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Pentecost 2020

 

El-Greco-Pentecost-Nieuwekerk-Amsterdam

El Greco’s “The Pentecost”

On Pentecost Sunday, May 31, we are kicking things up a notch. Still being very careful, limiting interaction and singing and still sanitizing everything. But we have confidence that the Holy Spirit will overcome our troubles and limitations as we hear the message of Pentecost in a new way. The Message is Soul on Fire”. Remember the excitement of when we first came to faith or we were touched by our Lord in a significant way? Our souls were on fire! Perhaps it is time to rekindle our first love and the fire for Jesus.

The scripture for today is Acts 2:1-21, and our laity and youth have added a blessing as they read and add “The Holy Spirit is Upon me! Praise God!” in multiple languages, giving us a feel for the excitement that first Pentecost.

We did a video of today’s sermon and you can find it under Pastor’s Bill’s message. The very last sentence of the message got cut off as the battery on the camera died. And you will not see our prayers of joys and concerns and my invitation to each of you to send us your prayers and we will fold them into our prayer wall and it will offer my prayers also.

Folks, if you need to church from a distance for a time, we can be your church. Just email or call and let us know how we can pray for you and we will also be adding service opportunities very soon.

Peace,

Pastor Bill

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Pentecost Message

Let’s pray:

Lord G-d, set our souls on fire for you.

Reignite our passion and love for you.

And then let the flame spread throughout this land.

Your prophet Joel once wrote,

Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;  rend your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing.

In our hearts Lord, we know this is true.

We long for your ways.

We run for your heart.

Not because of any compulsion from you, but because we know that is the place of love, strength and redemption and even glory.

Call us to yourself, O Lord, this very day.

Amen.

It was probably nice weather. The Jewish festival of Shavout, or the Feast of Weeks, falls 50 days after Passover, in late spring or early summer. Great weather to travel and visit with friends. The festival commemorates the giving of Law at Sinai but is also it is a harvest festival of first fruits. The barley would be coming in and so there would be plenty to eat. There were probably more people in Jerusalem for Shavout than there was at Passover. Coming from all over to the great city to visit and give praise to G-d for the Law and for the harvest.

But, for many, it was not the festival they had planned. It was not the merry time of fellowship and having wine and food with friends.

It was a time when hearts were kindled and souls set on fire. It was the time when the Body of Christ, your church, began the journey that continues to this very day.

Lord G-d, how we long for that Pentecost feeling once more. As the scriptures are opened to us this morning, let us burn for you again. Amen.

I was pretty bummed out when Third Day called it a day in 2018. Of all the praise music I like to blast in my shop, Third Day is right at the top. And their song, Soul on Fire from 2015 is certainly one of my favorites. Mac Powell said that this song invited them and us to remember the excitement of our first love of G-d. The day we first believed. It felt like we were on fire, and how we wanted that fire to spread to those around us. And so, the song has action words describing those feelings.

“God, I’m running for Your heart, I am longing for your ways, I am waiting for the day, when I am a soul on fire.”

And that word “waiting” means an active waiting. Not just sitting and dreaming, but searching and even rushing to the heart of G-d. Filled with anticipation and energy.

It is good music to work to in my shop. Good music to sand to. With my woodworking hobby, sanding is really what brings my work to life. Yes, I saw and I carve and I shape and I join, but sanding is what reveals the grain. It softens the lines. It removes the rough places and sharp corners, and turns my work from something to see into something you want to hold.

I prefer to hand sand rather than machine sand. It gives you more control and allows you to enjoy the wood.

Sanding is a rhythm thing. The right grit, the right motion, the right sound. You can always tell how you are doing by the sound the paper makes on the wood.

So, you play a song like “Soul on Fire”, I can make the sawdust fly.  I can sand in time with the music.

And one thing for sure, the sawdust would have flying on that first Pentecost. In rhythm with the Holy Spirit. The sounds of Pentecost, the rushing of the wind, the motion, the rhythm would have overcome the festival, and people would have known something unexpected was happening.

Something was being shaped.

Something was coming to life.

Something beautiful was being revealed.

Our writer Luke probably was not there. But, in developing his Gospel, he wrote that he had undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed on to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word.

He wrote that he had investigated everything carefully so that he could write down what had happened. And so, based on those accounts, he used metaphors, “a sound like the rush of a violent wind.”

“Divided tongues, as of fire.”

Auditory and visual manifestations of our G-d coming among us.

Then Luke described the reactions of those who were present, as bewildered, amazed and astonished, amazed and perplexed, as they heard the message in their own language.

The Good News was delivered to them in a way they could understand, but also in a way that bothered them a little.

It convicted and convinced.

It dug in and made them think and wonder.

It was tailor fitted just for them.

Individualized and made personal, just as they needed to set their souls on fire.

Have you ever studied the artwork of Pentecost? Just check Google Images as artists from various centuries have tried to paint tongues of flame resting on people’s heads. As they attempt to capture an image of this Holy Spirit, roaring into the room like the Lion of Judah.  The images do not work very well because it is hard to depict God’s working of fire and wind. But still, they try because they must try to capture that which cannot be captured.

Back in 2011, I guess it was, I was in the early part of my schooling at SMU Course of Study. Right down the street from the classrooms is the Meadows Museum. Back then, it had quite a catalogue of Spanish religious artwork.

Huge altar pieces.

Oversized canvases.

All pretty dark and gloomy, if you ask me. But that year the Museum had arranged an exchange with the Prado Museum in Madrid and El Greco’s masterpiece, “the Pentecost”, was on display. It is a huge painting.

