Jan 31, 2014

Can We Talk about Generosity in January?

We have a very generous church and generosity is a learned behavior in my experience. Few if any of us were born generous—and so when we get a group of generous-minded people together, then it is a thing of beauty!

If we have heard it once, then we have heard it a thousand times: “God loves a cheerful giver.” Yet, do we really hear about the spiritual benefits that Paul writes of when he addresses the idol of possessions? Paul in fact writes: “Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).

Hardly anyone I know does not struggle with what we possess and how to preserve it. The Christian faith talks a lot about property and assets so it 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.”

We each have our affections, 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. Happy people are generous people. Likewise, generous people are happy people.

As the great Afro-American theologian, Bobby McFerrin, once said, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy!” We are happiest when we make our lives count.


Jan 24, 2014

Week of Christian Unity: Is this an Oxymoron?

John Shore has a blog that is titled: “Unfundamentalist Christians.” He began one entry with this:
By way of researching my book I’m OK–You’re Not: The Message We’re Sending Nonbelievers and Why We Should Stop, I posted a notice on Craigslist sites all over the country asking non-Christians to send me any short, personal statement they would like Christians to read.

“Specifically,” I wrote, “I’d like to hear how you feel about being on the receiving end of the efforts of Christian evangelicals to convert you. I want to be very clear that this is not a Christian-bashing book; it’s coming from a place that only means well for everyone. Thanks.”

Within three days I had in my inbox over 300 emails from non-Christians across the country. Reading them was one of the more depressing experiences of my life. I had expected their cumulative sentiment to be one of mostly anger. But if you boiled down to a single feeling what was most often expressed in the nonbelievers’ statements, it would be “Why do Christians hate us so much?”

Why indeed? Even in my classes in Ellis County, hardly the bastion of liberal, progressive thinking, most of my students who do not attend a fundamentalist or conservative church always want to know why Christians are so judgmental against them for not attending church.

To be a non-anxious believer is to allow others to come to a point of faith without being coerced or harangued into it. It takes a strong faith and sturdy ego to allow someone to think in ways that are out of step with our own thinking. And yet to give people the space “to think and let think,” as Wesley put it, is a hallmark of a strong faith and a Wesleyan spirit of generosity.

Paul knew something about the difficulties of which unity in the church consisted. He knew about disagreement—often embroiled in the middle of it. But he also knew that concord was important for the Body of Christ; the church. Paul wrote: “Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual up building” (Romans 14:19).


Jan 17, 2014

Dr. King, We Welcome You!

This week we at FUMC of Arlington will host the MLK, Jr. festivities for the city of Arlington. In honor of this occasion I share with you Thomas Lane Butts’ words given 19 January 2004 at Morning Star Baptist Church, Monroeville, Alabama.

In the traditional ritual for "The Burial of the Dead," when the minister reads the closing words of the committal at the grave-side, just before the Kyrie Eleison, he reads: "I heard a voice from heaven saying to me: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them." The good that you have done, which may have gone unnoticed and unappreciated, will not be forgotten. In the farther reaches of time and eternity, the only thing that God forgets is the sin that He has forgiven; but the good you have done follows you in the silent memory of God. There is not much you can take with you when you leave this world. I have never seen a U-Haul vehicle in a funeral procession. You cannot take money, or fame, or land, or houses, or worldly honor; but the good you have done: it is yours forever because God remembers it.

Even the ancient philosophers, who had no particular religion, believed that death was the great leveler. Death is very democratic. Once when Diogenes was plundering around in a burial place, looking at the bones, Alexander the Great asked him what he was looking for. He said: "I am looking for the bones of your father, but I cannot distinguish the bones of your father from the bones of his slaves." There is a great day coming at which time all things will be made right. I believe that! But I also believe something else. Justice delayed is justice denied!

We live in a great city, but it can be better. We have come a long way, but we are not there yet. Let us join hands in remembrance, repentance, and response. Let us look for ways to love and affirm one another across all lines. How privileged we are to have a hero figure in the person of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He is a spiritual hero to white people as well as to African-American people. As long as we remember the spirit in which he lived and died, we have the key to the ultimate solution of racism and hate, in whatever form it may appear. Long live our memory of Dr. King!

Now let us go in peace, determined to give our lives and efforts to the cause of justice and equity for all—now. Be as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves. May our celebrations of the life of Dr. Martin Luther King amount to something meaningful in our lives. May we be strengthened and encouraged by our resolve so that we may:

Dance like nobody is watching
Sing like nobody is listening,
Work like we don’t need the money,
Love like we have never been rejected or hurt and
Live as if the kingdom really has come. AMEN.

