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!
April 5, 2020
“The Horns of the Altar”
Scriptures: Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29 and Matthew 21:1-11
Friends, we continue the Altar Builder’s Series with the message, “The Horns of the Altar”. A place a refuge in these difficult times. There is a video taped version under the Pastor Bill’s Messages tab. Or, you can just read along.
We will have a Maundy Thursday and a Good Friday message recorded next week. But for now, hear the words of the Psalmist, Psalm 118: 1-2, 19-29:
1 O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever! 2 Let Israel say, “His steadfast love endures forever.”
19 Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the Lord. 20 This is the gate of the Lord; the righteous shall enter through it. 21 I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation. 22 The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. 23 This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. 24 This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. 25 Save us, we beseech you, O Lord! O Lord, we beseech you, give us success! 26 Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord. We bless you from the house of the Lord. 27 The Lord is God, and he has given us light. Bind the festal procession with branches, up to the horns of the altar. 28 You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God, I will extol you. 29 O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.
The Gospel Lesson for today is:
Matthew 21: 1-11. 1 When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, just say this, “The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately. ” 4 This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying, 5 “Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” 6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; 7 they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” 10 When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”
In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus left the Mount of Transfiguration, traveled with his disciples to Jericho, healed a blind man, taught parables and then entered Jerusalem. Jesus rode into Jerusalem triumphantly, a King coming into his city, cheered by the people. People lined the streets waving palm branches. Adults laid their cloaks along the path to mark the way of the king.
And someone observing what was happening might conclude that the celebration would continue. That the turmoil in Jerusalem would result in an overthrow of the Roman authorities and Jesus would take his rightful place as King of the Jews.
That observer might conclude that the answer to the question, “Who is this?” would be, “This is Jesus, our King, triumphant over all our enemies”
But a person standing next to him might have come to a different conclusion.
The Romans did not like turmoil. And the Jewish Leadership did not like Jesus.
And when Jesus came into Jerusalem riding a donkey followed by a rag tag bunch of disciples, a person might conclude that things would not end well.
That the answer to the question, “Who is this?” would be “Just another revolutionary put down by the Romans”.
To an observer on that Palm Sunday, the variables were just too great, the options were just too many, the forces at play were just too complex for the people to truly know what was going to happen next. The situation might have been described as chaotic. The question of “Who is this?” having no reasonable answer.
In science, chaos theory is a disciplinary approach to complex systems.
That what seems to be chaotic and unpredictable and random really contains underlying patterns, interconnectedness, repetition, self-similarity and self-organization.
To sort it all out requires careful observation. It requires analysis and evaluation of all the data. And to bring order from this chaos, we must go back to the initial events to see what set it all in motion in the first place.
And what set Palm Sunday into motion long, long ago was the determination by G-d that once and for all, he would redeem his people. He would save us from our sin and make a way for us to be in right relationship with our G-d. I have said before that what happened with the fall of humankind was cataclysmic. Humankind fell into sin and disorder. I think the Bible gives only a sanitized version. I believe that the fall was great, that our sin was so terrible, that our outright rebellion from G-d must have broken his heart. And so, after the 4th chapter of Genesis, the rest of the Biblical story all the way through the Revelation is about G-d working to redeem his creation. To bring order from chaos.
And so, G-d would work through Abraham and Moses. Through the Judges and the Kings. Through Elijah, Jeremiah, Isaiah and the prophets. And then, G-d would work through Joseph and Mary and John the Baptist, all moving in this great march of history to that day when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the first Palm Sunday.
And with the turmoil in Jerusalem, it seemed that anything could happen. Back when King David was old and nearing his end, there was great turmoil in Jerusalem back then. There was the matter of succession and David had a few sons with different ideas on the matter. And he had a wife, Bathsheba, who had twisted David’s arm in favor of her son, Solomon. But Adonijah, David’s son by another wife, had not gotten the memo. He started acting like he was king. Performing the sacrifices that King David usually did. Hosting the meetings and get togethers that normally King David would host. And those folks were already treating Adonijah like he was king.
