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!
by 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!
August 27 Mission and Outreach, 7 p.m.
August 29 Poverello 5th Saturday Lunch
August 30 Wesley House BBQ - The Wesley Foundation at the University of Montana will be having a welcome barbeque on this Sunday, August 30th, at 7p.m. Food and beverages will be provided. This event is open to all students (and friends and family) at the U of M and the Missoula Collage. We will be playing Slip 'n' Slide Kickball as well as having other water silliness available, so dress appropriately. Come, have fun with us and please share this invite. -Sabrina Crum
September 9 JuBELLation begins, 6 p.m.
September 10 UMW at the Carousel, 6 p.m.
September 11 Friday Night Out, 6 p.m.
September 13 Chancel Choir begings, 9 a.m
September 13 Blessing of the Backpacks, 10:30 a.m.
September 13 Sunday School Starts, 10:30 a.m. Volunteers needed!
September 14 Administrative Council, 7 p.m.
September 15 Joyful Noise begins, 6 p.m.
September 16 Vespers Followship, 1 p.m.
September 21 Alive Inside, Senior Citizens Center, 2 p.m.
September 19 UMW District Meeting, Corvallis
September 21 Alive Inside, Senior Citizens Center, 7 p.m.
September 22 Book Group, 11 a.m.
October 1, UMW
October 8, Ruth Fellowship
October 18-25 Family Promise Rotation
October 21, Vespers Fellowship
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
UMM - United Methodist Men
Walk to Emmaus - Link to their website
Reaching out with love to our community and the world
❤ 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
❤ Wesley House
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.
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
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
**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.
Monday - Friday: 9 a.m. - noon.
(subject to change - call 549-6118 before coming in or to make an appointment with the pastor)
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.”
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.
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.
Joyful 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.
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.
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.
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 visit. 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
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.
United Methodist Women
Our UMW is part of the Yellowstone Conference, which covers Montana, 1/2 Wyoming and a slice of Idaho.
You can find information on Conference and District UMW activities on the conference UMW web page.
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
. UMW 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.
Chairmen: 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
Stephen Ministry Church
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.
The Amazing Grays are a group of church members who have been blessed with some gray hairs. They get together once a month for companionship and an enjoyable time. They go out to dinner, have a pot-luck and game night at the church, a holiday party or sometimes make a day trip by bus to some place in Montana. Friends are always welcome. Rides will be provided for those who no longer drive. Participants may sign up following church for the current activities.
New Members are received throughout the year. To learn more, please contact Pastor John Daniels by stopping by or calling the church office at 549-6118. 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.
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.
First United Methodist Church of Missoula is part of 19+ churches who are working to house 3-4 homeless families with children. For more information or to volunteer please contact Barbara Blanchard Mahoney at 493-6713 or go to their website: http://familypromisemissoula.net/
I was hungry and you fed me...
Come feed God's people lunch 4 or 5 times a year at the Poverello Center.
We work at the Pov whenever there is a 5th Saturday.
Call the church office to sign up (549-6118).
We are a church partner with Missoula's Habitat for Humanity We invite you to join us for a work day!
Contact the office at 549-6118 for more information.
Intermountain is a nationally accredited non-profit organization. They provide mental health and
educational services to effectively meet the diverse needs of children and families facing emotional challenges. Their primary services include: residential treatment, community-based services, and community trainings. Operating for more than 100 years, Intermountain is one of Montana’s oldest child welfare agencies.
We care about others. We participate in giving relief to victims of natural disasters through UMCOR. Our church gives generously to those affected by natural disasters like hurricanes and tsunamis and will continue to support UMCOR when it heads to new disasters.
Special Days. Special Ways. We reach out to the world with Special Offerings
8/23/15 Cornered By God
Scripture: John 6:56-69
Theme: There are many who claim that they do not believe in God because of rational or experiential considerations – God’s commands are not reasonable, impossible to follow through on, even unnecessary in the context of everyday life and future hope. But that same rationality and experience provides no substantive or practical alternative to the provisions of the divine. All substitutes fall short, and deliver very little in comparison to the grace offered by God.
A worker asked for a pay raise and got this note back from his supervisor: "Because of the fluctuating predisposition of your position's productive capacity as juxtaposed to standard norms, it would be momentarily injudicious to advocate your requested increment." The puzzled worker went to the supervisor and said, "If this is about my pay raise, I don't get it." "That's right," said the supervisor.
