tapestry

In the heart of Missoula...

Jesus

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!
map
Please visit us at 300 E. Main Street.

 

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



Reconcilling logo
MISSOULA FIRST UNITED METHODIST CHURCH is a Reconciling Congregation.
We welcome all people into the full life and membership of this congregation.

 

 

 

church
star Church services at 8:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.

Communion is held each Sunday and all attending are invited to God's Table to share in the meal.
Nursery care will be available to those 5 and under during the services.
There is always a coffee/fellowship time in the Narthex following the service.
You are invited to join us!

sermonby our minister Rev. John Daniels

Contact Greg Boris or the Church office if you would like to provide special music during the summer.
During the school year on Sunday Choir practice is in the chapel next to the sanctuary at 9:00
Sunday School will resume in September. Sunday School: Children 3-12 will leave the sanctuary following the 10:30 children's Sermon for Sunday School, except for the last Sunday of the month.

The Faith and Justice Class will meet downstairs at 9:15.
Religion and Science Class on Tuesdays at 10:00.

New Member Classes - First UMC will be holding new member classes when there is interest. These classes will be not only for those interested in becoming members of the church, but also for those with questions about the Christian faith, church life, the Methodist denomination, and why we do what we do in our church.  The class runs for five sessions, with group input shaping potential Sundays for reception into the church (for those who wish to join).  If you are interested in this class, please contact the church office at 549-6118 or e-mail at FUMCMissoula@gmail.com.  We hope you will join us!


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

JUNE EVENTS
June 3 Kitchen Table Conversations, 5:30, Library
June 10 Kitchen Table Conversations, 5:30, Library
June 12 Friday Night Out, 6 p.m
June 13 Rising from the Ashes, 8:30-5:30, University Congregational
June 14 Mission Trip Lasagna Luncheon Fundraiser, Fellowship Hall
June 18-20 Yellowstone Annual Conference, Helena
June 20 Gay Pride Parade, 1 p.m.
June 20 Gay Men's Chorus, 7 p.m.

JULY EVENTS
July 12 Youth Home Run for Kids
July 14 August Tower Tidings Deadline
July 20 Mission u Registration Deadline

AUGUST EVENTS
August 7-8 Mission u, Mission Valley UMC

Accessibility
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. Ask the ushers for help when you arrive and they will find what you need.
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 - class descriptions, online class information and
links to The Book of Discipline
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 as we journey through life
Information on what a Stephen Minister does and training information.
Social Action - Family Promise, Poverello, Habitat for Humanity, Intermountain, UMCOR
UMW - United Methodist Women schedule and fellowship group information UMW
UMM - United Methodist Men
Walk to Emmaus - Link to their website

Reaching out with love to our community and the world hearts
You can help the campaign to raise money to buy a truck for Ken Koome,
missionary in East Angola more information...
Tzedakah Pocket
Family Promise Host
Missoula Interfaith Collaborative & January Food Bank Drive
Host for Homeless Connect
Poverello noon meal 5th Saturdays
East Angola Pastor Support
United Methodist Women’s mission projects
SERRV & Fair Trade Products
Intermountain Home
Flathead Lake UMC Camp
Blackfeet United Methodist Parish
(BUMP)
YWCA Battered Women’s Shelter
❤ Cub Scouts
Habitat for Humanity
Salvation Army
❤ UMCOR
Wesley House


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.

crossStaff
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
Laura Jacquette, Pianist/Organist 8:30

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.

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.”

 


Choirs
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 Facebook
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 invited 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
Stephen Ministers help with prayer requests each Sunday and serve communion.
As a congregation we participate in Stephen Ministries, where trained Stephen Ministers walk with those whose lives are in turmoil for one reason or another. Anyone in our church family can request a Stephen Minister for themselves. 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 tools to help in your own life as well as nurture your care receiver. More information can be found at:
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.

Membership
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.
New Member class currently under way.

 

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.

Intermountainhttp://www.intermountain.org/
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.

UMCOR
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

 

BACK TO TOP

Sermons by Pastor John Daniels

6-21-15   Fearfully and Wonderfully Made
Scripture:  Psalm 139
Theme:  The Psalmist states that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” – fearfully made in our capacity to do harm, hate, and destroy; wonderfully made in that we can rise above such base actions and attitudes, and move into a pattern of grace established – and offered – by God. 

This past week, I attended our conference’s annual meeting in Helena – about 200 pastors and parishioners come together for the purpose of conducting business, fellowship, and worship.  I had the privilege of driving Kutela Katembo around Helena, between the meeting space and his hotel.  Kutela is the missionary we had speak at worship last Sunday; he’s from the Democratic Republic of Congo, an African by birth.  In our drive from Missoula to Helena, I found him to be a kind, sincere, intelligent person of faith who is intent on improving the world through his upcoming missionary work in Angola.
On the second day of the conference, I picked up Kutela from his hotel to drive him to the day’s meetings.  I asked him how things went the day before, after I dropped him off at the hotel.   He told me he took a walk, heading towards the center of the city, but that he had received such glaring from people he became afraid, and returned back to his hotel.  “The people looked at me as if I was dangerous, or as if they were scared or angry at me; it didn’t feel good.”  He told me.  That made me really, really sad.
Several months ago, I had a visit from a person who said she wanted to talk to me about some faith matters.  When we met, she let me know that she had been thrown out of her church for being in a relationship with another woman.  Members of her church were then sending her e-mails full of hatred and threats.  The pastor had told her directly that she was going to hell.  That made me really, really sad.
My wife called me a couple of days ago, and asked me if I had seen the news.  She told me about the church in Charlestown, South Carolina, where a young man had murdered nine people in a Bible Study group – and she said in disbelief  “It was in a Methodist church!”  That made me really, really sad.
A question:  what’s going on?
An answer:  what’s been going on for far too long. 
The Psalmist says that we are fearfully and wonderfully made.  It is no mystery about the fearfully made part, perhaps – there is so much darkness in the human race.  Hatred.  Animosity.  Violence.  Racism.  Prejudice.  Conflict.  Divisiveness.  Tension.   Death.
Many times, the things that make us different from each other are the source of such attitudes and tensions.   We so easily fear what is unknown, and we so easily let that fear turn into animosity, which is a close companion to hate.  The person who is different from us will always have a degree of the unknown about them, thus can always be someone to fear and even hate.  What changes this equation is if the unknown becomes more known.  Fear begins to lose its grip on life when that which is feared is better understood.
We, at the First United Methodist Church in Missoula, Montana, have identified ourselves as a reconciling congregation.  What that means is that we see our faith in terms of bringing light into these dark parts of humanity, especially in regard to how our society, and even our Christian community has treated our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered brothers and sisters.  We identify ourselves with an inclusive God who offers us unconditional love – and desires us to do the same with each other.   We believe that “we are each also wonderfully made,” as the Psalmist proclaims; that it was God “who formed our inward parts, who knit us together in our mother’s womb.”  We believe that each person, created by God, is precious in God’s sight – and should be in ours as well.  We wish to see persons reconciled to each other – able to live together in Christian love, working for justice, peace, and understanding.  Jesus preached and lived love, not hate; we seek to do likewise, with ALL people.
(We’ve been working on something in our church recently – a series of interviews on video tape, where persons in our church share why they belong to this Body of Christ.  Jana Staton has been overseeing the project, and she previewed it for our Reconciling Breakfast meeting at Annual Conference this past week – and we both thought it shares a good sense of what is important to us here.)
I believe I can speak for this congregation, and many others like us, when I proclaim that we’re sorry for the pain that sometimes arises from the religious community, the pain that is caused by judgment and condemnation, derision and insult.  These things have occurred and sadly continue to occur in the Christian world, and, again, sadly, even in our Methodist denomination.  Such things should not be.  But,  (As you hear from these individuals in the video, ) we in this Body of Christ intend to translate our sorrow into progress toward a better world, a world in which:

When I was learning to be a pastor, my supervising pastor, Charles Schuster, told of an experience he had that stands in my mind as a vision of what we are working for in the Body of Christ.  One year, Charles was the delegate to our quadrennial General Conference, a huge gathering of United Methodist clergy and laity who get together to decide denominational law and mission.  There’s a lot of voting on petitions and rules.  Charles spoke about how in the midst of these thousands of delegates, he found himself sitting for days next to a person who voted exactly opposite of his vote.  The way Charles told it, they voted back then by standing – when he would stand, his neighbor would sit.  When he would sit, his neighbor would stand.  On every issue.  In every vote.  With every petition.  They voted exactly opposite every time for several days.
            On the last day, after the last vote, Charles said something very Methodist happened.  The man sitting next to him turned to him – and gave him a great, big hug.  And Charles, a bit surprised, thought to himself “of course!” and hugged him back.  And I believe Charles said it this way – “In that hug, I was reminded that the love of Christ is greater than any difference between people.”
The love of Christ is greater than any difference between people.  John Wesley agreed, saying that we agree to disagree for sake of a greater love.  The truth of the matter is that it will never be possible for all persons to think alike, even in the Body of Christ.  But it is possible for all persons to love alike, especially in the Body of Christ.  Jesus showed us how.  Unconditional love is God’s manner toward us; we are loved beyond reason, beyond imagination, no matter whether we are black or white, gay or straight, republican or democrat, tall or short, Christian or atheist – God’s love is for all.  May our love continue to follow God’s lead.

