This morning, Pastor Kris joined with local pastors to pray for the town of Collierville and the city of Germantown as we observed the National Day of Prayer. Prayers were lifted up for parents, first responders, those serving in the military, young people, teachers, elected officials, local pastors, those struggling with addiction, and local business leaders. The 9:00 a.m. observance was held on the steps of Collierville's Town Hall with singing led by The Orchard Church. The Noonday observance was held in front of Germantown's City Hall, and several lay people participated by leading prayer.
It truly was a blessing to see neighbors, government officials, and faith communities come together for a single purpose. Below, you can read the two prayers that Pastor Kris shared, and at the bottom of the post you'll find the Facebook Live video that was live streamed by Germantown Baptist Church. We hope that you will be in prayer today for all Americans as well as our neighbors in countries near and far.
“Love Thy Neighbor”
God of all nations, you have so richly blessed this community. We give thanks for all the ways you provide for us and for our neighbors. We confess that we do not always put others’ needs above our own, that in this world of “me first,” we often neglect those around us. Lord give us eyes to see and ears to hear.
From an early age we learn to do unto others as we would have them do to us, and yet you’ve set the bar so much higher. You sent your Son into the world to love us unconditionally. He gave his life to serve as the atoning sacrifice for our sin, and before he left, he instructed his disciples to love one another as he loved them. We recognize that our wants and desires are no longer the standard; your good and perfect love is the standard, Lord, and we strive to model our lives after the example of your Son, Jesus Christ.
His message and challenge still rings in our ears: to love others as Jesus loves us, to see others the way God sees them. May the things that break your heart also break our hearts. May we laugh with sisters and brothers who laugh and weep with those who weep. Allow us to see our neighbors as people who have been created in the Image of God. Give us the strength to stand against racism, sexism, injustice, and prejudice in any form that it may present itself.
There are so many people in this wonderful town of varying ages, genders, creeds, and ethnicities, and all have sacred worth. May we no longer dismiss someone for being different from ourselves, for being too young or too old, for being “the other gender,” for having a skin tone that differs from our own, or for originating from another country. Help us realize that everyone has a seat at your table, that the Body of Christ is made up of many individual members and no two are the same.
Again, we thank you for this beautiful town and its people, and we praise you this glorious morning. Forgive us when we sin; soften our hearts - mold us and put us to what you will. Fill our cups, Lord, and use us as ambassadors of your holy Kingdom. Guide us to those who are in need, especially the widow and the orphan, the foreigner and the stranger, the invisible and the untouchable. Enable us to see our neighbors as you see them, and by your Spirit, help us to love one another as you first loved us.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
"A Prayer for Families"
God of grace and God of glory, we give you thanks for this beautiful day that you have blessed us with. We especially thank you for the great city of Germantown and the many families that make up this community. Because of our fallen nature, we have not always been the loving neighbors and caring citizens that you call us to be; but, by your Spirit, we are able to walk a closer walk with your Son, taking up our cross to live our lives as a forgiven people.
This afternoon, we humbly approach your throne and ask that you bless the families of this community. Fill each home with your unconditional love. Call each mother and father to lead their families with boldness, with grace, and with wisdom. Bless each child as they discover and explore this world. Watch over families as they welcome children into this world at Methodist Le Bonheur Hospital. Care for each mother and her family in the Women’s Pavilion.
Expand our understanding of “Family,” Lord. Help us to see the widow and widower in our neighborhood as part of our extended family. Encourage us to show hospitality to those who are moving into this city from other towns, states, and countries. Guide our conversations and discourse so that we may build each other up and work towards common goals.
Attend to the needs of grandparents who have stepped into the role of parent or guardian. Assist husbands and wives who struggle with infertility. Guide those who are fostering children in need, and advocate for those who seek to adopt. Lord, you have adopted each of us into your family through the justifying grace of Jesus Christ. We thank you for grafting us into your family tree, and we pray that we inherit the family traits of righteousness, purity, and kindness.
Again, we thank you for this National Day of Prayer and for this opportunity to gather as the people of Germantown. May we continue to conform ourselves to the example of Jesus Christ, our brother, the firstborn, your only begotten Son, who laid down his life so that me may truly live.
