Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Well here it is, it's almost 90 degrees here in Central Florida so Spring must be upon us. Springtime doesn't just mean hot weather, pollen and budding flowers, it is also used to initiate a season in the Church year, Lent. Lent from a Saxon word originally meant "length" and was used to denote springtime. Here in the part of the world from where I write we begin to see the days lengthen and new life appear.
Lent developed in relation to Easter as a fast in preparation for the feast. The early Church held a two-day mourning fast on Friday to commemorate Jesus' death, and on Saturday for His entombment. The Church later extended the fast to six days before Easter. Only water, bread and salt were consumed the first four days, and a complete fast for the final two days. Near the Council of Nicaea in 325 a.d. many Churches were observing a forty-day fast. This particular observance set the intense catechetical discipline for preparing candidates for baptism. This period also allowed for reconciliation and restoration of those who because of sins were separated from the Church.
I have all of this Lent history in mind because I am preparing a message for Ash Wednesday which for us Christians today begins the season of Lent, 40 days of fasting, (beginning with Jesus' forty days in the wilderness), leading up to Easter. Don't worry the sermon will be much better :-). For myself and the disciples of my Church this season is both a private and a corporate experience. We will read devotionally on our own and also meet together weekly at a local park for prayer and discussion. The sermons for each Sunday in Lent will also follow our devotional materials.
I am borrowing a quote from Alexander Schmemann that I feel captures the unique parallels of the season. he writes of Lent, "A journey, a pilgrimage! Yet as we begin it, we make the first step into the 'bright sadness' of Lent, we see far, far away--the destination. It is the joy of Easter, it is the entrance into the glory of the kingdom."
On Ash Wednesday I, along with my other Pastoral colleagues pronounce, "Repent and believe the Gospel," "Remember that you are dust and to the dust you shall return," and with these words mark foreheads with ashes in the sign of the cross. This year I will share the same message and same words but include an emphasis on God's GRACE. Yes this season makes us mindful of our mortality, and our sinfulness but we must not forget that by his suffering, death, and resurrection Jesus made a way possible for forgiveness and eternal life, beginning Now. We will take a look at the life lessons of king David beginning with Psalm 51.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

I was enjoying a skinny vanilla latte while browsing books in a local book store recently when I found a few lines of a poem that resonated with my soul. Maybe you will find inspiration within these lines that connect with you and align with what you are experiencing.

"IF" Rudyard Kipling, 1865 - 1936

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build ‘em up with wornout tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”;

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings—nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run—
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Greetings in Christ!

I want to wish you all a, “Merry Christmas!”

Truly at this Christmas Season, we are filled with reminders. We are reminded of all the “holiday” sales, we are reminded to watch special television programs, we are reminded to read our Advent devotionals, we are reminded to purchase our poinsettias, we are reminded to attend the Christmas eve service (6:00 p.m. by the way), the Christmas day service (10:30 a.m.), we are reminded of the office party, etc. etc.
Then without a notice, a blurb, or announcement we are reminded inwardly of the familiar feelings of joy and sorrow. You don’t need to be reminded that the Christmas season is the happiest and the loneliest time of the year. Christmas, by its very nature awakens us inwardly and reminds us of those sensitive painful places. Nor Scrooge or the Saint can escape it. Maybe this is why we make so many resolutions for the next year? We need to believe that our dreams, both personal and in general will be fulfilled.

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness
on them light has shined.” (Isaiah 9:2)

The light of Christmas comes and invades our loneliness, our busyness, and our forgetfulness and offers healing and invites us home.

“The wondrous gift is given; so God imparts to human hearts
the blessings of His heaven.”

So this is your Christmas reminder, you are greatly blessed because of the love of God, which was showed in such a powerful way by sending His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ to come to this earth. If you will allow it, Christ comes to live in you. Therefore, “God is with us!”

Pictures of a trip I hosted to Israel Jan. 2016 of the Shepherd's field in Bethlehem

Christmas Blessings in Christ,
Pastor Brian Sanderson

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

I want to briefly share my experience last week from my next to the last R.I.M (residence in ministry) retreat. The retreat took place at a hotel in Orlando, and focused on improving productivity, teamwork, and communication using DiSC, (I am an I.D. in case you're wondering). I'll let you research DiSC.

I wish the test was more affordable and more folks could take it as it was very helpful for my peers and myself. I am thankful for all that the FL Conference has done to prepare Provisional Elders like myself. The retreats that they select, and/or create for us have all been beneficial both personally and for ministry. However, there was something special for me about this one. Maybe it's just where God wanted me to be? Maybe because our paper work for FE (full connection) was due the following week and mine was already turned in? In any case I feel that God used this assessment and learning in a very special way to help me make sense and process my style for behavior and leadership.

So for your encouragement: Remember God's timing is always right on time, and God's grace is always sufficient.

