Dec 27, 2013

Mary Sings!

Mid-nineteenth century brought to prominence a young singer and protégée of Felix Mendelssohn (who wrote the tune for our Christmas hymn “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing). Jenny Lind came from a small Swedish village and was terribly poor and unskilled. She got by doing menial jobs, but she loved to sing. Despite her poverty, she dreamed of being an accomplished singer. She sang on street corners, hoping passersby would toss her a copper coin or two. She sang each day—and made barely enough to buy food. One day a true musician passed by and heard her. Entranced by her beautiful voice, he adopted her, teaching her how to use her splendid voice to its fullest. In time she became the toast of Europe and America. Everyone came to know and then love “The Swedish Nightingale,” as they called Jenny Lind.

We could describe Mary as “The Galilean Nightingale” and Jesus’ first disciple. From Jesus’ beginning to his end on the cross, Mary was there as a follower and a learner. Humanly speaking, her introduction to the things of God must have been terrifying. After all, Gabriel’s first words to her were, “Do not be afraid, Mary” (Luke 1:30). How would her parents, her synagogue, and her fiancé Joseph understand the unbelievable things that had happened? More than anything else, the text reminds us that she rejoiced in being the Lord’s handmaiden, regardless of the personal trauma.

Today, each of us has our own reasons to believe—or to not believe—in God’s promises. Are we able to follow Mary? Is she worthy of our devotion and dedication? Can we hear a young, unwed mother sing of the joy of salvation?

Martin Luther, in a sermon on this particular past Sunday, the Fourth of Advent, over four hundred years ago, said that when Jesus was born in Bethlehem, three miracles occurred: God became man, a virgin conceived, Mary believed. Luther said the greatest of the Christmas miracles was this: Mary believed.

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Dec 20, 2013

Words of Hope



This is one of my favorite stories about hope, which is the theme of Advent for people who call themselves Christian. Words of hope appropriated by people are what can change the world.
The school system in a large city had a program to help children keep up with their school work during stays in the city of Chicago’s hospitals. One day a teacher who was assigned to the program received a routine call asking her to visit a particular child. She took the child’s name and room number and talked briefly with the child’s regular class teacher. “We’re studying nouns and adverbs in his class now,” the regular teacher said, “and I’d be grateful if you could help him understand them so he doesn’t fall too far behind.”

The hospital program teacher went to see the boy that afternoon. No one had mentioned to her that the boy had been badly burned and was in great pain. Upset at the sight of the boy, she stammered as she told him, “I’ve been sent by your school to help you with nouns and adverbs.” When she left she felt she hadn't accomplished much.

But the next day, a nurse asked her, “What did you do to that boy?” The teacher felt she must have done something wrong and began to apologize. “No, no,” said the nurse. “You don’t know what I mean. We’ve been worried about that little boy, but ever since yesterday, his whole attitude has changed. He’s fighting back, responding to treatment. It’s as though he’s decided to live.”

Two weeks later the boy explained that he had completely given up hope until the teacher arrived. Everything changed when he came to a simple realization. He expressed it this way: “They wouldn’t send a teacher to work on nouns and adverbs with a dying boy, would they” (Bits & Pieces, July 1991)?

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Dec 18, 2013

Hope is the King



December 15, 2013 - Sanctuary from FUMC of Arlington on Vimeo.

Dr. David N. Mosser's sermon "Hope is the King" from December 15, 2013.

Sermon transcript available for download here.


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Dec 13, 2013

Malachi Speaks!

Our society has many kinds of rituals. Each ritual reveals our good faith intentions. Some rituals include the singing of the National Anthem prior to sporting events, shaking hands, or giving/receiving rings during a wedding. These rituals indicate our readiness to live in love and charity. These rituals may also show respect for our nation, our fellow citizens, or for those with whom we make sacred promises.

The time of Advent includes messages from the prophets who spoke of the coming of the Messiah or Anointed One of God. After God sends his messenger, the prophet Malachi, the prophet becomes like a refiner’s fire or like fuller’s soap. Then, and only then, will God cleanse the priests. Then, and only then, will those priests who represent the religious community receive the “offerings to the Lord in righteousness.” Then, and only then, will the people’s offerings please the Lord. These acts Malachi’s prophecy describes are functions of ritual cleansing.

In the prophets’ understanding of God, how people live and treat one another reflects their belief and covenant with God. We act on what we believe. Therefore, if one shows good faith toward God, then one likewise shows good faith toward his or her sisters and brothers. To engage in sorcery, adultery, false witness, oppression of workers, widows, and orphans reveals bad faith. And the wages of bad faith, at least according to Malachi, will be a swift bearing of witness against these.

Simply put, those who show good faith toward God will “fear the Lord.” This term fear of the Lord most simply means that we respect God and God’s word among God’s people. People who show justice and equity toward God’s children are people who fear the Lord.

