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11-17-20 FUMC Updates

I have found myself being very reflective this week about the Thanksgiving scriptures from our sermons this month – giving thanks is easy to talk about but the action that is required isn’t quite as easy! Giving thanks requires time – and as you’ve heard me often say, the best expression of LOVE is TIME and this applies to all of our relationships, and certainly our relationship with Christ! Giving thanks requires commitment – it’s easy to SAY we’re thankful but have we made a commitment to show it?  Giving thanks also requires sacrifice because sometimes it’s not easy to prioritize things that are IMPORTANT away from things that may seem more enjoyable. 

This week, we will be giving or sending most of you a personal faith commitment card for 2021, asking that you prayerfully consider how you want to grow in your faith in the new year.  You’ll be thinking about the action you take in your prayer life, your worship attendance (either in-person or online), your financially giving, your service to God and His people, and how you share the love of Jesus Christ with others. If you are a member or you have been coming for more than a few months, you’ll also receive a commitment card.  (I want to thank Mary Tom McLemore for filling in the blanks!)  

Please complete your card and either send it back SEALED to the church or bring it and leave it in the collection plate at church, SEALED.  NO ONE WILL OPEN OR SEE THOSE CARDS BUT YOU! Before sealing your envelope, write down your 2021 faith goals – put them somewhere they will encourage you to grow in your faith every, single day! Next November, we will give you BACK your cards, sealed, so you can reflect on how your faith changed in the year ahead.

Last year we had 38 families/individuals return those cards – this year, I’d love to see more!! Remember – we will not LOOK at them … this commitment is between you and your Lord!

JOINING SUNDAY, 11/29, 10:50 AM … speaking of your commitment with God, many of you who have been visiting already consider FUMC your church home, and WE consider you part of our church family!  But if you’d like to make a covenant with God by joining the church, either virtually or in person, please let me know before the 29th. Our website explains our joining process but I’d love to talk with you if you’re interested.

NEXT MONDAY, A SPECIAL ONE DAY DRIVE THROUGH, 11/23, 9 am – 11 am … I have not seen many of you who are staying safe at home but we can connect at the drive-through because I have some things to give you!  A few weeks ago we gave everyone the Wesley Prayer coin that I want you all to have … and THIS Sunday we’ll be giving out another surprise that I ALSO want you to have! (You have to wait for Sunday to know what it is though!)  Please mark your calendar to come through!

A PURPOSE DRIVEN CHRISTMAS … OUR ADVENT BIBLE STUDY STARTS WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 2nd, 10 AM … we will continue to do our Monday MORNING study on ZOOM (here is the link to join) but if you would like to attend a class in-person, PLEASE EMAIL ME and let me know!  Using Wesley Hall and following social guidelines, I will also hold the class on Wednesday evenings if you’re interested in getting out!  Because the seating must be limited, please reply and let me know if you want to come!  This 4-week class will focus on the purpose of Christmas: a time for celebration, a time for salvation, and a time for reconciliation … I’m really looking forward to this very interactive conversation!

Last Sunday I mentioned the 10 lepers who Jesus healed and only ONE returned to thank Him!  That stuck with me and I found myself digging into that story more – I can’t wait to share it with you this Sunday!  You might want to read ahead … Luke 17:12-19

STAY SAFE!

Pastor Debbie

CDC COVID 19 Symptoms andTesting: CLICK HERE

First United Methodist Church Winnsboro

301 Church Street, Winnsboro, TX. 75494

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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


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10-19-20 FUMC Update

This Sunday I was supposed to be flying to London for a few days then boarding a cruise ship for a 12-day Atlantic cruise back to Miami. Needless to say, I canceled that trip and, compared to the thousands of people who have died and been sick from COVID-19, canceling my travel plans is NOTHING! 

But I am really sad to know that just a year ago, 350 cruise ships served a record 30 million passengers in a booming $150 billion global business! The global airline industry flew 4.5 billion people and generated nearly $885 billion in revenue! Today though, with the coronavirus outbreak, consumer concern for public health has led to a drastic decline in bookings and profitability in both industries. By some estimates, airlines’ overall revenue may fall by 50% in 2020, since air travel in the Asia Pacific region has fallen 97.5%  during the pandemic.

