Dec 27, 2010

Year End Review: From FUMC of Arlington, TX

Here are some things addressed this year by me. Some are good; others kind of zany.

--If we could pass along the gifts to others that God has first offered us, just think of what a redeemed world we would inhabit.

--Spiritually mature people are thankful people.

--God kisses us all and forgets which ones of us are adopted and which ones of us are naturals.

--Doris Mortman once wrote, “Until you make peace with who you are, you’ll never be content with what you have.”

--“I don’t really go to church. I’m more like a self-healer-type.”

--The ministry theme for our church for 2011 is “Going the Second Mile: Dare to Share.”

--Our youth and their effort were such that every child that the church ministers to (in Russia) received a pair of jeans last year.

--The king then gave an order to the guard: “Release this guilty man. I don’t want him corrupting all these innocent people.”

--Unfortunately, most of our discussion of issues in the public square today are more noisy than rational. Does anyone really listen any more?

--“Is it raining?”

--What would she have said if the church told her that we instruct parents for three years and then we talk about baptism?

--Thank goodness for music—especially this season.

--“The best way of appearing to listen,” he said, “is to listen” (Max Dupree, Leadership Jazz, Dell, New York, 1992, pp. 28-9).

--After all mercy is often pretty cheap to dish out in abundance.

--Will my friends be there? Will I have fun? Will I make some money?

--I want to suggest that if we want to be part of a next great generation, then we mark well the life of the last great generation. Their lives were a blueprint for faith, hope, and love. And this last week of December 2010 is a time for all of us to pause—and to remember.

Welcome, 2011.
Happy New Year: David N. Mosser

Dec 23, 2010

Christmas in Rod Wilmoth’s Honor

My good friend who wrote a wonderful chapter in my new book coming out in April 2011, Rodney Wilmoth, told this amusing and touching Christmas story several years ago.

A certain family had the custom of putting large plywood letters bordered with Christmas lights on their roof each year. The letters spelled “NOEL.” It was an unusual piece of decoration. One year the father was a little slow in getting the letters up on the roof. For this reason, finally late one Saturday afternoon, in mid-December, he got the project under way. The letters were large and hard to handle. It was a very windy afternoon, and he was heard to mutter some rather “un-Christmas-y” comments under his breath as he struggled with the large plywood letters.

When at last he finished, he climbed down the ladder triumphantly, instructing the children to plug in the lights. When the lights came on and blazed against the dark sky, everybody rolled in laughter. He had put the letters backward. Instead of “NOEL,” he had spelled “LEON.”

I never did learn what the errant father did, or said, about the situation. I was afraid to ask, but I think I might have left the letters just as they were. Very few people know what “NOEL” means anyway, although we sing it each year, but everybody knows somebody named “LEON.”

If Leon came by and saw his name in lights on a house, I am sure he would be touched. May you too be touched by the spirit of Leon this Christmas.

Dec 18, 2010

Virginia’s Christmas Question

The following is so precious that during this week prior to Christmas 2010 we might simply stop and ask what does Christmas look like from a child’s perspective over a hundred years ago. From the Editorial Page of The New York Sun, written by Francis P. Church, September 21, 1897 we also see how wise adults were in those days.

We take pleasure in answering thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of The Sun:

"Dear Editor--I am 8 years old.

"Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.

"Papa says, 'If you see it in The Sun, it's so.'

"Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?

Virginia O'Hanlon, 115 West Ninety-fifth Street

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children's are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no child-like faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

Merry Christmas from First United Methodist Church of Arlington, Texas!

Dec 8, 2010

Deck the Halls!

Rev. David Jones
By: Rev. David B. Jones
Glenn Memorial United Methodist Church
Atlanta, Georgia

Years ago, in a central European town, the older people could be seen making the sign of the cross as they passed by a certain ordinary-looking wall. When a visitor asked why they were doing this, no one knew.

The visitor was curious. He began chipping away at the layers of whitewash and dirt covering the wall until underneath he discovered a beautiful mural of Mary and the baby Jesus. Generations before, the townspeople had a reason for making the sign of the cross. But succeeding generations had only learned the ritual. They continued to go through the motions, without knowing the reason.