Bathsheba snitched him out and got David all stirred up. He called his priests and prophets together. He had Solomon anointed king and Jerusalem exploded with celebration. Meantime, Adonijah was feasting with his court when he heard the uproar. And then he got the news that Solomon had been named king, and Adonijah knew he was in trouble. Back then, a new king solved the issue of rivals with extreme prejudice.
So Adonijah went up to the temple of the Lord, went to the altar, and clung to the horns of the altar. Just hung on, in the age-old wisdom that that no one would dare kill a person at the same place where offerings were made to the Lord. From this secure location, Adonijah begged for his life.
Because the altar was a holy place. A consecrated place.
Back in the book of Exodus, it says, “Seven days you shall make atonement for the altar, and consecrate it, and the altar shall be most holy; whatever touches the altar shall become holy. “
The four horns of the altar were at the corners. They were protrusions of arcadia wood overlaid with brass. In the ritual sacrifice, the priests would put the blood of the sacrifice on the horns of the altar. In our reading from the Psalms today, we get the impression that the animals were hitched or tied to the horns as they were sacrificed.
But eventually, by tradition, the horns of the altar afforded sanctuary to a fugitive who would cling to them. Pleading for the holiness of the altar to protect them.
In the chaos theory of Palm Sunday, in the confusion and terror of Holy Week, in the turmoil that gripped the city, there is one possibility that existed that we don’t often consider. That altar could have figured into the story. As it became apparent that Jesus was being hunted, his disciples under scrutiny, might they have gone to the temple and sought refuge at the horns of the altar?
Clung to them and begged for their lives.
We know that the answer to that question, that possible course of action, that critical path in the salvation story, is “no”.
Because as we analyze the data; as we see the patterns of G-d’s redemptive story, the interconnections of the covenants, the feedback loops of the prophecies, the repetition of G-d’s work to save his people, Jesus’ seeking refuge at the altar was never an option.
Instead, his path had been laid to the cross. So that Jesus, holy unto himself, consecrated as the ultimate vessel of salvation, became the horn of salvation. So that in our flight from sin, our fugitive status from G-d, we have a place to go.
A place to run to. A place to cling to. A place that is holy and consecrated.
In Luke 1:68, Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and he prophesied:
68 “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them. 69 He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago),
Friends, these are times of turmoil. These are complex times that are troubled and seem chaotic. This is a Holy Week that seems turned on its ear. And our Easter Sunday now seems so very far off, and we think that our Easter baskets will be empty.
Maybe we feel pierced by the horns of despair from time to time. Gored by the horn of failure. Upended by the horn of doubt.
And it does not take a virus for us to feel turmoil in our lives.
When relationships end, when our independence comes into question, sharp horns of fear seem to prick our skin. For our young folks, the bullies have horns and are aggressive in their use. Feelings of inadequacy and that the people they love don’t understand them are the horns of frustration.
On an even broader scale, in the Book of Revelation, the beast representing Rome, the new Babylon, is surrounded by 10 horns. They are the kings who have bowed to Satan and who were making war on the Lamb of G-d. And we might perceive today, nations set against the church and our faith, and we fear their lies and power and their intent to bring about our destruction.
And, the horns of insecurity poke at us as the world deals with sickness and economic downturn.
All are beasts which seem powerful to us. All have horns that are frightening to us.
Where do we turn? Who will help us?
Friends, the beasts that bears these horns cannot stand against the horn of salvation in Jesus Christ.
They cannot stand against the sure and certain proclamation of the Good News.
They cannot stand against the peace of Christ that surpasses all understanding.
And they cannot stand against the love our G-d has for us.
Instead, there is victory in Jesus. There is triumph as he enters Jerusalem. And conquest over sin and death on the cross.
In Ephesians, Paul gave us the analogy of the armor of G-d.
He said, 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
That shield of faith is also effective against the horns of this world. Those horns are not holy and those horns are not consecrated.
