"I am grateful to God -- whom I worship with a clear conscience, as my ancestors did -- when I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day." (2 Timothy 1:3)
"I'm praying for you!" My friend's text message meant so much to me, coming out of nowhere when I was in a time of great distress. I believe in prayer, and there is something so empowering about knowing that people who love you are praying for you. How encouraging it must have been for Timothy to read that his mentor, the Apostle Paul, remembered him constantly in his prayers, even though Paul is in prison. How was Paul able to live such a life of prayer?
Certainly his faith relationship with the risen Christ was the core of his life. But how did he keep his focus on that relationship? His comment to young Timothy points to at least four keys to the spiritual life: (1) "I am grateful to God." Paul practiced gratitude, which is an attitude that has to be intentionally cultivated. He spent time and effort to reflect on God's goodness to him, especially in the gift of God's grace given in his Son, Jesus Christ. The practice of gratitude brings us into the flow of the Spirit. (2) "I worship." Even in prison, Paul was connected to his faith and his faith community through worship -- giving praise to God, seeking to glorify God's name, listening to God's Word in Scripture, sharing in prayer, surrendering to God's will. Regularly joining with other disciples to worship God is a powerful pathway to sharing in the life of Christ. (3) "With a clear conscience." Worship must lead to and be supported by accountable discipleship, in which we are helped by our brothers and sisters to examine our daily lives, our behavior, our morals, our relationships, in order to discover where we need to repent, to make amends, to change direction. Few qualities are more life-giving than a clear conscience. (4) "Prayers night and day." Paul didn't just pray in emergencies; he had daily habits and disciplines of prayer, morning and evening, alone and with fellow believers. It was the daily rhythm of prayer that taught him the deep secrets of intimacy with God and openness to serve others. Prayer is the exercise of our relationship with God.
I invite you to share in the life of Christian community at Trinity in ways that will develop your spiritual practices of gratitude, worship, examination of your conscience, and daily prayer. You will be blessed by your brothers and sisters in the faith, as Timothy was blessed by Paul, and you may also become like Paul to someone else, encouraging a strengthening of others in the way of salvation.
Grace and peace,
Live the Resurrection Life
"So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory." (Colossians 3:1-4)
"So if you HAVE been raised with Christ," Paul says, not "if you WILL be raised with Christ." Once you believe that Christ died for your sins, once you trust that God loves you enough to forgive everything, once you become convicted that only the righteousness of Christ gives you hope of eternal life, then your future resurrection has become an assured promise. So much so that Paul can speak of it as having already happened.
Paul invites us to live today as though we already have died and have been raised to eternal life. Imagine that you are living right now in the presence and glory of God. Would this reality change any of the values with which you are living? How you are spending your time, your money? How much you are willing to forgive and to love?
Paul says that, since you are already raised from the dead out there in the future, start living your lives today by setting your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. Don't wait until you physically die to start living the Resurrection Life.
This Sunday, April 30, we have the opportunity to practice Resurrection living as we begin our Body in Mission. Following the 10:30 service, we will have a wonderful lunch together in Vivion Hall. Our Missions team will have tables set up where you can explore a variety of hands-on mission opportunities. Every one of these ministries expresses the love of Christ in practical ways that help our fellow human beings.
At this lunch you will also have the chance to visit with our new Youth Director, Chris Lirette, his wife, Jacqui, and their delightful three children. We are so excited to welcome them to Trinity!
In this Easter season, "set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God."
Moving from the Darkness to the Dawn
“Early in the morning on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb.” (John 20:1)
You can believe in the Resurrection! Mary’s journey to the tomb symbolizes our journey to full faith in Jesus as the crucified yet risen Savior. She moves from the darkness of despair to the dawning of hope.
“While it was still dark,” Mary stumbles toward the focal point of her deepest pain – the tomb of her Teacher. Even though she believes that Jesus is dead and buried, and that her own life has lost its direction and meaning, she still moves toward Jesus. She comes to grieve, and she does so not by moving away from the source of her pain, not by avoiding it, but by moving forward in the dark to confront it.
At the tomb – symbolizing the finality and all-determining power of death, your death and mine -- Mary finds that the tomb is empty. The space of utter emptiness and stillness, the place deeper than her pain and tears, the place of utter darkness and unknowing, is open. The stone has been rolled away from the tomb. The emptiness and stillness, paradoxically, symbolize new life – the power of God’s love that is greater than the power of sin and death, yours and mine.
This Holy Week and Easter, as we move toward the Cross and the Empty Tomb, we are invited to move toward the place of our deepest pain and alienation, to move toward our griefs, our sorrow for sin, our fear of death, our failures, so that at the Cross we may experience the transformation that Jesus brings to us through his death, and the hope that he offers through his Risen life. Even if you feel you are stumbling in the dark, keep moving toward Jesus, and he will bring you from the darkness of despair to the dawning of hope. Remember, the Resurrection happened – and happens – “while it was still dark”!
Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Happy are those to whom the Lord imputes no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
While I kept silence, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.
Then I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not hide my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the guilt of my sin. (Psalm 32:1-5)
The psalmist was in denial about the truth regarding his life. He was internalizing a lie by not acknowledging his sinfulness before God. As modern medicine knows very well, internalizing negative energy can cause one’s body to “waste away.” When we try to hide the truth about our lives from God, from ourselves, and from others, our strength is “dried up as by the heat of summer.”
The psalmist’s healing came through truth and transparency. When he was honest with himself and with God, when he came into the light of God’s truth, he discovered God to be a healing, loving Redeemer whose desire was not to destroy him but to forgive him. Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered!
In the life of the Christian Church, the season of Lent provides us a special opportunity to move to a deeper level of truth and transparency before God. Our lives are completely transparent to God already, and our need is to allow God to bring us to an awareness of the truth about our lives. When this happens, we discover God to be a God whose love “covers” our sin through the suffering and death of his Son, Jesus Christ.
I encourage you to make a commitment to be present in worship every Sunday during Lent, as we seek to allow God to lead us into the truth and transparency of his love. Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered!
"In all this we must support the weak, remembering the words of our Lord Jesus, for he himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.' " (Acts 20:35)
St. Paul gives us one of the most famous teachings of the Lord Jesus. As Paul is about to depart from the leaders of the Church in Ephesus, he reminds them of the importance of caring for the weak among them. This is a practical way of bearing witness to the love of God.
Thank you, Trinity, for trying to live out this teaching of our Lord, in all of the ways you share in ministries to those less fortunate. Today I want to celebrate with you what the Holy Spirit has made possible in our appeal to help the starving in Aleppo, Syria.
Through your sacrificial giving, we have now raised $8,800 to help ship cargo containers of food into Aleppo. Each container will hold packages of dehydrated meals. Each package will feed six people, and each container will hold approximately 272,160 meals. It costs $3,500 to ship one container.
Rae England, head of Love in Action, is coordinating these shipments. The food is being provided by Feed My Starving Children, a highly regarded and vetted organization that operates around the world. The shipments will be escorted by the head of Arab World Family Ministry, a Christian relief organization that operates out of Jordan.