Most preachers I know do not like to throw down a challenge to the people like Malachi did. We love our people. To throw people’s sin back into any congregation’s teeth is, at best, easier said than done. Yet as an old time preacher, Jay Darnell, who I buried one year ago this week once put it: “God created us for something much grander than to be left to our own sinful devices.”

Therefore, as Jesus himself once said, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen” (Mark 4:9)
!

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Dec 6, 2013

What is in a Gift?

The tradition of giving gifts emerged from the gifts brought to the Christ child by the Magi from the East. Matthew relates the story by writing that as they followed the star they came to Bethlehem. Then “. . . on entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh” (2:11). Today, nearly twenty centuries later, we too pay homage to those we love by providing gifts that merely shadow the relationship, esteem, and love we hold for the other person.

The gift God gives the world is an opportunity to be freed from the exile of wars, rumors of war and all the rest of the world we live in and its anxiety producing fruits. Listen to this story, which turns out to be something of a divine Christmas gift.
The Cold War, says former Senator Sam Nunn, ended “not in a nuclear inferno, but in a blaze of candles in the churches of Eastern Europe.” Candlelight processions in East Germany did not show up well on the evening news, but they helped change the face of the globe. First a few hundred, then a thousand, then thirty thousand, fifty thousand, and finally five hundred thousand—nearly the entire population of the city—turned out in Leipzig for candlelight vigils.
After a prayer meeting at St. Nikolai Church, the peaceful protesters would march through the dark streets, singing hymns. Police and soldiers with all their weapons seemed powerless against such a force. Ultimately, on the night a similar march in East Berlin attracted one million protesters, the hated Berlin Wall came tumbling down without a shot being fired. A huge banner appeared across a Leipzig street: Wir danken Dir, Kirche [We thank you, church] (Philip Yancey, What’s So Amazing About Grace; Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1997, p. 135).

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Nov 29, 2013

Again . . . The Battle for Values in 2014


Last Sunday, we made a beginning as we initiated supporting our 2014 Ministry Budget. When we came forward and dedicated our financial covenant with God at the altar of our church we declared who and whose we are. Of course, many of our people were traveling over the Thanksgiving holiday, but we expect to hear from these sundry folks soon. What we give the church represents our relationship with God and our desire for our church to minister in many ways to many people—some old; some young. I deeply appreciate believers who remember their vows as Christians.

George Soros, a Hungarian-American business magnate, investor, and philanthropist, made an incredible fortune by trading on the currency market, betting that he was right and the rest of the market would turn out to be wrong. Most of the time he was right, or right enough times to build an incredible fortune. The most famous incident in his trading life was in 1992, when he got international recognition by betting that the British pound was overvalued. The British government in reaction to that put a billion pounds into the market, but the market followed Soros’ hunch and the pound collapsed, and Soros got even richer.

It just so happened that a few days later he was to speak at Cambridge. His host introduced him this way: “Ladies and gentleman, this is the man who cost her majesty’s government a billion pounds. The only thing I can say in his defense is that he will doubtless spend the money much better than her majesty’s government would have.”

And indeed he did. Soros is a world-class philanthropist, investing especially in those countries that were formerly a part of the Soviet empire and are now struggling to rebuild their societies. He established a new international foundation for a civil society, and has entered the battle for values of this world. He challenges those who use moth-eaten capitalistic slogans such as “The common interest is served by the uninhibited pursuit of self-interest,” by saying that self-interest must be tempered with concern for other people, for the common good.

Soros said, “Unless self-interest is tempered by a concern for the common good, the capitalist society will break down as surely as the Communist society did.”

There are a number of reasons for being stewards. I would suggest that the most important reason today is to join the battle for values in this society. And to let the church be the community that says with its deeds that we believe life is to be found in giving, and not in getting [thanks to Mark Trotter, FUMC, San Diego, California for several of these noteworthy quotations].

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Nov 27, 2013

Is There a Stewardship of Irony?



November 24, 2013 - Sanctuary from FUMC of Arlington on Vimeo.

Dr. David N. Mosser's sermon "Is There a Stewardship of Irony?" from November 24, 2013.

Sermon transcript available for download here.


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Nov 22, 2013

What Do We Do . . . Now?


Here is a story from my old friend Buzz Stevens, former District Superintendent and retired Senior Minister at FUMC, Phoenix, AZ:
A duke and duchess owned a large country estate with many servants who maintained the premises in their absence. One day the duchess decided to bring the servant staff together to get an accounting of how well they had performed their duties. She called them into a room one-by-one and asked them how things were going. In the midst of a lengthy interview the duchess said to one of the older servants, “Let me see, you have been with us twenty years?”

