The lectionary scriptures for February 5, 12 and the 19th all involve images of light. So, I thought we could have a short little sermon series right before we begin our Lenten journey, and the title is “This Little Light”. Of course, you immediately will have the song “This Little Light of Mine” running through your head all day (thanks, Pastor Bill). And maybe that is good as we spend this time thinking about how our little light shines each day. February 5, 2023 is Communion Sunday and the message is “Light to All”. The Focus Scriptures are Isaiah 58:9b-12; Matthew 5:13-20; Matthew 5: 3-12. For today, “this little light” is that of Matthew. We will explore his call story and response to his call. The scripture mostly comes from the sermon on the Mount, with the “salt and light” passage that follows.
We are working towards re-establishing our Youth Sunday School class. To that end, the class will have its first meeting on February 5, 2023, at 11:00 a.m. after church for ages 6th grade and up. We are also working towards a class for the younger children. Paula Moore and Angie Decou are working on this project and please, offer your help.
We will once again be participating in “SOUPER BOWL SUNDAY” on February 12th. This is our annual large fundraising event to benefit the Luling Area Food Bank. Although we are now actively encouraging ongoing donations of non-perishable food items, we’d really like to make a big push for them between now and the 12th. Cash donations will be accepted that day as well. The February Communion rail offering will also benefit this important ministry. This is a wonderful opportunity to help local residents in need. Your generosity over the holiday season was very much appreciated. Let’s duplicate and exceed it over next next few weeks!
Well Done, church! This is not the most recent picture of the mound of toys and food we have collected this Advent season. By Sunday morning, the toys and food filled that part of the Narthex. I believe that this was a record-breaking outpouring of love for our neighbors. And what a worship service we had! The children helped bless the gifts and then they came for Holy Communion. I confess that as I watched them eagerly, joyfully and reverently receive communion, I just wept for joy.
The leadership for this mission of the church did extraordinary work and we thank Jim and Candice for organizing the toy collection, delivery and the invitation to the children to come to church. Even so, the folks in our church opened their hearts and their pocketbooks to go shopping and buy the toys, and to bless them. Friends, this is the way to do Advent!
Christmas Eve and our Intergenerational Christmas Pageant. We appreciate and thank all our folks who helped make Christmas Eve a very special time of worship.
You recall that a few weeks ago we invited people to bring food for the Luling Area Ministerial Alliance Food Pantry. We mentioned that the Food Pantry was having a hard time buying canned, non perishable food items, and we passed out a list for the food drive. We collected 97 pounds of food and when our volunteers took it over to the Food Pantry on Tuesday, the place was swamped with folks needing help. All of the food we took by was given out that day. THEREFORE, we believe that we need to hold a perpetual food drive and encourage folks to bring items on that list by the church each week. Blake Dicke will serve as our liaison with the Food Pantry and help coordinate our efforts .
The Adult Sunday school is starting its book study of C.S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity”. Goodreads says “Mere Christianity is C.S. Lewis’s forceful and accessible doctrine of Christian belief. First heard as informal radio broadcasts and then published as three separate books — The Case for Christianity, Christian Behavior, and Beyond Personality — Mere Christianity brings together what Lewis saw as the fundamental truths of the religion.” The class meets at 11:00 on Sunday morning. Benny Pierce is the facilitator for the class. Come and be blessed.
United Methodists were at the LAMA Food Pantry this week packing the shelves and loading groceries for people in the community. Thanks to Jamie, Robin, Marsha, Candice and Jim!
Stuff-The-Bus was a great success! Thanks to the Luling Lions, Methodist Healthcare Ministries, First United Methodist Outreach Committee, Bomba Socks and, of course, Luling ISD and the children who are the heart of our community!
Our adult Sunday School class meets at 11:00 on Sunday morning, and they are working on a new series of lessons from C.S. Lewis and his “Screwtape Letters”. The Goodreads review is as follows: “The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis is a classic masterpiece of religious satire that entertains readers with its sly and ironic portrayal of human life and foibles from the vantage point of Screwtape, a highly placed assistant to “Our Father Below.” At once wildly comic, deadly serious, and strikingly original, C.S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters is the most engaging account of temptation—and triumph over it—ever written.” You sure might want to drop in on Sunday morning and dig in with Bennie and the rest of the class.
Confirmation 2022 was a beautiful, grace filled time in the life of the church as Evelyn Hicks was confirmed and became a member. We use the 39 week “Confirm” curriculum and she did such a great job with the lessons. We are so proud of her!
Many thanks to Tom Townley, singer and Christian Songwriter, who brought the message in music and scripture on Sunday May 29.
It was such a treat to host the Luling High School Baccalaureate worship service on May 22, 2022. These young people are full of faith and have been and will continue to be witnesses for Christ.
As the news came in yesterday about the massacre of the innocents in Uvalde, our hearts were broken. We offered our tearful prayers, and they continue this day, for the Uvalde community. For the families, the teachers and school personnel, the survivors, the first responders and peace officers, the churches, the elected officials, the clergy and funeral home staffs. There is no one in that little town whose life is untouched by what happened. Each will be trying to process these events, and some will need to find strength to perform their duties and help people recover. We pray that our Lord will give them that strength. On that day, I really had no words to offer about yet another senseless act of violence. Another instance of an evil, deranged person seeking out a soft target and committing unimaginable acts. But the next day, I wondered what we are going to do about it. I know that this country is sharply divided over most everything, but it seems to me that we can agree that insane, evil people should not have access to guns. We should be able to agree that insane, evil people with guns should not be able to get in the door of a school. And with these two points of agreement, our elected officials ought to be able to craft some solutions. Dietrich Bonhoeffer once asked, “Who stands firm?”. In the face of evil, who is prepared to make hard decisions? For Bonhoeffer, it was the “responsible ones”. The ones who are called to obedient and responsible action. And so, on this day after, as we mourn and as we pray and as we try to process next steps, might we be so bold in Christ as to ask, “who stands firm?” against this evil tide. And who are the “responsible ones” who will craft some solutions?
