We continue this season of Easter with a new series, “Living the Resurrection” as we explore how Christ is alive in us. This is a lectionary based series that is rich in scripture and illustration. For Sunday, April 18, the message is “Touch and See” and our focus Scriptures are Luke 24:36b-48 and John 3:1-2. It is Communion Sunday and Native American Ministries Sunday. We will see what our Native American brothers and sisters might have to say to us. I will draw from Kent Nerburn’s books about the Lakota tribe, “The Wolf at Twilight: An Indian Elder’s Journey through a Land of Ghosts and Shadows” and “Neither Wolf Nor Dog: On Forgotten Roads with an Indian Elder”. The message is prerecorded under “Pastor Bill’s Message” (available Saturday) or you can join us live on our Facebook page Sunday morning a little past 10:00.
We are going to replace a big part of the roof on the church, fellowship hall and education wing. Last May, we had some hail damage and the parts not damaged are old, deteriorated and need replacement. Trinity Roofing and Restoration is our contractor, and they are the ones who recently re-roofed First Christian next door. Did a terrific job. So, we might have a little disruption and mess, but it will be worth it. Many, many thanks to our Trustees who have been working hard on this project for a while. Besides the roof issues, our trustees have been grappling with HVAC issues on the campus and at the parsonage. We will be replacing two units soon. And you will notice that they have replaced the microwave in our kitchen. Say “thanks” to Barbara, Ronnie, Kenny and Lee when you see them.
At our Church Council meeting on Tuesday, one topic was “Is it time for our folks who are able to come back to church?” and we feel that it is time. We will continue to sanitize, respect distancing and wear masks for a few more weeks. We have started singing together again, but in a personal and careful way. It is lovely to hear. Folks, we think it is time for us to gather as best we can for worship. Talk to each other about this. Make some plans. Remind, encourage and invite.
Our Beautiful Flowers!
When Moses and the Hebrew people went to Mt. Sinai, G-d’s presence was signaled by a dense cloud. Rumbling and smoke as the Law was given to the people. A sign so that the people may hear when G-d speaks with Moses and in that hearing, to trust Moses as he led them.
But, When all the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking, they were afraid and trembled and stood at a distance, and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, or we will die.” (Exodus 20:18-19).
And later, when the tent of meeting had been built by the Hebrew people as a place for the Ark of the Covenant. A place where the presence of G-d would dwell, the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And the cloud would fall and it would lift as a sign for the people to move or stay where they were. (Exodus 40:34).
And as we read through Leviticus, and Numbers and Deuteronomy, we find that the people were wary of approaching that tabernacle when the cloud was upon it.
When Peter, James and John climbed Mt. Hermon with Jesus, we read this record in Mark 9:2-9.
It says that Jesus led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus. As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.
And when Jesus was questioned about his return, about the end times, Jesus told his disciples
Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see “the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven’ with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. (Matthew 24:30-31).
And when Zach Sobiech learned that his disease had spread and his time was short he wrote a song for his girlfriend and it was titled “Clouds”. Zach’s story is one of those sweet/sad stories. It is a true story. In 2009, Zach was finishing up Junior High and looking forward to High school. But he went for a run with his sister that summer, and when he was done, his hip was hurting. Did not think much of it for a while, but it got worse. A few weeks later, Zach was diagnosed with a dread childhood disease called Osteosarcoma. And there was treatment and surgery and it was better for just a little while, but by his sophomore year of high school, Zach learned that the disease was active again. And after more treatment and more surgery, there was little more that the doctors could do. But Zach decided that he would live even as he was dying.
That he would say his goodbyes by writing some songs. Amy was Zach’s girlfriend. And the song he wrote for Amy was about clouds. Not those foreboding, dense clouds, but clouds of hope.
I fell down, down, down
Into this dark and lonely hole
There was no one there to care about me anymore
And I needed a way to climb and grab a hold of the edge
You were sitting there holding a rope
And we’ll go up, up, up
But I’ll fly a little higher
Go up in the clouds because the view is a little nicer
Up here my dear
It won’t be long now, it won’t be long now
In the Biblical accounts, G-d’s appearances to humankind are called theophanies. They are intended to display his glory so that we can know that he is G-d. Clouds, smoke, thunder, wind, earthquakes are all devices G-d uses to mark his presence to the Biblical people. For us to be in awe. For us to pay attention.
