In the heart of Missoula...


Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors
Celebrating God's love since 1871

"Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors" is not just an advertising slogan, but a statement of how First United Methodist Church of Missoula wants to be seen in our community. First Church is a community of open hearts seeking to be a force for God's grace in the "heart" of Missoula's downtown. We are an open minded congregation, respectful of each other yet unafraid of the issues of our time. And we are a church of open doors, welcoming a wide diversity of people to be a part of our congregation. For those who can't manage our stairs you will find the elevator just inside the street level entrance to the right of the stairs. You will always find a place at First United Methodist Church!
Please visit us at 300 E. Main Street.


Check out our new Facebook page. We hope you enjoy it.

Reconcilling logo
We welcome all people into the full life and membership of this congregation.



star Church will start at 10:30 during the school year.
Children 3-12 will leave the sanctuary following the Children's Sermon for Sunday School, except for the last Sunday of the month.

Communion is held each Sunday and all attending are invited to God's Table to share in the meal.
sermonby our minister Rev. John Daniels.
Nursery care will be available to those 5 and under during the service.
There is always a coffee/fellowship time in the Narthex following the service.

You are invited to join us!


On Sunday Choir practice is in the chapel next to the sanctuary at 9:00 and the Faith and Justice Class will meet downstairs at 9:15. Other adult classes on Tuesdays.

newsletterfor complete details of all that is happening this month in our church.

February 1 - Food Drive Celebration and Sunday School Super Sundae
February 2 - Administrative Council, Clara Smith Room 7 p.m.
February 5 - UMW General Meeting, Clara Smith Room 1 p.m.
February 12 - Ruth Fellowship, Church Parlor 10 a.m.
February 12 - Amazing Grays trip 11 a.m.
February 13 - Friday Nite Out, Avery's 6 p.m.
February 15 - Bibles presented to 3rd graders 10:30 a.m.
February 15 - Family Promise week
February 18 - Vesper's Circle, Riders 1 p.m.
February 18 - Ash Wednesday Soup Supper 6 p.m. and Service 7 p.m.
February 24 - Book Group, Library 11 a.m.

Looking Ahead
March 6-8 - UMW Women's Event, Fairmont Hot Springs Registration
and Scholarship Forms

Our church is handicap accessible through the street level door on the southeast corner of the building. There is an elevator there that will bring you up to the sanctuary or take you down to fellowship hall. We have large-print bulletins with hymns, large print hymnals, and hearing assistance devices for those that are hard of hearing.
We also have video screens for hymns and scripture.
Office phone and E-mail contact information on the CONTACT US PAGE.

The life of our church includes:
(Click on colored words to find out more information.)
Adult Spiritual Growth - fall classes, online class information
links to The Book of Discipline, Bible verse search site
Children's Ministries - You Tube Christmas program video
Youth Ministries - FUMY
U of M Wesley Foundation - Facebook link
Amazing Grays - Trips for seniors
Choirs - Chancel Choir, JuBELLation Handbell Choir, Children's Joyful Noise Choir
Foundation - donations and scholarships
Membership - joining the church
Stephen Ministers - caring for one another and training information.
Information on what a Stephen Minister does
UMW - United Methodist Women schedule and fellowship group information UMW
UMM - United Methodist Men
Social Action - Family Promise, Poverello, Habitat for Humanity, Intermountain, UMCOR
Walk to Emmaus - Link to their website

Reaching out with love to our community and the world hearts
Tzedakah Pocket
Poverello noon meal 5th Saturdays
Family Promise Host
January MIC Food Bank Drive
Wesley House
Host for Homeless Connect
East Angola Pastor Support
SERRV & Fair Trade Products
Intermountain Home
Flathead Lake UMC Camp
Blackfeet United Methodist Parish
United Methodist Women’s mission projects
YWCA Battered Women’s Shelter
❤ Cub Scouts
Habitat for Humanity

Angolan Pastor Leon Kapumba

Pastor Leon Kapumba is one of the pastors that the people of Yellowstone Conference support.  Your support makes his ministry possible and that makes a difference for many people!

Pastor Leon Kapumba serves God at the Cavungo UMC in Alto Zambezi, which is located in Moxico District.  There are about 115 people in his congregation. 
In the villages nearby, Pastor Leon has started what he calls four missions, what we might call house churches.  He goes to these villages at least twice a year on foot.  He has no transportation.  In each of these ‘missions’ there is a lay preacher. 
     Pastor Leon is married and has 4 children, 3 of them are in school and one is a baby.  He pays school fees for them to attend.  It’s very important to him that his children have an education.  He has finished the 10th grade.  Besides being a pastor, he works at the saw mill.  Sometimes they have trouble getting trees to use for lumber.  He regrets that he does not have the tools he needs that he could do this kind of work on his own. 
     His church, which is made up entirely of subsistence farmers,  encouraged him to become a pastor and attend the Course of Studies at  Quessua.  He is in his second year of studies. 
     When asked how we can pray for him he said: “ I feel blessed that I can serve God and my neighbors in this way.  Pray that I will be able to continue learning and serving.”


