Recently, I wrote an article for the May/June 2020 issue of Tour Collierville Magazine which I share below. I was asked to focus on current events and how to rely on God during times of uncertainty, doubt, and trouble. As we continue to see rising numbers of positive COVID-19 cases, small business owners struggling to stay afloat, and numerous protests for racial equality and police reform, I pray that these words may offer some comfort and assurance of God's protection. +Peace and Love from Pastor Kris.
So many things are happening in our world right now. It seems like we hear from federal, state, and local leaders on a daily basis as they present new guidelines and best practices for how to deal with COVID-19.
There’s a growing concern around our economy and how long it will take for us to rebound. Many individuals have applied for unemployment benefits, some families are dipping into their emergency funds, and all of us have had to adjust our lives as we practice social distancing and follow “Safer at Home” orders.
It would be very tempting to give in to fear. It’s taking more effort to keep thoughts of doubt or despair at bay given the current situation. If you find yourselves worrying more than usual, then I encourage you to look to God’s Word and discover joy and hope during this time.
Turn your minds to the Easter story found in the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 28. Here, we see two women discover the empty tomb. An angel instructs Mary and Mary to go and tell the disciples that Jesus has risen from the dead. They hurry away “with great fear and joy” before meeting the risen Christ on the road. These women demonstrate how it is possible to live a faithful, joy-filled life and still experience moments of fear, doubt, or anxiety.
Earlier in the same Gospel, we see how Jesus’ followers had concerns and worries about their basic needs being met. Jesus, as their teacher and friend, points to God’s provisions. God supplies food for birds and dresses the wildflowers so that they’re more beautifully adorned than any runway model. If God cares about these living things, then how much more will God care for humankind—beings created in the image and likeness of God?
Psalm 46 begins with some very powerful words: “God is our refuge and strength, a help always near in times of great trouble.”
Our community, our nation, and our world is experiencing a time of great trouble, but I don’t think we’re alone. I believe that God’s Holy Spirit is present with each and every one of us, and I trust that God is guiding us through this pivotal moment in world history.
Psalm 46 also references earthquakes and tsunamis, the rantings and ravings of nations, and the destruction of weapons used for war. In the midst of this chaos, the Psalmist does not fear. Through it all, her eyes are on God.
The women at the empty tomb are filled with both fear and joy at the thought of Jesus overcoming death. The angel speaks a greeting, “Don’t be afraid,” and Jesus repeats these comforting words when he meets them on the road.
Earlier in his ministry, Jesus says to his followers, “Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?” Instead of worrying, the Messiah encourages his disciples to pay attention to what God is doing right now and to not get worked up about what might happen tomorrow.
Friends, it’s completely natural to experience fear in times like these. Becoming worried about our health, our safety, and our finances is a very real, human response.
Through it all, I pray that you will seek God first. Discover joy and hope in the Psalms and in the Gospel stories. Put your trust in the Lord, because God will protect and provide for us. God is always ready to help when we need Him most. Thanks be to God!
The following is a transcript from a video I streamed earlier today via Facebook Live. Contained in this article are helpful links and updated information for how Peace Tree is continuing to address COVID-19 concerns in our community. Please contact us if you have any questions or concerns. God bless!
+Peace and Love from Pastor Kris
Hey friends, I wanted to give y’all a quick update on how our faith community is currently addressing coronavirus concerns as we look ahead to the month of May.
The last time I went LIVE over Facebook with an update, it was Friday, March 13 - that’s a little over 6 weeks ago. To put things into perspective, back on March 13, there were only two confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Shelby County.
With more testing being made available in the weeks since then, health officials quickly discovered that community transmission had occurred, and as of April 28 in Shelby County alone, there are 2,320 confirmed cases of COVID-19 including 45 deaths.
Friends, now more than ever, we need to practice healthy habits, we need to remain at home if possible, and if we do go to a public place for work, or to pick up groceries and meals from local restaurants, or for any other reason, then we need to wear cloth masks or other face coverings to protect ourselves and others.
For six weeks now, Peace Tree has encouraged our members to stay at home. We’ve gathered together as an online community through a number of different methods. We’ve premiered worship videos on Sunday morning at 10AM Central across three sites: YouTube, Facebook, and our church website: peacetree.church.
We’ve also been hosting online Bible studies on Wednesday nights at 7:30 Central using Facebook Live. We have a dial in prayer call every Thursday at 2:00. House Groups have been keeping in touch with Zoom meetings, emails, group text messages, and phone calls.
Our United Methodist Women circles and Peace Tree Kids have been calling and writing letters to our home-centered members, and our Congregational Care Team and church staff have done an excellent job of keeping us connected as well.
