We're well into the thick of it. Lent begins with Ash Wednesday and then before we know it is time to hunt Easter eggs and consider meal options for Resurrection Sunday.
Yet we have this lingering sense in our soul that to dig deeper might be good for us and that our look at the cross might change us in a profound way.
Our study guide during these sacred days has been Witness at the Cross by Amy-Jill Levine, and it invites us to consider all those who gathered around the cross.
My invitation for all of us is to find our place with them and to see how truth and grace offered by Jesus is being lived out in our journeys.
These times in which we live have heightened our fears and left us anxious and sad or even mad. As we stand at the cross here is the verse to remember and let sink into your soul:
“But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” (Isaiah 43:1)
Because we are baptized, we are called to live differently. Our vocation is to not let fear defeat or dominate us. Every person then and now who is a witness to the cross is deeply loved by the Savior who hangs on it.
Walter Bruggeman, the insightful Old Testament scholar, offers the truth that those who change the world will not be the frightened but the ones empowered by a confidence that is relentless in its trust in God.
In his book, Devotions for Lent, he is suggestive of how we better the world when we live unafraid.
“The UNAFRAID are open to the neighbor, while the frightened are defending themselves from the neighbor.
The UNAFRAID are generous in the community, while the frightened, in their anxiety, must keep and store and accumulate, to make themselves feel safe.
The UNAFRAID commit acts of compassion and mercy, while the frightened do not notice those in need.
The UNAFRAID are committed to justice for the weak and the poor, while the frightened see them only as threats.
The UNAFRAID pray in the morning, care through the day, and rejoice at night in thanks and praise, while the frightened are endlessly restless and dissatisfied.”
There you have it. I encourage you to dig deep. Give your fears to God. He knows us by name! That is an amazing gift.
God’s love will not let us go and never abandon us. Our scary world calls us to trust in God’s unfailing love and to know that we are not alone.
+Dr. Harry Durbin, Minister of Discipleship
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!
We are in an unprecedented time as we deal with COVID-19 and adjust how we go about our normal activities. There are many changes happening, and this can overwhelm our capacity to cope.
The news media continually monitors the spread of this virus, government officials regularly put out new community restrictions, events are being cancelled, stores cannot keep shelves stocked with basic supplies, and some friends are losing their jobs.
All of this leads to an increase in stress, anxiety, depression and/or grief during a time of uncertainty and social distancing.
People handle situations like this in different ways. Some may be more irritable, some may be more emotional and cry, and still others may isolate and close themselves off from their loved ones.
We need to remember there is no right or wrong way to navigate or cope with stress and that everyone is doing their best.
The good news is that you are not alone even while social distancing. Having a connection with others is innate in each human being. All of us need to know we are valued and loved.
It can be challenging to stay connected when we are supposed to limit our exposure to others, but it is not impossible. Here are few ways you can stay connected with others:
Along with staying connected to others, remember to practice self-care in order to regulate and handle the stress associated with issues related to COVID-19. There are many ways to practice self-care. A few examples include:
Amid uncertainty, please know you are unique and amazing. There is no other person like you who can fill your shoes. Be a courageous person…talk with someone about how you feel and what you are experiencing.
If you want someone who will talk with you and help you find resources, the people of Peace Tree are here to assist. You can start by messaging our Congregational Care Team at firstname.lastname@example.org or by filling out the Prayer Form on our Connect page.
Hang in there! We will get through this together.
Behavioral Health Safety Net Insurance for those without mental health insurance and do not qualify for TennCare. (further details can be provided)
-Contact Leigh Ann Pray by calling 615-804-7164
Memphis-Area Food Curbside and Pick-Up Options via I Love Memphis Blog:
United Way Community Response and Recovery Fund
Memphis Food Industry Emergency Worker Assistance
GoFundMe organized by Edible Memphis
Talkspace Coronavirus Resource Hub
Free Resources for Mindfulness and Meditations
RELIEF FUNDS AND ECONOMIC ASSISTANCE
MEALS FOR SENIORS
Members of City of Memphis Senior Centers will still receive a daily meal from their respective seniors.
