Pastor’s Message – September 25,2018

The Prayer of Self Examen

The word, “exam,” is likely not a favorite word for many of us. We think of a big test in school. We think of a check-up with a physician. We think of someone looking closely at details that can impact our lives. While exams may not always feel good, or we may dread their outcomes, they are good for us. They make us wiser, inviting us to pay attention to details we easily ignore. At the end of an exam, we often experience relief.

The prayer of self examen can also bring fear and trembling. St. Iganatius of Loyola introduced this type of prayer in his Spiritual Exercises as a way of coming before God and reflecting on the day’s events. Offered at the end of the day, prayers of self examen invite the Holy Spirit to show us moments of thanksgiving as well as moments we might have handled differently. The prayer ends with surrendering all of the day to God with an eye towards a better tomorrow.

This past Sunday, our passage from James was an excellent model for a modern prayer of self examen. The Holy Spirit invites us to look within for the source of our actions, words, and decisions. More importantly, the passage offers us a prayer of hope to take into tomorrow.

Would you set aside at least one evening this week to offer this prayer? And perhaps offer it at noon time on another day? Pause in silence between each sentence to sit quietly before the Lord. Listen for his voice…
Almighty God, I submit myself to you. I resist the devil, who flees from me. I come near to you, and I thank you for coming near to me. Reveal to me the source of any conflicts today. Show me any cravings in my own life. I desire wisdom from above: wisdom that is pure, peaceful, gentle, obedient, filled with mercy and good actions, fair, and genuine. May I rise into a new day as a peacemaker, who sows seeds of justice with my peaceful acts. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
(Based on James 3:17-18, 4:1, 7-8a)

all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian

Lectionary Texts for Sunday, September 30, 2018
Esther 7:1-6, 9-10, 9:20-22
Psalm 124
James 5:13-20
Mark 9:38-50

Don’t forget we will September 30 will be Youth Sunday. We will have one worship service at 11AM.

Pastor’s Message – September 18, 2018

A Spiritual Practice with Our Words

In worship this past Sunday, we heard a strong word from the letter of James about words. At the sermon’s conclusion, I issued an invitation for us to add a certain kind of daily prayer to our spiritual practices. This prayer focuses not on our own ability to control the tongue but rather surrendering our speech to God’s creative voice.

I invite you to adapt this prayer to fit your voice and context. This draws from both James 3 and Psalm 19:14.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, Lord, my rock and my redeemer. May the content, timing, and tone of the words I speak this day spring from my commitment to you and the consideration of my neighbor. In the name of Jesus, who is the Word, I pray. Amen.

May your week abound with life-giving speech that you both give and receive as beloved children of God. It is a joy to serve as your pastor!

all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian

Lectionary Texts for Sunday, September 23, 2018
Proverbs 31:10-31
Psalm 1
James 3:13-4:3, 7-8a
Mark 9:30-37

Pastor’s Message – September 11, 2018

Tornado Warnings in a Church Daycare

I had last Wednesday afternoon all planned with work in the office and pastoral visits. However, I make plans with the knowing that God might direct my steps elsewhere. Such was the case last Wednesday when the tornado siren sounded just before 3PM.

Thankfully this story does not end with the touching down of a tornado. However, the story does end with our church staff seated on the floor with the children and teachers for over thirty minutes. In 11 years of pastoring churches with daycares or after-school programs, this was the first time I could remember the church’s staff and the childcare staff being together in the same space. Isn’t it strange how it takes the threat of disaster to force us into the same rooms with one another?

So often, churches that provide childcare programs have two entities under one steepled roof. The childcare program and the church operate largely apart from one another as separate organizations. Yet a tornado siren reminds us that at the end of the day, we are one in ministry. The siren of the Holy Spirit, calls us back “to the Rock that is higher than I,” which is Jesus Christ (Psalm 61:2).

I am grateful to work in a building whose first floor, the Child Development Center, reminds me of who Jesus is everyday.

all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian

Lectionary Texts for Sunday, September 16, 2018
Proverbs 1:20-33
Psalm 19
James 3:1-12
Mark 8:27-38

Pastor’s Message – August 28, 2018

September Worship Series: PRACTICALITY (A Study of James)

Our lives are full of stories of unsolicited advice. Most likely our teachers, parents, and grandparents have given us practical wisdom over the years in the form of popular phrases. For example:
Watch your mouth…
Don’t judge a book by its cover…
Burning bridges is not a good idea…

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that the most practical of advice has biblical roots. As Christians, obeying these commands should be the natural fruit of a relationship with Jesus Christ. Yet we are tempted and tried and find ourselves pulled away from the fruits of the Spirit. One of the best books of the Bible to draw us back on the track of lovingkindness is the letter of James. James uses simple metaphors, much like Jesus’ parables, to teach us how to live in harmony with God and each other. We will spend the month of September with this practical, short, and wise book of the New Testament. Though the titles of this sermon may seem simple, the Spirit’s lessons in James are deep.

I look forward to exploring God’s Word this month as we grow and learn together. It is an honor to serve as your pastor!
all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian

Lectionary Texts for Sunday, September 2, 2018 Lectionary Texts For Sunday, September 9, 2018
Song of Songs 2:8-13                                       Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23
Psalm 45                                                            Psalm 125
James 1:17-27                                                   James 2:1-10, 14-17
Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23                                 Mark 7:24-37

SYMPATHY…We extend sympathy to George Purnell and his family on the death of his father, Mr. Hugh Purnell who passed away on Tuesday, August 21 in Tupelo. Services were on Tuesday, August 28.

AND THE LORD ADDED…We welcome Mae Ellen Sugg into the membership and fellowship of FUMC. Mae was baptized on Sunday, August 26.

There will not be a newsletter the week of September 3rd. Happy Labor Day from the FUMC staff.

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