6-14-15   Redefining Pride
Scripture:  II Corinthians 5:6-17

Theme:  Is pride always a bad thing?  Pride has its place – but never as a statement of superiority or self-righteousness.  Pride as confidence and trust in what one believes in describes the faith we have in Jesus – we have confidence in Christ.

          This past week, while I was pouring over our scripture lesson for today, I found myself – troubled.  Troubled by one particular verse.  One I have read many times in the past, but this week, it troubled me more than usual.  It is verse 12, where Paul says “We are not commending ourselves to you again, but giving you an opportunity to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast in outward appearance and not in the heart.”  I AM GIVING YOU AN OPPORTUNITY TO BOAST ABOUT US.  To my ears, this sounded a bit, well, ….Self-absorbed?  The word that kept coming to my mind was pride, in the negative sense.  If someone came up to us and said, “Hey, look at what I’m doing here; and please boast to others about me,” wouldn’t we feel uncomfortable?  Wouldn’t we call that person prideful, in the negative sense?

          It brings to mind a question I wrestled with this week, and it is this:  Is it OK to be a proud Christian?  Paul kind of sounds like he’s being proud, in that it seems like he’s asking people to boast about him and the disciples………….Is it OK to be a proud Christian?

          It depends a lot upon the type of pride we’re talking about, I believe.  Pride can be a negative thing or a positive thing.  Pride as ego-driven self-absorption is usually a negative thing; it speaks of selfishness, greed, arrogance, and out of control ego.  Pride can be the thing that makes a person think and behave as if they are more important than they really are.  It creeps in at the subtlest invitation, ready to bloom at any moment self becomes too much of a priority.  I like how pride is described by David Rhodes:  “Pride is the dandelion of the soul. Its root goes deep; only a little left behind sprouts again. Its seeds lodge in the tiniest encouraging cracks. And it flourishes in good soil: The danger of pride is that it feeds on goodness.”

          But there is another form of pride, one much more in line with what I believe Paul is advocating:  Pride as healthy confidence, in ourselves and in another.  Paul states that “we are always confident; …we walk by faith, not by sight; we are convinced that one has died for all…so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, bur for him who died and was raised for them.”
          Paul is proud, but his pride is centered on his confidence in Jesus, and of his decision to follow wherever Jesus leads.
Christian pride does not mean to be proud to be a Christian in a manner of superiority, nor does it entail pride in the sense of self-righteousness.  Both are abhorrent to God.  Christian pride means just that – pride in Christ.  Pride in the Christ in us.  Confident of the new creation that happens with faith.  Confident of one’s immeasurable value in the eyes of God.  Confident of how God is prejudiced in our favor.
J. Paul Sampley, Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins at the School of Theology at Boston University, says that “The most basic fact for Christians is this:  People have value because Christ has died for them.  People, whoever they are, whether they have responded to Christ or not – Christ died for everyone – are treasured by God.  From the moment of Christ’s death, everyone, everyone, has value.  The problem rests with us.  We often want to establish hurdles that others must jump before we will grant them value.  They must think the way we do, act the way we do, vote the way we do, land on our issues the way we want them to – and the list could go on and on.  No, each person’s value has already been established by Christ’s death for them, not by their response to that death.  So we do not need to inquire whether persons are fellow Christians before we know that they deserve to be loved and treated with respect.  They are already valuable because Christ has died for them.”
          People have value because Christ died for them.  All people.  Everyone.  Whether or not they are Christians.  Whether or not they acknowledge God.  Whether or not they are likeable people.  Whether or not they are nice to us.  People have value; God has given it to them through Christ.  This is what I believe it means to have Christian pride – pride in what Christ has done for us, for all of us.  As Paul states it, “From now on, we regard no one from a human point of view….if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation:  everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”

          Can I tell you of something I’m proud of, in this sense?  Something we are doing as followers of Christ?  Something we are doing as United Methodists?  It has to do with the love we put into action around the world for the sake of Christ’s love that promises something new.  It is something Methodists are passionate about; something I believe we are proud of, in the right way.  We have here today Kutela Katembo, who is soon to become our denomination’s commissioned missionary to Angola, sent there for the purpose of agricultural development.  He goes in the confidence of those who trust that God is at work in and through us as we strive to love people in tangible, practical ways.  I’d like to invite him to share with us today.

(Kutela)

          John Mogabgab, founding editor for Weavings magazine, said that “there is no path to God that is not first God’s path to us.”  This is the confidence we have as Christians – that God will lead us through faith to places and people and circumstances that will continue to work new creation in us and others.  We pray this for Kutela in his new life in Angola; we pray this for each person in this fellowship; may the love of Christ urge us on. 

 

June 7, 2015  God’s Definition of Family
Scripture:  Mark 3:20-35
Theme:  What does it mean to be family?  Jesus had a take on this – a house united (“a house divided against itself cannot stand”), a house that works for God (and doesn’t blaspheme the Holy Spirit); and a house that has an extended understanding of its membership (beyond bloodlines—those who do the will of God).  This is who we are as the family of God.

Recently, I had an unusually busy day.  I had visited the hospital twice, visited with a parishioner about some issue, visited with two individuals outside of our faith community asking for assistance, led two classes and been a part of one meeting, and received several phone calls of a rather intense nature.  I was sitting at my desk at home towards evening, feeling a little tired and stressed, when the phone rang again.  I must admit I reluctantly reached for the phone in my pocket, not really feeling like conversing about another pastoral matter, when everything changed.  For as I looked at the screen on my smartphone, it told me that my in-laws were calling.  My stress lifted as I answered their call; it was only a two  minute chat or so, but it made a big difference in my day.  Automatically, my sense of peace increased. 
Family.  It is a very good feeling, to be in the midst of those who love us unconditionally.  For me, it means support, caring, and warmth.  Both my wife’s and my parents are wonderfully biased in our favor, and we need that from time to time.  They ask us questions about ourselves, our work, our kids, and they really listen to what we have to say.  I cannot help but return the inquiry, for I find my interest in their lives automatic; that’s what love does, I think, when it is real.  Whenever my parents call, which is about once a week or so, I try to have my wife join us on speakerphone; we did so recently when they called, and the half-hour we spent talking involved laughter, concern, reflection, and discernment of everyone’s reality.  As we hang up the phone, my wife and I spoke a silent word of gratitude for being blessed in this way.
Not all, however, have the same experience.  The word “family” can denote tension, brokenness, misunderstanding, past pain, present stress, and future worry.  For many, the thought of their family is something that does not bring a sense of love and unconditionality; it does not bring a sense of belonging and support.  Many are the forces that work estrangement, conflict, and division, even in those connected together through bloodlines.
But the word “family” can denote something that we have here that exceeds bloodlines and physical heritage.  This is the point of Jesus’ words to us today, which speaks about the family of God.  Jesus says “whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” (vs. 35); whoever does the will of God is family.  Family in the sense of belonging and togetherness shaped by love more than birth.  Family in the sense of common values and faith more than one’s place on the family tree.  Family in the sense of who we are, and who we strive to be, at the First United Methodist Church in Missoula, Montana.  Family in the sense that we are biased in each other’s favor.
I count heavily on this sense of family as well; perhaps you do, too.  I find that, to be here in your midst, I gain a sense of affirmation and support that has little to do with me being the pastor, and everything to do with the authenticity of love we share in Christ.  Many are the times when I bring my burdens here, and find one of you lifting my spirit.  Many are the times when my worries are erased by an encouraging e-mail.  Many are the times when a note left in the offering plate or the sharing slips speaks a word I needed to hear.  Many are the times when I am amazed at your responsiveness to the needs of our ministry, volunteering your time and effort for the causes of love.  And I know of many others who feel as I do – gratefulness for the sense of family we have here in our church.
Routinely, I visit with people who come to our church seeking assistance.  They often ask for a tank of gas, a motel room for the night, a meal, some help with a bus ticket, clothing.  My role as pastor is to lovingly engage their reality, to get to know them a bit and work with them regarding their situation.  Often, even most often, I discover in our conversation that their greatest need by far is not the gas, or the motel room, or the food – but a place where they might receive a sense of family, a sense that someone is on their side, a sense of affirmation or care that says “you matter.”  They need what we are, as the family of God, brothers and sisters in Christ.  They need the sense of community we also need, and have found, here in what we do and who we are.  I am very proud of this church for the many, many ways we extend this sense of community, especially to the stranger, the marginalized, the hurting.

