Pastor’s Message – June 4, 2019

Worship Series for June: The Holy Spirit

This upcoming Sunday is the Day of Pentecost when we remember the “birth” of the Church. It was on this Jewish festival years ago that 120 disciples of Jesus Christ gathered in an upper room to pray and to wait. Ten days had passed since Jesus ascended to heaven, leaving them with a promise that he would send a helper.

Can you imagine how long and mysterious those ten days must have been? They had no idea what this “helper” would look like, when he would arrive, what he would look like. All they had was Jesus’ promise. They gathered, they waited, they prayed, and they watched. When the Holy Spirit did arrive, Jesus’ promise fulfilled, how changed the world was! He came as wind, as fire, as heavenly language, as peace-giver, as comforter…. and so much more. During the first of our three summer worship series, we will spend four weeks learning more about the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. I look forward to worshiping with you.

I also invite you this week to be in prayer for the Holy Spirit’s guidance at Mississippi’s Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church. We will meet June 5-8 in Jackson, MS, to order the life of our Church in Mississippi. I will serve as your clergy representative, and Bill Maclean will attend as your lay representative. ‘

Would you join me in this prayer by Brian and Katie Torwalt as we embark on our study with the Holy Spirit?

Holy Spirit, you are welcome here

Come flood this place, and fill the atmosphere.

Your glory, God, is what our hearts long for,

To be overcome by your presence, Lord.

Let us become more aware of your presence. Let us experience the glory of your goodness.

all good things to each of you,                                                                                                                                                                        Pastor Darian

LectionaryTexts for Pentecost Sunday                                                                                                                                                            Acts 2:1-21                                                                                                                                                                                                          Psalm 104:24-34, 35b                                                                                                                                                                                  Romans 8:14-17                                                                                                                                                                                                    John 14:8-17, 25-27

Pastor’s Message – May 28, 2019

The Gospel According to Leslie Knope

One of my favorite television shows is Parks and Recreation. Filmed in “mockumentary” style, the show follows the local government of fictional Pawnee, Indiana. Amy Poehler plays Leslie Knope, an employee in the Parks and Recreation department with big political dreams. She drives everyone mad with her enthusiasm, yet her co-workers can’t help but love her.If there were one sentence to summarize Leslie Knope, it would be the following: She LOVES Pawnee, Indiana.

In the season 5 premiere, Leslie sets a lofty goal to clean the Pawnee River. She has trouble acquiring grants and financial support. Discouragement tries to creep in as doors close in her face, but Leslie Knope says “nope!” She calls a press conference and announces that every Saturday from 8AM to 10AM she will clean the Pawnee River herself, and anyone who wants to help her is welcome to come. Clad in knee-high mud boots and her spirit of determination, Leslie shows her town in her actions how much she cares. The dozen onlookers at the press conference applaud and follow her into the river.
“So which one is greater, the one who is seated at the table or the one who serves at the table? Isn’t it the one who is seated at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.”
— Luke 22:27 (Common English Bible)

I love the way Jesus talks about leadership: beginning not with power but with service. Change began on the Pawnee River when Leslie stepped into the mud and invited everyone else to join her. She was not putting on a show. She acted out of love for her community.

May we be a people who not only look for the rivers that need cleaning. May we also be a people who go and clean them.

all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian

Lectionary for Sunday, June 2, 2019
Acts 16:16-34
Psalm 97
Revelation 22:12-21
John 17:20-26

Pastor’s Message – May 21, 2019

Teamwork, Transition, and God’s Perfect Timing

As we shared with you a couple of weeks ago, our Minister to Youth and Children, AnnaBeth Harrison, will leave on May 23 for her and Oliver’s new beginning in Florida. At that time, a team appointed by the Staff-Parish Relations Committee was hard at work behind the scenes in search of AnnaBeth’s successor. We are so grateful for Jim Williams, Ashleigh Flurry, Chris Jester, and Shane Alpe, who all helped with the process. We didn’t have news to share with you then, but we are thrilled to share good news with you now.

The Staff Parish Relations Committee has unanimously approved the hiring of Kyle Chickvara as our new Minister to Youth and Children. Originally from Kennesaw, Georgia, Kyle is a graduate of Mississippi State University. He was active in the Wesley Foundation, has worked at Camp Lake Stephens, and currently is completing a year-long fellowship at Oxford University United Methodist Church. Most importantly, Kyle has articulated a deep love for our Lord and a strong call to youth ministry.

