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11-2-20 FUMC Update

What a wonderful and amazing week I had last week! I spent a few days hidden away at a friend’s house working on the outline for our Advent Christmas series, then I had an absolutely heartwarming time with my older daughter and her family up in Arkansas! Thanks so much to Brother Henry for preaching on Sunday and for Clint, Ken, Danny, Shiela, and everyone who helps make sure worship goes so well every Sunday, with or without me! I am blessed and grateful!

I left Arkansas at 5 am this morning on a crisp, cloudless perfect fall morning and came a new way home, trusting in my GPS to take me a different direction, one I had never in all these years ever driven before!  Not only was it FASTER, but I was overcome by the beauty of the spectacular hills and changing leaves of the Ouachita National Forest in Oklahoma, then south through Broken Bow and down into north Texas!

Fall always comes! Thanksgiving and Christmas always come! No matter how the COVID cases increase and no matter who wins the election, there will ALWAYS be light at the end of it all because Jesus IS still Jesus and He always makes things NEW!  

Remembering this is why I was so excited to read about an amazing discovery in Israel recently. Several years ago, a team of ETHNOBOTANISTS (“those who study a region’s plants and their practical uses through the traditional knowledge of local culture and people”) from the  Natural Medicine Research Center at the Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem embarked on the horticultural adventure in search of ancient plants with medicinal properties. They were delighted to find a strain of honey-golden succulent dates grown from seeds that had been dormant for 1,800-2,200 years! (Apparently, carbon dating tests are quite accurate!)  

Throughout the Bible, we have seen how date palms were prized for the shade, nutrition, beauty, and health benefits they provided. Their images were used on coins and to decorate Solomon’s temple (1 Kings 6:31-35) and synagogues, the Israelites used palm branches in the construction of temporary shelters to celebrate the harvest Festival of Tabernacles to remind them of their hasty escape from slavery in Egypt (Leviticus 23:33-44; Nehemiah 8:14-16) and Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem days before his arrest and execution was celebrated with palm branches (John 12:13). 

But by the Middle Ages, disrupted by wars and other factors, date palm plantations in Israel had disappeared until, in the 1960s, remnants were discovered. During archaeological digs in the ruins of the desert fortress of Masada, on a rock plateau overlooking the Dead Sea in southern Israel where Jewish zealots committed mass suicide rather than surrender to Roman attackers in A.D. 73, some date-palm seeds were found. Other viable ancient seeds were found in the Qumran Caves, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were unearthed, and more were found in an ancient burial cave near Jericho. 

After some “horticultural tricks” to bring the seeds to full germination, six of the seeds sprouted into date palm seedlings. Then, this March, after growing for six years, one of those six flowered which means dates related to plants almost 2000 years old could grow once again! Quite amazing!  

Isaiah 11 tells us a great Biblical story of horticultural rebirth! Jesse’s family tree had been chopped down until only a stump remained. It was symbolic of King David’s royal dynasty dying out as God’s judgment on the nation of Israel because of their sin. Yet even in its most hopeless state, there was still life in the stump of the nation of Israel! It would NOT, however, come from all the trappings of palace life to which David and his sons had grown accustomed. It would emerge from his father Jesse’s humble peasant origins! 

Isn’t THIS how Jesus, the Messiah, emerges? Birthed by a poor girl in a lowly stable, far from the comforts and privileges of wealth and power! Without the pomp and circumstance of the angels, the birth of Christ would probably have gone virtually unnoticed by most people! But that tender shoot of Jesse would grow to become a mighty tree because this new King, Jesus, would become even greater than King David, and even wiser than David’s son Solomon! He would provide justice for the poor and equity for the meek and in so doing, He would usher in a global reign of peace and harmony in which predator and prey would no longer enemies but live together without violence!  (Isaiah 11:3-11) Obviously, Isaiah’s vision has yet to be fulfilled but we BELIEVE it is coming!

The season of Thanksgiving and Christmas encourages us to reflect on this new kingdom of peace and justice and how WE can be the face of Christ no matter WHAT is happening around us! After all, if seeds from a 2000-year-old palm date tree can be restored, surely, we believe that God does and WILL make all things new! Let’s SHARE that good news with others this week as elections results are tabulated … let’s be the voice of HOPE for all people!

THIS SUNDAY, November 8, IS ALL SAINTS DAY ~  If you have a family member you would like us to light a candle for, please let me know as we will remember all the saints who have gone before including those close to us who have gone to heaven in the last 12 months:

Lon Erwin, Jerry Erwin’s brother

Tim Hyman, Erika Martin’s brother

Bobbie Henson, Billie Henson’s wife

Mary Sharrai

Tillman Turner, Virginia Tillman’s husband

Katie Park, Michael and Judy Park’s daughter

Dennis Morey, Brenda Morey’s husband

Madeline McCrary, Terry Matthew’s mother

SUNDAY, November 8, IS ALSO COMMUNION SUNDAY ~ Those of you who will be joining us at home, please prepare your sacred space and have simple elements, bread/crackers, and water/juice ready so we can consecrate the items together. In the sanctuary, please pick up your communion cup as you enter. Remember, as we share the “bread,” you will remove the table layer of foil to remove the wafer and we will all eat together. Then, as we share the “cup” you’ll remove the second layer of foil so we can all drink together. (See attached video – I won’t show this again on Sunday.)

THIS SUNDAY I’LL BE RETURNING YOUR 2020 COMMITMENTS CARDS ~ Last November, we provided you an opportunity to pray about your commitment to God in the areas of your prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness. Thirty-eight families completed the cards and as promised, they have remained sealed for your eyes only. We will be sending another card for 2021 with your year-to-date giving through October within the week, but you may want to start praying about how this year impacted your personal covenant with the Lord. Yes, we’ve all had to do things differently, but I have seen such remarkable examples of FAITH in these last seven months and I’m sure those of you who have remained committed have seen God’s droplets of grace bless you in many, many ways! I pray God guides you as you look forward to an even BETTER new year in 2021!

NO CHILDREN’S CHURCH THIS SUNDAY ~ Although I did send a text to all the parents last week that we would switch last Sunday with this Sunday because I was out of town, I just want to remind everyone that we will all worship together this Sunday.

GRATEFUL THANKS FOR THOSE WHO HAVE HELPED BRINGS AN ACCESSIBLE BATHROOM TO OUR SANCTUARY ~ Construction will begin soon thanks to the generous contributions we have received and everyone will benefit from your generosity! A big thanks to Danny Moss and J.A. Newton who will be overseeing the project. We are so lucky to have such knowledgeable people serving their church!

CARTER BLOODCARE NEEDS OUR HELP, November 12, 10 am – 3 pm ~ The bloodmobile will be in Winnsboro on Thursday, November 12, at First Baptist on Broadway.  Please make an appointment to give at www.carterbloodcare.org.

I am very excited to start our THANKSGIVING series this Sunday! I hope to see you then, online or in-person!

Praying for a peaceful election,

Pastor Debbie