John Daniels Pastor John Daniels

  On July 6, at 9:30 a.m., we welcomed John Daniels as FUMC’s new pastor. Many will recognize Pastor John as the former Western Mountains District Superintendent for the Yellowstone Conference. His July 6th sermon served as an introduction of the new pastor from the DS. You may also recognize his wife Terri, who sings in our choir, and his children Emily, Molly and Ethan. Emily has one year left at the University of Montana, where she is studying music education. Molly is pursuing degrees in journalism and theatre at Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington. Ethan is a student at Sentinel High School. He would like to attend UM and get a degree in a technical field associated with computer graphics.

You Tube video
Retired ministers Hugh Herbert and Barry Padget lead the congregation in singing
Brother Van's Harvest Time. Click on the arrow above to start the video.


Pastor: John Daniels
Administrative Assistants: Sharon Jackson and Rhanda Johnson
Treasurer: Leslie Lindley
Financial Secretary: Kay Duffield

Custodian: John Schaff
Nursery Attendants: Faye Gibson, Audra Clark & Juliette Viera
Junior Nursery Attendants: Sophia Clark, Kade Hedahl, Kayla Leavell, Madison Lightfield and Austin Means

Music Team:
Greg Boris, Music Director and Chancel Choir Director
Peter Edwards, Pianist/Organist
Brynn Bellingham, Handbell Choir Director
Rhanda Johnson, Joyful Noise Director

hospital **Please let the office know if you or someone in our church family needs a visit in the hospital or at home.
Church Office (406) 549-6118
or Pastor John's cell phone (406) 396-8966.

Office Hours (subject to change - call 549-6118 before coming in or to make an appointment with the pastor)
Monday - Friday: 9 a.m. - noon.

First Church loves music and hopes you will come not only to listen but to participate in it! We sing hymns as well as praise songs, often have special music and enjoy all three of our choirs. Choirs practice from September till May.
We love those who volunteer to provide special music during the summer. Call the office if you would like to bless us with your music.

Chancel Choir
FUMC Chancel Choir will begin the fall season on Sunday Sept. 8th.  Enthusiasm and love of music a must.  Previous experience is not required.  Choir meets Sundays only at 9:00 a.m. before service.  All are welcome.  Please join us!  For more information talk to choir director Greg Boris 239-1828.

JuBELLation Handbell Choir

Interested in learning/playing a new musical instrument? JuBELLation Handbell Choir, based at The First United Methodist Church, is looking for individuals interested in learning or experienced at playing handbells this season!  There are several ways to get involved and be part of this fun group!  Openings include: Full Time, Part Time, and On-call positions. During the school year practice is each Wednesday from 6-8. For more information call Joann Wallenburn at 677-4424.

bunnyJoyful Noise Children's Choir

All children from the 1st through the 8th grade are welcome to participate in making a Joyful Noise. During the school year they participate in worship once a month and rehearse on Mondays from 6:00 - 6:45 p.m. Contact Rhanda Johnson in the office (549-6118) for more information.

Adult Spiritual Growth Groups
Do you feel like you are on a spiritual journey? We hope you will allow us to walk with you on this journey and together we will find the answers to our questions. Fall classes will meet on Sunday morning, Tuesday morning, Tuesday evening and Wednesday evening. Click on the blue button below for details.
 adult ed

Interested in online adult classes? Click on UMC classes for more information.
Looking for a specific Bible Verse? Click on Bible Verse Search

The Book of Discipline is available online for your study and review: The Book of Discipline Index, The Book of Discipline Part 1,The Book of Discipline Part 2 and The Book of Resolutions 2012 Part III.

Children's Ministries
Sunday School meets during the worship service, right after Children's Time and is for  Preschool - 6th grade. Our Rock Solid program is a
Bible study that enables children to experience God through Jesus Christ.  Activities will include stories, crafts, music and scripture. 

Call the church office (549-6118) for more information. Nursery care is available for those not ready for preschool. kids christmas 2013

You Tube You can watch a You Tube video of the Twelve Days of Christmas given by the children during church December 8, 2013.
 Click on the You Tube logo.

First United Methodist Youth Fellowship (FUMY)
7th through 12th grade students meet most Wednesday evenings from 7:00 - 8:30 p.m. from September until May.
They do service projects, make discoveries about themselves and others, and have fun!

Wesley Foundation - University of Montana Campus Ministry
New to Campus? Connect with us! Campus Connection
The University of Montana Wesley House is located across the street from the campus and Miller Hall at 1327 Arthur Avenue.
College students and visitors are welcomed to stop by for a vis
it. Sunday evenings are family style dinners and Thursday evenings are a Bible Study.
For more information E-mail the Wesley House or Phone: (406) 274-3346.
Join us on facebook
Local Churches: Please send the names of U of M students from your local church to the Wesley Foundation
so they can be invited to join the
Wesley House activities.
Students are welcomed at either First or Grace UMC in Missoula.