El Greco trained early in the Greek Orthodox Byzantine tradition of icon painting, and that discipline shows in this work. The colors are vibrant. The disciples are all looking up at the depiction of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove.

Not just the 11 plus Matthias, but central to the painting is Mary, mother of Jesus and two other women.

And there are those tongues of flame hovering above each head. I liked that painting. Bought a postcard copy for a buck fifty at the gift shop. But what I like most is the very individual faces of each disciple. Many painters of religious art give everyone just about the same face. In fact, Greek Orthodox icons usually depict every face in a predictable and uniform way.

But not El Greco. Not this time. Not in this painting

Instead, each disciple is painted with different expressions on their faces. Expressions of wonder and amazement as the Holy Spirit is poured out on them.

Not some little trickle.

Not just a little sparkle.

But a Holy Spirit poured out for a purpose, affecting each person in a way that is particular to them. Finding our needs. Searching out our gifts and graces. Stifling our fears. Setting our souls on fire. And enabling us to speak the language of the evangelist to those we come into contact with.

In his painting, experts claim that the disciple 2nd from the end on the top right is a self-portrait of El Greco. He wanted to be counted as one on fire. One with a message of salvation painted on canvas.

And I think that if we closely examine that painting, look at the faces of the men and women who are dedicated to Christ, we might just see some familiar faces among the images.

Our senior, Madison, is in there.

Our missionary, Anna Troy is in there,

Pretty sure I saw Rhonda, our Wesley nurse painted in.

And so many of our folks numbered as disciples of Jesus. And I pray that my face and your face is in there somewhere, receiving that Holy Spirit, setting our souls on fire. Empowered by the Holy Spirit to go and tell our stories of faith to a world desperate for a Savior.

And when we do so with conviction, there are portents in heaven and signs on the earth below as lives are changed and people call on the name of the Lord and are saved.

You see, we can’t forget what Jesus said about the Holy Spirit. Why God was sending him to the disciples. The Holy Spirit is our advocate. On our side. Taking up our cause. Supporting us and giving us strength and conviction.

This Advocate, this Spirit is one of Truth. There are no lies, there is no deceit in what the Spirit tells us. So we can trust it. We can be obedient to it. We can know that what it teaches us is true.

And that truth then abides in us and counsels us and informs our decisions. And that truth will give us peace with our decisions. Not the peace of the world.

The “go along to get along” lies the world tells us.

The “its ok, everybody is doing it” deceit the world tosses at our young people like candies at a parade.

No, this is an abiding truth before which all lies and half-truths fail and fade. Truth that will set us free and energize us.

Most assuredly, followers of Christ will not have complacency in their lives. If that was the case, God just might as well have sent his Holy Spirit by UPS. Backordered it to arrive at an uncertain time. Left on the doorstep while no one sees.

But no, this Holy Spirit, this truth, comes roaring into our lives. Stirring us and empowering us to go out and tell the world about the God that we serve. Marking us with the undeniable sign of an inward grace. And giving us courage so that we can conquer our fears.

In Luke 12:49, Jesus said “I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled”.

And so when we read the letter from Christ to the church in Laodicea in the 3rd Chapter of Revelation, and Christ says, “I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot.

16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth.

God does not want a lukewarm faith in us. Not a tepid expression of our love for him and for his people. No, He wants some fire in our bellies.

And so, we see that the Holy Spirit, this Pentecostal fire that God has filled us with, serves many purposes. It refines us and purifies us, so that our love for God can remain hot. So that keeping God’s commandments and not giving into sin is easier for us. So that our love for G-d can grow and flourish. So that our testimony and our witness can be compelling.

And you might say, “Pastor, how can we keep that fire burning?” With all that is going on, how can we guard against the cold, frigid world and its lies?

Friends, the Holy Spirit does not just come to us once, and then go hide. Jesus said, “I am not going to leave you orphaned”. Jesus is not going to just shove us out into the world by ourselves.

The Holy Spirit abides in us, available day and night and every day as we pray and we call on the name of the Lord. And so when that little voice is saying, “Don’t do that”, “Don’t go there”, “Don’t say that”, probably that is the Holy Spirit.

But that is not the fun part. That is not the holy and sacred part.

When we feel that tug to be a friend to someone who needs a friend, that is the Holy Spirit. When we feel the need to offer comfort and kindness to someone, that is God in us at work. When we know, we just know, what someone needs at a particular point in their life, that is the Spirit teaching us and advising us.

That is the fun part because it is joyful to know that God thinks enough of us to use us as his witness. To empower us to step out of our comfort zone and engage in a conversation that could change someone’s life.

And we might be a little uncomfortable, but Jesus said not to be afraid. Because the Spirit that came to us, abides in us and is available for us, is not a sick feeling of fear. It is a feeling of excitement for which we thank God each and every day.

And so, we take the gospel message and speak it to people in a language they can understand. Not the high prose of the church or Elizabethan English. Not a condemning or judgmental language. Not a “do it our way or hit the highway” kind of language.

No, we speak the language of love and acceptance.

We speak the language of caring and concern.

We speak the grace and compassion of Jesus.

We speak the inclusion of all people, all children of G-d.

We offer ourselves as a festival of first fruits as we live the Gospel.

And the effect? Well, we hope and we pray that we have even a fraction of the results the disciples had at that Pentecost. The people asked, they responded to the preaching, “Brothers, what should we do?”

And Peter said, “Repent and be baptized, everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.”

See, Peter was specific in his message, clear in his preaching, and people were reached. 3,000 were baptized that day. And the promise was made for them, their children, for you and for me, for the people of Luling and for all generations. Everyone whose soul is on fire for the Lord.

