Dec 30, 2016

Happy New Year

Many people know that I am somewhat enamored with Winston Churchill. He was a brave soul during WWII and managed to inspire his nation to hang on until help came against the Nazis.

I subscribe to Churchill’s famous approach to success: “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” He should have known about this as he was both the biggest success and failure in the 20th century. And another great leader from that century, Nelson Mandela, also reminds us, “The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”

The New Year affords us something that we all crave and probably need: the ability to start over. It is a great blessing to start over because it means that all those mistakes from which we were supposed to learn something can be tested. After all, if we have learned something we do want to know if we really learned it. So here we are near the beginning of 2017.  We stare down a new year and hope for the best.

One image of the new year I like best is of the two calendars side by side: the old and the new. One is tattered and torn—covered by coffee spills, smudgy finger-prints, and smeared. The old calendar represents commitments made and kept. Next to the old is the new calendar. Clean with no awkward markings yet—and it represents opportunities that await.

Happy New Year and keep track of where you plan to go!

Come, Worship
Stay, Learn
Go, Serve

Dec 16, 2016

Advent: A Time of Expectation

Advent is a time of expectation and our expectations often set the trajectory of our lives.

Paul was a person that could have been easily disillusioned by life. But Paul was not disillusioned for one reason—he had no illusions about his life or human life in general. This is not to say that Paul did not have ideals—because he did. Rather it is to say that Paul’s sense of truth and reality led him to one certain conclusion. This conclusion is that people without God are as good as dead.

To think that we can live without God is to live with a set of ridiculous expectations. Expectation is a perspective that we bring to human experience. If you have a certain expectation, then you will experience life in a certain way. Everyone has expectations, and those who expect nothing from life have that dour viewpoint as their expectation.

For example, in the 1960s a teacher was given a roster showing the actual IQ test scores of the students of one class, and for another class a roster in which the one column had been (mistakenly) filled in with the students’ locker numbers. The teacher assumed that the locker numbers were the actual IQs of the students when the rosters were posted at the beginning of the semester. After a year it was discovered that in the first class the students with high actual IQ scores had performed better than those with low ones. But in the second class the students with higher locker numbers scored significantly higher than those with lower locker numbers!

What are your expectations for this Christmas and for the new year 2017?

Come, Worship
Stay, Learn
Go, Serve

Our Service of Remembrance & Healing will be held this Sunday, December 18, at 4:00 pm in the Chapel. All are welcome.

Dec 9, 2016

Christmas Culture

In the olden days, Jews and Christians were experts in taking over secular festivals and giving them theological meaning. Pentecost is one such example. People in the ancient world celebrated the festival or feast of the harvest. Yet at some point, Christians and Jews co-opted this secular holiday and turned it into a sacred holy-day. Now, secular culture has co-opted Christmas and made it a secular holiday. Nevertheless, contrary to popular secular belief, Christmas remains, for believers, a religious holiday.

We Christians celebrate the festival of Christmas as a holy day and season. We do so to remind ourselves of the original gift God gave in a manger—the Christ child. Angels, shepherds, and wise ones worshipped this Jesus as the Christ of God. I suppose, in some respects, that the world forgot the original meaning of Christmas and we believers are, to one degree or another, responsible.

After all, if we do not keep the meaning of Christmas alive for our children and the rest of our culture, then who will?

Come, Worship
Stay, Learn
Go, Serve

Don't forget, our annual Christmas Ring and Sing is this Sunday at 5:00 pm in the Great Hall! 

Dec 2, 2016

The Season of Gift Giving

Christmas is the season of gift giving. We spend a great deal of time thinking about gifts, selecting gifts, talking about gifts, and paying for gifts. Even when we wrap gifts, there is deep meaning in the wrapped presentation of our gifts. A Swiss psychiatrist of an earlier generation writes:

This great hunger for gifts is not so much a hunger for pleasure as for affection. People’s need to be loved is universal and limitless; it is of the essence of life. Freudians have amply demonstrated this point. Jean-Paul Sartre, in one of his early writings, states that the thing which counts in human psychology is not the facts but the meaning of those facts, that which they mean to the people involved. The meaning of gifts is in the love that they express, the love both given and received. All people have this need to give their affection and to feel that it is appreciated. All are equally seeking proofs of their being loved, and of feeling that those who love them have great pleasure in this. We do not want a totally impersonal love; it would only be a dry and humiliating act of charity. Mutuality is the very law of love: There is no pleasure in loving unless the other enjoys equally in being loved.

Every person needs to feel that someone is really interested in him or her, her affection, his life, or even in the smallest gift possible. This need is imperative, far more so than most wish to admit. Repeatedly, and in a more or less hidden manner, they are going about begging both for affection and for someone to whom they may, in turn, show affection (Paul Tournier, The Meaning of Gifts, John Knox Press, Atlanta, 1961, pp. 52-53).