In our passage for today, Jesus gives one of his more difficult teachings – and the response of many of his followers saying “I don’t get it.”
Jesus said “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.” Sounds like cannibalism.
Jesus implies that he is “the bread of life,” that those who eat him will live forever, not like “that which your ancestors ate, and they died.” Was Jesus comparing himself to Moses who gave the children Manna, or bread, in the wilderness?
Jesus said “no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.” What about free will? What about choice? Does God play favorites?
Let me ask you – does anyone here struggle with these sayings?
Maybe we should broaden the question – do you struggle with some of the teachings in the Bible?
Maybe we should even go further – do you struggle sometimes with being a Christian?
In our scripture passage, what follows the challenging words of Jesus is understandable: many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
Now, when we don’t understand what is going on, or when we don’t like what someone is saying, what do we tend to do? It depends, we might answer, but in general, we at least do not seek out such situations or relationships. No, I believe that most often, when we don’t understand something, or when something makes us uncomfortable, we are tempted to avoid it. We like knowing, we like certitude, we like tangibility. Things that challenge us, command us, engage us, stress us, or other wise would control us in some way other than our natural, innate inclinations make us ill at ease. Perhaps if we were in that crowd listening to Jesus on that day, we may have decided to avoid him as well.
I love a poem I received recently that puts this tendency in very eloquent and flowing words. This comes from Arthur Guiterman in the book Gaily The Troubadour, published in 1936: There is no title. It goes like this:
First dentistry was painless;
Then bicycles were chainless
And carriages were horseless
And many laws, enforceless.
Next, cookery was fireless,
Telegraphy was wireless,
Cigars were nicotineless
And coffee, caffeineless.
Soon oranges were seedless,
The putting green was weedless,
The college boy hatless,
The proper diet, fatless,
Now motor roads are dustless,
The latest steel is rustless,
Our tennis courts are sodless,
Our new religions, godless.
The message is clear – WE TEND TO GET RID OF THINGS THAT COMPLICATE LIFE; we like things simple, understandable, comfortable, things that work seamlessly, predictably. We are great reducers, you and I, eliminating that which seems to be detrimental to life. We perhaps even have this tendency towards God.
Let’s go ahead and ask the question of the hour – HAVE WE EVER FELT LIKE TURNING AWAY FROM GOD? It could take many forms – giving up on prayer, doing something that you know faith says is wrong, hating someone, seeking vengeance, doing something really selfish and unnecessary, lying, cheating, thinking bad thoughts? Have you ever looked at your faith, looked at God, and thought to yourself – “enough of this!” and wanted to walk away?
Maybe you haven’t – but many have. I meet some of them every now and then. People who used to believe in God, but do not anymore. People who talk quite frankly with me about their change. People who are fairly bold in their assertions that God has no place in their lives, that God is just a figment of the imagination. Every now and then I have conversations with those who are “outside of the church” or “outside of the faith.” They have their reasons. The other night, I thought about the most common arguments that I hear regarding unbelief, and they fell in six different categories, six different types of arguments I have heard regarding a person’s unwillingness or inability to believe in God (touchstones):
- The Suffering Argument: “There’s too much badness in the world for me to believe in God.” If God is good, and there is bad in the world, and God is all powerful, then we have the irreconcilable conclusions, or paradoxes, about God that either God is not all good or all powerful, or, at best, doesn’t care; all three possibilities contradict God’s defined nature, and hence, contradict God’s existence. This argument, if centered upon, would easily encourage a person to become a determined fatalist, a profound cynic, or an extreme pessimist. Little room for a God of mercy and peace here.
- The Wizard of Oz Argument: “There’s too much mystery for us to be sure of anything, let alone an all-powerful God behind it all.” Behind it all is nothing else than simply what we have; all else is show, based upon what we want to see (A giant and powerful wizard where, behind the curtain, it is only a person or people working the show). This argument is a common one for those who describe religion as an “opiate for the masses”, something we have created (and likewise, a God we have created) to make ourselves feel better. This is the perspective of what one might call an empirical realist.
- The Self-Sufficiency Argument: “I’m OK, you’re OK, we’re all OK, just as we are, free to be you and me; God is an unnecessary oppressive force which only suffocates individual autonomy and initiative.” Usually this is the rationale that is used to support hedonism – that which feels right is right.