Jan 15, 2014

The Mark of the New Birth

January 12, 2014 - Sanctuary from FUMC of Arlington on Vimeo.

Dr. David N. Mosser's sermon "What Gift Did God Bring?" from January 5, 2014.

Sermon transcript available for download here.


Jan 10, 2014

A New Year for a Vital Mission: One Mile Mission

Before dying, Rabbi Zusya said to his disciples, “In the coming world, they will not ask me: ‘Why were you not Moses? Why were you not David? Why were you not Abraham?’ No. In the world to come they will ask me: ‘Why were you not Zusya?’ ”

At the launch of a New Year, 2014, when we ask ourselves who and what we should be, and why we have not been what we should, we can learn from Rabbi Zusya.

For several decades our church and immediate geographical neighborhood has been in a severe change mode. Some have noticed it; many have not. Church members ask me occasionally “why can’t our church be more like White’s Chapel UMC (in Southlake) or more like FUMC, Mansfield?” Granted we used to be something like those churches—maybe better (?)—then. But now—we are much different. Now God calls us to respond to our neighborhood community and to offer the gospel as a “regional church” might offer the good news of Jesus Christ. We have not been “a suburban” church for twenty-five years or more and perhaps it is an act of faithfulness to notice.

To paraphrase a rabbi: “In the coming world, they will not ask FUMC of Arlington: ‘Why were you not Arbor Lawn UMC? Why were you not First UMC, Plano? Why were you not First UMC, Wichita Falls?’ No. In the world to come they will ask: ‘Why were you not FUMC of Arlington?’ ”

Thus I propose to our entire congregation, now that we are nearing the end of our street construction phase, that we recommit to the ministry strategy that Rev. Ken Diehm and I fashioned and adapted to our mission setting. We called it the One Mile Mission. May each significant group in our church (Sunday School classes, choirs, Bible studies, staff, prayer cells, OWLS, young adult ministry, ECYC teachers, or even a family unit, etc.) continue to advance one mission operation in Christ’s name within a one-mile radius of the altar cross in our sanctuary and do it this year as part of our annual mission outreach.

The proposed idea continues with a twofold purpose. First, the One Mile Mission introduces us to our neighbors and neighborhood. Second, the One Mile Mission introduces our neighbors and neighborhood to us. No group at FUMC of Arlington is too small or too large for a One Mile Mission project. Pray about our One Mile Mission!


Jan 8, 2014

What Gift Did God Bring?

January 5, 2014 - Sanctuary from FUMC of Arlington on Vimeo.

Dr. David N. Mosser's sermon "What Gift Did God Bring?" from January 5, 2014.

Sermon transcript available for download here.


Jan 3, 2014

Happy New Year—and Let’s Make the Best of It!

A new year affords us something that we all crave and probably need, the ability to start over. We receive a great blessing when we start over because it means we can put all that we have learned from our mistakes to the test. So here we are at the beginning of 2014. We stare down a new year and hope for the best.

Along the halls of a church I recently visited were some words of inspiration, lovingly placed on bulletin boards. One said, “It is the greatest of all mistakes to do nothing because you can only do a little.” Another suggested, “Don’t get so busy preparing for a rainy day that you miss today’s sun.” A third told us, “Live so that each day you will neither be afraid of tomorrow or ashamed of yesterday.” The last is one that gives hope to all who believe the promises of scripture when it tells us, “We needn’t worry about what the future holds if we know who holds the future.” Those quotes told me a lot of good things I remember as I enter into a new year.

One picture of a new year I like best is an image of two calendars side by side: the old and the new. One is tattered and torn. Covered by coffee spills, smudgy finger-prints, and ink smeared writing, that old calendar can only be deciphered by perhaps a graphologist-type pharmacist. The old calendar represents commitments made and kept. It is a symbol of the things that we have deemed important and notes the priorities of our past year. It is like a doll whose head is worn threadbare by its loving owner.

On the other hand—and set beside the old calendar—is the new one. Clean and crisp, with no embarrassing markings to tattle out our organizational skills or lack thereof. The new calendar represents the opportunities that await us and the chance to use our time more wisely in the pursuit of life as we want to live it—and perhaps more importantly—as God calls us to live it.

Although many people now use electronic datebooks for their daily or weekly schedules, the old images of paper calendars are compelling. May we begin 2014 with a new slate and forget our last year’s melancholy. 2014 is a year of hope for us all—thanks to God and God’s providence.


Jan 2, 2014

We Are Family

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

Dr. David N. Mosser's sermon "We Are Family" from December 29, 2013.

Sermon transcript available for download here.


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