Now I must admit, I just don’t GET the article I read recently about “TRIPS TO NOWHERE.” Apparently, as some countries ease travel restrictions, several airlines and cruise ship companies have been marketing scenic sightseeing “trips to nowhere.” These circular trips have no destination and bring passengers back to where they started and they’re designed for people who have been cooped up for months and just want to get out – somewhere!

When the Australian airline company Qantas announced a seven-hour “special scenic joy flight” on their Boeing 787 Dreamliner “for those who just want to spread their wings — no passport or quarantine required” that would begin and end in Sydney, it sold out in 10 minutes to the tune of $575 to $2,765 per ticket. Other airline companies are adding a range of amenities, such as local cuisine and low-level flybys of iconic landmarks to the “moving staycation” model hoping to entice people to book a flight.

Personally, I agree with critics who wonder whether traveling in close proximity with other passengers on a plane or cruise ship can be done safely in the middle of a pandemic, even when extra precautions but airlines have been flying — with precautions — for months now and apparently have not seen significant sources of new cases.

So you might be wondering where does GOD fit into any of this? Well, I found this lovely scripture from Psalm 55 …  

And I say, “O that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest; truly, I would flee far away; I would lodge in the wilderness; I would hurry to find a shelter for myself from the raging wind and tempest . . . Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.” ~ Psalm 55:6-8, 22

In this psalm, the writer asks God to hear his prayer, because he is distraught by enemies, violence, strife, oppression, and fraud, that troubles, terrorizes, and horrifies him. Worse than that is his feeling of being betrayed by his most intimate friend with whom he had worshiped in the house of God! While he curses his enemies, he continues to call upon God and trust the Lord to save him and punish the treacherous.

What, if anything, has the power to distress you so much that you feel like flying away to find a safe shelter where you can rest from the turmoil swirling about? When have you cast your burden on the Lord and found that he has sustained you?

We all remember that, in a way, Moses led the Israelites’ on a 40-year TRIP TO NOWHERE in the wilderness. Oh, they had the opportunity to cross over into the Promised Land, but they refused to listen to the voice of God. As a result, members of that generation, except for Joshua and Caleb (Dt. 1:34-40), all died off leaving the next generation to  enter into the land God had sworn to give them (Joshua 5:6-7).

Sometimes individuals take “trips to nowhere” while other times, an entire community, ethnic or racial group, nation, or even the world, may seem to be going in circles together, never making any apparent progress toward a particular destination, but stuck in the same wilderness for what seems like an eternity. During this pandemic, as isolated and separated from one another as we may feel, we are still experiencing similar trauma together.

Moses said that at one point: “The LORD your God has blessed you in all the work of your hands. He has watched over your journey through this vast wilderness. These forty years the LORD your God has been with you, and you have not lacked anything” (DT. 2:7).

Even though the Israelites experienced many hardships as they wandered through the wilderness, Moses said that God had blessed them, watched over them, stayed with them, and provided for them. He’s still doing that for us today!

Someday, we WILL be able to travel safely again. And maybe YOU’LL want to visit a place you think of as “nowhere” — perhaps a small town or one of the smaller states – maybe you’ll discover why people who live there think of it as “somewhere,” a place they love. Or maybe you’ll invite others to the “nowhere” in Winnsboro, TX, and show them how fabulous NOWHERE can be!!

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OUR ACCESSIBLE BATHROOM CONSTRUCTION WILL BE GETTING UNDERWAY ~ We still need about ______ to meet the bid but my heart is so happy to see how many of you have given from your heart to take care of the people we love! The choir hall will be shut down when the work begins but it will be done as quickly as possible! 

WINNSBORO PRAYER WALK ~ Monday, October 15, Meet at First Baptist on Elm at 5:30 p.m. and walk to Martin Luther King Park, seven short blocks. This is ALL people coming together to pray for peace, unity, respect and, love!