- The Scientific Argument: “It is pointless to consider anything that is not demonstrable, directly tangible, and subject to direct experience.” As one scientist put it, “If you wound back the clock to the beginning of the universe, and let things play out once more, you’d never get human beings a second time. Everything is random, without plan or purpose – it just is, nothing more.……” This argument is a common one used to support atheism, or a type of logical or anti-spiritual humanism.
- The Existentialist Argument: “All I really know is what is embodied in my own reality, and thus, cannot be certain of anything that lies beyond my sphere of experience.” This one usually ends in agnosticism, the philosophy of not knowing.
- The Flagrant-Hypocrisy Argument: “Christians are such hypocrites! All talk and no action. If such hypocrisy comes about by worshiping God, I want nothing of it!” The result of this argument can easily lead one to become not just a-religious, but anti-religious, and against everything a Christian believes in, including God.
There are probably more arguments that are commonly used to justify non-belief. You’ve probably heard them before; or perhaps, you’ve even used one or some of them before.
Here’s the point: WHERE DO THESE POSITIONS TAKE US? They all end up, when pursued to their logical, rational, experiential end, to the realm of the arbitrary, the pointless, and the futile. Agnosticism, atheism, anti-spiritual humanism, fatalism, pessimism, cynicism, hedonism – are these disciplines worthy of life? If you have ever known anyone who uses such argumentation – or, better yet, if you have ever centered your own life along these lines, you realize that where they take you is often not a very pleasant place for the living.
If such thoughts ever come to your mind, or if you ever witness evidence of such
things in another, the answer of the Disciples who stuck by Jesus is sobering. Jesus asks the ones who remained behind, “Do you also wish to go away?” And the disciples say, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”
Some scholars refer to this as the “tyranny of the Gospel.” It is explored when we ask the question of those who are uncertain of maintaining their faith, “WHAT IS YOUR ALTERNATIVE?” What is the alternative to God? Many people spend so much time and effort trying to replace God with something more convenient. Some choose alcohol or drugs. Some choose money. Some choose power. Some choose to have an affair. Some choose reputation. Some choose material possessions. Some even choose motorcycles. The list is endless. We are all prone to the contagion of idolatry – making things more important than they really are, worshiping things rather than God.
ALL FALL SHORT, in the end, of a God who forgives and loves, who redeems and sanctifies, who is crucified and is risen, all on our behalf. WHAT IS YOUR ALTERNATIVE TO GOD? What is your alternative to something which stands for peace, love, and understanding? What is your alternative to a force, an entity, which loves us unconditionally, which forgives us readily, which does not demand perfection from us, but only that we do our best? What is your alternative to a God who has an all-encompassing love, an embrace not only of every human being but of creation itself, which says from the beginning “it is good.”? What is your alternative to a God who models and supports justice for the violated, relief for the oppressed, comfort for the afflicted, forgiveness for the penitent, healing for the sick, hope for the despondent, and compassion for the suffering? What is your alternative to a God who, in his mysterious ways, became flesh and dwelt among us, was even willing to die for us, all because we are precious in his sight? What is your alternative to God?
This morning, I close with testimony from CS Lewis. Lewis wrote a book called Surprised by Joy, in which he describes his conversion to the Christian faith after several years of being an atheist and finding it wanting. This excerpt is found in Chapter 14: Checkmate, where he describes being cornered by God: “[As an athiest,] I had always wanted, above all things, not to be "interfered with." I had wanted (mad wish) "to call my soul my own." I had been far more anxious to avoid suffering than to achieve delight. I had always aimed at limited liabilities. The supernatural itself had been to me, first, an illicit dram, and then, as by a drunkard's reaction, nauseous. Even my recent attempt to live my philosophy had secretly (I now knew) been hedged round by all sorts of reservations. I had pretty well known that my ideal virtue would never be allowed to lead me into anything intolerably painful; I would be "reasonable." But now what had been an ideal became a command; and what might not be expected of one? Doubtless, by definition, God was Reason itself. But would He also be "reasonable" in that other, more comfortable sense? Not the slightest assurance on that score was offered me. Total surrender, the absolute leap in the dark, were demanded. The reality with which no treaty can be made was upon me. The demand was not even "All or nothing." I think that stage had been passed, on the bus top when I unbuckled my armor and the snowman started to melt. Now, the demand was simply "All."