 

Paul Tillich said “We have considered the depth of the world and the depth of our souls. But we are only in a world through a community of people. And we can discover our souls only through the mirror of those who look at us. There is no depth of life without the depth of connection to each other.”-Paul Tillich, from Shaking the Foundations, cited in The Education of the Heart (New York: Harper Collins, 1996), 223.

Our connection to each other is what makes up the family of God.  How we are connected together makes all the difference.  Jeffrey Zaslow was an American author and journalist and a columnist for The Wall Street Journal.;   He wrote of an experience that speaks about what I think it means to be family – or, more to the point, what it means to truly be on the same team.  “Years ago, my father coached a team of eight-year-olds. He had a few excellent players, and some who just couldn't get the hang of the game. Dad's team didn't win once all season. But in the last inning of the last game, his team was only down by a run. There was one boy who had never been able to hit the ball--or catch it. With two outs, it was his turn to bat. He surprised the world and got a single!
The next batter was the team slugger. Finally, Dad's players might win a game. The slugger connected, and as the boy who hit the single ran to second, he saw the ball coming toward him. Not so certain of baseball's rules, he caught it. Final out! Dad's team lost! Quickly, my father told his team to cheer. The boy beamed. It never occurred to him that he lost the game. All he knew was he had hit the ball and caught it--both for the first time. His parents later thanked my dad. Their child had never even gotten in a game before that season.
We never told the boy exactly what happened. We didn't want to ruin it for him. And till this day, I'm proud of what my father did that afternoon.
Jeffrey Zaslow, "Tell Me All About It," 1990.
We are the family that works on knowing when to cheer – or, in our case, when to love, and how to love.  We are the family that I believe many are longing for in their lives.  It’s not that we are perfect, nor that we agree with each other all the time, nor that we know all the answers,.  But we do have one answer in terms of our life together – we have found it in Christ.  We do have one priority that guides everything we do – God’s will.  And we do have one method we apply to the best of our ability in every meeting, every group, every class, every event, every worship service, and every moment we are together as the Body of Christ – that we love each other, in all the ways we can, in all the moments we can, with all of the people we can, as unconditionally as we can, for ever so long as we can.  Amen!

 

5-31-15 “Winning the Fight Against Human Nature” Scripture:  Romans 8:12-17
Theme:  So often, our natural impulses and automatic responses get the best of us – how quickly we fall into fear, anger, worry, despair….faith’s counsel to us is to realize we have a say regarding how we handle such impulses, how we redirect those automatic responses in a manner more in tune with Another’s nature, a nature shared with all who allow God’s influence into their lives. 

I recently came across a type of test which assesses just how human we are – a sort of comparative analysis of how humans are generally the same when it comes to typical situations that normally arise in society.  I’d like to give you this test this morning, basically asking the question – how typically human are we?
What do you do when you

  1. See a “wet paint” sign? (TOUCH THE PAINT)
  2. Observe a yellow light on a busy street? (SPEED UP)
  3. Meet someone whom you know you’ve met before, but can’t remember their name? (PRETEND YOU KNOW THEIR NAME)
  4. Grocery shop when you are hungry?  (BUY TOO MUCH FOOD)
  5. Get a paper-cut?  (BLAME THE PAPER)
  6. See that the trash bucket is full? (STUFF MORE IN)
  7. Discover that there is only one teaspoon of milk in the milk carton in the refrigerator?  (LEAVE IT FOR SOMEONE ELSE TO DEAL WITH OR UNTIL IT TURNS AN UNNATURAL COLOR)
  8. See red flashing lights in your rear-view mirror? (CURSE, PULL OVER, AND PUT ON A SMILE)
  9. See that the incoming phone call is from someone you can’t stand? (SEND TO VOICEMAIL)
  10. See someone sitting in your normal pew seat?  (GLARE FOR 2.3 SECONDS THEN MOVE ON)

(some more challenging, personal ones)

  1. See an offensive bumper sticker?  (CALL THE DRIVER OF THAT CAR AN IDIOT)
  2. Pass by a person holding a “Please Help” sign written on cardboard?  (AVERT THEIR EYES)
  3. Need to apologize for something you did wrong?  (PROCRASTINATE)
  4. Have someone ask you for a favor?  (THINK OF REASONS WHY YOU CAN’T HELP OUT)
  5. Hear someone you don’t know cry? (MAKE IT A POINT TO NOT PRY INTO THEIR BUSINESS)
  6. Sense that someone doesn’t like you very much?  (BEGIN TO NOT LIKE THEM VERY MUCH)
  7. Come across someone who hurt you in the past?  (REVISIT THE GRUDGE YOU HAVE AGAINST THEM)
  8. Receive criticism?  (BECOME DEFENSIVE)

I see these things in myself; how about you?  It points out the fact that humans are quirky things – prone to be unreasonable, irrational, or even unethical – and if left to our own, if controlled primarily by our inner nature, our natural proclivities and preferences and dispositions, there will be little left for others. 

This comes out clearly in a particular version of the Lord’s Prayer I recently came across.  You’ve heard of the NRSV version of the Bible – New Revised Standard Version, the version we use in this church.  You’ve probably heard of the NIV, which is the New International Version, or the CEV, the Contemporary English Version.  One of my favorites is the PJV, the Pastor John Version.  But there is another version more relevant for our scripture lesson – the HNV, or Human Nature Version of the Bible.  In this version, the scriptures are presented from the perspective of typical, predictable human nature.  It goes like this:
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, as well as mine.  Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, so long as it’s what I want, too..  Give us this day our daily bread, 2100 calories and no more,  for I am watching what I eat.  Forgive us our trespasses, even the ones we don’t forgive others for, because my excuses for my behavior are legitimate, and theirs are not.  Lead us not into temptation, except for when it is a small one that I really like, and no one gets hurt.  For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for so long as it does not cramp my style.   Amen.
It’s only natural that we weave ourselves into things like this, we might think.  Human nature – what does this term mean, but our natural tendencies toward certain behaviors, reactions, and responses that serve ourselves?   And, being natural, aren’t they virtuous?  Think of how our society has identified “natural” with good, healthy, righteous, and ethical.  We have natural food, natural health treatments, natural spring water, natural color, natural light, and natural fibers for our clothing.  And often what is natural is better for a person, better for life – but not always.  Think of the things that are natural that typically are not good for a person, such as direct contact with lightening, floods, and earthquakes; diseases, viruses, and pathogens that cause sickness and death; foods that cause severe allergic reactions; the sun’s radiation that can cause cancer in sun worshipers.  These things are natural, too, but from a human experiencing their destructive forces, few would describe them as “good” for life. Natural is not always “good.” 
Can I tell you something that drives me crazy?  Something that I hear people, both Christians and non-Christians say all the time?  Something that I catch myself saying from time to time as well (and yes, I do drive myself crazy sometimes!).  It’s when I hear someone proclaim, usually with a bit of pride in their voice, “THAT’S JUST WHO I AM.” 
I state my opinion bluntly – because THAT’S JUST WHO I AM.
It doesn’t matter if they agree with me or not – because THAT’S JUST WHO I AM.
So my hygiene is not so good – THAT’S JUST WHO I AM.
I don’t like to follow the rules – THAT’S JUST WHO I AM.
I never apologize – THAT’S JUST WHO I AM.
I do whatever I want to do – THAT’S JUST WHO I AM.