Members registered to receive MIFA meals can opt to pick up their meal from the center they attend or have it delivered using the van service.
Members at other senior centers have the option to pick up their meals at their respective center for their regular nominal fee.
Leigh Ann Pray has worked in mental health in Tennessee for over 20 years. She has a master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy and is a Licensed Marital and Family Therapist. During her career, she has worked as an In-home Counselor, a Case Manager, a Case Management Supervisor, a partial hospitalization Program Director, a Director of Quality Assurance and Training, a Chief Clinical Officer and a West TN Regional Director. Leigh Ann has been a part of implementing trauma informed care with Foster Parents, as well as developing trauma informed curriculums for clinicians. She has trained counselors, therapists and community partners on a wide variety of topics such as effective discipline, communication, trauma informed practices, and many more. She was a cohort leader with the National Council for Behavioral Health, in a collaboration to create trauma informed communities. The Collaboration focused on creating sustainable trauma-competent environments to allow children and families to thrive. Leigh Ann has spoken at events in multiple states on topics such as secondary traumatic stress, cross generational trauma, how to create trauma informed communities and trauma informed foster parenting. Leigh Ann believes in empowering people to identify and develop their strengths and abilities so they can maximize their potential.
The following is a transcript from a video I streamed earlier this evening via Facebook Live. Contained in this article are helpful links, practical advice, and updated information for how Peace Tree is addressing 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 hope everyone is having a blessed day today! It is March, Friday the 13th in the year of our Lord 2020, and I wanted to take a moment to share some information about Peace Tree and what our congregation is doing to address recent COVID-19 / coronavirus concerns.
We’ve recently received word from Bishop McAlilly, the resident bishop of the Nashville Episcopal area, advising churches across West Tennessee, Middle Tennessee, and Western Kentucky to consider suspending worship and other large gatherings for at least two weeks in order to slow the rate of transmission of the coronavirus.
So, after consulting with several of our church leaders and office staff, we’ve decided to suspend our Sunday morning large group worship services at Peace Tree for March 15th and the 22nd. Following this period of time, we’ll regroup and decide on whether to hold future in-person worship services on a week to week basis.
Even though we will not be gathering as a large group for worship on the 15th and 22nd, a small group of worship leaders will meet with me on Sunday mornings to broadcast a worship experience online via our Facebook Live video stream. We hope you’ll participate in this online worship service by asking questions in the Comments section, Liking and Sharing the video to your profile, and sending us Prayer Requests through Messenger or the form on our website.
The easiest ways to access this live stream is to visit our church website, peacetree.church, and click on the box that says Worship Online. You can also log onto Facebook and search for Peace Tree UMC. If you’re on our Facebook page at 10AM Central Time on Sunday morning, you’ll be notified that the Live Stream is in progress.
For my friends who live in other states, and even for local friends whose churches don’t offer a live stream service, we invite you worship with us on Sundays at 10:00AM Central Time. Leave a comment on the video to let us know where you’re watching from.
As we continue to respond to the situation, please know that office hours at our Shelby Drive location may change in the upcoming weeks. We encourage you to call ahead if you plan to stop by office. The best number to use is 901-286-5532.
If you do come by the office, please know that we have several hand sanitizing stations throughout the church building as well as flyers from the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization with helpful information for the public.
We’re encouraging everyone in their everyday lives to practice “social distancing” by not shaking hands with your friends & co-workers. Instead you may simply smile, nod, and wave to your neighbor as you greet them.
Since we won’t be meeting in person for the next couple of weeks, we won’t be passing an offering plate. However, if you’d like to support the work and ministry of Peace Tree, you can make a donation to the church from your smart phone by texting the word PEACE to 77977 or by visiting the website peacetree.church/give.
Not only are we suspending our Large Group in-person worship services, but we’re also asking Small Group leaders and their participants to suspend their in-person meetings for the next two weeks.
This includes our Sunday school classes, UMW Circles, House Groups, and our various monthly gatherings. If you’re a member of one these groups, please reach out to your hosts and leaders to see if there are ways to share prayer concerns, conversation, and other interactions via group text, email, or video chats & online hangouts.