And if we do our work, if we spread the Gospel message, El Greco is going to need a bigger canvas.

He is going to need a bunch more paint.

More and more faces added to the disciples, all with their souls on fire.

All living joyfully and witnessing their faith to everyone.

In the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

A PRAYER GUIDE FOR EASTERTIDE

May 3, 2020

Friends: Easter has come and gone, or so we think. We are called to always be an Easter people. Every Sunday is to be reminder of the Resurrection. We are to think about Jesus appearing to the disciples after the resurrection and then the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. So, how are we doing?

CONFESSION

Lord, how do we respond to our Jesus, your Son, forever resurrected, but forever crucified for our sin? We confess that sometimes our response is a yawn. That our day to day life does not reflect the passion that you have for us. We stop seeking you and we stop yearning for your truth. Instead of one firm foundation, we settle for the shifting sand flowing beneath our feet. Forgive us, Lord. Remind us of what is truly important. Amen.

ASSURANCE OF PARDON

Our Lord is our blessing. His Word is our center. His blessings are our hope. In the most holy name of Jesus Christ, we are forgiven. Amen.

SCRIPTURE- 1 Peter 2:2-3

Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.

A THOUGHT

The dairy case at the grocery store is so much different now than when I was young. In fact, my parents had a couple of Guernsey cows for a while and mom would carefully pasteurize the milk and skim off the cream for us. Later, we would buy “store bought” milk and the only choice was whole milk, though at some point we could get chocolate. Now, the HEB dairy case offers almond milk, oat milk, fat free and 1%, milk free milk and in all sorts of flavors. With all these choices, what is the best for us? What do we consider “pure milk”? Peter says that if we have already tasted that the Lord is good, then we know that for which we long. That if we have found the presence of the Lord in our Holy Communion, we know what we need this day.

A PRAYER

Lord, we indeed long for you. We need you this day and the next. Help us to remember our new birth in your Son, and like a baby cries to be fed, let us cry out to you for your grace and love.  In the sacred name of Jesus, Amen. 

SCRIPTURE- 1 Peter 2:4-6

Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in scripture: “See, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

A THOUGHT

Peter smoothly switches metaphors, from milk to stone. In this NRSV translation, we have the imperative “Come to him”, whereas the NIV translates, “As you come to him.” The first is a summons; the second seems to be a process of re-creation. The Hebrew Scriptures are full of references to altars and to witness stones, and we recently had a Lenten sermon series on how we use the metaphor to see ourselves as living altars to the Lord. I hope I was careful enough in those messages to emphasize that Lord G-d is the Builder and Jesus is the cornerstone of our faith. Anything we would build of ourselves would not be worthy, for we know that we don’t have the right plans or the correct tools for such work. Instead, we rely on our G-d and his Christ, whose workmanship is unsurpassed and whose planning has spanned the ages. And by which we can become humble and holy servants of our Lord.

 A PRAYER

Our dear Lord, we pray that you take away our bent to trying to make something of ourselves that does not include you. You have given us a bold Spirit, for which we are thankful. But at times we go too far, thinking that we are self-made, when in fact, we are the work of your hands. Call us and teach us so that we will not find shame in our own doings, but will find strength and grace in what you do. We offer this prayer in Jesus’ name. Amen.

A SCRIPTURE- 1 Peter 2:7-8

To you then who believe, he is precious; but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the very head of the corner,” and “A stone that makes them stumble, and a rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.

A THOUGHT

The building takes its shape from its cornerstone. All the other stones are laid in reference to the cornerstone, which determines the position of the entire structure. The chief cornerstone, perhaps being referenced by Peter as the “very head of the corner” is one placed to hold two walls together. I read that in ancient times, the cornerstone would serve as an altar for a sacrifice. A sacrifice to ask G-d to bless the building and its construction. I read that in Free Masonry, the officiant in laying the cornerstone would examine the stone, find it to be “fair work and square” and then would tap the stone into the mortar and declare it to be “duly and truly laid”. If we can hold all this imagery in place for a moment, we see that the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross elevated him as the chief cornerstone of our lives, holding together the Old and New Testaments, binding us together as the church. A church that takes its shape, design and message from Jesus. We understand that the Jewish leadership rejected Jesus and doing so has tripped them up and has caused them to stumble, extending their waiting for Messiah to come to them once more. In this time, we are invited to examine in our hearts how precious Jesus is to us; how solid he is in us.

A PRAYER

Lord, how precious are you in our lives and we are so thankful for our Savior. We know Eastertide as the revelation of the resurrection message of Jesus. It is a time of building of the church straight and true from a cornerstone duly and truly laid for us. As Easter people, renew us again! Revive us again! Lay our hands and our hearts on the altar you have built. Let us feel its steady strength. Let us hold us together as your church. Amen.

A SCRIPTURE- 1 Peter 4:9-10

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

A THOUGHT

One of the laity talks on the Walk to Emmaus is titled, “The Priesthood of All Believers”. It is no accident that the talk is offered by the laity and not by one of the clergy. Christianity, especially as practiced in the Protestant church, swings the focus from the pastor to the congregation. From the spoken word to the word put into action. As I read this scripture once again, I think of what I have learned and the clarity I have gained the past several weeks. The church is so less about the pastor and so much more about Christ and the laity who profess him as Lord and Savior. It is about the people who are bound together in Christ; a chosen people and holy and so beloved by our G-d.  And with such “chosedness” comes a need for the church to again function and serve as intended. To come out of isolation with a new vigor and spring to our step.