Humans need to know that they are loved and they need to show that they love other people. It is this all-too-human motive that stands behind the gifts we give and the gifts we receive. Our relations to other people are the attachments that make us truly human. We need to love others. We need for others to love us. Sometimes life can be boiled down to a philosophy that is just this simple.  

Come, Worship
Stay, Learn

Go, Serve

Don’t forget: Chancel Choir's presentation of Vivaldi's Gloria is in all Sanctuary services this Sunday, and our Children’s Christmas Pageant is also this Sunday, December 4th at 5:00 pm

Nov 25, 2016


Advent is one of the worship seasons of the church year. It is a time of spiritual preparation for the joy of Messiah’s birth at Christmas. Like Lent, Advent is an occasion for introspection and prayer—although our culture has made Advent indistinguishable from Christmas holidays.

Advent, at least in one significant way, celebrates and teaches believers the meaning of “why” God sends the world a Messiah. Unless we learn from God the divine purpose of creation, which is to “till and keep God’s garden,” (Genesis 2:15) then a perpetual battle for national pride, land, and natural resources persists. Yet, Isaiah’s prophetic vision of “swords into plowshares” and “spears into pruning hooks” triggers our memories, faint as they may be, regarding God’s intention at creation. God created people to live in a community based on mutual respect and peace—a community that is bent on feeding its members from the least to the greatest. Faithful stewards preserve this teaching of the Lord. The First Advent raised a promise that when the Messiah comes, God brings the divine intention for God’s people to fruition.

Washington Irving once wrote: “Great minds have purposes; others have wishes.” This insight leads to the realization that without expectancy, we lack purpose. Achievers, in particular, exhibit this attitude of expectancy. We see this attitude most forcefully in the way achievers minimize their losses. They do not grieve over failures or what might have been. Rather, achievers look around the corner in anticipation of the good things that await. All these achievers have to do is show the determination to get there. The accomplisher rejects the notion of “can’t.” 

As a result, this kind of person is able to open more doors than others, strike better deals, and attract more energetic and resourceful people to work with them. The achiever sets higher standards and gets others to help meet them. The achiever wins confidence and nurtures vitality in others. This kind of person expects to succeed. When combined with desire, expectancy produces hope—and hope makes all things possible. Living the expectant life is simply an act of good judgment.

The Apostle Paul says, “ . . . we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Romans 5:3 5).

When God arms Christians with good judgment and with hope, the world looks a lot less intimidating. Advent is the Christian season that reminds us that hope springs eternal with God. As God sends us Messiah, God also sends us the hope that does not disappoint. This is a result of God’s grace and our faithful belief in the promises of God. Why not try to practice some good ’ol fashioned hope-filled expectation this Advent as we come home to FUMC of Arlington for Christmas . . . .

Come, Worship
Stay, Learn
God, Serve

PS. Don’t forget the La Posada Family Advent Festival that will take place on the 30th of November this year at 6:00 pm in the Great Hall. Contact Rachel Patman for more information.

Nov 18, 2016

Reign of Christ Sunday

This coming Sunday we as a church will celebrate Christ the King Sunday, the last Sunday of the Church Year. Also called the Reign of Christ Sunday, this day concludes our annual worship journey that tells the story of Jesus. This Sunday bridges one worship year with another as next week—the first week of Advent—begins a new worship year of expectation and hope. As we navigate Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost, each helps the church tell Jesus’ story. For Christians, Jesus is our leader and as such, asks us to be leaders as well. We may not have kings anymore but as long as human communities exist, we will always have leaders.

We each have a degree of influence with other people—sometimes in the family, classroom, or neighborhood. Yet, not everyone knows how to employ influence. Thus, the better we understand our God-given influence, then the better we can use it for good. To be a leader, disciple, or follower of Jesus is to employ our influence to further the aims revealed in God’s realm or kingdom. This realm signifies for Jesus God’s intention for creation.

So, the better we understand our leadership influence, the better we understand the why and how of our leadership gift. Disciples are, in fact, stewards of the leadership talents that God has entrusted to us. When God endows a disciple as a leader with spiritual influence, then God expects such persons to use them to build up the realm of God.

Every person has a gift (or gifts) to offer God’s Realm. The chief task of leadership is to aid members of Christ’s church to identify their talents, nurture these talents, and then set these disciples loose on the world. If this can be done in systematic ways, the gifts that our local church can offer our community and the world would be indescribable.

“Follow the Leader” simply means to follow Jesus, become a leader, and let Jesus model that leadership for all of us.

Come, Worship
Stay, Learn
God, Serve

Nov 11, 2016

Veterans Day

Today is Veterans Day and so I want to share something that should give us pause to be both grateful and mindful of what our nation’s soldiers—men and women—have done to make our freedom possible.

It is the VETERAN, not the preacher, who has given us freedom of religion.
It is the VETERAN, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press.
It is the VETERAN, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech.
It is the VETERAN, not the campus organizer, who has given us freedom to assemble.
It is the VETERAN, not the lawyer, who has given us the right to a fair trial.
It is the VETERAN, not the politician, who has given us the right to vote.