“Yes ma’am.”
“Your job is to walk the dog?”
“Yes ma’am.”
“But the dog has been dead for eighteen years?”
“Is there anything else you would like me to do, ma’am?”

If this is where we are with our Lord and God, then we know which servant or slave we are most like, don’t we? Perhaps, it is time to re-evaluate where we are with regard to our talents. How do we deal with the talents God has entrusted to us? This is a question of those who are stewards—managers of the gifts entrusted to us by God.

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Nov 15, 2013

An Offertory Word

Some of the folks in our congregation have expressed a concern about the status of our nation’s economy and people’s commitment to the church. They ask, “Do you think people will cut back their giving at the church now that we live in times of economic uncertainty?”

So, I want to say two things about this. First, people who cut back giving to their church in times of economic uncertainty already cut back long ago—some in 1957, some in 1980, some in 1986, and some in 2008. People who need an excuse to cut back giving to the church have previously had plenty of ready excuses available.

Second, we have an exceptionally faithful congregation. Despite the absolute change in our neighborhood and the geographical shift of our church members' homes, we have nonetheless done amazing things in mission, outreach, and providing availability of our building to those who need a place to meet. Not only this, but in the midst of all the things that make people financially frightened and anxious, we have had an amazing response to our capital campaign. For these reasons, and because I know our people so well, I am confident that although over-exposure to CNN, Fox, Bloomberg, and CNBC can produce big-time anxiety, people of faith do what people of faith do—they remain steadfast to their core beliefs.

Thank you for support the work of Jesus Christ through the ministries of our church.

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Nov 12, 2013

Stewards of the Traditions



November 10, 2013 - Sanctuary from FUMC of Arlington on Vimeo.

Dr. David N. Mosser's sermon "Stewards of the Traditions" from November 10, 2013.

Sermon transcript available for download here.


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Nov 8, 2013

Stewardship 2014

I am proud of our church. As we enter into a time to underwrite our ministry budget for 2014 we have already given sacrificially to our church’s capital fund’s campaign: “We Are Here for Good.” It takes a lot of vision to plan for the future and pay for the current moment—all at the same time. Yet, I am confident that the question below is one that our FUMC of Arlington congregation has answered by its faithfulness. Read what a well-known academic writes about the “values war:”

Joan Konner, the dean of the Columbia School of Journalism, said there is a war going on in this country over values. On the one side there are those who say the highest value is private gain. On the other the highest value is social responsibility. On one side the highest value is personal ambition. On the other side the highest value is the commonwealth, the common good. On one side those who say life is measured quantitatively. That is to say, how much you have accumulated, like the rich, young ruler. On the other side are those who say life measured qualitatively, how much you can enrich life for yourself, for others, and for future generations.

It can be boiled down to this: Is life measured by what you get, or by what you give?

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Nov 6, 2013

Embracing Our Inheritance



November 3, 2013 - Sanctuary from FUMC of Arlington on Vimeo.

Dr. David N. Mosser's sermon "Embracing Our Inheritance" from November 3, 2013.

Sermon transcript available for download here.


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Oct 31, 2013

Looking Back



October 27, 2013 - Sanctuary from FUMC of Arlington on Vimeo.

Dr. David N. Mosser's sermon "Looking Back" from October 27, 2013.

Sermon transcript available for download here.


iTunes

Oct 25, 2013

How Will You Know if You Don’t Ask


“If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you” (James 1:5).

I remember a wise, sensible older man in my old neighborhood that used to say: “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” I think he said this because he knew all too well the foibles of ordinary human beings—of which my fellow neighborhood kids certainly were. He would pull out this well-worn aphorism whenever we told him our big plans and why they wouldn’t work. He thought some of our ideas worth a try.

For many people, it is easier to sit around and say why something cannot be done rather than actually do something constructive. As they say, “talk is cheap.” The above quotation, from James 1:5, shares something of this wisdom. It seems to say that if we lack anything, then we should ask God about it. Clearly it is easy to sit around and lament our lot in life. However, God is our partner and we need to allow God into the parts of our life where and when challenges meet us. We must knock before someone can open the door. We must search before finding the objects of our search.

This fall is upon us. We, as a congregation, will find new challenges and new opportunities for ministry. Soon some of our big projects in our campaign “We Are Here for Good” will be complete and we will move to some new ones. Challenges, however, are frightening to those who want to play it safe. But with challenge comes occasions for growth. As we prepare for the tasks ahead in 2014 and beyond, I pray that you and I will continue to turn to God for wisdom. Maybe then we can, with the Apostle Paul, begin . . . “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead” (Philippians 3:13).

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Oct 24, 2013

Scripture...useful for Teaching



October 20, 2013 - Sanctuary from FUMC of Arlington on Vimeo.

