Pastor's E-Letter

Pastor's E-Letter

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Pastor's E-Letter 04/17/20

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Dear Suntree Family,  
 
"Go with your love to the fields. Lie down in the shade. Rest your head in her lap. Swear allegiance to what is nighest your thoughts. As soon as the generals and the politicos can predict the motions of your mind, lose it. Leave it as a sign to mark the false trail, the way you didn't go. Be like the fox who makes more tracks than necessary, some in the wrong direction. Practice resurrection." Excerpt from "Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front" by Wendell Berry
 
I was reminded of this poem by my devotional reading this past Monday and the last words captured my heart, "Practice resurrection." Berry invites us to embrace a countercultural way of living which is exemplified by the resurrection of Christ. The resurrection didn't make sense. It didn't follow the accepted rules of life as we know it. And so, as people who seek to live in and through the resurrection of Christ, we are invited to defy the status quo by living a countercultural kind of life. 
 
I've been pondering what that means for us as followers of a resurrected Christ during this global pandemic. What does it mean to claim and live in the light and power of Christ's resurrection amid so much darkness? What does it mean to be a witness to the light, while at the same time, not ignoring the real pain, grief, and sadness that permeates our world and our own days? 
 
For me, I believe it may mean that I pay attention to all the pain and sadness. I weep with those who weep, I mourn with those who mourn. I pray for the suffering that is all around. I pray for myself and for all of us as we navigate this isolation, this economic fallout, this utter upheaval of our normal routines. And I pay attention to my own soul and own those moments when I just need to slow down and be sad and sit with the weight of it all. 
 
But I do not grieve as those who have no hope. (I Thessalonians 4:13) When I am tempted to give in to despair, I remember we are not alone. I remember that Christ is Risen. I give thanks for the day before me. I give thanks for the opportunities it represents. I give thanks for the gifts that surround me even in the darkness. And then I get to work again, even when it would be easier to just give up and lie in bed and feel awful. I call or text a friend or family member, I clean my house, I cook and read and do puzzles and watch mindless TV. This is what it means to practice resurrection. I keep living and hoping and believing the end will come. 
 
And I continue the work that we are all called to, the work of "being the church." I make phone calls to check on people. I work with the rest of the staff to plan worship, devotions, bible studies and all the normal things we are continuing to do during this crisis. And together we work to continue to develop new ways and new opportunities for this body of Christ to stay connected, to worship, to grow in faith, to serve one another and our community, and to keep giving our best to our mission for Christ in this community. This too is what it means to practice resurrection. 
 
Now, more than ever, our community needs us to "be the church", the body of Christ following a resurrected savior, living resurrected lives and sharing the good news of the gospel that darkness is never the end of the story. There is hope and life and healing in Jesus Christ and that is good news! 
 
This Sunday in worship, we will begin a new message series entitled, "Acts: Be the Church" (read Acts 4:13-22 in preparation for worship). In it, we will explore what it meant for the early followers of Jesus in the book of Acts to practice resurrection by "being the church" in witness, in community, in service, with courage, in hospitality, in prayer, and in power. We will be reminded that the church has been, and always will be, about people, following Christ out in the world, giving witness to the life-giving power of Christ to heal and make new. While we miss being able to gather as the whole body of Christ in worship, while we miss the hugs, the handshakes, the joy of being present to one another physically in worship and other activities, the essence of who we are and what we are called to do and be for Christ in the world has not changed. We simply must engage that mission in different ways. Fortunately, God is more than able to lead us in discovering those new opportunities. 
 
So join us for worship online either on our website (www.suntreeumc.org/live) or on Facebook.com/SuntreeUMC. We will again be offering two services, the Gathering Contemporary service at 9:30 am on Facebook and a Traditional service at 11:00 am on Facebook. Both services will be available at 9:30 am on the website. 
 
In the meantime, I encourage you to find your own ways to "practice resurrection". Celebrate each new day. Find something for which to give thanks. Find something positive and hopeful to engage in. Be light and hope for someone else. Christ is risen. He is risen indeed!
 