You must picture me alone in that room in Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England. I did not then see what is now the most shining and obvious thing; the Divine humility which will accept a convert even on such terms. The Prodigal Son at least walked home on his own feet. But who can duly adore that Love which will open the high gates to a prodigal who is brought in kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance of escape? The words compelle intrare, compel them to come in, have been so abused be wicked men that we shudder at them; but, properly understood, they plumb the depth of the Divine mercy. The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compulsion is our liberation.
8-16-15 You’d Like a Pound of What? Scripture: I Kings 2:10-12, 3:3-14
Theme: What if God granted you a wish? What would you wish for? Immediate requests are typically of the world; more permanent, faithful answers consider Who God is, and what God promises to provide. Authentically praying to receive what God offers guarantees fulfillment.
Once upon a time, there was a faculty meeting happening at a large college somewhere in the Midwest. The dean of the school was gathered there with all of his staff. An angel suddenly appears in the middle of the proceedings and tells the dean that in return for his unselfish and exemplary behavior, the Lord will reward him with his choice of infinite wealth, wisdom or beauty. Without hesitating, the dean selects infinite wisdom.
"Done!" says the angel, and disappears in a cloud of smoke and a bolt of lightning. Now, all heads turn toward the dean, who sits surrounded by a faint halo of light. At length, one of his colleagues whispers, "Say something."
The dean looks intently at his colleagues gathered around him and says, "I should have taken the money."
Today, we have this kind of scene in our scripture lesson from I Kings. King David, the King who re-established the nation of Israel, the King who was responsible for writing the Psalms, the King who defeated the Philistines, the Amelekites, the Canaanites, the Jebusites, the Moabites, the Edomites, and several other “-ites”, the King who was arguably the greatest leader in the history of the Jewish people – King David was dead. Solomon, David’s son, was chosen as the new king. And today’s passage stands at the very beginning of Solomon’s rule. It begins with a vision, a dream, where God comes to Solomon. God says to Solomon “Ask what I should give you.” Today, we might read it as God asking Solomon “what do you wish for?”
Now, there’s a thought -- What if God granted us one wish? What would we wish for? Now, many of us can easily identify with Solomon, and quickly say the same thing – “I’d wish for wisdom.” There might be other virtuous choices that come to mind as well – “I’d wish for world peace,” “I’d wish for complete understanding,” “I’d wish for truth, compassion, faithfulness, purity, etc., etc., etc….”
But of course there is another side to our selves, one which is more immediate, and perhaps even more true to life. There’s that annoying little voice that we can’t quite silence, that all-too-physical side to us that demands attention. “I’d wish for a million dollars!” “I’d wish for perfect health.” “I’d wish for political power, or to be famous, or for that new car or new home.”
And then there’s an even more profound and direct kind of wish that would come before any other – “I’d wish that the cancer would be gone.” “I’d wish for a broken relationship to heal.” “I’d wish that a loved one’s self-destructive behavior would subside.” “I’d wish for recovery, for an end to depression, for deliverance from an enemy, for justice, for mercy, for forgiveness for myself.”
Yesterday, I learned of Thelma; Thelma is a two year old experiencing aggressive cancer; they removed a small football size tumor from her last week, and her prognosis is uncertain. She will probably live at the children’s hospital in Seattle for a minimum of eight months taking chemotherapy…..I am almost certain I know what her parents wish for, and perhaps even can guess what Thelma wishes for.
We’ve all had these kinds of thoughts, I believe. We’ve all played the game of make a wish. This is a part of being human. I believe that Solomon must have had these same kind of wishes (indeed, if you follow the story of Solomon beyond this passage, he turns out all too human, and, thus, a victim of his own weaknesses, sins, and even faithlessness.)
But Solomon recognizes that everything rests in rising above his desires for precise outcomes to the challenges of his position; he recognizes that he perhaps couldn’t even conceive in his mind of what outcome would be best. Such matters demand objective consultation. THIS IS WHERE WISHING CHANGES INTO PRAYING – when what we are involved in is between us and God. Wishes are desires we possess inside of our being, usually self-focused and often pleasure or comfort seeking; prayers are interactions between us and God, many times petitionary in content, but primarily relational in nature. Seeking God’s perspective would lead to receiving God’s presence, which is the highest ideal for the person of faith. In the prayer response of Solomon, he recognizes where the greatness of his father, David, comes from, and he, Solomon, wants more of the same. In verse 6, Solomon says to God --“You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you; and you have kept for him this great and steadfast love……..