A PRAYER

Lord G-d, make us ready to emerge into the bright joy of your light, boldly proclaiming your worth and your help in the past days. We pray that what we have learned will make us better disciples. We pray that we never again take for granted our ability to gather as a church.  We pray that when we do gather, we see each other in a new way, each as priests for G-d’s holy nation. Loosen our tongues to proclaim our joy as we come out of isolation. Help us to minister to those unable to emerge right now, for whatever reason. In the name of Jesus. Amen.

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The 2020 Good Friday Message is under Pastor Bill’s Messages. Our Good Friday message is “The Carpenter” and the focus scriptures are Mark 12-38. This message was videoed in my woodworking shop because that is where I make the hand crosses for folks. Whether or not you watch the video, I invite you to think about that carpenter who made the cross for Jesus. What did the wood say to him? How did he feel? Was there a mix of wonderment and sorrow? Perhaps those feelings define our Good Friday.

The 2020 Maundy Thursday message video is under Pastor Bill’s messages. The Scriptures for today are John 13:2-15 and 33-35 and Mark 14:12-34. Have your bibles handy!

Maundy Thursday 6April 5, 2020

Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday 1

 

A PRAYER GUIDE FOR EASTERTIDE

May 3, 2020

Friends: Easter has come and gone, or so we think. We are called to always be an Easter people. Every Sunday is to be reminder of the Resurrection. We are to think about Jesus appearing to the disciples after the resurrection and then the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. So, how are we doing?

CONFESSION

Lord, how do we respond to our Jesus, your Son, forever resurrected, but forever crucified for our sin? We confess that sometimes our response is a yawn. That our day to day life does not reflect the passion that you have for us. We stop seeking you and we stop yearning for your truth. Instead of one firm foundation, we settle for the shifting sand flowing beneath our feet. Forgive us, Lord. Remind us of what is truly important. Amen.

ASSURANCE OF PARDON

Our Lord is our blessing. His Word is our center. His blessings are our hope. In the most holy name of Jesus Christ, we are forgiven. Amen.

SCRIPTURE- 1 Peter 2:2-3

Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.

A THOUGHT

The dairy case at the grocery store is so much different now than when I was young. In fact, my parents had a couple of Guernsey cows for a while and mom would carefully pasteurize the milk and skim off the cream for us. Later, we would buy “store bought” milk and the only choice was whole milk, though at some point we could get chocolate. Now, the HEB dairy case offers almond milk, oat milk, fat free and 1%, milk free milk and in all sorts of flavors. With all these choices, what is the best for us? What do we consider “pure milk”? Peter says that if we have already tasted that the Lord is good, then we know that for which we long. That if we have found the presence of the Lord in our Holy Communion, we know what we need this day.

A PRAYER

Lord, we indeed long for you. We need you this day and the next. Help us to remember our new birth in your Son, and like a baby cries to be fed, let us cry out to you for your grace and love.  In the sacred name of Jesus, Amen. 

SCRIPTURE- 1 Peter 2:4-6

Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in scripture: “See, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

A THOUGHT

Peter smoothly switches metaphors, from milk to stone. In this NRSV translation, we have the imperative “Come to him”, whereas the NIV translates, “As you come to him.” The first is a summons; the second seems to be a process of re-creation. The Hebrew Scriptures are full of references to altars and to witness stones, and we recently had a Lenten sermon series on how we use the metaphor to see ourselves as living altars to the Lord. I hope I was careful enough in those messages to emphasize that Lord G-d is the Builder and Jesus is the cornerstone of our faith. Anything we would build of ourselves would not be worthy, for we know that we don’t have the right plans or the correct tools for such work. Instead, we rely on our G-d and his Christ, whose workmanship is unsurpassed and whose planning has spanned the ages. And by which we can become humble and holy servants of our Lord.

 A PRAYER

Our dear Lord, we pray that you take away our bent to trying to make something of ourselves that does not include you. You have given us a bold Spirit, for which we are thankful. But at times we go too far, thinking that we are self-made, when in fact, we are the work of your hands. Call us and teach us so that we will not find shame in our own doings, but will find strength and grace in what you do. We offer this prayer in Jesus’ name. Amen.

A SCRIPTURE- 1 Peter 2:7-8

To you then who believe, he is precious; but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the very head of the corner,” and “A stone that makes them stumble, and a rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.

A THOUGHT

The building takes its shape from its cornerstone. All the other stones are laid in reference to the cornerstone, which determines the position of the entire structure. The chief cornerstone, perhaps being referenced by Peter as the “very head of the corner” is one placed to hold two walls together. I read that in ancient times, the cornerstone would serve as an altar for a sacrifice. A sacrifice to ask G-d to bless the building and its construction. I read that in Free Masonry, the officiant in laying the cornerstone would examine the stone, find it to be “fair work and square” and then would tap the stone into the mortar and declare it to be “duly and truly laid”. If we can hold all this imagery in place for a moment, we see that the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross elevated him as the chief cornerstone of our lives, holding together the Old and New Testaments, binding us together as the church. A church that takes its shape, design and message from Jesus. We understand that the Jewish leadership rejected Jesus and doing so has tripped them up and has caused them to stumble, extending their waiting for Messiah to come to them once more. In this time, we are invited to examine in our hearts how precious Jesus is to us; how solid he is in us.

A PRAYER

Lord, how precious are you in our lives and we are so thankful for our Savior. We know Eastertide as the revelation of the resurrection message of Jesus. It is a time of building of the church straight and true from a cornerstone duly and truly laid for us. As Easter people, renew us again! Revive us again! Lay our hands and our hearts on the altar you have built. Let us feel its steady strength. Let us hold us together as your church. Amen.