The containers will go into Beirut, Lebanon, and will be sent to Tartus, in Syria. There the food will be off-loaded onto trucks and transported 2 1/2 hours to Aleppo. Separate efforts are underway to bring in badly needed medical supplies, since the Russians apparently targeted hospitals and clinics in their bombing campaign.
May God bless you for all that you do to try to live out of Jesus' teaching: "It is more blessed to give than to receive."
“As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea – for they were fishermen. And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.’ Immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.” (Matthew 4:18-22)
Jesus is calling you to follow him today. Everything that has happened in your life, good and bad, has helped to prepare you to hear his call and to respond. Nothing can prevent you from following him if you choose to respond to his call. It is the decision of your own will, your intention, that determines your response. You are free to say “yes” or to say “no” in the present moment of your life.
Jesus has died for your sins and for the sin of the whole world. It is only God’s grace, God’s unconditional love, which makes discipleship possible. God is offering you unlimited love, mercy, and patient kindness. He is offering you salvation, and not just in the hereafter. He is offering you salvation from a half-lived life in the present moment. He sees you just as you are, right now; he loves you, just as you are; and he calls you: “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.”
To choose to follow Jesus is to begin a journey from willfulness to willingness. The first disciples were going about their daily work, doing what they had always done – and probably “doing life” pretty well. They were making a living, repeating the life-patterns which they had inherited. They had a good life, with their families, and their goal was to get what they needed to make their life better. Then Jesus offered them a different vision of the meaning and true purpose of their lives: “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.”
To say “yes” to Jesus’ call required those fishermen to be willing to let go of anything and everything that kept them from following in the present moment. Jesus was not waiting; he was moving on. He was not asking them to tell him what they were willing to be or to do as disciples. Neither is he asking you; instead, he is calling you to lay down your nets and follow him, so that he can make you into someone who shares in the saving work of Jesus: “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” You can say “yes” to his call, in every unfolding present moment of your life, and the first step is to surrender willfulness for the sake of willingness.
I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my whole being shall exult in my God; for he has clothed me with garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. (Isaiah 61:10)
It was a time of transition. The people of Israel had spent many years in exile in Babylon. Now the prophetic voice was sounding once again, calling the people to look forward to salvation. God was promising to restore the people to their ancient home, where he would renew his covenant with them and where they would be witnesses to God’s saving grace. Times of transition may include both grief and hope, fear and joyful expectation, death and new life.
Many centuries after the prophet spoke of the renewal of God’s people, God brought his prophetic promises to fulfillment by sending his Son, Jesus Christ, into the world. When Jesus preached his inaugural sermon, he chose to read from the opening verses of Isaiah 61: “The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news . . .” (Luke 4:16-21). Jesus used the image of release from the Exile as a picture of the salvation that he was bringing to the world. Through the deliverance brought by Jesus, God is moving the world through a great transition toward the New Creation.
In this past year, Trinity UMC has experienced significant transition. We have begun enjoying the fruit of our recent capital campaign, which greatly enhanced our ability to do innovative ministries such as our new Generations service and other events in Vivion Hall. We have experienced grief as we have said goodbye to Rev. Vicky and Joe Peters, who retired, Darlene Snyder, who moved to Houston, and, soon to depart, John and Aly McClure, who will be resettling in Pearland. We have also said goodbye, because of death or departure to distant cities, to some of our finest long-term disciples. The church owes a great debt of gratitude to all of these faithful witnesses.
At the same time, we have welcomed new and younger families, with new young adult ministries and small group opportunities. We have welcomed Rev. David Johnson to our ministry team, along with his bride, Sarah, and their beautiful children, Elisha and Lauryn. We have been blessed to welcome Stephanie Denham as our new Children’s Ministry coordinator, Angela Fryar as my Administrative Assistant, and Carolyn Edward as a new member of our custodial staff. These transitions will help us move into the future well-equipped to fulfill our mission.
We are living through times of tremendous transition in our culture and politics and economy, while here in Beaumont we are experiencing a changing context of ministry. In this holy season, as we prepare for the celebration of the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, I am confident that the Holy Spirit will lead us through every time of transition into deeper transformation, so that we will be able to help people to Know God, Be Transformed, and Love. Let us join the prophetic chorus: “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my whole being shall exult in my God; for he has clothed me with garments of salvation!”
O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever. (Psalm 107:1)
Give thanks! The Psalmist begins the fifth book of the Psalms with a long, liturgical recounting of the ways that God has blessed his people in the past when they cried out to him in their times of need; when they turned to him in repentance from sin; when they “were glad because they had quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven” (v. 30). Because God is so good, because his steadfast love endures forever, we can, in the words of St. Paul, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
In this season when we are especially encouraged to give thanks, I thank God for the Good News of Jesus Christ, for the gift of the Holy Spirit in our lives, for the blessings of salvation, and for the high calling of discipleship. I give thanks for family and friends, and for the privilege of living in a country whose citizens have paid dearly to afford us the freedom to worship and to live together. I give thanks for the Church, the Body of Christ, and for all those whose faith and faithfulness have nurtured me and have challenged me to grow. I give thanks for love, and for God’s ability to bring “the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).
In this season I also want to give thanks for two special people who have blessed my life and the lives of many people here, and that is John and Aly McClure. John has served for seven and a half years as our Director of Youth Ministries (the average tenure in our Conference is about eighteen months!) and has been a tremendous blessing to our youth and families. In January he will begin a new adventure in ministry at the Pearland United Methodist Church as the Youth Director.
Pearland UMC is a very large church in the Houston metroplex that will take John to a whole new level of ministry opportunity. It is the perfect time and place for him and Aly. They will be living only minutes from John’s uncle and family, will be closer to Aly’s family, and will be able to receive prenatal care at a hub clinic for Texas Children’s Hospital, where Aly will be able to have their baby delivered in May. The due date is May 14, Mother’s Day!
We will have a special reception for John and Aly on Sunday, Dec.18, right after the 10:30 a.m. worship service. I know you will want to be present to give thanks for their ministry. In the meantime, we have already begun the search process for someone to come in and build on the great work John has done. Please be in prayer for John and Aly and for the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in the Church.
“O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever.”
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:1-2)
I believe that God is worthy of worship. Not simply a nod of the head, or a plea for help, or an expectation to get a leg-up in the world. As the song says, “Our God is an awesome God!” God is so awesome that he comes to us in his Son, Jesus, in utter humility and suffering on the Cross, in order to set us free to be his children forever. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
The most authentic response to God’s grace, God’s undeserved love, is worship: the wholehearted, unreserved surrender to God in thanksgiving, praise, obedience, and service. In Romans 12, St. Paul links our worship of God to our love and care for our brothers and sisters in the world. Only God, through his Holy Spirit, can work the transformation in our hearts that will empower us to worship God in a way that truly reflects God’s own nature, which is unconditional love.