So often, when I hear that phrase “THAT’S JUST WHO I AM” coming from myself or others, I sense the likelihood of excusing less-than-helpful behavior or attitudes – a sense of defensiveness that is meant to placate the expectations of others towards ourselves, but usually winds up creating more distance between people.  THAT’S JUST WHO I AM is almost always paralleled with a silent echo “AND THAT’S JUST NOT WHO YOU ARE.”  It is a phrase that separates people, that tends to move them farther apart from uniting in work or in spirit, a division created by the sense of the self being primary criterion for value in life.
Paul, in contrast, will have none of this.
          Today, in Paul’s letter to the Romans, we hear a strong message regarding our so-called human nature, our innate disposition towards certain tendencies, behaviors, and actions.  Paul says “we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh, -- for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if you live by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live……” furthermore, “you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption.  We have become heirs of God; we have been adopted by Christ.  We need not be slaves to human nature.”
          What Paul is encouraging here is a direct response to who we think we are.  To put it bluntly, whenever someone says “THAT’S JUST WHO I AM,” God says “BUT IS THAT WHO YOU ARE MEANT TO BE?”
          THAT’S JUST WHO I AM.  I often wonder what precisely is meant by such a phrase.  It calls to mind one of my favorite readings by an author named Edward Sanford Martin.  He says:
Within my earthly temple, there's a crowd;
There's one of us that's humble, one that's proud;
There's one that's broken-hearted for his sins;
There's one that, unrepentant, sits and grins;
There's one that loves his neighbor as himself,
And one that cares for naught but fame and pelf.
From much corroding care I should be free
If I could once determine which is me.
--Edward Sanford Martin, 
"My Name IS Legion," in Masterpieces of Religious Verse, ed. James Dalton Morrison (New York: Harper, 1948), 274.

          There is great confusion here, I think, regarding the difference between who we think we are, and who God intends us to become.  It’s not that God doesn’t accept and love us just as we are – OF COURSE GOD DOES!  But love is the kind of thing that dies when it is dormant – love constantly seeks the best for the beloved.  Love is always moving from what is to what should be, could be, and will be best for the individual – but with the best being defined by the one who created the mold and set the design.  Or, to put it another way – the best being defined by One with a perspective greater than human nature can provide.
          It is in this sense that we can understand what Paul is saying when he states that we are not to live according to the flesh, but to the Spirit of God.  Human nature is an unworthy divinity to worship; we have been given something to move beyond the limitations and deviations of self-focus.  It may sound counter intuitive, but it is the one who lives beyond self that finds self in its most substantial form – as adopted, beloved children of God. 

I leave you with some suggestions for diminishing the negative aspects of our human nature, as Paul advocates in our scripture lesson today:

  1. Let the person behind you in the grocery line go before you.
  2. Look the person with the cardboard sign saying “please help” in the eye, and ask how they are doing.
  3. Volunteer at the Poverello Center regularly.
  4. Join our church’s visitation team, who regularly visit with those who are not able to join us regularly, simply to let them know they are not alone, that we hold them in our hearts.
  5. Become a big brother or a big sister
  6. Consider becoming a Stephen’s Minister, becoming trained to minister to those who have special pastoral circumstances or needs.
  7. Become a part of a short-term volunteer in mission project, where you go for a week or so to connect with strangers and help with their needs.
  8. Become trained as a hospice volunteer.
  9. Find a community improvement group like a community garden, aging services, or neighborhood clean-up and volunteer regularly.
  10. Join a school program that tutors young children.

Did any of these make you squirm inside?  Are any of these things uncomfortable to consider?  I give it to you that sometimes, where we squirm is where God just might be.
In short, find something that’s not your thing, but that might be God’s thing, and figure out a way to become involved.  Live into your adoption as children of God; explore your inheritance intentionally.  Rise above your human nature; live into your God-intended nature.

In "Letters to Rulers of People," Francis of Assisi wrote these words: "Keep a clear eye toward life's end. Do not forget your purpose and destiny as God's creature. What you are in his sight is what you are and nothing more. Remember, that when you leave this earth, you can take nothing that you have received -- fading symbols of honor, trappings of power -- but only what you have given: a full heart enriched by honest service, love, sacrifice and courage."

 

5-24-15
Spiritual Chaos  Scripture:  Acts 2:1-21

Theme:  Sometimes what God is doing looks like chaos.  Pentecost is one of the first and clearest examples.  But there is a big difference between spiritual energy and human enthusiasm or excitement – one is unavoidably and directly attached to God’s doing, and typically is beyond prediction.  The other usually has an aspect of being designed by humans for the purpose of stimulation (rock concerts, sports events, etc….)

Once upon a time, there was a rather old fashioned lady, who was planning a couple of weeks vacation in Florida. She also was quite delicate and elegant with her language. She wrote a letter to a particular campground and asked for reservations. She wanted to make sure the campground was fully equipped but didn't know quite how to ask about the "toilet" facilities. She just couldn't bring herself to write the word "toilet" in her letter. After much deliberation, she finally came up with the old fashioned term "Bathroom Commode," but when she wrote that down, she still thought she was being too forward. So she started all over again; rewrote the entire letter and referred to the Bathroom Commode" simply as the "B.C.". Does the campground have its own "B.C.?" is what she actually wrote. Well, the campground owner wasn't old fashioned at all, and when he got the letter, he couldn't figure out what the lady was talking about. That "B.C." really stumped him. 
After worrying about it for several days, he showed the letter to other campers, but they couldn't figure out what the lady meant either. The campground owner finally came to the conclusion that the lady was and must be asking about the location of the local Baptist Church. So he sat down and wrote the following reply: "Dear Madam: I regret very much the delay in answering your letter, but I now take pleasure of informing in that the "B.C." is located nine miles north of the camp site and is capable of seating 250 people at one time. I admit it is quite a distance away if you are in the habit of going regularly but no doubt you will be pleased to know that a great number of people take their lunches along, and make a day of it..... They usually arrive early and stay late. The last time my wife and I went was six years ago, and it was so crowded we had to stand up the whole time we were there. It may interest you to know that right now, there is a supper planned to raise money to buy more seats.....They plan to hold the supper in the middle of the B.C., so everyone can watch and talk about this great event.....I would like to say it pains me very much, not to be able to go more regularly, but it is surely not for lack of desire on my part....As we grow older, it seems to be more and more of an effort, particularly in cold weather..... If you decide to come down to the campground, perhaps I could go with you the first time you go...sit with you...and introduce you to all the other folks..... This is really a very friendly community.....
Communication can be a very tricky thing.  What’s being said?  What’s being heard?  What’s the meaning behind either?  So many places for misunderstanding to arise, out of the words that we use.
         A few companies learned this the hard way when they tried to translate their catchy English slogans directly into Spanish:

