Pastor's E-Letter

Pastor's E-Letter

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Pastor's E-letter 11/8/19

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Bethany Hamilton, a famous Christian surfer who suffered a life-altering shark attack, once said, “Courage doesn’t mean you don’t get afraid. Courage means you don’t let fear stop you.” 

This week as we continue in our “Taking the Next Step” generosity series, we will read about Jesus asking Peter to be courageous and step out of the boat. After leaving the feeding of the 5,000, the disciples were on a spiritual high when Jesus calls out to them from the middle of the storm. Even amidst the abundance of God’s power and grace, Peter is, naturally, afraid. All of the disciples are! But Peter doesn’t let fear stop him. He steps out of the boat courageously to walk towards Jesus. Even when he falters and begins to sink, Jesus compassionately catches him. In this, Jesus reminds him that God will be present in our courage and our fears. As we discuss all of these themes, we will remind ourselves that in “taking the next step,” God is calling us to true courage in stepping out and hearing God’s call to abundant things in our lives.

This week in worship we will also honor our veterans. As we approach Veteran’s Day, I have been reflecting on my courage and the courage of our society. We honor and revere the veterans among us for the sacrifices they and their families have made for our freedoms. While they may have been afraid, they didn’t let their fears stop them, and instead courageously fought for our country. As a civilian, I am indebted to them for their courage to overcome their fears for my safety. 

When I think about veterans and their sacrifices, it makes me wonder about the places in my life where I have not been courageous enough to step out into the storm. I think about how God calls me, and often, I’d rather just hide under the covers! In our “Taking the Next Step” series, I have been challenged to think about where God would want me to be in my giving and my discipleship, too. Together, as a church, we’ll continue to ask, “Lord, where do you want me to be in my giving?” In this, we’ll reflect on Jesus calling us out of the safety of our finances and towards following his call. Will you take the next step, joining Jesus and being generous with your resources? I invite you to read Matthew 14:22-33 ahead of worship and reflect on that.

I had one other note: Staff-Parish Relations Committee wanted you all to know that Jill Kibler submitted her letter of resignation and her last day was Friday, November 8th. While we are certainly very sad that Jill will not be here to lead our compassionate care so fearlessly, we are excited for her new opportunities and the work God is doing in her life. I know I speak for many when I say that Jill has helped so many of us follow God without fear. She has been a vital part of our staff and she will certainly be missed in this role, although she will still be serving and worshiping here at Suntree UMC. Please thank Jill if you see her for all her work as she helped us live into our vision to love God and neighbor in extraordinary ways.

See you Sunday,
Pastor Allee

Posted by Allee Willcox with

Pastor's E-letter 10/25/19

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“Curiosity killed the cat,” goes the age-old saying. I remember this attitude being a foundational part of faith in some of the circles where I participated in late high school and early college. “Don’t ask questions! Don’t be curious! The Bible says it. That’s the end of it.” As a brand new Christian, my curiosity and wonder at the mystery of God were endless. But I regularly felt squelched- like my questions had boundaries, my interest was to be limited, and I was to simply “trust” someone else's answers to my wonder.

Then, in early college, I reread the story of Jacob wrestling God with new eyes. Jacob is not satisfied with the answers of the world or with the boxes of faith that he’s been invited into. As he flees what he knew and who he was before, he encounters a stranger in the desert and wrestles with him. The Message translation of Genesis 32:28-30 ends this encounter like this,

The man said, “But no longer. Your name is no longer Jacob. From now on it’s Israel (God-Wrestler); you’ve wrestled with God and you’ve come through.”

Jacob asked, “And what’s your name?”

The man said, “Why do you want to know my name?” And then, right then and there, he blessed him.

Jacob named the place Peniel (God’s Face) because, he said, “I saw God face-to-face and lived to tell the story!”

In the early morning hours, Jacob wakes and wrestles God. This encounter reveals in part something that will be revealed in full in Jesus: God is an intimate God. God desires to be with us at our best and our worst. God is not concerned with our questions or our wonder at God’s mystery- in fact, God invites it. God wants us to wrestle, and to look at God’s face.

In United Methodism, we believe in using a tool called the Wesleyan Quadrilateral. This says that we can begin with Scripture, but use reason (our brains), tradition (the faith of our forebears), and experience (our encounters with God and the way we’re shaped) to know and understand God. We are encouraged to question, wrestle, and settle into God’s mystery. I am grateful to this legacy and that in Methodism, I found a place where my wonder and questions wouldn’t always be squelched.

This Sunday in worship, your pastors will model that wrestling as we look at the questions that have been submitted for “Ask the Pastor Sunday.” (We are also working on a way to answer some of the questions that we will inevitably have to leave unanswered.) Some of these questions do not have full answers or even black and white ones. In this mystery, we rest in the grace that God gives us.

Then, Sunday afternoon, at our Mental Health Fair, we’ll be given another space to wrestle and wonder about a crisis in our country. Experts will be present to answer your questions, explain resources, and help us, as a faith community, navigate our role in supporting our neighbors.

I’m so excited to be there and to learn from our pastors in the morning and health care providers in the afternoon. I hope you’ll join us as we follow in the tradition of Jacob and wrestle with our faith and encounter our intimate, loving God.

Peace,

Pastor Allee

 

 

Posted by Allee Willcox with

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