“And now, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. GIVE YOUR SERVANT THEREFORE AN UNDERSTANDING MIND TO GOVERN YOUR PEOPLE, ABLE TO DISCERN BETWEEN GOOD AND EVIL.”
To me, this interchange between Solomon and God reveals something that helps us in our own relationship with God. And it is this -- God is not in the wish-granting business, but the grace-giving business. God is not a genie granting wishes; he is something better, something greater. God is a presence, a life, a heart, a love, that offers itself to us. Call it guidance, call it wisdom, call it discernment, call it anything you want, but the basic point is that the one wish, the one gift, that God promises and delivers to anyone who asks is HIMSELF. Ask for anything else, you may or may not get it. Ask for God, and it is given.
Barbara Brown Taylor says that “There is nothing wrong with letting God know what we want, as long as we do not mistake our list for the covenant. The covenant has no conditions. The covenant is no deal. It is God's promise to be our God, which contains within it the promise that we shall be God's people -- not by our consent, but by our creation” (Barbara Brown Taylor, Gospel Medicine, as quoted in Christianity Today, April 27, 1998.)
We are God’s people, not by our consent, but by our creation – and prayer seeks to open ourselves to this reality. We are God’s people, in that God desires to be with us, to share with us the things that make life more of what it should be, even in the midst of what we think ought not to be -- which happens all too often. BUT IT IS ESPECIALLY IN THE MIDST OF WHAT OUGHT NOT TO BE THAT WE NEED GOD – to sustain us, to guide us, to carry us when we can walk no more.
In Elie Wiesel's autobiographical novel Night, he tells of how a rabbi taught him how to pray. The rabbi explained to him that in every question there is a power beyond the obvious answer. "Man raises himself toward God," he says "by the questions he asks Him. Man questions and God answers. But we do not understand those answers."
"I pray to the God within me," says the Rabbi, "that he will give me the strength to ask Him the right questions." (Elie Wiesel, Night, in his Night, Dawn, The Accident: Three Tales (New York: Hill and Wang, 1972), 15.
I think this is what Solomon was praying for – the wisdom to know which questions were worth asking. Solomon was looking at a whole bunch of unknowns – a nation in potential turmoil, hostile nations ready to pounce at any weakness, the favor of his court, the normal struggles of governing, the uncertainty of the future for his people. When he was asked by God “what do you wish for?” he responded by asking for the only thing that was certain in this world – that God would be with him. NOTHING MATTERS MORE THAN THIS. And it is left to each one of us to nurture this same motivation inside of our hearts, when facing the newness and unpredictability of life that comes with each new day – to long for the guidance, the wisdom, the truth of God – in short, to pray for the presence of God -- before anything else.
CLOSING PRAYER: from St. Francis of Assisi: “Our God, each day is a little life, each night a tiny death; help us to live with faith and hope and love. Lift our duty above drudgery; let not our strength fail, or the vision fade, in the heat and burden of the day. O God, make us patient and pitiful one with another in the fret and jar of life, remembering that each fights a hard fight and walks a lonely way. Forgive us, Lord, if we hurt our fellow souls; teach us a gentler tone, a sweeter charity of words, and a more healing touch. Sustain us, O God, when we must face sorrow; give us courage for the day and hope for the morrow. Day unto day may we lay hold of thy hand and look up into thy face, whatever befall, until our work is finished and the day is done. Amen.”
--Francis of Assisi, 1181-1226.
8-9-15 Making Good Trades -- Scripture: Ephesians 4:25-5:2
Theme: To proclaim to be a Christian is one thing. To live a Christian life can mean another. Where faith and behavior mix provides the substance of Christ’s wisdom, and shows us that we are empowered to choose to be whom God wants us to be.
This morning, I wanted to share with you a good recipe for chocolate chip cookies that I wrote down by observing my family baking in our kitchen over the years; you might want to write this down:
Ingredients: 1 cup butter, ½ cup sugar, 1 cup brown sugar, ½ teaspoon baking soda, 2 eggs, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 2 ½ cups flour, 1 package chocolate chips.
- take butter out of fridge to soften.
- open chocolate chips and taste them, to make sure they are fresh.
- cream butter with sugar
- taste a few chocolate chips to make sure they’re still fresh.
- add eggs and stir.
- eat any chocolate chips that “accidentally” fell out of the ripped open bag, to assure that only clean chocolate chips go into the cookie mix.