Most times, these theophanies are marked by the people being terrified. Of feeling unworthy to be in the presence of G-d. And I wonder, what would a theophany do for us? How would a theophany help us understand our life?
Friends, we are ordinary people in ordinary circumstances who need G-d’s presence. Not a thunderclap, but a word of comfort. Not an earthquake, but a settling of our upheavals. Not a thick brooding cloud, but something bringing us grace and peace when we need it most. Something that invites us to make a song of our lives and sing it to those we love. Something that transfigures our lives and makes them white and dazzling.
Our book study we are winding up is Max Lucado’s “You are Never Alone”. In the book, we are asked to Trust in the Miracle of G-d’s Presence and Power. That Christ comes to us not in a theophany, but as G-d incarnate. Whose purpose is to bring us life. Joyful and abundant life.
Life filled with hope and assurance. Max focuses on the miracles of Jesus as reported by John the apostle.
He points out John’s words 20: 30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.
And the signs given in the presence of the disciples are large and small, wonderous, yet intimate. Given so that we may believe that Jesus is Messiah and that through believing, we may have life.
The first session in the book study was titled, “God is with you in the ordinary”. Jesus’ first miracle was at a wedding in Cana. The host of the wedding had a problem. They ran out of wine. And Mary, the mother of Jesus, asked Jesus to fix this problem, then turned to the servants and told them, “Do whatever he tells you.” And with ordinary objects of water and jars, Jesus did what was needed. And we learn from Mary’s trust, to simply do whatever Jesus tells us.
The second lesson was “G-d is with us when we are stuck.” When we can’t get it done, G-d can. Might not be what we ask for or what we expect, but we trust that it is right. And so, that sick man was stuck at the pool of Bethesda for 38 years. Waiting for someone to put him in the water when the waters were stirred. Waiting so long and making so many excuses, that Jesus would ask him, “Do you want to be made well?” Then Jesus told him “stand up, take your mat and walk”. No cloud. No thunder. Just Jesus healing and even more importantly for the man, to take some action. Take this presence of G-d in our lives and do something with it.
The third lesson was “G-d is with us in the storm”. Storms come. It is not a matter of “if”, but when. Some storm last a while; others are quickly over. But it is in the storms that we need G-d’s presence. We do not want to be alone. We want to hear the words, “It is I; do not be afraid”. The words Jesus spoke to the disciples when they were in a storm on the Sea of Galilee. The words Jesus speaks to us in our storms today.
The fourth lesson is “G-d is with us in the dark.” The darkness of sin, guilt, trauma, anxiety and fear. Spiritual blindness; physical blindness. So, Max reminds us that Jesus is Light. The Light that dispels the darkness. The Light that caused the blind man to say, “I was blind, but now I see.” We might be stumbling around in the dark, but G-d sees us. He knows where we are and who we are. We are not alone.
The fifth lesson is “G-d is with us in the valley”. As in the “valley of the shadow of death”. And so, we read the miracle of Lazarus. When Jesus tells Martha (John 11), “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
That the end is not the end. That the finish is a beginning. All the while, with our Jesus with us. At this scary time in our life, G-d is with us.
And finally, “G-d is with us when we need grace.” Don’t know about you, but I have come to find that I need grace every day. That daily bread for me is G-d’s grace. And so, the final miracle Max writes of is when Jesus came to Peter after the resurrection and reinstated the one who had denied him. Peter did nothing to deserve this grace, but our Lord is merciful and is kind. And even in our despair over our sin, G-d is with us.
These miracles Max writes of are not theophanies. There are no trumpets. No thunder. Even so, they were lifesaving, life changing and life giving.
Friends, in our lessons, we note so many times Jesus came to people in need. The woman at the well. The woman caught in adultery and about to be stoned. Nicodemus and his search for truth. Zacchaeus up in his tree. These are not counted as miracles, but I tell you this. If you asked the person Jesus ministered to, they would tell you of the miracle in their life. That they were not alone. And if I asked you about your times with Jesus, I suspect you could tell me of a miracle in your life.
Zach Sobiech’s mom, Laura, wrote a little book. “Fly a Little Higher: How God Answered a Mom’s Small Prayer in a Big Way”. Of course, Laura had prayed for her son to be healed. Any mother would. Then she had prayed for his having peace as time went on, and he did. She prayed that his life would make a difference, and it did. But most of all, she just prayed that G-d’s will be done. That even as Jesus prayed at Gethsemane, “Lord take this cup from me, but thy will be done.”