UMW logoUnited Methodist Women
Our UMW is part of the Yellowstone Conference, which covers Montana, 1/2 Wyoming and a slice of Idaho.
You can find information on Conference and District UMW activities on the conference UMW web page.
March 6-8 - UMW Women's Event, Fairmont Hot Springs Registration and Scholarship Forms

The National organization of United Methodist Women also have a website full of information, news, and resources

Thank you letter from the Blackfeet United Methodist Parishes for the 2014 Christmas Boxes

. UMWUMW is open to any woman who would enjoy the companionship of other women and is someone who is dedicated to supporting missions near and far. UMW raises money for mission projects locally, in Montana, nationally and globally. UMW meets the first Thursday Oct-Dec and Feb-May. All meetings are at 1:00 for dessert, program and business meeting, unless otherwise announced in the church newsletter.
Other activities include: Ash Wednesday Soup Supper, July picnic for families who will attend a community band concert at Bonner Park afterward, October Apple Pie sales, and December Candy Sale.
Contact President Klairaine Nichwander 396-1663 for more information.

** UMW Fellowship Circles meet once a month. Nothing compares to a small supportive group of women!

All women of the church are invted to visit groups that interest them.
GEMS Fellowship meets the third Thursday at 7 p.m. in the church library Sept-May
This group of working women is particularly interested in the UMW Reading program and are supportive of one another.
Chair: Laela Shimer 721-1960

L.A.N.S. Fellowship meets the second Monday at 11:30 a.m. for lunch at a restaurant from Sept-Dec and Feb-May.
They are women Living Actively in the New Society. They are interested in social action in the community as well as fellowship.
Chairman: Ellie Barnes 549-1384
RUTH Fellowship meets the second Thursday at 10:00 a.m. in the church parlor Oct-May.
They invite you to come and share their fellowship, coffee, a monthly program, and outreach to church members who need a little TLC and support of missions like the YWCA Battered Women's Shelter.

Chairman: Kay Duffield 543-6722 or Judy Whiddon 258-2719
VESPERS Fellowship meets the third Wednesday at 1:00 in homes Sept-May
They have been meeting together for a long time which has led to many long friendships. They invite you to their program and meeting.
Chairman: Kay Norum 721-5750

**Special Interest Groups:
Book Group meets the fourth Thursday at 11 a.m. in the church library
year round.
Co-Chair: Laurie Ball 926-1252 & Jackie Krahn 543-3979
Knitting Group meets on Saturdays at 10:00 in homes year round.
Chairman: Carole Addis 721-1817

UMMen logoMen's Fellowship Group
The Mighty Methodist Men meet 1st & 3rd Saturdays, at 8 a.m. in the Church Library.

Stephen Ministry ChurchSM logo
We participate in Stephen Ministries, where trained Stephen Ministers walk with those whose lives are in turmoil for one reason or another.
Stephen Ministers also help with prayer requests each Sunday and serve communion. Anyone in our church family can request a Stephen Minister for themselves. We hope to offer a new class to train Stephen Ministers. Members of the congregation are encouraged to consider doing the 50-hours of training and helping others in this way. As a Stephen Minister you often find satisfaction in your own life as you nurture your care receiver.
What is a Stephen Minister?
Call Kay at 543-6722 or Peg at 542-1543 for more information.

Amazing Grays
The Amazing Grays are a group of church members who have been blessed with some gray hairs. They get together once a month for companionship and an enjoyable time. They go out to dinner, have a pot-luck and game night at the church, a holiday party or sometimes make a day trip by bus to some place in Montana. Friends are always welcome. Rides will be provided for those who no longer drive. Participants may sign up following church for the current activities.

New Members are received throughout the year. To learn more, please contact Pastor John Daniels by stopping by or calling the church office at 549-6118.

Missoula First United Methodist Church Foundation:
Donations and bequests to the Foundation are used for charitable giving, scholarships and fulfilling the church's mission. Brochure with more information on charitable giving and bequests to the Foundation is available by clicking on Foundation Brochure.
Foundation Scholarships: The Foundation offers two scholarships each Spring. The Foundation Scholarship is for an active member of our church and The Katie Payne Scholarship is for a woman pursuing a nursing or medical arts career or a career in law, government or public service. Click on the blue scholarship name above for the application.
The packet containing your application, transcript, and two letters of recommendation must be postmarked April 15th or earlier.

Walk to Emmaus Fourth Day groups for men and women also meet at the church. Walk to Emmaus weekends for men and women are held each spring. Please check out the Walk website at: www.WesternMTWalk.com
Members from other Walk communities are welcome and encouraged to help with the Walks, come to Gatherings and join 4h Day groups.
More Emmaus Community Information from Upper Room.

Social Action - Love in Motion

We give of our time, talent and gifts to local agencies such as Poverello and Family Promise, to state agencies such as the Blackfeet Parish and the Intermountain Home in Helena, to national missions through mission shares, and globally we are supporting a pastor in Angola with a monthly check. We are also a Jubilee Church to help poor countries with their debt.

Family promise logoFirst United Methodist Church of Missoula is part of 19+ churches who are working to house 3-4 homeless families with children. For more information or to volunteer please contact Barbara Blanchard Mahoney at 493-6713 or go to their website: http://familypromisemissoula.net/

I was hungry and you fed me...
Come feed God's people lunch 4 or 5 times a year at the Poverello Center.
We work at the Pov whenever there is a 5th Saturday.
Call the church office to sign up (549-6118).

We are a church partner with Missoula's Habitat for Humanity We invite you to join us for a work day! Contact the office at 549-6118 for more information.

