Pastor's E-Letter

Pastor's E-Letter

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Showing items filed under “Annette Stiles Pendergrass”

Pastor's E-Letter 11/27/19


As I write this, I’m keenly aware of living amidst two seasons. One season, the season of gratitude, will find its culmination on Thursday as we gather around a table of some sort, to celebrate Thanksgiving (though we should make it a practice to live daily in the spirit of gratitude). The other, Advent and Christmas, which the staff and lay servants are busy preparing for, especially in our worship spaces. This Sunday in worship we will begin our Advent and Christmas message series, “A Christmas Carol: Finding Redemption in Christmas.” During this series, we will be exploring the coming of Christ, the light of the world, and his power to transform and redeem our lives against the backdrop of scripture and the classic tale by Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol. Each week we will explore how the coming of Christ into our individual lives and our world provides the opportunity to see our lives more clearly in the light of Christ’s love and to be changed in ways that bring healing, transformation, and joy. This week, we will focus on the ways that Christ’s coming provides redemption for our past failures, hurts, regrets and disappointments as we explore the words of the prophet Malachi 3:1-4 and the prophecy of Zechariah found in Luke 1:67-79. I encourage you to read these scriptures in preparation for worship on Sunday and I pray you will join us for worship as we begin the journey of Advent which prepares our hearts to receive the gift of Christ’s light and love once again. You may also want to begin reading A Christmas Carol and consider joining our book study which will begin on Monday, December 2 at Bold Cup Coffee.

In preparation for this message series, I’ve been reading Dicken’s classic tale once again. This week, I was struck by the description of the Cratchit family as they celebrate Christmas. Dickens writes, “There was nothing of high mark in this. They were not a handsome family; they were not well dressed; their shoes were far from being waterproof; their clothes were scanty; and Peter might have known, and very likely did, the inside of a pawnbroker’s. But they were happy, grateful, pleased with one another, and contented with the time…”

As we approach Thanksgiving, it is my prayer that each of us would be so blessed as to find ourselves, no matter what our circumstances, to be “happy, grateful, pleased with one another and contented with the time.” I realize as I write this that this is not always easy. I’m keenly aware of the challenges that all of us face as we gather around our tables this Thursday. There will be empty chairs for some of us, unwelcome news on some of our minds, unresolved challenges on the minds of others. Thanksgiving doesn’t make those challenges go away. And yet, there is something about gratitude and giving thanks that can ease their power over us. Giving thanks has a way of centering us in all that is good, and right and blessed in our lives. That is what the Cratchit family understood. That is what the Apostle Paul understood as he wrote to the Philippians, “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication ‘with thanksgiving’ let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:6-8) That is what I hope to understand and trust as I approach each day. There is always something worthy of praise in my life. I pray for the grace to be able to see those gifts and celebrate them.

I pray that each of you will have a blessed and gratitude filled day this Thursday. And I pray that as we move into the season of Advent, we will do so with grateful hearts and with a sense of joy-filled anticipation for what God has in store for us as we prepare for the coming of the light that is Christ and allow that light to transform our lives once again.

Grace and Peace,


PS.  Thanks to everyone who filled out and turned in their estimate of giving cards last Sunday. If you were out last Sunday, you can pick one up this Sunday at worship and fill it out and return it or you can fill one out online at Cards will also be mailed in a couple of weeks to those we haven’t yet heard from. Thank you for your willingness to “Take the Next Step” in growing in generosity as a part of your discipleship.

Pastor's E-letter 11/15/19

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As we continue this week in our “Taking the Next Step” generosity campaign, I hope you are using the prayer cards we have made available each week to guide you in praying over the central question of this message series, “Lord, where would you want me to be in my giving?” I also hope that you are using these prayer cards to pray over our mission and ministry for Christ in our community and our world. This week’s prayer focus invited us to not only ask for guidance in our own spiritual journey, but it also invited us to pray for our community and our missional outreach to those in need, the students and teachers at Harbor City Elementary, our Suntree UMC School, our new ministry partnership with Zoe Empowers in Rwanda, and a host of other concerns and needs.

The theme verse for this week comes from Psalm 116:12, “How can I repay the Lord for all his goodness to me?” It’s kind of the perfect verse for our prayer focus during this time because, first, it begs us to stop and reflect on all of God’s goodness and blessings in our lives. This is something we need to do often. We need to stop and remember, take stock and give thanks to God for God’s goodness. Then this verse begs us to consider, “how will I respond to those blessings?” We know that we can never repay God. But we can express our gratitude to God. We can honor God by the ways that we use the gifts that God has entrusted to us. And we can seek to grow in our generosity as a reflection of the generosity that God has shown to us.

Prayer is an essential part of that growth. Prayer helps us to remember God and to celebrate God’s presence and blessings in our lives. Prayer is a means of inviting God into our very practical and concrete decisions about how we will use well and wisely the gifts poured into our lives. Prayer can serve as a lens to purify our vision and our desires. It invites Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit to speak into our lives and to shape our hearts after the likeness of Christ.

God works through prayer, not only in us as individuals, but in us as a faith community. As we unite in prayer together, we give the Holy Spirit room to move in us and grow us as a people. In prayer, we are shaped for loving and serving and seeking God’s purpose together

Next week, in addition to receiving a new prayer card for use in your prayer time, we will also be invited to pray together as part of our Taking the Next Step Prayer Vigil. The vigil will be on Tuesday, Nov 19 from 9am -4pm and Wednesday, Nov 20, noon - 8pm in the Worship Center. There will be four prayer stations available to guide you through a personal prayer experience or you may simply spend time in prayer at the altar or anywhere in the Worship Center. We will pray for the generosity campaign and for our own personal, spiritual growth in generosity as we ask God to show us where He would have us be in our giving. We trust that as we pray, God will be at work to grow in us the desire to be a church that is committed to making God’s Kingdom real in all that we do in this place and beyond. We will pray for our church, our community, and our world.

One of my favorite quotes about prayer comes from Alfred Lord Tennyson, More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of. Wherefore, let thy voice rise like a fountain for me night and day.” There is no end to what God can do in us and through us as we pray together. There is no end to what God can do through a people who are being shaped and formed to reflect the extravagant generosity of our amazing God. I hope you will continue to pray about your answer to the question of where God wants you to be in your giving. And I hope we will all join in this very focused time of prayer and thanksgiving over the next week. Who knows what miracles God might do in us as we seek God together?

See you in worship this week as we continue the “Taking the Next Step” journey.

Grace and Peace,