Many of you watching this video may already have a church home, and we hope that you’re staying connected to your church family.
But for those of you who don’t currently have a faith community, or for those who haven’t attended church in some time and are looking for a comfortable, casual way of getting plugged in, I invite you to check out Peace Tree.
We’re continuing to foster community using these online opportunities and we’ve had friends and family members join us from places near and far including Arkansas, Mississippi, South Carolina, California, Amsterdam, the Philippines, and Hong Kong just to name a few.
Search for Peace Tree on Facebook and YouTube: I think you’d enjoy all the people you’ll meet during a Wednesday night Bible study, a Sunday morning worship service, a Tuesday night Book Club gathering, or during a Thursday afternoon dial-in prayer call.
Back on March 13, the president declared a national emergency. He also proposed a 15 day plan for slowing the spread of COVID-19. That original 15 day plan got extended through the end of April.
And now, there are guidelines from the White House that governors, mayors, and community leaders are referencing when making decisions regarding a phased re-opening of our cities, counties, and states.
Our church’s leadership team is staying up-to-date on what local health officials and government leaders are advising, and we’re also looking to our denominational leaders, specifically our conference bishop and our district superintendent.
On Friday, Bishop Bill McAlilly shared a blog post with United Methodist pastors stating that it’s in the best interest of the churches we serve in Middle Tennessee, West Tennessee, and Western Kentucky for public worship and other in-person gatherings to remain suspended through May 31.
We at Peace Tree agree with the Bishop’s decision and we will continue to gather online and stay connected through mailed cards and letters, email blasts, social media posts, Zoom meetings, telephone calls, and Facebook Live videos.
In these unprecedented times, the act of physically distancing ourselves from one another is an act of love. Doing so helps us protect ourselves and our families, it demonstrates care and concern for our neighbors (especially those who are most susceptible to this virus), and it could literally help save lives.
If you’re isolated and you need someone to talk to, you can always reach out to me - message me directly over Facebook or Instagram, or email me at email@example.com. If you have a prayer concern, send it to our Congregational Care Team at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you need to contact our office staff, then email email@example.com or call 901-286-5532.
Lastly, if you’d like to financially support our online ministry, then text the word PEACE to 77977 or visit peacetree.church/give.
I leave you with a thought from Psalm 82. In this Psalm, God is presented as the supreme Judge, and God is examining all of those who are in a position of responsibility. They were commissioned to defend the weak, to stand up for the powerless, to uphold the cause of the poor, and to deliver those who are being exploited.
Friends, all of us, in some degree or another, hold a position of responsibility. Throughout every community around the world there live individuals who are immunocompromised, those who have underlying medical conditions, and those who suffer from chronic disease.
They are your grandparents, your parents, your neighbors, your best friends. I’m staying home to help keep them safe, so that one day, I can see them again face to face.
Remember to thank our frontline health care workers, our first responders, grocery store employees, restaurant owners, and other essential workers who are risking their health in order to keep society functioning.
Wash your hands often, stay home as much as possible, and if you do go out in public, then please cover your mouth and nose with a mask or face covering.
Stay in touch. Share the good news of Jesus. Be the good news by helping those in need. And remember that Church Can Happen Anywhere. Thanks for watching and God bless!
In January, I had the opportunity to travel to Israel and visit the holy sites on a Christian pilgrimage. On the first day of our trip, we visited Cana of Galilee, the site of Jesus’ first miracle in which he turned water into wine for a wedding celebration at the behest of his mother.
While we were in the basement of a church built over the spot where this miracle took place, I noticed a minister performing a ceremony for several couples who had come to Cana of Galilee to renew their wedding vows. What better place to renew your vows than the wedding site where Jesus performed his first miracle!
In that moment, I was reminded of a lesson we receive from Ecclesiastes 4:9-12. Whether a couple is renewing their marriage vows, or an engaged couple is standing at the altar reciting wedding vows for the very first time, we all need to remember that marriage involves three important individuals: you, your spouse, and God.
Ecclesiastes talks about the value of a friend. Chapter 4, verse 9 reads, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil” (NRSV). This same sentiment can be heard in the words of Lyn Collins’ 1972 funk hit “Think (About It):” “It takes two to make a thing go right. It takes two to make it out of sight!”
The Scripture goes on to say that friends help each other up, keep each other warm, and watch each other’s backs in a fight. Then verse 12 ends with the words, “A threefold cord is not quickly broken.” Up to this point, we’ve only read about two friends. So, why does a THREEfold cord suddenly appear? This is where God is reminding us that His presence is a necessary part of any relationship, including the marriage relationship.