We’ve also been in touch with outside groups who utilize our church facilities, specifically our gym. We’re here to support them in their decisions, and each group leader is communicating with their members letting them know whether their regularly scheduled events are still being held or if they’re being cancelled.
There is no outbreak of the Coronavirus in the Memphis area, and right now there are only two confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Shelby County. We’re trying our best to take responsible steps and to do what we deem necessary in order to keep our church family and community members safe from the potential spread of this disease.
You may already know that the symptoms of COVID-19 range from mild to severe and include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Older adults and individuals with underlying medical conditions are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, and since the age of our church family spans a wide range from a newborn only a couple of months old to someone who is over 90 years old, we want to ensure everyone’s safety and prevent unnecessary risks for our older church members.
We’re continuing to monitor the situation, staying up to date with announcements from the CDC, the Shelby County Health Department, and the Memphis Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Just earlier today, President Trump held a press conference declaring a national emergency. As I understand it, certain federal regulations will be put on a temporary hold to allow hospitals to make decisions that are swift and in their patients’ best interest. The government is also partnering with the private sector to make testing kits for this virus more readily available at drive thru testing locations. You can learn more about these protocols at coronavirus.gov.
We will keep the lines of communication open with you, sharing information through your small group leaders, social media posts, email blasts, text message groups, and newsletters which we will mail to our home-centered church members.
If you have any concerns or questions, you can message me directly over Facebook and Instagram. You can also email me at email@example.com, and you can reach our office staff at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Remain vigilant, practice healthy habits, and be kind to one another. Stay safe and God bless!
Ash Wednesday is coming up Wednesday, March 6. This day has traditionally served as a call to repentance and reflection for Christian communities. Ash Wednesday (which follows Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras) also marks the beginning of Lent, a season when followers of Christ prepare for the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
As a new congregation that has primarily met in House Groups since the beginning of our church planting ministry, we have always celebrated Ash Wednesday in someone's home. The experience in the past has been particularly meaningful as we gathered together as a small group of believers confessing our sins to God, acknowledging our mortality, and preparing for our Lenten journey as we drew near to the Cross.
But this year, we are coming together for our first-ever Large Group Ash Wednesday service. We currently have three groups which meet on Wednesday nights, and we're preparing to start a fourth Wednesday night House Group later in March. It didn't seem proper to choose only one group to host our Ash Wednesday service, so we found a way to open up this worship experience to include everyone: all of our House Group participants, all of our Sunday morning congregants, and anyone from our community who desires to worship God with a faith community on this holy day.
Pastor Kris will make the sign of the Cross on our foreheads. The ashes will serve as a sign of our sorrow for having committed sins against God and neighbor, and they will also serve as a reminder that "from dust you came and to dust you shall return."
We welcome you to worship with the Peace Tree family this Wednesday night, and we hope that you will invite others who are wrestling with their faith, struggling with their sin, and discovering what it means to be redeemed by our glorious Lord.
Doors to the Quonset will open at 6:00 p.m. and our Ash Wednesday service will begin at 6:30. See you in Collierville on March 6. God bless!
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)
When we began planting Peace Tree in the Collierville/Memphis area in 2015, we knew that we needed to offer something different. There are over 50 houses of worship in Collierville alone, so we believed many would ask, “Does Collierville really need another church?” Our answer is YES, Collierville needs new churches to reach new people. While a majority living here would say they have a church home, there are literally thousands of Collierville residents who have marked “No Religious Preference” on their census forms. We imagined the number of people we walked by every day who weren’t part of a church family, the number of people who’ve experienced a life crisis with nowhere to turn, with nobody to talk to. We knew that thousands of our neighbors were spiritually homeless and we needed to do something now.
As we dreamt of a new church for Collierville, we were sure of two things: 1) we wanted to do Church differently and 2) we didn’t want to put all of our efforts into a Sunday morning worship experience (remember there are over 50 churches in this town with Sunday morning gatherings). So how could we flip the “church planting script” and build up a congregation without first launching a weekly Sunday morning worship service?
