Message – February 15, 2022

New Year, Same Time
This is a shorter version of a musing I wrote on Feb. 2 for my weekly blog. You can read the whole post at www.darianduckworth.com

February 2 may be the nation’s official “Groundhog Day,” but for my car that date was January 2. When I cranked my car, the screen said that the date was Sunday, January 1, 2002, and the time was 3:00. Ever since then, when I crank the car, this is the date and time that appear on the screen. As Bill Murray’s character in the film, Groundhog Day, wakes up everyday on February 2 at 6:00 to “I’ve Got You Babe,” so my car wakes up multiple times a day on Sunday, January 1, 2002 at 3:00.

I don’t know what caused my car’s clock to embark on its own version of Groundhog Day, but I do know that coming face to face everyday with a new year stuck in the same time for the past month has been an opportunity for reflection. I’d like to share what the “wrong time and date” has taught me over the past month.

Without the time to tell me how late or early I am running, I’m able to ENJOY THE RIDE more instead of focusing on the destination. Every time I get in the car there’s a tiny bit of HOPE that it’ll be “normal,” again, and hope is a powerful thing to carry into each day. If something has to be broken in my car, I’m GRATEFUL that it’s simply the clock and not something more pressing. Sometimes things are simply BROKEN, and it’s okay to acknowledge that. And finally, ACKNOWLEDGE that we’re all broken clocks who don’t know what day or year it is sometimes, and Jesus is the one who realigns us with this day that he has made. So let us rejoice and be glad in it.

What might God be teaching you through something as ordinary as a clock?

all good things to each of you,
Dr. Darian

Lectionary Texts for Sunday, February 20, 2022 (7th Sunday After Epiphany)
Genesis 45:3-11, 15
Psalm 37:1-11, 39-40
1 Corinthians 15:35-38, 42-50
Luke 6:27-38

Pastor’s Message – February 8, 2022

The Glory of the Lord Shall Be Revealed:
An Epiphany Worship Series in February

If you’re familiar with Handel’s Messiah, you likely read this title with a melody in mind. One of the beloved selections is based on Isaiah 40:5: “Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” Isaiah’s prophecy is not only a poem for the Advent and Christmas seasons. In the cold and bare days that February’s winter often brings us, the glory of the Lord has not departed. Instead, that glory is shining among us and revealing Jesus more and more each day if we pay attention!

We began this series this past Sunday appropriately with “The Glory of Worship.” In the weeks to come we will celebrate His “glory sightings” in the Word of God, in our worship together, & in the work of our congregation.

The Word of God. The Worship of God. And the Work of God.

Does it get any better than those three?

This month we are moving towards Transfiguration Sunday on February 27, when the glory of God is revealed in our Lord Jesus. From the outside looking in, it would appear that Jesus simply went on a hike with his three best friends, and they encounter two old (as in Old Testament!) friends on that adventure. What those first three apostles experienced, however, was a revelation of God’s glory that they never forgot. Do you also want to be transfigured by that glory? Then lace up your spiritual hiking boots, and let’s go exploring. Let’s go celebrate. Let’s sight his glory together.

all good things to each of you,
Dr. Darian

Lectionary Texts for Sunday, February 13, 2022 (6th Sunday After the Epiphany)
Jeremiah 17:5-10
Psalm 1
1 Corinthians 15:12-20
Luke 6:17-26

Pastor’s Message – January 25, 2022

What Brought Us Joy In January

Every month I like to take a moment and share what I’ve been reading, watching, or listening to that has brought me joy over the past month. The hope is that in sharing what has lifted my spirit, you will take time to ask God what has lifted your spirit as well.

The Kitchen Front by Jennifer Ryan (book): This is the first book I read in the new year and it was delightful. Set during World War II in Britain, four women compete for a spot to co-host a cooking show on BBC radio. The catch is that their recipes must be according to the food rations of the day. I enjoyed the characters and was sad to say goodbye to them and their creative recipes when I reached the last page.

From the Front Porch (podcast): I’ve been listening to this podcast for the past couple of years, and it is where I get a lot of great ideas of books I want to read (including The Kitchen Front!). It is hosted by Annie B. Jones, owner of an independent bookstore in Thomasville, Georgia. In addition to her own reading recaps, she talks with guests about life as a small-business owner in the south. It really does feel like sitting on someone’s front porch eavesdropping on a great conversation.

All Creatures Great and Small: Season 2 (TV): Yes, I recommended season one of this show last year. Yes, it’s part of the reason I chose the congregational hymn, “All Things Bright and Beautiful,” this past Sunday. Yes, only two episodes in and it’s even better than the first season. Yes, you should watch it!

I’d love to hear what’s bringing you joy this month and all year long!

all good things,
Dr. Darian

Pastor’s Message – January 18, 2022

Drinking the Baptismal Water

After our most recent infant baptism, someone asked me if I’d ever baptized a baby that would not stop screaming. I thought for a moment and honestly couldn’t remember a time that a baby screamed the whole time, even though there were plenty who had unhappy moments. However, the question did bring back to me a memorable baptism with a different kind of unexpected noise.