But we cling to the horn of salvation, the truth of the Good News, and that horn is holy, that horn is consecrated, that horn is sacred. And it this salvation that solves the chaos equations and makes sense of all that we go through in life as we journey to G-d’s Kingdom, and beyond.
Our lives may seem crazy.
It may be difficult.
But G-d has made a path for us. From the dawn of creation to the end of time, our G-d had steadfastly worked for our good. And with our faith in G-d and his son Jesus, we can answer the question of “who is this” with full knowledge that “He is my Savior”.
As David said when he was delivered from his enemies, 3 My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge; My savior, You save me from violence.
And friends, one way or another, Lord Jesus Christ has claimed us. When we confess Jesus Christ as our Savior and put our whole trust in him, he will see us through these times.
I finish with a story that my friend Rudy Herrera told one time.
Once a little boy made a boat. He lovingly and carefully carved it out of a block of wood. It was a good little boat. He attached a small sail and brought it down to a gentle stream to see it float. But a storm came. Winds blew. Suddenly, the boat was swept away in the current and carried out to the sea.
The little boy was very sorry to lose his boat. But he never gave up. He never stopped searching the shoreline. Then one day he was walking by a shop and saw his boat in the window, with an expensive price tag on it.
He had no money. So he took odd jobs and worked hard and saved. And he sacrificed. Finally came the day and he bought the boat back.
He said, “Little boat, you are twice mine.
I made you and now I have bought you.” “Twice mine and you are mine forever.”
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen.
We will not be able to gather in the Sanctuary for Palm Sunday Worship. I will post a video Message for Sunday and I sure hope you are doing the Home Lenten Bible Study this week. It is under the Book and Bible Study tab. Be safe. Be well. Love each other. And have patience with those who are struggling.
A PRAYER GUIDE FOR LENT 2020
From March 29, 2020
A Treasure in Clay Jars
Friends: A second Sunday has come, and we do not gather to worship. As I talk with you (and as I talk to myself), I find that we are perplexed and anxious. We do not hunker down very well. Sheltering in place is less fun as each day passes. We can only read so much and the TV is as just as banal as ever. Why do we feel so unnerved? Is there more that we might be doing and in that doing, find our center once more?
Lord, this is not the Lent that we wanted. It is not the introspective journey we anticipated. Moreover, the season of Lent is so holy for us, so sacred to us, we feel lost as we mark off the days in isolation. One day looks so much like another at this point. Part of the issue is trust. We don’t trust you enough. If we did, then our days in isolation would be more productive. Your light would be more brightly reflected from us. Forgive us. Remind us of our purpose. Once again, tell us who we are.
ASSURANCE OF PARDON
Our Lord is our center. Our Lord is our Lent. He who suffered on the cross is always more willing to forgive us than we are to ask. In the most holy name of Jesus Christ, we are forgiven. Amen.
SCRIPTURE- 2 Corinthians 4:1-2
Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart. We have renounced the shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practice cunning or to falsify God’s word; but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God.
Sometimes, we conclude that our ministry is of our own making. That our ministry is that which we figure out and then put into practice. And when things go a bit south, we lose heart. And then we remember. It is by G-d’s mercy that we are in ministry. On our own, our work would be weak and intermittent. Our boldness would fail during uncertain times and we would fold back into ourselves. But, by G-d’s mercy this is not our ministry. It is that of our Lord. And so, it is powerful. It is strong. It is steadfast. And it is true because the Gospel is true. It is compelling because the Gospel is compelling. And it is lifesaving because Jesus is our salvation.
Lord, we are humbled that you would entrust your Gospel to such as us. Please, put away our ego and our pride, and remind us often of our place in your work. Empower us to, in truth and fact, renounce the shameful things that we hide. Fill us daily with your Spirit and push out all that is not of you. Let us be your comfort to all we see each day. In the sacred name of Jesus, Amen.
