The bulletins for tomorrow (Sunday, August 9, 2020) are online at AbileneFirstUMC.org/bulletin/. My sermon on Matthew 14:22-33 is almost finished. This is the passage where Peter tries to walk on water. As always, Peter has a lot to teach us. It’s not too late to confirm your attendance through the link at AbileneFirstUMC.org.
Darlene Sexton’s 94th birthday is tomorrow. Cards and phone calls will be welcomed. If you need her phone number or her address you can contact me at email@example.com or call the church office at 785-263-2623.
In less than an hour, I’ve received two questions about where to go to make reservations* for worship. To me, that indicates that I haven’t done a good job of getting the word out. Here’s what you need to know. The link to the reservations form is at the top of the front page of AbileneFirstUMC.org. I hope this helps. Let me know if it doesn’t.
*Asking people to make reservations for a service of worship is a pretty ridiculous thing to have to do. Please be assured that we do so not because we want to exclude anyone, but rather because we want to include everyone who wants to come. Reservations allow up to plan how many services we need to accommodate everyone. Those without reservations will not be automatically turned away. But if there is not enough room for everyone who shows up, we will give priority to those who made a reservation.
Good news singers! At least one study is being done on the safety of congregational singing during this pandemic. There aren’t any results yet, but it’s good to know that we’re not the only ones who want to start singing again.
We’re now taking reservations for August 2, 2020, at https://bit.ly/3f5HtNo. Please know both that we’re taking reservations because we don’t want to have to turn anyone away and that we have a few extra seats set aside for unexpected guests.
This Sunday I plan to preach on Romans 8:26-39 which includes these verses:
“28 We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.” (NRSV)
These verses used to bother me a lot because of Paul’s use of the term predestination and my firm belief that we have free will. Has that bothered anyone else? Has it bothered you? Either way, please let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org. If it’s worried a lot of people, I’ll do a whole sermon on it, if it hasn’t, I’ll comment on it briefly and then continue to other parts of the passage.
The bulletin for tomorrow is available online at: abilenefirstumc.org/bulletin/. Thanks to my mother for reminding me to post it.
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 www.abileneschools.org. If you would like to send notes, well-wishes, or any college tips, you can email them to email@example.com, 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.
Dennis C. Houdek (friend of Linda Rist) has passed away.
A service of Death and Resurrection will be held at 10:00 a.m.Saturday, July 11, 2020 at Trinity Heights United Methodist Church in Newton, Kansas. Due to a local outbreak of COVID-19 in Newton, the services have been postponed.
Rocky Welton has passed away funeral arrangements are pending, but it will be a while. Please keep the family in your prayers.
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.
*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.