Below the fold is a written version of Jenny’s sermon from Sunday, June 18, 2017. Her text was Genesis 18:1-15, 21:1-7.
You may have heard the recent story about the inmates in Georgia who saved the life of the correctional officer who was guarding them.  It reminded me of this quote from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn:
“If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.” — Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn 
Even as Christians we often want to sort people into good and evil, sheep and goats, but we are all a mixture of the two. (For example, even Judas felt remorse.) The only question is are we using God’s grace to become better. We need to be generous, compassionate, and merciful in our assessments of other people just as God is to us.
 Catherine Park and Deborah Tuff, “Georgia Inmates save Correctional Officer Who Passed out during Work Detail,” USA Today, accessed June 23, 2017, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2017/06/20/georgia-inmates-save-correctional-officer-who-passed-out-during-work-detail/411522001/.
 Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, “A Quote from The Gulag Archipelago,” Goodreads, accessed June 23, 2017, https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/13750-if-only-it-were-all-so-simple-if-only-there. I am too cheap to buy a copy of The Gulag Archipelago just to track this quote all the way down. I’ve heard it attributed to Solzhenitsyn, so I’m taking Goodreads at their word.
In my mind, this tweet stands on its own:
There’s no need to tell everyone how Christian you are. Just act like one: love, forgive, be merciful, help the poor. They’ll get it[.] — James Martin, SJ 
 James Martin, SJ. Twitter post, June 21, 2017, 8:48 a.m., https://twitter.com/JamesMartinSJ/status/877523683719479296.
All told, Abilene First UMC will award $12,250 in scholarships for the 2017-2018 academic year. Congratulations to our 2017-2018 Scholarship Recipients!
Abilene First United Methodist Church Scholarships: Matthew Barlow, Dustin Engle, Kinsey Ford, Mary Graefe, Anna Holmes Gabe Johnson, Keil Kelly, Ben Luty, Jordan Luty, Brianne Murray, Mallory Schardein, Marissa Schardein, Rae Schwarting, Allie Walters, Halle Warren, and Hanna Warren
Clara Shirk Memorial Scholarship: Maya Robinson ($2,000 – New) and Jacoby Robinson ($2,000 – Renewed)
Abilene UMW Kansas Wesleyan Scholarship: Malorie Unruh ($1,000)
As I announced yesterday (and Jenny announced on Facebook previously), we’ve been reappointed to Abilene First United Methodist Church for another year (every appointment is for only one year at a time).
The Bible is full of miracles, the New Testament church experienced them on a regular basis. There are several (complementary) explanations for why that is no longer the case, but I think this explanation is the best for our time and place:
[One of my Bible teachers] told me that we have insulated ourselves from miracles. We no longer live with such reckless faith that we need them. — Shane Claiborne 
I pray that God might grant us a more reckless faith.
 Shane Claiborne, The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015), 47.
I’ve long known that the people called Methodists were behind Mother’s Day, but it turns out we’re behind Father’s Day as well.
Jenny and I are looking forward to the baptism of Jared Thomas Vinduska this coming Sunday, June 18, 2017, at the 8:15 a.m. service. Jared is the son of Kristina and Jason Vinduska.
A special shout-out and thank you to everyone who volunteered to help at the Summer Lunch Program. Your response has been overwhelming! — John and Jenny
In his book of Lenten devotionals, N. T. Wright offers the following prayer:
Sovereign Lord, help us to meet the scorn of unbelievers with the evidence, in what we do and who we are, that you are indeed alive. — N. T. Wright 
Perhaps it’s a product of my occupation, but I haven’t met all that many scornful unbelievers. Instead, I’m more likely to encounter what we might call “discouraged, doubt plagued, believers.” Either way, Christians and churches who demonstrate their faith by “what we do and who we are” are the best argument for the risen Christ.
 N. T. Wright, Lent for Everyone: Mathew, Year A: A Daily Devotional (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2013), 147.
While Jenny and I were on vacation, the church received a thank you note from the Salina Rescue Mission for the pillow cases we gave them. Here’s the text:
Dear Friends @ FUMC Abilene,
Thank you for the large donation of pillow cases. It may seem odd for us to have this as a need but many men use pillow cases as laundry bags and often when men leave the Mission they take the pillow case with them.
Thank You, Chad Young
A lot of people have given their opinion on what is ailing Christianity in the United States, here’s Walter Brueggemann’s take:
“… the crisis in the U.S. church has almost nothing to do with being liberal or conservative; it has everything to do with giving up on the faith and discipline of our Christian baptism and settling for a common, generic U.S. identity that is part patriotism, part consumerism, part violence, and part affluence.” — Walter Brueggemann 
 Walter Brueggemann, A Way Other than Our Own: Devotions for Lent, comp. Richard Floyd (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2017), 3.