Sep 28, 2012

Why Pledging is Important

A lot of people joke about giving to the church and I like the story that Garrison Keillor tells:

A letter from a local church to members who were not present on Pledge Dedication Sunday and therefore did not fill out their pledge cards: "Dear Ann and Joe: We missed you last Sunday, which was Pledge Sunday. Since you were not present to fill out your pledge card and to make it easy for you, we have completed a pledge card for you. Thank you for being so generous.

Your Finance Committee" (Garrison Keillor)

This Sunday morning (September 30) we worship and celebrate our loyalty to Christ and Christ’s Church. Our stewardship campaign is: Do the Right Thing. This theme reflects what all Christians know—everything we have and everything that we are is a gift from God. To be a steward is to be a person who understands the importance of gratitude. God has blessed our congregation with many people who understand gratitude firsthand.

It is our conviction that stewardship is simply another name for faithfulness. Anyone can “talk a good game,” but the real test of faith is what we do for others—our children, the poor, the aged, and others who cannot fend for themselves. It is true that a person can give without Christ, but a person cannot be in Christ and fail to give. Jesus spoke often about our relationship to our possessions—and we know what Paul told us Jesus said: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

This Sunday, 30 September 2012, please attend worship. Please bring your pledge card to the altar. Please dedicate your financial intention for 2012. Please consecrate your life to the cause of Christ. It is a cause greater than all of us. If you cannot attend worship, kindly send your pledge card to the church. Every gift is important and our goal is to have 750+ households participate in our campaign Do the Right Thing. As a church, we are stronger when we work together because “many hands lighten the load.”

Sep 21, 2012

Who We Are

Next week, we kick off our Fall Stewardship Campaign, and what we give to others is certainly a measure of our main concerns. An old Hasidic saying puts the idea of our relationship with others this way:
“The person who thinks he can live without others is mistaken, the person who thinks that others can’t live without him is even more mistaken.”
As we think about our gifts to God through the ministries of the church, we do well to think about God’s gifts to us through the ministries of the church. What we are and have been and will be, only God can give as a precious gift. All we are asked to give God back is a small portion of what was already God’s to begin with. We will know what to do with our possessions when we remember who we are as possessed by God.

Hendrik Kraemer, the Dutch theologian, was contacted by several of his friends in 1939 in the Netherlands. They told him they were concerned because many of their Jewish friends were missing from their towns and villages. They asked Kramer what they ought to do. He said to them, "I cannot tell you what to do. But I can tell you who you are. If you know who you are you will know what to do." They went out and organized the Resistance movement.

As trials and temptations come to us, we need to remember who we are, and then we will know how to act and what to do. We are sinners saved by grace. Therefore, "live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ" (Philippians 1:27).

Sep 14, 2012

Weird Genesis

A few weeks ago I preached a sermon based on Genesis 6:1-8 with the title “Noah’s Ark.” Alas for me, I learned what Ben Franklin meant when he wrote: “Haste makes waste.”

In my haste to finish up the summer sermon series, “Favorite Bible Stories,” I neglected to select vigilantly the most fitting text about Noah. Instead, I selected a text that preceded the story of Noah and, in effect, explained the reason why God decided to flood the earth.

Friday afternoon of that week, as things quieted down at FUMC of Arlington, I sat down and to my horror saw the text I had selected. Here are the first four verses so you need not scramble for your Bible:

[6:1] When people began to multiply on the face of the ground, and daughters were born to them, [2] the sons of God saw that they were fair; and they took wives for themselves of all that they chose. [3] Then the Lord said, "My spirit shall not abide in mortals forever, for they are flesh; their days shall be one hundred twenty years." [4] The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went in to the daughters of humans, who bore children to them. These were the heroes that were of old, warriors of renown (Genesis 6:1-4).

Someone wrote to me that next week, and I quote, “Hi David—You know how I like to have my "say"—well, here goes! I could have skipped the first part of your sermon today—and I don't think anyone would have even known you didn't stick to the printed text."