When I pledge my financial giving to the church, I do so as an act of worship – that is, as a response to God’s grace in my life. It took a long time for God to transform my understanding of giving to be an act of worship and complete surrender. My very first pledge was $60.00, or $5 per month. I thought that was going to kill me! And you know what? It did! It crucified a tiny bit of my self-centered, fear-controlled way of dealing with my money – my idolatry of my money. It was my baby step toward a fuller response to God’s grace in worship.
Today, many years later, I am excited to embrace the Biblical principle of tithing – the giving of ten percent of my gross income back to God in worship. I know now that this does not earn me any favors from God or any more love from God than I was being given before I ever pledged $60. Yet I have more joy, more sense of fulfillment and completion, more love and more desire to serve, because God’s grace is constantly calling me to a fuller surrender.
From beginning to end, the worship of God is made possible by God, so that we may be “reborn” to become children of God! “I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”
Talk about an attitude adjustment! Right in the middle of a song of devastating grief – a “lament” to end all laments – the biblical poet stops short and says, “But this I call to mind and therefore I have hope” and then sings the affirmation of faith quoted above.
The Book of Lamentations mourns the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile of the people of Judah to Babylon in 586 B.C. It is a sad song full of terrifying images of suffering and loss, of punishment and shame, of sorrow and despair. If you ever feel that life has gotten you down, and you need help putting awful feelings into words and singing the blues, then Lamentations is the book for you.
In the middle of such an awful lament, it is remarkable to hear this sad soul pause, take a breath, remember God’s steadfast love, affirm his hope in God, and then return to singing the blues. The circumstances of his life haven’t changed; he and his people are still suffering. Yet even as he cries out in pain, he also sings in love and hope.
Love and hope are at the core of the Good News of Jesus Christ. In the midst of a world in which we are witnessing great suffering and pain, in the midst of our lives which are so often broken by sin and sorrow, Jesus comes to bring salvation and a new possibility for human life.
If you find yourself sometimes “singing the blues” these days about life, let the prayer and worship and fellowship of Christ’s Church help you to remember God’s steadfast love and unceasing mercy. Worship on Sunday morning, quiet time in the prayer chapel, fellowship in a Sunday School class or Bible study, service with a mission outreach -- there are so many ways that the Body of Christ, the Church, can help you to renew your hope in the God to whom we sing, “Great is Your Faithfulness.” “‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.’”
See you Sunday!
“They went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. When they had come opposite Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them; so, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision: there stood a man of Macedonia pleading with him and saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’ When he had seen the vision, we immediately tried to cross over to Macedonia, being convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them.” (Acts 16:6-10)
The Holy Spirit wants to guide your life. In the Book of Acts, after Pentecost, the Holy Spirit guides the disciples in their new vocation to bear witness to the resurrection of Jesus. Paul experienced this guidance both as God blocking his path when he was going in the wrong direction and opening doors to send him in the right direction. God still does that today, when we are “tuned in” to the Holy Spirit and sincerely ask for guidance.
In the passage above, the Holy Spirit’s guidance occurred at a critical transition in Paul’s missionary efforts, propelling him into Europe with the Gospel. It is especially helpful to pray for God’s direction when we are facing major transitions in life. With that in mind, I want to ask you to pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance for our brothers and sisters who are in transition:
1. Our graduating seniors. We are so proud of our seniors as they begin a new journey of education and growth, often away from home for the first time. Let’s pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance for these young persons:
2. Rev. Vicky and Joe Peters. Vicky and Joe have blessed our lives and Trinity’s mission for 13 years. Let’s pray for them as they prepare for the adventure of their retirement! Mark your calendar for Sunday, July 31, Rev. Peters’ last Sunday with us. We will have a special banquet after the worship services that day.
3. Rev. David and Sarah Johnson. David will be joining our staff as a new associate pastor on July 1, having just graduated from Perkins School of Theology at SMU. Sarah is a registered nurse, and they have two beautiful young children. Let’s pray for them as they prepare for this significant new stage of their lives and ministry.
The Holy Spirit wants to guide our lives. Jesus is calling you and me to follow him, step by step, so that we can become disciples who share with others the Good News of new life in Christ!
this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus
Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17:3)
Jesus wants you to have eternal life! Jesus wants everyone to share in the eternal
life of God. When Jesus returns to God
in the resurrection and ascension, he glorifies God by including you and me in
his own relationship with God – eternal life.
This life begins when we believe that God sent Jesus into the world to
be our Savior, and this life transforms us all the way into the full presence
of God. To “know” God means much more
than just knowing facts about God. To
know God means to be in a life-giving relationship with him.
We have seventeen seventh and eighth graders who have
responded to God’s grace in their lives by deciding to grow in their
relationship with Christ through Confirmation. For over three months they have been studying the Christian faith with
the intention to Know God, Be Transformed, and Love. On Sunday, May 15, Pentecost Sunday, we will
celebrate their entry into Christ’s holy Church through baptism and
I want to give thanks to God for the superb leadership of
Rev. Vicky Peters and John McClure, as well as the wonderful investment of time
and love from our adult mentors who met regularly with our youth in small
groups: Gerry Wiggins Edwards, Carol
Wiggins Hearn, Steve Meek, Sandra Clark, Judy Honeycutt, and Lisa LaFosse. And special thanks to all the parents who
prioritized this journey in their family schedules, and to those parents who
sacrificed lots of sleep on overnight retreats!
Our 2016 Confirmands include:
Reece Austin, Lorianna Bartel, Clay Brewer, Alex Butler, Tyler Easley, Julianna Jordan, Olivia Martinez, Catherine Kinsel, Lauren Naas, Lily Norman, Gabriel Roesler, Emma Sanford, Cecily Shield, Anna Shoemaker, Olivia Wall, and Lilly Yoes.
Please be praying for these young disciples, and for one
another, that every day of our lives, we may grow in eternal life – to know
God, and Jesus Christ whom he has sent!
Grace and peace,
"The hour has come for the Son of
Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into
the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears
much fruit. Those who love their life lose
it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be
also. Whoever serves me, the Father will
honor." (John 12:23-26)
The "hour" of Jesus
"glorification" is his death on the cross. This is a paradox. In this world we tend to think of
"glory" in terms of attaining great success or fame, winning the game
or the battle or the election, having everyone admire or adore us.
God's great work of salvation in
Christ moves in an entirely different direction. The Passion, death, resurrection, and
ascension of Jesus comprise the "hour" of Jesus' glorification -- his
self-emptying gift of himself on behalf of you and me. The gift of Jesus' life is supremely God's
gift of sacrificial love for us.
When we accept God's gift of love in
Christ, when we surrender to grace and begin to follow Jesus, then our own
lives are drawn in to the mystery of Jesus' "glorification." At first Jesus' words may sound very harsh: "Those who love their life lose it, and
those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life."