WEDNESDAY MORNING ZOOM CLASS, 10-11 AM ~ This Wednesday, we’re looking at the death of Christ. And then we’ll take a break in November and start back up for an ADVENT study for Christmas in December. Want to join us?  CLICK HERE for the ZOOM link.

ALL SAINTS DAY, November 8 ~ If you have family members you would like to remember, please let me know!

YEAR-END GIVING FROM TEXAS METHODIST FOUNDATION ~  At the end of this email is a great article from the Texas Methodist Foundation about special tax benefits for year-end giving ONLY available this year as a result of the COVID government CARES ACT. Talk to your CPA or accountant about how you can benefit your CHURCH at the same time-saving money for yourself, a win-win only in the 2020 tax year.

RADA CATALOG SPECIAL SHIPPING ONLY AVAILABLE THROUGH OCTOBER ~ But you can order anytime to support MISSIONS, do some Christmas shopping or get a little something to make YOUR kitchen more efficient anytime by ordering ONLINE HERE.

THIS SUNDAY ~ our last message about DROPLETS of GRACE ~ don’t miss it!

Pastor Debbie

CDC COVID 19 Symptoms and Testing: CLICK HERE

(903) 342-6172  (PASTOR EMERGENCY or TEXT 972-896-5254)
 

FROM THE TEXAS METHODIST FOUNDATION:

In the midst of a turbulent year, we at Texas Methodist Foundation have been inspired by the impact of organizations like El Pasoans Fighting Hunger Food Bank, the youngest food bank in America. As we enter the final quarter of 2020, I’d like to highlight the charitable provisions included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed by Congress in late March.

Included in this legislation are three significant charitable provisions, only available in 2020:

  1. You may deduct gifts of cash to public charities to offset as much as 100% of your adjusted gross income (AGI).
  2. If you take the standard deduction, an above-the-line deductible charitable contribution is available for gifts of cash up to $300.00 per each tax filing unit
  3. Corporate giving limits have also been modified by the CARES Act. Typically, corporations can’t deduct more than 10% of their pretax income in a given year for charitable contributions. The CARES Act increases this limit to 25% for cash contributions made to public charities. 

In addition to the charitable provisions included in CARES, Congress also made temporary changes to retirement accounts, waiving the Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) in 2020. However, a Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD) may still be an excellent way to make a gift this year.

To learn more, the following two articles are recommended:

Finally, I invite you to share these articles with your church or favorite not-for-profit to stimulate year-end giving strategies that provide for critical ministries across Texas and New Mexico.

Because of the tax law complexities associated with the rules surrounding the deductibility of charitable contributions, we recommend seeking professional advice when considering new philanthropic opportunities. The Foundation Relations team welcomes the opportunity to explore with you and your advisor(s) whether these opportunities can, and should, be part of your philanthropic plan in 2020. We can be reached by phone at 1(800) 933-5502 or by email at jgould@tmf-fdn.org.

With gratitude,

Justin Gould
VP of Foundation Relations


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10-13-20 FUMC Update

DEVOTIONAL:  Does Faith matter in the Supreme Court Hearings?

Confirmation hearings began yesterday for Amy Coney Barrett who has been chosen by President Donald Trump to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court. Barrett has been described as a Constitutional ORIGINALIST which favors the interpretation of the Constitution through the original understanding of the authors. This is preferred by many on the right but feared by many on the left who predict that she will vote to modify or reverse some laws, including the Roe v. Wade, the decision that created a constitutional right to abortion, and Obamacare.  

Barrett is a Catholic and has been under scrutiny for being connected with People of Praise, an ecumenical charismatic Christian group. On their website, they say: “We admire the first Christians who were led by the Holy Spirit to form a community. Those early believers put their lives and their possessions in common, and ‘there were no needy persons among them.’ Jesus desires unity for all people. We live out this unity the best we can, in spite of the divisions within Christianity. We are Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Methodists, Pentecostals, Presbyterians and other denominational and nondenominational Christians. Despite our differences, we are bound together by our Christian baptism. Despite our differences, we worship together. While remaining faithful members of our own churches, we have found a way to live our daily lives together.”