Every Christmas we face the danger of going through the motions without remembering why. So in church we always sing the most famous of all the Advent hymns around this time of year:
O come, o come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here.

We tend to think of exile in terms of geographical dislocation. But exile is as much a state of mind and a feeling of the heart as it is a place on the map. To be in exile is to be sent somewhere you don't want to be. To be in exile is to be cut off from the things you want to do or the people you want to be with. To be in exile is to feel wounded, defeated, marginalized, powerless, hopeless.

Chances are you’ve been in exile at one time or another. Maybe you’re there now. If so, do remember what happens in the refrain of that hymn? The feeling and the tone change. We almost shout, "Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O, Israel!" That's the great turning point in the hymn and in history.

Back in 1994 my wife and I were delegates to the World Methodist Conference in Rio de Janeiro. It was an experience of amazing contrasts. When we looked out our hotel window in one direction we could see the spectacular beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana covered with beautiful people. When we looked in the other direction we saw the largest favela, or shanty town, in Brazil. Two and a half million people in Rio live in favelas.

Looming over the entire landscape is Mount Corcovado. At the top of the mountain is the 100-foot-tall statue known as “Christ the Redeemer.” As Cathy and I looked at the statue, I remembered a story Andy Kane had told my father. Andy is a YMCA official who had been in Rio a few years ahead of us for a conference on the environment.
Christ The Redeemer

One afternoon he and some colleagues traveled to one of the favelas. Andy said, “We were on the back side of Corcovado, in a sea of slums, where we were introduced to a community worker who’d been there for years. “We looked out over those hovels that weren’t fit for human habitation. We asked the community worker, ‘What about these people?’

‘Oh,’ she said, ‘many of them have long since given up hope. They even look up at the top of the mountain and say, ‘See, even Jesus has turned his back on us.’ Then a smile broke across the woman’s face as she said, ‘But that’s not how it is. You see, Jesus is leading us out of this!’”

That's the message of Advent. Someone is coming who can lead us out of the mess we're in. Someone is coming who can ransom our exiled souls and redeem all of creation.

So deck the halls, and rejoice!

###

The Rev. David Jones is senior pastor of Glenn Memorial United Methodist Church in Atlanta, GA.

Dec 2, 2010

Simplicity, Nostalgia, and Christmas Music

When I lived in Liberia, West Africa, one of the most popular songs that year of 1978 was a song by Prince Neco called “Simplicity.” I remember it because along with this Nigerian equivalent to N’sync’s other song, “Sweet Mother,” this song “Simplicity” played over and over and over again on the radio. The urge toward simple times and simple things is irresistible, even for Africans who in some ways might define simplicity for us Americans. We today, even in the West, call for a return to simple ideas and simpler life-styles, although, we defeat our desires by buying into a more hectic, not less hectic, way of doing everything. The Shakers help us put this desire into church music with their hauntingly simple tune our hymnal records as “Lord of the Dance” (#261, The United Methodist Hymnal).

Today we have a multitude of ways to interpret the good news of Jesus via music. Some of you have heard choirs and musical guests present an interpretation of Agnus Dei arranged by Mauldin. The Latin term Agnus Dei means, as you know, “Lamb of God.” Many high liturgical churches today will perform various moving pieces of music by that name. Some are in Latin, while others may be presented in Greek, or even Coptic.

However, with that high church music “heads up,” I ask you to consider another faith witness by the singing group, “The Whites.” They sing “Keep on the Sunny Side” from the award winning Compact Disc, “O Brother, Where Art Thou.”

There’s a dark and a troubled side of life
But there’s a bright and a sunny side too
Though you meet with the darkness and strife
The sunny side you also may view

Keep on the sunny side always on the sunny side
Keep on the sunny side of life
It will help us every day it will brighten all the way
If we’ll keep on the sunny side of life

Though the storm and its furies rage today
Crushing hopes that we cherish so dear
The clouds and storm will in time pass away
And the sun again will shine bright and clear

Let us greet with a song of hope each day
Though the moment be cloudy or fair
And let us trust in our Savior always
To keep us every one in His care
(A.P. Carter and Gary Garett, performed by the Whites).

This is the season of Advent and soon to turn to Christmas and music is an element that puts a little spring into our step. Thank goodness for music—especially this season.

 
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