As we consider God’s presence in the midst of our relationships, we must first acknowledge that we are made in God’s image. We see this in Genesis 1:27 where it says, “So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (NRSV).
Those who practice the Christian faith believe in the Triune God. In the midst of the Trinity’s mystery exists a community: God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Just like our Creator, we are meant for community, and at the center of our community is God. It is God who blesses and sustains our communities. In our hearts, we know there is no life apart from the Divine Presence. Jesus demonstrates this with his own life by surrounding himself with friends and family as he begins his three year ministry in Israel.
He healed individuals, families, and entire groups of people. Before He was arrested and ultimately sentenced to death on a cross, He taught his disciples a new commandment: “Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another” (John 13:34).
When a couple marries, they start a new family. If they decide to have children or to adopt, then their community grows larger. God desires to live at the center of this community, to bless these relationships, to serve as a necessary strand in the threefold cord.
Whether you’re planning a wedding and preparing for a lifelong marriage this year, or you’re celebrating another anniversary with your spouse, I encourage you to always put God first.
Abide in God and remember that you are made in God’s image. God the Father exists as community, so be mindful of the community surrounding you and your significant other. God the Son cared deeply about relationships, so remember to invest time and energy into the relationship and friendship you share with your spouse. God the Holy Spirit holds everything together, strengthening your marriage so that it will not be broken. Love each other the way Christ loves you.
Treat your spouse the way Christ would treat them. And together, ask yourselves how the two of you may make a difference in your world, in your community. God is part of yours and your spouse’s threefold cord, ready to bless you both as you tie the knot. Thanks be to God!
+Peace and Love from Pastor Kris
(This article originally appeared in the March/April 2019 edition of Tour Collierville Magazine)
It takes dozens of volunteers to make our Sunday morning Large Group worship celebrations possible each and every week. As a way of showing our appreciation to these amazing individuals, we’re taking a break from holding a worship service this Sunday so that they can continue celebrating Christmas with their families.
We believe it’s important to rest and to spend time abiding in God. So, we’ve assembled the following worship materials for you and your family to use in order to worship God wherever you’re spending this weekend.
We believe “Church Can Happen Anywhere,” so we hope you’ll invite others to join you in reading Scripture, praying, singing, and discussing the Gospel message from Matthew 2:1-12.
Remember to “Check In” to Peace Tree UMC on Facebook and Instagram. Every 5 check-ins will provide a book to a child living in Tanzania thanks to our partnership with Causely and Books for Africa. And be sure to use the hashtag #givebooks so that other people will know about this month’s charitable cause.
Have a safe and happy New Year’s weekend! We’ll see each of you back at the Malco Forest Hill Cinema on January 6th at 10AM as we kick off our new sermon series, “Best Song Ever.” We’ll hear the story behind “It Is Well with My Soul,” and we’ll hear a message based on Philippians 4:4-7.
If you’d like to make donation to Peace Tree this week, you can give HERE, and if you have any prayer requests, then please share them with us HERE. God bless!
+Peace and Love from Pastor Kris
OPEN WITH PRAYER
to you all hearts are open
and from you no secrets are hidden.
Through the power of your Holy Spirit,
allow us to feel your presence.
As we read your Word
and worship the newborn King,
we ask for the forgiveness of sins.
In Christ’s holy name we pray. Amen.
In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.’
When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:
“And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who is to shepherd my people Israel.” ’
Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, ‘Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.’
When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy.
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. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.
(Matthew 2:1-12, New Revised Standard Version)
Watch this music video for “Noel (feat. Lauren Daigle)” by Chris Tomlin. Listen to the lyrics (or sing/read them below) and consider what God is saying to you.
Love incarnate, love divine
Star and angels gave the sign
Bow to babe on bended knee
The Savior of humanity
Unto us a Child is born
He shall reign forevermore
Come and see what God has done
The story of amazing love!
The light of the world, given for us
Son of God and Son of man
There before the world began
Born to suffer, born to save
Born to raise us from the grave
Christ the everlasting Lord
He shall reign forevermore
(Written by Edmond Martin Cash, Matthew James Redman, Christopher D Tomlin • Copyright © Capitol Christian Music Group, Music Services, Inc.)
CLOSE WITH PRAYER
Gracious and loving God,
we come before you
with no gifts but ourselves.
Accept and receive our lives
that we may be manifestations
of your presence;
let the light of your Spirit
shine within and among us,
so that we may share in the mystery of your purpose
of blessing for all creation,
through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.