We salute all the men and women, dead or alive, wounded or well, who have served our country in the name and spirit of freedom and truth. We owe them a debt that money cannot pay, and which words cannot describe. It is not a matter of which war in which they served or during which years of peace they stood ready to protect and defend the citizens of this country. There have been big wars and little wars, but no war is little to the soldier who risks his/her life for our country. And, no death is diminished by the size or length of the engagement in which a brave soldier dies.

We salute, honor, and offer our thanks to every soldier who has served this country, from the Revolutionary War, which made us a nation, to the present war against terrorism being waged in Afghanistan, Iraq, and around the world.

Come, Worship
Stay, Learn
God, Serve

Nov 4, 2016

All Saints Sunday

Our Christian Faith teaches that life is not over when we die. There is a special day in the Christian Calendar called All Saints Day (which in fact falls on November 1 but we will celebrate on Sunday the 6th). On that day, we profess our faith in an on-going relationship between those who have died and we who are living. We are touched when we remember friends and loved ones who have outrun us to heaven, but the concept of the “Communion of Saints” (Apostles’ Creed) suggests that there is an on-going spiritual relationship between those who are dead and those who are living. Just as we believe that Jesus, who was dead and is now alive continues to touch our lives, so we believe that our friends and loved ones who have died are now alive and continue to touch our lives. Many find great comfort in that idea. I know I do.

The Bible clearly reminds us that those who have rounded the bend of the river of life that we call death are “balcony people” for us in our continuing struggle in this life (Hebrews 12:1-2). It is not just Jesus who is the “pioneer and perfecter of our faith,” there is a whole cloud of witnesses, who having kept the faith now cheer for us as we struggle to keep it too. There are some days and some ways in which we sense this to be true. “Death ends a life, but it does not end a relationship.”

Consider yet another aspect of this idea. We tend to think that when someone dies, that for all practical purposes it is all over. You may be surprised to learn that this is not true. When people with whom we have unfinished business die, death does not finish that business. I do not know how a broken relationship affects the dead, but I do know that it continues to affect the living. I have been dealing with this concept for more than four decades. It is much more difficult to settle a broken relationship with someone who is dead than with someone who is alive. I have seen people go through years of agony and therapy because a parent or child or friend died before an important broken relationship was settled.

“Death ends a life, but it does not end a relationship. The relationship struggles toward resolution in the survivor’s mind, but no resolution is found.” Wrap your mind around that idea and see where it takes you.

Come worship with us Sunday as we remember those who have graduated to heaven.

Come, Worship
Stay, Learn
Go, Serve

PS: Don’t forget that Daylight Saving Time ends this Sunday, November 6!

Image: "All-Saints" 15th century. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Oct 28, 2016

Trunk or Treat and Loyalty Sunday

This Saturday is a big event called Trunk or Treat. It lasts from 3:00-5:00 in the afternoon on that Saturday and is fun for our church young people as well as many youngsters from our immediate neighborhood. There will be candy, food, and family fun for all ages.

Also, Loyalty Sunday is this Sunday with nationally recognized speaker, preacher, and author Kent Millard being our special guest at all three Sanctuary services. You are invited to bring your pledge card forward for dedication at the communion rail. All are invited to come forward and pray.

Because some of you think I am too long-winded, I will summarize my understanding of Christian stewardship in brief:

The point of Christian stewardship is not to repay God what we owe God. The point of Christian stewardship is to share what God has given each of us with those with whom God wants us to share. When we share God’s bounty we live up to the promise of scripture. One promise suggests that “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

Come, Worship
Stay, Learn
God, Serve

Oct 21, 2016

The Top Ten Signs You're Broke

Here are the top ten signs you are broke:
(Have a laugh before you fill out your pledge card!)

10. American Express calls and says: “Leave home without it!”
9. You’re formulating a plan to rob the food bank.
8. Long distance companies don’t call you to switch.
7. You rob Peter...and then rob Paul.
6. You finally clean your house, hoping to find change.
5. You think of a lottery ticket as an investment.
4. Your bologna has no first name.
3. Sally Struthers sends you food.
2. McDonalds supplies you with all your kitchen condiments.

And The Number #1 Sign You Are Broke Is:

1. At communion you go back for seconds (From The Daily Dilly).


Worship Series “Steps to Stewardship: The Gratitude Path”

Our Stewardship campaign title for the 2017 budget process is: “Steps to Stewardship: The Gratitude Path.” Dr. Kent Millard, the author of The Gratitude Path: Leading Your Church to Generosity, which our church will base our upcoming worship series on, will be with us on October 30, which is Loyalty Sunday.

The Sunday that Dr. Millard is with us and during our worship services, you and your household will be given an opportunity to dedicate your life and gifts to God for the coming year 2017. Your estimate of giving helps our finance committee set a conscientious budget for the coming year.

May God help us make this a cheerful and joyous month of worship for our great church family. May God also help us consider our gratitude before God.

Come, Worship
Stay, Learn
God, Serve

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