To add to God’s perfect timing, this Wednesday, May 22, Kyle will be able to attend the youth & children’s summer kick off at the Harrells’ barn. He will be in the church office Wednesday afternoon to meet with AnnaBeth and ensure a smooth transition. We don’t yet know his exact start date at FUMC but will keep everyone informed.

We are also pleased to share that Camden Shock, who served as an intern with the youth last year, will return in the fall to continue in that capacity. Camden has been a valuable asset to our youth program, and we look forward to his return.

This past Sunday, one of the lectionary readings was from Psalm 148. Verse 1 simply declares, “Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens; praise him in the heights!” Our hearts are full of praise for the the teamwork, transition, and timing that brings Kyle to us. Please pray for him, AnnaBeth, the church staff, our youth, and children as we embark on this new chapter. And offer up your own song of thanksgiving for God’s goodness to us!

Rev. Darian Duckworth                                                          Mrs. Robin McCormick
Pastor                                                                                         Chair of Staff-Parish Relations Committee

Pastor’s Message – May 14, 2019

Bicycle Theology: The Farewell

Ten years ago, I bought a bicycle. It was a mountain bike that was affordable and versatile. At first I was wobbly and had to re-learn the gears. With careful patience, I was soon cruising up and down hills along a river. Before long, bike rides became my regular physical and mental exercise. Because I had to focus on what was right in front of me, I easily forgot what had weighed on my mind.

A few years later, the bicycle with its worn wheels made the trek north with me when I moved, but something had changed. The bike was no longer comfortable. I thought about trading it in for a road bike or getting different tires. I tried to ride early each morning, but I dreaded what I once loved.

The truth was: I no longer wanted to ride the bike. I wanted to walk on two feet at a neighborhood trail instead of riding two wheels around town. I put the bicycle in the storage room and laced up my sneakers.
Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing: now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? ~ Isaiah 43:18-19a, New Revised Standard Version

Change is difficult because it includes an ending and a beginning. As Isaiah wrote, clinging to the old prevents us from embracing the new. God constantly presents us with changes for our good. How often do we avoid risk-taking in favor of what’s comfortable, familiar, and easy?

We tend to think of change as sudden and drastic, but change can be much more gradual. God gently eases us into the new with something as simple as our hobbies. Perhaps in simple changes God wishes to teach us great truths.

all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian

Lectionary for Sunday, May 19, 2019

Acts 11:1-18
Psalm 138
Revelation 21:1-6
John 13:31-35

Pastor’s Message – May 7, 2019

Giving Thanks For AnnaBeth

Nearly two years ago, the Staff-Parish Relations Committee took a leap of faith in the hiring of a full-time Director of Youth and Children’s Ministries. And oh the rewards we have reaped! We were so blessed to have an applicant as qualified as AnnaBeth Harrison practically dropped in our laps.
There is no doubt that the hand of God was in the process: blessing our church, our youth program, and our children’s ministries.

When AnnaBeth arrived, we had an average of five or six students at United Methodist Youth Fellowship. We have had 20+ students at several functions lately. And have you visited with one of our youth? They are leading Bible studies and continue to grow under AnnaBeth’s (and Oliver’s) leadership, in addition to the other adults now involved. These students are the future of First UMC, and we can all be proud of the ministries we now have in place.

Has AnnaBeth ever asked you to do something? We find it nearly impossible to refuse when we see all she is doing. But every single time, we walk away knowing we were the ones receiving the blessing.

We knew when AnnaBeth joined the staff of FUMC that she and Oliver would only be in our area for a couple of years, and that time has flown by. Oliver has already moved to his new job at Duke Air Force Base in Florida, and AnnaBeth will join him permanently on May 23.

Her last Sunday with us will be May 19, and we welcome you to show your appreciation to her in whatever way the Holy Spirit leads you before she leaves. We thought it appropriate for the youth and children to honor her with special events, but the gifts don’t have to stop there. Please feel free to reach out to her as the Lord directs you.

At the luncheon for our high school seniors, AnnaBeth had assembled a slideshow that concluded with this verse: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid. Do not be discouraged, for the Lord God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

Go forth in God’s strength and courage, AnnaBeth and Oliver, and we wish you many blessings wherever you go.

Robin McCormick                                               Rev. Darian Duckworth                                                                                                     Chair of Staff-Parish Relations                        Pastor

Pastor’s Message – April 30, 2019

What Draws Us To Church

My dog, Isaac, is not normally a fan of church. He seems to know that it’s the place I most often go when I leave him at home, especially on Sundays. However, on his morning walks, the churches on Broad Street frequently draw him with their springtime scents. When my dad walks Isaac, he prefers sniffing the flowers at the Presbyterian church. Last week, he walked past our church to investigate the sign at the Baptist church. This morning, he walked right up to the door of the Christian church. And yes, he does occasionally stop by the courtyard of our church to ensure all is in order!