         It’s hard enough to get our message across when we’re only dealing with English!  Switch to another language, and the potential for chaos exponentially increases.  Dialect, intonation, catch phrases, cliches, quips, etc. can be totally unpredictable and very confusing.  And not just switching languages can make communication difficult.  Add such things as emotion, history, culture, experiences, opinion, and even personalities, and things can get very chaotic.  Communication can be something quite unusual.
         And that ‘s what we have here in our scripture lesson – unusual communication.  Pentecost.  Pentecost had all of these things.  Suspense, fear, anxiety, excitement – the emotion was certainly there.  The disciples had been through the trauma of their master’s death, and the miracle of his reappearance in the resurrection, and were awaiting some kind of guidance and empowerment for the next step; extreme circumstances to say the least.  Tongues, gibberish, interpretation, prophesying – a dizzying array of languages and messages and emphases were there.  To me, it sounds like chaos.  But was it only emotional chaos?  Or something more?
Many of us, when we think of Pentecost, consider it one of the “weird times” in the Christian faith.  What does it mean for the Holy Spirit to come upon somebody?   We’ve probably all heard about people speaking in tongues, about miraculous healings and elimination of pain, about people saying they “were empowered by the Spirit to say thus and so.”  But most of us have not experienced a lot of this if any.  So again, what does it mean for the Holy Spirit to be among us, come upon us, or dwell in our midst?
There’s probably a million answers to that question, but I’d like to share one that I find helpful, one way of considering what it means for the Holy Spirit to come upon us.  This comes from the Robert W. Wall, who is professor of Biblical Studies at Seattle Pacific University.  He says that Pentecost = one of those glorious, confusing, challenging moments when we see “the inbreaking of heaven into human affairs.” (NIB)
Pentecost is but one example of God’s direct, even personal intrusion into the world.  I like this idea, for it frees us from the confines of defining too closely how God performs God’s wonders, AND it implies that this is a regular occurrence, which I believe.  BUT IT CAN TAKE VARYING FORMS, and is not to be assigned a certain expression by anyone.  When the Holy Spirit acts, in other words, all the rules belong to God and not to us.  We can, in this sense, receive but not predict this gift of God’s presence, in whatever form it may come.  The key is to be open to that form.
There was once a young man working to become a minister; he was attending seminary as a student.  He related the following experience:  “One summer, midway through seminary, I was on a weekend vacation in a little town in New England. I decided on Sunday to go to hear a visiting preacher in a little town’s chapel. I heard the worst sermon I could ever have imagined. I sat in the pew thinking, “He’s going against every rule they’re teaching us about preaching. What a waste of time!”
That’s what I thought until the very end of the sermon when I happened to see the person beside me with tears in her eyes, whispering, “He said exactly what I need to hear.”
It was then that I knew something very important had happened in that service. The woman beside me had come in need. Somehow the words of that poorly crafted sermon had been translated into a message that spoke to her heart.
On the other hand, I had come in judgment and I heard nothing but the faults.
It was a long time before I realized it, but that sermon’s effect on the person beside me turned out to be one of the great lessons of my life. Thanks to that preacher and listener in need, I now know that the space between a person doing his or her best to deliver a message of good news and the needy listener is holy ground. Recognizing that seems to have allowed me to forgive myself for being the accuser that day. In fact, that New England Sunday experience has fueled my desire to be a better advocate, a better “neighbor,” wherever I am.”
Who said this? Rev. Fred Rogers, from Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.
What is spoken is one thing; what is heard is another.  And in the case of Pentecost, both matter profoundly.  God is saying something in the form of the Holy Spirit; the disciples are hearing something in their needy, anxious, fearful condition, and it needs not only translation but interpretation.  And we are still working on that interpretation today.  And it need not be tongues of flame overhead, no indecipherable words or violent wind that moves in our midst.  For God communicates in all sorts of ways.
I found the following idea helpful; it comes from a source I can no longer find, but nonetheless provides a beginning framework to open ourselves to the possibilities of God:  The idea is this: “Power can be used in at least two ways: it can be unleashed, or it can be harnessed. The energy in ten gallons of gasoline, for instance, can be released explosively by dropping a lighted match into the can. Or it can be channeled through the engine of a Cheverolet in a controlled burn and used to transport a person 350 miles. Explosions are spectacular, but controlled burns have lasting effect, staying power. The Holy Spirit works both ways. At Pentecost, he exploded on the scene; His presence was like "tongues of fire" (Acts 2:3). Thousands were affected by one burst of God's power. But He also works through the church--the institution God began to tap the Holy Spirit's power for the long haul. Through worship, fellowship, and service, Christians are provided with staying power.
         Explosions AND staying power.  This is one way to consider the range of the Holy Spirit’s activity.  Pentecost and devotion.  Excitement and steadiness.  Enthusiasm and quietness.  Powerful and humble.  Overt and internal.
         Which brings me to the question I want to leave you with this morning.  One I hope you will ask yourself in this upcoming week.  One which I hope you will take into your heart and mind, turn it over in your prayers, lift it up to God, allow it to penetrate into your spirit, into your being.  And the question is this – how does the Holy Spirit live in and with you?  Now I know, I’m risking one of those kinds of questions where it may seem weird or nebulous or, as I had one parishioner tell me one time, the kind of question which seems “awfully preachy.”  But I think it’s worth the risk – FOR THE SPIRIT IS GUARANTEED BY CHRIST TO BE WITH THOSE WHO FOLLOW AND TRUST CHRIST.  That’s us.  That’s who we are, people of God.  We follow Christ – perhaps imperfectly, perhaps unsteadily, perhaps without feeling like we know what we’re doing most of the time, but still, we follow Christ.  And so, the spirit is given to us, is made available to us, joins with us, somehow, someway.  What is that way, is my question.  How does the Holy Spirit live in and with you?  Ask it today; ask it tomorrow.  And do so in the confidence that there is an answer.  How does the Holy Spirit live in and with you?

 

5/17/15

Our Prayer For Those Who Go Forward

Scripture: John 17:6-19

Theme:  Today, we hear Christ pray for his followers.  What does he pray for?  Protection, unity, joy, and sanctification.  What Christ prays for is ultimately freeing us to live the life we crave – free from fear, clarified by guidance, and fulfilled by uninhibited love.

Recently, I helped the finance committee create a stewardship letter which identified many of the activities/events/ministries we are involved in.  A part of that letter – the main part – was to let people know who we are as a church by sharing what we do as a church.  Who are we as a church?  Let me share some of the answers:

WE ARE:  Stephen’s Ministry, Homeless Connect, Al-anon, JuBellation Handbell Choir, Children’s Sunday School, Visitation Team, Mission and Outreach Committee, Volunteer in Mission Workteam, Family Promise, Walk to Emmaus, Adult Spiritual Growth classes, Alcoholics Anonymous, Disciple Bible Study, Joyful Noise Children’s Choir, Tzedakah Pocket ministry, Angola Pastor Support, First United Methodist Youth, Chancel Choir, UMW, Jubilee, Mighty Methodist Men’s fellowship, SERRV, Faith and Justice Class, UM Foundation, Trustees, Missoula Interfaith Collaborative Partner, Intermountain Children’s Home supporter, Finance Committee, Building Project Team, Family Ministries, Poverello Center 5th Saturday Lunch, Nursery Committee, Building Project Finance Team, Staff Parish Relations committee, and Administrative Council.

 (at least 44 different regular groups and events)
Now, that’s who we are at First United Methodist Church!  Or at least, that’s what we do at First UMC.  Do you get a good feel for our activities?  For our priorities?  For our work together in the Body of Christ?
But how about who we are personally?  How about our church’s character, demeanor, and personality?  How about our church’s spirit?  I thought I might try to list items of our personality here at First UMC.

WE ARE:
Smarties ingesters, chocolate lovers,  potluck enthusiasts, Dessert by Candlelight partakers, Tzedakah pockets supporters, Griz fans, Seattle SeaHawks fans, book readers, homeless family hosts, Reconcilers, idea sharers, compassionate prayers, genuine helpers, hunters, fishers, gossip-sharers, choir singers, bell ringers, guitarists, floutists, Native American Flute players, conversationalists, relationship builders, change-agents, people who love to hike and bike, prayer shawl knitters, mess-makers, carousel riders, lovers of laughter, coffee drinkers, and motorcyclists.