Intermountain is a nationally accredited non-profit organization. They provide mental health and
educational services to effectively meet the diverse needs of children and families facing emotional challenges. Their primary services include: residential treatment, community-based services, and community trainings. Operating for more than 100 years, Intermountain is one of Montana’s oldest child welfare agencies.

We care about others. We participate in giving relief to victims of natural disasters through UMCOR. Our church gives generously to those affected by natural disasters like hurricanes and tsunamis and will continue to support UMCOR when it heads to new disasters.

Special Days. Special Ways. We reach out to the world with Special Offerings

Human Relations Day -February
One Great Hour of Sharing - March
Native American Ministries - April
Peace With Justice - May
World Communion - October
United Methodist Student Day - November
For more information go to: www.umcgiving.org



Sermons by Pastor John Daniels

1-25-15 The Responsiveness of the Divine

Scripture:  Jonah 3:1-5, 10

Theme:  We all have certain genes inside our body which scientists have finally identified:  there is the procrastination gene, the reluctance gene, and the avoidance gene.  We each have these in us; and Jonah did too.  But we must realize these are the most useless of genes; it is ignoring them that the peace of obedient response may arise.

         Some of you know that I have a degree in Civil Engineering.  This implies that I acknowledge, appreciate, and even enjoy the realm of science.  This being known, it is perhaps not surprising that I was recently studying a medical journal, whereupon I came across an article that described some new discoveries in the area of biology that I thought were quite interesting.  It seems that they have identified three new genes as to their specific function within the body.  Each one of these genes has been directly linked with tendencies towards certain behaviors.
         The first gene, called the distracticus divertrica, has been definitively linked to an impeding influence within the hominid specimen upon the motivational tendencies to undertake certain actions.  The second gene, called the maximonious hesitantilia, has been connected to the innate disposition of human beings to actively engage in rerouting strategies and replacement practices.  And the third gene, called the transportious rapidoppositicous, has been related to the natural disposition of many to displace themselves from proximate zones of intense or perceived challenge.
         I had to work hard to translate all of that into terms I could understand.  The first gene, the distracticus divertrical, is better known by its common name, the procrastination gene.  The second gene, maximonious hesitantilia, is better known as the reluctance gene.  The third gene, transportious rapidoppositicous, is better known as the avoidance gene.
We’re just built this way; we have an excuse.  And I am so happy to share this information with you, so that we may all go about our business, and not feel badly when we procrastinate, when we are reluctant to do something, or when we avoid our responsibilities.

         Let me pause for just a moment to let you know something.  I have not spoken a true word since I began my sermon this morning.  I made those genes up.  There is no such correlation, no such genes, no such tendencies linked to them.  BUT WOULDN’T IT BE NICE IF THIS WERE TRUE?  There would be some validation to our efforts to avoid the difficult, the challenging, the burdensome.
         Take, for example, this desire as found in Jonah.  Now, we all know a bit about Jonah.  Ask any child who has been taught the basics of the Bible, and they would tell you what about Jonah?  Jonah was the one…..(who was swallowed by a fish).  But the real lesson about Jonah is that he epitomized resistance to God’s call.  Jonah sought to avoid the command of God, and when he could no longer avoid that call, he fulfilled it only reluctantly.  He finally told the Ninevites that they would be destroyed by God for their evil ways.
         Today, I’d like to bring to your attention something that is easy to miss.  It has to do with the reason Jonah fled in the first place.  It has to do with his resistance to the call of God.  Many of us have mistakenly believed that Jonah fled because he was afraid of proclaiming the wrath of God to the Ninevites, that when this prophet stood before them, he might be chased from the city, or beaten, or killed, like so many other prophets of God before.  Jonah is unique, however, in that he flees the command of God – BECAUSE HE IS AFRAID GOD WILL SHOW MERCY TO THEM.  In chapter 3, verse 10, it says, “When God saw what the people of Nineveh did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; but this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry.  Jonah prayed to the Lord, and said, “O Lord!  Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country?  That is why I fled;…for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing.”
         This is a major case of sour grapes.  Jonah didn’t want God to be merciful to the Ninevites; he wanted God to wipe them out!  He ran because he feared God’s mercy for others. 
Jonah could find no peace because he didn’t agree with God’s verdict, and wanted wrath instead of mercy.  Now, this is strange, we might think, to flee from God’s mercy, to not want God to bless someone that is undeserving. 
The question of the hour then is this:  do we ever do this kind of thing?  Do we sometimes think God shouldn’t bless certain people?  Do we sometimes believe that God should share good things only with people who are faithful, virtuous, kind, truthful, or somehow purer than others?  Do we ever want God to be partial, to be particular with his forgiveness, his mercy, his blessing, and his love?  Do we ever find ourselves wishing that God would conveniently get rid of people we find we don’t like?

