Mar 31, 2017

The Positive and Negative Golden Rule

Scripture Verse:
“Do not say, “I will do to others as they have done to me;
I will pay them back for what they have done’ ” (Proverbs 24:29).

Many doctors have shown the faith they had in their discoveries by first trying them on themselves. Jonas Salk, whose polio vaccine virtually wiped out that disease often tested serums on himself. The German surgeon Forssman, who developed the procedure of heart catheterization, did it first on himself.

Who would go to a doctor who refused to take his own medicine? Yet, many people are long on prescriptions for others, yet woefully dismal in taking our own medicine.

We who prescribe purity of life must ourselves be pure. We who urge honesty must ourselves be honest. We, who recommend truthfulness, must ourselves tell the truth.  The world expects Christians to take themselves the medicine they prescribe for others. They expect us to live by the rules we recommend.

Action focus: Spend one whole day living the golden rule: “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31).

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Mar 24, 2017

Deliver Us From Enemies: Fight Fire With Prayer

Scripture Verse:
“And King Melchizedek of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was priest of God Most High.  Melchizedek blessed Abram and said,
‘Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
maker of heaven and earth;
and blessed be God Most High,
who has delivered your enemies into your hand!’
And Abram gave him one tenth of everything” (Genesis 14:18-20).
A church in Georgia published a rather long prayer list. They thought it would be helpful to identify the reason for each one being on the list. In this way, people could pray for specific needs and problems, rather than praying in vague generalities. There were all the usual things: hospitalized, bereaved, and those facing surgery.

But beside the name of one individual on the list was written “pain in the neck.” Most churches have a member or two who deserves that description, but few put it in print! And it does seem sometimes that only prayer can cure that affliction. Prayer is a powerful spiritual weapon against the forces of evil. Pray today for Arlington, for your church, and for our nation. Prayer is our best and brightest hope.

Action focus: Pray for both your friends and your enemies if you want to be more Christ-like!

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Mar 16, 2017

A Walking Billboard for the Christian Faith

Scripture Verse:
“Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we try to persuade others; but we ourselves are well known to God, and I hope that we are also well known to your consciences” (2 Corinthians 5:11).
When Harland Sanders began his Kentucky Fried Chicken business, he had little money and no assets for advertising. So he grew a little beard, got a white suit, and as a Kentucky Colonel he became a walking advertisement for Kentucky Fried Chicken.

As Christians each one of us is a walking advertisement for our Christian faith. We would prefer not to be that, but it is unavoidable. So Paul wrote to the Colossians, “Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience” (Colossians 3:12). Each of us influences many people and the funny thing is—we scarcely realize it. Live what you believe and perhaps other will catch on. It’s certainly worth a try.

Action focus: Pray about ways that you can live what you believe in several concrete ways.

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Mar 10, 2017

Share Something Good

A few years ago, newspapers in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, carried the story of a man who not only planned his own funeral, but also attended it—alive and well. He arrived at the church sitting in the back of a hearse. He sat up front among the flowers while people said nice things about him. He said it served no purpose for people to say all those good things about you after you were dead and couldn’t hear them.

The man made a good point. How often do we wait too long to express appreciation, gratitude, or love? How often are the words we speak at the funeral words we should have spoken long before?

Action focus: Take today, and share something good with those around you. Let’s make a better world.

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Mar 3, 2017

World Day of Prayer

“The hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each one to his home, and you will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me” (John 16:32).
Sometimes prayer seems like a lonely and solitary sort of exercise. Perhaps we should remember when we pray we join with millions of others who have been where we are—through the centuries and around the world.

There is a road near Colorado Springs, Colorado, that leads through Williams Canyon to the Cave of the Winds. It’s an incredibly narrow, winding road, and there is a spot on the thoroughfare that is appropriately called, “The Narrows.” When a person first approaches “The Narrows,” she or he is certain that the car is not going to squeeze through that space. But a sign appears at that point that reads: “Yes, you can! A million others have.”

There is a magnificent lesson here for life. When any of us face problems, whether they be health problems, financial problems, or problems with relationships, the overwhelming feeling is that we are in this problem by ourselves. On the World Day of Prayer, today, it is important to remember others have gone through what we are going through and they made it. We can make it too.

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Feb 24, 2017

Our Lenten Journey

We are about to begin the Lenten journey together—Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, March 1. We will have a imposition of ashes service that Wednesday evening at 7:00 PM (see below for all Ash Wednesday worship opportunities),  and when we say “imposition” we mean it. The realization that we are from dust and to dust we will return imposes on our nice lives the fact that we are mortal. We generally do not like to be reminded of this truth—perhaps this is why Ash Wednesday worship services are so poorly attended.

Some of us are eager for the journey, but many of us are too afraid, or bored, or apathetic to rummage around inside our souls and find out just exactly who we are and who God wants us to be. But for those who are ready, the discovery of who we are in God’s realm is as exciting as anything we will ever do.

Everyone tries to tell you who you are. Your occupation, employer, teachers, parents, friends, advertisers, preachers, writers . . . everyone! Too many of us derive our worth from who others say we are. But THANK GOD, there is another story. This is the story about whom we find ourselves to be during the time of Lent each year. It is a story that always occurs between the mountain of transfiguration and the mount called Calvary.