Perhaps these better reflect our church’s personality -- who we are as a church in our spirit, character, and style.
         But today we hear from Christ himself, in a kind of indirect way, who we are to him – and this answer to the question is much more profound, spiritual, and empowering.  
Programs, building, education, study, service, outreach, committees, likes, dislikes, affinities, priorities, etc.  Push these aside for a moment, and ask again, Who are we as a church?  Christ demonstrates his answer in our scripture today:  “We are a community for whom Jesus prays.”
WE ARE A COMMUNITY FOR WHOM JESUS PRAYS.  Simple statement; huge implication.  Christ prays for the upholding of his community of disciples. All of John chapter 17 is about this – Christ’s prayer for his community.  And what does Christ pray for?  PROTECTION, JOY, AND SANCTIFICATION.  Christ prays for his followers to be protected by God, for his disciples to experience the joy of Christ in themselves, and for them to be sanctified (which means to be set apart for sacred work or duty by God).  We must not forget that Christ prays for these things just before he faces the cross.  He is praying for those who go forward.
But above all, there is one dominant theme which runs through Christ’s prayer of John chapter 17.  And that dominant theme is this:  CHRIST PRAYS FOR UNITY OF LIFE AND SPIRIT IN HIS PEOPLE.  Christ prays, “Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.” (John 17:11).  Christ prays, “I am coming to you God, and I speak these things that they may have my joy made complete in OR AMONG themselves.” (John 17:13).  And Christ prays, “Sanctify them in the truth; as you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world” and moving to verse 20, “that they may all be one.”
Christ prays for those who will go forward into the future, and he prays for unity.  Now, we must be a little careful here, because it is a particular kind of unity that Christ is praying for – a unity of spirit in Christ.  This is to be distinguished by other kinds of union, where there is a combining of people for a purpose, identity, or mutual interest, but this can be quite different from a unity born from faith.  It is in this sense that we can distinguish between “UNITY” and “UNION.”  I really like how one author puts it:  There can be union without unity: tie two cats together by their tails and throw them over a clothesline – see what happens!  Union is a neutral term, in this sense – it can be either good or bad, constructive or destructive.  Unity, in the sense of Christ’s message, calls forth the embrace of community for unapologetically positive, constructive purposes outlined by God.
Once upon a time, a company rented two racing shells and challenged a rival company to a boat race. The rival company accepted. On the day of the picnic, everyone entered into the spirit of the event. Women wore colorful summer dresses and big, floppy hats. Men wore straw skimmers and white pants. Bands played and banners waved. Finally the race began. To the consternation of the host company, the rival team immediately moved to the front and was never overtaken. It won by 11 lengths. The management of the host company was embarrassed by its showing and promptly appointed a committee to place responsibility for the failure and make recommendations to improve the host team's chances in a rematch the following year. The committee appointed several task forces to study various aspects of the race. They met for three months and issued a preliminary report. In essence, the report said that the rival crew had been unfair.
The report stated "The opposing team had eight people rowing and one leader steering and shouting out the beat, whereas we had one person rowing and eight leaders." The chairman of the board thanked the committee and sent it away to study the matter further and make recommendations for the rematch. Four months later the committee came back with a recommendation: "Our guy has to row faster." 
Togetherness is a challenging thing!  Teamwork, cooperation, unity of spirit, combining energies into one effort – these do not come easy.  And thus, Christ’s prayer.  Thus, Christ’s last request of God, that those who follow Christ may experience unity, may be protected, sanctified, and experience Christian joy – TOGETHER. 
Many years ago, I experienced the subtle yet firm lesson on how this works, on how this unity of spirit and life may be hard to come by, but produces so much that is foundational to life.  I was a co-leader of a mission team that had traveled to a little town outside of Mexico City called Tezompa.  Twelve of us were on the team; we were all church goers, faithful disciples of Christ, intent upon doing something out of the calling of our faith.  We were sent there to start building the physical structure of a church.  We were the experts; I was an engineer in training, and we had several others who were experienced in carpentry, masonry, and other construction skills.  We went down to do what we thought the Mexican people in that village were not capable of.  Boy, were we wrong.
One instance demonstrated this quite clearly.  A group of us Americans were discussing a problem.  There was a great big tree stuck right in the middle of the land where we wanted to build the foundation for the church.  We didn’t bring tools for this – we had no chainsaw, no handsaw, not even an axe amongst us.  And we learned that the village had nothing of the sort as well.  In Mexico, heavy equipment was basically the property of the state, and the nearest Hardware store was 200 miles away.  So there we were, planning a trip into Mexico City, a half day’s ride away, to purchase a chainsaw, or an axe, or a handsaw.  Seemed like that was the only way.
As we discussed this problem, I noticed two Mexican gentlemen walking towards the tree.  These two men had sort of worked alongside us, as we let them.  They spoke very little, and were quite distant when approached.  But here they were, approaching the tree as if they knew what to do.  And then I saw what they were carrying – it was rope.  Surely they can’t be serious, I thought, and my group began discussing how that would never work, the tree was three feet in diameter, was healthy and growing, and stood easily forty feet high.
We watched in disbelief as they lassoed the tree up high.  They got a firm hold, and both of them began to pull.  The tree barely budged.  We shook our heads, resigned to the futility of this gesture, when one of the Mexican men motioned for us, five American men, to grab the rope.  With great futility on the mind and in the heart, we reluctantly began pulling on the rope.
The tree came down in five minutes.  The whole thing, roots and all.  Didn’t have to dig the roots.  Saved us a lot of time and effort.  We were humbled.  We were even a bit ashamed.  We had been owned by a sense of our own superiority, and were brought down harder than that tree to the reality of what can be done if we just open ourselves to community.
This is the way that God desires for us to work in his will, to do his bidding.  He desires unity.  Not necessarily complete agreement, not necessarily complete harmony, not even complete efficiency or clarity, but unity, the uniting of our lives and our hearts to do God’s bidding TOGETHER.  It’s not the easy way, to be sure; it is much less work to care only for ourselves, to pray to God in the vacuum of our own privacy, to do God’s bidding directly and alone, to separate ourselves from the messiness of other’s lives.  And God has made us in such a way as to have the power to choose.  We have free will.  We are able to determine what direction we will take in the future.  And all of this points out the natural inclination this gives to any human being to begin, and end, with what is best for the self. 
But Christ presents a better way.  Not more comfortable, but more comforting.  Not more understandable, but more understanding.  Not more clearly defined, but more constant of purpose.  It is the way of community.  Community means not only I.  Community means negating the self to a degree.  Community requires a check on the self.  Community means adding “we” into the conversation.  Community means unity of spirit more than union of persons.  Community means no longer maintaining vision upon self alone, but casting a glance towards the source of that unity, the motivation and empowerment and purpose of that unity.  For the Christian, this is Christ.  This is God. This is our common foundation.  I believe it is not just the case that we can only discover what true community can mean as we focus upon Christ.  It is also the fact that it is only in true community that we can have our full focus on Christ.
May it be that we take on ourselves and our hopes for others that statement of John Wesley, “I want the whole Christ for my Savior, the whole Bible for my book, the whole Church for my fellowship, and the whole world for my mission field.”  Amen.

 

5-10-15  Excessive Attention from God
Scripture:  John 15:9-17

Theme:  God’s excessive attention towards us may be misunderstood, manipulated, mishandled, or, most easily, missed.  But it is this attention that is both our salvation and our challenge – God’s style of loving us is the only one, whereby servants are transformed into friends, whereby those who are commanded willingly choose to obey, whereby the fear of death and hell is exchange by the favor of love and forgiveness.  God calls us friend; we are to act thusly.

          This morning, I would like to ask that we perform some very basic actions.  Would that be OK? 
          1. produce a semi-rhythmic resonance through pre-tensed stomach contractions and an articulated, audible chordance composed of sonorous pulsating vibrations which reflect and emotive condition connoting affirmation.  (LAUGH)
          2. engage the lower post-calf musculature in a tensile mode in concert with the activation and stabilization of the frontal thigh musculature while motioning with upper torso in a forward direction and increasing direct downward pressure upon bipedal units in a balanced strategy maintained until all bodily units are in line. (STAND UP)
          3. take the slap of the skin of the neighborly one so as to keep from dis'n and show the carin'. (TAKE SOMEONE'S HAND IN YOURS)
          4. THE HARDEST ONE BY FAR....I want you to remove your present centristic self from its intrinsic context and concentrate the nebulous domain of aphysical reality with a directive toward expression of affectation conducive of affirmation and emotive communication targeting a separate identity.  (BE A FRIEND).