In his name we pray. Amen.
Not every workplace observes Good Friday as a holiday (i.e. Holy Day), and not everyone has the ability to attend a Good Friday worship service in person. So, we've assembled these prayers, pictures, and readings for you to use on your own time. As you do so, reflect on Jesus' sacrifice, his death on a cross, and the depths of God's love for all of humanity.
Christ himself bore our sins in his body on the tree that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. So, let us pray:
your Son Jesus Christ was lifted high upon the cross
so that he might draw the whole world to himself.
Grant that we, who glory in this death for our salvation,
may also glory in his call to take up our cross and follow him;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
(The United Methodist Book of Worship, "A Service for Good Friday")
See, my servant shall prosper; he shall be exalted and lifted up, and shall be very high. Just as there were many who were astonished at him—so marred was his appearance, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of mortals— so he shall startle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which had not been told them they shall see, and that which they had not heard they shall contemplate.
Who has believed what we have heard? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces he was despised, and we held him of no account.
Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By a perversion of justice he was taken away. Who could have imagined his future? For he was cut off from the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people. They made his grave with the wicked and his tomb with the rich, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.
Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain. When you make his life an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days; through him the will of the Lord shall prosper. Out of his anguish he shall see light; he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge. The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he poured out himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they dressed him in a purple robe. They kept coming up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and striking him on the face. Pilate went out again and said to them, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no case against him.” So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!” When the chief priests and the police saw him, they shouted, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him; I find no case against him.” The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has claimed to be the Son of God.”
Now when Pilate heard this, he was more afraid than ever. He entered his headquarters again and asked Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. Pilate therefore said to him, “Do you refuse to speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?” Jesus answered him, “You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.” From then on Pilate tried to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are no friend of the emperor. Everyone who claims to be a king sets himself against the emperor.” When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus outside and sat on the judge’s bench at a place called The Stone Pavement, or in Hebrew Gabbatha.
Now it was the day of Preparation for the Passover; and it was about noon. He said to the Jews, “Here is your King!” They cried out, “Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!” Pilate asked them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but the emperor.”
Then he handed him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus;and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them.
Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek. Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”
When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. So they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it.” This was to fulfill what the scripture says, “They divided my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots.” And that is what the soldiers did. Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.
After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I am thirsty.” A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
Since it was the day of Preparation, the Jews did not want the bodies left on the cross during the sabbath, especially because that sabbath was a day of great solemnity. So they asked Pilate to have the legs of the crucified men broken and the bodies removed. Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out. (He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth.) These things occurred so that the scripture might be fulfilled, “None of his bones shall be broken.” And again another passage of scripture says, “They will look on the one whom they have pierced.”
After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body. Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.
graciously behold this your family,
for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing
to be betrayed into the hands of sinners,
and to suffer death upon the cross;
who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
One God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(The Book of Common Prayer)
Peace Tree is part of the United Methodist Church, and we are connected regionally to other UMC congregations in Middle Tennessee, West Tennessee, and Western Kentucky. Our area is being challenged by the planned gathering of white supremacists and associated hate groups in Murfreesboro and Shelbyville on October 28, 2017. The following is a letter written by Bishop Bill McAlilly to local churches. You can read the original post on Bishop McAlilly's blog HERE.
Dear United Methodist Family,
The same hate groups that devastated the Charlottesville, Virginia community just a few weeks ago are now targeting our Tennessee Conference by planning to gather in Murfreesboro and Shelbyville on October 28, 2017 to spread the vitriolic evil of racism. As United Methodists, we must remember and recommit ourselves to the ideals of our United Methodist social witness.
Within our Social Principles we understand racism as sin and contrary to the fundamental recognition that “our primary identity is as children of God.” “Racism … plagues and hinders our relationship with Christ, inasmuch as it is antithetical to the gospel itself.” I call on all of us to renew our personal and collective commitment to stand against racism and the violence born from it.
Some have inquired as to our possible response to the racist protests being planned. We are encouraging people to work within the interfaith partnerships already formed. The Shelbyville First United Methodist Church and the Shelbyville Church of the Nazarene will be sponsoring a prayer vigil on Thursday, October 26, 2017.
