Pastor's E-Letter

Pastor's E-Letter

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Pastor's E-Letter 2/21/20

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Who is the kindest person you know? Think about them for a moment. What is it that makes them stand out as kind? I’ve asked that question in a couple of different settings over the last couple of weeks after reading from Micah 6:8, “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God?” Again and again, people have described kind people as those who intentionally give their time to others, who go out of their way to care, to express concern. Kind people are those who “see” others, who notice and treat others with respect, dignity, even honor. Kind people are people who care when others are taken advantage of and work to right wrongs. Kind people are humble people – humble before God and others. They know they don’t have all the answers in life. They simply do their best to love and care and express compassion. 

In some ways, this verse from Micah lies at the heart of all that we have talked about over the last 5 weeks. Being a good neighbor, working to build healthy communities, serving as ambassadors for Christ in his ministry of reconciliation, all flow out of kindness and love that truly values others as Christ values them. Seeking to dismantle the walls that divide us, things like race, gender, class, different abilities, religion, and culture is work that must always be done with a great degree of humility, kindness and ultimately love. Jesus was clear that this kind of love and kindness is not only reserved for those we love, but for those with whom we have the greatest disagreement and struggle. Jesus even went so far as saying, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44) I know what you are thinking. Sometimes I wish he hadn’t said it too. But he did. And it wasn’t just an off-handed suggestion. He meant it. 

So, what does that mean in real, practical terms? This week, we will be thinking about just that. A couple of years ago, Rob Tucker and I preached a message entitled “Respect. Everyone. Always.” This week in worship, as we close out our “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” message series, we will revisit this very important topic. In the midst of what is shaping up to be a particularly contentious election year (how do you like that for understatement?) and amid the ongoing discussion in the UM Church over issues of inclusion and the future of the UM Church, the question remains, how do we express love and kindness to our neighbors with whom we may have deep disagreement? How do we reach out to one another rather than avoid, disconnect or demonize? How do we seek to “do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God?” 

I don’t have all the answers by any means. But I’m clear that Jesus wants us to wrestle with these questions and, fortunately, scripture offers us guidance in this. This week we will be exploring the above scriptures, along with Ephesians 4:25-5:2 and numerous other passages. I’m also reminded of the words of Fred Rogers who said, “There are three ways to ultimate success: The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind.” How amazingly counter-cultural his words seem in a world where kindness, at times, seems in short supply. What a witness it would be for us, as the church of Jesus Christ, to start a counter-cultural revolution of kindness, humility, and love as our answer to the question, “Won’t you be my neighbor?” Who wouldn’t want to live in that kind of neighborhood? 

See you in worship Sunday!

Grace and Peace,
Annette

Pastor's E-Letter 2/07/20

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A couple of weeks ago in her message, Pastor Allee asked the question, “How do you change your mind?” I’ve been thinking about that question for the last couple of weeks, thinking about when I have changed my mind and what brought about that change of thinking. What I’ve realized is that the quickest things that have come to mind have had to do with people – situations where I assumed something about someone only to find out later that I was wrong. 

I remember two instances where I met someone and, for a variety of reasons, I assumed that we were so different and had so little in common, that we could never be friends. But then, I spent time with them, got to know them, listened with my heart to their stories. In opening my heart to engage with them as persons and to listen to them, I discovered the truth of who they were and that they had much to offer me in friendship. But first, I had to choose to intentionally engage with them, beyond my preconceived notions of who they were. In doing so, I received an incredible gift from each of them and my life was greatly enriched. 

So much about this message series, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” is an invitation to engage with new people and new perspectives. As a result of that engagement, we may not change our minds but even if we don’t, our minds and our hearts will be shaped and informed in a new way and we honor our neighbors when we engage with one another in that way. 

You may not realize that Jesus too changed his mind. This week we will focus on an often-overlooked story from Mark 7:24-30, (I encourage you to read it before worship Sunday) the story of Jesus’ tension-filled encounter with a Gentile woman from Tyre and explore how this encounter led Jesus to not only change his mind regarding his response to this woman but how the encounter may have led him to begin to expand his mission beyond Israel to the Gentiles, perhaps sooner than he had planned. Whatever happened, it is clear Jesus’ experience with her moved him. 

The same can be true of us. But we must be willing to intentionally engage in opportunities to spend time with folks who have different life experiences and perspectives. This Sunday at 4:00 pm in the worship center, we have a chance to do that at our showing of the film “Intelligent Lives” which chronicles the lives and journeys of adults living full, independent and fulfilled lives along with disabilities. We will also hear from our own Candace Whiting about her journey of independence and her call to motivational speaking. 

We will also have the great joy of welcoming the Bethune Cookman Concert Chorale at the 9:30 and 11:00 traditional services. I hope you plan to be in worship and perhaps bring a friend to hear the amazing musical gifts of these talented students. They are a gift to us every time they join us. 

I’m so glad God has led me to change my mind so often about many things. How narrow and limited my life experiences and perspectives would be without the folks in my life who have challenged me along my journey. What might God be inviting you to change your mind about, or to at least listen for a new perspective? You never know what a gift that might be. 

See you in worship this Sunday!

Grace and Peace,
Annette

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