In the context of John 12, "to
hate" does not mean to have unloving or angry thoughts toward
oneself. To "hate one's life"
means to let go of everything that impedes you from following Jesus; to let go
of our attachment to all of our little "self-glorification" projects;
to turn away from those motivations that are about staying in control or seeing
myself as the center of value. To
"love one's life" in these ways is to lose the life that Jesus died
to give us -- eternal life.
As we approach Holy Week and Easter,
Jesus is inviting you and me to receive the astonishing gift of God's love in
the Passion, death, resurrection, and ascension of the Son of Man. And then he is inviting us to follow him into
the mystery and paradox of living toward eternal life. "Those who love their life lose it, and
those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever
serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will
Grace and peace,
“And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him
in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:7)
Advent is a season of anticipation and preparation, inviting
us to receive the divine hospitality in the gift of Jesus Christ. Advent is a time for opening our hearts to
God in repentance and faith, waiting in expectation for the coming of
Christ. As we celebrate his birth long
ago in Bethlehem, we also anticipate his coming into our lives as Living Lord.
In Bethlehem, there was no room for the Holy Family, no
hospitality for Mary, so that she had to give birth to her firstborn son in a
place where animals fed. Yet, though
there was no room in the inn for Jesus, Jesus makes room in his Father’s house
for you and me through his death on the cross for our sin. The divine hospitality extends infinite mercy
to us all.
So in this season, there is something within us that
encourages us to open our hearts, our hands, our homes in hospitality. In some countries, there is still an old
tradition of placing candles in the window, to signal to the Holy Family that
there is room in the house for Jesus to lay his head.
Let’s set a special intention in our hearts to show
hospitality to one another and to our neighbors in this season. I encourage you to invite friends,
co-workers, classmates, people you encounter in daily life, to come with you to
worship. Your hospitality to others may
become a sign to them of the divine hospitality, of God inviting us into
fellowship and communion with our Lord and with one another. Let’s say to the stranger what we also want
to say to Jesus, “There’s room for you in our hearts!”
Grace and peace,
In the final verses of the Gospel According to Matthew, Jesus gives us the "Great Commission": "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:18-20).
Jesus gives this commission to the disciples while they are worshiping him as the Risen Christ, gathered at his feet with all their hopes, foibles, aspirations, questions, quarrels, and faith. "When they saw him, they worshiped him, but some doubted" (28:17). To these very human disciples, Jesus extends the greatest invitation in the world - to share in Jesus' mission to bring salvation to the world. The very last words of the Gospel make it clear that it is only in the company of Jesus, only in the love given by Jesus, only through the saving presence of Jesus, that disciples and true community are created: "Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age" (28:20). The life and love of the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, become God's gift to us, and through us, to the world. This is grace from beginning to end.
When I look back over the past year at Trinity United Methodist Church, I see many signs of God working to create disciples and true community as we seek to live into our mission to Know God, Be Transformed, and Love. The mystery of the Holy Trinity is the mystery of unity-in-diversity, the paradox of One-in Three, and all life that is godly tends toward that mystery and manifests that love. In the reports that compromise our Charge Conference Booklet (available at the church), you will find many testimonies to the ways in which our congregation is seeking to live out the Great Commission. I want to highlight three.
I see God creating disciples through our worship life together, in community and in faith-forming relationships. Whether through our weekly Children's Chapel time, Youth Worship on Sunday evenings, Wednesday Refresh, or our Sunday morning worship services, people young and old are being brought into a deeper relationship with God and with one another through worship. Our television ministry extends this worshiping community to many people throughout Southeast Texas and into Louisiana.
I see God creating disciples through our growing ministries to children and families. Our Weekday Ministries provides a tremendous blessing to many children and their parents by grounding their daily lives in Christian community and spiritual formation as they grow spiritually, intellectually, emotionally, and physically. In addition, through a wide variety of children's ministries, including an outstanding Vacation Bible School, children encounter the love of God and are drawn into a deepening relationship with Christ Jesus.
I see God creating disciples through myriad small groups ministries. Our overarching church-wide goal has been to become more invitational through small groups. Small group resources from spiritual leaders such as Adam Hamilton and James Harnish have provided opportunities for the whole church to engage in spiritual growth and accountable discipleship. Ongoing groups such as Sunday School classes, Bible studies, and prayer groups provide both nurture and challenge for faith development. Disciple Bible Study and short-term studies help us obey Jesus' command to teach persons "to obey everything that I have commanded you." Many small-group opportunities for hands-on missions bless people near and far with the love of Christ expressed in the most practical ways, from Body in Mission projects to feeding the homeless to volunteering in the schools to cooking and counseling at Some Other Place to sharing in an international mission outreach to building wheel-chair ramps. All of these small group ministries can be avenues to become more invitational to persons in the wider community, to help people experience the grace of God through Jesus Christ in the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit.
I am deeply privileged to serve this community of faith, and I am especially privileged to serve with great colleagues in ministry, both clergy and lay. Trinity's staff and lay leadership work tirelessly to help us share more faithfully and fruitfully in the Great Commission. As we look forward to the new year, I pray that we will be filled with the Spirit to respond with growing passion and joy to the Master's call: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age."
In Romans 12:1-2, we read, "I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God - what is good and acceptable and perfect."
St. Paul joins the spiritual to the physical when he says that our "spiritual worship" involves presenting our "bodies as a living sacrifice." Just as Jesus is God-in-the-flesh for us, our lives as disciples of Jesus must become "incarnational" - the spiritual enfleshed in the physical and relational dimensions of our lives.
This means that how I use my material possessions is one dimension of "presenting my body as a living sacrifice" to God as my "spiritual worship." The most important reason that I follow the Biblical practice of tithing is to worship God. As a practical matter, the tithe is 10 percent of my gross income given back to God through his Church. This is prior to other forms of "charitable giving." My charitable giving is directed to ministries or needs in which I feel called to participate and to which I want to direct my funds. Because I am directing or controlling where those gifts are used, I do not consider my "charitable giving" to be an act of worship, although it hopefully reflects my worship of God. God does not need my "charitable giving" as a kindness to him; God is worthy - and only God is worthy - of my worship.
By definition, worship is an act of surrender of my life back to my Creator and Redeemer, through praise, adoration, repentance, listening and responding to the Word and call of God, confession, commitment, and acts of compassion, mercy and justice. Tithing is a wonderful expression of the discipline of surrender, of presenting my "body" as a "living sacrifice." By giving the first and best back to God as an act of worship, we acknowledge God really to be the one true God and not just one of many lesser gods to whom we commit our lives.
I have had to grow into this way of worshiping God. Unlike some people I admire, I did not start out as a tither. I've told the story of the time in college when I made my first real financial commitment to the Church - a pledge of $60, or $5 per month. I was terrified to make that commitment! My pastor, Dr. Bob Waters, helped motivate me to make that commitment in a sermon in which he told the story of how, when he was very young, an older Christian had told him the spiritual secret of how to become faithful to God with his money: "give until it hurts! And then keep giving until it stops hurting!"