- mix together dry ingredients.
- make sure the chocolate chips haven’t begun to melt on the counter by tasting a few.
- mix together wet and dry ingredients
- see if the chocolate chips are ready to go in by tasting a few.
- pour the chocolate chips into the flour-butter mixture; at this point, there are only seven or eight chocolate chips left.
- open a new bag of chocolate chips to supplement the seven or eight chips left from the first bag.
- After tasting the new bag of chocolate chips for freshness, pour them into the mix.
- taste the resulting dough for quality (do this at least three or four times, for the purpose of clarity)
- bake and eat.
Such is the recipe for great chocolate chips cookies at our house. Let me rephrase that – such is the recipe for great chocolate chip cookie MAKING at our house. You see, the enjoyment of chocolate chip cookies has so much more to do with the PROCESS OF MAKING THE COOKIES than with simply eating the end result. Making the cookies is a greater part of the fun (at least in our house!).
So it is in the house of God. In today’s scripture lesson, Paul presents to us a similar kind of emphasis. There is a recipe or formula of sorts that he shares with the Ephesians and with us, that talks about the recipe that makes a life Christian. Notice how I said that – not that makes a Christian, but that makes a life Christian in its disposition, attitude, and especially action. These are hands-on applications, the things that are tangible, direct, and applicable – even painfully so – to the normal everyday living all of us experience. You can almost hear Paul saying “do these things, and discover what it means to live as a Christian.”
This “recipe” for Christian living involves what I think of as a lot of trades. Giving up one thing for another. Paul encourages us in this passage to give up:
Falsehood for truth;
Thievery for labor
Criticism for instruction and guidance
Insults for graceful speech
Bitterness for kindness
Wrath and anger for tenderness and forgiveness
Imitation of the world for imitation of God.
Now, each one of these trades could easily consume a sermon in itself, which I’m not going to attempt today. But there is one area which is uncomfortably personal to me that I’d like to dive into with you this morning. It is the fact that I have a very strong temper.
This may or may not be surprising to you – but there have been persons in my past who found this a shock. There that school of thought that defines pastors as ones who don’t get angry, who have patience beyond compare, who can sit in the furnace of the world and not sweat, who can take any criticism, animosity, or attack and simply turn the other cheek.
There may be pastors out there who are like that, but I am not one of them. I get angry. There are things that really tick me off. Things that make my blood boil. Things that make my face turn red, my body tense up, and my hands turn into fists. And it goes back a long way.
When I was around eight or nine years old, I remember trying to build a chair in my family’s garage. It wasn’t turning out very well; it was wobbly, unbalanced, and ugly. To make a long story short, this made me mad, and I tore the chair to pieces. My chair turned into toothpicks. Literally, pieces, little chunks of wood all over the garage floor; I had taken a hammer to it. Very destructive.
And this kind of behavior was not only levied towards inanimate objects. I translated my anger outwardly in many ways; I had a tongue that could do damage, I had my share of fist-fights with my peers, and, as I have already shared with you, I thought fondly of my little brother as a convenient punching bag. I probably wasn’t that different from most young children who have an abundance of energy without a lot of skills to handle such, and my parents did their best to keep me from getting out of control, but the fact remains that anger was a problem for me – and sometimes others.
My anger got me into trouble when I was a kid, and it would have continued, probably leading me into greater and greater trouble, if it weren’t for a realization that came to me in a very unpleasant way. I was around nine or ten years old; I was in the process of performing one of my brotherly duties towards my siblings, which, of course, included snooping around my sister’s room – you know, looking for any candy I could steal, something that could get her into trouble, something that I could embarrass her with.
I found something completely different. On my sister’s desk was a folded up piece of paper next to an envelope. It was a letter! Possibly to her boyfriend, or talking about her boyfriend, or something else that could be really embarrassing! So, thinking as much, I eagerly unfolded the letter to read it.
I found something I hadn’t expected inside of that letter. It was written to her best friend, and it was all about me. But it wasn’t complimentary at all. I read in that letter about how she had the meanest brother, who was always flying off the handle at her, who wasn’t ever nice to her, who even seemed to hate her or couldn’t stand her. I wanted to believe that she was talking about our little brother, but, no, she mentioned me by name. On and on that letter went, as I continued to read in disbelief. Was I really like that? Weren’t all brothers supposed to be like that towards their siblings? She saw me as an angry, mean-spirited, self-absorbed, devious soul. I was truly stunned, for I didn’t think of myself in that way at all.