Dr. David N. Mosser's sermon "Scripture...useful for Teaching" from October 20, 2013.

Sermon transcript available for download here.


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Oct 18, 2013

On Keeping What We Lose and Losing What We Keep


In just a week or two we as a church will enter a time of contemplating what and praying for the treasure God has given us. We will decide how and to what degree we will share of our resources for the ministries of Christ's Church here at FUMC of Arlington.

Hardly anyone I know does not struggle with what we have and how to preserve it. The Christian faith and the Bible speak a lot about possessions. Therefore our theological tradition is a good place to turn to understand our responsibilities as Christians. As Saint Augustine once wrote, “Where your pleasure is, there is your treasure; where your treasure is, there is your heart; where your heart is, there is your happiness.” Larry Pennings shared the following piece of wisdom on the subject of keeping and losing:

In Other Words, a publication of the Wycliffe Bible Translators, recently told a story about Sadie Sieker, who served for many years as a house-parent for missionaries’ children in the Philippines. Sadie loved books. Though she gladly loaned out some, others she treasured in a footlocker under her bed. Once, in the quiet of the night, Sadie heard a faint gnawing sound. After searching all around her room, she discovered that the noise was coming from her footlocker. When she opened it, she found nothing but an enormous pile of dust. All the books she had kept to herself had been lost to termites. What we give away, we keep. What we hoard, we lose.

We each have our loves, but what we share with others goes into the great repository of common human life and decency. God loves a cheerful giver because God may know that giving is the essence of authentic human relationship. People who are happy with others are generally pretty happy people.

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Oct 11, 2013

On Knowing the Will of God

 

An alert reader once offered me a copy of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. One of the newspaper articles was a review by Jim Jones entitled To Know God’s Will is No Easy Thing. Jones discussed Chuck Swindoll’s book, The Mystery of God’s Will. After writing more that twenty-five books (many of them best sellers) Swindoll is a respected and trusted preacher. He also has a wide following through his nationally syndicated radio program Insights for Living. Clearly, Swindoll is a person listened to and highly regarded by many people in the United States and beyond.

I appreciated what Jones wrote about Swindoll’s book. In it Swindoll cautioned against what he termed “voodoo theology.” Jones wrote of Swindoll, “While he [Swindoll] doesn’t know all the answers, Swindoll says that God’s will is mainly revealed in searching the Bible and following God’s wisdom.” Swindoll goes on to say that, “Finding God’s will is a complex, mysterious endeavor. It requires wisdom, clear thinking, and old-fashioned common sense.”

It occurs to me that if faith is a lifelong proposition, then shouldn’t we have a God that takes AT LEAST a lifetime to explore and discover. Those who have a “blinding light” experience of God and then know all of God’s mysteries leave me cold. I am happy that they believe they have all knowledge of God cornered. But, as for me, I feel fortunate that I learn a little about God and other people each day. I suppose it gives me something to look forward to next week as God and I continue to get to know each other better and better—so to speak. I hope this trend continues for many years to come. After all, “Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:8). Perhaps there is a great deal about love and God we can still understand—and then practice.

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Oct 9, 2013

A Faith that Lived First...




October 6, 2013 - Sanctuary from FUMC of Arlington on Vimeo.

Dr. David N. Mosser's sermon "A Faith that Lived First..." from October 6, 2013.

Sermon transcript available for download here.


iTunes

Oct 4, 2013

What Do You See?



As the senior minister of First United Methodist Church of Arlington, Texas, I want to brag about how our church connects people. Our congregation is a progressive community of faith that is quite mission minded. In addition, we are Christians guided by a rich faith tradition. We are also a practical people who try to live out our Christian faith in the “nickels and dimes” of life.

Rick S. Johnson aptly describes our philosophy when he once wrote not about us, but certainly he captures the spirit of our place:
As people look at barren land, what is it they see? A person starting a new business sees a new store with a beautiful parking lot—jammed with paying customers. Another person could see a home-site with trees, landscaping, and children playing, with a horse or two completing the vision. Church folks looking at a raw piece of land, however, envision a dynamic new congregation, where worship and Christian education help a community live the gospel. In each of the three cases, there is one common thread: all see something that is not there—yet! Each looks through the eyes of hope. They look not at what is, but rather what can be.
Are you a person who is capable of seeing things that are not there? If so, then you are a person of hope. We invite you to come, visit, and help us shape Arlington’s future—and the rest of the Metroplex. We at FUMC of  Arlington, open our hearts, our minds, and our doors to you and your household. Come and lend a hand to help us be the people that God created us to be.

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Oct 2, 2013

The Other Lazarus



September 29, 2013 - Sanctuary from FUMC of Arlington on Vimeo.

Dr. David N. Mosser's sermon "The Other Lazarus" from September 29, 2013.

Sermon transcript available for download here.