SCRIPTURE- 2 Corinthians 4:3-6
And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
The caterpillars came by mail this past week. In a box marked “This side up.” Each year, Candice has nurtured these critters and they make their way from worm to cocoon and then to a beautiful butterfly. And on Easter morning, they are released to symbolize the Resurrection power of G-d. But just looking at that cardboard box, we see little that is beautiful, or even that has the potential to become beautiful. We might as well be looking at a rock hewn tomb, blinded by our worldly understanding that life cannot come from that which is dead. If that is our mindset, then the Gospel is foolishness and, not believing, we will perish. But thanks be to G-d, we are not perishing because we have the message of the cross. We have the light that is Lord Jesus shining in our hearts. And it is by that light that we see the glory of G-d. So, we pull off those face masks which would cover our words. We unveil our faces so that others may see Christ in us.
O how we thank you, our Lord and our G-d, that we are not perishing. That in our lives, we can hold high the cross and see your glory. Your salvation is near to us. And we are not afraid, even in the darkest of valleys. Because your light shines out of darkness and we are comforted and even emboldened as we walk our journey in faith. We offer this grateful prayer in Jesus’ name. Amen.
A SCRIPTURE- 2 Corinthians 4:7-12
But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.
He trusts us. Lord G-d trusts us to spread his Gospel, his treasure. Even in these times when we are afflicted, perplexed, persecuted and struck down by this pestilence. A clay jar seems a bit fragile. It can chip and crack and even break. But throughout history, clay jars have been used to store important items. Jeremiah would put his deeds in a clay jar “…in order that they may last for a long time.” (Jeremiah 32:14.) Jesus’ offered a parable in Matthew 13:44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” Such a treasure would have likely been placed in a clay jar. Or so, that is the opinion of Mark Wilson, the director of the Asia Minor Research Center in Antalya, Turkey as he considered the numerous coin hoards that have been found from the biblical period. https://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-artifacts/artifacts-and-the-bible/treasures-in-clay-jars/ Clay pots are durable enough, resilient enough to be trusted with our treasure. They are not easily destroyed. And so it is with the faithful disciples of our Lord. G-d’s grace makes us tougher than what we might believe that we are. Tough enough to be a vessel of G-d’s grace for others.
Lord, what grace you shower onto us as you entrust your treasure, your Gospel, to us so that we can preserve it and then share it with others. Our current afflictions, our seeming persecutions and the perplexing nature of these times are but for a moment. They are just a season that will pass. For which we truly give you thanks. We pray that your Son’s life may be seen in our lives this day and in the days to come. For His sake and in His Name, Amen.
A SCRIPTURE- 2 Corinthians 4:13-18
But just as we have the same spirit of faith that is in accordance with scripture—”I believed, and so I spoke”—we also believe, and so we speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, and will bring us with you into his presence. Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.
“I believed, and so I spoke.” This is Paul’s witness as he wrote about the Resurrection. A Resurrection that began with Jesus but does not end there. Instead, Our G-d has promised that we too will be raised and then be in his presence. Grace extended to more and more people increases thanksgiving. We rejoice at doing our part. We do not lose heart because things have become hard. Even in adversity, we are being renewed each day. And this renewal is preparing us for eternity. So, with confidence in our Lord, we believe and so we speak.
Lord, even in these times (maybe especially in these times) give us voice to speak our confidence in your salvation. We pray that you increase our faith beyond that of the mustard seed. We thank you for the resiliency you have given in us; a durability and steadfastness to carry on. We continue to covet your forgiveness for our short fallings. And we pray for that day when the church can once again meet, sing, share communion and praise your name in corporate worship. In the name of Jesus. Amen.
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
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.
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.
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)
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,
There 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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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
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!
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
Bearing the Light into the Church
Gathering in the Narthex
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!
And speaking of the workers, here are the men. Hard at work. Ok, they did set everything up and deserved some of that candy.
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.
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!
Sunday the 14th is “Children’s Sabbath”. The Message is “God Sightings”. Where have you seen God lately?
September was our “Jewish Heritage” Preaching series. We had a Sukkot in the Narthex
Health Fair at “Stuff the Bus”
Our Wesley Nurse helping kids with socks, socks and more socks and some shoes too
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.
“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