Pastor's E-Letter

Pastor's E-Letter

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Pastor's E-Letter 2/21/20

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Who is the kindest person you know? Think about them for a moment. What is it that makes them stand out as kind? I’ve asked that question in a couple of different settings over the last couple of weeks after reading from Micah 6:8, “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God?” Again and again, people have described kind people as those who intentionally give their time to others, who go out of their way to care, to express concern. Kind people are those who “see” others, who notice and treat others with respect, dignity, even honor. Kind people are people who care when others are taken advantage of and work to right wrongs. Kind people are humble people – humble before God and others. They know they don’t have all the answers in life. They simply do their best to love and care and express compassion. 

In some ways, this verse from Micah lies at the heart of all that we have talked about over the last 5 weeks. Being a good neighbor, working to build healthy communities, serving as ambassadors for Christ in his ministry of reconciliation, all flow out of kindness and love that truly values others as Christ values them. Seeking to dismantle the walls that divide us, things like race, gender, class, different abilities, religion, and culture is work that must always be done with a great degree of humility, kindness and ultimately love. Jesus was clear that this kind of love and kindness is not only reserved for those we love, but for those with whom we have the greatest disagreement and struggle. Jesus even went so far as saying, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44) I know what you are thinking. Sometimes I wish he hadn’t said it too. But he did. And it wasn’t just an off-handed suggestion. He meant it. 

So, what does that mean in real, practical terms? This week, we will be thinking about just that. A couple of years ago, Rob Tucker and I preached a message entitled “Respect. Everyone. Always.” This week in worship, as we close out our “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” message series, we will revisit this very important topic. In the midst of what is shaping up to be a particularly contentious election year (how do you like that for understatement?) and amid the ongoing discussion in the UM Church over issues of inclusion and the future of the UM Church, the question remains, how do we express love and kindness to our neighbors with whom we may have deep disagreement? How do we reach out to one another rather than avoid, disconnect or demonize? How do we seek to “do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God?” 

I don’t have all the answers by any means. But I’m clear that Jesus wants us to wrestle with these questions and, fortunately, scripture offers us guidance in this. This week we will be exploring the above scriptures, along with Ephesians 4:25-5:2 and numerous other passages. I’m also reminded of the words of Fred Rogers who said, “There are three ways to ultimate success: The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind.” How amazingly counter-cultural his words seem in a world where kindness, at times, seems in short supply. What a witness it would be for us, as the church of Jesus Christ, to start a counter-cultural revolution of kindness, humility, and love as our answer to the question, “Won’t you be my neighbor?” Who wouldn’t want to live in that kind of neighborhood? 

See you in worship Sunday!

Grace and Peace,
Annette

Pastor's E-Letter 02/14/20

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Happy Valentines Day!

On this day of commercialized love and romance, I thought it appropriate to reflect on all of the work we’ve done over our first sermon series this year. The love of Christ, which is true and unconditional, leads us to know and to love all people, just as Christ has loved all people. This is the core of what we’ve explored. At the forefront of our journey has been Mr. Roger’s spirit, leading us to be more loving towards our neighbors. In that way, we have to know our neighbors, reaching out beyond boundaries like race, gender, the difference in ability, and socioeconomic status. While I love the chocolate that comes along with Valentine’s Day, I think these ideas get more to the true and difficult spirit of love, don’t you?

The catch, though, is that we often desire to put limits or boundaries on love and neighborliness. In our humanness, we’d rather say no or separate ourselves than be invited into the radical and wild love of Christ. We heard over Martin Luther King Jr. weekend that Christ wants to bring us together in unity, as one body. Yet we struggle to know who is included in that. Being honest, I often pray, “Really them, too, Jesus?” My less-than-sanctified prayer reminds me of the opening statement from this week’s scripture,

 “And who is my neighbor?”

 Where is the line, Jesus? How can I get out of loving that person?

How can I put up a boundary between us?

Have you ever thought in this way?

It is the Good Samaritan that teaches us that we cannot put up lines, or walk on the other side of the road. It is Jesus who modes unconditional, sacrificial love. And it is this love that leads us to treat our neighbors better, with more respect and dignity. This is the message of Mr. Rogers, too.

This week, we’re lucky that we get to dive into this challenging scripture passage at the heart of our message series. But we are even luckier because the Rev. Dr. Latricia Scriven will be leading us. Rev. Dr. Scriven is one of the most joy-filled, wonderful pastors I have known. Her laughter is contagious and her excellent work speaks for itself. She is a bright light in our conference, and as we thought about how we wanted to work through this sermon series, we couldn’t imagine doing it without her leadership. I trust that she will challenge us in all four of our worship services this weekend, and I can’t wait to hear her FAMU Wesley Worship Band at the Gathering!

Be sure to join us for one or multiple of these opportunities! Pastor Annette and I reflected this week that we are so grateful to be a part of a congregation that walks through difficult conversations together. I’m excited to continue that work this Sunday with you.

Peace,

Pastor Allee

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