Monday, September 19, 2016

It was a productive weekend for ministry. Several from the Church and myself caravanned up to Madison, Fl. for the 'Day at the Ranch,' a celebration of the ministry of the Fl. United Methodist Children's Home. The day included speakers, music, tours, food, and fellowship. Of course being from Madison I had to take my van full of passengers through the beautiful historic district of Madison and by our house to see where the Pastor and family hail from. I am very proud of the wonderful ministry being accomplished for the residents of the Children's Home in Madison, Fl. through the donations of the United Methodist Church of florida and all the many volunteers who serve these precious youth many lives are being saved and shaped for life.

After the worship service we enjoyed a catered dinner and informative presentation given by a local funeral home. Following dinner a group of us went to a local nursing home/rehab facility to share worship and the Word with them. Every third Sunday we go and sing hymns and I'll share the scriptures and an abbreviated Word from my Sermon. When I can't be there others from the Church step up and continue the ministry. The call to make disciples doesn't come with an age expiration date. We all need to worship and to grow in our faith together throughout all of life.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

I've been preaching a sermon series on the fruit of the Spirit based on Galatians 5:22 "By contrast (to the vices) the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control."
Each week I pray for and seek the Spirit's guidance and move into and out from that text on the various topic, this week happens to be 'goodness' which causes me to pause and reflect with you.

Have you considered 'goodness' lately? Your 'goodness'? God's 'goodness'? I'm using a Call to Worship Sunday that I would like for you to read. It combines the themes of the sermon series/of Pentecost (by the way this happens to the twelfth Sunday)/and goodness.

L: Great is the Lord!
P: God's greatness is beyond our understanding.
L: Yet God has revealed God's self in Jesus Christ.
P: Through Jesus we have come to know the absolute love of God.
L: Lift up your hearts and praise the Lord!
P: May God continue to bless God's people with peace.
L: Though many places in the world are bound in war.
P: The peace of God is poured out for all people.
L: Though discord and struggle have become factors in the lives of the people.
P: The love of God is lavished on all people.
L: Let us praise the God of love and peace.
P: Let us experience God's freedom offered as peace and justice for all people.

Truly Let Us,

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Sunday morning Church began as usual. The Sunday school groups were in session and all seemed to be in routine mode. As the Scriptures were being read, discussed, and as folks were contemplating deep spiritual insights the loudest boom came out of nowhere from behind the Church! Now everyone was certain that canons are illegal to fire within the city limits so the nearest class ran out to investigate.

Upon inspection a few Church members discover a large Oak tree limb had fallen onto a power line immediately behind the sanctuary. When the limb fell it caused a fuse to blow (we don't think it was the transformer?). The electricity and the explosion of the fuse (sorry I'm not an electrician) caused the limb to catch fire. Now understand this is a huge Oak tree that extends onto our neighbors yard and over the Church sanctuary. I joined in and began to pray a hip pocket prayer out loud while a call was made to the fire department.

As the fire slowly began to engulf the limb the Church was also slowly filling up with worshippers. I went inside to greet folks when shortly thereafter I was informed that the fire department had arrived and we were told that they would need to call the power company and for us to expect the power to go out at some point so they could work on the line. Once the service began we made the announcements beginning with information as to what all the excitement was about (not that there usually isn't a great deal of excitement stirring) and for folks not to worry if at some point during the service the power goes out that this would be expected and all will be fine.

The Service began just fine and we made it about a quarter of the way when it happened---the power went out. Now of course this isn't that big of a deal, it was day time so we had enough light coming through the windows to see. It was hot but we have fans in the pews and my sermon only needed about 50 minutes, (just kidding, only 45). I have a loud mouth so I just turned the volume up. The big deal is that I believe this predicament that we found ourselves in was no accident. You see my sermon was prepared earlier that week and the topic--Being connected to the Power of God! What an illustration! Pastors have books on illustrations, we keep journals, etc. etc. in the attempt to connect the Scriptures to our lives. Nothing in my experience compares to showing up at Church and the illustration actually physically coming to life in your presence for you to use.

We were in our second Sunday studying John 15. First we looked at the section on the vine and the branches. Christ is the vine and we the branches. Disciples of Christ are to be connected to Christ where we receive the Spirit, the nourishing sap that flows throughout the vine to produce fruit. We then transitioned into Christ's command to love one another, and we best do this as we remain in His love. I encouraged the Church by pointing out how valuable each one is and that we need Christ and we need one another, and that we must remain connected to Christ. We must remain in His love. We must remain connected to the power source. (this is a quick synopsis, I encourage you to go back and read John 15)

I am happy to report that the fire was quickly extinguished and the power eventually came back on some time after the service ended. Although the electricity went out, the power of God did not. The power of God lives on in each of us as we remain in christ and bear His fruit. This is an illustration that I won't soon forget.

In Christ,
Pastor Brian