Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Happy Thanksgiving

Dearly beloved,                                                                     A picture containing text

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Happy Thanksgiving!


"For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with

thanksgiving," (I Timothy 4:4).


What a great holiday! I love Thanksgiving, not just for the special family gatherings, the "fine dining" and the televised football games, but for the fact that it gives honor to God in a unique way. No other holiday focuses attention on being thankful and recognizing the blessings one has received. Christians and Non-Christians alike fulfill scripture on that day, for Colossians 3:15 specifically tells us to be thankful.


Thanksgiving honors God, and God also honors the giving of thanks. In Luke 17 we read the account of the ten lepers who approached Jesus for healing. Like many people, nine of the lepers received from the Lord but failed to take time to thank Him. However, Jesus commended the one who returned to thank Him for his healing. This year I encourage you to take the time to consider the blessings you have received. No matter what your circumstances, you have much for which to be thankful.


Let me also take this opportunity to tell you that one of the things for which I am

thankful this year is YOU. You are a vital part of the Body of Christ, a testimony of

the power of God. I am thankful that the Lord has placed you within our congregation. This year may your Thanksgiving holiday be a joyful time.


In Gratitude,

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Tuesday, October 27, 2020

We Can Still Celebrate


    Two major seasons are before us. Thanksgiving and Christmas (to include Advent). I should add the third: COVID-19 (sorry). Life continues on even in the midst of a pandemic. We are called to the abundant life, so let’s celebrate.

    This isn’t our first epidemic, hopefully it’s our last. Catastrophes have always touched our lives. “Death has come up into our windows, it has entered our palaces, to cut off the children from the streets and the young men from the squares.” (Jeremiah 9:20). Much is at work to thwart the good that God has for us. I want to encourage the people of God to lean into Jesus and celebrate our relationship to God through Him. Consequently, life will be led to celebration. Many of us have been celebrating the ability to gather again weekly and worship together. Something we may have taken for granted.

    This year will be different indeed. The goal is the same but this year will be hard for many to celebrate. One Hundred and sixteen families from our community will be grieving the lost of loved ones due to COVID (usafacts.org/Clay County, Florida Coronavirus Cases and Deaths). What should our relationship to these people be? Should we celebrate amid such loss and pain?  

    I still wish you a Happy Thanksgiving! We will celebrate Thanksgiving, and seek to instill “an attitude of gratitude” within ourselves and our families. Merry Christmas! It can still be merry. We will celebrate Christmas; we must give praise and thanksgiving for the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ. We must sing with joy in thanksgiving for the new thing God is doing through Jesus Christ. Yet still, this year’s celebration will be different. “How could we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?” (Psalm 137:4). We do live in a strange, foreign land, although the houses, the landscape, and the people are familiar. We who look for God’s coming already feel like strangers in a foreign land. 

   There’s something we resonate with in the apostle Paul’s words: “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have” (Philippians 1:29-30). God’s people know what it is to lament and struggle. Daily we observe a culture unaware of God’s life-giving promises, and we experience the reality of “principalities and powers” that defy God’s rule of life. But out of the gloom and fear, we still hear Isaiah’s invitation: “Come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!” (Isaiah 2:5). Let us rejoice in the words of Charles Wesley, Rejoice, the Lord is King UMH 715:   

Rejoice, the Lord is King!

Your Lord and King adore;

Rejoice, give thanks, and sing,

And triumph evermore;

Lift up your heart, lift up your voice;

                                                        Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

In His Love

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

To Interrupt or Disrupt? That is The Question

    Anyone accepting the new ‘normal’ yet, well, at least normal for now (we pray)? What’s really going on? Given our current COVID context many are finding it to be annoying, confusing, isolating, boring, tense, anxiety-inducing, and depressing. Worse of all many people have died and or fighting to live as we read this. (A doctor in New York recently committed suicide).
    This is a pandemic, yes. With this pandemic comes not only a sickness that can kill you and many people on the planet, but it basically shuts down your life in another way. It has been two hard months of isolating, and social distancing. I’ve heard many people mention that they miss seeing each other, fellowshipping and worshipping together. I miss it too. But I am taking notes, I’m trying to learn and grow both personally and as a leader in the Church. I hope that you haven’t wasted this experience either. 
    I was stuck on a few words last week as I was listening, processing, and praying: Interruption and disruption. Is COVID-19 an interruption? Is this a disruption? I found these definitions: interrupt :(v) stop the continuous progress of (an activity or process). Disrupt: (v) interrupt (an event, activity, or process) by causing a disturbance or problem (Google). So how do you see our given context? Have our lives been interrupted or disrupted? Well both/and. We can see that by definition these verbs are doing something. Considering our ministries--the progress has taken a hit (thankfully not a devastating blow). Considering our mission—not so much. We have had to learn patience and long-suffering but we are still the body of Christ with the same neighbors, family members, and the same great community. Our mission is still to make disciples. 
   The Wesley Covenant Association had this in their recent newsletter:  “This is a time of great disruption that will force us to re-imagine who we are, what we will be about, and how we will minister to the people in our communities. As hard as it is to do in the midst of a tragedy, we need to: (1) carefully consider our churches in light of our mission contexts; (2) pray, and then (3) discern how God wants us to change so we are faithful witnesses in radically altered environments. As Christians, we have always believed times of suffering and hardship are often essential to seeing new visions, but we must be alert and open to them.”
    So church, above, is a good example of what to do and where to go from here? Personally, engage the Spiritual disciplines: Bible study, silence, solitude, fasting, connecting with other believers, and prayer (not exhausted), start with your own prayer life, establish a rhythm now. Notice how well we are still connected. You’re reading this now. We are recording four, sometimes five different groups a week for our worship experience. Our children and youth are still connecting and our Food bridge ministry hasn’t stopped providing for our community. We had two Holy Communion opportunities via the internet (not a big fan). We have married two couples and buried a brother and a sister in Christ. We go on… as we each follow the above instructions for this disruption let us not give up. Consider who we are and our given missional context, pray and discern how God is leading you, us. 
    Do we have a problem? Have our lives been disrupted? In ways, yes. Good news, This season will end; it may create a new normal. Stay alert and open to the Spirit of God and His leading. 
IN HIS UNFAILING LOVE,  Pastor Brian Sanderson