The Rutherford County Interfaith Council and the City of Murfreesboro encourage individuals to consult the #Murfreesboroloves Facebook community. Individuals who seek to publicly counter-protest in the Shelbyville area should consult the Shelbyville Times Gazette for information on where to legally gather. For more information, please feel free to call the Stones River District Superintendent, Rev. Max Mayo, at (615) 893-5886.
I call upon all United Methodists to join in praying for our communities as well as discovering creative ways to live our baptismal vow to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.
Bishop Bill McAlilly
Also, I invite you to read and reflect on Reverend Paul Purdue’s sermon, Blessed Are the Peacemakers – Being Mistaken for the Children of God preached Sunday, October 8, 2017 in the aftermath of the shooting in Las Vegas. You will find a link to this message below:
Rev. Paul Purdue: Blessed are the peacemakers – Being mistaken for the Children of God
Our thoughts and prayers are with all those who have been affected by Hurricane Harvey. No amount of emergency preparation could have readied the Lone Star State for the sheer volume of rain and flooding that has drenched the Texas coast. Many have reported that the damage caused by this storm has gone far beyond any sort of "worse-case scenario" that they had imagined. While we in the Mid-South are now experiencing the remnants of this storm, many are asking how we can help. We'd like to offer several ways that Memphians and Mid-South residents can support the victims of Hurricane Harvey.
We are still several weeks away before churches, schools, and other organizations can host disaster recovery teams. The best immediate response we recommend is to donate directly to organizations that are already on the ground providing relief. We suggest making a donation to the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) which has a 4-star rating on Charity Navigator. You can also give to our sister churches in the Rio Texas Conference (www.riotexas.org). 100% of the money donated to disaster recovery through these organizations goes directly to the people who need it the most; it never pays for staff or administration since those positions are supported by church offerings and apportionments.
Another way we can make an impact from afar is to assemble Cleaning Buckets. United Methodist Churches from across Tennessee and Western Kentucky are filling up an 18-wheeler with hundreds of cleaning buckets to assist Texans in the recovery efforts. There are several locations that are collecting buckets and other items in the upcoming week. Please drop off completed buckets or items from this list at Mellow Mushroom Germantown on Monday, September 4th from 7:00-9:00. You can also drop off items at the Collierville UMC Ministry Center weekdays during business hours. If you live in Bartlett, Lakeland, or Cordova, you can drop off your cleaning buckets at St. Paul UMC (call them at 901-387-0007 for drop off times). The truck is leaving from Nashville on Monday, September 11th and will be stopping in Lakeland to load up donations from the Memphis Metro area.
Scroll down to see two videos: one showing you how to assemble a cleaning bucket, and the other is how you can assemble a health kit (we recorded this video approximately one year ago when Louisiana was experiencing catastrophic flooding). We'll receive more info about team training and recovery teams that will journey down to Texas. Email us today if you'd like to be notified of updates and news regarding these recovery teams.
Let's all continue to pray for Texas and all those affected by Harvey. Pray for the safety of the military, police, firefighters, EMTs, and everyday people who are giving their time, energy, and resources to rescue people who've been left stranded and helpless. And pray for families and individuals who have lost everything in the floods. Even during these dark times, we know that God is with our brothers & sisters, and we trust that God will offer healing and redemption to those in need.
+Peace and Love from Pastor Kris
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. 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 holiday weekend.
We believe “Church Can Happen Anywhere,” and we hope you’ll invite others to join you in reading Scripture, praying, singing, and discussing the Gospel message from Matthew 10:40-42. Remember to “Check In” to Peace Tree UMC on Facebook and Instagram. Every check-in will provide a week of clean drinking water to a family in need thanks to our partnership with Causely and Northwest Haiti Christian Mission. And be sure to use the hashtag #givewater so that other people will know about this month’s charitable cause.
Have a safe and happy 4th of July weekend! We’ll see each of you back at the Malco Collierville Towne Cinema on July 9th at 10AM as we continue our Summer at the Movies sermon series with a movie clip from Soul Surfer and a message based on Matthew 11:16-30. 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
O God, you are the hope of all the ends of the earth,
the God of the spirits of all flesh.
