Stewardship Message – The Gratitude Path – November 10, 2020

A 92-year-old well-poised and proud man, who is fully dressed each morning by eight o’clock, with his hair fashionably coifed and shaved perfectly, even though he is legally blind, had to move to a nursing home. His wife of 70 years had recently passed away, making the move necessary.
As the admitting nurse maneuvered his walker to the elevator, she provided a visual description of his tiny room, including the beautiful curtains that had been hung on his window. “I love it,” he stated with the enthusiasm of an eight-year-old having just been presented with a new puppy.

“Mr. Jones, you haven’t seen the room; just wait.”

“That doesn’t have anything to do with it!” he replied. “Gratitude is something you decide on ahead of time. Whether I like my room or not doesn’t depend on how the furniture is arranged … it’s how I arrange my mind. I already decided to love it. It’s a decision I make every morning when I wake up. I have a choice; I can spend the day in bed recounting the difficulty I have with the parts of my body that no longer work, or I can get out of bed and be thankful for the ones that do. Each day is a gift, and every day I’m here I’ll focus on the new day and all the happy memories I’ve stored away.”

He continued, “Life in an odd way is like a bank account. You withdraw from what you’ve put in. I’m still making gratitude deposits. I have had so much that I can still be grateful for and happy about.” To remain happy, remain in gratitude, and you’ll always have plenty to draw from.”
With a stewardship campaign about giving from our gratitude, hopefully this story will cause each of us to think how much we have had about which to be grateful. Like Mr. Jones so wisely stated, “Gratitude is something you decide ahead of time.”
Times might seem a little tough right now, but we can always choose to be grateful, especially for God’s many blessings. There are so many. We’ll never run out of them. So we can give and be grateful and know that it pleases our Father in Heaven.

George Purnell, Stewardship Chair

Pastor’s Message

The Gratitude Path: The Power of the Turn Around

I recently went on a vacation to Charleston, South Carolina, and I loved going on walks around the downtown area. On my first evening there, while walking to dinner at a nearby restaurant, I made a wrong turn and realized I would have to turn around and retrace some steps. Turning around on the sidewalk was easy, but then I was going against the flow of foot traffic! Going against the flow felt awkward, but it’s what I needed to do to reach my destination.

In Luke 17 Jesus instructs ten lepers to go to the priest after they cry out for healing. They obey, and along the way they are healed. One of the lepers notices his healing and turns around on the path to return to Jesus and thank him. Imagine how awkward it must have been to make that turnaround, to go against the flow of the other nine lepers, eager to make good time to reach the priest? The world may try to tell us that choosing to turn around in gratitude and going against the flow of complaint is too much trouble. But there is power in making that turn. When we choose gratitude, we return to Jesus.

This year’s stewardship theme revolves around choosing “the gratitude path” with this story as our guide. It is largely based on Kent Millard’s book of the same. We could easily list our grievances in the year 2020, but the Lord invites us to turn around toward gratitude. We invite you to ponder how God has blessed you this year. We hope you will reflect on what about this church makes you grateful. Giving flows from the grateful heart, and we desire for this campaign to have firm roots in gratitude. Be on the lookout for stories from within our church, and we hope you might be willing to share your stories of gratitude on this path we travel with Jesus.

all good things to each of you,
Dr. D.

Pastor’s Message – October 27, 2020

Reading, Watching, and Listening In October

Every month I set aside one week to share in this space about movies, books, and music that have especially spoken to my heart recently. These are not advertisements for you to go out and buy the items but rather an invitation to consider what you’re reading, watching, and hearing, too. God speaks to us in all kinds of ways, and great conversation can arise among us from where we’re hearing God speak.

Evidence by Josh Baldwin (music): If you follow me on Instagram (and if you don’t yet, please do so @revdrdarian), you know that this album was the soundtrack of my recent vacation. Josh Baldwin currently serves as a worship leader in northern California, but his roots in the Carolinas come through clearly on this album. My favorite lyric is, “The only shadow I see / Is the shadow of your wing.”

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi (book): I can’t say enough good about this book that is already on many lists for “best of the year.” Gyasi is a native of Ghana but grew up mostly in Huntsville, Alabama, in a Pentecostal church, and all of these influence her lead character named Gifty. The ways she writes about faith, grief, belonging, science, and family are hard to describe but so unforgettably beautiful.

The Trial of the Chicago Seven (movie): Movies have always introduced me to pieces of history that I previously didn’t know and challenged me to learn more about what happened (The fabulous film, Hidden Figures, is another example). I am eager to read more about this trial from 1968 because a two-hour film is not enough to learn about an eight-month-long trial. Still, the performances are great, and the writing superb. I am grateful for all that history has to teach us and the art of movies that introduce us to some of that history.

Through which songs, movies, and books is God speaking to you?

all good things to each of you,
Dr. D.

Pastor’s Message – October 20, 2020

GLORY: The Return of the King
A Worship Series for the “End of the Year”

Have you heard or said one of the following statements recently?