I hope you will join us as we pray, confess and worship the one who has given us a better definition of ourselves than anyone ever could. We are daughters and sons of the living God. Lent is a time when we struggle against all the idolatrous definitions of who we are and what is important in this world—like success.

Paul writes:
“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39). 

These are the things—death, rulers, things present, things to come, powers, heights, depths—that attempt to tell us who we are. Jesus calls us to answer his question: “But who do you say that I am?”
May we find the answer together during Lent.

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7:00 am | Imposition of Ashes | Covered carport on Mesquite St.
We will have pastors offering Imposition of the Ashes in both English and Spanish to anyone that would like.

11:00 am &3:15 pm | Imposition of Ashes | North end of our parking lot 
We will have pastors offering Imposition of the Ashes in both English and Spanish.

12:00 pm | Afternoon Service | Vandergriff Chapel
Scripture, prayer, reflection, and song. Led by Rev. Kay Lancaster & Dr. Alfie Wines

7:00 pm | Evening Service | Sanctuary
Rev. David N. Mosser preaching with the Chancel Choir and Youth & Chancel Orchestra.

Feb 17, 2017

A Reminder

A few summers ago,  I preached a sermon titled “Contemplative Practice.” It was part of our worship series we called “Practicing Faith” and the text was Ephesians 3:14-19. Besides the Bible, the book we used for the series was Brian McLaren’s 2008 book The Return of the Ancient Practices: Finding Our Way Again. McLaren’s book discloses faith practices and explores them for modern people. In fact, McLaren and others in the “emerging church” renders a different way of being a Christian than simply defining ourselves by either what we believe or what we do not believe.
Anyway, a friend reminded me of a quotation in that sermon she said was helpful and she used often in her teaching and presentations. Here is what was in that sermon:

There is a splendid quotation in Eugene Peterson’s The Contemplative Pastor. Originally from Moby Dick, the quotation follows Melville’s sketch of the chaotic commotion aboard the Pequod when the crew sighted the great whale. Amidst the shouting and maneuvering a lone person stands poised and patient. It is the harpoonist. Melville writes:

To insure the greatest efficiency in the dart, the harpooners of this world must start their feet out of idleness and not out of toil.

As the whalers go out on their hunt, there is one alone who must sit still. He is the harpooner, and his most important assignment is to anticipate, focus. Everything rests upon his concentration, his attentiveness to respond in the moment.
Being in tune with the bigger picture—in contradistinction to most of the rest of us—is what allows the harpoonist to do what he does. What allows us to do what we do? And, by the way, what are we doing?

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Feb 10, 2017

Love and Language Precision

In my philosophy class the other day, we were discussing how a lot of philosophy is about precision in language. That is, if we can say with more exactitude what we are mean, then we enhance the chances of someone understanding us.

The Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, in his philosophical system, demonstrated “that traditional philosophical problems can be avoided entirely by application of an appropriate methodology, one that focuses on analysis of language.” One of his more famous quotations is “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent” (Tractatus 7).

Effective language communicates, and does so by using concrete and specific images. Too many words confound rather than enlighten. Also, for students, their writing needs to be appropriately formal—not “it means the stuff we know about” kind of statements.

One example to argue for precision in language is the word "love" from Old Testament Greek. Today, we might talk about cars in terms that might sound like: “I love my Ford Mustang.” But in what sense do we “love” it?

"Love" translated into English means any number of things, including: storge (family love); eros (passionate, romantic love); philia (brotherly love, best friend); and agape (unconquerable benevolence, invincible goodwill). Thus, when we use the word “love” we are saying a lot more than we may intend—or know.

When we speak of love without some differentiation, what we mean may not be what hearers understand. May we all be careful and say what we mean and mean what we say—especially the week of February 14—when love is in the air!

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Feb 3, 2017

Growing in Gratitude

Here is a story of a woman who should come to our church and learn how to grow in gratitude:

A sailor was walking across the pier late one afternoon, on his way to a town for a shore-leave. He heard the cry of a child from the water. He plunged in the water and rescued a six-year-old boy who had fallen in. As soon as he got the boy on the pier, the boy scampered off, leaving the nameless sailor standing there dripping wet. The next day the sailor was leaving the ship again to take the shore-leave he missed the day before. He heard a vaguely familiar voice crying out: "There he is that's the one". He saw the boy he had rescued coming toward him, holding to his mother's hand. The mother asked the sailor: "Are you the man who rescued my son?" The sailor stood tall and said: "Yes ma'am". "Then", said the woman, "where is his cap?"

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Jan 27, 2017

On Errant Resumes

Like most preachers, I remember a time when everything went right when speaking to a group of people. Several years ago a local service club asked me to do their program.  Because most of them were well-heeled business people, I decided to begin with an amusing look at some items appropriated from actual resumes of job seekers. Some of them were funny, but in a sad, pathetic sort of way.

