Tuesday, September 1, 2015

A Mid-Week Update from Pastor Carol Myers

Dear Friends,

 Our Wednesday community meals are starting up again in September! I believe that God puts a church in a community in order to be in ministry to that community. This is one of the most exciting ways that we live out that commission!

 If you haven’t yet come to a meal, now is the time to start! You will find good food, good conversation and good community around the table. What a great way to connect with new and old friends and build relationships!

 If you are interested in making this ministry happen, check with Lyn Evans or Linda Scallon or Linda Starr to find out how you can help. It takes close to 100 volunteers each week to prepare food, serve, clean-up and deliver meals. God may be nudging you to make this ministry your own!

 In many ways, the people who come to this meal who do not have a church are our mission field. If you are eating at our church on Wednesday evenings and if you are helping in any way, there are many ways that you can reach out to others in the name of Jesus Christ. Get to know new faces and welcome them warmly. If someone asks if they can help, find them a job. (How discouraging to ask to help and be told there is no need!) It may even mean inviting them to take your place at the sink or wiping tables. Getting others involved moves us from a place of being in ministry to people to being in ministry with people, recognizing that there is much we can learn from each other, no matter what. To share in ministry is to offer dignity to all who are involved. Anyone who has ever worked in the kitchen knows that to get people involved is to share laughter, conversation and grow in relationship. Those relationships are the beginning point of sharing how you have experienced God in our church and inviting another to come and see.

 There is another way that our Wednesday mission field can expand. Our bishop has asked that all United Methodists read with children in an effort to combat poverty in our state. How could you read with children who come to our meal? The bishop is encouraging us to give new books to students of all ages. What if children who came to our Wednesday meals received a new book? (Children’s Literacy Resources are on our website.) What new Holy Spirited possibilities and opportunities are beckoning us?

 The bishop’s encouragement to read with children has sparked my imagination. One of the unexpected consequences of many hours of reading to my children is that I discovered both the power of stories and the power of using my voice to tell stories. Who would have guessed that reading to my children would lead to preaching! Some of you are already mentoring children through our schools. Thank you. Please keep track of the hours you spend so we can tell our bishop how we are doing.

 Others of you might like to get involved in reading through our school system. There is a need for mentoring (which includes reading and more) for both elementary and secondary students. Contact the schools if this is a ministry that God is nudging you toward. If you are interested in having some special training for reading strategies, you can contact Mike Swartzendruber at mswartzendruber@ifcadets.net or 648-6420.

 Where will the Holy Spirit take us next?

 On the exciting journey with you,





Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Holy Spirit Work by Kendall Clarke

When Carol asked me to do this, I said uh ok, a little reluctant but as the weeks passed that still small voice in my head said just do it, what could possibly go wrong, so here it goes. 

 I grew up small farm town Iowa where the motto is, if it needs done, do it. I  grew not knowing the love of the Lord, it wasn’t that my parents didn’t believe, it just seemed like it wasn’t a priority in life. Dad worked a lot during the week so the weekends were made for farming. I remember vacation bible school a couple of times but that was about it for church stuff, so I grew up not knowing God or his son Jesus. I went thru my teens and twenties this way doing whatever I wanted not really caring or having anyone in my life to love or be loved by. Then I met my wife and it all went downhill from there. Just kidding dear (kind of). When we were married in 93 I joined this church, did the new member class, said some word I soon forgot and we got married. I remember coming to a few services but when you are young and poor, it just seemed every time we walked in the door someone or something was wanting money. We just did not have so we became creasters and drop and go Sunday school parents.  This continued for a few years then some life events happened that made me start to think I should revaluate this thing called faith. I remember sitting in a church at my nieces funeral (she was killed by the babysitter)I was so distraught and had no one to cry out to. I did not know God or Jesus to cry out to them I remember being so, so mad over that event it got me to thinking I need some answers, so I became a seeker. I went in search of some answers.  That continued but faded out without knowing what I was looking for or where to find the answers. Then when we were trying to have children we went thru some miscarriages, (that will break your heart) I put on a strong face for Val but I think she saw right thru it. Then we finally had Christina she is such a blessing, when she was born She was a jaundiced baby so she had that wrap thing on her all the time. She did not like it so we held her a lot, (she was my little glow baby) so in the evenings when I got home from work I would hold her. While holding her, I would read to kill the time.  I don’t remember why or how, I picked up the bible and read it cover to cover not studying it or understanding it, just as words on a page I think some of it sunk in but not much of it. Then a short while later I was involved in a fatal motorcycle crash that event changed my life. There was not a day go by that it was not on my mind. I did not deal with it correctly, I tried to push it out of my mind by doing things I shouldn’t have been doing. It wasn’t till years later after meeting Jeff that I dealt with it the way it should have been done before. Then fast forward a few years we come to a Christmas service and there is this new preacher in town. I heard Carol’s sermon and I was hooked. She had this peace and grace about her, I could tell right away she truly cared about me. So one thing lead to another, we started coming more and more. Then I saw a signup sheet for a book study The Shack so I thought I can do that. I like to read, and then that is when I met Kendy. Over the years she has shown me ways to connect to my spiritual side and we have worked together with the youth.  It has truly been a blessing to have met her that day. Then   Duane Schultz asked me to do a youth mission trip. It was good. There is just something about that warm fuzzy feeling you get knowing you have helped somebody out.  Then Duane Kruckenberg asked me to do the walk to Emmaus.  I said no, that’s not my thing, then a year or so he asked again. I said no, then a third time, and by seeing how the Emmaus thing was working and by some strong suggestions from some others in my life I went, All I can say is wow. I had never felt so much love as I did that weekend from above and my fellow man,  As the Lord has been leading my down this path, I have learned to pray both in speech and written word. I had seen where there was a class on praying so I did it. I have always had a fear of looking foolish in things like that but Jeff and Carol were the teachers so I thought I can do this and it went well. So that brings me to today. 