I need to prepare you for what I’m going to say next.  I’m going to begin speaking about a person in my past, a person whom I knew in junior high and senior high – and I’m going to call him a name.  A four-letter name.  I need to ask your forgiveness beforehand.  This person’s name was David.  Here’s the part where I call him a name; ready?.........David was a jerk.  A real pain in the neck.  He was arrogant, rude, pompous, greedy, and obnoxious.  I know, because I was the object of his torture.  From about the eighth grade until eleventh, David made it his task to attack me with his words, gestures, threats, and swearing.  I never did figure out why; we never knew each other very well, we never talked, never did anything together.  Slowly, over time, David just came to hate me for nothing I knew I had done.  And others told me the same thing about him – he was mean to them, called them names, sometimes threw rocks at them or something like that.  David was a jerk.
David tried out for the high school basketball team – and made it.  This was no small feat in a high school of 2,000 students.  This was unfair, I decided.  Jerks shouldn’t be allowed to play basketball for my high school.  David also began dating the most popular girl in the school.  This was also unfair, I decided.  Jerks shouldn’t get to date popular girls.  David aced an English course I struggled with.  This, too, was unfair, I decided.  Jerks shouldn’t be smart.  On and on, my resentment grew as David continued to be a jerk who continued to be blessed.  Where’s the fairness in this?
Have you ever known a David?  Someone who got all the breaks but didn’t deserve them; someone whom we know has an untidy past but a clean-looking present; someone who has wronged us but goes on as if nothing bad happened, or is under the mistaken belief of their own superiority, or has the arrogance to presume others deserved their ridicule and taunting.   Someone, in our eyes, who did not deserve good things.  I think we all knew or know a David, we all knew or know Ninevites, in our lives.  And we likely resent the good things that come their way.  We have much in common with Jonah along these lines.
         Now comes the hard lesson given to Jonah, given to us, in light of these people we call to mind:  We are never to begrudge God’s choice of who to bless with his forgiveness.  We are poor judges of merit; there are those who may seem undeserving, but perhaps they have the greater need for blessing.
         I can’t help but wonder if this wasn’t the case for David.  My hatred of this person did not abate, but his hatred of me did.  In about the eleventh grade, for no reason I could tell, David stopped being mean to me.  He stopped calling me names, he stopped threatening me, he stopped glaring at me with anger in his heart.  I don’t know why.  But I do know some other things about David.  His life was not all roses.  He had a pretty tough family life, I discovered.  He had a lot of people who didn’t like him.  He didn’t do too well on the basketball team, sitting on the bench much of the time.  I didn’t know many details, but I realized that he was a person who probably had a lot of gaps in his life he was trying to fill.  Perhaps he needed good things in life much more desperately than myself; perhaps he had made some real decision to change as a result of seeing a better way; maybe he discovered that the natural course of hatred leads only to greater emptiness and animosity, and decided to try kindness instead.
         Anyway, one day, during my volleyball class, in which David was on the opposite team from my own, we were in the middle of a pretty good volley.  I remember making a fairly good play – I think it was a spike – which the other team missed.  And then David said it.  He said it to me.  Loud enough for pretty much everyone to hear.  He said, “Good shot.”  I was stunned.  Just like that, it seemed his hatred had stopped, his anger over.  I never heard another mean thing from him.
         Who is deserving of God’s blessing?  Only God may judge.  Whom does God choose to forgive?  Anyone who truly asks.  Whom does God ask for us to reach out to, with forgiveness in our hearts and love in our souls?  ESPECIALLY those who are angry, afraid, hurt, wounded, empty, self-destructive, sinful, and suffering.  Call them Ninevites, call them David, call them your enemy, call them unworthy, unrighteous, unlikeable, unloveable – and then, cast those labels aside.  THEY ARE THE ONES WHOM GOD LOVES; THEY ARE THE ONES GOD WANTS US TO LOVE.  It is once we respond to God’s call that we can find the peace that Jonah seemed to miss – the peace of having pleased God. 


1-18-15  Who?  Me?
Scripture:  I Samuel 3:1-20
Theme:  Sometimes we don’t want to hear the truth.  Sometimes we know it’s going to hurt.  But the truth is ultimately the only thing that sets us free – and freedom in this sense is peace of mind, calm of heart – the peace that knows, the calm that is aware.

Yesterday, we held our second Vision Retreat for this church.  A vision retreat is a gathering of leaders in our church for the purpose of long-range planning – a time of looking down the road of the future for our church.  Our guiding question is:  “WHAT DOES GOD WANT US TO DO OR BE?”, and we spend time listening for the voice of God, through each other, through ideas, through brainstorming, through presentations, and of course through prayer.

I’d like to let you know what I think I heard God telling this church to do and be in the future.  For one, I heard the voice of God say that the church ought to budget for a pastoral visitation vehicle, a vehicle which is efficient, quick, with great gas mileage….in other words, a motorcycle. Read more...


1/11/15  The Drastic Measures of God’s Peace
Scriptures:  Mark 1:4-11
Theme:  Remembering Christ’s baptism gives us opportunity to think about the nature of baptism being an act acknowledging and receiving God’s grace.  The peace that comes from repentance is perhaps the greatest sign of this reception – not the kind of peace which leads to an uncomplicated or stress-free life, but the kind of peace that knows to whom we belong, and who will remain with us. 