The Luling Lions, in partnership with First United Methodist Church of Luling and the local HEB and the Luling community, held a BBQ plate lunch sale to raise money for refugee relief in Ukraine. We raised over $2,000.00 and the money will be administered through Lion’s Club International Foundation and its mission to help refugees and displaced persons from the Ukraine. A big “Thank you, and God Bless!” to all who supported this effort as we serve others around the world.
We presented Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” on Good Friday, and the dramatic recreation of the scene was amazing. In the painting, the disciples are depicted as reacting to Jesus as he says “Very truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.” And one by one, the disciples tell of their time with Jesus and ask themselves, “Is it I?” And from there, the narration took the congregation on to the Garden of Gethsemane, and then to Golgotha. The cast played their roles perfectly, the choir was filled with the Spirit, and the congregation intently listened and we worshipped. Many, many thanks to the cast, our co-directors Robin Nickells and Candice Wiester, our choir and Esther Park, our choir director, and all of the many of you who helped with the food, sound, lighting, costumes and scenery.
Wednesdays at 2:30 in the Conference Room. We have a new Wednesday afternoon book study which is open to the community. Our first book and series, “Reading the Old Testament Through Jewish Eyes” is so very interesting. We have coupled the book study with reading the Torah portion assigned for that week, along with a New Testament reading that goes with it. The idea is to go through the book slowly, supplementing with a time for prayer. And we have “easy on, easy off” access so that people can join the study at any time. If you are interested, please just come on Wednesday.
Confirmation 2022 has begun and we have such a large and smart group of young people. Let’s continue to pray for them as they walk their journey in faith. Encourage them. Love them. and help them. Already, the people of the church are providing meals each Thursday, and that is so appreciated. Thanks!
Our Missions and Outreach team, in partnership with our Wesley Nurse, organized a winter clothing ministry at the Northside Park in the Fall of 2021. We were able to help families with winter coats for about 100 children and many adults too. We also offered flu shots and other immunizations, which is a continuation of our efforts this year to help keep our friends and neighbors well. I believe this is the 4th clinic we have either hosted or were in partnership to help with. And we did not forget our veterans. Missions and Outreach collected and delivered a huge amount of non perishable food, toiletries, small clothes and other items for the Caldwell County Veteran’s Administration. They will make sure that the items get to our veterans in need. We are so thankful for a congregation who cares so deeply in the United Methodist Way and we are thankful too for our community partners. Together we can do more.
One of the many joys of pastoring in Luling is entering the life of the community. We have had a great relationship with Shanklin Elementary School over the years. Leonard Shanklin was a member of our church for many years and was the beloved principal at Shanklin for many years. So, when I was asked to offer the opening prayer at the dedication of the new school building, I was honored to do so. This new building is a wonder. It is so well designed and it is beautiful. There are three huge murals adorning the hallways, including Texas, the United States and Luling and one can spend some time just reading all the inscriptions. The classrooms are large, state of the art and the school now has a gym and a cafeteria with a stage and all the lights and sound needed for theater productions. And the children, administrators and teachers who greeted us on the tour had the biggest smiles you can imagine.
Thanks to our devoted and hardworking people, we made a great deal of progress as we sorted out the landscaping issues on campus. That big tree that died is gone, the shrubbery damaged by the freeze is gone, the playground is in great shape, the bushes are trimmed and the flowers are blooming in Mom’s Garden. We still need some weeding and mulching, but much of the heavy lifting is complete. Let’s keep working and our church will continue to be that bright beacon of hope in Luling, Texas.
Just a few of pictures from “Stuff the Bus” this past week over at the Gerdes Gym. Rhonda Hunnicutt gave “Bombas” socks to the students and Jim and Candice gave out the hygiene kits. The Luling Lions gave out 275 bags of school supplies and back packs. A great day to encourage and bless our students.
Robin, Mignon and Debbie present Esther with a car so that she and her sister, Sa Ra (standing next to Esther) can come to the church and present their music. Sa Ra is the lead organist at First United Methodist in Seguin. If anyone wonders if God has a plan for them, just look at the smiles on these faces.
We have a new music director and we are so blessed to welcome Esther Park to our staff.
Esther is working on her masters in choral conducting at Texas State. Her resume is amazing. Before coming to the US, she studied piano, song accompanying / vocal coaching at the Conservatory for Music Mainz, and church music at the Conservatory for Church Music Heidelberg. At its website, The Mainz School of Music is named the only of its kind at university level in Germany. In addition to studies in music, Esther was an active choirmaster in St. Johannes Heidelberg and conductor of the Ueberberg-Orchestra in Mainz-Finthen, Germany. While choirmaster, she programmed many concerts with various choral repertoire. We have seen just a glimpse of her work during the interviewing process. We will greet her on August 1 as she begins her journey with us. This is a church service you will want to attend. and might I suggest, ours is a choir you will want to sing with.
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.
We have added a prayer wall to our church. 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.
“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.