From The Pastor’s Heart

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Audio podcasts of Pastor David’s weekly sermon may be found at sermons.net.

 

January 2019

I resolved to get my newsletter articles completed on time…

It didn’t happen.

I resolved to schedule some dental appointments in early January. It didn’t happen.

I resolved to plan a nice vacation for the week after Christmas. It didn’t happen.

I’m not ending 2018 as I had planned. I wonder if I will begin January more resolute in my resolution-making? God being my helper, I will try!

It is somewhat of a popular tradition to make New Year’s resolutions. Some of those resolutions are light impact resolutions such as “I’ll be better organized.” “I’ll be on time.” “I won’t be so grouchy.” Other resolutions are, well, carry more “weight”: “I will lose 10 pounds. I will exercise more. I will walk 1,000 extra steps each week.”

I wonder about the resolutions we could make that have a broader impact on the world than the ones focusing on temperament or waistline. The United Methodist Church publishes its Book of Resolutions (BOR) every four years immediately after the quadrennial event known as the General Conference (a 10 day global meeting of delegates both laity and clergy from churches around the world and highest decision-making body of our denomination). The BOR offers United Methodists information on hundreds of position statements on hundreds of social issues such as accessibility in churches, campaign finance reform, ethical investing, even East Turkistan Self-Determination and Independence and a whole lot of others. Do these resolutions lead to practices of faith? Can they?

Often times the practice of faith by one United Methodist member or congregation can lead to the creation of a resolution to be offered, discussed, discerned and voted upon by the entire denomination. “We resolve…” and then action steps are then approved and listed for the whole church to follow in its best efforts. By the resolution and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we then speak of our statement of faith and live it out and into the world!

With so many major issues of international, national and local impact before us as a country, our congregation’s heart has been open wide to embrace homelessness with The Night Ministry, children in need with ChildServ, sustainable & local agriculture with the Winters Farmers Market (Jan.6), hunger with Heifer International and New Hope Community Food Pantry, refugees with Exodus World Service and several others. Which area of need will you resolve to involve yourself in – as a practice of your faith and as a member/friend of FUMC – in the New Year? What new area of ministry can we discover in 2019 that needs our congregation’s voice and presence?

Let’s resolve to commit ourselves in the generosity of our time, talent and financial resources in 2019 in much of the same way we did in 2018. 2018 was a great year of interest, involvement and participation in ministries of mission and outreach. Let’s resolve to be more invitational, too, with our friends and neighbors to our services of worship on Sunday mornings and events throughout the New Year. Many good things are happening at FUMC. Many good people are participating in a variety of ways. Let’s resolve to keep it up in 2019 – with God has our able helper – we can make it happen!

Blessings for the New Year 2019!

See you in church,

Pastor David

 


October 2018

“The radical practice of gratitude…”

What might curb the meanness, the political crudeness, the pervasive angst of our American society? Diana Butler Bass suggests practicing gratitude.

From Harper Collins… “In her latest book Gratitude: The Transformative Power of Giving Thanks, Bass explores why gratitude is missing as a modern spiritual practice, offers practical suggestions for reclaiming it, and illuminates how the shared practice of gratitude can lead to greater connection with God, our world, and our own souls. More and more people are finding God beyond the walls of traditional religious institutions, but these seekers often miss the church community itself, including its shared spiritual practices such as gratitude.

While four out of five Americans have told pollsters they feel gratitude in their daily lives, Bass finds that claim to be at odds with the discontent that permeates modern society. There is a gap, she argues, between our desire to be grateful and our ability to behave gratefully—a divide that influences our understanding of morality, worship, and institutional religion itself. In Grateful, Bass challenges readers to think about the impact gratitude has in our spiritual lives, and encourages them to make gratitude a “difficult and much-needed spiritual practice for our personal lives and to make a better world.”

Do you need such a radical practice that as Bass suggests “can take down the oppressive structure of politics and replace it with a table – as always Jesus intended it?” In the Christian tradition, the table is place of meeting, eating and fellowship with God in Jesus Christ and with one another. It is a place of grace, celebration, forgiveness, freedom and welcome. It is a blessed place and radical even in its meaning and intent. I think that is why the table for communion figures so prominently in our sanctuary and chapel. When we practice communion we practice a great thanksgiving. Are there other practices of gratitude?

I’ll be using Bass’ book for personal growth and ministering within the church (worship, preaching, teaching, pastoral care, and more) through our stewardship season “The Blessings of Gratitude” which begins October 28. Are there habits and practices of gratitude that you can share with me? I would be immensely grateful to learn from you and to share them together – within the institution and community known as church.

How might our habits and intentional practices of giving thanks, expressing appreciation, praising God, supporting goodness in the context of our families, households, network of friends, workplaces, schools and church help to transform our country and world? Let’s begin with saying “Thank you” and see what God can do with our hearts.

See you in church!

Pastor David

 


September 2018

By North American, Midwestern standards, I come from a relatively large family: two parents and six kids. I’m second oldest of five boys and one girl. My older brother Russ, younger brother Travis and youngest brother Eric and sister Anna are blessed parts of my life today. My brother John died a few days after being born into very difficult circumstances. In high school, my parents divorced and my family structure changed to include two households. (Photo: Aslesen Family, Christmas 1981)

Currently, three of my siblings are married, one is single, one has been married twice, one lives in a blended family (two his + two hers + one theirs), two siblings have been married to each one’s spouse for twenty + years with one child and three children within their respective households. I am single and live alone as does one of my siblings. One parent has been remarried for twenty-five years and has four stepchildren and one parent is single but with grandmother responsibilities. Different structures of family with a common denominator = love.

Family. What is your configuration? How do you honor the uniqueness of your family, its history, structure, members, diversity, blessedness, evolution, shared love? In September 2018, First United Methodist Church’s worship and Faith Formation program (which includes Sunday school) will focus on the theme “All in God’s Family – We are Families!” I can’t wait for this month of services celebrating the wondrous nature of God’s family here on earth and the diverse families found within our congregation & community. Our September series will kick off a year of exploring the ministry of the church and its relationship with families of all kinds.

Some of the questions we will be asking in our September worship series include:

  • What is the size of God’s family?
  • Is everyone included in God’s family?
  • Does it matter that my family isn’t perfect?
  • How should God’s family act?
  • Does God’s family get along all the time or some of the time?
  • What is the role of God’s family on earth?

I hope FUMC can be an active part of celebrating your family – in all its incarnations and needs. I pray God is blessing you and your family whether it is blood or chosen, gathered in tight household or scattered across the miles, in need of healing and reconciliation.

Todd Parr’s “The Family Book” may be familiar to families with young children. His books are colorful, engaging and appropriate for all ages. But beyond those awesome qualities, Todd Parr is unique in that he approaches each topic with genuine love and makes his readers, young and old, feel special. “The Family Book” honors all families by reminding us that they come in all shapes and sizes, configurations and complexities. As Todd reminds us, “Your family is special no matter what kind it is.” A copy of “The Family Book” is being made available to all FUMC with children pre-K to 1st grade.

See you in church,

Pastor David