They say that peace results from finishing what you have started.  So yesterday, I finished off a large bar of chocolate that we had opened around Christmas, an entire box of junior mints from a stocking, and the last of the gingerbread cookies in our house – about eight in number.  I have to admit, I felt an increased sense of peacefulness.
There are many forms of peace, aren’t there?  Finishing what one begins is just one such form.  Being quiet is another.  Immersing oneself in things that soothe and comfort, such as music or poetry, can also calm the soul, and give one a sense of peace.
And then, there are other forms of peace that have less to do with personal peace than with global or even universal peace.  These are the kinds of peace that come when violence is ended, when justice is served, when hatred is replaced by love, when reconciliation is substituted for revenge. 
Today, we have an image of peace before us.  “The Spirit descended on Jesus like a dove.”  It’s a beautiful image.  It pairs the peaceful image of a delicate creature associated with gentleness and hope with the shared presence of God. 
Grace and peace.  The two go together; the moment speaks clearly to this.  But how?  How does this work?  What kind of peace are we talking about?  Peace is often described as the most sought after but rarest occurring state on earth.  We are a violent, disturbed, complicated, and wound up world, where peace is so fleeting, so difficult to come by, let alone maintain.  We only have to look towards France, or Syria, or Nigeria, or even Missoula, Montana, to see that violence has a loud voice in our world.
A former president of the Norwegian Academy of Sciences and historians from England, Egypt, Germany, and India have come up with some startling information: Since 3600 B.C. there have been 14,351 wars, 3.64 billion people killed, 1656 arms races and 8,000 peace treaties broken in violence actions.   $2.95 x 10E17 worth of property destroyed (this equates to $295,000,000,000,000,000 -- $295 quadrillion).
World peace is rare; indeed, it can be readily argued that world peace is an impossibility.  It would seem that the best we can hope for is to work toward a greater peace than there is now.
But it is a different matter to consider the kind of peace that I think Christ received in that baptism moment.  He received the Spirit of God like a dove.  To me, this says that it was the peace of God that he received.  It is this peace that the Christian pursues.  For without this peace, none other is truly possible.  Read more...

1-4-2015 Faith’s Re-Directive Tendencies
Theme:  The story of the Magi speaks of one of the main tenets of faith – its propensity to encourage re-direction.  From the moment when they heeded the star and the message in their dreams, to the first declaration of Jesus and his ministry of repentance, the message of God’s incarnation invites divergence from what was toward what is and shall be with God.

        I came across an interesting bit of news the other day that I wanted to share with you.  It concerns this individual (Rafael Antonio Lozano, Jr., now known as “Winter”).  Winter is a freelance software programmer and consultant who, in 1997, announced that he intended to visit every single Starbucks store in the world.  For each location to "count" he would drink "at least one four-ounce sample of caffeinated coffee from each store READ MORE


12-24-14 Christmas Eve Message

Christmas Eve Sermon:  What is it?  How does it work?  Is it important to my life?
Since this is the season of levity and joy, since our hearts have been strangely warmed again at this time of year, I thought it might be most appropriate if we took a moment to play a game together; it’s called “What is it?  How does it work?  And Is it important to my life?.”

What is this?  This is a toothpaste squeezer;
How does it work?  It works like this: (overhead);
Is it important to my life?  It is not considered a necessity of life, but can help with that last annoying bit of paste at the end of the tube. Read more of the message...

12-21-14 The Challenge of God’s Favor 

Scripture:  Luke 1:26-38

Theme:  With God, rules change, impossibilities happen, and mystery wins.  Faith means to trust more in God’s impossibility than in our own possibilities.

Today, I would like to share with you something that is impossible.  I am going to make liquid flow uphill.  (demonstrate)
Impossible – but true. (explain)

Here are some other things that might seem improbable or impossible, but are true:
Maine is the closest U.S. state to Africa.
Anne Frank, Martin Luther King Jr., and Barbara Walters were born in the same year, 1929.
Cleopatra lived closer to the invention of the iPhone than she did to the building of the Great Pyramid.
Russia has a larger surface area than Pluto.
Saudi Arabia imports camels from Australia.
Hippo milk is pink.
The last time the Chicago Cubs won the baseball World Series, the Ottoman Empire still existed.
Humans share 50% of their DNA with bananas.
There are more stars in space than there are grains of sand on every beach on Earth.
There are more atoms in a glass of water than glasses of water in all the oceans on Earth.

The truth is indeed stranger than fiction, sometimes.  We know this in our own lives, the many times we have been surprised, the times we experienced extreme “coincidences,” the times we saw something happen that was beyond belief. 
Probably everyone here has experienced more than one time when what we thought was impossible, actually occurred.

Impossible things, such as a hole in one on the golf course, do sometimes happen.
Impossible things, like acing a math test, do sometimes happen.
Impossible things, like finding out you have all the ingredients for a recipe actually in the cupboard or refrigerator and don’t have to run to the store, do sometimes happen.
And then, there are bigger impossible things that sometimes do happen.
Impossible things, like congress acting in a bi-partisan manner, do sometimes happen.
Impossible things, like the children actually cleaning up their room when asked the first time, do sometimes happen.
Impossible things like your husband actually putting down the toilet seat, or picking his dirty clothes off the floor, do sometimes happen (yes, I am speaking from personal experience here, according to my wife).
Impossible things, like your pastor keeping worship from running over time, do sometimes happen.
And then, there are even bigger, even more impossible things that sometimes do happen.
Impossible things, like being forgiven of something you did to someone else, do sometimes happen.
Impossible things, like forgiving that person who hurt you so, do sometimes happen.
Impossible things, like discovering the cancer is gone, the broken heart has healed, the addiction has been broken, the anger has dissolved, the application has been accepted, the despair has lifted, or the animosity ended, do sometimes happen.