Hear our humble intercession for all races and families on earth,
that you will turn all hearts to yourself.
Remove from our minds hatred, prejudice, and contempt
for those who are not of our own race or color, class or creed,
that, departing from everything that estranges and divides,
we may by you be brought into unity of spirit, in the bond of peace.
(Church of Scotland, 20th Cent., Alt.)
“Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”
(Matthew 10:40-42, New Revised Standard Version)
Watch this music video for Matthew West’s Do Something. Listen to the lyrics (or sing/read them below) and consider what God is calling you to do this week.
I woke up this morning
Saw a world full of trouble now, thought
How’d we ever get so far down, and
How’s it ever gonna turn around
So I turned my eyes to Heaven
I thought, “God, why don’t You do something?”
Well, I just couldn’t bear the thought of
People living in poverty
Children sold into slavery
The thought disgusted me
So, I shook my fist at Heaven
Said, “God, why don’t You do something?”
He said, “I did, yeah, I created you.”
If not us, then who
If not me and you
Right now, it’s time for us to do something, yeah
If not now, then when
Will we see an end
To all this pain
Oh, it’s not enough to do nothing
It’s time for us to do something
I’m so tired of talking about
How we are God’s hands and feet
But it’s easier to say than to be
Live like angels of apathy who tell ourselves
It’s alright, “somebody else will do something”
Well, I don’t know about you
But I’m sick and tired of life with no desire
I don’t want a flame, I want a fire and
I wanna be the one who stands up and says
“I’m gonna do something”
We are the salt of the earth
We are a city on a hill
We’re never gonna change the world
By standing still
No, we won’t stand still
(Matthew West, Copyright Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.)
CLOSE WITH PRAYER
God of grace and glory,
we thank you that you judge us not by the perfection of our actions,
but by our readiness to live boldly by faith.
Help us, as individuals and as a congregation,
to trust you and follow where you lead,
that in Christ your name may be glorified in all the earth. Amen.
(Ruth Duck, USA, 20th Cent.)
This morning, Pastor Kris joined with our local pastors to pray for the town of Collierville and its citizens as we observed the National Day of Prayer. Prayers were lifted up for single parents, first responders, those serving in the military, young people, teachers, elected officials, local pastors, and the unemployed. We were also led in singing by the Central Church praise choir. It was a blessing to see everyone come together as one town worshiping God. Below, you can read the prayer that Pastor Kris shared, and at the bottom of the post you'll find the Facebook Live video that was shared by the Town of Collierville. We hope that you will be in prayer today for all people in this great land and for all of our neighbors in countries near and far.
God of all nations, we turn to you this day in worship and prayer as your children. We know your character, and we have seen how you look favorably upon the youngest in society.
You protected Moses when he was but a babe floating down the Nile in a basket made of reeds. You chose David, the young shepherd boy to lead your people, Israel. Your angel came to Mary, a young virgin, and asked her to be the mother of the Messiah. And from the Gospel of Luke, we see how Jesus Christ as a teenager grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and all the people.
Christ himself said, "Let the little children come to me." So on this day, we ask that you would watch over the young people in the town of Collierville. Bless them as they study, and learn, and explore the world around them. Guide them as they grow and develop into young adults. Place good role models and upstanding examples in their lives. And watch over all the parents and adults of our town, for we know that these young people look to us and take in all that we say and do.
May we not look down on Collierville's teenagers and young people simply because they are young. But may we learn from them, may we listen to them, and may we build them up and direct them towards your perfect plan for a prosperous future full of hope and peace.
Dear God, bless the families of this great town and bless our young people. Watch over them and fill their homes with your good and perfect love and the power of your holy presence. We ask all of this in the mighty name of Jesus, who was born as a baby in Bethlehem, who fled to Egypt as a young child, who conversed with teachers in the Temple as a teenager, and who was baptized in the Jordan as a young adult. It is in His name that we pray for all of our youth. Amen.
Pastor Kris preached "Live Together / Follow Christ" on the Sunday following the 2016 presidential election. Below is his sermon manuscript, and you can watch the full sermon in the video below. The Scriptural focus for this sermon is Luke 5:1-11. Please share your thoughts and reflections in the Comments section.
