Pastor’s Message – March 26, 2019

Finding “The Way”

Seven years ago, I took up an unusual practice during the Lenten season: adventure. I wanted to spend more time in creation and engaged in outdoor activities, especially hiking. Only a couple of weeks in, the physical exertion of hiking combined with the adrenaline rush of a snake encounter led me to an afternoon of sitting on the couch. I figured that if my body didn’t feel like going on a physical adventure, I’d take my mind on the mental adventure of watching a movie.

And what a trip it was.

The Way is the story of a man whose son dies while hiking El Camino de Santiago in Spain. The man flies there to retrieve his son’s body and finds himself inspired to finish the 700-km trek that his son began. Along “the way,” he carries his son’s ashes and meets a diverse group of fellow pilgrims–all broken people in search of “something.”

Even though the story begins with the death of a young man, we discover that until his final breaths he was driven by a passion to live life to the fullest capacity. His father had not embraced life with the same zeal that his son had. But in his son’s death, he took on a passion for life–and life more abundant.

As we approach Calvary, we remember another man who died at far too young of an age. In the death of that Nazarene carpenter, we received a new life, too. As Jesus Christ walked “the way” of suffering for us, we are called to complete the journey that he started towards a heavenly kingdom. As the father in this story carried his son’s ashes with him, we carry Christ with us. The difference is that the one we carry with us is very much alive and desires for us to live. We are all called to complete the adventures that Christ began. Will you take up your backpack and follow “the way, the truth, and the life” to the cross and beyond?
all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian

Lectionary Texts for Sunday, March 31, 2019
Joshua 5:9-12
Psalm 32
2 Corinthians 5:16-21
Luke 15:11-32

Pastor’s Message – March 12, 2019

The Ordering of Worship

In our second confirmation session this year, one of the subjects we covered was the Reformation. After a brief introduction to Martin Luther, we talked about how the Reformation brought about much-needed changes in the Church. An exercise in the their workbooks then asked the students to make three statements of “how the church needs to change” today.

Here are a few of their suggested changes:
Cushions for the backs of the pews
More mission trips
To wear whatever I want to church
A food eating contest
Sing more songs from K-LOVE
Water coolers for each pew so no one will get thirsty
Offering Communion more than once a month
Better pencils for the pews

I love the contributions of our youth and children because there is a deeper truth behind every answer they offer to questions. After we made a long list of the confirmands’ suggested changes, I pointed out to them that most of those changes revolved around making people feel comfortable and at home in the worship service. They spoke with passion about wanting to make their church a better place.

Lent is a season where we prayerfully ponder change and seek to order our lives around the worship of God Almighty. All voices, regardless of age, matter to that order. May we all have ears to hear the voice of the Lord, and may we act on his voice out of love for God and each other.

all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian

Lectionary Texts for Sunday, March 17, 2019
Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18
Psalm 27
Philippians 3:17 – 4:1
Luke 13:31-35

Pastor’s Message – February 19, 2019

Holy Conferencing

Last month many of us attended an informational session and follow-up conversation on the Special Called Session of General Conference. I am grateful for your interest and participation that springs from a love for Christ’s Church. This upcoming Sunday, February 24, the day after General Conference begins in St. Louis, we will have suggested prayers available in the library for you to take home and offer in your time with God. We have taken time to learn and to converse, but now is the time to pray.

Since the time of John Wesley, the phrase, “holy conferencing,” has described the way we United Methodists conduct business matters of the Church: setting time apart to step away from daily tasks in order to converse with the Holy Spirit and with one another for the sake of the Church. A conference is not only an event that we attend. The Church’s roots are in relationship.

Holy conferencing doesn’t occur solely on international or denominational levels. Last week, as we bid farewell too soon and too suddenly to our friends, Suzanne Brasfield and Ray Millard, holy conferencing happened here in our community. We offered prayers, presence, and plenty of food. We planned worship services that celebrated their lives. We ordered our schedules around comfort, love, and support. The church’s roots are in relationship.

Relationship with God and neighbor are at the heart of The United Methodist Church. Let us pray that our holy conferencing strengthen those relationships. And let us remember that all of our conferencing is not by might, not by power, but by the Spirit of the Lord.

all good things to each of you,

Pastor Darian

Lectionary Texts for February 24, 2019

Genesis 45:3-11, 15

Psalm 37:1-11, 39-40

1 Corinthians 15:35-38, 42-50

Luke 6:27-38

* New email address: Pastor Darian’s email address has changed to darianduck@icloud.com.

Pastor’s Message – February 12, 2019

Praying the Perimeter

This past week, Isaac the dog joined me in out-of-town travels. It had been a while since he’d been on a road trip and an even longer time since he stayed in a hotel. When we reached our destination after nearly three hours in the car, I had one focus: check in and settle into our room. Isaac had a different focus: walk around the building’s perimeter. Every time we returned from an outing in the car, he wanted to walk it again … and again….

12 Then Joshua rose early in the morning, and the priests took up the ark of the Lord. 13 The seven priests carrying the seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark of the Lord passed on, blowing the trumpets continually. The armed men went before them, and the rear guard came after the ark of the Lord, while the trumpets blew continually. 14 On the second day they marched around the city once and then returned to the camp. They did this for six days.

15 On the seventh day they rose early, at dawn, and marched around the city in the same manner seven times. It was only on that day that they marched around the city seven times. (Joshua 6:12-15)

When we pray about the walls in our lives that need to come down, we may feel as if we’re walking in circles. We may become discouraged with the repetitive words and pleas. We get in a hurry to move on to what’s next in our lives. Yet God calls us like Joshua to press on in faith, trusting his power will bring the victory.

Let us try to slow down our conversations with God. Let us try to pray not only on-the-go or in-the-moment. Let us take the time to pray the perimeter of Jerichos in our lives. Let us rise, march, return, and like Isaac, sniff, in rituals of prayer so that the walls do indeed crumble as God builds us into his new creation.

all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian

Lectionary Texts for Sunday, February 17, 2019
Jeremiah 17:5-10
Psalm 1
1 Corinthians 15:12-20
Luke 6:17-26

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