Without the Holy Spirit working in me I am sure would not be up here today between Carol, Jeff, Kendy and the Duanes working in my life, I would not be here. I am still the seeker I started out to be.  I don’t think till we take the last breath we stop seeking the love of the Lord.  So may we all be blessed as we go on this journey of faith we call life.  Amen

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

A Mid-Week Update from Pastor Jeff Blackman

Grace and peace to you from God and our Lord Jesus Christ.
This weekend we come to the conclusion of chapter six in the Gospel of St. John.  We have been reading from this particular chapter from John since the last weekend in July.  The readings from John’s gospel interrupt the year-long readings from St. Mark with John’s story of the Great Feeding.  Chapter six is a discourse and commentary from St. John about that theological event.
St. John’s Jesus is explaining what he means when he says that we “must eat his flesh and drink his blood” if we are to have eternal life.  The imagery of flesh and blood eating is repugnant to most people, certainly to first century common era Jews.  Yet, Jesus uses this stark and harsh imagery multiple times, or as many as six times.  Why?
Of course we don’t have just one answer.  And all answers are speculative.  All through St. John’s gospel, Jesus says one thing and his audience takes what he says literally and the literal meaning of what Jesus says seems impossible or nonsense.  In each case, Jesus is speaking of deeper meanings than the literal words convey.  So it is with much of scripture and of faith.  We are pushed to look deeper than the literal.  So, here, Jesus is talking about eating his flesh and drinking his blood.  And because we are this side of the cross at a distance of 2,000 years, we know that “flesh and blood” mean something else.  Yet, in the story many are shocked and even angered by what Jesus is saying.  So much so that many turn away from him and leave.  How many?  The story would suggest at least 5,000—the number at the Great Feeding—for after the dust settles there are only 12 disciples left, The Twelve.  All else have turned away because Jesus is a mad man or a false teacher or a blasphemer, or all of them rolled into one.  So Jesus asks the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?”
To contemporize the story:  Jesus is teaching that his teaching, his very person brings God’s Kingdom on earth.  To participate in God’s kingdom, i.e. eternal life, you must embrace Jesus so completely it is like bringing him into yourself by eating and drinking his life in order for it to become our own life.  This is the decision or choice Jesus puts before us.

People have been heard to complain that they “get nothing out of church.”  I assume that what they mean is that there are no thunderbolts striking, no sense of wonder, perhaps, or something like that.  Jesus might speak to that idea by saying if you do not embrace God’s values, God’s kingdom in your life’s purpose, if you do not follow my (Jesus’) path of faithfulness; if you act as one to be served rather than onto serve, if you do not eat my flesh and drink my blood your life will ebb away and you will become your own god, vainly speaking empty words of power and might to yourself, sealing your own fate as your spirit shrivels and goes out.  No thunderbolts, no wonder, just yourself.  The get-something-out-of-church choice in this Gospel is to respond like Simon Peter—Lord, where would we go  You have the words of eternal life.  We believe (and live out) that you are God’s holy one.”  Then thunderbolts, wonder, Jesus and you.