Grace and Peace,
Annette

Pastor E-Letter 4/3/20

Buddy - The Mighty Lizard Hunter

When we moved to the Sunshine state in 1988, our two children were very small- and without a pet.  Though the Gator is Florida’s official reptile, there’s a much smaller and more plentiful little guy that crosses our path daily.  Those tiny lizards we see everywhere… Scurrying beneath our feet and cocking their heads while staring at us from a vantage point. (Sometimes dried up in the corner of a room when they can’t find their way back out.)  Florida lizards come in almost all colors, but one of the most common types is the Brown Anole.  While speaking with her grandparents on the phone one afternoon our three-year-old daughter Brianna slurred this lament, “Grandpa, my ‘lonely (only) pet’s a lizard!”. The time had come for a family pet.

First, we bought a pair of cockatiels, Zippy and Doo-Dah.  We thought they were both males until eggs started appearing in the water dish. (Should I apologize for not being able to differentiate the sex of a Cockatiel?) But the cockatiel phase didn’t last long in our home, and soon a Dachshund named Beau found his way into our hearts and our family album.Over the years we have had at least one ­­­­­­­­­­­in the family, and usually two. Buddy was our black and tan male and the first to be truly obsessed with lizards. (So imaginative in naming our pets, aren’t we?) Bud’s full-time calling was a search and destroy mission on the anole population. I can’t remember how many times I repaired our lanai screen after he tore his way through going after a fleet-footed reptile just outside his reach. He would snort them out of cracks and crevices and from under shrubbery. Bud’s pursuit was relentless, and at the end of his hunt, he often laid his trophy at our feet. But Buddy wasn’t always adept at bagging his prey.

The Brown Anole can cast off its’ tail at will when threatened or captured. The tailpiece continues to wiggle after separation, attracting the attention of an attacker. While these lizards can regenerate a new tail, it will be cartilage and no bone. If you look closely at a newly grown tail, it appears dark grey and won’t have the stripes, colors or other markings of the original. New growth takes a little time. (You may have seen a stubby tailed lizard shoot across your sidewalk during its' grow-back period.) If a novice hunter gets lucky and grabs this little fellow again, the lizard can drop a section of his tail as often as he needs to. They let go of a piece of their body to save their life. As a puppy, Buddie’s bent toward immediate reward found him grabbing for any moving part and ending up with a wriggling tail in his mouth while the real prize made a speedy getaway.

This Sunday we remember Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Jewish men, women, and children lined His path hoping that this King would overthrow Rome’s occupation and taxation. Finally, one of their own would use the power they had witnessed in his healings and turn it against their enemies – and right NOW! Freedom from Roman rule was the earnest agenda that blinded them to their deeper need. Their emotions were a roller coaster of unmet expectations. Less than a week after crying out “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord” came the shouts of “Crucify him!" It was hidden from them that his power at that moment was at work to free them from a greater danger than Rome: their sinful condition. (Luke 19:42)

During Lent, we have taken the time to consider our short-sighted priorities. Things that hold us back and slow us down spiritually. Jesus once used strong hyperbole to describe how desperate we should be in valuing the eternal over the temporal. 

Matt 5:30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell. (NRSV)

Jesus' reference to the right hand directed his audience to consider their work, their intentional actions, their efforts, and their self-attained strongholds. Our Savior desires that we learn to let go of things (in earnest), that we really don’t need. 

Habits and self-indulgences that hold us back from God’s good purpose in our lives. Agendas that lead to dead ends. As the work of His sanctifying Spirit quickens us and shapes us, new growth replaces our loss which looks and functions differently from our original ‘skin’. This new growth comes from the one who loves us and who is conforming us to the image of His Son. In fact, (and here the lizard analogy scampers away), this new growth is who we really are in Christ! It’s who we were always meant to be through the plans of our loving Father.

Heb 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, (NRSV)

Is there anything you are clutching that you need to release to serve God with a free heart? An agenda that only serves your surface needs? Let it go, lay it down… Allow him to break the chains…Run the other way and leave it behind. The new growth that He promises will be ours for a long, long time!

Steve Schantz
Visitation Pastor

 

 

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