Celebration and Thanksgiving
“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 4:8
As I write this today, we have officially begun our “Finish Strong” debt reduction campaign and the words of Paul to the church at Philippi seem especially fitting. This Sunday in worship we will be giving thanks to God for all that is true, honorable, just, pure, pleasing, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise. And the good news is that there is so much that falls into these categories, so much over which to give thanks! The COVID vaccines that many of us have or will receive are a true miracle of God. How can we not be filled with gratitude and praise for the way God has worked through scientists and medical experts to bring us this miracle of hope and healing? God is so good!
God has also blessed us as a faith community over the last year. In all the challenges, God has been with us, rolling away stones and empowering us to overcome those challenges. How can we not be filled with gratitude and praise for the ways that God has worked? While there were many things that we could not do as we were accustomed to, God has enabled us to continue to worship, connect, grow, serve, and give - to continue the core mission essentials that make us God’s church.
We stayed connected through personal phone calls to every member of the church at least 4 times and through emails, devotions, and online and in-person worship. Our Congregational Care office has constantly worked to stay connected to those who have special needs, again with phone calls, emails, and delivering flowers throughout the year as well as sending Christmas gifts and Easter flowers. Our Outreach ministries have continued to serve our community and our mission partners. We have continued to grow together through Zoom life groups, Sunday School, Journey and Oasis classes, and other special classes throughout the year. And worship never stopped! How good is our God?
At a recent new member orientation over Zoom, several folks who have found Suntree UMC since the pandemic began, expressed their gratitude over finding a church that has continued to find ways to engage in mission and ministry in the community and beyond, during the pandemic. This is God’s work among us and for that, we should all be grateful!
Now, through the “Finish Strong” campaign, we have the opportunity to “press on” in fulfilling the vision God has for this church. Some folks have asked, “Is this the right time for this campaign?” It is a reasonable question, but unfortunately, the answer is not simple. Our church leadership has been engaged in conversation around this endeavor for several years. It has been incredibly hard to make plans in a world that seems to defy our best intentions in planning! But know that the leadership of Suntree Church did its best in deciding to move forward with this effort. The Church Council considered more factors than we can detail here to arrive at this decision. We know there is never a perfect time for such an endeavor. But it became clear that postponing this endeavor would only cause more stress and instability as we try to move forward in ministry as we emerge out of this pandemic. And we want to move forward in ministry on the best footing possible.
We also want to assure you that this endeavor in no way means that we will be taking our eyes off the needs in our community and our response to those needs. Currently, our Hope Builders group is exploring new ministry possibilities for us to live into our 4D vision goal of “partnering with another local UM Church or community organization in a high need community of Brevard County for shared mission, outreach and community transformation.” Through the last year, we have made financial resources available to help folks who have been adversely affected by economic loss and uncertainty and we will continue to do so going forward. An example of that commitment can be seen in our recent Mission emphasis on Zoe Empowers which raised over $6,000.00 for this vital work! This campaign will not impact our commitment nor our ability to continue to serve our community, except in time, to make more resources available to continue to expand that work.
Finally, while the “Finish Strong” campaign’s goal is to raise additional funds to help finance and ultimately pay down our mortgage debt, it is about more than dollars and cents. This campaign is about celebrating the work of God through this church in the lives of people. It is about recognizing and giving thanks to God for that work of healing and transformation in individual hearts and lives. It is about celebrating and giving thanks for ministries that touch hearts and lives beyond the walls of this church. It is about praying together for God’s guidance and the empowerment of God’s church. It’s about discerning the ways that God wants to use each of us to accomplish God’s purpose. We all have a part to play in the work that God is doing in this place.
Honestly, is there ever a bad time to do these things: to give thanks, to celebrate the impact of the work of Christ among us, to commit to praying together, “God what do you want to do through me?” and to ponder what it means for us to give our time, our talents, and our resources in response to the sacrificial love of Christ given for us? We don’t believe so. We hope you will choose to join us in praying for God’s will to be done. While not everyone can participate financially, everyone can be a part of celebrating God’s work in this place and praying that this work will continue.
So, join us in worship this Sunday, either online or in-person, and join in the celebration of gratitude for all God has done, is doing, and will continue to do in your life and in the life of Suntree Church. Ask yourself what you are most grateful for and offer thanks to God. Call or text our Suntree UMC “Grat Line” 321-294-3684 and share the ways that you have been blessed through the ministry of Jesus Christ in this place. We want to hear your story. Read Deuteronomy 26:1-11 and notice how God commands the Israelites to remember their story as they offer thanks and praise to God. It’s going to be a great day of worship because God is so good, and God is not finished with us yet!
Grace and Peace,