I know that reading that letter was a wrong thing to do, but it resulted in something incredibly valuable to me. I began to see myself through the eyes of another, to really understand who I was in the world of other people. And I began to realize that I had a very strong temper that made me into a very angry person. I didn’t like that; I wanted to change that. And that was the beginning of one of the most valuable lessons of my life – I learned that WE CAN CHOOSE HOW TO HANDLE OURSELVES. WE CAN CHOOSE HOW TO CONDUCT OUR LIVES. We may not be able to control what is given to us in life, but we can definitely control what we do with it. In my case with anger, with my temper, I learned that although I might not be able to keep anger from my heart, I could choose what to do with it, how it manifested itself outwardly. I found that I could even exert influence over what would make me angry, and thus lessen my tendency to lose my temper. It boiled down to the truism I know, from my own experience, is valid for life: “If you don’t control your anger, your anger will control you.”
Paul says it simply: “BE ANGRY BUT DO NOT SIN.” Do not act upon your anger. Do not give in to bitterness and wrath and wrangling and slander. Such things can be controlled – absolutely. Both Abraham Lincoln and Mark Twain serve as examples. They both had the same practice that helped them control their anger. When they was livid with somebody, as Mark Twain remarked “some fool who didn’t know his blank from his brain,” they created the habit of pouring their anger out in a letter to the person. They didn’t hold anything back, allowing their eloquence and knowledge of curses and insults to have full reign. They would put everything into that letter, sign and seal it in an envelope, address the letter and place the equivalent of a stamp on it. Then, they would let it rest; Mark Twain liked to take the letter and place it on his fireplace mantel, and leave it there for three days; Abraham Lincoln actually took the letters and filed them away. I think it was Mark Twain that promised himself that if he still felt the same anger after three days were up, he would mail the letter. In the many years of this practice, Mark Twain tells us that he very rarely sent any such letter. Had he mailed many of them, he would most likely have wound up friendless and isolated. Abraham Lincoln said that he found just writing the angry letter diffused his emotions enough to regain balance and perspective, and his composure came back into balance.
I employ my own tactics to control my anger. I have written angry letters that I never mailed. I have counted to ten, to one hundred, even to one thousand, until my anger subsided. I have taken long walks, cold showers, and, yes, long rides on my motorcycle. I have given myself time-outs, moved myself beyond the stress until I regained control. And, most of all, I HAVE PRAYED. I have asked God for help, for patience, for humility, for understanding, for guidance – and that has made the most difference for me. I let God into my frustrations, and find it changes me. I ask God to transform my anxieties and animosities, and find that God responds. I allow God into my anger, even when my anger is directed at God – and find that God receives it all, and responds with what I can only describe as a substitutionary peace that helps change my perspective and align myself more helpfully to address the issue at hand. Anger may indeed be a part of our lives, but it does not ever need to become our god.
“If you don’t control your anger, your anger will control you.”
To me, this is one strong example of the main point of Paul’s lesson, Paul’s recipe formula for Christian life, for Christian practice. If you don’t control your worldly life, your worldly life will control you. This is basic Christian philosophy; this is the wisdom of life from God’s Son. CONTROL YOUR WORLDLY LIFE. Do not let the world control you.
End with the text from The Message
“What this adds up to, then, is this: no more lies, no more pretense. Tell your neighbor the truth. In Christ’s body we’re all connected to each other, after all. When you lie to others, you end up lying to yourself.
Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry – but don’t use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don’t stay angry. Don’t go to bed angry. Don’t give the Devil that kind of foothold in your life.
Did you use to make ends meet by stealing? Well, no more! Get an honest job so that you can help others who can’t work.
Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift.
Don’t grieve God. Don’t break his heart. His Holy Spirit, moving and breathing in you, is the most intimate part of your life, making you fit for himself. Don’t take such a gift for granted.
Make a clean break with all cutting, backbiting, profane talk. Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you.
Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their patents, mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.”
Of the 7 deadly sins, anger is possibly the most fun. To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back--in many ways it is a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you.
Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking Transformed by Thorns, p. 117.