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Sep 27, 2013

Do Not Let Yourself be Fooled . . . Even by Yourself


I am around a number of different kinds of people—varied backgrounds, races, socio-economic levels, languages, ages . . . well you get the idea. No one, I don’t suppose, likes other people to set limits on what we can or cannot do. We like to decide for ourselves and we surely believe we exercise free will on a regular basis. And yet . . . ?

Have you ever noticed that some people are frequently trapped in the snares of their own making? Someone, for example, tells a student that he or she is not too bright and regularly even the smartest people go through life under such misapprehension. For a person to be trapped by the misconceptions of others is tragic—and believing the mistaken conviction as if it were true.

An African impala can jump to a height of over ten feet and cover a distance greater than thirty feet. Yet these magnificent creatures can be kept in an enclosure in any zoo with a three-foot wall. The animals will not jump if they cannot see where their feet will land. They are imprisoned with a self-imposed limitation—one that is false.

Faith is the ability to trust what we cannot see, and faith frees us from the flimsy enclosures of life that fear alone continues to entrap us. Certainly human beings are finite creatures, but at the same time may we only be restricted by truth and not something erroneous.

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Sep 25, 2013

Do You Want to Be Faithful in Much?




September 22, 2013 - Sanctuary from FUMC of Arlington on Vimeo.

Dr. David N. Mosser's sermon "Do You Want to Be Faithful in Much?" from September 22, 2013.

Sermon transcript available from download here.


iTunes

Sep 20, 2013

Don’t Let Center313 be a Secret . . .


Sometimes we keep secrets for our own advantage, but other times the sharing of information is too important to keep to ourselves. I remember years ago seeing an advertisement for the Mercedes Benz car company. On this TV commercial we see one of the company’s cars colliding with a concrete wall during a safety test. Someone then asks the company spokesperson why the company does not enforce its patent on the Mercedes Benz’s energy-absorbing car body, a design evidently copied by other corporations because of its success.

The company spokesperson replies matter-of-factly, “Because some things in life are too important not to share.” How true. In that category of “news that is too good not to share” also falls the gospel of salvation. This saving word does more that keep people safe from auto collisions. It is also the word of life!

If you want to hear more of the good news that is too good to keep secret, why don’t you visit the Arlington Music Hall to hear Center313. This excellent praise band, from our own church, not only performs each Sunday in the Celebration service, but is performing this Saturday night at 7:30 pm 28 September 2013.

Good music—good times—good message.

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Sep 18, 2013

Losing It



September 15, 2013 - Sanctuary from FUMC of Arlington on Vimeo.

Rezolia Johnson's sermon "Losing It" from September 15, 2013.


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Sep 13, 2013

Redemption: The Forgiveness of Sins


In an old issue of the newsletter Context, Martin Marty retells a parable from The Eye of the Needle newsletter:
A holy man was engaged in his morning meditation under a tree whose roots stretched out over the riverbank. During his meditation he noticed the river rising, and a scorpion caught in the roots was about to drown. He crawled out on the roots and reached down to free the scorpion, but every time he did so, the scorpion struck him.

An observer said to the holy man, “don’t you know that’s a scorpion, and it’s in the nature of a scorpion to want to sting?”

To which the holy man replied, “that may well be, but it is my nature to save, and must I change my nature because the scorpion does not change its nature?”

Sometimes in international tensions, in our own households, and everywhere in between it is easy to lose sight of who we are. In these moments there is a great and grave temptation to sink to the lowest common denominator of human behavior. As followers of the risen Christ we remember the words of Colossians 3:13, which reminds us: “Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”

Only in true forgiveness can there ever be authentic peace.

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Sep 11, 2013

Crackpots I Have Known and Loved



September 8, 2013 - Sanctuary from FUMC of Arlington on Vimeo.

Rev. Dr. John Holbert's sermon "Crackpots I Have Known and Loved" from September 8, 2013.
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Sep 6, 2013

Do You Have the Pioneering Spirit


This week, as a giant earth mover was at work on North Street, it was reported to me that a transient person in our neighborhood was quite annoyed at not being able to use the street because of construction. If he had said it to me I would have asked him where his pioneering spirit was. As my father has always been fond of saying: “Nothing ventured, nothing gained!” This pioneering spirit reminds me of a story.

About 350 years ago, a shipload of travelers landed on the northeast coast of America. The first year they established a town site. The next year they elected a town government. The third year the town government planned to build a road five miles westward into the wilderness.

In the fourth year the people tried to impeach their town government because they thought it was a waste of public funds to build a road five miles westward into a wilderness. Who needed to go there anyway?

Here were people who had the vision to see three thousand miles across an ocean and overcome great hardships to get there. But in just a few years they were not able to see even five miles out of town. They had lost their pioneering vision.