A SCRIPTURE- 1 Peter 4:9-10

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

A THOUGHT

One of the laity talks on the Walk to Emmaus is titled, “The Priesthood of All Believers”. It is no accident that the talk is offered by the laity and not by one of the clergy. Christianity, especially as practiced in the Protestant church, swings the focus from the pastor to the congregation. From the spoken word to the word put into action. As I read this scripture once again, I think of what I have learned and the clarity I have gained the past several weeks. The church is so less about the pastor and so much more about Christ and the laity who profess him as Lord and Savior. It is about the people who are bound together in Christ; a chosen people and holy and so beloved by our G-d.  And with such “chosedness” comes a need for the church to again function and serve as intended. To come out of isolation with a new vigor and spring to our step.

A PRAYER

Lord G-d, make us ready to emerge into the bright joy of your light, boldly proclaiming your worth and your help in the past days. We pray that what we have learned will make us better disciples. We pray that we never again take for granted our ability to gather as a church.  We pray that when we do gather, we see each other in a new way, each as priests for G-d’s holy nation. Loosen our tongues to proclaim our joy as we come out of isolation. Help us to minister to those unable to emerge right now, for whatever reason. In the name of Jesus. Amen.

 

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Dear Friends: Once again, it saddens my heart to say that we will not have sanctuary worship on Sunday the 29th. The church will be open from 9:00 until noon for people who just want to stop by for prayer. There will be a prayer guide and some music playing.

The Message for Sunday will be posted here and folks for whom we have an email will receive it that way. Take care of each other. Be kind. Use this time to dig deeper into the Word.

The message “The Consuming Altar” has also been videotaped and can be found under “Pastor Bill’s Message” tab.

Lenten Bible Study:

I have been thinking about our Lenten journey and our interrupted Bible studies. Beginning tomorrow, March 29, there will be a home Lenten study under the Book and Bible Study tab of this website.

I sure hope that each of you will do the short readings and talk about the questions with family and friends.

A PRAYER GUIDE FOR LENT 2020

An Unexpected Journey

Dear Friends:

Our Lenten journey started out normally on Ash Wednesday. The church gathered for pancakes the night before and the atmosphere was one of good fellowship.  But it was not long before our Lenten journey began to dramatically change. Our sure steps began to falter. Our boldness began to give away to concern, anxiety and even some fear. And now, we have decided that it is best to not even gather for worship. Yet, the very same circumstances that cause us to fear also call us to prayer. As we keep this vigil of prayer for these troubled times, we ask God to fill our hearts with love for our neighbors, and peace and good will towards all. We remember the many times our Lord said, “Do not fear”. We pray that our world be healed. And we know that we still journey to Jerusalem, where ugliness is side by side with the beauty. And we know that the beauty will win the day.

CONFESSION

Lord, we know that we should be hopefully and steadily journeying towards Jerusalem and Holy Week, bowing before You and in abject gratitude for the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ. Instead, the cross seems distant, barely getting a glace as we rush to the store to buy things so that we can then hide in our home. Fear, unwelcome and uninvited, has entered our lives. The cross and empty tomb seem less important. But deep in our hearts, we know that the Resurrection of your Son is the most important thing ever. And we know that our journey to Jerusalem must continue. Forgive us Father, we pray. Free us from the fear that tries to separate us from the wonder of the empty tomb. Help us put the cross front and center in our lives. Amen.

ASSURANCE OF PARDON

Our Lord has lived among us, incarnate, fully human and fully divine. He knows what we are going through. He is always willing to forgive our human frailties and fears. In the most holy name of Jesus Christ, we are forgiven.

SCRIPTURE- Romans 14-17

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.

A THOUGHT

When we began our Lenten journey, we were not afraid. We had so much planned. So, what changed? There is more sickness, but we always have some of that. The financial markets have taken a hit, but that has happened before. Maybe it is just magnitude of everything coming so suddenly and in such a threatening way. Maybe it is the way the news media is handling things. And maybe it is us. We prefer smooth sailing and for a while, our sailing was smooth. But here comes a storm, and like the disciples in the boat, we cry out, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” (Mark 4:38)

A PRAYER

Lord, of course you care. We know that. Yet we fall back into fear too easily. Forgive us. We are so thankful that you are our Father and have adopted us into your family. Heirs of the Kingdom, brothers and sisters of Christ. And so, instead of crying out in fear, we cry out “Abba, Father”. In the Name of the one who calms the sea, Amen.

SCRIPTURE- Romans 8:18-23

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.  For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God;  for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now;  and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.

A THOUGHT

And in this Lent, we find ourselves suffering even as we are put to longing for the promise of Resurrection revealed to us. And it seems that for the first time in a long time, the whole world is suffering. All of creation is crying out for healing. For freedom from the grip of this disease. Freedom is found when we control our response to the situation. Freedom is found when we do not fear. Can we allow G-d to transform our fear into longing for the truth of Easter? The fruition of our wait for final adoption. In the adoption process, there is a time from when the child comes into the care and hearts of the adopting parents until the adoption becomes final. During that time, the court studies and assesses so that the final decision is informed. But meantime, the bonding between the parents and the child is immediate. The instant our son was given into our arms, he was ours. The final adoption, though, was such a cherished time. It was a celebration of Spirit the like of which can hardly be described. Our time now, placed in the household of G-d, is a wonderful time. But can you imagine the joy of our final adoption. The redemption of our bodies?

A PRAYER

Lord G-d, as I think on this glory, on my adoption, the fear begins to melt away. Your response to our cries is so much more than what we think we need. Your response is an everlasting freedom. A transformation of Spirit as we wait and as we journey in Lent. Lord, we humbly thank you for this revelation. Lord, we are yours and you are mine. In his Name and for His sake, Amen.