The great Italian conductor Arturo Toscanini was legendary for his fits of rage. The librarian of one of Toscanini's orchestras was particularly vexed by the maestro's habit of throwing valuable musical scores at the musicians when angry. Watching closely, the librarian observed that Toscanini's first act when enraged was to take his baton in both hands and try to break it. If the baton snapped, Toscanini usually calmed down and rehearsal continued. If the baton did not break, he began hurling scores. The librarian's solution? He made sure the conductor had a generous supply of flimsy batons on hand for rehearsal!
August 2, 2015 Growing Young in Faith….. by Don McCammon
When John asked me to lead today’s services, I asked him “Is there a theme or topic for the day?” the response was “Possibly talk about growing up, maturity, integrity, humility, grace – Our Standard Of Maturity.” That is a broad topic. It reminded me a lot about what my parents tried to talk to me about when I was a teenager – and didn’t pay a bit of attention to. As I thought and prayed, studied today’s text and reviewed my faith journey, I realized that this is really about how we approach and share our faith, our understanding of our faith and how we actively share our faith understanding in God’s world. None of this happens overnight – so part of this maturing process is how we each take steps throughout our lives, some steps that appear to go backwards, sidewards and forwards, but steps that lead us back to understanding and sharing faith as a child understands and shares faith – the wonder, the wide-eyed openness and open heart and open handedness of sharing. The comforting understanding that God’s grace is always present, the Spirit is always surrounding us and Christ’s love embraces us – always.
Paul wrote a letter – even in the mid-50’s AD – that speaks to us today. He writes from prison. As his ministry matured, we see him moving from an expectant “Expect Christ’s return any minute, like now!” message to a “We need to live as a body of Christ and prepare ourselves and the world for His return.” His message describes the walk and service of the Believer, what our conduct should be, what the unities of Christ’s family are to be preserved and what purpose the gifts of grace we have been given should be used for.
But wait a minute – how does all this fit in with my job, my travels for work, cooking dinner for Donna, feeding our chickens, caring for my parents, making sure the car runs, our grass is mowed, keeping up with the news, keeping my engineering skills current, singing and then add on the church meetings, United Way and I need some sleep sometime……..
Let’s go back…..
Paul writes: “Live a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, one with humility and gentleness, patience, bearing with one another in love and maintaining unity of Spirit in the bond of peace…….” Read more
7-26-15 Miracles or Mumbo-Jumbo? Scripture: John 6:1-21
Theme: When is something a miracle? When is it something else? The feeding of the 5000, the walking on the water……these give us pause to consider what a miracle truly is – the supernatural’s intervention on the physical world, or God’s blessing us unexpectedly?
When is something a miracle? When is it something else?
This morning I would like to tell you of some recent miracles I experienced.
Two days ago, on Friday, I went to Costco to shop. I always dread going to Costco, because parking there is such a nightmare – I usually find myself parking in a different zipcode. But last Friday, I found a parking spot open right up front, only six cars away from the entrance. Read more...
7-19-15 The Soundness of Basic Christian Construction
Scripture: Ephesians 2:11-22
Theme: God’s construction practices regarding his church, regarding us, may seem to leave much to be desired, but provide for the only cohesive, solid, and enduring structure that encompasses the greatest potential for all of God’s people to discover grace.
I’ve been waiting for this a long time. Finally, we have a scripture lesson that allows me to use my four-and-a-half year civil engineering degree directly, the degree I received before going off to seminary to become a minister. Oh, yes, I’ve used my engineering skills here and there, kind of randomly, in a mission workteam project, designing the sound-system desk, or creating a cost of materials and construction timetable for a church construction project. But here, in Ephesians 2:11-22, Paul is talking engineese, the basic language of engineering. He’s talking about walls, household, foundation, cornerstone, structure, temple, things being built, and a dwelling place for God.This brings us to the wonderful consistency between good engineering practices and good faith practices. For any good engineer knows that there are three most important aspects of any building project. There are three things which are more important than anything else if you want to have a solid, well-built, enduring, and useful structure, three areas of concentration that come before any other consideration. What are these three most important parts of any building? Here they are: number one – FOUNDATION. Number two – FOUNDATION. Number three – FOUNDATION! (I’m borrowing from real estate fundamentals here, where you’ve probably heard that the three most important considerations regarding the value of property are LOCATION, LOCATION, and LOCATION. And the idea is the same. Good location = good value for the property. Poor location = poor value for the property). Likewise, in construction, everything depends upon the foundation. To have a good structure, you must, simply must have a good and solid foundation. A poor foundation guarantees a poor building. Perhaps even a deadly building. Continue by clicking here...
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.
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