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Archive for July, 2012

I was getting ready for a weekend excursion with the family early Friday morning when I heard the news about the movie theater shooting in Aurora, CO.  Throughout the day, the horror revealed itself to us in bits and pieces as we traveled. I remember my initial feeling being one of deep sadness – a feeling that still persists three days later.

Being away from the computer all weekend, I’m just now getting a chance to share some initial thoughts –  thoughts that I’m sure will evolve in the days to come.

First, it’s inevitable that people in my position get asked the hard question: why did God allow this to happen?  I very much appreciate one pastor in Aurora who responded in his Sunday sermon today: I don’t know.  This is not always the popular answer, as people’s desire for an explanation tends to increase the more inexplainable something is.  So much of life can be categorized, understood, processed.  Then an Aurora happens; a Hurricane Katrina comes along.  And there are simply no answers for things like this, as much as we wish there were.

So, how to respond? Perhaps our first aim is to refrain from manufacturing answers when there aren’t any.  To respond to Aurora or other tragedies with cliches like “It was God’s will” or “God has a plan” is like injecting a weak anestesia into a deeper wound – it may take the sting away for a short time, but more than likely it’ll make the pain all the worse.  Saying “I don’t know” when there really aren’t answers is perhaps the most authentically faithful response one can give.  Contrary to popular opinion, there is in fact room in the Christian faith for doubt, discomfort, anger, unsettledness (re: the Psalms).

Second, we can offer hope.  And not a false hope which foolishly suggests everything will be okay, but hope that holds fast to a God who is not distant in trying times.  When 9-11 happened and the inevitable question came – where was God – a faithful and accurate response in that context was that God was in the World Trade Towers, God was in the airplanes and the Pentagon.  Likewise, on July 20, God was sitting in the front row of a movie theater in Aurora, CO.  If the cross tells us anything, it is that God is not watching human tragedy from a distance, but in the very midst of it, right along with those who suffer the most.

And lastly, in the context of this particular tragedy and future ones, we can make it our personal mission to make our focus the victims and not the perpetrator.  Certainly there are larger issues which need to be discussed (mental health, gun laws, a culture that celebrates violence, etc), but this is not an occasion to grant one individual the celebrity and attention they so desire.  Our focus needs to be elsewhere.  One TV clip I did catch over the weekend was CNN’s Anderson Cooper interviewing the brother of one of the victims, Jessica Ghawi.  Even though he was obviously in shock, he made the network rounds to talk about his sister. He said he wanted the stories of the victims – their lives, their families, their hopes and dreams – to rise above all else.  And not just his sister Jessica, but Alexander B., Jonathan, Jesse, Gordon,  John, Micayla, Matthew, Veronica, Alex, Alexander T. and Rebecca as well (a list and brief bios of those victims, by the way, can be found HERE).

There are no explanations for senseless acts of violence like what happened last Friday.  But there are certainly any number of faithful responses from those who believe in a God who resides at the very heart of human tragedy.  In what ways are you choosing to faithfully respond?

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ATTENTION ALL FPCMA MEMBERS 18 AND UP:

If you are interested in learning about our church’s first Fall Adult Mission Weekend this coming October 5-7, please join us for one of two information meetings this Sunday! Both will take place in Steve’s study at 10:30am and immediately following worship. Mike Gatchel, moderator of the Missions Ministry Team, will share details about this exciting opportunity for our adult members to take part in an enriching weekend mission trip experience. The meeting will last no more than 15 minutes, and coming to the meeting does not commit you to participating in the trip.

Hope to see you at one of the meetings this Sunday!

And Jesus came and said to them, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.”

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TODAY

Head Usher: Mike Beal

Side Usher: Daniel Hatcher

Nursery: Cathy McCluskey

 Note: Spark will return when school starts back.

WEEK AT A GLANCE

 Sunday, July 15                    

9:45 am – Sunday School

10:00 am – The Gathering

10:00 am – Choir Rehearsal

11:00 am – Worship

Tuesday, July 17                  

K-5th Grade to Movies with Shasta

Middle Schoolers Leave for Massanetta

FINANCIAL

July 1, 2012 Contributions:

Pledged:           $        3,275.00

Non-Pledged:   $           624.00

Weekly Total:   $        3,899.00

Total monthly receipts:                                            $ 15,780.66

 Monthly budget need:                                               $24,000.00

 Amount we still need for the month of July:          $  8,219.34

 Annual Pledge to Date Deficit:                                 $13,049.7

 CHURCH MINISTRIES

 Beacons: Will not meet this week.

 Massanetta Middle School Conference: Please be in prayer for the Beacons, their chaperones and all who will attend the conference this coming week.

 Movie and Lunch: If you are in K-5th grade (the grade you just finished) and want to go to the movies and lunch, please meet at the church at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, July 17th.  You will need money for any movie snacks you wish to purchase and money for lunch.  PLEASE let Shasta know if you are planning to go by Monday, July 16th, at 5:00 p.m.

 Crafting Out Faith: Tuesday, July 24th; Kids K-5th grade are invited to come make crafts: one to keep, one to share with someone they love, and one for a homebound member of our church.  We’ll gather in the Fellowship Hall from 6:00-8:00 p.m.  Bring dinner for your family and come help our children learn what it means to be a servant of God.  Please let Shasta know today if you plan to attend.