With a clear vision of what we can become, no ocean of difficulty is too great. Without it, we rarely move beyond our current boundaries.

As we move as a church to establish a true front door and make our street and church safer for people to enter and exit our building, I deeply appreciate what good humor our church members have displayed—and continue to display—as we move forward.

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Sep 4, 2013

Eating: Humility and Hospitality


September 1, 2013 - Sanctuary from FUMC of Arlington on Vimeo.

Dr. David N. Mosser's sermon "Eating: Humility and Hospitality" from September 1, 2013.

Sermon transcript available for download here.
iTunes

Aug 30, 2013

Tired of Television? How About a Good Book?

One of the best-kept secrets in Arlington, Texas, is the two fine FUMC of Arlington libraries. Don’t miss your opportunity to explore two of the better church libraries in Texas—one for children and the other for adults. We as a congregation should be proud of our dedicated church library staff. They not only order first-rate books for us to read, but also keep these first-rate books in good order.

Whether or not you are a Sunday school teacher trying to prepare a lesson, a child who loves to have parents read to her or him, or simply a person who has a curious streak, our church libraries have something to offer everyone. Come in and browse or even check out a few good books for the “back to school days” of September. For all of us, I say, to our great and dedicated librarians “Thank you!”

P. S. Remember the slightly edited and celebrated words of Mark Twain: “The people who don’t read good books have no advantage over the people who can’t read them.”

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Aug 28, 2013

Sabbath Keeping



August 25, 2013 - Sanctuary from FUMC of Arlington on Vimeo.

Dr. David N. Mosser's sermon "Sabbath Keeping" from August, 25, 2013.
Sermon transcript available for download here.

iTunes

Aug 23, 2013

It Is Well With My Soul

Last month, at two different funeral celebrations I heard the hymn, It Is Well With My Soul, and researched what turned out to be a moving story behind the hymn. When the great Chicago fire struck in 1871, Horatio Spafford, an attorney heavily invested in real estate, lost a fortune. About the same time his four year old son died of scarlet fever. Spafford drowned his grief in work, pouring himself into rebuilding the city and assisting the 100,000 who had been left homeless.

In 1873, he decided to take his wife and four daughters to Europe, but an urgent matter detained him in New York and he sent his family on ahead. He saw them settled into a cabin on the French ocean liner, the Ville du Havre.

During the night of November 22, 1873, as the Ville du Havre glided over smooth seas, the passengers were jolted from their bunks. The ship had collided with an iron sailing vessel, and water poured in like Niagara. The Ville du Havre tilted dangerously. In a scene as from the movie Titanic, passengers clung to posts, tumbled through darkness, and were swept away in power currents of icy ocean. Within two hours, the mighty ship vanished beneath the waters.

The 226 fatalities included the four Spafford girls. Mrs. Spafford was found clinging to a piece of the wreckage. When the 47 survivors landed in Cardiff, Wales, she cabled her husband: “Saved Alone.” Horatio immediately booked passage to join his wife. En route, on a cold December night, the captain called him aside and said, “I believe we are now passing over the place where the Ville du Havre went down.” Spafford went to his cabin but found it hard to sleep. He said to himself, “It is well; the will of God be done.” He later wrote his famous hymn based on those words.
"When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll; whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, ‘It is well, it is well with my soul.’

"And, Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight, the clouds be rolled back as a scroll; the trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend, even so, it is well with my soul."
Few will know the depth of sorrow experienced by Horatio Spafford. It is difficult to imagine the pain that comes with the loss of a child, much less the loss of five children. But, we all have losses to bear in life. Many of those losses are painful beyond description at the moment they occur. Where do we turn and how can we come to terms with a terrible loss and still keep sanity and soul intact? There is a sense in which each person must find his/her own way through the darkness. Bold-faced prescriptions from those who have not been there are not usually helpful. But to know someone has been there and managed to keep soul and sanity intact is helpful and hopeful.

So, are we on the way to being able to say: “It is well with my soul?”

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Aug 21, 2013

Three Teachings From Jesus

 
August 18, 2013 - Sanctuary from FUMC of Arlington on Vimeo.

Dr. David N. Mosser's sermon "Three Teachings From Jesus" from August, 18, 2013.

Sermon transcript available for download here.

iTunes

Aug 16, 2013

Listen for a Change . . .


My retired pastor friend Tom Butts from Monroeville, AL, wrote a story long ago that I have never forgotten because it is so true and so helpful for the prospect of being Christian and human—which I take to be the same thing. Can we listen?