I began by taking that one small step, and I am so grateful that, over the years, God has helped me to grow in my financial giving. I am looking forward to making my pledge to the Trinity United Methodist Church for 2016, because this is a Biblical expression of my worship to God. It is one way in which I can respond to God's Word: "I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship."
"He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two ..." (Mark 6:7)
When we respond to Jesus' call to follow him, eventually we find ourselves being sent by him. Jesus calls us in order to save us, but he also calls us in order to teach, equip, and empower us to be his servants and ambassadors in the world. And he calls us to work together, in partnership, rather than alone.
At Trinity Church we are blessed to have many people who respond to Jesus' call, including a great staff. In partnership with our laity, the staff help us to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. I want to share some exciting news with you. The Trinity United Methodist Church will soon be adding two outstanding people to our staff team.
Beginning June 1, Mrs. Alison Naas will become the Director of Weekday Ministries. Alison, her husband, Jonathan, and their children are active members of Trinity Church. Alison has been a three and four-years-old teacher in our program for the past four years. Prior to teaching with us, she taught young elementary children in the public schools for some eighteen years. Alison earned her Bachelor's degree at Texas A & M University. Since the beginning of this year, she has served as Interim Assistant Director for our program. She brings a wealth of experience and wisdom to her new role, as well as a deep love for Christ and a caring heart for others.
Beginning July 1, Trinity will be receiving the Rev. Jill Daniel and her husband, Ken, under appointment by Bishop Janice Riggle Huie, to be our new Minister of Christian Education, with an emphasis on Children and Family Ministries. Jill and Ken will be coming to us from the Missouri Annual Conference. Jill is from Atlanta, Texas, and has a rich background in a variety of ministries in the Church. She has special expertise in early child development, having worked for the Head Start program for a number of years prior to entering ordained ministry and having started a number of early childhood centers. She has a special love for missions, for music, and for helping people grow as disciples who can witness to the Gospel in word and deed. Jill is an ordained Elder. She and Ken have two married daughters and grandchildren who live in Texas.
I know you will join me in praying for these persons who have responded to Christ's call to serve at Trinity Church. We also continue to pray for Matthew, Danielle, and Wesley Thomasson as they prepare to return to Plano, and we are currently searching for an associate pastor to build on Matthew's fine work. May God bless each of us with a growing desire to follow Jesus and with a responsive heart to allow him to send us, together, to share the Good News.
Dr. Bob Shield
"I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives growth. The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose, and each will receive wages according to the labor of each. For we are God's servants, working together; you are God's field, God's building." (1 Corinthians 3:6-9)
God is continually raising up servants to help build up the Body of Christ, the Church, as the ongoing witness to God's redemptive work through his crucified and risen son, Jesus Christ. Through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the people of God are empowered to proclaim the Gospel in word and deed. St. Paul founded the Church of Corinth, another pastor and teacher named Apollos had followed after him, and the members of the congregations were blessed with a variety of gifts, but it was God who was activating and energizing those gifts for a common purpose. "So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives growth." We all have our role to play in the life of Christ's Church.
We have a special servant in our midst who has played a significant role in the life of Trinity Church for the past year and who will be leaving us this summer in response to the call of God to take up a new ministry. Matthew Thomasson, our Associate Pastor for Evangelism and Missions, has contributed to a variety of ministries that have blessed and strengthened our witness to the Gospel. Through a long process of discernment, Matthew has determined that God is not calling him into ordained ministry, and he and Danielle will be returning to Plano, where he will teach high school math as Danielle returns to teaching high school English.
I know that in the months ahead you will find your own opportunities to express appreciation to Matthew and Danielle, and we will have some "official" send-offs at the proper time. In the meantime I ask you to be in prayer for the Thomassons. I also ask that you be in prayer for Trinity, as we work with our District Superintendent and the Bishop to secure a replacement, who will begin on July 1.
Easter is a wonderful opportunity for you to step up and offer your own gifts in the ministry of Christ here at Trinity. God is calling you to continue the work of building up the Body of Christ. God will provide, for it is God who gives the growth.
"So if anyone
is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see,
everything has become new! All this is
from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the
ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to
himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message
of reconciliation to us. So we are
ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat
you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we
might become the righteousness of God" (2 Corinthians 5:17-21).
the Gospel of John, when John the Baptist sees Jesus, he says, "Here is
the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" This is John's narrative way of expressing
the truth proclaimed by Paul: "in
Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses
against them." In his infinitely sacrificial
love, God takes away our sin through the death of his Son on the cross. To where does he take our sin? Into Christ, and so into his own heart. Reconciliation is costly.
else Paul is saying when he speaks about a "new creation" in Christ,
he means that God is eternally inviting us into a reconciled relationship with
God and into reconciliation with one another.
Through Christ, God is constantly "taking away the sin of the
world," that is, extending his grace to us.
be drawn into this "new creation" in Christ, "through whom we have obtained access to
this grace in which we stand" (Romans 5:2), means that we are called into
a "cruciform" life ourselves.
Since the heart of the meaning of the cross is reconciliation between
God and us, then the heart of the Christian life is the pursuit of
reconciliation and peace between us and our fellow human beings. This is the practical expression of the love
of God between us. 1 John 4:11 puts it
simply: "Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one
season of Lent provides a wonderful opportunity to experience -- and then to
practice -- the costly love of God that leads to reconciliation. Share in worship and in the other spiritual
practices that can help you to trust in God's grace for you. Then, ask God to help you see where you need
to seek genuine reconciliation with someone.
Reconciliation is costly, but it leads us into the heart of God. This is the essence of Jesus' invitation:
"If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up
their cross and follow me. For those who
want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake
and for the sake of the gospel, will save it" (Mark 8:34-35).
Invite a friend to worship this Sunday!
I will be away praying for you on my Lenten Prayer Retreat, and Rev. W.
C. Hall will be preaching on John 10:1-10, "I am the Good Shepherd."
“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy
Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore
glorify God in your body.” (1
“Were you purchased here?”
The question startled me and made me laugh out loud. Some years ago, on a visit to my birthplace,
Kingsville, Texas, I had stopped at the county courthouse to obtain a copy of
my birth certificate. The lady behind
the counter was helping someone else, apparently with some real estate or tax
question. When my turn came, she asked,
“May I help you?”
I replied, “I’d like to get a copy of my birth certificate,
Apparently still engaged in thinking about her previous transaction,
she asked, “Were you purchased here?” As
everyone around her began to laugh, I answered, “Well, I think I was born here,
but it’s possible my parents might have picked me up at a flea market and just
didn’t tell me.”
To ask, “Were you purchased here?” puts a different spin on
the expected question, “Were you born here?”
Long after we all had a good laugh over it, I pondered the theological
implications of that question.
When St. Paul was admonishing the Corinthian congregation
about their wayward ways of living, he reminded them that Christians cannot
just “do as they please,” because Christians no longer belong to themselves
alone. To accept Christ as Lord means in
part to acknowledge that Christ has “purchased” our salvation at the cost of
his own blood. At an unimaginable cost
to God, Christ died for sinful humanity, and in his sacrificial love made
possible an intimate and eternal communion with God and with one another. Our very bodies become living temples of the
indwelling Holy Spirit.