I’m SO ready for 2020 to end…

2021’s got to better than this…

Go away, 2020…

I hear you and understand. It’s been a tough year for many of us and a strange year for all of us. We’re ready for a fresh start. May I invite you, however, to reconsider what it means to start a new year? One of our anchors in worship this year, something that has helped us to measure time when time didn’t make sense, is the church calendar. According to that calendar, a “new year” begins on November 29 with the dawn of the Advent season. Over the next five weeks we will have our final worship series for the “end of the year,” a time for us to reflect on the past, look to the future, and seek God’s glory in the present.

I can’t stress enough how important this worship series will be for us as a congregation and as individual followers of Jesus Christ. It will revolve around a truth that we declare in the Apostle’s Creed Sunday after Sunday: “From thence he shall come…” The “he” of our declaration is Jesus Christ, and we will face in the Scriptures head-on the reality that Jesus will return in glory one day. We need not fear, but we do need to prepare our individual hearts and our church’s heart to be ready.

Aren’t you thankful that we have a chance to start afresh before 2020 technically ends? Let’s look toward this ending as a new beginning for us in the body of Christ!

all good things to each of you,
Dr. D.

Pastor’s Message – October 13, 2020

What We Need to Know: Sunday School & More

 Happy are those who observe justice, who do righteousness at all times.
~ Psalm 106:3
Dearly Beloved Friends,

As we conclude our worship series on the psalms, I encourage you to continue pondering this verse and how God is calling you to “observe justice” from a heart that worships him. Next week I’ll share more about our next worship series. For now, here are some important updates and reminders from the church’s COVID-19 task force and staff as we safely regather.

· In-person Worship Gathering: While we no longer require reservations for the Sunday morning service, we surely appreciate your doing so when you can in case we need to contact trace. Also, we continue to require masks for the entirety of the service—the best way to love our neighbor right now!

· Sunday School: We will resume Sunday school this upcoming Sunday, October 18, at 10AM , and classes will conclude at 10:45AM. Please check with other members of your class to see who is ready to meet in person and plan to do so in your usual space (except for the Good Shepherd class, which will meet in the fellowship hall). We cannot share in food or drinks yet, and masks are required.

· Trunk or Treat: Check out page two of this newsletter for all the details of our Trunk or Treat on October 25.

· Charge Conference: Administrative Council will meet with the district superintendent via ZOOM call on Sunday, October 25, at 3:30PM. All members of the Administrative Council will receive login info for the call closer to time.

Thank you for your patience and prayers as we safely resume and remaster some of our beloved ways of gathering!

all good things to each of you,
Dr. D.

Pastor’s Message – October 6, 2020

Learning What a “Real Song” Is

When my niece was not quite three years old, she schooled me on the definition of a “real song.” We’d been singing her favorites, “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” and “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad,” when she asked me to sing a song. I’m not sure why the Beatles’ “Ticket to Ride” popped in my head, but I started to sing it. She stared at me as if I’d lost my mind and said, “Auntie Rev, that’s not a real song.” I asked her what a ‘real song’ was, and she dramatically began singing the ABC song.

When I recounted the story to a friend a few days later, he said, “Well, I guess you can’t really learn any other song until you know the ABC song.”

As I’ve said in our current worship series, the psalms are our “ABC song” of Scripture. We find in their poetry the basic building blocks of unlocking secrets of God’s Word. Learning the themes and truths of the psalms’ open, honest prayers help us to read other parts of Scripture. They are the “real song” that guide us in singing other songs of Jesus and his love.

With all of the changes we’ve experienced in the world this year, changes to which churches have not been immune, we have also had the opportunity to remember Who does not change. In worship this past Sunday, Psalm 19 invited us back into basic practices that we must not neglect, which include worship, study of the Word, and prayers of self examination. I encourage you to read this psalm throughout the week and seek the Lord about how this “real song” might help us grow our faith in & focus on the One who doesn’t change. By tending to these basic needs of our souls, we will improve our lives —and learn to sing even more songs that God has placed in our hearts.

all good things to each of you,
Dr. D.

Pastor’s Message – September 29, 2020

Reading, Watching, and Listening In September

Every month, I’m setting aside one week to share in this space about movies, books, and music that have especially spoken to my heart recently. These are not advertisements for you to go out and buy the items. They are not suitable for everyone, but I hope this will invite us to consider what we’re reading, watching, and hearing. God speaks to us in all kinds of ways, and great conversation can arise among us from where we’re hearing God speak.

1. Rivers In The Wasteland by Needtobreathe (music): I talked about this band in the last sermon of our UNITY series. I had ignored them for years because of the label, “Christian rock,” associated with them. It turns out they are far better than any label. This album is about five years old but does not disappoint. My personal favorite track is, “The Heart.”

2. 42 (movie): Yes, I referenced this movie in a sermon, too. The late Chadwick Boseman marvelously portrays baseball legend, Jackie Robinson, and it sheds light on an important moment in history that still affects us today. Plus, there is a fabulous joke about Methodists in an early scene. I’m slowly making my way through all of Boseman’s movies and am amazed by his gifts that are gone from this world too soon.

3. Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive by Stephanie Land (audiobook): I love listening to memoirs, especially when read by the author. Stephanie Land provides a firsthand look at poverty in North America from the perspective of a single mother trying to make ends meet. Her voice continues to ring in my head when I read Scriptures about how we as communities of faith are called to care for the poor.

Through which books, movies, shows, and podcasts is God speaking to you these days?

all good things to each of you,
Dr. D.

Pastor’s Message – September 22, 2020

There’s a Microphone In My Nose

This past Sunday we welcomed an adorable little boy into our church family with the baptismal covenant. Baptisms, like everything, look a little different right now. One of the new preparations I faced on Sunday was how to make my wireless, over-the-ear microphone work with my mask. Thankfully I was able to fit the microphone comfortably under my mask, and everyone in the room could still hear me.

In the middle of the baby’s blessing, something you didn’t see happened: the tiny filter that covered the end of my microphone slipped off the mic—and straight into my nose! I kept on reading the words before me with my lips, but my mind was saying, “How am I going to gracefully get this microphone out of my nose?” Then, as the filter began tickling my nose, my mind said, “It’s going to be really awkward if you sneeze in the middle of this.” So, with all the energy I could muster combined with the resistance to laugh, I tried to ignore the microphone and focus on the baby and words before me. With God’s help, it worked, and I was able to extract the filter between baptism and prayers without any of you noticing (I hope?).

This incident reminds me of something that is integral to following Jesus: recognizing that we have no idea the unseen struggles people are going through. So often we judge each other based on behavior we can see with no idea of the hard times people are quietly experiencing. The microphone in my nose was far more comedy than it was a struggle, but it’s raised my awareness of silent, serious battles people face.

This week, let us be alert to each other’s feelings. Check on one another. Pay attention to the signals that someone may be hurting. Reach out with a phone call or a card. And let us pray that God will help us to see what we need to see, so that we might respond in love. After all, you might help get a microphone out of someone’s nose.

all good things to each of you,
Dr. Darian

Pastor’s Message – September 1, 2020

An Update on In-Person Worship Gatherings
Let the inner movement of your heart always be to love one another. ~Romans 12:9 (The Passion Translation)

Dearly Beloved Friends,

On behalf of the church’s COVID-19 task force, I want to thank you for your patience and prayers as we navigate uncharted waters. The task force has met and communicated regularly about our in-person worship gatherings with an ongoing “inner movement of the heart” to love each other. We wanted to provide you with an update and the reasoning behind some of our more recent decisions that will hopefully answer any questions you might have.

1. Event Brite Reservation System: Reservations will no longer be required for Sunday morning worship, but we would appreciate it if you would still make a reservation since it is a helpful tool for us in two key areas. First, should an attendee test positive for COVID-19, Event Brite allows us to easily access who else was present that Sunday and let them know. Secondly, the reservations help us to exercise good stewardship. If we know how many people plan to come, for example, we will know how many bulletins to print, how many ushers to have, and how many Communion sets we’ll need, so that we can be good stewards of those resources.

2. Mask Requirement: Masks will continue to be required for the whole service. Some of our members may be more at risk for COVID-19 than others, and we want for everyone to be safe if they choose to attend in person. For right now, given the Mississippi Department of Health recommendations, we feel the mask requirement needs to continue. However, know that the task force continually reassess this requirement and will make a change when we feel it’s safe to do so.

3. Communication: The task force wants everyone to know that we are listening to you and appreciate how much you love and care for this congregation. As a reminder, if you need to get in touch with any of us, the members of the task force are: Jim Helveston (Security Chair), Robin McCormick (Finance Member /Past SPRC Chair), Bill Maclean (Lay Member of AC), Melanie Sanders (Lay Leader), Marc Stewart (Admin Council Chair), and Jessi Sugg (CDC Chair).

May our Lord continue to richly bless each of us with an “inner movement of love” in a heart that beats for him alone!

all good things to each of you,
Dr. Darian

Pastor’s Message – August 25, 2020

Living Like the Moss

This past Sunday I closed the sermon with an illustration from the radio program, On Being with Krista Tippett. In an interview from February of 2016, Tippett spoke with bryologist Robin Wall Kimmerer, an expert in moss. Some of her observations had me saying out loud, “This is what the church should be!” I am printing below what I shared on Sunday as an invitation to live more like the moss. I also encourage you to check out the whole interview at the link provided below to experience the wonder of God’s creation.

Mosses are not good competitors at all, and yet they are the oldest plants on the planet. They have persisted here for 350 million years. They ought to be doing something right here. And one of those somethings is their ability to cooperate with one another, to share the limited resources that they have, to really give more than they take. Mosses build soil, they purify water, they are like the coral reefs of the forest, they make homes for this myriad of all these very cool little invertebrates who live in there. They are just engines of biodiversity. They do all of these things, and yet, they’re only a centimeter tall.*

Let’s ask ourselves the following questions
1. How might I cooperate with other people?
2. How am I sharing my resources?
3. How will I give more than I take in the kingdom of God?

all good things to each of you,
Dr. Darian

* https://onbeing.org/programs/robin-wall-kimmerer-the-intelligence-of-plants/