Here we are for the fourth time in this place to worship God, but what marks this Sunday as different from earlier Preview Services is that the presidential election has taken place in our country merely 5 days ago. And I'd be a horrible preacher if I didn't address this moment in our country's history.
So on this day, as I address two of Peace Tree's core values (Live Together and Follow Christ), I do so knowing that some people sitting in this movie theater voted for Trump and others voted for Clinton. Some voted for a 3rd party candidate and some wrote in Mickey Mouse or wrote in Harambe.
But here we are...together, singing our praises to God, hearing the story of Jesus calling his first disciples to follow him, and we are all members of the same human family.
It's probably safe to say that there are as many different opinions about this country and its priorities and the steps we need to take as there are people sitting in this room. So we have one of two choices to make today and everyday, and here they are: do we choose to turn our backs on our neighbors who are different than us? Do we hate those who disagree with us? Do we say, "I'll go it alone?" OR do we say that we choose to live together, that we embrace each other as brother and sister, and that we claim one another as family.
Jesus never held public office as an elected official, but he was called the King of the Jews. And as the King of the Jews (a.k.a the Son of God and the Son of Man), he addressed economic disparity, accepted people from other cultures, disrupted the establishment, was branded a radical and a religious zealot, and he taught a new way. But by doing all of this, he put a target on his back.
Ultimately, the people of Israel were given a chance to vote on Jesus. They could vote to free Christ during the Jewish feast of Passover, but instead they chose to free another prisoner, and thus, the Son of God was crucified. But in Jesus' sacrifice, in taking on our sin, and in demonstrating God's great love for humanity, Christ gave us all a path to citizenship in God's Kingdom.
So when we say that at Peace Tree we Live Together and Follow Christ, we do so claiming our shared inheritance in Christ. We don't focus on the things the world focuses on: the spectrum of ages, the differences in income, the number of cultures represented here today. Instead we rally around Christ and his mission in saving this world and pointing people to God.
When we look at this morning's passage from the Gospel of Luke, we see Peter putting into practice the core value of Live Together. Peter does not work alone; he has fishing partners that we find out are the brothers James and John. Not only that, but when the fish that Jesus instructs them to catch becomes too great to haul in, they're able to signal another boat for help. In their day and time, you needed a community to get by, to live and to eat. Friends and neighbors looked out for each other, and here we see them working alongside one another.
But what amazes me most about this invitation to follow Christ, is that Peter, James, and John drop everything (and I mean everything!) in order to follow Jesus. They leave behind their livelihoods, their families, and now this insurmountable catch of fish that may have possibly met their quota for the rest of the year, all in order to follow Christ! How many of us would walk away from our careers, and our families, and from financial stability to follow a divisive figure who was performing miracles and claimed that he spoke directly to God?
Some of you are thinking, "This is nice and all, learning about Peter and James and John from 2000 years ago, but we're scared right now, today on Nov 13, 2016. And I get it; some people are fearful for their community, others are scared that the country will not come together - that we won't be the UNITED States, and for others there is uncertainty about the future when it comes to wars being fought, and when it boils down to the stock market, or healthcare and national security."
So let me offer a word from Ricky James, a friend and pastor in Mississippi, who shared this post on his Facebook page Wednesday morning:
"At around 3:00 a.m. this morning my five year old climbed in our bed. He said he was afraid of the dark. This is a common occurrence these days as he wakes up in the middle of the night, alone in a dark room, and seeks the solace of his parent’s bed. Normally I’m annoyed at this because he wakes me up.
This morning I was already awake. I had just watched the acceptance speech of President-Elect Trump. On social media I saw the full spectrum of emotions: joy, astonishment, anger, and fear. It was that last emotion that had kept me up. I thought of all the people I knew who were afraid because of what had just occurred. I was pondering fear and it was keeping me awake.
I know many people who voted for Secretary Clinton and were now afraid at what this election means. They are afraid for what this means for people in vulnerable situations because of their race, gender, status, and a myriad of other identifiers. They are afraid that many of their rights are now in jeopardy. Some are afraid for their lives. This fear is real.