Included in the errant resumes were these seven statements:

--Wholly responsible for two (2) failed financial institutions.
--Failed bar exam with relatively high grades.
--It’s best for my employers that I not work with people.
--I have an excellent track record, although I am not a horse.
--Instrumental in ruining entire operation for a Midwest chain store.
--Note: Please don’t misconstrue my 14 jobs as job-hopping.  I have never quit a job.
--The company made me a scapegoat, just like my three previous employers.

The people in attendance at the luncheon roared with laughter. They recognized the kinds of people about which I spoke. These business people had experienced these kinds of resumes firsthand.

I wonder what will happen to me when God calls for my Christian resume? What might it look like? I hope my Christian resume does not look as pathetic as some of the entries above. I suppose today is the day for all of us to look and repair the resumes we have thus far built for God.

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Jan 20, 2017

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 beginning of a New Year, 2017, when we ask ourselves who and what we should be, and why we have not been what we should, there is much to learn from Rabbi Zusya’s words. Small groups and intentional prayer hold us accountable!

For several decades, our church and immediate geographical neighborhood have 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, 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, Arlington?’ ”

Thus I propose to our entire congregation, via Church Council, that we continue a strategy that a minister friend of mine, Rev. Ken Diehm, and I fashioned adapted to our setting called the “One Mile Mission.” The core motivation is to get each and every significant group in our church (Sunday school classes, choirs, Bible Studies, the staff, prayer cells, young adult ministry, or even a family unit, etc.) to advance one mission operation in Christ’s name within a one-mile radius of the altar cross in our Sanctuary.

The proposed idea has 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. You may ask “what is a “significant group?” I say it is “where two or three are gathered” for where you are in Jesus’ name, there he is too (Matthew 18:20). No group at FUMCA is too small or too large.

Pray about our “One Mile Mission!” In addition, recognize this is why God called us in the first place. Start a new group that focuses on a one mile mission.

Our Small Group Communities Lunch & Launch is this Sunday, in the Banquet Room, at 12:15 pm.

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Jan 13, 2017

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

For faith, Samson, Jeremiah, John the Baptizer, Peter, Paul, and Silas all spent jail time. Possibly some of the best preaching and witnessing to our faith came straight out of jail. And if you think that preaching from jail is only an honorable and ancient form of Christian testimony then consider an important epistle that Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote over fifty years ago.

In 1963 King called Birmingham, Alabama, “by far the worst city for race relations in America.” Also known as “Bombingham,” the city had become infamous for at least fifty bombings of black homes and churches in the years after World War II, along with Sheriff Bull Connor’s fire hoses and snarling police dogs during 1961’s Freedom Summer. This bloodshed preceded the awful slaughter at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church on 15 September 1963, when white supremacists blew up the spiritual home of the local civil rights movement during crowded Sunday services, killing four little girls. Like Paul who wrote Philippians from prison, King wrote his famous “Letter From a Birmingham Jail” on 16 April 1963.  This letter, written to, among others, at least two Methodist bishops, Paul Hardin and Nolan B. Harmon, explained King’s thinking with regard to the American Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s.

We live in a different era now, in part thanks to King’s courage of conviction. Take a moment today to reflect on the meaning and price of freedom for all people.

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Image: "Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1963" Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Jan 6, 2017

Baptism of the Lord Sunday

Baptism connects us to generations of Christians before and after us. It is a bit like seeing a sliver of a section of Old U.S. Highway 40 and thinking that is all there is. Yet, beyond our immediate perception there is much, much more.

Let me explain. I grew up in Independence, Missouri, in the late 1950s and 1960s.  Old U.S. Highway 40 (prior to the Interstate of the same name/number) was the big road in our town. This massive highway, at least to a small child it seemed massive, separated Independence from Raytown. Bev’s Root Beer Stand, The Blue Ridge Mall, and our local drive in movie theater were all on Highway 40. It was a most important highway in my judgment. My dad even said it was a key link to the rest of the world. Yet, at eight years old I had no idea what he meant.

Later I found out that this Old U.S. Highway 40 was the first U.S. highway that ran from sea to shining sea. It began in Atlantic City, New Jersey and finished its traverse of our country in San Francisco, California. If one were to drive this magnificent highway from end to end, one would see these sights along the way:

Cowtown Rodeo, New Castle, Maryland
Fort Necessity/Uniontown, Wheeling, West Virginia
The National Road Museum, Columbus, Ohio
Boonville and Independence, Missouri
Denver, Colorado
Berthoud Pass and Steamboat Springs, Colorado
Salt Lake City, Utah and Winnemucca
Reno, Nevada
. . . and, finally, San Francisco, California.

This highway linked two oceans and 14 states along the way. However, as a child, I would have never guessed that that one highway could have linked me to all that! And yet, in an analogous way, this is what baptism does for us. It reminds us that what we see today, “in our seventy years, or perhaps eighty, if we are strong” (Psalm 90:10) is not all there is.

Instead, God links us to our past, our future, and to our present, by saints before us and behind us, who are united with us in a pool of water and the holy spirit that reminds us: “This is my Son or Daughter, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” Baptism joins us to God and to God’s saints who are to be our eternal brothers and sisters.  This is the great line of splendor in which we disciples stand.

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