                                                                  Pastor Jeff Blackman

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

A Mid-Week Update from Pastor Carol Myers

Dear Friends,

We have been hanging out with Paul as he writes to the church in Ephesus, and to you and me. Paul is adamant that divisions have been overcome in Jesus Christ. In our reading for this upcoming weekend, Paul sounds like a chiming bell as he says, “You are one body and one spirit, just as God also called you in one hope. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of us all, who is over all, through all, and in all (Eph. 4:4-5). Hear the rhythm? One. One. One. One. One. One. One.

So, as Dr. Phil would say, “How’s that working for you?” How is that working in your relationships? In the life of our church? In our state and national political conversations among people who virtually all profess to be Christians?

We have been taught by our culture and by bullies on the playground that the way to get what we want is by force. Brian McLaren in his book A New Kind of Christianity says that our approach to people who are different or threatening is to assimilate, dominate, eliminate, persecute or distance ourselves. We create an army of us, with all goodness and truth, against the army of them, who are evil and wrong.

Contrast that to the way of Jesus. In 1944, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote from a German concentration camp. His reflections on God revealed in Jesus Christ are these: God lets himself be pushed out of the world onto the cross, evidence that God is weak and powerless. God’s weakness and powerlessness is the way, the only way, in which God is with us and helps us. God’s power is suffering. God’s omnipotence is vulnerability. This is the God of the cross.

The hiddenness of God is not a cloak of humility temporarily covering powerful glory in a sort of Clark Kent/Superman act. God is determined to relate to the world through vulnerability, through non-coercive love, through suffering service rather than through domination and force.

Do you get it? God unites all the divisions of the world in the broken body of Christ. Paul reminds us that God is breaking down the walls between people, but God doesn’t use a wrecking ball. God uses vulnerability and non-coercive love to change us from the inside out.  When we choose vulnerability with others, when we speak our truth in love, when we forgive, when we work for the well-being of others, we are allowing ourselves to be broken in the name of Jesus Christ. Out of our brokenness comes Holy Spirit healing for the world.

This is so difficult that when it happens, it is clearly by the power and grace of God. And perhaps whenever it happens, if we listen closely, we can hear a bell chiming softly: One. One. One. One. One. One. One.

On the journey with you,

Monday, July 27, 2015

A Mid-Week Update from Pastor Jeff Blackman

Grace and peace to you from God and our Lord Jesus Christ.
The author of Ephesians writes, “I encourage you to live as people worthy of the call you received from God” (Ephesians 4:1).  The writer then goes on to describe the conduct of which he is referring:  humility, gentleness, and patience.  He continues to list more characteristics and then interpret the “what” and “how” of a life in the Lord, to align your behavior with God’s desires or reign.  He writes of unity in our diversity.  It seems that sort of unity can be achieved only if we mature in Christ.  Or, to put it a more bluntly, the author of Ephesians wants us to grow up, like in “O, for heaven’s sake… Grow up!”
The Ephesian’s author writes to encourage reconciliation and unity among those who claim life in the Spirit.  Many of our denominations and churches struggle mightily over the issues of division.  They are the social issues of our day.  All of those churches, denominations, and members claim to be people of God’s Spirit and followers of Christ Jesus.  Yet a pretty good percentage work not for unity and reconciliation but division and schism.  I had some folks say to me, “If it doesn’t go my way, I’m done here!” a threat to enact a little personal schism.  I think this behavior is the exact opposite of what Ephesians is encouraging.  In effect it says “I am the Christ” or I know best and will not trust in God’s Spirit that shares truth and faith with all believers.
The unity Ephesians describes does not require lock-step conformity.  It celebrates diversity.  We are united not in slogans or like-mindedness, but are united because of Jesus.  Faith in Christ unites.  So the author of Ephesians writes that we are already one in faith because of Jesus’ call to us to follow.  This is the life worthy of his call to us, trusting not in our spirit, but in the Spirit given to all believers.  This is spiritual maturity and it is difficult to live in to because divisiveness is the spirit of today’s world.  Ephesians asks us to grapple with the walls of separation created by spiritual immaturity and pleads for us to grow up and accept what Christ has already created for us and in us.

                                                                       Pastor Jeff Blackman

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Mid-Week Update from Pastor Jeff Blackman

Grace and peace to you from God and our Lord Jesus Christ.

This weekend’s readings from scripture hold at least two very familiar stories. The Hebrew reading continues stories of King David.  This week’s story is the infamous story of David and Bathsheba.  The Gospel reading is from St. John and is his story of the feeding of the 5,000 people and walking on water.