I know many people who voted for President-Elect Trump who were afraid. They were afraid of rising healthcare costs, of the loss of jobs in their community, of a deep belief that their own sense of self-worth was slipping away. They were afraid that the country they saw around them was fundamentally different than the world they grew up in. They were afraid of what the world would look like tomorrow. This fear is real.
I can’t pretend that fear isn’t real. And I don’t presume to tell anyone today that they shouldn’t be afraid. As a pastor I’ve sat with many people who were experiencing moments of great fear. I often see two responses to such fear. Option one: find someone to blame and lash out. Option two: surround yourself with people you love and trust to hold you in the dark. I try my best to steer people to the second option.
All I can offer is the good advice that came to me this morning at 3:00 a.m. from my five year old: it’s ok to be afraid of the dark; and you don’t have to face it alone."
Friends, we have two options, and I hope we all choose to seek the embrace of our Heavenly Father and to surround ourselves with people we love and trust. The first disciples chose this; they chose to live together. They needed each other as they followed Christ and learned from him, they needed each other during the dark days of the crucifixion, and they needed each other still as they formed a beloved community and planted the first Christian church in Jerusalem. They lived together as they followed Christ.
Look again to today's passage; Jesus says to you and to his first disciples the same thing that the angels spoke to the shepherds in the fields at Christmas, "Do not be afraid." These are actually the first words that Jesus speaks to them after performing his fishing miracle. So pause for a moment and consider the power in that statement: Do - not - be - afraid! Do not fear.
The first disciples cast aside anxiety, and worry, and the stability of a steady job, and they all followed Christ. They chose not to fear when they chose to follow Jesus, and they made this choice together as one group who cared for others.
Friends, we are not alone. We have each other. And even if the person you're sitting next to is of a different gender or a different age, whether they are single or married, with children or without, voted for the same candidate as you did or for a different person, they are still your sister and brother in Christ, and they are made in the Image of God.
Living together doesn't mean we pretend we're all the same and that we'll never disagree on issues. It means that we must recognize how we are all wonderfully made by a good, good Father, and that many different people with different gifts make up the Body of Christ just as different disciples from various backgrounds and professions and education levels with varying levels of faith made up Jesus' original Twelve. 'Different' is beautiful in the Family of God.
The great author, Harper Lee, said it best in her famous work, To Kill a Mockingbird, "You can choose your friends but you sho' can't choose your family, an' they're still kin to you no matter whether you acknowledge 'em or not, and it makes you look right silly when you don't."
Today, I pray that we acknowledge our great human family. I pray that we choose to Live Together just as the first disciples chose to live together. And I pray that we won't be afraid to leave everything behind in order to Follow Christ.
As another school year begins, we offer this prayer and ask for God’s blessing. We invite you to make this your prayer as well. And for those who do not pray regularly, we hope you will learn that Prayer is simply a conversation between you and God.
Please watch over our students. Help them as they grow in knowledge and understanding. Strengthen them as they develop into young women and young men. Give them curiosity as they wander and wonder. Instill in them the values of respect and humility. Keep them from saying hurtful words towards their classmates, but instead help foster in them a sense of teamwork and school pride as they study in classrooms, play in gymnasiums, and eat in cafeterias.
Guide our teachers and administrators. Help them to understand the heads and hearts of their students. Encourage them to take risks when challenging students to learn and discover on their own. Give our teachers patience as they follow policies and procedures, and do not allow their passions for teaching to become extinguished. Make clear your path to administrators as they shoulder the heavy burden of leading faculties and entire school districts.
Bless the bus drivers, crossing guards, cafeteria workers, custodial staff, teacher assistants, and resource officers. All of these individuals play a pivotal role in the daily experience of our children. Keep our children safe on the roads to and from campus. Work within the nutrients of the food to help sustain our students, and may we be mindful of hungry children who return home to empty refrigerators and pantries. Thank you for individuals who maintain clean facilities and keep our children safe so that they may learn in healthy environments.
Watch over the parents who pack lunches, drive carpools, assist with science fair projects, and read books along with their children. Hear their worries and fears as students are confronted with bullies, wrestle with learning disabilities, and struggle against temptation. Encourage them to take an active role in their student’s academic life. Guide the work of local Parent Teacher Associations and bless conversations about the future development of school districts.