How Barrett’s religious beliefs might influence her legal views became a focus for some Democrats during her 2017 confirmation hearings for her nomination to become a judge in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit. Today, Republicans fear that imposing a “religious test” on Barrett’s fitness for the position will become controversial but let’s not forget … there are five current justices on the Supreme Court who are Catholic. And let’s not forget, Joe Biden, one of the nominees for PRESIDENT this year is Catholic too!

Early in her career, Judge Barrett often included God in articles and speeches, and in a 2006 address she urged graduating law students at Notre Dame to see their careers as part of “building the kingdom of God.” While not everyone agrees with some of her  opinions about marriage and abortion, she has said “It’s never appropriate for a judge to impose that judge’s personal convictions — whether they derive from faith or anywhere else — on the law.”

In our God, Church & Politics recent worship series I spoke quite a bit about how we must put GOD FIRST in the ballot box because no matter who is elected, if they don’t rely on direction from the Lord Himself, how could we trust any man or woman to make such important decisions!

A lifetime appointment to Supreme Court is a huge responsibility. There have only been 113 who have served an average of 16 years. The Supreme Court website says: “As the final arbiter of the law, the Court is charged with ensuring the American people the promise of equal justice under law and, thereby, also functions as guardian and interpreter of the Constitution.” We need laws in our country and how those laws are interpreted is what the Supreme Court does, and faith DOES matter!

What does this mean to us as Christians? At the beginning of Deuteronomy 6, we learn that decrees and commandments are given for our benefit, to structure our lives in life-giving ways. A game of football would be chaotic without umpires, defined lines on the field, and rules. Our lives, too, would become chaotic without the ordering of God’s laws. Commandments are meant to be helpful to us, not oppressive.

Moses spoke of a commandment that began with reviewing God’s goodness, urging  people to behave like God’s chosen people, keeping all of His commandments so that their “days may be long.” If the people DO observe the commandments diligently, it will “go well” with them, and they will multiply greatly. Next in the text comes the commandment to “love the LORD your God” (Dt. 6: 5) which introduced here for the first time. This bold new command went on to become central to both Judaism and Christianity, one that Jesus later referenced in His Great Commandment!

As you think about whether a Supreme Court justice should be influenced by his or her faith, does it matter to you what the faith of that justice is? Why or why not? How would you feel about a new justice being a committed Jew, like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, or a Hindu or Muslim, as opposed to a Catholic? How would you feel about a Justice being a progressive Christian while you are a conservative Christian — or vice versa?  Just remember – whatever happens, GOD IS WORKING FOR GOOD  (You can watch the devotional on Facebook or listen to it on the website also.)

SHORT NOTICE BUT IMPORTANT ~ As you may know, the Library Memorial Fund for KATIE PARK raised over $10,000 Deonna Bishopp, library Director, just told me that the City Council will vote on this tonight! The details are on Facebook also, please share on your page so we spread the word. You can call in tonight or email the City!

THANK-YOU, THANK-YOU, THANK-YOU! It will be three years on November 1 that I have served you as the Pastor of this incredible Church and community and I cannot begin to tell you how richly and deeply blessed I am that God sent me here! I wake up every morning with GRATITUDE at the droplets of grace God pours out all around me! I was surprised and so wonderfully humbled on Sunday to receive your recognition for Pastor Appreciation Sunday! Wow, what a blessing you are! I will enjoy sitting on the outside patio overlooking the beautiful vineyards of Los Pino having my FAVORITE hamburger, a brie burger with caramelized onions, and today and tomorrow are PRIME days on Amazon so the gift card is perfect timing! I cannot begin to thank you for thinking of me!

IF GOD CAN TALK ABOUT BATHROOMS, SO CAN WE! I must admit, talking about a $13,000 mini-capital campaign to build a bathroom during a pandemic was a bit daunting, but one again the Holy Spirit has OVERWHELMED me with JOY! During this time, the church has been faced with all kinds of challenges, the most important of which is doing no harm. But when someone came to me with a $5,000 check toward constructing a much needed accessible bathroom, I KNEW God would provide! If you missed the service yesterday, you can watch it on FACEBOOK, and I thank those of you who have told me how important it is to have a facility that families can take their children to or change their baby’s diaper in, a facility where people with wheelchairs or walkers can get to easily without traveling past Asbury, through the courtyard and over to Wesley Hall to go to the bathroom! Sacrificial giving, in addition to general fund giving, has an extra feeling of JOY and I hope you feel that JOY as I do! If you want to send a check, mark BATHROOM in the memo, or, you can give online on our website and when you click any of the giving links, you will see a Bathroom account. Just go HERE. Many thanks!