Impossible things, like an insignificant fourteen or fifteen year old girl shackled by poverty and living in a backward land in an oppressive time being chosen by God to take part in the dramatic intrusion of the divine into human affairs for the radical transformation of the world, do sometimes happen.

The Christmas story is the story of God’s favoritism for the impossible.  In fact, he does his most amazing work in the area known as impossible.  Some would go quickly to the impossible physical feats attributed to God and Jesus in the Bible – the parting of the waters by Moses, the chariot to heaven for Elijah, the walking on water by Jesus, the raising of the dead by God’s son, the resurrection of Christ.  But I think there are greater impossibilities that God works with everyday, all the time, whenever we take God’s lead and replace hatred with love, replace isolation with connection, replace knowledge with faith, replace tension with trust, replace criticism with compassion, or replace apathy with justice.  If you work with a variety of people regularly, you’ve seen how impossible these kinds of trades can be.  BUT THEY DO HAPPEN, SOMETIMES.
And where they happen, I think God is most visibly alive.  For this is the character of God – that he lives in the twilight zone between reason and mystery, that he is most active in the shadows that lie between human strength and human frailty, that he occupies the space between the stark horrors of darkness and the profound joy of light.  That’s where he met Mary, on that day so long ago, and that’s where Mary met God, in her willingness to trade the security of the knowable for the challenge of the impossible.  For God so often dwells in the impossible; and through the impossible, all that is possible arises.  This is God’s bottom line – as our scripture lesson puts it from the angel Gabriel – “for with God nothing will be impossible.”
The author Madeleine L'Engle's wrote a beautiful verse reflecting God’s invitation to have faith in God’s repeated embrace of the impossible:

This is the irrational season
When love blooms bright and wild.
Had Mary been filled with reason
There'd have been no room for the child.

We need reason; it is an essential tool that we possess as human beings.  But sometimes, reason can get in the way.  Logic, though it can guide so much of life in so many needed ways, can sometimes miss the obvious.  Though we need to rely upon our senses to inform us of what is real and true, the perception that sometimes results might not be accurate.  There are many other, less concrete ways in which we discover what is truly valuable in life – ask anyone who has loved another, who has cared beyond what was expected, who has given of themselves sacrificially for the benefit of someone in need.  None of these altruisms make sense in the realms of reason, logic, or the world’s self-possessed eyes.  But these are often where the greatest experiences of life are found; this is often where people have discovered hope that is not bound by understanding; this is often where meaning is unquestioned.  Impossible – but true.
 I would like to leave you this morning with an insight shared by Frederick Buechner in his book, The Hungering Dark:

“Those who believe in God can never in a way be sure of him again.  Once they have seen him in a stable, they can never be sure where he will appear or to what lengths he will go or to what ludicrous depths of self-humiliation he will descend in his wild pursuit of man.  If the holiness and the awful power and majesty of God were present in this least auspicious of all events, this birth of a peasant’s child, then there is no place or time so lowly and earthbound but that holiness can be present there, too.  And this means that we are never safe, that there is no place where we can hide from God, no place where we are safe from his power to break in two and recreate the human heart because it is just where he seems most helpless that he is most strong, and just where we least expect him that he comes most fully.”


Can I share with you one last story that, at least for me, expresses this well?  That where the principles of God’s will and desire for his people are acted upon to shape life, impossible things regularly occur? 
 Under a cultural-exchange program, Alan Abramskeay and his family in Roanoke, Texas, were hosts to a rabbi from Russia at Christmas time. They decided to introduce him to a culinary treat that was probably not available in his country: They took him to their favorite Chinese restaurant.
Throughout the meal, the rabbi spoke excitedly about the wonders of North America in comparison to the bleak conditions in his homeland. When they had finished eating, the waiter brought the check and presented each of them with a small brass Christmas-tree ornament as a seasonal gift.
They all laughed when Abramsky's father pointed out that the ornaments were stamped "Made in India." But the laughter subsided when they saw that the rabbi was quietly crying. Concerned, Abramsky's father asked the rabbi if he was offended because he'd been given a gift for a Christian holiday.
He smiled, shook his head and said, "No, that’s not it.  I was shedding tears of joy to be in a place where a Buddhist gives a Jew a Christmas gift made by a Hindu!" (5)
Impossible?  Not for God.  And not for those who trust in God.  Even when things seem impossible.  Especially when things seem impossible.  God makes all things possible.


Listening to Wilderness Voices
Scripture: John 1:6-8, 19-28
Theme: Many Christians believe that the point of faith is to receive a “faith tan” – receiving what God offers in Christ as a gift meant only for us, a gift to be received to our satisfaction, our security, our benefit. The problem with this is that the gift of Jesus and his love, as designed, as intended, was meant to be both received and shared; you cannot keep it to yourself for it to be real. Otherwise, a kind of spiritual skin cancer grows – cancerous in the sense of that love, meant to be reflected to others, becomes an object of possession, rather than distribution. For Jesus to be real, Jesus must be shared.

“There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.”