Some years ago, the late Erma Bombeck began one of her columns: “It was one of those days when I wanted my own apartment—unlisted! I was not in the mood for small talk; however, it was on that day my son had chosen to describe down to the very last detail a movie he had just seen and punctuated his monologue with a constant flow of ‘you know?’ On that same day there had been three telephone calls—three monologues that could have been answered by a recording. I fought the urge to say, ‘It’s been nice listening to you.’ ”

Later, on her way to the airport, she indicated that she was forced to listen to still another monologue. This time it was the taxi driver talking about his son who was away at college. Finally, at the airport, she indicated there were thirty beautiful minutes before her plane took off, leaving her time to be alone with her own thoughts and to open a book and let her mind wander. It was then that the voice next to her, belonging to an elderly woman, said: “I’ll bet it’s cold in Chicago.”

Stone-faced, Erma Bombeck replied, “It’s likely.” The woman persisted: “I haven’t been in Chicago for nearly three years. My son lives there, you know.” “That’s nice,” said Bombeck, with her eyes intent on her book. Again the elderly woman spoke: “My husband’s body is on this plane. We’ve been married for 53 years. I don’t drive, you know, and when he died a nun drove me home from the hospital . . . . The funeral director let me come to the airport with him.”

Erma Bombeck wrote, “I don’t think I have ever detested myself more than I did at that moment. Another human being was screaming to be heard, and, in desperation, had turned to a cold stranger who was more interested in a novel than she was in the real-life drama at her elbow. She needed no advice, money, assistance, expertise, or even compassion. All she needed was someone to listen. She talked numbly and steadily until we boarded the plane, and she took her seat. As I put my things in the overhead compartment, I heard her plaintive voice say to her seat companion: ‘I’ll bet it’s cold in Chicago.’ I prayed, ‘Please, God, let her listen.’ ”

Do you understand that?

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Aug 9, 2013

Youth and True Friendship



Sometimes, our young folks get a bad rap. The truth is we have some really great kids here at FUMC of Arlington. I am so pleased Joseph Bradley, our new youth director and soon to be pastor, is here. He will do great things with our youth, but they are also going to be a blessing to him—I am certain. School is soon to start, so I will wish all of our students the best and assure them that we will pray for them each day.

I want to share a story of one high school senior, and what his eight friends did for him to show their support and love when it was discovered that he had cancer. We sometimes forget the depth of compassion some youngsters are capable of displaying. The prognosis for the boy is good, and the doctors are optimistic, but to fight the malignancy he had to have chemotherapy. One of the things that bothered him most was the temporary hair loss caused by the chemotherapy. The thought of having to go back to school with no hair was painful (I know it is for me).
But his friends devised a plan to help him. To ease his pain and embarrassment, to show their support and love, and  as a gesture of empathy and authentic friendship, his friends did a remarkable thing—they all shaved their heads so he would not feel so alone and conspicuous when he returned to school! The front page picture in the local newspaper showed them standing there in a semicircle, with Lance O’Pry in the middle, all with their heads shaved. And the headline read: “Everything We Do, We Do Together!”

The high school principal said, “This is a unique bunch of fellows who are extremely close and extremely supportive of each other. I think it was super [the way] they banded behind him at such a critical time of his life.” One of the friends said, “We never would have done this as a prank. We did it because it had meaning. We were happy to do it.”

“And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13).

PS. Don’t miss the youth led worship service this Sunday!!

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Aug 2, 2013

Civility and Respect

From time to time even people in the church get into some sort of conflict or another. It happens everywhere. I see it in the youth, youth choir, Sunday school, Women’s group, men’s group, college classrooms, faculty meetings, marriages, families, state legislature, the United Nations, and on and on and on. So the issue is not if or when we will run into conflict, but the real question is how we handle conflict.

In the olden days, it seemed as if people used better manners and seemed to have a generosity of spirit. In previous generations it seemed as if people gave others the benefit of the doubt with regard to trust. It seemed that although we were not as diverse as we are today, that people had scruples about respecting both diversity and dissent, and about solving conflict through dialogue rather than some sort of appeal to the divine command theory to which the loudest screamer might appeal. Read the words of Jesus from Luke and then we can entertain a question:
“But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:27-31).

In a book that sounds much like the one Stephen Carter wrote about 15 years ago, P. M. Forni in The Civility Solution writes:
In today’s America, incivility is on prominent display: in the schools, where bullying is pervasive; in the workplace, where an increasing number are more stressed out by co-workers than their jobs; on the roads, where road rage maims and kills; in politics, where strident intolerance takes the place of earnest dialogue; and on the Web, where many check their inhibitions at the digital door.

Conversations and discussions no longer exist. It isn’t even about who is right or wrong. Both sides know they are right. It is not a question of changing anyone’s mind. How can it be, when people are “YELLING” at one another with slogans and epithets on TV, in their “Status,” and in their “Tweets?

What would happen if we did “good to those who hate us/you, bless those who curse us/you, pray for those who abuse us/you? I hope we find out someday.