UNITED METHODIST WOMEN ARE MAKING COOKING EASY and SHOPPING EVEN EASIER! Attached is a great letter from Janat Erwin explaining why UMW chooses RADA as their fundraising partner for MISSIONS. With RADA, you’re not only get great products at reasonable prices, but you’re also benefiting others! Catalogs will be in church on Sunday or in the red bin by our office door, but you can browse a catalog, shop and ship online HERE! If you don’t want to order online you can email Janat your order and she’ll take care of you.

THANK YOU COFFEE AND CONVERSATION SUNDAY SCHOOL CLASS! Today they delivered 60 SNACK PACKS to all the adults, teachers, custodians, aides, admins, etc. at the elementary school! How GREAT to see our church serving the community! Maybe some other classes would like to help us finish the rest of the schools!!??

“SEE” YOU SUNDAY EVERYONE ~ We’ll be looking at how SEEING God’s droplets of grace can be life-changing!! Isaiah 6

Grace and peace,

Pastor Debbie


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10-08-20 FUMC Update

I read a remarkable story this week about a young boy in Nigeria. This August, a Sharia court in Kano, Nigeria’s second-largest city, (located in the predominantly Muslim northern region), sentenced 13-year-old Omar Farouq to 10 years forced hard labor in prison for the crime of blasphemy, “publicly insulting” Allah. Allegedly he committed this crime during a dispute with a friend. Farouq’s lawyer appealed the sentence, and naturally human rights advocates around the world have also condemned the Sharia court decision.  

Piotr Cywinski, the director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial in Poland wrote an open letter asking Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari to pardon Farouq but if nothing less, he  wrote, “I suggest that in place of the child, 120 adult volunteers from all over the world, gathered by us — myself personally among them — should each serve a month in a Nigerian prison.” (CLICK HERE to read more.)

WOW! Here’s what’s amazing. More than 120 people immediately volunteered to go to prison in place of Farouq so he might be forgiven and freed! THIS is the good in humanity. THIS is what we need to see more of in our world! And we have seen the idea of an innocent person volunteering to take the place of someone convicted of a crime in the Bible! Here’s one example, the story of Joseph in Genesis 44.

This chapter records Joseph’s encounter with his 11 brothers many years after they sold him into slavery. Since then, God had raised him to a position of great power in Egypt so that he was second only to Pharaoh in authority. But so much time had passed, and Joseph looked so different, that when his brothers came to Egypt begging for food after a famine in their land, they didn’t recognize him. Joseph chose NOT to reveal his identity and instead, he launched a plan that would show whether his brothers had any remorse over the way they had abused him.

Joseph had his silver cup put in his youngest brother, Benjamin’s, sack of grain, so that it would appear that Benjamin had stolen it. After the brothers were given grain for their families, they left Egypt and Joseph sent his servant after them to apprehend and accuse them of theft. They denied it, of course, but after conducting a search, the servant found the silver cup in Benjamin’s sack so the brothers returned to answer the charges.

Judah spoke for the brothers and knowing they could not clear their name he offered that they all become Joseph’s slaves. Joseph declined the offer seeing it as unfair to punish those who had not been caught with so-called stolen goods. Judah then told Joseph that they had had another brother, but he was dead (which must have amused Joseph, considering he was still very much alive!) Judah explained that he had only persuaded their father to allow Benjamin to go with them to Egypt by promising that if he did not bring Benjamin back, his father could blame him:

[Judah said to Joseph,] “Now therefore, please let your servant remain as a slave to my lord in place of the boy; and let the boy go back with his brothers. For how can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? I fear to see the suffering that would come upon my father.” Genesis 44:33-34

While neither Judah nor Benjamin was guilty of theft, Judah did not know for sure that Benjamin was innocent. But still, out of love for his brother and father, Judah offered to take his brother’s place as a slave in Egypt! 

