Pastor's E-Letter

Pastor's E-Letter

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Pastor's E-letter 10/11/19

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An area of improvement that was identified early on for me in my path to become a pastor was my health. Part of the work that I started, along with other changes, was to begin going to the gym. I have a good friend who was in my small group that invited me to join him at Trinity Fitness in Suntree. They do a short devotion to start the class, then a warmup, then what they call a “Battle.” The first day included a lot of burpees. They were horrible. I can’t believe I went back. But I did. I have been going for almost three years now.

There were two keys to me coming back. The first, and most important, was the community and encouraging people. I’m am a strong extrovert and I derive a lot of my energy from being around people. The second thing was back-squats. I’m known around the gym for my love of back-squats. In a very short description, you load a barbell with weight, place it on your back, and go into a squat. There is a lot more to it than that, but you get the idea. When I first started, I got a little zealous about doing the back-squat movement for the day and loaded the bar with 335lbs. When I went into the movement I got stuck at the bottom and had a moment of terror go across my mind.

Thankfully, we train for these kinds of moments. I knew how to get out from under the bar and “bail the weight” as we call it around the gym. Learning how to safely use the weights and what to do in case of moments like this are some of the core of what we do at the gym. Since then I have become a trainer at the gym, and I work with people to help them understand what to do when the bar gets too heavy.

What made me think about this is my calendar that is currently overloaded, my laundry is piled up beyond reason, and all the needs of the world around us. The weight of all of that and so much more can be scary. We look around at our lives, our families, and the world and see so much need. The weight of all those things weigh on us heavily and we can get that same sense of fear as I did when I was pinned underneath the bar. That’s real and it’s genuine, and, sometimes, needed to get a real perspective on the world.

However, we are trained for this. Like the gym, we train for what it means to recognize when we need God. We train to “bail the weight” and seek out God who teaches us how to handle all that the world is throwing our way. We aren’t called to carry it all. We aren’t called to live under the pressure of our concerns and fears. Whatever that weight may be for you, whether it is a physical weight, the emotional weight of grief, or the weight of our possessions or finances. None of that weight is meant to be carried alone or to the point of feeling overwhelmed.

What we are called to do is to follow Jesus and the way he walks through his earthly ministry. Jesus teaches us to pray. He teaches us to know that God wants the best for us and that isn’t living under the pain of all this. God wants us to follow his teachings, through Jesus, because it is a better way. Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

We know eating well and exercising is good for us, but we still struggle to follow the better path for our personal health. (I still do.) We know prayer and God’s path for us is a much better way to live, but we still struggle with it. Anyone who has worked towards a personal goal and achieved it can tell you that feeling of relief. They will even tell you "I don’t know how I did life any other way." Many Christians will say "I don’t know how I did life before God." I’m thankful to know that God was with me before and God continues to be there now to show us a better way.

What weight are you holding that needs to be let go? How can your time with God show you the training God has for us?

I hope worship is one of those ways for you and we look forward to seeing you on Sunday as we continue in our “Dear Church” sermon series. Come and hear what God has for us, no matter what season we are in.

With Grace & Peace,

Augie

Posted by Augie Allen with

Pastor's E-letter 10/04/19

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“Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living one. I was dead, and see, I am alive forever; and I have the keys of Death and Hades.” Revelation 1:17-18

Every time I lead a funeral or a memorial service, I read these words from Revelation 1, found in our Book of Worship, at the beginning of the service. There are other words I could use. Sometimes I'm tempted to do so. But I always come back to them. I use them because they are so filled with hope and the assurance of the power of Christ to enable us to conquer and ultimately live, even in the face of death. The phrase, "Do not be afraid" which is found all through the bible, is perhaps, one of my favorite phrases. Over and over again God says to us, through prophets, priests, angelic messengers, and Christ, "Do not be afraid." I'm not sure how often this phrase occurs in scripture, but it is a lot. I would guess it occurs so often because part of being human in this very crazy, chaotic world, is to experience fear.

The churches to which John addresses his message from Christ had many reasons to be afraid. They lived in a time and place where being a follower of Jesus was risky and dangerous. They lived in a time where there was tremendous pressure to conform to the culture and the demands of the state by renouncing their faith in Christ and worshipping the emperor. They lived in a time when martyrdom was real, as was the case for a follower named Antipas who was part of the church of Pergamum about which we will read this week in worship.

Fortunately, as we have said previously, we live in a place where we need not fear martyrdom nor demands from the state to worship one way or the other. But sadly, we know that is not the case in every country. Real persecution of Christians still exists around the world, just as people of other faith traditions face persecution. It is a sad testimony to the brokenness of our world.

But even though we don't face martyrdom as a result of our faith, there are real, legitimate reasons that we might experience fear and anxiety in our daily lives. We fear for the future of our country or our loved ones. We fear the prospect of illness overtaking us or those we love. We may feel insecure about our job or our retirement. Do we have what we need to make ends meet? We may experience disruption and pain in relationships and fear they will fall apart, and we will be left alone. In the first week in September, we all sat on pins and needles as we waited to see the path that hurricane Dorian would take. There are many situations that we face in life where it is hard NOT to be afraid. Clearly, God knows and understands our fear.

Which is why I so appreciate the book of Revelation. I realize that many folks have used it and read it in such a way that it can instill fear. But that is not the point of this marvelous, curious and, at times, hard to understand text. The larger purpose is to remind the faithful that because of the work of Christ in us and the world, we need not fear! Jesus is the beginning and the end, the first and the last, and in him is the power to stand firm, to hold fast, and to overcome everything that threatens us, even death. That is the message to the churches of Revelation and us. Yes, there is suffering in life. Sometimes there is persecution. And sometimes, as is the case with the churches we will look at this week, (read Revelation 2:12-29 – we are covering a lot this week!) we are tempted to wander, to turn away from Christ and to worship all the wrong things. But Christ is alive! And he lives in us and is available to us in our fear and anxiety and our temptations to wander. To empower us to conquer our fear and to be faithful to the end. We aren't alone in conquering that fear. Jesus has already done that work for us and because he is victorious, we can be as well.

This week, I've also been praying over the words of Paul from 2 Timothy 1:7, "For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline." In Christ, the one who was, and is, and is to come, we need not be afraid. We can find hope, courage, love, and power to overcome our fears and anxiety. Even when we face the worst, even when we face the shadow of death. That is the ultimate message of Revelation. And that is a message we all need to hear.

I look forward to seeing you in worship this Sunday as we continue to dig into these scriptures. We will also gather around the table of grace and celebrate our bond with brothers and sisters in Christ around the world as we celebrate World Communion Sunday. In the meantime, pray for the witness of God's worldwide church amid our own, chaotic and turbulent times.

Grace and Peace,

Annette

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