The little boy I was baptizing was three years old and known by the congregation to be talkative and animated. Many a children’s sermon took scenic routes when he raised his hand to answer a question. I expected him to have a lot to say but was surprised when he said, quietly at first, “I wanna drink the water.”

I remember his parents trying (unsuccessfully) to shush him, and he got louder: “I wanna drink the water!” I kept on going with the liturgy, asking them the appropriate questions, trying not to make eye contact (unsuccessfully) with my three-year-old friend. By the time his dad picked him up for me to place the water on his head full of hair, he was screaming, “NO, NOT ON MY HEAD! I WANNA DRINK THE WATER!” I was joyfully laughing with the congregation, even though his dear parents were not.

That little brother of the faith had a revelation many of us overlook: he knew this water was special, he was thirsty, and he needed a drink of what could satisfy him. I fully believe that God was chuckling that day when a little child tried to lead us in it means to long for the Living Water.

In John 7:37, Jesus famously calls out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me.” Why are we so hesitant to admit when we are thirsty, in need of what only God can give to us? We go searching for other wells to quench our thirsts, when the true Wellspring is ever available to us.

This week, let us remember our baptism and celebrate that the Living Water that cleanses us is also available for us to drink every time we cry out to him. Do you wanna drink this living water, too?

all good things to each of you,
Dr. Darian

Pastor’s Message – January 11, 2022

Learning From Epiphanies Past

(This is an excerpt from the latest weekly musing on my website. To read the whole reflection, visit www.darianduckworth.com/musings)

Last Thursday was the Feast of the Epiphany, when we recall not only the Magi’s visit to King Jesus but also that they had to return home from the Light a different way because of the darkness raging in Herod. That first Epiphany was not so different from two Epiphanies of recent history.

Last year, on January 6, 2021, as chaos unfolded at the U.S. Capitol, I remember sitting in the sanctuary and wondering how such awful events could happen on a day so fraught with beauty and light in the life of the Church. I was angry, hurt, and confused, as I’m sure many of you were, too. There was so much I wanted to say and to do, but instead I simply went home—only to remember another Epiphany of recent past.

Every year on the Epiphany, I have watched the movie, Spotlight, since its release. The reason I do this is because it was on January 6, 2002, that the Spotlight team at The Boston Globe published their in-depth investigation of abuse in the Catholic church. The film tells the story of the small team of journalists who brought this dark story to the light.

I watch Spotlight every year because I never want to forget some of the worst things that happened in the Church, but I also don’t want to forget we are capable of participating in God’s best work of healing, grace, and justice. One spotlight may not cast out all darkness, but it makes a difference.

This year, may we as a Church choose what is right and good and full of light. Let us continue to reject the powers of evil and oppression in all the forms they present themselves. Let us live as a people of Epiphany.

all good things to each of you,
Dr. Darian

Pastor’s Message – January 4, 2022

January Worship Series: A Quest to Live Well
A Study of Ecclesiastes

Every year in the Revised Common Lectionary, the Old Testament lesson is a familiar passage in Ecclesiastes. In fact, it’s possibly the only passage many of us have read in this short book of wisdom. When we look at the whole book, however, we discover a wealth of insight for how to live well.

Most likely, King Solomon deserves credit for much of the writing in Ecclesiastes in the later part of his earthly life. However, the word, “Ecclesiastes” is a Greek word translated as preacher, teacher, or quester. I especially like that third term that Eugene Peterson favored in his Message translation of Scripture. Isn’t the start of the new year a great time to embark on a ‘quest’ to live well?

For the month of January, we are going to dig more deeply than the familiar “season” passage of the third chapter and study some passages from Ecclesiastes. With five Sundays in January, we won’t cover all twelve chapters, but we should be able to touch on most of its themes. You’ll quickly notice that this book is a bit repetitive and sometimes reads like someone speaking his thoughts out loud in a stream of consciousness. It’s a very different book of Scripture but a rich one that will take us on an adventure together.

I hope your new year includes plans to study and meditate on God’s Word. If you ever want a conversation partner on what you’re reading, know that I would love to discuss with you over a cup of tea or coffee! Here’s to a new year of growing closer to God with one another and in His Word!

all good things to each of you,
Dr Darian

Update on the church’s covid task force: We are so thankful to Melanie Sanders, Bill Maclean, Jim Helveston, Jessi Sugg, Robin McCormick and Marc Stewart for nearly two years of leading us through the covid pandemic. They are taking a well-deserved break in this new year, and please thank them for their invaluable service. If needed, I will assemble a new task force from our current leadership and keep you posted. In the meantime, know that I’ll be consulting with our church’s leaders as we continue to monitor the pandemic. Thank you for continuing to do your part to keep our church family safe. all good things
~ Dr. Darian