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 11/8/19

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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

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