This is a little bit like what Jesus did for us! It’s MUCH more than throwing a  lifeline to a drowning person or merely risking His life to save the world. Jesus LITERALLY sacrificed His life in order to take upon himself our guilt and shame so we could be forgiven and have eternal life!

I have flooded myself with questions about this story. What motivated so many people to volunteer to sacrifice so much to share Farouq’s sentence? How must members of the court who sentenced this boy be feeling about all this? How can ANYONE think this Sharia law is fair and just? I genuinely believe that while our criminal justice system is NOT perfect, it’s pretty darn good! But I also accept that even the best human criminal justice systems cannot and DO not replicate God’s perfect justice here “on earth, as it is in heaven!” As of today, I have not found an updated response from the Nigerian government but oh, how I pray!

HOW WONDERFUL TO SEE SO MANY PEOPLE, and NEW PEOPLE, IN CHURCH LAST WEEK! I loved the energy in church on Sunday, WOW!!  I do want to remind everyone that we are working hard to keep everyone protected so we will have overflow seating in Wesley Hall if and when we need it! If you would be willing to volunteer to watch the LIVE FEED with others in Wesley Hall if we get crowded, please let Shiela Haynes know so we have plenty of room for our visitors and guests.

Here’s a reminder of our occupancy from 9/20

–          Sanctuary: seating must be separated by ONE pew

–          Main floor pews: ONE couple and ONE single, TWO couples, THREE singles or ONE family of 3+ per pew) 

–          Balcony: FOUR short sides pews (ONE couple or ONE family up to FOUR per pew); ONE long per (THREE singles, TWO couples, or ONE larger family)

–          Choir: if couples sit together, TWP couples seated every alternative pew (Couples & TWO singles or FIVE singles)

 

WE’RE LOOKING TO START OUR NURSERY AGAIN! While we were planning to do this in the new year, we’ve determined a safe strategy to be able to move forward sooner and we’re looking for 2-3 AWESOME childcare givers! We are a Ministry Safe church, so we always have two adults working together who have had background checks and taken a very thorough, and enlightening, Ministry Safe training. The nursery will be available on Sundays from 10:30 – NOON. If there are no children, they will assist Paige in our Children’s Church so our volunteers can go to worship. If you know anyone, please have them contact CYNDIE EWERT.

UNITED METHODIST WOMEN HAVE A RADA CATALOG FOR YOU! This wonderful group of women exists not only to grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ and be in supportive fellowship with each other but to contribute to missions in the global ministries of the UMC church. And guess what, with Christmas just 11 weeks away (YIKES!) you can help just by SHOPPING the Rada kitchen products! Rada is MUCH more than a KNIFE company, they have an entire line of great kitchen products and with so many more people cooking at HOME these days, having the right tool for the job makes all the difference! If you plan to buy something, this Sunday there will be a Rada catalog for you to take home and begin making your wish list – we’ll be providing details next week on HOW to order.

ARE YOU TAKING PICTURES? If you have special events and wonderful happy moments to share, please email or text me a picture to share on Sunday morning!

ALL SAINTS DAY: Sunday, November 8, 10:50 am ~ Once a year we celebrate the communion of saints as we remember those who have died during our current year, both in our local congregations and throughout the Church universal. On November 8, we’ll light candles for members of our church family who have gone to heaven this year: Bobbie Henson, Mary Sharrai, Tillman Turner and Katie Park, but we will also include immediate members of YOUR family if you would please get us their names. Thank you for helping us plan ahead!

THIS SUNDAY we start a new series called DROPLETS of GRACE ~ I’ll be asking where you HEAR God, SEE God and FEEL God’s presence around you, especially in difficult times! If you have a story to share please let me know! For this Sunday you might want to read the story of Samuel, 1 Samuel 3:1-20, so you can answer God’s question, “CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW.

Stay safe, see God’s droplets of grace all around you!

Pastor Debbie


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