This is how the idea of House Groups was born. If we truly wanted to reach our neighbors, then we needed to go into our neighborhoods. Neighborhoods are made up of people who live in homes, and play in parks, and eat in restaurants down the street from where they live. This was where our church would start; these were the places where we’d plant Peace Tree.
Seventeen months after we began this work, we can say that God has blessed us with six House Groups spreading across East Memphis, Germantown, and Collierville. We meet in homes, restaurants, and apartment complexes and our community events often take place in our town’s parks. We’ve welcomed over 180 people who have visited one of our House Groups in 2016, and many have made Peace Tree their church home.
There’s a difference between a church which offers Small Groups as a program opportunity and a church that is entirely made up of small groups. We’ve aimed to be the latter. And since we didn’t pour all of our efforts into a Sunday morning celebration, we now have a solid foundation of House Group participants who want to see members of the other groups more regularly as well as serve alongside one another in Kingdom-building work. After a season of monthly Preview Services, and after much prayer and discussion with our Launch Team and volunteers, we are happy to announce that one month from today Peace Tree will be launching weekly Sunday morning worship services at the Malco Collierville Towne Cinema starting January 8, 2017.
These Sunday morning large group celebrations will simply be one way that we worship God together. Our main opportunities for learning, service, and fellowship will still be found in the House Group setting. Think of Sunday morning worship services as a “family reunion.” It’s a chance to see friends from other House Groups that we haven’t seen in a while. Sundays will give us a moment to say hello to fellow volunteers from various service projects while together we seize the opportunity to rest in God. These large group gatherings will allow us the space and time to celebrate God together, to lift up our praises, and to be inspired by God’s Word.
For some of you reading this, your first encounter with Peace Tree will be on a Sunday morning when you walk into the theater to check us out and see what we’re all about. We think that’s great! But as we’ve already mentioned, the true heart of Peace Tree is in our House Groups. We hope that everyone who visits us in January will take the next step and find a House Group that they can attend during the week. We currently have House Groups that meet on Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, and we have plans to launch new groups in the new year.
You’ve read the blog post this far and you may be wondering, “Am I a good fit for Peace Tree? Is Peace Tree a good fit for me?” Well, you should know that our goal is to reach individuals who have left the Church, those who have turned their backs on God or have given up on religion altogether. We also hope to reach people who are spiritual and religious but haven’t found a safe place to explore their spirituality and to ask the big questions about God and our place in the universe. There are also individuals who didn’t grow up attending church services, going on youth retreats, and participating in Vacation Bible School over their childhood summers. Maybe their families didn’t believe in “going to church,” or maybe they were raised in a different country with different belief systems. We feel called to reach these neighbors as they take their first steps into Christianity. So, if you fall into any of these categories please believe me when I say that our hearts go out to you. We’ve already connected with some of you, but to the rest: we’re so anxious to meet you!
We hope you’ll consider joining us for our outdoor Christmas service, Carols and Candlelight, on the Collierville Town Square. It’ll be Friday, December 16th with hot cocoa being served at 6:00 pm and our program beginning at 6:30. House Groups are continuing to meet throughout December with a few taking one week off for a seasonal break. And be sure to mark your calendars for January 8th when we begin hosting weekly worship services at Malco Collierville Towne Cinema. Doors will open at 9:30 am for coffee & donuts. Worship will start at 10:00 and Peace Tree Kids is open to children at 10:30. We also provide a nursery with Safe Sancutaries-trained workers to care for your little ones.
As always, please contact us if you have any questions about Peace Tree. My personal email is email@example.com and our office phone number is (901) 286-5532. We’re so excited to see what God has in store for 2017, and we hope you’ll be part of this new thing that God is doing. Happy Advent, Merry Christmas, and remember: Church Can Happen Anywhere.
+Peace and Love from Pastor Kris
The following press release was written by Compassion International, an organization which exists as an advocate for children, to release them from their spiritual, economic, social and physical poverty and enable them to become responsible and fulfilled Christian adults. Peace Tree is providing volunteers and working alongside Collierville UMC to help host Compassion International's upcoming event.