Now, wait a minute, you might say – that last one doesn’t fit!  It’s not like laughing, or standing up, or taking someone’s hand in ours.   Being a friend is not simply a physical action!  Being a friend takes time, effort, a building up of trust, knowledge and experiences somehow connected meaningfully together. 
But, wait another minute – isn’t being a friend a choice that we make, like standing up or taking another’s hand?  Doesn’t true friendship involve physical things like listening, being present, or helping out when needed?   Doesn’t being a friend mean we move beyond words or thoughts, into action? 
Or, to put it another way -- Is being a friend more like a verb or a noun?
          Our scripture lesson from the gospel of John raises such matters today, for in it we find a very unique type of message very personal in nature for those who follow Jesus.  In this passage, Jesus uses a certain term that I don’t think we know exactly how to handle, a term that might seem strange to employ in our faith understanding.  Jesus calls us “friends.”
He says, from scripture:  “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.”
          Christ calls his disciples “friends.”  And by doing so, he calls us, as his disciples in this day and age, as followers and believers and ones who trust in God’s revealed truth – he calls us “friends” as well. 
          In my opinion, this is huge.  This is what separates our faith from many others.  This degree of intimacy, closeness, affinity, and affection.  If we’re not careful, we might think that it challenges the gulf between the sacred and the profane, that it calls into question the separation of significance between the creator and the created, that it would bring us to a semi-sacreligious understanding of God and ourselves as equals.  After all, isn’t that what friendship means?  Equal partners in a relationship of mutual affection?
          I came across a writing that seems to describe a very popular and likeable idea of what friendship means:
What is a Friend? By Joanna Miller
A winer, a diner, an outfit designer
A meeter, a greeter, a chocolate eater
A debater, relater, a smile reinstater
A lift provider, an on-your-sider
A diva, a bopper, a tireless shopper
A snorter, a sniggerer, infectious giggler
A baker, a caker, a mate mickey-taker
An ally, a sister, a gentle arm twister
A lip-gloss provider, a secret confider
A texter, a writer, a party inviter
A colleague, a carer, a problem-sharer
A cocktail blender & cheeky rule bender
A gossipy chatterer, forgiver & flatterer
A handbag borrower, a ring-tomorrower
A ‘stop for a cuppa’, a date fixer-upper
A listening ear, a loyal volunteer
A welcome inquisitor, spare bed visitor
A misser, a kisser, a cinema hisser
A birthday surpriser & cherished adviser
A laugher, a kidder, anxiety ridder...
That’s what makes a friend!
Copyright Joanna Miller 2012. (Author's permission required to reproduce this poem.)

          Is this the kind of thing Jesus is talking about when he calls his disciples “friends”?  Is this what Jesus is saying when he calls us “friends?”  Well, here we go once again – I believe that the answer is yes and no.  Yes, the warmth, caring, depth, communication, and understanding, but no, not the equality, not the mutuality that we translate in human earthly terms.  I say this, because the two words used interchangeably to translate and speak about the word “friend” in today’s scripture are agape and philos.  “Godly love” and “brotherly love.”  Without going into the deep theological underpinnings, this is saying that when Christ says “friend” he is saying “those who are loved.” 
          We are the ones whom Christ loves.  We are the ones chosen by God, loved by God, for no other reason than God chooses it to be so.  We are no longer considered servants, but are considered friends, as we follow Christ, meaning that we are marked by God’s love.
Why this shift from being “servants” to being “friends” of Jesus?  Does it really matter?  I believe it does matter, tremendously, when we consider what this particular type of friendship is like.
A servant obeys out of duty. A friend obeys out of love.
A servant knows the requirements of the one he serves; a friend knows the heart of the one he befriends.
A servant is a subordinate in the relationship; a friend is a participant in the relationship.
A servant is bound to the master, a friend chooses the alliance.
A servant can be dispassionate about matters concerning the master; a friend joins in the emotional upheavings of trials and tribulations in his comrade.

A friend is very different from a servant – and Jesus makes it clear that he considers those who follow him as friends.
I came across what I think is a very good exposition of true friendship, and I’d like to share it with you.  It’s by a gentleman names C. Raymond Beran:  He says
“What is a friend? Friends are people with whom you dare to be yourself. Your soul can be naked with them. They ask you to put on nothing, only to be what you are. They do not want you to be better or worse. When you are with them, you feel as a prisoner feels who has been declared innocent. You do not have to be on your guard. You can say what you think, as long as it is genuinely you. Friends understand those contradictions in your nature that lead others to misjudge you. With them you breathe freely. You can avow your little vanities and envies and hates and vicious sparks, your meannesses and absurdities, and in opening them up to friends, they are lost, dissolved on the white ocean of their loyalty. They understand. You do not have to be careful. You can abuse them, neglect them, tolerate them. Best of all, you can keep still with them. It makes no matter. They like you. They are like fire that purges to the bone. You can weep with them, sing with them, laugh with them, pray with them. Through it all--and underneath--they see, know, and love you. A friend? What is a friend? Just one, I repeat, with whom you dare to be yourself.“
          Friendship with Jesus – daring to be ourselves before God.  Friendship with Jesus -- embracing how God dares to be present with us in Jesus. 

 

5-3-15 Stewardship’s Pattern for Living—Dialogue Sermon, Rev. Barry Padget and Rev. John Daniels

Scripture:  Matthew 6:19-21, 25-33

Theme:  Good stewardship begins with a recognition of its definition – understanding that we owe God everything, and God has a right to expect everything.  Tithing, sharing, giving, etc. are not just sound ministry practices – they help to keep us focused on the only God, to the strengthening of our faith, and the substantiation of our living.

          Stewardship.  It’s a word we don’t use very often, and when we do, it usually has something to do with money.  In the church, it is a term we typically use to identify our giving back to God what God has given to us in the first place. And our focus is largely about our monetary gifts given to support our church’s ministries.
          But stewardship is about much more than money.  It is a practical expression of our priorities in life – “where we put our money” is largely tied to how we have shaped our hearts and how we have aligned our thinking regarding life, regarding how we use and take care of what is entrusted to us.  If our faith guides our living, then, somehow, someway, what we give of ourselves reflects our faith understanding.  And there are many, many testimonies out there that seem to have a faith understanding that is a little off………
          I asked Barry to join me today to speak to stewardship in two ways – what stewardship is not, and what stewardship is, regarding what God shares with us in scripture.  Barry – how many stewardship campaigns have you been a part of?  How many different definitions or understandings of stewardship have you come across?  We identified at least four ways in which stewardship seems to have come to mean something less than helpful……

  1.  (JOHN) -- GIVING GOD LEFTOVERS

Around Thanksgiving a few years ago, radio commentator Paul Harvey shared a true story of a woman and her frozen Thanksgiving turkey.
The Butterball Turkey Company set up a telephone hotline to answer consumer questions about preparing holiday turkeys. One woman called to inquire about cooking a turkey that had been in the bottom of her freezer for 23 years. That's right—23 years. The Butterball representative told her the turkey would probably be safe to eat if the freezer had been kept below zero for the entire 23 years. But the Butterball representative warned her that even if the turkey was safe to eat, the flavor would probably have deteriorated to such a degree that she would not recommend eating it.
The caller replied, "That's what I thought. We'll give the turkey to our church."
Paul Harvey daily radio broadcast (11-22-95);

  1. (BARRY) NOT REALIZING HOW WEALTHY WE ARE:

Dear Lord,
I have been re-reading the record of the Rich Young Ruler and his obviously wrong choice. But it has set me thinking. No matter how much wealth he had, he could not-- ride in a car, have any surgery, turn on a light, buy penicillin, hear a pipe organ, watch TV, wash dishes in running water, type a letter, mow a lawn, fly in an airplane, sleep on an innerspring mattress, or talk on the phone,
If he was rich, then what am I?

  1. (JOHN) ATTACHING GIVING TO MERIT:

According to The United Kingdom’s Independent Newspaper, in their February 2015 study, there are currently 2,089 billionaires in the world. Those 2,089 billionaires gave away an average of 1.2% of their wealth to charity.  Warren Buffet has been one of the biggest givers, who made headlines in 2005 when he gave away $31 billion to charity; last year, he gave away $2.8 billion to charity,  Commenting on this extreme level of generosity, Buffet said: "There is more than one way to get to heaven, but this is a great way."  (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5512893)

  1. (BARRY) MATERIALISM RAMPANT AND ADDICTIVE:

Amount the U.S. spends annually on imported toys: $23,631,000,000
Amount spent by the next 10 highest toy-importing countries combined: $21,729,000,000
Average number of credit cards per U.S. household: 12.7
It's official: For the first time, most American homes now house more television sets than people. According to the latest data from Nielsen Media Research, the average U.S. household has 2.55 people and 2.73 TVs.

          In such ways, stewardship has taken on a tough image, exposing our tendency to misunderstand the principle behind giving to God.  And that’s precisely what it’s supposed to mean – returning to God a portion of what God has given us for the purposes of Christian love, unconditional love, tangible, practical love that tries to make a difference in the world – to make a real, practical difference in the world.