Lord, be with students who are home-schooled and students who attend alternative schools. Watch over young people who have recently graduated from high school and are beginning their studies at a junior college or a four-year college or university. Protect those who have enlisted in the military and are currently undergoing basic training. Guide those who are attending community college, technical college, or some type of trade school.
Walk alongside all of us, God, as we strive to be life-long learners. Enlighten those who study your Word. Teach us lessons from the many books and historical figures which form the Bible. Open our eyes each day to the beauty of your Creation. And may we see in one another a spark of the Divine that you have placed in each human being.
We ask for all these things in the mighty name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Susan and I have been active members of Collierville United Methodist Church for the greater part of our lives. We love our church, and we love telling others about it! Through the years we have served on dozens of committees, work areas, and both local and international mission teams. So when the opportunity arose to collaborate with Pastor Kris in the planting of a new church, we eagerly volunteered for such a unique outreach.
In spite of the hundreds of congregations found in Collierville and in neighboring towns, some folks still have a hard time finding themselves in church these days.
Peace Tree UMC is a new type of church plant supported by Collierville United Methodist Church. We are committed to reaching friends and neighbors who are currently M.O.S. “Missing on Sundays.” Many people who are not connected to a faith community are people who live and work amongst us: they attend local schools, serve in restaurants, work in hospitals, repair our cars, guide us with our investment portfolios, prepare coffee at Starbucks, and even exercise with us at the gym. Peace Tree wants to form new relationships and share the promise of God’s love with all people in all kinds of places and spaces, every day of the week.
The question that Susan and I have asked is, "How do we help foster these new relationships?"
Recently, we attended a New Church “Boot Camp” hosted by the Memphis and Tennessee Annual Conferences. One of the topics of the 3-day conference was a fascinating but unsettling session regarding millennial attitudes and impressions towards Christians and traditional worship. We were surprised to learn the statistics on how poorly Christians are viewed by a majority of 18 to 39 year old young adults who do not have a regular connection to a faith group. In the follow-up session, the leaders of the workshop presented us with case studies of helpful techniques used by successful church plants that have brought thousands to Christ.
Once we completed "Boot Camp," Peace Tree UMC formed a Launch Team, and we regularly meet for worship, fellowship, and ministry planning. The primary way we hope to build community is by planning a network of House Groups in preparation of Peace Tree's official launch. By sponsoring weekly house meetings as well as small group meetings held in public spaces, we hope to connect our Mid-South neighbors with new friends in the faith. Our prayer is that these small groups of believers will connect with other small groups within the Peace Tree family in order to one day form a larger missional, worshiping community. There is much work in front of us, but we look forward to what God has in store for Peace Tree!
+Len & Susan
We thank you for who you are. You are the Creator of everything we can touch, taste, and see, and yet you take the time to walk with us, to listen to us, and to care for us in our daily lives. You don't need us in order to accomplish your goals, but you've honored us by asking us to work in your harvest and to reach your people.
This day, as we eagerly anticipate our first community event in Collierville, we ask that you would bless our work. Please build upon the energy and excitement that has gone into the planning of this event. May the plans that we've discussed not be our plans, but instead may they hopefully be your plans for Saturday in Suggs Park.
Bless the people whom we will meet. May they feel comfortable in sharing their stories with us. May those who have left the Church find their way back with the people of Peace Tree walking by their side. May those who have had questions about Christianity and have expressed doubts over their faith find hope and promise in the House Groups that are forming.
Watch over the children who will come and enjoy life in the playground and spray park. Keep the dogs in the dog park healthy. Inspire the musicians who will share their gift with all those at our Field Day. Bring neighbors together around the games that will be set up. And cool everyone down with the pure, clean bottled water and the juicy goodness of ice-pops.
Above all, may we delight in your presence! Allow us to truly connect with our neighbors so that we may fulfill our mission of "Loving God by Loving Others." Send your Holy Spirit upon us this Saturday so that all those who encounter the Peace Tree squad will also encounter God. And thank you for all the times you've remained faithful to us.
In the mighty name of Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.
Follow the journey of a new church as we answer the call to reach people in Collierville, Memphis, and the Mid-South.