Different congregations have different offerings that draw us humans into their fellowships, too. Every church has its own unique “scent” formed by the Spirit’s work there. At the same time, every church should have the same basic aroma of the love of Jesus Christ.

Our first priority as First United Methodist Church of West Point should always be to draw people to the love of Jesus Christ: not to ourselves, but to Him who works with and in us. I invite you this week to spend some time with two verses of Scripture, followed by two questions. Please spend some time with the verses before you answer the questions. I would love to hear your responses.

In the Messiah, in Christ, God leads us from place to place in one perpetual victory parade. Through us, he brings knowledge of Christ. Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance. Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation—an aroma redolent with life. ~ 2 Corinthians 2:14-16 (The Message)

1. What has drawn you to this congregation?

2. What will you do to help draw more people into the “exquisite fragrance” of Christ’s love in this fellowship of believers?

all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian

Pastor’s Message – April 9, 2019

Between Sundays: Walking Holy Week with the Passion

It’s easy to focus on the Sundays.

Here as we enter the most sacred week of the Christian year, many of us can quickly identify the next two Sundays. On April 14, we wave palm branches and shout, “Hosanna!” to the Son of David. On April 21, we celebrate that Christ our Lord has risen from the grave. What joyful celebrations they are, but when we ignore the events of the week between those Sundays, we have only bookends without the pages of the Church’s great story.

During Holy Week here at First UMC of West Point, we will have the opportunity to hear that whole story. The Passion narrative in Luke’s gospel encompasses 91 verses of Scripture, but we will not read them all at once. We will hear some verses on Passion/Palm Sunday, some at the Holy Thursday service, and some at Good Friday’s Reading of the Passion. We will spread them out not only as a traditional readings but also in the Stripping of the Altar on Holy Thursday and the Tenebrae of Good Friday.

It’s easy to focus on the Sundays, but this year would you focus also on Holy Week? Our Holy Thursday service will be at 6PM on April 18 and the Good Friday service will be at 12 noon. Whether or not you are able to attend these services, I encourage you to set aside time to read the Passion Narrative throughout the week. It is a story that deserves our time and attention. It is a story that changes us. The whole story is our story of holiness through Jesus Christ our Lord. I look forward to a Holy Week of worship with you.

all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian

Lectionary Texts for April 14, 2019
Liturgy of the Palms                                                                                                                                                                                          Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29                                                                                                                                                                                                    Luke 19:28-40

Liturgy of the Passion                                                                                                                                                                                                  Isaiah 50:4-9a                                                                                                                                                                                                              Psalm 31:9-16                                                                                                                                                                                                               Philippians 2:5-11                                                                                                                                                                                                        Luke 22:14-23:56


Pastor’s Message – April 2, 2019

Prodigal Playlist

A few years ago, while assembling a playlist for my yoga classes, a song by the late Rich Mullins,“Growing Young,” kept coming to mind. It is a first-person, modern interpretation of the prodigal son, and the song set the theme for the playlist I was assembling. We all need a prodigal playlist: songs that called us back to our Father’s house, no matter how far we’ve wandered.

In a 1994 live recording of the song, Rich Mullins strums the guitar alongside his best friend and co-writer, Beaker. He introduces the song as one that was written quickly and easily for two reasons: it was their testimony, and it was the story of the lost son:
And when I thought that I was all alone
It was your voice I heard calling me back home
And I wonder now Lord
What it was that made me wait so long
And what kept You waiting for me all that time
Was Your love stronger than my foolish pride
Will You take me back now, take me back and let me be Your child

Rich Mullins and Beaker are not the only ones whose testimonies are those of prodigal sons. Whether or not we’ve spent our inheritance and lived with pigs, we’ve all fallen prey to foolish pride. We’ve all heard a voice calling us home that we ignore. We all live by a prodigal playlist. Every saint has been a prodigal. But every prodigal can also be transformed into a saint through God’s grace.

In the last minute of the video, Rich Mullins looks directly into the camera, smiles, and sings,
We’ve sinned and grown old
But our Father still waits
And he watches down the road
To see the crying boy come running back to his arms.

So, dear friends, let us smile not just at the thought of running to God. Let us smile through our tears as we actually run to him right now–and “grow young” as his beloved children.

all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian

Lectionary Texts for April 7, 2019
Isaiah 43:16-21
Psalm 126
Philippians 3:4b-14
John 12:1-8

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