Pastor's E-Letter

Pastor's E-Letter

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Pastor's E-letter 11/22/19

This past week I was driving home from a meeting late in the evening and turned on my radio. Much to my surprise, Christmas music was being played on one of the popular Orlando radio stations! I could hardly believe my ears, but after looking at my calendar, I did have to admit that we are pretty close to the Christmas season. Before the rush, excitement, and merriment of Advent (the season before Christmas) and Christmas is another important holiday: Thanksgiving. In my family, we do our very best not to switch our decorations or music to Christmas until the day after Thanksgiving, to give proper time for pumpkin pie and more importantly, gratitude.

While the holiday season officially begins on Thanksgiving, here at Suntree, we’ve been engaging in a season of gratitude and generosity since the beginning of November. If you’ve been around, you’ve heard us speak all about God’s call to generosity in our lives through our Taking the Next Step series. We have been praying together, “Lord, where do you want me to be in my giving?” and asking ourselves what it would take to become a generous people. We’ve heard from congregation members about their journeys of generosity and giving, and last week, we heard about the next steps offered to us through the Step Chart, tithing, and through the Personal Growth Plan worksheet.

In each of these tools, moments, and testimonies, we’ve been invited to consider what God has done for us already, and to be grateful. In this, through our gratitude, we’ve reflected on what it could mean to give back to the Creator and Sustainer of all life. We’ve also been encouraged to examine how grateful we are for the ministries of this church, and to return that gratitude in support for the ministries and vision of our church.

Last week at our church council, one of our faithful church members and leaders, Toni Zahn, reflected on what she has been learning through this Generosity Campaign. Afterwards, she wrote,

Throughout the campaign, we reflected upon what it means to return God’s love joyfully, faithfully and oftentimes sacrificially. “Give thanks, with a grateful heart” is not just a hymn that is included in our musical library. It is an ingrained core value that identifies us as faithful and committed followers of Christ. It is the basic expression of love that in Colossians 3:19 St. Paul tells us is like a simple garment that we should put on everyday.

I, like Toni, have learned so much from this campaign. At my Thanksgiving table this year, I will say how grateful I am to be your pastor, and how grateful I am to learn from you about what it means to be generous. This season of generosity and our giving campaign has reminded me that there is abundance all around me, if I choose to look for it. In this, I know I’m being called to take the next step, too.

As we all Take the Next Step this Sunday, I encourage you to come to worship with an open and grateful heart. Spend time reading our scripture for this week, 2 Corinthians 8-9, and think about what God has already done in your life. It’ll prepare your heart for worship, and the season of abundance and gratitude ahead.

See you Sunday,

Pastor Allee

Posted by Allee Willcox with

Pastor's E-letter 11/15/19

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As we continue this week in our “Taking the Next Step” generosity campaign, I hope you are using the prayer cards we have made available each week to guide you in praying over the central question of this message series, “Lord, where would you want me to be in my giving?” I also hope that you are using these prayer cards to pray over our mission and ministry for Christ in our community and our world. This week’s prayer focus invited us to not only ask for guidance in our own spiritual journey, but it also invited us to pray for our community and our missional outreach to those in need, the students and teachers at Harbor City Elementary, our Suntree UMC School, our new ministry partnership with Zoe Empowers in Rwanda, and a host of other concerns and needs.

The theme verse for this week comes from Psalm 116:12, “How can I repay the Lord for all his goodness to me?” It’s kind of the perfect verse for our prayer focus during this time because, first, it begs us to stop and reflect on all of God’s goodness and blessings in our lives. This is something we need to do often. We need to stop and remember, take stock and give thanks to God for God’s goodness. Then this verse begs us to consider, “how will I respond to those blessings?” We know that we can never repay God. But we can express our gratitude to God. We can honor God by the ways that we use the gifts that God has entrusted to us. And we can seek to grow in our generosity as a reflection of the generosity that God has shown to us.

Prayer is an essential part of that growth. Prayer helps us to remember God and to celebrate God’s presence and blessings in our lives. Prayer is a means of inviting God into our very practical and concrete decisions about how we will use well and wisely the gifts poured into our lives. Prayer can serve as a lens to purify our vision and our desires. It invites Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit to speak into our lives and to shape our hearts after the likeness of Christ.

God works through prayer, not only in us as individuals, but in us as a faith community. As we unite in prayer together, we give the Holy Spirit room to move in us and grow us as a people. In prayer, we are shaped for loving and serving and seeking God’s purpose together

Next week, in addition to receiving a new prayer card for use in your prayer time, we will also be invited to pray together as part of our Taking the Next Step Prayer Vigil. The vigil will be on Tuesday, Nov 19 from 9am -4pm and Wednesday, Nov 20, noon - 8pm in the Worship Center. There will be four prayer stations available to guide you through a personal prayer experience or you may simply spend time in prayer at the altar or anywhere in the Worship Center. We will pray for the generosity campaign and for our own personal, spiritual growth in generosity as we ask God to show us where He would have us be in our giving. We trust that as we pray, God will be at work to grow in us the desire to be a church that is committed to making God’s Kingdom real in all that we do in this place and beyond. We will pray for our church, our community, and our world.

One of my favorite quotes about prayer comes from Alfred Lord Tennyson, More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of. Wherefore, let thy voice rise like a fountain for me night and day.” There is no end to what God can do in us and through us as we pray together. There is no end to what God can do through a people who are being shaped and formed to reflect the extravagant generosity of our amazing God. I hope you will continue to pray about your answer to the question of where God wants you to be in your giving. And I hope we will all join in this very focused time of prayer and thanksgiving over the next week. Who knows what miracles God might do in us as we seek God together?

See you in worship this week as we continue the “Taking the Next Step” journey.

Grace and Peace,

Annette

 

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