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Combined Worship at 10:00 for July 5th

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Folks, we will combine our worship services for 10:00 this Sunday. The message is “What Happens When the Parade Stops?” Since the Thump Parade has been cancelled, as have most of our other Independence Day celebrations, we might wonder, can we love a country that is sick? A country in disarray? And what will it take to restart the parade? Our focus scripture is Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30. We will post the video of the sermon tomorrow under Pastor Bill’s Message. There is a watermelon story from the “other” Watermelon Capital of the World where I grew up.

As you have heard, our infection rate for Caldwell County is still on the rise. Again, let’s gather safely and be cautious. The Governor has said to wear masks. We have some in the Narthex if you forget yours. If you are not comfortable in coming, think you might have been exposed to the virus or if you have underlying problems that pose a risk, then please stay home and worship online. fumcluling.org. I have said time and again, we are not in the judging business at this church. Not going to wag a finger or fuss at folks for not coming. We just want to provide people with an opportunity to worship together, but if folks want to worship at home, we will provide that opportunity also.


July 5, 2020

“When the Parade Stops”

 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer watched as Germany went down a wrong path. The Germans thought that the Treaty of Versailles ending WWI was too harsh. That Germany alone had been punished. That the reparations imposed by the treaty created a debt that could never be repaid. And as the world slipped into economic depression of the 20s, the German people blamed that treaty for all their problems. And in their shame, in their blame, in their disgrace, in their struggle and hardship, Germany was ripe for a spiral down into an ideology of hate.

And all Bonhoeffer could do was preach and lecture and call for peace, standing pretty much alone in the church that had gotten swept up in the madness.

Many times, this country could have taken a wrong path. Many times, this country could have spiraled down into despair. Many times, this country could have blamed its woes on somebody else and used that excuse to toss away its democracy.

But it did not. What was the difference? Why has this country persisted in democracy, while so many others have failed? How have we carried the burdens that have brought others down?

Much of it has to do with how this country was founded. That we were a country to whom the persecuted fled. That we are a country where there was freedom to worship in accordance with our beliefs. That we are a country in which our very Declaration of Independence recognized the hand of G-d.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

And in the preamble to our Constitution, we name our purpose to secure the Blessings of Liberty for ourselves and for our children.

And the leaders of our country at its formation were, for the most part, G-d fearing people who knew and understood that a country founded to honor G-d could prevail in this world.

But now we come to July 4, 2020, and we are shaken. There is disease and a great divergence in our society. And we seem to have lost touch with each other and are having trouble laying hold of the principles on which this country was founded.

Usually we celebrate July 4th with family, friends and watermelons. With Parades and fireworks. With a sense of patriotism and pride. My first real connection with this community was at the Thump parade, giving folks water. Meeting people who become friends and my parish. Waving at the folks in the parade, and them waving back at us. Since Mr. Allen came up with the idea of a community celebration in 1954, Luling has celebrated Independence Day with its Watermelon Thump.

And around the nation, most every community celebrates Independence with some kind of parade or festival. Listening to Patriotic music and expressing love for country.

And maybe we wonder. What happens when the parade stops? Can we get it restarted? Can we still love a country that is sick? A country in disarray? Is this still a country that we can love and honor?

And if we say “yes” what then?

When I read the lectionary for today, I did not much like the recommended Gospel reading. I thought that maybe it seemed too disjointed. That Jesus was talking to a mess of a people who had not heard his Gospel or if they had heard, they did not pay attention. But I read through it a few more times, read some commentary, and realized that Jesus was talking about the day when the parade stops. When folks were downcast, disappointed, disillusioned and discombobulated. A generation torn between the old ways of the Jewish law and the Good news of Messiah. A generation uncomfortable with what the Kingdom of G-d and its Jesus was asking of them.

And so, Jesus would ask them.

Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30. 16 “But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another, 17 “We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.’

He is saying, you are like children. No matter what we do for you, you are acting in a contrarian way.