How many of you remember the climactic scene from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade? If you’ll recall, Indiana has to pass through three challenges in order to reach the Holy Grail and save his father from certain death. His father, played by Sean Connery, had been researching the Holy Grail and wrote down three clues to allow for safe passage through the challenges, allowing someone to successfully reach the Grail.
Indiana makes it through because he has a book to guide him. Now, I don’t know how often you feel like you’ve had to make a Leap of Faith. For me, agreeing to be on the Peace Tree Launch Team in 2015 was a Leap of Faith. Like Indy, I’m not sure I would have made the leap if I didn’t have my book, the Bible.
My first year on the Launch Team was my last year of Disciple Bible study (six years earlier when I started the Disciple series, I wasn’t sure I would get past the first year much less complete the whole series). Planting a church was not on my radar. I had no thoughts of leaving Collierville United Methodist Church.
I was comfortable. Paul and I had joined Collierville UMC in 1999. We had been members long enough that we had been involved in several areas and knew many people. We liked our Sunday School class a lot. I even started to occasionally fill in for our Sunday school teachers during the summer months to give them a break.
Our youngest child, Caleb, was very involved in all of the children’s programming and continued to be involved as he grew up and joined the youth program. He earned a trophy memorizing the books of the Bible and taught himself guitar so he could play in the youth praise band. Rev. Harry Durbin had invited him to be on his team in a Scrabble tournament, and he went on numerous youth trips to Mountain TOP, Breakthru, BigStuf Camps, Lake Junaluska and Lakeshore Camp.
I had been intrigued by Disciple Bible Study for a while. I knew many members of my Sunday School class had taken Disciple lessons, and they all spoke highly of the courses. I had enrolled once before but I was still working a full-time job, and with the kids’ schedules it was a struggle to keep up.
Finally the time came where my husband, Paul, and I could take the course at the same time. We started with over 20 people that first year. People came and went over the six years we participated in Disciple, but a core group of six made it through all six years. We formed really close friendships with those people as we studied Scripture together and prayed for each other during that time.
Little did I know that as I was working through these lessons throughout the Bible and on Christian & Methodist theology, God was preparing me to take my Leap of Faith. Just getting the overview of the Bible in the first year and understanding how the Old Testament and the New Testament work together was eye-opening. By Year Six we compared the Gospels and talked about what was the same, what was different, and why.
When we heard at Collierville UMC that Pastor Kristofer would be planting a church and putting together a Launch Team, I was immediately excited. But that excitement was followed by a great sense of doubt. What if I wanted to serve on this team but my husband didn’t? What if we wanted to do this but Kristofer had enough volunteers or didn’t feel he needed us? How long would we have to commit before we could return to CUMC?
I am not sure how called my husband felt to this new church plant, but he agreed to join me for a face-to-face talk with Pastor Kris. I do remember telling Paul after our talk that I did not want us to be at separate churches, so if he wasn’t comfortable with moving forward then we would stay at CUMC. However, since we had built up a better Biblical foundation through Disciple, and because we truly believed Kris was answering God’s call, we decided to take the leap.
Then as Rev. David Atkinson, the senior pastor at CUMC said, it got real! It became clear to us with each passing week that church planting was bigger than we realized and better than we hoped.
Faith is not a one-time thing. Faith is part of the lifestyle of a disciple of Jesus Christ. Faith is trusting Him. John Wesley was particularly concerned about inviting people to experience grace and to grow in their knowledge and love of God through disciplined Christian living. He emphasized that Christian living is putting faith and love into action. Wesley believed in salvation by God’s grace but was convinced that salvation should evidence itself as faith and love in action.
We each are called to take a Leap of Faith. We each must answer our own call. Your call may be the similar to someone else’s call; it may be completely different. The point is that we have a Good Book to help us get ready and to prepare for that call. The Bible is a book that will help us see the signs and recognize them. It’s a book that teaches us the correct response to God’s call. It leads us to the understanding that faith grows through our participation in the church community — a community where we are nourished and equipped for mission and service to the world.
Every House Group host at Peace Tree takes a Leap of Faith when they open up their home to both church members and guests. Young people and families take Leaps of Faith when they come forward to be baptized and when they decide to join our congregation as members. Our service groups SIS and BRO have taken Leaps of Faith when they decided to organize and begin serving the people of our community with their time and energy. Our students have taken Leaps of Faith by joining multi-generational House Groups instead of joining a more age-specific children’s program or youth group.
So, now the questions for you are: How is God calling you? Are you ready to take your Leap of Faith? May God bless you as you answer the call.
Follow the journey of a new church as we answer the call to reach people in Collierville, Memphis, and the Mid-South.