“You were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your
body.” The season of Lent provides an
opportunity to journey to the Cross of Christ and there respond anew to the
question, “Were you purchased here?” To
understand that you have been bought with a price is to recognize in humility
that your life, your embodied and earthly life, belongs not to you but to
God. Purchased by God, you have been set
free by God to share in God’s own life, but this leads not to self-indulgence
but to selfless giving. “You were bought
with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.”
See you Sunday!
Dr. Bob Shield
Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright,
Round yon virgin mother and child, Holy infant, so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace, sleep in heavenly peace.
(United Methodist Hymnal, No. 239)
It was in the silence of night, according to tradition, that the cries of labor ushered the Christ-child into our world. Jesus did not come with a world-shaking fanfare, but arrived in a manger where animals feed. His birth was unnoticed except for the heavenly announcement to some rag-tag shepherds and the silent sign of a new star in the sky.
Jesus still comes in silence, through his Holy Spirit, seeking to make a home in our hearts and offering us "heavenly peace." In the midst of the rush and parties and happy hub-bub of this season, we might be helped to experience the presence of Jesus if we find ways to re-enter that "silent night, holy night."
On Christmas Eve, December 24, we will celebrate the nativity with two identical services of communion and candlelight in the sanctuary. These are powerful experiences of worshiping God, who has loved us so much that he sent his only son into the world for our salvation. The services include the singing of "Silent Night" by candlelight, and we end with a moment of silence, a silence which is filled with the "heavenly peace" of God.
I pray that God will bless you in this sacred season, so that you will experience that "silent night, holy night," in every moment of your life.
"We give thanks to you, O God; we give thanks; your name is near. People tell you of your wonderful deeds." (Psalm 75:1)
The Psalmist wants to tell of God's wonderful deeds. He wants to give thanks because he trusts that God is abiding with him and with his people: "your name is near." Sometimes the Psalms are full of lament, of pain and anguish, of a heart crying out to God with a sense of being forgotten or abandoned by the Almighty. Yet over and over again, when the writer meditates on God's "wonderful deeds" in the past, he becomes aware of God's nearness in the present, and this leads to gratitude and praise.
Our national holiday of Thanksgiving is a marvelous time to stop and reflect on God's "nearness" to you; God's providential care for you; God's "wonderful deeds" on your behalf, especially in the sending of his Son to the cross and his Spirit to your heart. God is at work in the world right now continuing his wonderful deeds of salvation. When we really get in touch with God's love for us, we cannot help but be flooded with a joyful gratitude. Gratitude always expresses itself with a desire to "give back" - to give back thanks and praise to God and to give a blessing to others. Someone has defined gratitude as "giving away goodness."
I am so grateful to God! I am grateful for God's presence in my life and in the world; I am grateful for his Son and for the Holy Spirit; I am grateful for two amazing children; I am grateful for the gift of loving family and friends; I am grateful for the many blessings of living in a great place such as Beaumont; I am grateful for the incredible depth and love of a Christian community such as Trinity; I am grateful for the problems and pain that have challenged me to grow and mature; I am grateful for the mystery of grace and forgiveness; I am grateful for the hope that we have in Christ.
Make your own list this Thanksgiving. Take time to share with one another what you are grateful for in your life. Your calling as a disciple of Jesus includes cultivating the attitude of gratitude, because central to the life of faith is the calling to live in thanks and praise to God, to bear witness to the nearness of God, and to be among the people who tell of God's wonderful deeds!
"Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a wise heart." (Psalm 90:12)
Today is the day to live for God! Psalm 90, which opens Book 4 of the Psalms, is the only Psalm directly attributed to Moses, though most scholars say it was composed or brought into its present form after the destruction of Jerusalem. It speaks of the transience of human life, the reality of mortality, and the need to receive life as a gift. As James Mays puts it, "The psalm is concerned with the relation between God and time and mortals and time and what that portends for the relation between God and mortals" (Interpretation, 1994, p. 289). J. Clinton McCann, Jr., reflecting on Moses being prevented from entering the promised land, writes, "Moses' problem was time - namely, his time was too short...We always come up short, in terms of time, intentions, and accomplishments" (NIB, 1996, p. 1041).
The psalmist prays that we may "gain a heart of wisdom," so that we do not fritter away our limited number of days on earth with sinful, selfish living, in cynicism or pettiness or despair. The psalmist yearns to live under God's favor rather than fear God's wrath. For Christians, we believe that the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ has fundamentally and eternally altered the character of the time in which we live. Certainly, as James Mays observes, "troubles come. Life ends" (p. 295). But in Christ our limited, finite lives are transformed and redeemed in the eternal grace of God. This is why Jesus himself taught us to trust God completely, praying, "Give us this day our daily bread."
To "gain a heart of wisdom" is to make the most of the time you have by loving God and loving your neighbor as yourself! Don't put off the act of forgiveness, the move toward wholeness, the gift of reconciliation, the word of confession. Don't wait to worship, to give, to serve, to love. Life is a precious gift. Today is the day to live for God!
Grace and peace,
"God is great! God is good! Let us thank him for our food. By his hands we are fed. Thank you, God, for your daily bread." Did you say this blessing at the table when you were a child? My children learned this prayer as soon as they could talk. I am grateful that my own parents taught me to give thanks to God, and I am praying that I will continue to grow into a person whose life embodies thanksgiving to God.
God is great! God is good! I believe this with all my heart. I believe that we have a loving, saving, and compassionate Creator. I believe this because others taught this to me, because I read it in the Bible, because I saw and heard other disciples in the Church who lived lives of thanksgiving to a great and good God. The time came when I believed in the reality of Jesus Christ because I began to experience his love for myself. The Holy Spirit helped me to want to share this love with others. For me, Christian community and spiritual practices go hand-in-hand with growing in faith, hope, and love.
God is great! God is good! One of the spiritual practices that God has used in my life most powerfully as a way to learn to trust his goodness and greatness is the practice of tithing - giving the first tenth of my income back to God through his Church. The scripture says, "Bring the full tithe into my house...and thus put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts; see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing" (Malachi 3:10).
God is great! God is good! God helped me to grow into thanking him through the tithe by way of baby steps. My very first actual "pledge" to a church was to the A&M United Methodist Church in College Station when I was in college: I pledged a whopping $52 - one dollar per week! It scared me to death to bring that card to the altar! I had been a baptized Christian for many years, but it took a long time for me to let God baptize my bank account! The key, I learned, was to just start where I thought I could and then to let God help me grow.
God is great! God is good! Deep joy comes as we become more faithful to God in every dimension of our lives - including our financial giving. Let God give you a thankful heart!