Zach and some friends recorded his song “Clouds” and it was released on UTube on December 14, 2012. It became an internet sensation. Zach passed away on May 20, 2013, surrounded by family and friends.
He went up and then he flew a little higher.
Up in the clouds because the view is a little nicer.
In the United States, “Clouds” sold 25,000 units before Zach died, and an additional 30,000 units on the day he died. It has since accumulated 17 million views on YouTube. The single that was produced has charted in the USA, UK, Canada, France and Belgium. And so many people who were sick and suffering found hope from Zach’s story and his music. That they could live and make a difference in the world, even as they were dying. Proceeds from the sale of “Clouds” go to the Zach Sobiech Osteosarcoma Fund, which is a branch of the Children’s Cancer Research Fund. Millions of dollars have been raised. In the seven years since Zach’s death, researchers funded by the Zach Sobiech Osteosarcoma Fund have made 16 new genetic discoveries about osteosarcoma and opened a clinical trial for a new drug to treat the disease. And a mother’s prayer was answered.
Friends, there are clouds, and there are clouds. Storm clouds, and clouds of hope. Rain clouds, and clouds that bring shade. Clouds full of thunder, and clouds filled with grace. Ordinary clouds and clouds full of miracles. And if we look closer at those gentle clouds, we might see someone with a lifeline. Someone who is with us. Someone who is for us. So that we are never alone.
We worship at 10:00 in person with masks on and hearts lifted. Or, you can find the message under “Pastor Bill’s Message” or just tune in for the livestream at around 10:00 Sunday Morning on our Facebook Page. We would love to hear from you. How can we help? How can we pray for you? Is there programing that you believe will make the Kingdom better known?
The applications for this year’s Confirmation Class are in the office along with our tentative schedule. We begin on January 17 at 2:00 in the Fellowship Hall. Please wear masks and know that we have plenty of room to spread out. I am so looking forward to this class. The curriculum is “Confirm” and it is terrific! Please pray for our confirmands! And if you have a child, grandchild or just a neighbor child that is around the 6th grade, then they will be folded into our fellowship and we will all be blessed. Of course, there is no cost for Confirmation and all materials are provided.
Our Angel Tree Ministry for the children at Legacy Ranch has been a wonderful success. We will probably collect a few more toys Sunday morning and the congregation will bless all the toys, games, clothing, etc. Besides the toys brought to the church, we had just about $500 in monetary gifts and our super Santas used that money to purchase more for the children. We are blessed to be a blessing! We are so very thankful for each of you who opened your hearts and wallets for these children. Anyone looking for a church home might well consider joining these generous souls.
Folks, here are just a few of the 50+ bags of food we helped prepare as we partnered with Central Baptist to deliver a feast to folks who needed a little help. Together, we blessed the food and we asked G-d to continue to bless our ministry. And, of course, we asked G-d to shower his blessing upon those families and abide with them.
By the way, if you did not catch Rev. Karen Horan’s message from a couple of weeks ago, here it is. And it is a great massage!
“Flu Shot Clinic and Winter Clothing Ministry”
Went great on Thursday! Most all of the clothing found a home and a bunch of kids will be warm as they walk to school and sleep at night. Not sure how many flu shots were given but I should have that number next week. But there were lots of people and we thank our Walgreens Lockhart partner for the flu shots and our Texas Kidney Foundation partner for the screenings. And we sure thank our Wesley Nurse and outreach coordinator for putting this all together. Along with the generous hearts of First United Methodist, Luling. And for sure, we had bags of candy for the kids.
We have adjusted the worship schedule. We will have one worship service at 10:00 on Sunday Morning beginning August 9, 2020. The service incorporates the best of our traditional and contemporary worship experiences. Come a little early for some extra music that you will love! We are wearing masks and keeping a safe distance please.
Work We Did
This is a part of the mound of supplies we took to Legacy Ranch this week.
More we did. We gathered a love offering last Sunday to help with “stuff the bus” The Luling Lions have again partnered with the schools but instead of the annual “stuff the bus”, they are collected donations to help offset the cost of the computers the kids need to learn from home. Our church collected a little over $250.00 which I presented to the Lions last week and they will get over to the school.
Friends, as I have said, no pandemic is going to stop us from doing the Lord’s work!
Friends, please see the Book and Bible Study tab for a new proposal for a ZOOM book study. The 5 week Adam Hamilton book, “Unafraid”. We will start on August 26.
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.
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
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!
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!
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