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Jul 26, 2013

We're All Debtors

“So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors” (Romans 8:12).

A bumper sticker puts it like this, “I owe, I owe, so it’s off to work I go.” The life of debt is a common fact for many modern people. Between house and car payments and the like, almost all people exist under debt’s cloud. For this reason, Paul’s employment of “opheiletes,” (“debtors”) becomes a transitional key. This phrase closes Paul’s discussion about how God’s spirit enables believers to live in the spirit and shun life in the flesh. Thus, Paul helps believers/stewards appreciate that they are no longer debtors to the flesh; rather our debt to the spirit frees us to remember that “we are children of God.”

Paul varies the metaphor of “debt,” substituting images of believers being adopted and heirs of God, beginning with verse 14. Yet being debtors proves a powerful concept in Paul’s transition. One can be either in debt to the flesh or in debt to the spirit. If in debt to the former, then one can anticipate the consequence, which is death. Or if one is God’s debtor, then the result is life. Here Paul writes of life in the sense that Jesus speaks of life: “Anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and does not come under judgment, but has passed from death to life” (John 5:24).

For modern people “to be in debt” is a concept that needs little explanation. Consequently, as a theological notion, “indebtedness” resonates with us. We, of course, commonly understand debt in its monetary permutations, but there is a sense in which owing something to someone makes sense. Whether our debt is owed to a teacher, coach, parent, or pastor, believers who honestly look at their lives conclude quickly that our gain is a result of another person’s interest in us—and help. Few piano players learned to play the piano on their own—although it sometimes happens. Most of our surpassing achievements we accomplish because someone guided us.

Clearly Paul’s use of the idea of debt goes well beyond our learning a craft or an art. But the principle is similar. Paul wants believers to recognize that we have a clear choice, because one way or another, we will always be in debt to someone or something. For Paul the choice is between life in the flesh and life in the spirit. Life in the flesh insinuates that our passions and whims control us. Yet, life in the spirit suggests that God and God’s spirit control a person’s actions. Life in the flesh leads to death; life in the spirit leads to life and life that is abundant.

This Roman’s text (beginning at 8:5) is unusual in that it offers ethical teaching in a part of Romans that mainly concentrates on dogmatic theology. Paul occasionally inserts moral exhortations in the first eleven chapters. This is one example: Paul suggests that those who live by the spirit will live in particular ways. The ways of living indicate whether or not one lives by the spirit or by the flesh.

Being in debt means that one is under an obligation to repay the debt. Good stewards are faithful managers; whether this means managing our talents or our money. But the question arises: “How does one repay a debt to God?” Paul might answer this question by telling us that the most faithful way to put our account straight with God is by passing along to others what God has already given us as a gift. Thus, for good stewards the gifts of mercy, forgiveness, and the love of Christ become methods of repayment. Stewards can only manage what God has first given to them. Vis-à-vis the debt of love, 1 John 4:19 puts it nicely: “We love because he first loved us.”


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Jul 19, 2013

The Burden of Pride and Despair

Martin Luther wrote that sin comes in two guises—pride and despair. The sin of pride displays itself in human self-deception that assumes we can live life fully and meaningfully apart from God’s sovereignty. As Proverbs 16:18 reminds is: “Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.”

However, concerning despair—it seems harder to grasp. Despair, contrary to those who in pride say they have no need of God, takes the opposite tack. Despairing people say, “My life is so hopeless that even God is of no use to me.” Either way, in the sin of pride or in the sin of despair, people cut themselves off from God. This is sin’s essence: “to cut ourselves off from God” or “to alienate ourselves from God.” What makes us weary is trying to stay in control of everything. WE ARE TOTALLY IN CHARGE. Jesus’ gift of rest means we surrender to God’s grace in Christ.
In 1930 an unusual event took place. It still represents an open case in the FBI missing-person files. On August 15, after dining out with his family, a New York State Supreme Court Justice named Joseph Crater hailed a taxi and was never seen again. Over the years, the intrigue of the judge’s disappearance became so imbedded in New York City’s public consciousness that the term “Pulling a Crater” became slang for vanishing.

The FBI thought the disappearance might be work-related as the judge had heard many mob cases. But there was no real evidence to support that theory. All investigations led to dead-ends. Hidden in a bureau, his wife found several un-cashed checks, stocks, bonds, three life insurance policies, and a note from Judge Crater himself. The note listed his financial assets and then added: “I am very whary (weary), Joe.” That was the last anyone ever heard from him (excerpt from "Lay Down Your Burden").
Judge Crater needed rest. We admire self-dependence, but it is a trait that destroys. Yet Jesus says, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” In other words, surrender your pride/despair to Jesus who can help. After all, turning ourselves over to Jesus is when surrender means “Victory in Jesus!”

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