"And the king will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me." (Matthew 25:40)
YOU ARE INVITED to a special presentation on Wednesday, September 24, at 6:30 p.m., immediately following our Refresh worship service in the Dishman Chapel. Come and meet Mrs. Rae England, the Executive Director of Love in Action International. For decades she has devoted her life to ministering to the poor and to refugees in places torn by war. In 1992, she began working with churches and other groups to send shipping containers of relief supplies to refugees.
As Rae became involved in ministry to refugees displaced by war, she observed, "I also learned during those years, if I wanted to change the world, I first must change myself. To choose to see is to feel the pain of a world suffering."
On September 24 she will be speaking about her experiences in places such as former Yugoslavia during the Bosnian war, in Sudan and other regions where innocent people undergo terrible suffering. She will help us understand the refugee crisis in the Middle East and how churches can make a major difference in the survival of human beings whose lives have been devastated by extremist violence.
Mrs. England's presentation will last one hour, and she she will be available for questions and dialogue. Childcare will be provided. You will find Rae England to be a deeply inspiring and authentic servant of Christ.
From 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. we have Wednesday Night Dinner in Vivion Hall, followed by Refresh worship, with Holy Communion, from 6 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Rae's presentation will begin shortly after the worship service. I look forward to seeing you there!
"KEEP DOING THE NEXT RIGHT THING!" These were the powerful, poignant words with which Dr. Mouzon Biggs, Jr., concluded his sermon on September 14, as we celebrated the 50th anniversary and dedication of Trinity's sanctuary. Many thanks to all of you who participated, especially to the host of volunteers who allowed God to use their gifts to serve the community. The Holy Spirit brought great blessings through you. And special thanks to all who have participated in the Vision Capital Campaign. Because of your sacrificial giving, the 50th anniversary truly was both a time for Honoring Our Past and Embracing Our Future.
As we seek to embrace our future and to "keep doing the next right thing," I want to invite you to take a close look at the small group information, which describes opportunities for you to grow spiritually through small groups. This fall we are offering short-term and long-term Bible studies, spiritual formation and evangelistic outreach, Sunday School, and ongoing hands-on mission opportunities.
I ask that you (1) pray for these ministries regularly, that God will use them to bless people's lives; (2) pray that God will guide you into a small group where you can be known and needed, and where you can be challenged to grow; (3) pray that God might put in your heart the name of someone who does not attend church with whom you could share this information, and invite that person or family to participate. Your prayers, presence, gifts, and service might literally allow God to save someone's life - including your own!
Beginning September 28, we will also begin a six-week, church-wide study entitled Revival, by Adam Hamilton. Adam will lead us on a journey toward regaining spiritual vitality as we learn about the life and ministry of John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement. Each Sunday I'll be preaching from the key Scripture for that week's chapter. Pray that the Lord will bless you, the Church, our community, and our nation with a great revival of life in Christ as we make this spiritual journey.
As we seek to fulfill Trinity's mission to Know God, Be Transformed, and Love, let's "keep doing the next right thing." I'll see you on Sunday!
Robert C. Shield
"So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; everything old has passed away; see, everyone has become new!" (2 Corinthians 5:17)
The colors were bright, and the crayon figures leapt off the page, primitive and playful, as only a child's hand can make them. The gift I had been handed by little Sarah consisted of several pages stapled together, each with a single scene. The first was a colorful sun, shining down on the trees and grass, and its caption read, "The sun shines." The second showed a bee flitting from flower to flower in a field, and its caption read, "The bee buzzes." The third page showed a baby carriage, all in pink, with a little bundle of a baby tucked inside. Nearby was a circle in blue and green, showing the Earth. Its caption read, "When I was born, the world was born."
What an insight from a little child! Of course, "scientifically" she was mistaken; the Earth was already ancient when she was born. But from her perspective, experiencing the unfolding of her life day by day, everything was new. For her it was a whole new world, just beginning. And from the moment of Sarah's birth, for her parents, their whole world changed. Everything was new. This is a good metaphor for the spiritual journey.
Paul says that when we experience the saving grace of God in Jesus Christ, our whole life "starts anew." Perhaps from the outside looking in, everything seems the same; the world with its problems keeps revolving as it always had. But our perspective on the world, our "worldview," becomes transformed; our self-image becomes transfigured; our motivations become converted; we experience all of life as new. In the Gospel of John, Jesus refers to this change of relationship with God as a "new birth" (John 3). Paul says, "If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!"
This newness of life can be experienced at ever-deepening levels of our lives. Through Christ and the Holy Spirit, every day that you live can be an opportunity for a new birth, greater surrender to grace, more freedom to forgive and to love, more joy in serving. In a very real sense, God wants you to be able to say, "When I was born anew in Christ, the world was born." This is the beginning of your participation in the New Creation.
When little Sarah handed me her gift on that Sunday morning at church, I experienced the love with which she had labored to give it, and that child's love opened me to a deeper awareness of God's love - and there was newness! The sharing of this newness, this love of Christ, is what makes participation in Christian community vital to true transformation. "If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; everything old has passed away; see, everything becomes new!"
Grace and peace,
"Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it." (Hebrews 13:8)
Hospitality. It takes many forms. Yet we all know when we've experienced it. And we all know when it is absent. Many years ago I remember going to preach at a revival in a distant city and being invited to stay at the home of some church members. I thought I was at a bed and breakfast. They had a bowl of fruit in the bedroom, the bed was turned down, there was fresh soap and shampoo in the tub, and water by the bed. Every little detail had been considered to make their guest comfortable.
But their hospitality was as much about their attitude as about their actions. They were genuinely glad to welcome me to their home, and they were interested in me as a person, not just as a duty to which they needed to tend. Chapter 13 of Hebrews begins with the exhortation, "Let mutual love continue." And then the author immediately continues with a key example of how this kind of love expresses itself: "Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it." Hospitality to strangers is a concrete expression of the love of God.
This week we will have a wonderful opportunity to show hospitality to strangers through our Mission Garage Sale. Hospitality can be as simple as a warm smile, a friendly invitation, a listening ear, a helping hand. We can pray for each person and family as we encounter them. The hospitality you show someone may allow God to share his grace, and you yourself may become as much a recipient as a giver of this grace.
"Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it."
"Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being save." (Acts 2:46-47)
On Pentecost Sunday we celebrated the outpouring of God's Spirit upon the gathered disciples. In the Book of Acts, Luke is careful to point out that the gathered community is the essential hub of the Spirit's activity. God loves each of us as his children, and relates to each of us individually. Yet from the beginning of the church's story, the Bible tells us that God is calling us, not to some privatized religious experience, but rather to a personal relationship with Christ that is to be lived out in relationships with one another in Christ's Body, the Church.
This is one reason why I love the connectional nature of the United Methodist Church - vital congregations linked together as part of a larger community of Christ. This Sunday, June 22, we will give thanks to God for the ministry of Christ brought to fruition in our midst through the gifts of the Rev. Katy Ware. We will pray for Katy with the full knowledge that God's Spirit is preparing the church in Hempstead to receive her with open arms. We give thanks that God is at work in that Christian community as he is at Trinity, to make disciples of Jesus Christ. So even though we are losing Katy, the Church is not losing Katy. God's work goes on.