More than 1.4 billion people in developing countries live on less than $1.25 per day, facing challenges most Americans never will. Compassion International’s The Compassion Experience is making a four-day stop in the Collierville area February 19-22 and will bring visitors on a journey into the lives of two Compassion-sponsored children living in the Philippines and the Dominican Republic. The event will be hosted by Collierville United Methodist Church at 454 West Poplar Avenue in Collierville
A self-guided tour will immerse visitors in the lives of the children. Through the use of an iPod, a headset and 1,700 square feet of interactive space, visitors will see the children’s homes, walk through schools and markets, and hear life-changing stories of hope—all from the perspective of a child whose life began in poverty. This free event is appropriate for all ages and is an excellent opportunity for anyone who has never had the chance to travel outside the U.S. to get a small glimpse of what life can be like in developing countries.
Visitors are encouraged to make a reservation, however walk-ins are welcome. Groups of 20 or more should email firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve their space. For more information about “The Compassion Experience”, visit www.compassionexperience.com, @compassion_exp on Twitter, and www.facebook.com/compassionexperience on Facebook.
Collierville and Memphis-area residents — all ages welcome
An interactive tour through the life of a child living in a developing country
WHEN / WHERE:
February 19-22, 2016
Collierville United Methodist Church
454 West Poplar Avenue
Collierville, TN 38017
Today, my heart is saddened as I think about my brothers and sisters living in the Palmetto State mourning the loss of nine South Carolinians who were killed while attending a Bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. In times of unspeakable tragedy, we ask the question, "Why?" Why did this happen, why were good people murdered, and why did God allow this to happen? While the stock answer is "Everything happens for a reason," I want to suggest that this answer is not fair to the families and community experiencing this great loss, and perhaps this answer is too quick and easy an explanation for such a complicated world created by such a mighty God.
Fellow pastor Adam Hamilton wrote a book in 2011 entitled Why? Making Sense of God's Will. In it, he shares, "The sweeping message of the Bible is not a promise that those who believe and do good will not suffer. Instead the Bible is largely a book about people who refused to let go of their faith in the face of suffering." Already, the people of Charleston have shown us that they refuse to let go of their faith in the midst of this tragedy. Christians, city leaders, and members of the community gathered this morning at Morris Brown AME Church for a prayer vigil. Others gather on the street in front of 'Mother Emanuel' to pray with one another and to comfort one another. The people of Charleston have rightly showed us that, while there may be no answer for these thoughtless killings, true comfort and hope is found in God. When you are asking the question "Why?," turn your eyes upon Jesus.
Even as we hold onto faith, we ask why tragedies occur in a world that was called "good" at its creation. For this, Hamilton supplies three foundational ideas:
I have often said that God's answer for the injustices of the world is humanity! Human beings are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus. The Church serves as the Body of Christ. And the redemption of the world came in the Son of Man. We are responsible for this world, but at times we choose what is evil over what is good; we choose the wrong path as opposed to choosing God's path. But with God's help, we can choose what is just and good; we can right the wrongs of this world and help usher in a day when God's Will shall be realized on earth as it is in Heaven.
During the writing of this post, the suspected gunman, Dylann Roof, has been apprehended. Many will call for swift justice and will want to take his life for the lives of those he murdered. As a Christian, I first seek out Peace, and today I call for Peace with Justice. We have a responsibility to choose good over evil and to walk the Way that Jesus walked. How can we look upon Dylann the way that God sees him? How can we treat him as a Child of God who must now live with the consequences of his actions?
I challenge the stock answer "EVERYTHING happens for a reason." I see no reason in last night's mass murder. And I do not believe that God willed this event to happen. But I do know that God will never leave my side, and I do trust that God is with the members of Emanuel AME Church and the people of Charleston at this very moment. For those of you who do not know where to turn, I encourage you to look to God. Adam Hamilton writes, "Rejecting God doesn't change the situation that has caused our suffering; it only removes the greatest source of hope, help, comfort, and strength we have." Remember that evil and tragedy do not have the final word. God is Love, and Love Wins.
+Peace with Justice from Pastor Kris
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