SCRIPTURE- Romans 8:24

For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.

A THOUGHT

Hope is a powerful antidote for fear. Hope is a vaccine for worry. This disease is only for a time. It is a short season. It is finite. It is something we will have to wait out as G-d guides the hands and hearts and minds of the medical community in finding a solution. Most people will not catch the virus. For those that do, the vast majority will live and conclude it is like having the flu. It is small percentage who are really threatened and those are our elderly and vulnerable. Though we cannot see the future, we can hope in  G-d. We can pray those sighs too deep for words, confident that Lord Jesus will fashion our sighs into prayers and that those prayers will be answered by our loving G-d. And we know this. In these times our purpose is quite clear. We help others. We show patience and kindness to those too wrapped up in their fear. We share, we comfort, we encourage and we check on others. These things work together for good, even in times which seem bad.

A PRAYER

Lord G-d, heavenly Father, author of Creation, we pray for opportunities to be your ambassadors in this world. We pray that we open our hearts to help others. To be an encourager. To know that your church is never, ever closed. Your church is not cancelled. It is open for business. Put our fingers to dialing the phone. Put our minds to thinking of ways to help. Put our lips to saying kind and encouraging words. Put our hearts into loving everyone. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

SCRIPTURE- Romans 8:31-39

What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

A THOUGHT

Who or what will separate us from the love of G-d? Fear? A bug? Running low on toilet paper? Will our G-d abandon us now, in our time of need? The words of Paul answer a resounding “NO!” The word is shouted. It is exclaimed. It is said with a fist striking our palm. It is said more than once, like a chant as we walk along. Panic intrudes on our thoughts and we say “no!”. Fear creeps into our mind and we say “no!”. Doubt rings our doorbell and we say “no!” These things will not and cannot separate us from G-d’s love and we reject them like David Robinson slapping away a basketball headed towards the goal. And in the same breath, we are given an opportunity to do a kindness, and we say “Yes!”. A kid asks us for love and comfort, and we say “yes!”. An elderly person needs some help with their groceries, and we say “yes!”. If there is a teaching in this unexpected journey of Lent, it is that we say “no” to fear and “yes” to helping others. When we first considered Lent and wondered what we might give up, we did not know how much we would actually give up. So too, we did not know just how much we have that we may give to others.

A PRAYER

Almighty and everlasting G-d, Lord of the traveler and Lord of the seeker, make our Lenten journey more meaningful than ever. Turn our shell shock into purpose. Our fear into faith. Turn our eyes upon Jesus and his cross, but with the empty tomb peeking from just beyond the Hill of Calvary.

Father, we pray that all the members of this Church, all of their families and all of our community are kept from harm during this hard season. We especially pray for the children, the old and the vulnerable, that they do not get sick. And that for those who do, that they recover quickly.

Inspire us to worship you in this Lenten season, whether in the church or along the way. We pray that our worship experience is so deep that it creates a new and lasting Spirit, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

We pray that we will be able to better gather to celebrate Holy Week, but if we cannot, that our worship at home will be rich.

We pray for the courage to help others each day and be that light that the world needs.

We pray for our church, that even in these times, it thrives in its ministry.

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

A PROMISE FROM AN OLD FRIEND

        The 23rd Psalm

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

A BENEDICTION

The Lord bless you and keep you, The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you, The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Amen

Worship Postponed

For many reasons, it seems prudent not to gather for worship on March 22, 2020. As you have occasion, please help spread the word, especially to those who may not read emails or check the website. I think that probably some of you may be upset by this news and I am so very sorry. We will make this decision week by week.

That said, I do not want to simply lock the doors on Sunday. I plan to be here and offer prayer and simply talk with folks as they want or have need. We have developed a self-guided prayer sheet for those who come. Be assured that we will maintain social distancing and I doubt there will be a great crowd. But there is surely a great need.

Please be assured that we have gone to great lengths to make our church very clean and sanitized.

I will post my Sunday sermon “The Restoring Altar” on the website and Facebook for people to read.

One more thing. Let us be sure to encourage folks to continue their giving. I don’t want us to wreck the budget during this time of challenge.

Other postponements for this week include “The Grace of Les Misérables” and CYF on Sunday.

Being the Church in troubled times. I do not like the word “cancelled”. Church is not cancelled. Church cannot be cancelled. The church is its disciples. The church is not just worship. We continue to serve, especially in this time. To that end, the LAMA Food Pantry will add Tuesday the 24th as a food distribution date. They will need the usual contingent of volunteers for Monday and Tuesday. It seems right that we try to serve especially the elderly and shut-ins. That might mean more deliveries. All grocery bags will be carried out to the cars for delivery. There will be no need for folks to come into the food pantry.

I also worry about folks who feel isolated. As a church, let’s check on our neighbors frequently. Call them. Ask them what they need. See about them. And if you discern a need that requires pastoral attention, call me.

Finally, let’s pray deeply. And if we do not have words, then remember what Paul wrote in the 8th chapter of Romans, verses 26-27:

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.

And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

May G-d bless and keep you,

Pastor Bill

washing-handsThere has been a great deal of discussion regarding the Corona virus. It seems inevitable that it will eventually get here. How can we minimize the risk of spread even as we defiantly worship our G-d? We do as momma said and wash our hands vigorously with soap and water. Like we are surgeons getting ready to operate! 20 seconds or more, which is enough time to pray the Lord’s Prayer or sing the Doxology.  If we are sick, we stay away from others. We build a little space around ourselves. Probably not do as much handshaking and hugging as we want. We build ourselves up by staying hydrated and otherwise healthy. Eating well and getting plenty of rest is a good idea. Some folks take vitamins and if you are considering doing so, you might check with a medical person for advice. Some vitamins and supplements do not play well with our prescription medication.