We will have a reception for Katy right after the 10:30 a.m. worship service in the Nita McKnight Parlor. There will be a table and a basket for special gifts and cards. Invite a friend to worship this Sunday!
As I've mentioned in an earlier article, our new associate pastor, Matthew Thomasson, is just graduating from seminary and is preparing to come be a part of our community of faith. I know you will welcome Matthew, his wife Danielle, and their six-month-old, Wesley. Pray for them in this time of transition.
I encourage you never to miss the opportunity to be a part of the "gathered community" of Christ's disciples, wherever your journey happens to take you. For it is in the gathered community that the Spirit is always working, to add daily to those who are being saved.
See you Sunday,
"He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two..." (Mark 6:7)
Seven years ago Trinity was greatly blessed when Jesus sent Rev. Katy Ware to us to be our new Associate Pastor. Katy has done superb work for the cause of Christ as she has grown in her spiritual journey and in her gifts as a minister of the Gospel. Her authentic faith, her joyful enthusiasm, and her loving heart have blessed many lives. I know you will be keeping her in your prayers as she prepares to become the pastor of Hempstead/Lynn Grove United Methodist Churches. Two special dates to put on your calendar:
This Sunday, June 1, Rev. Katy Ware will be preaching and celebrating Holy Communion with the congregation while I and the girls are away. Invite a friend to church!
Sunday, June 22, will be Katy's last Sunday with us. We will have a reception for her immediately following the 10:30 a.m. service in the Nita McKnight Parlor. Bring a friend to church that Sunday and stay to share a blessing with Katy as we bid her farewell. There will be a place for cards and gifts. She will just have returned the day before from the Bolivia mission trip, so keep that team in your prayers from June 7-21!
At the same time, we are looking forward to receiving Matthew Thomasson, his wife, Danielle, and their young son, Wesley. Matthew will join our team the first Sunday in July, and he will build on the great work Katy has done. You will be hearing more about them in the near future. I would ask you pray for the Thomassons as they prepare to transition from Perkins School of Theology to a wonderful new life at Trinity.
Jesus is continually calling and sending his disciples, and it is no accident that our Sunday worship liturgy is structured around the dynamics of call and response. Let's practice responding to God's call by gathering together for worship on Sunday, and let's be ready to go out into the world, sent to serve!
"Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, 'Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.'" (John 20:20b-21)
As Jesus empowered and sent the first disciples, he is still calling and sending us today. His peace and the power of the Holy Spirit are as available to us as they were to the first disciples, and his commissioning continues.
Within this commissioning and sending of all Christians, God gives each of us particular gifts for building up the Body of Christ. Included in this are the gifts for what the Church calls ordained ministry: those who are set aside to preach and teach God's Word, to administer the sacraments, to shepherd the flock, to order the life of the Church, to lead God's people in serving and witnessing on behalf of Christ in the world. Trinity United Methodist Church has many faithful disciples who responsibly accept Christ's claim on their lives, but at this time I want especially to give thanks for the witness of Rev. Katy Ware.
As you heard Sky Thompson announce on Sunday, in July Katy will be leaving us to become the pastor of the First United Methodist Church of Hempstead and Lynn Grove, under the appointment of Bishop Janice Riggle Huie. During Katy's seven years at Trinity, she has modeled a servant-heart in many wonderful ways. She has brought a deep faith, a bright intellect, a delightful humor, and a deep passion to the ministry here, and we will miss her. And yet our congregation has also helped equip and "grow" Katy to be able to be a superb pastor at Hempstead.
I know that in the months ahead you will find your own opportunities to express appreciation to Katy, and we will have some "official" send-offs at the proper time. In the meantime I ask you to be in prayer for her and for the Hempstead church. I also ask that you be in prayer for Trinity, as we work with our District Superintendent and the Bishop to secure a replacement for Katy. This may take some time, and we will work prayerfully and patiently. This is also a wonderful opportunity for you to step up and offer your own gifts in the ministry of Christ here at Trinity. That can begin with something as simple as bringing a friend with you to worship on Sunday. "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." Yes, he's talking to you!
"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." (2 Cor. 4:6)
Blessings to you in this Christmas season! In the Christmas story, we hear of the glory of the Lord appearing to the poor shepherds through an angelic chorus that sings God's praises and proclaims God's peace. When you and I accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we are surrendering our lives to God so that the "light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" may shine in and through our hearts.
This is what Jesus is referring to in the Sermon on the Mount when he says , "You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven." (Matthew 5:14-16) The "light" is not self-generated, self-aggrandizing light. The light is the grace and love of God. When the Gospel of John describes the Incarnation of God in Christ, he says, "The true light , which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world." We are all called to receive and share this light in every dimension of our lives.
Every Christmas season, we share the light of Christ not only through worship and acts of mercy but also through our special emphasis on year-end giving. Thousands of United Methodist congregations such as ours pool our resources to support missionaries, relief efforts, seminaries, schools and orphanages, homes for the elderly, hospitals and clinics, new churches, ministerial education, and a host of other ministries through which we offer the light of Christ to the world.
In addition to our traditional Christmas envelop offering, many Trinitarians make special year-end gifts to the church. Some persons prepay their pledge for the next year; some simply want to give a "second-mile" gift to express their gratitude to God. If you have not sent in your Discipleship Card for 2014, call Tanya at the Church office at 892-8121, ext. 118 and she will help you. On behalf of Trinity Church, I want to thank you for your faithfulness to Christ's ministries.
As we look forward to the New Year, may God bless each of us to discover, or re-discover, that "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!"
"In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, 'Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.' But she was much perplexes by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be" (Luke 1:29)
Advent is a time of expectant waiting - even when we're not sure what we're waiting for! In one of his meditations, the great spiritual writer Richard Rohr speaks to this quality of waiting as it relates to prayer:
Prayer is largely just being silent: holding the tension instead of even talking it through, offering the moment instead of fixing it by words and ideas, loving reality as it is instead of understanding it fully. Prayer is commonly a willingness to say, "I don't know." We must not push the river, we must just trust that we are already in the river, and God is the certain flow and current.
That may be impractical, but the way of faith is not the way of efficiency. So much of life is just a matter of listening and waiting, and enjoying the expansiveness that comes from such willingness to hold. It is like carrying and growing a baby: women wait and trust and hopefully eat good food, and the baby is born. (from Yes, And ...)
Mary was willing to wait receptively upon God, without having to understand fully what God was doing. When she said "Yes" to God, she had no idea that the Son born through her would die on a cross. In this season, you and I are also called to learn to wait upon God, growing in trust, openness, and a willing spirit. This is the spirit that is open to the coming of the Christ Child.
On Christmas Eve, we will offer ourselves to God in the beautiful prayer that we sing: "Oh holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray; cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today."
Trinity United Methodist Church
3430 Harrison | Beaumont, TX 77706
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