WITNESS

 Yokefellow Ministries: Volunteers are needed to assist with this ministry.  See Mike Gatchel for more information or to sign-up to assist.

 

CELEBRATIONS

 Birthdays: 7/15: Olivia Malone; 7/16: Dana Johnson; 7/17: John Mills; 7/18: Kate Brown; 7/19: Sara Pequeno; 7/20: Joanne Cheatham, Sarah Dodd; 7/21: Beth McCrosky, Taylor King

 Anniversaries: None this week

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As I’ve done every January and July for a number of years now, I’m out of the office this week planning sermons for the next six months. It’s become one of my favorite pastor rituals. I sneak away to a nearby retreat space (this time I’m at Burke & Carolyn Robertson’s White Sulfur Springs cabins, which you really should check out), and surround myself with Biblical commentaries, Bibles, laptop, church calendar, my iPod and Bose speaker – and, of course, coffee!

I always enjoy this time away from office distractions – a rare chance to read, write, think.  And most importantly: listen. Sermon preparation takes up a huge chunk of my work week – 10-15 hours typically, all for a 15-20 minute sermon. This week away gives me a head start so I’m not staring at a totally blank computer screen every Monday morning.

I’m actually pretty excited about the sermon planning I’m doing this time around and wanted to let you know about it.  I’ve decided to do a fall sermon series on the book The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs. In case you haven’t heard, this book was a New York Times bestseller back in 2007. Essentially the author – a self-described “reverent agnostic” who was raised as a Jew but says he’s Jewish as much as the Olive Garden is Italian – commits to a full year of following the Bible literally: all the laws, customs, and spirit of the writings of the Old and New Testaments. His book is insightful, thought-provoking, and humorous without making fun of the faith.

The thing I like most about Jacobs’ book is that, in a sense, he’s not doing anything all that different from what we try to do in our own faith journey.  Sure, we don’t go so far as wearing only white (Ecclesiastes 9:8) and eating locusts (Leviticus 11:22), but if we are people “grounded in the Word,” as some like to say, what exactly does that look like? What parts should be followed literally; and what parts are more symbolism and metaphor? What does it mean to live out our faith when that faith is rooted in the Bible?

This will be the focus of my sermons for the fall. And very unlike me, I’m not going to commit to a length of time on this. I’m just going to roll with it and see where the journey takes us. While I’ll be reading excerpts from the book in the sermons, I highly encourage you to read it on your own. I’ve talked with Sandy at Pages and you can get a hard copy there for only $16.  Also, here’s a link to a free PDF version online.

I’m excited about this journey, and I hope you are too. And I hope you’ll invite your family and friends to join us on Sunday mornings or read and listen to the sermons at my sermon blog (www.themayberrypreacher.com) and be part of this journey as well.  Sermons, after all, are not only about me as pastor talking to you. I’ve always believed that sermons are a three-way communication between minister, congregation, and God. These weeks of sermon preparation are a way I get myself ready for my part. This fall, I hope you’ll join me in the conversation!

Blessings to each of you,

 

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WEEK AT A GLANCE

 

Sunday, July 8                      

9:45 am – Sunday School

10:00 am – The Gathering

11:00 am – Worship

Tuesday, July 10                  

K-5th Grade to Movies with Steve

Thursday, July 12                

5:00 pm – Friends Feeding Friends

FINANCIAL

July 1, 2012 Contributions:

Pledged:           $      11,881.66

Non-Pledged:   $                .00

Weekly Total:   $      11,881.66

 Total monthly receipts:                                            $ 11,881.66

 Monthly budget need:                                               $24,000.00

 Amount we still need for the month of July:          $12,118.34

 Annual Pledge to Date Deficit:                                 $16,274.73

 

 

  CHURCH MINISTRIES

 Beacon Mission Trip: Please be in prayer for the Beacons and their chaperones this coming week as they head to Blue Knob, PA, to serve God in all that they do.

 Movie and Lunch: If you are in K-5th grade (the grade you just finished) and want to go to the movies and lunch, please meet at te church at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, July 10th.  You will need money for any movie snacks you wish to purchase and money for lunch.  PLEASE let Steve know if you are planning to go by Monday, July 9th, at 5:00 p.m.

WITNESS

 Friends Feeding Friends: Thursday, July 12th; Please meet at First Baptist at 5:00 p.m.  The following people are signed up to assist: Ethelene Edwards, Cristi Arington and Lorie Lindsley.

 Yokefellow Ministries: Volunteers are needed to assist with this ministry.  See Mike Gatchel for more information or to sign-up to assist.

 

CELEBRATIONS

 Birthdays: 7/8: Mary Belton, Lucas Fowler, Cole Younger; 7/9: Steve Lindsley, Fred Barnett; 7/10: Grady Lewis, Katherine Seivers, Philip Daniels, Ann Floyd; 7/11: Lisa Petri; 7/12: Nicole Moody; 7/13: Maggie Mills, Josh Clark, Jessica Johnson

 Anniversaries: 7/10: Paul and Cecelia Belk; 7/13: Steve and Ann Yokeley

 

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