Who here likes light? Especially as the fog of this past week seems to still be lingering around? Especially as the nights get longer and longer? Especially as the beauty of this season shows forth brilliantly in the light displays in yards and houses and stores. But – things can get out of control, can’t they?

“John the Baptist came to bear testimony to the light…” says our scripture lesson today. This is the light of God in Jesus his Son. It is a light needed by the world. Yet, things can get very out of line regarding this light, and how it was designed to be shared with all by those who receive its radiance – for so very often it is received but not shared, gloried in but not used, praised over but not lived in.
This last week, as I was basking in the radiance of the Christmas spirit – full of light and peace and hope-- I came across a quote that stunned me. The quote had to do with this:
Here is what it said: “Many Christians are preoccupied with tanning themselves in the radiance of Jesus – to sit in the light of God, allowing its radiance to warm, comfort, and encourage their own personal journey in this world. But just as too much time basking our bodies in the sun produces skin cancer, too much time basking our own spirit in the light of Jesus can produce soul cancer, resulting in the paradox of a self-serving faith. The light of God was meant for all – we receive its fullness only as we give it away.”
This brought to mind a story I wanted to share with you, written by Robert Fulghum about a true life experience he had. The story is called Life as a Fragment of a Mirror.

Life as a Fragment of a Mirror by Robert Fulghum
Author Robert Fulghum (All I Ever Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, and It Was On Fire When I Lay Down On It) tells this story of one of his professors, a wise man whose name was Alexander Papaderos:

Many years ago, I was attending a two-week seminar on Greek culture; the seminar leader was Dr. Alexander Papaderos. During the last session on the last morning of the seminar, Dr. Papaderos turned and made the ritual gesture: “Are there any questions?”

Quiet quilted the room. These two weeks had generated enough questions for a lifetime, but for now, there was only silence.

“No questions?” Papaderos swept the room with his eyes.
So, I asked.

“Dr. Papaderos, what is the meaning of life?”

The usual laughter followed, and people stirred to go.
Papaderos held up his hand and stilled the room and looked at me for a long time, asking with his eyes if I was serious and seeing from my eyes that I was.
“I will answer your question.”
Taking his wallet out of his hip pocket, he fished into a leather billfold and brought out a very small round mirror, about the size of a quarter.

And what he said went something like this:
“When I was a small child, during the war, we were very poor and we lived in a remote village. One day, on the road, I found the broken pieces of a mirror. A German motorcycle had been wrecked in that place.

“I tried to find all the pieces and put them together, but it was not possible, so I kept only the largest piece. This one. And by scratching it on a stone, I made it round. I began to play with it as a toy and became fascinated by the fact that I could reflect light into dark places where the sun would never shine–in deep holes and crevices and dark closets. It became a game for me to get light into the most inaccessible places I could find.
“I kept the little mirror, and as I went about my growing up, I would take it out in idle moments and continue the challenge of the game. As I became a man, I grew to understand that this was not just a child’s game but a metaphor for what I might do with my life. I came to understand that I am not the light or the source of light. But light–truth, understanding, knowledge–is there, and it will only shine in many dark places if I reflect it.
“I am a fragment of a mirror whose whole design and shape I do not know. Nevertheless, with what I have I can reflect light into the dark places of this world–into the black places in the hearts of men–and change some things in some people. Perhaps others may see and do likewise. This is what I am about. This is the meaning of life.”
And then he took his small mirror and, holding it carefully, caught the bright rays of daylight streaming through the window and reflected them onto my face and onto my hands folded on the desk.

You and I are fragments of a mirror whose whole design and shape we do not fully know. Nevertheless, with what we have we can reflect light into the dark places of this world – into the black places in the hearts of people –and change some things in some people. This is who we are as followers of Jesus. This is the meaning of our lives.

(The story ends this way…..hand out mirrors)

12-07-14 Children's Christmas pagaent - no sermon.



7-6-14 - A Final Word from the District Superintendent

Scripture:  Colossians 1:1-14
Theme:  The DS has some insights on the new pastor appointed under his watch – and there are concerns!  But not if we remember what God has said to us consistently, constantly, as reflected in today’s scripture – we share in the inheritance of the saints in the light; we are given the opportunities to grow in the knowledge of God; and God is with us every step of the way. http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-XElA0vVI98c/UDUjEPHYqzI/AAAAAAAAuQQ/tg42yGZ4X3k/s1600/harley_davidson_2013_breakout_cvo_in_pagan_gold_paint_marks_110th_anniversary_up5af.jpg

Recently, I made a request of our Bishop Elaine Stanovsky – that she would grant an extension to the position of Western Mountains District Superintendent until 10:30am, July 6th, 2014.  She graciously extended that privilege, and so I stand here before you as the Western Mountains District Superintendent for the next 25 minutes.  I felt this was an important request to make, for as District Superintendent overseeing the new appointment to this church, the First United Methodist Church of Missoula, Montana, I needed to raise up to your awareness some things about your newly appointed pastor.  I am uniquely qualified to make commentary, I believe, for I know this new pastor fairly well – we talk on a regular basis, and have done so for over 40 years.  Let me put it to you directly – there are some things you really ought to know about him. Read more of the message


First United Methodist Church of Missoula / Kay Duffield, Webmaster (hart2u2@yahoo.com)