HEALTHY STEWARDSHIP MEANS ADDRESSING THESE THINGS, AND CHANGING THEM INTO HABITS OF A HEALTHY FAITH.  HEALTHY FAITH RECOGNIZES THAT

  1. ALL BELONGS TO GOD,
  2. GOD WANTS US TO SHARE, AND
  3. OUR SHARING PRODUCES FRUIT.

1. STEWARDSHIP IS ACKNOWLEDGING GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY OVER ALL:
Kevin Harney tells the following story in his book, Seismic Shifts:
Years ago, a little boy named Dustin entered the Smarties stage of life. It might not be in the psychological journals, but there is a time in the development of every child when they are ready to receive their first pack of Smarties. You remember Smarties, a row of multicolored, chalk-like, bite-size candies wrapped in clear plastic, about 10 to 12 pieces in a pack. They are perfect for sharing.
I am not a huge fan of Smarties, but when I saw Dustin come into church with a fresh roll, I just had to ask him if I could have one.
Dustin immediately became my Smarties hero. He peeled out a piece with a smile and handed it over gladly. This was surprising enough, but at that moment, something happened in this little boy's heart. From that day on, for the next two years, every time Dustin got a pack of Smarties, he took out the first one and set it aside for me. Every Sunday, Dustin would track me down at church and generously offer me one or more Smarties. He did it gladly, with a smile, as if he enjoyed it.
Sometimes Dustin would open a pack of Smarties during the week, but he would still save me the first round, sugary, chalky tablet in his pocket. By the time Sunday came, the Smarty was a little mangy and would have lint and other pocket paraphernalia stuck to it, but he never forgot to bring it for me. In those cases, I thanked him and put it in my pocket so I could "enjoy it later."
Dustin loved Smarties. He also loved his pastor. Every week before the worship service began, Dustin and I shared a time of communion. Jesus was present as we shared a few moments of conversation and partook of some Smarties together.
Somewhere along the way, Dustin's mother pointed out that the packs of Smarties she bought for him had ten pieces, and she saw this weekly ritual as Dustin's introduction to tithing. What I saw was a little boy who loved to share and who understood the power of generosity. Since that time, I have asked myself many times, How am I doing with my Smarties?
Kevin G. Harney, Seismic Shifts (Zondervan, 2005), p. 188-189; submitted by Marshall Shelley, Wheaton,

2. STEWARDSHIP MEANS TO PRACTICE WHAT WE PREACH:  GOD WANTS US TO SHARE….BOTH TO KEEP WHAT WE POSESS FROM BECOMING A THING OF WORSHIP, AND TO WORK TANGIBLE LOVE IN THE WORLD.
(learning to do with out…..)  I've become more convinced than ever that God finds ways to communicate with those who truly seek him, especially when we lower the volume of the surrounding static. I remember reading the account of a spiritual seeker who interrupted a busy life to spend a few days in a monastery.
"I hope your stay is a blessed one," said the monk who showed the visitor to his cell. "If you need anything, let us know, and we'll teach you how to live without it."
Philip Yancey, "What 147 Elk Taught Me About Prayer

A few hundred years ago the great preacher and evangelist John Wesley showed us another way. Wesley lived in economically uncertain times, yet from humble beginnings he became so well known that his income eventually reached 1400 pounds per year. In 2001 this would be the equivalent of earning around $300,000.
So what did he do with all this wealth? Did he tithe it? No. Wesley went way beyond tithing. He disciplined himself to live on just 30 pounds of the 1400 pounds he earned every year. He gave away 98% of all he earned and lived on just 2%!
Wesley once preached a sermon on Luke 16.9. In it he spelled out his philosophy: money is a tool that can be used for great good or great ill. “It is an excellent gift of God” he claimed, “answering the noblest ends. In the hands of his children, it is food for the hungry, drink for the thirsty, raiment for the naked: It gives to the traveller and the stranger where to lay his head. By it we may supply the place of an husband to the widow, and of a father to the fatherless. We maybe a defence for the oppressed, a means of health to the sick, of ease to them that are in pain; it may be as eyes to the blind, as feet to the lame; yea, a lifter up from the gates of death! It is therefore of the highest concern that all who fear God know how to employ this valuable talent; that they be instructed how it may answer these glorious ends, and in the highest degree.”
He went on to spell out three simple rules which can guide us: gain all you can, save all you can, give all you can.
Wesley lived out these principles, on another occasion remarking: , “If I leave behind me ten pounds…you and all mankind [can] bear witness against me, that I have lived and died a thief and a robber.”
Source: information about Wesley reported in Christian History Newsletter, November 30, 2001. Wesley’s sermon on Luke 16.9 can be accessed at http://gbgm-umc.org/umhistory/wesley/sermons/serm-050.stm

(making a difference through sharing out of love) Witnessing to the holy love of God was always in John Wesley's mind. Even in death.  Here was a man who had preached more than 45,000 sermons, traveled (mostly on horseback) a distance equivalent to nine times around the world, written 233 books and pamphlets, and helped with the writing of 100 more.  But for Wesley, this was not enough. Even in death he witnessed to the love of God. Among Wesley's funeral instructions was the request that his body be buried in nothing more costly than wool. No silk or satin was to adorn the corpse from which his spirit had fled. And his last will and testament gave final seal to the gospel he had so long and courageously preached. He directed that "whatever remains in my bureau and pockets at my decease," was to be equally divided among four poor itinerants. He specially requested that neither hearse nor coach take any part in his funeral, and he desired that six poor men in need of employment be given a pound each to carry his body to the grave.
Adapted from J. Wesley Bready, "The Passing of a Prophet,"

3. STEWARDSHIP MEANS TO MAKE IT PRACTICAL, to know that our giving can produce fruit, can communicate our love that is our main motivation for giving.
A preacher paid a visit to a farmer and asked, "If you had 200 dollars, would you give 100 dollars to the Lord?
"Sure would," said the farmer.
"If you had two cows, would you give one cow to the Lord?"
"Yeah, I would."
"If you had two pigs, would you give one of them to the Lord?"
The farmer replied, "That's not fair. You know I have two pigs."

The world asks, "What does a man own?"; Christ asks, 'How does he use it?
Andrew Murray (1828-1917+-

I do not thank thee, Lord, That I have bread to eat while others starve; Nor yet for work to do While empty hands solicit heaven; Nor for a body strong While other bodies flatten beds of pain. No, not for these do I give thanks; But I am grateful, Lord, Because my meager loaf I may divide; For that my busy hands May move to meet another's need; Because my doubled strength I may expend to steady one who faints. Yes, for all these do I give thanks! For heart to share, desire to bear, And will to live, Flamed into one by deathless Love-- Thanks be to God for this! Unspeakable! His Gift to me!  And my gifts to share!
Unknown, Leadership

SKEWED SENSE OF STEWARDSHIP:
A man once came to Peter Marshall, former chaplain of the Unites States Senate, with a concern about tithing. He said: "I have a problem. I have been tithing for some time. It wasn't too bad when I was making $20,000 a year. I could afford to give the $2,000. But you see, now I am making $500,000, and there is just no way I can afford to give away $50,000 a year."
Dr. Marshall reflected on this wealthy man's dilemma but gave no advice. He simply said: "Yes, sir. I see that you do have a problem. I think we ought to pray about it. Is that alright?"
The man agreed, so Dr. Marshall bowed his head and prayed with boldness and authority. "Dear Lord, this man has a problem, and I pray that you will help him. Lord, reduce his salary back to the place where he can afford to tithe."
Kevin G. Harney, Seismic Shifts (Zondervan, 2005),

John Boykin in The Gospel of Coincidence

God entrusts us with money as a test; for like a toy to the child, it is training for handling things of more value.
Fred Smith, Leadership, Vol. 4, no. 1.
Jesus talked much about money. Sixteen of the thirty-eight parables were concerned with how to handle money and possessions. In the Gospels, an amazing one out of ten verses (288 in all) deal directly with the subject of money. The Bible offers 500 verses on prayer, less than 500 verses on faith, but more than 2,000 verses on money and possessions.
Howard L. Dayton, Jr., Leadership

 

 

 

 

 

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)