The church presents a bit of a challenge because we worship as a community and share a holy sacrament. Please know that the church is taking extra precautions with the communion bread and juice. If you take communion by intinction, try to avoid touching the cup or juice. If a server even suspects that they are not well, then just say so and let someone else serve. And if someone decides to forgo communion for a while, that is ok. Just stay seated and be in prayer. No one is going to fuss at you.

Of course, there is a bigger consideration than our own efforts to not spread the disease and that is our role in helping people to not allow fear to dominate their lives. Many have said that fear is the biggest enemy we have. So, in all, we will abide with the word of our Lord, “Do not fear”. In Frank Herbert’s fantasy novel, Dune, he writes that fear is the mind-killer. It is the little-death that will obliterate us if we allow it.

The Litany against Fear, with a Christian eye for the last line is that:

“I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only Christ will remain.”

Friends, not only must we not fear, the church must be the firm and unafraid voice in these turbulent times. And so, we unite in our prayers and our firm resolve that we will not be defeated. And we will lead as G-d intended. Proclaiming the Good News and that especially now, our G-d loves us and will care for us.

Hope abounds!

Pastor Bill

 

Les Mis Lenten Book Study

I am so excited to facilitate this six-week Lenten book study based on Victor Hugo’s classic work, Les Misérables. The characters in the book are so much like us. Complex, trying to sort right from wrong, just trying to make a life in a difficult world. I fell in love with this book many years ago and perceived it as an illustration of G-d’s grace at work in people. No, we will not read the original 1,500 page work. Matt Rawle’s book is much shorter and there is a film segment to help us along.  I will have a few of the books, but you can buy them from Cokesbury or Amazon if you like. Folks, this should be a good one. Invite friends and neighbors to share this book study. We will start on Wednesday March 4 at 5:00 p.m. in the Fellowship Hall.

building-an-altar

On Sunday, March 1, we will dig into our Lenten Altar Builders preaching series. In the ancient days, when G-d came near and his people felt his presence, many times they would stop what they were doing and build an altar to their Lord. In our time of Lent, we will explore and consider the various altars we build and why we build them. Perhaps we will build a small family altar for home devotionals. Or maybe we will build altars in our heart.  March 1 is Temptation of the Lord Sunday”. The Message will be “False Altars” and our focus scriptures are Genesis 8:15-22 and Matthew 4:1-11. For March 8, 2020 our sermon title is “Providential Altars” and our focus scriptures are Genesis 13:14-18 and Matthew 6: 25-33. On March 15, 2020, our sermon is “The Costly Altar” and our focus scriptures are 2 Samuel 24:18-25 and Matthew 16:24-28. For March 22, 2020, “The Restoring Altar” is our message and our focus Scriptures are Ezra 3:1-6 and 1 Peter 5:8-11. For March 29, 2020, our message is “The Consuming Altar” and our focus scriptures are 1 Kings 18:30-39, Hebrews 12: 25-29 and John 12:1-8.

candlemas

This Sunday, February 2, we will celebrate a Candlemas, United Methodist style, as we continue our Spiritual Gifts sermon series. The Light has come into the world! And we offer our gifts to make the Light better known. Come and worship with us!

christmas-bazaar-1

and Bake Sale. December 7, 2019 from 10:00 to 2:00. Friends, this will be here before we know it. This sale helps finance our outreach and mission ministries. And speaking of outreach and mission, our winter clothing ministry was a huge success as we served almost 200 people, just in time for that frigid norther that blew in.

 

Las-Posadas-Email

Community Las Posadas at 2:00 on December 8, starting at the Episcopal Church of the Annunciation and finishing at First United Methodist. Music, fun, food and a pinata for the kids. Come walk with the Holy Family as they search for a place to stay.

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Winter Clothing Ministry

The next event for the Outreach/Missions Committee will be the Winter Clothing Ministry which will be held on Saturday, November 9 from 9 to noon in the Fellowship Hall. Breakfast tacos will be served.  Please help us collect warm jackets, coats, hats, mittens, and clothing for children and adult, and blankets, space heaters and any items to help keep local families warm this winter. Items may be gently-used and clean. We have been able to keep over 60 children and their families warm each year due to the generous donations from you. You may bring your donations to the FUMC Fellowship Hall on Tuesday through Thursday the week of November 3rd between the hours of 9:00 am and 1:00 pm. If you have items that you would like us to pick up, we would be happy to do

so. Just call the church office at 830-875-2711. Thank you, Candice. FUMC, Luling Outreach Committee

all-saints-sunday

November 3 at 10:00 (Combined Worship Service)

Friends, we will come together as one body to celebrate the Saints of our church. It is at 10:00 and we will consider the witness of the Saints, calling us to climb down from our trees and come to our Lord. Our focus scriptures are 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, 11-12 and Luke 19:1-10.

“A Conversation on the Music of Fanny Crosby”

October 27, 2019.

Folks, we have a real treat for our Sunday worship services on October 27. Tom Townley will bring us a musical conversation on the hymns of Fanny Crosby. Our October worship services have celebrated the music of the church and we will conclude the series with one of our most beloved hymn writers, Fanny Crosby. “Blessed Assurance”, “I Am Thine O Lord”, “Praise Him! Praise Him!”, “Close to Thee” are just a few of the songs we will hear and sing. Come and bring some friends!

 

Tom Townley

Quilt Show!

We hosted a quilt show on September 28 and our sanctuary was filled with beautiful quilts. Some were over 100 years old. And the Bake Sale was a tremendous success, generating money for the UMW Mission Fund.

