Liz’s Graduation Party

A moment of personal privilege:

Liz is graduating from Abilene High School on Sunday, July 19, 2020, at 2 p.m. The graduation will be live streamed at If you would like to send notes, well-wishes, or any college tips, you can email them to, and they will be put in a memory book for Liz.

As members and friends of First United Methodist Church, Liz would like to invite you to her graduation party. It will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. on July 19, 2020, outside of the church building. Because Liz’s Type 1 Diabetes puts her more at risk for COVID-19, we ask that you wear a face mask if you wish to attend. Disposable face masks will be provided at the party. Please come only if you are completely comfortable doing so.

Wednesday Evening Bible Study

We have a Zoom meeting scheduled for the Wednesday Evening Bible Study at 6:15 p.m. We’ll be looking at the fifth chapter of Luke. Here are the details:

Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 931 9116 5788
Password: 67410

One tap mobile
+16699006833,,93191165788#,,,,0#,,67410# US (San Jose)
+12532158782,,93191165788#,,,,0#,,67410# US (Tacoma)

Dial by your location
+1 646 558 8656 US (New York) or
+1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)
Meeting ID: 931 9116 5788
Password: 67410

Please note that I have set up separate meetings for the Communion Service and the Bible Study on the Gospel of Luke.

Wednesday Evening Communion

We have a Zoom meeting scheduled for the Wednesday Evening Communion Service at 6:00 p.m. Here are the details:

Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 937 0998 7388
Password: 67410

One tap mobile
+13462487799,,93709987388#,,,,0#,,67410# US (Houston)
+16699006833,,93709987388#,,,,0#,,67410# US (San Jose)

Dial by your location
+1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)
+1 646 558 8656 US (New York)
Meeting ID: 937 0998 7388
Password: 67410

Please note that I have set up separate meetings for the Communion Service and the Bible Study on the Gospel of Luke.

Worship Reservations (July 12, 2020)

The church building is open for in-person worship on Sunday Mornings. In order to better love one another, we’re continuing to practice social distancing, wear masks, and take reservations. (The reservations also help us make room for everyone who shows up.)

You can request reservations for next Sunday, July 12, 2020, here:


The service will continue to be available online—indeed, we intend to continue to make improvements.

A More Christian Love Of Country

Note: 2019-2020 has been a difficult year for the United States, but I still love America as an adult child loves a parent. For that reason I’m reposting these thoughts from 2015.

Warning: what follows is a post in the vein of the Old Testament prophets. You may want to skip it and for that I do not blame you, but I feel compelled to write it.

I have heard our love of country compared to our love of our parents. When we are children, we love our parents as only children can. We love them without being aware of their flaws and shortcomings.* As adults, we recognize that our parents are fallen human beings, and yet we love them still. (This is Christ-like in that it is also the nature of God’s love for us.) I believe that the love we have for our country should be like the love of an adult child for his or her parents. This means that we have to acknowledge that our country, however much we love it, is not perfect.

To that end, I want to share two links. The first is a historic address by Frederick Douglas titled The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro. The following passage is considered one of Douglas’ most moving:

“What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sound of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants brass fronted impudence; your shout of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanks-givings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.”

The second is a contemporary blog post by a Native American titled The Dilemma of the Fourth of July. It’s author, Mark Charles, highlights the reference to Native Americans as savages in The Declaration of Independence and then writes:

“This is the dilemma that Native ‘Americans’ face every day. The foundations of the United States of America are blatantly unjust. This land was stolen. Native peoples, Africans and many other minority communities have long been recipients of systemic racism. And the roots of it are right there for the entire world to see, printed in many of our founding documents; like the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and United States Supreme Court case rulings.”

My hope is that by confessing the sins of our nation’s past, we might move forward to a better, holier future.** Like the hymn America the Beautiful, I want to extol our nation’s virtues and ask God to “mend [our] every flaw.” Mark Charles feels the same way, writing:

“You can still light your fireworks and eat your BBQ, but please remember God’s incredible mercy upon our violent and unjust nation. And at the end of the day, I humbly ask you to conclude your celebrations with the following prayer.

‘May God have mercy on the United States of America and give us the courage necessary to create a common memory.'”

I understand “common memory” to mean an accurate understanding of our past that is shared by enough people that it helps to shape a more just future. I will pray that prayer.

The Meaning of the Fourth for the
The Dilemma of the Fourth of

*My apologies to my own parents for the use of this comparison. I should note that my mother has very few shortcomings, and I share all my father’s flaws.
**Credit where credit is due: In 2009 Sam Brownback helped lead a successful effort to get a formal apology to Native Americans approved by Congress and signed by the President. Sadly, he could not get it passed as a stand-alone bill and it had to be slipped into an appropriations measure.

A Word About The Worship Service

Because it’s not safe to sing when we’re gathered together, we’ve made some changes to the order of worship. We’ve dropped the number of hymns to two. (The words are printed in the bulletin, so that people at home can sing along—we’re trying to stick to familiar hymns to make that easier.) In order to make up for the congregational participation we lost in taking out the hymns, we’ve added a Psalter (a reading from the Psalms) and often a unity prayer of confession. We’re keeping the creed and the response to the creed the same every week in the hopes that those at home who don’t have a bulletin available can more fully participate.

What’s Keeping You From Jesus?

This Sunday, I plan to preach on the following passage:

28 “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” — Matthew 11:28-30 (NRSV) 

Here’s my question for you: what’s keeping you from coming to Jesus? What’s stopping you from taking the next step in your faith journey? What’s holding you back? Anything answers shared in the sermon will be shared anonymously.