Then Jesus got specific and said.

18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, “He has a demon’; 19 the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, “Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’

And indeed, when John the Baptist came out of the desert wearing rough clothing, preaching his gospel of repentance and baptism, calling the Pharisees and the Sadducees a brood of vipers, some folks thought John was crazy. Crazy in his preaching and crazy for living out in the isolation and harsh conditions of the desert.

And when Jesus went to a wedding at Cana, ate with all sorts of folks, even with sinners and tax collectors, he was called a drunkard and a glutton. And so, Jesus would remind them:

Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”

The proof is in the pudding. Events bear witness to the truth. You can’t judge something until you see it outcome. Or as the basketball players say, “The ball don’t lie.”

Friends, one day we will look back at all that has happened, and we will have a better perspective on things. What happened. How it happened. What could we have done better as a nation? What could I have done better as a person? As a people of faith, what could we have done?

But now is too soon for that kind of introspective work. We need to get the parade stated again. To start building back and prayerfully began asking the important questions about where this country is going and how are we going to get there.

To go back to the basics and ask about these truths we believe are self-evident.

What does equality really mean? What life is sacred, what does it mean to be free and how can we pursue happiness in a way that benefits more folks than just us?

Friends, I don’t think these are legislative questions. I don’t think, frankly, these answers will come from the ivory towers or Phds.

I think that these answers will come from people of faith, who have been trying to figure out how to love our neighbors. How to love them like we love ourselves. How we honor our Creator and how we serve his Son. I don’t think Jesus would disagree.

Matthew 11:25 At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

For Jesus, the rabbis and the intellectuals with their pride did not know. The people of the Way did. The heart is the home of the Gospel, not the head.

Now, I can make an intellectual argument, a case for a Creator G-d and a case for Christ. I can cite the evidence for designed life and a Designer G-d. I can offer the logic that supports why G-d sent his Son to us as Messiah.

But I can do better than that by reflecting on who this Creator G-d is and how I can have a relationship with him. You want to know what G-d is like, look at the Son.

If you want to know how G-d loves, see how Jesus loves. You want to know much G-d loves us, look at what he created for us. If you want to know what to do in our relationships with others, see how Jesus treated people.

Friends, love gets the parade started again. Love strikes up the band. Love lines up the floats. Love gives life and meaning to our Declaration of Independence.

This is the right path that separates this country from others that have failed the proof of history. See, Jesus was teaching a people who were worn out. They were driven to exhaustion and despair. The law had become a hard yoke full of “thou shalt nots” and precious few statements of love and forgiveness and encouragement. And so, Jesus told those people.

Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

I finish with this story. When I was a kid, the only jobs where we could earn some cash was working in the fields. Usually pulling watermelons out of the field at harvest. It was hot dirty work. But it paid a dollar an hour and they fed us lunch.

Mr. Adcock was the biggest grower in Stockdale back then and that is who I worked for. As the melons came off the field trailer, we would have a human chain tossing the melons from one person to the next to get them to the transport van. Some melons, they called them “ice box” melons because they fit in an ice box, were pretty light. We could throw and catch those all day long.

But now and again, here would come a big one. 40 or 50 pounder that had missed the last cutting. And if you were not paying attention. Or if you were tired. Sometimes, we would drop a melon and it would crack. And Mr. Adcock wouldn’t fuss.

He would just take that melon, and if it wasn’t smashed too bad. Put it on some ice and we could eat it when we took a break. There is nothing, nothing like the taste of a good, sweet, ice cold watermelon when you are hot and tired. Folks, when the parade gets started again, we are going to taste the cool sweetness of a country that is working to get back together.

Where even our brokenness is put to use. Where the human chains work together, in a rhythm with G-d’s plans. Where those self-evident truths are true for us once again.

Give G-d all the glory.

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.

The “home” posts below are old ones. But they reflect the life of the church before the Corona virus and inspire our return to our mission of worship and service.

 

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!

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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.

 

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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

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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.

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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