Yet, several people commented that they had often wondered about that particular text and were interested in my explanation of it (or virtually any explanation of the text).

In part, I commented that “one way or another, in the telling of the Genesis story as it was narrated previous to human writing, and told over and over again, this part (vv. 1-4) was incorporated—perhaps without understanding.” Then I suggested to our congregation that no matter what we think about this difficulty, the next four verses were no less disturbing, but perhaps more understandable and we read the rest of the lesson for the day Genesis 6:5-8.

My correspondent may have been correct after all, and if I had been paying more attention to detail I would never have chosen such a bizarre or difficult text. Yet the Bible is what it is, which is to say the whole thing is exceedingly engaging and curious—if not downright edifying. Finally, at the end, my friend finished his/her e-mail with this agreeable affirmation:

“The last part was powerful—and I had never thought of Noah representing one man who did God’s will—and how one man's contribution can change so much. I wanted to stand up and cheer when you ended!"

Sep 7, 2012

Church Full of Seminary Students

I have often said that we are a teaching congregation here at First United Methodist Church of Arlington Texas. I have also told our seminary students—and we have four of them—that if you can do it in a large urban church like ours, then you can do it anywhere—and “it” means pastor with faith and integrity. As teachers of those who will become pastors, I want to introduce you to our seminary students.
Rezolia Johnson

First, we have Rezolia Johnson, our Perkins intern, who comes to us with her daughters, Caylah (16) and Caisa (13). Rezolia served as youth pastor at Koza Baptist Church in Okinawa, Japan and Antioch Baptist Church in Fairfax, Virginia. She also served as Youth Pastor and in administration for several years at the Inspiring Body of Christ Church in Dallas. Prior to and during her ministry in Japan and Virginia, she was a high school teacher.

Rezolia graduated with a bachelor of arts in political science and communications from Prairie View A&M University and is certified in domestic violence training by Genesis Women’s Shelter. Rezolia is presently a candidate for the master of divinity degree at Perkins (SMU).
Nick Scott

Another new seminary student this year is Nick Scott. Nick has been working with youth for seven years, the last four of which have been as the FUMC of Arlington director of youth and young adult ministries. He attended Texas A&M University where he received a BA in English. Nick lives in Burleson, where he also grew up, with his beautiful and talented wife, Andi, and his exceptionally handsome 22-month-old son, Kade. Nick is now attending Brite Divinity School at TCU.

Our third seminarian is Blair Lewis, who graduated from Texas A&M in 1994, with a BS in business management. He had a 17-year finance career with Merrill Lynch, ING Financial and Deutsche Bank. Blair has also served on the board of directors for the Fort Worth Day Resource Center for the Homeless. Now he is attending Brite Divinity School pursuing masters of divinity. Blair preaches weekly in our celebration service.
Blair Lewis

Blair brings his wife, Dawn and daughter, Morgan. Morgan is a competitive swimmer and 5th grader.

Our fourth current seminarian is the farthest along in the ordination process with the Central Texas Annual Conference. Tolli Macalik joined our staff at FUMC of Arlington on 1 August 2012 as our Big Hope director, coordinating the Big Hope ministry for our church. Big Hope, a pilot program provides one-on-one mentoring for at-risk youth, is designed to combine the best practices of two organizations—Big Brothers Big Sisters and KIDS HOPE USA—into one cohesive model specifically designed for the church. Big Hope incorporates one-on-one volunteer mentoring just one hour a week for the upcoming school year.
Tolli Macalik
Tolli and our other church volunteer mentors will be working with Webb Elementary as we start the new school year. The 2012–13 Big Hope program has been funded by a grant received from the Arlington Tomorrow fund

Tolli lives in Arlington with her husband, Frank, and is retired from AT&T after 33 years to pursue a call to the Christian ministry.

These folks are all high quality human beings and good students. I ask you to not only get to know them as you encourage them in their studies, but to continue in prayer for them—and not just during finals!

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