Quilt Show

Huge Health Fair and Flu Shot Clinic will be on September 17 at the Church Fellowship Hall from 3:00 until 6:00 p.m.

united-methodist

New Book Study on “Living as United Methodists”. What does it mean to be a United Methodist? How are we alike and how are we different from other denominations? These will be topic of a six week study beginning Sunday September 15 at 10:00 (Sunday School hour)

backpacks

We will Bless the Backpacks (and our students and teachers) in both services on August 25th. So bring your backpacks, rollers, carry-alls, totes, briefcases, lunch pails, satchels and whatever else you take to school (or work) and we will offer God’s rich blessings.

Wolf

August 25’s sermon is “Back to School”, but we will consider what we might learn from the Native Americans. The book “Neither Wolf Nor Dog” by Kent Nerburn will provide a perspective on learning and tradition from the Native Americans. This is the same author who wrote “The Wolf at Twilight” we used last year to focus on the wisdom of the Native Americans.

stuff-the-bus

We will offer hygiene kits for the junior high students to keep in their backpack or locker at the  Stuff the Bus fair on August 23. If you would like to help with this ministry, just contact the church office.  Stuff the bus is sponsored by the Luling Lions Club as one of their many service projects. What a wonderful group of dedicated people!

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Being a Christian is about being Spirit-led.  Belief is not enough.  We need conscious contact with God.  The Book of Acts is a record of the disciples doing just this: learning how to be Spirit-led, Jesus leading them from the inside out.  Now it’s our turn.

We will study and dialogue about the Book of Acts of the Apostles at Mom’s Front Porch on Wednesdays into December beginning on September 11th from 12:05 p.m. to 1:15 p.m.

As a text, we will use, Acts: 24 Studies of Individuals and Groups by N.T. Wright which can be purchased through various bookstores or online vendors.

The Bible Study will be led by the Rev. Mark Bigley of Church of the Annunciation, Episcopal and Pastor Bill Knobles of First United Methodist Church.

Come join us and bring a friend as we learn more of what it means to be Spirit led.

Mother’s Day Worship on May 12, 2019. We will worship at 9:00 and 11:00 and honor those special women in our lives. Moms come to us in many ways. Biological moms, grandmothers, great grandmothers, aunts, the neighbor lady who looks after us. All can be mothers to us. So, come to church and let’s have a great time of praise.

Mothers Day

Prayer Wall

We have added a prayer wall to our church for Lent. As with the Western Wall in Jerusalem, this is a place to prayer and leave prayers in the cracks and niches in the wall. Anyone is welcome to do so. The prayers will remain personal. The Pastor will pray them and come Easter, we have a plan for them.

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               Ash-Wednesday

 

We begin our Lenten Journey with the imposition of ashes from 7:30 in the morning until 9:30, Wednesday the 6th. The sanctuary will be open. Just come on in and we will be there. Our Ash Wednesday worship is at 7:00 in the evening. The Homily is “Desperate Prayers”. Our text is Joel 2:1-2, 12-17 and Luke 18:9-14.

 

 

Our Candlemas 2019!

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Bearing the Light into the Church

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Gathering in the Narthex

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sign

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LasPosadas was such fun as the Holy Family went in search for an inn. We are so thankful to our friends at the Episcopal Church of the Annunciation who helped host the event. And next year will be even bigger and better!

 

 

Trunk or Treat 2018 was a great success. Here is Mamie and she is ready! We wisely moved the evening inside as we knew a storm was going to blow in. So, we stayed dry and so did the kids (mostly). Thanks to all of the workers who prepared such a nice evening for the kids!

Mamie 2018

And speaking of the workers, here are the men. Hard at work. Ok, they did set everything up and deserved some of that candy.

2018 men at work

This photo of our altar, as prepared for the Bishop’s visit, might just be my favorite. See the stained glass reflected on the table? So beautiful. And the folks who prepared the altar and made it shine. They are beautiful too.

Altar for Bishop's Visit

We were so very blessed to host the Pastors and Professionals conference at our church with Bishop Robert Schnase and Superintendent Marcus Freeman. The singing was robust, the preaching was heartfelt, the message was informative and the food was “over the top” good. Thanks to so many of our humble servants who made this event such a blessing!

Bishop 2

Sunday the 14th is “Children’s Sabbath”. The Message is “God Sightings”. Where have you seen God lately?

God loves me

September was our “Jewish Heritage” Preaching series. We had a Sukkot in the NarthexIMG_3477

Health Fair at “Stuff the Bus”health kits

 Our Wesley Nurse helping kids with socks, socks and more socks and some shoes too

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wood

Children’s Time on August 19. Sometimes we are like this rough old board. A few cracks. Some places that are rotting. A few holes. But God does not just toss anything away.  He makes beautiful things! Even from an old piece of wood. Even from us! Especially from us.

crosses

safe gatherings“Safe Gatherings” is the Conference’s new training and background checking for those who work with children, youth and vulnerable adults. So, those who teach Sunday school, VBS, visit shut-ins, work with children/youth need to have this training. It comes in three parts. The first step is to register at safegatherings.com. Registering will initiate the background checks and references requirement. There is a fee which of the conference will pay part and the church will reimburse you for any excess. The second step is a relatively painless computer training program we do individually at our own pace. The safe gatherings webpage will lead you into this training. The third step is an interactive session you can either do in person or at a webinar. Go to   https://riotexas.org/safe for times and places. We might just schedule a training at one of our close churches and go as a group.  “Safe Gatherings” will be required beginning right after Annual Conference (July 1), but it sure ma