The story about King David is a sad story even thousands of years after the events reported.  David gets tangled into a situation of power for personal pleasure and then tries to cover up his wanton disregard from God.  King David is somewhat reminiscent of King Herod of John the Baptist’s time.  David, like Herod is controlled by his sense of privilege and power and an innocent person is murdered as a consequence.

We can easily observe how corrupt this behavior is.  We condemn it as immoral and inexcusable.  We can also look at it as a part of who many of us seem to be-we want what we want when we want it.  Fortunately, most of us don’t get so entangled in criminal activities with such dire consequence that seem immediate.  Many people do, however, ignore negative consequences because they “want it.”  The origin of the behaviors are similar.

In this week’s story from St. John, we see almost opposite behavior.  Jesus gives of himself so profoundly that the people “were about to come and force him to be their king…” (John 6:15).  I’m guessing that Jesus knows the corruptibility of power.  Certainly there were and are god rulers, but power, particularly absolute power, like with ancient kings, corrupts absolutely.  Jesus has fought that temptation in a different venue in the synoptic Gospels when he was tested in the wilderness after his baptism.  Here in St. John’s Gospel we see a similar testing.  Jesus survives again the test to take on temporal power by seeking refuge in God or, as scripture says, “alone on a mountain” (John 11:15c)

There are many directions one could move with these observations.  I, for one, would see that from Adam and Eve, to David, to Herold, to Jesus himself, all are tested.  It is the nature of life.  Most of us fail in one way or another when we come up against such testing.  To be scornful of those whose fail is to be untruthful about ourselves.  To judge failure in other is to deflect judgement from ourselves.  Rather to `Judge not lest we be judged` seems a graceful position.  Learning from the mistakes of others seems a good approach as well.  To trust in God as the source of our moral strength is even better.  The tests will not stop, nor will God’s steadfast love for each one us who fail.  The writer from this weekend’s Epistle reading from Ephesians puts it this way:

I ask (pray to God) that he will strengthen you in your inner selves from the riches of his glory through the Spirit.  I that Christ will live in your hearts through faith.  …I ask that you’ll have the power to grasp love’s width and length, height and depth… I ask that you’ll know the love of Christ that is beyond knowledge so that you will be filled entirely with the fullness of God”
                                                                                    (Ephesians 3:16-19 CEB)

May it be so.

Mid-Week Update from Pastor Carol Myers

Dear Friends,

We have been focused on the work of the Holy Spirit this summer. Guess what? The Holy Spirit has shown up – and in a big way! The word inspiration literally means Spirit-breathed. The people who have shared in worship how God is at work in their lives have been inspired by the Spirit and have inspired us all. (If you didn’t get a chance to see the delightful DVD that Mitch and Holly Meyer and their children made, let me know. Everyone in worship was smiling broadly by the end!) The Holy Spirit has shown up in the inspiration of one of our members who asked if more FUMC knit shirts could be ordered because “we need to be wearing our church shirts as we deliver Meals on Wheels and at the community meal and our other ministries in the community.” What a great idea! The Holy Spirit has also nudged another member of our church to explore the possibility of weekly prayer meetings. (Wow – what will that look like?) The Holy Spirit caught me off-guard by moving us to a blended service on Sundays during the month of August and Labor Day weekend. The Holy Spirit sometimes works like that!

That means that there will be no 11:00 a.m. service on Sundays from August 2 through September 6. The second service will resume on September 13. We will have our regular Saturday night service at 5:30 p.m., our regular Wednesday chapel service at 5:30 p.m., and one service at 9:00 a.m. on those Sundays.

What can you expect? You can expect a variety of song-styles, from traditional to contemporary. In many ways, it will be a more simplified traditional service that incorporates elements of the 11:00 service. One of the most meaningful parts of the 11:00 service is the lighting of prayer candles and the celebration of Holy Communion around the altar. Prayer candles and Holy Communion will be available at the blended service, but they will be optional. This means that during a praise song toward the end of the service, you can either head to the Garden Room for refreshments, or you can stay to celebrate Holy Communion. The choice is yours. Either way, you will leave knowing that you have experienced God in meaningful ways.

Our wonderful staff has been instrumental in the planning of the blended service. As we talked there was Holy Spirit enthusiasm for this Great Experiment! (The word enthusiasm literally means Spirit-filled!) This is an exciting opportunity to see your friends who typically attend a different service. This also gives faithful Jane and Francis a much-needed breather. Most of all, we are following the movement of the Spirit, breathing fresh air into our summer worship services and strangely warming our Wesleyan hearts.

Won’t it be exciting to see what the Holy Spirit is going to do next?

On the journey with you,